Showing posts with label Fate Accelerated. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fate Accelerated. Show all posts

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Fate Accelerated And Emotional Stress

From a Phonogram story inspired by TV On The Radio's Song "Wolf Like Me."
While I am in Las Vegas next week for my birthday, I am going to run a Fate Accelerated game (using my own Accelerated hack that I have talked about in various blog posts here, and around social media) about werewolves. I like werewolves, and I like Fate Accelerated, so they blend well together. This is an early form of something that I will likely use in a published game, once it gets to a more mature form.

Whether born as one, or made into one, Wolves are primal creatures with intense and powerful emotions. Like with their more potent senses these emotions can at times overwhelm a Wolf, particularly in stressful situations like combat. Wolves have an additional stress track built around their more profound emotional triggers. Rage and anger are common triggers for Wolves, but you can create a stress track for your character around any intense emotional response.

The write up for your character's emotional stress is simple. Like with 'regular" stress, they get three boxes. However, for emotional stress the Consequence that your character receives is predetermined during character creation. These consequences are considered to be Moderate. Some examples of consequences for emotional stress could be: "The Wolf Is Scratching Out From My Skin" for Rage, "I Have To Get OUT" for Fear or "Nothing Is Right" for Confusion.

The GM should compel these consequences...hard. When the consequence for their emotional stress has triggered, it should change everything about how your character sees and interacts with the world. Fate points earned from compelling the consequence of an emotional stress track should last until the consequence itself goes away. This means that you can keep those Fate points between sessions.

This isn't going to be for everyone, which is fine, but your character, as a Wolf, is more than human and more than animal, and their strengthened connection to the Natural Order comes with drawbacks as well as perks.

In case you've never heard the song...

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Gods And Monsters

The game that I am going to be running after the holidays for the local people is going to be the Fate Accelerated urban fantasy game that I mentioned before. Here is the basic pitch/mission statement that I gave to the group:
Once Upon A Time...
Your characters were gods, or at least they might have considered themselves to be something like that. They were powerful beings who wandered a world that was simultaneously brighter and more dangerous than the world in which they now exist. There was magic, and monsters and many other things.
Now, you can still do some cool things, but it is nowhere near as cool as what you used to do.
Even though the setting is changed, your story isn't over. You aren't entirely sure why you are still around, other more powerful beings than yourself faded away a long time ago. You know that there are still others like you around. Some of them have adjusted, relatively, to their new stations, much like you have. Others want to try to change things back to the way that they were. Whether that is possible or not, it is hard to tell, but none of the plans have worked in the hundred of years that you can remember.
Maybe you're one of the monsters from the old world. Things are just as strange for you, as it is for the beings who used to be your enemies. You can hide yourself among the populace of the world, to some degree or another, so it isn't like you're "all monster, all the time."
Maybe you're one of those people that others claim never actually existed. They say that you're just a character from a book, or a children's story. You can't possibly be real. You feel real to you, and you remember your life in this world, as well as in the stories that everyone insist are made up.
The world is a strange place.
 I see it as a sort of American Gods meets Fables (or Once Upon A Time) sort of vibe.

My definition of urban fantasy is basically "horror without the scary." You use a lot of the genre conventions and archetypes of horror, but you treat it more like the fantasy genre. If you've never read Nancy Collins' Sonja Blue stories, this is sort of the approach that she took. I never really understood why she was marketed as horror, when she should be considered the Godmother of Urban Fantasy.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Fate Of Airboy

This was originally inspired by a post by Mark Ellis on Facebook, talking about his interest in revitalizing the Hillman Comics aviator characters. I'm a fan of aviator pulps like G-8, and the Eclipse Comics relaunch of Airboy in the 80s introduced me to that family of characters. What Mark's post sparked in me was the idea to build an RPG, or at the very least a game that I can run for friends, around the public domain characters like Airboy, but in an updated format.

I love the pulps, but running a game in a historical era isn't always my thing. I'm not much of a stickler for the details, which can bother some who are playing in a historical game. This is why the idea of pulling the characters into the present appealed to me.

The other thing is that, frankly, games that spend a lot of time with the characters engaged in air combat in their airplanes can be boring. Breaking everything down to a series of dice rolls is kind of boring for me. This presents the second challenge with this property…how do I pay homage to the fact that these characters were aviators, without making everything about airplanes? I've been rewatching the TV show Burn Notice on Netflix recently, so an idea popped into my head.

My first thought to update these characters was to turn them into private security/military contractors. The characters would be part of a military security corporation like Blackwater USA, which would give them slightly more freedom than a strictly military campaign would have. Then, the story of Burn Notice swept in. What if David Nelson (the real name of the Airboy character) was a "burned" former military contractor? All of the equipment that he developed (including his signature airplane "Birdie") would be in the hands of his former employer (most likely the company he founded), the Air Fighters, and any security clearances that he had would be gone. You turn David Nelson into a Michael Westen type of character who 1) wants back what he believes is his life and 2) still wants to help people.

The characters in the campaign would be the people that Nelson has gathered around him on various "missions," that he feels that he can trust. That would be the player characters. Someone could play the part of Nelson, or it could be an NPC run by the GM. If the latter, you would, of course, have to resist the temptation to have him do all the cool stuff and leave the PCs to watch what he's doing.

I think that it could make for an interesting game.

