Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Game Chef 2016: Dead Until Dawn

Alright, here is how it works, so far. I have a bit of a background built and pretty much all the mechanics mapped out. I am fair certain I can be done shortly if I really put my nose to the grindstone, but I know me and I will probably get it in just under the wire. Also what a weird statement, "nose to the grindstone." Who would ever do that. I think I get what they mean, but much like many sayings in use, it just gets odd when you visualize it...or is that just me?

The Premise
It is the future, technology has moved forward, faster than even the brightest could have figured. Innovation is the last bastion of true merit in the world. Most people go through their days at a dead end job to make enough money so that they can buy the newest gadget and zone out for a while. Novelty has become the primary source of amusement among the populous. The earth is clean, the air, the water, all of it. It is cleaner than it has ever been. even the forest have been replanted, but no one goes their. Most folk live in vast cities that climb ever higher every year. If one were to look at it, the world has become a utopia. However this perfection has bred a distance from consequences, joy, or anything real. All that matters is the new stuff, the new ideas, the new feelings. The ruling class like it that way. The executives of the mega corporations and the lifelong politicians all work hard to ensure the people stay in place and enjoy the simple things. Wars are no longer fought over ideals, or land, or even money(if their ever was such a war). Wars are fought over new ideas, new technologies, and the control of public perception. Nothing is sacred anymore, not even the dead.

You are one of the dead bodies, reanimated with nanite pseudo-blood and various other concoctions. Repurposed to fight the petty wars of the spoiled tyrants at the top. You spend your nights fighting these shadow wars and your days dead. Pseudo-blood does not work when the sun is up. If anyone knows why, they aren't telling you.

The Rules
To create your character you must choose a concept for a repurposed vampire corpse. Once you have a name and basic idea pick ten key words from the key words list(or come up with your own, if you have a cool idea), at least one key word must represent your role in the operations, generally speaking their are four types of roles: Heavies deal in direct conflict, Intel deals with information and surveillance, Mountebanks deal with pesky human relationships, and Phantoms deal with physical security.  You may then choose any other set of keywords.

Roles: a bunch of cool names for the various nefarious jobs go here, still working on the list.
Background: Accountant, Architect, Cook, Odd Jobs, Dry Cleaner, Stay At Home Mom/Dad, Management, that sort of thing. Represents the things your body remembers how to do from when you were alive.
Vampiric Key Words: Enhance Sense, Super Strength, Bullet Time, Weird Blood Tricks, Addictive Saliva, Poison Sweat, Involuntary Muscle Control, the sort of thing nanite enhanced dead bodies might have.

Then you need to choose your vice. You vice is a stress track that lets you know how in control you are. Being brought back from the dead has an odd effect on the human brain chemistry, it can lead to extremes of passion or lethargy, and all sorts of other things. Vampires have learned to channel this vice into "spooky action" that allows for impossible things to occur.  The Vices are Greed, Lust, Wrath, Sloth, Gluttony, Pride, and envy.  When you pick that that is your stress relief, the thing that gets you passed all the thing you do in the night. You have a stress track that goes to six. For every two stress you take your flaw increases in strength. What this means is that when it would hinder you or complicate your unlife, the GM can give you a coin in order to have you behave irrationally and selfishly for the scene. If you have already taken stress then you may spend a coin to overcome an obstacle related to the vice without having to flip for it. For each vice I plan to have a specific sort of super power that goes with it. Right now I don't have that.

You get to pick one of the Role Powers that I have not yet built, but will be a thing. Generally what they allow is for you to get more for your coin spends, so I still got some work there. You get eight coins that go in your personal pool, these are used up when you succeed at tasks. You also have three wounds, which are the physical damage you can take before your body's supply of pseudo-blood is used up.

When you encounter an obstacle you can pick a number of coins and flip them. If you get a heads that is a basic success. Sometimes you will need to get more than one heads showing to succeed(mostly this will be when the Alarm Level has increased). If you Flip heads and are also showing tails you get a complication. If you have half or less of the coins showing tails you get a minor complication. If you have over half of the coins showing tails it is a major complication. If you have no heads showing and all tails, run. Run fast. Because the roof just caved in and you are holding the cake, my good lad. On its most basic level, for each coin that comes up tails you need to either mark off an Alarm Level, an hour of the Sunrise Clock, Your Personal Stress, or a Wound.

There are two Tracks that the GM keep track of: The Sunrise Clock, and the Alarm Level. The Sunrise Clock is the amount of time remaining before the rise of the sun and you stop functioning. The Sunrise clock always has eight segments. You got eight hours until dawn. The Alarm Level is how aware of you security is. The number of alarm levels can vary depending on the mission. You want to keep both of those from topping out as if either tops out your characters are hosed. Either dead on the ground due to sunrise, or dead because ED-209 and a hundred of his buddies are coming at you.

The adventures are usually broken down like so:

  1. Choose/Get assignment: You get the goal of the assignment, what you are meant to do in the rival corporation's headquarters or warehouse. Generally this will be a thing that needs stealing or sabotage that needs doing. 
  2. Surveillance: In this you can take turns placing a coins in the group pool. For each coin in the group pool you get to dictate one obstacle or weakness in the system. Each round of this you do reduces the Sunrise clock by an hour. 
  3. Gear Up: You will choose two pieces of gear. What gear allow you to do is spend a coin to circumvent an obstacle without having to flip for it. 
  4. Get in: You need to overcome a certain number of obstacles in order to get in and do that which you were reanimated to do. 
  5. Get out: You need to get out without running out of time or raising the alarm too high.
  6. Get Paid/Get Betrayed: After the op is done you report back in and must pass a few obstacles not to get betrayed by the higher ups. Why do you think they use corpses, you are literally disposable people. 
  7. Fallout: You will then spend a bit laying out the fallout for your actions that night. Perhaps a cure was stolen/destroyed, perhaps you killed the wrong person, perhaps you got seen, maybe you kept a dangerous weapon out of the wrong hands. I need to work on a set of fallout mechanics, as I think that is a very interesting idea. Basically building the world based on what will happen or what might have happened. 
That is what I have for right now, I would love to hear any thoughts on the matter. Some of this I have a better grasp of now that I have seen it in writing, but other parts are still a bit up in the air. 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Game Chef 2016: Initial Thoughts

So the other day I was thinking about the inevitable hyperspace war that is to come, and I realized something. I realized that very few people seem all that worried about the inevitable hyperspace war that is to come and the hordes of Mantid mind controllers that are enabling its coming. I also realized something else. IT GAME CHEF TIME AGAIN! BOOYAH!

