Friday, September 27, 2013

Hit Locations in Fate

I was walking down the street listening to my favorite podcast(Ken & Robin Talk About Stuff) and I was struck with an idea. This idea is not complete. This is just the beginnings of things as far as this goes, but I would like to share what I have so far. I think it is worth discussing, and perhaps in discussion we can get something truly great out of it.

The idea is this. Lets put something like hit locations into Fate. Now I don't mean that we should add in head and arms and all that jibber-jabber. What I mean is find the narrative locations(fictive locations) of your character and make those areas you can attack. BAsically I think we already have something like those in the five character aspects.

the question then comes down to how we can utilize them as locations to strike? What happens when you hit them? My first thought was to add in a stress track for each, but that would add a lot of bookkeeping without really altering anything significant. So then lets look at consequences. I think what I would like to do is remove stress tracks and just have consequences.

How would this work? 
When you enter a conflict you declare what you aspect you are trying to alter. You make the attack roll. They make the defense roll. If you win they must either change the aspect or take a consequence(this represents a short term change as opposed to meaningful long term change).

Now this will mean changing a few things. Does your aspect represent a physical, social, or mental location of your character. This could be Items(physical), Social standing(Social), A rational Mind(Mental), or even stranger things. this would mean that most aspects you have would need to relate to how you can manipulate your environment(in a fictional sense).

Aspects also would be fairly permanent. you would be unable to alter your aspects at minor milestone anymore. Aspects then become core parts of your character that are very difficult to change, and only change via conflict or intense personal growth(a significant milestone or greater).

Another potential downside would be the speed at which conflicts are resolved. Combat is no longer about killing people, but without stress tracks it becomes very quick, no more than four turns at a maximum. Also we would need to change the extreme consequence. As it stands it changes a major aspect, and that is already a lose condition. I see the extreme consequence as taking the place of a concession in this system. It allows you to change your aspect rather than your opponent changing it.

I think this idea has legs, and I think with a bit more work it could be something really neat. As it stands right now though...I just don't know. Let me know what you think. Maybe together we can figure this out.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Fate of Poseidon: Adventure calls, will you answer the call?

H'okay, so yesterday's post went pretty well. Folks seemed interested in what I was attempting here. I guess I will continue on with the project. Today we delve into Character creation for Fate of Poseidon. Right off this is going to be a little bit different than other Fate Core based games in a couple of ways. First almost everyone in Blue Planet is genetically modified in some way or another. This is important and so I think it should be handled in a couple of different ways. I think the major biomod templates should be covered by an aspect. IN fact I think there might need to be a biomod aspect, as your mod does not necessarily have anything to do with your occupation or how you define yourself. The second way I want to do biomods is to use them as an explanation of your skill usage and your

Character creation

High concept: as normal
Trouble: as normal
Biomod: How are you modified from the human norm? Or are you an uplifted Dolphin or Orca? this will affect things.
Background: Why are you on Poseidon? Are you a native? Are you a new colonist? Did you come here to mine, or for the space and freedom? Perhaps you are an agent of GEO or the UN, or something else entirely.
Why are you with these people: What it says on the tin, talk it over with the group. Why are you all together? what drew you to this place and these people?

You will notice that I changed up the Phase Trio(in fact I removed it), the reason I did this is that I wanted to create something a little more akin to your traditional RPG in start out feel. You have a connection to these other PCs, but the main focus will be on your character and how you deal with them from the start of the game forward. this also builds a somewhat distrusting group dynamic, where not everyone knows everything about everyone else.

I am a bit torn on this issue. On the one hand I really dig a smaller skill set. It is less to keep track of and allows for highly competent characters in a lot of fields right off the bat. However Blue Planet has a huge list of skills, and such. I do think that I should add in a few more skills. However I am not going to alter the skill pyramid, because I think that lack of knowledge is a very important part of the Blue Planet experience. What you don't know can most definitely hurt you. So I will be breaking Lore up into a bunch of related skills: Science, Medicine, History, Survival, and maybe one more skill. I think there should also be a couple of other added skills, Swimming should be its own skill separate from athletics. It will cover not just swimming but knowledge of how the ocean works in a practical sense and use of underwater and water survival and traversal gear. Also there needs to be Pilot: water craft, and pilot aircraft...maybe something else. anyway that is it for my expanded skill list. Everything else is as it was in the main Fate Core book, unless I change my mind later.

