Google+ Dorkland!: design notes
Showing posts with label design notes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label design notes. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

SuperFAE: An Approach For Super-Heroes With Fate Accelerated

This post is more along the lines of my getting some game design ideas out of my head, mostly before I forget them, and less about putting out something finished and playable. I like super-heroes, and I like the simplicity and freeform nature of Fate Accelerated. I like the idea of a more freeform approach to doing super-heroes in comics, because I think that it can be a better fit for the source material in a lot of places. I plan (hopefully) on fleshing this idea out more, but for now I want to get what has been turning over in my brain out of it.


Basic changes to characters:
1. Characters can have up to four (4) stunts for free.
2. Characters start with a Refresh of four (4).
3. Characters have an additional Origin Aspect.

These two changes should already make your SuperFAE characters feel more "powerful." Depending even on the power level of the characters in your game (Avengers-type characters versus Challengers of the Unknown-type characters, for example) you may want to increase the starting Refresh to five or six. This will help out if you want character's like Marvel's Thor in your game.

The existing High Concept and Trouble aspects help you to define who your character is, and where they are coming from. This doesn't change with a SuperFAE character. With these three aspects, you can give your character depth and personality beyond just a set of statistics. Think in terms of the Marvel approach to creating and utilizing a character. In that approach who the character is has as much of an impact on their story as the powers that they have. A Spider-Man-like character could be built like this:

High Concept: Troubles With His Luck
Origin: Bitten By A Radioactive Spider
Trouble: With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility!

Really, you can't make a FAE-based Spider-Man without utilizing the great Stan Lee line, "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility!" It is just too important to the character to not use. Could it be the character's High Concept? Sure. It could also work well in that slot, but putting it as the character's Trouble means that it becomes something that will definitely be bringing hardship to the character. Peter has a big date with an attractive lady for the first time? The Vulture is robbing a jewelry store right up the street. Which one of these will he choose?

Some would say that the High Concept is weighed more towards the negative, and that is intentional. The "Marvel Method" does play up the soap opera "aspects" of comics, and that means that bad things are going to happen. "Troubles With His Luck" can help out the character, it just means that it might do it in a way that may not always be the happiest of choices. That is pretty consistent with a lot of the happenings in Spider-Man's life.

Not everyone may want to play up the "hard luck" angle on their heroes, and that is a valid approach as well. I would lean on a more Marvelous approach only because I think that it would make for a better story. More "heroic" aspects for a SuperFAE character could be "Quirky Physics Professor," "Eagle-Eyed New York City Cop," "Crusading Defense Attorney" or "Driven Test Pilot." "Marvelous" High Concepts could be "Surgeon With Damaged Hands," "Driven To Stop Crime," "Reborn For A Greater Fate."

The important thing is that the three "main" aspects work together to create a cohesive character with a bit of depth. Look over characters from the Big Two comic companies and see how you could tease these three aspects out of their writeups. Check out DC's Who's Who or Marvel's Marvel Universe Handbooks to get to know characters, and figure out how they could tick in a FAE writeup.

Approaches
Fighting
Agility
Strength
Endurance
Reason
Intuition
Psyche

These are approaches that can be used as an alternative to the approaches in the core Fate Accelerated rules. Fans of the original Marvel role-playing game will recognize them. Most of them are fairly straightforward in their applications.

The available rankings for approaches under this alternative would be: one at Great (+4), two at Good (+3), One at Fair (+2), Two at Average (+1) and One at Mediocre (+0). If you prefer to use the standard approaches, then choose One at Great (+4), One at Good (+3), Two at Fair (+1), One at Average (+1) and One at Mediocre (+0). Because of the typically higher power level of comic book super-heroes, having a bit of a bump to the rankings of approaches will help.

Powers
Powers in SuperFAE are fairly freeform, as is the nature of Fate Accelerated.

Rather than a lengthy list of powers, it is up to the aspects of the character, the creativity of the player and the adjudication of the GM to determine what characters can do. Obviously, this method won't suit everyone, but who wants that? Fate Core has a section that talks about "rulings, not rules" guiding play, and this should be taken to heart when dealing with powers for characters.

Using a power works like any other action in the FAE rules. The GM may want to charge a Fate point for effects that are particularly power, but this is not required. The GM is allowed to veto any attempted power that does not fit with the description of the character, however it might be better to suggest an alternative that does better fit the character. The Origin aspect of the character should inform what is possible.

Attack powers can often be built around the Fighting approach. Mental/Psionic abilities can be Reason or Psyche-based. Enhanced senses should be Intuition powers. Endurance protects against physical attacks and Strength is for the great feats of strength that a character can try to pull off.

If a power is something that will be used often by the character, you might want to consider building a Power Stunt for them instead. A Power Stunt is like a signature power, or common use of a power, written up in the form of a stunt, that the character is likely to perform more often, and with greater capability. A Power Stunt will also always cost a Fate point to "activate." This means that as long as the character has Fate points, a Power Stunt can be performed. A Power Stunt can also be an exception to the rules, possible for that character.

