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Monday, 28 January 2013

More Hacks in the Pipeline

Inspired by a cover shot of Dragon Warriors: The Way of Wizardry on a post header from +Fred Hicks I raced up to the attic to pull my copies out of storage. Man I forgot how much I loved this game. Back in the day my friend Eddie and I made a mashup of this and Thundercats which at the time (1980's) was awesome.

So as well as the FATE/Earthdawn game I'm actually running and my pet project Street Magic I now feel compelled to give this classic game a FATEover.

On top of that I have a request to go back to finish off an old and long neglected Legend of the Five Rings game. Now it has to be said I love the books especially 4th edition which are just nice books to own with cracking atmospheric interior art. However, I kinda liked some of the older rules versions better. In any case I have a whole bunch of ideas about how this might play out in FATE with a more stylised, dialog driven vibe, punctuated by short bursts of extreme violence.

So if someone could invent a couple of new days in the week for me to fit all this into that would be great.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

FATE of the Earthdawn: Game Session Report 1

Running the classic Mists of Betrayal adventure for the weekend gang. No spoilers here though so you guys can keep reading.

Learnings so far:

  • Unarmoured people bashing each other with clubs leaves more than bruises. (probably need to tweak some weapon ratings)
  • Item History is way more useful in FATE than Earthdawn. A later post will go into how I envisage this working with regards to legendary equipment
  • Blood Oaths are fun group compels
  • Much more hand waving than regulation Earthdawn but that seems to also be working out quite well
  • I'm personally not quite happy with the skill/talent set-up but maybe it just needs more time to bed in. Watch this space
  • Used success at a cost for the first time and thought it worked rather well. Untrained character tried to re-shoe a horse and opted to take the consequence "Cracked Ribs" from a mule kick by the horse rather than slow the party down by failing to re-shoe it.
  • Everyone likes rolling the custom FATE dice I made. Much easier than the Earthdawn step tables.
Next session will, I expect, bring things to a head as the slavers have just spotted the party walking out of the creepy mists saying things like "I KNEW that blood elf was up to something!" and "Oh god we're walking into a blood elf civil war"

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Dirty Street Magic: Part One

I grew up with games that had levels and spell lists and then games that atomised magic and made it another science. 

While these approaches certainly work mechanically I want a magic system that is curious, esoteric and unfathomable. One where the impossible is possible but understated; and at the same time one that is not overpowering. 

I've kicked around a few different ideas under a number of different systems but I think the best shot I have of getting close to where I want to be is using FATE Core. 

The Kickstarter is (here) and until it finishes a dollar will get you access to a whole lot of goodies in the backer updates including the rules.

Street Magic (SM) is a modern day implementation of some of these ideas, and draws on a number of inspirations including Pat Mills' Finn, Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, Mike Carey's Felix Castor novels and a host of talented street magicians whose names I will never know.

Knowledge is the key to unlock the magical, hidden mysteries of the world, skills that might otherwise be mundane turned to magical purposes by a hidden talent.

In terms of FATE this means that a character wishing to use magic in the game requires a high concept aspect that justifies magical talent along with stunts and relevant skills to make it happen.

Changes to the core skill list

Street Magic adds a new skill to the list presented in FATE core and re-skins Lore into two separate skills. All of these can be learned by people without magical talent but have their true potential unlocked by those with the gift.

Academics (Lore)
Lore is renamed Academics but otherwise functions as written and deals with matter mundane.

Gnosis (Lore)
Gnosis is greek for knowledge. In Street Magic it represents knowledge on occult, mystical and supernatural topics. 

Gnosis is the go to skill for understanding anything arcane, occult, magical or supernatural and can be used to overcome any obstacle that relies on your knowledge of one of these topics such as recognising the signs of possession, deciphering ancient grimoires, brewing up a potion or the languages of spirits.

Create an Advantage:
Like Academics and investigation Gnosis provides all sorts of opportunities to create and uncover aspects based on your knowledge of the magical arts.

Gnosis is not used to Attack or Defend

Legerdemain is the skill of prestidigitators, shell game con-men and others who rely on sleight of hand and misdirection. Often used to entertain, it can also be used to great effect in other circumstances.

Legerdemain can be used to overcome any obstacle requiring nimble hands, such as palming objects, picking pockets and stealing small objects within plain sight if they are in the same zone as you.

