Tag Archives: Fate Accelerated

RPG a Day: Day 24


What is the game that you are most likely to give to others?

Image result for Fate Accelerated

Inexpensive.  Simple.  Versatile.

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Dragonflight: Saturday


Saturday I was planning on attending two games – Sophie’s “FATE of the Mouse Guard” game and Sophie’s “FATE of Agaptus” game.

Saturday Morning:  FATE of the Mouse Guard

For the morning game I got into FATE of the Mouse Guard, run by Sophie.  We were all playing mice, based on the comic by David Peterson and the RPG written by Luke Crane (though she ported it to FATE Accelerated).

I played a big, bad Patrol Leader with a big axe and a necklace of weasel teeth, a veteran of the Weasel Wars who saw weasels behind all troubles (this character was shamelessly stolen from the character previously played by our friend Jayson).

We were out on patrol strengthening the scent barrier when we were attacked by an angry mole.  This struck everyone as weird because moles don’t usually attack mice.  After a fierce battle we chased the mole off, then followed it back to its lair, where we discovered that there was some other sort of alchemical scent marker present.  But while the scent we used for the scent barrier was meant to drive predators away, this one was meant to drive animals into a state of aggression.  We eventually discovered a tunnel and laid an ambush and encountered – WEASELS!

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It was a tough battle.  Weasels have weight (which in this game is a means of measuring relative size) and there were two of them, so we could have been really badly mauled if we had taken on both at once.  Luckily the ambush spaced them out and we were able to drop them one after the other.  I got in a nice, big, weasel-whacking shot that did 8 levels of damage to one of them.

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Triumph!

All in all it was a fun game, and I thought that the mechanics developed for FATE of Agaptus worked well for simulating differing sizes of opponent.  You really need to watch out for characters that outweigh you in the game, because they can really mess you up quickly and the rules for healing are more severe than in regular FATE.  Be forewarned!

Saturday Afternoon – down time

I had planned on playing in Sophie’s FATE of Agaptus game Saturday afternoon.  Sophie and I have this secret convention plan whereby we list one less space than we will actually accommodate, so we can get into one another’s games.  However, there were a ton of people at Sophie’s game (somewhere around 8-9) and so I ceded my spot to someone else and went upstairs to work on my Sunday Motobushido game.

After the Friday game of Motobushido I noticed that players unfamiliar with the game had a hard time initially remembering the effects of what each move did in relation to the other moves.  There is an online chart to help with that but it is somewhat dated and inaccurate.  So I made up a couple of sets of 5×7 cards with the various moves on the front and their interactions with other moves on the back, to pass out for players who were dueling.  I also made up some cards detailing pack resources (which were all going to be very low for my second scenario) as well as lists of how you spent resources and how you regained them.

My feeling about resources is that for one-shots they are really only useful in a few ways.  First, they give a good overview of what condition the pack is in.  Second, they can be the focus of the adventure.  But unless you have a Shingari in the party, keeping strict track of resources is something of a drain – either you as the GM have to do it or you have to delegate it to someone NOT the Shingari – and if a player picked up a character other than the Shingari, it’s because they weren’t excited about keeping track of pack resources so you really shouldn’t dump on them.

Something I WANTED to do but ran out of time for was make up pages showing the outcomes of the various types of duel to put in my GM screen.  I decided not to do that after a) taking longer than I thought to make up the index cards and b) not particularly wanting to pay the expense of using the hotel business center (turns out it was free, but I didn’t know that at the time, and I am used to hotels charging for use of the business center in terms of number of internal organs).

I heard that Sophie’s game was a lot of fun.  Darn it!

Saturday Evening – Monster Draft

Addicted Pixies and the High Bludgeoner!  "Monster Draft"!

Addicted Pixies and the High Bludgeoner! “Monster Draft”!

Saturday evening we were invited by our friend John and his friend Jay to play in a playtest of his game Monster DraftMonster Draft is, as you might guess, a game about monsters.  The premise is that you have all been working for the sinister Whisper Queen, controlled by a gem in your forehead, helping her conquer everything and kill everyone and generally be all master villainish.  But the Whisper Queen died.  And now you are free to seek your destiny in a fantasy land ravaged by war.

I got “android” as my character type and “chronicler” as my profession and from there decided that I was an android motorcycle.  I had huge speakers mounted on my back and skulls (and spikes [and smaller skulls on the spikes{and even smaller spikes on those skulls}]) and the Whisper Queen used to ride me around while I blared out her praises, her triumphs, the worthlessness of her foes, and power chords.

My adventure primarily concerned minotaurs.  For my first encounter I tried to rescue a band of minotaurs from a magical tsunami, but failed and was able to bring out one minotaur calf as a survivor.  “The Littlest Minotaur” became my companion as I searched for other minotaurs to take him in.  Unfortunately we ran into some warangutans and he fell into a chasm.  I jumped in to rescue him, only to discover that he had not fallen in at all and plunged into the chasm myself.  My story wound up with me being reunited with the little tyke and convincing the warangutans to form a community with us because I could serve as an awesome aphrodisiac by playing love songs on my huge speakers.

Afterwards we had a nice discussion with John and Jay about the game and ways that it could be changed/improved/modified and what we liked and what we didn’t.  It was a fun post postmortem for the session.

Then – time for bed.

