by Joe G. Kushner
The first in the new Coriolis line,
Burning Shaolin is an adventure by Robin D. Laws that employs dual game stats so
that it's useable with Feng Shui and the d20 system. The whole idea
behind the Coriolis line is that Atlas
Games takes one of their game systems like Feng Shui, Unknown Armies,
or Rune, and in a module style book, provide
stats for that game and the d20 system. I was a little skeptical at first.
After all, who knows how useful such a product would be to either audience? For
the most part though, this first effort works well, and while a little heavy on
the d20 side, is well balanced.
First off, the module doesn't try to provide conversion notes on how the
stats from one game system were translated to another. It just provides
dual sets of stats. Secondly, the d20 material is clearly indicated by
red text. This leaves no confusion as to what parts of the module belong to
what game system. If you're a Feng Shui player, just ignore everything red.
Note that the same can't be said the opposite way because parts of the basic
text involving the module are going to be read by both groups.
So what does the module provide? It starts with an introduction to how the
module is laid out and what Feng Shui is. In d20 terms, the module
is for 7th to 9th level characters; for Feng Shui, beginning characters are apropriate. The
module is broken up into an introduction, a fade in, three acts, a fade out,
and a sequel. The chapter layout should be familiar to Feng Shui fans, but
to d20 connoisseurs, it should read like this: introduction, background
material, three chapters, consequences, and further adventures.
So what's the gist of the module? The players witness a group of crippled
warriors battling faceless minions and if saved, implore the player's for help
in overcoming an evil eunuch magician, Kan Kuei, who is attempting to take
over the world. In the process, the players will have to travel though the
Netherworld, seek information from a rather modern Johnny Ko, battle demonic
monks in a volcano, and then a climactic battle against the eunuch in a
Monastery. One of the highlights of that last battle, is the flying coffins
that are used by the evil wizard as battering rams. There are numerous add
on points that GMs can add to lengthen the adventure and several 'sequel'
ideas that can almost form a mini-campaign. The whole thing is told in a
very in-your-face Feng Shui attitude which makes for a remarkably refreshing
change from the standard d20 modules.
What's Not To Like?
If you enjoy the d20 system and like Oriental Adventures, this module
augments the OGC by adding some rules for faceless hordes and wuxia style
combat, as well as some new monsters and magic items. Still, these two
rules will add a lot to any GM struggling with making his campaign in the
vein of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, or even The Musketeer. The faceless
horde rules allow a player to quickly cut a swath through minor opponents
while the wuxia rules allow them to do it in style using stuns, props,
ignoring certain effects of gravity and using whatever weapon happens to be
Things that I personally didn't' like? Very little here not to like. The layout
and art are improved from Atlas' first d20 products, the Penumbra titles.
The outer side is bordered in black with gray oriental characters standing out
slightly with red symbols leaping off the page. The contrast of the red D&D text
marked with a red symbol, as opposed to the Feng Shui black symbol, create text
sections that are very different and easy to reference to when flipping through
the book. The credits and open game license don't take up whole pages, and there
is only one advertisement page. Now while I would've preferred that the interior
cover was used for the OGL and the ad, the 32-page module is reasonably priced ($8.95) and such
cover use would've probably driven the price up.
For those players who enjoy both game systems, this module has twice the
replay value. For players who favor the d20 side, the module does lean toward them
with new rules, magic items, and monsters, and more importantly, plenty of
Feng Shui attitude. As a Feng Shui module, it works great for new players
and allows new GMs to see how a structured adventure can work. Me? I'm
waiting for the next product, one that crosses over Unknown Armies in
Renaissance Times with the d20 game.