Upgrading one of my main NPCs


PLEASE DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU ARE ONE OF MY PLAYERS

Some lively discussion was generated by my recent blog post about how one of my NPCs was statted for my last Rogue Trader FATE game, there was some great advice given on G+ and Blogger by (amongst others) Julius Müller, Tim Noyce, Robert Hanz and John Miles; looking back over the character cards that i’d prepared, in light of this information one of the NPCs that I had tagged as a main NPC didn’t really seem to have the stats to back that up so i’ve made a few tweaks and amendments.

Thought i’d post a copy of the card, as currently stands, he to see what people think; any constructive comments welcome.

So how did the Bloodletter work in my Rogue Trader game?

As regular readers of the blog may know, my Rogue Trader FATE game recently featured a Bloodletter daemon of Khorne (the blog entry where I discuss statting this bad boy is available here for anyone who is interested); so, now that the weekend has finished and the week has settled in like an unwelcome lump of concrete and I reflect on the game session, how did the Bloodletter work?
Overall I think it worked quite well, given that this is the first real hand to hand combat that I have run in the game since switching to FATE it ran quickly and relatively smoothly being resolved in a few minutes rather than the hours that combat can take with some systems; you don’t really get the same level of ‘crunch’ that you get with more detailed systems (although I have instituted weapon rules (as defined in my Rogue Trader hack) in my game) but i’ll quite happily sacrifice crunch for a game that doesn’t become needlessly bogged down in the minutiae of combat. There were, however, a couple of minor issues that cropped up with the Bloodletter that I think are worth bearing in mind for future combats and that I thought i’d share in this blog post.
  • More Stress levels required
The initial three stress levels that I apportioned for the Bloodletter were nowhere near enough and would have resulted in the daemon being overcome in the very first round (without getting to land a blow); I think this is because of the increased ‘damage’ caused by the players weapons. During the game I had to add another three stress levels onto the antagonists total in order to make it any sort of challenge.
Another thing that I have started doing with these NPCs (mainly because they do not have any consequence boxes that can be used to soak stress) is ignoring the rule (for NPCs only) that only a single stress box can be used to soak damage; i’m not sure whether or not this was supposed to apply to nameless NPCs but originally I had been using that rule. I’m considering now making each stress box worth a single stress level and increase the amount of boxes possessed by each NPC, this would make it far easier during a combat to just tick off a number of boxes equal to the damage taken.
  • Opponents being overwhelmed by odds

Although the mob rules work really well and are great for representing the mobs of soldiers, tech-priests, fighter pilots and other generic ships crew that the players in my game (rightfully) tend to tool about with, it does create a situation where any single antagonist is liable to be overwhelmed by mobs of nameless NPCs (lead by a much more capable player character) in short order. Part of the reason for this is that i’ve been having mobs directly add their teamwork bonus to the players score and thus it can result in some quite high final tallies (even on a mediocre to poor roll); this wasn’t really a problem in the Bloodletter encounter since it was just a single opponent against a whole ship of crew.
In future I think that i’ll adopt a couple of tactics in order to lessen the impact of mobs:
  • Using terrain to restrict their use: If only a certain number of people can assist a roll then the bonuses are limited.
  • Having area effects or psychological effects that affect nameless NPC mobs but that the PCs are proof against: Some sort of ‘fear’ effect may be appropriate for creatures like daemons, perhaps some sort of test being required to initiate an attack or even just a stunt that means for the first round of a combat nameless NPCs cannot attack.
  • Having mobs roll seperately rather than adding their bonus to a player character: This would result in two reasonable rolls rather than one really high roll.

Things I learnt making an RPG youtube video

Inspired by several members of the Youtube RPG brigade and various youtube footage that I had watched about tabletop RPGs I decided to have a go at making a couple of videos myself and uploading them to my youtube account (the results can be seen here for anyone interested). The videos that I made were fairly spur of the moment affairs using just the built in webcam on my laptop, without any real planning (or experience of handling video footage); although the videos didn’t turn out too badly in my opinion and most people were fairly kind and constructive in their feedback there were a few things that became obvious that I thought i’d pass on in this blog to anyone else who is thinking of making Youtube RPG videos:

  • Have some notes ready to prevent stumbling over words or rambling.
  • Make sure that any props or the like are ready to go or (preferably) have them edited in afterwards to save fumbling around for a book (or whatever) during the video.
  • Do a quick rehearsal or run through of what you plan to say first, this helps enormously when you come to record.
  • Have a play around with some of the free video manipulation software available on the internet (i’ve been doing this myself and plan to incorporate what i’ve learnt into my future videos).
  • Talk clearly and concisely, trying to minimise long pauses.
Overall I quite enjoyed the experience of making the videos and definitely plan to make some more in the future (I would recommend anyone at least try it), i’ve gained a few subscribers and have had some encouraging comments; hopefully by following the advice above i’ll be able to make some slightly more published videos.
If you plan to make some videos and are perhaps looking for some more advice, you could do worse than joining the YouTube RPG Brigade G+ community.

