Thursday, August 29, 2013

Design Vlog 2: Big Changes

First, if you haven't already, check out Jadepunk. If you like what you see, go ahead and back us. Go ahead! I won't get in your way.

So in this Vlog, I talk about what is going on with the project. I have gotten the revisions back on my GM section, hoping to be done with that by next week sometime. I have also seen the proofs for teh playmat. it is really nice looking. also we made some major changes to the setting, stemming from backer feedback. Without further ado, here is the vlog:

Monday, August 26, 2013

Jadepunk Design Vlog: Episode 1

While I am working on Jadepunk, I thought it might be interesting to you all if I recorded some of my thoughts and such on the process of designing a game. these will be short, five to ten minute, reviews of what is new with me that day with regards to Jadepunk. I hope you enjoy and find it useful.

Episode 1: International GM of Mystery

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Shadow Legion: Pirates of Antares

+Frank Falkenberg +Ron Frazier +Brian Boring and I got together to play a game of Fate Core, Shadow Legion style. after a brief, and roughly accurate, discussion of the Lensman Series we got into the meat of the session. Speaking of meat and related viscera, The episode starts with a cameo from my favorite NPC, Dr. Fiallagoo MD. Then our heroes begin the dangerous job of being prime bait for pirates. As soon as the pirates show up, Gamesman Alric begins to plot and scheme, as he does. The crew fakes up some battle damage and the pirates move in for a boarding action.

When the pirates board, Alric leads them into a wicked trap set up by G'Lex and Kevik. The firefight is complicated by the pirates not going down quickly. The fight ends up being a bloody affair, but Frank said my favorite line so far, "Now Killing Squad, kill them all!" Our heroes win the day(despite my phenomenal dice rolls) and manage to take over the pirate ship, gaining the location of the High Tortuga. Kevik is horribly wounded and the rest of the crew are not in the best condition either.To get in good with the pirates the characters decide to become pirates. Next episode, they are pirates...

+Sharif Abed was unable to join the game this week, as he was away in Palestine. This is a pretty big issue in a game of Fate. In Fate everyone is connected together relatively tightly so when one of your players is missing there is a rather large hole in the storyline. I was lucky, though. We were just starting a new plot line, a whole new major milestone really. If this were a TV show, this would be the second episode of the second season. So I was able to claim that Ginko was away learning new techniques for fighting the Sukar.

Also I was completely exhausted when I ran this. I had not been sleeping well, and it was very difficult to keep my attention on the game. So in some of these scenes it may seem like I am distracted or unfocused. This is the lack of sleep. My advice, get a good night's sleep at least once during the week leading up to the game. I am not certain how useful this advice would be

We had a ruling situation during the the fight with the pirates on board their ship. I did what I tend to always do, is to pause the game for a moment and look up the rule directly. I know there are a lot of GMs who would just make something up and keep the narrative flowing, but I have found that the game flows far better for me if I do it this way, long term. I will be playing Fate for a while into the future, and if I make up a solution there is the possibility that I will not look it up later. This can happen if I forget about the situation, or if I just get lazy. If that happens there is a rules drift that occurs, where I would be playing a game that had the trappings of Fate, but would not be Fate.

Question of the day: Why do the Gura'oh have massive fleets if they have never had a major war? 
I was out walking when I realized that this question has never been answered in the fiction I have written about the Gura'oh. Not that I have written all that much about them, but it is interesting that a group of bankers who have never fought a major conflict would have the largest fleet in all of Charter space. As a fan of the Saga of Seven Suns and Andromeda I think I will make the reason an ancient enemy, kind a mix of Magog and Hydrogues. I am currently calling them the Sun Chainers.

New Species
Sun Chainers: The scourge of the universe. Locusts that worship entropy. They have immense technology and devour whole solar systems. They have chained suns as the engines for their system ships. Whole systems of planets bound together around a sun traveling slowly from galaxy to galaxy devouring all in their path. They darken the skies in the service of oblivion.

Tergaul: a race that believe that they are superior to all other species. They alone speak the divine language. They alone are truly sentient. they see other species as tools and pets, sub-beings at the very best. They never joined the Charter. Most of the Tergaul known are the exiles from their people. These exiles often become Pirates or Slavers. They adhere strictly to the trappings of civilization, but have the souls of monsters.

Friday, August 23, 2013

FATEsy Heartbreaker: Monsters and Treasure Part 9

As Perioru marshaled his forces to fight for the freedom of Humanity, Irul drew her forces in to face this new threat. She crafted great weapons, terrible in power, unimaginable in their longevity. Though she lost the war her creations still terrorize the land. Called Trul(Endless) in the language of the First Men, these abominations formed the bulk of the armies of darkness. Born of Darkness, cold, and Slavery only the cleansing light of the sun could weaken them, only purifying fire could kill them.

While they were defeated in the war many bands of Trolls still exist. Fighting a war they lost eons ago. Unable to change. Unable to learn. They fight for a fallen cause because they were built to fight for it. They live to fight. They fight to live. From the lowborn Viitrul(river trolls) to the highborn Irog Trul(great trolls), they seek to rekindle the First War. They are a plague upon all peoples.

Often called river trolls, bridge trolls, and bridge trolls. These are the smallest and most pathetic of the Troll-kin. They tend to live along secluded riverbanks, in old ruins and barrows of the long dead. These are the most commonly encountered trolls. In fact most people would be shocked to discover there are other kinds of troll.

Aspects: A Hate From the Old Times, Ugly Brutish and Hungry, Highly Sensitive Hearing
Good(+2) at: Swimming, hiding, killing, eating
Bad(-2) at: Thinking, tactics, speaking
Stress: [1] [2] [3] [4]
Special: So long as they are not in sunlight and are in contact with the earth they can remove the stress from a filled stress box instead of another action. Trolls also cannot be killed by being taken out in a conflict unless they are killed with a fire attack of some sort. Trolls will get back up even from apparent death unless fire is used.

Irog Trul
In the old stories they speak of massive trolls that have the size of giants and the strength of demons. The largest and most dangerous of trolls live in the caves and hidden places deep within the earth. These are the bone grinders and blood gulpers to terrify children. Dark stories for cold winter nights when there is nothing to do but tell old tales. No one has seen a Great Troll in a hundred years or more, but they are most assuredly still there. They wait in the dark. they wait for the numbers to threaten the world once more.

Aspects: Massive Frame, Hatred of the Sunlit Lands, Supreme Senses, Mad Beasts in the Dark
Great(+4) at: Being strong, Fighting, resisting damage
Bad(-2) at: Tactics, conversation, Logic
Stress: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]
Special: So long as they are not in sunlight and are in contact with the earth they can remove the stress from a filled stress box instead of another action. Trolls also cannot be killed by being taken out in a conflict unless they are killed with a fire attack of some sort. Trolls will get back up even from apparent death unless fire is used. A Great Troll has a thick skin that reduced the shifts of an incoming attack by one(to a minimum of one shift).

Garag Trul
Called among the Mnemior the Gargoyles, Hell Hounds, and The Great Mistake. Long ago in the Mnemior tried to domesticate the trolls. They tried to breed a troll that would be useful to the Mnemior people. At first it seemed to work, but trolls are meant for one purpose alone. After the blood and the dying, the Mnemior rebuilt and tried to forget their horrible mistake. The Garag Trul are faster and hungrier and smarter than any other troll in existence. Fear the high pitched whine of the Gargoyle. It is often the last thing their victims hear.

Aspects: Something darker, Senses of the Bat, Fast and Strong
Attributes: The Gargoyle's strength and constitution is two higher than the player character's maximum attribute rating. Their dexterity matches the maximum.
Stress: [1] [2] [3]
Special: So long as they are not in sunlight and are in contact with the earth they can remove the stress from a filled stress box instead of another action. Trolls also cannot be killed by being taken out in a conflict unless they are killed with a fire attack of some sort. Trolls will get back up even from apparent death unless fire is used.

My take on Trolls. This will be the last of these posts for a while. I am currently working on Jadepunk and we are in the midst of our kickstarter. I will be focusing more on that project in the near future than this one. I would still love to hear what you think of my Trolls. Any comments, Ideas, or critiques would be welcome.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Bad Game Master Advice

Over the years I have received a lot of advice on GMing. Some of it has been good and useful advice. Much of it was horrid. Some was horrid because it would not work for my style of GMing while others were no good for other reasons. In this post I will discuss the bad advice I have received over the course of years of asking for advice. These thoughts are rough, and filled with my emotions, so the ideas are not as well put together as I had hoped.

