Tuesday, December 28, 2010

[Kerberos] Update Again!

I've been banging away at this project (I was looking for a way to combine the words "Kerberos," "Club," and "FATE" to somehow come up with an acronym of KFC, and had given it up as hopeless until Ben Baugh suggested "Kerberos FATE Conversion," so there we are) every moment I can spare between eating, sleeping, and making sure my now-all-too-mobile toddler doesn't run out the front door. My pile of reference material includes SotC, DFRPG, Diaspora, Legends of Anglerre, Wild Talents 2nd Edition, and, of course, The Kerberos Club, all of which, if I were still in school, would make this the coolest research paper ever.

A ton of would-be playtesters have contacted me, and you're all on the list. Sometime during the first week of January, I'll be sending out playtest packets to everyone with a rundown of the FATE ruleset I'm using for this book (even if you already know FATE, you need to read this stuff) and character creation guidelines. The first thing I'm going to want people to do is to make some characters -- and I want them as rules-exploity and min-maxed as possible. I want to see how bad these rules can be in the hands of someone who sticks to the letter of the law but disregards everything except sheer power. As much as I try to make characters like that, I know that there's still an internal sense of reasonableness that I just can't shake, so I'll need you guys to make those game-breaking characters for me.

Ben Baugh has a great little section in The Kerberos Club entitled "What's to Stop Me From Gaming This System?" I have a similar attitude regarding my system. I already know you can break it. I just want to see how bad it can get, and trust that the average player isn't, in Ben's words, "the kind of boor" who "would want to spoil such a marvelous bit of starry-eyed game design idealism." C'mon -- we're grown-ups.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

[Kerberos] Updates!

So! Just got off the ol' Skype from my first call with Shane Ivey at Arc Dream about this whole FATE Kerberos project, and I have to say... I'm pretty damn excited. There's a lot I can't disclose yet, but there are a few things I can, so let's do that.

  • It'll be a standalone book. No surprise here, really -- without a definitive version of FATE that everyone can agree on, we kinda don't have another option. I don't think many will complain, though. This means the standard bits on what aspects are, what skills are, how the Fate Point economy works, and etc. I will endeavor to keep all of this as concise as possible, but not so much so that it isn't easily understood. This book will not stop a bullet. That's the Mike Olson guarantee.
  • FATE trumps ORE. Many bits of KC are very FATE-friendly as-is, but where ORE's mechanics and FATE's are incompatible, or where replicating what KC does with ORE would be a convoluted process, the relative rules-lightness of FATE (not that it's actually rules-light, mind you) will take priority. It's my feeling that people who buy FATE Kerberos will be doing so in large part because they like FATE, and they'll want a decidedly FATE-y version of things that plays to FATE's strengths instead of a game that tries to turn FATE into ORE. ORE is a very different animal than FATE, so if it's an equal choice between, say, making a bunch of dice rolls or just compelling an aspect, I'll go with the latter.
  • Fudge Dice are the default. My take on scaling powers uses both Fudge Dice and d6s, so that's what we're going to use. However, I know that not everyone likes Fudge Dice, so there'll also be guidelines and advice on using one or two other dice mechanics instead. Regardless, the rules will work no matter what dice mechanic you choose to use.
  • The KC you know and love will be preserved wherever possible. By this, I mean that many of the concepts used in KC (and Wild Talents, as applicable) will be retained and FATE-ized with as little alteration as I can manage. For example, characters will still have an Archetype and Convictions, but as aspects, not as their own discrete mechanical elements. If I can find a cool halfway point for a given component between ORE and FATE that stays true to both and doesn't require pages of explanation to work, then I'll take it.
  • WE NEED PLAYTESTERS. Seriously. I can't go into specifics about the timeline, but we're going to need to get some good playtesting done within the next couple months. If you're interested in this, and I know you are, leave me a comment below, send me an email, or whatever with your contact info, and we'll get materials out to you ASAP. Please note that this is contingent upon me getting my notes and stuff together in a form that can actually be sent out to people, so if you email me today, don't expect to get a playtest packet tonight. Or tomorrow. Or over the weekend. I'll also be fishing for playtesters in the FATE RPG Yahoo! Group and on RPG.net. And Facebook, too. Sure, why not. Maybe I'll set up a group there we can use. 
There's a lot more, but it's all either minutiae or stuff I just can't talk about yet. It was a pleasure to finally speak with Shane in person-ish, though. And now if you'll excuse me, I have a crap-ton of really awesome work to to do....

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Small LOA Companion Update

I have a tiny update on the Legends of Anglerre Companion, for those who are interested. And honestly, if you like LOA at all, you should be very interested, because this is shaping up to be a very good book.

Anyway, I sent in some last-minute revisions to the City Adventures chapter today. I used to think it was pretty good; now I think it's pretty great. Minor changes, but they make a big difference. Sorry I can't be more specific than that, but I can at least say that they give the chapter, which is primarily concerned with defining cities as collections of organizations, significantly more depth. And it makes those organizations more fun to create. IMO, anyway.

I'm pretty pleased with my contributions to this thing. The Random Adventure Generator does what it says on the tin, and the Island Adventures chapter, though wholly crunch-free (beware!), strikes me as both fun and useful for sparking ideas -- at least, that's what it's intended to be.

How about the Table of Contents? Sure, I don't see the harm in that.
  • Keeping it in the Family 
  • Random Adventure Generator
  • City Adventures 
  • Illondre and Goh’Myreth
  • Island Adventures
  • Hammerhold 
  • Dreams on Dragon Island
  • Cities of the Silver Sea
  • The Sirens of Simris
  • Cornucopeia
  • Undercity Creatures and Island Inhabitants
  • Aspects-only Play 
  • Sleepwalk 
  • Pathwalking
As you can see, there's some actual Anglerre setting info (the Illondre chapter), a bunch of stuff on islands and aquatic adventures, the long-discussed-but-cut-from-the-corebook-for-space system for Aspects-only play, and more. It's going into the "pre-final edit" any minute now, which would seem to indicate it's coming out... soon? Ish?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

So You Want to Play FATE....

A little mini-meme project has spontaneously sprung into being over on RPG.net: FATE pamphlets. RPG.net user TheMouse did an excellent run-down of FATE basics that easily fits on a single double-sided sheet of letter-sized paper (and A4, presumably). Prompted by my half-joking suggestion for a FATE rules pamphlet akin to pamphlets you might find in a doctor's waiting room, user Glyptodont rose to the challenge with this pamphlet-style treatment of TheMouse's text, followed by Diaspora co-author Brad Murray, aka Halfjack, who added some art, a title ("So you want to play a gorilla in a bi-plane"), and true pamphlet-fold formatting.The call has now gone out for FATE genre pamphlets, for fantasy, sci-fi, and etc., though none as of yet has materialized.

Why is all this so great? A couple reasons.

One, it's proof that thick FATE books like SotC and Legends of Anglerre aren't massive because they have to be, but because the authors wanted them to be. The rules themselves (note that the pamphlet necessarily cuts out skill and stunt descriptions, but that's okay) clearly don't take up all that much space, so what else is in those books? Examples. Extrapolations. Expansions. In other words, more creative content. Y'know, the stuff you're paying for when you buy a book.

The other reason I think the FATE pamphlet is awesome is that it hopefully signals the beginning of a new shared project for the FATE community. TheMouse's slimmed-down FATE rules aren't the end-all, be-all of FATE, nor are they intended to be; they're just one gamer's attempt to illustrate that FATE doesn't have to be hard to learn. I'd love to see more takes on this same idea by other FATE fans. There's no definitive version of FATE out there (I think most of us can agree on that, anyway), but can you make a pamphlet for the FATE you play at your table? If you like your FATE by the book, fine -- can you make, say, a Starblazer Adventures pamphlet, or a DFRPG pamphlet? I know I'm going to make a FATE Kerberos pamphlet for convention games, that's for damn sure. And how great it'll be to leave FATE pamphlets lying around like so much propaganda at conventions. I mean, FATE isn't exactly a hard sell at Strategicon, but still, it'll amuse me.

In other words, could this be the beginning of Microlite FATE? I'd like to think so. If it is, you're a part of it!

UPDATE: And here's Eclipse Phase creator Adam Jury's take on the pamphlet.

UPDATE: Here's RPG.net user TechOgre's Legends of Anglerre-specific pamphlet. [As of 12/7/10, this link is no longer working. Following up with the man himself to see what's up with it.]

UPDATE: Here's TheMouse's fantasy-specific FATE pamphlet. Note that it isn't drawn from any one FATE source; it's pretty much his quick-and-dirty version of fantasy FATE, and it looks pretty good to me.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

An Important Announcement from Roll Some Dice

I know many of you are probably eagerly awaiting news of FATE Kerberos, but... this is about something else. Before you get too disappointed, though, read on.

My Game Chef 2010 entry has made it through to the finalist round (along with nearly half of the 59 entries, from what I can tell), but the winner is the game that's been playtested by the most groups before the December 5th deadline. Not playtested the most, because multiple sessions with the same group don't count, but playtested by the largest number of groups.

So this post is to let you know that you can help me almost win Game Chef simply by playing my game.

It's called Action City!, and it's a game about, more or less, '80s action movies, mostly of the cheesy variety. You can find the current game text at that link there, and some rules clarifications, examples, and other invaluable stuff here. (Seriously, that second link is important.) To play, you'll need a buncha d6s, some index cards, a deck of playing cards, two or three other players, and a couple hours to spare. Actually, I'm not sure how long gameplay would take, but if you put a couple hours into it, it'll certainly count as a playtest. It's not a FATE game, but if you're familiar with FATE I'm sure one or two elements of it will be a bit easier for you to swallow.

