Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Half Damned

There are those who are born without a full soul. No one is quite certain why, but at birth they are missing some key ingredient. The world distrusts these half damned children, and to some entities they represent a chance to engage with the physical world to do and feel all the things denied them as beings of spirit. soon after birth these entities seek to inhabit the empty half of the child's soul. they offer power and ability, though should the child accept they are one step closer to damnation and the loss of agency.With every choice they are one step closer to a stranger world.

Half Damned: A person born with less than a full allotment of Anima, the stuff from which the soul is made. They are called this because of their tendency to draw the attention of corrupt spirits and become dangerous and powerful.
Rider: When a spirit places itself within the body of a half damned it is known as a rider.
Spirit: Immaterial creatures with a great deal of power, but very little ability to use it. Should they manifest through a half damned they can exert a vast array of power in the physical world.
Occupation: When it is said a half damned is occupied it means that a spirit(or spirits, theoretically) is riding the half damned.

The Nature of Spiritual Entities
Spiritual entities are elemental in nature. Fire, Water, Air, Earth, and Aether each have their own court of spiritual entities. As you the spirit takes more control, the body of the half damned host begins to align itself more with the elemental nature of the spiritual rider. This has led to the rise of magical races of man: Undines(water), Jinn(fire), Cthon(earth), Harpies(wind), and Daemons(aether).

Undines: When a pure spirit they are spirits of emotion and artistic muse. When they manifest through a half damned they become secretive creatures of obsession and desire.
Jinn: When a mere spirit they are innovation and willpower. When inhabiting a mortal form they become singularly focused on social systems and analyses to the point of paranoia.
Cthon: In the spirit they are growth and endurance. When they occupy a person they become secretive and stubborn. They view no life as valuable, save for their own.
Harpies: When in the spirit they are protectors and healers. Occupying a mortal frame they become greedy and gluttonous beyond all reason. They are called the snatchers, for they will take from you until it hurts.
Daemons: Spirits of intellect and reason, when they inhabit a mortal frame they become tainted with desire and emotion. They will twist the truth into lies and break oaths almost as a rule.

Character Creation
Your character is created as normal for Fate Core with one exception. Replace the last aspect of the Phase Trio with your Rider aspect. Your Rider aspect represents the core desire of your spirit rider. This aspect is created by the person on your left and acts as a second trouble aspect.

You have a corruption consequence track of three consequences, whenever you need it you can tap into it and gain a corruption consequence and also a power bonus. The first time you gain a bonus point of refresh, the second you gain two refresh, and the third you gain three. Each consequence requires two fate points to refuse the compel(rather than the normal one).  Your corruption fate points need to look different from your normal fate points, or have some other way of keeping track of them.

Example consequences
There are three consequences you can take when taking corruption: Delirium, Stigma, and Blight.
Delirium: This represents a mental consequence. It is giving in to the desires of your Rider and manifesting emotional and intellectual traits that are not your own.
Stigma: By channeling the energies of the spirit world your physical form begins to alter in obvious and disturbing ways, whether it be through skin tone, restructuring of the body into a more alien form, or even stranger. When you are exhibiting Stigma, you cannot pretend to be normal.  
Blight: When you are manifesting Blight the world around you cannot abide your presence. Whether it is through waves of heat, ice, moisture, desiccation, strong emotion, or whatever else this consequence is the most disturbing. It makes it impossible to hide, and fills the world with more pain. Only other half damned can avoid the damage of your Blight.

Recovering corruption
Recovering from corruption consequences requires a lot of work. All of them are treated as severe consequences for the purposes of recovery. Once the requisite time has gone bye you must take specific action related to your desire to rid yourself of your rider.  When you recover you lose the bonuses along with the consequence.

Corrupted stunts
Once you have a consequence you can gain corrupted stunts. Corrupted stunts only work when you have an appropriate corruption consequence. When you have a corruption stunt you can invoke your corruption aspect to instantly succeed with style at a task, no roll required. You can even use it to succeed with skills that would normally require special knowledge or equipment. It will let you shoot someone even if you don't have a gun, or perform surgery drunk with no skills.

Let me know what you think.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Final Legion

In a far future much remains the same and much has changed. While technology and understanding has grown, our greed and shortsightedness remain the same. So it was that the Last War began. Some called it the world war three while others simply called it the last. For surely mankind would destroy itself now. It was a war fought sideways, no massed armies or great battles. Just small units of soldiers with weapons too powerful to control hitting targets with precision and speed. It was the end.

Until the Legion arrived. Heroes born, they used their technology and tactics to quell the violence and stop the war. At the time no one knew from where they came, or why they did what they did. Some claim that it was all conspiracy to take over the world. When the war ended, they stepped aside and let peace makers do what they would to save the world.

And now, thanks to the efforts of those brave beings, we have a lasting peace. Not built on false promises and weak compromise, but a peace built by those who had witnessed the horrors of a world gone mad. Peace, now and forever.

As to the Legionnaires? Some have gone back into peace time, working normal jobs and living normal lives. Some vanished at the end of the war. And some...some have turned their talents to mercenary work, and worse. There are still those who will pay to have violence done, and those who see themselves as above the law. The brave men and women of the Science Police work day and night to bring these rogue offenders to justice. Rest assured the peace will be maintained.

OK, so what is this?
This is a game of super-heroics in a world that no longer needs heroes. A game of hope and courage. A game of power and consequences. You play as former members of the Final Legion. It was formed by like minded individuals with unique power, skills, technology, or perspective. They banded together for one simple purpose, to end the Last War. They succeeded. The war has been over for 18 years and the world knows peace an prosperity. However, some soldiers cannot leave the war behind, and some evils cannot be removed so easily. There are those in the world who seek anarchy and the reign of the strong. Some were your old comrades in the legion, some were soldiers of one of the former powers, and some are new to this world and to their power. You play members of the Legion who could have put down their weapons(and perhaps they did), but when they saw how ill prepared the world was for threats of this magnitude, you suited up once more. The people have all but forgotten you as anything but comic book stories, when they see you in action they fear your power. Yet they need you. Who else is there? The Science Police are either too weak or too corrupt to do anything about anything. The Council of Harmony has no army. All that stands between the helpless and the tyrants is you.

The Rules
You make your characters as normal for Fate Core. You have access to a number of Extras, should you want them. Otherwise the game operates as normal.

You have made breakthroughs in physics and engineering so far beyond normal science that it often looks like magic to the layman. With Zero Point Energy(or advanced Nano-robotics, or whatever breakthrough makes sense) you can do things normally outside the bounds of possibility. You have constructed wonderful gadgets that allow you to stand up to tanks, mechs, and even greater threats. Perhaps you have built a super suit, an acceleration harness, or something really out there. On the field you use your pluck and ingenuity along side your super weapons to win the day. You have access to the Gadgets and Gear rules from the Fate System Toolkit. Keep in mind that the GM can compel cause you to lose your weapons, or have the power go out. It has been a long time since the war, and the money is not as good as it used to be.

Much like a tech you are enhanced by the technology you use. However, you do not just use it, you are it. You have augmented yourself beyond any limitations your flesh may have had. Having once been a creature of flesh, weak and small, you are aware of how frightened and alone everyone really is. Other Augs may use their enhancements as a way to separate themselves from mankind, but you see it as a a way to protect and nurture all the diverse and needy people in the world. There is more than one way to perfection, and there is more than one kind of strength, You use the rules for Cybernetics from the Fate System Toolkit. You may be compelled when you must face a dilemma between doing what is practical and helping someone in need.

Ultras & Uplifts
You are the next step in evolution, whether a genetically modified human or an uplifted animal. During the Last War their were a great many experiments in super soldiers and eugenics. You represent one of the few who came out of those programs sane and a success. You have seen the worst that world has to offer, viewed as a piece of property rather than a thinking person with feelings and dreams. You didn't let it get you down though, you sought to prove hem wrong. In the Legion you found what you had always longed for, family.