I will also be changing a few other things as well. As I said the lack of knowledge or a skill should really be a problem for you. So when you run into a situation where you do not have a skill in a relevant skill you can take a Fate point to automatically fail the roll and complicate your life. Basically you succeed at a major cost without having to roll and gain a fate point. I am not certain how well this will work, but I kind of like the feel of it. It can make a lack of skill a plot element and really relevant.

Stunts don't change much in this. They mostly cover really important or impressive gear, biomods that are special or important to your character concept, or any kind of specialization or broadening of a skill. Just use the rules for crafting stunts as they are presented.

I will go into the various biomods in a later post as they are worthy of their own post. I plan on doing all the main biomods listed in the Blue Planet players guide(v2). I would love any feedback on how to do invokes and compels for the various Biomods. Any other feedback would also be welcome.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Fate of Poseidon

After a rather large discussion(on what games would make a great Fate hack) on the feasibility of doing a Blue Planet hack for Fate Core, I decided that rather than just say its possible I will go right ahead and make a Fate hack for Blue Planet. This is going to be pretty rough as it goes along as it has been a while since I played Blue Planet.

The first part of doing the setting proper is to come up with the themes and the threats for the setting. This is incredibly important as it will affect everything down the line. To me, the most important and thematic elements of BP are , the xenosilicate Long John, the newcomers to the planet vs the original settlers, and the exploration of the planet and discovery of many wonderful and strange things.

Lets start with the newcomers first. After decades of being alone on Poseidon, the first colonists have adapted an live in peace with the planet. Most of their technology broke down years and years ago, and so they mostly live in a somewhat more primitive state than expected. Meanwhile for those same decades the people of earth suffered under famines and environmental disasters. They only recently managed to achieve what they had lost, under the guidance of GEO. The new colonists from Earth are seeking new resources and new frontiers to live and thrive. I see this as being two themes(though it could be one and I just don't see it).The first theme deals with the desires of the Original Colonists. The second deals with the desires of the new colonists.

Theme: This is our new home, don't waste it

Theme: Hungry for new resources

Now to the Xenosilicate, "Long John," is crucial to this boom in population(am I remembering the name right? Long John?). It is an anagathic drug that is found in the depths of Poseidon. THis has caused a massive boom in the population of the planet as speculators and deep sea miners all come to strike it rich. I see this as both a theme and a threat to the planet. A theme, because it is pervasive, and a threat due to the people trying to take this resource.

Theme: Immortality in the Depths

Threat: Mining will kill the planet

THe final theme is the idea of discovery. Blue Planet is a massive book, and it has loads of support material. Most of it is just an exploration of the setting. I really think discovery is a big part of the game, and I would like to keep that in the themes as well. So here is the final Theme.

Theme: Last Great Frontier

Threat: Danger in the deep

Now that we have themes and a threat I want to dig into the mechanics a bit, because that was a concern of many in the thread that spawned this whole project. The concern is that in BP the combat is pretty lethal and people are fairly fragile, while in Fate the opposite is true. I have a fix for this, but it requires adjusting a few of the dials for Fate Core. First, get rid of the stress tracks. Now there is only consequences. This makes combat really nasty. There is no walking out of a fight unscathed unless you are really good or really lucky. Mostly I think that handles the problem in its entirety, but here are a couple of ideas for tweaking that if you get the idea to go this route. First tweak, make two consequence tracks. One for Physical, and one for social/mental. The second teak is to lower the amount of stress that a consequence can mitigate. As of right now they stand at 2/4/6, if you want to get really lethal go with 1/2/3, with a stunt required to raise it to Fate norms.

The other thing I would like to talk a bit about is Blue Planets attempts to be realistic and Hard Sci Fi. This needs to be talked about at the table. No playing fast and loose with the physics, no hand-waving stuff, when you are talking about the world it has to feel real. Now there are books and books of material on what Blue Planet has and doesn't have, so I would recommend going and getting the supplements for the game and using those as your baseline for what is and is not allowed.

