So what characters did we have in our recent Dungeon World game?

Recently I ran an impromptu tester game for Dungeon World for six of my local player, you can see my review of how it played here:
For this initial game we decided to just go with the basic options as presented on the Dungeon World character sheets, after genning characters we talked out the player characters bonds to each other and some elements of their backgrounds as directed by the rulebook; we ended up with the following characters:
  • Rundrig – Dwarf fighter – Come from a loud and proud family of warriors who have helped guard their dwarven mountain hold since memory began, his ancient axe has been handed down from father to son for many, many years. A few years before the game began, Rundrig freed Sistranalle from orcish slavers, allowing the elven bard to advise the barbarian Priscilla (saving her life); Rundrig considers that she owes him a life-debt although the barbarian woman does not agree, however the dwarf has sworn to protect the human wizard Xenos and worries about the abilities of Durga and Sistranalle to survive in the harsh environments where warriors such as himself tread.
  • Xeno – Human wizard – A sharp eye, wild haired human who comes from a mysterious land rules by powerful mages that lies somewhere across the western sea, knowledge of it having faded into myth and legend; not satisfied with the religious zealotry that his people head as a central tenant of their magics and outcast for his belief in magic as a science, Xeno fled eastwards to the known world. His arcane powers lead him to Priscilla, a vision of a shadow dragon and the girl telling him that she would play some pivotal role in the future of the world.
  • Jack – Human thief – A mysterious figure shrouded in mystery, the shifty thief tells contradicting stories of his background and wears the talismans of many gods hanging around his neck; working for Xeno he has stolen many things and arcane baubles for the wizard, including what seemed to be a roughly hewn jewel from the barbarian woman Priscilla, but that the human wizard Xeno knew to be a fossilised dragon egg.
  • Durga – Dwarf cleric – The older dwarf cleric has a sadness in his eyes and seems to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders; a follower of the Dwarf Father, god of honourable combat and conquest through strength of arms he places less value on upbringing or race and more on actions and deeds. Distrustful of Xeno and anyone who doesn’t believe in the power of the deities he none-the-less admires Priscilla’s strength and sees his attempts to convert her as a test worthy of his skills.
  • Sistranalle – Elf bard – One of the rare elves enamoured of the lives of the younger races, who chose to stay behind when his people sailed westwards across the sea to the mythic lands beyond human knowledge, Sistranalle finds beauty in the chaotically short lives of the younger races and, after being freed from orcish slavers by Rundrig and helped Priscilla escape from a desert basilisk he has set himself the task of chronicling her (mis)adventures. Delighted to have met the famous fighter Rudrig (who he had sung many ballads about), the elf has a friendly rivalry with the dwarf cleric Durga who, he thinks, takes life far too seriously; he accompanies the band playing ballads and histories on the mandalin that his father left behind as a memory of him. 
  • Priscilla the Triumphant – Human barbarian – A warrior from the icy northern wastes who travelled south, forsaking her tribe, when a new chief took over and outlawed women fighting alongside their men-folk; this did not sit well with Priscilla and she travelled south, reasoning that she could make a legend of herself in the soft southern lands beyond the deserts. She finds many of her new companions ways bewildering, especially Durga and his (amusing) attempts to convert her, she has appointed herself protector of Jack, knowing that the thief will eventually slip up and get himself in trouble; although unwilling to admit it she is flattered by Sistranalle’s attentions and sees in him someone who shares her thirst for glory.


All of these characters were created using the basic rules (including the names and epithets chosen) and by spending a bit of time chatting about the world elements connected with them; it probably took about half an hour in all, if that, to get ready to play.

Fate of Cthulhu – FAe hack – rules

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

Fate of Cthulhu – FAE Cthulhu hack – Character generation

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

Why use FAE and not FATE core?

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

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

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

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).

Character Generation for God Machine Chronicle game

We’ll myself and the other five players for my God Machine Chronicle game met up last night to define some more details about the setting and create characters ready for the first actual session on 05/07/13; this was my first experience of using the Game Creation advice chapter from the FATE core rulebook so I was interested to see how it would go.