Now that the legion is disbanded, many of your fellow ultras and Uplifts have become disillusioned and bitter, but not you. If you want a better world, go out and make it. There is even an uplift on the Council of Harmony. Things are getting better every day. That doesn't mean that folks don't need help, though. Good isn't perfect and we are a long way from good enough. But hate is not the answer. When you make an Uplift or an Ultra you may use either the super skills or super stunts presented in the Fate System Toolkit, though you must reduce your starting refresh by one to use one or the other. You must also reference your genetic modification in your high concept. This can be compelled to put you in situations where people treat you as less than human.

Current Issues
Choose one of the following issues, or make up one of your own, to be the central issue of the first campaign arc.

Shadows of the War: Some soldiers could not leave the war behind. Even some of the Legion had trouble adapting to civilian life. A persuasive veteran has been gathering a group together to bring about some evil end.

  • Preacher: He is ex Legion, he should know better. Preacher is a Tech with a gift for oratory. He has gathered up a powerful group of ex-Legionnaires and soldiers and has begun a series of high tech heists. No one has yet figured what his end goals are and what he needs all that technology for. 
War in the Genetic Ghetto: Ultras and Uplifts are rare. Most people go their whole lives without meeting one. That said, there are still enough of them to concern baseline folk. After the war, they were declared persons, and given their freedom, but no one wants to work with one. Add in the large percentage of Ultras and Uplifts with mental issues(either from genetic tampering or PTSD), and the genetic ghetto was an inevitability. Now a gang is moving into the ghetto and pushing folks around. It is only a matter of time until someone snaps and bodies start hitting the ground.

  • Victor Flash: Leader of a large color gang in the character's city, he has recently come into possession of a lot of cutting edge technology and is using it to expand his territory.
  • Dr. Verhooven: he works for the R&D division of the Science Police and decided that he was going to do something about the Ghetto. To him it is a blot on the perfect harmony of the post war world. Do his superiors know of his indiscretion? The cops have been conspicuously absent for many of the worst crimes.

Pending Issues
Pick, or make up, a couple of the pending issues.

Why Would They Store That There?!: The Final Legion Museum houses many wonderful exhibits and displays. From the Hall of Holograms to the Sentinel's Vigil thousands of people thrill to their stories and pause in remembrance of the horrors of war. However it also houses many artifacts and devices that were actually used by the Legion or by their foes. Unknown to most, some of those weapons still work. there are people, powerful people, who would pay any amount to get hold of the power that the Final Legion once held.

The Knight has Fallen: Paladin, the former field leader of the Legion has gone missing. Upon further investigation many former Legion members have gone missing in the last few months. Is there some sort of killer on the loose, or perhaps a revenge squad of some sort? It is a race against the clock as  the players try and figure out who is after the Legion, and what they want.

Wheels Within Wheels: The Grand Architect was the First Legionnaire. It was he who brought those first together and formed them into a team. Throughout the War he defined courage and the ideals of freedom and peace. When the war ended, of course he was invited to sit on the council. And sit he has, for 18 years. It is odd, how he downplays the legion and pushes for more government control. Has he become corrupt? What could you do, even if he had?

Rogue States: There are those places where the new peace was not accepted, where barbarity and hate are still the paths to power. All in all they have little authority or ability to make themselves more than a nuisance. Together these are known as the rogue states. Ruled over by warlords and tin-pot dictators clinging to their technology salvaged from the end of the War, these places are havens for the mercenaries and criminals of the world. Should anyone unite these Rogue states, well that would be a different story all together.

Inspirations: Legion Of Superheroes(I love the Legion, and so I had to take stuff from them, science police and the name of the Final Legion are the primary examples), The Giver(mostly for the utopia that is secretly a distopia, play those buts up and the game goes in really dark directions), Buck Rogers(More things should have Buck and Wilma), Tom Strong, Atomic Robo, Overwatch(the video was what inspired me to write this), The Incredibles(I really like that movie, and it was present in my mind throughout all of this post)

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Coded in the Blood

The idea: Corporations have been scrambling to unlock the secrets of the gene since the discovery of DNA. With little to no oversight much is learned and many shortcuts are taken. Genetics is the secret to controlling the future and making all the money. The first dinosaur was cloned in 1984, and by the nineties nearly anything was possible. Now corporations use genetic hybrid soldiers and spies to fight their secret wars and wars of secrets. This is Burn Notice, but with the TMNT.

Inspirations: TMNT, Jurassic Park, Secret of NIMH, Burn Notice, The Moreau Series, Dark Angel

Creating Characters
Creating characters for this hack is a bit different than in standard Fate Core. The aspects have been changed a bit and the  skills have been replaced with Roles, which I will go into a bit when we get there. Also there will be a couple of options for what you can do for stunts and extras, and we will dive into those at the appropriate time.

Concept: This aspect represents your basic personality and how people view you. Some sample archetypes you can build from are: Hero(Courage and Competence), Caregiver(Compassion and Generosity), Explorer(True to Self and Going Your Own Way), Creator(Creativity and imagination), Fool(improvisation and happiness). If you are having trouble come up with an archetype aspect use those examples as a basis for constructing your aspect. Combine your basic personality with your role in the team. Some sample roles include: Wheel Man, Hitter, Hacker, Face Man, Mastermind, Spymaster, Cleaner, Mechanic. Don't feel limited to those examples, if you have a better idea, by all means, go for it. Juts bear in mind that your characters are meant to be part of an elite infiltration and espionage team.
Genotype: You were born in a test tube, a hybrid of human and animal DNA, property of a corporation and trained to do the bidding of your corporate masters. This aspect represents the species of creature that you are, or that half of you are. You could also play a human member of the team, if you think that the corporation would not send expensive and difficult to replace assets into the field unsupervised.
Trouble: This is standard trouble as seen in Fate Core. What gets in the way of your character's goals. Try not to take a trouble relating to being hunted by the corporation if you intend to run through the campaign framework I lay out in this post, as that will be a central premise of the game.
2 Bonds: Bonds are aspects that link you to the other players' characters or non-player characters. Talk it over with your table and come up with some good links with the rest of the group or the setting.

Roles in the Field
Roles operate more like skills than like approaches, in that they are competence based, to a degree. However they are a little more open ended than professions, and so kind of fit into the area between professions and approaches. You describe how you are doing a thing through the lens of your spy training. Currently the Roles are rough and maybe described less than perfect. If I decide to do a bigger work up of this setting I will definitely rework these to be a bit more precise. I have a real urge to do these as free form skills. So if you want to try that out, please let me know how that goes. As it stands, if it makes sense to use a role in a given situation, they can use it. When making your character you get one role at +3(good), two at +2(Fair), and three at +1(Average).

Wetwork: Spilling blood, assassination, murder, any type of fighting and the like. Can also be used for intimidation, but only if you are really willing to harm or kill the person you are intimidating. Used primarily for attack and defense.
Surveillance: monitoring of the behavior, activities, or other changing information, usually of people for the purpose of influencing, managing, directing, or protecting them. Use of electronic devices and direct observation. Generally used for overcome and create advantage.
Social Engineering: psychological manipulation of people into performing actions or divulging confidential information. This is your go to role for manipulating and getting along with people. This is used for create advantage and overcome actions.
Black Bag: Breaking and entering(clandestine). This covers physical stealth as well as lock picking, picking pockets, and getting around security or observation. Overcome and create advantage, though it could be used for defense in the right circumstances.
Intelligence Collection Management: Dealing with the logistical and tactical concerns of an operation. Lore skill,basically, but with added perception and movement stuff. Basically this skill covers understanding what is going on around you and making the most of that knowledge. Usually used for overcome or create advantage actions.
Counterintelligence: information gathered and activities conducted to protect against espionage, other intelligence activities, sabotage, or assassinations conducted for or on behalf of foreign powers, organizations or persons or international terrorist activities. This is used for create advantage, overcome, and defense actions.

Stunts & Gear
There are two ways of doing stunts and gear for this setting. The first is to use standard Stunts from Fate Accelerated and create advantage rolls to represent the unique abilities and specialized gear. The other way of doing it, and my preferred method, is using the asset system from Jadepunk. I would just expand techniques to be able to handle any weird powers and animal hybrid might need and remove the requirement for jade in devices.