God Machine Chronicle – The World According to Maggy Pike : Part Two

IC blog of second God Machine Chronicle Session
Written by Kelly Grimshaw
Reproduced with permission from the author.
After last night’s fun and games I had planned for a nice quiet day in the house with Luna. As the phones are still out from the Arctic deciding to try to move its boarders to England I guessed that I wouldn’t be getting much in the way of business either so the day would be spent checking the plants, harvesting, drying and bagging. No. 
It started out promising; I got up, made breakfast- a smoke and a cup of tea, fed the dog, checked the plants, bit cooler than yesterday, I guess there was more snow so will have to start thinking of bringing more lamps in.
Started to weigh and bag when there was a frantic knock at the door, I pocketed then bagged up the stuff and swept the rest into a bin bag and stuffed it under the sofa; all the while this person’s knocking was getting more and more frantic. Looking through the key hole I see the youngest of the Lung’s looking frantic so after last night I opened the door to let her in.
As soon as I open the door she starts waving a roll of cash at me tied up with string, now it can’t be a Christmas present as we don’t know each other well enough to be exchanging that kind of a gift; looking at it, there was roughly 500 quid there and for her safety I pull her through the door, shutting it behind her. She starts to talk at me in Chinese, now I know the language to the extent where I can say hello, thank you and goodbye but I had no clue what she was saying so taking a wild guess I pull out a 10 bag and offer it to her; nope not that then, she looked at me puzzled for a moment then starts talking again. 
I am totally befuddled at this point and try small words, “Follow you?”
Bingo, she pauses for a moment while she works out what I have said and nods.
Now I know that the woman opposite speaks Chinese as she was interpreting last night but I also know that she was working this morning (some sort of Resident’s Association meeting or something) so there was no point knocking to see if she could help so it was just me and Su-ling. She is still talking at me as we walk down the stairs but I have no idea where I am going or what I am going to see when I get there; she is looking more frantic when Brian walks round the corner. I have never wanted to talk to him so much since I met him.
I know he works for Joe, Smokey to most people but according to him I am not most people, I don’t know whether to take that as a compliment or not; 
I explain what has happened and he tries the old English holiday fail safe that has made locals cover their ears and cower for generations, he speaks loudly and slowly at her. Now I could have tried that but we all know that it doesn’t work and she just waves the roll of cash under his nose. Brian takes it off her and counts out 500 quid, right there in the middle of the corridor. Subtle this man is not.
After announcing to the world in general that there is 500 in cash he pockets it in front of her; I hope that this is a clumsy sign of keeping it safe, she looks at me and just pulls at my sleeve to continue our decent into the rabbit hole. As we enter the lobby (ha! It’s a pair of double doors that shield the stairs from the outside world but I really can’t think of another name for it) I realise that we are going back to the Chinese take-away. I am starting to panic now, if she wants me to check on her dad then we need Catia for this,  she’s is the nurse after all, all i’ve got is basic first aid (and a bit of chemistry). There is a figure in the door way looking like he’s trying to enjoy a quiet smoke, it’s Joe.
I’ve worked for him for a while now but over the last 24 hours I have spoken to him more than I think he would like; I ask if he speaks Chinese, hope must have been radiating off me like the sun at this point but it turned out he also knows the extent of the menu from the local takeaway; I really feel like I should be taking lessons soon. Su-ling tugs on my sleeve again, a little harder this time so I nod and leave the lads to it, hoping they will follow. Not for any help from the looks of it but sometimes it helps to spread the confusion.
She leads us into the kitchen of the take-away and points to the freezer; all of us hesitate, I did not see this myself but the lads told me this is where they found the frozen cat that defrosted at mine and I swear was still part catsickle when it sauntered out the door. Brian, being Brian is the first to pull himself together and opens the chest freezer. Cautiously we, not so happy three, peer into the frosty depths to be greeted by the sight of a frozen bin bag; looking closer the shape of the bag isn’t a lump of something but more cylindrical. Brian, who for reasons that will become clear later seems to have no sense of self-preservation AT ALL reaches in and pulls out the bag, he looks in and pulls out rolled up sheets of paper secured with elastic bands.
While he unrolls one of the tubes I ask Su-ling if anyone else is in the house that can explain what she is so upset about, she vanishes into another room and re-appears with her older sister who looks just as confused as the rest of us, “Um, hello?” she says slowly.
I explain, again, why we are here and she turns to her sister and there is a frantic conversation. Looking a little annoyed at her sibling she explains that the same man who paid her father to store the invincible feline came banging on the back door during the night, he asked her to hide said bin bag and pushed a roll of notes into her hand.
“Brian is looking after it for her, I thought it was a little dangerous for her to be waving it around” I interrupt. Let’s see what happens. Slightly to my surprise he nods and pulls out the cash and hands it to Su-ling.
Her sister takes it off her and continues, “I have been tending to father since you kindly saved him, my sister didn’t want to disturb him so took the money and knowing that father had done this before she just did the same.”
I look over to the lads who have closed the lid and were now using it as a crude table; the rolls of paper seem to be blue-prints of our building with tiny holes that could be pinpricks highlighted in red, a form of spider web in the same red ink linking places together and there were also crude stars in black ink scrawled over certain parts of the block. Two on the Thirteenth floor, flats 1313 and one that is so covered in red ink it is hard to decipher.  One on the first floor flat 113 and one at the bus stop-oh look route 13! Why do I think it isn’t going to be lucky for us?
They explained that the man with the tin foil hat- Miles I think his name was, had been almost having an episode trying to tell them that something was happening, he said that he had seen cats that couldn’t die.
 
Yeah it’s called reincarnation, you generally have to go back to the start and try again but…”That’s not what you mean is it?” I say to the lads.
“No,” Joe says simply “he says he has seen them get hit by lorries and get up fine.”
 
