God Machine Chronicle – The Secret of Specto Vale – Session 1 Writeup

A huge snowstorm is howling outside the crumbling tower block of Specto Vale in the East Midlands, early 2013 has seen terrible winter weather hit a country ill-prepared to deal with such conditions; the result has been people confined to their homes and roads packed with snow and ice, becoming impassable to all but the sturdiest of vehicles. Several feet of snow have piled up around the base of Specto Vale, the ground floor holding a handful of shops, takeaways and a single public house the Red Lion, after a few weeks all contact with the outside world has been cut off by the constant flurry of white falling from the sky, people have emptied the shops of what little food they still contained and most of the businesses have closed their doors. Up on the 13th floor an old polish gentleman Mr Jakub Bodak makes his way along the dimly lit corridor outside his flat, the mans walking stick tapping its way along the concrete, barely carpeted floor of the building; the floor is quieter than the others, something of a local mythology has built up about the strange folk who make their home on the unluckiest floor of the building, and that’s just the way that Bodak likes it, keeps people out of his businesses. Today however, he has some business of his own with Samuel Carson the manager and owner of Specto Vale who lives (if rumours are to be believed as the sole occupant) of the buildings top floor.

Reaching the limit of the elevator, Mr Bodak is forced to walk up a small flight of stairs from the fourteenth to the fifteenth floor, he is greeted by the overweight, blustered figure of Mr Carson who ushers his tenant into his warm office and offers him a cup of coffee from a bag of fine columbian beans sat on the side; it would appear as though the scarcity afflicting the lower floors has not yet reached the lofty heights of the fifteenth. Jakub expresses his concern that he has heard rumours that numerous people have been ejected from the building due to a slight falling around on their rent, in order that immigrant families can be crammed in to make the management more money; tactful as ever Jakub phrases his concern without mentioning the money aspect but pointing out that such ‘re-allocations’ may damage the sense of community in the building. Still blustering Mr Carson says that he will look into what Mr Bodak has said (although his tone suggests anything but) and dismisses the elder gentleman, saying that he is sure they both have work to do; dissatisfied Bodak returns to his flat.
Joe “Smokey” Thomson is stood out the back of the flats in a covered over delivery area, smoking a cigarette when he hears a strangled cough from behind one of the snow covered skips; investigating he finds the badly beaten body of Mr Lung, owner of the local Chinese Takeaway (one of the many businesses that contributes to Thomson’s monetary income), slumped by the side of the skip. Picking up the injured man Thomson began to head back towards the inside of the building, clods of white powdery snow falling from the injured shop owner.
Brian “Bulldog” Best had finished emptying the cab of his lorry, it had been sat unused in the delivery bay since he had returned from his last job; Brian had been carefully extracting his portable DVD player and a selection of Star Trek DVDs, planning to bed down until the storm had passed. As he turned round a figure carrying what appeared to a be a sack or a bundle of sticks loomed out of the white sleet flurry, slowly resolving itself into the shape of “Smokey” Thomson carrying the injured body of Mr Lung over his shoulder; after some initial confusion Brian helped Thomson carried the injured chinese man to the door of the closed takeaway. Banging on the door and shouting lead to Mr Lungs two teenage daughters and mother-in-law opening the door and helping them bundle the injured Mr Lung inside. Having worked several times as a hospital emergency driver, Brian recognised that Mr Lung appeared to have been beaten several with some sort of implement and that he needed some immediate medical help; remembered that a hospital worker lived on the fourth floor he went off in search of Cathy Williams.
As he passed by the door of Maggy Pike, local hippy and well know purveyor of herbal relief, a familiar smell drifted out from under the door and Brian could hear the voices of Maggy and Cathy talking inside; thinking it a stroke of luck he knocked on the door and was soon explaining the situation to both of the women. Accompanying him to the takeaway Cathy was able to use her emergency medical supplies to stabilise Mr Lung and make him as comfortable as possible, although the elderly gentleman drifted off into unconsciousness. After leaving the herbs that Cathy had purchased for one of her patients behind Maggy left and began making her way back home, she passed by half a dozen young men wearing an assortment of hoodies, one of them carrying a crimson spattered bike lock, luckily none of them paid too much heed to the young Ms Pike, one of them even stopping to ask her about buying a ten-bag. 