You may now go back to being disappointed about the lack of FATE Kerberos news. I'm sorry I got your hopes up.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

FATE Kerberos Club: Let's Make It Official

Sometime back, I mentioned that Arc Dream was interested in doing a FATE version of Benjamin Baugh's awesome Kerberos Club setting, and how equally awesome it'd be for me if I got to work on it. While it's still on Arc Dream's back burner, thanks to a constant and undeniable stream of Greg Stolze, I can finally say this: I got the gig.

(I actually got it back in May, but I didn't want to say anything without Shane Ivey's go-ahead. This made for some awkward exchanges with people when they asked if I'd gotten it. "I don't think I should say anything... which probably gives you your answer, I guess.")

I'm especially excited about this project in light of the fact that there isn't a "mainstream" FATE treatment of the supers genre on the market right now, which means that this will be the first! System-wise, I think it'll have the potential to set a standard for FATE supers in the same way that Legends of Anglerre has for FATE fantasy -- and obviously the setting itself is, as I said, already awesome, so that doesn't hurt, either. In my ideal scenario, we'll later break the mechanics out into their own generic FATE supers book (with a free online SRD!), but for now I'm more than happy to work on what I've been given.

Apart from The Kerberos Club, Ben Baugh is probably best known for Monsters and Other Childish Things and Don't Lose Your Mind, but a couple years back he was attached to a few SotC-based projects for Evil Hat, including New Horizons (social outcasts fightin' the good fight) and Shadow of the Century (SotC in the '80s), both of which sounded awesome but unfortunately never materialized. I look forward to picking his brain.

While I haven't gotten beyond playtesting mechanics yet, I can promise that my chief goal will be to leave Kerberos's fantastic setting completely intact and mold the mechanics around it. The alternative -- making little edits here and there to accommodate the change in systems -- is... distasteful to me.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Spirit of Greyhawk - Spells & Spellbooks

Writing Spells in the Caster's Spellbook
What might be the closest parallel for the writing of a spell in the World of Greyhawk?

  • Engineering?
  • Gadgeteering?
  • Academic Research?
  • Forgery?
  • Artistic Crafting?

There's valid reasons to consider all of the above. I was starting to get lost in the options, so I turned it around and considered the source material first...

Characteristics of Writing a Spell in the Greyhawk Realm
  • It doesn't always work--not every caster can know every spell. The wizard doesn't know until they attempt it.
  • Writing down a spell is basically copying an existing spell.
  • The wizard must have a skill level consistent with the level of the spell.
  • There's nothing saying that wizards are prevented from copying new spells into their spellbook while in dungeons.
  • For each spell written in the spellbook, certain material requirements are necessary, and the time required to write it down was equivalent to one day per spell level.

Categorizing Spell Books
Is a Spell Book a magic item?
Not in and of itself. A standard spell book is a mundane item. However the spells contained on the pages within can be used as one-shot scrolls. So the spells themselves are magical, but the spell book itself is not magical. A spell book might have improvements that imbue it with magical properties, but I don't consider it a requirement. Plus it's also more fun to leave it as a mundane item, with all the frailties of a mundane book.

Is a Spell Book a Gadget?
You could consider it a Personal Gadget for purposes of defining if it can be taken away, destroyed, etc. This then also implies that if the owner has an Aspect that names the Spell Book, it's more or less off-limits (game-wise).

This categorization is interesting for balance purposes, because a Wizard would need to devote a Stunt to his Spell Book (defining it as a Personal Gadget), and additionally it then becomes awfully tempting for a Wizard to want to devote an Aspect to making sure his "source" is basically off-limits, game-wise.

The other impact of making the spellbook a Personal Gadget "stunt" as written in SotC is that the stunt allows for one or two "improvements".

While there may be fertile ground here, I believe that in general a spellbook falls under essential "Tools of the Trade" for a Wizard to do his job. So making a requirement that a spellbook must be a "stunt" doesn't really work for me. This then puts a standard spellbook in the same category of a Thief having lock-picks (at least standard ones) as tools of the trade.

Translating Specifics about Intelligence & Spells
What to do about the Intelligence Stat?

In the source material, a lot of specifics about spells are tied to the Intelligence statistic. However in SotC, we don't have Intelligence as a skill. Should an "Intelligence skill" be added?

For Spirit of Greyhawk, I'm currently taking a "minimal change" approach and saying that I don't see a need to add one within the current framework. We can assume a baseline average intelligence with modifications up or down as being possible within the existing game mechanic: lower intelligence could be simulated by taking a negative aspect, and higher intelligences could be addressed by the use of Stunts (see below).

Caster's Chance to Be Able to Cast a Particular Spell
In the PHB, a stat of 10-12 Intelligence (considered "average") results in about a 45% chance of knowing a spell. Increased intelligence increases the chance of being able to know/cast a particular spell.

If we make the base assumption that people (Wizards specifically) are possessed of at least average intellect, this means that the base roll to know a spell is Mediocre (+0) or 50% chance to know a spell or not.

Fate points and Aspects can impact this positively or negatively as per normal.

In other words if someone has an aspect of "Pyromancer", then it could be tagged to improve the chance to learn a fire-related spell. Alternatively it could be compelled to make a cold or ice-spell less likely to be useable by that character.

If the roll fails, then that spell will never be available to the caster (barring some retroactive modification).

Minimum / Maximum Number of Spells per Level
Wizards in the Greyhawk realm assume that they have a minimum/maximum range for the number of spells for each level of spells that they are capable of casting. In other words, this indirectly establishes how much could be effectively stored within a spell book. The source material states that this min/max range is a function of a caster's Intelligence stat. How could this be determined when Intelligence isn't a skill?

Looking at the table in the PHB, we can simplify it by looking at it as a formula:

  • The minimum number of spells is determined as half of the source material's Intelligence stat.
  • Maximum number of spells per level can be determined as the minimum number of spells per level, plus half that score again (rounding down).

Example: For an INT stat of 10 in the source material, the Minimum spells per level would be 5 (10 / 2 = 5). The Maximum spells per level would be 7 (5 + (rounded down 5 / 2 or "2") = 7)

But once again, how to determine these values in absence of an Intelligence stat / skill?

I plan to address it with the assumption that a character starts with an average degree of intelligence and then can choose to modify it with Aspects or Stunts.

Start from average, which was the INT 10-12 range. This gives the min/max of 5/7.

Each progressive Intelligence Stunt (see below) will be worth an extra number of spells added to the Minimum amount of spells.

I'm going to choose to not address reducing the min/max range for the situation of "dumb" wizards.
  • 1st Intelligence stunt is worth +2 to the minimum number of spells per level
  • 2nd Intelligence stunt is worth another +2 to the minimum
  • 3rd Intelligence stunt is worth another +1 to the minimum

Intelligence Stunts
While it's possible that there might other uses of this later on, for right now, these stunts are for the Magic Skill.

While these stunts have more functionality contained within than other stunts, I feel that because they are so specific to Magic-related situations, it may even out.

Stunt "Fantastic Intelligence"
  • Adds +2 to the Minimum Number of Spells per Level.
  • Allows the ability learn 7th Level of Spells
  • Adds a +1 to the roll to be able to understand a spell.

Stunt "Epic Intelligence"
Prerequisite: "Fantastic Intelligence"
  • Adds another +2 to the Minimum Number of Spells per Level.
  • Allows the ability learn 8th Level of Spells
  • Adds another +1 to the roll to be able to understand a spell.

Stunt "Legendary Intelligence"
Prerequisite: "Epic Intelligence"
  • Adds +1 to the Minimum Number of Spells per Level.
  • Allows the ability learn 9th Level of Spells
  • Adds a +1 to the roll to be able to understand a spell.

Example: Wizard starts with "average" intelligence has a minimum spells per level of 5, a maximum spells per level of 7. The wizard is currently capable of learning 6th level spells or less. The Wizard's ability to understand any particular spell is a base difficulty of +0 (Mediocre).

However if the player selects the "Fantastic Intelligence" and "Epic Intelligence" stunts, the Wizard would then have the following:

  • Minimum Spells per level: 5 + 2 +2 = 9
  • Maximum Spells per level: Minimum Spells per level + (Minimum Spells per level / 2, rounded down), or 9 + (9/2, rounded down or 4) = 13
This doesn't scale up exactly with the source material in the PHB, but I'm willing to live with it for now.

The wizard's maximum spell level (not skill level) is 8th level.

The wizard also has a +2 that can be used when rolling to determine if a particular spell can be used by that wizard (assuming an available spell slot).

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Spirit of Greyhawk - Spells per Level & Memorization

Hello again, everyone! After a lot of side trips and delays, we now return you to my not-so-regularly scheduled discussions on translating "high-fantasy" magic from the Greyhawk source material into my "Spirit of Greyhawk" implementation of Fate.

Setting Expectations

It occurred to me that it might be a good idea before going any further (i.e., digging into more specifics), to be clear about which versions of the source material I'm using.

While other versions of AD&D could be patched together to form a “best of breed” patchwork source, I think that’s an easy way to get focused on the finger pointing at the moon, rather than moon itself.

So, the publishings of AD&D (1st Edition) documentation that I’ll be using will be the following, when I refer to the “source material”:

  • Monster Manual (December 1977)
  • Players Handbook (June, 1978)
  • Dungeon Master Guide (August, 1978)

Game World Assumptions for Wizardry Spells per Level and Spells Memorized

So working from the expectations of the above source material, here's a summary of topics as how the world of Greyhawk works with respect to Wizards and the spells they can cast:

  • There is a pre-determined progression of spells per level that can be cast in a day by a Wizard of a particular level.
  • Wizards of higher skill levels can cast (per day) more spells in a particular level than a less-skilled Wizard would.
  • Highly intelligent Wizards can have more spells in their spellbook than Wizards without that same degree of intellect. In other words, they have a greater selection of spells that could be available to them.
  • Higher-level spells also require a higher intelligence. Without that higher intelligence (whether from natural stats or some sort of boost), Wizards cannot cast certain spells.