I look at Brian who nods his head in agreement.
“He did say if we go back up to him he can show us what he means,” continued Brian said looking at Joe.
“Well now is as good a time as any” Joe replies.
“Wanna join us?” He asks looking at me.
I don’t think this is a good idea to be honest, a man who sounds like he is running beyond the realms of sanity and still accelerating may not want to speak freely in front of a stranger. I don’t have time to say this as I am whisked off to the sixth floor to talk to Captain Tin foil.
What answers the door is nothing I have been prepared for, a well-scrubbed man in a shirt and a woollen jumper; he seems to recognise Brian and Joe and begins apologising for his behaviour 16 hours ago. We go inside and the place is clean, I mean really clean, I mean show room clean with nothing out of place, the boys seem a little taken aback by this while the reformed Miles continues to apologise for his ranting, scaring the community and general craziness.
“What about what you wanted to show us?” Brian asked waving the blue prints at him.
“Whatever I said before, I was not myself” Miles says continuing to defend himself.
“What about the cats…?” Brian continues, in his ‘it was you wot done it, own up’ form of interrogation.
There is a strange noise coming from somewhere, it reminds me of something I haven’t heard since childhood; my father was a Chemistry Professor and one of his oddities was to wear a waistcoat and a pocket watch. Every now and again he would conduct his little ceremony of winding the watch. It would start with him taking it out, staring at it for a few seconds, holding it up to his ear, shaking it, holding it up to his ear again as if he were waiting for the mysteries of the universe to reveal themselves, huffing loudly and he would then begin to wind.
The noise I heard in Mile’s flat was a little like the noise of the cogs grinding and the spring being tightened; I looked around the room, expecting to see some form of clock when it stopped. Not in the way a clock winds down but stopped dead.
There it is again.
For some reason I look at Miles, he is paused in mid-conversation about him having paranoid schizophrenia and luckily finding someone who had the same mediation as him (someone with a stock pile) and persuading this total stranger of letting him have some until he can get to the doctors….well that certainly was convenient. Brian asks what medication Miles is on, hold on, wait, what? Brian has asked to see proof that the poor man is tormented by his own mind.
He takes out a box; it has a white sticker with the scientific name and all the stuff you usually see on a box from the chemists; and that’s when I realise that the noise is coming from him, as he pauses the mechanical whirring sound is audible then it cuts and Miles begins to speak. I stand there for a moment thinking perhaps i’m imagining it and searching for a clock. Brian, I am sure, is trying to bring the poor man to the point of another episode by arguing with him about paint, yes paint and Joe keeps asking how he got DFS to deliver a sofa in the snow.
 
Joe is quiet for a second as Brian comes in for a second wave of paint questions so I take a chance and ask Joe if his watch is a wind up, he looks at me slightly taken aback for a moment then says casually “Yeah, it’s an Omega,” pointing to his wrist.
“No, I mean do you need to wind it?” 
Again he looks at me wondering where this conversation is going to, “Nah its perpetual motion.” He seems quite proud of that fact.
“Then what’s that noise?”
Joe looks at me for the third time, “How much have you smoked?”
‘You and him are arguing with him about decorating shit and you are asking ME about being off me tree?’ I scream so loudly in my head that I am sure they should have heard it. 
“Only one but I will be rolling the mother of all of them after this” I reply; I need to talk to Brian. 
I seem to have missed the last part of the conversation as Miles is looking at me with a HELP ME! plea on his face.
“Can I see the tin of paint miles?” says Brian
“What, why?”
“He’s decorating and hates the smell,” Joe answers.
“Yeah, sure it’s under the sink.”
Brian goes on the hunt and presumably finding nothing more than a tin of emulsion he sits down again, although thinking back on this was it really only just a tin of paint, no really bear with me on this.
Using this point of confusion I do what all English people do in a point of crisis, “Who wants tea?”
Well that seemed to have worked, I pause and say “Brian, come and give me a hand.”
Brian follows me into the kitchen and while very loudly making tea and a glass of water for Miles on account of some form of gastric thing I tell him about the noise; we return wile Joe is having a go at getting information, it’s not going well and I have to wonder how he got so high up in his line of business.
The noise is there again. I nod to Brian and point to my ear; he listens and then…YES he hears it too!
I can see that a conversation with these two is beginning to exceed the limits of Miles’ medication, hell I might even ask for one at this rate. Brian sees it too and suggests that he takes his pills, giving them back to him. Miles, relief pouring off him like steam, grabs the box of tablets and takes them with the glass of water.
I watch, half expecting to see steam coming out of his ears or his neck blowing off on a spring like in the cartoons when a robot hits water.
“YOU ARE NOT MILES!” Joe decides to shout. Oh well done Captain Clever now the clockwork men know we’re on to them. Does he never watch Dr Who?
Brian also having the subtly of a rutting rhino says just about word for word what I just thought and now Miles looks as though he is about to have an aneurism; we make our excuses and turn to leave.
Joe hangs back and then loud enough so we can hear it on the landing he shouts “YOU’RE NOT MILES!”
Ah ha! Now it’s my turn for the look.
“You know when you’re holding a brick?” What the fuck! I am really struggling to hold on here. 
“Actually no, not recently” is all I can manage before sitting down to roll. I give up, frozen cats, mysterious blue prints, clockwork men and now bricks. But wait it gets better.
“I shook his hand and it didn’t feel right” Joe continued “I added a bit of hard man (not sure if I heard that bit right to be honest) pressure to the shake and it was like squeezing a breeze block. He is not Miles.”
“What if the people that the real Miles said was after him, actually got to him and somehow brainwashed him?” Brian asked. I am glad I am building a smoke at this point as I am having trouble keeping up.
“I suggest we take a look at what the real Miles wanted to show us.” he continued indicating to the blue prints, still in his hands.
“I need to take the dog out first; I’ll have a look at the bus stop.” I said as I tucked the cone into one side of my mouth
“So we’ll take the first floor” Brian replies and for now we go our separate ways. 
It seemed a good idea at the time.
Stepping outside me and Luna get Siberia in the face; luckily enough around the block isn’t so bad, Luna has a chance to run around, have a bit of a sniff and do what dogs do before we venture further out. Struggling through the snow, now up to my waist and Luna now trying her hand at pot holing, we get to the gate. After persuading the gate to open enough to let us through we manage to get onto the street. Looking down all I can see is a nose and decided to come back again after taking her home before her extremities begin to freeze, bet she’s glad she isn’t a boy.
I reach the 1st floor when what I can only describe as a sonic boom travels along the corridor and scares the crap out of the two of us; after my ears stop ringing and I have done a quick check to see that I am still alive, I still have all my appendages and that the dog is still alive and intact I hear the Northern tones of Brian and the quieter tones of Joe arguing about who blew the bloody doors off I decided to take Luna back home for her own safety.
Now dog-less I return to the gate outside the block and manage to fight my way to the bus stop.
And suddenly fall through a void. It was like someone had taken a knife and cut out the middle of a cake, the bus stop and possibly a meter square all around it there is no snow. Not only that but I was starting to get uncomfortably warm in my winter woollies and would have been quite happy to remove a few layers.
I pull out my phone and take pictures, no-one would believe a stoner when she says it was spring at bus stop 13; I also stick my arm out and take a couple more photos to prove that it is still snowing all around.
Walking up to the first floor it doesn’t take me long to locate the boys and when I arrive at apartment 113 I see a flat, unoccupied, dust sheets everywhere and at one end of the room Brian and Joe staring at an oval mirror almost the size of the wall. Now for the crazy part, yup the stuff before was confusing but this shit is just bat shit crazy.
Brian is standing there with his arm sticking into the mirror up to his elbow and Joe has his arms wrapped around Brian.
“…I could get turned on by this” Did Brian actually say that?!
“Do what you want it’s just business” Joe replied.
Looking at the mirror I see the reverse image of the room, yep all good but we are not there, Brian arm comes back out with the surface rippling like mercury. Pulling his phone out his pocket and takes some pictures from the other side, there is nothing in the mirror-room.
 
