Gothic Trek and Triptych

I’m also seriously leaning towards running Gothic Trek with my home-grown system, Triptych. For a warm-up, I generated a starting scenario using Rafael Chandler’s delicious “Starship From Hell” randomizer.

The ship is a Miranda class, the era is roughly Next Generation (though this is all Alternate Universe, so sticklers for detail are unwelcome.) Here’s a modified picture of the ship.

SelkirkThe idea is that the Federation is big, way bigger than we saw in the tv show or the movies. And at the edges of the Federation is not empty space, but other star empires or enclaves that have their own reasons not to join the Feds.

So, I work up a sector, note some of the conflicts and races at work there, and give my game group the equivalent of a Neutral Zone with some hostiles, allies, and more ambiguous factions.

Let a PC be captain of the ship, the rest important bridge crew, and do some gunboat diplomacy on the frontier. Along the way, deal with a vampiric star empire, werewolf assassins, perhaps a new expression of undeath in space, and whatever zany business I want. Mixed in with the tried and true exploration, diplomacy, morality, and expertise of traditional Trek.

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Jedi for FAE

So, if I WAS going to run something for jedi, and if I used Fate Accelerated, what would I use for a background document?

Here is a draft. I welcome your thoughts.

FAE Jedi draft 4.1.14


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FAE and the OSR

Tables. Random tables. That’s the connection.

The OSR has a dance between the DM and the players. The DM shapes the background, gives the characters ideas for stuff to do, and referees their efforts. The DM is more about interpreting the die rolls than pursuing a plot. Plot is what the PCs do in response to their ever-changing and responsive environment.

One way the DM has to stay grounded in the “interpretive” mode instead of the “author” mode is to use random tables. Let the dice help determine what happens, based on some options thought through and/or vetted ahead of time. Once the DM sees the result, the DM fits it together. What monsters show up. How they react to the PCs, and why. What treasure is found.

Fate Accelerated is a different playstyle altogether. The players have more authority over the world at generation, able to make statements that then become true even if they are about things the DM (now GM) had not yet thought about. Words and phrases are designed to be ambiguous, so they could give the characters advantages or be used against them.

If characters are injured socially or in combat, then they take on consequences that heal at different speeds. If a character wants to do something special, they can develop a stunt so they can do it easier and more reliably. This is text-based with a light number element.

As a new DM coming to FAE (Fate Accelerated) it is damned hard to get the scale right. So if a person takes a 4 point consequence, how bad should that be? Well, it heals up next session. But that could be “Case of the Mondays” or “Internal Bleeding” or “Wrenched Knee” or “Overwhelmed and Confused.” The point is to stay loose and assign text.

If you are going to run a game on Friday night, and everyone has planned on it, and you have a tough day and your head is not in that space, you better get it together. You run this off-the-cuff. You must be ready to improvise well, or you are going to be uneven, inconsistent, and unfair as you run the game.

Or, you could be in my situation, as a first-time GM for the game with players who have never played. The players do not know how the game works, so it is up to me to help them calibrate and use all this freedom to decide what the game world is like responsibly. “It’s so easy!” people say. Presumably people who come from a background of story gaming with groups also familiar with those ideas, or people who came to the game with a GM or other players who knew what they were doing.

I don’t think it is fair to expect people who are not used to this kind of game to just pull out words and phrases that are sufficiently double-edged, useful enough but not overpowered, and be ready to play. At the same time, you want to keep the player’s creative involvement fully engaged.

When play starts, there will be areas that you did not expect them to get all violent in. There will be new people they meet on the fly. There will be injuries, on a 3 tier scale. You cannot (and should not) map out everything that could happen. But there is a solution.

Tables! Random tables. That is the connection.

Tiers can be thought through ahead of time, and results (when needed) can be chosen off the list, inspired by the list, or randomized. Have some options thought through and/or vetted ahead of time. How bad is a -2 condition? A -4 condition? A -6 condition? Maybe you don’t roll a result, but you can at least refresh quickly on the magnitude of damage we’re talking about here.

When players are making new characters, they can randomize from a list of attributes that have been thought through and vetted as being appropriate. If they want to also make some up, the GM can point them to good examples for the setting. If a player goes all gonzo, too far overboard for this game, then the GM can show examples in the right scale instead of arguing perception against perception and seeming arbitrary.

As it is, I’m looking at stuff from the FATE/FAE Bundle of Holding I got. I’m looking at the FAE rule book. I’m thinking about whether it is better to bring players into a familiar setting I’ve bounded for them, or to bring them into one built by the same designers that made the game. Which one would be easier for my players?

You might think FAE is an easy game to pick up and run cold. I assure you it is not. The interactions of aspects and stunts and approaches, mixed with the attributes of the environment and those of the opponent can be a lot to track. Especially with a decent size group that has never played the game before. Especially when aspects are designed to work for and against you. Not to mention the on-the-fly rulings required by common sense since the rules don’t bother with them.