Upstairs on the thirteenth floor, Mr Bodak watched the unfolding events from his flat window; picking up his stick Bodak began making his way downstair, but his false leg and age slowed him down a lot.
The youths began to hammer on the door of the chinese takeaway, shouting for them to send out Mr Lung, they began to shout about Mr Lung being responsible for the local cats disappearing and that he was using them in his takeaways. Braced behind the door Cathy and Brian were holding their own when Thomson asked them to open the door; fronting up to the leader of the mob, Thomson warned him to leave and then, when he didn’t respond, smacked the youth in his jaw, the loud sound of a cracking jawbone echoed down the corridor, although Thomson took a crack on his arm as the youth wildly swung his bike lock. Seeing their leader go down so swiftly the other youths lost their courage and turned tail, Thomson carried the injured youth outside and dumped him face down in the snow.
By this time Bodak had made his way down the stairs, both being connected with the old-school criminal element, he and Thomson warily recognised each other and it was clear that Bodak both disapproved of the youths actions and approved of how it had been dealt with. Brian and Thomson picked up the youth with the broken jaw who, through painful clickings of bone, said that his name was Rob Smith and he really believed that the chinese were stealing the local cats; attempting to allay his fears the youth was taken to his flat (a dirty, messy affair), given some pain relief by Cathy and was then warned not to interfere again, Brian telling him that the youth had learnt a valuable lesson.
Returning to the takeaway Brian began to root through the chest freezer of the takeaway, finding it mostly empty aside from a few bags of frozen vegetables and a batter rucksack; with a sinking feeling Brian removed the rucksack and peered inside, a frozen feline with clouded green eyes stared back at him, unmoving from the bottom of the bag. Taking the bag into the main room Brian showed its contents to the others, which resulted in explosive vomiting from the squeamish Cathy, Brian was about to carry the bag away when he felt it twitch and, with a screech, the cat (now seemingly alive) leapt from the bag and quickly disappeared out of the door of the flat. Lung has regained consciousness and seemed entirely surprised when the cat was mentioned explaining, via his daughters interpreting, that the bad was not his, a man in a large duffel coat and a hat had paid him £50 to stash his bag in the freezer.
Following the cat outside Brian spotted a man with a thick coat and wide-brimmed leather hat, the man was carrying a burlap sack that he tried unconvincingly to tuck into his coat; Brian spoke to the man briefly, although when he mentioned cats a look of fear crossed the man’s face and he slugged Brian on the chin before taking off, dropping his sack in the progress. Brian, nursing his jaw, picked up the sack; although it was empty there were traces of what looked like animal fur clinging to the inside of the sack.
Later, whilst escorting Cathy back to her flat, Brian and Thomson spotted the strange animal-napper watching them from the top of the stairs, Brian gave chase and was in time to see the man dive into a flat on the 6th floor. Attempts to verbally convince the man to let him in didn’t succeed until Thomson arrived and made some (thinly) veiled threats, finally persuading the man to let them in. The man’s apartment appeared as though it was decked out for a survivalist apocalypse, tins of beans and dried food were stacked in orderly piles; a large blueprint of the flats covered one of the walls, it was studded with red pins and a long red line connected a flat on the 13th floor to the 15th floor diagram. Miles explained that he had been one of the pest control specialists who had recommended getting cats to control vermin problems in Specto Vale, since then he had fallen on hard times and had moved into the apartments  volunteering to keep an eye on the vermin problem as a favour to the management.
Miles outlined a fantastic tale that the cats in the block appeared to be behaving abnormally, they were watching people and congregating in certain areas; the most fantastic element of the tale was that apparently Miles had seen a number of cats be apparently killed and then emerge unharmed, he had stored one in the freezer of the chinese takeaway apparently planning to return and examine it later. Although initially believing the man to be crazy, Brian found himself thinking back to the supposedly frozen cat and how it had revived once the rucksack had been removed from the freezer; the two men left with Miles promising to show them proof if they returned tomorrow evening.