He sticks his head through then half of his body and to be honest I am half expecting a 13 Ghosts moment where he gets cut in half, but he emerges unharmed; him and Joe begin to argue whether going in or not is a good thing when a thought strikes me. Out of morbid curiosity I wander over to the fridge and open the door as Brian walks out the room with a determined expression.
All there is in there is a cheese sandwich that could very probably hold the cure for cancer in the fungus growing on it.
“Nope, no Zuul” I shout. Just thought I’d check.
Brian re-enters tying the metal end of a fire hose round his middle.
Squeak, squeak, slap, squeak. 
“Oh crap it’s the cleaner,” I hiss.
“Oh let me shut the door, oh wait I can’t,” Brian says sarcastically to Joe.
“Quick, hide” he continues and dives into the mirror with a number of choice swear words following behind him; I am quite proud of this next move, I push all the gas rings of the cooker and let the gas escape just long enough to get the smell and run out into the corridor.
“Quick, quick please help!”
The surely eastern European man stops pushing the wheeled metal water container with his mop and stares at me.
“I clean.” 
“Please you have to help there has been a gas leak in one of the flats.”
“I clean,” He repeats 
“You don’t understand a word I am saying do you?”
“I clean,” and just to make sure I get the message he slops the soaking dirty mop onto the floor and pushes it about a bit.
I give up and go back to the flat with the cleaner going back where he came from; I am finding a dust sheet to put over the door when Brian comes back through the mirror and he is failing to explain what he had just seen when there is a loud crash from behind us, spinning round we see that the real world sofa is laying on its side.
“I did that!” Brian announces proudly.
I was about to ask how when he continues to say “I moved the sofa on the other side before I came back out. Wait look,” and he vanishes back through the looking glass.
After about 15 minutes he pops back again trying to tell us that the mirror world is like a film set, all light weight and cardboard, this is when the cleaner appears in the door way shouting that we should not be here. Joe and I start arguing with him about selective English and gas leaks when Brian suggests that it is a good idea to leave.
Seeing how spooked he is we decide to go.
Heading up to the 13th floor we find flat 1313, one of the 2 flats marked with an asterisk on the blueprint map, Joe asks if I’d like to knock.
“Why would I want to do that?”
“Well Brian knocked on Miles door and I (ahem) knocked on the empty flat door so…”
“Oh it’s my turn. Yay!”
Another Eastern European voice shouts through the door “Yes, what do you want?” 
What I wanted was for there to be no-one in, but I reply “Umm, building inspectors?”
“You lie, there are no building inspectors here. Who are you really?”
Bugger. “There has been a gas leak” Joe shouts up. Oh nicking my ideas now are we?
“There has been no gas leak.”
“Yes there has, on the first floor”
“Then it is no business of mine.”
“The cleaner sent us up.”
This seemed to get a reaction, after another door full of locks he opens enough to see us, I recognise some of the tattoos on the elderly gentleman’s visible skin. Then came my second good idea.
 
“Bartek?”
“Who wants to know?”
“Erm, the older man with the walking stick?”
“Jakub?”
“Yeah him, he said you might want to start up a bit of business?” I pull a bag out of my pocket and show it to him in my cupped hand. This seems to work and he lets us into his flat. Not much to report on this one, basic set up with no mirror in site; I start talking shop with Bartek while with a lot more stealth than he has shown previously Brian starts dropping pound coins about and looking under things. In the middle of our little chat Bartek yells out to Brian to leave the coin that has conveniently rolled under a table and gives him another out of his pocket.
 