I have not played or read the game but...

Alright, I have asked questions on loads of Forums, Google and Yahoo Groups, and various other places. Usually when I ask i am asking about a specific system and specific situation. I will at some point get a response that starts with this line. If you have no idea about the game, why would you bother to try and give advice on the game. I appreciate that they are trying to help, but often they do nothing but display their own ignorance of the situation and muddy the waters. It is not helpful when you butt in without knowing what you are talking about. When someone asks for a specific answer to a specific situation, vague advice unrelated to the situation is not useful.

Kick out the player

This...this piece of advice is so often given when someone is having a problem with a player. It is never useful advice. Never. I know, you are thinking that it might be a situation where they should kick out the player. I am going to have to disagree, you are wrong. If the GM is asking for advice I promise you he has thought about kicking the player out. they are asking for advice so that they can avoid kicking the player out(unless it is the GM looking to be "in the right" and wanting the internets to back his play, which is passive aggressive and problematic in its own right). Every GM is aware that they can kick a player out. Telling him this just wastes time. It is not advice, it is an edict. If they have put the effort forward to ask for help, give them some help. Talk the situation through with  them. Be a friendly ear, maybe they just need to vent. Try and suss out if it is an in character issue or a player issue. Sure there are times when kicking the player out is the only option, but giving this advice does not help the situation.

You are the GM and you are in charge

This is less a piece of advice and more an attitude I have seen in a lot of different pieces of advice. In fact much of the other pieces of bad advice  list here all stem from this premise to one degree or another. This drives me bonkers. The attitude is born of the finest intentions. GMs for years were viewed as the sole arbiters of story and fun at the table. In fact many tables still look to the GM in this way. Lord knows I have been running groups where one or more of the players has been conditioned to passivity. There are a great many ways this shows up. Usually it comes across as elitist or dismissive. You will come looking for advice and someone will come in and give a pithy sounding statement. It will be a blanket statement, like kick the players out, or punish the player for a character's action. It is the hardest of the problematic advice to point to directly, and yet it is the most pervasive and troubling. Often the advice will sound reasonable on the surface. It is only when you take a moment and think about what it implies does it really become a problem. Perhaps this should be its own post. I have a lot to say on the subject and right now it is too vague for me to really suss out.

Just Rule Zero It

Rule Zero does not exist, or at least not the way it gets used. Rule Zero as it is used here though is basically the GM can alter the rules when ever he pleases. Often it is worded a bit differently, but that is the gist of it. We need to avoid Calvin Ball. that is not to say house ruling is anarchy or any such thing, but Rule Zero opens the door. By placing house rules solely in the hands of the GM you are taking away the players influence on the game. But that is not the worst part of the advice to just Rule Zero it. The biggest issue with this is that it shuts down dialogue. When I come with a specific rules issue I am looking for a way to work within the rules to fix the problem. When you tell me to just make up my own rule and ignore the problem you are telling me that my problem is a wast of your time and that discussion of the problem is a waste of everyone's time. With this advice you are shutting the conversation down. Also this advice leads into one of my biggest pet peeves...

System Doesn't Matter

First of all, this statement is a lie. I mean that. the person telling you this is lying to you. They are probably lying to themselves as well. I know this is a lie. I can prove it. I was talking with my friend +Robert Hanz and he put it this way, "Find a (playable) system that a 'System doesn't matter!' guy hates (not FATAL).  Agree with him.  'Yup, system doesn't matter.  You're absolutely right.  No impact.  So, you're going to run your next game in <hated system>, right?'" When a person says that system doesn't matter what they are really saying is that they like things a certain way and their advice is to play their way. Or worse they are telling you that the GM can just ignore the rules whenever they like. If the GM can ignore the rules then this implies he is not playing the game. People who play a game do so by a set of rules. Those who break or ignore the rules(same thing) are called cheaters. If the GM is playing the game, then ignoring the rules is cheating. Cheating is wrong. Ask any five year old. The idea that it is OK to cheat is so endemic in GM thought that we have a name for the type of player who fights against GM cheating. This player is labeled a Rules Lawyer, and is generally looked down on. What is noble about cheating? What is ignoble about standing up to a cheater? If you get mad at someone who is demanding you play by the rules, what does that make you? If you start bad mouthing or punishing that player because they demand you play by the rules, what dose that make you? Don't cheat. Don't bully. Play by the rules. System matters. It is the only thing that is universally agreed upon at the table. You have the rule book. Everything else is made up together.

 So this is my list of bad GM advice. As I wrote this it occurred to me that these thoughts are a little less polished than some of the others I have put out there. I would love to hear your thoughts on this. I realize these might start some fires, so I ask that you try not to fan those flames. I would like to have an honest discussion of the merits or flaws of my thoughts. No name calling please.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

GMing with the Jake

Well the last one of these I wrote spurred quite a bit of feedback, some of it very good. I was somewhat surprised at the number of responses that seemed to assume I was dictating how everyone should GM. As I said in the beginning of that post, this is how I GM. It works for me. I might not work for you or it might. Anyway, I decided to continue my GM advice a bit. This time I would like to talk about how I get into the right mindset to run a game and some of the ways I reinforce good GM habits in play. Again, this is what works for me. If you have a different method that works for you, that's awesome. In fact write a blog post or a Google+ post about it and link it in the comments, I would love to see how others run their games.

Do not start too soon

Often in games I love to jump right to the interesting parts of the scenario. You know the parts I am talking about. They are the thematic center of the scenario, filled with tension and meaning. However if you jump to the "good" parts you end up losing all of that meaning and tension. You got to let the players marinate for a bit before throwing them in the fire. Let them get to know the setting and their characters a bit before jumping into the action. This is really important even in long running campaigns. I run a weakly game and I make sure to try and give a slow scene with the characters every session. This lets them reacquaint with the setting and group dynamic. A week is a long time filled with all sorts of frustrations. Give them a minute to breath and remember who and where they are. This will pay off later when they are invested in the adventure so much that they don't want to quit.

In most fiction there is no such thing as coincidence in Games Coincidence often informs the fiction

This is one of those things that takes a little bit of unpacking. When I design an adventure I have a tendency to think of it like a narrative from books or movies. Mostly this is OK. However the big difference in design and writing is that in fiction the writer can control everything to make tension and build to a climax. Games have a randomizing agent(often) that provides a different tension and climactic build. This means that I need to remember that at some points neither I nor the players will be in control of the tension or the climax. there will be times when this is up in the air. While I write the adventure I find keeping this in mind helps mitigate those horrid dice moments. You know the ones. When the kobold just kills the character because they rolled a crit. I always feel like I ave failed when this happens. I know they are inevitable in any game, but I try and get rid of that sort of situation as much as i can up front.

Before you GM ask, "What is a GM?"

In RPGs the GM may not be ubiquitous, but it is nearly so.  Before I start a game I ask myself this question. What does a GM do? I like to identify it through two methods, possitively and negatively. I identify what a gm does and what a gm does not do in my game. Now this maybe as simple as in Apocalypse World, where it is spelled out in the rules. Or it could be as difficult as GURPS, where it is not really talked about much. Also when I am asking these questions I like to see anywhere were I diverge from the norm in the game. I may want to do something differently than the game expects. If I am aware of this beforehand I can take it into consideration while I run the game. Many times i have played a game where the GM was running by his own assumptions on how to run the game rather than the procedures recommended by the game. Wen they ran into difficulties they had to start altering the rules to make them fit their style of GMing. Lack of awareness leads to unpreparedness(heh, rhymed).

When something goes wrong don't just charge ahead, stop and think

It is very easy to look at a game gone wrong and start the blame game or start ignoring rules to make it all fit. If you stop for amoment and analyze why things have gone wrong you stand a better chance of improving your game overall. A few minutes of analysis can save years of annoyance.Try not to say, "they ruined my game!" Instead try and ask, "what caused this behavior to crop up?" I can't tell you how many times this has saved a game that looked like it was heading into a tailspin.

