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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.

Star Trek hack: Boldly going where several people have gone before

Do you ever throw yourself into something and then, it’s only halfway through that you think ‘I wonder if someone else has done anything like this?’
That was the position I found myself in when asked to come up with a hack for a Star Trek (pre-Enterprise era) game by my friend Simon (you can see my two previous posts in this blog for details), I fell prey to my usual downfall of leaping straight in and starting to look at the mechanics rather than stopping to consider my options; this is something of a normal response for me and is something i’m working on. However, at least this time I had the good sense to stop and look around before I got too entrenched.
As I was wading through hacking Diaspora’s skill list and working out whether or not Professions (as per the Fate Toolkit were the best way to go) I flicked through Jacob Poss’ big list of Fate related links (viewable here http://walkninginshadows.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/fate-core-important-links.html) and did a simple search for the term ‘trek’; I suppose it shouldn’t have surprised me that there were a number of results (given Star Trek’s popularity).
One in particular caught my eye, an adaption by Aaron M. Sturgill (available here http://trailofdice.weebly.com/uploads/6/9/2/1/6921148/star_trek_fate.pdf) which seemed to do everything that we needed for a game but had a light enough touch that it could be expanded and adapted to the pre-Enterprise era of the game; it also seemed to use a modified and simplified version of the Diaspora rules (which was the track i’d been taking). I think it will be ideal for the game that we are doing, and many thanks to Mr Sturgill for making his work on the subject available ๐Ÿ™‚

I suppose the lesson that I should take from all of this is that, despite trying to rain in my instincts to tinker with mechanics, I still have a way to go and that, certainly for Fate, there is an awful lot of very good material available (free of charge out that) that can be tweaking or used for your own games without having to start off completely from scratch.

Star Trek Hack: Skill list

Okay, the first thing I want to look at in my attempt to create a Star Trek hack is the skill list; in Fate Core the skill list is at the centre of the game, it is your skills that affect your stress boxes (the amount of damage that you can take in combat) and determine how likely (or unlikely) you are to succeed at a task.
This is the default Fate Core skill list:

  • Athletics
  • Burglary
  • Contacts
  • Crafts
  • Deceive
  • Drive
  • Empathy
  • Fight
  • Investigate
  • Lore
  • Notice
  • Physique
  • Provoke
  • Rapport
  • Resources
  • Shoot
  • Stealth
  • Will
When I asked Simon (who i’m writing the hack for) how specific he wanted the skill list to be in the trek hack his response was:

Vehicles will be done I think best by general type Star ship, Shuttle, Aircraft, Ground vehicle & I would use an edge to reflect greater skill in a particular vehicle of a given type.


With this in mind i’ve looked at how I can add a few skills onto the list to make it more appropriate for a science-fiction setting without adding too many additional skills; this has mainly come down to splitting some skills like drive, shoot and lore into specific skills.
Then it occurred to me that it would probably be easier (rather than starting from scratch) to look for an existing science-fiction skill list online and then trim it down/expand it to meet the needs of the trek hack; with this in mind I turned to the Disapora SRD skill list (which I had already used as a basis for my 40K hack some time ago).
  • Athletics – physical agility.
  • Brawling (combat) – bare fist fighting.
  • Deceive – convincing people that a lie is the truth.
  • Intimidation
  • Investigate – examining clues and searching for solutions to problems.
  • Notice – spotting things, general alertness.
  • Profession: <choice> – choose a profession to use for this skill; some appropriate professions are listed below:
    • Command officer
    • Communications officer
    • Engineering officer
    • Pilot
    • Science officer
  • Rapport – relating to others socially.
  • Stamina – how tough the character is (affects physical stress track).
  • Stealth – sneaking, thievery, etc
  • Survival – surviving in the wilderness, roughing it.
  • Vehicle – driving (non-space) vehicles.
  • Weaponry (guns) – knowledge of how to use and maintain weaponry of the appropriate type.
  • Weaponry (melee) – knowledge of how to use and maintain weaponry of the appropriate type.
  • Will – how strong of will the character is (affects the mental stress track).