Designing the Setting
You might ask why I needed to design the setting when (if you’ve read some of my earlier posts on this subject you’ll know that) I’d already specified that the game was going to be local scale and take place in a fictional East Midlands council block called Specto Vale? Well I’d left the setting of the game world fairly loosely defined, of course I had a few ideas kicking about that I wasn’t immediately going to reveal to the players (since part of the idea behind a God Machine Chronicle game, and indeed any World of Darkness game is discovering the horror behind strange occurrences) but I wanted to get the players involved in coming up with some of the other setting elements. The rationale behind this is simple, if players create parts of the setting then they are invested in it and are more likely to be interested in it.
Setting Issues
Following the guidelines in the FATE corebook we decided to come up with a couple of current issues (that already exist within the setting) and a couple of impending issues (problems or concerns that have just started to make themselves known). After a bit of head scratching and discussion we arriving at the following:
Current Issues


  • Organised crime.
  • Racial tension.
  • Milk/local cats going missing.

Impending Issues


  • Residents being evicted.
  • Potential demolition/repurposing.
I wrote these issues down on index cards as we discussed them and, during the discussion, any interesting people or places that we mentioned were also added onto there own cards; we ended up with a stack of about 15 or so cards at this stage, including concepts and things such as:
  • Crime/racial tension.
    • Eastern europenas.
    • Tension between long time residents and influx of immigrants.
    • Graffiti tagging, racial slurs.
    • Conflict between new/old criminal elements.
    • Flags hanging from balconies.
  • Evictions.
    • Manager evicting housing association people to cram in the more profitable immigrants.
    • Residents association pettitions.
  • Missing milk/animals.
    • Escalating problem.
    • Has been reported- no action taken.
    • Connected with crazy cat lady?
    • Connected with chinese restaurant?
  • Residents association.
    • Do-gooders.
    • Door knocking Christians.
    • Leaders of the local scout movement.
    • Community events.
  • Crazy cat lady.
    • See the character from The Simpsons.
  • The manager.
    • Conservative MP.
    • Similar to the fat hacker from Jurassic Park.
  • Eastern European Immigrants.
    • Wage slaves.
    • 500 to a flat.
    • Right wingers (organisation).
      • Owner of the Red Lion, won’t serve them.
    • Illegal immigrants.
  • New criminal element.
    • Youth criminals/new blood.
    • Gangsta wannabees.
    • Chavs.
    • “Attack the Block.”
    • “Kids.”
  • A stalker.
    • Huge coat and hat.
    • Scary male.
    • Hangs around.
    • “1 Hour Photo.”
    • “The Watcher.”
    • “Mine Hunters.”
    • Infatuation?
  • Old polish criminal element.
    • Dying breed.
    • Boris the Blade – “Snatch.”
  • A man smuggling in immigrants.
    • Bartek Prusees.
    • Bringing in Polish Immigrants.
    • New blood.
    • Scarred, tattooed villain.
      • Danny Trejo.
      • Robert Kcvepper.
    • Nasty piece of work.
  • Newsagents/bargain booze.
    • Asian man running shop.
    • Illegal poker nights in back room.
    • Dodgy cigs, bootlegged booze, misc cheap meat.
  • Chip shop.
    • Legitimate family business.
    • Old patriarch.
    • Always open.
    • Once a week does free meals for homeless.
  • Red Lion pub.
    • Plastic, sticky floored pub.
    • Known rough pub.
    • Boarded up window.
    • Cig machine with no cigarettes.
    • Mesh over bar.
    • Man who knows a man.
    • Old man drunks.
  • Chinese takeaway.
    • Cat meat?
    • Human meat?
    • Sex trade cover.
  • Young prostitute.
    • Taken under wing of older prostitute.
    • Likes older men.
  • Older prostitute.
    • Over 50.
    • Doing it to put her daughter through ollege.
    • Cougar.
    • Has a thing for old Polish men.
We then started creating the characters; it took a little while for people to get the idea of Aspects, but once the ball had started rolling most of the players seemed fairly comfortable with the concept, Stunts were a lot easier to explain.
After some discussion and noted down of stats we ended up with the following character concepts:
  • An eccentric old shut-in with ties to the Polish mob.
  • A multi-lingual hospital worker and self-confessed ‘Lambrini Girl.’
  • A young female ex-chemist turned drug dealer.
  • A jack-of-all-traders bar stool philosophising lorry driver.
  • A wiry criminal problem solver.
Following the creations of concepts we moved on to creating links between the characters; I asked each person to come with an incident in their character’s life and link two of the other characters in with it. This section of the character genning was very good fun as the players discussed things between themselves and began filling in some more detail about theirs and other people’s characters.
  • The criminal problem solver: Hired the truck driver to retrieve a shipment of drugs from Eastern Europe (via his contact the shut-in) in order to provide them to the dealer.
  • The truck driver was approached by the problem solver to move some of the drug dealers supplies up north as a favour, he was injured whilst on the job and trying to effect a minor repair to his lorry and get chatting to the hospital worker whilst in the waiting room.
  • The drug dealer was providing the criminal problem solver with a cut from her dealing, she knows the truck driver as the “pick up man; she frequents the same chip shop as the shut-in and has spoken to him a couple of times.
  • The shut-in has chased away the stalker when he was following the hospital worker.
  • The hospital worker was feeling sorry for a patient in pain and, knowing that there was a dealer living in the same block as her, bought some weed for the suffering patient; she bumped into the criminal problem solver (who was there to pick up his cut) whilst she was there.
So how did the character generation session go overall?

