Serpents Fall – All Game Material

Since my Fate Accelerated Serpents Fall game has unfortunately come to a premature end (due to changing schedules amongst the players) and I am unlikely to pick it up again in the future (since i’m not a fan of returning to previously run games) I thought that I would make available the various notes and materials that I used to run the campaign up to and including the plot wiki.
All of the electronically stored material that I created for the campaign is now hosted on my Google Drive and can be accessed via the following link:
Even though the game unfortunately didn’t reach the conclusion that I was hoping I had some good fun running it and the players certainly seemed to enjoy it while it lasted; hopefully someone will get some use out of the information in the files.
Please note: Some of the graphics from the wiki have been removed to save space and I will not be making any attempt to further organise or sort the information stored on the Google Drive.
The actual-play videos from the campaign will remain on my Youtube channel the Red Dice Diaries:

Jade-xalted: Character Generation – Aspects & Professions

Since this is a hack to allow Jadepunk to be used to run an Exalted style game, i’m not going to reprint masses of the rules from the Jadepunk book (also i’d like encourage people to purchase the game since it is an excellent RPG campaign), i’m only going to discuss the rules where my proposed hack differs from the Jadepunk rules.

Aspects

Characters in Jade-xalted have five Aspects:
  • Concept: A short sentence that sums up your character; if your character is an exalt then the concept must make some mention of what type of exaltation they carry (please note that if you are playing a terrestrial exalted/dragonblooded then some mention of their associated element should also be included).
    Example: Rough and tumble solar exalted soldier, sly and sneaky lunar exalted thief, proud but honourable terrestrial exalted noble (fire).
  • Background: Where did your charater come from and what experiences they have had in life.
    Example: I was born in the slums and had to fight for every opportunity I got, I was in and out of trouble during my youth for stealing and other petty crimes, I grew up on my father’s estate and received the finest schooling his military pay could afford.
  • Exaltation: Although dragonblooded generally exalt (if they are going to) during puberty, a celestial exaltation can come upon a person at any time; where were you when you became exalted, what did it feel like and how did it affect you?
    Example: I was cornered by imperial soldiers when I felt the light of the Unconquered Sun lend strength to my arm, I was trapped with no way to escape the noose when Luna’s grace allowed me to pull the shadows around myself, my family were proud when I received the grace of the Dragon during my seventeenth year.
  • Belief: How do your characters beliefs colour their lives, were they staunch adherents of the imperial creed or a bit more free-spirited?
    Example: I was always taught that the Solar Exalted were demons and that the Wyld Hunt kept us safe now i’m not so sure, my people always feared that creatures that lurked beyond the edge of the map and now i’m one of them, I was raised to believe that the Dragonblooded were the destined rulers of the world but I don’t know if i’m ready for that responsibility yet.
  • Trouble: Consider your preceding aspects, which of them cause you the most complications in your life, have you made any enemies since your exaltation?
    Example: The local authorities know my face it can only be a matter of time before the Wyld Hunt seek me out, since being exalted I find civilisation increasingly stifling and long for the wilderness, I had so many plans for myself but now they all must be set aside to advance the aims of my family.
Professions

