Showing posts with label fate. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fate. 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.



Jess Nevin's Red Planet For Fate Core


With apologies to the Sisters of Mercy:
Red
Red planet
Red
Red world
Yeah, that was bad. Anyway.

It is unfortunate that we don't see the depth and breadth of the science fiction market these days that we would have seen in bookstores 30 or 40 year ago. Once again we are in a phase where, if it isn't the new shiny and written by someone whose native language isn't one of the standardized forms of English we just don't see it. Russia, and the Soviet Union when it existed, has long been a source of thought provoking genre fiction that celebrated perspectives that we don't see from American or English writers.

The "golden age" of Soviet Science Fiction was a particularly optimistic branch of SF to boot, which I'm sure surprises anyone old enough to have grown up during some portion of the Cold War.

Red Planet is a new World of Adventure for the Fate Core rules, available at the OneBookShelf sites as a Pay What You Want PDF. Written by Jess Nevins of The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana and annotating Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen fame, the book is an exploration of the tropes of a nearly forgotten sub-genre of Science Fiction of the 1940s and 1950s from the former Soviet Union.

The PDF isn's a long one, only 64 pages in total, but it has a lot packed into those pages.

The science fiction that is celebrated by Red Planet is particularly pulpy, with echos of the American heroic pulps like Doc Savage, or the space opera of Doc Smith or Flash Gordon. The situations are wild and weird, and often blur the lines between science fiction and fantasy. This approach used to be much more common than it is these days, before demographics and marketing became a part of the creative process of genre fiction.

There was a lot of bad things that happened in the real world under the auspices of the Soviet Union, and Communism, and Red Planet does not sugar coat or ignore them. These aren't Alt-Communists softened up for propaganda purposes. In fact, the setting goes far to show that the Communism of the Soviet Union, and the Capitalism of the United States, lead to war and upheaval in their battle for supremacy. The protagonists of the setting, the nation of the Union of Materialist Republics, are a rebellion against both of these cultural forces. The Materialists were colonists on Mars, the Red Planet of the title.

Once on Mars, these colonists sparked a revolution against both their own Communist oppressors back on Earth and the Capitalist enemies of their oppressors. With their rebellion, these colonists became their Union. Their culture is not only their own, but has also assimilated (relatively peacefully) the native Martian populace. The racial makeup of the Union of Materialist Republics is made up of that mix of humans and Martians. The setting of Red Planet can be viewed as similar to the original Buck Rogers stories, just with less Yellow Menace.

The Red Planet of the setting is a Utopia. So to speak.

If it was a perfect utopia, there probably wouldn't be any place for the types of adventurers that we see in role-playing games. There is going to be friction and conflict between those of the Union, with the various social and cultural factions of the Earth. There is also an extradimensional faction of creatures that are not native to the solar system, or the reality, of the setting. They are two-dimensional beings called the Geometrists. The Geometrists have superior technology to Earth or Mars, as well as psychic abilities beyond anything capable of the people of the solar system.

There is also still "space" for exploration in the solar system, so characters of that type will find plenty to do among the stars of the Red Planet setting.

If you're a fan of pulp science fiction like Flash Gordon, or pulpy science fantasy like Star Wars, there will probably be things in Red Planet that will appeal to you. It is remarkable well fleshed out, considering the short page count, and there is plenty of material to spark adventure in the setting. I am glad to see tabletop role-playing publishers striking out from the safety of traditional fantasy setting and creating worlds that are different and challenging to gamers.  If you haven't checked out Nevin's Red Planet, you really should.


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.

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

Initial Mindjammer RPG Thoughts

This isn't a full review, but one of those is coming, most likely through Bleeding Cool. This is a big book, so it is going to take a bit of time to digest things enough for a review.

I am on record saying (again and again) that I don't like big gaming books. This is a BIG gaming book and yet I still want to run the game.

The things that make the game big make sense. For people who are struggling with the choice paralysis of the Fate Core rules relief can be found in all of these rules and examples. Sarah Newton has done the heavy lifting and created a worked example of how you use the Fate Core rules to do a science fiction game. For people who creating material from scratch is their strong suit, then Fate Core should be their starting point. If you are struggling with the hows and whys of the Fate Core rules, then Mindjammer may be the better choice.