Now back to the world and what the players will be playing/doing. There are a number of options for player characters in Blue Planet. There are the Genetically modified original colonists, one variety can hold their breath for long periods of time and dive very deep, the other has gills and can spend long hours in the water(though not as deep). there are the new colonists(which I have a difficult time remembering all that they bring with them). Then finally there are uplifted Dolphins and Orcas. I think I will cover those in a future post.

The other thing I would like to do is to stat up Poseidon itself as a character, because much of what the players do is survive in a harsh and unforgiving world. This, to me, sounds like the planet has skills and aspects and maybe even a stress track or two(a great way to keep track of environmental damage). However doing the whole planet as a character is a little outside the scope of what I am willing to do today. SO I will leave that also for another post in the future.

I think what I have so far is a fine beginning point. Please let me know where I have gone way wrong, as I said it has been a while since I read or played the game. My knowledge is a bit rusty. If you have comments or corrections please let me know so I can fix things.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Assault On The Spire

The other night I ran a quick one shot improvised game of Fate Accelerated for +Frank Falkenberg +Dan Hall +Raymond Nagle and +Seth Blumberg. Originally Dan was going to run, but he had some voice issues and so I ran the game. We started with this premise: "Mythic Age: There were many great empires in the past. Men of Science and Sorcery ruled all the known lands. As with all things the empire became corrupt, rotted from within. Now those empires have fallen, and you sit in the last bastion of civilization trying to rebuild. Trying to discover the secrets of the past."

I saw this as kind of Heroic Fantasy, and Frank really wanted to add in some word and sorcery. After a bit of discussion among the group we ended up with a fantastical far future apocalypse scenario. I did not see that coming. The premise for the adventure is this. There was a great archology that was abandoned during the fall of Man known as The Spire. A small town grew up at the base of The Spire to cater to adventurers who were stupi-um...brave enough to search the tower for ancient artifacts. Something went terribly wrong with one of the journeys into the tower. The Enemy was released and wiped out the town. Now it is a year later and a group of prisoners are being volunteered to go up the spire and see if The Enemy is still there. 

Our Heroes are:
Miyo, The Swordsman(Dan)
High Concept: Fastest sword in the land
Trouble: Pride before the fall
Crime: Death is the only way to escape my blades
And: Razor sharp senses

Ivan “Kroach” Krassniy(Frank)
High Concept: Well-travelled Tech-Salvage for Hire
Trouble: That one Artifact must have had a Malfunction
Crime: Accidentally disintegrated the Palace

High Concept- Optimistic Con Man
Trouble- Dreams the Impossible Dream
Aspect- Have I got the Plan for You?
Aspect- The Grass in NEVER greener. Aspect- Have you met Ted?

Dr. Fosse Dalaver(Seth)
High Concept: Meddler in Things Man Was Not Meant to Know
Trouble: Shiny Red Candy-Like Button!
Under Sentence of Death For: I Most Certainly Did Not Release THE ENEMY
Also: I’ve Got Just the Thing in My Toolkit
Also Too: Everything’s a Weapon

I added in a new aspect for FAE. I asked what crime they had committed to get them on death row. Then the adventure began in earnest. They entered the building and Dr. Fosse's need to investigate led them into an ambush. A scissor handed robot struck from the darkness and it was only the mad skills and senses of Miyo that saved the day. They removed the power core from the bot, but the roll was a tie so the minor complication was that it was delicate. They found The Shaft a massive cylinder going through the center of of The Spire sunk deep into the ground and rising off into the darkness above. Mysterious rooms hung from cables over the chasm. The good doctor decides to use the power core to make use of what he calls Vertical Traverses(I think, I kind of forget the exact title he gave them). He does not try and hide this...something noticed them.

that something was The Enemy, a collective of nanites awoken by the Doctors meddling with things man was not meant to know. Miyo stood and fought while Kellen climbed on the roof to join the fray with his boundless optimism. In fact the was Kellen throughout the whole game, he had only one power, his belief that everything was going to turn out wonderfully(we compared him to the fantastic +Mark Diaz Truman and his boundless optimism). During the fight the power core becomes a bomb. Things escalate. Miyo, Kellen, and Ivan manage to defeat the Enemy, but there are a few nanites left on the core. they start eating away at the elevator roof. It all leads up to a really wonderful seen where the good Doctor uses the nanites to infect all the other nanites with a virus and kill them. It was pretty epic.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