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BIG BAD CON 2014 – PART III (Sunday)


When I woke up, I was pretty sure I was dead.  After all the energy of all the games in the last two days, and after not getting to sleep until something like 3:00 am, all I really wanted to do was just snuggle back under the covers and go back to sleep, preferably with a nice, warm wife.

But the nice, warm wife had a Firefly game to run, so I staggered and crashed around the room, managed to make coffee, managed to get something to eat, and once again toddled off – this time bleary and barely sentient – to go to another game.

SUNDAY MORNING – Firefly

I was crashing Sophie’s game again, so again I sat politely and waited for other players to make their choices before I made mine, though I was secretly hoping to play Mal (to the point that I seriously considered giving my my scruples and calling dibs).  Sometimes virtue can in fact be rewarded, because when the others had chosen, there was Mal, still on the table, just looking up at me all manly and Captainy!

I confess I had some misgivings about the Cortex system.  The original “Serenity” put out by Margaret Weiss Productions had been a dim and dismal affair IMHO, and though I had liked Marvel Superheroes I had also found it a tough game to understand.  Grabbing Mal was therefor something of an act of faith – I knew that if I was playing Mal I was going to be in a leadership role, and that was going to put some requirements on me to care for the ship and crew.  One of the things I noticed right off on the character sheet was that one of Mal’s big abilities was to give another character an extra d10 if that character was following his orders by spending a Plot Point.  “Aha!” I thought to myself and suddenly knew my role in the game.

I was going to be the party cleric, making other people look good by boosting their dice pools.  This was quite successful and really funny too!

Early on in the game, Kaylee accidentally managed to jam her parasol point-first into the shoulder of a thug.  From then on when Kaylee got into combat I always tried to give her an extra d10.  I also played up Kaylee’s ferocity to our opposition – the “you think I’m trouble?  You don’t want to get HER riled!” sort of thing.  It was really fun, and Kaylee actually managed to lay out a couple of thugs this way, which made it even more fun.

Everyone did a fantastic job playing their characters and it was clear that everyone was a big fan of the show.  The person playing Jayne was in particularly fine form, and I don’t think I will ever be able to go into someplace posh without thinking “Hey, free mints” again.

An important lesson that was reinforced for me in this game – be a fan of the players, not only when you are the GM but when you are a player.  It is easy to get so focused on the character that you are playing that you forget about the other characters (and that’s OK to a certain extent – as a player your primary task is to play your character, not someone else’s).  But if you can get past that, and look for opportunities for your character to help other characters look cool, man you will set yourself up for some incredible roleplaying!

SUNDAY LUNCH – limited selection

There was a schawarma and falafel truck in the parking lot for lunch, but by the time we got there it was out of almost everything (though not schawarma, which was what I wanted).  During the afternoon I overheard several other attendees talking about how the truck ran out of almost everything, and the wait was very long (40 minutes in some cases).  Not sure exactly what the problem was with this particular vendor but it was disappointing to hear after the good service of the previous days.

SUNDAY AFTERNOON – Cat!

Cunning Cat Caper2Sophie had been planning on attending my Cat game in the afternoon, but while we were waiting for food Karen Twelves persuaded her to join a different game instead.  I was disappointed, but it turned out to be for the best because honestly I was running out of steam by the time I sat down to game.  Fortunately for me, my players were not.

I think the most enthusiastic bunch of players I had for the entire convention were the players for my Cat game.  They were full of cat stories and were totally in the cat mindset.  One player actually had a drawing she had made of the cat she wanted to play.  I had pregens, each with their own picture, but how could I say “no” to that?  My only regret now is that I didn’t give her a Fate Point for it, but as I said I was running low on steam.

I had a scenario planned out, but with Sophie not attending I was able to borrow some set locations and villain stats from a previous game I had run, which was nice.  The cats had an epic adventure finding out who had stolen Mr. Stinky’s smell, and thwarting a rat bane spirit who was attempting to destroy the neighborhood cats.  Players did awesome stuff and were extremely cattish, which added to the fun.  Another great game, and a wonderful conclusion to Big Bad Con.

SUNDAY EVENING – Aftermath

No, not the game.

We hit the road pretty quickly after the Cat game broke up.  Sophie and I were both tired and we were a bit worried that if we took the time to circle the convention saying goodbye to everyone we would be another hour getting out of the convention.  So if we missed you, or didn’t say goodbye to you – to everyone who was in a game with me, as well as those of you from previous years, thank you for another great Big Bad Con.  It was memorable and fun and uplifting.  See you next year!

 

 

 

BigBadEd

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Big Bad Con 2014 – the short form


I got 28 hours of gaming out of this year’s Big Bad Con.  I’ll discuss it more later but here is the brief rundown –

 

Friday afternoon – ran Puppetland and Fiasco.  Puppetland was hilarious and Fiasco was, well, Fiasco (we used “Dragonslayers”)

Friday evening – ram Everway.  Great players, fun game.

Saturday morning – ran Omega Zone.  Hilarity ensued.

Saturday afternoon – played in Sophie’s game of Tien Xia.  Kicked ass.

Saturday evening – ran Bulldogs.  Laughed so hard my sides ached.

Sunday morning – played in Sophie’s Firefly game as Mal.  Did Captainy stuff.

Sunday evening – ran Cat for Fate Accelerated.  Rodents suffered.

