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).

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.

    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).

    Music for my GMC session

    Although tomorrow’s (21/06/13) session is for the players to run through the generation process with me and help create links between the characters, NPCs and other setting elements I have already been thinking about appropriate music that could be played in the background of the generation session and then continued through into the game proper. I’ve never really made a great deal of use of music beyond having a couple of quiet tracks playing in the background since I normally prefer not to be fiddling around with music tracks on the computer when I could be describing the action of a game, I also find that if I don’t keep track of where the music is then it’s possible for a tense IC situation to be ruined when the track abruptly changes to something less suitable. On the opposite side of the scale though i’ve played in tabletop RPG games where music has been used to great effect; the main proponent of this (at least in games I have played) has been Simon Webber who normally has a speaker rig and extensive collection of soundtracks that he knows very well and uses to the benefit of his game sessions whenever he runs something.
    One of the things that Simon does very well in his sessions is varying the tone and pacing of his descriptions so that it fits with the current music that is playing, normally queuing up some appropriate tracks at the start of the scene and then tailoring his prose to fit in with the pace and mood of the music. Another aspect that I have quite enjoyed is the use of certain music pieces to act as ‘theme tunes’ for certain NPCs or plot elements that are going to recur during the game; as soon as one of the recognisable theme tunes starts it give you the player (although not your character in most cases) a feel of what is going to occur and (if the music belongs to a major villain who has not yet made himself known in the present scene) can result in a lot of tension and atmosphere as you wait for the other shoe to drop and for the villain to make their inevitable appearance.
    I’ve really enjoyed creating my fake hack for my God Machine Chronicle game and would like to make it a memorable experience for the players; given that the game has a fairly small focus and is only slated in for 4-5 sessions worth of play I want to pull out all the stops in order to make the game as exciting and gripping for my players as possible, both so that the game sticks in their minds and to get some enthusiasm up for their participation in a Demon: the Descent game or Mummy: the Curse game that I play to run later on (probably using my FAE hack). During the game I intend to make extensive use of index cards to track things like Zones, Aspects and NPCs, mainly because they are easy to reference, move about and relatively simple to transport along with my printouts of the quick reference sheets and the character sheets that I have designed for the game; it occurred to me that it would be very easy to note down a specific track or music on the index cards should an NPC, Zone, etc deserve their own ‘theme-tune.’
    I’ve been building up a fairly respectable collection of soundtracks for a while, however I always think it’s good to get some additional ideas and so I put out the question on the G+ Game Master Tips community. A number of interesting suggestions were made:
    I investigated the suggestions more closely and tagged several for future use during this (and other) RP sessions, particularly I found the Two Steps from Hell youtube channel extremely interesting with some great atmospheric and oppressive music on it that would be eminently suitable for use in a World of Darkness game. 
    When I got home from work it was time to fire up my copy of media player and begin trawling through the collection of soundtracks that I have built up; since the settings of both the God Machine Chronicle and Rogue Trader are fairly dark I decided to compile a single list for both games and jot down locations and names of tracks that might be suitable.

    First on my list was the Battlestar Galactica soundtrack, which had a good mix of eerie acoustic stuff and pounding drumbeats that would work well for the science fiction genre and also for the industrial modern era of the NWOD. I trawled through a number of other soundtracks (including the Final Fantasy Movie soundtrack, Terminator, Interview with a Vampire and others), creating a number of playlists:

    • Calm/serenity
    • Chase
    • Choral
    • Combat
    • Drifting in space
    • Generic industrial
    • Horror
    • Madness
    • Military/marching
    • Posh/upper floor
    • Realisation
    • Romantic
    • Sorrow
    • Space combat
    • Suspense

    I also picked a few random tracks because I thought they fight in well with the idea of the God Machine or a particular concept in WH40K.

    Hopefully this will give me a fairly decent selection of tunes to use as background in my game.

    Thoughts on my FAE World of Darkness hack thus far

    This is the first in a short series of blog posts detailing the thought processes behind the creation of my FAE World of Darkness hack.

    • Establishing the Basics

    First thing I needed to do when I began work on the FAE nWoD hack was to detail how much the hack rules were going to adhere to and deviate from the basic rules of the Fate Accelerate Edition.

