Monthly Archives: October 2013

FATE of Aldis Part II: Game Creation


Fateofaldis

(This article is based on Chapter 2 of Fate Core – Game Creation.)

FATE Core has a lot of good ideas or setting creation, and many helpful hints about the sort of characters that it is good at producing, and the sorts of games that it is good at facilitating.  Lets look at a few of the details

What Makes a Good Fate Game?

There are several characteristics of a good Fate game.  These include Proactivity, Competence, and Drama, All of these characteristics map well to Blue Rose – characters in Blue Rose are often proactive, being dispatched on missions with wide-ranging authority to handle things in the name of the Sovereign or some other powerful faction.  They are not just grunts who follow orders, but leaders who are expected to use their own ingenuity to assess problems and solve them.  PCs are also considered to be quite competent which, in my opinion, maps better to the intent and feel of romantic fantasy than the typical “Hero’s Journey” leveling system built into so many roleplaying games.  In Blue Rose characters should start off competent – you don’t get inducted into the Sovereign’s Finest or the Knights of the Blue Rose straight off the street or by walking into the palace and filling out a form after all.  Player Characters are elite, highly skilled in their area of expertise, and broadly knowledgeable even outside of it – able to be flexible in problem solving and expected to use their abilities without needing close supervision.  They are trusted by the authorities, and that trust comes only with demonstrated competence (well, that, or if the Golden Hart jumps out of a window and touches you).  Finally, there is drama, and here again Blue Rose fits well.  Characters lead dramatic lives.  They do things that matter, that have wide-ranging effects, that can actually change the political and social landscape.  An interesting thing to note is that Blue Rose lacks the defined scale that is mentioned in the Game Creation chapter of Fate Core.  The Sovereign is interested in her people’s welfare at all levels, and the egalitarianism inherent to the nation of Aldis means that Player Characters will be assigned to missions of all levels of scope – whether spying on Kern, negotiating with the Rhy, or just helping out a village that has suffered a devastating fire.  In Blue Rose, drama plays out on all levels.

Setting Up Your Game

Much of the hard work of setting creation has already been done for Blue Rose – Jeremy Crawford, Dawn Elliot, Steve Kenson, and John Sneed did an excellent job of creating an evocative, interesting, and immersive world for Blue Rose.  Many future articles will go into converting specific ideas from the world of Blue Rose to Fate Core, but for now I am going to accept that a lot of the world design has been done and I just need to make it work in Fate Core, and move on to the setting’s big issues.

There are a lot of big issues that can be used as the basis for a campaign in Blue Rose – the shadow gates, the empire of Kern, troubles from Jerzon, court politics in Aldis, etc. etc.  Normally these issues are decided between the GM and the players, and I encourage GMs not to skip this step.  Having player buy-in to your world right from the start is valuable, and sets a tone of interest and excitement that can carry your game far.   Allowing your players input into what the world is like and what the big issues are saves you as GM from trying to pitch or sell your game to the players.  Instead the players, through their input, give you a setting that they have already bought into.

For purposes of discussing the conversion, however, I am going to set up a couple of big issues for my Blue Rose game.

The first big issue I title “Light and Shadow”.  One of the major tropes of romantic fantasy is morality choices.  In Blue Rose morality is represented by your character’s alignment either towards light, shadow, or a mixture of the two.  Not only do I want this struggle between light and shadow morality to be a major part of the campaign, eventually (when I convert it to Aspect form) I want PCs to be able to invoke it and compel it for benefits during the game.  “Light and Shadow” should encourage players to have their characters perform feats of dramatic bravery in the face of long odds, and to struggle with their more basic urges at dramatic times and places.

The second big issue I title “The Rise of Sayvin”.  In Blue Rose Sayvin is the son of the former Sovereign, and is secretly embittered that he was not chosen by the Golden Hart when his father died.  He has begun to dabble in sorcery.  He makes a good future threat – something that the PCs can uncover the truth about slowly, and that I as GM can take the time to develop.

Faces and Places

Now it is time to come up with some concrete setting elements that go with the setting ideas that I have above.  There are a few individuals and locations of particular prominence that I should look at fleshing out.

