Jadepunk Tales from Kausao City Review: Bruce Lee Meets Steampunk

Jadepunk Tales from Kausao City uses the Fate Core system to bring a fictional steampunk setting to life that combines dystopian steampunk genre with martial arts rebels fighting the oppression of a council of nine that was evil enough before a steel-fisted governor managed to became a de facto dictator. You are in the most important city in the world, one of wealth and poverty, incredible power and absolute hopelessness where you must mix wits, martial arts ability to survive and fight against constantly overwhelming odds.

Designed by Ryan Danks, Jacob Possin, and Mike Olson, this interesting take on using Fate to create an original and fascinating system that combines the genres of steampunk and wuxia (Chinese superhero martial arts) into one world in one system that is fun for Storytellers and Players alike.

This is an RPG that creates an incredible and vivid world to set a campaign in, and having a setting like that gives the Storyteller the power to create scenes while your players get every chance to win the hearts and minds of a scared and oppressed population struggling each day just to get back despite the incredible  wealth and technology all around.

Jadepunk Tales from Kausao City TTRPG book
We’re a fan of how this played at the table and although it was only a 4-shot, it was a fun mini-campaign in a world we are interested in returning to very soon for a much longer campaign!

The World of Jadepunk Tales from Kausao City

The world that the Jadepunk Tales from Kausao City‘s game book paints is one that a lot of players are going to enjoy. This is a roleplaying game about rebellious wuxia heroes in a fictional steampunk city where you rely on stealth, political intrigue, trickery, and your martial arts technique to fight the good fight against the powerful oppressors in full control of the city.

Get used to thinking of steampunk as Jadetech. The term “Jadetech” is a catch all for the many different ways that the magical stone of Jade can be used. From physiological enhancements via powders to startling technology from basic weapons to airships, the power of Jade to touch every part of life is undeniable.

“Wuxia movies and westerns inspired us. We have done our best to fill these pages with plot hooks and thematic passages to properly convey the feel of Jadepunk.” 

Ryan Danks, Lead Developer

Examples of films that helped to inspire this cross-genre design for the world includes:

You can find the Jadepunk Tales from Kausao City PDF on DriveThruRPG which also provides softcover copies of the main game book if you prefer that.

So let’s dive further into this world and everything it has to offer players.

Kausao City

Kausao City is the most important city in the world, and is joint ruled by a corrupt council of nine, one member from each of the Great nations in the world. They are corrupt, richer than kings, and completely bribable from the large corporations profiting most from the mining of Kausao City’s rich jade veins. In theory they take turns serving a term as governor, but the current governor has use bribes, assassins, and political maneuvering to more or less make them defacto king of Kausao City.

From the manual itself:

From the heights of High Port to the lows of Refinery Row and Low Port, the city practically oozes industry, money, and desperation.

Jadepunk Tales from Kausao City, p.93

While many come hoping for a fortune, and a very few get lucky enough to find it, for the overwhelming majority life is dingy and filled with despair and endless toil. They might call the city a place where there is something for everyone, but there is always a price.

While the poor have very little recourse, the council fears uprisings enough to even ban the teaching of martial arts, driving those individuals and organizations who practice the defensive arts to the allies, the back streets, the secret basements. While jadetech devices are no doubt powerful, it’s not only those serving the corrupt and evil Council of Nine who have access to them.

There is jade here, which means there is money, power, industry, but little of that trickles down and so whether its a deadly gunslinger willing to attack company goons before fading back into the allies or fervent marital arts with a code of honor looking to join the jianghu, there is a yearning for heroes to appear, in whatever forms they may take.

The Great Nations

Some of these have a clear real world inspiration (the Aerish of Aerum being on a fictionalized Ireland, for example) while others often have a similarity to a real world culture but not necessarily a direct comparison. The Great Nations that make up this world are:

  • The Aerum Empire
  • Kaiyu
  • Naramel
  • Tuyang

Each have two representatives on the Council, and while there are several smaller nations mentioned, they simply do not have the power to challenge these four, as a bloody and very one-sided war already proved. The jadetech devices using the advanced engineering and power of the abundant jade has set the power structure in stone and there will be no new major players allowed.

Types of Jade

Jade has mystical properties in this universe, and jade provides all the boosts that make it so valuable from jadetech engineering new weapons to finely ground powders that give marital artists incredible boots to their abilities.

