Trail of Cthulhu and Investigations in FATE

Those of you who have read more of this blog may have seen the IC write-ups of a Hunter: the Vigil game that I have been playing in recently (the write-ups of the two previous sessions are posted here and here); this game is being run by a friend of mine using the nWoD Hunter: the Vigil rules. In the game we are playing members of a supernatural serial-killer investigation unit composed of psychics known as VASCU; our party consists of a grizzled ex-cop whose party disappeared in a strange case that was swept under the carpet (this is my character), a bureau agent who squandered his family fortune seeking to find his father whom he believes kidnapped by cultists, a technical whizzkid and a wheelchair bound agent who was seriously injured pursuing a case.
The game was originally part of a proposed ‘one-off wednesday’ idea where, every other wednesday, a group of us would get together in the evening and run a one-off game (my thoughts on one-off games can be viewed in this blog post); so far we’ve had Judge Dredd (by Mongoose Publishing), a homebrew tron-esque game where we played ourselves in a strange future where a fantasy realm had intruded on our reality, a Star Trek based game and the Hunter game. The Hunter game is the first of our ‘one-offs’ that has been heavily investigation based (my Judge Dredd game touched on these themes but the investigating part of the game was fairly simple and fast paced); as a result, although it has been very entertaining to play, the game has already run into a second session and we are scheduled to play a third. Although the GM freely admits that he is more used to running campaigns that one-shot sessions and that this may have contributed to the length of the game, I started to wonder whether this was the only factor or whether there was something in the nature of investigative games that lead to them taking a great deal more time?
One of the more interesting investigation based games that I have read recently is Trail of Cthulhu by Kenneth Hite (a game I intend to review on my blog in the near future) and based on the GUMSHOE system by Robin D Laws (who also wrote the fast-paced and bizarrely wide-ranging hong-kong action movie game Feng-Shui, another of my favourites). One of the things I love about ToC is that it makes no qualms about it’s adaption of the popular Call of Cthulhu game to a different rules system and the designers obviously have a great deal of respect for the source material (both mythos fiction and previous RP materials). The introduction to ToC discusses what I consider to be one of the perennial problems with the investigative game; what might seem an obvious solution to the GM may seem baroque and incomprehensible to the players since they lack the GMs privileged knowledge about the backstory and have to find everything out the hard way, not only that, but in some systems a failed search or investigation roll on the dice can lead to you missing a vital clue and thus taking a lot longer to solve a mystery (assuming that you can solve it at all).

Now you might say that a good GM can always fudge things so that the players come across a clue or that something happens to advance the plot; however if this is not done subtly and with finesse then it can lead to the players feeling railroaded as though, no matter what they do, the mystery solution will reveal itself, IMO once the perception of risk or failure has disappeared completely from a game then a lot of players lose their impetus and drive.

So how does FATE fit into all this?

A valid question that you might be asking yourself by now; I feel that there are a number of mechanics and ideas that could be ported from Trail of Cthulhu across to either FATE core or Fate Accelerate Edition (FAE), some of these and my own ideas are listed below.
Occupations

In ToC the character all have occupations that help determine their skills and equipment; these could be ported across to FATE as either Aspects/High Concepts or (if a more complete overhaul including skills was desired) they could be used as templates to determine what sort of skills and stunts a starting character has.
For example: The Antiquarian occupation in ToC has the following skills – Architecture, Art History, Bargain, History, Languages, Law, Library Use, and any one Investigative ability. They also have a special ability where once per session they can discover a book that contains a clue to the current investigation or some relevant investigation.
This skill list could easily by imported, the Antiquarian label taken as a High Concept and the special ability changed into a Stunt.
Drives

Drives are a character’s main motivation in Trail of Cthulhu and include concepts such as Adventure, Antiquarianism, Arrogance, Artistic Sensitivity, Bad Luck and Curiosity (amongst others); these could also be ported across as Aspects into a FATE based game.
Skills/Abilities

Skills (or Abilities as they are known in ToC) are a lot more specific that they are in FATE, and are split into Investigative and General abilities; Investigative abilities are those that allow you to find information and clues, progressing towards solving the mystery and include such skills as Archaeology, Library Use and Occult, whereas General Abilities are your more generic RPG skills such as Athletics, Firearms and First Aid.
In ToC, possessing an appropriate Investigative Ability automatically allows you to detect an associated clue; for instance if their is a clue in a museum of antiquity or a ruin that possession of the Archaeology skill would automatically allow you to detect it’s presence. The game handily gives you simple descriptions of what the skill allows you to detect, in this case:

  • Tell how long something has been buried and date of its construction.
  • Identify artifacts by culture and usage.
  • Distinguish real artifacts from fakes.
  • Navigate inside ruins and catacombs, including finding secret doors and hidden construction.
  • Describe the customs of ancient or historical cultures.
  • Spot well-disguised graves and underground hiding places.