First, for “Light and Shadow” I should come up with an NPC or two who embody or personify this problem.  This is pretty easy for me, as Queen Jaelin clearly personifies light, while the Lich King Jerek represents Shadow.  But wait!  While that clearly lines things up between good and evil, light and darkness, it seems a little too pat and simplistic for Blue Rose.  Jerek is never portrayed as anything approaching a sympathetic or interesting character (he’s a LICH KING!!!).  Perhaps it would be better to represent this struggle by using Jaelin for the light and the Hierophant for the shadow.  That would allow for potential redemption by the Hierophant, and would also allow for the conflicting parties to join together occasionally against a common foe like Jerek (nobody likes a Lich King).  This sounds much more dynamic and interesting to me.

Queen Jaelin (representative of the light)

Aspect:  “Everyone matters.”

The Hierophant (representative of the shadow)

Aspect:  “Darkness can only be kept at bay through discipline and fire.”

For “The Rise of Sayvin” my ultimate opponents are going to be Sayvin vs. the Golden Hart, but both of those characters are far too large to be brought forth initially for a threat that is in the future.  So instead I invent Rhuthlar, a Vata’an merchant and childhood friend of Sayvin, whose mercantile family lost heavily when Jaelin was selected as sovereign.  Rhuthlar is now rebuilding his family fortunes and attempting to help his friend rebuild his power base.  Rhuthlar is not shadow tainted, but he does dislike Jaelin and like Sayvin, and is not above a bit of petty revenge or bending the rules a bit to find Sayvin a proscribed book of sorcery that he is interested in.

Rhuthlar (Vata’an Merchant)

Aspect:  “The money is in my purse.”

Now we have some interesting overarching plotlines – the struggle of the light against the shadow is ongoing, and the rise of Sayvin as a future threat, looming and awaiting discovery.  This, along with the genre aspect created previously and all the good writing done on Blue Rose already gives us more than enough of a framework to build the foundation of a plot line and some initial story arcs.  The next thing to do is create characters, and that will occupy my next several articles.

ON TO PART III

BACK TO PART I

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FATE of Aldis Part 1: The Big Picture


Fateofaldis

In converting any previously published setting to another system, the first question that I  ask myself is “What makes this setting attractive or interesting ?”  I purposefully left out “to me” in that statement because while making the world interesting for yourself is important, making the world interesting to your players is equally important.  If the setting is not interesting to you then you will soon tire of running it, and if the setting is not interesting to your players then they will soon tire of playing in it.  In addition, having the setting be interesting in multiple ways will give you more handles to build plot lines on, which will result in a game less set on rails and more fun for everyone concerned. Blue Rose is designed to cover a certain genre of literature – Romantic Fantasy.  The first thing I want to ask myself when beginning a conversion is “What IS Romantic Fantasy, and can FATE work well as an RPG emulator for this type of literature?”

Romantic Fantasy

Blue Rose has a good one-page description of Romantic Fantasy (pp. 6-7 of the main rulebook) and there are some online resources that also cover the definition of Romantic Fantasy in detail, including –

To sum things up, the Romantic Fantasy genre differs from straight-up fantasy in that it incorporates elements of the romance genre in addition to those of the fantasy genre.  Specifically, there is considerable emphasis placed on relationships – not only romantic but also social and political.  While characters may begin as loners or wanderers, they typically find a home very quickly, and it is the interaction between the characters in the fiction which is paramount, rather than the slaying of monsters, gathering of treasure, and gaining of power as in more typical straight-up fantasy. Blue Rose itself describes several characteristics of the genre that went into the design of the setting, including the following:

  • Characters are usually members of some prominent group within society
  • Developing a sense of belonging and finding comrades are central features
  • Goals include becoming more fully integrated into the group or society, and protecting them from harm
  • Society is highly egalitarian
  • Heroes are environmentally conscious.  Protecting wilderness areas from depredation is a common plot thread.  Nature is a positive magical force.
  • Magic is often an innate ability, and is generally viewed in a positive light.
  • Traditional magic is often practiced only by villains, or is dangerous in some way.

