I’m not caught up on Into the Badlands. I am binge watching to the extent that I have the time and energy to do so.
When season three began, I was interested. So much of the old had finally been done away with by the time season two ended. I watched and, then, waited. When episodes finally came back on, I wasn’t that interested.
What was Into the Badlands supposed to be?
For some people, post apocalyptic, gratuitous wire fu scenes with relatively high amounts of gore appeals. If anything, I’d say season one, maybe season two, didn’t have enough martial arts scenes. So much talking involving Quinn. It was something of a take on Journey to the West, except I don’t know what JttW is supposed to involve and MK was terrible.
Then, it seemed to go off in a different direction. In many respects, a different direction was good as Sunny constantly not killing the people he should kill ASAP got really tiresome.
But, watching season three, what I mostly think about isn’t which characters I care about … because I don’t care about any of them much. I keep thinking about what a muddled mess the show is with its mythology and with what is going on at any given time.
I like martial arts action, but I actually like wire fu less. I like martial arts combat based around the combatants styles’ mattering. Baron Chau using hook swords is a good idea. It’s interesting when the Widow uses flails, but there’s a distinct lack of “You cannot hurt me due to my Mountain Style, you must learn Water Dragon style to defeat me.”
At first, the show is about Sunny and MK escaping a sucktastic world. And, you could say the last episodes are about making the world less sucktastic, but it’s such a long, miserable exercise to get there. It’s probably intentional to be hard to root for numerous characters, but that, to me, is flawed entertainment.
There’s nothing wrong with clear good vs. evil. But, even if you don’t have black and white storytelling, you can still have clear protagonists rather than a bumbling ex-assassin who can’t stop killing people plus a bunch of people who keep changing allegiances all forced to inhabit the same miserable world.
If it were anime, might be more likeable. Or, maybe just as frustrating because the characters are so unfun and the fighting would be less visceral.
Bajie was a necessary addition to lighten things up some. Not enough. His story is so unclear and what he’s trying to do is so unclear that even he isn’t the main character to root for. MK should have been a lighter character if you want to compare to representations of the Monkey King I’ve seen. Or, someone should have been. But, everybody is murderrific or capturerrific all of the time, except of course for those characters that suffer the most.
Reading reviews, one review sounded like it was criticizing an episode before the end for having a bunch of exposition. Here’s the thing. Ditch all of the tedious Quinn, Ryder, whatever melodrama and replace it with “Azra was this. Here’s where Sunny came from. Here’s what MK’s power is.” in season one and I would have been far more interested in what was going on. I watched this exposition heavy episode and I liked it, far more than I liked most of the other episodes.
Into the Badlands – RPG setting?
Just doesn’t sound like a desirable one, to me.
Martial arts flicks – RPG setting?
Most martial arts flicks that impacted my psyche would make pretty bad RPG settings the way I think of them. Most stuff when I was young was about an individual’s quest for revenge. You get one PC. You have a world that exists entirely to get beaten up followed by training in a new technique and defeating the villain after your latest love interest probably also died.
There are RPGs that focus on martial arts that are perfectly fine. Yes, you can see movies in Swords of the Middle Kingdom or Ninja Crusade or Qin. Ninja Hero is my favorite Hero System product of all time. I have never had any interest in Exalted after the first time playing it, but it might be considered a martial arts RPG and has been fairly popular over the years.
It’s just that there’s a tremendous negativity to martial arts stuff in so many shows. Now, what about more humorous martial arts movies? Humor should arise from play not be forced into play. I may find it humorous that in Conan we were actually the bad guys for a long time, constantly releasing demons on the world and, then, running away to escape them, but intentional humorous RPG play is often going to turn me off. Not always. But, in a serious genre.
Can have ghostbusting martial arts stuff. Inuyasha, at its best, has this feel, though at a different power level and more supernatural supers than fantasy martial arts. I guess.
So, I got to thinking about Westerns due to a game I signed up for at Gen Con, plus ItB is kind of Westerny.
Westerns – good RPG settings?
Here, I can see it being more group oriented, more fun. I’ve thought about Wild Wild West as a RPG setting and it didn’t sound that good for the same reason that I have a hard time picturing how a James Bond campaign would work, even a lot of one-shots would work, though, I suppose, Mission Impossible is a better model for RPG play than something highly focused on one character.
Whether one shots or, even, campaign play, I can imagine a Western game so much more easily than a functional martial arts game.
I find that kind of interesting because I am drawn more heavily to martial arts entertainment than Westerns, though, to be fair, I have liked a number of Westerns.
Of course, Star Wars sounds like a great setting up until the point that you start play and half the players want to be jedi and the other have want to be scum.
Could be argued that 7th Sea is a martial arts setting, and I think 7th Sea works perfectly fine as a genre. Combat is a big thing in lots of RPGs and different fighting styles shows up all over the place.
It occurs to me that important to martial arts and supers and various other genres at the campaign level is losing fights. That’s not going to appeal to a lot of people I’ve played RPGs with, as far as I can tell. I guess that’s why L5R works so well for some – you always win … up until the point that you have a new character.
Another thing about martial arts and supers is not ganging up on opponents. This PC squares off with this NPC while the others have their fights. I haven’t mentioned Feng Shui, yet, which is kind of a sign of how much interest I’ve lost in Feng Shui after 2e got made, but my FS play tended to involve more typical RPG fights where PCs focus fire and have no specific rivalries with villains.
I have thought about martial arts campaign play. Rival schools. Something besides rival schools. I haven’t thought much about Western play as I’ve never been into Deadlands and not much else is pushed as Western play.
Of course, I’m probably just gun [sic] shy. I’ve seen so many failed attempts to capture what makes shows cool in various genres that I spend a lot of time thinking about why a genre won’t work rather than having some faith that anything can be made to work if the right people are doing the right kind of things.
Where’s the Ultimate Combat! wisdom in a post all about martial arts?
The oldest weapon – still eminently effective.
Not the oldest writing technique, but changing things up is a pretty old technique.
Imbued with righteousness, you are shielded from harm.
MK didn’t have enough righteousness. Sunny was seemingly given righteousness but it didn’t change anything.
You are what you eat.
This hadn’t come up yet! Well, I haven’t eaten a hawk, either. People are exposed to things when they are young and often come to like those things. On the other hand, when you eat disappointment, you become less enthused.
The pain of falling lessens with repetition.
Not fallen enough when it comes to RPG campaigns? I don’t think so. I think the pain increases with additional failures as one keeps asking the question “If I’ve had great RPG experiences, why is it so hard to have more great ones?”
Success earns repetition.
Ha. Repeat good, don’t repeat bad. That seems like sound advice. This pack keeps getting more interesting. Play Oak Staff, have it break, Instant Recall it back.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Maybe I don’t imitate enough when I GM/build decks/whatever. I try to do things my way and it doesn’t work as well. I was never terribly fond of this card, BTW, as it’s pretty expensive for what it does. For sealed play, it makes this pack weirder, doesn’t synergize with Oak Staff, for instance. For draft, it would be something to take if you saw a lot of beef.