Gathering Clues

The game posits a simple and yet refreshing method of locating clues and progressing through a mystery/investigation plotline.

  1. Get your Investigator into a scene where relevant information can be gathered.
  2. Have the right ability to discover the clue.
  3. Tell the Keeper that you’re using it.
Assuming that this occurs then the GM will provide you with any clue that corresponds to your query. In each scene the GM designates a core clue that is required before the players can move on to the next scene (although their may be additional supplementary clues for the players to discover).
Gathering Additional Information

One of the most interesting ideas about the game in my mind is that players can ‘spend’ points based on their Investigative Abilities to gain additional information about the clues; this information is never required to progress in the game but provides extra flavour to the game.

Both the use of Investigative Abilities to automatically locate clues and the spending of ‘points’ to gain additional information regarding the clues are both concepts that I think would be easily convertable to the FATE system; clues can easily be given out related to the skills possessed by players (possibly excpanding the list to include more detailed investigative abilities as per To) and either an additional pool of investigation point can be added or the existing fate points can be used to gain additional info in a FATE based ToC-style game.
I’m planning to try a ToC style FATE game once it rolls round to my turn to GM in our ‘one-off Wednesdays’ again, i’ll post how it goes.

Space colonies

Settlements in Rogue Trader
Recently Conny Delshagen posted on the Google+ Traveller community about whether anyone had successfully used the World Tamer’s Handbook colonisation rules for Traveller: the New Era; although I don’t really play Traveller at the moment i’m always looking for science-fiction ideas that can be incorporated into my FATE-based WH40K Rogue Trader campaign ‘The House of Black’ which (as of the time of writing) is still running on a monthly basis. Reading the blurb associated with the World Tamer’s Handbook on RpgGeek.com it seemed to focus around star system generation and rules for colonisation; although i’m fairly happy with the Diaspora adapted rules for system generation that I have, setting up colonies and such like was not something that I had covered in much detail. I had previously looked briefly at the colony system presented in Fantasy Flight Games ‘Stars of Iniquity’ supplement but, whilst the system seemed very comprehesive, it was extremely detail orientated and (I believed) too complex to be a worthwhile addition to my RT game; I had switched to FATE to reduce the clunkiness of the rules, so adding in a massively detailed sub-system seemed counter productive.
It occurred to me that perhaps this would be a good place to use the Fate Fractal: for those not familiar with the Fate Fractal (or the Bronze Rule as it is also called in the FATE core rulebook) it states:
“In Fate, you can treat anything in the game world like it’s a character. Anything can have aspects, skills, stunts, stress tracks, and consequences if you need it to.”
I had already used the Fractal to a certain extent when defining my rules for space combat (see http://wh40krpg.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/testing-proposed-narrative-space-combat.html for my most recent post regarding narrative space combat) with the players ship treated as a character (having skills, aspects, stunts, stress tracks and consequences).
What sort of stats would a space colony have?
Taking a tip from my work on space ships I decided that colonies would have five Aspects in order to represent what the colony specialised in an potentially one or two Stunts, the colony would also receive 2 stress boxes and 3 consequences boxes (with the standard 2, 4 and 6 values) in the same way as a character (although additional Stunts could be taken to increase the number of stress boxes).
Some examples of Aspects might be:
  • Primitive
  • High-tech
  • Abundance of natural resources
  • Theocratic government
  • Wise sages