The "keeping the aviator angle to things" could be as easy as having Nelson develop a new kind of drone technology, perhaps one with a highly developed AI that make the drones into the equivalent of his Alfred or Doctor Watson. If Nelson has trust issues, due to his being "burned," it could be that computer intelligences created by him would be the only "people" that he would be willing to trust for a long time.

Here is a write-up of David (Airboy) Nelson in a Fate Accelerated hack that I have been working on. I made my version of the character into more of a tech person, he created his plane instead of inheriting it, because I think it makes the character stronger and more "modern." He isn't a comic book super scientist, but he knows his way around avionics and aircraft technologies. He obviously knows a bit about computers (since he probably created the AI software himself), so he could probably be a bit of a hacker as well.

David "Airboy" Nelson
High Concept: I Can Trust The Technology That I Can Create
Trouble: Don't Call Me Airboy
Other Aspects: Military Background, Not The Person I Used To Be
Approaches: Careful +2, Clever +3, Flashy +0, Forceful +1, Quick +1, Sneaky +2
PowersCreature Summoning (Flying Drones, named Birdie Two through Four). Basic Creature Summoning, Tough Little Thing, Menagerie.*

I didn't give Nelson any stunts yet, but they would likely give him an edge in military or technical matters.

Nelson wants to be left alone mostly, but not as much as he wants his old life back. He doesn't really want the life of the military contractor, or technology think tank, back, but he wants it to be known that he really didn't do what cost him that old life. He's trying to find out what exactly that "thing" is, and how he can fix it. Nelson's approach to people tends to be like his approach to technology: tinker with the machines until you find out what isn't working right, then once you know you can fix it or you can bypass it. He's realized that a big part of why he joined the military in the first place was because he wanted to help people, so over the last few years he has started doing that again on a smaller scale. A couple of his old friends from the Air Fighters still keep in touch, on the QT.

*The powers rules that I am working on are a hack of the Venture City SRD, so if you have a copy of it, you can eyeball what I did in this write-up until I have something official. If you like Fate and super-heroes, this is something that is good to have anyway.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

The Strange Approach For Fate Accelerated

This is another rough sketch of a Fate Accelerated rule addition, this time a new Strange approach. Most people who know me know that I am a huge fan of early/pre DC/Vertigo comics like Peter Milligan's Shade The Changing Man and Grant Morrison's  Doom Patrol. I like them for their unadulterated strangeness and how they challenged the preconceived notions of what comic book stories could do. As a gamer they could be frustrating to try to bring over into a tabletop RPG because of their very openendedness. (Yes, probably not a word.) This post is basically a slight polish on some notes that I made recently.

After reading the second volume of the COPRA trades over the weekend, getting at characters with this openness starting running through my head again. I've been in a Fate Accelerated headspace lately, because of some professional projects, and that it is my favored version of the rules. What I came up with is a new approach to handle strange and surreal instances.

A big part of the reason why I like Fate Accelerated so much is because of the approaches. Because Fate gets away from the standardized idea of using attributes in role-playing games, and Fate Accelerated takes that a step further with approaches getting rid of skills, it frees you up as a player and GM to focus on the end result of what you what characters to do, rather than the mechanics of how that happens. For me, that is a great thing, and why I lean so heavily on the Accelerated rules.

This isn't freeform, because you still have a mechanical justification to hang things on within the game, the parameters of those mechanics are just loose. That looseness allows some of the more surreal bits to leak into your games. This can lead to a bit more work on the part of both the player and the GM. The player has to be more descriptive in what they are doing. Where "I forcefully overcome the steel door and break it down" is fine in a "mundane" occurrence during a game, it doesn't fit as well for the types of games that we're talking about here. For example: "I strangely overcome the steel door by bypassing its reality through sidestepping it by passing into Grey Plane of Despair and reimagining myself on the other side of it."

Easy, yes? Well, with some practice it can be.

So, let's outline the new approach:
Strange: A strange action is something out of the ordinary, even in worlds with magic and people with super-powers. It is about doing something that side-steps reality, or the basic laws of nature. Tears of blood from statues, rains of fish and other inexplicable happenings can be the result of strange actions.
Not every game will allow strange actions, and those that do should use them in dramatically important ways. A strange action is something that provokes hindbrain reactions in those who witness them, because it is rewriting primal and fundamental rules of the universe. A strange action is causing something that should not happen to happen.

Whenever you take a strange action, the outcome should never be mundane. When you attempt to strangely overcome a reinforced metal door you don't just "phase" through it, you open a portal into the Realm of Metal Hungry Spirits, allowing a stream of starving Necrosprites through to devour the metals of the door. When you strangely attack, you shunt opponents through a tear in your sleeve that transports them to a demiplane of Misery that erodes their will and destroys their mind.

Strange actions aren't going to be for all players, so don't require that a rank be put in that approach. Do not let a player get away with using a strange action mundanely. Put a situational modifier of -2 on attempts to take a strange action without doing something strange (and do not allow a Fate point to offset that modifier). There should be consequences of failure to try to take a strange action without doing something strange. Trying to create a "normal" energy blast as a strange attack would instead manifest as a stream of fiery dolls hitting the target. Part of the challenge of this approach is that, regardless of what the character intends to do, the outcome is something weird.

There should be an aspect, preferably the character's high concept, that gives the permission for strange actions. Otherwise a character's strange approach can never be more than +0. Your character can attempt strange actions, but they have no innate ability to do so.