So I have taken a break from telling people of the Mantid threat and the inevitable hyperspace war that is to come(though seriously guys, its gonna happen) in order to do some design work for Game Chef. I have a lot of ideas, so lets get to digging.

Theme: Technology
Alright technology can mean a whole lot of things. So I think I might want interleave technology with the rest of the game. I am not sure I can come up with a new method or device to use while gaming so I think I will need to have technology sit as the ever present landscape upon which the game will play out. So I am thinking maybe doing something with VR as a major setting element, or perhaps holodecks, or some such reality thing. I have just always liked the idea that people get trapped in technology as it makes them virtual gods, and the weirdness that happens because of it. But we shall see, this is just the rough brainstorming of ideas.

Maybe you are people with technology attempting to save the world from ignorance. Or perhaps you are all students at mad scientist preparatory school and you need to complete your projects all while trying to get up the nerve to talk to that special someone and live up to your parents unrealistic expectations. Hard to say at this point. Lets see where it goes.

...ooh, here's a thought a beneficent AI collective is fighting the Bad AI AUTHORITY and must enlist the aid of elite agents in this struggle for the very soul of the world...or something.

Ingredients: alarm, dance, sketch, and sunlight
So the ingredient, Alarm, jumps right out at me from the start. I keep thinking security alarms and the like. Also the idea of a clock counting down to some terrible thing(like waking up?) and you must accomplish you task before the alarm reaches that time. So I am thinking Heists, which is good because it also gives me a framework from which to build my game. You play a crew of thieves, or secret agents, or some other clandestine type. you are taking down marks and committing heists. Maybe corporate espionage? Stealing technology for your corp. Like a competent version of Nedry from Jurassic Park. Stealing tomorrows tech, today!

The other ones are bit harder to nail down. For dancing all I can think is, you must commit heists so you can come to the enchantment under the sea dance? Maybe you are committing heists in order to bring two lover together despite the vast chasm that separate them and it all culminates in a dance? Or perhaps this is a Bollywood style heist and you must do everything to a dance number? I guess I can think of very little to deal with dancing just yet.

Sketch is either a rough drawing or a humorous skit. I am really unsure how to implement this...guess I will think on this a bit more?

Sunlight is really quite expansive though my first thought is vampires(and how they are the work of our secret mantid overlords). If I used vampires in this game it would give a nice parallel with Alarm, as you must complete your goal before sunrise. Maybe vampires are genetic super-soldiers built for corporate espionage. Sunlight also leads me to other interesting ideas, solar panels/power, Lions(I had heard that they were created from the sun), Vitamin D, Photic Sneeze Reflex, and space exploration(solar sails).

So right now I am leaning toward technologically created vampires who commit corporate espionage in a near future, and must do so before dawn.

So let us now brainstorm some interesting mechanics. Are you excited? I know I sure am. I would very much like character creation to be pretty simple, yet leave room for some complexity in play. I am leaning toward something like keywords. You have X number of keywords that describe your characters background and competencies. I also really like Keys from Shadows of Yesterday, so I will probably do something like taht for the characters. I am also a fan of not rolling unless the situation is dire, or only rolling when something interesting can happen no matter what. So I think I want the basic difficulty of tasks to be around 50% for basic tasks. I also like dice pools and that tactile feel of empowerment they bring to the game.

Perhaps some sort of resource management and group mechanics...

H'okay, here is the basic idea for the mechanics. You flip coins. Each character has a pool of coins that they can use to complete tasks. You have a list(or paragraph, or whatever, of keywords that describe your competencies. You can choose one coin per competency, and then you flip the coins(or toss them, I like the idea of an I Ching style thing going on here(not sure how to incorporate hexagrams just yet). Heads means you succeed, more head means you succeed better. Tails make things complicated, more tails makes things more complicated.  So it is possible, in this methodology to virtually guaranty success, but get enough complication that it causes even more danger. You can succeed and still botch, so the game will partially be about deciding how much you want to risk versus how much you need to succeed. There will also be a group pool of coins which you can take from and add to. For everyone of your coins you add to the group pool the group pool actually grows by two coins. However anyone can use those coins at any time. I want to do more with this idea, but I am still fiddling around with the basics of the idea.

There will be an alarm meter that runs throughout the game as well as a sunlight meter that counts down to sunrise. For every time something gets too obvious the alarm meter will go up. When it is mixed then the op is blow and you just need to get out of their with your lives intact and hope your employers don't hold a grudge. The sunrise meter ticks down after every every scene, when it hits zero it is sunrise and you are now trapped, or must sleep, or something. You have a choice at each complication of either raising the alarm meter a little bit, lowering the sunrise meter a bit more than you normally would for that scene, or taking ongoing consequences of a more immediate nature(like damage, or getting stressed out and sloppy).

So that is what I have so far, for this year's Game Chef. I would love to hear what you think. This is all just brainstorming at this point, so all of this is subject to change. Anyway, that is enough for now. I have to go deal with this Mantid mind control nonsense before they kick off the inevitable hyperspace war that is to come. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Magi: The Fix Is In...I hope

Earlier today I had this idea. It just sort of came to me today and so I would like to nail it down a bit and suss out the edges. If you want to understand the basics of what I am trying to create you should check out the following posts:
1. The Initial idea
2. Some Further Extrapolation
3. A short breakdown on many core ideas of the setting
4. A further explanation of how magic works in the world
5. A breakdown of the magical skills, I am going to stick with this list for now
There is a lot more to all of this, but those four posts should get you in the ball park if you are completely unfamiliar with this particular project. It has been a while since I last dug into this setting and so I think I am coming at this with the weight of experience on my side. We will see.