I envisioned that the High Concept Aspect would represent the dominant form of government on the colony and that the Trouble Aspect would represent some sort of challenge or impending danger the colony.
What benefits would players get from visiting a space colony?
In order to make it worthwhile instituting rules for space colonies (although these rules could also be used for space stations and other sorts of bases) it would be necessary to provide some story reason for the player characters to visit them; the most obvious reason for this is to purchase equipment or make repairs to ships/vehicles, etc.
Using the simple model above it would be simplicity itself to make the Aspects of the station affect what objects the PCs can get hold of, they would be able to invoke the colony’s Aspects as they would any other Aspect to improve Resources rolls along with any other actions as appropriate whilst on the space station; for example, if the players are getting a ship repaired at an orbital facility with the Aspect ‘Adeptus Mechanicus workshop’ then they could invoke this to get a +2 to the repair roll. However the reverse is also true that Aspects could be invoked against the players either by the GM or other players; for example if a character tries to get hold of a stub gun in a colony with the Aspect ‘Primitive’ then the GM could invoke this to apply a -2 penalty to their Resources roll.
Colony Maintenance
In any session where a particular colony is featured the GM should roll 4DF and note the resultant number (Aspects may be invoked on this roll as normal), if the result is a minus figure then the colony has suffered some sort of stress and the negative shift should be marked on the stress boxes/consequence tracker as usual (with any consequences reflecting the slow deterioration of the colony, for example: civil unrest).
If the result is a positive then the colony uses the positive shift to first recover from any stress or consequences it has sustained, if there is any positive shift left after this then add an additional stress box to the colony’s total to represent the colony growing.
Setting up a Colony
One of the great things about Rogue Trader is that the player characters are (unlike the majority of humans in the WH40K universe) powerful people with spaceships at their disposal and commanding vast resources; this means that feasibly the player characters may be instrumental in setting up new colonies and bases, any system that I was going to use would need to represent this possibility.
It is my current idea that, when initially set up a colony has only a single Aspect (which should reflect the colony’s initial challenges, no stunts, a single stress box and no consequences boxes); each session after a colony has set up until it has reached the standard beginning colony statistics it should make a maintenance roll (as detailed above), when the colony reaches a total of 2 stress boxes due to growth then it gains the consequence tracker and additional Aspects/Stunts as per a standard beginning colony.
These are just a few ideas at the moment and will no doubt see further development, however, i’d be interested in people’s thoughts/comments.

Psi-Punk review

Recently I saw a post on Google+ from Jacob Wood on the Pen & Paper Bloggers community asking whether anyone would be interested in reviewing a cyberpunk FUDGE RPG; I contacted Jacob and expressed interest and was , as a fan of dark/dystopian settings, soon eagerly flipping through a PDF copy of the Psi-Punk game.
Review

Front Cover and Blurb
Front Cover

The front cover is very visually striking and yet not over complicated, showing two people battling infront of a matrix-esque background of 1s and 0s whilst a blurred face overlooks the scene; on the back of the book is a fairly standard blurb that sums up very well what type of game Psi-Punk is, it reminded me of some of the similar material on the various editions of Shadowrun (hardly surprising since the two games both cover a similar mix of futuristic and more fantastic elements).
Layout
The PDF seemed a trifle slow to load new pages on the version I looked at, although whether this is due to the way that the PDF is put together or my slightly aging computer I can’t say, it didn’t greatly impact my enjoyment of the book though. Using a twin column scheme, the book has a nice, clear layout making it very easy on the eye without some of the odd/barely readable heading fonts that I have seen used in some other RP products recently.
Contents