This post is just a starting point on suggesting how you can bring strange actions into your Fate Accelerated games. The destination is up to you.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Fate Accelerated Approaches For Pulp Heroic Characters

A while ago on Facebook I talked about wanting a Fate Accelerated hack for playing the Hanna Barbera Action Heroes: characters like Space Ghost, The Herculoids, Jonny Quest. Pretty much all the people in the header image for this post. I think that the two would make for a great fit, particularly if you rework the super-powers rules from Venture City for use in this.

I still think that it would be a good idea, but I never got any further than making a rough draft of some different approaches to use in a game like this. Some of these are riffs off of the existing approaches, but I think that they reinforce genre better than the generic approaches of the existing Fate Accelerated rules.

When would you use these approaches? They come in handy in any sort of classic Fate Accelerated super-hero or pulp game. These approaches could be swapped out in a Young Centurions game, if you wanted to give your characters a pulpier feel than the baseline rules.

Inquisitive: You have a questioning personality that explores the world around you. You value the rational, and seek answers to the unexplained, but you are willing to accept the facts and truths that the universe reveals to you. There are those who think that you ask too many questions, but they likely have too many secrets.

Daring: You have the strength of your convictions to propel you into challenging and unusual situations. One part courage and one part belief in yourself and your friends and allies. You have the sense of will and purpose that some see as reckless, while others see it as decisive.

Endure: Whether it is because of moxie or stamina, you persevere in physical situations where others might flinch. You push yourself to your physical limits, either to compete some physical task or when the risks are high and there are physical dangers to overcome.

Noble: You do the right thing and help those who need helping, or who cannot help themselves. Standing up and refusing to move, when faced with evil people, is really your only choice. Pain and sacrifice are sometimes your only reward, but you know that doing the right thing is the only option.

Deliberate: You like to think about your actions before you take them. Sometimes people take this as moving slowly, but you want to figure out the consequences of an action before you take it. You just want to be careful, and not rush in headfirst.

Quiet: Sometimes, people just forget that you are there. Not every action has to be loud and flashy, in fact there are times when not being noticed is a good thing. Whether you're fast or slow about, quiet is good. Getting your contributions overlooked is always a potential outcome, but you're more interested in the greater good than you are with glory.

Optimistic: You see the best in people and situations, and assume that, by coming together, people can overcome the obstacles that they face. You have faith that people will rise to the level of their optimism and beat adversity. Some, more cynical, individuals think that your are putting on a show, but this is who you are.

Some approaches will have more utility than others, but that same can be said for the baseline approaches as well. These won't be suitable for a lot of games, but for the ones that they will be suitable, you will find your characters having a flavor and feel more in line with the sort of game that you are playing than you might find with the baseline approaches.

There are seven approaches here, rather than the six of baseline Fate Accelerated, my recommendation is to give them a third +3 (Fair) approach.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Fate And Getting Over The Hurdle Of Aspects

Coming up soon, I have a rare face to face game. Not having been able to previously find a local group that matched up with my interests, I have done a lot of online gaming over the last two years. One isn’t really better than the other, and I’m not planning on giving up on online gaming because of this, but it is nice to find myself once again prepping for people who will be around the table with me.

We’re going to be playing a pulp-inspired game using the Fate Accelerated rules as the base for the game. Since this will likely be a once monthly sort of thing, the less time we spend on making characters means the more time that we have for the game itself. This is exactly the sort of thing that Fate Accelerated excels at.

Only one of the group, besides myself, has a passing familiarity with the system, so while the rules itself aren’t a problem the creation and care of Aspects has been a slight hurdle for some of the people. There’s a lot of resources out there for creating aspects, but I thought that I would share some things that I have come up with in my long, long association with the Fate rules for the benefit of the people that I will be gaming with. Perhaps they will help some others, so that is why I am sharing them in this blog post rather than just privately with the people with whom I will be gaming.

Let's cover the mechanics of aspects quickly. From the Fate Accelerated rules:
An aspect is a word or phrase that describes something special about a person, place, thing, situation, or group. Almost anything you can think of can have aspects. A person might be the Greatest Swordswoman on the Cloud Sea. A room might be On Fire after you knock over an oil lamp. After a time-travel encounter with a dinosaur, you might be Terrified. Aspects let you change the story in ways that go along with your character’s tendencies, skills, or problems.
When I talk about about aspects with players, particularly players who are new to fate, the first thing that I try to explain is that there is one slight difference between making a Fate character, and making a character with a lot of other traditional systems. Where a lot of other RPGs are built around coming up with as much detail as possible for your characters, Fate is built around the idea that when you build your character you are highlighting those parts of your character that are important to you as a player. The aspects that you choose for characters are the important "aspects" of your character, to you, and for the GM they are flags for the kinds of stories that you want to take part in as a player.

A player whose character's aspects are built around romantic relationships and feelings want to play in a game that, if it doesn't revolve around romance it should have romantic elements to it. The same goes for the player whose character is about exploring the unknown. Consciously, or unconsciously, one of the determining factors around a player's choice of aspects should revolve around these two things: what is important about the character to you, and what sorts of stories you want to be a part of crafting.