At the start find out what they want and what stands in their  way

This is the key to all conflict. Find out what the characters want. Find out what the players want. then put things in the way that they can overcome, but not easily.

Don't ask Why, ask What

Why invites us to stay inside our minds. We start to internalize and stop acting. What takes some of the guess work out of the picture. It drives action, "what do you want to get? What are you going to do?" These will lead to a stronger game experience than any why question. there is no answer to a why question.

Action is driven by dialogue, dialogue is driven by character

In the game when you set things up, do it through an interaction scene with NPCs. This allows for the players to get into the head space of their characters and allows for the action to have more meaningful impact. Dialogue leads to action, leads to response, leads to dialogue, leads to action, etc.

Subplot reinforces main plot and grants a different perspective on it

When you decide to pull in a subplot, make it relate to the main plot in such a way that it shows a different side to the main plot. Subplots that don't relate to the main plot are red herrings. red herrings are fictional dead ends, and players hate fictional dead ends. Many a game has been completely sidetracked by players just smashing their heads repeatedly into the red herring dead end.

Well there is my GM mindset when I am designing a scenario. At least, there is what it looks like for now. This is more a work in progress than a completed set of procedures. I would love to hear what you think of it. Again I am not advocating this as the only way to run a game. It is just the way I tend to run a game.

FATEsy Heartbreaker: Monsters and Treasure Part 8

There are many creatures that fall under the category of dragons. Any large serpent could be called a dragon. Even the Hydra could be considered a dragon by some scholars. In this post I will be dealing with the greatest and most well known of all the dragons.

Exaltae Drako(High Dragon)
In the timeless void before the first age of the world their existed Igni(fire) and Glaci(ice). Between them was a chaotic valley of forces, violently colliding. From this sprang the gods and the fathers of gods. Also too came the great spirits, elementals, and unique entities. At the edges of this pit of raw creation Dragons were born. Not gods, monsters, demons, these beings were made from the passion of fire and the cold logic of ice. Dragons were not fixed, they could choose.

Being the first creatures in the world with a choice, they recognized its power. Their first choice was that of form. Each of the gods came to them and tried to suggest a form to the first Dragons. Dvarton suggested they take the form of great shadows, Ao that of a great beast, Pancaam told them to take a form with  great teeth ad appetite, and finally Jain Coar made a suggestion. He suggested they take every form, why stick with one when all forms were available. No one knows why Jain Coar did this. Like all of his stories, he gives a solution that seems to benefit everyone but really benefits none. But the Dragons listened and they became formless, shape-shifters.

The gods were not pleased by this. For they saw in Dragons something they could never have. Each of them was tied to a single shape, a single form. And so they Cursed the first Dragons. They would be masters of shape, but their true shape would always represent their true selves. Other curses were placed upon them as well. They would be covetous, even the best of them. They would never rule, and always be hunted, despite their power. And so it came to pass, the Dragons became as they always would be.

Fire is imagination, Magic is choice, Shape is a truth.

Types of Exaltae Drako
Lords of Air
Cretonitrua(thunder makers)
The blue dragons are master manipulators, they will bend the rules to their wills. Never make a deal with a Blue dragon for they will live up to the letter of the agreement, but twist it to their ends. All dragons can fly, but blue dragons fly with the strength of the storm. They spit lighting and their voice is the cracking of thunder. They are slow to anger, but when roused strike with the fury of a tornado. Blue Dragons are always Lawful Evil. 
Pruinangui(Snow Serpent) 
The white dragons view themselves as the truest of all great dragons, tied to Glaci older than time itself. They hold to pure logic of the most malicious kind. they enjoy demonstrating their intellectual superiority to the lesser being that inhabit their world. They move with the steady surety of a glacier. To face a White Dragon is to face inevitability. White dragons are always Lawful Evil.
The Masters of the First Power
The most powerful and power mad of the dragons, Reds seek power for its own sake. they are fire in all its terrible majesty. They are not the smartest, but they are very clever when it comes to planning or designing things. Red Dragons frequently have more than just their fiery breath as protection, they have magical devices and guardians as well. their lairs contain traps of devious cunning, and the finest golems that can be made. Dwarves still tell the tale of Terpsichore, the dragon who came to them in the shape of a dwarf. She tricked the secrets of creation from King Bjarni before betraying the whole kingdom to the armies of the Giants. The last members of Bjarni's family still seek any knowledge of the location of the dragon who was known as Terpsichore. Red Dragons are always Neutral Evil.
Kings of the Wild
In the swamps, bogs, and marshes the Black dragon reigns supreme. They seek only to have fun at the expense of all the other beings in the world. Black dragons are bullies and hedonists. In teh water blacks are king, able to hold their breath for over an hour and swim at phenomenal speed. 

Green dragons just want to see the world burn. They are very smart, but easily bored. When a green dragon sets a plan in motion it is usually just to see what happens. They like destruction and chaos. Green dragons can breath a noxious gas that will harm all who breath it.

Dragon Stat Blocks
Young Dragon
They are created like a normal character with an attribute cap of +5, and you get 14 points to spend on them. The young dragon will also get two powers from the list of dragon powers, or you can take proficiencies. They have four aspects, They have the color aspect, which covers their alignment and general outlook on life. They have two curse aspects, Power and Gold as well as Never Shall Rule. They also have one scheme aspect, related to the current scheme or plan that the Dragon is involved with at the moment. Also they have access to the elemental power related to their color.

Mature Dragon
They are created as a normal character with an attribute cap of +6 and you get 16 points to spend on them. The mature dragon will get three powers or proficiencies. They have the same four aspects as the young dragon. Also they have access to the elemental power related to their color.

Ancient Dragon
They are created as a normal character with no attribute cap and 20 points to spend on them. The ancient dragon will have five powers or proficiencies. they have the same four aspects as all other dragons. Also they have access to the elemental power related to their color.

Elemental attacks
When a dragon attacks a target with its elemental attack, if it gets a success with style on the attack, the dragon places an aspect on the zone related to the element. On fire for a fire attack. Frozen for a cold attack, and so on. 
Lightning(blue): The dragon can make an Intelligence based ranged lightning attack. If the dragon strikes the target the dragon can use the same attack total -1 to attack another target in the same zone, and another at -2, and so on until the attack misses. Once the dragon missed a target the lightning fizzles and travels no further.
Cold(white): When attacking in a zone that has an aspect related to being cold or frozen on it targets in that zone do not get a free move action. The targets must roll a strength or dexterity roll to move out of the zone. Instead of making an intelligence based cold attack a white dragon can instead seek to freeze and opponent. Roll the dragon's intelligence versus the targets dexterity or constitution. The shifts achieved on a success are now added to the difficulty of any roll the target makes.
Fire(red): the dragon can make a ranged wisdom based ranged attack. When attacking a target in a zone with a fire or heat based aspect on it the dragon does an extra three shifts of stress on a successful attack.
Acid(black): the dragon has a wisdom based ranged acid attack. When the dragon successfully hits the target the target is covered in acid. On the targets next round(and every round thereafter) the target takes an amount of stress(1 extra for a young dragon, 2 extra for a mature dragon, 3 extra for an ancient dragon). The difficulty to get rid of the acid is also variable(+2 for young, +4 for mature, +6 for ancient).
Poison(green): the dragon can make a ranged poison attack with your intelligence. On a zone with a poisoned aspect on it the dragon can attack every target in the zone provided the roll is at a -1 penalty.

Dragon Stunts
Draconian Magic: The Dragon can cast spells in the same manner as a wizard.
Draconian [attribute]: Pick one the Dragon's attributes. Before rolling that attribute set one of the dice to a plus then roll the remainder.
Draconian Knowledge: Gain a +2 bonus to any intelligence roll relating to obscure or arcane knowledge.
Draconian Fortitude: This can be taken a total of three times. the first time it is taken add an additional minor consequence. When take the second add an additional moderate consequence. When taken the final time add an additional severe consequence.
Draconian Flight: Gain a +2 to all maneuvering and movement rolls when flying.
Draconian Rage: If the dragon desire it can take a consequence and gain another action this round.