Fate: Boldly going where no-one has gone before…

For those of you who aren’t aware I play in a small (1 GM + 3 players inc. myself), very interesting Star Trek inspired game run by my friend Simon at our FLGS Spirit Games; the game is set in a pre-Enterprise (the series) era and involves the players being the crew of an earth experimental ship built to test out new technologies. In the first session we were conducting tests on an experimental warp drive that effectively created a stable wormhole through which a ship could pass rather than folding space the way I believe a standard Star Trek warp drive does (although I may be wrong, although I enjoy Star Trek, i’m not the font of knowledge where it is concerned).
In a plot reminiscent of Star Voyager (although as Simon pointed out “Without the rubbish all-powerful alien bit in it”) something went wrong during the testing of the experimental drive and a motley crew of scientists, engineers and communications officers found ourselves hurtling through the galaxy at ridiculously high speeds, facing the prospect of eventually starving to death if we couldn’t find a way to de-activate the drive, which seemed to be emitting an energy field that barred access to it. Eventually we managed to use the point defence lasers on the testbed ship to damage the drive enough so that we could de-activate it without splattering ourselves over whatever quadrant we happened to be in.
As the game stands at the moment (about 3/4 sessions in) we find ourselves in a strange area of space where a human-like species called the Destroyers are waging a genocidal war against all other species in the area; giving that these Destroyers are human-like (and may possibly be descended from the earth population, although they have evolved separately since) we feel a certain responsibility and have decided to stay and try to help resolve the problem with them. Given that the Destroyers are extremely unreasonable and see their attempt to wipe out an alien life as some sort of holy crusade this means that we have effectively pitched our testbed ship into a war, and are now trying to weld together an alliance of the Talansidry, Athlar and other species we have encountered to deal with the Destroyers.
So what does this have to do with Fate?

Well, when we originally started Simon was going to use the BRP system from Chaosium (made famous in Call of Cthulhu and other games); however, without really having a lot of prep time due to the spectre of real-life interfering with roleplay preparation (the way it is wont to do from time to time) it hasn’t been possible for him to get the game ready for using the BRP system.
Given that I spend so much of my time banging on about Fate, Simon has volunteered me to write a quick and simple Fate hack for the game; this is a task that I was happy to undertake, especially since i’ve already done a Fate Core science-fiction hack (Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader), albeit of a very different sub-genre.
Before I even started to look at creating a hack I plan to send Simon a few questions so I can be sure that the hack does what he wants, the questions are below (Simon’s answers are noted in blue):
  • How detailed do you want the list of skills to be? For example, are you happy with just having a pilot skill or would you prefer a pilot skill for different vehicles?

Vehicles will be done I think best by general type Star ship, Shuttle, Aircraft, Ground vehicle & I would use an edge to reflect greater skill in a particular vehicle of a given type.

  • How detailed do you want the handling of equipment to be? Would you prefer each bit of equipment to be noted down and have an effect are are you happy to hand-wave this and focus on just major pieces that have a plot impact?

Largely yes, as itโ€™s the narrative which matters most, however equipment will be listed by name as most of it permits use of skills in a way an unequipped character just cant. For example a perception check with a tricorder or equivalent will allow the character to see stuff his unaided eye would never notice at all. Same goes for the ships sensors scanners and computers used in analysis and research.
Weapons would work in a bit more detail as no one wants their character killed by gmโ€™s fiat however its axiomatic to the setting that weapons are designed to kill and do so rather well especially the higher tech ones. This is one of the reasons for the seeti8ng emphasis on resolving conflict by negotiation.

  • How much detail do you want to put into space battles and the like? Are these just going to be handled narratively or do you want solid rules for them (either is not a problem)?
Space battles I would do most of them narratively with success or failure at skill checks where requested driving the narrative in a particular direction. 
With these answers gathered i’m about ready to start work on the hack.

Another mechanic I like from 13th Age – Background Traits

As I said in my review of 13th Age the book is chock-full of interesting ideas that can be piked for use in whatever game you may happen to play; i’ve already talked about the escalation dice dice my previous blog post, now i’d like to talk about another interesting mechanic, background traits.