Okay. We all look at each other.
I manage to get him out of the room long enough for Brian to take a look and putting his hand under the table he nods, his arse has just hits the seat when Bartek comes in carrying a black leather briefcase. Laying it on the table he snaps open the clasps and inside is stacks of cash, possibly enough to choke a donkey. Joe concludes with Bartek, promising him more business in the future and as Brian was unable to investigate further we continue to the next flat. The centre of the red web.
Outside the door is full of cats, dozens of pairs of eyes watching us approach, oh yay a crazy cat lady, just to top it all off.
Brian knocks on the door and a frail old voice answers, “Yes, who is it?”
“It’s the Resident’s Association members, love. We are investigating reports of disappearing cats. Can we come in?”
“Oh yes, of course. It’s not locked.”
The smell was phenomenal. Cat. Very much the smell of cat, piss, shit, musk, rotting meat, desiccated fish and in that nasal harmony a top note of old lady smell, it was like walking into a patio door. The owner of the voice is an old woman with cataract clouded eyes, she stares right through us as he tells us that she looks after the cats, who under advice of a caretaker, the management bought in to deal with the vermin problem.
Brian, still using the missing cats as an excuse to look for around, presumably for another mirror manages to take a look around the flat, while he is investigating I ask the old lady if she is warm enough and if she had eaten lately. Contrary to what my hours tell me she answers, “Oh yes a few hours ago dear.”
While I am trying to think of something else to ask her Brian comes in white as a sheet and gestures to one hand grasped tightly in the other; uncovering his hand he reveals two deep puncture marks dripping blood. He gestures with a nod of his head for us to leave, as we head out the voice of the crazy old cat lady follows us, “It was nice to have company, I do hope your friend is alright.”  
How did she know that? Is she the Master using the mirrors in the cats’ eyes to see what’s going on? Am I going to wake up in a snug white coat strapped to a bed with rubber wall paper?
I feel like I am in an episode of Dr Who and still waiting for him to arrive and save the day.

D&D/Pathfinder style FATE hack – Races and Skills

Following on from my last blog post about a D&D style hack for the FAE system (http://wh40krpg.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/d-style-fate-hack-could-classes-be-used.html) where I pondered the idea of using class style descriptors as Approaches for a D&D-esque FAE game this post addresses my thoughts on character races (although species would be a more accurate term) and skills in the game.
This post builds on the idea that the six Approaches would be something along the lines of:
  1. Warrior – rolled for attacking or defending from attack using physical means, taking care of armour, working out battle-tactics, recognising ambushes and initiative order in combat.
  2. Rogue – sleight of hand, stealing things, breaking and entering, deception and also shmoozing and general social actions.
  3. Spellcaster – casting spells (obviously), working out what spells other people were casting, crafting magic items, examining magic items, feats of prestigitation, etc.
  4. Priest – interacting with church/holy order members, researching/recalling information about gods and their followers, making blessings, etc.
  5. Ranger – covers wilderness survival and skills.

Race

The term ‘race’ in D&D tends to actually refer to a different species (ie. orcs, dwarves, elves) all that generally seem not to share a common ancestry, but never-the-less the term race has been widely used in RPGs since the early days. In this hack I would make the characters race a specific Aspect that can be invoked or compelled under specific circumstances.
Some examples using the most common D&D races are listed below:
  • Dwarves – hardy and skill craftsmen with a very traditional outlook.
    • May be invoked when: Calling upon the wisdom of ancient traditions, craft rolls related to stone or metal work, fighting with a hammer, finding your way underground, perception rolls in darkness, appraising gems, stone or metal work.
    • May be compelled when: New innovations or technology are at odds with traditions, faced by their ancient greenskin enemies, when the distrust between dwarves and elves bubbles to the surface, when a dwarves appreciation for precious stones may turn into greed.
  • Elves – graceful and beautiful creatures at peace with the natural world and with magic singing in their blood.
    • May be invoked when: Using magic, moving unseen or finding sustenance/tracking in the wilderness, social interactions with people awed by the elves beauty, using a bow, perception rolls in dimly lit conditions.
    • May be compelled when: Vanity causes them to dismiss the opinions and thoughts of ‘lesser’ races, when the distrust between elves and dwarves threatens to bubble to the surface.
  • Orcs – strong and stubborn creatures raised in a brutal martial tradition.
    • May be invoked when: Assessing the strength/value of armour and weapons, facing down another in a one-on-one combat, perception tests in the dark, tests of raw strength.
    • May be compelled when: An orcs bloodlust overcomes their reason, they are shunned by ‘civilised’ races.
  • Halflings – Clever and capable opportunists with a mischievous streak.
    • May be invoked when: Small size allows them to slip from an opponents grasps, looking harmless allows them to evade notice, tests of manual dexterity.
    • May be compelled when: A halfling cannot resist the urge to cause mischief, a halflings small stature and lower strength causes them problems.
At the moment I would having the following Aspects on the D&D-style hack character sheet.

  • High Concept
  • Trouble
  • Race
  • +additional general Aspects
I think the beauty of having the race as an Aspect (and one of my favourite parts of the FAE/FATE system) is that it is tremendously simple (requiring no real modification of stats), uses the existing mechanics of the game and all the players and GM have to remember is what compels and invokes can be used against racial Aspects; the Aspect Race also encourages the constant using and flowing of FATE points that is at the heart of the system.
Skills

This is something I hashed out in my Cthulhu-FAE hack, instead of bringing in a big list of appropriate skills (which is essentially trying to turn FAE into FATE core, something i’m keen to avoid since I love FAE’s simplicity) skill groups can be represented by suggesting Stunts that provide bonuses in applicable situations.
Looking at the AD&D 2nd edition Weapon and Non-weapon Proficiency model, a few suggestions are made below:
Weapon proficiencies
  • Master of the [insert name of weapon]: The player receives a +2 bonus to rolls made using the [weapon] (for example: A ‘Master of the Sword’ attacking with a short sword would gain the +2).
  • Shield Mastery: The player receives a +2 to their defence rolls when using a shield.
Non-weapon proficiencies
  • Escape Artist: +2 when escaping bonds.
  • Herbalist: +2 to rolls to analyse/use herbs.
  • Professional Lock-pick: +2 to pick locks.