Hunter the Vigil: Session write-up – Agent Frank Dublowski

Please note: This is a write-up from an IC perspective from my character in a game that I playing.

“Me and Brockhurst were just finishing up a case when the call came through from two other Agents (codename “Ironside” and “Courtney”); they’d tracked a criminal (some crazy woman who’d attached razorblades to her fingers and had cut up Courtney pretty good) to an old house in the Maine town of Rockwell. I’d vaguely read some of the material on the case, it had started with a spate of household pets going missing, then the body of a pet owner had been found bludgeoned to death, but there was no sign of the animal; a further two bodies had been discovered later with the same MO. Following the deaths the crime had been flagged as a ‘serial crime’ and had been bought to the attention of the VASCU serial crimes unit.

The woman’s name was Claire Rantham, a local eccentric, she had attacked agent Courtney when they had approached her and, with unexpected strength had tipped agent Ironside out of his wheelchair; when we arrived the damn place as surrounded by cats, hundreds of the bloody things. The other two agents were waiting in their van outside the old battered house, after a brief discussion me and Brockhurst agreed to take the back whilst Courtney took the front and Ironside managed communications from inside the van. Moving through the house in a systematic fashion we eventually made our way down to the cellar where we discovered a number of strange red plants that I couldn’t identify; with a sinking feeling I directed Brockhurst to slit open the strangely bulbous grow bags and, sure enough, the desiccated hand of a corpse toppled out.

A sudden noise from upstairs caused us to rush to a ladder leading up the attic; Brockhurst went up first, followed by Courtney while I covered them, we did not have to wait long as the crazed Ms Rantham launched herself at Brockhurst. Swinging himself round agent Brockhurst grappled the struggling woman and forced her to the ground where I tazered the bitch and, when she didn’t go down, applied the butt of a weapon to her chin and she finally lost consciousness so we could restrain her. Brockhurst searched the attic, discovering some red seeds that we took as evidence and Ironside began contacting the CDC as we took Ms Rantham back to VASCU headquarters for interrogation and questioning.

It was then that we were informed by our superiors that the military under project VALKYRIE would be taking over the case and that we would soon be re-assigned; this was bull and stank of a cover-up, just like what happened when my partner Jake had disappeared before I joined VASCU and I had been ordered to forget about it (like I ever would). None of us were happy about it and we resolved to find out as much as we could before our re-assignment, although our attempt to talk to Ms Rantham yielded nothing but the following cryptic words

“She’ll gather the family, those who weren’t loved will return to their mother, and if they come to hurt you, i’ll hurt them first.”

Brockhurst hit pay-dirt, one of his contacts on the forces clued him in on a murder with a very similar MO in the small town of Greenvale, we made the decision to travel their and takeover the investigation whilst Courtney dug up details on a Sheriff George Woodman, the territorial small town sheriff of Greenvale who apparently had suffered some sort of facial injury in an agricultural accident. On the way their Brockhurst talked a little about his father had been involved in some shady types and had disappeared one evening when he was young, apparently old Brock has blown his family fortune on trying to track down his father, instead finding only charlatans and fakes; it was clear that the attempted cover up was as offensive to him as it was to me, I told him about the operation that me and my partner Jake had been on for the Bureau when I had got knocked out and woke up to find my partner vanished and that it had been swept under the carpet, I had sworn not to rest till I found him and that i’d never let a case like that be taken away from me again.