Create an Advantage:
Legerdemain can be used to confuse, beguile and befuddle onlookers, slip your hidden ace into your hand of cards or conceal a small weapon. In fact anything that can be affected by concealing, revealing or moving small objects can be leveraged using legerdemain.

Legerdemain is not used to attack or defend.

New Stunts

Third Eye Open (Notice)
You may use the notice skill to observe magical, mystical or supernatural phenomena which would otherwise be invisible; kirillian auras, magical wards etc. You may now also use the notice skill to overcome magical concealments or create advantages based on your observations. For example a notice test might now reveal that a room in a house was "Magically Warded"

Incantation (Gnosis)
The incantation stunt allows you to use your occult knowledge to formulate magical spells, Anything from the creation of a bobbing candle flame to light your way to the summoning of creatures from beyond the mortal world.

Spell Slinger (Gnosis) requires Incantation
+2 to any off the cuff spell casting test. These are tests when you just need to cast the spell right now and don't have time to do any advance preparation setting up free invocations.

Summoner (Gnosis) requires Incantation
+2 to any attempt to summon creatures from beyond into the mortal realm. Additionally your Will counts as two higher for purposes of controlling and commanding summoned entities.

Ritualist (Gnosis) required Incantation
Allows you to add +1 to any spell casting test for each additional participant who also has the incantation stunt and/or +1 for every additional three participants that have the Gnosis skill but not the Incantation stunt. The extra participants must be actively involved in the casting ritual and so it counts as their action for the phase.

Master of Misdirection (Legerdemain)
Your use of body language and fast hands enable you to distract onlookers enough to conceal or reveal large objects that could not normally be palmed. You can also use your Legerdemain to sneak past sentries and the like.

No. It's Over Here (Legerdemain)
Your mastery of is such that you may retrospectively move any small object in the same zone as you.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

FATE of the Earthdawn: Part Two

The last FotE post covered the basics of character creation. In this post I'm covering magic and some example characters showing their starting set ups.


Earthdawn spellcasters come in one of four flavours. Wizard, Elementalist, Illusionist and Nethermancer. Each of them, uses the same casting framework, however.

The FATE implementation is quite close to the Earthdawn setup. Each spellcaster has the skills of Spellcasting and Threadweaving, and one or more Spell Matrices. 

Spellcasting and Threadweaving work as per the Earthdawn rules, with the difficulty numbers retuned to FATE.

Basic Spell Matrices are modelled as Extras with the following attributes:
  • Aspect: Astral Construct
  • One 1 point stress box, no consequences
  • Spell rating (what would have been the talent rank in Earthdawn)
More advanced matrices can also have other attributes such as armour.

If you are a spellcaster then you begin the game with five first circle spells. Characters can go on to learn other spells rated up to their current circle. Usually this is done after a significant milestone is reached when the characters have some downtime to be able to do the necessary research. All that is required is a spellcasting test to overcome an obstacle rating equal to the circle of the spell being learned. Using skills to create advantageous aspects for this test such as "Researched at the Great Library" or "Tutored by Marcus the White" is positively encouraged.

There are probably still a few scaling issues with some of the spells but I'll address those as they come up in play in a future post.

Sample Character: Mercy Locke
  • Acrobatic T'Skrang Taildancer
  • Likes a Drink and and Adventure
  • Ambassador for the T'Skrang People
  • Doesn't Trust Magic
  • Sworn Revenge on Theran Slavers
  1. Acrobatic Strike, Avoid Blow, Parry
  2. Unarmed Combat, Swift Kick
  3. Melee Weapons
Refresh 2
Racial Stunt: T'Skrang

Sample Character: Hikari Twilight
  • Small but Mighty Windling Windmaster
  • Always Springs to the Defence of His Friends
  • Low Boredom Threshold
  • No Cage Can Hold Me
  • Afraid of Arachnids
  1. Avoid Blow, Acrobatic Strike, Two Weapon Style
  2. Dive Attack, Air Dance
  3. Melee Weapons
Refresh 1
Racial Stunt: Windling

Sample Character: Johan Ismyss
  • Human Wizadour (Wizard/Troubadour)
  • His Own Worst Enemy
  • Brings Pleasure to as Many as Possible
  • Unable to Turn Down a Challenge
  • Looking for Direction
  1. Astral Sight, Read/Write Magic, Spell Matrix
  2. Performance, Thread Weaving
  3. Spellcasting
Refresh 3

Friday, 18 January 2013

FATE of the Earthdawn: Part One

With the FATE core kickstarter underway (here) there are a whole group of folks coming up with some great conversions of existing settings and an active community sharing ideas on how to make things happen the FATE way. I love Earthdawn and FATE so I'm working on converting that setting. 


