Star Hex

Star Hex

 

Given my recent love affair with James M Spahn’s White Star–you can see my video review of it here–I’m thinking of running some OSR style sci-fi when when Dungeon World campaign wraps up in a few weeks or so; I’ve been looking at the concept of hex crawls and have even taken a few ideas from them to use in my ongoing FFG Star Wars campaign and the methodology seems to work well in a sci-fi genre. Given that so many sci-fi franchises have effectively been reskinning fantasy races to use as aliens for a long time, I thought it might be interesting to do the reverse and run a science-fiction setting where the fantasy analogues were embraced openly.

I’m not talking about a Spelljammer-esque fantasy in space style game but a science-fantasy game (ala Star Wars) that takes direct inspiration from fantasy races and ideas to use in the setting.

Storm & Sails: Reference Document

Okay, so I’ve started the planning for my forthcoming Storm & Sails campaign, I’m currently working on a gazetteer style Google Doc that will contain setting information and character creation for the campaign so that my players can peruse it. Although it is not complete the document can be viewed here:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1rKn4veeiiylh69GJUmuL8Q_516A6ZEpVj04CngiUto8/edit?usp=sharing

I’ll be updating the document over the next couple of weeks, once it’s complete I’ll be turning it over to my players to get some feedback before we start getting into the serious business of making characters.

New Campaign: Storm & Sail

As you may have read in my previous GM Tips: Campaign Fatigue post, I’m taking a break from running my 3Brothers D&D 5E campaign for a short while; during that break I’m going to be running a finite fantasy mini-campaign (probably about 10 sessions in length). To give me something different to get my teeth into whilst I’m having a break from my 3Brothers game I decided that this game should be more high-fantasy, and having always had a soft-spot for pirate stories and the like decided to make a nautically based campaign.

I plan to be posting updates over the next few weeks as the campaign ideas are fleshed out and then make as much of the setting as possible available as a PDF on this blog, so if you like Fate fantasy or the idea of swashing a buckle on the high seas stay tuned 🙂

In the meantime I’m adding images that are inspiring me for this campaign to my Pinterest account, you can check that out by clicking on the link below:

https://uk.pinterest.com/largejo/pirateage-of-sail-imagery/

[GM Tools-RPG] Tabula Rasa Custom Item Cards website

The following website is an excellent resource for roleplaying games (particularly those of a fantasy genre), it allows you to create customisable item cards using an easy template system.

Updated Serpents Fall handout 30-01-14

Spent this evening updating the handout for my Serpents Fall, Fate Accelerated game; it can be downloaded here.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3N7nFBlEi_7YmN5RFhfM2VKdDA/edit?usp=sharing

Please note: I do not own the copyright to the art used in the booklet, this is produced purely for non-profit purposes and no challenge to any intellectual property is intended.

Numenera style Fate Accelerated character generation

Just before this Christmas I spotted a copy of Monte Cook’s Numenera RPG in my FLGS (Spirit Games) and, having read some interesting reviews on the book (and being quite a fan of Monte Cook’s variant D20 supplements) thought i’d treat myself to a copy as an early Christmas present. The setting is an intriguing blend of science-fiction and fantasy sent in a future version of our own world, but many million years in advance of present day; the inhabitants of this world call it the ninth-world since eight great civilisations have risen and fallen back into the dust before the beginning of the game, each leaving their mark upon the game world. A large part of the game involves the inhabitants of the ninth-world digging in the ruins of the past, discovering oddments and technology that can help them survive in their own world.
So how does this relate to character generation in Fate?

I hope to do a full video review on Numenera for my Red Dice Diaries Youtube channel, I wasn’t massively sold on the rules system, but the background and the blending of sci-fi and fantasy (along with the theme of exploration and discovery) is a great one and extremely compelling.

One of the mechanics that I did like was that a short sentence is used as a character descriptor that takes this form: “I am adjective noun who verbs.”


For example, a suitable description might be “I am a tough warrior who carries a sword forged from dragons scales” or “I am wise shaman who speaks with the spirits of the dead.
In the Numenera rules the adjective helps to determine your character stats, the noun determines character class and the verb determines your characters focus (the various cool abilities that you can call on during the game).
It will come as no surprise to those who know me that, as soon as I starting reading this, my mind turned to how this could possibly be used in a Fate game; although I plan to give this more thought after the Christmas period, my current idea is that it could be used to aid character generation in a streamlined version of Fate.

