25 Quick and Dirty Map Tutorials

I’ve recently been looking at the 25 Quick & Dirty Map Tutorials Guide Google+ community on the net; the community contains numerous maps created by Michael Tumey and some good tutorials on how to create maps using most modern graphics packages; although the tutorials that I have read so far assume a certain level of technical competence. I like to think that i’m fairly intelligent when it comes to computers but, not having used certainly features in Photoshop before (the package that I have on my computer), I did have to avail myself of Google and some experimentation to get the desired results.

Part of the aim of the community is to drum up interest in the kickstarter for the printed Guide that will be starting at some point in the near future, in addition to providing a forum where people can have discussions, show off their work and ask questions about all things map related. I think that the community fulfils its purpose admirably although it may be a little daunting to anyone not experienced in using a computer graphics package.

Official website for the Guide is here:
http://www.quickanddirtymaptutorials.com/

I’ve posted the two (rough) sample forest maps that I worked on using one of the community’s tutorials below:

Addition 26/06/13 23:45 

I asked Michael Tumey about the lack of specific information related to the most popular graphics packages and was told the following:

“That would be the advantage of having the book, as there will be a chapter on Explanation of Terms where we look at what is the intent of a given task, with corresponding subsections for Photoshop, GIMP, Xara, Inkscape and several other common applications, giving more specific instructions on which tools in those applications needed to perform the same task.”

Given this additional information I will certainly be planning to support the kickstarter and would have no problem recommending the book (even at this early stage) for those interested in map/world creation.

Transcript of Microscope game 25-06-13

Had a quality game of Microscope with friends this evening.

Transcript can be found here.

Game creation summary

Last session of my Rogue Trader game I decided to test out some elements of the game creation phase from the FATE core rulebook (as discussed here); although we didn’t get round to defining the major future issues of the game since we got caught up in the action of the session I did use a small lull in the action to have the player characters detail some of their shared history in brief format.

I asked each player to come up with an event that their character took place in before the start of the game proper that involved at least two of the other characters in a supporting role; much as with the game creation for the God Machine game (detailed here) some players found this easier than others (only to be expected since everyone has different strengths when it comes to roleplaying, myself included) but in the end we were able to get at least one encounter from each character that I dutifully recorded on an index card for future use and exploration.

History Summary

  • Lord Admiral Black history event –  As a rite of passage Fortunus Black was a young noble sent into the hive bottom of his homeworld Planet Telec and part of a group of Spyre hunters wearing a power suit; whilst in the hive bottom he had to rely on his own wits and cunning to survive and was forced to barter power cells for his suit from Pak (who was then part of the Vitanteur Crime Syndicate). During one of his attacks, Fortunus was injured by the Redemptionist priest Cornelius who, realising that his foe was human, ministered to Fortunus and helped turn him to the righteous path.
  • Enginseer Prime Pak history event – Takes place on an Adeptus Mechanicus base in the Expanse that is under attack by xenos forces; an Astropathic message had been sent out for reinforcements, but even with Pak manning the defences and the Imperial Priest Cornelius planting a beacon to amplify the Astropath’s signal things looked bleak. Miraculously a ship arrived far sooner than expected, thanks to the superb skills of its Navigator York Benetec and helped save the base.
  • Confessor Cornelius history event – Cornelius was serving as a missionary aboard a ship belonging to member of Black family, Fortunus Black was the 1st officer onboard; they retrieved the Navigator York Benetec and some other survivors from a crashed ship; upon arrival they found black clad Eldar attempting to kill the survivors on the planet. The Black family vessel was able to repel the xenos.
  • Navigator York Benetec history event – Both York Benetec and Confessor Cornelius were recruited early on due to their shared history, Cornelius recommended Benetec on the strength of his reputation.
Having the shared history events seemed to work quite well and I can already see potential for a number of flashback scenes and additional details that can be filled in, including (but not limited to) the following questions:

  • What where the details surrounding the attack where Fortunus was injured and then saved by Cornelius?
  • What xenos threat was attacking the Mechanicus base where Pak and Cornelius were stationed and why?
  • Who was the member of the Black family commanding the ship that both Fortunus and Cornelius served on?
  • What was the nature of the Eldar threat to the Black family ship?

