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Saturday, 18 October 2014

Books and book like things.

There have been some great humble bundle comic offers up recently so I'll be reading my way through those now I've finished my epic run through Hellboy BPRD and other assorted goodies.

I think my favourites are the chronologically early Hellboys and the Baltimore mini series.

Probably because although I understand the necessity of it I'm not a huge fan of big arc structures as more often than not they seem to get in the way of telling a good story. I'm more interested in discrete events and the telling of them.

As I've been reading Achtung! Cthulu as well my head has been rooted in the first half of the twentieth century and so they have been a good fit with that too.

As it's Halloween around the corner I'd like to call out Rachel Rising and Revival as two of the best modern takes on the "zombie" genre. Well worth checking out if your local comic store can get a copy. I'm looking at you Settlers, Hamilton.

My lunchtime read is Irregular Creatures by Chuck Wendig. Only just started this but so far a cat has just sprouted wings so that does seem pretty irregular. Squeezed in somewhere will be the next book in the Sea Beggars series by Paul Kearney. The first one, The Mark of Ran was a well paced, darkish swashbuckler with some seamless world building and a few deft touches of characterisation among some other more well established tropes.

As a final note, those of you to the left of centre and RATM or Nightwatchman fans would do well to check out the Orchid mini series authored by the one and only Mr. Tom Morello. Still Fighting the Power even after the Apocalypse.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Tattoo Virgin deflowered

Massive thanks to Kristen at Cherry Pie in Hamilton. Three hours this morning and already looking awesome. Four more hours to go.

The design is based on the work of one of my  all time favourite artists reworked by Kristen to fit on my arm. One (possibly more) fish to go. Check out the original artwork and much more here:

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Interim P&P Card Games Review

Recently I've had a rush of kickstarted print and play card games arrive in my inbox and had the time to cut them all out and try them.

The three from Fire Squadron (Black Market Warehouse, Battle Fish and Braiiiins) are fully printed, cut and sleeved as is Rise to Power.

Printed but not prepped - The Agents Return

Downloaded but not printed  - Maha Yoda

Battle Fish has the shortest play time (around 15 min) and has a really simple set of rules. Great to play with kids or as an icebreaker or infill between other games.

Black Market Warehouse plays only slightly longer and again has a fairly simple set of rules, albeit slightly more complex than Battle Fish. The game has a great sense of humour and is simple enough to teach to kids although many of the jokes will go over their heads (Who's Jimmy Hoffa?).

Braiiiins is the most complicated of the Fire Squadron games so far and operates best in co-op mode where your zombie masters team up to wipe out a small town's population. My only criticism is that it seems balanced slightly in favour of the Brawler class zombie master in our early play throughs.

Rise to Power takes about an hour to play through and although we have only played a few times there is clearly a great depth of strategy available and all the games have ended very closely so far.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Mists, Madness and Traps - A Monsters & Magic Play Report

Followers of the Cave's gaming related posts will know that we're playing +Sarah Newton's Monsters & Magic at the moment. There's a previous post with the stat blocks in but as a quick recap the party consists of:

  • Patience, Cleric of Ororo the Storm Goddess and likely copyright infringer.
  • Ash, the (formerly) Nameless One, werewolf torching glass ninja magic user.
  • Thiefly Stabbit, unfortunately named, not quite evil but nearly, monomaniacal sociopath.
As an introduction to the system and because I wanted to trial it out before taking the plunge and retooling my massive library of heartbreaker compatible scenarios we're playing through the Silvermoon adventure presented in the core book.

I'll run through the session first and then come to my impressions of how the system works as GM/DM/MM.

In lieu of a strong group hook the adventurers all met on the road to Silvermoon and have slightly different objectives for going there. Patience is there to investigate why the local priest has not sent his tithe back to the mother house for some weeks. Ash is there looking for a magical doodad that is allegedly hidden in the abandoned temple. And we can all guess why Mr. Stabbit is there.

Upon arriving at the bridge into the town the three amigos are met by a lone guardsman, who provides them with some opening banter and a little exposition. He is, however, entirely mad and therefore does so in a roundabout, meandering fashion. Patience is the first to get past the guard, proving that an ounce of politeness is worth a pound of trickery. Ash and Theifly soon realise that there is nothing more directly useful that they can get out of someone who is clearly quite insane and finally manage to negotiate their way into town.

First stop is the blacksmith who takes a stereotypically instant dislike to Patience and her pointy ears. Wisely she goes off to investigate the church while the boys try to get some info out of the smith. 

Finishing their chat with the smith when Thiefly realises that he doesn't have a secret stash of magical weapons he can pilfer they adjourn to the inn where they have a brief conversation with the barkeep. Not liking the look of the other occupants there's a brief discussion before deciding that they would rather doss down in the abandoned church than risk the inn.

Someone, Ash or Thiefly I think then remembers that the guard talked about a witch. There then ensues a brief Blackadder riff before they head off to find the witch's grotto. Finding it is easy enough but the trio systematically fail all their charisma checks and decide to return to the church when the witch fails to put in appearance. Unknown to them, having fluffed it so remarkably big bad then shows up later that same day and recruits the witch to his side (sorry players).

That night the mists roll in over Silvermoon and as the first howls begin our three intrepid adventurers bar the door of the church and head for higher ground. As the door twists and cracks a big hairy arm reaches through and due to a misreading of the rules by me Patience pummels it into a big flat hairy arm in no time with her Spiritual Hammer. Patience and Theifly then decide to retreat to the bell tower. Ostensibly so that the thief can shoot from the tower at the attackers below. However, distance and the thickness of the mist mean that he was as well just throwing a quiver full of arrows over the balcony and hoping for the best.

Meanwhile, Ash is left down stairs to hold the fort. Despite the addition of his 90lb bulk to the benches it's not much of a struggle for the next werewolf to burst through into the nave. Burning Hands appears not to have a damage die so no cap on damage from the Effect Engine so despite being in a blind panic a lucky roll means that his hairy assailant goes up like a roman candle.

Eventually the werewolves beat a retreat, carrying some of the villagers off with them and after a sleepless night the three man posse sets off after them.

After a brief argument about marching order and how Ash wanted to be in the middle and Patience should try to guard the front an back simultaneously they voted by 2 to 1 to send Thiefly on ahead as trap detector in chief. We left the action just as Thiefly flubbed his perception check and skillfully detected a mantrap with his foot. Maybe no one heard his yelp...

So far my GM/DM/MM impressions are overall good, the mix of old school with the EE has worked very well so far. It has certainly made a big difference to the spell casters as we're using the optional spell loss rules. As heartbreakers tend to be mostly combat oriented I think I'd like a few more examples and options presented in the core text to help explain how the EE works for the players. This group is very time constrained so anything that helps speed understanding is good news. I don't think we've really got to grips with MHP but there's time yet. I missed the opportunity to do some MHP damage when the guys fluffed their charisma checks at the witch's grotto but there you go.