Being true to the genre of Blue Rose is important – otherwise you just have Greyhawk with the serial numbers filed off and a new coat of paint.  Giving the world the specific feel of a romantic fantasy series will be one of the big goals of this conversion, and  is a subject that I will come back to on several occasions in upcoming posts, but for now we are looking at the big picture so lets start way at the top.

GENRE ASPECT(S)

It may be that all my future players will be into romantic fantasy, and are all coming to the table with a good sense of what to do and how to play in a setting with that sort of flavor.  Even so, there are a large number of romantic fantasy settings, and the amount of romance vs the amount of fantasy varies a great deal from setting to setting. One of the best and most versatile tools in FATE is Aspects – phrases that describe something unique or noteworthy about whatever they are attached to.  Aspects are the primary means by which characters gain and use Fate points, making them powerful tools for influencing player creativity and shaping the sort of actions that characters perform. My first solution to the problem of enforcing the genre rules of romantic fantasy is to add what I call a Genre Aspect to the campaign, right up front.  This will give the players tangible rewards for operating according to genre guidelines.   Characters which behave according to the genre conventions (and get in trouble according to the genre conventions) will receive concrete benefits including extra Fate Points and the ability to use them to gain bonuses or rerolls. The Genre Aspect will be universal within the setting – it will operate anywhere and everywhere, whether the characters are in court in Aldis or sitting in a fetid dungeon in Kern.  It is always available to be called on in any situation or circumstance.  Because romantic fantasy plots evolve and develop along certain lines, it acts a bit like the laws of physics in the real world, constraining and guiding what is and isn’t possible – what sort of behavior gets the characters in trouble, and what sort of behavior allows them to go beyond their normal skill level and succeed where they might otherwise fail. I am going to start off with a simple, working title for my Genre Aspect – “Romantic Fantasy”  I’ll write it on an index card and it goes out onto the table along with any other Aspect cards at the start of the game.  It might be wise to write it using a different color of pen so that it can be distinguished from more temporary aspects.  Like any other aspect it can be invoked by spending a fate point and explaining what the character is doing that allows for calling on this particular aspect, or it can be compelled to get the character in trouble and earn a fate point.  But because it is so large and overarching, I want to write a few things down on the card with it (or maybe give a brief explanation to the players) that give examples of actions that are appropriate for invoking and compelling “Romantic Fantasy”. Actions appropriate for invoking “Romantic Fantasy”

  • Agreeing to join an organization or fellowship
  • Protecting innocents from harm at the cost of great personal danger or sacrifice
  • Protecting an area of wilderness at the cost of great personal danger or sacrifice
  • Attempting to negotiate or reason with your foes instead of just attacking them

Actions appropriate for compelling “Romantic Fantasy”

  • Negotiating/interacting with your foes when fighting/fleeing is clearly the safer option
  • Having to attend some organization event when a character you have a relationship with clearly wants you to do something else
  • Having to choose between giving support to your comrades and achieving important goals for your organization
  • Trusting someone you have no compelling reason to trust

These are just a few examples – during the course of play there will undoubtedly be many more.  Such examples should serve as inspiration to the players, not as a list to choose from. In these examples I left out any sort of benefits for character relationships.  That is because I want to handle them in a different way using character aspects.  I will discuss this at a later date when I look at character creation. An important thing for any GM developing their campaign from a published setting is to know where they want to tweak things.  Not every GM is going to find every bit of any setting equally compelling, and might want to play up some while downplaying others.  For example one of the big tropes of romantic fantasy is egalitarianism.  As published, the land of Aldis is fairly egalitarian, with exceptions to this considered to be inappropriate, backwards, and activities to be reduced or removed from society when possible.  If this is something that I want to really play up in my Blue Rose, I might add example invoke and compels to my Genre Aspect such as Invoke

  • When attempting to convince a prejudiced person to change their views

Compel

  • When you must hurt or humiliate someone because they are different because you are under cover or must convince another person that you are prejudiced.