All in all – ran 20 hours of games, and played in 8.  I know of no other convention where you can pack that much gaming into so short a period.

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OMEGAZONE Part II: A Scorpion, a Sasquatch, and a Robot…


…  walk into almost anywhere.

Hilarity ensues!

I had three players for my OMEGAZONE game at Endgame today.  We generated characters randomly and got…

BROOK

A Cuddly Monster/Brain-in-a-jar with Psychic Trickery

KLAR-7

A Mundane Atomic Construct with Radioactive Vampirism

SCORPIO

An Igneous Arthropod Chimera with Psychic Teleportation

(I had players draw their characters, but I only seem to have wound up with Brook’s portrait, so I won’t single him out.  But the portraits were very cool)

One thing that people should note – it is totally possible to get approaches over +3 with the character creation system in OMEGAZONE.  This is fine, since it simulates that sort of Gonzo post-apocalyptic mutation universe popular with Gamma World and Metamorphosis Alpha, but GMs should make note of it when preparing games – mooks may need to be toughened slightly in order to provide a decent fight against +4s.  Another thing (and this I didn’t notice until after the game) – the order of approaches listed in OMEGAZONE is not the same as the order of approaches listed on the FAE character sheet.  Not sure why that it.  It might be worthwhile for Brooklyn Indie Games to put out an online character sheet, or at least make extra copies of the card-based character sheets from the deck available for purchase.  In the event we just put the stats down in the order listed on the FAE character sheet and it didn’t seem to make much difference.

I generated three pieces of equipment for the party.  I treated these like one-use boosts and they were available to everyone, though the party member with possession of the item got veto power for using it  Brook got the psi scanner, KLAR-7 got the proximity alarm, and Scorpio got the Omegaforce codebook

After a brief overview of the Omegazone, we went right into combat.  The party was hanging around El Barrio when their neighborhood was attacked by MALEVOLENT BRAIN CONSTRUCTS! (Ominous organ music).  These were mysterious creatures that appeared to be brains made out of riveted metal with old camcorders for eyes.  After a flashy, but not particularly challenging battle the neighborhood was saved, the MALEVOLENT BRAIN CONSTRUCTS!! (Ominous organ music) were defeated, and the party discovered that they were, in fact, nothing more than piles of riveted metal with old camcorders for eyes and no obvious power source, internal wiring, electronics, or anything else.

I intended the MALEVOLENT BRAIN CONSTRUCTS!!! (Ominous organ music) to be just another weird mystery of the OMEGAZONE but my players, bless their hearts, were so willing to grab hold of any potential plot hook that they almost took off before I could get them to the scenario!  The Guardians of the Reach, who showed up to help fight off other MALEVOLENT BRAIN CONSTRUCTS!!!! (ominou….  OK, OK – the joke’s over already) took the protagonists back to Reach HQ for a debriefing, commended them for their bravery and offered them a job that had nothing actually to do with the …  those things they had fought.  A member of the Guardians had recently lost a neutron blaster pistol after crashing in the Omegazone, and it was believed that Baron Junkpile had gotten his greedy mitts on it.  The Guardians wanted to quietly get it back, and wanted to hire the protagonists to do it rather than go themselves.  There was a bit of haggling back and forth about payment, which Scorpio eventually ended by offering to throw in the Omegaforce codebook if the Guardians would fix one of their items up front.  So the psi scanner stopped being a boost and became an aspect that could be called on.

The protagonists headed off to the Heap, one of the vast junkyards that Baron Junkheap rules, and found the goblinoids there all in a tizzy.  After some persuasion, some negotiation, and a far bit of threatening, it came out that Baron Junkpile was missing!  He had last been seen at the Rocket Garden, having a meeting with Big Tony the gorilla.  After a bit more persuasion, some additional threatening, and a whole lot of flattery towards one goblin in particular*, the party managed to cadge an old Chevy Pinto and headed off for the Rocket Garden**.

At the Rocket Garden (I confused the Rocket Garden with the Ollywood Bowl – thus blowing totally my knowledge of the OMEGAZONE and ruining my chances of this game becoming canon) the party met with the Maitre’d (one of those brain on a drinks trolley sorts), and in good PC fashion intimidated, threatened, and harassed him until Big Tony showed up with a half-dozen gorilla thugs.  This intimidated them into thinking about negotiating for a few minutes, until Big Tony started playing hardball with them, whereupon they decided that it was easier to throw a tablecloth over his head, threaten to stab a screwdriver into his brain, and set the restaurant on fire instead.  There was, in fact, a great scene in which KLAR-7 grabbed Big Tony and took him hostage – only to look around and discover that at the first sign of trouble Scorpio had teleported away and Brook had sprinted out the front door.  “OK guys, I have Big Tony hostage and…  guys?   GUYS???!?”

(This was a potential TPK situation here – Big Tony is not someone to be messed around with.  But it was a one-shot and everyone was having fun, so I let them get away with it, only scaring them a little.  But they aren’t welcome in Vinland now).

Eventually, Big Tony negotiated for his life and admitted that he had kidnapped Baron Junkpile and sold him…  TO THE KREEN!  (Dum dum duuuuuuum!)  Big Tony was interested in moving in on the Heap’s operations and wanted Baron Junkpile out of the way.  But in exchange for promises of payment from the Guardians – and assurances not to get a screwdriver shoved in his ear – he agreed not to make more trouble….  for now.