Next session will be the big test as the characters breach Silvermoon temple and I lay it on thick with the villains.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Cheers Ears

Massive thanks to my friend Jo at Cherry Pie in Hamilton.
One week on and the zero to 8mm tunnels are looking and feeling great.

Also check out my brand new Zombie 15 from Iello sitting on top of the snake's tank. :)

Drowned Metropolis Gets its Own Home

My main writing project for the end of this year is shaping up to be Drowned Metropolis and so rather than clutter up the cave with multiple posts capturing my thoughts and world design process the project has a new home over at:

Please go over and take a look. It's pretty sparse right now, but will soon begin to fill out.

The cave is going to remain the home of all my other projects, game write-ups, play reports, general rambing etc.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Setting Seeks System

I've played a lot of games. Ask anyone. If I don't own it I either have owned it or played in it or at least read it. There are a few gems that I'm still interested in checking out and there's always some cool new kid on the block to take for a spin. Especially with the advent of Kickstarter and crowdfunding in general, allowing creator owners to reach an audience that would have been impossible before the digital publishing age.

Most of the games I play in have some degree of original IP in them, usually adventure content, often setting content that is totally new and only of relevance to the players at the time. I love to improvise and react to what the players are doing so even if I'm using a scripted module I'm off script within the first few lines.

I've also mashed up homebrews and mods on systems for years, mainly when I don't like a rule or I want to apply an original take on a setting to a ruleset that is a near but not quite perfect fit. In all this tinkering though I've never really found a system that I like for dealing with magic in a fantasy setting that doesn't over or undercook the utility of the magic using classes. I suppose the closest I've come is either the urban macabre "Dirty Street Magic" that I started writing for Fate or Earthdawn. As has been discussed in gaming communities and blogs previously system is setting though so Earthdawn only really works for, well, Earthdawn.

It hardly ever gets written down though. Recently I've been doing a better job of that with posting actual play, some background material and occasionally part mods or conversions for Fate to this blog. The thing I'm always least happy with whenever I write though is the system. So this time I'm not going to bother, at least not to start with. I'm going to just set to and write the best setting that I know how and then put out a lonely hearts classified for
"Beautiful, mysterious young setting seeks sympathetic, innovative system for long term relationship"
The nominal title for the setting is Drowned Metropolis. Here's the dust jacket.
A huge, ancient city crumbles about a defeated people. Majestic structures once filled with light and laughter are overwhelmed by an aggressive, hostile wilderness. Strange, unnatural creatures haunt the fringes of what society remains, preying on the weak and the unwary. Desperate people cling to what little remains, the metropolis acting as a focal point for refugees from the wild lands beyond. The driven and ruthless carve out fiefdoms among the poor and the dispossessed. Itinerant scholars pick the bones of the great city, seeking to preserve the knowledge of the past before, too soon, it is lost. Isangi distill Jaan in their hidden places, selling them for protection or other favors. Black tongued cinders prowl the edges of the city, alert for danger from without, their pale skinned syphons never far away. Beautiful, deadly, mysterious. This is the drowned metropolis.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Old School is the New School - Meet the Heroes

We're taking a break from Fate based games for a few sessions (which is a few months for a fortnightly game), next up is +Sarah Newton's Monsters & Magic.

The first session of play was postponed but the characters are all created and in a few days they'll be off to Silvermoon.

I've abbreviated the character sheet to provide stat blocks for our occasionally intrepid, probably murderous, almost certainly of questionable moral character quote "heroes" below. As well as a short bio of each of them. You may draw your own conclusions as to where each of them sit on the GNS scale.

First up is the thief. Who needs a high Charisma simply to stop townsfolk laughing at his name,

parents can be cruel sometimes. Thiefly is quite sure of his abilities as a first level thief. A master of two weapon fighting and an expert marksman, or at least he will be if his plans pan out. Like many heartbreaker thieves he is a Chaotic Neutral monomaniacal sociopath with a borderline personality disorder. His alignment focus is to "Rob from the Rich B******s" and his drift is "Punish the Unworthy". As by punish he means torture and kill, this is a drift towards Evil.

Next I'd like to introduce the party's religious zealot, Patience, blessed novitiate of Ororo the Storm Goddess.

Patience's goal is to become high priestess of the Cult of Storms. She is Neutral Good as befits the cleric of a nature deity. Her focus is "Force of Nature", so whenever she acts in a capricious or willful way, or smites her enemies with storms' force she is acting according to her focus. That can go a bit far though, her drift is "Ororo's Word is Law", pulling her towards Lawful.

Patience smites her foes with the hammer of thunder an javelin of lightning, her spiritual weapons.

Were this to be a full campaign I would expect Patience to become the most powerful of the group if it plays out anything like the old Basic through Master sets.

This motley group of heroes is rounded out by "The Nameless One", a magic user par excellence. Neutral Good like Patience, his motivations are unknown, and unknowable. His history is a mystery. His magic is magnificent, and his power will be terrible to behold, (if the glass ninja makes it to the end of day one). 

Ok, so nameless doesn't have a name because we've not finished character gen for him as the game was postponed due to illness. It sounds good though.

This post was written with tongue firmly in cheek. Obviously we won't know how it all gels together until after the first session but Silvermoon is tightly written which will give us a chance to really get to grips with the rules before we strike of on an adventure of our own devising. (Or one repurposed from the archives, I have a particular fancy for Isle of Dread). 

The blend of old and new school rules should work well for this group as we started as a Fate gang post-kickstarter. Most of us have been gaming in one form or another for a few years and I think the biggest risk is not that we don't get the rules but that we approach the game in too whimsical a mood. I've read through the rules a few times and picked up Collectanea Creaturae with the idea of using that to lighten the load on re-tooling some classic adventures, (Eyrie of the Slave Lords anyone?).

OSR games are meant to be fun but I think that has to be tempered by an attempt to (re)capture some of that original excitement, trepidation and character investment that came with the genre first time around. Players, if you are reading this I mean you. I'll even draw a map.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Endless Seas - Funerary Feast

Back from their trip into memory Mushu and Maylin find themselves at a funeral. The funeral of the Jie clan chief in fact. Now the Jie are a client family of the Xangxi, Mushu's family. The islands the control are directly between these of the Xangxi and their direct rivals for control of the Western part of the archipelago.

The funeral itself is taking place at an Anu temple, hight on a rocky pinnacle that can only be accessed via a vertigo inducing chair lift.

Mushu only embarrasses himself slightly on the ascent where they meet their white robed Anu attendant. Despite being an initiate of the Anu order he is clearly attracted to Maylin.

Before the funeral takes place on the following day our heroes have time to become acquainted with the Anu beliefs that the Jie clan follow and spend some time getting to know the other guests.

This is a scene setting session building up to the events of the funeral. This is a much more political than pulp game but Fate seems to be holding up well. The players are really getting the hang of interpreting the results of the tests (good or bad) into their side of the narration which is going to be the key for this to work.