Taking those assumptions into Fate we end up with the following game-related topics…

  • The number of Spells that can be cast in a defined period are an important limiting factor and should be translated into SoG. There should be a reduction in the number of “slots” a Wizard can have for increasingly difficult spells.
  • Having a higher skill level in Wizardry allows for higher difficulty spells.
  • Given that SoG does not have a skill reflecting pure intellect (a la AD&D’s Intelligence attribute), is there a way within the existing Fate framework to account for a Wizard having an additional qualification to be able to memorize more powerful spells? Is there even a need?

Additionally, I want whatever I do for SoG to keep reference tables to a minimum and to keep bookkeeping as simple as possible.

Wizard's Spells per Level in Spirit of Greyhawk

Start with a Traditional Fate Pyramid

My first step was thinking SoG’s “Pyramid” approach is the cleanest way to implement this, based upon the Wizard’s skill level.

So, I'm starting off by stating that the highest spell level that can be memorized by a Wizard is equivalent to his skill level and will be generally defined as 1 spell in that level can be memorized.

So, a Wizardry skill level of +5 (Superb) allows for 1 5th level spell to be memorized for use within a particular period of time (see “Memorization Period” below). Using the example above, the Spell Memorization pyramid is structured similar to SoG’s Skill Pyramid:

  • 5th Level Spells: 1
  • 4th Level Spells: 2
  • 3rd Level Spells: 3
  • 2nd Level Spells: 4
  • 1st Level Spells: 5

If we compare that to "Spells Usable by Class and Level Magic-Users" (PH, p. 26), this most closely resembles a 9th level magic-user, but gives them one extra 1st and 2nd level spells. My rule of thumb for translation is that 1 skill level should generally be equivalent to 2 AD&D skill levels (in other words, SoG's Magic skill level of 5 would be equivalent to a 10th level M-U). So that seems pretty close to the source material without having to get too fiddly.

Subsequently this also means that using the current SoG ladder maximum of +9, I'm effectively capping out SoG at about 18th level. At this point, I don’t see a real benefit in trying deal with classes past that point so I'm gonna call it good.

Problem: Higher-level Wizards & lower-level spells

However there's now a balance issue in the number of lower-level spells a higher-level Wizard gets under SoG. The source material indicates that for SoG's 18th level "cap", no M-U would have more than 5 spells memorized from spell level 5 on down. Given the difference in the number of spells per day, there needs to put be a similar cap on a Wizard's spell pyramid.

Which means that instead of a Wizard at Magic Skill Level 9 having this "pure" pyramid…

  • 9th Level Spells: 1
  • 8th Level Spells: 2
  • 7th Level Spells: 3
  • 6th Level Spells: 4
  • 5th Level Spells: 5
  • 4th Level Spells: 6
  • 3rd Level Spells: 7
  • 2nd Level Spells: 8
  • 1st Level Spells: 9

…it would instead look like this…

  • 9th Level Spells: 1
  • 8th Level Spells: 2
  • 7th Level Spells: 3
  • 6th Level Spells: 4
  • 5th Level Spells: 5
  • 4th Level Spells: 5
  • 3rd Level Spells: 5
  • 2nd Level Spells: 5
  • 1st Level Spells: 5

…which I think turns out to give you a fairly decent parallel to the source material. There's a few exceptions, but nothing game-killing.

The REAL Rule for Wizards and Spell Memorization

So then the actual rule for a Wizard's Spells per Level would be the following:

  • The highest spell level that can be memorized is equivalent to the Wizard's skill level in "Magic", with only 1 spell at that level.
  • Each reduction in level gives an extra spell.
  • The maximum number of spells that can be memorized per skill level is 5.

If you're an Excel fan, it would look like this:

# Memorized per Spell Level = MAX(MIN(Magic Skill Level – Spell Level + 1, 5), 0)

Memorization Period

Source material canon states that a wizard's spell slots are allocated for a particular spell "loadout" once per day. So once a particular spell is fired, the slot used is unavailable until the next day.

However given that the Fate mechanic places an emphasis on the starting and ending of scenes, I keep wondering if perhaps a Wizard's spell slots in Spirit of Greyhawk might reset by scene, instead of by day.

My current thinking is that this is too far off canon and that SoG will stick with the “per day” memorization period. Here's why:

  • Allowing a greater refresh frequency removes some of a player's angst of "planning" a day's spells. I happen to find very attractive the idea that a Wizard character should always be trying to plan ahead and the inherent risks of doing that in an adventure, especially in the fluid nature of a cooperative storytelling mechanic.
  • Allowing a Wizard to refresh "by scene" also removes some of the distinguishing factors between a Wizard (who is always trying to plan ahead and look for angles that will help them survive) and a Sorceror who is more of a seat-of-the-pants caster.

…Especially when you consider that it's quite possible that 3-4 scenes could occur in a day. Anyone got a different perspective?

Next Time: Intelligence & Spells, Spell Books

Monday, September 6, 2010

Gateway 2010 Post-Mortem

This year's Gateway was one of those cons where I can say I was honestly happy with every game I was in, whether playing or GMing. I may have been utterly, comically incompetent in one (EX-47 the assassin droid in Josh's Star-Wars-via-Smallville game) and joined in the teeth-gnashing over the rules for another (Andy's otherwise very fun Shadow, Sword & Spell game), but it was all a good time. (I even got to play the Castle Ravenloft boardgame during the dinner break on Saturday, which was a nice surprise, thanks to the Vegas/Utah contingent.)

My FATE Supers game was no exception -- only Morgan was already familiar with how my particular supers hack worked, and the other four players didn't seem to have a ton of FATE experience, so it was a good playtest group. The opening scene, in which the team leader reviews the team's dossiers with her commander while the rest of the team tells stories about her, worked really well, and nobody ended up screwed by the aspects they received in the process. And it did what that opening-scene thing usually does: Give each player some spotlight time and the chance to make a skill roll. In terms of the narrative, it injected a little uncertainty about Ballista's ability to effectively lead, and let Ballista voice her concerns about her relatively inexperienced team in a safe environment.

Every character felt useful and effective and got to have at least one or two kick-ass moments. My only real regret is that I made the same mistake I seem to so frequently make in FATE games, and that's putting in Fair minions. I always think, "Well, these guys should be a cut above the Average minion," but I'm always, always wrong. As soon as I said "A couple dozen HYDRA -- er, CHIMERA guys swarm out of the doors and the jungle," I should've known making them Fair would mean the scene would eventually drag.

As a corollary, when I make minions too strong, I'm always too slow on rectifying the situation by either reducing their Quality right then and there, or simply answering the question "How many more are still standing?" with something less than complete honesty. I mean, if they don't know, and I want to move on already, just lowball it! As soon as the super-powered badguy of the scene went down, I should've wrapped things up more quickly.

As it was, all that time spent punching out mooks meant that the endgame was rushed, which was too bad. It went from "Ack! Horrible situation!" to "Ah, well that's that that dealt with, then" in a matter of minutes. I cut two major NPCs entirely for time, and the two they did face in that final scene just didn't get enough screen time to be especially effective or interesting. I tried to convince everyone that something big was happening through the clever use of words, but I don't think I really pulled it off. Ah well.

Anyway. My players were great, and despite the occasional what-skill-should-I-use-now? dithering things went very smoothly on their end. Plus, I'd like to think the game illustrated several key lessons of FATE:
  • Don't bother citing all your aspects before you roll. Roll first, then deal with aspects. This is a no-brainer for FATE veterans, but newer players often see this list of descriptors and want to focus on those to the exclusion of all else. You're not a slave to your aspects -- not every action you take has to be justified by them in advance.
  • Don't feel limited by what's on the character sheet. If you want to do something but aren't sure how to do it, tell the GM. If that GM is me and I'm not being a short-sighted idiot, we'll quickly work something out and get on with it.
  • When you have three Fate Points, you have a lot of Fate Points. Spend 'em. You can't do anything with them once the game's over, so spend away.
  • Simply acting in line with an aspect is not the same as compelling that aspect. A proper compel makes your bad situation even worse. Whatever action you take in accordance with the compel has to put you in a disadvantageous position. Taking an alternate approach to a scene that still deals with the conflict in that scene more or less effectively is not worth a Fate Point.
  • If you spend all your Fate Points to avoid taking a point or two of stress, you are not allowed to then complain about your lack of Fate Points. You've chosen to blow your narrative-currency wad on not getting hit, which necessarily means you're going to be a slave to the dice for a bit. You don't have to win every roll. Seriously. Let it go. Take some stress or a consequence. You'll have more fun for having done so.
  • Moreover, unlike many other fine RPGs, in FATE you want trouble for your character. You want things to go poorly, then take a turn for the worse. If you go around playing it safe all the time, you'll never earn the Fate Points you so desperately want and/or need. Alternate, non-mechanical reason for wanting all that to happen: Where's the fun in everything going your way?
Afterward, Morgan took all the character sheets for himself, no doubt to reverse-engineer them. Morgan, just ask! I'll send you whatever you want!

ADDENDUM: Speaking of Morgan, my platonic FATE-mate, I neglected to mention his DFRPG game! Or "games" plural, really, but I only played in one. As it happened, I'd played the same scenario at Gamex back in May, but that was the hole in my schedule I'd left for a Morgan game without knowing what he'd run in that slot, so that's what I happened to get. But I played a different character, so for me it was a totally different game. About half the table knew the Dresden-verse well, a couple more had only read one or two of the books, and then there was me, pretty much completely ignorant of it all. The only things I know about Jim Butcher's series are what I've picked up from the sessions of the game I've played. This time around, I played the succubus assassin who feeds off of lust, so I engineered a virtual orgy in the first scene, because that seemed like something I'd want to do. Fortunately, Morgan had the good taste to fade to black on that before... y'know.

At any rate, I enjoyed it a lot. It was like the eighth time he'd run that particular scenario, and I really like DFRPG's particular iteration of FATE. It's definitely going to inform my FATE Supers conversion, that's for sure.