Game Background
Right, now to the actual meat of the book, the contents; the book begins with the usual introduction of the concept of roleplaying games, a brief run down of what is contained in the other chapters and an explanation of the FUDGE system used by the game; I have a certain fondness for FUDGE given that it was one of the precursors to the FATE system that I currently favour and was the first roleplaying games that introduced me to the idea of using words to represent difficulty levels rather than solely numbers.
This chapter is followed with a brief history chapter, detailing the events that lead to the game world differing from our own; there will be nothing particularly surprising in this chapter to anyone who has playing cyberpunk or occult style games. The game takes place in 2096, 80 years after a psychic called Nathan Hunter escaped from a covert North Dakota research facility and revealed the existence of psychics to the world; psychics were created as a result of military experimentation begun by the Nazis, continued by the Soviets and later by the Americans in the wake of WWII. Although initially outraged by the indignaties heaped on the psychic by the military, the public who once called for their release now find themselves marginalised by those members of society possessing strange powers that they cannot possibly compete with; into this arena steps the company MagiCorp who deal in items and technologies designed to even the playing field. I enjoyed reading this chapter, although there is nothing startlingly original in it and there are some well worn tropes used (nazi experimentation for one example), they were handled well and were written up in a straight-forward way without any unnecessarily flowery language; the brief history tells you what you need to know in the space of a few pages.
There follows a more lengthy description of the world history, seeming to take a fairly Americocentric view of the fture world (although there are smaller sections hinting at activities outside of the National American Union (a future state covering America, Canada and Mexico); this section is a little more stodgy and difficult to digest in my opinion, but persevering with it does give some interesting ideas for games set either during the fictional history or for events influenced by it. The history as a whole is fairly normal cyberpunk fare with the additions of psychics (known as “mentals” within the setting) and technology that blurs the line between tech and magic, huge megacorporations dominate the future society hoarding wealth and resources, keeping them away from the common man; there is a very interesting write-up of how the inevitable world food shortage was dealt with as populations rise, leading to real food becoming a prize commodity and most people subsisting on a nanotech produced Soylent Green styled substance called “nano-food” (thankfully without the main Soylent Green ingredient).
Psi-Punk paints a word where the current social/economic gulf has become vast indeed, the rich and corporate minded are able to afford the luxury of real food and elevate themselves using magical technology from MagiCorp whereas the multitudinous poor are forced to live in squalor often turning to crime as the only real means of supporting themselves; this has given rise to a powerful criminal underclass of gangs, mobsters and ghost cartels (high organised data-thieves) who are occasionally cracked down upon by a corrupt police system. The description of the class divide and the criminal elements of society is very well written and interesting, the only slight flaw IMO is that a number of concepts are introduced before they are explained (for example the concept of ‘Wraith Butchers’, people who murder astral travellers are introduced before any real mention of astral travel is made), however this is a minor niggle at most. The last part of this section focusses on ‘Street Runners’, independent mercenaries for hire, the game suggests that the default party of players would be made up of Street Runners.
Character Creation
The character creation section begins with an interesting discussion of Archetypes, with each one listed receiving a brief write-up and suggestions of how they fit in society; a very interesting diversion from the norm in these sort of games is in some of the titles used to refer to the archetypes (for example: Brenner, the german word for ‘burner’ is used to refer to pyrokinetics), this helps give the game a slightly different feel, hinting at the game slang and language usage without being too intrusive or obvious.
Characters in the system are determined by three primary attributes (body, mind and persona), each of which is then divided into two seperate sub-attributes (ie. strength & dexterity for body); primary attributes are determined by totalling the modifiers of the secondary atttributes – this reminds me somewhat of one of the suggestions for handling attributes in the old AD&D Skills & Powers book; the primary attributes seem a bit unnecessary to me and the book itself even says “On their own, attributes are rarely checked against,” I would argue that the game could have potentially been streamlined a little by removing these primary attributes, although TBH since they are rarely used and are derived from the secondaries it’s not really a massive problem and should have little impact on the actual enjoyment of the game.
The character creation chapter is quite dense with numerous modifiers being used, build points to determine skills and luck point dice being modified by skills; IMO this may prove quite daunting for players or GMs not used to a lot of number crunching and figuring out modifiers, although anyone used to some of the more crunchy systems like D&D3.5 or Pathfinder shouldn’t have a great deal of trouble adapting to it, personally I prefer a slightly more narrative approach, but I can appreciate that there are RPers who enjoy the “crunch” of game rules a lot more than myself.
After this there is a discussion of Gifts and Faults; this should be familiar territory to anyone who plays systems that allow merits and flaws (World of Darkness or Savage Worlds for instance) and allows players to tweak their characters a little using a provided list of merits (that cost build points) and flaws (that gain a person additional build points) whilst personally not a fan of flaws that allow you to get extra points to spend on your character (since I think it can be open to abuse) this part of the section is very clear and well written, I am sure that any sensible GM running the game (ie. one who doesn’t allow overuse/abuse of the Faults) will find this is a useful addition to their game. The book itself very pointedly mentions several times that the GM should be careful not to allow abuse of the Faults system.
Luck points allow the players to either accomplish an unopposed action automatically and with panache, reroll a skill check, reduce the level of injury taken in a combat, to cause a favourable coincidence (with GM approval) or (if they roll a high enough success) to cause a truly extraordinary/astonishing result. I’m a big fan of anything that allows the players to also have a degree of narrative control within a game and take control of their players destinies so I think that Luck points are a welcome addition to the game.
At the end of the chapter there is a very useful character questionnaire that provide 30 questions a player may want to consider when making their character and a summary of the creation process.
Equipment
Chapter three is basically a big list of equipment, vehicles and weaponry for you to tool your character up with, it is fairly comprehensive without being ludicrously detailed and provides additional interest by introducing Gifts, characteristics that can be applied to weapons in order to customise them. There is also a discussion of how magic (items that emulate psionic powers) can be created and how much they cost.
Playing the Game
Psi-Punk uses the standard 4 fudge/fate dice roll (4DF) common in FUDGE, FATE and the various systems that use similar rulesets; a player takes their 4DF (each dice containing two sides marked ‘+’, two sides marked ‘-‘ and two that are blank) roll thems and adds the resulting modifier to their skill or attribute, the final score can be references on the games Trait Ladder to determine whether or not that have succeeded.
In Psi-Punk the Trait Ladder looks like this:
Astonishing +7
Extraordinary +6
Phenomenal +5
Wonderful +4
Superb +3
Great +2
Good +1
Fair 0
Mediocre -1
Poor -2
Abysmal -3
So if you had a skill of Good (+1) and rolled -, +, +, blank then your final score would be Great (+2). I’m a great fan of this system and think that it has an elegant simplicity to it as well as the visual element of the Trait Ladder.
Details of how wealth works in the game (basically an addition to the Trait Ladder) and how to run a combat follow, these sections are well written (if a little dry) and fairly clear.
Psionics and Magic
Chapter five of the books contains a more detailed look at the psionic and magic systems present in the game; in game terms psionics are the ability to control and manipulate your surroundings using nothing more than the power of your mind, whilst magic is a term referring to electronic devices that manipulate energy to produce similar effects to psionics. Psionics are only available at character generation although magic devices can be acquired/purchased in game; psionic powers are linked into attributes and are rolled using 4DF like any other ability, on a successful roll they can generate a number of effets as discussed in the book; a large list of psionic powers and magic devices follows this, there aren’t really any surprises in here but the lists are comprehensive and would certainly allow most players to create the psionic or magic user of their dreams.
Hacking
Always a potentially troublesome element I find in cyberpunk or sci-fi games, chapter six deals with hacking; i’ve always seen this (along with space combat) as a potential problem area in a game because it can result in the exclusion of players not involved with the main action and, although it is possible for a decent GM to jump between two groups, it does result in a somewhat choppier/more disjointed gaming experience. Psi-Punk seems to reduce haxcking to a series of Computer Use and Technical skill rolls which can be modified by equipment used and research performed before hand; it then diverges into explanations of how to psionically hack computer systems and how to manipulate people via social engineering. Psi-jacking functions very similarly to normal hacking, however social engineering switches the various technical rolls for social based skills as the player character attempts to manipulate the target into doing whatever they want; there is also a lengthy explanation of how to control (“jack”) people using psionics.
Whilst I think some of this section is a bit lengthy, it does do a good job of reducing the various strains of hacking down to a manageable level that could be completed without the rest of the player party being forced to sit on the sidelines during a lengthy hacking session (as has happened with some other similar RP games)- this is to be applauded, although I think the number of rolls required could have been reduced even more.

