All About Aspects: Magic Powers as Aspects

Magic Powers as Aspects

We’ve explained the basic formatting for our high concept aspects in one of our previous post, in this post I provide a single descriptions table (that can be used instead of the ones in previous articles) to add aspects concerned with psychic or magic powers.

Please note: This article does not actually provide the rules for the powers, that will be down to whatever system you decide to use (although you can do a surprising amount with skill rolls and invoking/compelling aspects in Fate).

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Differences between First Run through of Skytrain Robbery and the Second

The Great Skytrain Robbery was a one-off scenario that I designed for the Fate Core setting Wild Blue by Brian Engard; I have ran the scenario twice thus far, once for theSwamper and Captain Gothnog as a G+ hangout sessions (details here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSe9tajmWRM) and yesterday for my home group (details can be found here http://wh40krpg.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/the-great-skytrain-robbery-again-actual.html). 
The Wild Blue setting is available in Fate World Book 1: Worlds of Fire.
Running the same scenario twice has been an interesting experience for me, since I seldom frequent conventions and have certainly never run a game at a convention, I don’t really have any experience of creating a scenario with re-play value, most of the adventures/scenarios (call them what you will) I prepare are tailored for a specific campaign and are only played through once (with the obvious exception of any elements that are recycled for later use in the campaign or a future game); this is the first time that I have ever run through the same scenario with two different groups of players, I was interested to see how the results of the storyline would differ (despite beginning from the same start point) due to the actions of the different groups. This post consists of some of my notes on the differences that I have found.
Please note: None of the notes below are intended to suggest than one group was better or worse than the other nor their version of the scenario any less ‘valid’ the comparison is simply because I was interested to see how different approaches caused the scenario to head in different directions.

  • The Groups

Google+ : Two very pro-active players who are used to jumping into plot.
Face to face : One very pro-active player, one slightly re-active player and one very re-active player.

  • The Characters

Google+ session:
Agent Gideon H. Barlow (played by Captain Gothnog) possessed the power create lightning in his body, a power with obvious combat potential but also a number of others uses, the character had been a queen’s executioner and was a grim, dedicated law-keeper (think Judge Dredd in a stetson).
Agent Jacob Karn (played by theSwamper) possessed the ability to phase himself (although not his possessions) through solid objects; an expert tracker, Karn was a little less severe with his pursuit of the law but held a deep and abiding hatred of the Folk who had murdered his wife and daughter.
Face to face session:
Agent Ferryman was a scientific explorer with an enquiring mind, he had constructed an iron suit capable of being worn beneath his clothes that could sheath him in metal at a moments notice and enhance his natural anti-gravity powers enabling him to fly.
Agent Valcro was also one of the Wise, through his experiments Valcro had transformed himself into a monster covered in spiney growths, although these allowed him to adhere to almost any surface they caused him to be regarded with suspicion and fear by many folk.
Agent Hawkeye had been raised by the Folk following the death of her family and was schooled in many of their secrets, it was rumoured that she could track a man simply by smelling his blood.

  • Character Generation

Google+ : The players had access to a handout that I created (via Google Drive on the web) a couple of weeks prior to the game session and were therefore able to create about 90% of their characters beforehand (whilst in correspondence with each other), this enabled us to spend only about half an hour finishing the characters up and creating some additional background before jumping into the game, the players had no problems with any of the character creation aspects and generated some really interesting, compelling backgrounds.
Face to face : With most of my regular group not checking online communications with any regularity the entirety of the first evening was taken up with character creation, some of the players seemed to really struggle with the 3-Phases style character generation aspect that links all of the characters together via shared backgrounds; although this noticably seemed to be more of a problem for the re-active players, our more pro-active player seemed to have no problem with it at all and was easily able to link himself in to the unfolding tapestry despite coming to the character generation somewhat later than the others.

  • Fate Core Rules

Both groups of players were not massively familiar with the Fate Core rules and therefore we took things a little slowly to get everyone used to it and there were no major rules problems in either game; I did make a couple of rules flubs in the face to face game (I blame being tired and my neighbour for waking me up a 3am on New Years Day), but the players were fairly understanding and I don’t think it majorly impacted upon their enjoyment of the scenario.