OK, there is my take on Dragons for Fate Core. This was one of the most difficult posts I have written so far. When I first sat down to write it the prose was dry and read like stereo instructions. I went back and forth on it and it just wasn't getting any better. Then I went to a couple of writing groups and asked for their advice. They were very helpful and I think this draft is quite a bit better. I would love to hear what you all think of it, though. Any comments, critiques, or ideas would be most welcome.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Jake's Rules Of GMing

So I ended getting into a couple of debates(ish) about GMing and it made me realize that I have never really set down my views on this topic in writing. I then took it upon myself to write out how I design a session of play. I do not do this to tell you how to run your games. Your games probably run fine the way you run them, Nor is my way the only way, or even the best way. It is the best way for me, though.

So first a bit of back story. The first game I ever played was WEG Star Wars. This was also the first game I ever ran. Those events happened simultaneously. I ran the game before ever playing it. Al of my friends had played the game before, but they made me run it. it would be two years before I ever got a chance to play in a game. So my first two years of gaming were reading game books and running games. Of course I was thirteen in Montana, so the games were not frequent. In total, over the course of 19 years of gaming, I have played less games than i have fingers. On the other hand, all of my characters were awesome. Its true, ask around. I'll wait.

Great, your back! Now, where was I? Oh right, my gaming style. Here goes, a primer for how Jake runs his games.

The adventure must be clear

By this I mean that there must be a clear reason spelled out to the players as to why they should get involved. as a GM it is often very tempting to add layers of mystery and complexity to a session. It is fun, it scratches that creative itch that GMs tend to feel when they are all alone designing the adventure. For me, when the urge strikes, I ignore it. nine times out of ten, the more complex and mysterious you make something, the less sense it will make to the characters. Give them a clear goal, give them a strong reason to attain that goal.

Plan the Beginning tightly, plan the Middle loosely, Keep a few ideas as to how it might End

This is less a hard and fast rule and more a suggestion. Most of the time I follow this. Occasionally I dabble with trying it another way. I stick with this so that I never get target focus. Target focus is when you focus on your goal so much that you crash right into it. When you are planning an adventure do most of your work on the hook and initial couple of scenes. Then have a few solid ideas where those scenes will lead. Then come up with the major NPCs and a bunch of minion stats ahead of time. All you need for the end is a couple of idea on what would constitute the end of the scenario. What things, when accomplished, would mean that the current arc is over? Then those are the endings. that is it. Let how it ends and when it ends come up through play.

Each step the players take should bring them obviously closer or obviously further from there goal

Never let the players feel like you are giving them the run around. I cannot stress this enough. When the players come up with a plan. When they set that plan into motion. The success or failure of that plan should be of direct consequence to their overall goals. Incremental increase is the same as no movement at all. When you have the plan only have a minor effect it feels like no effect. Also letting it have a big effect lets the players in on the story creation. They are in charge of that part. When you make it not matter all that much it feels like you are saying no.

Try not to say no

Ok this is another wibbly-wobbly one. I treat it like a hard and fast rule, though. I do this so that I do not have no in my heart. Often this advice is said as, "Say yes or roll the dice." Now when I first got this advice it blew my gourd. It changed everything. However, I kinda did that thing people do. You know where you go way too far with it. Sometimes you have to say no. Sometimes saying yes will make the game worse. Not often, but every now and again. So I tell my self to try to not say no. It is less absolute, yes. That makes it a weaker statement. But this post is about what helps me with my games. I don't need absolutes. I need things I can remember that will make the game better.

Allow for closure

This is just sort of an adjunct to the previous. This is to remind myself that there is a time for the GM to shut up and let the players have their moment. When they have earned their victory, let them enjoy it. Don't drop in with an, "actually..." or some such. In a crime novel this would be called the Denouement. I love me a good denouement, almost as much as I love a good montage, but that is neither here nor there. Let the players beet the bad guy. Don't make it easy or anything, but in the end let them take him down. If you are doing your job right, then they have earned it.

Let them get the bad guy

Again related to the previous rule. I often will come up with an awesome bad guy. I mean, Doctor Doom level awesome. When that happens you have this idea in your head that you will get to use this villain over and over again. That he is going to escape and be a pain in the neck for years to come. Then the players come in, shoot him, chop off his head, roll him up in a carpet, and set him on fire. Then they salt the earth. So the next villain you give a bunch of escape hatches and stuff. That doesn't work. If you make your villain right, they will walk through fire and broken glass to kill that bastard. So you start to cheat a little. He's a super genius after all, so he has contingencies and all that. Then he just gets away. This is a bad way to game. You are now trying to force conventions from another media onto a game. Games are different from books, movies, or any traditional storytelling method. They create a different narrative. Games let you win. The mechanics are impartial(mostly). Once you start cheating to let the bad guy get away, you are telling the players that this game is really about the bad guy and not the PCs. This sets up a versus mentality. They will now start to derail your plot. in small ways at first, testing the waters. Then it becomes a viscous circle. Don't let this happen. When they come for the villain, make it a fair fight. don't let the guy escape unless it makes sense in the narrative.
This is a game, play by the rules if you don't the players will get upset

Now what I mean by rules is a little larger than you might be thinking. the rules are those written in the book yes. They also include any house rules that have been agreed upon by the table. Rules also include any sort of agreement as to how the game is going to play out. When you start breaking any of the rules, this is when you get mismatched expectation. The players expected one thing from you, and you are now delivering another thing. It doesn't matter why you are doing it. It doesn't matter that you are really making the narrative stronger. It does not matter why at all. You are now cheating. The players can no longer trust the rules because you are doing something that makes no sense in the game. Everything is up for grabs. I know it doesn't seem that way when you are doing it. I know that you can get away with it. I know that the players will never know. Except it is that way, you can't get away with it, the players will know, and it is a terrible habit to get into. Don't break the rules. They are the only thing everyone at the table agrees on.

Villains do not plan for failure

You know what separates the villains from the rest? Winning. They are winners. they plan to win. They break rules to win. Everything they do is toward a goal they are trying to achieve. They do not take the time to plan what if scenarios. They do not contemplate the thought they might fail. They look at their plan. they see all the obvious flaws. They expect to win. When things go south villains are making it up as they go. So when you are putting together the villains plan don't bother to think to hard on what they will do when the PCs start to ruin their plan. The villain did not consider losing. Why should you.

Make them suffer

Killing a PC causes the plot to stop. it is boring. There absolutely nothing interesting about it, unless the player initiates a glorious last stand moment. And that only happens once or twice a year. Do not kill your characters. Make them suffer. Cause them pain. Make them care about things they do not want to care about. Make them paranoid. Play with their minds. HURT THEM. A player character who is hurt has motivation and fear. With those to things I could run campaigns till the cows come home. Don't kill them, hurt them.

They win, whatever that means

At the end of the day, the PCs win. Whatever win means in a given setting, they will succeed at their goals to some extent.  I know you want to hurt them, but the pain is only their to make the victory that much sweeter. Oddly enough the smaller the victory, the greater the pain you should inflict. Think of victory as making up for all the misery. It is not about equaling zero, it is about increasing teh distance from the lowest point to the highest point. If you highest point is pretty low, then you need to go into the negatives to make a difference big enough to notice. That is what is known as catharsis(well not really, but I never get use that word enough).

So there is my basic guidelines for how I create and run games. There is a bit of detail work and balancing issues that come up for specific games and the like. However, this is how I play. Let me know what you think.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

FATEsy Heartbreaker Part 7

The Three Curses of the Age

Deep beneath the earth an ancient horror sleeps. So the Treaugh Duara say. A weapon in the form of a great beast, built by the First Men in their war with the Treaugh Duarra. This beast got away from the sorcerer kings that crafted it and now it sits in the earth, rising only to feed and destroy. No weapon can pierce its hide and no magic can touch it. The Duarra have a name for this creature. They call it the Etta Aelld(Devourer of all).

When the Ael Adratta fought the G'no Ma Duara many horrors were released by the dwarven flesh shapers. The Elves still speak of the Tabhai(desolation) a monster that rose from the earth and decimated the Elven city of Asraia(haven). Of course the dwarves deny any knowledge of this monstrosity, but who else could have created it. It is said the Tabhai's flesh is impervious, and it sleeps for a thousand years. Few alive have ever seen it, for it attacks only infrequently. What is left of Asraia stands as a testament to its ferocious power. Elven cleric still make pilgrimage to the city, praying for an end to the monster and to their time in this cursed land.