And so we got to the big battle at the crashed Kreen flagship.  Disintegrator beams flared, Brook shot down Kreen warriors with arrows, KLAR-7  pummeled Kreen with his piledriver atomic fists, and Scorpio faced off against the insidious Lieutenant Nert***.  Eventually the party broke into the room where the Baron was held captive and Scorpio retrieved him and the neutron blaster pistol.  But Lieutenant Nert had taken a fearful toll on him – beaten, nerve-disrupted, and partially disintegrated, Scorpio conceded on the condition that the others could escape with Junkpile and the blaster.  It was an awesome climax to the fight, so I just had to say “yes!”

In the aftermath, Baron Junkpile was freed, the remaining protagonists got paid what they were owed by both the goblinoids and the Defenders of the Reach, and Scorpio returned as a brain-on-a-drinks-trolley, with no memory of how he escaped from the Kreen

And they got to keep the Pinto.

So, what do I think of OMEGAZONE?

The game was a lot of fun.  I had good players – they were imaginative and wacky in correct measure, and willing to try stuff and push the plot along at any cost, even if it meant throwing a tablecloth over a gorilla mobster and setting things on fire.  So kudos to all three for a game well played.

The card-based character generation is good.  It makes for nice, quick character generation which means that for conventions and other one-off events you can actually do character generation and still get in a game within a four-hour time slot.  Like most players, I prefer to generate characters rather than play pregens, so this is great as far as I am concerned.  The card art is evocative, the stunts seem good, and the gear makes for a nice extra addition that creative players can use for a boost or a story point.  I give the product high marks, and intend to use it again in the future.  The only critique I have of it (besides the odd ordering of approaches on the cards) is that I would really like more – more character cards, more mutations, more equipment, more subplot cards, more of everything!  More, more, more!  Don’t make me send Big Tony after you guys – seriously.  More.

___

*  Note to self:  new location for Omegazone.  The front office of the Heap nearest to the Black Pits is now run by a lieutenant of Baron Junkpile named Lieutenant King King (formerly King Lieutenant King).  He dresses like a mismatched monarch and orders other goblinoids around imperiously.  They generally don’t listen, but they don’t whack him in the head with a wrench either, so he appears to have some sort of authority.

** Note to any artists out there who want to make me happy:  an illustration of a scorpioid  driving a beat up Pinto with a fake raccoon tail tied to the antenna through the streets of OMEGAZONE Los Angeles, with a robot in the passenger seat and a sasquach sticking out the rear hatch would make me extremely happy.

***”Lieutenant Nert” and all associated representations, merchandise, concessions, food products, costumes, apparel. and makeup items (including but not limited to lipstick, cologne, bath salts, and chitin wax) not already subsumed under the OMEGAZONE copyright are copyright Edmund Metheny.  All rights except those I don’t actually have reserved.  No challenge to existing copyright intended except those specifically established in the Kreen justice system.  “Lieutenant Nert and the Heroes of the Kreen” expansion pack, coming soon to Kickstarer!  Watch for “Servant of the Sub-Emperor”, volume 1 of the exciting new “Lieutenant Nert” series, coming in 2015 from Kreen Imperial Press.

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OMEGAZONE Part 1


 

Tomorrow I will be running Fate Accelerated at Square 1 Roleplaying, a monthly event at Endgame in Oakland.  Typically (for me) I decided to run something a bit off the beaten path.  In this case, I decided to run OMEGAZONE.

OMEGAZONE is an card-based instant setting for Fate Accelerated, produced by Brooklyn Indie Games.  Using the 56-card deck you randomly generate some traits and stunts for your character, the GM randomly generates a scenario outline, and off you go!  This seemed to me to be a good alternative to pregenerated characters when running games as one-offs, and I am anxious to see it in practice.

Here’s how it works – each player draws twice from among the Character Definition cards and once from the Mutation cards.  Each of these cards gives you a stunt and adds to some of your approaches.  Character Definition cards also give you ideas for your High Concept (and possibly Trouble).

Example:  I’m creating my first Omegazone character.  I draw the following cards:

Character Definition

Felinid – this gives me +1 to Quick and Flashy, and +2 to Sneaky, along with the stunt “Once per session felinids may spend a Fate Point to invoke a Boost without removing it from the table.”

Gelly Blob – I get +1 to my Forceful and Sneaky, and +2 to my Careful, along with the stunt “Gelly blobs get +2 to carefully create an advantage when their lack of well-defined anatomy comes into play.”

Mutation

Explosive Spores – gives me +1 to Flashy and the stunt “Gain +2 to Sneakily Attack when you emit portions of your body at your enemy.”

My Approaches come out

Forceful  +1

Careful  0

Quick  +2

Clever  0

Flashy  +2

Sneaky  +3

So I come out with a character that is essentially Choo-Choo Bear* from Something Positive.

Now all I need to do is come up with a High Concept (which could be as simple as “Felinid Gelly Blob” or something more detailed), and Trouble (“Spore leakage” comes to mind).  Additional aspects can be added by the player as the game progresses.

Coming up with a scenario outline is a matter of rolling four Fate dice, tallying up the number of “+”‘s and “-“‘s, and generating a story plot line based on each from an included chart.

