Modern China

Modern China is fertile ground for adventure - especially during the tail end of the 19th century and opening decades of the 20th.

From 1899 until 1901, the Boxer Rebellion raged. Those events make an excellent backdrop for confrontations between martial arts and modern firepower. A campaign could focus on waves of sword-wielding kung fu artists versus small groups of heroic Japanese, Americans, and Europeans . . . or on heroic Chinese martial artists rallying their brethren against colonial oppressors!

A down side to this kind of campaign is that the Boxer Rebellion demonstrated just how ineffective the martial arts are against guns and disciplined troops. This might still be true in a game with cinematic abilities - Hypnotic Hands and Power Blow won't stop bullets. Heroes with unrealisti-cally high Dodge scores can handle gunfire routinely, but this unbalances melee combat. The Rebellion is a great background for a Secret Abilities campaign (p. 240), though: perhaps the Boxers had special abilities, just not enough masters to defeat the numbers and technology of the colonial powers.

In the decades after the Boxer Rebellion and before World War II, China is a land in chaos, with enemies inside and out. Foreigners and Chinese can adventure side-by-side. In the 1920s and 1930s, feuding warlords, White Russian refugees, Western adventurers, encroaching Japanese, and a Communist revolution provide an explosive mix . . . all in a land steeped in martial arts. Many period-piece movies are set in this time, including the Once Upon a Time in China series and Bruce Lee's The Chinese Connection.

William Fairbairn's (pp. 23-24) special police unit in Shanghai - constantly involved in tricky situations and fights (armed and unarmed), and with a colorful character in charge - is a great employer for PCs in this period. It's also a good backdrop for a high-realism campaign. Fairbairn himself suffered serious injury using his martial arts against troublemakers!

After WWII, Communist China suppressed the association of superhuman powers with the martial arts. Chinese movies kept the myths alive, however. These were often period pieces set in the era of the xia or the Shaolin Temple. While many were made in pre-unification Hong Kong, epics such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero are more recent, and highly regarded as wuxia. Actors in these movies practice Wushu (pp. 206-207), which is China's official art, making it suitable for modern Chinese martial artists even in a cinematic game. It is still possible to train in all other forms of kung fu in China, however.

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