A parting note re: DFRPG. In the absence of a definitive version of FATE that can be cited as the "default" or "standard" rules, it's interesting to me now to note how DFRPG is gradually taking the place of SotC in the public perception. Not that there's anything good or bad about that -- I just find it interesting.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Gateway 2010: More Stuff

It occurs to me that throwing those sheets up here yesterday without an explanation or two might lead to a little confusion.

You may notice some blank spots in the characters' aspects marked "Assigned" -- Flagstone has one, and Ballista has four. I usually like to give players in one-shots like these a chance to finish off their pre-gens with an aspect or two of their choosing. It gives a sense of investment in or ownership of the character. In this case, though, I'm doing something a little different.

Instead of each player giving his or her own PC an aspect, the players will assign each other aspects. The characters will be split into two groups: Ballista, and everyone else. Ballista, as the team leader, will be in a mission briefing with the game's Nick Fury analogue, going over the team's dossiers with him and making evaluations. One by one, she'll assign each of the other four PCs an aspect based on her assessment of their skills (which the player will invent, hopefully based on what's already on the character sheet).

The other PCs will be together somewhere else on the Hover-Carrier, talking about their team leader and the experiences they've all had with her in training or whatever. The delivery vector for this is somewhat inspired by John Harper's Agon: One player tells most of a story involving himself, Ballista, and another PC. At the climax or turning point of this story, he'll pick a skill relevant to his role in the narrative and roll it; the other PC's player will do likewise, with the same or a different skill. Whoever wins gets to finish the story and give Ballista an aspect.

So in a way, it's what I almost always do with these games -- start off with individual spotlight time, possibly describing a character's final phase, that culminates in a skill roll and an aspect. There's just more of a competitive element to it this time.

Now, there is certainly the possibility that Ballista's player could stick one or more PCs with an amusingly crippling (or crippingly amusing) aspect that kinda screws them over, but everyone should keep in mind two things. One, they're going to want everyone else to be as competent as possible. Two, turnabout's fair play. Almost all of Ballista's aspects are going to be assigned by other players, so a little diplomacy wouldn't hurt.

Part of that, too, is likely to depend on how familiar the players are with each other already. I'm willing to bet you'd be more likely to screw over a friend than a total stranger.

Here's another PC for the game, Dreamer. He's a bit of an amalgam of Planetary's The Drummer, Doctor Strange, and maybe Stormwatch's The Doctor. And Druid from Secret Warriors, too, at least in physical appearance. I find Druid compelling in that Nick Fury kicked him off the team for being a liability (by posting a note to his bedroom door, no less). Dreamer is what Druid might be like if he didn't screw up so much. His aspect "The Sorcerer Supine" pretty much says it all, if you ask me -- immense magical power in a guy who sometimes has a hard time getting up from the couch.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Gateway 2010: Sample Characters

Hey there, little blog! How've you been the past 22 days? Sorry for the neglect. You can blame the baby. Let's all blame the baby!

Anyway, Gateway's in a couple weeks, more or less, and I'm running a FATE Supers game (and two sessions of Leftovers). The setting's a cross between Marvel's Secret Warriors and Wildstorm's Stormwatch (under Ellis, anyway), so it's very different from the Silver Age teenager FATE Supers games I've run in the past. For reasons known only to myself (and, like, four other people), I want to see if my supers hack can handle something with a more serious tone.

Here are a couple sample characters. There's a lot of rampant ripping-off of stuff like S.H.I.E.L.D. and HYDRA and all that they entail, so don't let that bother you. It's an homage.

Ballista, energy-projecting team leader
Flagstone, the brick

As you can see, there's a lot more mechanical detail on these sheets, including point costs and individual super-skill trappings, so people can see what's going on a little more.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

In Before the Lock!

Whew! I almost let all of July go by without posting. I'd already let most of June go by that way, but I couldn't do the same to July.

Anyway, as it happens, I actually do have something to report, so this isn't just a completely gratuitous gimmick post. All of my Anglerre Companion material is off to the editor (as of about 10 minutes ago), which is a relief. Between moving, my son, an out-of-town guest, and Comic-Con, getting everything polished off on time was a little beyond me. At least I can say I got it all in before GenCon.

Here's what I ended up with, by the way:
  • Cities: A random city generator that would be both broad enough to cover every kind of fantasy setting but specific enough to actually be useful proved to be an untenable proposition without about a million different tables. Instead, I came up with a method for statting out cities in FATE terms, some new city-specific Organization aspects, and a whole lot of fluff on cities in general. It's a fairly extensive chapter that should make creating villages, towns, and cities very easy, and I learned a lot researching it.
  • Islands: I never thought a random island generator made much sense, so this chapter concentrates on what makes island-based adventures distinct from "mainland" adventures (not that anyone ever calls them that). The chapter provides 12 different island themes and ways to use them in a campaign. No mechanics -- it's all fluff, which I'm not really used to writing, but it was a fun chapter to do.
  • Random Adventure Generator: Man. Revising this was a bit more involved than I'd anticipated, but I'm happy with the final result. It's significantly longer than it was when I turned it in last year, but it's also about a hundred times easier to use and much better organized. I'm proud of it, so hopefully nobody rips it a new one in a review.
Up next: some non-FATE-related stuff (finishing up Leftovers and my wind ensemble piece based on Operation: Sprechenhaltestelle, the intro adventure from the 1980 Top Secret boxed set), then onto some very FATE-related stuff that I still can't discuss out in the open like this. In between will be Gateway, where I'll probably run more FATE Supers, although the specifics are way, way beyond me right now.

As for Anglerre, I expect to see it in the mail next week, so I'm looking forward to that. I don't know what's coming up in the line, but I hope to write more material for it in the future.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Anglerre: Cities and Islands

I know I just posted six days ago about Gamex and all, but I feel like I haven't posted anything substantive here in forever. Lately, there's been a very good reason for that: I've been hard at work on material for the Legends of Anglerre Companion -- specifically, chapters on city- and island-based adventures. Also, my random adventure generator that didn't make it into the core book is going to be in the Companion, and that needs an overhaul, too.

Why are two 2,500-word chapters taking so long? Man, I ask myself that every day. Part of the reason is that I've been committed to the idea of a random city generator, and that's proven surprisingly difficult to do. I mean, I expected it to be difficult, and it is, but more so than I'd anticipated when I told Sarah Newton, "Sure thing! Random city generator!" Actually, what's making it harder is the waffling: First I want to do it one way, then I think to myself that it's getting too complicated, then I backtrack and go another way, then something else occurs to me that'll further simplify the process, so I branch out again.... I have pages of notes, but they're like puzzle pieces from different puzzles. I'm confident that if I just keep shaking it a bit more everything will fall into place, but as of right now it's a mess.

I could skip the generator altogether, but I really do think it's genuinely useful, so I'm not inclined to give up on it. I'll have to slip some fluff/advice in there somewhere, but mostly it should be the generator. The chapter on islands, though, is going to have to be all fluff/advice, because I can't really see much use for randomly generating islands. Fortunately, I've actually run a brief island-based campaign (of Fantasy HERO, if you must know) not too long ago, so some of these island-specific issues have already occurred to me. Whether I have 2,500 words' worth of answers to those issues, however, is another question altogether.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Gamex 2010 Wrap-Up

(Cross-posted on Roll Some Dice.)

So! Gamex was last weekend, and I'm only just now getting around to talking about it. I've had a theoretically busy week. I'll just do this in chronological order, starting with Friday afternoon and ending with Sunday afternoon.

This was only the second time I'd played Smallville, thanks to my inability to get a playtest group together since joining the beta back in February. Oh well. Anyway, it's definitely a big improvement over the Cortex I remember from Serenity, which was rather... meh. As befits the superheroic melodrama sub-genre, traditional attributes and skills have been tossed entirely in favor of motivations, relationships, and rule-bending assets. Has there ever been an RPG this mainstream that defined characters with stats like Love, Power, Glory, and Justice? Didn't think so.

My only real issue with the system is surely only a product of having a table full of newcomers for players. Sometimes there was a lot of dithering over exactly what dice to roll. Is this a Justice situation? Would my relationship with Clark be relevant here? Etc. Sometimes a single player's turn could take five minutes with all of this -- or maybe it just seemed like it did. On the whole, though, I look forward to this one coming out (this month, I think). Kudos to Josh et al. for their work on this.

This was the most disturbing game of Leftovers I'd ever run, and probably the most disturbing game of anything I'd experienced in quite a while. Not that that's a bad thing, I guess -- and I guess it's actually a good thing that the game as presented encouraged some disturbing character choices during play. We had a Grafted-up private investigator, a Grafted-up former boxer, a weird little kid with an eyeball on his tongue (this rendering him mute, something he had in common with his no-voice-having player), and a pure human big game hunter. The scenario was pretty much the same as the one I ran at Hyphen-Con, with a twist near the end that led to the aforesaid disturbing behavior.

Nick's ex-boxer character confirmed a suspicion that I've had for a while: High Physical Defense and Vigor are too easy to get. I could not hurt that guy. Same thing happened with Desmond's character Denise Richards at Hyphen-Con. So I'm changing the calculations for that slightly. I'm also thinking about making the character concept -- right now just a flavor-only spot on the character sheet -- mechanically significant somehow, like maybe +2 steps to one roll per scene. Nothing huge.

Marvel SAGA
Say what you like about TSR in the '90s, but this was a fantastic game system. Seriously, I can see now what all the fuss has been about. It's quick, intuitive, and fun, without sacrificing things like tactics or character details. I don't own it, so all I know is what I saw in play, but there's a ton of potential there for a generic game built on the same mechanics but using a regular deck of playing cards. So when I got home Sunday night I wrote a bare-bones version of one that'll probably never see the light of day.