With my voice, I speak

I have a problem. Well, I have several problems, but this one seems to be prevalent at the moment. My problem is this, people often misunderstand what I am saying. This is caused, I think, by a couple of factors. I can be quite direct in my communication when I am just reacting. This can come across as rude to some, I am aware of this. The other factor is that I was raised to view no topic as outside the bounds of reasoned conversation. This generally means that I will have less emotional investment in a given conversation than the person I am talking with. This can lead to me talking far longer about a topic that makes other uncomfortable than I really should. This can also lead me to ask questions that might be upsetting to someone. As I was raised in an environment where these sorts of things were the norm. My parents wanted me to be able to discuss anything freely and without shame. I sometimes do not understand that others are not the same.

This has become an issue more often lately as I have started to talk online with a lot of different people about gaming and my GMing style. When someone makes a statement about GMing that is either too vague, too biased, or just logically unsound I tend to react. I hold back my first impulse with that situation. I really try to. I do. I do not want to be rude. My first assumption with any of those situations is to assume I am wrong, that I do not understand. So I ask questions to clarify. I wish to make sure I understand before I start to respond, as I do not wish to rush to misjudge.

Here is where the interesting part comes in. Lately when I have asked questions in order to better understand I have been getting a somewhat negative response. This has not happened every time, but it has happened often enough that it has become a bit of a concern. Specifically one particular individual has taken to insulting me rather than responding to any of my questions. I find the whole situation distressing. I ask questions and instead of a response I get derision. I don't understand why the insults so I ask more questions, and I get more derision. This hurts me.

I know what you all are thinking, "Then you should just avoid talking with these people." However, I feel like this is giving in to bullying. I like to be honest and sincere with others and I like to believe that with understanding peace can be achieved. Maybe I am wrong. I am probably wrong. This is just my sharing of feelings that I have experienced. I have been far more upset about these instances than I really should be. I think I may be a bit depressed. On the plus side, depression is a trigger for my creative side so I should be able to really put some excellent work into Jadepunk.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

GM Advice Woes!

While I was writing my rough draft of the GM chapter for Jadepunk I realized quite a few things about myself. I have been running games for years and I thought I knew how to run a good game. I do know how to run a good game, but one thing struck me. Skill does not equate to knowledge. What I mean is this. I am a skilled GM( I have been told), but a great deal of what I do during a game has been internalized to such a degree that I do not really know how to explain it. So I spent a week, digging through my memories and trying to express how to maximize your GM experience in Jadepunk. Here are a few of the ideas I have come up with. Some of them may show up in Jadepunk, some may not. I would love to here your thoughts on these nuggets of advice I have managed to illuminate.

Suppose [Blank]

This is more a campaign framework tool. When I start a game I like to start with this idea. If it sounds familiar, it is. I stole it from Socrates, I do that sort of thing. How you answer this will lead to logical ramifications. This does not mean that you need to come up with every possible outcome of the suppose statement. Work with the players to figure it out. This helps in a lot of ways. It lets you find out what the players find plausible. It also lets gain a bit of a window into the worldview of your players. That knowledge will be very useful as the campaign moves forward. All things must be internally consistent: things cannot just happen. They must always stem from the suppose statement. This method is most useful in a science fiction or fantasy campaign. If you are set in the normal world with no tech or magical elements the Suppose [Blank} does not work so well.

Genre, Character Focus, and Central Conflict

The Genre of a game is crucial to keep in mind at all points of the game play. You and your players all showed up for a specific experience within a specific genre. Often times as GM I will have the idea to run a session or two in a slightly different Genre, or my players and I will have differing ideas on what the tropes of the Genre are. These are problems. The obvious answer is to talk about Genre with your players. However this is problematic because everyone has a different experience with the genre and a different focus within the genre. The way I have found to keep this working is to go with the tropes you have and when someone points out where you and he differ, that is when you discuss that instance. Try and suss out if your interpretation, or his, is a deal breaker. If it is not, play on. If it is, compromise.