These are questions that can be potentially answered by playing through the scenes as narrated flashbacks, I wouldn’t really see the need for many dice rolls since the outcome of events is already known; they also provide opportunities for introducing additional NPCs such as the member of the Black family who captained the ship, etc.

One of the things I enjoyed last session was that, once the players had embraced the idea of creating their historical events they seemed to become much more invested in helping to create other details of the setting; a number of NPCs and other setting details were decided by discussion with the players characters, including the following:

  • 1st Officer of the Venerus Tullius Black – A distant cousin to Fortunus and the same age as him, Tullius never advanced much due to a lack of discipline and his gambling, Fortunus was giving him a second chance by offering him a position on his ship. This NPC came about when Admiral Fortunus wanted to leave the bridge and we realised that, up until now, he hadn’t had a first office (since the previously defined NPC, Polaris Black, was now captaining the Lunatic Pandora).
  • Lorgar Khan – Word Bearer chaos marine captain, little is known about this foe other than he lead the small pirate fleet that Admiral Black’s fleet was able to defeat, although Khan himself escaped into the warp with his battlecruiser swearing vengeance on them.
  • Festival of Emperors Divine Light – On my game calendar it was getting near the end of the Imperial Year and so there was a brief discussion regarding festivities that might be held at that time of year.
  • Sector 5 – A random detail decided in play was that all of the Senior Engineering officers bunked in Sector 5 of the Venerus since it was the nearest to main Engineering.
  • Ezekial Vitanteur – old Vitanteur from Pak’s past, white moustache.
  • Fortunus’ power armour – although purchased on Decusis from Tomas Vitanteur it was decided that this power armour was the same spyrer suit that Fortunus has once wore in the underhive; how the Vitanteur came to possess it and it ended up on Decusis is something that can be explored in more detail.

Testing proposed narrative space combat system

As detailed in my previous posts I have been trying to come up with a solution to the problem of lengthy combats leaving certain people out, I decided to ‘test run’ a number of ideas this evening with the results shown below.


***

Statistics

For the examples below the combats pit the Venerus against a Pirate Cruiser, the two ships have to following stats:

  • Venerus (Engine +1, Hull +4, Trade +2, Weapons +3)
  • Pirate Cruiser (Engine +3, Hull +1, Trade +2, Weapons +4)
***
Idea 1


Each player makes a roll for their engines and weapons score and totals the final results together to equal the damage done to the other side, each side then rolls their trade score to represent their attempts to repair their ship and subtracts it from the damage done.
Try 1
Venerus = -1 +6 = 5 dmg done to pirate -5 repair = 0 dmg to pirate
Pirate = +5 +7 = 12 dmg done to venerus -2 repair = 10 dmg to venerus
Try 2
Venerus = +2 +5 = 7 dmg done to pirate -0 repair = 7 dmg to pirate
Pirate = +2 +3 = 5 dmg to Venerus -4 repair = 1 dmg to venerus
***
Idea 2
Each player rolls for their engines, weapons and trade, totalling the rolls and this gives the dmg done to the other side.
Try 1
Venerus = +2 +4 +2 = 8 dmg done to pirate
Pirate = +4 +4 +0 = 8 dmg done to venerus
Try 2
Venerus = +0 +4 +2 = 6 dmg done to pirate
Pirate = +4 +5 +3 = 12 dmg done to Venerus
***
Idea 3