As you can see i’ve not yet put up any rules concerning weapons or armour, my current thought is to leave them nebulous so that they don’t needlessly complicate the system; anyone may have appropriate equipment but only gain a benefit if they have an appropriate Stunt or Aspect.
Likewise with Non-weapon Proficiency Stunts, pretty much any skill from D&D3.5 could be turned into a Stunt just by it granting a +2 in the appropriate field of study or endeavour.

Statting a Bloodletter for my Rogue Trader game

Those of you who have read the write-up of my last Rogue Trader session (available here for anyone who hasn’t read it and is interested) will be aware that the spaceship Venerus was being “haunted” by a warp phenomenon that was feeding off the fear and mistrust of those on board and using it to create illusions and phantasms that created more fear (thus beginning a vicious feeding cycle); during an aborted mutiny lead by Confessor Cornelius (Emperor rest his soul) the fear and distrust onboard rose to such levels that the phenomenon was able to pierce the barrier between the real world and the warp, summoning forth a Bloodletter of Khorne onboard the ship.
The Rogue Trader game (in my opinion) isn’t big on random combats and we try to make sure that any combats that do occur are part of the narrative or that relate to the stories/plots unfolding rather than being just random dice-fests; I had decided how the Bloodletter fit into the story before the last session but hadn’t anticipated the mutiny (and the resultant fear it caused) allowing a daemon to be summoned so quickly. With the session approaching I turned my thoughts to statting the creature.
Since the daemon is unlikely to be a recurring villain and they are portrayed very much as demonic footsoldiers in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, I decided to use the generation guidelines for Nameless NPCs from the FATE core rulebook and make the NPC of Good quality (since I want it to be a challenge. The guidelines in the book advise the following for such an NPC:
  • Aspects: One or two.
  • Skills: One Good (+3), one Fair (+2) and one or two Average (+1)
  • Stress: Two stress boxes.
Deciding on the Aspects was fairly easy, the first being the stock phrase of every Khornate cultists and creature the universe-over “Blood for the Blood God”; for the second I decided to create an Aspect that I thought could cover the resilience given to them by their God and the protection from sorcery, “Blessed by Khorne.”
The skills were pretty easy to decide on, given it Fighting +3, Physique +2, Intimidation +1 and Notice +1; however I also needed to consider what equipment I was going to give the daemon, reading through the details about them great mention is made of the creatures Hellblade which slices through armour and flesh alike. Consulting my Rogue Trader FATE hack I decided that the nearest equivalent for the Hellblade was to give a melee weapon the Power Weapon stunt (final stats Harm 1 Penetration 1); I also wanted to give some thought to armour for the creature, since one of the images that has always stuck with me when thinking about khornate entities is the image of iron and brass, and the ornate armour turning enemies blows aside.

I eventually decided to give the creature a standard armour +2 to defence but without any of the associated penalties and named it “Skin of Blood and Brass.”

The final stat block for the creature looks like this:
***
Bloodletter
Aspects: “Blood for the Blood God”, “Blessed by Khorne”
Skills: Fighting (Good +3), Physique (Fair +2), Intimidation & Notice (Average +1)
Stress: [] [] [] 
Weapon – Hellblade: Harm 1 Penetration 1 (functions similar to a power weapon)
Armour – Skin of blood and brass: Defence 2 Physique mod 0 Athletics/fighting mod 0 
***

Fate of Cthulhu – FAe hack – rules

Having finished creating the various templates for the different professions in my FAE Cthulhu hack it was fairly easy to create some guidelines for accumulating stress when traumatic/insanity inducing effects are encountered and to note down some suggestions for derangements. The vast majority of rules can be used as per the Fate Accelerated rulebook.
My plan next is to write up some guidelines for creating a horror atmosphere using FATE (based on information from the toolkit) and jot down some possible FAE stats for the more prominent mythos entities.
The current version of the hack can be found here.

Fate of Cthulhu – FAE Cthulhu hack – Character generation

So I sat down last night with my trusty copy of Trail of Cthulhu (my preferred choice of the many, many different Cthulhu mythos flavoured games that I own) and decided that I was finally going to start banging down some of the ideas i’ve had floating around in my head for a FAE conversion/hack.

Why use FAE and not FATE core?

I’m running two games at the moment, my Rogue Trader game House of Black (run using FATE core rules) and my Secret of Specto Vale nWoD God Machine game (run using the Fate Accelerated rules); whilst I enjoy running both games, it has slowly dawned on me that there is a distinct difference in focus between the two games and, after some consideration, I believe it all boils down to how much attention the game pays to “stuff.”
By “stuff” I mean equipment and possessions specifically, in my Rogue Trader game i’ve fielded all manner of questions regarding equipment, weapons, space ships, etc that are possessed either by the individual player characters or by the Rogue Trader dynasty that they work for (the eponymous House of Black); however in my nWod God Machine game I think the only question I have been asked regarding possessions or items is whether or not someone can have an item on them to pick a lock. Obviously not all of this is to do with the different iterations of the system being used, they are certain items and objects that you are assumed to possess in a Rogue Trader game (a space ship for instance) and the setting focuses a lot more on things (unlike nWoD and some other games); however I do feel that the Fate Accelerated (FAE) system has encouraged the players to leave the equipment list checking in the background, they know what sort of stuff their player characters have access to and that I will usually allow them to have something if it appropriate. For example: Smokey Thomson is an old school criminal in the God Machine game, the player doesn’t have to ask if he has a gun or not or check his sheet, of course he had a gun; the players also seem a lot less concerned with the specific bonuses that their kit gives to them.
Another major advantage of the FAE system is that it is very easy to learn and pick up; I have only run two sessions of my God Machine game and all of the players have a very good grasp of the basic rules.
Fate of Cthulhu