Once per session each player may have a Flashback. The flashback must in someway relate to the current situation. Have the player give a brief description of what it is and how it relates to the scene. After the description have the player create a relevant aspect. They gain a free invoke on that aspect. Also the player should make a note

The Company
GTRI(Genetic Technologies Research Institute)
Founded in 1981 by Malcolm Hammond-Grant with the dream of creating dinosaurs, GTRI made great headway in the early days when no laws existed to deal with what they were doing. The cloned their first dinosaur in 1984 and founded Mesozoic Land in 1989, allowing the paying public to see dinosaurs, alive and thriving, for the first time ever. By 1994 GTRI had moved far beyond merely cloning to direct manipulation and hybridization. by the end of the 90s it and its chief rivals(SynGen, Neurological Innovations, and Weyland-Yutani) had many hybrids ready for full production. The American Government had used small squads in the late 90s in the War on Drugs. However it was the War on Terror was a great boon to these countries, as powerful deniable soldiers were seen as a necessary evil to win out against the current foe.  Now, 14 years later every government wants Hybrid Soldiers to fight in their clandestine wars. Businesses and Power Players also utilize these assets in their games of international commerce. No one has yet successfully bid for these Hybrids to be viewed as Sapient life. There have been a surprising number of unexplained deaths involving those who push for it though.

Important NPCs
The Company Liaison
Name: Dirk Gunschotte
Aspects: Inveterate Schemer; These Creatures Are My Way To The Top; Profit Above All
Skills: The Corporate Game +3, Company Secrets +2, Tradecraft and Survival +1

The Doctor
Name: Marina Navarre
Aspects: Top of My Class; I Must See To Their Health; Sometimes I Have Second Thoughts
Skills: Master of Medicine +3, Psychology +2, Running Away and Smoothing The Way +1

The Technician
Name: Malinda Jones
Aspects: Cutting Edge Engineer; Machines Over People; Gunschotte is Bad News
Skills: Practical Engineering +3; Research and Development +2; Investigation and Countermeasures +1

Internal Security Squad
Aspects: Follow Orders
Skills: Run and Gun +2; Silence and Service +1

The Campaign Breakdown
This is just a very basic frame work to showcase how this sort of campaign might go. I would recommend using some of the tools for world building from some previous Fate games. City Building from Dresden Files would work the best, I think, as it would fit the concept of Burned Hybrid Spies who are hunted by the company and must make the most of the connections they can find.

Intro Scene
The PCs return from a mission to be debriefed. Take a moment and have the players describe a great moment their character had in the previous mission. The mission was successful and they arrive at the safe house unharmed. The safe-house is in a nondescript warehouse along the river, lake, or other natural boundary. When they arrive, have the debriefing start, but let the players know that their characters are aware that something is off. There are far too many soldiers/guards hanging around. As the debriefing gets under way, feel free to emphasize an ominous and oppressive atmosphere. As the scene goes forward Dirk will ask the players to give themselves up for destruction. He will tell them he knows what they have been up to. Make sure the players are aware that their characters do not know what they are accused of. Then the fight will probably start and players being players, they will probably escape.

The rest of the campaign will focus on escaping, finding out what it is they are accused of, and trying to get back at those that framed them. This could lead into all sorts of interesting places and to any number of interesting people. There could be a Mutant Underground in the city led by a radical leader seeking to violently end the repression and slavery of his people. A network of criminal gangs all being led by a dangerous and unpredictable mob boss. They could make friends or enemies with reporters, police detectives, corporate execs, and any number of interesting people. Keep in mind the mood of paranoia and competence. Let the characters be awesome, but also let them know that there are bigger fish in the sea.

So what do you think? I would love to hear any critiques, comments, or criticisms. Also if you use this to run a game, let me know how it goes.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Expanding The Understood Fate Paradigm

Earlier today +Anders Melsom expressed concern about Fate as an RPG, I will quote the relevant bits here, if you wish to see the full text here it is.
A game with the mechanics of Fate seems perfectly able to deal with faces and places from both real world history, contemporary themes and "High Literature". So why will we probably never see “Fate-Ibsen”, “Don Quixote Accelerated” or “In Search of Lost Time RPG"? You have to respect the least common denominators of our culture, some people would say, stick to the tropes. If you mention "Star Wars", “Harry Potter”, “Conan" or about any american tv-show, everybody gets it.

Is this an issue at all? Are all deviations from the norms of genre fiction doomed to be overly pretentious or just plainly boring? Does it smell of edutainment? Is playing "boyishly" all we really yearn for, staying in touch with the child within every man? Are Rpg's, Fate included, best left to deal with the debris of popular culture?

This led to quite a bit of spirited discussion, and got me thinking. Why is it that Genre and Popular Fiction dominates the RPG sphere. I think this is due to a few key things. First and foremost, the first RPGs were written by fans of science fiction and fantasy. In fact one could argue that RPGs had a direct involvement in the popularizing of certain tropes and subgenres(Cthulu Mythos, the Tolkien tropes, and certain kinds of science fiction). Basically early RPGs were designed and marketed by fans of genre fiction for fans of genre fiction. When stuff came along later, it fell into similar lines of thought, partially because it was accepted as the paradigm and partially because the only people designing RPGs were also fans of the tropes and genres that spawned RPGs in the first place.

The second thing driving this push toward genre is that Literary Fiction is difficult to construct into a game. Not impossible, mind you, just tricky.The introspection, slower pace, and lack of clear motivating goals all run counter to normal game design. In game design you spend a lot of time focusing on objective goals, tactics, logistics, and other external factors. Remember game design covers sports, tabletop games, and video games. All of which excel at direct feedback and objective thought. Games are skill based, to a variable extent. These things, in my opinion, run counter to a direct translation of the tropes of literary fiction. If you are going to design a game to do the tropes of literary fiction yo would need to bring the rules in obliquely, or add a layer of remove for the player. Again I am not saying that these things cannot be done, but they are things that can get in the way of trying to do this sort of game. Genre settings tend to have built in external conflicts and challenges, it is much easier to model a laser fight in a game than it is to model a man at war with himself, or making a great discovery about his own beliefs during his turbulent childhood.

The third reason for the disconnect is that literary fiction tends to focus on the individual and what the individual believes or feels. Now much genre fiction focuses on a single protagonist, its true. However if you look through it, the focus on external problems allows for fairly simple adjustment to multiple protagonists. Either you break up the problem into multiple parts or you multiply the problems. Again go back to the founding of RPGs. Dungeons & Dragons was based, in part, on Tolkien's fantasy works(The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings). In those works you had groups of protagonists adventuring to solve a big problem. The tropes needed for the game were already waiting within the genre that first appeared. Also look to Traveller, which had the crew of a spaceship, the multiplicity of protagonists was already part of the setup. Then take your average piece of literary fiction, and the problem manifests itself. How do you make a single character into many when the problems are so personal? Again, I am not saying this is insurmountable, but it probably adds to the reasons why folks don't make more of these.

The final reason I can think of for why literary fiction style games are less prevalent that popular fiction style games is simple economics. If you are a game designer and you want you game to reach the maximum number of players you will design the game to appeal to as many people as possible. Popular fiction, which is often genre fiction, tends to be more popular than literary fiction. Literary fiction often gets great acclaim and prestige by the critics and the hoi olligoi, but tend to do poorly in sales. Heck, there are reasons why they have to force children to read them in high school. Literary fiction is not popular and thus has a smaller group who would be interested in it. Thus those games that do fit into this category either have a small audience or must mask the nature of the game beneath a pop culture veneer.