Some example Power Stunts:

Because of my Mutant Nature, when I use my eye beams to Attack someone, I get a +2 to my Fighting.

Because of my Highly Evolved Brain, I can get a +2 to my Psyche when I Create Advantages in the perceptions of others.

Because I am The Woman Without Fear, I get a +2 to my Psyche when Defending.

Because I am The Strongest There Is, I can use my Strength to Attack instead of Fighting.

Power Stunts basically have three parts to them: mentioning a relevant aspect of the character, giving a +2 bonus and saying which type of action this stunt covers. Power Stunts are purchased for a character with their (up to) four free stunts, along with any other stunts that they might have.

There is more to come, I will add a couple of sample characters to this post, and maybe tighten up a few of the rules things, and I get a chance to dedicated a bit more headspace to this.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

How The Live Action Gatchaman Trailer Leads To Thinking About Game Design

My love for Gatchaman is pretty well known. I've loved the idea since I watched Battle of the Planets as a kid with my little brother. Back in the day, Gold Key even did a comic based on the American version of the cartoon. We had a couple of issues of it back then. Now, there's been a live action movie made of Gatchaman in Japan. By all that is holy I hope that there is an English translation.


Along with Speed Racer, this has always remained one of my favorite anime series since I was a kid. These are also the two properties that I would most love to design official tabletop RPGs for. However, don't be surprised if Gatchaman or Speed Racer sneaks into my new edition for HeartQuest. These guys may have to sneak into 4C Space. I already have an idea for one Earth-based group that deals with aliens. Adding Science Ninjas would make the sneaking even easier.

This is a great trailer. Watch it over and over.

The things that can inspire us as game designers are many and varied. The trick is to retexture them in such a way that they are new and fresh, while still having a nod to the originals. That can be a thin line to tread a lot of the time, and it isn't always successful. Some say that there really aren't many original ideas anymore. This is probably true, but there are ways to present things that are new, or at least new to you. I think that a game designer should have their own unique viewpoint that they stamp on things, so even if you are just doing a knock off of someone else's creations you can still do it in a way that makes things look new. Developing that viewpoint is what can be difficult.

Designers should look outside of the comfort of what they would want to do in their everyday life. Look for new books, new movies, new music, new voices that speak of different perspectives that will enrich what has already formed your worldview. A lot of designers and gamers are anti-anime, so taking a concept like that from Gatchaman and turning it inside out, so that it doesn't look like anime to the unbelievers, can take some work. Look at the characters from a horror viewpoint, and turn them into occult investigators. Make the giant monsters into something summoned by unscrupulous necromancers. There are many ways to take something old and turn it into something new.

This is how game designers should be thinking, always outside of the box. Look beyond the fantasy novels, and mouldering books of the Appendix N, and make your fantasy worlds something different. Look into the science fiction of other nations, cultures who might not speak English, for clues as to how to take your own ideas into new directions. There's a big world out there, just outside of the zone of what we may normally read or watch...embrace it.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Hollow Men: A 4C Space Antagonist Report

From the T.S. Eliot poem, The Hollow Men:

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar


No one is sure what the Hollow Men are, or even if they have a name. All that is known is that they attack passing space craft, in groups of 4 or more, and completely drain them of energy, leaving the dead husks of ships in their wake with the crew and passengers to die. The stories of the Hollow Men have come from those few lucky individuals who have managed to be found by passing ships before they died on their dead ships. The description of the Hollow Men are sketchy, and it is uncertain why some ships are attacked and others ignored. They are believed to be extradimensional in nature.

Ships are warned to be cautious in systems known for Hollow Men attacks, and are warned to stay clear of them.

Origins For Your 4C Space Games


4C Space Origins
Origins in 4C tell you how the character became someone extraordinary. It is a combination of their background and how they became a hero. The Origin also gives you, as the player, some hooks into how to play the character. These Origins have come from science fiction comics, novels and movies. Each character has one Origin, which can be determined randomly or, depending on the style of the campaign being played, picked for a character. This post isn’t intended to be comprehensive, just to give you the ideas with which to start your own 4C Space games. And if you haven't checked them out yet, be sure to check out the 4C System rules page.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

The Paladins of Space: A 4C System Supplement


This post features some supplemental rules for the 4C System, a super-heroic retroclone. I am keeping exact locations vague in this so that GMs will have some wiggle room in placing these characters in their own campaigns. Space is big, so there is plenty of room for the Paladins and the Eidolon in any campaign.

Courtesy NASA

Friday, March 08, 2013

Fudge ASCB: Fantasy, Part I

Yesterday I put up the SRD page for Fudge: ASCB. As I said, periodically I'm going to put up notes and ideas for Fudge-based things on here, and that will be my baseline.

Fantasy is a cornerstone of our gaming, and it is something that I have thought about a lot. Most of my ideas have revolved around trying to smoosh D&D into a Fudge paradigm, and that just doesn't work. There is a Fudge build for fantasy (it originally appeared in the Fudge Expanded Edition rules put out by Grey Ghost, but it is derived by Steffan O'Sullivan's 5-Point Fudge variant). I like it, but I want something a bit lighter and less traditional.