I have always been a massive fan of H. P. Lovecraft’s writing and have read the majority of mythos material written by him, along with some of the later mythos themed writings, I also have a number of Lovecraftian RPGs and supplements such as Call of Cthulhu, Realms of Cthulhu and Trail of Cthulhu (to name but a few). Recently when we started up a one-off game night a friend of mine ran an investigative/horror based Hunter: the Vigil game that sprawled over the normal one session limit (in-fact we’re still playing it); it occurred to me that, although the story was good, I didn’t find the system particularly conducive to quickly creating a character and getting a decent one-off session of RP done. Wanted to address this and show how I would do it when the GMing duties eventually swung back my way I turned to the FATE system as my go-to roleplay system at the moment; i’ve already gone on loads about how I think that the FATE system places story over accurate rule mechanics in previous blog entries and so I won’t take up space doing it again, however, I thought back to how easy it had been to pick up FAE for my God Machine game and decided that this would be the game system for my horror one-off.
Having always been a big fan of the mythos, most horror games run by myself have a Cthulhu-esque flavour to them; not really wanting to create a complete Cthulhu FATE game from scratch though I turned to one of my favourite Cthulhu RPGs Trail of Cthulhu (you can see some of my thoughts on this game here) and began looking at it with a view to creating a FAE hack/version of the game.
Character generation & Occupations

Looking through Trail of Cthulhu a bit part of the character generation process is picking an Occupation, this sets your starting skills and a few other bits and pieces, you then (with most occupations) get to add one of two additional skills and tweak some little bits. Since FAE doesn’t involve skills and I was determined to maintain the basic 6 Aspect approach of FAE (to make it easier on the players and myself) I decided that I would have each player pick a template for their character based on profession.
One example of this is shown below:
Archaeologist: A person who travels to strange and exotic places in search of the past.
Starting Stunts – Archaeology, Athletics, Evidence Collection, First Aid, History, Ancient Languages, Library Use, Riding.
“Well known in academic circles” – Once per session the character may gain access to the restricted area of a museum or library by using their academic credentials.
Starting Refresh – 1.
Instead of skills the template would define a number of Stunts where the character received a +2 bonus when dealing with a particular subject; also any other miscellaneous benefits could be represented by an additional Stunt (the “well known in academic circles” listed above for example).
Once this had been done the Starting Refresh for fate points of the character would be defined by their Occupation Template (those templates with less Stunts would leave the player with more refresh points remaining); this refresh could be spent to acquire additional Stunts or saved as per the rules in the FAE rulebook.
Overall I was pretty happy with the start i’d made on the character generation session and posted a draft on the FATE G+ community to get some feedback; my next aim is to produce a series of small/compact character sheets (one for each Occupation Template) so that the players just have to pick one, jot in a few details and they’re good to go, making character gen really speedy.
The initial draft section is available here, any constructive feedback is welcome (I am aware the Scientist Occupation is missing it’s Starting Refresh rate, it should be 3).

God Machine Chronicle – So what is it with these cats?