When Worlds Diverge
The seventh chapter of the book deals with the online world of the Net and the mystical world of the Astral Plane that both exist alongside what we know as our world; the net is omnipresent in the form of Augmented Reality (AR) overlays of the real world, this is a concept that I first encountered in RP during reading one of the more recent versions of Cyberpunk and is a great way of bringing elements of this realm into a game session without excluding people who aren’t playing hackers. Psi-Punk does allow people to project themselves into the Net however it does provide for people bringing along passengers, thus very neatly sidestepping the exclusion problem mentioned above, I think this should be applauded and is IMO a great decision by the authors. The discussions of hwo the Net appears, can be used and the various challenges that a player party might face in this realm are very interesting, with security programs being treated as cutdown versions of characters who can attack or otherwise attempt to disable an invading Ghost (hacker).
The Astral Plane appears to be a mystical alternate realm that suitably calm and focussed people can project their consciousnesses into, mechanically it functions much the same as the Net realm save that the unwary traveller may find themselves assailed by magical creatures rather than intruder counter measure programs. I found the inclusion of an Astral Plane a little odd given that, by and large, magic in the rest of the book has been referred to as machinery.
Game Mastering
For me the star of the book is the Game mastering chapter, that contains some great advice on how to plan and run a game, also containing advice for tweaking or excluding the various rules sub-systems throughout the book; it also provides advice and tips on bringing the players into the creation process of the setting and the various adventures something that, as I said earlier, I am a big fan of. The chapter includes some no-nonsense and useful advice on adjudicating difficulty levels, handling the GMs pot of Luck Points and creating NPCs to challenge the player party.
Sample Adventure Brain.Net
The sample adventure that comes with the main book is an interesting one; it deals with an attempt to recapture lost sensations of the past and the cost that people pay when corporate greed and the need to meet deadlines overwhelms the public good. Brain dot net begins with a fairly standard pub brawl style opening that does have a certain nostalgic feel if you’re an old school roleplayer and I feel the adventure is a good introduction to the world of Psi-Punk drawing on selected elements from its history.
Overall Verdict
If you’re looking for a cyberpunk style game setting that combines the numerous different types of dystopian future settings into one and binds them all together with the FUDGE rules system then you can’t go far wrong with Psi-Punk; the rules may be a bit crunchy and unnecessarily bloated in places but the setting of the game is genuinely quite interesting, containing enough oddities and little flashes of originality to make it worthy of consideration against some of the larger RP games of a similar genre. The writing style of the book is clean and concise in the majority and the art, whilst only black and white, is very appropriate to the setting.
Personally i’m quite likely to take the background of the system and convert it to use with the much simpler FATE or FAE systems from Evil Hat productions which, given they are both based on FUDGE, should be quite easy to do; however for just over £10 you can’t really grumble with the sheer amount of material that is crammed into Psi-Punk.