My intention with this project is to take the best bits of FATE and Earthdawn and fuse them together to make slicker, more narrative experience that still retains its unique Earthdawn flavour.

Circles, Talents and Skills

In Earthdawn a lot of the mechanics are linked strongly to in game concepts that affect the characters in material ways. The most obvious of these is the Discipline Circle which has genuine in game currecy compared to more traditional level based approaches. Circles are akin to belts or dan in a martial art and therefore mean something to PC and NPC alike.

Each Discipline has its own talent tree. In FATE parlance talents are part skill and part stunt. Note though that that some talents have mundane skill equivalents but the cost of developing skills in Earthdawn is relatively high compared to talents.

As talents are the essence of the Earthdawn character we will use them in place of FATE skills and leave the mundane skills to one side. These will be the province of non-adept NPCs.

Character creation:

Five Aspects, pretty much the same as in FATE core.

1) Core Aspect should follow the pattern {something} {Race} {Discipine} e.g. Acrobatic T’Skrang Taildancer or Small but Mighty Windling Warrior

2) Trouble

3) Phase one – your story

4) Phase two – guest starring…

5) Phase three – guest starring redux

Non Human Characters have their refresh reduced by one for Dwarves, Orcs and T’Skrang and by two for Obsidimen, Windlings and Trolls. This offsets racial stunts that cover the abilities they have.


As noted earlier, each discipline has its own list of talents, which are function mostly as described in the Earthdawn book. These should form a pyramid of three at average (+1), two Fair (+2) and one good (+3). This is a bit less than core but Earthdawn characters will end up with more skills at a cap of (+5) as the characters progress

If you are a magic user then one of your skills will likely be a spell matrix. These are extras with a two-box stress track and can take a single minor consequence. You’ll also start the game with five spells from circle 1 for your discipline. Doesn’t cost anything for these, it would be like charging for each recipe you knew for a cooking skill.

Durability & Stress

Earthdawn characters are quite physically durable and have 5 physical stress boxes plus a number of stress boxes equal to their durability talent rating. Unlike FATE core these are one point stress boxes.

Mental attacks in Earthdawn cause physical damage so physical stress.

Many talents in Earthdawn are about gaining social advantage over others particularly if you are a troubador, these affect your mental stress track which is a three by one point track.

Still only three consequence slots each though.


Earthdawn characters are epic and spend karma or fate points like water. They have a refresh equal to five (minus one or two if they are non-humans – see above). Thanks to some great feedback from the FATE Core G+ community karma ritual is removed from the skill list and it is assumed that at you perform your karma ritual and gain your refresh automatically, unless for story reasons you can't. For example you might be left tied up at the cliffhanger end of the previous session and so unable to do your karma ritual. However, when your allies free you in the first passage of play next session you can perform the ritual and gain your refresh as normal.


Regular items are regular. I bundle them together as kits for simplicity sake. So having a thieves kit, for example gives a plus 1 or 2 to a test to pick locks or jemmy windows etc. depending on quality.

Legendary items are treated as characters with each aspect discovered (key knowledge in Earthdawn speak) unlocking a skill bonus or other stunt.


As written, Earthdawn characters get a fixed number of recovery tests per day to recover from injury. Again this helps to makes vanilla Earthdawn characters fairly bomb proof but the extra stress boxes from durability pretty much have this covered so there's no analogue for this mainly for game balance as it would undermine the worth of consequences and make for a less interesting game.

Next post:
More exposition on talents/skills
Sample characters

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

New Year New Blog

So I've been thinking a lot lately about all the games I've played in or GM'd, prompted by the FATE Core Kickstarter and that two of my regular games are now hangout based as we all have families to take care of now and less free time. As a result I thought I'd post up some thoughts on games and gaming and share some of the stuff that keeps me coming back to the table.