This is where the "Establishing Facts" part of the mechanical weight of aspects comes into play. Sometimes this is lost in the shuffle because of the fact that Invoking and Compelling both have direct impacts on play. Establishing Facts, on the other hand, have a more indirect impact on play. For example, one of the players in our group has played Spirit of the Century and wants his character (a talking gorilla) to have been a part of the Khan's army before breaking away from it. After making a high concept aspect around having been a part of the Khan's army he then asked "Does the Khan exist in your world?" My answer was "You established the fact of the Khan in your aspect, so yes. He exists in this world." In a lot of ways, "Establishing Facts" is one of the most powerful parts of an aspect in the Fate rules, but it can easily be forgotten.

My advice to players making aspects is always two-fold: be flavorful and be succinct. Let me unpack these.

Be Flavorful. Aspects should be exciting and dramatic. Not only do they describe your character, but they will help to guide the drama of the story as your games develop. Why "be flavorful"? I would turn that question around and ask "Why would you describe your character in a way that isn't exciting?" Particularly in a pulp-inspired game, where you are playing characters so much larger than life, you need to make sure that your aspects are up snuff for the characters.

"Mediocre" Aspect: Science Adventurer

"Fair" Aspect: Body Built By Science

"Superb" Aspect: Shaped By Secret Sciences To Save The World

Just note that there really isn't a problem with any of those aspects. Any of them have their uses in games, but it will be easier to work in Invokes and Compels when your aspects have some drama to them. Not only is the writing for the "Superb" aspect more dramatic, but it also helps you to establish at least one fact about the world that you are going to be playing in. The most obvious fact would be the "Secret Sciences" part of the aspect. Does this mean that there are sciences developed in secret, away from the prying eyes of mankind? Does this mean that there are lost sciences, from civilizations hidden away in the fog of time? It can also mean that there is a group behind the scenes, using these sciences to create heroes (or villains) like your character. When you put all of this together, you get a "Superb" aspect. It is so much more than just the writing of the aspect itself, although that helps too.

Be Succinct. Why is this important? I will admit that this is probably more of a personal preference, but I think that an aspect that is more compact is easier to use in play. Sentence-length aspects can have their place, but they end up with extraneous information that could be broken out into other aspects. This ends up making an aspect "too" useful when it comes to invoking, and it can make compelling difficult. For example, the above "Superb" aspect could easily have been written as "Raised By A Secret Council Of Scientists To Save The World From The People On It." This is still a valid aspect, but it also has a lot of information that can be overwhelming in play, and it limits the choices from the above paragraph as well.

Spelling out too much in an aspect is like creating too much of a backstory for your character. Yes, it gives your character a rich history, but it also takes some of the fun out of the story that is going to emerge during play. When you put more detail into the parts of your character that you are not going to play, it can inadvertently give you fewer options for your character when you get to junctions in the future. For my style of play, the emerging story of your character is much more important than what has happened before. It isn't unusual for the actions of your character to shape them in ways that you didn't expect when you created that character, and that is a good thing. Aspects can be changed during play, that is a part of using the Fate rules, but it is also good to not create your own road bumps in the emerging story.

Creating aspects is like any skill. The more that you do it, the better that you get at it. Think about the existing mechanics, as well as the story that may emerge during play. Craft your aspects accordingly to optimize both your approach to the mechanics and to the story.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Sometimes Super-Hero RPGs Don't Have To Be About The Superpowers

Two of my favorite comic runs are John Ostrander's Suicide Squad and Kieth Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis' Justice League books from the late 80s/early 90s. Both of these spun out of one of DC Comics' post-Crisis on Infinite Earths events called Legends. Legends was a pretty cool mini-series written by Ostrander and with art by John Byrne that dealt with one of Darkseid's many plots to conquer the Earth (this time by attacking the "legends" of Earth's super-heroic guardians in order to soften them up for his attack).

One of the things that made these comics interesting to me was the fact that they focused as much on the characters of the books as they did super-powers, sometimes the focus was even more on the characters.

This is good because on of the things that tabletop RPGs do well is to focus on the player characters and their interactions. For many gamers, whether with new or old school approaches to gaming, this is why they tell stories around their characters. For fans of these kinds of games, it makes comics like these excellent models for their games/campaigns.

One of my longest running Classic Marvel Super-Heroes RPG campaigns was influenced by these two books, mostly because they were what I was reading each month as I GMed the campaign. Roleplaying was important to these campaigns, and while we would have elaborate knock-down, drag out fights in the games the players also spent a lot of time talking and developing their characters. Relationships happened. Characters married NPCs. Characters died as players left the group, or decided they wanted new characters. It was interesting because, when we started the campaign, most of the people had never played the game, so I asked them what they wanted for a character and modeled it for them in the rules, or game them a character from my notebooks and they ran with it. One of the cornerstone characters of our campaign, a stereotypical conservative super-hero named Real American, was based off of the character of Golden Boy from the Wildcards novels. The player (who was not all that conservative in real life came up with someone who was a play on conservative super-heroes like Guy Gardener) took the bones of the character and molded a new personality and motivations for the character and made it his own.

One of the ongoing protagonists in our campaign was the super-terrorist group The Jihad from the Suicide Squad comic. After one of the players spent a Christmas missionary trip to Haiti (weirdly during the Haitian Revolution in the 90s), I added a Haitian character to the group patterned after the New Warrior named Night Thrasher. In fact, that player's character was a semi-generic "ninja" who split from the Kali Cult that the Jihad member Ravan belonged to.  Grey Mist tried to turn his training into something for good.

However, this post isn't about how to appropriate characters and tropes from comic books and to use them in your super-hero games. That could probably be a post all on its own.