Character focus is key to many role playing games. In general characters are the levers on the world. also by focusing on the characters you are reinforcing the importance of the characters and their decisions. This is subtle and easy to overlook, but it really pays off in the log term. The idea of character focus influences a lot of other things I have said about GMing so I wont go over it all again.

Central Conflict is what the whole story is about. Whether that is a single adventure or an entire campaign. When you are running a narrative of one sort or another you need to keep in mind the central conflict. If it is a campaign every adventure should focus around this truth of the game. It does not have to be the main focus of all the adventures, but it should be a part of every adventure. By doing this you build a cohesive narrative. It can be overdone but I think this is one of those things that works really well when done even moderately well.

If you are explaining you are losing

You can lose at RPGs. You can. Do not believe the lies, you can lose at RPGs. the way yo do this is when you undercut the reality of the game world. This is when the players begin to lose interest. When you have to start explaining and justifying things to the players, this is one of the early signs of player disinterest. They have started questioning the shared imagine space. This is the first steps on the path to oblivion(but not the cool video game)

Keep it simple

Yep. Keep it simple. Complicating things makes it hard for players to understand what is going on, and increases the amount of fail points in the campaign. If you keep it simple you increase immersion and understandability.

Investigation is not the point of a scene

Investigation is what gives you the information required to make an informed decision. Decisions or repercussions from decisions are the point of scenes.

The ending should derive naturally from the story

This is really tricky. You don't really plan this, instead you have to understand how to recognize when a natural ending has occurred. That is not to say that you cannot plan an ending, in the loosest sense. A planned ending as I see it is mostly an end condition. Its and If/Then statement. If X happens, then it is the end of this story.

Therefore/But rule

Every scene should connect to every other scene by the phrase, "Therefore [Blank]," or, "But [Blank]." what this does is create a logical and consistent connection from one scene to the other. If you find yourself having to connect your scenes with, "And then [Blank]," it shows the weakest form of narrative you can have. It can make everything feel a bit unconnected.

How something feels is way more important than how it actually is

Its true, games register on an emotional level and not a rational one. You want to know why people will spend years telling you about their character is because they have a massive emotional connection to the character and the world that character inhabited.  You need to understand this and internalize this idea if you wish to understand why your players are reacting the way they are. it is also why game discussions get so heated. they look like intellectual debate based on logic and rationality, but it feels like everyone is calling you names and saying that your style of lay is stupid.

Joseph Campbell can suck it

Ok, not really. As a folklorist I really dig  Campbell's(hail to the king, baby!) influence in the field. What I am really saying here is that, "The hero's journey," is often completely misused and misapplied in GMing. you can use it to build a fantastic game. You can. However it often gets complicated and convoluted. Also it can start to feel samey and boring. also it can get a little to narrowly focused. How all of that happens is that there are between three and seen main characters. This means that it has that possibility to really complicate things, when you try to run the hero's journey for each of them it gets...weird. If you don't and are only running it for one or two of them, it will feel more coherent, but it can make the others feel less important and plot central.

The other big issue with, "The Hero's Journey," is that if it is handled poorly it can feel very linear and samey. Linear is not necessarily bad, but it has had a mixed history in role playing games. Linear often gets equated with, "Railroading." I think it can be done well, but that is tricky and requires trust from your players. the feeling of sameness is my real issue with this. Because Campbell was writing about themes he saw in a great many cultures and mythologies his descriptions come across as iconic and symbolic. What he wasn't doing, however, was trying to explore nuance and difference in culture. He celebrated universal themes and metaphor, while ignoring differences and subtle influences. It becomes a crutch for GMs that makes a game feel like a Tolkien rip off.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Design Vlog 3: Life in the big city

I sent off my first(really) rough draft of Jadepunk's GM section. I also began work on teh life in the city section. Overall movement is going forward, but I express some doubts as to my prowess with writing. Do not worry overmuch, I am just going through a down time lately. I am sure I will snap back soon.

Jadepunk Kickstarter