Hearts of Wulin Discussion

I’ve had good luck with Impress. It has managed to make it in at least once or twice per series, and to great dramatic effect.


I’ve played in both Gerwyn’s series and were great fun to play. Based on that …

World/Faction Creation - This is very good. It’s neat and not overly time-consuming yet gave us a real feel for the setting we were going to be playing in. I can’t remember if it was a feature of the first series or only the second ‘Imperial’ series we played in, but adding an NPC ‘face’ to each faction gave us a manageable cast of major characters which we then tended to use in the Entanglements we subsequently developed. I think it kept the cast list shorter and perhaps addressed the ‘web’s-too-big-to-track’ issue Gerwyn highlights, above whihc was an aspect of our first series … where we almost took pride in inventing new NPCs in our Entanglements. Perhaps offering guidance that says … if you are going to be playing a short series of 4-6 session consider option 1 which will keep the game tighter, but if you are going to be playing a very extended campaign of linked arcs, then use the more open option 2 …

Entanglements are the base of the game - keep a romantic one and a non-romantic one but be explicit about highlighting one of them as the focus for a session, so that the complete web is out there but you focus on some of them each session. In truth that could create different difficulties for a GM who has worked assiduously on Entanglement 1 in the last session to reach a climax only to see the player say ‘OK, enough of that … today I’;d like to focus on the other one’.

Link Entanglements to Bonds mechanically - having really important relationships in an entanglement that don’t automatically generate a mechanically helpful bond seems odd.

Impress - we only really began to understand the difference between this and Hearts and Minds in the 2nd session but I’ve moved from ‘what’s it for’ to ‘ahhh! Yes’. I think the genre needs a way to reflect performance &/or inspiring an army &/or behaving in a way that distracts a crowd, as well as the eye-to-eye H&M with an individual.

H&M - include guidance on what ‘Leverage’ means, as it’s too easy to hand wave that and leave the Tricksters signature move looking less than helpful, as everyone is saying ‘I threaten the shopkeeper to gove me the leverage I need’. There are, of course, potential fictional consequences of doing that, but …

Duel - the conversation under-pinning the move prior to rolling the dice makes its application to a competition between performers or in legal argument etc. a no-brainer, once the penny drops, but perhaps it needs something more explicit in the move description to help it drop.

The Chi/Element descriptions - while flavoursome they are pretty abstract. The span on descriptive words associated with each is very wide. This may be deliberate to enable players to have options as more get marked but Patience (Wood) could be said to be as close like Focus (Earth) while Caution (Earth) doesn’t feel very close to Presence (also Earth). Also … while Uncaring is an Earth condition option, ‘Caring’ isn’t there on the flip side. I felt that the richer my use of English was then the more options I would have to convince the GM to allow me to use a particular element in a particular context if I played the thesaurus/synonym/antonym game.

Marked Element/Chi - it wasn’t clear whether the intention was to choose one of the red ‘conditions’ and if you did what mechanical effect that would have. I like that this could be as loose as ‘… and play in a way that reflects your condition’, but … that says something about the nature of players expected to be playing the game and that assumption might be inaccurate.

Clearing Elements - I see the roots in Masks here, but in that case it’s very clear that if you are Angry you can clear the condition by ‘Hitting someone’. That drives player behaviour in a powerful (and comic book) way whereas here … not so sure how marking an Element actually changes what the character can do or what I, as a player, could/should choose to make them do.

PC vs PC Duel - Separating this from the general Duel move caused us some confusion … and I think shaped our willingness to go to it in the rest of our games. PC1 is entering the camp under conditions where their identity is unclear. PC2 is on guard and challenges them to stop. The wind is howling so PC1 doesn’t hear PC2’s challenge and continues to ride in. Player 2 is interested to see Duel work ('cos it’s visible at the top left of the spreadsheet saying ‘use me … use me’) and so PC2 attacks the stranger galloping into the camp. GM goes to PC vs PC Duel which works very differently from other Duels, being a negotiation rather then the usual PbtA ‘I attack you with X and you Interfere by rolling to reduce my score’ … then we resolve the fictional outcomes. So … is the PC vs PC Duel counter-intuitive/confusing? This may all be to do with emulation of a genre I’d freely admit I’m not terribly familiar with, but in that case the logic behind the move needs more exposition.


In the “Monkey in the Scarlet Court” game i ran I asked the players to come up with an npc linked with each faction and asked them to link their entanglements around them. I then built the story around those characters. It seemed a good way to keep a tight control on the number of npcs that were in the game and helped bring them into the story.

I’m not sure its something that every DM should be doing, especially those who are able to track the various npcs and their relationships, but it helped me with a problem i had earlier where i had characters join the game later or for limited sessions and have npcs which expanded the roster of npcs and didnt give some of them a lot to do as they struggled for screen time.


I liked having 2 entanglements, even if one was the only one that got play. It was always in my back pocket in case the situation came up, it also helped me keep focused on other aspects of my character’s backstory and relationships with other PC(s).


Oh, another thought, that’s more of a question, but if i recall correctly advancement happens on 8 xp, rather than most common 5, what is the thought process behind This?

Eight’s an auspicious number and it gave me some range to play around with the XP from entanglements. That’s still getting tweaked.


For anyone watching this space, the Hearts of Wulin public playtest materials are now available on the website! (See link in the original post)


Just reading over it now, first thing I notice was that someone has made the clbuttic error of a global search and replace of “chi” for “element” without including a space, so for example The Unorthodox has a move called “EVERLASTING elementVARY.”


Good catch. These are working docs the authors are regularly revising. There will be another version up for the KS launch.