So we come to Fate. Fate really could do literary fiction. With its focus on characters and the personality and beliefs of those characters, it seems like a perfect fit. Yet here we stand with very little show for it. Mostly we get interesting mash ups that would fit into the pulp style adventure fiction, or modern genre fiction. I think there is room for development in this direction and I think Evil Hat has already given us a blue print for a possible direction. No Exit, and adventure written for Worlds in Shadow, is a fascinating look into magical realism and dealing with real world issues. It is set as a horror piece, but not the standard slasher fare. This is a game that asks you to look into your character and what motivates that character. It places you in hell, but not fire and brimstone. This is a subtle damnation of your own making. The best part is that it does all of this without altering the core mechanics of Fate very much. It's like Dante's Inferno through the lens of House of Leaves. While it is the only piece in Fate, that I am aware of, that might fit into the literary motif, it is certainly a stellar beginning. If you wanted to make a literary Fate game, I see no real impediment to it, other than talent and desire to create it. But those exist as impediments to any creative endeavor.

All that said, there has been a major upswing in the indie game world and thus a lot of really fascinating games have come out that I think would fit into this sphere.

  • Grey Ranks: It is a fantastically dark game about a real event and real people. If you haven't checked it out, do so. 
  • Wraith: The Oblivion: Remember when I spoke of hiding deeply literary works under the veneer of genre. I was talking about this game(and a couple others that I will get to). While I always enjoyed White Wolf games, this is the one I disliked playing but loved reading. It is super depressing and fascinating, with genius mechanics that really reinforce the introspective nature and make the rest of the group involved in that introspection. Again, if you don't have a copy get one. Oh look they had a kickstarter for a new edition...I feel like it will be awesome.
  • Smallville: I know, right! I know. It is a super hero game, and it is also a TV show game, what the hell is it doing here? Well hold your horses and I will explain. Sheesh! I put this here because the mechanics could very easily be modified for a wonderful game of people interacting, making poor choices, and either learning from their mistakes or failing to. +Cam Banks designed a real firecracker of a conflict engine here, and I think that with a bit of work it would do a phenomenal job at doing exactly what was asked. 
  • Everyone is John: I have not read or played this game, but it did inspire me to write Whispers in the Dark. How you ask? Well I had heard the basic premise and the ideas for how it worked just tickled me. From what I understand this game would do a fine job of handling the desired game style. 
  • Pendragon: Oh man, seriously. Just get this game. Right now. Seriously. It was so ahead of the curve that it is still ahead of the curve. Greg Stafford is both the Akira Kurosawa and the Stanley Kubrick of Roleplaying games. And no, I have no idea what that means. Other than it means that this is a gaming masterpiece that focuses on family and emotions in a way that is ludicrously beautiful. It uses the legends of Arthur and his knights to tell deeply personal stories and also to tell stories about time and the nature of glory and honor. I am not doing it justice. Just go read it, then go play it. You'll see what I am saying. 
There are probably loads more that I am unaware of or that I forgot in the haze of writing this post. If you can think of any, put in in the comments. It will be a like a game. A game about games. It will be a metagame, our Metagame. Heh.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Stars Without Number Session 3: Glaciers and Traitors

Our heroes begin the session in orbit over the planet Diego in the Raginhild system. They have a massive discussion on how to best approach the landing zone as it is in territory controlled by the Gou Yin Alliance and they are working for the Glinka Organization. After much arguing and discussion they made an attempt at a stelath approach. It was less than successful. The Pictoris nearly fell down a crevasse upon landing. After sorting taht out, they decided to use the crevasse to speed up excavation of the pretech city. the party split up, Ben and Merrak headed down the crevasse while Ardalia and Srinivasan stayed on board the ship. All sorts of things happened, it was very exciting. They had been detected on approach, see. And that led to some quick thinking and the development of a snow machine. Down in the crevasse the group discovered the item they were looking for, some sort of ominous pretech device. They managed to get out without being noticed, but on refueling in the Kitu system they discover that there is a kill order on the crew of the ship. Interestingly the kill order came from the Al-Yaldai Clan, what could this mean? Tune in next time.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Trek to the Stars Part 11: Fashion in the stars

Previously on Trek to the Stars:
Initial thoughts
Part 1: The Pitch
Part 2: Skill roll basics
Part 3: Potential Campaigns
Part 4: History in brief
Part 5: Keys and Secrets
Part 6: Timeline and Technologies
Part 7: More technologies
Part 8: Character Creation(rough)
Part 9: Stress and Fallout
Part 10: Nailing down the core mechanics

This post is going to be a bit about the stuff at the edges. Things like fashion and a potential mechanical fix to the problems this system has been having with genetic engineering and cybernetics.

Fashion in the system
Fashion in the future is a diverse and divisive subject. Some cultures spend a great deal of time, energy, and resources on fashion and others seem to care about other things. Lets delve in, shall we?

Old Earth
Traditional ethnic garb is the direction the culture has embraced. This is viewed as a response the earth's waning power and relevance in the system. It is a call back to an earlier time, when earth controlled everything. Along with a desire to wear once traditional styles(or modern interpretations of ancient styles), there has been a rebirth of something approaching nationalism. Earthlings have begun to behave in a stereotypical manner,at least in public. If a person behaves outside of expected ethnic behaviors as dictated by the culture, they are viewed as a bit odd.

Within the sky cities of Venus even the slightest misstep can kill. The fashion is utilitarian, mostly. Most signs of individualism are small and do not get in the way of doing the job of terraforming the planet. Related to this attitude is the Venusian Honesty, Venusians have a reputation for being excessively blunt and humorless. This is not true, but in public strong displays of emotion are viewed as a sign of an untrustworthy person. Untrustworthy people get others killed.

A planet divided between two major powers and a small number of lesser groups. In the northern federation individuality is prized, on a superficial level anyway. While the public good is foremost in in the minds of everyone, the fashion and culture is one of individuals and trying to stand out, this is viewed as a good thing, encouraging the advancement of all. So long as the clothing falls within government safety and anti hatred standards(need a better name for this) a person can wear whatever they like and look however they want. Oddly enough, architecture is fairly utilitarian and brutalist. People living in great blocky archologies.

The fascists of the southern alliance have taken an interesting route in fashion. They aim for androgyny and cover most of the form in black, grey, or brown clothing. While at the same time jewelry has taken on a central role. One's jewelry will tell others what their job is, what power block they support, and what their rank within each organization is. Often it outsiders find it difficult to tell who is who, within the culture sameness is embraced.

The people of the centrally located Municipality of Eon have a tendency to wear loose clothing and sturdy footwear. All of their cities are designed so that the people can walk wherever they need to go, though bicycles are also quite popular. It is said, "An Eonist could walk to the sun," and they do take pride in their hiking and trekking capabilities. They control much of the major waterways of mars and the warmest region and they like to flaunt that. During the summer months they will wear the lightest clothing they can. While the nights can drop in temperature fairly significantly the days are quite warm, and every day the terraforming process thickens the atmosphere and normalizes the temperature a bit more.

Moons of Saturn
Baroque and complicated displays of wealth are the norm among the residents of Saturn's satellites. Even the lowest class person takes great pride in appearance and displaying what wealth they can. The art of the insult and sly comments are seen as a sign of great culture. Extravagance in all things, and the wealthy often have great public dinners where they provide food and door prizes for their whole population. The more often you can host one of these Family Meals, the greater your prestige and the more the others in your community owe you a debt. It is a complicated and intricate system that defies explanation by any but the most dedicated outsider.

SO that is what I have for the fashion among the stars. I could write about this for days, as there is no bottom to this well, but I just wanted to lay out some basics. I would love to hear any thoughts, comments or criticisms on this or any of the previous posts.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Stars Without Number: Adventures of the Pictoris

A little while back I started a campaign of Stars Without Number. We started with character creation and some setting creation work. By the end we have the Starship Pictoris, recently won in a game of cards by the new captain, Srinivasan Krishnatray. As of two days prior to the adventure start he was still putting a crew together. Merrak is the muscle for the ship, as well as being the ship's purser. Ardalia is the ship's pilot with a desire to find a way to help her planet rise from the ashes. Ben Holiday is a psychic and the ship's doctor. None of them know all that much about each other, or of the ship. I am sure that will never be a problem...
Here is the recording, should you want to watch:

Between character creation and the first session, I had to take a week off. Some things came up, don't want to get into it, but I had to miss a session. Anyway, during that week the players got together and discussed what they wanted to do as a crew and such. I am not privy to what went on in that psuedo-session, however I think it was good as it helped the crew meld, I guess.