As with Jadepunk, Jade-xalted uses professions instead of Fate Core’s skills to rate a character’s proficiency in a particular area; these professions are:
  • Warrior: Warriors come from all different backgrounds, but they all share a proficiency for violent action.
    • Overcome: Feats of strength and of combative skill.
    • Create advantages: Combat maneuvres and creating advantages in the heat of battle.
    • Attack: Making physical attacks at close quarters and range. 
    • Defend: Protecting oneself and others from physical damage.
  • Priest: Priests travel the world preaching the word of the gods, in their travels they come to know the hearts of men and learn about the world during their journey.
    • Overcome: Priests overcome obstacles through knowledge that they have acquired in their travels, they have to be adaptable and strong in their faith to survive.
    • Create advantages: Using their knowledge of the world to their advantage or rousing the faith of other men.
    • Attack: Spurring others to action through rousing speeches or engaging in a contest of faith with another.
    • Defend:  Defending those of the faith or using your knowledge of the world to help protect your flock in dangerous situations.
  • Sorceror: The sorceror creates engines of fantastic magitech as well as researching into matters of the arcane and occult.
    • Overcome: Building or repairing magitech, sorcery and researching occult secrets of the ancient past.
    • Create advantages: Scrying using magic, temporarily boosting the function of occult devices. 
    • Attack: Using more baroque items of magitech or sorcerous items, casting an offensive spell.
    • Defend: Unless a sorceror is controlling a magitech item that can shield them from damage or is casting a spell to shield them from harm they are unlikely to defend.
  • Assassin: Deception and stealth are an assassin’s main weapons along with other nefarious talents.
    • Overcome: Bluffing/lying, thievery, stealth & disguise. 
    • Create advantages: Creating distractions, cover stories or false impressions.
    • Attack: This profession isn’t used to attack directly, more likely to set up a more devastating attack.
    • Defend: Using misinformation and doublespeak to throw off investigations or disguise their true motives.
  • Diplomat: The diplomat is at home in polite society, always knowing the right words to say and the appropriate palms to grease.
    • Overcome: Influencing others to do what you want, bartering, gaining information.
    • Create advantages: Creating advantages to represent momentary emotional states. 
    • Attack: Only likely to be of use in social situations or perhaps in ritualised duels. 
    • Defend: Defending against attempts to ruin one’s standing or blacken their reputation.

Each profession is rated with a bonus, choose one at Good (+3), two at Fair (+2) and two at Average (+1).

Jade-xalted: Initial ideas

I’ve been given some thought for a little while (in-fact since I got my copy of ‘Jadepunk: Tales from Kausao City‘) about whether it would be possible to “hack” Jadepunk in order to run games set in White Wolf’s Exalted campaign setting.
Why would I want to do this?

Well i’ve been in love with the idea of Exalted ever since I bought the first edition, the premise of normal people imbued with celestial powers set against the historical background of the terrestrial usurpation is very compelling, I like the thought of characters whose past-selves once ruled the world trying to reclaim that mantle whilst being opposed by the Sidereal Exalts and their puppets the Dragonblooded terrestrials, who have painted them as the demonic Anathema for hundreds of years and have hunted them almost to extinction. The idea of Exalted is great, the background material, stories and art have been very evocative, where it falls down IMO is the rules that are used; Exalted uses a version of the White Wolf/Onyx Path World of Darkness rules, it’s functional and was cleaned up a lot in the second release of the game but it never really captured the free-flowing, wuxia style of the game that I thought the system was reaching towards.
Fast forward a few years to the release of ‘Jadepunk: Tales from Kausao City‘, this is a campaign setting for the Fate Core game that presents a slightly different approach to the Fate rules; the campaign posits an oppressed, fantasy-style world where the economy of the setting (and much of it’s technology) revolves around enchanted jade mined in the shadow of Kausao city, a metropolis oppressed by it’s governor, the players take on the roll of martial arts masters and jadecraft tinkerers who rebel against this system and seek to fight for the common man. My video review of Jadepunk can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMiWg_zTlfg
Things to Consider

Jadepunk would seem to be a natural fit for an Exalted style game, before I get into working out how to create a hack though, I think there are a few things that I need to think about, these include:
  • Representing the charms of the different Exalts + their innate powers.
  • How to represent the anima banners that flare when Exalts use their powers.
  • The various other types of enchanted materials (orichalcum, soulsteel, etc).
  • Spirits and demons.
Over the course of the next few weeks I intend to start looking at these various aspects, plus any others that come up to see if I can create a workable “hack” to allow the playing of a more freeform, narrative style of Exalted campaign using the Jadepunk rules.