Setting Creation & The Node Map
What are the basic setting Premises?
Look outside your window. That is the world. That is the world as we know it and as it has always been, this cycle at least. You see the past can be changed, the present can be changed, and the future can be changed. Everything is malleable, and yet certain things remain constant, even in this solipsistic mess. No matter how hard they try even the most power magus cannot deny the whole of reality. So while the details may change, their are certain things that remain from cycle to cycle.

Terra Mundus - physical realm, the realm of cause and effect. This is the physical stuff of the world, whatever form it may take. This is the realm that seems of prime importance and a great deal of effort is made to control the Physical Nodes of the world. Currently the Rationalists hold a majority of nodes in the world. This doesn't just encompass the earth, but all the celestial spheres and the whole of the observable cosmos as well. Most of the conflicts revolve around the earth as that is where the most people are, so who can say what is out beyond the known?
The Other World -  The spirit realm, a place of gods and ghosts, of abstract ideas given personas and form. It often mirrors Terra Mundus in shape, though the further in you go the stranger it becomes. It is home to many echoes of bygone cycles as well as refugees who lost the various wars of the Magi seeking to gather influence and power in order to take back what is theirs.
The Dreamlands - Realm of the mind and imagination. Everything here is eerily familiar and yet disturbingly alien. The connections between things here is very difficult to follow rationally and all things are connected by only the slimmest of strands. While this is the least concrete of the realms of existence, it is the hardest to change on any meaningful level for any length of time. Beware the Flamingos. For they know the weigh.
Pocket Realms - These are areas segregated from the other three(though connected to them) where the rules work differently than the prevailing paradigm. These are often created by powerful Magi or gods and can be of some danger for the unprepared.

What Are Nodes?
They are places. They are also ideas, concepts, ideal, and spiritual realities. they are fundamental building blocks of reality. They are a city block, and that dream where you go to school naked, and they are Camelot, and green beans. Basically they are Important Things. Things that people believe in. They give the world stability. They are important in their normalcy. So Magi are connected to nodes, yes. However what separates them from the Shadows is their disconnect from their nodes. They see the illusion for what it is.

A node can look like anything, or nothing. It is a notional fixed point in fluid reality. In that it is hard to describe. The important locations in a city could be nodes. As could archetypes within the collective unconscious. Or it could be a pocket dimension, or a series of alternate time lines. wherever there are enough people believing in an idea or enough energy flowing through an area, there will be a node. Nodes are connected to each other, unless they have been cut off through artificial means. The more you control the more control of reality you have, but unless you are in the zone it grants no additional power.
As you can plainly see, I am still less than fully clear on a proper definition of nodes, so if you have any thoughts please let me know in the comments below.

Mapping Nodes
node mapping as the first step of world building/character creation. To do it you will need a big sheet of paper, or a white board, or something where everyone can see and work on it together. Assign at least one node to each player to create. I would like to do nodes a bit like cluster creation in Diaspora. That does mean that I will need to come up with some tables for creating the basics of magical paradigms and the like. I am still noodling around with this, so it is very rough and unfinished, but it needs to be mentioned at the least so that I have it in mind for the rest of the post.

Stationary Nodes - These are the most solid of nodes, they have existed for a long time and are constant.
Transitory Nodes -  these are nodes that are new ideas, new places, or ideas and places that have not really had any impact on the setting as yet.
Mobile Nodes - These are very rare and powerful nodes, for they can be moved, and often move in and of themselves. I am not sure what that look like just yet

Forging Connections - You start out at the beginning of the campaign creating connections as they are created in Diaspora. What the connections mean, though is up to the group. Each node is connected to the other nodes through some sort of relationship or ley line. Ley lines are the easiest, as they are simply magical rivers that flow from node to node. However these ley lines are present in the subconscious of the people in the world. This means that they will over time come to associate the connected nodes as related in some way. This connection could be physical or metaphorical. Physical connections are just that, these buildings are connected in some way, perhaps they are on the same road or river, or perhaps they share some mystic resonance. Metaphorical connections are when similar things happen in both nodes, or similar emotions are evoked, or something. As I said I am not quite sure how this works just yet, but I know I am getting closer. I would love any thoughts on how this might better work.
Breaking Connections - During play it is possible, even likely, that the players or their antagonists will break the connections between nodes, or create new ones to new nodes. This is a big deal and represents a serious shift in the nature of local reality. Again I am still playing around with how best to do this.
Taking Over a Node - this is the big one. Taking over a node should take a lot of work as it represents changing a fundamental truth about an Important Thing and remaking the world in your image, however small the node may be. It could be the focus of a whole campaign to take over a node.

What is a cycle?
Because there are very few constants in reality, the Magi do not measure things by time or location. Time is fluid, it exists or it doesn't, the Magi remember things by Cycles. A cycle is when the world changes significantly, like the eight dimensional construct cycle, or the cycle of the inverted stair. When a majority of the nodes are converted to a certain worldview, then that becomes the new cycle. In some campaigns the previous or future cycles might be used fairly heavily, some players may with to play refugees from a future or previous cycle trying to retake the world from those who usurped them, or came before them. Man, time travel makes things a little funny when it comes to causality. If this is going to be a theme, talk it over with your players and help them build the world that was or will be.
Magical Paradigm Creation
Your paradigm/worldview/magical belief structure is treated as a character of its own with a couple of aspects, a few skill ratings(of the magical skills), maybe a stunt or two, and a stress track(no consequences).  If the paradigm takes stress anyone playing a character following that paradigm may choose to take consequences instead, as the paradigm has no consequences naturally. This paradigm is created by the group(most of the time, unless you are playing a pvp game then it gets weird as everyone has competing paradigms. But lets not get into pvp just yet, yeah?

A magical paradigm has as many starting aspects as there are players following it(we will assume that is all the players for now).  These aspects are called tenets. Each is a statement that explains the nature of reality or the methodologies that people use to alter reality. As I have not tested this(it just came to me today) I cannot say how well this will work, and the nature of these aspects will probably change a couple of times as I continue to build this hack. Bear with me.