Total up Engine, Weapon & Hull scores and then add a 4DF roll, this gives you the damage done to other side.
Try 1
Venerus = +1 +4 +3 = 8 + roll(+1) = 9 dmg to pirate 
Pirate = +3 +1 +4 = 8 + roll(-2) = 6 dmg to venerus
Try 2
Venerus = +1 +4 +3 = 8 + roll(+0) = 8 dmg to pirate 
Pirate = +3 +1 +4 = 8 + roll(+1) = 9 dmg to venerus
Try 3
Venerus = +1 +4 +3 = 8 + roll(+3) = 11 dmg to pirate 
Pirate = +3 +1 +4 = 8 + roll(-2) = 6 dmg to venerus
Try 4
Venerus = +1 +4 +3 = 8 + roll(+1) = 9 dmg to pirate 
Pirate = +3 +1 +4 = 8 + roll(+3) = 11 dmg to venerus
***

Idea 4

This would be run more like a normal attack roll with each ship making a weapons roll vs the other ships hull roll and the number of shifts being the amount of damage caused.
Try 1
Venerus attack = +3 -1 = 2
Pirate defend = +1 +0 = 1
1 damage done to Pirate
Pirate attack = +4 -3 = 1
Venerus defend = +4 -2 = 2
0 damage done to Venerus
***
All of the ideas proposed so far have their individual merits and flaws, however their main flaw in my opinion is that that they all effectively involve adding a variety of stats together and then adding a dice roll as a randomiser; whilst this has a certain amount of logic to it given that this is how most challenges work in numerous roleplaying games, the various methods proposed above seem to result either in both ships taking crippling levels of damage or barely anything at all.
***

Idea 5

Make the opposing fleet a difficulty level to be beaten as part of an Overcome action:

  • Low quality (ragtag fighters, low tech vessels) +0
  • Medium quality (cobra class destroyer) +2
  • High quality (rogue trade vessels, havoc & hazeroth class ships) +4
  • Superb quality (warships, dictator class, space marine strike cruiser) +6
  • Legendary quality (retribution class, space marine battle barge, vengeance class grand cruiser, mechanicus ark) +8
  • +1 for every additional ship beyond the number of vessels possessed by the players fleet
  • If the players exceed the difficulty then they have forced the enemy to surrender (unless they are particularly zealous in which case they are destroyed), if the player ties on the roll then either the combat ends in a stalemate with both sides withdrawing to lick their wounds or the players win but at a heavy cost.
    If the players win by 3 shifts or more then they have succeeded with style and may choose to destroy the enemy vessels if they wish; however if the players lose then they have been defeated, if they fail by 3 shifts or more then the enemy have beaten them in style and the consequences may be severe.

    Try 1

    Venerus vs 1 pirate hazeroth cruiser.
    Difficulty = +4 (high quality vessels)
    Venerus rolls a -1, adding their weapon skills of +4 = 3
    Not enough to defeat the enemy fleet.
    Try 2
    Venerus vs 1 pirate hazeroth cruiser.
    Difficulty = +4 (high quality vessels)
    Venerus rolls a 0, adding their weapon skills of +4 = 4
    This is a stalemate, so either both sides retreat to lick their wounds or the Venerus wins but at a high cost.
    Try 3
    Venerus vs 1 pirate hazeroth cruiser.
    Difficulty = +4 (high quality vessels)
    Venerus rolls a +4, adding their weapon skills of +4 = 8
    The Venerus has beaten the difficulty by more than +3 and so they have defeated it With Style and can choose to destroy the enemy if they wish.

    Try 4

    Venerus vs 3 pirate hazeroth cruisers.
    Difficulty = +4 (high quality vessels) + 2 (for the additional pirates) = +6
    Venerus rolls a -4, adding their weapon skills of +4 = 0
    The Venerus has lost by more than 3 shifts and so they are at the mercy of the small pirate fleet.