Moving on. In the first session the characters are looking for work. They were docked in orbit around Halia, and logged into the Daybreak Society network to find a job. They decided to go with a simple retrieval mission for the Glinka Organization. After several arguments between the new crew as to whether to take the job, they agree. Merrak laid down some sweet negotiations and managed to get them 9,000 credits upfront and a potential 10,000 in bonus if they can bring everyone and everything back to Halia intact. After all the discussion as to whether to take the job, enter another long long discussion. This discussion is about how to spend the money they have received up front. The crew are still getting used to each other, and so are still getting to know each other and trust each other. Finally they agree to buy a bunch of things that would be useful for all the crew in the long run, a bunch of toolkits, communicators, and vacc suits. They buy them from one of the criminal contacts of Srinivasan.

The organization sends three technicians to the ship with some gear to gather up whatever artifact the corporation wants. As they drill through to the next system the crew attempts to get some clue as to the nature of the thing the techs are sent to retrieve. They find out some things, Merrak reveals that he used to work for the Glinka Organization as a security specialist, and Srinivasan discovers what kind of people his employers are. He discovers that the company is threatening the life and livelihood of the assistant to the two technicians. Through all of this, they discover nothing much about the artifact they were sent to retrieve. The session ends with the ship arrived in orbit over the planet Diego, preparing to go down and retrieve the object in question.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Trek to the Stars part 10: An Interlude of Mechanical Endeavor

Previously on Trek to the Stars:
Initial thoughts
Part 1: The Pitch
Part 2: Skill roll basics
Part 3: Potential Campaigns
Part 4: History in brief
Part 5: Keys and Secrets
Part 6: Timeline and Technologies
Part 7: More technologies
Part 8: Character Creation(rough)
Part 9: Stress and Fallout

This is going to be a bit of a repeat of some of the stuff I wrote in previous posts, as well as some broadening and redefinition of the ideas presented. I had some issues with how the dice rolled were kept, and overall I still have some issues. This will be a really mechanically heavy post, but I will try and keep it concise and...who am I kidding? I will just sort of ramble like I normally do and eventually something that might work will come out.

Trek to the Stars: Mechanical Interlude
Basic Dice Rolling
You describe what actions your character takes, reacting to and acting upon the world as the GM describes it. When you encounter a situation with great import or significant chance of interesting failure you must roll dice to see if, and how well, your succeed at overcoming the situation. In other words, decide what you want to do/achieve and then consult the rules if they are needed. When asked to roll the dice you gather up a pool of six sided dice equal to your rating in the relevant skill and decide on the approach you are using(current approaches are physical, mental, and social). Dice rolling should only occur when both success and failure are interesting results. You roll these dice against a difficulty set by the GM and told to you at this point. You then roll the dice from your skill. You then will pick out a number of dice equal to your rating in the chosen approach. If you can pick out dice that, when added together, are higher than the difficulty set by the GM then you succeed at your intent. If you roll lower than the difficulty you either directly fail, or the scene becomes more complicated and dangerous by your success. Should get exactly the difficulty, that is a critical success and it means really good things, depending on the skill and the scene.

Let it Ride
Once you have rolled for a given skill in a given situation that roll stands until the situation changes significantly. No rerolls(unless you have a secret that lets you reroll) or trying again. Think carefully on spending your resources, you won't get a second chance.

Character Points
Your character will have a variable number of character points that you can spend on a given roll. Each point spent on a roll lets you roll an extra die or keep one more or one less die that you roll. You gain Character points though Keys and through failure. If you keep rolled ones you also gain a number of Character points equal to the number of ones you keep. When you spend Character points to increase a roll, you also place an experience point on that skill equal to the number of character points spent. I am a little uncertain on what to call Character points as I am not a huge fan of the name. However I am not really sure what else to name them.

The Time In Which Things Occur
Trek to the Stars divides up time into various increments. In fact time is separated into two types, character time and game time. Character time is the time it takes for a character to do a thing. It can fluctuate rapidly and jump back and forth at the whim of the story. Game time is divided thusly. A scene is the amount of time it takes to deal with a given interaction or complication. It is variable in length, but once the interaction or complication is over, the scene is done. A Scenario/Adventure is a series of interconnected scenes. They are bound by characters and a general goal. Once that goal is no longer viable(whether through success or failure), the scenario is over. A campaign is a series of Scenarios that may or may not be connected by a through line or goal. I am currently debating whether to use a smaller increment than scenes, called rounds. If I go with rounds that would start to focus the game on task based resolution, which is totally a way to go, but I am uncertain if it is a way I want to go with it.

I had a bit of a breakthrough the other day when I was working on the character creation. The skill list alone doesn't really work well. Back when I first outlined the rough skill system I mentioned using something like approaches from Fate Accelerated. Now I have expressed my dissatisfaction with using Approaches before, but I think I have a way around my issues with that. I went back and forth on a bunch of different ways to frame the actions implied within the skills. I thought about using Approaches directly, and I may still give that a go. However I came across an idea in Cortex Plus that I liked. You break down the actions by the situation as it arises. Currently I am using Physical, Mental, and Social as my Approaches for keeping dice. That does feel a bit Task-ish to me though so I am open to ideas on improving the ideas herein. I also think that, unlike skills, approaches should max out at five. You start with one at 1 and two at 2 for a starting character. They improve as skills do, but they require more experience to improve than a skill would. This is because you will always be using one of the three approaches. The number of dice you keep has been a running issue with this game for me. I am close here, very close, to something really playable.

Stress and Fallout
Player Characters have access to a stress track that allows them to mitigate fallout. Rather than taking a hit(or failing) they can take stress(two stress to mitigate a critical hit or whatever). Every point of stress you gain removes a die from your skill rolls, with one major exception. Your character must pick a type of approach to specialize in. When using that specialized Approach gain a die for every point of stress you take. However, once you have taken all you stress you begin taking fallout. Fallout is very bad stuff. You do not want Fallout. Fallout subtracts from the dice you can keep. It is very very bad. Stress returns after a brief rest period, just have a scene where the characters are resting or doing non stressful things. Fallout is more serious. I am working on recovering from fallout, but am a bit uncertain on how to do it. I want it to draw players deeper into adventure, you know? I see it as driving play in someway. Sort of a call to action. Maybe each bit of Fallout acts as a Key in someway? I am still digging into this. More to come on this.

As you can see I am rapidly approaching playtestabilty(well, official playtests, you know what I mean. I have been playing around with this for a bit on a local level, but I need to see it in the wild to really get it). I would love to hear any thoughts, critiques, or comments on this. Let me know what you think. Even if I don't use your ideas, hearing differences of opinion stimulates the mind.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

My Dad

Let me tell you about my dad. My dad is pretty darn impressive. He showed me what it meant to be a man-what true humility and hard work meant. What do I say about my father, though? I mean, how to begin, you know? I guess I should start at the beginning, then. I hear its a very good place to start.

Memories are funny things. Some folks have these really crystal clear memories of events, you know? Like who was where at what time and what happened when, that sort of thing. Me? My memories are oddly specific and yet kind of vague. I will remember odd details with perfect clarity, yet forget when a thing happened, or what happened after. I also remember emotions far more than specific events. So lets get to it.

My earliest memory of my dad is of his laughter. My dad has this kind of explosive laugh. It's like it catches him by surprise. Normally he'll just sort of silently chuckle when he is laughing, but every now and again when something is really funny he'll just let out this massive exhalation of air and sound. It is not the loudest laugh or anything, but it is like a wave of laughter, sudden and steady. He's a funny guy, my dad. Sarcasm and ironic turns of phrase are the name of the game with my dad. My mom won't even watch a movie with the two of us because we will be going full MST3K during dang near every movie. I know it is a cardinal sin to talk during movies, but what can I say? My dad and I are hilarious, and we are even funnier when watching a movie together.