The players then get to assign priority to the magical skills of the Magical paradigm(man I need to come up with a better name for this, it just sounds so stiff and formal when you say it over and over again). The group gets one skill at +4(Great), one at +3(Good), one at +2(fair), and one at +1(Average). The  rest of the seven skills are at zero.

At this point the players may select to sacrifice one or more of their character's personal stunts for magical stunts that attach to the magical paradigm. Also at this time record your paradigm's stress which starts at 4, though I am working on ways to alter that.

Example Magical Paradigm
Technocrats of Quard
Tenet: The Universe Is Objective
Tenet: Everything Is Explicable
Tenet: Technology Is A Force For Change
Skills: Matter +4, Forces +3, Elan Vital +2, Psyche +1
Stress: [] [] [] []

Character Creation
Character Creation then follows, though it is a bit different from your standard Fate Core character creation. Your character is three aspects, three skills(rated from one to three, or something)(entropy, stasis, creation), two stunts, and some consequences. Nothing else.

First you pick your characters Inciting Incident, this aspect is all about what set you on your current path. For a new magus just awakened to the world of magic and all this might be the event that led you to take up magic. For those magi who are further along the path of enlightenment it could be any event, so long as it led your character to this area and this current goal. Speaking of goals, your next aspect will be your Current Desire. This is the current short term goal you have set for yourself. When you attain this goal you will trigger(at the very least) a minor milestone. Try and set this aspect as something that will be relevant in the next session or two, that way you will always be moving forward and changing and growing. Finally choose your Hubris. This is the aspect that gets in your way. The part of you that sabotages your path, and yet you can never quite seem to get rid of it.

Following the aspect creation you must choose your magical strength in each of the mystic pillars, Entropy, Creation, and Stasis. You get one at +3(Good), one at +2(Fair), and one at +1(Average). when you are in a magical situation you will roll the fate dice and add in the relevant pillar from your character and the relevant skill from your magical paradigm. I may adjust the numbers as I go along if the current method leads to odd results, I will need to look into it as this goes forward.

You also should record your stress(which is two) and your consequences. There are two types of consequences, normal and discord consequences. When you are in a tight spot and need to really bring the magical major to the party you may choose to forgo the normal trappings of your magic and just cut loose. In a an area influenced by a sympathetic node(one that works with your magical paradigm, you may add the stress taken as a bonus(the stress that the consequence would have absorbed) to a given magical roll. If you are in an area dominated by an antagonistic paradigm(this will be pretty common in early game) you do not gain the bonus, but you can choose to automatically succeed at an overt magical action without having to roll(or after a roll if you failed).

This leads me into an idea I have only the vaguest inkling of. Basically in nodes dominated by your paradigm you will have one set of difficulties, one one friendly to your paradigm you will have another, and in ones antagonistic to it you will have another set all together. These numbers will be affected by how much ritual and prep you do as well as some other things, I am sure. Like I said this is just the bare bones of the idea, in the very lightest of terms as I am still trying to work out how all of that stuff will work.

When you reach significant or major milestones you can choose to upgrade your magus or your magical paradigm's influence. You can only get those milestones when you break a node connection, forge a new connection, or take a node(which would definitely be a Major Milestone, good job).

Also I think that certain things are very hard to change. Physical nodes are easy to take and control as they are believed in in a very simple and poorly defined way, anyone can own or hold a specific territory, that is understood. It when you get into the odd stuff that you need to do really strange things. Breaking the boundaries between the mind realms and the physical realms or the barrier between the spirit and the physical, or tearing apart the notion of causality is a very different sort of thing. As I have said before, right now how some of the node stuff works, in detail, is up in the air a little bit. I am still working on how some of this works. If you have questions please ask, sometimes I don't even have something nailed down until I need to explain it to someone else.  Please let me know what you think.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Half Damned

There are those who are born without a full soul. No one is quite certain why, but at birth they are missing some key ingredient. The world distrusts these half damned children, and to some entities they represent a chance to engage with the physical world to do and feel all the things denied them as beings of spirit. soon after birth these entities seek to inhabit the empty half of the child's soul. they offer power and ability, though should the child accept they are one step closer to damnation and the loss of agency.With every choice they are one step closer to a stranger world.

Half Damned: A person born with less than a full allotment of Anima, the stuff from which the soul is made. They are called this because of their tendency to draw the attention of corrupt spirits and become dangerous and powerful.
Rider: When a spirit places itself within the body of a half damned it is known as a rider.
Spirit: Immaterial creatures with a great deal of power, but very little ability to use it. Should they manifest through a half damned they can exert a vast array of power in the physical world.
Occupation: When it is said a half damned is occupied it means that a spirit(or spirits, theoretically) is riding the half damned.

The Nature of Spiritual Entities
Spiritual entities are elemental in nature. Fire, Water, Air, Earth, and Aether each have their own court of spiritual entities. As you the spirit takes more control, the body of the half damned host begins to align itself more with the elemental nature of the spiritual rider. This has led to the rise of magical races of man: Undines(water), Jinn(fire), Cthon(earth), Harpies(wind), and Daemons(aether).

Undines: When a pure spirit they are spirits of emotion and artistic muse. When they manifest through a half damned they become secretive creatures of obsession and desire.
Jinn: When a mere spirit they are innovation and willpower. When inhabiting a mortal form they become singularly focused on social systems and analyses to the point of paranoia.
Cthon: In the spirit they are growth and endurance. When they occupy a person they become secretive and stubborn. They view no life as valuable, save for their own.
Harpies: When in the spirit they are protectors and healers. Occupying a mortal frame they become greedy and gluttonous beyond all reason. They are called the snatchers, for they will take from you until it hurts.
Daemons: Spirits of intellect and reason, when they inhabit a mortal frame they become tainted with desire and emotion. They will twist the truth into lies and break oaths almost as a rule.

Character Creation
Your character is created as normal for Fate Core with one exception. Replace the last aspect of the Phase Trio with your Rider aspect. Your Rider aspect represents the core desire of your spirit rider. This aspect is created by the person on your left and acts as a second trouble aspect.