For example, the FAE rules figure if you stat up weapons and armor, then the characters will equip themselves with the best weapons and armor, and they cancel each other out, so zero sum is boring and let’s not have rules for weapons and armor. But… that is not how I think. Characters WANT the best weapons and armor, sure. But your story probably won’t let that happen all the time. And their foes will not likely be in the same tier as they are, equipment-wise, all the time. But just handwave that, make it an aspect if it comes up.

“Your foes are in plate armor.” “Oh, good, then they are slow! Is that an aspect? Plate armor?” “Uh, sure.” “Great! I spend a Fate point to make that a disadvantage for them as they are trying to chase me, to slow them down!” So it matters, and there’s just a ridiculous amount of making up stuff on the fly that will go with this system.

Rules light means ruling heavy. Always.

If your players are worth a damn, they’ll always try to shift the situation to their advantage. This is good and appropriate work for players.

Without rules, GMs find themselves pulled in two directions. One, they have to be on their game so their rulings are consistent, fair, and appropriate to the story. No guidelines and benchmarks to fall back on.

Second, they will develop their own consistent way of handling things. This must be codified or it will be inconsistent and frustrate players and GMs alike. The “simplification” results in more game design work for the GM.

I still have not decided whether I will run FAE or not. If I do, I may or may not finish working on a Jedi mod for it that customizes it for a kind of play that assumes people are jedi.

There was a time when I almost shut down my game group, many years ago, because the player infighting was sapping the last of my will to run a game. Casting about for some game system that could be fresh enough and different enough to provide an experience worth saving, I found Warhammer by Hogshead. We played it for years. It saved my group. I could tell the stories I wanted to tell with it. That game and I had energy, there was spark in our romance, and the players loved it.

Last time I was at a low point (not as low, but a low point) I found Old School Hack and went on a long honeymoon with that game.

I’m not saying I’m about to shut my group down, but I’ve had a number of discouragements with my players in the last few months. I’m struggling to rekindle my enthusiasm for game stuff. So I’m looking around at systems. So far? Nothing with the same sort of juice and verve. No games that draw love from me as steel draws fire from flint. And I have a LOT of games.

One will emerge. In the meantime, I’ll keep poking around, and maybe running some new games.

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Thinking About Crumbling Epoch

I’m going to push Crumbling Epoch off my timeline. It is the only project left I have actual projected dates for.  I was aiming for late June. Now it’s off the calendar.

The only game system I’m sort of working on right now is thinking about a FAE Jedi game. And, a possible Star Trek hack for Triptych, a home-built system.

I’m still planning to run my Masks fantasy game. We’ll get back to Edge City when my players have the break from it that they need. Always in motion is the future.

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My Magic Item Entries

Erik Tenkar is hosting an OSR Superstar contest. It ballooned way past what he expected, with hundreds of entries. The first round involves up to three magic items. Here are mine!

Syveld Silk. Syveld grubs spin silk, and its color depends on the diet of the grubs (it cannot be dyed.) Special iridescent colors and combinations of colors require unusual foods, so grubbers are always on the lookout for tough errand-runners. The silk has certain peculiar disruptive properties.
* Enough silk for a cravat or ascot renders the wearer immune to “Detect Evil” or other alignment-based detection spells.
* Enough silk for a hat or jacket renders the wearer immune to “ESP” and locating spells.
* Enough silk for a suit grants the wearer +1 to saves against spells and magical effects.

Lifting Disk. A silver disk, with strap and handle so it can be used as a shield. The disk also has three dials on the inside. When placed against a target, and all three dials turned (a full round action with no movement, for the target and the user) then the shield seals in place. It can negate up to 250 lbs. of weight. If it negates more weight than the object has, it will be rendered buoyant (but it will not rise on its own.) When it has a fresh charge, it can hold the weight for 6 turns. Each time it is activated, roll 1d6; if rolling the current number of turns it can support, or higher, reduce the number of turns it will work by 1. If it is returned to the gray men who sell it, they can add charge back to the dynamic battery for 50 gp per maximum turn. (To go from 3 turns maximum to 6 turns maximum costs 150 gp.)

Burner. Like a wand with a grip handle, this sleek silver pistol looks dangerous. It has a range of 10 yards per die size, and it starts out inflicting d8 damage up to 30 yards away. The first time it rolls an 8 for damage, it drops to inflicting d6 damage up to 20 yards away. The first time it rolls a 6 for damage, it drops to inflicting 1d4 damage up to 10 yards away. The first time it rolls a 4, the battery is drained. If it is returned to the gray men who sell it, they can add charge back to the dynamic battery for 100 gp per die size. (To go from dead battery to d8 costs 300 gp.)