Introducing the characters to the other guests gave us another great opportunity to build out the world around the heroes. This is rapidly becoming one of my favourite methods of world building as it has immediate buy in and relevance to the players. Fate in particular supports this approach by treating all entities as characters with aspects of their own. Often during the session discovery or declaration of an NPCs aspect would leaf to a flurry of definitions for related cultures, national or transmission national political entities.

The drawback is that I have to keep copious notes that I haven't written up yet. As a group we have also not invoked or compelled many of these location, cultural or other non-person aspects. I suspect the latter is simply down to our relative inexperience with the system rather than any real flaw. The former just needs me to knuckle down and get it written instead of working towards that next unlock in Battlefield.

The heroes met emissaries from four other factions which have varying agendas and predispositions towards helping or hindering them on either a personal or political level. Much of this revolves around Maylin who has had relatively less screen time than Mushu so far. Out of the factions present one has a clear dislike for her and another great warmth. The reasons for these positions is yet to be determined but it was a great conversation starter for the characters and really brought the players into the fiction. Again we had some fabulous in character conversations, guided but not determined by the fall of the dice.

By the time the evening drew to a close we had populated our little sandbox with vibrant, distinctive cultures and interestingly complex people with their own motives and drives.

The final scene closed on Mushu leveraging his inherent likeability in the first of many political discourses as he begins to find his feet as the heir apparent.

The Final Transmission

This week was the final chapter in the Transmission game. Just before the end of the previous session we had about 2 weeks worth of plot to get through, until right at the closing stages Sebastian, our social character pulled one out of the bag and just called the guys they were chasing and arranged a meeting.

So I chucked out the tracking the villain down part and instead arranged a tasty ambush.

What followed was a full on mad roller coaster ride of shooting, chasing, carnivorous birds, stolen identities, quick talking, acid, space stations, alien technology and explosions.

Which was awesome!

It ended with the players preventing the escape of the villain by provoking him to fight them before he flew through the warp gate. Of course, being in an unarmed junk hauler this meant the bounty hunter surfing on the outside of the ship and taking a pot shot at his alien tech energy source with an old elephant gun. All the while being piloted through the middle of a huge skirmish between the junkies and the villains pirate allies.

Lessons I have learned from Transmission are:

  • Player agency, one of my favourite parts of Fate, isn't always a good thing, unchecked.

  • Some groups need a firm hand where the GM is more director than collaborating editor.

  • Sometimes when you come up with an idea it sounds better in your head than it comes out in play. (Which to be fair I knew anyway, this just reminded me).

  • I'm getting better at telling stories which have a proper beginning, middle and end.

  • It's still a challenge to keep the fate point economy running right.

  • Fate has kinda spoiled most other games for me. It's just too easy to pick up and go from concept to game in no time at all. Although I need to find a method for de-pulping slightly. Probably just through better use of global aspects.

  • Pools of fate dice mod worked but didn't add as much extra "something" as I had hoped. Good experiment but I don't think I'll pursue it.

We're taking a break from Fate now and going old school with Sarah Newton's Monsters and Magic. M&M won a vote out of a number of OSR type systems based on "just enough crunchy" and "easy enough for me to port over my old adventure library". The latter of these is important as our max session length is capped at around 3 hours due to everyone's commitments. That means that the shorter the prep time the quicker we can get gaming.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Setting Set Lists

One of the things I find surprisingly useful when engaging in world design, particularly when populating the world with notable characters is to use a set list/play list.

If I'm designing for an RPG then these lists don't usually get played in session, as I prefer an ambient soundtrack if any for actual play. They are shared with the players though to give them a sense of the mood I want to evoke.

Sometimes the set list will only be a single theme song if it's for a specific place, thing or person but it can often be a full ESP or album's worth.

For example I'm writing up a flooded urban fantasy setting where werewolves are the current focus of my attentions. This set list is currently:

The Wolf - Shooter Jennings
The Little Things Give You Away - Linkin Park
Calm Like a Bomb - RATM
Hatred is Contagious - Filter
The Warmth - Incubus
If You Fear Dying - One Day as a Lion
The Devils queen - Black Stone Cherry

By the time I'm done I expect to probably double the number of songs on the setting set list.

Individual places or people tend to have fewer songs, often only one. The song they have is not necessarily very descriptive of the place or person in its entirety but is there, like the setting set list to give me a hook into writing it.

Sometimes it might be a repeat from the setting list if it's a major component of the design. For instance The Devils Queen also features in the set list of the floating nightspot of the same name, although it's usually referred to by locals as The DQ.

The bar manager, Kenny, is always taking in lost causes despite his better judgement, his theme song is, of course, I Knew You Were Trouble by Taylor Swift.

These themes and set lists help to keep me on track when writing, especially for mood and tone and also when considering dialog in the case of people.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Adventures in cooperative world building. Episode one.

Fair warning to non RPG players I'm going to name drop some game systems, however this article only talks about them in terms of their use and influence on the world building process.

The two games I am going to reference are Microscope and Fate Core.

To set the scene, my gaming group needed to set the scene for their latest adventures. This is the ongoing story of how we are doing it and the world that we are creating.

This is a sandbox game and we knew that the action was going to take place at some pivotal point in the history of the world. However to know when and where we first had to create that history. This is where Microscope steps in. It uses a structured, free form way of creating large historical arcs that can then be focused into narrower series of historical events. our first tasks where to make up some lists and take some initial decisions.

This is a two player group and I had pitched the scenario as a Yojimbo style setup where there was an established master/servant relationship on place before the start of play.

Based on that we decided to go for an Indo-Chinese feel to the game so we could mash up some of the cultural features of the mid and far East.

Then we set to and took it in turns to define our in and out lists. These are lists of features that we either definitely wanted to see in the world or definitely didn't want to see. Once that was done we then needed to set bookend points for our history. These frame the largest area of history.

Having determine a broad sweep of history we then took it in turns to zoom into that history and define new eras and events. This is infinitely zoomable so eras and events within them can be nested inside broader eras.

By the time we had finished we had plagues, wars, the death of magic and a pivotal assassination.

We chose to set the game in at the start of one of the more hopeful eras; the Age of Exploration.

Now from our work on the history we know that this age is critical in bringing about the unification of the islands under a single benevolent empire. What role our heroes play in this is still to be seen.

With this kind of cooperative approach it is vital that the other contributors are bought into the core concept from the start. It is equally important that as the main designer (read GM for RPGrs) that you accept that you are giving up absolute control of your creation from the get go.

This means that this approach will not be for everyone and there would clearly be some ownership issues if this were a commercial project. However for groups interested in working together to write a shared history I recommend it highly.

In the next episode I will look at localised world building using forward and reverse projection from a story seed.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Endless Seas Under Endless Skies

Ooh another Fate based game - Surprise!