    • Aspects
    I definitely wanted to keep the High Concept and Trouble Aspects discussed in the FAE rulebook, however I also decide to implement a Type Aspect that would either be the appropriate type of supernatural (vampire, werewolf, etc) or simply ‘human’ if the character was playing a mortal; the idea behind this was that it could be invoked when appropriate and also it could compelled by opponents when the characters type was a disadvantage. For example, if a werewolf was wrestling against a human, it wouldn’t prove unreasonable IMO to compel them based on the fact that a human is physically weaker than a werewolf.
    Typically in WoD games the various supernaturals are divided into social groupings that impact on the powers and abilities that the character may possess; variously know as clans, tribes, etc the different types have been nicknamed Splats by many different people in the RP community. I decided that there should be a Splat Aspect that would be based on the characters clan, tribe or whatever.
    For example: The Mekhet clan are shadowy occultists who take additional damage from sunlight due to their affinity with the night, therefore their Splat Aspect is Master of the Shadows.
    Obviously humans don’t have a Splat Aspect as such and therefore they effectively have more freedom with assigning this Aspect, I quite like the fact that humanity is more versatile and free to choose its own destiny whereas the various supernaturals are, to a certain extent, defined and limited by their curses/blessings. 
    • Approaches

    I decided early on that I didn’t want to alter the existing Approaches listed in the FAE rulebook, since they cover a broad range of approaches and would be easy for a group to understand; however the loss of morality and the struggle against the darkness within is (for me) a fundamental aspect of the World of Darkness and therefore I needed to find some way to represent this.
    Condensing the Hierarchy of Sins table from the nWoD corebook I needed and assigning difficulties to the various sins was fairly straight forward, however I needed something that could be used to test against the difficulty and none of the existing Approaches really seemed to cover it, so I added in a Humane Aspect. Whilst tinkering around with this mechanic, I decided that I would also need some measure of how inhumane a character was so that things such as Predators Taint could be judged.
    Predators Taint in the Requiem corebook is when two vampires meet their beasts react to each other, the vampire with the highest blood potency feeling violent/angry and the vampire with the lower blood potency feeling fear and the desire to flee; i’ve chosen not to focus so drastically on blood potency in my WoD hack, but still wanted to keep the Predators Taint (as a cool mechanic), so I needed something else to measure it by. I eventually settled on adding a Bestial Approach, but it seemed ludicrous that one could have a character who was very humane and yet also very bestial, therefore I decided that the player would be able to give Humane and Bestial Aspects any score from +1 to +8 that they wished as long as the two of them did not add up to more than +8; any additions to one score would subtracts from the other, meaning that a character could try to achieve a balance or could focus on one to the exclusion of the other.
    • Stunts

    I left the Stunts pretty much as written in FAE although I did decide that a number of the various supernatural powers would be represented by Stunts.
    However, I did decide that some Stunts in the game would be activated without spending fate points, for instance, vampires would replenish their Physical Stress boxes by feeding, and would gain physical stress by activating their discipline powers (representing them burning through the stolen blood in their bodies).
    • Stress Tracks

    Looking at FATE core I borrowed the idea of having multiple Stress Tracks, the original Stress Track (that I renamed the Physical Stress Track) and then a second one that I named the Mental Stress Track; since I wanted to keep track of a characters dwindling morality it was necessary to have some sort of stat that could be depleted and “healed” as morality increased and decreased, stress tracks seemed the natural fit for this.
    Near the end of my first draft it seemed obvious to me that I could borrow another idea from FATE Core, that of tying Stress Tracks into certain abilities, in this case the Bestial and Humane Approaches tying into Physical and Mental Stress Tracks; meaning that more Humane characters would have a greater resistance to mental stress whereas those given more to their bestial natures were less focused on the mind but more likely to master their own physicality.
    • Crumbling Integrity
    As i’ve said earlier, one of the main parts of the WoD that has always appealed to me is the struggle against the crumbling of morality in the face of the cruel gameworld; i’d already worked out that I wanted to model the loss of integrity/humanity using the Mental Stress Track and had composed a Hierarchy of Sins with difficulty ratings on it, it was easy to assign rules that a player must test only when the difficulty rating of the sin was lower than their Humane Approach and that, if they failed, the character would take Mental Stress equal to the degrees of failure. The Stress could be dealt with as normal by filling in stress boxes or by accepting Mental Consequences.
    Originally, in my first draft I accidentally wrote that an Integrity test was only required if the sin was ‘higher’ than the characters Humane Aspect, however Julius Müller was kind enough to point out the error after reading the initial draft so that I could correct it.
    • Vampires

    Vampires seemed like a natural first supernatural to tackle since, love them or hate them, Vampire was always the flagship of the World of Darkness gamelines (in both its iterations).
    • Spending Blood and Feeding