The first one is a (possibly alien) textile that would support a local noble court. When it is the fashion for the aristocracy to wear these, then that inclines them to normal mischief knowing that magic may not easily sort them out.

The second two were scientific curiosities of the gray men, shared with humans and others in Crumbling Epoch. I am experimenting with having batteries for these objects that work in this way, for a consistent power method on different items. I thought it was a fun experiment.

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Crumbling Epoch, Dyson’s Delve, I

Saturday an intrepid band took a crack at Dyson’s Delve. Four characters, three were level 3. They are agents of the Consortium, who is trying to get cozy with the mountain arcology that makes firearms. The characters were trained in firearms, and given pistols (heavier caliber) or automatics (lighter caliber, more bullets). They went in the side tunnel, to attack the cult of the night demon.

After distracting and ambushing the guards, half the group dressed in their plate armor uniforms. They followed the long, long tunnel to get into the temple. There, they tripped the gong alarm going in. No big deal, except one of the guys in the barracks poked his head out to see what was going on. He raised the alarm, and the crew split into a couple pairs, one for each door, to bunny-fu-fu anyone poking a head in.

One pair fought three tough veterans one at a time in the barracks doorway; one fought, the other carefully aimed and popped off gunfire at the other team (who could only engage one at a time in the doorway.) They killed three veterans, and if there were other survivors, they hid; going into the barracks, the pair pushed bunk beds in front of the two other doors into the barracks to protect their flank.

The other pair fought some armored acolytes supported by a harpy with a magic spear, who fought from the second rank and used her screeching to keep the terrified acolytes in the battle. The crew used gunfire and melee weapons to defeat the acolytes and peg the harpy with a shot to the chest. They collected their magic spear, then closed the door with giggling glee, waiting for someone else to open it.

The defenders poured oil under the door, the crew lit it. While it was burning, the stonish (part man, part stone) kicked the door open and charged through it, the fire curling off his tough hide.

He encountered the Vicar, with another 4 veterans and a few acolytes. Also, the Vicar brought along a big stone living statue with a crocodile head. The statue snatched him and tossed him over to the massive group of armored warriors, then it reached through the doorway to get the others.

The crew downed the statue with repeated gunfire, while the stonish battled for his life against overwhelming odds. The stonish was chipped down and battered into submission as the rest of the crew grunted and strained and herniated themselves pushing the statue out of the doorway so they could rescue their friend.

They were too late; the stonish could surrender or die, he surrendered before his friends came through. They fought, and the Vicar (himself a lightbringer) enjoyed savoring the pain as he drew hit points out of the invading lightbringer by forcing him to smite to stay alive.

One of the crew won free and fired repeatedly at the Vicar, who sent a veteran over to hew him down. The stonish broke free and managed to avoid the veterans trying to cut him; he squirmed past the dead statue in the doorway. The others managed to disengage and follow, so three badly wounded members of the crew escaped leaving only one corpse behind. Their only loot was a magic spear.

Deciding that entry was just too difficult, they rested while scouts from the arcology looked for other ways in and found the two up top. After a couple days to heal up, they headed to the top entry.

They caught one sentry by surprise and killed him, seeing they were stickers; like child-sized walking sticks. The other two escaped down the spiral stairs, the crew in hot pursuit.

The crew hesitated to charge into the dark, throwing in a torch (that was snuffed) then throwing in another to get a bead for shooting. They decided melee was the way to go, charging in. Only one sticker fell before the rest freaked out and ran away. The crew cut down their leaders, big stickers, as they ran.

The crew chased a group until they were cornered. One of the stickers, Larry, was threatening them; the others offered him up to be a guide if they could live. The crew agreed, hauling Larry out to tell them all about the underground before the next expedition.

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Grifton, City of Shadows

Grifton is a setting that distills all my fear of cities and infuses it with supernatural evil. I started using it around 1995 or so, and I have run many campaigns there with different groups. It started life as a city for Vampire the Masquerade, but it has hosted lots of different kinds of games. If I get back to running it next year it could have a 20 year anniversary. Huh.

I am thinking about doing a system-neutral sourcebook for the city. But I think about lots of things.

Here is the core, the nucleus. This document has the broad strokes of the city’s history, followed by descriptions of neighborhoods with some interesting locations added. It concludes with a map.

Grifton Gazetteer 1.14

The document is not written to grip the reader, but instead to be a resource for someone interested in the city. For the one running the game, the gazetteer is layered, and builds upon its own references, and marinades in the skillet of the map. This city does not give up its flavor all at once.

This description makes the city noir and awful enough without supernatural influences. But I know what they have been. This city is spooky enough on its own without anything superatural. That’s the best setting to attract further evil.

The city has given up hope. It is ideal for anti-heroes; the regular type tend to vanish into its endless concrete corridors without a trace.

foggy city by Anastasia Glebova

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