    Try 5

    Venerus vs 3 pirate hazeroth cruisers.
    Difficulty = +4 (high quality vessels) + 2 (for the additional pirates) = +6
    Venerus rolls a +2, adding their weapon skills of +4 = +6
    This is a stalemate, so either both sides retreat to lick their wounds or the Venerus wins but at a high cost.
    Try 6
    Venerus + Lunatic Pandora vs 3 pirate hazeroth cruisers..
    Difficulty = +4 (high quality vessels) + 1 (for the additional pirate vessel) = +5
    Venerus rolls a 0, adding their weapon skill of +4 = 4
    The Venerus and Lunatic Pandora are narrowly defeated by the pirate fleet.
    Try 7
    Venerus + Lunatic Pandora vs 3 pirate hazeroth cruisers..
    Difficulty = +4 (high quality vessels) + 1 (for the additional pirate vessel) = +5
    Venerus rolls a +3, adding their weapon skill of +4 = 7
    The Venerus and the Lunatic Pandora have defeated the pirate fleet.
    ***

    Out of all the ideas that i’ve suggested in this post the final one is the most appealing, reducing the combat to a single test with a difficulty set by the quality of the opposition and modified via fate points, Aspects and Stunts as per normal tests (although this is not reflected in the tests shown above).
    I certainly plan to test out Idea 5 a game situation at some point, the only thing left to be decided on would be how to adjudicate the amount of damage done to the defeated fleet and the victors; although I am half tempted to leave this to narrative fiat.

    The quest for inclusive space combat continues

    So, continuing on from last nights post regarding how my game went, i’ve been giving more thought this morning to how I can improve space combat in my Rogue Trader FATE game, in order to get to the point I want the space combat in my game is going to have to meet two criteria:
    • The space combat should be short/quick enough so that any people not involved are not sat out of the game for an extended period.
    • It should involve a series of rolls rather than just a single dice roll.
    Dissecting what happened in yesterdays game

    When we were engaged in the space combat part of the session yesterday, the turn sequence ran as follows:
    • The navigator piloting the ship moving the ship.
    • The Lord Admiral making the shooting rolls.
    • The Enginseer making rolls to repair.
    • Alternating people making rolls for the other fleet ship (crewed by NPCs).
    I made an attempt to have players whose characters hadn’t acted in the last round roll dice for the NPCs to keep them involved, however, I can appreciate that rolling a few dice isn’t the same as having your character actually involved in the situation unfolding, the same level of emotional investment isn’t present IMO. There were occasions when people whose characters weren’t directly involved used their abilities or fate points to help provide bonuses to those people (whether PCs or NPCs) who were making the rolls.
    Gaining FATE points

    Another (very valid) point that was raised after the session was that when people were suggesting compels for their Aspects in order to gain Fate points, only the person gaining the fate point was actually benefiting, however, in a lot of cases the complications arising were affecting or stymieing the efforts of other players who were not benefiting directly from the accumulation of fate points.
    So what is the solution?
    My current plan is to distill the space combat down to a small series of rolls rather than an extended sequence of rolls; for example, i’m currently thinking that i’ll have a combat be resolved using the following rolls:
    • The ships pilots position their ships, this provides a modifier to the next stage for whichever ship gains the advantage.
    • Rolls are made for ships weapons, the number of shifts providing the total damage done to the opposing side.
    • Repair rolls are made, the number of positive shifts repairing the amount of damage done.
    • The amount of positive/negative shifts that each ship has remaining will be totaled and each side in the conflict will tally up their totals.
    • Total damage is allocated to the various ships by the commander of each side in the conflict.
    • The side with the least positive shifts in total is “Taken Out”, if they’ve taken a lot of damage then they may have been destroyed, or they may have been forced to surrender.
    This should allow a combat to be kept reasonably simple and short and on a narrative basis with a number of dice rolls that can occur simultaneously.
    In terms of Compels, I believe this is something that I can solve through my GMing by assuring that the complications arising from Compels are more personal and directed at the the character of the player receiving the fate point.

    So how did the game go?