Honestly, you have to have the "right group" of players if you want a game that is going to focus on characterization and interpersonal relationships. Not wanting to do this isn't a bad thing, but it isn't going to be what ever group is interested in doing (or even capable of doing). You have to be upfont about wanting to run this sort of game, so that players do not have the expectations that this campaign will be more "standard." There is a certain type of player who wants to fight everything all the time, and while they may have a place in some others they can be a detriment.

Now, obviously, you can play this sort of game with any type of roleplaying game, if that is what you want to do. We did it for years with the Marvel Super-Heroes game, so it can be done. Again, though, not everyone is going to want to use a game and "never touch the dice for sessions." They are going to want some sort of mechanical basis for these sorts of interactions. For that, I suggest going with their preferred game to handle these sorts of things mechanically.

For me, running this sort of game could easily be handled by the Fate Accelerated rules without any sort of alteration to the rules. Remember, we're talking about super-heroes "without the super-powers," so a game with a laundry list of powers and abilities could be detrimental to what we want to do. Plus, Fate Accelerated has a number of free options available for grabbing the rules to the game.

One of the first things that you have to come up with, for this kind of game, is a strong theme. For the Teen Titans you could say that the theme is "Teens coping with their powers and difficulties by joining together and helping each other." For the Suicide Squad it could be "Misfits and criminals looking for redemption." The theme for the Justice League of the time could be "B-List Heroes Looking For Recognition." You could probably come up with a couple of variants on these themes, or different ones all together, from each of these comic's stories. The idea is to figure out which sort of story that you want to tell.

Next, once the theme is decided, the players need to decide how they want their characters to fit into this theme, and what sorts of personalities that they want for their characters. Using Fate Accelerated was our guide, we can come up with aspects for Suicide Squad stalwart character Deadshot like this:

High Concept: He Never Misses His Shot...
Trouble: ...Except When He Loves A Woman

I don't think you're often going to see two interrelated aspects like this very often in a Fate character. It fits for the characters, at least as how it was interpreted back in the 80s, and they both work. I like how they sound like a tagline from a movie poster. Some GMs might want you to make these into one aspect, but I think that would be too specific of an aspect, personally. You could change the trouble aspect into something more social like "...Except When He Wants To Fit In" instead. I like the idea of the tough as nails character who knows that he has that flaw when it comes to women/relationships. It makes for a very noirish type of character. Can that trouble be flipped to "...Except When He Loves A Man"? Of course! Play your game how you want to play it.

Use one or two of the aspects remaining to talk about the character's powers, and then fill out the rest of the character's personality. With our de-emphasis on powers, we don't need to sweat a detailed writeup of what Deadshot can do. We already know that he "Never Misses His Shot.." I would use an aspect like "His Battle Armor Is His Weapon To Kill And To Keep People At A Distance." This should be easy to invoke when a combat situation does come up, and it can easily be compelled during other times. While cliched, Deadshot is certainly an archetype for the "Checkered Past" aspect, and "Can't Take The Shot Against Batman" could round out his aspects.

I enjoy this sort of a game, but it isn't going to be for everyone. The important thing to remember when adapting your favorite comic stories to gaming is to look deeper than the surface of the stories that you are enjoying. While the flashy powers are there, and available, in the games, they don't always have to be the focus of your game. There are some really good games that are all about building and using powers. However, this is why variety in available games and playstyles is important to gaming. Ultimately what is important is that each and every group find the system and approach to gaming that works best for them and gets their game on.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Mini Reviews of Two Fate Accelerated Mini Products

I like Fate Accelerated. It is a quick, easy and streamlined game that has a deceptive depth of play options in proportion to the lightness of the rules. While I do like Fate Core, I think that Accelerated and its adaptability fits my interests and style of play much more closely. I picked up a couple of PDF mini supplements for the game over at RPGNow. They both definitely have some meat to them and have utility in your own Fate Accelerated games.

First up is the Accelerated Book of Approaches from Dice Monkey Productions. This 19 page PDF contains a cover (seen at left) and three pages of OGL. There is some good stuff to this PDF, but I really see it more as a starting point than anything else.

The best part of this book is the in-depth explanation of the Fate Accelerated approaches. One place where people new to Accelerated trip up is thinking that approaches work like stats in other games, or even like skills in Fate Core or other games. How these things work is right there on the tin: approaches. Keeping in mind that approaches are how a character approaches a game situation can make them much less frustrating, and unlock the key to their simplicity and flexibility. It is the approaches where Fate Accelerated really sings, and where a lot of the game's streamlining is happening. A lot is packed into a little space with approaches.

For those who might be new to Fate Accelerated, the Accelerated Book of Approaches also offers some new approaches inspired by the attributes from various open gaming licence systems like D6, D20 and Mongoose's Traveller rules. This highlights the flexibility and hackability of Fate Accelerated by introducing new approaches that can help familiarize a new game by introducing elements that players may already understand from other games. For me, this is a strength of the Open Gaming License, and I would like to see more publishers bring bits and pieces back and forth from various licensed systems to make new things.

However, to be honest, the adaptations in this book are not as interesting as they could be. I think that sample characters could have better demonstrated these adapted approaches. That isn't to say that these approaches wouldn't work, just that they aren't as flavorful and as interesting as they could be.