In 13th Age background traits take the place of skills in a more standard D&D game, this background traits can be anything you want, from “queen’s secret assassin”, to “raised by wolves”, “a dwarf with a clockwork heart” or anything else that you can possibly imagine; after creating their traits the player has a number of points to allocate to each, resulting in a modifier against each trait. When it comes to making a test, the player adds the modifiers of any and all background traits to their D20 roll to determine success.
This is quite an interesting mechanic for me and it seems like a hybrid of the more freeform Aspect rules in the Fate system and a more traditional skill system; as someone who is a die-hard fan of the more abstract Fate Accelerated approach to gaming (you can see my original written blog post on Fate Accelerated here and my video review of it here) i’m a great fan of not using more mechanics than necessary, preferring a minimal-crunch approach to my gaming. This is especially true given that i’m current slowly wading into the murky waters of online playing via G+ hangouts and want my players to be able to easily pick up and understand the rules without having to constantly clarify them for the players.
I’ve recently been considering using an Aspect only approach to Fate (as detailed here) but, as has been pointed out to me, that Approach does create a rather huge list of Aspects and involves having to add up the numbers of a lot of Aspects prior to each roll, something which may slow down a game significantly.
Perhaps the solution lies in having a smaller number of freeform Approaches/Traits and giving the characters a number of points to allocate to them (as per the 13th Age rulebook)?
Summary

Using these rules a character would look something like this:
  • Starting refresh/fate points: 5
  • Traits: Character picks 8 Traits (which can be anything), they then receive a number of points (currently i’m thinking 12) that can be allocated between these traits (although no individual trait may be raised above +3 at character gen) 
  • Stunt: 1 (a signature move than can be used to do something cool once per session, as detailed in the Fate Accelerated book- costs 1 FP)
  • Stress: 3 boxes
  • Consequences: 3 consequence boxes
When a character wanted to make a test they would use their highest appropriate Trait and add an additional +1 for every other trait that was applicable.

Escalation Dice

I’m currently reading through the 13th Age RPG (I hope to do a review for my Youtube channel when i’ve finished reading it) which is written by some of the people who worked on both 3rd and 4th edition D&D; although I doubt that i’d ever run the game completely (since, although being described as “medium-crunch”, the game is still a little rulesy for me) but it does contain some very interesting ideas that i’m planning to take and use in my future games.
One of the most interesting to me at the moment is the escalation dice; this is a mechanic where the players (not monsters and NPCs) receive a bonus that starts at +1 on the 2nd round of a combat and increases by +1 each round ( to a maximum of +6) as the combat progresses. This represents the character increasingly finding ways to take advantage of a combat as it progresses, although the GM can reset the escalation bonus to +0 if the characters are avoiding combat or there is a sufficient.
I love this idea and can see how it would help prevent prolonged combats where the enemies and PCs are just slugging it out; this may be something I look at using in Fate in the future.

Preparing rules for Fate Accelerate Fantasy Game

A while ago I proposed the idea in my blog that perhaps D&D professions could be used as Approaches in a Fate Accelerated game (the original blog post is here for anyone interested); since then i’ve been reading a large number of D&D clone games (some better than others), have played an online G+ game using Fate and am currently reading my way through both 13th Age and Legends of Anglerre.
One of the benefits of Fate Accelerated when we used it in my first online G+ game was that it was extremely simple to grasp compared to most RPG rules and meant we didn’t have to spend hours messing around with character genning, fiddling with points or halting play to flip through rules. This simplicity was a great aid when dealing with people playing the game remotely and I wondered if it could be taken further.
I began thinking about whether it would be possible to abstract out the Approaches altogether and use one of the other elements, perhaps Aspects or Stunts, in their place; since Fate has such a thriving online community my first step was to search online and wouldn’t you know it, someone else has already thought of something similar ๐Ÿ™‚
The RPG net forum thread I found on my search is here and the file that it lead me to is here; TheMouse has created a tri-fold pamphlet which suggests using just Aspects in Fate, when making a role the player adds up the number of Aspects that apply to the action in question and uses this as a modifier to the role, invoking and compelling works exactly the same as normal.
The pamphlet created by TheMouse doesn’t include provision for Stunts (as outlined) in the Fate Accelerated core book, but I think that the use of Aspects pretty much replaces them (although I may allow players to take a single Stunt that allows them a signature move).
Summary