Psi-Punk is available from RPGnow priced at $19.99:
http://www.rpgnow.com/product/114830/Psi-punk

Character sheets for the God Machine Chronicle

Having finished working on the character sheets for my God Machine Chronicle game (run using the FATE system), in preparation for the first actual (post character gen) session i’ve typed up the character sheets in neat and added pictures (chosen by the players).
Thought i’d post them here so people could see the sort of Aspects, Stunts, etc that my players and I are including in our GMC game.

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).

Changing the Rules

Changing the Rules

Having run nine sessions of the game one thing had become quite obvious to myself as the GM, and that was that, whilst we were very much enjoying the Warhammer 40K background (since most of the players had more than a passing familiarity with it) the actual rules system felt a little clunky and a lot of time was spent during a game session flipping through our (very)slowly expanding pool of rulebooks looking up various abilities and powers. My own preference has always been for games where the story is the main focus of the session and the rules almost fade into the background, supporting but not over-powering the game; slowly I began to consider the idea of keeping the game background but changing to rules to something a little more story based and streamlined.

I dug out my old printed copy of FUDGE, it was a system that i’d always liked the look of and it contained some very interesting notes on converting across elements from other systems; searching around on the internet lead me to discover the surprising number of RP based communities that had sprouted up on Google+ since the last time I had used it. One in particular caught my eye, a community based around FATE, an updated and expanded version of FUDGE, and this in turn lead to the discovery of Diaspora, a science-fiction template game for FATE that already covered most of the elements that I wanted for my game.

On the evening before the session I printed out some character sheets and did my best to create Diaspora versions of the characters that, whilst not precise replicas, maintained the essential nature of the characters…

  • Lord Captain Black: A rich, socialite with a dark, haunted background and a soul touched by the warp.
  • Navigator York Benetec: A physical strong and twisted mutant bearing the navigator gene.
  • Chief Confessor Cornelius: A fiery priest, secure in his faith and wearing it like armour against the alien and the deviant.
  • Enginseer Prime Pak: A techpriest steeped in the art of the Omnissiah and bearing many strange pieces of technology either incorporated into his body or buzzing around him.

 …since the players were currently on Hiveworld Decusis I decided not to worry so much about the spaceships at this moment, the idea was to first try the rules in a test-lite session and see if the Diaspora rules looked promising and then, if so, continue to use them in future sessions.

Quickly listing equipment I halved the damage modifers and penetration values from the Rogue Trader equipment list and used them as weapon stats for the Diaspora rules, assigning them to three categories…

  • Melee weapons
  • Slug weapons
  • Energy weapons
…the energy weapons were further divided into melee and ranged varieties.