Before you give up on the Accelerated Book of Approaches we haven't actually gotten to the best part: the sets of brand new approaches. There are three sets of original approaches for "Action"-oriented games, games set in "wizarding schools" and also for "space knight" campaigns. The Action approaches are interesting, and could work well for a pulp-based Fate Accelerated game, or one inspired by the television show Leverage. The Wizarding School approaches are obviously inspired by the Harry Potter books/movies, however these approaches could be used for any sort of wizard-oriented campaign where everyone is a spell-caster of some sort. A creative GM could build an Ars Magica Acclerated hack off of these approaches. The Space Knights approaches look like they are inspired by the "force powers" from the original West End Games Star Wars RPG, which is an interesting...approach.

Like I said, this book is a starting point for people using Fate Accelerated in their games. There is still going to have to be some lifting on the part of the GM to explain these approaches in a game, and to figure out the situational applications of some of them. People interested in a D&D Accelerated game should also look at the Freeport Companion that Evil Hat and Green Ronin put out. While that is a supplement for Fate Core, it could easily be hacked for use with Fate Accelerated. It also has some interesting stuff for anyone looking to do D&Dish gaming using any version of the Fate rules.

Next is a smaller PDF than the previous. Interstellar Patrol is an 8 page supplement for Fate Accelerated that gives you the basics to start a Star Trek inspired game. No new approaches, although it would be interesting to mix this with the Mongoose Traveller approaches from the Accelerated Book of Approaches to come up with a Traveller-inspired game.

This PDF is all starting point. The GM of an Interstellar Patrol game is going to have to understand the genre of Star Trek and how it is different from other types of science fiction. However, as a Pay What You Want PDF you can pick it up for free. I do think it is worth a dollar (at the least) for giving GMs a starting point. The cover is pretty cool as well.

With this PDF and the Fate Accelerated rules you can pick up and play a fast game on one of those nights when not everyone is able to show up for game night but you still want to play a game. That quickness and simplicity of Fate Accelerated is another one of the many strengths of the system.

I recommend both, or either of these two supplements for Fate Accelerated. Hopefully they will be successful enough to encourage more simple and low cost plug-ins for the game.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Hey Rose, Hey Madder...Hunter Rose For Fate Accelerated

Who is Hunter Rose? That's a question that many people wish that they could answer. A socialite and philanthropist, he wrote highly controversial novels that questioned societal norms. He was also the terrifying and vicious criminal kingpin known as Grendel.

From Wikipedia, for the uninitiated:
The story begins with an extraordinarily gifted boy named Eddie. Because victory in his endeavors comes so easily, it all seems meaningless. In despair, he throws a world-championship fencing match and becomes romantically involved with Jocasta Rose, a trainer twice his age. When Jocasta dies, Eddie leaves behind his life and takes on two new identities: Hunter Rose, successful novelist and socialite, and Grendel, elegant costumed assassin and later crime boss. Grendel is hunted relentlessly by Argent, a several hundred year old Native American man-wolf cursed with a thirst for violence. Argent works with the police in an effort to turn his curse to good.
Hunter Rose later adopts Stacy Palumbo, the young daughter of a mobster he killed. Stacy also befriends Argent. Hunter is a loving father to Stacy, but she betrays him to Argent when she discovers that he is Grendel. Grendel and the wolf fight on the roof of a Masonic temple. The battle results with Argent's paralysis and Grendel's death and unmasking. The police discover Stacy's role in this incident and that she murdered a governess to prevent interference with her plan. Developing severe psychological problems, Stacy is committed to a mental hospital until adulthood. After she is released, she marries her psychiatrist, but on their wedding night he rapes her and then commits suicide. The traumatic experience is enough that Stacy returns to institutionalization for the rest of her life. After she returns to the institution, she gives birth to a daughter named Christine Spar.
Grendel is also a contagion, a virus of aggression that infects people and changes their lives and their perception of the world around them. Christine Spar and Brian Sung were each effected by Grendel, after the death of Hunter Rose, and became versions of the Grendel itself.

Grendel, in the form of Hunter Rose, is about a seductive and affable evil. An evil that does monstrous things, but also believes in the protection and sanctity of children (partially due to "Hunter Rose's" own past life). But Grendel is also a cipher. Hunter Rose is as much of a mask as the one that he wears while acting as Grendel. He writes insidious yet seductive novels and acts as an assassin.

Hunter Rose can make an excellent protagonist for your Fate Accelerated games, because of the challenges and moral dilemmas that he can represent. My writeup of him is going to be for my Paranormal Friction rules that I am writing, but it is easily adapted to the baseline Fate Accelerated rules. The introduction of Grendel into your games can be a game changer. Do the characters come together to try to stop him? Do they fear the Wolf, Argent, and instead attack him...taking away one of Grendel's major obstacles (and the cause of the death of Hunter Rose)? What impact does a still living Grendel have on the world at larger?

Why, you might ask, am I writing this up for a game of paranormal romance instead of SuperFAE or baseline Fate Accelerated? Well, the difference between Paranormal Friction and Fate Accelerated are minimal enough to not make a big difference, and I find that as a seductive form of evil, Grendel can have just as much of a place in a paranormal world as does a vampire. And, we never really know conclusively if Hunter Rose is human or not...