This is obviously going to be more than one post, and while I'm not going to shove D&D into a Fudge hack, I am going to convert some D&D materials over. That's the fun part of Fudge and d20 both being released under the OGL, I can move monsters and spells back and forth.

If you haven't looked at the Fudge: ASCB page yet, you might want to now. The terminology will make more sense.

Aptitudes
What D&D calls classes (Fighter, Thief, Magic-User, Cleric, etc.) we will use what ASCB called Aptitudes. These aptitudes will handle the basics of what classes do in broad strokes. A Fighter fighting. A Thief stealing. A Magic-user using magic. A Cleric smiting divinely. The broadest applications of these things will be your character's aptitudes. These are ranked on the standard Fudge attribute ladder. There will be more than the basic four, because otherwise it will be hard to make characters look different. I think Bard will be needed. Outside of that....I don't entirely know yet. I still don't want a straight up D&D knockoff. We've already got D&D and it does what it does just fine.

Specialties
These are like aptitudes, but more specific and they help clarify the exact abilities that your aptitude gives you. They also help set apart characters, so that one character who has the Fighter/Cleric combination of aptitudes can look different from another one. They are player defined, so that will take care of most of that, but I do want samples. Combat maneuvers, for example. I think my posts on Old School Clerics and Fighters will help with making some predetermined Specialties.

Cultures
This is an easy one. Basically what other games call races will be cultures in this hack. The nice thing about that is that it is also easy to make Cultures into cultures if you're interested in a more human-centric game, like something inspired by REH. But for most, Elves and Dwarves and all of those things will fit neatly into a Culture.

Backgrounds
This represents your character's  place within their culture. In many cases it is an occupation, or something like that, but in the case of this hack I am going to imagine it as who your character was before they started on the adventuring lifestyle.

There will be other things, of course, like magic to worry about, but I already have some ideas on that. I am looking forward to fleshing out some of these ideas here on the blog.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Fantasy Doesn't Always Mean Escape

From time to time, I use this blog as a sounding board for things that I am designing. I find that it can help to get my ideas out there and into some sort of tangible form to help me figure out what I want to do with a particular idea that I may have.

An idea that has been rolling around in my brain for a while now, something that I have talked about to gaming friends and mentioned on places like RPGnet has been a game setting that I have called Gutterpunk.

There has been a bit of resistance in the minds of some "typical" gamers when I talk about Gutterpunk because it doesn't have any of the standard trappings that you would find in an RPG. The characters are very normal people. There are no "kewl powerz" of any sort, no magic or anything. The game is about people who manage to find themselves in fairly crappy situations and have to deal with these situations as best as they can. The resolutions to their situations aren't always all that good either. Like I said, not your standard RPG fare, but it was something that I went into realizing that whis wasn't going to be the next D&D. I know that this game will have a fairly limited appeal, but I don't want to let that stop me from doing it.

Mind you, this isn't some "art for art's sake" game either. I can't stand when people do that with any sort of endeavor that they undertake.

The characters in Gutterpunk are, as I said above, normal. They are squatters, dropouts, homeless people, and the working poor who are just trying to get by in their lives and keep things from falling apart. It is a game about people outside of the normal social structures of American society, whether by choice or circumstance, who just want to live their lives as best as they can. I'm sure that this sounds pretty boring, huh?

But I think that I have finally found a system that would support what I want to do with Gutterpunk. That would be Chad Underkoffler's Prose Descriptive (PDQ) System. Follow that link to Chad's company site (Atomic Sock Monkey Press) for more information about the system. You can even find a free stripped down version of the game in the Freebies section.

What I like about Chad's system is that it can allow you to make normal people who can do something without having to have a lot of special powers in order to be unique and to be able to accomplish something. Yes, it does at time perhaps flirt with those "narrative" labels that I really don't like but for a game like Gutterpunk I think that it would be a good system choice. Yet again, it gives a way for "normal" characters to be able to stand out and do something without having to have a laundry list of powers, spells or special abilities.

I want to be able to tell other types of stories with the players during a game session, and play other types of games. "Escape" isn't something that is only one option which is fulfilled the exact same way for everyone at the gaming table (or in the gaming hobby). So, if I want a game to fill that On The Road meets Fight Club niche that I am looking for from time to time, Gutterpunk will be able to do that for me. That's why I called this post Fantasy Doesn't Always Mean Escape, because there can be more to an RPG than just pure escapism, just like there can be for any other form of entertainment. I'm pretty sure that there are a few people out there who have some similar ideas to mine on this topic.

Part of the reason why I posted these very early "design notes" here instead of someplace like RPGnet is because I wanted to pull some of the concepts that have been swirling around in my subconscious without the typical responses of "That doesn't sound like fun" or "That isn't escape." Who knows, I might cross-post this elsewhere but for now I want to see what, if anything, comes up from the people who read this blog (regularly or irregularly).

Post a comment and let me know what you think. Let me know what you would do with a game like this.