Example:

I roll four Fate dice and come up with two “+” results and one “-” result.  Looking on the GM Adventure Hooks chart this results in the following two Adventure Hooks –

-Someone/thing wants a MacGuffin that the party has/finds

-The Party loses something important

There are also gear and faction cards to help you flesh out your scenario if you want.  You can also distribute them and use them as boosts for the party (most of the gear is old “Before Time” stuff, so if you can get it to work once you are doing pretty well).

Following up on my example above, I draw once from the “Gear” cards and get a “Neutron Particle Blaster” as the MacGuffin.  I decide that just to make things complicated, there are two factions involved – one that wants the MacGuffin from the party, and one that actually stole it.  I get the Guardians of the Reach as one faction, and the Goblinoids as the other.  Obviously the Guardians are out to retrieve this piece of old technology, but the Goblinoids have stolen it.  Game on!

In addition to the card deck, Tim Rodriguez also put out a handy setting guide for OMEGAZONE, which gives additional background on the setting (surprise!), the factions, and additional uses for the card deck.  I highly recommend this to go with the card deck, since the description of factions and settings on the cards is rather thin by itself.  Of course, if you want to use the cards for a different published setting such as Gamma World, its easy enough to do that instead.

I am looking forward to trying out OMEGAZONE tomorrow, and will let everyone know how it goes.

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*Choo Choo Bear is copyright R.K Milholland and no challenge to that copyright is intended or implied.  Please do not send Fluffmodeus.

 

 

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BROTHERHOOD OF THE RAIL – Bonus: Running BotR


Brotherhood_of_the_RailRunning a game of Brotherhood of the Rail is similar in most ways to running any other FAE game, but there are some tips and tricks to getting the right “feel” to the game.

Hobo?

Paladin?

In a broad sense, hobos in Brotherhood of the Rail are paladins.  Like paladins, they have no more wealth than they can carry with them.  Like paladins they travel.  And like paladins they are always finding situations in which they need to help those in trouble, right wrongs, and do good deeds without any sort of expectation of reward or widespread recognition.  Their power and authority to do good comes from within themselves and is not necessarily recognized by either civil or religious authorities.  And like paladins they often have minor magical powers that aid and support them.

Morality in a Brotherhood of the Rail game should be pretty black-and-white.  Bad guys should be bad, and good guys should be good.  The only time grey areas should come into it are a) PCs Trouble or other compels, b) NPCs who have to make difficult choises in order to survive or protect others.  The former is necessary in order to make compels function correctly, and the latter to give an appropriate feeling of quiet desperation to the setting as a whole.  The Great Depression was a tough time and people were often forced by circumstances to make choices they would not make otherwise.  Both salvation and redemption should be major themes for any Brotherhood of the Rail campaign.

Minneapolis Teamsters strike of 1934

One thing that should almost never be a central theme of a Brotherhood of the Rail game is violence.  Unlike paladins in fantasy roleplaying games, hobos in BoTR will seldom if ever have access to magic swords – or tommy guns, shotguns, or even butterfly knives or shuriken.  In addition, having your hobos go around beating people to a pulp to solve problems reinforces the whole “Murder Hobo” stereotype common in roleplaying games – a stereotype that will quickly spoil any BotR game you run.  Real solutions to problems should come through interaction and problem solving, not combat.  But what about those characters who are combat specialists – the pugilists and palookas and veterans?  Leaving combat entirely out of the game will make them irrelevant and rob BotR of some important character tropes.  The answer is to make sure that combat is relevant and directed.  Beating up a night watchman to get into a warehouse – probably not OK, he’s just a mook who doesn’t deserve to get the tar beaten out of him, even if the owner of the warehouse might.  On the other hand, helping to defend unionizing workers against corrupt strike breaking police might work.  Combat against an evil railroad bull who has been murdering hobos is appropriate.  Supernatural creatures like vampires are certainly deserving of a fist to the face, and enforcers for the big bad are often (though not always) fair game.  What’s important here is to avoid putting PCs up against men and women (and even supernatural critters) that don’t fall into the black side of the setting’s black-and-white morality.  Poor working schmucks, even if they happen to be working for someone really bad, are best avoided as targets for violence.

Another major theme for Brotherhood of the Rail is scarcity.  Times are hard, and basic resources are frequently in short supply.  Infrastructure in rural areas is rare and ill-maintained, and often vastly overtaxed in urban areas.  This means that improvisation – and sometimes appropriation – are frequently the order of the day.  Hobos will often need to get creative in order to get together the resources they need to solve problems.  But again the black-and-white morality of the of the setting should preclude outright looting, theft, mugging, etc.  The occasional minor swindle is OK and a well accepted part of the folklore (as well as the reality) of the Great Depression.  For example, pretending to be religious in order to cadge a donut and coffee from the Salvation Army is probably ok for the genre.  Pretending to be religious in order to steal the donation pot from the Salvation Army probably isn’t.  It’s a matter of scale – as GM you should usually overlook a very minor swindle, particularly if it is pulled off in an amusing or clever manner, but any swindle that might stand to really hurt innocents or working class folks breaks the feel of the setting.