My other early memories of my dad are of work and precision. I must have been around two years old, and my mom took me and my brother out to see my dad at work. My dad worked in insulation at this time. You know, with the big hoses and pumping it into the holes in the wall. It was a hot day, and those were long hours of work. My dad did that, or jobs like that my whole life. Not insulation, mind you, but hard work and long hours. I never heard him complain about the work, though. He would come home exhausted and sit down in our plaid chairs(seriously, we had these square blue plaid chairs and couches, why do I remember that) and just sigh. It was a long low sigh, a tired sigh. When I went out in the world and began doing real work, I learned all about what that sigh means. That is the sigh of a man who was so tired it drained the strength from his bones. I never heard my dad complain. Not once.

He worked third shift as a prison guard, worked as a farmer, worked as all sorts of things. Hard work. Then he would come home and work on his hobbies. Saturdays and Sundays he would play piano for hours. The whole house would vibrate to the songs he would play. I never really liked music. Its never been my thing, yeah? My father is the reason that I can tell good music from bad, skilled performances from amateurs and posers. He would get oddly focused on hobbies and such as well.

One Saturday, while my mom was out of town for one reason or another, my dad took it into his head to learn to make naan bread. He spent the whole day making dough and cooking it at various speeds, trying to get it just right. Then there was the time he decided that he, my brother Aaron, and I were going to build a sailboat. We spent a whole summer putting the boat together. It was hot work and, at the time, I was not a fan of it. Out in the sun all day building something I had no real understanding of. But looking back, there was a lot being taught there. A lot of stuff my dad taught me was indirect. He showed me how to be, rather than telling me how to be.

I don't know if this rambling tale is coming together in any meaningful way, but the point is this. It is Father's Day, and I would like to thank my dad. He taught me how to live an upright life and how to have fun even in the midst of hardship. He allowed me to express my thoughts, but never let me be lazy in my thought processes. He lived his life the way he wanted his sons to live theirs. So here is to my dad, and all other dads who deserved praise and never got it.

Thanks pop.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Trek to the Stars part 9: Damage Done

Initial thoughts
Part 1: The Pitch
Part 2: Skill roll basics
Part 3: Potential Campaigns
Part 4: History in brief
Part 5: Keys and Secrets
Part 6: Timeline and Technologies
Part 7: More technologies
Part 8: Character Creation(rough)

I should be dong other things right now. I have so much on my plate that it seems there are not enough hours in the day. However on my drive up to the family homestead I had what amounts to an epiphany. See, i had been having trouble with my damage system. I didn't really want to have damage just be damage. The way I prefer to run and play games lends it self to a more abstract system than the standard damage style mechanics. I also wanted to do more with stress and damage than just use it as a pacing mechanic. I am a fan of how fallout works in Dogs in the Vineyard. How it is the only real way to advance and so it encourages a certain style of play. As I already have an advancement mechanic that I am a fan of, I am thinking of doing something  little different with this.

Every character has a stress track that represents nonlethal hits, near misses, and anything that gets your heart rate up. Stress is what you take when you are not actually accumulating fallout. Fallout is any lasting effects that might come from a conflict. These would work a bit like consequences in Fate...maybe. I have still not nailed down exactly how fallout will work in play, though I do have a couple of ideas I would like to use. Fallout will grant character points in some way, currently I am leaning toward something approaching a compel or an antagonistic invoke. That said I did have another idea for fallout that might work, but I am still figuring out how to do it. Basically fallout would grant dice to the GM that they can then use against the group...somehow. I would love to hear any thoughts on how to deal with fallout.

Now lets talk about something that I am quite excited about, stress(might want to come up with a better name for this, any ideas?). See the more stress you take the closer to taking fallout you get, but the more powerful your skills become. I got the idea from two places, 13th Age, Lacuna Part 1, and Die Hard. See Die Hard is one of my favorite movies, it is just brilliant. Anyway, throughout the movie John McClain gets more and more beat up and yet as the movie goes along he gets better at taking out the bad guys. I had been playing with the idea of a damage system that made you more effective the more damage you took. However I could not really figure out how to make that interesting, until I read through Lacuna Part 1, which had this absolutely brilliant Heartbeat mechanic. Basically you have a sweet spot for your heart beat, lower than that and you are not at full efficiency, higher and you are at risk of heart attack or stroke(or something). This sweet spot idea really fit well with my silly Die Hard thoughts. So the idea moved forward a bit, now there would be a sweet spot in the damage track that would grant bonuses to your actions. However it just kind of stopped there for a couple years, as I couldn't really think of what to do with it, now that I had it. Jump back to a couple weeks ago. I went to my first Miscon, and managed to play quite a bit of 13th Age. In that dame they have this interesting idea called the Escalation Die. What it does is speeds up play, the longer a fight goes, the bigger the die gets and the quicker you can take out the bad guys. This is a really interesting idea. The idea basically gets rid of the long slog in a fight, and as it only really effects player characters(and a few kinds of creatures, but only in minor ways).

So here is how I see stress working. It is a track that you can mark off before fallout, every level of stress you take will add to the effects of your die rolls. For combat, this is easy, just add in a level of damage(or a die, or whatever) for every stress you take. For other rolls in a conflict it gets a little weird. I am still working on how to deal with that sort of situation. Basically this would encourage players to take risks and grant them an edge that will speed of the conflict's resolution.

Now I need to sort out recovery of stress and recovery of fallout, but that is the idea as it stands right now. I would love to hear any of your thoughts on the subject. How you think it will play, and all that. I do think I am nearly close enough to write up a beta test document and get some external play tests taken care of. Fingers crossed.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Rifts: BOFITNWOR part 2!

Hey all, I know it has been a while since my last post. I am sorry for that. I have been working on a lot of stuff recently and so my blog kind of fell by the wayside. To those of you who have followed my progress(and thank you much for your patience and support), I am still working on Trek to the Stars. I hit a bit of a snag dealing with the combat pacing mechanics and so that has been slow going of late. I am also finishing up a beta draft of Where the Antelope Play, which should be ready in about a month(ish). So that is exciting. I am finishing up the Jadetech series of books and all the text should be done by teh end of the month. Finally I am working on something for the Fate Codex, and I am very excited about it. I will let you all know when that gets closer to complete. As I said I have been busy. I also recently attended my first Miscon, and I had a blast. I fully intend on going back next year and running some games. Its going to be great, heck maybe I will be running a bunch of my games.

That said, I guess it would be a good time to talk about the next session of Rifts I ran for +Cameron Corniuk and +Bill Garrett. it was a few weeks back, but I think it is still relevant, It was pretty fun. I am utilizing a couple of rules fixes and tweaks in order to make the game run smoother. That said, the skill system is still pretty weak. The problems with the skills are twofold, there are too many of them and they are missing several key skills. I know right? How does that even? You know? I will break it down for you. The main Rifts book(not Ultimate edition, which has even more three times as many, seriously) has 128 skills listed. 128! For reals. So when I am using my simplification of the rules I still run into a problem. On average my players have something like 26 skills each. 26, out of 128, for reals. It means that in any given situation, there will most likely be a lack of skills. On the other end, you would think that with that many total skills there would be at least be a comprehensive list, yet there are large gaps in the skills. Things like persuasion and such are sadly lacking. In fact most of the skills revolve around combat and recovering from combat. Some skills are really difficult to get and some are so pointless as to never really be taken. In fact the more useful a skill is, the more difficult it seems to be to get. I really don't get the design choices in this game sometimes. On a related tangent, there are no rules describing how to use skills or anything. Not really relevant in my game, as I revamped the skills system, but man, that is just weird, right?