All of the little things that you would need for running a science fiction campaign are in the book. Space craft. Aliens. Weird worlds. Alien cultures. Using Mindjammer as your starting point can really help to introduce the Fate rules to an audience other than people who are already fans of Fate. This is something that I don't think that other third party publishers have taken into consideration when crafting their games. Writing a game using the Fate rules for people who already understand those rules is easy, writing them for an audience not used to the concepts and ideas means reaching out to a wider audience, who can then be directed back to the core materials and other publishers. In Mindjammer, Newton manages to do this in a way that will neither alienate the existing Fate audience or confuse those new to the game.

The book is complex in places, but a lot of that comes from the science and setting that has to be introduced and explained to the gamers. Much of this complexity can be considered to be training wheels that can be kicked away as the group becomes more experienced and confident in their master of the rules. This is demonstrative of a canny design sensibility on the part of Newton.

Mindjammer pushes the bar up high for third party Fate publishers. Even before finishing reading the book, it is becoming my favorite implementation of the Fate Core rules.

If you're curious, the Mindjammer PDF is available here.

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

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

Stunts
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

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

Stunts
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.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Fall of Man Kickstarter

Feel the need to be a dwarf trudging around a ruined Earth? Got the itch for a post-apocalyptic game (that isn't RIFTS, though we here do love it)? Well, there may be a new Kickstarter for you in Fall of Man.

Fall of Man is a new RPG being created by the folks over at Samurai Sheepdog that will work various systems -- most notably Pathfinder, as well as Fate, 13th Age,  and Castles & Crusades (SIEGE). So, it likely covers a system that you enjoy, right? Great!

The setting of Fall of Man is that of Earth in the near future -- after it has been nearly destroyed by a meteor, but was saved and forces and all the other good things. This has led to the introduction of all the fantasy races and quirks that you know and love, as well as some new ones. The book features eleven races, eleven classes and a setting that seems to pit Earth,and its technology and monotheistic faith, against that of the fantasy world of Gothos, and its magic and pantheon of gods. A definite spin on the usual post-apocalyptic fantasy fare.

Nothing is free in the wasteland, so what might all this cost you? Well, getting the rule book in PDF form -- that includes all of the conversion books for the systems mentioned above -- is $30. The base level for a hardcover edition of the rules (and the digital conversion books) is $50. There are some cheaper and more expensive tiers that also include other goodies -- including limited edition hardcovers -- so there should be something for just about everyone.

Now, one more addition to the Kickstarter pricing and tiers is the inclusion of a few add-ons. Two of these add-ons are pretty typical -- extra books -- but one is a bit different: playtester. For an additional $25 you can become a playtester for the game and gain access to the Fall of Man forums and additional crediting in the corebook. So, if you are interested in seeing a bit "behind the scenes" this could be the option for you.

For more information about the game or the very talented crew behind it be sure to check out the Kickstarter or Samurai Sheepdog's website.

One disclaimer+Christopher Helton, lead blogger for the Dorkland! blog is involved in this Kickstarter as one of the creators. He will be writing the Fate rules conversion for the game.

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.

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.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What Do You Mean, Gordon's Alive? Flash Gordon and The Phantom in Fate Accelerated

These guys were super-heroes before there were super-heroes, and their adventures set many of the ground rules for the super-heroes who would come later. I have also been a fan of these characters for a very long time. Flash Gordon! The Phantom! Mandrake the Magician! Don't let the awful movies that two of these characters had to endure (or the equally awful live action TV programs) set your expectations for them. These are not campy characters.

In honor of Dynamite Comics upcoming launch of these characters in the Kings Watch comic (named after the fact that all three were syndicated and owned by King Features), I am writing up Flash Gordon and The Phantom for Fate Accelerated Edition. I have to think a bit about how I would do Mandrake, so he may come in another post after the comic comes out. I think that I need to see how Jeff Parker is going to handle the character before I write him up. Gordon and The Phantom are pretty primal, so I think that my write-ups should match them regardless of what the writer has in mind for them in the upcoming comic.

Flash Gordon
High Concept: Interplanetary Adventurer and Warrior
Trouble: Romantic Fool

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

Because I am an Interplanetary Hero, I get a +2 when I Flashily overcome when I’m trying to do the right thing

The Phantom
High Concept: The Jungle's Protector
Trouble: The Ghost Who Walks

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

Because I am a Jungle Warrior, I get a +2 when I Sneakily create advantages when I’m in the jungles.

I only gave these two the basic two aspects, I thought that leaving a couple of the aspects open would make it easier for GMs to adapt the characters to their settings as NPCs, or to allow players some space for customization if they want to play Flash or the Phantom.



Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Paranormal Friction: Jimmy Jam (Sample Character)

Hopefully next week I am going to be starting up a new bi-weekly campaign on Google+ called Paranormal Friction. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge fan of paranormal romance, and one thing that I have wanted for a long while was a role-playing game that tackled the genre. Well, I got tired of waiting, so I started work on my own game. Paranormal Friction is a hack of the Fate Accelerated Edition rules onto which I am building guidelines for creating the characters from the genre. I am also hoping to work out a couple of sample campaign frames as well, because I think that giving worked examples helps when dealing with a genre that people might not be familiar with, or when dealing with people who might not be gamers (but fans of the genre) and would need a bit of guidance.

I really like the simplicity of Fate Accelerated. It gets right to the heart of creating cool characters, and lets you get to the role-playing with a minimum of effort. Thanks to the guiding design principle of the Fate Fractal, it also makes it easy to design things for a game (like magic and supernatural abilities) without having to come up with a long list of new rules and excepts so that a character can cast a spell. My approach (ha!) is to use the approaches that help define a character also define a character's supernatural abilities, along with their high concept aspect. This should make for a game that doesn't need a lot of extra rules and just reuses the basic concepts of the game's design to do a variety of things.

This is (probably) the first of a series of posts about the game as I work on it. Today I am going to post a sample character made up using the rules. The bit on the supernatural powers will probably be confusing, since it isn't in the baseline rules, but hopefully it will be easy to to figure out.

This is a sample character, Jimmy Jam, a half-demon wannabe rapper. Imagine that the demon with the silly headband (the art is a panel from the excellent Justice League Black Baptism miniseries) is our boy, Jimmy.

Jimmy wants to be a rapper. He mostly means well, but he has to deal with being the result of a night, regretted by his mother, that she spent in the bed of someone that she didn't know was a demon until it was too late. Jimmy has a lot of urges and emotions that he doesn't understand because of who his father is. He isn't always sure about the flames either. Jimmy has not yet met his father.

High Concept: Horny Demons
Trouble: Who Is My Dad?
Aspect(s): White Boy Rapper, Look At That Fire

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

Stunt(s)
Because I am a badass rapper, I get a +2 when I Forcefully attack someone in a battle of rhymes.

Supernatural
Creates fire in a Flashy way; Uses Fire in a Forceful way

Refresh: 3

And that is really all that there is to a starting character. That's the beauty of the system, for me. I write a paragraph with a bit of background and then go.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Let's Talk About Atlas Games' WaRP: The Wanton Role-Playing System

Let's talk about the WaRP system from Atlas Games. For those who may not know, these are the rules, now released under the OGL, that powered Atlas' groundbreaking game Over The Edge. For me, Over The Edge was really one of the first freeform and rules light games that really clicked for me. Over The Edge came out in 1992, designed by +Jonathan Tweet and then revised by +Robin Laws. Over The Edge was a weird game, with a setting that is strange even for RPGs, and the light approach to the rules for the game really benefited that weirdness. By focusing on a stripped down approach to the system it meant that players (and game masters) could come up with strange concepts for characters (I once ran an Over The Edge game at a convention where the characters were all different media incarnations of the author Hunter S. Thompson, racing against time to solve a murder on the streets of Al Amarja, the default setting of the game) without having to worry about having to rationalize their ideas within the framework of the game's systems. It is like Hassan I Sabban's famous quote "Nothing is true, everything is permitted."

Many game systems have the mindset of "If it is not covered by rules, it is not permitted." With a system like WaRP, that is turned on its head with the idea that the rules are there to help and to guide, but not to limit. That's a sensibility that was once much more prevalent in the design of RPGs that I think people have lost over the years. For some, the idea that rules have to cover every distinct possibility that could ever arise during a gaming session means that they are protected from unfairness, either from the rules themselves or by those who run the games. Sadly, no matter how explicit rules may be, or how many of them that there are in a game, ultimately they will not be able to stop someone who wants to make their fun more important than the others at the table.

WaRP uses an idea of defining characters with fairly freeform, and player-defined, traits. Fans of more contemporary games like PDQ or Fate will recognize the DNA of these ideas within those games. Each character is defined by four traits, one of them a disadvantage of some sort or another. Each of these traits has a physical "sign" or tell that helps to define the character's physicality. This way, the interior life of the character informs the exterior. It is an elegant way to cover many steps in a streamlined fashion. Physical traits (like Tough, Former Soldier, Boxer, and the like) also help to define the hit points of a character. Traits can also determine if a character has special or exceptional powers and abilities (called Fringe Powers in the game). Fringe Powers can cover anything and everything from psychic abilities to magic to the powers of super-heroes to the extraordinary abilities of aliens and extradimensional beings. And WaRP does all of this in 28 pages (which includes the OGL as well).