At any rate, I got to the game about an hour late, thanks to that quiet, private hotel room that made me (made me!) oversleep. We started off playing first-string Avengers, then, when they were captured, switched to third-string West-Coast Avengers. I played Captain America and US Agent, and let me tell you, I couldn't wait to rescue Cap already so I could get back to playing him. Before playing US Agent, I hadn't realized just what a bad-ass Cap was, even when shoulder-to-shoulder with Thor and the Hulk. As it should be! US Agent, in contrast, was like... I dunno... Avengers Babies.

Dresden Files RPG
Morgan Ellis -- who has suggested I call him my "hetero FATE mate," although I think "platonic FATE mate" might be more accurate -- ran a bunch of DFRPG games at Gamex, in preparation for the ton more he's running at Origins and GenCon. I'd read bits of the playtest doc, but hadn't played it yet, so it was good to finally check the box on that one. Not surprisingly, the system is very familiar; the only real bit of difference there was the magic sub-system, which, for my character, was pretty hand-wavey and loose. That was fine with me. I got to be effective but non-violent, which was cool. Really curious to see the forthcoming FATE 3.0 corebook, whenever Evil Hat gets around to it.

Icons Superpowered Roleplaying
I had a full table plus five alternates for this. Well, four alternates -- the name "John Wick" was on there, but fortunately that was just a prank of Sam's. Character creation was fun, as expected. I made some quickie little chargen cheat-sheet packets, but still had to spend one-on-one time with each player to finish 'em off. The whole process, with five players, probably took about forty minutes, which isn't bad. One thing I didn't tell them about was bonus powers; I figured that giving the players even more to read and sort through would've delayed things even further. So we got some wacky characters, maybe wackier than we would've otherwise.

My favorite was Brian's. He rolled the Gimmick Origin (so all his stuff comes from devices) and two powers: Life Support and Supersenses. The backstory he spun out of this was that he was an MIA astronaut who'd been drifting through space for decades, running into alien civilizations and modding the Hell out of his spacesuit. The Lost Astronaut! What gets me is how he went from astronaut to crime-fighter, but whatever. It's funny. We played up the astronaut angle to a ridiculous degree. He ran around in slow motion, hit badguys with a golf club, and so on. With a 6 Prowess and 6 Strength, he was no slouch in combat, even without offensive powers.

There were a couple things that stood out about the system. One, it's definitely not FATE. Everyone clear on that? Steve Kenson said it, Fred Hicks said it, but still the misconception persists that Icons is somehow "FATE-based." The only area in which it comes close is aspects, but even those work significantly differently in Icons, so much so that it threw all of us FATE vets for a loop. In brief, Determination can only be spent to tag aspects before a roll, not after -- and even then, it isn't a straight-up +2-per-point thing. Not only that, but if you're making a Determined Effort (the closest thing to the way aspects work in FATE), there's a decent chance the Determination you spent will be wasted. The Determined Effort rules feel like a lot of fiddle for not much tune, if you know what I mean, so they didn't see much use in play.

Also, the players-make-all-rolls thing sounds like a good idea, but in practice it sometimes slowed things down. I'm not going to go into all the details here -- it was just a matter of the RAW not conveniently lining up with actual play.

More problematic, though, was the adventure, Steve Kenson's own Sidereal Schemes of Doctor Zodiac. I wish that weren't true, but unfortunately it is. The scenario is very railroady and rigidly linear, with a dozen rather pushover opponents fought in three groups of four. To give you an idea of how non-challenging they were, Ability Levels in the game range from 1 to 10. Human Ability Levels are between 3 and 6. These NPCs had Ability Levels of 3 or 4 across the board. Remember the Lost Astronaut? Bereft of powers though he was, he could one-shot these guys with relative ease. Admittedly, I did manage to knock him out, along with a few of another character's duplicates, but it was via a rather limited-use attack (a charge from the only superstrong antagonist -- whose Strength, BTW, was only one point higher than the Lost Astronaut's) that couldn't reliably be replicated with any fairness. The final fight was with the titular doctor, who had about two dozen powers for me to manage all at once. Fortunately for me, he still wasn't too much of a challenge for the PCs. In stark defiance of Silver Age conventions, they literally gutted him to death.

My key takeaway: It'll be fine with some house rules. And it'd be great in another genre!

InSpectres: The Venture Brothers
I hesitate to tack a system on there. This was a mostly freeform after-hours Venture Brothers game run by Morgan and featuring whatever BarCon holdovers could stay awake. I played 21 and 24, because I do a frickin' flawless 24 and an occasionally acceptable 21. In a similar vein, Colin Jessup played Hank and Dean. Josh's wife Meghann was Brock, Dan was Rusty, James (Ritter, who bravely admitted that he didn't really know Venture Brothers) was assigned H.E.L.P.eR., Hamish (another guy who didn't know the show, but who has a uniquely suited voice) was Dr. Mrs. The Monarch, and Laura Bishop was Triana (absent Orpheus, which was... odd, but whatever -- it's a game!). People wrote down InSpectres stats under the delusion that they'd matter, and off we went.

There was only the barest shadow of a plot, and it ended up being mostly me, Morgan, Colin, and Meghann tossing around Venture Brothers in-jokes posing as dialogue, but y'know... it was also hilarious. It was about two hours of near-constant laughter around the table, so I declare it a rousing success. Next time, though, I want a system in there somewhere!

Sunday morning I ran a couple hours of DragonStrike, TSR's super-sweet, super-low-rent boardgame from 1991. Not a lot to report here, other than it was fun and I may run it again at Gateway.

Cthulhu Dice
We passed the lunch hour with a six-man game of Cthulhu Dice, which was a big hit. Later that night, at Red Robin, four of us played some more, with similar results. I expect to get a lot of enjoyment out of my five-buck investment in this goofy little game.

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, 3rd Edition
I was totally psyched to get into this game (with only four players, pre-reg was cut off after two) and glad I finally got to try it out. The dice have fascinated me ever since I first saw them last year. And they didn't disappoint in play -- putting a dice pool together was intuitive and fun, and interpreting the results neatly added to the fiction. Everything else, though, was a super-crunchy baffling ordeal.

Well, maybe not that bad. But there's a lot of fiddliness surrounding that elegant dice mechanic that feels all the more fiddly in comparison. The mandate of the design is clear: Never write anything down. That's admirable. I get it. But WFRP's solution is to manage a glut of chits, cards, and tokens seemingly left over from a dozen other high-priced boardgames Fantasy Flight had laying around in the warehouse. For example, every wound you take is a critical card, dealt face-down from a deck. When you have more of those cards than a certain threshold number, flip the top card over, and that's your critical hit. Clever. But is it more fun or convenient than just rolling on a table? That's debatable. Every special ability and spell has a cool-down time tracked in little tokens on its card. Again, a logical and balanced solution, but keeping track of "Did I take one of these off last round?" doesn't add to the fun in play, IMO. I haven't seen that kind of micro-management in a game since Weapons of the Gods, but WFRP leaves that game in the dust in this regard.

So! As always, Strategicon was a good time. I'm already looking forward to Gateway in September.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Spirit of the Kerberos Club

A few people have brought this to my attention today, so I figured I'd pass it along, in case you haven't seen it.

Here's the upshot: Arc Dream wants to do a FATE version of The Kerberos Club, and they want someone to help them do it. Me, I have a FATE Supers hack that's been a blast in playtests, and I want to put it to good use somewhere. C'mon, Arc Dream, let's make this thing happen! You and me!

I figure competition will be tight for this, so I'm not getting my hopes up. But it'd be pretty cool, wouldn't it? ORE partly inspired my FATE Supers thinking, so it seems only fitting.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

It's That Gamex Time of Year

Gamex is just around the corner, and for the first time since "Spirit of the 31st Century" at OrcCon 2008 -- I think -- I'm not running a FATE game. Shock! Horror!

I am, however, running ICONS, which creator Steve Kenson (a name with which you may be familiar) has described as "FATE-inspired." I.e., it has something like aspects. Apart from aspects (and consequences), I'm not sure there's a whole lot that's intrinsic to FATE that's especially unique. Take away the aspects and it could be, I dunno, Unisystem. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

However, ICONS uses aspects in pretty specific ways. Characters have Qualities (beneficial aspects) and Challenges ("negative" aspects). That's it. By default, there are no scene aspects, campaign aspects, object/item aspects, etc. Again, not that there's anything wrong with that. They seem to work like FATE's aspects: Spend a point of Determination on a Quality to get a bonus, and earn Determination when your Challenges make trouble for you. Oh -- and instead of Fate Points, we have Determination.

Really, in a way, this may be close to the "stripped-down" FATE for which people sometimes clamor. Personally, I don't really understand that clamor at all. I feel that FATE's pretty stripped-down as it is, but I've also been neck-deep in it for a few years, so fair enough.

I'm also running Leftovers on Friday the 28th, so if you're around come check it out. Did I mention that I've started getting art from the artists? Very cool! And if you have nothing to do Sunday morning... may I suggest DragonStrike, a ridiculous TSR boardgame from 1991? Well, the VHS tape is ridiculous, but the game itself is pretty fun. It's been compared to Hero Quest and Descent. I dusted it off for Hyphen-Con and we had a great time with it, so I figured I'd give it a shot with total strangers at Gamex.

Anyway, back to FATE games. Longtime platonic FATE companion Morgan Ellis is running a boatload of Dresden Files games at Gamex, Friday night through Monday morning. It's all (or at least partially) in preparation for Origins and GenCon, where he'll be running a similarly boat-filling slate of DFRPG. I only get to play in one of them (and not even that's a sure a thing), but my schedule's pretty packed as it is.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Spirit of Greyhawk - Psionics, Take 2

(In which I use too many bullet points)

The followup post to my original psionics post has been way overdue. The problem was that the approach I described in the prior post was a wrong turn for Spirit of Greyhawk. Specifically the concept of skill-based psionics wasn't working for me for the kind of stories I want to tell with the system.

