||Sometimes you?re in the mood for a game full of detail - a game where you have to track every round of ammunition, every hit point, and every five foot step.
Then there are times when all you want from your game is action. You want to kick in the door, grab the bad guy by the throat and enjoy some good old-fashioned butt-kicking action.
Gun-Fu: Balletic Ballistics is that second kind of game
Let?s start with some basic definitions. Gun-Fu is a d20 system mini-game. It?s not quite a stand alone game, and not quite a setting book. It?s not really a campaign book, because you?d be hard-pressed to run a campaign in this genre. But enough of what it isn?t, let?s look at what it is.
Basically, Gun-Fu is a tightly written, simple set of rules and conventions for playing short, highly charged games that mimic the Hong-Kong action films of John Woo and others like him. If you?ve ever watched the Killer, or Hard-Boiled, and wanted to have explosive stunts and dynamic gun battles like that in your games, then Gun-Fu delivers. These movies are frenetic, intense, and never stop moving. It?s fitting then Gun-Fu: Balletic Ballistics supplies an extremely easy to use rules-set to mimic that style.
When I say that the rules are easy to use, don?t assume that this is a rules-light or newbie friendly system. While at its core, Gun-Fu uses the basic d20 Modern rules system, the rules have been pretty vigorously massaged and tweaked. Using Gun-Fu effectively will require a decent understanding of the d20 system. It?s kind of like that old saying ?You have to know the rules before you can break them.? Let me explain what I mean as we look at some specific examples from Gun-Fu: Balletic Ballistics.
After the cover, and a short introduction page, we get right into the heart of any RPG ? character creation. It?s here that we first see how flexible and powerful the Gun-Fu mini-game is. Rather than the tightly defined classes of D&D, or even the more loosely defined hero-types of d20 Modern, Gun-Fu offers only two character classes ? Aggressive and Defensive.
But you won?t find any massive class tables here. Instead, players can modify their class to suit their style of play. The two classes are very similar, differing only in how many ?good? and ?bad? saves they get. Of course, since the players can freely assign their saves as they wish, no two characters are likely to be built in exactly the same manner.
Class skills are fully customizable by the player, and both classes have the same number of skill points.
This is smart design. For a mini-game like this, detailed class skill lists are much less important than in a long-term campaign-style game. However, it can be a little daunting if you aren?t very familiar with the standard d20 Modern rules.
The Feat list has also been pruned from d20 Modern. Again, this makes perfect sense for a game that is much more about high-energy gun battles than about generic ?adventuring? Several feats have also been retooled to work better in the Gun-Fu mini-game. Notably, the Cleave family can now be used with ranged weapons. It?s a small change, but it adds a lot to the flavor of this mini-game without being broken or abusive.
The three biggest changes from the ?standard? d20 Modern rules are Panache, Flaws, and the Damage Save.
Panache points are very similar to Action Points. However, they are determined differently (total of all ability modifiers + level), and they provide many more options. Not only does a Panache Point do everything an Action Point does, it can also perform such amazing tricks as: causing an enemy to run out of ammunition, negate a hit, improve your defense by 5, immediately recover from stunning, escape death via stabilization, or even get a burst of inspiration from the GM.
A Panache Point can also be used to temporarily suppress a Flaw. This is handy, since every Gun-Fu character possesses a Flaw. Flaws are negative traits and conditions that can control a character who fails a Panache check. Flaws are defined by riggers and Effects. When a PC encounters the Trigger for his flaw, he must roll 1d20 + current Panache against a DC of 15. Should he fail this test, the effect of his Flaw kicks in.
And hoo-boy can these flaws be doozies! Suggested Triggers include things like holding a gun, loud noises, or witnessing a death ? these are all going to be VERY common occurrences in a Gun-Fu game! The effects are equally severe. Possible effects include blindness, nausea, or even unconsciousness.
Thematically, these Flaws fit the genre perfectly. Plenty of characters in the films of John Woo had some sort of odd quirk that kicked in at inopportune times leaving them in some way impaired. Mechanically, the Flaw system reminds of the Limit Break system seen in White Wolf?s Exalted game. (Which strangely enough also mimics Asian cinema!)
The biggest change in the rules comes in Gun-Fu?s use of the Damage Save mechanic. This is the same system used in Green Ronin?s Mutants & Masterminds, and Blue Rose games, but toned down a little to account for he lower power levels of Gun-Fu PC?s. It?s a clever system that fits the Gun-Fu genre to a ?T?. Instead of hit points, or even a wound/vitality system, Gun-Fu PC?s can take bullet after bullet and not stop fighting until they miss that final damage save and go down.
This is the perfect mechanic to model the genre?s blood-soaked heroes. Whether you?re playing ?Mickey Mouse? getting peppered by crime lords, or even a ?Die Hard? style of play, the damage save gives players the freedom to engage in over the top violence without the fear of sudden death the a hit point system would impose.
After a brief explanation of weapons in the game, and how their standard stats need modified to account for a hit-pointless system, Corey Reid finally gives some tips for how to use this mini-game. This section is a little short for my taste, but it does give GM?s and players a basic idea of what kinds of stores work best with the Gun-Fu mini-game. Personally, I?d have a liked a little more detail here, but I suppose that all the detail you could ever need is readily available at the local video store. A nice looking two page character sheet is also included, and the file closes with the obligatory OGL notice.
This is in no way shape or form a game for the meek. The subject matter is bloody and mature, and mastering the alternate, freestyle rules used requires a fair degree of advanced d20 comprehension. However, if you are up to the challenge, Gun-Fu: Balletic Ballistics delivers the perfect mini-game to handle a ?Woo-esque? style of modern RPG. This isn?t a game about super-powered heroes righting wrongs and winning treasure. This is a fast-paced train-wreck where PC?s wage war with a hail of bullets, and a steely glint in their eye. This is balls-to-the-wall freestyle roleplaying. There?s no map, no miniatures, and no remorse. I love it, and if you are a John Woo fan, you will too.
If you?re looking for tactical combat, where every move is plotted out, and each attack analyzed for maximum effect, look somewhere else for fun. But if you want to kick butt and take names, then Gun-Fu: Balletic Ballistics is going to be right up your alley.
LIKED: This game perfectly captures the genre it covers. It's action-packed, and can exactly model a very tricky gaming style. The simplicity of the rules system keeps things moving.
DISLIKED: If you're not familiar with the films of John Woo, or the Wuxia genre, you're going to be lost here. I would have liked a little more fluff to help GM's that aren't as familiar with the source material.
QUALITY: Very Good
VALUE: Very Satisfied
[4 of 5 Stars!]