I'm still experimenting with the types of game that I can run using Fate Core and it's near derivatives. In this case we're using Tianxia, which I did a mini review of in my last post.


Endless Seas Under Endless Skies is a fantasy genre sandbox game set in a large, widespread archipelago. The timeline for the world was developed by the players using the excellent Microscope. In our timeline we are just at the start of the Age of Discovery, some years after the assassination of the last Grand Magister.

There is little metal in this part of the world and virtually no industrialisation, which has a big impact on the kinds of technologies available. It also explains the prevalence of the unarmed martial arts.

Most societies are matrilineal, although not necessarily matriarchal. Magic, was banned in the distant past for an as yet undetermined reason and all knowledge of it has now passed from the world with the death of the Grand Magister. The only form of arcane knowledge that is tolerated is alchemy, and that by only some of the island dynasties.

Our heroes are Mushu, the reluctant male heir of a matriarchal clan (all other female heirs having passed away) and his female bodyguard Maylin.

So far we have played three sessions, of which only the first has been set in the present. The other two have been flashbacks to earlier points in the story. Despite having run games for years I've never really seriously tried running a flashback series. Having done it I would definitely recommend it as a technique for immersing players in the world of a sandbox game. Fate really supports this approach of defining important people, places and things on the fly with a few aspects and key skills. For instance, Mushu's master now has a long whispy moustache which marks him out as a master in his order and we also know that the Xangxi clan control three islands, and discovered a shellfish from which they can distill alchemical ink.

The first flashback was to a clash on the high seas with some opportunistic pirates that ended in the heroes capturing the pirate vessel as their own sank. So part of that was to jot down the name of the ship, it's captain and first mate and the name of the pirate captain and the pirate lord he served under.

Having defeated the pirates so roundly the pirate captain also picked up the aspect Humiliated by Maylin for his trouble.

The second flashback was to just before the heroes left their home island to visit the Anu temple where their adventure "began". This was a tour de force by the players who got really into character as they had some heavy one on one interaction with Mushu's mother Sheung. Sheung is an Iron Fist in an Iron Glove and had her guard captain beat him to a pulp for his disobedience and reluctance to shoulder his responsibilities as heir. All the while Maylin is desperately using her limited social skills to gain entry to the palace and defend her charge from his own mother's henchman.

Both of the players really leaned into their roles and came away with their honour intact, although bruised and battered in Mushu's case.

If this had been another group then someone would have been straight out for revenge or tried to attack Sheung, or made some other overt attempt to "win" in the situation that they found themselves in. So credit goes to the players for choosing to roll with the situation rather than fight it. Mushu chose to take a beating, to the point of near unconsciousness to prove to Sheung that he both could and would, to prove his honour. Maylin could have intervened on his behalf but chose to let him. Doing so, she gained face in front of Sheung and her retinue for talking her way into the palace and arguing Mushu's case but ultimately letting him take charge of his own destiny.

So in this scenario, each was forced to rely on their weaker skills. This showed the value of each other's skill sets and fate points were flying thick and fast as they leveraged their aspects in ways that they hadn't necessarily thought of when they created the characters.

The next session will bring us back to the present where Maylin tries to protect Mushu from his own libido and the possible advances of the beautiful widow Jie Feng.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

I Know Kung Fu - a first look at Tianxia

As well as a mostly regular fortnightly game I also run an occasional game for two players. This time around we're playing a Yojimbo style game where one of the characters is the bodyguard for the other. We're using a custom background which we developed the core themes and some significant events using the excellent Microscope, which I urge everyone to check out.

As readers of earlier posts will know my go to system is currently Fate Core. In this case we're using Tianxia - Blood, Silk & Jade which has just been kickstarted by Vigilance Press.

In the authors afterword Jack Norris notes that it's a project that's been around for a few years, essentially waiting for the right system to implement his cool ideas. This is very much how I feel about Fate Core as well. The main point is, however, that the team behind Tianxia has spent time where it matters, crafting a setting and it's core concepts that really work.

One of my favorite parts of Tianxia is the Kung Fu style system and the flexibility it brings. The characters in this game are at opposite ends of the spectrum here. Mushu, the "master", has pretty much no fighting skills but successfully used his knowledge of Mountain Crane Style to defend himself from a mob of bloodthirsty pirates (+4 to full defense rather than the standard +2) without breaking a sweat. Maylin, his yojimbo, on the other hand wiped out the rest of the crew and the pirate captain with the use of her fearsome Golden Cobra Style.

The pirate attack was just a short flashback scene to fill time after character creation and so far is one of my favourite Fate experiences to date. For me it really hilighted the strengths of Fate as a system and the great way that Vigilance have implemented it in Tianxia. Each of the characters was awesome but in their own style and as a group we went from character generation to amazing action in just a couple of hours.

Tianxia also has some really great character examples and some great GM advice, including some excellent examples of the Bronze rule in action. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Tianxia to anyone who loves Fate or the Wushu genre.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Transmission ~ Terminus

For a variety of reasons I'm not going to progress Transmission any further than the test phase and archive all the materials I've written so far.

Here's the character generation section and two new skills used in the alpha test.


Creating Your Character

Steps 1-5 shake out as per Fate Core

Step Six - Choose a Development Pattern and Some Skills

Transmission characters can choose from one of four skill skill development patterns that reflect their education and experience up until the start of the game. Each development pattern has a different distribution of skills but once you’ve chosen a pattern you can select any skills to fill the available slots.

The development patterns are:

Broad based professional

Superb 0

Great 1

Good 2

Fair 3

Average 4

Dedicated professional

Superb 0

Great 2

Good 2

Fair 2

Average 2

Single Minded Expert

Superb 1

Great 1

Good 1

Fair 2

Average 4

Jack of All Trades

Superb 0

Great 0

Good 2

Fair 4

Average 6

The skill descriptions themselves can be found in the Skills chapter.

Step Seven - PostHuman Genetics

All characters in Transmission have had some kind of genetic tailoring. Often this is simply something such as having disease resistant traits spliced into their genome before birth. These procedures are so common though that it would be more remarkable not to have it performed. However, any specialist traits should be noted down as well as their refresh cost.

Cosmetic traits such as feathers for hair or blue skin have no associated cost. Traits with game effects cost one or more refresh. You may choose more than one trait, but the limit is three.

Lorna’s character is an MC starship engineer she also thinks that having a monkey tail would be both useful and fun. This costs a point of refresh as a prehensile tail could come in pretty useful.

Thinking that her tail is handy Lorna has another think about how other monkey traits would come in handy and decides to go with hands for feet as well. This combined with her tail will come handy for working upside down inside the mechanics of the starship. This costs another point of refresh as it’s a second trait with additional benefits.

She talks through the traits with the GM and they agree on the game effects.

She writes down:

Prehensile Tail

Able to hold on to tools, bars and other stuff

+1 to Athletics tests when hanging, swinging or falling.

Hands for Feet

Can perform any physical task at skill rating -2D with my feet.