Among the Mnemior stories are told of a great curse laid on the world. When Astellod took his place at the head of the pantheon, many gods were dissatisfied. One god in particular spoke out. Attakzi(Chaos) said that none should rule over the world and to try to do so was folly. Astellod struck him down for speaking against the order of things. With his last breath Attakzi spit a curse into the world and that curse took the form of Travochthiz(devourer). when the heavens are in proper alignment the creature awakens and assaults civilization. Seeking to fulfill its creators last wish. Only great offerings of food and sacrifice will hold the abomination at bay.

The Terrasque( human misinterpretation of the giant's name for it, Teurl Riesg, meaning devil monster) is an abomination from outside of teh world. Whether brought to the world through magic of Men, Dwarves, Elves, or gods will probably never be known. The Terrasque stands over 80 feet high and 120 feet long weighing in at around 150 tons. It is immune to most magic and physical attacks of any sort. A Terrasque will ravage the land for weeks and then bury itself deep underground to sleep for months, years, or even centuries.

This critter is a plot level monster. Outside of epic level play there is little chance that player characters will be able to even slow it down. A great adventure could be had in trying to keep people safe through direct rescue or by luring the monster away through the use of bait. in order to defeat the Terrasque a character would need to go on a quest to gather the tools needed to defeat it. Clerics would need to gain a boon from all of their gods, Thieves would need to gather the finest equipment, fighters would need to quest for the greatest weapon of the age, and wizards would need to gather a powerful and ancient spell. once all these are gathered the players would be in a race against time to defeat the beast before it destroys everything.

When fighting the beast you would need to defeat it in parts. first getting to a weak spot would be a contest with the beast. If it wins the characters involved take ten stress a piece. If the players win they can get close enough to strike the weak spot. Then would be a conflict to damage the creature. It will be rolling around and trying to crush them, stomp on them, or chomp them. Finally would be a challenge scene to construct the mixture of holy and magic ritual to permanently kill the monster. if the ritual is not done, then in one hundred years time the Terrasque will rise from the earth once more. Minimum attribute levels for the Terrasque are +8(or two hgher than the players attribute, whichever is higher). The difficulty for the ritual challenge should be around a +9 or higher. With the right weapons the beast has four stress boxes and six consequences(2 x Mild, 2 x Moderate, Severe, Extreme). Normal weapons, tools and spells do nothing. you must quest to get the things that will defeat the beast. feel free to make these quests as harrowing as possible. This is an epic level beast, make it feel like an epic. This should be the capstone to the characters adventures. When this is done, those that survive can look back on their scars with pride and say, "we were there. We did that."

When the Laiela speak of monsters they speak of only one with anything approaching dread. Aszkolep(many necks) is the mother of all serpents. She dwells at the heart of the deepest swamp. You cannot sneak up on her, for she has many heads and sees in all directions. Her bite is death and her blood is poison. Halflings speak of the ill fated trip of Balere. He set out to end the monster. He delved deep into the forbidden swamps. No one knows exactly how he died. what is known is that he was found by his family, piece by piece floating down the river. There is no greater horror to a halfling than the death of a family member. To this day there are members of Balere's family that seek an end to the mother of serpents.

The Hydra, it is claimed was defeated by the First Men. In fact there are seven separate instances when the First Men claim to have defeated it. This has led many to believe there are more than one Hydra. Others claim that what the First Men defeated was something else entirely. This has led to the myth of the immortal Hydra. Nothing can slay it, and it appears anywhere there is water. It has been a thousand years or more since the last Hydra sighting. Everyone hopes that the last time men faced the beast was indeed the last.

The Hydra is a creature of poison and spite. It is ancient as the world. Born alongside the gods, it is not of the world yet its home is the world. It is neither spirit, nor god, nor elemental. It is a wholly unique being. It is nearly impossible to kill for when you kill one two more will spring from the corpse within a year and a day. When the Hydra is wounded it begins to heal almost immediately. The only way to ensure its permanent death is to burn the corpse to ash and seal the ash, laced with holy salt, in a ceramic jar specially prepared for that purpose. It is believed that the hydra has died eight times in the history of the world. so there are at least eight Hydra at large.

It is a giant serpent that reaches over one hundred feet long. it has many heads, though the number varies from beast to beast. They have a poisonous bit and their blood is a terrible poison. The sign of a Hydra is a swamp where all the land around it is slowly dying. They poison the land simply by existing near it. The smell of decay is usually the first sign that a Hydra is near. They make no sound and are nearly invisible in their swampland homes.

Hydra Stat Block
Aspects: Great Water Serpent, Poison Bite, Terror from the dawn of time, Even the Halflings fear me
Legendary(+8) at: Attacking, Ambushing, hiding, fighting, eating swimming, terrifying
Bad(-2) at: social interaction, dodging, moving on land
Stress: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]
Consequences: Mild, Moderate, Severe, Extreme
Special: If it is not killed properly two new Hydra will appear in the same area as its corpse in a year and a day. It gets to make a create advantage action once per round as a free action. Once per round it can forgo the create advantage action to clear out the stress in one of its stress boxes.

When the gods were young, they need servitors to carry out their will in the world at large. They created the Engiloi(messengers) to serve them in there ruling of the world. When the Duara were created, and when the rest of the Named People were brought forth. A small number of Engiloi were jealous. That these small creatures were given freedom and preferential treatment while the Engiloi were not was unacceptable. This small number were led by Saetuur(sweet), the highest of the Engiloi. The rebellion was short and vicious.The rebels were defeated. For their crimes they were stripped of much of their power and banished from the higher planes, never to return. They have taken the name Illi Bouro Ghul(Eaters of Souls) to show they are no longer what they once were,

Shape-shifting corrupters of souls, they revel in getting people to become what they hate. Anywhere there is unity they seek to break it. Where there is hope, they bring fear. Ghuls are bitter at the loss of the war and the loss of their power. They have lost, they will be destroyed at the ending of the world. they know this. Their only joy lies in taking as many souls with them to oblivion as they can. As to the fate of Saetuur, no one knows. No Ghul has stepped forward claiming to be him. A small faction of Ghul's believe he was to powerful to curse and so he is locked away somewhere. These Ghuls seek any knowledge of his current whereabouts or any clue to releasing him.

Ghul Stat Block
Aspects: Corrupt all, Manipulate everything, Shapeshifter, Desire the flesh of the living, Alien minds
Legendary(+8) at: Manipulatioon, deception, shapeshifting, illusion
Bad(-2) at: patience, direct action, resisting despair
Stress: [1] [2] [3]
Consequences: Mild, Moderate, Severe, Extreme
Special: once per scene they can ignore a hit that would normally do stress, as the character only hit an illusion of the creature.

So there is my take on three of my favorite solo monsters from D&D as well as my take on epic level monsters. The Terrasque is a mix of the Tarasque from France and D&D's Tarrasque. The Hydra was just me playing around with some ideas I had on regeneration and high level beasts. And the Ghul was a mix of Lucifer, Ghouls, and Rakshasa. I would love to hear what you think of this take on these classic monsters. Any comments, critiques, or ideas would be welcome. I think my next post(or two) will be on Dragons. I have loads of ideas for those, but any thoughts you have would be useful.

FATEsy Heartbreaker: Monsters and Treasure part 6

Exiled Elves

There are two kinds of elves that are not mentioned often by the Elven peoples, Ael Kohya(Lost People) and Ael Droutsa(Bad People). They were never very many, and the Elves hide their shame. The Ael Kohya are those Elves who do not wish to live in the old ways. Some seek a cure for the curse, others seek to live with an eye toward the future. Ael Droutsa, also called Drow or Duergar, are those who seek to destroy the gods themselves. They want to end the curse in any way they can and have bargained with dead gods for the power to do so, The rest of the Elven people hunt both the Ael Droutsa and the Ael Kohya as traitors and heretics.

The Ael Kohya are known as The Lost, but a better name would be exile. They have left their people and their ways behind in search of something new. They have cut ties. Should an Ael Kohya ever return to elven lands they would be hunted and killed. Such is the price of questioning. They are known by the Nirsana Cinah(Exile's Mark) mystically branded on their left cheek.