On the other hand I might want to make Aldis a little darker, a little less fair, and place a little less emphasis on egalitarianism.  In that case I wouldn’t write any Genre Aspect guideline regarding egalitarianism – characters would then have slightly less  mechanical impetus to treat people fairly and more freedom within game as to how to act. The important thing about a Genre Aspect is to make it lean, yet robust.  It needs to be lean because players need to be able to understand how and when to invoke and compel it, and it needs to be robust so that players will be able to use it in a wide variety of situations. I suggest no more than one Genre Aspect to start out with – maybe two if you are going to mash together some genres that are less well understood together,  like Emo Schoolgirls/World War II.  For Blue Rose, one is almost certainly going to be enough unless you want to stray far into the romantic side of romantic fantasy. If you really want to push the genre hard, you might even consider giving everyone a single free invoke during the course of an adventure (or a session if you really want to hit the “romantic fantasy” button hard and often).  Use different colored chips to designate the free invokes.

ON TO PART II

BACK TO INTRODUCTION

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FATE OF ALDIS: converting “Blue Rose” to FATE


A couple of weeks back I did a quick and dirty conversion of “Blue Rose” to the FATE Core system for Big Bad Con.  The project created a certain amount of interest, so I thought I would write a few articles on converting Blue Rose to FATE Core.

In a somewhat wider sense, this is also a discussion of how to do quick and dirty conversion of other game systems to FATE Core.  It isn’t really a full conversion in itself, but rather some ideas of how to use certain portion of FATE as a toolkit for using other settings.

ON TO PART I

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BIG BAD CON 2013, DAY 3: FATE of Aldis


My third game of the day was the one that, prior to the convention, had given me the most stress.

Originally, game designer Ryan Macklin had been scheduled to run a game of “Mage” converted to use the FATE Core system (a somewhat more complex version of FATE Accelerated, previously discussed(.  But for various reasons Mr. Macklin had been forced to cancel only a little over a week before the convention, and Sean Nittner had put out a call for GMs to run in that slot.

I stepped up.

Originally, I thought I was stepping up to run a game that was already prepared, but it turned out that Mr. Macklin had no notes and no pregen characters, so I had to do things from scratch.  After a couple of days worth of trying, I decided that with all my White Wolf stuff still packed in the garage, there was no way I was going to be able to put together a satisfactory Mage game starring the Void Engineers on what then amounted to less than a week’s notice.  But one of the points of this game in particular was to highlight the way that FATE Core handles magic, so I needed a high magic scenario and setting.

I chose Green Ronin’s “Blue Rose” as the setting, because as a Romantic Fantasy game it would be pretty high in magic, and it looked like converting the characters wouldn’t be entirely exhausting and agonizing.  I thought I could convert a lot of the feats from Blue Rose into stunts without much problem.  So off I went.

Another problem – I only had the Kindle version of the rules, which was well enough for the planning, but I worried about not having a print version for the game itself.

Finally, I knew that switching GMs at the last minute would disappoint some people.

But undaunted, I threw myself into the project, read through FATE Core and the portion of the FATE Core Toolkit that dealt with magic, made up a diverse bunch of characters, most of whom had magic, and then planned the outline of a game.  Instead of a plot on rails, I decided that I would just give the characters a goal and let them get to it as they pleased, since I didn’t know whether I would have a full house and which characters might be included or left out.

In the wake of Apocalypse Pony I was pretty apprehensive – the “don’t plan out the scenario” approach had failed me badly for that game, and here I was relying on it again.

And I only got two players.  One of whom had been in the Apocalypse Pony game.

The game, it was a resounding success!

The other player and Sophie hit it off immediately.  They talked through which characters would be fun combinations to play with and which would compliment one another, and eventually settled on the Vata’sha Ranger and the Rhy-cat Scout.  Both were good at being stealthy, neither one was particularly a strong fighter.  And between the two of them, because they were good players who worked well together, they managed to pull off an amazingly successful rescue with very little in the way of violence.