You have a corruption consequence track of three consequences, whenever you need it you can tap into it and gain a corruption consequence and also a power bonus. The first time you gain a bonus point of refresh, the second you gain two refresh, and the third you gain three. Each consequence requires two fate points to refuse the compel(rather than the normal one).  Your corruption fate points need to look different from your normal fate points, or have some other way of keeping track of them.

Example consequences
There are three consequences you can take when taking corruption: Delirium, Stigma, and Blight.
Delirium: This represents a mental consequence. It is giving in to the desires of your Rider and manifesting emotional and intellectual traits that are not your own.
Stigma: By channeling the energies of the spirit world your physical form begins to alter in obvious and disturbing ways, whether it be through skin tone, restructuring of the body into a more alien form, or even stranger. When you are exhibiting Stigma, you cannot pretend to be normal.  
Blight: When you are manifesting Blight the world around you cannot abide your presence. Whether it is through waves of heat, ice, moisture, desiccation, strong emotion, or whatever else this consequence is the most disturbing. It makes it impossible to hide, and fills the world with more pain. Only other half damned can avoid the damage of your Blight.

Recovering corruption
Recovering from corruption consequences requires a lot of work. All of them are treated as severe consequences for the purposes of recovery. Once the requisite time has gone bye you must take specific action related to your desire to rid yourself of your rider.  When you recover you lose the bonuses along with the consequence.

Corrupted stunts
Once you have a consequence you can gain corrupted stunts. Corrupted stunts only work when you have an appropriate corruption consequence. When you have a corruption stunt you can invoke your corruption aspect to instantly succeed with style at a task, no roll required. You can even use it to succeed with skills that would normally require special knowledge or equipment. It will let you shoot someone even if you don't have a gun, or perform surgery drunk with no skills.

Let me know what you think.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Final Legion

In a far future much remains the same and much has changed. While technology and understanding has grown, our greed and shortsightedness remain the same. So it was that the Last War began. Some called it the world war three while others simply called it the last. For surely mankind would destroy itself now. It was a war fought sideways, no massed armies or great battles. Just small units of soldiers with weapons too powerful to control hitting targets with precision and speed. It was the end.

Until the Legion arrived. Heroes born, they used their technology and tactics to quell the violence and stop the war. At the time no one knew from where they came, or why they did what they did. Some claim that it was all conspiracy to take over the world. When the war ended, they stepped aside and let peace makers do what they would to save the world.

And now, thanks to the efforts of those brave beings, we have a lasting peace. Not built on false promises and weak compromise, but a peace built by those who had witnessed the horrors of a world gone mad. Peace, now and forever.

As to the Legionnaires? Some have gone back into peace time, working normal jobs and living normal lives. Some vanished at the end of the war. And some...some have turned their talents to mercenary work, and worse. There are still those who will pay to have violence done, and those who see themselves as above the law. The brave men and women of the Science Police work day and night to bring these rogue offenders to justice. Rest assured the peace will be maintained.

OK, so what is this?
This is a game of super-heroics in a world that no longer needs heroes. A game of hope and courage. A game of power and consequences. You play as former members of the Final Legion. It was formed by like minded individuals with unique power, skills, technology, or perspective. They banded together for one simple purpose, to end the Last War. They succeeded. The war has been over for 18 years and the world knows peace an prosperity. However, some soldiers cannot leave the war behind, and some evils cannot be removed so easily. There are those in the world who seek anarchy and the reign of the strong. Some were your old comrades in the legion, some were soldiers of one of the former powers, and some are new to this world and to their power. You play members of the Legion who could have put down their weapons(and perhaps they did), but when they saw how ill prepared the world was for threats of this magnitude, you suited up once more. The people have all but forgotten you as anything but comic book stories, when they see you in action they fear your power. Yet they need you. Who else is there? The Science Police are either too weak or too corrupt to do anything about anything. The Council of Harmony has no army. All that stands between the helpless and the tyrants is you.

The Rules
You make your characters as normal for Fate Core. You have access to a number of Extras, should you want them. Otherwise the game operates as normal.

You have made breakthroughs in physics and engineering so far beyond normal science that it often looks like magic to the layman. With Zero Point Energy(or advanced Nano-robotics, or whatever breakthrough makes sense) you can do things normally outside the bounds of possibility. You have constructed wonderful gadgets that allow you to stand up to tanks, mechs, and even greater threats. Perhaps you have built a super suit, an acceleration harness, or something really out there. On the field you use your pluck and ingenuity along side your super weapons to win the day. You have access to the Gadgets and Gear rules from the Fate System Toolkit. Keep in mind that the GM can compel cause you to lose your weapons, or have the power go out. It has been a long time since the war, and the money is not as good as it used to be.

Much like a tech you are enhanced by the technology you use. However, you do not just use it, you are it. You have augmented yourself beyond any limitations your flesh may have had. Having once been a creature of flesh, weak and small, you are aware of how frightened and alone everyone really is. Other Augs may use their enhancements as a way to separate themselves from mankind, but you see it as a a way to protect and nurture all the diverse and needy people in the world. There is more than one way to perfection, and there is more than one kind of strength, You use the rules for Cybernetics from the Fate System Toolkit. You may be compelled when you must face a dilemma between doing what is practical and helping someone in need.

Ultras & Uplifts
You are the next step in evolution, whether a genetically modified human or an uplifted animal. During the Last War their were a great many experiments in super soldiers and eugenics. You represent one of the few who came out of those programs sane and a success. You have seen the worst that world has to offer, viewed as a piece of property rather than a thinking person with feelings and dreams. You didn't let it get you down though, you sought to prove hem wrong. In the Legion you found what you had always longed for, family.

Now that the legion is disbanded, many of your fellow ultras and Uplifts have become disillusioned and bitter, but not you. If you want a better world, go out and make it. There is even an uplift on the Council of Harmony. Things are getting better every day. That doesn't mean that folks don't need help, though. Good isn't perfect and we are a long way from good enough. But hate is not the answer. When you make an Uplift or an Ultra you may use either the super skills or super stunts presented in the Fate System Toolkit, though you must reduce your starting refresh by one to use one or the other. You must also reference your genetic modification in your high concept. This can be compelled to put you in situations where people treat you as less than human.