I can offset this penalty by taking a stunt for each skill I want to be good at with my feet.

Step Eight - Stunts

Stunts change how skills work for your character. Picking and inventing stunts are covered in the Skills and Stunts chapter.

You get three stunts for free, and you can take up to two more stunts at the cost of lowering your refresh by one each. (The gist is this: the more cool tricks you can do, the more you’ll need to accept compels to get fate points.) Figuring out stunts can take a while, so you may want to pick one for now and determine the rest of them during play.

Lorna decides to take two stunts, Engineer’s Knock and Tailgunner.

Engineers Knock (Craft)

You know just where to thump a piece of broken machinery to get it going again. +2 to Craft when attempting mechanical repairs.

Tailgunner (Shoot)

You can use your prehensile tail to fire a gun. It’s still a tail though so you do so at skill -1D.

Step Nine - Refresh

A player character in Transmission starts with a refresh of four. That means he’ll start each session off with at least four fate points. For each PostHuman Trait you choose will cost one or more refresh and each additional stunt you pick costs a point of refresh too. No Transmission character can start the game with a refresh lower than one.

Step Ten - Stress and Consequences

As vanilla Fate Core.

New Skills


The MicroG skill represents your character’s general level of physical ability in microgravity environments, whether through training, natural gifts, or genetic alteration. It’s how good you are at moving your body in micro or zero gravity. As such, it is a popular choice for nearly any action-y character.

 Overcome: MicroG allows you to overcome any obstacle that requires physical movement in microgravity—jumping, running, climbing etc. You use overcome actions with MicroG to move between zones in a conflict if there’s a situation aspect or other obstacle in your way. You also roll MicroG to chase or race in any contests or challenges that rely on these types of activities.

Create an Advantage: When you’re creating an advantage with MicroG, you’re jumping to high ground, moving faster than the opponent can keep up with, using the ceiling as the floor or otherwise maneuvering in order to confound your foes.

Attack: MicroG is not meant as an attack skill.

Defend: MicroG is a catch-all skill to roll for defense in a physical conflict in microgravity, against close-quarters and ranged attacks. You can also use it to defend against characters trying to move past you, if you’re in a position to physically interfere with whoever’s making the attempt.

MicroG Stunts

EVA - You have had specific training in the use of EVA equipment and therefore have +2 to MicroG maneuvers using EVA gear.


You use the SofTech skill to interact with computers and computerised systems.

 Overcome: Tech allows you to build, break, fix and operate high tech electronics and computer equipment, presuming you have the time and tools you need. As with Crafts, actions with SofTech often happen as one component of a more complex situation, making it a popular skill for challenges.

Create an Advantage: You can use SofTech to create aspects representing features of program or system pointing out useful features or strengths you can use to your advantage (Parallel Processing, Optimised Sorting) or a vulnerability for you to exploit (Backdoor, Weak Encryption).

Attack - When using automated guns, starship weaponry or other computer controlled weapons systems you use the SofTech skill to attack.

Defend - When using ECM systems, shipboard defensive arrays etc. You us the SofTech skill to defend.

SofTech Stunts

Slicer - You are a hacker par excellence. +2 to attempts to access, subvert and control computer systems.

Hardware Hacker - Your interest in technology goes beyond software to the hardware used to run it. You may use your SofTech skill in place of Crafts when working on computer or advanced electronic hardware.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Fractal Oaths

File under Fractal and Earthdawn.

One of the coolest parts of Earthdawn is blood magic. Now you can do a lot with blood magic but my absolute favourite is the blood oath.

In a blood oath one or more people swear to do a thing which has one or more bans. The oath lasts for a year and a day, some can then be renewed, others have a ban that states they must be completed by that time. If you go through with your oath then you are rewarded, fail or break the bans and you will suffer the consequences.

Like a lot of the concepts in Earthdawn this is something that Fate would handle well.

Oaths are fractal extras that have refresh, aspects, stunts, and sometimes skills.

All blood oaths cost refresh. That refresh is then the base refresh of the oath. If more than one party swears to the oath then the oath has a refresh equal to the number of oath-takers. The fate points of an oath can be used by any if the oath-takers by invoking one of the oath's aspects.

They also have at least three aspects. Swearing, release, and ban. More powerful oaths have more than one ban.

You may break the ban of an oath whenever you choose, however you will take the moderate mental consequence "forsworn", will no longer be able to take advantage of the benefits of the oath, and unable to regain the refresh spent on the oath until the consequence is resolved.


Oath of Vengeance
Cost : 1 refresh
Refresh : 1
Swearing: I vow to bring revenge against my sworn enemy {name}.
Release: I will be released from this oath upon his defeat or mine.
Ban: I may not act except to come closer to my vengeance.
Stunt: Focus of Enmity
+2 to any action that directly opposes my enemy.

Oath of Comradeship
Cost :1 refresh each
Refresh 2
Swearing : I vow to be a true and loyal companion to {name}
Release: A day and year hence.
Ban: Allowing harm to come to my companion by my action or inaction.
Stunt: True Companion's Shield
You can transfer an attack from your companion to yourself as long as they are in the same zone as you.
Stunt: Back to Back
You gain +2 Fight to attack and defend when back to back with your sworn comrade.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Fractal Magic

So here's the thing. Sometimes I just need to write to get an idea out of my brain so I can move on. This is one of those as it's yet another way for doing magic in Fate.

When I originally started noodling around with this it was with my pools of fate dice mod in mind but it should work just as well using the raw dice mechanic.

Anatomy of a Spell

In this system there is a spellcasting skill and each spell is a fractal object that can either be defined in advance or on the fly, however they all have some things in common.

  • A name which is their core aspect

  • The skill that the spell activates if it is successfully cast

  • Complexity, a skill like ability that is used to resist efforts by the mage to cast the spell

  • Spell Stress track (which I need to find a better name for).

Complexity is determined by the number of effects that the spell has named in it's aspects.

The number of stress boxes that it has are determined by the total skill that the spell has.

flame_arrowThe flame arrow spell has two effects (it's an arrow and it's made of fire) so that gives it a complexity of two. This particular flame arrow has a shoot equivalent of 4 and so it has 4 x 1 point stress boxes.

I envisage a spell caster being able to choose the skill equivalent rating on the fly with the use of a stunt otherwise these are learned rote and the values are fixed.

Casting a spell

Casting spells is a specialised type of challenge where you roll your Spellcasting vs. the Complexity of the spell. Once you have checked off all the stress boxes then the spell is cast and you then resolve its effects. If you don't check off all the stress boxes in your first attempt then you can continue to roll Spellcasting vs Complexity on your next turn to check off more. If you decide to take another action, however you must start from scratch casting a new spell with all new stress boxes.


Transmission Character Spotlight - Sebastian

This is the second character spotlight from Transmission. This time it falls on Sebastian.

Sebastian Charles Devlin was  into wealth and privilege on the the Branson corporation homeworld, Highgate.