Ares' Legacy – Planning Session using Microsoft Onenote

Recently I ran a Fate Accelerated pulp-action game (think Indiana Jones or Doc Savage) for two fellow members of the RPG Brigade using G+ Hangouts on Air (video is available here); i’m always looking for new and better tools to improve my session planning and to help manage the job of running/preparing for a session, currently i’m reading “Never Unprepared: The Complete Games Master’s Guide to Session Prep”, released by Engine Publishing and written by Phil Vecchione and in it he talks about using various note taking software, one example being Microsoft Onenote. Now i’ve had a copy of MS Office for quite some time and had noticed Onenote but never really used it, so I decided that I would plan/run my Ares’ Legacy session using it as a sort of tester for the software and how suitable it was for my GM-ing style.
The game seemed to go really well and I will certainly be using Onenote in the future due to it’s ease of use and flexibility; for anyone who is interested I have uploaded a copy of my notes for the session (in pdf format) to my Google Drive, link below:

Adapting 'Age of Arthur' mass battle rules for use in Fleet battle scenarios

Anyone who has listened to my recent review (viewable here) of Wordplay Games excellent game Age of Arthur (written by Paul Mitchener and Graham Spearing) will know that I was particularly taken with the magic systems and the mass-battle rules presented in the book; we had a great session of my Serpents Fall Fate Accelerated swords & sorcery game recently (actual play video viewable here) and i’m looking to follow it up with an equally impressive session. Currently the party are in Saxony looking for someone who might be able to help Captain Benito (one of the player characters) remove the curse that has been laid on him preventing him sailing the seas; with the curse removed Benito would be able to start seriously planning to take back the title of Pirate King that was usurped from him by the scurrilous Horningold Blythe.

Usurped Pirate King Benito



Current Pirate King Horningold Blythe


We ended the last session with a couple of the characters discovering an old seer in the castle dungeons of Saxony’s villainous Regent, the seer was attempting to peer back into the past of Captain Benito to see how the curse was first laid on him (hopefully this would provide some clue to lifting it). My plan is to run the next session as a flashback with the players playing through how the curse was first levied; we are one player down and I have checked with the others that they are okay with playing pirate-NPC allies of Captain Benito (since their characters haven’t met at this point), it will also give Benito’s player a chance to enjoy being the Pirate King, giving him a taste of what he might regain should he regain his crown.

Adapting the Mass Battle Rules

My plan is to begin the session in the middle of a high-action scene as the pirate fleets of the Scarlet Brotherhood come under attack by vessels from Saxony; this could be done with individual combat rounds following the normal combat rules, however, it doesn’t really have the grand feel of fleet-scale action that I want to capture in this encounter. Thinking back to the mass-battle rules in Age of Arthur I intend to adapt them for the first scene and subsequent fleet-battles in the game.

Fleets
Effectively each fleet is treated like an army in Age of Arthur with the following stats:

  • Size: The number of ships in the fleet.
  • Fleet skill: The skill of a typical fleet ranging from 0(untrained/press-ganged crew) up to 4(legendary ships crew).
  • Fleet commander: The Fleet Skill is supported by the Clever and Sneaky skills of the commander (if one of this is higher than the skill level of the fleet then the Fleet Skill gets a +1 bonus, if both are higher then the bonus rises to +2).
  • Aspects: A Fleet has between one and five Aspects.
  • Stress Score: The larger Fleet has a stress score of 10, the stress score of the smaller Fleet depends on it’s relative size (for example a Fleet of 10 ships facing a Fleet of 20 ships will have 5 stress).
Preliminaries
Before the battle begins there are a few steps to go through:
  • Manoeuvring: The commanders make an opposed clever roll, the winner of this roll gets to place an Aspect representing their superior positioning on the enemy fleet.
  • Take advantage of the weather: A character nominated as navigator makes a an opposed quick roll against their opponents navigator to move to take advantage of the winds and currents, the winner gets to place an Aspect on his own or the enemy’s fleet to represent the benefits that their mastery of the weather conditions brings them.
The Battle
The battle is divided into a series of turns :