Current Issues
Choose one of the following issues, or make up one of your own, to be the central issue of the first campaign arc.

Shadows of the War: Some soldiers could not leave the war behind. Even some of the Legion had trouble adapting to civilian life. A persuasive veteran has been gathering a group together to bring about some evil end.

  • Preacher: He is ex Legion, he should know better. Preacher is a Tech with a gift for oratory. He has gathered up a powerful group of ex-Legionnaires and soldiers and has begun a series of high tech heists. No one has yet figured what his end goals are and what he needs all that technology for. 
War in the Genetic Ghetto: Ultras and Uplifts are rare. Most people go their whole lives without meeting one. That said, there are still enough of them to concern baseline folk. After the war, they were declared persons, and given their freedom, but no one wants to work with one. Add in the large percentage of Ultras and Uplifts with mental issues(either from genetic tampering or PTSD), and the genetic ghetto was an inevitability. Now a gang is moving into the ghetto and pushing folks around. It is only a matter of time until someone snaps and bodies start hitting the ground.

  • Victor Flash: Leader of a large color gang in the character's city, he has recently come into possession of a lot of cutting edge technology and is using it to expand his territory.
  • Dr. Verhooven: he works for the R&D division of the Science Police and decided that he was going to do something about the Ghetto. To him it is a blot on the perfect harmony of the post war world. Do his superiors know of his indiscretion? The cops have been conspicuously absent for many of the worst crimes.

Pending Issues
Pick, or make up, a couple of the pending issues.

Why Would They Store That There?!: The Final Legion Museum houses many wonderful exhibits and displays. From the Hall of Holograms to the Sentinel's Vigil thousands of people thrill to their stories and pause in remembrance of the horrors of war. However it also houses many artifacts and devices that were actually used by the Legion or by their foes. Unknown to most, some of those weapons still work. there are people, powerful people, who would pay any amount to get hold of the power that the Final Legion once held.

The Knight has Fallen: Paladin, the former field leader of the Legion has gone missing. Upon further investigation many former Legion members have gone missing in the last few months. Is there some sort of killer on the loose, or perhaps a revenge squad of some sort? It is a race against the clock as  the players try and figure out who is after the Legion, and what they want.

Wheels Within Wheels: The Grand Architect was the First Legionnaire. It was he who brought those first together and formed them into a team. Throughout the War he defined courage and the ideals of freedom and peace. When the war ended, of course he was invited to sit on the council. And sit he has, for 18 years. It is odd, how he downplays the legion and pushes for more government control. Has he become corrupt? What could you do, even if he had?

Rogue States: There are those places where the new peace was not accepted, where barbarity and hate are still the paths to power. All in all they have little authority or ability to make themselves more than a nuisance. Together these are known as the rogue states. Ruled over by warlords and tin-pot dictators clinging to their technology salvaged from the end of the War, these places are havens for the mercenaries and criminals of the world. Should anyone unite these Rogue states, well that would be a different story all together.

Inspirations: Legion Of Superheroes(I love the Legion, and so I had to take stuff from them, science police and the name of the Final Legion are the primary examples), The Giver(mostly for the utopia that is secretly a distopia, play those buts up and the game goes in really dark directions), Buck Rogers(More things should have Buck and Wilma), Tom Strong, Atomic Robo, Overwatch(the video was what inspired me to write this), The Incredibles(I really like that movie, and it was present in my mind throughout all of this post)

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Coded in the Blood

The idea: Corporations have been scrambling to unlock the secrets of the gene since the discovery of DNA. With little to no oversight much is learned and many shortcuts are taken. Genetics is the secret to controlling the future and making all the money. The first dinosaur was cloned in 1984, and by the nineties nearly anything was possible. Now corporations use genetic hybrid soldiers and spies to fight their secret wars and wars of secrets. This is Burn Notice, but with the TMNT.

Inspirations: TMNT, Jurassic Park, Secret of NIMH, Burn Notice, The Moreau Series, Dark Angel

Creating Characters
Creating characters for this hack is a bit different than in standard Fate Core. The aspects have been changed a bit and the  skills have been replaced with Roles, which I will go into a bit when we get there. Also there will be a couple of options for what you can do for stunts and extras, and we will dive into those at the appropriate time.

Concept: This aspect represents your basic personality and how people view you. Some sample archetypes you can build from are: Hero(Courage and Competence), Caregiver(Compassion and Generosity), Explorer(True to Self and Going Your Own Way), Creator(Creativity and imagination), Fool(improvisation and happiness). If you are having trouble come up with an archetype aspect use those examples as a basis for constructing your aspect. Combine your basic personality with your role in the team. Some sample roles include: Wheel Man, Hitter, Hacker, Face Man, Mastermind, Spymaster, Cleaner, Mechanic. Don't feel limited to those examples, if you have a better idea, by all means, go for it. Juts bear in mind that your characters are meant to be part of an elite infiltration and espionage team.
Genotype: You were born in a test tube, a hybrid of human and animal DNA, property of a corporation and trained to do the bidding of your corporate masters. This aspect represents the species of creature that you are, or that half of you are. You could also play a human member of the team, if you think that the corporation would not send expensive and difficult to replace assets into the field unsupervised.
Trouble: This is standard trouble as seen in Fate Core. What gets in the way of your character's goals. Try not to take a trouble relating to being hunted by the corporation if you intend to run through the campaign framework I lay out in this post, as that will be a central premise of the game.
2 Bonds: Bonds are aspects that link you to the other players' characters or non-player characters. Talk it over with your table and come up with some good links with the rest of the group or the setting.

Roles in the Field
Roles operate more like skills than like approaches, in that they are competence based, to a degree. However they are a little more open ended than professions, and so kind of fit into the area between professions and approaches. You describe how you are doing a thing through the lens of your spy training. Currently the Roles are rough and maybe described less than perfect. If I decide to do a bigger work up of this setting I will definitely rework these to be a bit more precise. I have a real urge to do these as free form skills. So if you want to try that out, please let me know how that goes. As it stands, if it makes sense to use a role in a given situation, they can use it. When making your character you get one role at +3(good), two at +2(Fair), and three at +1(Average).