Okay, so if I use these rules i’ll be looking at the following makeup for the characters.
  • Starting refresh/fate points: 5
  • Attributes
    • High concept: 1 (a summarisation of the character)
    • Trouble: 1 (the main complication in the characters life)
    • Nation: 1 (where the character comes from and what it’s like)
    • Motivation: 2 (things a character wants)
    • Attributes: 3 (describe intrinsic traits of the character)
    • Other: 3 (other things about the character, membership in a group, supernatural powers, etc)
  • Stunt: 1 (a signature move than can be used to do something cool once per session, as detailed in the Fate Accelerated book- costs 1 FP)
  • Stress: 3 boxes
  • Consequences: 3 consequence boxes

I’ve been toying around with the idea of a Fate Accelerated game involving vampires for a few days; thought i’d post up what i’ve jotted down so far.
Please note: The notes below are in no way complete and will probably change considerably before I consider them finished.

*** Aspects ***
5 in total
1) High concept – May be whatever the player wishes.
2) Trouble – Is determined by the player.
3) Vampire – character must have a vampire aspect to be considered a kindred.
4) Clan – Pick one Aspect which determines a vampires clan.
5) May be whatever the player wishes.
*** Approaches ***
Vampire characters have the normal approaches (with the standard levels).
* Careful
* Clever
* Flashy
* Forceful
* Quick
* Sneaky
In addition they have the following approach (rated at Average (+1))
* Vampire
The vampire approach represents a vampire using it’s innate powers of undeath and the raw power in it’s blood to overcome an obstacle; as a vampire ages this Approach increases thusly:
+1 Average Neonate/recent embracee
+2 Fair
+3 Good
+4 Great Ancilla
+5 Superb
+6 Fantastic Elder
+7 Epic
+8 Legendary Methuselah
*** Disciplines ***
Disciplines are special type of Stunt purchasable only by vampire characters; a vampire may have a maximum number of discipline Stunts equal to 2 + their vampire Approach (3 at character gen).
I have not detailed vampire powers yet, however my current thoughts are that by spending blood points a vampire will be able to either add their Vampire Aspect to a roll or activate some other sort of Stunt-like effect.

*** Blood ***
In addition to Fate Points (which are used as normal), vampires also have a pool of Blood Points (recommend using red tokens to differentiate these); this blood tokens are used to power disciplines.
A character begins play each session with a number of blood points equal to their Vampire Approach +2 (three for starting vampires), the number can be raised above this level by feeding.
Blood tokens can also be used with the characters Vampire Aspect on almost any roll to gain a +2 or a re-roll (as with a fate point), however, when a player character does this they are calling on the innate power of their blood and exposing their vampiric nature; they gain the Aspect “Inhuman Creature of the Night” for the rest of the scene and the one following (this can be compelled as normal). PLEASE NOTE: Using a blood point to power a Discipline Stunt does not cause this effect, although using a discipline infront of mortals may cause its own problems.
When a vampire feeds on an individual during a scene they gain 1 Blood Point.
If a vampire is ever reduced to 0 blood points then he automatically gains the Aspects “Inhuman Creature of the Night” and “Frenzied Bloodlust” and is reduced to the level of an animal that just seeks to sate its bloodlust, these Aspects are lost only once the vampires BPs are raised through feeding.
*** Vampire Weaknesses ***
All vampires begin with the Aspect “Vulnerable to Sunlight” and they are actually attacked by Sunlight (using the normal attack roll method) whenever exposed; the modifier to the Sunlight’s attack roll is the defending vampires Vampire Approach (representing that as vampires become more divorced from their humanity their curse affects them to a greater extent.
Each time a vampire raises their Vampire Approach they must take an additional vampiric weakness Aspect, a few examples are listed below:
  • Compulsive counter
  • Repelled by crosses
  • Unable to cross running water
  • Unable to enter holy ground