Descended from the elite of the corporate world he had to be the best - in school, in performance, in every part of his life. School was intense, his expectations towering and with this he developed an all or nothing approach if he needed to get something done he did it, if something was worthwhile to him then he makes use of it. That was the social cut-throat environment that shaped him.

Trying to make a name for himself he took up a place among the corporations deal brokers, pushing himself and others to make sure he came out on top and realizing that sabotage was just another tactic to getting your best footing to climb the corp ladder.

He pushed to make sure colony ships were put in place and when he put together a big enough deal he would go out personally as the company man to make sure it was done right. On one such resource management trip he encountered a stowaway young engineer, and intervened to prevent security from executing her on the spot. A calculated move, ensuring a clearly able and resourceful asset was kept close at hand. This turned out to be remarkably prescient as part way through the journey he saw his plans unravelling when a shipboard detonation took out a chunk of the engine room and threatened to bring the entire ship down. With the ships engineer fatally wounded in the explosion, subsequently discovered to be deliberate sabotage,  the youth was on hand to jury rig repairs and avert a complete financial disaster.

Sebastian is adept at repurposing resources that others deem no longer useful into productive members of special projects. In particular he has built up a network of contacts within Branson's expeditionary forces , ensuring that those dishonorably discharged are found suitable positions within private contracts and paramilitary security where they can still be useful. A number of protracted off world negotiations have ended in Branson's favour following targeted direct actions utilising redeployed former military assets.

Now he has lost Translation and quantum communications with a major investment, so he has pulled the resources he needs together aboard the MCS Kraken ready for the translation window to open up again so he can make sure that his investment is protected...

Sebastian's Character Sheet

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Transmission Character Spotlight - Callie

This is the first character spotlight for Transmission, the firm sci-fi game that I'm running.  In this post the spotlight falls on Callie, the MCS Kraken's First Engineer.

Born into a migrant family on the outer periphery of the first expansion. Callie is the first daughter of a seventh son and the first engineer in the family. Determined to follow in the follow in the father's footsteps, despite his disapproval she signed up for the Branson Corporation Astro-engineering corp at sixteen.  Determined to prove herself she stowed away on the MCS Kraken's maiden voyage. Discovered by Branson security crew she was subject to summary execution by hard vacuum. She was granted clemency when Sebastian, one of corporate dignitaries on board spoke in her favour and instead she was thrown in the brig and expecting a lengthy prison term on her return to dock. However, mid way through the final flight tests a critical systems failure killed the Kraken's engineer and set the vessel on collision course with a nearby colony moon. The impact of a borealis class freighter impacting at near half light speed would have destroyed the ship and the colony moon had Callie not broken free of the brig and jury-rigged repairs to the ship's control systems narrowly averting disaster.

Given her extraordinary conduct in the Kraken debacle Callie was immediately offered an engineering post with Branson. As part of her corporate service she was one of the team that evacuated Branson forces under heavy fire during the Carrillion Injunction. This is where she met Walker during his first tour with Branson Asset Realisation (BAR).

callie's character sheet

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Razor Edged Soul

The leaves in dappled hues of oranges and browns powder beneath my sandals as I approach the time and place. Everything has guided me towards this moment as if I were a green twig, tossed about in some great maelstrom only to wash ashore in a tranquil lagoon. The air is sharp. Sticky pine sap from the evergreens, with overtones of sandalwood and clove, someone burning prayers.

There is a thunderous crack and raindrops begin to fall like the tears of a broken god. My second waits in the clearing up ahead. Servants have raked aside the leaves revealing a circle of perfect green. Thin plumes of scented smoke spiral into the still air. Now the rain is here ladies hurry to shelter under oiled parasols in verdant greens and flaming reds.

My opponent is a highlander, Murrain is his name. A dark brooding presence, squatting like a black toad at the end of the circle. Surrounded by toadies and hangers on, he has no legitimate complaint with me. I am simply a stepping stone on his perceived path to greatness. I should give him the opportunity to take quarter now. I should. However, his lackeys have vexed me greatly these past weeks and I am in a less forgiving mood.

A hush ripples around the circle as I make my entrance. Wicke, faithful Wicke, takes my hat and coat. I, of course, bow to the ladies and engage in some idle banter with the gents. I ask the servants to rake the circle a little wider, fearing some arterial spray might sully a pretty dress or two. This Murrain fellow appears larger close up than I had been led to believe. Still I am unperturbed. All that I am rests by my side and while that remains true I am unafraid. Syryn, my cold steel bride, my razor edged soul.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Sorry Monte

Bad me.

Just found out that Monte Cooke's Numenara has a publication called The Signal so henceforth I've renamed mine to Transmission.

All historic posts have been updated to reflect this. If I've missed something it's not deliberate.

Check out Monte's stuff he's a good guy.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Transmission ~ Enter the Matrix

This week was exit matrix design for The Signal. An exit matrix is the translation matrix for the reachable destinations that have been mapped from your current location. Of course, there may be other destinations available but they have either been probed and determined unsuitable or remain unmapped for some reason.

We used a mash-up of the cluster generation rules from Diaspora by VSCA which a lot of Fate players will be familiar with, and the planetary survey rules from Durance which is probably less well known and comes from the same stable as Fiasco, Bully Pulpit Games.

This session was immensely good fun and between three of us we managed to come up with some really messed up systems to play about in. Due to some bad rolls we did eventually have to loosen up on the 50% is wrong default survey setting and pick a world to be translation capable. As you can see if you check out the translation matrix link at the bottom of the page, although the stats for some of the planets are pretty similar they all have interesting and unique aspects to describe them. The surveys and colony records are simply a good jumping off point to get the creative juices flowing.

In the final mix of the write up I think that I will probably lean more towards the Durance style setup but more options for defining the colony world and it's host system.

Conceptually this looks like bumping up the number of the planetary survey and colony features to 9 or 12 apiece, setting a default value for each and giving the players the option to up or down rate each of these in a round robin, similar to Durance. Then assigning two planetary aspects and two colony aspects led by the features that were determined in step one.

The worlds generated in this session can be found here

The translation diagram for the Asterias cluster can be found here

Monday, 3 February 2014

Alternative Dice Pool for Fate Core

An alternative dice pool mechanic for Fate Core

I've been noodling around with a d12 dice pool system which has languished in an unpublished, untested homebrew for more than a year and realised only this morning that the scaling I came up with matches up exactly against the ladder in Fate Core. Here's the Fate ladder with the dice pools against it.

expanded fate core ladder

In what I hope will be a peanut butter vs. chocolate moment I've revisited it here fusing the original mechanics with Fate Core. This will be playtested it in my upcoming post-human Fate game, The Signal which you can follow here on the blog.
Reading the dice

Using this system all tests are opposed whether actively by another character or passively by the challenge rating of the situation.