Nameless Ael Kohya
Aspects: I must find my own way, We must not be mired in memory, I am not lost I am wandering
Good(+2) at: Fighting, Investigating, Surviving
Bad(-2) at: Lying, Hiding feelings, Getting along with others
Stress: [1] [2]
Special: Can see in the dark and is very attractive

When the Ael Luhd(fair people) were cast from Sakahmara(city of light) to lands of Kaista(misery) one Elf did not accept his fate. He remembered the greatness they once had and held to the secrets that should be forgotten. When their gods cursed him, he cursed the gods. The elf was Smarath, the first Ael Droutsa, the first Drow.

Deep beneath the roots of the world are three rivers. Rivers of black blood shed by the gods during a great war. These rivers are Kedah(regret), Dveas(malice), and Dartyu(mortality). When Smarath rebelled against the just punishment of the Ael Luhd he knew where to find the power he needed. He went to the roots of the world. He listened to the whispers of the dead god whose bones lay there. Smarath pledged to bring down the gods and bathed in the waters of the three rivers. Profane magics were etched into his skin, and he rose from the dark heart of the world to wreak his vengeance.

Smarath was stopped, but he was only the first. Every few decades one or tow Elves become lost to the whispers of the dead god, whose name shall not be spoken. They make a choice. They fall. All that is natural becomes turned against them, but they gain power. The curse of their people no longer touches them. They become pale creatures, with white eyes and hair. There bone white skin only marred by the tattoos etched into their skin, black and vile, granting them dark magic unlike anything the world has seen.

Ael Droutsa NPCs
Drow are abominations, mad demigods with the desire to shake the pillars of heaven. They are always made as major villains. There skill cap is two higher than the party's current maximum. Otherwise they are made like a regular character. They cannot become clerics or wizards, because no natural or supernatural force will touche them. Instead they bind the magics of a god to themselves through the mystic tattoos they receive. Here are three sample Mystic Tattoos. Urnapta: you have been blessed by the river Dartyu. When you gain this dark gift pick an attribute. Before rolling that attribute set one of your dice to a plus, then roll the rest as normal. Bdala: Having bathed in the river Dveas you have the gift of reciprocity. Once per scene you can deal an amount of stress to an opponent equal to an amount of stress you just took. Pira: When you emerged from the river Kedah all your heartache was washed away. you are now as cold and uncaring as the river that cleansed you. You are immune to social attacks.

Generally speaking you will find Drow leading armies of Orcs, Ynaugge, or other major threats. These guys are either in charge or have the ear of the guy in charge. They want to kill the gods and are willing to do anything to make that happen.

The Drow use vile weapons, enchanted by the same method that made them. They take the bones of a family member and craft a sword from them. When the proper ritual is done and the weapon is submerged in one of the rivers it come out stronger than steel with a vicious will of its own. Here is a sample blade.

Drow Bone Sword
Ego: +4
Purpose: Destroy all that is good and just
Effect: When you have inflicted a consequence on a foe, you can make an attack on the victim in addition to your normal attack even if the victim is not in the same zone as you. A victim must take a turn to make a contested Wisdom roll with you to remove this effect.
Cost: 6

Alright so there is my take on Drow. Also there is a new kind of Elf, so that is cool. My basic idea was to make being a dark elf a choice and to make that choice a horrible one. These are bad guys. I would love to hear what you think of this or any other post I have made. Any thoughts, comments, or critiques would be welcome. If you want to see my take on the elves, or if you want to see how the magic item rules work links have been provided.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Shadow Legion: An Urgent Message

My friends +Sharif Abed, +Frank Falkenberg+Ron Frazier, +Brian Boring, and I all got together to continue the saga of the Shadow Legion. The ship was horribly damaged, as was Commander Kevik. The crew spent the first few scenes getting the ship back up and running. Once that was done our heroes headed to center to report...

...and a year had gone by! When they arrived the crew is bombarded with orders to meet up with there Legion contact Council Being Smythe. There was some debate from Gamesman Alric as to how much to tell Smythe, and he ended up sending the information to the Tesh embassy before meeting with his superiors. Smythe is freaking out. He wants to know what happened. Eventually the news gets sorted out. They hand over the technologies they have collected. As the various factions and groups start to process the news of the characters return and the information they bring with them, Kevik is contacted by the Terran Majority's Ambassador. He owed her a big favor and she was calling it in. Her brother has been kidnapped by the Pirates of Antares. She calls in her favor and Kevik agrees. A new adventure begins.

So in this game session, there was an issue with Sharif's connection as he was away from his normal connection. Also I introduced a rival for Commander Kevik, Isabelle "Iso" Ramirez. It is pretty darn cool to see Kevik get pissed at someone he can't shoot. i really love the games set in Center. I like to just let Frank loose, he is a political machine and he always makes the situation far more tense. Gamesman Alric is like a machine for adding stakes to the game.

If you like, here is the recording of play:

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

FATEsy Heartbreaker: Monsters and Treasure Part 5

In the first days of the world arose a civilization of men. This civilization was based around the idea of becoming perfection. they worshiped the dread snake god Uhilar(changing). They saw the shedding of old skins as the way to immortality. The experiments began with the noblest of intentions, to make their people strong and ageless. Soon it became something dark and twisted. Now they call themselves the Ulan-Ati(snake men), called Yuan-Ti by those not of the blood.

They live in the deep jungle and harshest deserts. They seek to remain hidden and unobserved, only venturing out when there is magical knowledge or a species they wish to study. Ulan-Ati society is divided into three clades. Each is so specialized or metamorphosed as to appear to be a separate race all together. There is a hierarchy amongst the clades but it is not a rigid caste system. Mostly it is a recognition of purpose and breeding. Ulan-Ati have been breeding the clades to be specialized since the dawning of the world.

The most commonly known clade is the Naj(pure). They are the rulers and diplomats of their society. They are often encountered when they begin to gather up the disaffected youths of a region. They form cults to Uhilar, seeking slaves and breeding stock for their race. They appear as the First Men appeared, tall, strong, and attractive. the only physical difference is the slitted eyes and forked tongue.

The Sepgaruh(half blood) clade deals with focused study. Whether it be the strange serpentine martial arts or the mass breeding programs, the Sepgaruh are there to make sure the plans of the Ulan-Ati come to fruition. They serve as soldiers, engineers, slave masters, brood lords. They have the appearance of half-man half-snake. They have no legs, only the lower half of a great serpent.

The least understood clade is the Yangeji(abomination). They are the high priests of Uhilar. Beings so dedicated to his will that they sacrifice their very form to him. Each has unique mutations, blessings, and curses placed upon there bodies and minds. Each is a unique work of genetic art. Other races find them completely monstrous and alien in both form and mind. The Ulan-Ati find them compelling and beautiful.

the Ulan-Ati have collected slaves throughout the centuries. They are the masters of the world and see menial labor as beneath them. They instigated many breeding programs on these slaves over the centuries, but for some reason they did not take. The priests claim that specialized breeding was destined only for the Ulan-Ati and that is why it fails with the slaves. They still try, though, making the slaves more monstrous with every generation.

Aspects: I seek Apotheosis, Uhilar leads us to Immortality, Terrifying appearance, Alien mind
These are always created as master villains and always as clerics. Describe them as horrifying and terrible as you like. These are kind of my version of high priests of some Lovecraftian Great Old One.
Special: they are all unique and so each has a special ability that separates it from the rest of the Abominations. Here are three sample Mutations. Thick Scales: you gain a number of extra minor consequences equal to the number of beings you are facing. Venomous Bite: When you make a bite attack on someone in the same zone as you and succeed with style, they will continue to take one stress a turn until someone in the same zone as the poisoned person makes an intelligence check versus your wisdom modifier. Constrictor: When you use strength to create the grappled aspect on a character they must either attack you every round or try and free themselves(a vs strength roll) every round. they cannot attack anyone else until they are free. If you move a zone with someone grappled they move with you.

Nameless Half-blood
Aspects: I am the Heart of the Empire, The plan WILL work!
Good(+2) at: Pick a specialty that they are best at, fighting, planning, leading through fear
Bad(-2) at: Lying, compassion, inspiring people
Stress: [1] [2]
Special: Half-bloods study and plan. Every now and again this means they can use some bit of esoteric knowledge and be able to do something they never could otherwise. Once per scene the Half-blood can roll something it is bad at as though it were good at it.