We were driving through the thick forested hills of Maine, it reminded me of some of the strange forest flashes that I had glimpsed whilst handling the red leafed plants in the Rantham house, I was so lost in my reverie that I almost crashed when a person in a bright red jacket ran infront of my car, I was able to bring it safely to a stop and leapt out of the car, running after the person with Brockhurst sprinting after me, damn that boy can run. We eventually found our way to a transformer and some sort of maintenance hut, probably belonging to a local logging company according to Courtney’s research, and as we searched around it a ghastly face appeared at the window; smashing open the door and going in weapons drawn, we were surprised to find it empty but eventually had to return to the car.

A few miles down the road we pulled into the lakeside Grand Deer Hotel where we were met by the owner Polly Oxford who seemed surprised to receive so many visitors out of season; we booked some rooms and talked to Ms Oxford who prided herself on being something of a local expert, at our mention of plants she suggested we speak to a local tree surgeon called Forest Cason. Courtney did a bit more research online, discovering that all of the local land belongs to the Stuart Estate and that there was a local point of interest called the Muses gallery and then we all retired to our rooms.”

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.

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?


***

Morality as Consequences in FAE

Last night and during my lunch hour today i’ve been thinking about the best way to represent morality within my NWOD hack; since all of the games feature some sort of morality (generally represented by a Hierarchy of Sins that causes moral degeneration of the character when it is transgressed against) and a struggle to prevent it from sliding down to a point where the character becomes a monstrous NPC that dances at the whims of the GM, it doesn’t seem inappropriate to say that the descent of morality is a major theme within the entire gameline. The various Morality systems within the different game lines have been given different names, whether it’s the Humanity of Vampire: the Requiem, Wisdom in Mage: the Awakening or Clarity in Changeling: the Lost but broadly they function in the same way, building on the mortal system of morality provided in the core NWOD rulebook to track a characters decline or fall.

I originally considered added an additional Stress Tracker where a character would sustain Stress when committing “sins” as a method of tracking a character’s degeneration, however this wasn’t particularly interesting as far a the story goes and didn’t really take into account the individual tweaks on the morality system that were applied to each supernatural.
Currently my favourite alternative to the Stress Tracker system is the addition of a set of Morality Consequence boxes that function in most ways like the normal set of Consequence boxes as detailed in FAE, however when a character commits a sin from the reduced Hierarchy of Sins (as shown below) they automatically acquire a Morality Consequence, the strength of which is related to the “sin” committed.
Hierarchy of Sins

  • Injury to another, theft – mild morality consequence.
  • Arson, manslaughter – moderate morality consequence.
  • Murder or other heinous acts – severe morality consequence.
Morality consequence boxes and normal consequence boxes can be used for this purpose and, if all the boxes of the listed level are full then the damage bumps up to the next level. For example: If a vampire steals from someone and both his Mild Consequence boxes are full then the consequence becomes a Moderate Consequence (and if they are both full then it gets bumped up to Severe).
Anyone who gains a morality consequence when their list is already full has fallen to such a state of degeneration that they are no longer suitable for play as an player character and become a particularly monstrous NPC. After thinking of this idea I wondered whether or not this was a little harsh considering that there are only three Morality Consequence boxes on the tweaked sheet that I have been working on, and I toyed with the idea of adding additional boxes; however some re-reading of the FAE rulebook lead me to realise that the recovery rate of Consequences is fairly rapid:
  • Mild consequences – clear at the end of the scene.
  • Moderate consequences – clear at the end of the next session.
  • Severe consequences – clear at the end of the scenario.
Looking at the recovery times I think that it is not unreasonable that a creature who goes around committing “sins” willy-nilly will quickly burn through their consequences; although I did decide that allowing the normal consequence tracker to also ‘soak’ Morality Consequences was probably a wise move (although Morality Consequence tracker can only be used to ‘soak’ consequences from Morality.
I’m eventually planning to tie blood hunger and other such concepts into the two Consequence trackers.
A link to my WIP character sheet for the hack can be found here.
 