Hunter Rose/Grendel

High Concept: Call Me Hunter Rose
Trouble: The Demon of Society's Mediocrity
Aspiration: I Am In Control Of This
Aspects: Rakish Socialite On The Town, Roguish Assassin For The Underworld

Careful +0
Clever +2
Flashy +1
Forceful +1
Quick +2
Seductive +3
Sneaky +1

Because I am a Clever opponent, I can substitute my Clever approach during physical conflicts and challenges by spending a Fate Point.

Because I have such a seductive personality, I can get a +2 to Overcome when using my Seductive approach.

Argent, The Wolf

High Concept: Cursed To Be A Survivor, Cursed To Be A Wolf
Trouble: The Grendel Must Be Stopped!
Aspiration: The Troubles Of My Long Past Need Lifting
Aspects: Driven By Justice, Being Unsubtle Is A Tool

Careful +1
Clever +2
Flashy +1
Forceful +3
Quick +2
Seductive +0
Sneaky +1

Because I am a force for Justice from nature, I can substitute my Forceful approach in social and other non-physical conflicts by spending a Fate Point.

Almost as little is known of the Wolf, Argent, as is known about Grendel. He assists the NYC police in certain criminal underworld matters, mostly drug and child sex-rings related crimes. No one is sure how long he has been in the city, or what he actually is. When Grendel started making sounds in the underworld, the two forces faced off. One of the concepts that the original Grendel story played with was the idea that "Good" could be ugly and inhuman in appearance, while "Evil" was handsome and seductive.

Their final conflict left Argent paralyzed and Hunter Rose dead. This wasn't the last time that Argent would face a Grendel. either. Their fates became intertwined through their battles.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Super-Soldiers And Super-Spies For Fate Accelerated.

Many of you probably know that I am a fan of the Agents of SHIELD show on ABC. With the Captain America The Winter Soldier movie coming out tomorrow, I decided that I needed to put up something inspired by the Marvel Cinematic Universe that was gameable. This mini-setting for the Fate Accelerated rules (although you can just as easily use it with Fate Core) hits the spot that I was looking for. It gives a Gm the starting framework to build a campaign using the Cinematic Universe as an inspiration, while creating your own adventures.

You can download the PDF over here. Let me know what you think either here, over at G+ or on Twitter.

Monday, February 17, 2014

More SuperFAE: Big Bang Comics

A favorite comic of mine for a long time was Big Bang Comics. A part of the independent comics boom of the 80s and 90s, Big Bang Comics grew out of Gary Carlson's Megaton comic. Carlson and partner Chris Ecker, were part of the Detroit scene that also brought us Caliber Comics and Kevin Siembieda of Palladium Games. While there were original characters like The Sphinx or Doctor Weird, many of the Big Bang Comics characters were homages to Golden and Silver Age comics characters like Batman or Superman. True, characters like Ultiman and Knight Watchman did have enough twists to them to make them into unique characters, it was easy to differentiate them from their inspirations.

Big Bang Comics ran for a while as a mini-series done in conjunction with Caliber Comics (where I first encountered the comic by finding it in a bagged set in a K-Mart), and then as a full color series published through Image Comics. The character of Knight Watchman first appeared in Carlson's Berzerker, a post apocalyptic comic published by Caliber Comics that (to me) bridged the universes of the Megaton comic with that of Big Bang Comics.

Today I needed to do something a little uplifting today, so I decided to revisit my SuperFAE rules hack for the Fate Accelerated and talk about some of the characters from Big Bang Comics, and how I would address them under these rules. The SuperFAE stuff is still a work in progress, so this post may contradict or add to what I had previously posted. In all cases, stick to the most current rules implementations, as they supersede previous writings.

In case you missed my first SuperFAE past, you can read it here.

Because of its freeform nature, SuperFAE fits well with the freeform nature of the comics. Not familiar with Big Bang Comics? Click here for more information about them.

Knight Watchman is Reid Randall, a fashion designer and wealthy owner of the family clothing business. Yes, that's right the "Batman" of the Big Bang Comics Universe is a fashion designer. While Reid was still in college, training to compete in the Olympics, mobsters attempted a hostile takeover of the family clothing business, killing his older brother Ted (who currently ran the family business) and Ted's wife with a car bomb.

Using his athletic prowess, and garment making skills, he fashioned himself a simple costume to hide his identity, allowing him to track down the gangsters who killed his brother. After finding and defeating the gangsters, he dressed them up in women's clothing and left them to be found by the police. Sadly, this did not become his M.O. for apprehending criminals after he decided to become a costumed hero.

Realizing that there were others in need of help, oppressed by crime, in his hometown of Midway City, Reid took the identity of Knight Watchman and became the Twilight Paladin of Midway City.

These would be the aspects that I would use for Knight Watchman in a game:

High Concept: Twilight Paladin of Midway City
Origin: Using His Training For The Good Of Those Around Him
Trouble: Must Keep His True Identity A Secret!

For his other aspects, being that Knight Watchman is a fairly black and white character, in terms of morality, I would probably use Must Do The Right Thing! and Square-Jawed Hero. Those give him a certain Silver Age charm, without hamstringing the character at the same time.

For Knight Watchman's approaches I would do this:

Fighting +3
Agility +4
Strength +0
Endurance +1
Reason +3
Intuition +2
Psyche +1

While Knight Watchman is a fighter, he is also a thinking super-hero. Some may think that the +0 for the Strength approach isn't going to be enough, but rather than thinking of it as Mediocre (like the +0 ranking in Fate) I prefer to think of it as being human normal. A good way around this would be to give the character a stunt that would let them give damage with their Agility, instead of their strength:

Because I am a trained Olympic athlete, I can use my Agility to attack and damage people when I spend a Fate Point.