Also bearing in mind the idea of scarcity, BotR is best with no more than 3-4 characters.  There need to be some weak approaches in the party, and they shouldn’t be able to count on someone in the group having a +2 to throw out in any given situation.  A big part of the fun of the FATE system is letting players set up Advantages that allow them future bonuses – use this as a resource in BotR games.  Set your difficulty numbers high and make players come up with numerous different ways to set themselves up for success on that crucial roll to convince Boss Markham to give the widow Greely back the deed to her farm.  Occasionally, you may want to throw a character into a situation where they have to use their -1 approach.  Don’t overuse this, but be sure to keep it in your bag of tricks – while players often dread such moments, success will be a memorable occasion for the player and the group.  Hard work is a hallmark of the Depression – there should be no easy or quick victories.

So what ARE characters in BotR supposed to do?  In short they are supposed to help people, get into trouble, and get out of trouble.  In the Great Depression there are a LOT of people in trouble.  Millions have lost everything in bank collapses and the destruction of the Dust Bowl.  And for every person who has lost everything, there are 10 more who are just barely hanging on.  Workers struggle to gain better working conditions, often provoking violent reactions from police and corporate leg-breakers.  Epidemics of influenza, typhus, and polio can be devastating locally and sometimes more broadly.  Even the rumor of outbreaks can spread panic.  In rural areas diseases previously conquered by immunization, such as Diptheria, are making a reappearance.

In BoTR there are also supernatural threats to deal with – spooks and haints, malevolent faeries, werewolves, vampires and other nasty creatures prowl the night and threaten innocents.  These threats almost always fall onto the black side of the morality equation, and are a good opportunity for characters to take their white hats off for a time and really cut loose.  The local sheriff isn’t going to object to you burning Old Man Greevy’s house once he finds out that Old Man Greevy is a blood sucker.  Occasionally supernatural threats should provide wonder or opportunities for a different sort of plot rather than being simple evil.  Riding the Wabash Cannonball to the Yonder, visiting the Rock Candy Mountain, or having to mediate between Seelie and Unseelie fairies in a small Louisiana town are good examples of this.

And not everything in the Depression is dark.  Events are afoot that will provide for America’s rise to greatness.  Many of the large infrastructure projects that survive to this day such as electrification, dam construction, and the beginnings of a federal highway system, are underway or beginning.  As the Depression goes on, the federal government begins projects that will employ thousands of migrant laborers.  Bring characters in on these large-scale projects.  Can they find the source of the Gremlins that are keeping the first China Clipper grounded?  Help expose corruption in a Tennessee Valley Authority project?  Can they help police capture John Dillinger?  Perhaps they might meet with famous individuals such as Huey Long, Eleanor Roosevelt, or Woody Guthrie?  There are big, important events and history-making people all across America during the Great Depression, and these should be sprinkled into your plots to give players and their characters a sense of their historical place in the campaign.

One difficulty with the setting of BotR is the level of mobility of the characters.  The campaign can and should be moving around constantly as characters follow seasonal labor and good weather across the United States.  This can give BotR a very episodic feel and make it difficult to create any longer-term plots.  One solution to this is to make the main adversaries as mobile as the characters – a gang of yeggs, for example, that keeps popping up in the path of the characters like a bad penny.  Or place adversaries in places where the characters will have to go repeatedly, such as the “main stem” areas of big cities like New York or San Francisco.  If they establish close ties to a particular place then make sure there is reason for them to go there – not always, but repeatedly.  You can also build long-term plots around a character’s Trouble Aspect (well, any Aspect really, but Trouble works particularly well).  Personify their Trouble as much as possible – make it a “who” and not a “what”.  If a character is an alcoholic, personify it by having a Salvation Army or Temperance League member take an interest in them, or turn their craving for alcohol into a little demon that sits on their shoulder, whispering temptations.

Depression-era America is a fantastic place to set a game, and has all the elements needed for high drama.  If you draw on the historical setting, even just a sprinkling, while you run your games of BotR you will be repaid with happy players, hours of fun gaming, and some good stories to tell in future years about the great moments in roleplaying that you help to create.+

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BROTHERHOOD OF THE RAIL


Brotherhood_of_the_Rail

Here are links to all the articles on Brotherhood of the Rail that I wrote – all in one place for completeness!

PART I:  INTRODUCTION

PART II:  SETTING

PART III:  CHARACTER CREATION

PART IV:  SAMPLE CHARACTERS

PART V:  ADVERSERIES

BONUS – RUNNING BotR

I hope you enjoy this setting.  If you do, please drop me a line and let me know!  If you try out a game, that goes double.

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FATE OF ALDIS – BLUE ROSE IN FATE CORE AND FATE ACCELERATED


Fateofaldis

Here are all my articles on conversion of Blue Rose to Fate Core and Fate Accelerated for ease of access.

INTRODUCTION

PART I:  THE BIG PICTURE

PART II:  GAME CREATION

PART III:  CHARACTER CREATION OVERVIEW

PART IV:  HIGH CONCEPT

PART V:  MAGIC

PART VI:  STUNTS

PART VII:  EXTRAS

PART VIII: BLUE ROSE IN FATE ACCELERATED

I hope you enjoy the conversion!  If you do, please post comments on my website!  If you take it out for a test drive that goes double!

 

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Brotherhood of the Rail – Adversaries


Brotherhood_of_the_Rail

Below are a number of adversaries, both mundane and supernatural, that you can use in games of “Brotherhood of the Rail”.