The pair were members of the Sovereign’s Finest, an elite organization in Aldis who act as the direct representatives of the Sovereign.  They were being dispatched to Kern, the kingdom of the Lich King Jerod because rumors had reached the Queens ears of a large group of refugees who wished to escape from Kern to Aldis in order to be free.  Both players played their characters well and to their strengths while invoking a lot of aspects to set up situations where their weaknesses were largely cancelled out.  It really was a wonderful bit of roleplaying to watch, and I felt privileged to be a part of it.  Honestly, you don’t get to see that level of trust and mutual cooperation often when two strangers sit down to game together for the first time, and it tickled me to see it here.

So despite the low number of players, the game turned into a rousing success, probably the best thing I did at Big Bad Con this year, and a fitting end to the convention

BIG BAD CON 2013, DAY 3: GoD Duty


Once again, not in bed until 2:00, up at 7:30.  I was feeling bad about Apocalypse Pony, tired, and not at all confident about the day, which started off for me with Games on Demand duty.

Wisely or fortuitously, I had chosen as my selections for GoD Duty “Fiasco: 40K”  (a Fiasco playset of my own design) and “Do:  Pilgrims of the Flying Temple”  Both of these are low prep, GM optional games.

These two games really saved the convention for me.

I got to play in the “Fiasco:  40k” game for the first time around, and I had an absolute blast!  I played a Servitor (named, appropriately, “Servitor” but formerly Fraggo, who along with another character had been part of a rival inquisitor’s entourage).  I had a reliquary built into my chassis/torso which supposedly contained a holy relic.  Unfortunately for me it turned out to contain some Eldar wraithbone instead – an important prize to be recovered by two of the other characters, who were Eldar cultists.  I was eventually led to a dark corridor of the Tricorn and bludgeoned, then dragged into a storage closet and bludgeoned some more and left for dead.

Things didn’t turn out well for anyone really.  They seldom do in Fiasco.  The best success was the guy who bludgeoned me – who wound up a Servitor, washing windows.

Best line of the game “Hey!  I wonder why someone left this entire satchel full of grenades in this storage room full of stuff that is broken or malfunctioning?”

Sheer brilliance.

None of us could stop laughing during the game.  That’s what Fiasco does to you.

For the second game, Do, Pilgrims of the Flying Temple” I decided to step back and just GM for the four players who were attending.  I have the story somewhere and I need to clean it up and post it, but for now let me just say that Do is a great game for Sunday at a convention – it’s low key, low prep, low stress and fun – a story telling game at its heart, with just enough mechanics to let things flow.

Previously, all the Do games I have played have had children in them, and have used letters with few goal words.  This time I picked a letter with a moderate number of goal words and more mature themes.  It was quite interesting watching how a group composed entirely of adults took to the game.  Adults seem much more into the “style” of the writing, and tend to construct compound sentences (which can sometimes cause the game to drag a bit because they take so long to write) whereas kids are all about a) simple, direct sentences with few commas and b) the flying – kids just love the flying part.

The Do game ran a little bit long, and didn’t quite finish until 2:30, which gave me only half an hour to get to my final game of the convention….

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BIG BAD CON 2013, DAY 2: Colony Wars


So as mentioned, I was feeling a little bit low when I hit my last game of the evening – a game in a system I knew nothing about.

“Colony Wars” is a setting for “Hillfolk”  You are all authorities of some faction on an asteroid colony way out on the far side of the asteroid belt, vying for power.

“Hillfolk” is one of those token economy games.  Similar in some ways to “Burning Empires” with its scenes of various type, everything gets resolved by spending tokens or flipping cards.

I didn’t pay as much attention to the game as maybe I should have – as I mentioned I was feeling kind of crappy because of the whole “My Little Pony” thing and that distracted me – but I largely found the mysteries of the “Hillfolk” game system to be completely opaque to me, despite the fact that a lot of the system seemed to boil down to “Decide which character you want to have an interaction with, ask them for something you want, and then see if you can talk them into giving it to you.  If you can, they get a mysterious chip.  If you can’t, you get a mysterious chip.  Then later you can spend that chip to do something or other.”