  • Individual Heroics: A character may spend a fate point to make a test based on what they are trying to do, the difficulty is the is the remaining stress of the opposing fleet. If they win then it places an Aspect on the opposing fleet that can be used once for free (without paying a fate point). If they fail then the character suffers damage equal to the amount that the roll failed by.
  • Getting Personal: Attacking an important NPC costs no fate points (it is assumed that their ships come close during the conflict and, amidst the swirling melee of boarding actions and cannon fire the two individuals fight each other). This interrupts the fleet battle with a standard combat. The enemy NPC will be accompanied by a mob of lackeys with the same combat skill and armament as the rest of the fleet and with numbers equal to twice to the current stress score of their fleet. It is fine for multiple PCs to take part in a single combat like this; winning gives a free Aspect indicating the fallen enemy or loss of morale.
  • Fleet actions: The smaller fleet attacks first and the other force defends. Damage from a successful attack is inflicted on the opposing fleets stress tracker, causing half the degrees of success rounded up. A draw does no damage but lets the attacker place an Aspect. This aspect can be used once for free by the army that placed it at no cost.
  • Resolution: When a fleet is reduce to zero stress it cannot maintain an active part in the combat, it may concede a combat by withdrawing or surrendering; this ends the battle but prevents further stress on the defeated fleet. Even a fleet reduced to zero stress probably has a few survivors remaining.
Looking forward to seeing how these rules play out in a couple of weeks when we have our session in a couple of weeks time 🙂

Using the Fate Core chase rules in Fate Accelerated

Last night in our online swords & sorcery RPG Serpents Fall (link to actual play video of the session here) part of the session involved chasing a suspected poisoner over the rooftops of a faux-medieval (i.e. not strictly historically accurate) castle; i’ve been wanting to incorporate a couple of dramatic chases into the game once we were all a little familiar with the basic rules and decided that session 6 seemed an appropriate time. The rules that I decided to use are from the Fate Toolkit (video review here) and they are also available online on the Fate System Reference Document website:
Essentially the chase is represented by a stress tracker with a marker partway along it, when the marker reaches one end (in the case of my game ten) the player group have managed to catch the person/s that they are pursuing, if it reaches the other end of scale (in the case of my game zero) then their quarry has escaped them. The length of the stress tracker determines the likely amount of time that the chase will take and the position of the marker on the tracker determines how much of a head start their quarry had (the nearer to the start the marker is, the harder their opponent will be to catch, the nearer to the end of the tracker the marker is then the harder it is for their opponent to escape).
One of player party (this is down to the player group bit is generally the person with the highest relevant skill/approach) makes a roll relevant to the chase, as do their opponent:
  • If you fail, your opponent has the choice to either create a boost that works against you, or to move the stress track one check in their direction.
  • If you tie, you may choose to move the stress track one check in your direction, but if you do so, your opponent gains a +1 on their next roll.
  • If you succeed, you move the stress track one check in your direction.
  • If you succeed with style, you get to move the stress track two checks in your direction, or one check and you gain a boost that you can use against your opponent on your next roll.

This repeats until either the players have caught their quarry or their opponent manages to escape; the GM will describe different circumstances in the chase, requiring different rolls to give different players a chance to shine and to keep the chase interesting.

Although the chase mechanics are designed to work with Fate Core (referencing the skill mechanics of the Fate Core build) it works fine with the Fate Accelerated build of the system by simply replacing the skill rolls with Approach rolls.

Of course a lot of the atmosphere and pace of a chase does rely on the players and the GM keeping the narrative going and not agonising too much over the decisions that they have made.

So how did I run the chase?

Well first of all I looked at the people who were liable to participating in the chase and what Approaches their characters possessed, I then jotted down a few potential situations that could arise during the chase that would require certain rolls; all of these were written on an index card for easy reference during the session and I include a few examples below (along with the Approaches that were rolled against):