Colors of Jade (and what they do):

  • Green Jade – The most common, and is known for infusing incredible strength and durability.
  • Red Jade – Known for becoming volatile making it perfect for use as an explosive or a catalyst.
  • Blue Jade – Enhances circulation and provides a powerful healing effect, making it a favorite of apothecaries. 
  • White Jade – Calms the mind and enhances clarity. 
  • Black Jade – The rarest, a powerful hallucinogen that gives the subject visions of the future that often come true.

You will want to remember these traits or have a cheat sheet on hand because this tells you what each can do and if somehow you come across some…just remember that jade is involved in every powerful weapon in Kausao City in some way, shape, or form.

The Rebellion

The current governor is the most evil and corrupt yet…and that is really saying something. While an open rebellion would be crushed immediately, through the use of theft, heists, underworld missions, and even some good old hand-to-hand martial arts combat, your Jianghu, and many others, do their part to fight for better conditions in the city and give some hope to the people.

The Jianghu: Many Rebel Factions – Many Different Faces

A Jianghu is a group that opposes the evil of the governor and the ruling council and follows the honor code of Xia. These groups are not united, simply have a common enemy and because of that different groups may come together for a job or mission here or there but are far from conventional allies. Cordial yet quarrelsome is one way to describe the relations many of these groups might have with one another.

However, this freedom allows players to create many different backstories, NPCs that make sense to them, and all that helps further add to what this world has to offer at the gaming table.

Remember, at its heart Jadepunk Tales is a Fate Core roleplaying game about rebellious fighters will to do their part to win the hearts and minds of the people while fighting a seeming ly impossible fight in whatever ways they can.

Character Creation in Kausao City

Character creation is easy and follows the Fate System closely, adding a little bit of spice from the Jadepunk Tales core book. You choose a background, inciting incident, and profession, filling out other details around those while deciding what skills you are good, average, or fair at and which you simply don’t have at the start of the adventure.

This will bring you naturally to figuring out your role in the resistance is, maybe how you know at least some of the other players at the table and the gamemaster can help you figure out what your prime aspect is, as well as what main trouble you may have run into as a result.

The Fate Core System

This is a fate core roleplaying game which means the fate system is the main one used. Players will want fudge dice (2 +s, 2 blanks, 2 -s per d6) and the book does a good job of taking the Fate system and putting it into the context of this game world. This will make Kausao City much easier to pick up for RPG players with experience playing other Fate games while offering a lot of independence to the gamemaster and players while using this setting.

Many of the major hallmarks of Fate is here including stunts and extras, major milestones, aspects, and fate points. It’s a good system that delivers the versatility needed to  get the most out of the setting. Fate is a system that lets you make a lot of cool and unique builds within a few narrow guidelines, and it gives you everything you need to explore this new environment.

The book also has streamlined rules for gamemasters to help them from feeling too overwhelmed, including new dueling mechanics that use simple to understand rules to make fights cinematic and fast paced. You expect fast and furious combat when martial arts are involved, so this is only appropriate.

Aspects & Beliefs

Your aspects are core beliefs that help make up your character. These are codes of honor, main driving forces, main troubles, and character traits that you can spend a fate point on to get a bonus or leg up when appropriate, or which the DM can offer you an additional fate chip to invoke you into action when you were considering caution instead.

The Inciting Incident

What made you decide to risk your life, and possibly those of everyone you care about, to answer the call for warriors to champion the most downtrodden of the people? What motivates not only your willingness to fight, but the way in which you do it? This is the core inspiration for what set your feet on this path.

Creating Your Jianghu

The Jianghu is your secret society, or a better way to put it, a loose society of likeminded individuals. Jianghu are the good fighting the evil. This is very black and white in this world, but that doesn’t mean you’re angels. Just far less evil than those in charge…which is not a high bar to beat.

You could be a group that formed when the remaining refugees from the minor nations called for help against the over oppressive enforcers in the slums and you practiced your martial violence against them. You might be part of a group of thieves who steal a lot – but is it really stealing if its from the corporations and if the money is used to fund more revolutionary measures?

There are many Jainghu in the city from Explorers who believe plundering artifacts from ruins will give the knowledge needed to somehow give them the upper hand to martial artists who believe the way of the ninja against night patrols is the most justice any people can hope for.