Despite some confusion about the rules, things went pretty smoothly, and we managed a couple of go-arounds of the table, negotiating and cajoling.  Everyone seemed to have a good time, and I did too notwithstanding my still being haunted by the Pony game.  I DID, however, find the game to be somewhat overcomplicated.  It often felt to me as if you were more constrained by the game system than is normal, and I could never quite figure out what all the complexity of the chip economy system got you that couldn’t be done functionally as well with a system less constrained.

I played “Swash” Gutierrez, a representative of the Immigrant population on the asteroid.  I decided that I want to play him as something like Sawyer from “Lost” – the con man who always pushes his con just a little too far.  I was currently a major player in the immigrant community primarily because I had talked myself up big during the journey from earth.  I got into it with the Trade Union boss, and tried to scam some money out of the head of Life Support, without much success, and got corporate security on my tail.  All in all, I wouldn’t say I came out of the game in a good position, but that’s Sawyer for you.

After the game, we staggered out to the car and went home, arriving at around 12:30.

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BIG BAD CON 2013 DAY 2: Apocalypse Pony… the game I learned from


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The Omnicorn (equivalent to the Brainer)

My second game of the day, Apocalypse Pony, was originally SUPPOSED to be my big game of the convention – the cool idea I translated into an awesome experience for my players.

But for a few reasons I will get to in a moment, I left the game feeling very disheartened, like I had let my players down and hadn’t provided them with the experience that they should have gotten out of a game idea as cool as Apocalypse Pony.

I think that the concept was a good one – pretty much straight up Apocalypse World  except the characters are ponies out of My Little Pony.  I made up some character sheets (well, Sophie did most of that but I did the art and the proofing)  I made up my Front sheet using villains from the show (King Sombra, the Smooze, and the Changeling ponies), made up a list of my moves, and emphatically didn’t come up with a major plot because that’s not the sort of thing you are supposed to do in Apocalypse World.

That didn’t work out so well.

I managed to upset one of the players about 1 2/2 hours into the game sufficiently that he got up and left the game.  We talked about it afterwards, and part of it was misunderstanding and part of it was differing expectations, and part of it was a trust issue and part of it was me just not GMing as well as I should have (and incidentally, no hard feelings and I appreciate the input, Hocus Player).  That really sort of knocked the stuffing out of me as facilitator, as well as pulling the lynchpin out of the community that had been set up, and things rather meandered to an unsatisfying conclusion 1 1/2 hours or so later, one hour short of my planned finish time.

Once again, all my players were stellar – I got good feedback from all of them on how to improve Apocalypse Pony, how to revise the characters, things to put in, things to leave out, and different ways of handling stuff in the future (thanks to you too, Omnicorn, Saint, and Engineer players!)  I can’t say that it was a BAD game, but it was certainly a game that didn’t live up to my expectations, and I don’t think it lived up to the expectations of my players either.

But I learned from the experience, and I got good feedback from the experience, and I think that I can really improve Apocalypse Pony because of all the good ideas of my players.  So it wasn’t exactly a failure.  Still I felt pretty low for the rest of the day because of it, and couldn’t really enjoy or even fully focus on the game that followed.  But don’t worry, there’s a happy ending down the road!

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BIG BAD CON 2013, DAY 1: “An Excellent Vintage”


 

An Excellent Vintage

I had four players for this game, all of them women.  I was a bit surprised by this, since I was rather expecting a WWI era pulp game to be more of a draw for men than women.  Two other players had pre-registered for the game, but didn’t attend.  (Aside – shame on you guys!  If you aren’t going to attend a pre-reg game, go and drop it so someone else can register!).  Of the characters, I found it interesting that the two who were NOT played were the ranking officer and the senior NCO.

I had originally planned this as a somewhat hardboiled pulp adventure, with unrepentant beating up of the Kaiser’s huns in a death trap castle from a mad scientist.

Five minutes after we started playing, I could tell that wasn’t going to work.  The player who had Tommy wanted to play a far more zany game that I had anticipated, and the player who played the nurse was right there with her.  The other two players were swept up in it, and all of a sudden it was pretty clear that a far more madcap pulp game was what everyone wanted.  They were all fired up about being at the convention, and they wanted to run wild!