  • During the Session

Both groups of players managed to get the package to it’s destination (albeit with the face to face group losing the person that it was originally attached to) and achieve their mission objective, however, there were a number of differences that occurred during the session, some of which are highlighted below.
Prior to Getting on the Train
The G+ group spent their time enjoying some local colour, narrowly avoiding bar brawls in the coastal town of Ressen and chatting with a few NPCs before tethering their horses and boarding the train.
The face to face group didn’t do a lot in Ressen besides for the pro-active player who built a rapport with a blind sailor and used this to plot local wind conditions and map out the most likely spot and time for a Sky bandit ambush of the train.
Dealing with Railmarshal Booth
In the G+ game Agent Karn and Barlow were about to wow Booth with their status as survivors of an almost legendary massacre, using this status (and the fact that Booth had always wanted to be a Warden) they were able to secure the help of the Railmarshal in their mission; when Booth died helping defend the train both Agents laid him to rest with honours.
In the face to face game Agent Valcro took extreme exception to Booth questioning their business being on the Skytrain without registering their presence, after some time they convinced him to let them pass using the royal seal on their orders, as they entered the train Valcro had him detained by the other Marshals for impeding the Wardens whilst they were on royally sanctionned business.
Dealing with Mr Perriweather
As no-nonsense lawmen, the players in the G+ game kept Mr Perriweather safe, treating him like an item of cargo, taking an attitude that Perriweather didn’t have to like them as long as he (as the cobalt sample) got through safely; they managed to get both Perriweather and the sample to the capitol.
In the face to face group Agent Hawkeye engaged Perriweather in more friendly conversation, however, when one of the bandits proved to have the ability to teleport people they were unable to stop Perriweather being teleported outside the train and falling to his death, although they did retrieve the cobalt sample and deliver it safely to the capitol.

The Sky Bandits Attack
In the G+ the players engaged the bandits mainly onboard the Skytrain, using their powers to overcome them (narrowly preventing them escaping via their getaway sky ship) and keep Perriweather (and the sample) safe despite some severe damage being done to the train. Mercy Clements (the flame wielding pirate leader) was fought as she tried to leave via a rope ladder dropped from the sky ship (her companions having already been killed inside); as she tried to take shelter inside the train (after blowing the side off it) Agent Karn phased through the roof and drop-kicked the injured pirate off the train to fall to a messy death many miles below.
In the face to face game the players were (due to their powers) able to engage the sky ship before it reached the train and prevent it from doing so, without any means of escaping the Wardens dealt with the bandits mostly by hurling them from the train and relying on gravity to finish them off. Minimal damage was done to the train and the cobalt sample was recovered although Perriweather was killed. Mercy Clements managed to signal her getaway sky ship and her teleporting companion was able to steal the sample (after teleporting Perriweather to his death), however the getaway ship had already been stopped due to Agent Ferryman flying up to it and dealing with it before it reached the Skytrain; with no getaway they were taken care of by the other two agents, Clements and the teleporter being hurled from the train and the gun-wielding goons being stabbed by Agent Hawkeye.

  • Differences in Running the Game

A definitely found it helpful in the G+ game to have all of my materials on the computer and, since I was the only one physically in the room, any printed materials could be spread out, whereas space was at more of a premium in the face to face game.
There was more use of compels in the G+ game, I think perhaps this was to do with the players having developed more detailed backgrounds and characters that suggested a lot of ways to compel them, whereas it was a little more difficult for some of the characters in the face to face game.
Having had it pointed out to me that I tended to hand-hold the players a little bit (something i’d not really been aware of previously) and that it hadn’t really been necessary in the G+ game, I was more on the lookout for this in the face to face game and did notice that the more reactive players required far more hand-holding and suggestions as to what they might like to do.
The powers system seemed to work well in both the G+ and face to face games, being easy to manage and judge.