Each party rolls a number of d12 and whichever has the highest result on a single die succeeds. If more than one of your dice is higher than your opponent's best roll then you

Here's a couple of examples:
Jake and Sam are arm wrestling to settle a bet. 
Jake's skill is Good (4d12).
Sam's is Average (2d12).

Their results are:
Jake - 3, 8, 9, 10
Sam - 4, 11

Sam has the highest result (11) and slowly forces Jake's arm to
the table.

Jake demands best of three and in the next round:

Jake - 2, 6, 9, 11
Sam - 3, 5

Jake has the highest result (11) and also has two other results
higher than Sam's best score.

It's a clear victory for Jake as he slams Sam's arm down.

In the examples above, there's clearly a narrative difference between the two results. Mechanically in Fate that's a boost. In this system you gain a boost if two or more dice beat your opponent's highest roll.

What happens if it's a draw?

In the case of a draw the acting character gains a boost over the reacting character. A draw means that you've not managed to create an advantage, overcome an obstacle or score a hit in combat.
Boosts, Invokes and Fate Points

There are some deviations from vanilla Fate Core here but much of the mechanic remains the same.

You get a boost when:

  • Two or more dice beat your opponent's highest roll

  • You are the acting character and the dice roll is a draw

  • The text of a skill or stunt allows you to.

Invoking an aspect (or boost):

  • Grants +2 to a single die after it has been rolled

  • Allows you to roll an additional die

  • Allows you to re-roll some or all of your dice

Fate points are used to activate aspects, stunts etc. as per the core rules.
Dice Options

Using a dice pool opens up other ways of modifying likely outcomes and handling the effects of gear, stunts and status effects.

  • Add or subtract a value to one or more dice

  • Add or remove whole dice

  • Cap number of successes

So why d12?

For a number of reasons, some more subjective than others. Firstly the maths for the d12 is more elegant than the d10; it is divisible by 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 12. Additionally it also divides neatly into 60. It's also an underused polyhedral compared to the d20 (which introduces too much variability) or d10. It also rolls well and has a nice aesthetic shape.
And what about the probabilities?

The only way to really test this was a monte-carlo simulation. You can find the link below. The most interesting thing to note is that in evenly matched contests the more skilled the protagonists are the more likely the result is to be a draw. This supports the narrative often seen in film and in books where a contest between two masters takes longer than the same conflict between novices. Not shown are the asymmetric tests, however as expected whoever rolls the most dice has a better chance of coming out on top.

Check out the results here.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Transmission ~ Translating Space

"Shortly after the Martian expansion and the colonisation and mineral exploitation of Ceres, Vesta, Pallas, and Hygiea the next secrets of the Signal were decoded and changed our horizons forever."

"For some time the interplanetary organisations had been worrying about the continued decline of Earth and habitable planets in the solar system were in short supply. Extensive use of GT modification and emergent nanotechnology had made asteroid farming possible but all except a few posthuman extremists balked at the notion of the kind of theoretical changes to the human genome that might be required to survive Venus or the gas giants. Additionally, travel times between the planets were still measured in multiples of years."

"As has often happened in the history of the (post)human race sometimes a number of key technologies emerge at once and the combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual contribution."

"Quantum entanglement had been theorised before the Signal, but new gravity manipulation technology made this a predictable, reliable solution to the communication time gap that existed between the planets. Simply encode the data and feed it as a digital stream from one partner in the entangled pair to the other."

"Mastering QE shone a light on how we might solve some of the other fundamental puzzles of the physical universe around us which led directly to the breakthrough work on Gravitic Translation and ultimately interstellar travel."

"Thousands of academic papers have been written that you can access via your AS tutor's library. However, to summarise, gravitic entanglement theory showed that any body with sufficient energy could move from one place in the universe to another via entangled dimensional interstices. More simply, interplanetary vessels equipped with sufficiently large mass conversion drives coupled to sufficiently large masses, say a moderately sized ferrous asteroid could move almost instantaneously from one point in space/time to another. A process that became known as Space/Time Translation or STT. Obviously origin of the Translation was known, the destination is determined by the nature of the interstice."

"Due to the vast energy requirements, Translation journeys can be considered as one way unless the destination happens to have an adequate supply of convertible mass with which to effect a return trip. In addition to this complicating factor is the non-fixed nature of the interstices themselves. Complex artificial knowledge systems (Translation Matrices, a type of dedicated artificial sentience) have been developed to map the location of these multi-dimensional interstices onto four dimensional space/time. This is a particularly challenging task as many of them turn through dimensions that are unmeasurable and therefore appear to disappear for periods before reappearing, often in unexpected locations and detectable only by their gravitic signature."

"Despite the cost, hundreds of thousands of mass conversion equipped probes have been launched. Each with the aim of reporting back, via QE, the features of their unknown destinations. Meanwhile exploration seeding vessels were constructed, outfitted and crewed by the best humans GT re-engineering could provide."

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Transmission ~ Fun Guys

"Like I said, once we had decoded the Engineers' code for warm fusion and power storage cells the energy crisis was averted and we had to find something else to kill each other over."

"The rocketing population, thanks to Engineer viral genetic tailoring, soon discovered that cows were in ineffective method of food creation. Of course now we were becoming reliant on Signal decodes for the answers to all of our problems but the deeper we probed the harder it became to decode. However an answer to this problem was unforthcoming "

"The African continent descended rapidly into war as the population as habitable land with enough food became the key resources. Habitable land being a scarcer and scarcer resource as the effects of having so much easy available heat combined with our stubborn inability to agree on a cap, let alone reduction, in greenhouse gas emissions began to really damage the global climate."

"Clearly we didn't all die of self inflicted disasters though or I wouldn't be telling you this tale."

"The food shortages were resolved relatively easily. We just ate more Japanese. Protein deficiency was a major worry and so vast mycelium caverns were created to feed us all on fungal proteins. Whole new cuisines were created;and every one of them was foul."

"Overpopulation and the increasing problems of waste heat and hostile climate were less easily solved and this is where you and I come in. Both corporate entities and the remaining governments came to realise that ultimately our survival as a species was in the mass migration of the excess population to the nearest accessible planets. And in the first instance that meant Mars."

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Transmission ~ Infectious Agents

"Are we better people? Well that depends on upon your definition of better and, of course people"

"Once the the first fruits of Signal analysis solved the energy crisis we discovered that there were still plenty of other resources that we could fight and kill each other over. Mainly of course that resource would be land, but we shall come to that later."

"Of course so called enlightened governments tried to curb the second phase of Signal research once it became clear what the cryptologists were uncovering. But as we have already learned it is all but impossible to put the genie back in the bottle and an almost no time restriction gave way to regulation and the first of the viral vectored gene therapies were on the market. From there it was a short hop and a step to the first generation of gene-hacked children. There was the usual clamour of complaints from religious and other pro-purity groups but public opinion was firmly behind the abolishing of sickle cell anaemia, most cancers, heart disease and the other modern plagues that beset the rapidly growing population."