So out the window went the horrible death traps, the pathos of the dying Kaiser’s soldier, the grim human experiments, and any sort of big moral questions.

The PCs were gathered together by British High Command, to undertake a mission into the heart of the Bavarian Alps.  The Kaiser’s scientific experts had recently begun analyzing a 1600 year old bottle of wine and Intelligence Services was concerned that they were developing an agent that could destroy France’s supply of wine, demoralizing the French Army.  The PCs were to infiltrate Castle Neushwanstein, where the investigation was taking place, and steal or destroy the bottle.  In addition, the Boffins back in Jolly Old had been working on a Super-Soldier program, and had currently researched it to the phase of animal testing.  This had resulted in Tommy, the talking dog, who was being sent along for field trials and analysis.

So the game started.  The Australian Corporal (promoted to Sergeant in order to lead the expedition) decided that he wanted to DRINK the wine.  Tommy was all excited to finally be going into the field, and the nurse wanted to prove her worth.  The poor sniper just wanted to do his job and get home.  The castle was filled with Mechanosoldaten and two-headed werewolves designed by the evil Doctor Dippel (I got some of my ideas from this article about the worst mad scientists in history – not for the faint of heart).  Various characters got trapped, separated, thrown into death traps, etc. But eventually the wine bottle was secured and the party escaped in a convenient dirigible.

Only to discover that they were contaminated by some sort of monster fungus that had developed in the wine (did I mention that the Australian DRANK the wine?  No?  Oops) that stood to destroy not only France’s wine supply, but also THE WORLD!  The game ended in the fiery destruction of the dirigible over Dresden, and the presumed death of all aboard.  But no bodies were ever found (dum dum DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUM!)

This game reminded me again of why I like FAE, despite having never much liked any of the Fate products that proceeded it.  Above all, FAE is simple!  It is easy to grasp by players who have never seen, heard or, or even imagined anything remotely LIKE the FAE system.  You can pretty well understand the whole thing after 5-10 minutes of explanation and my feeling (after trying both FAE and FATE Core) is that there is very little in terms of roleplaying that you CAN’T do in FAE that requires the extra complexity of FATE Core.  (for a good example of something that does, see the “Blue Rose” posting on day 3).

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BIG BAD CON 2013, Day 1: CAMELOT Trigger – Peril at the Gate”


After a one hour break following “An Excellent Vintage” I sat down to play in Sophie’s game of CAMELOT Trigger  Originally designed for FATE Core, Sophie had ported the game over to FATE Accelerated.  I was anxious to see how this would work under my theory that FAE is robust enough to handle even things like giant robot combat.

There were initially four players at the table, but we lost one of them around 45 minutes into the game, so after that there were three of us.  I played a ruthless Petty Titan in a rather cobbled together patchwork mech suit with aspriations to get noticed by Arthur and  no particular compunction about getting my hands dirty doing it.  My companions were a noble knight who had defeated me in combat and to whom under the traditions of the Petty Titans (though not necessarily according to her own traditions) I was now indentured to, and a fresh-faced aspirant to the ranks of the Templar Knights.

The game opened in media res with us blundering into an ambush and getting shot up by “bandits”.  This was a big fight, what appeared to be more like a climactic fight than a first scene fight, and we took our lumps for a couple of rounds until Sophie did one of those classic “Three days earlier” flashbacks.  This was, in my mind, absolutely SMASHING!  A very nice turnaround, surprising and completely effective.

From there we went on to spend our time visiting with a Petty Titan friend of my characters, engaging in some wrestling and running and jousting competitions in which we made few friends and many enemies.  In particular I set up a situation where I bet against myself in the wrestling competition and let word leak out, so that other unscrupulous characters would also bet against me.  I then proceeded to clean up in the wrestling competition – losing a bit of my own money in the process but causing all those unscrupulous, greedy bastards who had also bet against me to lose a whole lot more.