    Well that’s today’s Rogue Trader session finished and the players all safely off home, it was the first try of my ‘simplified’ space style rules (as mentioned in this post) – so, sat here after the session has finished and the dust has settled I find myself asking the question “so, how do I think the session went?”

    Space Combat

    I think the simplified space combat was definitely a step in the right direction, it certainly flowed better than our attempts at using the original FFG rules space combat; however, despite my best attempts there were still moments when some of the characters were not involved very much in the events unfolding because they were limited in how much they could effect the space combat. I’ve had some frank discussions with my players at the end of the session and my current thoughts on the matter suggest the following options:

    • Expanding the repertoire of potential actions available to include more characters – this is one possibility but also involves adding an additional layer of complexity to the combat that I am keen to avoid.
    • Have the players who are not involved take over the parts of named NPCs who are influencing the combat – again a possibility although i’d really love to keep players as their own characters as much as possible.
    • Reduce the combat to a single roll or short series of rolls allowing all the player characters to contribute fate points – this is currently my favourite option since it reduces the length of combats meaning that players wouldn’t be sat out for so long but the potential of a single drastically bad roll would be mitigated by the potential fate point expenditures.
    • Run each space combat as a series of small encounters involving all characters, the result of each encounter adding to the overall success or failure of the overall combat.
    I have a month to think about it before the next session, so i’ll definitely be giving some thought to potentially using one of the above options when we next have cause to run some space combat.

    So what are the group playing?

    So after the players had finished discussing their characters I asked them all to think about where they lived; my only criteria for character at the start had been that they must either live in or spend a lot of their time in, the Specto Vale tower block.

    At the end of this process we had the following characters:
    Brian “Bulldog” Best
    A jack-of-all-trades, bar stool philosophising truck driver in his early 40s who works as an internation smuggler and (on his days off) a volunteer hospital driver, however his mouth often gets him in trouble.
    Brian spends most of his money on his van and is well known for his ability to keep it running with just sticky tape and hope; his appartment in Specto Vale being something of a man cave with a tv, futons and a few old steroes being the main furniture.
    Catia “Cathy” Mizuro
    Born in England but with Polish and Italian grandparents, Cathy wanted to become a nurse but washed out because she couldn’t cope with the pressure and stress; using her ability to speak several languages she found work in counselling and administration. A reluctant member of the Residents Association, Cathy spends a lot of time on her computer and is fairly well known amongst tech savvy circles; recently she has begun to become concerned that someone is stalking her.
    The money that she makes that doesn’t get spent on booze, drugs and partying is spent on shoes and clothes, her apartment is littered with accessories.
    Joe “Smokey” Thompson
    A wiry, well-dressed criminal problem solver, Smokey finds himself seen as something of a dinosaur or dying breed by the new upstart criminals that frequent the estate, despite being well connected the world seems to have moved on and left him behind. Still, Smokey’s reputation for ruthlessness and getting the job done means that he still finds work; when not at work he lives in a minimalist apartment miles from Specto Vale overlooking a park.
    [ Unnamed ]
    A failed chemist an student of horticulture, the young hippy turned to selling recreational drugs in order to fund her lifestyle; despite finding it sometimes difficult to get people to take her seriously, she has become well known amongst certain circles in the tower block. She lives in a flat where the majority of kitchen space is utilised for growing weed and only regular donations to the supervisor ensure that her flat is left alone.
    [ Unnamed ]
    Something of a local legend amongst the younger residents of Specto Vale, the old Polish man who lives in the dark apartment on floor 13 is something whispered about by children in hushed tones. Still, the man is a professional with connections to the mob and he deliberately cultivates a reputation to keep people away from him (even going so far as to remove the corridor light bulbs on his florr).

    Character Generation for God Machine Chronicle game

    We’ll myself and the other five players for my God Machine Chronicle game met up last night to define some more details about the setting and create characters ready for the first actual session on 05/07/13; this was my first experience of using the Game Creation advice chapter from the FATE core rulebook so I was interested to see how it would go.