Developed for a surrealistic game of conspiracies and strangeness, this basic engine can be used to cover a lot of different sorts of games. It can be used for playing super-heroes. Author +trey causey has been using it to run online games set in his excellent Weird Adventures setting. By the way, I cannot recommend Weird Adventures highly enough if you are a fan of the heroic pulps and the fantasy literature that informed the creation of D&D. WaRP is a flexible gaming system that has a lot of juice in it. If you haven't checked it out before, I suggest doing that now and maybe checking out Over The Edge, or the supplements for the game that Atlas Games has produced over the years. If you're looking for a simple and streamlined game that's different from all of the D&D-inspired games available and yet has had a huge influence on lighter, more story-oriented styles of gaming, you really should check this game out.

Friday, September 21, 2012

An Early Look At Nova Praxis

I was able to get an early look at the playtest documents for the upcoming Nova Praxis game from Void Star Games. They have a Kickstarter in the works (and if you are reading this blog post from the future it could be already happening or finished).

Nova Praxis is a transhumanistic science fiction game that uses Void Games Stands of Fate variant of the Fate rules as its underlying game engine. Transhumanism is a burgeoning genre in tabletop role-playing. Steve Jackson Games tilled the soil years ago with their Transhuman Space game, a game that featured collaboration between game designers and futurists to make a transhuman setting that seemed a probable extrapolation of the current world into a future one. Eclipse Phase by Posthuman Studios also goes over this ground, but adds an element of horror to the transhumanist SF. Both of these are strong games, with strong followings, that would be difficult for a new game to surpass and set its own ground.

Some would say: Do we really need another transhumanist role-playing game? I think that's a dumb question because, at it's heart, transhumanism should be an extrapolation of today into a probably and plausible tomorrow. As today changes, so should the tomorrows keep pace.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Double Agents and Moles: Options For Agents of SWING

Ever since George Smiley, the espionage genre and its fans have been interested in moles and double agents. These operatives were a cornerstone of Cold War espionage. The question is, how do you do this with your Agents of SWING games?

With NPCs, this is easy enough to do...in fact the upcoming Nefarious supplement will no doubt have some villainous double agents and defectors to plague your SWINGers. So, how do you add the drama of double agents to your play group?

Ever Agent of SWING character has a cover. This is even more important for a double agent that it is for a "straight" operative. Your character, the double agent, is walking a tightrop of truth and deception every day of their personal and professional lives. The Deceit skill is a job requirement, a survival skill, for your character. Important stunts from the core rules for a mole could be: Disguise of the Mind, Eye For Detail, Five Minute Friends, Hide In Plain Sight, and Honest Lie. Aspects that you might use to create a character who is a mole: More Than Meets The Eyes, Deceptive, Keeping It Bottled Up, and Strangely Sympathetic. You should have a double meaning to aspects that directly deal with your character's nature as a double agent, after all they shouldn't give things away to easily and you want to be able to activate them during play without getting your character into trouble.

The important thing to remember, particularly if you are planning on keeping your character's status as a mole secret from the other players, is to not lay it on too thick with methods of deception, or overly obvious hints about your character's true nature. For example, the "Keeping It Bottled Up" aspect mentioned above could have to do with the pressures your character faces in hiding their double life, or it could be that they close up and bottle all of their stresses in their life. On the surface, both of these choices could be justified by the same behavior.Keep in mind that your character will still have to do their day to day cover job within SWING and the group, so the bulk of their aspects, skills and stunts will need to reflect that. Their secret bosses won't like it if your character's cover is blow too easily, after all.

You also need to inform Control of your desire to create a character that is a mole. They may wish to approve any character concepts like this, to make sure that it fits in with the concept of the game and the campaign they wish to run for you and the other players. Remember that role-playing is a group activity and your idea for a fun character shouldn't ruin the fun for the other players.

There is a consequence to being a mole. Yes, that was intentional. Whenever you take any Mental or Social Consequences for your double agent character, it is a good idea to take consequences that flirt with or jeopardize your character's standing within SWING and/or the group of characters. This is particularly true of when you take a Severe or Extreme consequence for your character. You do not have to reveal you are a mole, even with an Extreme consequence, that would be too easy, but you can give broad hints. Being a double agent means straddling a razor's edge, and sooner or later your character will slip up.