Ah, I caught most of that in one place but not the other. I’ll walk through it again. I made the mistake of doing the global search in the Google spreadsheet.


Almost all of the games i’ve seen or played of Hearts of Wulin have had the base level that there is no magic in the game. Will the final game have options that supports more mystical/magical stories?

by the same token, are there any resources that give a good overview of magical practices and spirits/monsters you’d find in those stories?

1 Like

Hopefully! The first stretch goal planned is an expansion on magic and the supernatural.


Got to play it for the first time last night and it was wonderful :sparkling_heart::heart_eyes::sparkles:


I played HoW for the first time yesterday (Beta April 2019)
My personal background: I tested the game with my online group. We all already have experience with various PbtA games, but mostly Monsterhearts. Of course we can’t get close to the routine of Jason or Lowell. So we’re not that deep into the nuances of the PbtA Framework.

I love the game and the geanre. But in order to make the critique constructive, I wrote down a few points from our point of view:

Overall, the character creation process took us an extremely long time (Compared e.g. with Mosterhearts). Of course, the system was new to us. But also, because the Entanglements were often difficult to choose and to implement. Many of them assume that the characters come from a certain region, already know each other and have a common history. Travelling monks, strangers (e.g. WANDERER) from another city were difficult to install. There should be some help in the book.

We also made the mistake of developing very young characters. Actually, HoW rather tells the story of experienced masters, I guess.

The connections between the characters are the most important aspect of the story. That’s why I think it’s so important that they create drama, go well with the playbooks, and are easy to integrate into the game.
On a story level, that worked well. Not always at the level of individual Playbooks and characters. Especially since some Entanglements seem to have a stronger effect on other characters than on those who chose the Entanglement.

Example 1, The Aware:
“A prophecy has kept [A] and I apart. [B] is determined ensure that.”
Who rolls the dice for “Inner Conflict”? We had the impression that this Entanglement was more relevant for “B”, not for the character who actually chose this Entanglement.

In contrast to other PbtA games, it is central to HoW that the Entanglements dominate the story. It was very hard for me to create the characters and then start right away. A Session Zero and then a longer break for preparation would certainly have done our game some good.

The bonds are derived from the Entanglements. We all found them relatively boring. Well, as a group we were used to the strings of MH2. Simply giving a bonus of +1 seemed rather pale to us. You could make more out of the bonds. Some moves do that, too. Personally, I think you could shamelessly copy MH2 here and delete the special moves from the playbooks.

Inner Conflict
This Move is intended for dramatic scenes. So I don’t roll to create a dramatic scene, I roll when it’s already there. What are the results?

10+: The roll has no effect, play the scene as planned.

7-9: A) I flee from the scene B) I mark an element.

If I withdraw from the scene, I give up an exciting scene and defer it to later, if there is any resolution at all. That seems unsatisfactory to me. Remains B). However, I don’t see, how rolling the dice supports the narrative here. Especially in connection with the rules of “Harm”/Marking an element (see below).

Elements as Stats
Personally, I find the choice of elements as stats intuitive. I like the solution. But it becomes difficult when an element is marked (e.g. Harm or Inner Conflict).
Let’s take “fire” as an example: If the element is marked, the figure automatically gets a condition. Is it intended to take one of the negative properties, e.g. “Reckless”? And when the element is selected, the figure can no longer perform fast actions? For example, can’t run fast anymore? That’s not quite clear to me yet. I find it very difficult to build the mechanics of the rules into my narrative without further explanation.

I hope this helps a little. I am curious to see what the final version will look like.

That’s good, alternate feedback. Thanks for writing this up.


Sorry about being late to this discussion. The game seems really cool. I’m excitedly listening to audio of people playing.

In particular, the Inner Conflict move seems like an interesting riff on Monsterheart’s Hold Steady move.

I noticed Comfort and Support works very differently in and out of a fight. It almost seems like two different moves with the same name. I’m curious if there was ever talk of making a specific ‘Aid in Combat’ move or something like that.

Also, has any playtester ever tried putting a -1 or -2 in their style element? I kinda want to know how the game would play if you did something so counter-intuitive.

I’ve seen players go with a lower score in their combat style, say a 1 instead of a 2. We have the functions of comfort and support together from their sharing an intent. But I’ll keep your comment in mind.

Hey, @edige23 the KS Update brought me back to necrotize this thread, but having run a bunch of HoW now, including just setting up lat night, I want to make the case for starting characters getting the core move plus ONE move instead of 2.Everything I’ve seen so far says that’d be enough, and that in play most folks spam one or two moves even over a multi-game series because that’s what they find compelling about that character archetype. It’s a minor observation, but I’ve been feeling increasingly strongly about it as I’ve run multiple series.

1 Like

Yay Necro-thread! I’ll follow up with something related to what @JimLikesGames noted: specifically that the Moves chosen are pointers to the GM (and TBH other players, but they are less likely to think of them as such) as to what the player wants to see in the series. Now, you’ll notice I used the word “series” there. I feel that taking the time to choose Moves during chargen (beyond the Role) wastes time and can end up locking players into useless abilities if you are playing a oneshot (and possibly even a twoshot depending on what the GM has planned).

If you have three or more sessions (and perhaps two for experienced GMs) you as the GM can set up situations to really show off those moves that work within the story.

I don’t know if this goes in the chargen rules or on sheets or in a teaching guide (which I think are frickin awesome) or in the GM section… Maybe something in the beginning of session move wherein you can pick a different move if it hasn’t been used yet (though that could throw off the GM’s planning…)?


Our plan has been to offer some dials and guidelines to GMs about how to tuned the game based on the number of sessions: entanglements, experience mechanics, # of moves.