Wetwork: Spilling blood, assassination, murder, any type of fighting and the like. Can also be used for intimidation, but only if you are really willing to harm or kill the person you are intimidating. Used primarily for attack and defense.
Surveillance: monitoring of the behavior, activities, or other changing information, usually of people for the purpose of influencing, managing, directing, or protecting them. Use of electronic devices and direct observation. Generally used for overcome and create advantage.
Social Engineering: psychological manipulation of people into performing actions or divulging confidential information. This is your go to role for manipulating and getting along with people. This is used for create advantage and overcome actions.
Black Bag: Breaking and entering(clandestine). This covers physical stealth as well as lock picking, picking pockets, and getting around security or observation. Overcome and create advantage, though it could be used for defense in the right circumstances.
Intelligence Collection Management: Dealing with the logistical and tactical concerns of an operation. Lore skill,basically, but with added perception and movement stuff. Basically this skill covers understanding what is going on around you and making the most of that knowledge. Usually used for overcome or create advantage actions.
Counterintelligence: information gathered and activities conducted to protect against espionage, other intelligence activities, sabotage, or assassinations conducted for or on behalf of foreign powers, organizations or persons or international terrorist activities. This is used for create advantage, overcome, and defense actions.

Stunts & Gear
There are two ways of doing stunts and gear for this setting. The first is to use standard Stunts from Fate Accelerated and create advantage rolls to represent the unique abilities and specialized gear. The other way of doing it, and my preferred method, is using the asset system from Jadepunk. I would just expand techniques to be able to handle any weird powers and animal hybrid might need and remove the requirement for jade in devices.

Once per session each player may have a Flashback. The flashback must in someway relate to the current situation. Have the player give a brief description of what it is and how it relates to the scene. After the description have the player create a relevant aspect. They gain a free invoke on that aspect. Also the player should make a note

The Company
GTRI(Genetic Technologies Research Institute)
Founded in 1981 by Malcolm Hammond-Grant with the dream of creating dinosaurs, GTRI made great headway in the early days when no laws existed to deal with what they were doing. The cloned their first dinosaur in 1984 and founded Mesozoic Land in 1989, allowing the paying public to see dinosaurs, alive and thriving, for the first time ever. By 1994 GTRI had moved far beyond merely cloning to direct manipulation and hybridization. by the end of the 90s it and its chief rivals(SynGen, Neurological Innovations, and Weyland-Yutani) had many hybrids ready for full production. The American Government had used small squads in the late 90s in the War on Drugs. However it was the War on Terror was a great boon to these countries, as powerful deniable soldiers were seen as a necessary evil to win out against the current foe.  Now, 14 years later every government wants Hybrid Soldiers to fight in their clandestine wars. Businesses and Power Players also utilize these assets in their games of international commerce. No one has yet successfully bid for these Hybrids to be viewed as Sapient life. There have been a surprising number of unexplained deaths involving those who push for it though.

Important NPCs
The Company Liaison
Name: Dirk Gunschotte
Aspects: Inveterate Schemer; These Creatures Are My Way To The Top; Profit Above All
Skills: The Corporate Game +3, Company Secrets +2, Tradecraft and Survival +1

The Doctor
Name: Marina Navarre
Aspects: Top of My Class; I Must See To Their Health; Sometimes I Have Second Thoughts
Skills: Master of Medicine +3, Psychology +2, Running Away and Smoothing The Way +1

The Technician
Name: Malinda Jones
Aspects: Cutting Edge Engineer; Machines Over People; Gunschotte is Bad News
Skills: Practical Engineering +3; Research and Development +2; Investigation and Countermeasures +1

Internal Security Squad
Aspects: Follow Orders
Skills: Run and Gun +2; Silence and Service +1

The Campaign Breakdown
This is just a very basic frame work to showcase how this sort of campaign might go. I would recommend using some of the tools for world building from some previous Fate games. City Building from Dresden Files would work the best, I think, as it would fit the concept of Burned Hybrid Spies who are hunted by the company and must make the most of the connections they can find.

Intro Scene
The PCs return from a mission to be debriefed. Take a moment and have the players describe a great moment their character had in the previous mission. The mission was successful and they arrive at the safe house unharmed. The safe-house is in a nondescript warehouse along the river, lake, or other natural boundary. When they arrive, have the debriefing start, but let the players know that their characters are aware that something is off. There are far too many soldiers/guards hanging around. As the debriefing gets under way, feel free to emphasize an ominous and oppressive atmosphere. As the scene goes forward Dirk will ask the players to give themselves up for destruction. He will tell them he knows what they have been up to. Make sure the players are aware that their characters do not know what they are accused of. Then the fight will probably start and players being players, they will probably escape.

The rest of the campaign will focus on escaping, finding out what it is they are accused of, and trying to get back at those that framed them. This could lead into all sorts of interesting places and to any number of interesting people. There could be a Mutant Underground in the city led by a radical leader seeking to violently end the repression and slavery of his people. A network of criminal gangs all being led by a dangerous and unpredictable mob boss. They could make friends or enemies with reporters, police detectives, corporate execs, and any number of interesting people. Keep in mind the mood of paranoia and competence. Let the characters be awesome, but also let them know that there are bigger fish in the sea.

So what do you think? I would love to hear any critiques, comments, or criticisms. Also if you use this to run a game, let me know how it goes.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Expanding The Understood Fate Paradigm

Earlier today +Anders Melsom expressed concern about Fate as an RPG, I will quote the relevant bits here, if you wish to see the full text here it is.
A game with the mechanics of Fate seems perfectly able to deal with faces and places from both real world history, contemporary themes and "High Literature". So why will we probably never see “Fate-Ibsen”, “Don Quixote Accelerated” or “In Search of Lost Time RPG"? You have to respect the least common denominators of our culture, some people would say, stick to the tropes. If you mention "Star Wars", “Harry Potter”, “Conan" or about any american tv-show, everybody gets it.

Is this an issue at all? Are all deviations from the norms of genre fiction doomed to be overly pretentious or just plainly boring? Does it smell of edutainment? Is playing "boyishly" all we really yearn for, staying in touch with the child within every man? Are Rpg's, Fate included, best left to deal with the debris of popular culture?

