Tianxia: Blood, Silk and Jade is based on the Fate Core system, with a martial arts system layered on top. Since this system primarily uses aspects with free invocations, stunt-like techniques, an extra skill (Chi), and the optional Weapon and Armour ratings from Fate Core, it’s actually quite easy to handle for Fate veterans.
The book is simply gorgeous, thanks to the gorgeous illustrations by Denise Jones and an attractive, legible layout. It may appear like a slim book at first (181 pages not counting the appendices and index), but that’s because it doesn’t have to spend much time on system since it does not repeat the Fate system basic rules. Since Fate Core is available on a pay-what-you-like basis from Evil Hat Productions, gamers are not saddled with an excessive cost. Author Jack Norris packed a lot of goodness in these pages, 36 kung fu styles, numerous locations and characters to use, story seeds, a random adventure menu, and good insight into the genre.
The story seeds are open-ended, built exactly right to go with my philosophy of player-driven adventures: they offer a situation, some antagonists, and ideas for ways to embroil the heroes in the plot. Where they lead is up to your group, not a predetermined scenario.
The characters are well-designed, and thanks to the stunt-like techniques, are relatively easy to play. Let’s not kid ourselves, martial arts games always require a little extra effort for the GM to familiarize herself in advance with the characters so she’s ready to rumble in the big fights, but thanks to the Fate system this is not too onerous. This has been the most satisfying wuxia system in my gaming experience, flexible enough that re-matches between opponents don’t generate the same fight every time (unlike games like, say, Weapons of the Gods where you always have the same optimal combination against a given opponent), lighter than Hero or the old Feng Shui, yet more structured than Wushu so each character has a specific flavour.
In short, I absolutely love this book, and I’m really glad I was able to afford the hardback print version during the Kickstarter funding campaign. If you like wuxia games, this is the book for you, and I can’t wait for the planned supplements to come out.
[5 of 5 Stars!]