“Smokey” Thomson stood on the threshold of the Specto Vale apartment block, the winter storm lashing down outside and coating the world beyond the block with white, contemplating the events of the day before he lit a cigar; at least that fruitloop Shepherd had promised them some answers today. Meanwhile Brian Best had just woken up in his room where he’d fallen asleep re-watching his extensive collection of Star Trek DVDs, there was a faint meowing outside the door of the apartment  he opened it to see a single feline watching him. At first Brian attempted to feed the cat some milk but it didn’t seem very interested in it, remaining watching him, so eventually he gave and went back inside.
There was a banging on the door of Maggy Pike’s apartment, she opened it to find Sue-Linn the 16 year old daughter of Mr Lung standing there, frantically trying to explain something in chinese (much to the bewilderment of Maggy who didn’t speak chinese), the young girl thrust a pile of money at Maggy and eventually communicated that she wanted Maggy to follow her. Following Sue-Linn down the hallway, her loud talking lead to Brian sticking his head out of his appartment and investigating; through his mangled knowledge of the chinese language Brian was able to establish that the man who had left a bag in their freezer had paid them £500 to look after another parcel because he thought “people were after [him].”
Making their way across the ‘lobby’ of the apartment block the small party spotted Joe smoking his cigar and beckoned him over; travelling to Lungs Chinese takeaway Sue-Linn fetched her older sister who spoke english, she confirmed that, whilst she had been in the back room caring for her father, Mr Shepherd had turned up and paid her sister £500 to hide some papers. Looking in the freezer Brian discovered the blueprints that had decorated Shepherd’s flat walls, with the red dots showing where cats congregated in the block, red lines joining these points to a 13th floor flat and a line joining that flat to one on the top floor; since the last time they had seen the blueprints, three large asterisks had been drawn on it, two in 13th floor flats (one being the flat with the red lines travelling to it), one in a 1st floor flat and the other in a bus stop just outside the apartment block.
Deciding that it was about time they got some answers from Shepherd, the group visited his apartment, finding it oddly clean and with a much saner, apologetic Shepherd in attendance; Shepherd apologised and claimed that he suffered from psychotic episodes and had been off his meds, he claimed to have little memory of his paranoid ramblings. Brian noticed that the apartment seemed to have been freshly painted but that there was no smell of paint, his continual attempt to quiz Shepherd about this resulted in nothing other than a confused silence from the man, although Maggy noticed that every time he paused to consider his answer, there was a strange metallic whirring sound (like an old pocket watch her father had once possessed) from somewhere in the room. Joe had begun to suspect there was something not right about Shepherd and shook his hand, applying as much pressure as possible, but it was like trying to squeeze a breeze-block, Shepherd didn’t even seem to notice.
“That isn’t Shepherd” – Joe “Smokey” Thomson
After leaving Shepherd’s apartment, Brian speculates that perhaps the people who were after him actually managed to get hold of Shepherd and that they had somehow brainwashed him, whereas Joe doubts that the person in the apartment is infact Shepherd. Brian wants to visit the places marked with asterisks on the map, so him and Joe had to the first floor whilst Maggy plans to visit the bus stop just outside the apartment.
Arriving at Flat 113 on the first floor they find it seemingly empty, Brian begins to attempt picking the lock when Joe, tired of waiting, kicks the door with such force that it is smashed off its hinges, the noise of the destruction echoing down the corridor. Moving inside they find a dusty, abandoned apartment with sparse furniture covered by dust sheets, at one end of the room is a large oval mirror also covered by a sheet; unveiling it the two men notice that, although the room is reflected, they do not seem to have reflections in the mirror.
Outside Maggy has waded through the waste high snow and is shocked to find that at the Route 13 bus stop and for about a metre around it there is no snow (despite flurries still falling from the sky) and the temperature is far more mild than elsewhere. Snapping some photographs on her smartphone, Maggy retraces her steps to the apartment block and goes in search of Joe and Brian, following the sound of a door smashing she eventually locates them in flat 113.
Brian hesitantly put his arm out towards the mirror; the surface of the mirror ripples like liquid and his hand passes through, Thomson grabs hold of him, worried that his driver might be pulled through. Brian puts his phone through and blindly snaps some photos, when he removes his arm and looks at the phones gallery he sees simply photographs of a reflected apartment room. Convinced there is no immediate danger Brian pokes his head through the mirror and sees a reflection of the apartment, however, something seems not right, but he can’t put his finger on what; using a fire hose as a life line and tying it around his waist Brian dives through the mirror whilst Maggy checks the refrigerator.
“Nope, no Zuul” – Maggy Pike
The sound of metallic wheels alerts Maggy to the approach of one of the apartment janitors, a surly eastern european man pushes a wheeled metal water container along with a mop. Meanwhile Brian explores the mirror world, finally realising what is wrong with everything, it all looks fake like a movie-set or cardboard cutouts of real things; he verifies this by picking up an almost weightless sofa, he tries to take it back through the mirror with him but it does not make the transition with him, falling on its side when he exits the mirror world. Maggy and Joe turn to talk to Brian and there is a loud crash from behind them, whirling round they see that the real world sofa is lying on its side.
Re-entering the mirror Brian moves over towards the window, he can see no snow outside but just a flat field of white with a round black giant object that resembles a colossal button floating in mid-air; exploring the reflection of the corridor outside the room, Brian sees the janitor shuffling away from him, although he can’t see the man’s face at all, the janitor is the first person he has seen since entering the mirror. Returning to the real world, Brian discusses what he has seen with the others, but they are interrupted by the janitor who keeps repeating that they should not be in the flat; spooked by what he has seen and unsure what is going on with the janitor Brian advises that the group leaves, they take his suggestion and follow him out of the flat.
Heading up to one of the 13th floor flats marked with an asterisk they meet the occupant, a polish man named Bartek Prusee, he has tattoos that Joe recognises as old school criminal gang markers; using the excuse of a potential drugs deal (brokered by Joe and supplied by Maggy) they are able to have a look around the flat. During his search Brian discovers that the underside of Bartek’s dining table is mirrored and he establishes that it seems to work like the other mirror he entered, however he is unable to test it further as Bartek concludes his deal with Joe (a very good deal for Joe, although as a sweetener he promises to supply some muscle if Bartek needs it in the near future).
Continuing to the other thirteenth floor flat (the one marked with red lines connected to it on the blueprint) they find the corridor outside full of numerous cats, all appearing to watch their approach; knocking on the door and pretending to be Resident’s Association members gains them access, the smell of cat urine and feces hitting them like a wall. The occupant appears to be an old woman with cataract clouded eyes who claims to care for the cats that the management bought in to deal with the vermin problem; searching the flat, Brian locates a round mirror on a dresser in the bedroom and finds himself able to pass through it into the reflected flat beyond. Poking around he finds that the cats are reflected here, although they look like small burlap sacks with fake cat masks tied around them (they remind Brian of some canopic jars he saw on a program about ancient Egypt , something wriggles inside the sacks, creating an unsettling undulating movement; Brian picks one up and is shocked when two metal, insect-like antenna tipped with sharp fangs emerge through the eyes of the cat mask and stab into his hand drawing blood. Dropping the thing onto the floor, he dives through the mirror back into the normal world as metallic legs begin emerging from the sacking.
In the normal world Brian sees that every single cat in the room is staring at him; he staggers back into the living room, showing the others his bloody hand, he gestures for them to leave. As they head out the voice of the crazy old cat lady follows them, “It was nice to have company, I do hope your friend is alright.”   

Laying out my Rogue Trader plotlines

I was recently watching a video by Ander Wood on youtube regarding how to handle plots in games:

http://youtu.be/meLrlKTDXOY

Whilst watching the video it occurred to me that there may be a better way of noting down the various plots and storylines that I have running throughout my Rogue Trader FATE core game.

I have adapted my Imperial Calendar spreadsheet to also contain a sheet where I can note down the various events and upcoming events that are to occur in my plot; please note that, because some of my players read this blog, I have blanked out everything after the current game date and have blacked out some of the more sensitive information, you should be able to get the general idea though.

Comments/suggestions welcome 🙂

You can find the spreadsheet here:
https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B3N7nFBlEi_7MU1aTHFmc3dySEE/edit?usp=sharing

(please note that the spreadsheet layout is a bit messes up in the Google preview, if you download a copy though it should look much better).