A sure sign that I'm on the right track is when the ideas just start pouring out and it's all I can do for my fingers to keep up. Conversely when I'm trying to force something or if I'm going down the wrong path, writer's block is gonna be a sure thing.

After some thought and offline discussion, I realized the following:

  • Psionics in Greyhawk is *supposed* to be very rare.
  • Skill-based psionics implies a certain lack of rarity.

So I dropped back ten and punted on skill-based psionics. Once I switched psionics to being stunt-based, the writer's block quickly evaporated--a good sign.

The following assumptions are still being used:

  • Pushing psionic powers via accepting mental stress
  • The concept of madness (negative mental aspects) as the result of pushing psionics
  • The core psionic categories are Control, Sense and Alter

Psionics as Stunts

Here's the quick and dirty:

  • Each category of psionic effects is a separate stunt. So there is a Psionic Control stunt, Psionic Sense stunt, and the Psionic Alter Stunt.
  • Each stunt gives the psion 3 effects under each category. (SotC fans may recognize this as being similar to the Gadget stunt)
  • Any of the three psionic stunts can be selected multiple times. Each time you select a psionic stunt you get 3 effects.
  • Psionic Control stunt is based upon the Resolve skill.
  • Psionic Sense stunt is based upon the Empathy skill.
  • Psionic Alter stunt is based upon the Resolve skill. (I'm not married to this yet)

Creating Psionic Effects

As a general rule, effects are based upon the following categories (much thanks to Mike for providing the original insight):

  • +1 "general" bonus
  • +2 "specific" bonus
  • Substitute one skill for another skill when attempting an original skill's "trapping"
  • Do something extra with a skill that you couldn't otherwise do with it
  • More powerful effects may assess an additional Fate point cost

Sample Psionic Effects

Here are some sample psionic effects from each category.

Absorb/Dissipate Energy (Control Stunt)

Prerequisites: None

Effect: Allows Resolve skill as a substitute for Athletics or whatever the normally opposed skill would be for purposes of opposing energy-based missile attacks. This would include magic attacks or other energy-based attacks (like dragon's fire).

The power may be kept "up" as long as the source of energy is constant (intense desert sun)— it may not be kept "up" for magical attacks (fireball, lightning) or psionic energy attacks (lightning).

Detoxify Poison (Control Stunt)

Effect: Substitute Resolve for whatever is required when dealing with a physical poison--usually Endurance.


Use the strength of the poison as the difficulty for the psion. For example, a poison rating of Good has a Good difficulty for the psion to detoxify.

Example Difficulties:

  • Mediocre (+0) for a very mild poison, such as alcohol
  • Average (+1) for a mild poison
  • Fair (+2) for an average poison
  • Good (+3) for a virulent poison
  • Superb (+5) for a neurotoxin

Time To Use: Five minutes.

Notes: This power allows a psion to detoxify or eject poisons that have entered her body. If the psion succeeds, the poison has no effect.

Magnify Senses (Sense Stunt)

Stunt Effect: Gives Alertness a +2 specific to increased existing senses the psion normally possesses. Shifts allow for greater distances or (for smell) for greater elapsed time.

Effect can be maintained.

Time To Use: Three exchanges.

Notes: This power allows a psion to increase the effectiveness of their normal senses to perceive things that otherwise would be impossible without artificial aids. The psion can hear noises beyond her normal hearing due to distance or softness (but can't hear beyond normal frequencies). Likewise, the psion can see normally visible things over distances that would otherwise require the use of scrying. However it doesn't allow the psion to see into the IR or UV portions of the visible spectrum if they couldn't ordinarily. The psion can identify scents and odors that are normally too faint for human olfactory senses.

Postcognition (Sense Stunt)

Prerequisite Effects: Hibernation Trance, Life Detection, Sense Psionics

Stunt Effect: Use Empathy as Alertness to get impressions from an object handled. Use shifts as increases on the time chart (starting from about 2 hours in the past).


  • Mediocre (+0) if seeing less than two hours into the past;
  • Fair (+2) for seeing more than two hours but less than a week into the past
  • Good (+3) for seeing more than a week but less than six months into the past
  • Great (+4) for seeing more than six months but less than a year into the past
  • Superb (+5) for seeing more than a year but less than two years into the past
  • Add +2 difficulty for each additional year.

Time to Use: Five minutes; the time to use may be reduced by adding +1 for each minute cut. Minimum time to use of one minute.

Effect: Postcognition allows a psion to sense the tenuous imprints left on objects when they are handled by living beings. The psion must be able to handle the target object.

The psion must declare how far in the past is being reviewed prior to rolling Postcognition. If the roll is successful, the psion can determine who has handled or touched the object and what events have transpired around it. The psion may "search" for specific incidents or simply review past events, like having a vision.

Interpreting Postcognition success

  • If the success is equal or 1 shift than the difficulty number, then all sensory impressions are muffled, tactile sense is dulled, smells or tastes are indistinct or mixed. The psion receives a vague sense of who handled the object and what events transpired around it.
  • If the success is 2 shifts higher than the difficulty number, the psion gains a good sensory impression of the event, but is limited in that the primary sense (the sense which gives the most information, usually sight) is wavery or obscured; the other sensory impressions come through clearly.
  • If the success is 3 shifts higher than the difficulty number (gains spin), the character can witness events when the object was present as if she were there herself.

Injure/Kill (Alter Stunt)

Prerequisite Effects: Life detection, Life sense

Stunt Effect: Effect allows the use of the Resolve skill to generate physical stress just by touching a target, instead of the Melee skill to damage a target. No weapons are allowed with the use of this effect. Can be defended by Athletics (to avoid the touch, which would likely initiate combat) or Resolve Skill (requiring the Control stunt) to combat the actual psionic damage of the touch.

See below for modifications if target and defender are in active combat.

Physical coverings (clothes, armor) do not protect against this effect's damage. However a Shield DOES protect the defender.

Notes: The psion must touch the target to use this effect, channeling psionic energy through the physical conduit to damage the target. To a non-psionic observer, the attacker could kill a target without realizing what had happened.

In combat, this effect is considered a combination of the following skills:

  • Attacker: Resolve Skill (Primary) combined with Melee Skill (Secondary)
  • Defender: Resolve Skill with Control Stunt (Primary) combined with Athletic Skill (Secondary)

Other Rule References of Interest

Supplemental Actions

These rules are used when dealing with someone doing multiple separate actions being attempted at the same time. There are two basic categories under this, both are pertinent to psionics:

  • Using multiple skills to generate a single effect.
  • Separate effects being maintained (or generated) at the same time.

Multiple Skills to Generate a Single Effect

In short, PC and GM determine what skill is "primary" and what skill is "secondary". The secondary skill provides a modifier to the primary skill.

  • If the secondary skill is higher than the primary skill, its worth +1 to the primary skill.
  • If the secondary skill is lower than the primary skill, its worth -1 to the primary skill

NOTE: There's no explicit mention in SotC about when the secondary = primary. I personally think it oughta be worth something, but the implication is that there's no modifier.

If there are multiple "secondary" skills, then use the above rules for each secondary skill and net out the modifiers.

There are situational rules where the secondary only helps, or only hinders the primary, but that's up to the PC and the GM to determine.

Reference: SotC, pp. 61-65

Link location: http://www.faterpg.com/dl/sotc-srd.html#id247

Multiple Effects at the Same Time

This is the probably the more likely scenario, as certain psionic effects can be maintained over time. This is in contrast to magic, where most persistant magic effects are "fire and forget".

However maintaining effects requires a certain degree of effort that counts against further psionic effects. So each progressive effort after the first effect requires an additional -1 to the next effect. Restated using our favorite bullet points, it looks like this...

  • The first effect is unmodified.
  • The second effect is at a -1 modifier.
  • The third effect is at a -2 modifier.

...and so on.

Adapting D6 Difficulties to the Fate Ladder

Fate 2E provided a translation to WEG's D6 that probably most pertinent to earlier versions of D6. Since I was using the 2nd edition (revised), I felt the translation needed a bit of tweaking. In case anyone's interested, here's the difficulty translations as I saw them:

Fate Ladder Rating

D6 Star Wars 2E (revised) Difficulty

Poor (-1)

Very Easy (low end) (1)

Mediocre (+0)

Very Easy (high end) (5)

Average (+1)

Easy (10)

Fair (+2)

Moderate (15)

Good (+3)

Difficult (20)

Great (+4)

n/a (25)

Superb (+5)

Very Difficult (30)

Fantastic (+6)

Heroic (31+)

Spontaneous Aspects

This is another pretty genre-agnostic idea, but it came up in this RPG.net thread on using FATE for Feng Shui, so it strikes me as appropriate for over-the-top action games. It's also super-simple, so I'm not going to drag it out with a big post.

Ready? Okay, here it is. Man, I hope I've hyped this enough!

Y'know how normally in FATE you can use many skills to accomplish whatever it is that skill normally does, or use it as part of a maneuver to create an aspect? This tweak lets you do both at once -- if you get spin. So let's say you're trying to jump across a chasm. You need a Great (+4) effort; you get an Epic (+7) one instead. That's enough to succeed with spin, so, in addition to your success, you get to create an aspect. It could be on you, or the chasm, or someone else in the scene, or whatever, as long as it's fragile -- one free tag and it disappears. And it can't be tagged as part of this action, or we'd end up with a never-ending loop of aspects and tags.

You might give the chasm an aspect of "Not As Far As It Looks" to help your buddy jump across. You might give yourself an aspect of "Athletic Badass," which ought to come in handy the next time you do something athletic. You might instead give an onlooker an aspect of "Awestruck" -- it was an Epic jump, after all. And so on.