So how would that work?


Well the player would start with the sentence and would pick one of the Fate Accelerated approaches as the adjective, the noun would be the high concept of the character and the verb would be a stunt.

For example: “I am a quick pirate who is captain of the ship, the Crimson Dagger.

The player would get a default skill roll of +0 for all approaches and a +2 for the approach chosen in their adjective, the noun would represent the high concept and could be invoked/compelled in a normal way; the verb would be a stunt using the normal Fate Accelerated rules for stunts (either a +2 bonus in specific circumstances or a 1/game rules exception).
For example: If I created a character with the sentence “I am a sneaky thief who is deadly when striking from the shadows.

This character would get +0 on all approaches besides sneaky (one which he would receive a +2), could invoke/have compelled the concept of thief as per the normal rules and would have a stunt that allowed them to gain a +2 when striking from the shadows.

This isn’t a 100% foolproof or completely defined method at present, but I certainly think that it has potential.

Keeping Track of Aspects for our Serpents Fall Game

I’m always looking for ways to improve our online Serpents Fall game (and indeed any game that I run), it occurred to me recently that part of the reason that players might not be as on the ball with Self-compels and using Aspects may be (in part or in full) due to them being unaware of the Aspects that are actually available for them to use.

It’s my intention, starting from next session to have a document (probably in the same Google Drive where the character sheets are stored) that lists all of the player Aspects and also any scene/NPC Aspects that the player characters are aware of available so that they can simply flick to the document in order to see what Aspects are available for use.

At the moment the document will look something like this:

* * *

Aspects Available

SCENE ASPECTS

NPC ASPECTS

CHARACTER ASPECTS

  • Ozuchi Komodo
    • Last of the Komodo Tribe
    • Those Stygian Shaman will stop at nothing
    • Medicine man
    • Easily assimilates local culture
    • Stygian
    • One day I will return to Stygia and unite my people as the prophecy foretold

  • Horesh Komani
    • Initiate sorceror death-priest
    • Uncomfortable with living energies
    • Destined for sorcerous greatness
    • Skilled with ceremonial obsidian death knives
    • Khemrian
    • It is my destiny to become the most powerful death-priest in Khemria

  • Gunnar Kron
    • Raiding party warrior
    • Murderous reputation
    • Experience raider
    • Warriors instincts
    • Norsican
    • I will redeem my past
  • Captain Benito
    • Cursed pirate captain
    • Cursed to never again sail the seas
    • Lemurian Heritage
    • Stick to the code
    • Member of the Scarlet Brotherhood
    • One day I will take back my rightful place as the Pirate King

* * *

It is also my intent to discuss with the players re-wording their Aspects slightly to make them into phrases that could more comfortably form part of a normal sentence, some of them already fulfil this criteria but I think there’s room to make them a little bit more descriptive now that we’re all a little more comfortable with how Aspects work.

Self-Compels in Fate

After finishing running the third session of our swords & sorcery Fate Accelerated campaign Serpents Fall last night using Google+ hangouts (video link here) I was having a little feedback chat with the players, which is something I like to do (if possible) at the end of every session (and I encourage my players to message me if they think of additional feedback or constructive criticism) since I believe that only by soliciting feedback from your players and others can your game grow and be fine-tuned into the optimum gaming experience for both GM and players. It occurred to me during this chat that there was one aspect of Fate Accelerated that the players hadn’t used a great deal during our three sessions thus far, and that was the use of Self-compels.

What are Self-compels?