  • In Conclusion

From running the same scenario twice I have drawn the following conclusions:

    • Although I am capable of adapting my GM-ing style, my normal style (and the Fate Core) rules suit pro-active players far better than they do re-active players.
    • The 3-stage part of character generation may require some adaption for certain players (or even abandoning altogether).
    • For a one-off session, having characters generated in-session only really works when your players are willing to run with it, I think for less pro-active players using pre-generated characters (perhaps with some limited customisation options included) would be a far wiser choice.
    • The Wild Blue setting is excellent, and since it riffs on the Mythic Wild West theme is easy for most people to get in to.
    • Varying levels of commitment and involvement amongst players can have a serious effect on a session.

Many thanks to all of the players who played in both versions of this scenario, was very enjoyable for me to run as a GM and has been a very interesting experience – hope to game again with you in the future 🙂

Preparing a Player Handout for a Wild Blue one-off

I was flattered to be ask by theSwamper (of the Youtube RPG brigade) to run a one-off session of fate for himself and Captain Gothnog, theSwamper is going to be running a game of Fate Core next month and is looking to get more of a handle on the rules and so asked if i’d be interested in running a one-off game for himself and Gothnog over the week or so; having watched a number of Youtube videos by both of the gentlemen in question, and having wanted to expand my GM-ing experience beyond my usual circle of players for quite some time (not that there’s anything wrong with my usual players, but it’s a good thing to test yourself and grow as a GM) I was, of course, extremely interested.
What sort of Fate game should I run?

This was the first question I asked myself, the only criteria that theSwamper had given me was that it had to be a one-off, it had to use the Fate Core rules (since this was the version of the game that they would be playing) and they would prefer it to be more action-orientated rather than any sort of political thriller or deep investigative scenario. Normally I have to admit that Fate Accelerated would be my choice for a one-off game since I personally find it easier to pick up, however Fate Core is a fine version of the system and one I also use regularly for my Rogue Trader game so I am familiar with both  iterations of the Fate system (since they’re effectively just slightly different builds of the same system anyway).
This left me with the choice of what setting to run the game in, since it was a one-off crossing multiple time-zones and (as always) anticipating a number of technical hitches and startup problems with the internet/google+ hangouts I didn’t think that going through the setting generation section would be the best use of our time. Flipping through the Fate Worlds books my eyes turned to the Wild Blue setting by Brian Engard, a firefly-esque wild west setting on an alien world where human colonists had driven out the magical Folk who had previously been the indigenous people but then found that they had started to manifest strange powers with each generation; the Queen of the humans created the Wardens, people with powers designed to police other people with powers.
For those interested you can find my video review of Wild Blue and the first Fate Worlds book here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTQIqUvYd6Q

Wild Blue works for me on a number of levels, it includes elements of magic and a freeform system for powers that I really like and that isn’t unduly complex, the technology level is also (with a few exceptions) that of the mythic wild west, and thus is easy to grasp for players since everyone has seen at least one western movie, plus it has the Sky Rail, and the image of a steam powered trail on floating rails very much appeals to me.
The Great Sky-Train Robbery
In a previous post (available here) I hashed out the bare-bones of a scenario where the players would be attempting to rescue a Sky Rail train (and the citizens on it) from a group of hi-jackers, skimming through this scenario I thought that (with some tweaks) it would make an excellent scenario to run for theSwamper and Captain Gothnog since it should be fairly action packed and should showcase a lot of the Fate rules which, after all, is one of the points of running the game. TheSwamper has been generous enough to say that they do not mind me filming the session to put up on my Red Dice Diaries Youtube Channel when we gen characters and run it next Saturday (14/12/13); obviously this is an introductory game and one designed for the purpose of learning/discussing the rules so there may be more rules chatter than would be normal for a game, i’m really looking forward to running it though and seeing what the guys make of my scenario 🙂
To give them a flavour of what sort of setting Wild Blue is, I created a small player handout for them to look at (also to give them a chance to ask any questions before the game), the handout is available here:

Have I been getting it all wrong? (Supernaturals in the Fate system)