Bad Actors

This represents a gang of opportunist thugs who beat and rob hobos.  They might be other migrants, local teens, deputized citizens, organized crime lowlifes, or any one of a variety of low level thugs.  They might also be gangs of predatory children, orphaned by the Depression.  They aren’t much of a threat in themselves, but will usually target lone (and preferably injured) hobos.

Skilled (+2) at attacking the weak, intimidating, running away

Bad (2) at stand-up fights, socializing with other hobos

They can come in groups of up to a dozen (6 stress boxes) but most commonly are 2-6 (1-3 stress boxes).

Pack of dogs

Dogs are a common threat to hobos, and this group can represent anything from a couple of junkyard dogs to an entire pack of hounds set on fugitives.

Skilled (+2) at chasing, smelling, running (sometimes biting)

Bad (-2) at climbing, getting into enclosed areas

One hit will take out a dog.  Give them one stress box for every two dogs in the pack.

Yeggs

Yeggs are far more dangerous than the Bad Actors they resemble – Yeggs are professional criminals who travel the rails in order to avoid the law.  They might be safe crackers, murderers, professional muscle hired by the railroads, etc.  Unlike Bad Actors, a group of Yeggs is sufficiently tightly knit that they take consequences before being completely defeated.  A hobo expecting an easy tussle with a few Bad Actors can be in for a very nasty surprise if it turns out that they are Yeggs instead.

Skilled (+2) at Defending, Attacking, one sort of criminal activity (robbery, assault, theft, etc.)

Bad at:  interaction outside their gang,

A gang of Yeggs will typically have around 3 stress boxes, and the normal complement (2, 4, 6) of consequence boxes.  Unless directly involved in their preferred criminal activity, however, Yeggs will generally give up a conflict after losing their stress boxes.

Gangs of Yeggs are typically led by an important Bad Guy, who should be statted up as appropriate.

Railroad Bull

These are police and security guards hired by the railroads to assure that hobos either a) pay for riding on trains, or b) don’t ride them at all.  A typical railroad bull should be a challenge for a group of hobos – they are usually armed with some sort of club and sometimes carry guns.  Some will simply do their jobs like reasonable men, but a few are sadistic monsters who delight in robbing or killing hobos.  Particularly vicious railroad bulls, such as the notorious Texas Slim, will be near to legendary figures, and extremely powerful and difficult to defeat.

Sheriff

Sheriffs are similar to railroad bulls, and should be created as major bad guys.  Unlike most Bulls, however, Sheriffs have access to a few deputies, lots of firearms, and the ability to call on the police departments of neighboring towns  and to deputize large numbers of people in case of emergency (such as an entire group of Player Characters arriving in their town and causing trouble).  Attacking any member of the law enforcement community, no matter how corrupt, dishonest, or evil, is generally a bad idea, and will usually instigate a massive manhunt for the perpetrator.  Defeating a Sheriff should involve outwitting him or convincing him to become an ally.

THE SUPERNATURAL

With a few exceptions, supernatural threats should always be major bad-guys.  They may be able to control more mundane threats (werewolves, for example, may be able to control packs of dogs), but any supernatural threat should be pretty tough to handle and not be easily defeated.

Gremlins

Often serving as independent minor troublemakers, or as the servants/lackeys of more powerful faeries, gremlins delight particularly in destroying complex machinery and/or stealing, pestering, and generally annoying people.  Virtually infinite in numbers, defeating a group of gremlins will provide at best a temporary respite before whoever or whatever is summoning them just gets a bunch more.

Skilled (+2) at:  breaking machinery, stealing, biting, defending against attacks other than cold iron

Poor (-2) at:  defending against cold iron, resisting milk

One hit of any type by a weapon of cold iron will defeat a gremlin.  They have two stress boxes against any other sort of attack.  Gremlins appear individually or in groups – sometimes very large groups.

HAINT

A Haint is a ghost or apparition.  It usually occupies a specific location, but it sometimes tied to a specific object or (more rarely still) a specific individual.  Usually a Haint is the spirit of a person, but it can sometimes be the manifestation of some great evil that took place in a particular location.  Haints vary greatly in appearance and abilities – some are no more than voices or cold areas, while others can visibly manifest.  Some haints can communicate, but urually in cryptic ways such as riddles, obscure references, gestures, or writing on mirrors or frosted windows.

Haints are usually impossible to defeat permanently unless the events causing them to manifest are dealt with.  Physical conflict with them is usually a waste of time, though characters with aspects like “Magical” and “Supernatural” can activate their aspects to affect Haints normally for one round.

ROUGAROU (WEREWOLF)

Gargouille Rougarou by PhantomCrowsA particular Louisiana take on the werewolf, by the time of the Depression the Rougarou can be found across America, though it is still most common in the Bayous (and Quebec).  Rougarou are typically loners, though some are able to summon and control packs of local dogs/coyotes/wolves.  They are humans cursed to take the form of a wolf-headed man (0r less commonly a supernaturally large wolf) and roam the countryside.

Rougarou are often associated with themes of obedience/disobedience.  Common methods for being transformed into a rougarou are failure to observe lent, being disrespectful to a witch, or chronically disobeying parents.  The curse typically lasts for 101 days, and is then transferred to another through a bite or consumption of the rougarou’s blood.

