Hearts of Wulin Discussion


#1

At this point, many people have played and/or run Hearts of Wulin, an upcoming wuxia melodrama game by @edige23 and @Agatha. The purpose of this thread is to collect feedback for Lowell and Agatha, as well as to discuss the game in general. What did you like about the game? What excites you? What left with you questions? What other recommendations do you have?

Please be respectful with your feedback or when commenting on the feedback of other participants in the thread.

If you’d like to learn more about Hearts of Wulin, check out the info page right here:


#2

I had a great time playing Hearts of Wulin (with Jason as our wonderful GM!). I played the Loyal playbook with the Devoted Child story and got very invested in my character, Leopard’s Precious Child.

The system seems extremely strong to me. Entanglements create delicious drama immediately, and tying XP to the Inner Conflict move motivates characters running right at their biggest problems. I like the elegance of combat being resolved with a single roll (though we had fun incorporating dialogue and flavorful flourishes into the narration before the roll was made). I’m a big fan of the New Technique move, as training montages are really fun to narrate and it’s satisfying to even the playing field against foes you start out unable to win against.

One question I had: What do you envision happens on an Inner Conflict miss? The partial success options are themselves pretty hard moves: fleeing the scene or marking chi. Several times, in the series I played, when a character rolled a 6- on Inner Conflict, the GM move would be softer than either of those options. That’s a valid choice for a GM to make! But I wondered if the move wanted to specify something harder on a miss to keep the stakes of Inner Conflict high.


#3

I will also have a Google form for feedback posted this week. When I have that up, I will link that here.


#4

You’re right in that fails on Inner Conflict should hit hard. As a basic move, we wanted to leave the 6- result as a trigger for open GM moves. It’s an opportunity to make a relationship much worse, reveal betrayal, threaten what the character holds dear, etc. I suspect that’ll come down to talking how a GM handles those moves in the advice section of the game.


#5

I see the Inner Conflict rolls as the equivalent of the Take a Powerful Blow from Masks. If you don’t ace it, it always hurts. I like that it about it.


#6

In your pitch, “Hearts of Wulin emulates Chinese wuxia TV series like Proud Smiling Wanderer and Fox Volant of Snowy Mountain, Chinese martial arts novels from the second half of the twentieth century, and films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, I would make Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon the first item in the list. When you’re explaining what the game is like, you don’t want people’s first reaction to be “I haven’t seen that” and you don’t want their second reaction to be “I haven’t read that”; you want them to immediately think, “Oh, I know what that is.” It’s a subtle difference, but I think putting the most familiar example first reassures people that they don’t need to be experts in the source material to grok what the game is about.


#7

Just a couple of notes about recent adjustments for those of you who’ve played:

  1. Impress is getting removed/reworked
  2. The term chi is being replaced by elements, per Agatha.
  3. We’re looking at a few of the playbook moves. We changed the Prodigy role move, but we’re still in process on that. Tracing Shadow from Bravo needs to be better as an alt to Study. Paladins in Troubled times from Loyal needs to be opened up a little so it isn’t so tightly situational; same with The Proud Youth from Student. Heroes Shed No Tears from Outsider needs better trigger; right now it undercuts good drama. His Name is Nobody from Unorthodox still doesn’t work right.
  4. Taking Custom moves out of QS; reserving that for later.
  5. Clarifying costs for victory in equal scale duels. Clarifying what loss means vs. greater scale foe. Clarifying “mercy” in the duel context.
  6. Discussion of duel as social combat.
  7. Clarifying PC v. PC duel.

Some of this is done, some in process.


#8

That seems more than fair. I’m wokring on a post for Wednesday about Jin Young and the other sources we heavily draw on, but I agree CTHD is the best and most accessible touchstone.


#9

I’ll repeat what i’ve said elsewhere :slight_smile:

Entanglements can be hard to track at times as you don’t just show up in your own entanglements but other peoples as well and it can be hard to track them all if you just have your own entanglements on your sheet. I wonder if having a single sheet for all the entanglements that is on the table in front of all the players would be better.

Bringing in players later in the game can be difficult given how central to the story entanglements can tend to be. Would a separate set of additional entanglements options for new players to help bring them into the existing story be a useful way of solving that?

What ways apart from Comfort and support are there to clear elements? I don’t know if it’s the way i was running the game but it felt that players had a hard time clearing them in some of my sessions?