    Designing the Setting
    You might ask why I needed to design the setting when (if you’ve read some of my earlier posts on this subject you’ll know that) I’d already specified that the game was going to be local scale and take place in a fictional East Midlands council block called Specto Vale? Well I’d left the setting of the game world fairly loosely defined, of course I had a few ideas kicking about that I wasn’t immediately going to reveal to the players (since part of the idea behind a God Machine Chronicle game, and indeed any World of Darkness game is discovering the horror behind strange occurrences) but I wanted to get the players involved in coming up with some of the other setting elements. The rationale behind this is simple, if players create parts of the setting then they are invested in it and are more likely to be interested in it.
    Setting Issues
    Following the guidelines in the FATE corebook we decided to come up with a couple of current issues (that already exist within the setting) and a couple of impending issues (problems or concerns that have just started to make themselves known). After a bit of head scratching and discussion we arriving at the following:
    Current Issues


    • Organised crime.
    • Racial tension.
    • Milk/local cats going missing.

    Impending Issues


    • Residents being evicted.
    • Potential demolition/repurposing.
    I wrote these issues down on index cards as we discussed them and, during the discussion, any interesting people or places that we mentioned were also added onto there own cards; we ended up with a stack of about 15 or so cards at this stage, including concepts and things such as:
    • Crime/racial tension.
      • Eastern europenas.
      • Tension between long time residents and influx of immigrants.
      • Graffiti tagging, racial slurs.
      • Conflict between new/old criminal elements.
      • Flags hanging from balconies.
    • Evictions.
      • Manager evicting housing association people to cram in the more profitable immigrants.
      • Residents association pettitions.
    • Missing milk/animals.
      • Escalating problem.
      • Has been reported- no action taken.
      • Connected with crazy cat lady?
      • Connected with chinese restaurant?
    • Residents association.
      • Do-gooders.
      • Door knocking Christians.
      • Leaders of the local scout movement.
      • Community events.
    • Crazy cat lady.
      • See the character from The Simpsons.
    • The manager.
      • Conservative MP.
      • Similar to the fat hacker from Jurassic Park.
    • Eastern European Immigrants.
      • Wage slaves.
      • 500 to a flat.
      • Right wingers (organisation).
        • Owner of the Red Lion, won’t serve them.
      • Illegal immigrants.
    • New criminal element.
      • Youth criminals/new blood.
      • Gangsta wannabees.
      • Chavs.
      • “Attack the Block.”
      • “Kids.”
    • A stalker.
      • Huge coat and hat.
      • Scary male.
      • Hangs around.
      • “1 Hour Photo.”
      • “The Watcher.”
      • “Mine Hunters.”
      • Infatuation?
    • Old polish criminal element.
      • Dying breed.
      • Boris the Blade – “Snatch.”
    • A man smuggling in immigrants.
      • Bartek Prusees.
      • Bringing in Polish Immigrants.
      • New blood.
      • Scarred, tattooed villain.
        • Danny Trejo.
        • Robert Kcvepper.
      • Nasty piece of work.
    • Newsagents/bargain booze.
      • Asian man running shop.
      • Illegal poker nights in back room.
      • Dodgy cigs, bootlegged booze, misc cheap meat.
    • Chip shop.
      • Legitimate family business.
      • Old patriarch.
      • Always open.
      • Once a week does free meals for homeless.
    • Red Lion pub.
      • Plastic, sticky floored pub.
      • Known rough pub.
      • Boarded up window.
      • Cig machine with no cigarettes.
      • Mesh over bar.
      • Man who knows a man.
      • Old man drunks.
    • Chinese takeaway.
      • Cat meat?
      • Human meat?
      • Sex trade cover.
    • Young prostitute.
      • Taken under wing of older prostitute.
      • Likes older men.
    • Older prostitute.
      • Over 50.
      • Doing it to put her daughter through ollege.
      • Cougar.
      • Has a thing for old Polish men.
    We then started creating the characters; it took a little while for people to get the idea of Aspects, but once the ball had started rolling most of the players seemed fairly comfortable with the concept, Stunts were a lot easier to explain.
    After some discussion and noted down of stats we ended up with the following character concepts:
    • An eccentric old shut-in with ties to the Polish mob.
    • A multi-lingual hospital worker and self-confessed ‘Lambrini Girl.’
    • A young female ex-chemist turned drug dealer.
    • A jack-of-all-traders bar stool philosophising lorry driver.
    • A wiry criminal problem solver.
    Following the creations of concepts we moved on to creating links between the characters; I asked each person to come with an incident in their character’s life and link two of the other characters in with it. This section of the character genning was very good fun as the players discussed things between themselves and began filling in some more detail about theirs and other people’s characters.
    • The criminal problem solver: Hired the truck driver to retrieve a shipment of drugs from Eastern Europe (via his contact the shut-in) in order to provide them to the dealer.
    • The truck driver was approached by the problem solver to move some of the drug dealers supplies up north as a favour, he was injured whilst on the job and trying to effect a minor repair to his lorry and get chatting to the hospital worker whilst in the waiting room.
    • The drug dealer was providing the criminal problem solver with a cut from her dealing, she knows the truck driver as the “pick up man; she frequents the same chip shop as the shut-in and has spoken to him a couple of times.
    • The shut-in has chased away the stalker when he was following the hospital worker.
    • The hospital worker was feeling sorry for a patient in pain and, knowing that there was a dealer living in the same block as her, bought some weed for the suffering patient; she bumped into the criminal problem solver (who was there to pick up his cut) whilst she was there.
    So how did the character generation session go overall?