In this session our heroes set out to defend their town from this new invasive threat.They stuck around the cabin and searched for clues. There was some tree climbing and some sensor usage and they discovered a nasty new threat, and killed it. However it was not alone, there were many more and they were coming one. I interacted with Rifts' burst fire rules for the first time. Holy crap! that makes guns so very very dangerous. Seriously, I played Palladium games for nearly a decade and I had never used these rules. They increase the lethality significantly. After that, they headed back to town to discuss it with the people of Paradise. After some discussion they headed out to scout the area and get those who want it to the relative safety of town. Camden tried to convince his folks to head to town, but they were not having any of it. They convince the old wizard who lives in the hills north of town to come and help. They also had to try and deal with the representatives of both the Blackfoot and the Salish nations, who were in town for purchasing lizard meat. They made a deal for magic weapons from the Salish, and made a deal to defend the town's retreat, should they lose, with the Blackfoot. Leo gets that second concession by defeating the leader in a boxing match. It was epic, like Rocky vs. Drago...if Rocky had no muscles. Seriously, I think this is my favorite moment. You gotta see it, It's awesome.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Rifts: Buckets of fun in the New West o'rama

The other night I ran the first session of a Rifts campaign. I know! Right? Rifts!!!!!!

I set the game up about a week ago, as there was this longing in my soul to run the game. It was the first game I had ever played. See I had run games for three-ish years, but never played any. Needless to say that this caused some problems as I had no real way to judge my GMing chops. Then my friend Eli said he would run a game of Rifts for me and a few of our friends(and this one guy who just sort of hung out at the game store, no one really liked him, but he was in our game for some reason). The game was awesome, I played Yukon Cornelius, a dog boy with a sombrero and a corn cob pipe. He was awesome. True story. Anyway, that game is burned into my mind like giant radioactive rubber pants. The pants command me to run a game.

I sat down with only the vaguest of ideas for a campaign premise. But during the week something wonderful happened. Pinnacle announced that they have the rights to make Rifts books for Savage Worlds. After everyone checked to see if it was still April first, or if hell had frozen over, it was found to be a true statement. This is huge. HUGE!!!!!!!(extra exclamation points)

Anyway, the game started and we got some characters made and the setting built. The campaign will focus around a bunch of monsters from the Rifts and the Coalition each fighting over a small town in the rockies that would rather not be in the middle. Its going to be pretty sweet. I utilized some rules fixes I came up with to fixe some of the problems with Palladium's system. I made sure to announce them all quite loudly in the recording, should you wish to try them out. So far they seem to work well, though the number of skills is way to high.

Here is the recording should you wish to watch.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Jake Reviews: Exemplars & Eidolons

I normally don't do reviews. Its not that I don't have opinions, but I generally prefer to avoid telling people what to play. That said, I have recently run into a game that I think is truly fantastic and I would like to recommend it. It is a free pdf so I feel OK about recommending it. If you like it, great. If you hate, nothing lost but a little time. So here goes, my first review, a review of Exemplars and Eidolons.

The Peritextual Elements
The cover art is decent, in that old school D&D style. I will admit, it did not draw me in at first. It is the kind of art that grows on you as time goes on. The internal art is solid, it is basically solid and appropriate(it is taken from a couple of open source art packs, so make of that what you will). The layout is purposefully in the style of the original D&D booklets and is designed to showcase how to do that layout. As such it is very fine. Simple and well laid out, no frills. By and large the peritextual elements of the game are solid and well thought out.

Game mechanics
Overall this is the slickest take on classic OSR based rules I have ever seen. It avoids much of the rules baggage I have seen in many OSR games. Each player rolls 4d6, drop the lowest, for their attribute(which are the standard fare. This is followed by writing down three facts about your character. Facts are a single sentence that defines a relationship, influence, or background about your character. When a fact applies to a given situation you gain a +4 to a given ability roll. to  Players then choose between one of three classes: Warrior, Rogue, or Sorcerer. Each grants the player a set of gifts. Gifts are special abilities and super powers. Players get two from their class and one from any list at level one. You then pick weapons, equipment, and write down effort and HPs. Effort is new, it is how one uses gifts and some magic spells. Leveling up is pretty slick, you may choose any class at the new level and can switch back and forth as you go. Every level grants an additional gift and some more HP. Sorcerers work a bit different than many OSR games, they can cast any of the spells at a level they have mastered, though only a couple per day, per level. You basically start out as a master magus and go up from there.

The die rolls are split between three types, ability checks, saves, and attack rolls. Abilities are rolled against with a roll under mode. Saves are also rolled under, though you add your level in appropriate classes to the appropriate saves. Attacks are rolled pretty much standard. Damage rolls are an interesting take. You roll the damage and compare it against a chart. The results will end up between 0 and 4 damage. Damage comes off of the player characters hit points and NPCs HD(this is pretty great as it lets you pull NPCs from most any OSR game and use them here with minimal fuss).

The other really spiffy mechanics are Wealth and Influence. As you are playing larger than life heroes you don't really have to worry about everyday money, in fact the game tells you to just allow players to get whatever incidental items they could reasonably want. Wealth represents serious riches, like dragon hoards and the like. You can spend it to get influence and other big things. Influence is quite possibly my favorite part of the game. The GM is encouraged to build a really big problem and a bunch of lesser problems. Each one of the lesser problems is worth a set amount of influence. You gain influence by doing great deeds, completing quests, using wealth and gifts. Once a minor problem is taken car of you gain XP, and when a major problem is dealt with you gain much more XP. It is a really slick system.

The setting is quite slim. Basically the game tells you to play larger than life heroes in a fantasy world and leaves the rest up to the group to decide. I kind of like that as I immediately thought up a bunch of scenarios and campaigns for the game. It has an intrinsic setting that is implied more than outright stated. I rather like this method, as it leaves room to play with the features in new and interesting ways.

Overall I rather like this game and, as it is free, I think it would be worth your time to check it out. At 48 pages it is not a heavy game, but it handles larger than life heroes rather well.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Trek to the Stars part 8:Character Creation

Character creation in Trek to the Stars is a bit more involved than I normally like to make. That said I think there is a lot of interesting things that can happen in a more involved character generation. I hope I am right in that, and not just kind of meandering at the mind. In this post I will be putting down the framework of character creation, step by step. For those just picking this series up, here is the precious posts:
Initial thoughts
Part 1: The Pitch
Part 2: Skill roll basics
Part 3: Potential Campaigns
Part 4: History in brief
Part 5: Keys and Secrets
Part 6: Timeline and Technologies
Part 7: More technologies

Character Creation
To create a character for Trek to the Stars you start with the basic campaign template. Decide what sort of game you wish to play as a group. The game makes the assumption that you will all play members of a star ship crew travelling the space-lanes, taking colonists and cargo to and from the various outposts of human occupied space. However, if you wish to play a colonist, miner, or some other form of game the mechanics will allow that style of play.

Star Ship
Decide at this point weather or not your ship is registered with a government/organization. If you are registered that has some benefits and some downsides. If you are not, you remain free of outside influence, but that carries a lot of downsides as well. At this point choose a model of star ship from the list provided(no list at the moment, but I will have one in the final draft, for now just make up a cool sounding star ship) Also each player should write down one fact about the ship. Facts are one sentence descriptors that can enhance rolls during play.

Character Origins and Motivations
Next you choose an origin. Origins cover your birth planet/government, whether you are a baseline human or some variant, and your defining background events. You will choose one Origin Key that will be most important to your character. Following the origin you will choose a motivation. Motivation Keys are the driving force for your character in the moment. They are what you want, what you need. Check out part 5 of this series to get advice on building keys.

At this point you will also choose whether or not your character is a baseline human or something different. Currently I have only three types available, but my end goal is to increase that number to cover all the types I have discussed in previous posts. This is an area I am still heavily developing so any thoughts on this would be very welcome.

Baseline: you gain a character the first time in a session when your biology would cause a hindrance to you. when you spend a character point on a fact to gain an extra kept die you gain two extra kept dice instead.
Alpha: Increase your maximum dice in physical and mental categories by one and increase the rating of two skills within those categories by one. Gain a character point the first time in a session your biology would hinder your character.
Raven: The first time your biology would get in the way in a given session, gain a character point. You can fly at your running speed.

I am still working out how to do some of the human augmentation within the systems I currently have. Any thoughts on how to do enhancement within the system would be greatly appreciated.