A lot has been made of the fact that Fate is great when you first visualise an end result and then set about creating something using the rules to match your initial vision, rather than jumping straight into the rules and attempting to build something from the ground up, and rightly so, one of the strengths of the system is that the rules set is extremely versatile even without the various hacks and add-ons that are available either for free or online at a low cost.
Previously when i’ve thought about supernaturals (and in this case i’m talking specifically about supernaturals as player characters rather than as monsters or NPCs which is an entirely different subject) i’ve most often looked at an existing game (in my case generally the World of Darkness series since they’re some of the games i’m most familiar with) and how Fate could be adapted or “hacked” to create a facsimile of the game in question; however there have recently been a spate of posts on the various Fate G+ communities where people have attempting to create versions of their favourite comic/fiction characters (and others) using the basic Fate rules. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how close a lot of these attempts have come to matching their inspiration, and all mostly using the rules as presented in either the Fate Accelerated or Fate Core rulebooks. I ran a one-off game of ‘Mummy: the Curse’ recently since i’ve been dying to test it out and love the concept behind it (my review of Mummy can be found here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SrPzZ9ClGyc), now i’ve been away from the World of Darkness rules-set for quite some time, aside from a brief read-through of the updated rules booklet that formed part of the ‘God Machine Chronicles’, since i’ve been moving towards less crunchy and more narrative based systems; whilst the game was very enjoyable and we all had a good time (the background of the game being one of the best i’ve read in a WoD game for a long time) I found going back to the nWoD rules extremely strange and wasn’t completely sold on them.
This isn’t a post to knock crunchier games, because I think that different systems suit different people and it really bugs me when people damn a system just because it happens to not be ideal for them, simply to say that my thoughts upon running the game were (as they so often are when games have a great background but a rules system that doesn’t suit my style of gaming) “there’s some great stuff in this book but I don’t suit the rules, what system can I use to keep the background but make it more suitable for my style of play?” I’m sure it will be no surprise to any who knows me or reads my posts/watches my videos that Fate Core and Fate Accelerated are my go-to systems when this sort of question comes up; previously I would probably have dived straight into the system and started working out how I could hack it to make a workable version of the ‘Mummy: the Curse’ rules, and i’ve done this previously to produce some workable hacks (my WH40K hack and my (still not completed) Fate of Cthulhu hack amongst them). Recently though i’ve been playing in a Dresden Files game run by a friend of mine and, although we’ve only played a single actual session (the first being taken up by setting/character generation and discussion), one of the things that has really impressed me is how a list of Stunts and Aspect suggestions can be used to construct virtually any type of supernatural within the DFRPG universe, this, together with the recent G+ posts has got me thinking that perhaps i’m taking the wrong approach when it comes to playable supernaturals in Fate.
For example, here is an example of a vampire “package” that I threw together in about 30 seconds (using Fate Accelerated rules and some ideas from the Fate Toolkit):
Aspect: Must have one aspect that included the word vampire
Stunts:
– (must have, +1 refresh) Blood-addicted: Gives the character an additional hunger stress track of 3 boxes; at the end of any scene where the vampire has used its power it is ‘attacked’ with a strength equal to the refresh cost of the power used, stress inflicted by this is added first to the hunger stress track.
– (optional, -2 refresh) Vampiric strength: The character gets +4 when Forcefully attacking.
– (optional, -2 refresh) Vampiric speed: The character gets +2 when Quickly overcoming obstacles that involve movement, the character automatically goes first in combats unless there are other combatants with vampiric speed.
The blood-addicted Stunt is based heavily on the DFRPG games use of a hunger stress track to track vampiric hunger, and the combined package would costs 3 refresh to purchase (the standard starting amount for a Fate Accelerated character); obviously there is a lot more work that could be done and i’ve not really covered feeding or standard vampiric weaknessed (sunlight, etc) at all in the rules above, but still it’s a workable framework that could be played, created in relatively little time without a vast amount of rules hacking being required.
Looking at the Fate system in this light it has lead me to wonder whether or not, for my next game featuring supernatural protagonists, it might be an idea to present either a list of Stunts (or some amended Stunt rubrics) to my players and have them create the supernatural characters that they want rather than worrying overly much about whether the rules particularly mirror those present in some other existing game?
For example:
One of the main themes of the game “Mummy: the Curse” is that the Arisen start off very powerful but with little memory or context within which to use that power, as time progresses their magical energy (Sekhem) drains away (bringing them ever closer to a return to their death-like sleep) their memory improves, paradoxically, as they gain the memories that might allow them to use their powers more wisely, those very powers ebb away.
I might create such a creature in Fate Accelerated like this.
Aspects: 
– High Concept: Must have mention the word ‘arisen’
– Trouble: Must mention the word ‘memory’
– Must have one Aspect that mentions the purpose for which they have arisen.
I’m not sure at the moment how i’d handle something like the gradual decrease of power, but i’m pretty sure that, given enough though, the Fate system could handle it; if anyone out there has any suggestions please feel free to add them in the comments section.
Near the start of the year I ran a God Machine Chronicle using the Fate Accelerated rules and that seemed to work really well, although the player characters were only mortals in that game, the GMC game was a tester for when the “Demon: the Descent” game is released (probably in 2014); I think that when this is released, rather than attempt to mirror the rules i’m going to create some demonic powers/Stunts that are thematically similar to the ones listed in the book and then just lift the background from it. I’m also really looking forward to the Dresden Accelerated that is going to released in 2014 (further details here – http://www.evilhat.com/home/fate-core-dresden-files-accelerated/), but until that comes out there’s a lot of potential ideas for supernatural powers as Stunts in the existing DFRPG that can be tapped and the Fate Toolkit offers a lot of advice on making different types of Stunts.