Is the style element used when fighting mooks? what happens in a duel or fighting mooks if you have your style element marked?

When you mark an element you effectively gain conditions. what effect does this have on the game beyond narrative? are you still able to use that element if you narrate the action in line with the inverted elemental association?

Each style normally has a weapon attached to it. What effect does being without your weapon have on that?

Absolutely, positively do not take away the ability to dictate something new from the study move. This is possibly the most enjoyable thing in the game for me, both as a player and as a MC.


#10

As for myself, I have run about 16 playtest sessions at this point and I absolutely adore the game. Probably the two biggest points of feedback, which I have shared with the team already, are that tracking Entanglements can get tricky and there should be procedures (or at least very careful GM guidance) about how to make the combats a conversation between combatants.

I actually landed on a fairly good solution for the tracking Entanglements issue, which is basically a specific way of re-capping and presenting them to the players each session. The players in my games found it very helpful, and I will probably pitch it as an addition to the text at some point.

It could also simply be that characters don’t need 2 starting Entanglements. I think the game would be just as twisty and dramatic if they only had 1 each.


#11

That’s good feedback. I’ll keep those questions in mind on the current revision pass.


#12

Agreed, and the option to run away from your emotions is so on point for these kinds of stories. I love it.


#13

Ok, feedback from having run two feature-length 6-8 hour sessions and played with @jasoncordova and @edige23.

(Just offering my observations without any suggestions for fixes, but will share my notions about how I’d tweak if you ask).

All of my players were confused about the fact that there’s no required mechanical connection between bonds and entanglements and kept assuming they’d missed something.

There was a real reluctance to use the misunderstanding move. I think it’s because it just feels disruptive to demand a scene that interrupts the flow of the ongoing narrative, even though it’s perfect genre emulation.

Having dozens of options for entanglements caused some real choice paralysis during character creation, whatever you can do to make those lists a more manageable template will speed up PC creation a lot.

The more I play the less I like having the magic/no magic choice as a binary as opposed to a continuum. That may just be me.

Corner case thing, but Advice on what to do if you get that player who insists on rolling their style stat all the time knowing that there’s no way I’m setting it up so they can’t fight during the climax (because yeah, I’m not) would be welcome.

Finally, it sure seems like a con two-slot is about perfect for running a game that nails the feature-length movie vibe. Both times I’ve run it that way have been pretty excellent.


#14

Couple of quick follow ups to that:
*Yeah Misunderstanding’s been cut.
*I have the Entanglements in curated sets on the HoW online sheets. Does that seem like what you’re thinking? IIRC you were working from the early PnP when you ran.
*Yeah, the magic binary is more a choice of the limited QS version. It needs better wording, especially since I’ve run it on more of a spectrum.


#15

I got to play at Gauntlet Con and then run three sessions of Hearts of Wulin at the end of last year/beginning of this on Katy Morgan’s channel:

I’m really looking forward to this game; it has a very special combination of awesome action and over-the-top emotions. Which just makes for such an instantly fun play experience.

What I look forward to from a full release would be guidance in how to run a longer campaign, how to evolve entanglements and how to build engaging factions.

From MC-ing it, the thing that stood out most to me was how I much fun I had playing everyone straight-faced and taking what the PCs did on face value. I really felt my job was to be the foil for their shenanigans.

I don’t think this is the only mode in how to run it, however (my players leaned hard into the gonzo and we still got some very dramatic outcomes and neither felt at odds with the other)—some guidance for tone control would be great!

Of course, I could lean into experience from other games on how to do this but it would really be great to have more touchstones that are genre and culture appropriate.
(Like, I did all the tropes, outdoor tavern fight, coveted legendary weapon, betrothals.)


#16

Sad to hear misunderstand has been cut, cause that move is just so much fun in theory.

My main suggestion is when an element is blocked/marked, it seems the ways to clear it are limited. And while the negative sides of the element are cool and thematic, they don’t seem to offer much? If there was a way to clear that element by playing towards those negative emotions, then that might add more weight to them.

Like, to clear Fire do something Reckless, Alienating, or Scattered?