Ultiman is the Ultimate Human Being, and as former astronaut Christopher Kelly is the stand in for Superman in the Big Bang Comics universe. When Kelly was an astronaut on one of the Gemini space missions, his rocket was struck by a mysterious meteor. The radioactive rock bathed Kelly in its strange rays, making him faster, stronger, invulnerable to most harm, and able to fly. The radioactive energies supercharged his cells, turning him into a superhuman power battery.

Later in his career, this would turn on Kelly, as his energies dwindled and he looked for ways to reclaim his glories as America's foremost super-hero.

Concept: America's Super-Hero
Origin: Changed By A Radioactive Meteor Into The Ultimate Human Being
Trouble: Living Battery Of Supercharged Power

The nice thing about the trouble is that it can be Invoked or Compelled to represent Kelly's powers when they start to ebb, as well as when they are at peak capacity. This was, after all, how we first saw Ultiman, later in his life, when he appeared in Megaton Comics.

Fighting +3
Agility +2
Strength +4
Endurance +3
Reason +0
Intuition +1
Psyche +1

While super-powerful physically, Kelly is mostly unchanged mentally by the radiation that gave him his superpowers. When his powers are at his peak, I would give the following Power Stunt:

Because I am supercharged with energies, I can have a +2 to one of my approaches, when I spend a Fate Point.

The nice thing about the Fate Point economy is that it can be used to represent things like a super-hero whose powers ebb and flow. Without a Fate Point, Ultiman is just his "normal" self. While all of this is good for representing a Silver Age version of the character, if you want a modern version of the character just fill out his aspects with Must Find More Energy! or Hungry For That Recharge to simulate the fact that the radioactive energies in Kelly's cells is dwindling. Powerful electrical charges, or other intense energy discharges can also power up Kelly, for situations when Ultiman needs to be even more ultimate.

This is just the tip of the iceberg for the Big Bang Comics universe, but it gives you two characters that can be used as examples for creating your own SuperFAE characters. I know that there's interest in more posts about the SuperFAE rules, and this is trying to fulfill that. If you also want to see me talk more about the Big Bang Comics characters, let me know and I can do that too.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Fast Pulpy Action In Fate Accelerated

I readily admit to be a fan of the Fate system, and I have been for a while. I ran a few games back years ago when I first found the early versions of the rules online (back when I was first discovering Fudge). I preordered Spirit of the Century and I have signed copies of Starblazer Adventures, Legends of Angelerre, and the Fate version of The Kerberos Club. Yeah, I thought that the the game got to be a little bloated around third edition (Starblazer, I'm looking at you) but there was still a lot of good to be found in the game.

Fast forward through stuff everyone knows and the highly successful Fate Core Kickstarter project.

I'm more of a rules guy than a setting guy, so I have the rules parts of the new version of Fate: Fate Core, The Fate Core Toolkit and Fate Accelerated Edition. Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE) has moved into being one of my games of choice. Some may know that I've been hacking it for a game inspired by paranormal romance fiction called Paranormal Friction. I have some issues with the FAE book's organization, but then I have an issue with the organization of a lot of RPGs.

Last night I was reading the trade paperback of Doc Savage: The Silver Pyramid. This was originally a mini-series done in the 80s by Denny O'Neil and the Kubert brothers. The idea was to update the concept of Doc and his mission and bring them both to the present day. On a lot of levels, the book was successful, but that can be attributed to the talent of Denny O'Neil as a writer. I really liked the idea of Doc Savage having a son, but unlike a lot of comic legacies "Junior" couldn't live up to the legacy of a man like Doc Savage. I do wish that the idea of the son could have been given more time and space to develop, but it cast a shadow (not the gun-totting one) over the legacy of the character that I really found a lot more interesting than a lot of the other attempted comic reboots of the character (DC's First Wave debacle comes to mind). Being that DC has since lost the license to the character, there are probably a lot of copies of this trade floating around comic stores that want to get rid of them. I know that's how I got mine.

Of course, this lead me to wanting a FAE remake of Spirit of the Century. Then I realized, for me at least, that I don't really need it. FAE handles the pulpy action right out of the box, sure some genre explanations might be good (I would probably also add Extras as weapons and armor from the Toolkit as a way to handle the weapons but that's a digression) but not necessary either. I know that not everyone has a couple of hundred pulp novels around, so those people would probably need some guidance. The WPA Guide To New York City would be cool, too. I wonder, since government documents are supposed to be public domain, if this could be reprinted as an RPG supplement? I'd buy it (even though I already have a copy).

Making a pulp character in the FAE rules is pretty simple. Unlike with my paranormal romance hack, you don't really have to add a lot of extra explanations. Let's make up Clark Savage, Jr. as an example. I won't spoil the character's fate (ha!) in the story in this.

Clark Savage, The Third
High Concept: Son of The Man of Bronze
Trouble: Living Up To This Legacy Is Hard
Aspects: Trained By Doc's Gang, Determined To Do It

Careful: +1
Clever: +0
Flashy: +2
Forceful: +3
Quick: +1
Sneaky: +2

As you can see, you have a character who is trying to live up to expectations, but just can't quite do it. I think that this would be a great character to play, even in a very pulpy type of campaign.

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.


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 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.