Thoughts on my FAE World of Darkness hack thus far

This is the first in a short series of blog posts detailing the thought processes behind the creation of my FAE World of Darkness hack.

  • Establishing the Basics

First thing I needed to do when I began work on the FAE nWoD hack was to detail how much the hack rules were going to adhere to and deviate from the basic rules of the Fate Accelerate Edition.

  • Aspects
I definitely wanted to keep the High Concept and Trouble Aspects discussed in the FAE rulebook, however I also decide to implement a Type Aspect that would either be the appropriate type of supernatural (vampire, werewolf, etc) or simply ‘human’ if the character was playing a mortal; the idea behind this was that it could be invoked when appropriate and also it could compelled by opponents when the characters type was a disadvantage. For example, if a werewolf was wrestling against a human, it wouldn’t prove unreasonable IMO to compel them based on the fact that a human is physically weaker than a werewolf.
Typically in WoD games the various supernaturals are divided into social groupings that impact on the powers and abilities that the character may possess; variously know as clans, tribes, etc the different types have been nicknamed Splats by many different people in the RP community. I decided that there should be a Splat Aspect that would be based on the characters clan, tribe or whatever.
For example: The Mekhet clan are shadowy occultists who take additional damage from sunlight due to their affinity with the night, therefore their Splat Aspect is Master of the Shadows.
Obviously humans don’t have a Splat Aspect as such and therefore they effectively have more freedom with assigning this Aspect, I quite like the fact that humanity is more versatile and free to choose its own destiny whereas the various supernaturals are, to a certain extent, defined and limited by their curses/blessings. 
  • Approaches

I decided early on that I didn’t want to alter the existing Approaches listed in the FAE rulebook, since they cover a broad range of approaches and would be easy for a group to understand; however the loss of morality and the struggle against the darkness within is (for me) a fundamental aspect of the World of Darkness and therefore I needed to find some way to represent this.
Condensing the Hierarchy of Sins table from the nWoD corebook I needed and assigning difficulties to the various sins was fairly straight forward, however I needed something that could be used to test against the difficulty and none of the existing Approaches really seemed to cover it, so I added in a Humane Aspect. Whilst tinkering around with this mechanic, I decided that I would also need some measure of how inhumane a character was so that things such as Predators Taint could be judged.
Predators Taint in the Requiem corebook is when two vampires meet their beasts react to each other, the vampire with the highest blood potency feeling violent/angry and the vampire with the lower blood potency feeling fear and the desire to flee; i’ve chosen not to focus so drastically on blood potency in my WoD hack, but still wanted to keep the Predators Taint (as a cool mechanic), so I needed something else to measure it by. I eventually settled on adding a Bestial Approach, but it seemed ludicrous that one could have a character who was very humane and yet also very bestial, therefore I decided that the player would be able to give Humane and Bestial Aspects any score from +1 to +8 that they wished as long as the two of them did not add up to more than +8; any additions to one score would subtracts from the other, meaning that a character could try to achieve a balance or could focus on one to the exclusion of the other.
  • Stunts

I left the Stunts pretty much as written in FAE although I did decide that a number of the various supernatural powers would be represented by Stunts.
However, I did decide that some Stunts in the game would be activated without spending fate points, for instance, vampires would replenish their Physical Stress boxes by feeding, and would gain physical stress by activating their discipline powers (representing them burning through the stolen blood in their bodies).
  • Stress Tracks