When you create one of these groups keep in mind two things that should define you:

  1. Who comprises of your group (explorers, fighters, merchants, thieves, mix)?
  2. What methods, strategies, and aspects describe how your group operates?
The Code of Xia

The code of Xia is a code that all who belong to one of these groups follow. It’s a style of martial arts honor code that is deferred to when disagreements occur between members of these groups.

The pillars of the Code of Xia are:

  • Altruism
  • Courage
  • Desire for Glory
  • Disregard for Wealth
  • Individualism
  • Justice
  • Loyalty
  • Truthfulness

These are followed in the light of getting vengeance by righting wrongs and bringing true villains to justice, but the interpretation of what is appropriate under the word “vengeance” varies immensely from one group of Jianghu to another. Conflict among these groups is pretty common as each can have a very different idea o how you must be dedicated to bringing justice to the masses to make any progress.

There are many Jianghu in the city. As long as you fight against the ruling class you are considered one of these groups…even if your group would hardly be considered lawful good in most worlds.

What’s Your Face?

This is a game about rebellious wuxia heroes but during the day you need to be able to blend into the day-to-day happenings of the city. This is where your Face comes in. Are you a general laborer? A beggar? A small stall merchant? What are you out in the open daylight?


There are six professions (classes) in Jadepunk Tales from Kausao City that players can choose from. Since this system does work under fate rules there’s no reason you couldn’t customize one once the DM and players were familiar enough with this unique setting to do so without breaking the game.

The six professions are:

  • Artistocrat
  • Engineers
  • Explorers
  • Fighters
  • Scholars
  • Scoundrels

Each of these professions has skills and bonuses laid out that are specific to how they work within this world, and unlike some systems where some classes are (let’s be honest) trash, each profession has strengths that are going to come up in the average game. It’s well-balanced in a way that makes a group appreciate each member because of the balance a varied team brings to the table.

Advancements & Milestones

These are at the gamemaster’s discretion and can be their way for rewarding excellent roleplay, successfully completing a mission, uncovering important plot information to push the story forward, or whatever the gamemaster deems worthy of a level up.

These will vary depending on the type of gamemaster you have and the game they want to run, but the ability to gain more skills or abilities is absolutely at play.

Actions & Outcomes

The book does a good job of creating a system for fast and furious combat that allows players to engage in combat, understand the mechanics for fighting and dodging, and seeing how the combat is going. This is a good system that works well with the Fate mechanics so it’s easy to pick up on and there aren’t conflicting mechanics.

What Makes Kausao City Unique?

The unique spin on steampunk is pretty cool. Having jade being a magical rock that comes in many forms and brings magic whether by medicinal powders or actual technology, and making Kausao City the only source of black jade known in the entire world.

Making Jade magical and bringing it into the steampunk by making Jade mystical and technological, the core for engineering as well as the core for the apothecary is a great way to blend the mystical martial arts world with steampunk – giving unique life to a world that represents two niches that are often criminally underrepresented in the TTRPG space.

Kausao City is a wonderful creation and the “jade engine” is an interesting twist that gives the world a unique feel. There’s enough history to understand the past and present in-depth and how the larger world beyond the city walls works, without completely weighing down the experience or becoming fiction disguised as a game.

Their implementation of the Fate Core system mechanics into the actual main book means you don’t need a separate Fate book but everything is in one place, well organized, in the main source book which I greatly appreciate.

I’m glad this Kickstarter was fully funded because the world of Jadepunk Tales is fascinating, and the setting of Kausao City embodies many favorite classic tropes of various TTRPGs in a setting that is fresh, different, and worth exploring.

Jadepunk Tales from Kausao City Review: What’s the Verdict?

The core book for Jadepunk Tales from Kausao City is beautiful and stylish and I’m really impressed with how well the authors have created an interesting, unique, and vibrant setting that provides history, classes, mechanics, city maps, and everything you need to play a great campaign in a world that feels real while still offering enough open space for the gamemaster to bring in their own characters, locations, and themes.

There are many Fate-based systems that fail to integrate their setting and gameplay mechanics with the Fate System to help gamemasters and players dive in, but Jadepunk Tales from Kausao City avoids that pitfall doing a great job of pulling in the Fate Accelerated mechanics right into the books to make sure everything you need to play is in one book, not two.

So the question remains: as the oppressed people call for warriors willing to rise up to fight the oppressive and powerful ruling council, will you and other adventurers rise up to answer the call? Will you succeed? Get yourself a copy of this beautiful book at let us know how your adventures go!

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