For those who are not aware the following is what Fate Accelerated has to say about Compels:
If you’re in a situation where having or being around a certain aspect means your character’s life is more dramatic or complicated, anyone can compel the aspect. You can even compel it on yourself—that’s called a self-compel.
Basically, if one of your Aspects affects your characters decision making/results in an event occurring that make your character’s life more complicated then the person who has suggested the complication (the Compel) offers you a fate point for accepting the additional RP arising from the complications.
If a players makes a suggestion for a complication arising from their own Aspects and the GM agrees then, although not explicitly stated in the Fate Accelerated rulebook, I have always assumed that the GM would be the one to award them with a fate point (since giving yourself a fate point out of your own pool makes no sense); this is something I have been using a great deal already in the first session of a Dresden Files RPG game run by a friend of mine (using a pre-cursor to the Fate Core system).
For example: In the DFRPG session I play a person who has been infected by a red-court vampire but has not killed by blood drinking yet and so he has not fully turned, he has the ability to call on some vampiric powers at the risk of his hunger overwhelming him. My character “Lucky” is an ex-gangster on the run from his family (most of which have now been converted into vampires), he began the game standing on the docks waiting for a boat laden with drugs to come in.
Since one of the other players was playing a law enforcement officer I compelled one of my own Aspects to say that, because i’d been keeping my head down, there’s things out there my character had been forced not to use the normal channels to recruit his hirelings and had ended up with sub-par criminals, one of whom had (unknowingly) tipped off the police and they were about to turn up and bust the operation. This gained me a fate point and bought me into proximity of another player character; Lucky was able to hide himself in the shadows as the police detained and bought in the boat, at this point I made another Self-compel to say that because my character would not stand to see innocent’s suffer that perhaps as the police boat bumped into the dock one of the policemen would fall overboard and bang his head.
The GM accepted this Self-compel and my character was forced to reveal himself, diving into the water to save the unconscious policeman (after all the guy was just doing his job). This small scene got me two fate points and was made far more personal (IMO) due to my use of Self-compels.
However, I have noticed (and mentioned to my players in our feedback session) that Self-compels aren’t particularly used a lot in our Serpents Fall game; now this may be because it is only our third session and some of the players are still very much getting used to the rules, but Self-compels are one of the great things about Fate Core and Fate Accelerated as far as I am concerned so I plan to think about ways to encourage my players to consider Self-compels.
Why are Self-compels so great?

Well for a number of reasons, but personally, I enjoy them because they give a degree of narrative control over to the players; rather than just having the GM hand you down the details of a scene, if you have suggested it as a Compel then you gain the ability to negotiate the details of the complicating scene or decision with the GM, it also personalises whatever occurs and you know that it is plot based specifically around your character
Self-compels also let your GM know what sort of stories and complications you’re looking for when it comes to your character, and most GMs are more than happy to oblige by providing additional scenes tailored to your character since they want everyone to enjoy the game, they are also useful for moving a session along when perhaps the pre-planned plot has stalled or you’ve reached a natural pause.

Plus it also gains you a fate point allowing your character to really shine when it counts 🙂

Serpents Fall – Cast of characters

We’re now on the run up to our third G+ hangout session for our Serpents Fall Fate Accelerated game so thought i’d post up a little about the characters that are taking part in the game:
* * *
Captain Benito, deposed Pirate King

Captain Benito was once the chosen King of the Sword Isles, ruling over the Scarlet Brotherhood, however the treachery of his black-hearted colleague Horningold Blythe laid the flashy pirate low; a great and powerful curse was laid upon Benito, it was intended to kill him but the strength of his Lemurian heritage allowed the Captain to avoid this fate, but the sea would forever afterwards shun him, visiting disaster and misfortune on any ship should Benito try to use it to voyage across the waves. Spat out by the seas of the mainline, Benito quickly discovered his curse and immediately set about trying to find a way to have it removed, even seeking out help from the renowned spirit shaman of southern Stygia, it was here he encountered the wandering outcast Ozuchi Komodo and the death priest Horesh Komani, each also seeking their own destinies.
Benito has recently encountered an old enemy of his in the shape of Captain Hannibal Hawkins, a lieutenant of Blythe’s and one of the first people to call for his disposal; Hawkin’s black corsairs seem to be in league with the savage Picts, kidnapping people for some nefarious purpose. With the aid of his friends Benito has captured Hawkins, taken his ship and freed the prisoners, although he sustained a severe skull injury in the process.
* * *
Gunnar Kron, norsican warrior seeking to atone for his past

As part of the Timber Wolf raiding fleet that ravaged Stygia, Kron spent many years as a terror to the more civilised people of Serpents Fall, proving himself worth the murderous and savage reputation that grew up around him; however when he was commanded to butcher those who could not fight back Kron refused and found himself forever outcast by the fleet. Ozuchi Komodo, the person who Kron had refused to kill, saw that the warrior had some part to play in the destinies unfolding and suggested that the forceful warrior join them. Kron now fights within his own code of honour, but the red spectre of his past constantly plagues him.
* * *
Horesh Komani, khemrian death priest