Eventually, we heard about a distress signal from a transport ship in trouble,   Of course, good little PCs that we were we went to investigate…  and found ourselves back in the middle of the ambush from scene 1!

I found the game to be very satisfying, and was able to put in some effective end-of-game conditions and moves that took out some of the bad guys.  It was a lot of fun, and I thought that the giant mech combat went well.

A few words about an incident that somewhat marred the game.  Our fourth player was very dissatisfied with the first 45 minutes and eventually walked out on the game, disgruntled.  He was reasonably polite about it, but criticised the game as being a) too slow, b) having very powerful opposition at the beginning.  Now I am all in favor of anyone wanting to walk out on a game doing so – if you are not having fun at a convention, go somewhere else and find some!  But I found the whole thing a bit ironic and sad for two reasons…  1) convention games are almost ALWAYS going to be slow at the beginning, particularly when you have players who don’t know the system well (as we did), and 2) (and the sadder of the two in my opinion) at the time when the player walked, his was the VERY LAST ACTION to be taken on the second round of combat, after which Sophie planned to have the awesome flashback.  So he literally walked out on the game JUST BEFORE THE COOL THING!  Now, in his defense, he was suffering from severe allergy attacks at the time – which were clearly making him unhappy.  But since I sat in on the game and experienced the coolness, I am particularly sad not only that one player missed out, but that he missed out by so narrow a margin.

Anyway – CAMELOT TRIGGER FAE – definitely would play it again.

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BIG BAD CON 2013, DAY 2: Games on Demand – FATE ocTane


Randy’s monster truck.

We got home from Big Bad Con around 1:00 am, and got to bed around 2:00 am.  Up at 7:00 am and back at the con by 10:00 am in time for Sophie to do Games On Demand duty.  Initially she had two offerings – “The Muppet Show” in FATE or “Eternal Earthbound Pets” in ocTane.  Eventually, after some convoluted fiddly bits, we wound up doing “Eternal Earthbound Pets” (the better scenario for only 3 players) in FAE (which was the system that the players were more interested in learning.

The game as it evolved had me reprising my character of Randy Rhodes – a Knight of the Road with a monster truck – and his faithful, but hideous canine companion Walmart.  I was joined by the Grease Monkey (yes, a real monkey) named Harry Furnow, and a 12-year-old Masked Luchador named El Cachorro (“the Puppy”) who came with his own mariachi band.  We were employed by Eternal Earthbound Pets to rescue pets after the rapture.

Randy’s dog, Walmart

It was after the rapture and we set off as per contact to rescue a cow, a pig, a chicken, and a duck from a farm in Eastern Oregon.  All we knew was that the cow was diabetic, the pig was “shy” and the town was called “Twin Peaks”.

It was a rollicking adventure.  The townsfolk needed help against a band of cannibal raiders.  We weren’t much interested until we heard that they were currently moving into the area near the farm where the animals we needed to rescue were, and then we were hot on the job.  We found a horrible gang of thugs led by Mags Bennet from “Justified”, who were cleaning out the area, extorting food from the locals, and even eating children.  Well, this had to stop of course.  And after a big fight scene, it did.  Several brave mariachi musicians died in the battle, but the cow, the pig, the chicken, and the duck were all mostly rescued (the pig had one leg gone but Hank built a cyberleg for it and Randy promptly adopted it as “Target” the Cyboar.)

Best moment of the game – Randy had pinned one of the leaders of the cannibal bandits down with his truck and was negotiating with him.  I needed Fate Points and my Trouble was “Dudly Do-Right” so I allowed the bandit leader to persuade me that he would negotiate with him if only I backed off and let him up.  I did so, and got my Fate Point.  The bandit leader jumped up, yelled “All right boys!  Get….!” and was promptly run over by Harry Furnow in a Toyota Corolla that he had salvaged from a pile of old vehicles.  For me at least it was one of those priceless, “Man, I didn’t see that one coming…  but it was beautiful!” moments!

This game went really, really well.  Sophie put a lot of it together on the fly, which made it all the better.  the other players were fun and creative, the setting was a blast, and we kicked cannibal bandit ass!

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