During the day the rougarou appears as a normal, though somewhat sickly, person.  At night they transform and haunt the area, killing anything they can catch.  Individuals frequently react with real horror to what they have become, taking extreme steps such as locking themselves in cages or chaining themselves to trees in order to prevent their murderous rampages.  These methods are seldom successful for more than a day or two.  The curse typically lasts 101 days, after which time the original rougarou may become free of it by passing the curse to someone else by feeding them some of the rougarou’s blood.

Defeating a rougarou in combat is extremely challenging.  They are not susceptible to silver.  Usually it takes something associated with the reason for the curse being bestowed in the first place (which may involve tracing the curse back through several incarnations) such as holy water, a parents tears, or a mojo bag from the witch who cast the curse in the first place in order to remove the curse, though it is also possible to simply kill the rougarou by chopping off its head if you can manage to put it down.

EXAMPLE ROUGAROU

HIGH CONCEPT:  Reluctant Rougarou

TROUBLE:  husband and children

OTHER ASPECTS:  Rotarian, Home town girl

Approaches

Careful:  Fair (+2) , Clever:  Average (+1), Flashy:  Average (+1), Forceful:  Legendary (+8)/Mediocre (+0),  Quick:  Fantastic (+6)/Mediocre (+0) , Sneaky:  Great (+4)/Poor (-1)

(When approaches have two listings, the first is for lougarou form, the second is for human form)

STUNTS

Because I am a rougarou, I gain +2 to defend against non-magical physical attacks unless they utilize my weakness

Because I am a rougarou, I gain +2 to physical attacks while in rougarou form at night.

Because I fear for my life if discovered, I gain +2 to resist any attempts to convince me to reveal anything about my rougarou nature or background

Because I hate my rougarou nature, once per game when in rougarou form I can transform back into a human for one round.  Players can spend a Fate Point per round thereafter to allow me to remain in human form for another round.  If attacked, I immediately transform back.

STRESS:  3 boxes

CONSEQUENCES:  2

4

6

REFRESH:  2

WEAKNESS:  Janet Ingles is a fourth generation rougarou.  The original recipient of the curse, Giles Wilson, was cursed because he beat up his elderly parents and stole money from them.  He now lives in a big house, while they live in a tarpaper shack with what remains of their possessions.  The curse’s weakness is exposure to any of Giles Wilson’s childhood toys (the parents have a box of them).

(Note that the rougarou is a good example of a statted up boss level bad guy.  The same general format can be used for other sorts of high level threat characters)

LEGENDARY ENCOUNTERS

There are plenty of creatures with phenomenal, legendary power that PCs can interact with.  Usually these creatures should not be statted per se and scenarios should revolve around a) using them as patrons and getting them what they want, b) discovering some specific way that they are vulnerable and using that to temporarily thwart their plans.

OLD MAN DEATH

The reaper of souls himself, Old Man Death is not specifically a figure of evil, though few would call him friend.  In the tough times of the depression, where poverty bred starvation and disease, and medical care was often lacking, it was not uncommon for those who were suffering an ailment which could not be cured to prepare themselves for the arrival of Old Man Death, and even speak of their upcoming encounter with relief as a release from the suffering and toil of the world.

When Old Man Death appears, either it is because your time has come, or because Old Man Death wishes to bargain for a life.  In some cases he may set a task for the Hobos, and spare the life of the one he has come to take if they succeed.  In other cases he may offer a wager, such as a fiddle contest or a game of chess or checkers.  Old Man Death will never offer a wager against any skill or ability that he is poor at (though very occasionally he can be tricked).  Most commonly he will have one approach that he is Legendary (+8) at, two that he is Fantastic (+6) at, one that he is Average (+1) at, and two in which he simply cannot be challenged.

Example:  Old Man Death challenges one of the hobos to a game of chess for his soul.  The GM decides that Old Man Death is Careful (+8), Clever (+6), Flashy (+1),  Quick (+6), and cannot be challenged at Forceful or Sneaky.  The easiest way to defeat Old Man Death at this chess game is with flashy, impressive moves and lots of banter or entertaining cross talk.  If someone decides to intimidate Old Man Death by knocking the board in his face or cheating, they lose automatically.

ANGELS

Angels are messengers and assistants to God, and will often appear in times of great spiritual trouble.  They can appear in any form they desire and will usually appear to hobos as another hobo (though one with a particularly noble or commanding bearing).

Angels have difficulty communicating with humans because they don’t really understand humans.  Angels do not experience time in a linear manner the way humans do, and see everything in terms of its moral, not physical consequences.  Because of this they often speak cryptically or symbolically, and it is extremely difficult to hold an extended conversation with them or to question them for details.

Example conversation with an angel

Angel:  Beware the tow-headed boy!

Hobo: Why?

Angel:  If you do not, the suffering will be great!

Hobo:  Suffering?  What kind of suffering?

Angel:  That caused by the tow-headed boy.

Hobo:  What will the tow-headed boy do?

Angel:  Cause great suffering!

Hobo:  But how?  Will he kill someone?  Die and break his family’s hearts?  Invent some kind of pois0n?  Be the cause of a terrible accident?

Angel:  Beware the tow-headed boy!

OTHERS

Other important legendary figures include such individuals as Johnny Appleseed, Paul Bunyan, and John Henry; encounters with legendary places and things such as the Wabash Cannon Ball (a railroad version of the Flying Dutchman), the realm of faerie, and even the Rock Candy Mountain.

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