It's the same in combat, although there are some nifty ways to mess with it.
  • Only for attacks. With this option, aspects are only auto-generated on a spin-worthy attack, like "Hail of Lead" for a Guns attack, or "Pressing the Attack" in a fencing match using Weapons, or "Cracked Timbers" after hitting someone so hard with Fists that they nearly break through a wall. This rewards, creates, and encourages rather gonzo attacks. Any attack that generates spin will possibly have greater ramifications for the scene, and can easily make a bad situation for the defender much, much worse.
  • Only for defenses. The opposite -- "Faster Than the Eye Can Follow" for an Athletics dodge, "Perfect Positioning" after parrying with Weapons, etc. This would replace the regular spin rules (+1 on your next roll). Otherwise, it's just double-dipping. So this is a more-powerful version of that mechanic that also adds to the narrative -- plus it opens up the potential for someone else to make use of that aspect, too. For example, if you put an aspect of "Overextended" on your attacker after pulling off a spin-worthy defense, your buddy can tag that on his turn.
  • Opponent creates aspect. With this option, all spin-generating rolls also create aspects -- but it's your opponent, not you, who decides what that aspect is. This kinda turns the whole idea on its ear. Now there's a price to pay for your success. IMO, it's absolutely not a high enough price that you wouldn't want spin anyway, but it certainly keeps things interesting. So now that great dodge you pulled off might mean that you are "Overextended," or that your opponent now has "Perfect Positioning" on you, or whatever. Alternately, this could be limited to attacks, so getting spin on a defense means you get to decide the aspect, but getting spin on an attack means something unexpected happens in addition to your success.
  • Only one skill. Apply any of these variations to one skill chosen by the player at character creation. E.g., a master fencer will throw out aspects with Weapons, but not with Fists; likewise, a nimble rogue might pull off some incredible exploits with Athletics, but not with Weapons, and a big bruiser might be known for his feats of Might, but not so much when it comes to Athletics. In addition to simply limiting the number of aspects being spontaneously generated at any given time, this also reinforces niche protection without being too heavy-handed about it.
This is potentially a pretty wacky idea, I know, but like I said, I can see it working in certain genres. In fact, if you only use it outside of combat, it could work well for even more genres. Sherlock Holmes creates aspects with Investigation, Tarzan with Survival, Luke Skywalker with Pilot... you get the idea.

Monday, May 10, 2010

R.I.P., Frank Frazetta (1928 - 2010)

Frank Frazetta passed away at a hospital near his home in Boca Raton, FL. The apparent cause of death was a stroke.

There are two kinds of people in the world:

  • Those who were influenced by Mr. Frazetta's work.
  • Everyone else who's probably lying.

I cannot even begin to count the number of hours, days, weeks I spent daydreaming about his works.

Farewell, Death Dealer. May the Other Side hold but one-tenth of the wonders you showed us.

PS: A nice gallery is here. But it's probably swamped today.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Anglerre: It's Out

So Legends of Anglerre is out today -- at least, in electronic form. Expect the hard copy by the end of the month. Which month? I have no idea.

In case you haven't seen it, here's the cover, which benefited greatly from an eleventh-hour art change:

Here, look at this:

Sorry -- let me see if we can get in a little closer:

Monday, May 3, 2010

Supers: Escape from Fake Prom Vines

This is something I meant to mention in my last post, and although it's labeled with the "supers" tag, it isn't really supers-specific. However, it did grow out of something that happened in that last FATE Supers game I ran.

Here's the situation: Prodigy takes a section of iron railing and wraps it around the Headmaster to restrain him. This is, under standard FATE 3.0 rules (as far as I know), a kind of Block. The problem is that Blocks are supposed to be maintained every round, whereas the circumstances of this Block clearly don't require that. Anyway, Prodigy rolls his Superhuman Might and gets a 16 -- which is what the super-intelligent ape and his Extraordinary Might will have to beat to break free. Hard, but not impossible. (In fact, thanks to a good roll and a couple Fate Points, he does indeed break free to wreak a little more simian havoc in that scene.)

Before that happened, though, Prodigy pulls a similar trick with Temper, a villainous metal-manipulator, only this time he ties him up with some decorative vines (...the scene is a jungle-themed prom, so decorative vines are readily available). This time Prodigy gets a 17 -- and Temper has literally no chance to break free without spending, like, six Fate Points. From fake prom vines.

This, to me, is a problem. Fake vines should be inherently easier to deal with than an iron railing. At the same time, wrapping someone in iron should be harder than tying them up with vines.

So here's what I'd do if I had to do it all over again: I'd steal from HERO.
  • Assign the material in question a difficulty: Mediocre, Fair, Great, Fantastic, or Legendary.
  • The material's difficulty is the target number when using it to restrain someone with a Might roll. For example, that iron railing would be Fantastic, while the fake vines would be Mediocre (they aren't made to be sturdy, after all).
  • If the wrapper-upper's Might roll beats the difficulty, the restraint has a stress track with a number of boxes equal to the shifts obtained. For example, Prodigy's roll of 16 for the Headmaster's restraints would mean a stress track with 10 boxes, whereas the stress track for Temper's vine restraints would have 17 boxes.
  • When the restrainee attempts to escape, roll Might against the material's difficulty. Shifts obtained are stress dealt to the restraint's stress track. So the iron railing, with its Fantastic difficulty, is difficult to budge; the average person will have a tough time making progress. The Headmaster, with his Extraordinary Might, will have an easier time of it, but it'll still probably take him a round or three. The fake vines, on the other hand, can be escaped by anyone given time (Temper included).

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Supers: All-Hyphen's Eve

Hola, amigos! I know it's been a while since I rapped at ya, but you wouldn't believe what I've been going through lately. First of all, I let Ron the Festiva for a beer run last week, but he got pulled over on account of a busted tail light. I'd totally forgotten about it. I'm not even sure I knew about it in the first place, since it's in the rear and I never see it back there. I don't know how it's legal to give a guy a ticket for something he can't even see, but that's the pigs for you. Anyhow, turns out the vehicle registration expired two years ago because I never got around to renewing it during the Christmas rush of '08 when I working at the tree lot, and that plus a few bogus unpaid parking tickets meant they impounded the old girl right then and there. I had fifty bucks' worth of scrap metal in the back seat, too. That's the last time I ever let Ron drive stoned.

Apologies for using the exact same Jim Anchower joke across two blogs.

Anyway, last weekend was Hyphen-Con VI in San Diego, which was, as always, a stunning success. We even had prize support this time, from both DriveThruRPG.com and The Gamer's Torch, an FLGS in Pacific Beach. (I won Gloom, a neat card game which apparently retails at $25). So if there's any doubt that Hyphen-Con is a real thing, let those doubts now be put to rest. As we like to say, "Believe the Hyph."

I didn't run any FATE-based games at the Hyph -- Morgan Ellis ran a lively game of DFRPG, though -- but the night before Hyphen-Con, on All-Hyphen's Eve, I ran another FATE Supers game for four guys from what, in my pre-baby days, was the ol' monthly Spirit of the Sword group. To accompany MVP and Clique, two characters from the OrcCon game, I made two new characters, one an insubstantial-type and the other a super-strong android. Here they are:

Zeitgeist, an ectoplasmic pop-culture blogger
Prodigy, an android "teenager"

Each of them makes use of some new stunts and/or power trappings that weren't around when I made the last batch of characters. Zeitgeist is able to transform from a regular teenaged girl to an insubstantial ghost-like form, so she has a stunt called Alternate Form. As a full-round action, she can turn into a ghost, which gives her form-related powers a handy Snag of "Only works while in Alternate Form" and comes with a pretty severe drawback of its own: While in her ghostly form, she can't affect the physical world at all. But it works both ways. One of her powers has the trapping "Invulnerability: Physical Attacks," which lets her use the power to defend against physical attacks as if it were two tiers higher than it is (i.e., Cosmic vs. Extraordinary). Prodigy has Invulnerability too, but his is against poisons and mental attacks, thanks to his robotic body and positronic brain. Thanks to the high cost of his powers, all of his aspects (apart from his Concept and Catchphrase) are claimed by Weaknesses and Complications. His player (me) has traded in the freedom to define the character as he will in exchange for two Superhuman and two Extraordinary super-skills.

Because Zeitgeist's Invulnerability is so broad, it cost the equivalent of four trappings instead of just one, whereas Prodigy's each cost only half that (two trappings).

BTW, Zeitgeist's catchphrase was "Spoiler Alert!" which I thought was pretty funny. All right, it was my idea, but her player made good use of it.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

D.A.'s Anniversary and Fantasy Strongholds

Dave Arneson (October 1, 1947 – April 7, 2009)

While you can't debate EGG's profound contribution to wargaming and role-playing, his works never really sparked a profound desire to write my own works in the way that Dave Arneson's original Blackmoor did. The first time I read Dave Arneson's descriptions of Blackmoor in the Judge's Guild book "The First Fantasy Campaign" (originally pub'd 1977) I felt a connection with the "tongue-in-cheek" humor, inside jokes and "anything goes" style of fantasy that still persists in my adventures to this day (for better or worse).

One characteristic that stood out about the Blackmoor campaign was that a basic motivation for Blackmoor PCs going on adventures was to fund their strongholds, purchase improvements for the strongholds, and help defend or expand their lands. In other words, there was a feel of "ownership" in the Blackmoor campaign that you don't much see anymore these days.

In tribute to Dave Arneson, I outline some modifications for the creation of PC strongholds as they might exist in Spirit of Greyhawk.

So as a foundational step to Strongholds, I think you have to consider the tropes of the Fantasy-gaming genre and make a quick pass at Treasure (at least in the macro) as it might be played out in a world based upon dungeon crawls and treasure hoards.

The Treasure Track

Considering that a big point of the traditional dungeon crawl was the acquisition of treasure, I propose adding a stress track for Treasure. The Resources skill still exists, but is not directly used for spending money, determining lifestyle, or purchasing / maintaining workspaces and strongholds.

  • Purchases reflect stress applied against the Treasure track.
  • The Resource skill represents a per-adventure benefit paid into the Treasure track (like natural healing over time).
  • The acquisition of treasure reflects a one-time benefit paid into the Treasure track.