#17

That’s an interesting idea and I’ll keep it in mind. I’d avoided that previously because when I’d run Masks, that aspect ended up more of a speed bump than a means of generating fictional positioning or elements. I have to think about that more fully. As it stands now, players have four options for clearing a marked element:

  • Comfort and Support done by another player
  • Clearing provided by one of several playbook moves
  • Narrating a montage between scenes about how they clear that element. There’s the option there of tying that to the particular element marked.
  • Clear an element at the end of a story arc.

I’d be curious about players thoughts about the necessity of easier clearing. Are groups finding that characters are getting taken out or being pushed to the brink too easily? That hasn’t been my experience, so I’d like to hear others’ take on it.


#18

I’ve only run my first session as GM so far, I may have more thoughts after running a full session, but some of my thoughts on the game and other things that have been brought up in this thread so far. (In no order other than when it occurs to me or something in the thread prompts me :sweat_smile:)

  • I love entanglements as a player, and I think I may even love them a bit more as a GM? I like having two of them per player, as I like the exercise of deciding which one to focus on at the start of play. I can see the tracking of them being a bit more difficult in face-to-face play, and I think Gerwyn’s suggestion of a central sheet is probably a good idea. But using a character keeper online it’s not been a problem for me. In some ways I actually think it takes a bit of cognitive load off the GM as it shares around the drama

  • Couple of thoughts on the pending adjustments:

  • Would definitely prefer a rework over a removal on Impress. I really think there’s a space for something short of a duel with a winner, and a way of interacting/performing that isn’t Hearts & Minds. I suspect it’ll be seeing some use in the next session of my game.

  • I’ll welcome some clarification on PC vs PC Duels. I’m still a bit hazy on what an offer should look like

  • Sad to see Misunderstanding go, I think it has the potential to be a really interesting move. Though I admit in its current incarnation I’m not sure exactly how it’s supposed to be used. The trigger isn’t super clear, or who uses it on who. I like what it sets out to do though

  • I feel like there are enough options for clearing elements as it stands. In the game I was in with @edige23 (the third of the Quarterly series) there was one point I was pretty hard up against the wall with 3 or 4 elements marked, but it made for a nice bit of the story arc. Also, marking Wounded should be a dangerous but tempting option when you’re risking your Style element

  • I love the Internal Conflict roll, but I’m not always certain at what point I should be calling for it, especially as by its nature it can have the effect of stepping on an intense/interesting scene. Which I know is kind of the point. I don’t know it’s a fixable thing, I just have to acclimate to it a bit more :sweat_smile: (I think as well I find it harder to adjudicate, or bring in a hard move, in a PC vs PC inner conflict. With a PC vs NPC it’s easier for me to bring the hard move via the NPCs reaction)

  • Comfort & Support: The move is good, but I’d really like to see the trigger slightly reworded as just repeating the words used in the title makes it feel a bit too gamey a move. Also making it a bit more clear it can be used in an action scene. Finally, I like the use of it for assistance, but I think having the bond spending thing buried in the C&S move feels a bit out of place. Is this a thing you can always use bonds to do? In which case it should just be in the Bonds text (with a callout in C&S that when you gain a bond it can immediately be spent to offer assistance maybe). Or can you only use Bonds to do this when you use C&S? In which case, I’d just remove the reference to bonds entirely and make on of the C&S options “Give another player +1 to their roll (may be used retroactively)” or what have you.

  • There seems to be a bit of confusion over assigning the arrays to elements. (I’ve noticed it both in games I’ve played and run).I think this is probably just a side-effect of running entirely from a character keeper rather than a coherent game text, so it’s a bit of flipping about between tabs.

I think that’s everything for now!


#19

Everything, I should say, except for me to say this game really fucking rocks! I am so excited to see it as an actual book, with the benefit of @edige23 and @Agatha’s writing around the mechanics. The mechanics as they exist already do a great job of delivering what I want from the game. I love the entanglements, and the twisty relationships they generate, so much, and they gel really nicely with the way I like to GM. I love how much everyone I’ve played it with so far buys into the premises and tropes of the genre, and how that is encouraged by the game. I love that the combat is simple to resolve but still feels badass. I think the “core moves” for the (sub)playbooks are a masterstroke.


#20

That’s super useful feedback. You hit on a couple of things I hadn’t thought about and some spots where I wondered if there was friction. I suspect we’re going to set aside Impress for the upcoming QS and then look at it again for the longer text. We’d talked about reframing it for the context of more Courtly games as another social option.