The Great (Sky) Train Robbery – Planning a Wild Blue (Fate) One-off

Since reading the Wild Blue setting in Fate Worlds, Volume One: Worlds on Fire (written by Brian Engard, you can find my video review of the book here) i’ve been dying to run a one-off session using the ideas and rules from the setting; given that i’ve had a few questions via the blog and my Youtube channel about how I go about preparing for a campaign/session I thought that’d be a good idea to write up my thought processes during the planning stages of this session and post them to the blog.

What is Wild Blue?

Wild Blue is a very interesting mashup setting where the players are human members of a society descended from settlers on a magic-rich alien world; in a parallel to the colonisation of the Americas, when the settlers arrived they found the world occupied by strange fey-like people whom they took to calling the Folk. A huge conflict erupted between the settlers and the Folk and the indigenous people were driven northwards out of their homelands; over the next few years the settlers noticed that the high levels of ambient magic on the world had started to affect them and people were being born with strange powers. An organisation called the Queen’s Wardens was set up, recruiting empowered people to police others with powers.

Basically Wild Blue is a mashup western, super-power, space opera style  setting where the players take on the roles of Queen’s Wardens, each of them having their own unique super powers.

Planning for the Session

Since i’m only planning to run a one-off session at this stage (since i’m already running/playing in a number of campaigns and don’t have time really to start any more) I decided to base the setting around an iconic element of the western genre (where a lot of Wild Blue’s flavour comes from), that of the train robbery.

Now obviously it’s more interesting to actually be the robbers, but the game setting does presume that the players are taking on the roles of the Wardens/Sheriffs and, whilst I could just ignore this, I quite like the idea of the players having the law on their side and all the associated paraphernalia that goes with it, so I decide to flip the concept around slightly. 

What is the main aim of the session?

Return control of a hi-jacked sky train to the appropriate authorities and protect the lives of those onboard.

Since this is a one-off that will be run during a weekday evening I want to have an aim that is achievable within a few hours; handily the fact that the players are playing Queen’s Wardens with defined jurisdiction makes this very easy indeed to manage, I have decided to give them a limited amount of time before the hi-jacked sky train leaves their jurisdiction, if they haven’t manage to bring it under control in the time allotted then their chance is lost.

What is the Sky Rail?

The sky rail is a floating train track built of the mystical skywood (from trees that get lighter as their age, eventually uprooting and floating into the air) that links the main settlements via a series of towers/stations each a couple of hundred feet tall.