    One of the first things I decided was that I didn’t want to introduce an additional Stress Track or measure to track the amount of blood in the vampires system, that seemed to introduce more complexity that was necessary; eventually I settled on using the Physical Stress Track to measure blood, with vampires incurring physical stress as they activated their disciplines and when they woke in the evening (to represent blood spent) and ‘healing’ physical stress when they fed.
    • Diablerie

    In the core game Diablerie allows you to drink the soul of another vamprie when you have them at your mercy, drinking some of their power in return for consuming their soul and damaging your own humanity in the process. Given that most powers are going to be based on Stunts I decided to allow the diablerist to steal a Stunt from the (now)deceased victim at the cost of taking mental stress (since devouring someone’s soul takes a heavy toll on you).
    • Predators Taint

    The mechanics of Predators Taint have already been discussed above, the actual effect was largely left to the players and GM as a narrative device.
    • Blood Bonding
    In the World of Darkness a vampire can feed someone their blood three times in order to bend the victims will to their own, gaining an additional Aspect called In the Thrall of [name of vampire whose blood you drank] quickly took care of that.
    • Sunlight
    Sunlight is one of the major banes of the vampiric race, it beats down relentlessly on the kindred like a punishment from God, burning the unclean flesh of the kindred. I thought that the best way for me to represent this would be to have the sun launch an attack on a vampire for every turn they remained in the sunlight, with the strength of the attack varying depending on the strength of the sunlight that they were exposed to.
    • In Conclusion

    I’m pretty happy with the WIP hack up to now, there’s still a fair bit of work to be done on it, Stunts to be created and (potentially) other supernaturals to add into the mix. The very active G+ fate community has also provided some interesting suggestions:
    • Drew Hamblin suggested using Humane and Bestial as the only two Approaches; I personally love this idea, but I think it would be a bit too vague for some.
    • Todd Grotenhuis suggested using Conditions to represent the hunger of an ill-fed vampire, unfortunately Conditions are part of the FATE toolkit and I don’t have that yet; i’m definitely planning to have a look at it when the toolkit becomes available to the public.
    • Paul Vencill mentioned that the Humane and Bestial Approaches may only really be suitable for Vampires and Werewolves and may not work as well for other supernaturals – this is definitely something that i’ll be putting more consideration into as I expand the hack to include other supernaturals. Paul also raised a very good point that perhaps I was cleaving a bit too closely to the rules of the World of Darkness when perhaps I should be looking less at the rules and more at keeping the themes of the games, this will definitely be kept in mind as I rework the hack.
    The current WIP hack is available here.

    World of Darkness FAE hack, work in progress

    Okay, so i’ve started work on my nWod FAE hack, i’ll put up some more of my thought processes behind it when I get chance.

    https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B3N7nFBlEi_7Q0lWNkxHOGliejg/edit?usp=sharing

    Constructive comments/suggestions welcome.

    Change of address for Rogue Trader hack

    Since most of my other FATE stuff is handled via Google, you can now find my FATE Rogue Trader hack at the following Google Drive address:

    https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B3N7nFBlEi_7VXJBdUlNLXp3UFk/edit?usp=sharing

    The old link will still work until I get round to re-organising my Dropbox account at which point it will no longer function.

    More stuff added to Warhammer 40K FATE hack

    Added some additional stuff to the my Warhammer 40K FATE hack and have set up bookmarks to aid navigation from the contents page…

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0ByVpAo4rxDGuTTNnVW5Sb0hJZEU/view?usp=sharing

    FATE warhammer 40K hack – complete

    Well it’s taken a fair few hours but i’ve got my FATE Warhammer 40,000 Hack to a completed state where i’m pretty much happy with it; there are a few bits and pieces that could be fiddled with and I expect that i’ll make minor tweaks and changes to it, but it’s pretty much done.

    Hope it’s useful to people who want to run 40K games using the FATE rules system 🙂

    Link to file

    FATE warhammer 40K hack WIP

    At the moment in-between re-organising my notes for my FATE powered Rogue Trader campaign i’ve also, on and off, been working on assembling the collection of rules and hacks that I use into something vaguely resembling an organised document so that I can have all of the information in one place and make it available to other people.

    Currently the hack focuses on the most pressing issues in my own game:

    • Purchasing items.
    • Space combat.
    • Travel through the warp.

      I plan to add to the hack in the future as I go along, eventually making it into a useful reference for people who want to play 40K RPGs using the FATE rules system.
      The current hack is available here.