Looking at FATE core I borrowed the idea of having multiple Stress Tracks, the original Stress Track (that I renamed the Physical Stress Track) and then a second one that I named the Mental Stress Track; since I wanted to keep track of a characters dwindling morality it was necessary to have some sort of stat that could be depleted and “healed” as morality increased and decreased, stress tracks seemed the natural fit for this.
Near the end of my first draft it seemed obvious to me that I could borrow another idea from FATE Core, that of tying Stress Tracks into certain abilities, in this case the Bestial and Humane Approaches tying into Physical and Mental Stress Tracks; meaning that more Humane characters would have a greater resistance to mental stress whereas those given more to their bestial natures were less focused on the mind but more likely to master their own physicality.
  • Crumbling Integrity
As i’ve said earlier, one of the main parts of the WoD that has always appealed to me is the struggle against the crumbling of morality in the face of the cruel gameworld; i’d already worked out that I wanted to model the loss of integrity/humanity using the Mental Stress Track and had composed a Hierarchy of Sins with difficulty ratings on it, it was easy to assign rules that a player must test only when the difficulty rating of the sin was lower than their Humane Approach and that, if they failed, the character would take Mental Stress equal to the degrees of failure. The Stress could be dealt with as normal by filling in stress boxes or by accepting Mental Consequences.
Originally, in my first draft I accidentally wrote that an Integrity test was only required if the sin was ‘higher’ than the characters Humane Aspect, however Julius Müller was kind enough to point out the error after reading the initial draft so that I could correct it.
  • Vampires

Vampires seemed like a natural first supernatural to tackle since, love them or hate them, Vampire was always the flagship of the World of Darkness gamelines (in both its iterations).
  • Spending Blood and Feeding

One of the first things I decided was that I didn’t want to introduce an additional Stress Track or measure to track the amount of blood in the vampires system, that seemed to introduce more complexity that was necessary; eventually I settled on using the Physical Stress Track to measure blood, with vampires incurring physical stress as they activated their disciplines and when they woke in the evening (to represent blood spent) and ‘healing’ physical stress when they fed.
  • Diablerie

In the core game Diablerie allows you to drink the soul of another vamprie when you have them at your mercy, drinking some of their power in return for consuming their soul and damaging your own humanity in the process. Given that most powers are going to be based on Stunts I decided to allow the diablerist to steal a Stunt from the (now)deceased victim at the cost of taking mental stress (since devouring someone’s soul takes a heavy toll on you).
  • Predators Taint

The mechanics of Predators Taint have already been discussed above, the actual effect was largely left to the players and GM as a narrative device.
  • Blood Bonding
In the World of Darkness a vampire can feed someone their blood three times in order to bend the victims will to their own, gaining an additional Aspect called In the Thrall of [name of vampire whose blood you drank] quickly took care of that.
  • Sunlight
Sunlight is one of the major banes of the vampiric race, it beats down relentlessly on the kindred like a punishment from God, burning the unclean flesh of the kindred. I thought that the best way for me to represent this would be to have the sun launch an attack on a vampire for every turn they remained in the sunlight, with the strength of the attack varying depending on the strength of the sunlight that they were exposed to.
  • In Conclusion

I’m pretty happy with the WIP hack up to now, there’s still a fair bit of work to be done on it, Stunts to be created and (potentially) other supernaturals to add into the mix. The very active G+ fate community has also provided some interesting suggestions:
  • Drew Hamblin suggested using Humane and Bestial as the only two Approaches; I personally love this idea, but I think it would be a bit too vague for some.
  • Todd Grotenhuis suggested using Conditions to represent the hunger of an ill-fed vampire, unfortunately Conditions are part of the FATE toolkit and I don’t have that yet; i’m definitely planning to have a look at it when the toolkit becomes available to the public.
  • Paul Vencill mentioned that the Humane and Bestial Approaches may only really be suitable for Vampires and Werewolves and may not work as well for other supernaturals – this is definitely something that i’ll be putting more consideration into as I expand the hack to include other supernaturals. Paul also raised a very good point that perhaps I was cleaving a bit too closely to the rules of the World of Darkness when perhaps I should be looking less at the rules and more at keeping the themes of the games, this will definitely be kept in mind as I rework the hack.
The current WIP hack is available here.