What challenges will the players face in this session?

I always like to note down the main challenged of a game, especially in a condensed one-off session since it serves as a useful checklist during the game to make sure that all the main points are covered.

  • Getting on to the sky train in mid-air.
  • Entering the train unnoticed.
  • Avoiding the criminals who are stationed throughout the train.
  • Stopping the train before it leaves their jurisdiction.
  • Ensuring that the civilians on board are not harmed.
Breaking down the challenges

At this stage I generally look at the list of challenges and try to break them down by jotting a couple of points for each of them:
  • Getting on to the sky train in mid-air.
    • Could be done if one or more of the players have flight based powers.
    • If not they may have use a cart to travel down the tracks or attempt to jump on the train as it speeds through one of the towers (obviously given the height this is very dangerous).
  • Entering the train unnoticed.
    • Can be done using appropriate sneaking and burglary skills.
  • Avoiding the criminals who are stationed throughout the train.
    • If the sound of gunfire or a conflict is heard onboard then the person driving the train will throw open the throttle and put the train up to full speed, this will half the remaining time before they leave the player’s jurisdiction and will create the Aspect “The Train’s moving too damn fast!” making it more difficult to perform certain actions.
  • Stopping the train before it leaves their jurisdiction.
    • The players could get to the front of the train and take control of the engine room.
    • They could attempt to de-couple the engine car from the rest of the carriages and the engine car continue on it’s way.
  • Ensuring that the civilians on board are not harmed.
    • The players could de-couple the cars containing the passengers.
    • They could attempt to remove the criminals threatening them.

Who are the opposition?

The train has been hi-jacked by a member of the Crimson Council (a group of Folk dedicated to taking back the lands stolen from them by the settlers using any means necessary).

Most of the Folk onboard will be fairly low level thugs/grunts with powers that are only minorly useful however there will be two antagonists who will pose slightly more of a problem.

  • The Leader of the Group: A cunning Folk who has bought this band together with the aim of hi-jacking the train and talking into the Outlands (the wild area that the Folk were forced into).
  • The Lieutenant: This Folk is the second-in-command and will be placed in charge of corralling the captives onboard, he is brutal and ruthless and will seek to initially quash any attempts at heroism by throwing a random passenger to their death out of the train.
What do the opposition want?

The Folk have hi-jacked the train because they have heard that Queen’s government has managed to treat Skywood in an experimental way that boosts powers whilst the treated wood is held and that it is being smuggled onboard the Sky Rail (this is an extra bit of flavour I added to give an additional dimension to the game). They intend to take the Sky Rail train onto an abandoned bit of track that leads into the Outlands, once there they will take the treated wood and use their powers to escape whilst the train plunges to it’s doom.
How long do they have?

As I said at the start of this blog entry I have a limited time window to run this one-off session in (although I may try to run character generation on a different day so that we can jump straight into the session when I run it) so I have decided that the players will have 3 hours (real-time) before the train reaches the ‘end of the line’ and plunges to it’s doom. Half an hour from the end the train will scream past the last station on the line (this will also give the players a notification that their time is running out).
What’s the setup?

Now i’ve considered most of my plot elements I like to jump back to the beginning and consider how the players are going to get involved with this; handily the Wild Blue setting contains an NPC called Amerille Quinn, Rail Captain, she is in-charge of the Sky Rail.
I intend to have the PCs be drafted in, the plan being that they will embark on the train at Cobalt and will be protected the train because it contains an unspecified package of importance to the Queen’s government; however when the train reaches the station it’s blatantly going to fast and doesn’t stop. Amerille Quinn tells the player characters that they have to get onboard and retrieve the item, if it fell into the hands of the Folk it could topple society as they know it.
How will I lay out the train?

I plan to use the concept of zones from Fate, I will have one zone for each of the train cars and then another zone representing the outside space around the cars.
In conclusion

I’ve pretty much got everything that I need to run the one-off session here, i’ve not gone into the opposition’s stats or the exact powers they have since some of my players read this blog; i’m very much looking forward to running the game and seeing how the players react to it.