  • Sprinting across a rooftop – Quick
  • Opponent knocks a load of barrels in their way – Clever (to plot a course through the tumbling barrels without slowing down or tripping)
  • Opponent slams/locks a door infront of them – Forcefully (to smash through it)
  • The quarry leaps onto a horse and begins to ride away – Flashy
  • Leaping a moat – Quick
  • Attempting to lose the players through a twisting maze of side-streets – Clever
So how did it run?
Because the chase is, if boiled down to absolute basics, a series of rolls and basic decisions made by the player characters it needs to not drag on for too long or allow the players time to agonise over the decisions that they are called to make; chases are supposed to be quick, rapid-fire scenes that whiz past in a blur of motion, frantic shouting and overcoming of obstacles. I think that if ran more slowly or if the chase went on too long then it would become a tedious exercise in dice-rolling, the suggestion of a ten space stress tracker given in the Fate Toolkit was about ideal for the game I ran; the tracker started halfway, but the player group clearly had an advantage since they were picking the highest scores from a group of them whereas their (single) quarry only had her own scores, that’s fine though, it kept the chase brisk and, of course, the player characters are the heroes of my game.
All of the players commented at the end of the session how much they enjoyed the chase scene and have asked for more scenes like that in the future; having some pre-prepared obstacles and rolls noted down definitely helped run the chase without any unnecessary halting or interruptions (although I did drop a couple of improvised ones in there) and I think that i’m going to attempt to come up with an index card or two full of ‘general chase actions’ that I can have on standby in future when chases take place. With this list of standard actions I can then use actions/rolls specific to the chase in question but will have a useful list of fallbacks should the chase go on a bit longer than anticipated.
In conclusion

I think the chase mechanics work excellently as long as the GM remembers to keep it moving at a brisk pace and not let the players get too bogged down in thinking about who is going to make the dice-rolls; it worked really well for my players, who really got into the spirit of the chase and seemed to thoroughly enjoy it as a result.

Updated Serpents Fall handout 01/02/14

Following some excellent feedback that I received from Alfredo Tarancón (many thanks) I have re-tooled the layout and some of the text in my Serpents Fall handout.
Please note: I do not own the copyright to any of the imagery used in this handbook, the booklet is intended purely for non-profit purposes and no challenge is meant to any intellectual property rights or copyright.

Updated Serpents Fall handout 30-01-14

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

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

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

Caradoc ap Skegovax – Age of Arthur character

Age of Arthur Character Sheet
Caradoc ap Skegovax

I’m currently filming a review of Wordplay Games excellent Age of Arthur RPG (a game of heroic fantasy with historical/Arthurian leanings) for release on my Youtube Channel on Wednesday 29/01/14, in the review I talk about how easy the character generation is, it occurred to me that it might be useful for people to see the character that I created for a game being run by my friend Dave.
So without further ado below is the character sheet (2 rough pages, 1 final sheet page) of Caradoc ap Skegovax (Caradoc son of Skegovax) a pictish druid who believed his parents dead and was adopted by the aging druid of the pictish settlement where he lived; when his mentor was slain in the great battle against the Saxons, on his death-bed he revealed that Caradoc’s mother had in-fact been one of the fey and that, when his father had died, she had returned to her own people. Caradoc swore to his mentor as he died, that he would always keep the old ways in his heart and would bring the land and it’s people back to the old faith.
These first two sheets are my rough working out and jotted ideas/notes.
This last sheet is the simple final character sheet that our DM printed out for us and has the neat(er) version of my character written up on it.
Looking around on the internet I also looked for a picture to represent my character, since I always find having a visual representation of things in RPGs really helps people visualise characters, items and locations.
This image really grabbed me and represented everything that I wanted to portray about my character in the game, although he is part of the tribe Caradoc is as much at home in the wilds and with the animals as he is civilisation; leaning on his ancient staff and carrying a small leather bag filled with herbs and roots he wears both man-made garments and the skins of animals, seeking to meld the two worlds together, living in harmony as he strives to return people to the ways of the old faith.
Since I played a largely combat character in the previous Dresden files game run by my friend (and because I was eager to try out the excellent looking magic systems in Age of Arthur) I pretty much went for an all out arcane and research-style character; I did have to make some tough decisions regarding what to take since all magic in Age of Arthur requires a skill and a stunt to use it, this meant that a lot of my skills and pretty much all of my stunts were taken up by various magic styles, making me a jack of all (magical) trades but master of none, whereas if I had focussed on one I could have taken additional stunts to expand my capabilities within that domain.
In the end though I have a druid who is capable of placing druidic curses and blessings on people, divining the future, healing with a touch, wielding the illusions and glamours of the fae by calling on his heritage and of changing shape into a number of different animals; this is great but i’m sorely lacking in other departments as a result and will be relying on my wife Hannah’s and my friend Kelly’s characters to keep me safe from more mundane threats, handily their characters are both far more physically capable than my own.