Nameless Naj
Aspects: Sepentine Charisma, Come into my parlor, You will become as a god if you follow me
Good(+2) at: Lying, Making speeches, being convincing, tactics
Bad(-2) at: Perceiving a lie, genuine emotion, facing the truth
Stress: [1] [2]
Special:  gain a +2 to sense emotion from smell using their tongues(like a snake testing the air) or through sight cues(enhanced vision).

So there is my take on Yuan-Ti. I gotta say I kind of hate these guys, from a fiction standpoint. they are sort of crazed slave owning Nazis worshiping a Great Old One. The more I wrote about them, the more I really despised them. Let me know what you think of them, as I really am not sure if I should include them. I mean they are bad guys, yeah, but they are just so damned irredeemable and nasty. I don't know. what do you all think? Any comments, concerns, or suggestions would be welcome. The next post will be on the Dark Elves. So that should be fun. I have already written a little bit about them, but now they finally get their own complete write up. Should be interesting.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

FATEsy Heartbreaker: Monsters and Treasure 4

In the Deep Jungles of the west, far beyond the mountains of the dwarves and the deserts of men, lies a land in conflict. History speaks of mighty armies rolling forth from the Jungle, blue skinned devils riding great tigers and wielding ancient magics. They killed all they could find and disappeared back into their jungle home leaving famine and ruination behind them. These are the stories of the Ogre, may the gods grant we never see them again.

Ogres fight a never ending battle with their great enemy, the serpent men, for control of the world. Both races date back to the dawning f the world. Both have fallen far in the intervening years. The Ogres are currently winning this struggle, so they can devote more resources to the conquest of the world. Ogre attacks have started to become more common, and with the land divided there is no kingdom or empire to stand against them.

There are two castes of Ogre society. The Muja-Orog(Blue Blood) are the magician-rulers and have spent generations collecting knowledge and information. They rule over the Aur-Ogre(invincible). The Ogre are the lower caste and do the menial labor. Often a Muja-Orog and a slew of vassal Aur-Ogre will be found in ancient ruins, seeking magical knowledge and artifacts. Pity the adventurers who run across the Ogre, for they are in for the fight of their lives. There is only one thing the Ogre love more than knowledge, the flesh of intelligent creatures. The Muja-Orog even have rituals to gain the knowledge of an intelligent creature they eat.

In the deep jungle is where the empire of the Ogre stands. The Muja-Orog live in great towers, jealously guarding their troves of knowledge and artifacts from the other Ogre princes. Beneath these towers lie a vast series of catacombs ad tunnels where the Aur-Ogre make their homes when they are not working or fighting. The rest of their land is overgrown and stocked with Great Tigers which the Ogres ride into battle.

Ogre society is based around the belief in scarcity and the twin gods Gogg(devourer) and Mabnagog(Master of Desolation). The Ogre believe that to attain power you must reduce the power of others. They believe in absolute self interest and seek to diminish the resources of their enemies. In the Human and Minotaur lands(where they tend to attack the most), Ogres are known as Famine Bringers as they burn all the fields they come across.

Nameless Aur-Ogre
Aspects: My life for my master, Great hulking monster
Good(+2) at: Manual labor, breaking things, fighting, resisting damage
Bad(-2) at: Thinking on your feet, disobeying orders, knowledge or wit
Stress: [1] [1] [2] [2] [3] [4]
Special:  Aur-Ogre do not suffer mental stress so long as there is a Muja-Orog within sight of them.

Make these like a main NPC villain. they tend to be wizards or clerics. their skill cap is two higher than the current parties skill cap. They also have access to a couple of Powers that aid in casting magic. Wizard or Cleric Player characters could learn these powers if tehy could convince an Ogre to train them. Ogre Mage: When casting an attack spell you gain an additional bonus of +1 to the roll to attack. Devote of Gogg: After you have damaged an opponent in melee combat, you may take a turn to eat a bit of the flesh of your opponent. After that turn you gain another free use of a spell.

Servants of the Ogre
the Ogre have many servitor beasts that they have created over the centuries with their magics. Here is a sampling.
Ogoril: a magical fusion of gorilla and ogre, stronger and faster than an ogre but needs to be trained like a beast. It has s four arms and two legs, though it can use all limbs for locomotion to increase its speed.  The eerie cry of the Ogoril can be heard for miles and they are perfectly suited to fighting in the jungles.
Aspects:  Six-Limbed Powerhouse, Territorial Rage
Good(+2) at: Being strong, moving through the jungle, being scary
Bad(-2) at: Social situations, moving through non jungle, ignoring distractions
Stress: [1] [2] [3]
Special: It ignores any aspect for rough terrain while in the jungle.

Merro: sharks that have been bred to be able to go on land for a brief period. Often used for surprise attacks or to destroy fishing villages. Halflings hate them and will hunt them down like rabid nimals whenever their paths cross.
Aspects: Piranha-sharks, Singleminded bloodlust
Good(+2) at: Swimming, attacking, stealth in the water
Bad(-2) at: Disobeying their training, defending, moving fast on land
Stress: [1] [2]
Special: They have a tough hide, reduce the stress taken by one(to a minimum of one)

Megantre: Often called Dire Tigers, the great tigers of the Ogre are bread for size and obidience. They are over twice the size of the average tiger elsewhere. Ogre have been seen riding them into battle as well as ordering a pack(pride? what is a group of tigers called?) of them to attack in groups.
Aspects: Ogre's best friend, Massive Tiger
Good(+2) at: Fighting, Stealth, Carrying a rider, Sensing things
Bad(-2) at: Maneuvering in tight spaces, doing anything without an ogre there to guide it
Stress: [1] [2] [3]
Special: When attack the same target as an Ogre, the Tiger gets a +1 bonus to its attack.

For one reason or another, not all Ogre are content with Ogre society. Most often these are Aur-Ogre who are dissatisfied at their treatment. Though sometimes a Muja-Orog will seek adventure or a new life out in the wide world. These are loner ogres, they have left the jungle kingdom and returning to it is not a possibility. These are the Rynn(outcast) They can be found in the company of Orcs, Kobolds, Ynaugge, and even occasionally on a halfling greatboat(they are very useful for moving cargo, like a living fork lift). They can follow any path, though the reputation of their people follows them like a grim shadow.

So there is my take on Ogres. I am not entirely happy with how it all came out. This was one of the harder posts to write for me. The language felt stilted and weak. I would really appreciate any comments or thoughts  you have on this post. My next post will be on the Yuan-ti. I am thinking of making them along the lines of ancient Atlanteans as done by James Earl Jones in Conan. Awesome snake cults and demigods. I would love to hear your thoughts on that as well.

Friday, August 9, 2013

FATEsy Heartbreaker: Monsters and Treasure Part 3

Arthur Rackham

At the dawning of the world the gods created many of the peoples and bests of the world. They then left for the higher planes, leaving the nature spirits in charge of the running of the world. Some of those nature spirits saw this as a great honor. They carry out their duties to this day with a sense of dignity and pride. Some did not appreciate the gods abandonment of creation. Some of these nature spirits became Kobolt(mischief makers). As they spent more and more time away from the other nature spirits their essence began to change. Still bounded to elements, they became nearly material beings. Now they live on the edges of civilization, in small groups, bands or clans. These Kobolds are still an enemy of all peoples in the world. Often they are nothing more than a nuisance, but in large numbers they are a deadly foe, not to be underestimated.

There are three types of Kobold: Draches(Fire Kobolds), Klaboutre(Rock Kobolds), Hodkin(Wood Kobolds). Each deals with the people of the world in their own way.

Draches(also known as Salamanders, Pucs, or Fool's Fire) can transform into fire and are immune to fire. They love to draw travelers to their doom in swamps and marshes. They will come out at night and appear as a flame in the distance. Always out of reach. They draw their prey further and further into the bog. Finally their quarry will give up the chase and turn toward home, only to find themselves lost and alone. That is when the Draches strike. Legends speak of times of great calamity when scores of Draches would gather and march on village and town, burning everything in their path. It has been centuries since the last great conflagration, but the eldest Duara and Ael Adratta warn the youth, that fire cannot be completely quenched. The Kobolds will march once again.