"Sadly, as is often the case, ambition outstripped ability, leading inexorably to the subcontinental quarantine. However, in the main it must be considered a success, as without genetic transformation techniques I would not be boring you now."

"As I mentioned, earlier land soon became our most precious resource. Especially as infant survival rates soared in the developing world as new GT remedies were delivered year on year."

"Meanwhile in the developed nations GT went from miracle panacea to exclusive designer cosmetic procedure to corner consultancy spa treatment in a few short years. Celebrities were spotted wearing other species traits, spliced into their DNA for the weekend and professional sports were wracked with GT scandals as stars rewrote their genes for enhanced, speed, stamina and strength."

"The military were, of course, even earlier adopters of GT enhancement than the sportsmen and new wars were soon fought in the genetics labs of the world as much and on the front lines."

"Eventually GT would form the backbone of the EAA missions off planet and pure humans would be relegated to a few island reserves."

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Transmission ~ Spirals

"It was not long before the analogy to DNA became mainstream in the media."
'The digital DNA of the signal comes under the microscope' - BBC Panorama


'Strands of information coiled around each other like DNA' - Popular Science Review

"Of course the the truth was it was nothing like DNA. If you wanted a biological analogue then a fractal protein would be closer but we humans were so proud of our mediocre achievements in the sphere."

"What was the first thing we learned from the Signal?"

"We are not alone."

"And the second?"

"They are smarter than us."

"And neither of these two things required an ounce of computing power. Of course there were those who viewed this realisation with horror and saw in it the end of days, the tinfoil hat wearers. Most though thought of it as a gift, or a rightful inheritance and set about decoding the transmission with an almost religious zeal."

"The ubiquity of the signal led to an amount of democritisation, at least at first, in the outer layers of complexity. The earliest advances from Signal information were arguably the greatest. A global bootstrapping of technology to another level."

"Curiously, the Engineers as they came to be called left nothing in the Signal to suggest anything of their culture."

Monday, 6 January 2014

The Howling - A Supernatural Sauce for Street Magic

A few weeks ago I went through character generation with a friend of mine for a Werewolf the Forsaken game I'm hoping to run and once again I was struck by how much I have come to not like the traditional character generation process compared to Fate. As the perennial GM I'm just finding that I get to know Fate characters better, more quickly than under a lot of other systems, and without having to wade through a long character background.

So while I love the animistic, rage fueled setting for Forsaken I'd like to ditch the system baggage and get straight to tearing the place up. So here's my take on a kind of Fate of the Forsaken mashup, the Howling.


Transmission ~ The Signal

"Yes I'll tell you a story. It's the story of how we came to be here out on the arm. No I know you want one with a bark bear in it but this is the story I'm going to tell. It's important."

"In the last days of the century the Voyager passed the Buoy and triggered the Signal. Of course it took us some time to comprehend this train of events. By then we were all preoccupied with the attempting to understand what it meant."

"The broadcast broke over all television and radio channels simultaneously. People in all sorts of countries, in companies, governments and garden sheds began to wonder what it meant. Then, as abruptly as it started it ended. Until the second day when we received a new transmission; the key."

"Actually it was only one key of many and we would have to discover the others for ourselves. But the important thing that I am telling you is that everyone had the same key. The key unlocking the most basic wonders of the signal was given to everyone who had the wit to understand."

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Saaristossa - Riku

"Always just once more." Thought Riku, tearing open the paper, sucking down the burnt tasting powders. Senses tearing at the edges, fingers driving like chisels into the mortar between the rough stones. The scent of the kvar alerting him long before sight or sound he drew the fire-blacked, curved blade from the back of his belt.

His enhanced perception gave the attacking creatures the appearance of moving in slow motion. Diving just before the the leap of the first animal Riku rolled, driving the blade forward and down. Hot blood spattering from its ruined abdomen, the first of the kvar slapped into the ground as the second dashed forward, jaws snapping at Riku's legs.

Leaving the blade in the quivering corpse Riku sprang forward, planting his hands in the firm, moist ground, lashing out with his feet to catch the kvar across it's muzzle. Momentarily dazed, the kvar snorted, shaking its head. The distraction momentary but long enough for a second blade to sever something vital in its neck.

The booted feet of the kvaras would not be long behind their charges. Riku recovered his blade from the first corpse, wiping it casually on the grass and sped towards the house.

The first guard died silently, simply because he had no time to make a sound as Riku's elbow slammed into his throat as he pounced at the end of his run bearing the dead man to the ground. The stale taste of the second guard's sweat alerted to Riku to his approach. Darkness and the other man's complacency making him a second easy target.

Moving swiftly though the foyer and the reception rooms Riku cursed softly, he could feel the powder itch beginning behind his left eye and his his contact had been dead wrong about the target. He was certainly not alone and nor were his companions.

Sucking in a slow breath Riku tensed as he approached the ornate doors to the master lounge. This was not how he wanted it to go but he couldn't risk a second bag, not so soon after the first and not with the itch already beginning.

Bursting through the doors, muscles burning as spiced blood pounded through his veins.

"Spicer! Guards prote" the target managed to scream  before crashing backwards into his body slaves in a spray of arterial blood.

Riku swept the curved blade low, slicing the foot off one of the hired guards, lashing out with his left hand to launch a fistful of venom coated needles into the path of a second. The element of surprise lost, he spun to face the next threat ducking inside the arc of a heavy naval axe he grappled the mercenary and swung him to meet the spring gun bolt loosed by his fellow while burying the blade in his groin. The gunner fell clutching at the throwing blades Riku pulled from sheathes at the small of his back now buried in his arm and thigh as the axman toppled to the floor. Sliding another blacked blade from it's chest sheath he spun to face the final figure, only to discover him slumped on the floor in a dead faint.

Kvar are large, broad nosed canids with an exceptional sense of smell. They are favoured guard animals among landholders who can have them trained to alert their kvaras handlers as soon as they catch the scent of anyone they have not been trained to recognise.

Spicers, also known as powder monkeys an other less complimentary terms, are elite fighters who have been trained to ride the visions granted by the cocktail of medicinal spices that they consume and use their expanded senses in combat. Use of the spices is not without it's drawbacks, however. The most common of these is powder itch, a nagging itching sensation that starts behind the spicer's eyes and grows in intensity with each dose consumed. Severe powder itch can even lead to blindness in some cases.

Riku Reinoldsson

  • Core Aspect: Mostly retired not quite former spicer.

  • Trouble: Just one more time

  • 3rd Aspect: Saw too much action in the last war

  • 4th Aspect: Immi owes me big

  • 5th Aspect: Never without a knife

Skills of Note

  • Fight

    • Stunt - Knifeman: +2 to Fight test when armed with a knife

  • Notice

    • Stunt - Persistence of Time: When using spice you perceive time in slow motion

    • Shoot

      • Stunt - Blade Thrower: +2 to shoot tests when throwing knives