This led to quite a bit of spirited discussion, and got me thinking. Why is it that Genre and Popular Fiction dominates the RPG sphere. I think this is due to a few key things. First and foremost, the first RPGs were written by fans of science fiction and fantasy. In fact one could argue that RPGs had a direct involvement in the popularizing of certain tropes and subgenres(Cthulu Mythos, the Tolkien tropes, and certain kinds of science fiction). Basically early RPGs were designed and marketed by fans of genre fiction for fans of genre fiction. When stuff came along later, it fell into similar lines of thought, partially because it was accepted as the paradigm and partially because the only people designing RPGs were also fans of the tropes and genres that spawned RPGs in the first place.

The second thing driving this push toward genre is that Literary Fiction is difficult to construct into a game. Not impossible, mind you, just tricky.The introspection, slower pace, and lack of clear motivating goals all run counter to normal game design. In game design you spend a lot of time focusing on objective goals, tactics, logistics, and other external factors. Remember game design covers sports, tabletop games, and video games. All of which excel at direct feedback and objective thought. Games are skill based, to a variable extent. These things, in my opinion, run counter to a direct translation of the tropes of literary fiction. If you are going to design a game to do the tropes of literary fiction yo would need to bring the rules in obliquely, or add a layer of remove for the player. Again I am not saying that these things cannot be done, but they are things that can get in the way of trying to do this sort of game. Genre settings tend to have built in external conflicts and challenges, it is much easier to model a laser fight in a game than it is to model a man at war with himself, or making a great discovery about his own beliefs during his turbulent childhood.

The third reason for the disconnect is that literary fiction tends to focus on the individual and what the individual believes or feels. Now much genre fiction focuses on a single protagonist, its true. However if you look through it, the focus on external problems allows for fairly simple adjustment to multiple protagonists. Either you break up the problem into multiple parts or you multiply the problems. Again go back to the founding of RPGs. Dungeons & Dragons was based, in part, on Tolkien's fantasy works(The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings). In those works you had groups of protagonists adventuring to solve a big problem. The tropes needed for the game were already waiting within the genre that first appeared. Also look to Traveller, which had the crew of a spaceship, the multiplicity of protagonists was already part of the setup. Then take your average piece of literary fiction, and the problem manifests itself. How do you make a single character into many when the problems are so personal? Again, I am not saying this is insurmountable, but it probably adds to the reasons why folks don't make more of these.

The final reason I can think of for why literary fiction style games are less prevalent that popular fiction style games is simple economics. If you are a game designer and you want you game to reach the maximum number of players you will design the game to appeal to as many people as possible. Popular fiction, which is often genre fiction, tends to be more popular than literary fiction. Literary fiction often gets great acclaim and prestige by the critics and the hoi olligoi, but tend to do poorly in sales. Heck, there are reasons why they have to force children to read them in high school. Literary fiction is not popular and thus has a smaller group who would be interested in it. Thus those games that do fit into this category either have a small audience or must mask the nature of the game beneath a pop culture veneer.

So we come to Fate. Fate really could do literary fiction. With its focus on characters and the personality and beliefs of those characters, it seems like a perfect fit. Yet here we stand with very little show for it. Mostly we get interesting mash ups that would fit into the pulp style adventure fiction, or modern genre fiction. I think there is room for development in this direction and I think Evil Hat has already given us a blue print for a possible direction. No Exit, and adventure written for Worlds in Shadow, is a fascinating look into magical realism and dealing with real world issues. It is set as a horror piece, but not the standard slasher fare. This is a game that asks you to look into your character and what motivates that character. It places you in hell, but not fire and brimstone. This is a subtle damnation of your own making. The best part is that it does all of this without altering the core mechanics of Fate very much. It's like Dante's Inferno through the lens of House of Leaves. While it is the only piece in Fate, that I am aware of, that might fit into the literary motif, it is certainly a stellar beginning. If you wanted to make a literary Fate game, I see no real impediment to it, other than talent and desire to create it. But those exist as impediments to any creative endeavor.

All that said, there has been a major upswing in the indie game world and thus a lot of really fascinating games have come out that I think would fit into this sphere.

  • Grey Ranks: It is a fantastically dark game about a real event and real people. If you haven't checked it out, do so. 
  • Wraith: The Oblivion: Remember when I spoke of hiding deeply literary works under the veneer of genre. I was talking about this game(and a couple others that I will get to). While I always enjoyed White Wolf games, this is the one I disliked playing but loved reading. It is super depressing and fascinating, with genius mechanics that really reinforce the introspective nature and make the rest of the group involved in that introspection. Again, if you don't have a copy get one. Oh look they had a kickstarter for a new edition...I feel like it will be awesome.
  • Smallville: I know, right! I know. It is a super hero game, and it is also a TV show game, what the hell is it doing here? Well hold your horses and I will explain. Sheesh! I put this here because the mechanics could very easily be modified for a wonderful game of people interacting, making poor choices, and either learning from their mistakes or failing to. +Cam Banks designed a real firecracker of a conflict engine here, and I think that with a bit of work it would do a phenomenal job at doing exactly what was asked. 
  • Everyone is John: I have not read or played this game, but it did inspire me to write Whispers in the Dark. How you ask? Well I had heard the basic premise and the ideas for how it worked just tickled me. From what I understand this game would do a fine job of handling the desired game style. 
  • Pendragon: Oh man, seriously. Just get this game. Right now. Seriously. It was so ahead of the curve that it is still ahead of the curve. Greg Stafford is both the Akira Kurosawa and the Stanley Kubrick of Roleplaying games. And no, I have no idea what that means. Other than it means that this is a gaming masterpiece that focuses on family and emotions in a way that is ludicrously beautiful. It uses the legends of Arthur and his knights to tell deeply personal stories and also to tell stories about time and the nature of glory and honor. I am not doing it justice. Just go read it, then go play it. You'll see what I am saying. 
There are probably loads more that I am unaware of or that I forgot in the haze of writing this post. If you can think of any, put in in the comments. It will be a like a game. A game about games. It will be a metagame, our Metagame. Heh.