Nameless Drache
Aspects: Devour all life, Lead them astray
Good(+2) at: Deception, Illusion, Burning
Bad(-2) at: Telling the truth,
Stress: [1] [2]
Special: All Draches are completely immune to fire and can transform from physical body to a fiery form. When they attack in this form the things they attack burn. If you have taken one or more stress from a Drache, you will continue to take one stress every turn until you spend a round putting the fire out(difficulty +1 constitution roll).

Klaboutre(Evil Stone) are the most commonly known Kobolds. In fact the name Kobold comes from a human mispronunciation of the Risjar's word for the creature. They dwell in rock as the other races dwell in air. They are also called knockers due to the sounds right before a mine collapse. This is a favorite trick of the Klaboutre. They will walk through the stone and place a vein of good ore that leads to more people down in the mines. Then, when the miners are tired and thinking about going home to riches and comfort, the Kobolds come and collapse the mine. They think this great fun. Some speak of the blue caps who lead the kobolds. Dark magicians wielding blue flame that melts through nearly everything.

Nameless Klaboutre
Aspects: The Rock is My Strength, The Stone is MINE!
Good(+2) at: Resisting physical stress, mining/shaping rock, ambushing
Bad(-2) at: Hiding, Keeping silent
Stress: [1] [2] [3]
Special: Kobolds are incredibly tough. Reduce any stress they take by two(to a minimum of one). Kobolds can also walk through stone, rock or most metal. Armor does not protect against attacks from a Kobold.

Blue Cap
Aspects: Purifying Fire, All Hail the Voice in the Darkness, Dwarves and Giants Must Die
Make as a main villain. They have the Wizard Class and they worship a voice that can only be heard in the darkest depths of the rock. It tells them to destroy all life above the ground. There spells are generally fire related and all fire spells cast a blue flame instead of an orange. They do not get the standard Klaboutre immunity to damage, though they can still walk through stone.

The Ael Ve tell stories of the Hodkin(Tree Ghosts). They speak of a spirit, at once tied to the wood and separate from it. It is said the only Elves who have seen one died shortly thereafter. The Golla Banne seek to appease these beings and carve out small spirit tokens from Lakjarina(live wood) in the shape of the Hodkin to ward off these foul spirits. They say that the yipping laughter is a sign that you will not die that day. The Hodkin(also known as gremlins, buhgis, and hobs) are spirits of the forest who despise the intelligent races that claim rulership of the woods. They lay out traps, snares, and even convince the foliage to turn against other creatures. They can become one with the forest around them, leading some to surmise they can become invisible. They are also masters of poisons and toxins. They can be appeased. If you can make them laugh they might let you live. However what makes them laugh are things that most gentle-beings find horrible.
Arthur Rackham

Nameless Hodkin
Aspects: Others Pain is Funny, Get out of my wood!
Good(+2) at: Blending in, tricking and trapping, ambushing, avoiding being hit
Bad(-2) at: Direct physical conflict, facing a superior number
Stress: [1] [2]
Special: The Kobold can completely blend into the surrounding greenery, becoming one with the forest. when they are like this they cannot be found by any means save for destroying the woods. They can also give animation to the surrounding trees. Treat this like a create advantage roll with Tricking and Trapping, on a success the aspect is made and can be used to attack with tripping and tracking.

There is my take on Kobolds. I hope you like them. If you have any thoughts, comments, or ideas I would love to hear them. The next monster I plan on writing up is The Ogre. That should be a lot of fun to do. Loads of cool folk lore and D&D lore to pull from there.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

FATEsy Heartbreaker: Monsters and Treasure Part 2

The Duara tell tales of the Rohsuk(disorder). Creations of Mjodgut that got away. They are creatures of madness and destruction, existing only to tear the world down. After the dawning war there was the time of the thousand conflicts. The Rohsuk would come at Dwarf and Giant alike. There are mountain valleys to this day, that are stained with the blood from those battles. The Rohsuk kill with out remorse. They attack even when outnumbered. They cannot be understood, bargained with, or intimidated. They are a plague upon the world.

 The Ael Ve speak of the Orahma(Merciless). The horrifying offspring of Ael Adratta and beasts. Cursed beings with no desires other than to kill all in their path. They see the Orahma as the embodiment of the curse laid upon them by Ao. When even the whisper of Orahma is heard in their forests, the Ael Ve go to war.

The Ael Adratta have a different story. Long ago the Orahma were Ael Droutsa. These evil elves delved into secrets none should know. They summoned a demon lord to learn its secrets. They were enslaved instead. For centuries they were tortured and mutilated, taught to hate all that was good and right. This was the beginning of the Orahma.

Among the Golla Banne, few ever tell of the Rukke(rage). When the Golla Banne sprang from the primordial darkness, they were not the only things to do so. So too emerged the Rukke. They know no emotion save hatred. They are consumers and defilers. They are anathema to Nature, and seek to extinguish her from the world. Golla Banne will band together en mass should the rumor of Rukke reach their ears.

To the First Men they were known as Orke(demon), now called Orc. During the final days of Iracillam many a corrupt sorcerer brought forth an army of these foul demons. Orcs are difficult to control, but are unwavering in combat. They were used many times by various noble houses in their schemes and petty wars. Often they would get loose and ravage the countryside. Their only purpose seems to be destruction. It became a law that those who would summon Orcs would be put to death. To this day Orcs are viewed with hatred and shame by humans.

Risjar will whisper the name Ruckt(mad) when speaking of old wars.  These beasts were so ravenous and crazed that neither giant nor dwarf could hold them back. The ongoing Ruckt attacks finally caused a treaty to be formed between the Giants and the Dwarves. To this day, a Ruckt outbreak is the only thing that will bring these two people together.

Laiela call them Hauti(broken) and will kill them on sight. they have no stories or folklore about them. They just hunt them down like a rabid animal and then move on with their lives.

The G'nol call them the Enemy of All. Being bred for war, the Flind see these demons as the reason they exist. Flind will hunt the Enemy of All on the smallest of rumors. Many Ynaugge have been seen in the company of the Enemy. The demons and the Ynaugge share many of the same desires. These are the most common types of demon that march with the Ynaugge.

The Orcs
When Dvarton fell in battle to Asdrit his black blood poured out in great rivers. these were swallowed up by the earth, but they remain still. Deep in the earth are the rivers of darkness. From these rivers spring forth, fully formed, Orcs. Orcs are niether demon nor natural thing. They have no gender, culture, or desires save for destruction. They are the last dying revenge of Dvarton. They cannot be controlled for long and they seek the destruction of everything.

Nameless Orc
Aspects: Born of Primal Darkness, Destroy!
Skilled(+2) at: Attacking, fighting, breaking things, Terrifying people
Bad(-2) at: Understanding people, caring, planning
Stress: [1][2]

Mob of Orcs(never less than 4 orcs)
Aspects: Born of Primal Darkness, Destroy!, Strength in Numbers
Skilled(bonus equals number of Orcs remaining) at: Attacking, Fighting, Breaing things, terrifying people
Bad(-2) at: Understanding people, caring, planning
Stress: a number of stress boxes equal to the amount of Orcs plus an additional two stress boxes.

A named Orc is a rare and dangerous thing. Follow the rules for creating a character when making a Named Orc. They tend to fall into the fighter class.

Story Hooks for use with Orcs:
A Dark Rumor: A small hamlet in the southern hills has not been heard from in several weeks. Upon traveling to the place you discover it has been burnt to the ground. It looks like Orc work, though there have not been orcs in these parts in nearly twenty years. upon further investigation the party will find the old ruins of an Iracillam Sorcerer's secret lab. It appears to have been broken into, and the orcs were set loose from it. Who let them out? What secrets are held deep within the ruins of the sorcerer's lab? Is this a single indecent or the beginnings of something greater and more sinister?
Prepare for War: Refugees begin to pour into the characters home town. Speaking of a horde of monsters descending on them. This is a vast army of Orcs, the likes of which have not been seen since the dawning of the world. This is the beginning of an epic campaign. The party must get all the races to gather together to fight this horde, all the while trying to discover the source of this evil. Orcs are rarely organized. Who has summoned them and to what purpose?

And there is the Orcs for my world. I would love to hear what you think of them.My next post will be on Kobolds, so any thoughts on how to handle them would be appreciated.