Born amongst the death-worshipping tribes of Khemri, Horesh showed an early aptitude for the death magics and spiritual workings of the country’s priesthood, attracting the services of a death-raven spirit companion during his younger years; his rise to prominence however was watched with jealous eyes from certain quarters and, during his initiation exploring an ancient tomb, Horesh found himself forced into a position where he had to choose between the life of a fellow or advancing his own knowledge of death. Horesh found this decision easy to make and channeling death energy through his body slew his fellow priest.
As Horesh continues to expand his knowledge of the spirit world he finds himself increasingly drawn into situations where he must rely on the power of the spirits, but ever so slowly he finds himself owing a tangled web of favours that must someday be paid.
* * *
Ozuchi Komodo, last survivor of the komodo tribe

From the moment he was born Ozuchi knew that he had a destiny, the spirit world revealed it’s secrets to him, that one day he was destined to help re-unite the fractured kingdoms of Stygia; however it appeared that his dreams would come to naught when the Timber Wolf raiding fleet were sighted on the southern coast and norsican raiders began to pillage and burn their way across the country. As his tribe fell, Ozuchi prepared to sell his own life dearly when again fate played it’s hand and one of the warriors (a norsican by the name of Gunnar Kron), disgusted by the brutality of the slaughter, turned against his fellows and helped Ozuchi to escape.
Some time later whilst exploring a ruined temple in the jungles of Khemri, Ozuchi witnessed two death-priests battling and, as one fell, he recognised the survivor Horesh Komani as his khemrian counterpart, he knew that together the two of them could re-unite their splintered homeland.
* * *




Serpents Fall – Overhauling Spirits & Sorcery

Following on from our first Serpents Fall game on G+, one of the aspects of the game that I wasn’t particularly taken with was sorcery; it worked okay but whenever something involving spirits occurred it pretty much split the party into sorcerors and non-sorcerors with the two not really meeting until the matter was resolved.
After looking at an excellent conversion of a pulp hero by Garth Rose on Google+ I decided to make an attempt at using his rules to model the spirits and sorcery within my game.
* * *

Amended Rules
Spirits
It does not require any special Stunt or ability to perceive spirits any longer (unless they are specifically hiding themselves using their powers), all people can perceive and interact with spirits.
Sorcery

In order to use sorcery the character must have an appropriate High Concept or other Aspect that includes knowledge of sorcery.
There are a number of Sorcery Stunts (as shown below).
Bind Spirits: When in contact with a spirit the sorceror may engage them mentally (as per the Stunt – Mental Contact), instead of inflicting stress the sorceror may ask the spirit to perform one task (lasting no more than a few hours) for every two levels his roll beats the spirits; if the task is utterly against the spirits nature the GM can pay a fate point to veto the task and take the stress instead. If the sorceror loses then he takes the appropriate amount of stress himself due to psychic feedback.
If a spirit is Taken Out by psychic damage, the sorceror can bind it to a task for a year and a day (although if they want to take is as a companion then they will need to buy it as a new Stunt).
Mental Contact: The sorceror can make a Clever roll to make contact with someone (resisted by the same Approach) in the same zone; if the sorcerors roll is higher then he may ask (and receive honest answers) to 1 question per every two points that his roll beats his opponent or inflict levels of stress equal to the number of points his roll beat the opponent. If the sorceror loses then he takes the appropriate amount of stress himself due to psychic feedback (the opponent may only take information from the sorceror’s mind if they are also a sorceror).
Sorcerors receive +2 to attack/defend against mental contact.
Being Taken Out by psychic damage generally means one’s mind is completely open to one’s opponent.  Post-hypnotic suggestions, compulsions, altered memories, and the like are all possible.
Unearthly Knowledge: Once per session, the sorceror can get the answer to a question he would have no earthly way of knowing the answer to.  This is generally accompanied by watching birds, or even having a raven land on his shoulder – it probably won’t work indoors, unless maybe the spirits are really restless. 
* * *

Please note: Credit for the original work on these rules goes to Garth Rose, i’ve simply tweaked them a bit and done some small adaptions for use with Fate Accelerated.