You start out with 35 points to spread among the various skills. No skill can start higher than five dice. This may be not enough skill points(or it may be too many) for actual play. I feel that this works, but will need to run some tests to see if adjustment is needed. I am currently using the skill list I set down in part 2, so check that out for the current list.

Your character starts with three achievements. Achievements are specialties or talents within a given skill. Currently I do not have a bunch of names for specific achievements, but I do have a set of rules for creating them. An achievement can do one of the following:

  • Allow you to keep an extra die on a given roll(usually only in a given circumstance, though perhaps if you take it twice you can just increase the kept die for all rolls with the skill) 

  • Give you a minor unique ability of some sort or permission to use your skill in a new way(let you use a skill in the place of another skill within a defined field)

  • Increase the scale of the skill in a specific circumstance(I am still working on the specific effects of this and would love to hear any thoughts on what I can do with it) 

  • Increase effect or damage of a skill after the roll(basically you achieve success with style automatically on a success, you critically succeed when you succeed at all)

  • Character Points expenditures and advancement
    After character creation you can improve your character through the expenditure of character points to enhance a skill roll. The final character sheet will have a list of ten boxes set below the skill rating bubbles so you can easily track skill growth.
    10 character points gets you the next dot in a skill
    5 character points grants you an achievement(a specialization or ability within a given skill)
    2 character points grants you a fact(something like an aspect that is attached to the skill). These are the only character points you can spend on character advancement without spending them on enhancing a skill first.

    Finishing Touches
    Write down three facts about your character. One should be about their training and background. The other two should be about relationships or social duties your character has. These are very important as they allow you to increase the number of kept dice you can have on a given roll. These Facts also allow for a bit of niche protection and individualization of specialty. Also here is where you mark down any signature equipment and your physical description. And then you should be done...

    So far that is what I have for character creation. I would like to do a bunch of character creation and see if it stands up to repeated iterations. If any readers would like to build a character(or a bunch of them should the mood strike), I would like to see them, post or link in the comments. In fact I would love to hear any thoughts on this method for character creation. Let me know if you think it will work what areas are weak, and anything else you thought about it.

    Saturday, March 21, 2015

    Trek to the Stars pt 7: The Inevitable Machine Uprising

    In this post I am going to talk a bit more about the setting for Trek to the Stars, and all that. I am also going to talk about an area of design that I normally do not pay much attention to. I am going to talk about when you reach the point where you have to decide what to do with your game. Mostly, when I make a game for this site, I just go until the muse no longer strikes and then I let the idea lay fallow. After talking with some of my friends and fellow designers I have decided that I would be better served by finishing up these projects and putting them out all polished and gleaming. So that is what I am going to do. I will start with this project; my goal is to have a working beta document ready by mid April. From there I will start a fairly low key kickstarter to get editing, art, and layout done. Then I will release it to the world as a pay what you want pdf and also do some sort of print on demand bit. After that, I will move on to other projects that are near completion: Heartbreaker, Omnis Mundi, and Where the Antelope play. I also have a bunch of other ideas that keep springing into my head, so look for those in the future as well. Don't worry about Jadepunk, though. I will still be putting out books for that. It is just that I have spent so much time focusing on that single project that my other work has started to slide a bit. This is my attempt to get back in the saddle, to get designing the other stuff that I always wanted to do.

    All that said lets get to the design bits, yeah? For those who haven't been following this project, or want to refamiliarize themselves with it, here are the previous posts:
    The initial idea
    Part 1 Influences and basic pitch
    Part 2 Skill Roll Basics
    Part 3 Campaign Frameworks
    Part 4 History in brief and major technologies
    Part 5 I talk about Keys and Secrets 
    Part 6 The basic timeline and a description of the clades and uplifts

    Last time I talked about the genetic engineering side of things. This time I would like to delve into the mechanical and technological side of the equation.

    Quantum Computers: The advent of the quantum computer changed everything. For most folk in the system, it was just a faster and more reliable computer. To those into advanced mathematics, economics, or artificial intelligence research it the quantum computer opened the universe. When the quantum computer was first invented, those who had it used it to crash every market on earth for over ten years. Only when the nations and corporations changed over to quantum cryptography that things began to improve and even then it was the discovery of fusion that managed to pull the economy out a decade long slump.

    The Internet
    During the Last War the Internet was struck, and struck hard. It was a line of communication and could not be allowed. Satellites were destroyed, wires cut, severs were wiped out. By the end of the war the nature of computer networks had changed. Much information was lost or fragmented during the war, but a lot was taken outward in the second diaspora. Networks are now far more centralized and controlled. Server farms are hidden and guarded

    Artificial Intelligence
    During the first diaspora artificial intelligence came to be. Several labs managed the feat within months of each other. At the time few laws existed to deal with man made sapience. this was quickly rectified and within twenty years Artificial Intelligences were considered capable of being citizens like any human. That said there is still a great deal of distrust and prejudice against Constructed Intelligences(their preferred term). Some folks do not believe the results of the Ferrera-Tannous Test are accurate, that these beings are only mimicking sapience. Currently a Constructed Intelligence requires a massive quantum computer with massive constant power needs. Most are housed in satellites or space ships, interacting with the external world through drones.

    Transportation of the future is manifold. From Vactrains traversing the Atlantic and across multiple continents to Ground effect vehicles and vacuum balloons, there are more ways to get around now than at any time in the past. The biggest advance has been in the area of space travel. Cheep fusion reactors and mass drivers drove the race into space. Currently there are two main drives in use Solar Sails and Fusion Drive Rockets. Solar sails are cheep, but slow. One can increase one's speed by hiring a laser array to increase the ships speed. Fusion Drive Rockets(called "Rosies" in the engineering vernacular) are used primarily for military uses and other uses that require a fast burn. They are far to costly for most normal travel needs. Primarily ships are use for trade purposes, bringing He^3 and other materials out to, and back from, the edges of human occupied space.

    There are a great many ways to augment the human body. Possibly the most invasive is biomechtronic human enhancement, often called(erroneously) cybernetics. Most folks who get enhanced in this way are replacing damaged limbs or organs. The ones who do not are viewed with great distrust. People who remove parts of themselves to gain some perceived advantage are seen as somewhat unstable.
    • Spartan: the cyborgs who focus on enhancing their own bodies with prosthesis are known as Spartans, after the ancient Greek warriors. Their enhancements are the most varied of the human augmentations. They tend toward protections and combat enhancements, though there are stories of those given prosthesis as a form of control. 
    • Collectivites: They sit in the secret stations hidden throughout the system. They seek to transcend humanity. Using quantum computers and brain machine interfaces they have merged their minds(mostly). They interact with the outside world using remote controlled robot drones. However they are still connected to meat space. They have yet to transcend their bodies. They sit in armored shells filled with nutrients and a mild electric current to stimulate their muscles to prevent atrophy. Full mind upload is the dream, and it is still a long way off. Those who have tried managed to upload...something, but what remained within the quantum computer was not human. They were not safe. The transfer loses all but the darkest parts of the human soul(if there is such a thing).
    Major Tech Corporations
    W-Y Corp: Born of the merger between two mega-corporations W-Y Corp produces anything and everything that people need. They control 4% of every market in the system. That may not seem like much, but it makes them the largest corporation in the solar system. There have been many allegations of shady dealings and cover ups, but they hold such power that they are considered a sovereign entity when dealing with governments.
    Omni Corp: The leading edge of the drone market, while also working to break into the field of mechanical augmentation. They have recently mad a deal with one of the moons of Uranus to build better soldiers in their near constant warfare with their neighbors.
    Tai Rel Corp: Leading the field in genetic engineering. they are currently focused entirely on building better life forms to survive the harsh conditions in Venus' atmosphere.
    Cyber Systems: They created the first quantum computers and still are leaders in the field. Recently they have been fighting an economic war against their chief rival HMI.
    Hueristic Modeling Inc: An upstart computer company that made a splash recently by outbidding Cyber Systems for a military contract with the Saturnian Regency.

    So that is what I have for this post. Let me know what you think.