    Overall I thought the character/game creation session went extremely well; it took a few minutes for the players to wrap their heads around some of the elements that are most different IMO from standard roleplaying games (Aspects for example), however, once this hurdle was out of the way and I had explained to the group that the best Aspects were those that could be used in a positive way but that also suggested elements of plot or complications that could occur this progressed fairly rapidly. It was extremely gratifying to see all of the players getting excited by their characters and talking about how they were connected and what parts of the setting would most influence their characters.

    In total the character generation probably only took us an hour of so, even with me explaining some of the concepts and going through how some of the FATE rules worked; the rest of the time was spent elaborating on various plot elements and discussion of the game setting.
    So to sum up I have a stack of index cards full of interesting plot pointers and things that capture the players imagination, five very interesting and different (but connected) characters and several interesting threads (such as the missing milk/animals, the stalker and the crazy cat lady) with which to draw the characters in to the machinations of the God Machine.
    Really happy with how that turned out and can’t wait to run the first session in a couple of weeks 🙂

    Game generation for a game that you're already playing

    As people who are reading this blog are no doubt aware, we originally began my Rogue Trader game the House of Black (the original post about the game is here) using Fantasy Flight Games rules for the game however we later switched to using the FATE core rules for the game for a number of different reasons; since the game was already well under way and we had established our sector of space (using a combination of the rules from Stars of Inquity for Rogue Trader and Diaspora for FATE) we never really looking overly much at the parts of the FATE core book that discuss sitting down an collaboratively creating parts of the setting. Although I did my best as the gamesmaster to ensure that the players were involved in the creation of the game background (aided by some great suggestions in the Diaspora rulebook) the actual FATE core guidelines and tips for this fell pretty much by the wayside.

