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.