Overall I thought the character/game creation session went extremely well; it took a few minutes for the players to wrap their heads around some of the elements that are most different IMO from standard roleplaying games (Aspects for example), however, once this hurdle was out of the way and I had explained to the group that the best Aspects were those that could be used in a positive way but that also suggested elements of plot or complications that could occur this progressed fairly rapidly. It was extremely gratifying to see all of the players getting excited by their characters and talking about how they were connected and what parts of the setting would most influence their characters.

In total the character generation probably only took us an hour of so, even with me explaining some of the concepts and going through how some of the FATE rules worked; the rest of the time was spent elaborating on various plot elements and discussion of the game setting.
So to sum up I have a stack of index cards full of interesting plot pointers and things that capture the players imagination, five very interesting and different (but connected) characters and several interesting threads (such as the missing milk/animals, the stalker and the crazy cat lady) with which to draw the characters in to the machinations of the God Machine.
Really happy with how that turned out and can’t wait to run the first session in a couple of weeks 🙂

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.

FAE character sheets for God Machine Chronicle

Although my NWOD Hack for FAE isn’t complete i’m going to be holding the character genning session for my game on this Friday (21/06/13 as of writing), handily because this short campaign doesn’t involve the players portraying supernatural creatures I only need the basic rules that have already been decided on in order to run it and can continue to work on the supernatural rules at my leisure (i’m hoping that the FATE toolkit comes out soon since there are some intriguing ideas that have been mentioned that may work well with my hack).
The character sheet is available here in Excel format (i’d recommend downloading the spreadsheet to your machine since it seems to look a bit poor when viewed preview mode.
Below is the initial summary of the game that was made available to the players:

***
The chronicle takes place in the Specto Vale block of council flats in the east Midlands; built in the late 19th century to help alleviate the housing problems caused by the Second World War and as a potential future model of urban living the shortcuts taken by the construction crews quickly became evident as cracks both material and social began to rise to surface amongst the community, culminating in the late 1960s when five apartments collapsed killing the occupants.

Hastily repaired the tower block was pressed back into service, although most of the more affluent members of society had fled, making it a haven for less desirable members of society, students and people of low income; crime and drug use has steadily risen in the early 2000s and many unemployed were transferred to the cheap, badly maintained Specto Vale block. A fierce sense of community has built up amongst many people in the block, leading to a rise in youth gangs who haunt the underground car park and the now almost deserted open spaces that designers once touted as proof of modernity, leaving some residents huddled in their homes fearful of what stalks the corridors of the block.

Outwardly Specto Vale seems just like any other block, limping along and slowly rotting from within, or does something more sinister lurk behind the decay?


***