    This seems like a great shame to me; i’ve been reading through that section of the book in more, in preparation for the character creation session of my God Machine Chronicle game recently and there is some very good advice included there about creating connections between the characters and getting them to have input on background elements and NPCs that will have some resonance for their own characters. To a lesser extent we have done some of this already as a matter of course, but getting the players to invest more in a game is always worthwhile in my opinion.
    Is the Game Creation Section of FATE only useful during the initial stages of a game?
    In my opinion the answer to the above question is no; although the characters in my Rogue Trade game have explored a couple of the star systems in our Sector there is always more to see and more people to meet, this is one of the great appeal of science-fiction RPGs to me, space is vast and filled with all manner of species and different sights. The game creations section asks some important questions to help create a setting for a FATE game:

    • What are the main issues in the setting?
      • Current issues – problems that exist in the world already.
      • Impending issues – things that have only just started to become a problem or an issue.
    The core book recommends that you choose at least two of these issues; it occurred to me that, although we have the Ancient Enemy already established as an Aspect of the campaign for the Rogue Trader game, there is ample room to explore other themes and that having the player characters give their input would be a great idea.
    The book then advises you to make the theme into Aspects and jot down names for some of the important places and NPCs that are connected with them. Given that the players have just reached a Significant Milestone in my game with their exploration of the Ancient Enemies abandoned base and the realisation that the xenos race are actually ancient machine beings that once laid claim to the sector, fought the Eldar to a standstill and sacrificed their own souls for immortality, it is my plan to go through some of the Game Creation stages in the book with my players; up until now the focus of the game has almost exclusively been on the Ancient Enemy, it’s time to broaden out the focus of the game and give the players far more say in their future as Rogue Traders 🙂

    Space combat – what can my character do?

    I received a Facebook message this morning from one of the players in my Rogue Trader game; he’d been reading my recent blog posts about space combat in my Rogue Trader FATE hack and wanted to ask the question:

    “I take it each of us would be able to do some thing in each turn?”
    This started me thinking; one of the initial problems that we had with the standard FFG rules for Rogue Trader was that, although the rules covered hundreds and hundreds of pages in numerous different books, the actual options for keeping all of the players involved in a space combat were fairly limited, this had lessened somewhat once the group acquired a second ship, however it was still very challenging giving everyone something to do in a space combat. Resisting the urge to dive straight back into my hack and start throwing out new rules like they were going out of fashion, I thought i’d take a quite skim through the core rules first and see what they were capable of delivering.
    I suppose that, given how flexible the FATE system is, it shouldn’t have come as any surprise to me that what I wanted was pretty much already covered by the systems Aspect rules; as well as being one of the coolest things about the FATE system and having been adapted to all manner of circumstances and different functions in numerous hacks that are being published and made available over the net, the Aspects would do a great job for me in representing how the different characters could influence what was occurring in the main battle, even if they were not directly manning one of the ships stations themselves.
    So how will this work?
    Well, as discussed in my previous post on the subject of Ship Construction, each ship would have four skills:

    • Engine – used for maneuvres and initiative
    • Hull – used for defence rolls and affects the ship stress tracker
    • Trade – used for trading, maintenance and ship-to-ship diplomacy
    • Weapons – used to make attack rolls

    A character manning one of these stations could substitute the following skill to make ship based rolls:

    • Engine – drive(spacecraft) 
    • Hull – crafts(tech use)
    • Trade – resources
    • Weapons – shooting

    However a character who was not manning one of the stations could still get involved if they had an appropriate Aspect.
    For example: If our Confessor Cornelius has an Aspect “Hate the Alien” and the vessel that he is onboard is firing upon a xenos vessel, Cornelius could use one of his fate points to invoke his Aspect, firing up the gunners with prayers and speeches of hatred for their foe, granted them either a +2 bonus or allowing them to re-roll their attack. Also if this was the case and Cornelius was the only character contributing the shooting then I would have him make the roll on the crews behalf.
    This sums up one of the most enjoyable aspects of the FATE rules system for me is that the rules are detailed enough to provide a framework for the group storytelling necessary to create a good RP experience, but they are also flexible and broad enough so that often they will easily cover circumstances in ways that you hadn’t originally foreseen and, on the rare occasions when they do not they can easily be bent into a shape that does.