The Treasure track for any particular PC is determined as:

  • Base Treasure track score = Resource Skill
  • Plus any current Treasure (net increase, not gross)


  • PC with Resource Skill of Fair (+2) but no treasure has a Treasure Track of 2.
  • Same PC received a Good (+3) treasure so his Treasure Track is increased to 3 (not 5).
  • PCs spending drops his Treasure Track to 1 by the end of the adventure.
  • At the start of the next adventure, the PCs Resource skill +2, resets the PCs Treasure Track to 2.
  • If the PC receives a Great (+4) treasure, then the Treasure Track is increased to 4.
  • If the PC spends 1 stress worth of treasure, then the Treasure track stays at 3.

Not entirely the most accurate method, but it keeps the game moving and the fudging is on both sides of the scale so I think it evens out.

General Rule for Spending Wealth (Stress against the Treasure Track)

GM's discretion as to when to take stress to the Treasure track applies (so we don't get into paperwork to buy rope...) but essentially the cost of items (measured on the ladder) represents stress against the Treasure track. For now, roll-ups are applied normally as per any other stress track. Again, perhaps not the most accurate, but keeps the game moving.

Keeping the Randomness in Purchases

Because this is no longer a skill roll against Resources, we can shift the randomness function to instead focus on possible negotiations and modifications to the cost of something, due to the fantasy / feudal nature of the economy. This also has the benefit of making things more fun for socially oriented PCs.

Future Points of Consideration about the Treasure Track

Things to think about at some point in the future:

  • Distinctions about treasure "readily available" versus net sum of wealth.
  • The application of consequences against the Treasure track (like losing access to Strongholds, or losing them altogether)


PCs have the opportunity to purchase and own a physical location that would support them in their endeavors.

Basic Workspace Characteristics

A Workspace consists of ONE of the following at a level equal to the initial purchase quality +2:

  1. Mundane Library (use with Lore)
  2. Arcane Laboratory (use with either Wizardry or Sorcery)
  3. Temple (use with clerical magic)
  4. Alchemy Laboratory (use with Alchemy)
  5. Training Area (Melee/Missile, Thievery, Monk, Assassins)
  6. Armory (use with Crafting)

Example: To acquire an Armory of Fair (+1) quality, it would require a treasure amount of Good (+3).

Specializing Workspaces

Workspaces can be specialized to function in particular area instead, at a level equal to the purchase quality + 1. Examples would be:

  • An Armory that specializes in creating swords
  • A Library specializing in Ancient Lands
  • An Arcane Lab specializing in Summoning

Improving Workspaces

Workspace improvements may be constructed with a skill difficulty equal to the quality desired +2 (or +1 for a specialized workspace).

Example: A PC with a Treasure available of +3 (Good), decides to have a workspace of a Mundane Library. The base quality of the Library is +1 (3 - 2 = +1). If the PC wants the Library to be improved and expanded to become +3, the difficulty would be (3 + 2 = 5), and so the PC would have to roll a +2 on the dice or better (5 difficulty - 3 skill level = 2). Of course, Fate Points and Aspect tagging rules would be available as per usual.

At this level, the physical area is usually represented as more of a house or something similar. Any general physical characteristics are set at Mediocre (+0).

Resource Stunts

Note that these stunts are still tied to having the Resource skill. In other words, just having treasure might give you a nice place to do your research and whatnot, going past that point and creating strongholds, keeps and citadels does require advancement to be spent on the Resource skill.

Secondary Residence

Used as per SotC RAW to allow a second Workspace in a second physical location (either pre-determined or can be specified during play as long it's on the same plane of existance). Some examples of a Secondary Residence might be:
  • A noble's family maintaining a residence in another city.
  • A ranger having a backup lair deep within the forest
  • A thief's safehouse

The physical characteristics of a secondary residence also start at Mediocre (+0).


This stunt allows one of the character's properties to qualify as a Stronghold. Note that a Stronghold is used somewhat generically: a bard's stronghold might be a playhouse, whereas a Wizard's stronghold might be a tower in the Yatil mountains.

The quality of the stronghold's "default" workspace is equal to Resources skill (or Resources + 1 if the workspace's function is specialized). The base physical characteristics of a Stronghold start at Average (+1) and can be improved with the Fortifications improvement.

The stronghold also will have 1 extra improvement (see "Stronghold Improvements", below)


Prerequisite: Requires Stronghold stunt

The keep is similar to the Stronghold, but provides an additional 3 Stronghold improvements. The base physical characteristics of a Keep start at Average (+1), same as a Stronghold and can be improved with the Fortifications improvement.


Prerequisite: Requires Keep stunt

The Citadel is considered a "Wonder of the World". It has the improvements from the prior stunts, but one 1 of them can be traded (if desired) for something unique and distinctive. This 1 unique improvement can be determined between the PC and the GM. The following are some examples:

  • A world-class workspace (adds another +2 quality to one of the workspaces within the citadel and adds another +1 to speed the rate of research).
  • An exotic location like: the Astral Plane or the Yatil Mountains. This also includes a means of dedicated transport for reaching it.
  • A larger and more highly-trained staff (the head of the citadel is of Good quality, and attended by two Fair and three Average lieutenants).
  • The citadel is movable (Baba Yaga's hut anyone?)

A citadel starts with base physical characteristics of Fair (+2) and can be improved with the Fortifications improvement(s).

Stronghold Improvements

Improvements can be selected more than once and can be stacked.

"Additional Workspace"

This improvement allows for an additional workspace to contained within the same stronghold. For example, an arch-mage could choose to have a Library and a Laboratory contained within the same stronghold.

"Add a Stronghold Aspect"

Adds an aspect to the Stronghold at the GM's discretion. Examples could be:

  • Holy Ground
  • More than it Seems
  • Hidden Reserves
  • Traps and Pitfalls
  • Perfect acoustics (useful for a bard's performance or for social combat showdowns in front of a crowd)
  • Situated on a Magic Ley line

Aspects can be purchased with treasure, but each aspect would require a treasure quality of Good (+3). Additionally, aspects purchased after a stronghold's inception would need some manner of explanation. Certain aspects are fairly easy to explain by the application of money ("Hidden Reserves" for one), others like "Situated on a Magic Ley Line" might take some thought to work out a plausible explanation.


Improves the physical toughness of the Stronghold by 1 shift. I would consider that fortifications could also be considered a function of the geography of the area as well, but I wouldn't consider that this improvement places it in some exotic location (see "Citadel")

"Landed Gentry"

This is sort of a catch-all improvement that basically states that Stronghold also has associated lands as well as some sort of feudal order that goes with it. The size of the lands within the Stronghold's control are determined by this improvement. Each improvement counts as 1 shift. This is a prerequisite for other improvements that follow.

NOTE: I haven't worked out the full implications of this improvement, but I expect that this might also have an impact on the PCs status or title.

"Improved Tithing"

Prerequisite: Landed Gentry
The quality of the lands within the Stronghold's control are a function of this upgrade. While a stronghold might control "large tracts of land" (pantomiming Michael Palin's father-in-law from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail"), this upgrade provides a shift in the quality of tithing that is provided by those lands.

So for a literary example of a relatively small stronghold with Improved Tithing, you might consider the Kamarg from Moorcock's Hawkmoon stories.

"Conscripted Troops"

Prerequisite: Landed Gentry
I haven't fleshed this out entirely (maybe Mike can chime in with suggestions as I'm using his Mass Combat rules), but I would look at each grade of improvement as the ability to marshal increasingly large forces for military purposes.


Note that this is slightly different from having minions/henchmen in that lackeys are tied to the location of the stronghold and the lands surrounding.

The stronghold has a small staff of competent people: two with Average skill at something (skill to be determined when defining the henchman), and a Lieutenant with a peak skill of Fair. However these henchmen are tied to the location around the Stronghold.

NOTE: I'm sure there's more to be thought through, but this is enough to start!

Maintaining Workspaces and Strongholds

This is still in the consideration phase, but I think that if a campaign is going to venture into the area of the PCs having holdings, there should be idea of having to accept Treasure stress in order to maintain these holdings. I mean if you're looking for a reason to go out adventuring, that's just far too choice to not use!

Being unable to accept the stress to the Treasure track due to maintenance costs would likely result in a per-adventure cumulative -1 "consequence" to the quality of the workspaces and then losing upgrades (one upgrade counts as -1). Fortifications crumble, unpaid troops will desert, etc.

Assessing the Maintenance Cost (or "Paying the Cost to be the Boss")

Each of the following adds or subtracts at the number shown next to the condition. Add all of the applicable together for a net Treasure stress to be assessed per adventure.

  • Workspace +1
  • Stronghold or Keep rating +1
  • Citadel rating +2
  • Conscripted troops (add a Treasure stress equal to their size/quality)
  • Landed Gentry -1 per upgrade
  • Improved Tithing -1 per upgrade
  • Owner's Resource Skill used as a modifier to the cost. (Note that this doesn't count against his Treasure track)

Apply the net result to the Treasure track. If the net result is positive, that gets added to the Treasure track!

Example: Branson the Knight has constructed a Stronghold with the following characteristics and associated maintenance costs...

  • Workspace (Armory) +1
  • Stronghold +1
  • Aspect "Moat" +0
  • Fortification +1
  • Landed Gentry -1
  • Resource Skill of Mediocre +0

He would have a maintenance cost of +2 assessed against his treasure per adventure. So then our knight is now heavily motivated to adventure so that he could...

  • Acquire sufficient upgrades to have the stronghold pay for itself (or fill his coffers)
  • Acquire sufficient advancements to increase his Resource skill
  • Acquire loads of treasure as a backlog to keep things in good repair

...otherwise, he starts losing stronghold improvements due to lack of maintenance.

WHEW! Okay, that's enough. Mr. Arneson: thank you for the inspiration.