Designer’s Diary: Third Eye Games – Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade

Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade
Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade is a complete role-playing game powered by the Dynamic Gaming System and published by Third Eye Games.
By Eloy Lasanta

Welcome to the ninth Designer’s Diary, a regular column where designers are given the opportunity to take readers on an in-depth ride through the design and development process of their system, setting, or product.

Designer’s Description
Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade is a game where players take the role of ninja from clans that have held on to bloody rivalries for centuries, and now they have to work together. Why you ask? Well, the Emperor of the Izou Empire has called the Ninja Crusade, sending his army to spread throughout the land and wipe out all ninja. It is a game of high-action martial arts, crazy ninja powers and plenty of political intrigue between the clans. The RPG is powered by the Dynamic Gaming System (DGS) which makes the gameplay lite when it needs to be lite, but immersive and strategic when crunchiness matter. Every character is a walking army in their own right, which puts a lot of power in the player’s hands, but not so much that the system takes over the game and drowns out the roleplaying aspect. It’s about being powerful, not over-powerful. Um, it’s also 220 pages, with black and white interior art and amazingly fun to play.

This particular RPG had been in production for a couple of years before it released. It was actually between Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade and Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. to be my flagship gameline for Third Eye Games. API ended up winning in the end, but I think it worked out for the better. I was able to take what I learned from API and twist it to make an even better ninja game. And that’s the main reason why this game works. Lots of fans of anime and ninja legends have had to either look at the old Ninjas & Superspies RPG from Palladium to get their dose of ninja or they’ve had to alter other games in order to play out the type of action seen in these series (to varying degrees of success). There was a giant hole in the market for an awesome RPG that focuses on ninja and my attempt was to fill that void.

Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade is my homage to a stylized form of ninja. I’m sure everyone can tell that Wu Xing is heavily influenced by the great anime series, Naruto & Naruto: Shippuuden. On the other hand, I wasn’t looking to make a carbon copy of the show, as much as I like it. So, I began drawing from other anime (Ninja Scroll, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Ranma ½, etc.), as well as many different Asian mythologies and legends. Everything about the game was influenced to create a setting that gives elements of a daunting war, dramatic conflict, epic one-on-one battles and even a little bit of humor.

Mechanically, the DGS has always been influenced by a number of other systems – D20, the Storyteller system, Cinematic Unisystem, etc. Of course, I took these ideas and twisted them to fit my own vision and then mixed in my own ideas to get what I wanted out of a gaming experience. I’m a fan of games that are a little crunchy in some places, but lighter in others. I also like games that don’t require mountains of dice to play. If this is what you’re looking for, then you may have found just the system for you!

Less hard research was involved with the development of Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade. It was instead nights full of reading books on mythology mixed with marathons of anime of all types, from serious series like Neon Genesis: Evangelion to the completely ridiculous like One Piece. Also, the setting itself is fictional, meaning I can make up absolutely anything I want and throw it in. You may want to pop in a DVD or bring up the huge anime selection on Netflix and have a fun night of laughing and suspense with your gaming group before playing Wu Xing. It’s bound to make for an even more exciting night of fun.

Art Direction
Oh, my artists tell me that they love me. The reason is that I give my artists a LOT of leeway. I prefer to give them the absolute freedom to take my concept and what I see in my mind and then do whatever they can with it to make it amazing. This became a quick part of Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade, where I might say “give me a shot of a ninja doing the Lightning Fists attack” and then they turn around and give me pure awesomeness, creating the look of the character and their environment all by themselves. I have found myself, at times, changing what I have written to better fit the artwork I get. I’ve found an awesome team of artists that I can lean on to get art done quickly and to my liking without much tweaking on my part at all. Like we share brains, which is cool. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Tazio Bettin, Daniel Oshouki and Amanda Turner for their continued breathtaking artwork that we’ve shared in this great gameline.

Other than the actual interior art, I just wanted to also thank everyone for your compliments on my layout style for the book. I’ve found that I’ve gotten better at layout with every book I’ve done (especially after I figured out word wraps!).

Well, first off, let’s look at Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade compared to its predecessor, Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. Thematically, they are completely different. In one, you play modern day agents hunting down demons. In the other, you play warring ninja forced to put aside their differences in order to survive an onslaught of death rained down upon them. The setting is also more historical than API, so the two are pretty darn different. Mechanically, however, API and Wu Xing match each other very closely. Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade came with a larger number of fighting styles, revamped wushu powers (instead of the more wizardly magic in API) and a few other minor system tweaks.

I’d say that the biggest game, other than my own, that Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade has been compared to is the Legend of the Five Rings. I love this game and it is dear to my heart and I feel that the comparison of these two games is really only because both are Asian-themed and separated into clans. Honestly, in my opinion, there’s little else to link them. They give distinctly different gaming experiences… so you should go out and buy both. Just saying.

Development Process
My development process is perhaps different from others. First I establish the setting, including write-ups for the different splats and whatnot, as well as the theme and mood that I want to create. Then, I turn to the system and start building the framework that the rest of the book will be formed around. When I’m done, I go back to what I originally wrote and see if it still fits or if the setting or system now needs to be bent. From that point on, it’s a give and take between the two sides, writing one to reflect the other and going back and forth until the game is done.

In the end, the final product actually works. Wu Xing is an original game with an original setting with original characters to be made. You can’t get the same experience from other games that you can from Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade.

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