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Wednesday, 17 August 2022

D&DVD of The Week: Flying Guillotine Part II (1978)


The cunning but cruel Qing emperor Yung Cheng (Feng Ku) has a hatred of the conquered Han and a penchant for having people's heads cut off, as exemplified by his revolutionary "flying guillotine" weapon.

The flying guillotine is an almost certainly fictitious weapon said to have been thrown over an opponent's head and causing instant decapitation (for more details see the "gaming section" below).

However, heroic rebel Ma Teng (Lung Ti) has invented the "iron umbrella", a device to counter the flying guillotines, and even turn them back on their users.

So the emperor calls on the guillotine's inventor, a high lama, to design an even better flying guillotine.

Meanwhile, the Han rebels, including Na Lan (Szu Shih), daughter of a palace official, keep trying to assassinate the emperor.

Their plans - especially one involving poisoned daggers firing out of a scroll case - are inspired, but the crafty emperor is always one step ahead.

Ultimately, this leads to a monumental, large-scale, showdown in the emperor's palace between his forces and those of the rebels.

The denouement is not exactly what I was expecting, but I appreciated its honesty.

Set in Ancient (17th Century?) China, Flying Guillotine II aka Palace Carnage is an incredibly pacey and chaotic Shaw Brothers martial arts masterpiece, full of incredible fight sequences, superheroic wire-fu, and bonkers, physics-defying, exotic weaponry.

Throw in a couple of unexpected moments of brief female nudity, frequent splashes of bright red blood, and some half-decent dubbing and Palace Carnage is an impressive, if occasionally hard to follow, frenetic slice of 1970's Hong Kong martial arts. 

There's an avalanche of palace intrigue, spying and counter-spying, as Na Lan wins the emperor's favour - much to the disgust of his senior aides - and gets to form her own all-female cadre of palace guards.

While all the main rebels are superb fighters, major kudos to the ultimate badass villain, Yung Cheng, who holds his own against at least half-a-dozen rebel mooks and ultimately faces off against the three main heroes and gives no quarter.

This final showdown is as glorious a spectacle of bloody martial arts as you could hope for from a Shaw Brothers flick.

GAME MATERIAL

The Flying Guillotine

The main part of the contraption is a dome, with a brim of jagged blades, attached to a long, thin but sturdy, chain.

The user spins it round and then throws it, usually aiming to get the dome to land on its target's head, triggering a mesh net to fall down over their head and a system of small scythes that slice off the head before it is captured in the fine metallic net.

If the weapon misses the head, its outer edges can still cause nasty wounds on its target.

It can also be used as a hand weapon, with the wielder holding on to the inside of the Flying Guillotine and using the ring of blades on the outside to slash.

These weapons are not quiet, and when the user is initially spinning it in the air to prepare for an attack, there is no chance that his side will be able to surprise anyone.

Damage: 1d8 (edge blades)
Range: 250 ft (100 paces)
Roll to attack as normal: if modified die roll is five (5) points higher than the target number to hit, then the guillotine has potentially landed on the target's head.

The target must make a DEX Saving Throw. If they succeed, then the guillotine missed their head and struck their upper torso for 2d8 damage.

If they fail, then the weapon has landed square on their head and the blades do 5d6 CON damage (for minor NPCs etc without a CON stat simply multiply that damage by four for Hit Point loss).

If that's enough to kill them, then their head has been removed (and is inside the mesh bag, probably being pulled back towards the person who threw the Flying Guillotine).

If they are somehow still alive, then they are trapped inside the mesh cage and must work a way out.

It takes six months of intensive training to learn to use a Flying Guillotine safely

Anyone untrained in a Flying Guillotine's use will roll at Disadvantage when attacking and on a fumble will take 2d8 damage from being mightily slashed by the killer weapon. If both d20s show a "1" then the dome of the weapon has landed on the unlucky user's head (and they must check as above).

NB: The Flying Guillotine is designed to fit over human-sized heads and so works on man-sized, or small humanoids (such as dwarves), but not larger creatures (such as ogres). And, obviously, the target must have a humanoid head!

Iron Umbrella

Primarily this is a strong spear, at the press of a button a panoply of iron rods unfold in an umbrella formation that, if timed right when used to parry a Flying Guillotine attack, can defuse its momentum or even send it back against the attacker (see detail below from image on Blu-ray cover at the top of this article).

As a spear it does 1d6+1 damage, but when used in defence against a Flying Guillotine attack, the user may make a straight Saving Throw to trap the weapon, and entangle it. However, if he rolls a critical save (usually a natural '20'), the Flying Guillotine's attack is reflected back against the attacker.

The Iron Umbrella user gets to roll the attack, it doesn't matter if they're trained in Flying Guillotine use or not as they are adept with the Iron Umbrella, as above.

Black Lotus Poison

The most lethal poison on the planet, even the merest touch can kill. Death is instant and the victim's flesh turns a hideous dark grey colour.

Users of this poison are very adept at not actually directly touching any object coated with Black Lotus. Chopsticks, for instance, have been used to pick up daggers coated in this lethal liquid.

Anyone touched by - or touching - Black Lotus must make a saving throw or die. Even if they make the save, they take 2d6 CON damage (for minor NPCs etc without a CON stat simply multiply that damage by four for Hit Point loss).

A single vial, containing six applications of this oily liquid, costs at least 10,000gp and possession of such a substance is considered illegal in most "civilised" nations.

NB. The Black Lotus Poison is the only use of a pure Save or Die mechanic in my campaign world, to emphasise the danger of this ultrarare and very expensive substance.

Red Lotus Poison

A dark red powder that dissolves in liquid. It is tasteless and remains potent for about an hour. Upon consumption, the drinker must make a CON Saving Throw or slip into a natural, heavy, sleep which it will be difficult to wake them from.

If they pass the initial save, then the poison has no effect on them, otherwise they will drift off within 1d4 rounds.

This state lasts for 6d6 minutes, but the poison's most dangerous effect occurs during the first minute after the victim has passed out.

The first round after they fall asleep, the victim will start foaming at the mouth and must make a straight Saving Throw or suffer one CON damage  (for minor NPCs etc without a CON stat simply multiply that damage by four for Hit Point loss).

The toxicity increases then decreases as it races through their system, as shown on this table below, which lists the damage taken if each round's saving throw is made or failed for the seven rounds after the poison has taken effect.


This means the consumer will suffer between six CON (24 HP) and 16 CON (64 HP) of damage from the poison.

If it's any comfort this is a painless poison and, except for the foam, there is no real indication that the sleeper has been poisoned.

After these initial seven rounds (42 seconds), and if they are still alive, the victim will continue to sleep, but will feel extremely weak when they finally wake, and will make all rolls at Disadvantage for the next 12 hours.

A small bottle of the Red Lotus Poison, with enough powder for four applications, costs 1,000gp and is very hard to come by.

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