Monday, March 25, 2013

Summon Mugwump?

Mugwump from David Cronenberg's movie "Naked Lunch"

Most sane people would not watch David Cronenberg's move adaptation of William S. Burroughs' Naked Lunch with their Mom, but what can I say? I have been a Burroughs fan for a long, long time. So sitting down and watching this movie with my Mom back in the '90s seemed like a natural thing to do. Imagine my surprise when we got to the Mugwump scenes and my Mom said:

"Don't ever bring a video here to watch again."

Lesson learned.

But we still need Mugwumps in this world, and what better way to bring them to your SF, science fantasy, and New Weird roleplaying table than with spells like Summon Mugwump from the brand new spell supplement, Space-Age Sorcery. The sourcebook has over 100 unique spells, as well as magic items and scenario seeds suitable for any 1st edition game that is ready to veer towards space opera, the Lovecraftian, and science fantasy influences. 

It is a collaboration between the space-mad creative geniuses behind Hereticwerks (Jim and Jody Garrison), Swords and Stitchery (Needles), and Porky's Expanse (Porky). 

You can download it from Hereticwerks over here.

Check it out. Just leave Mom out of it. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

FATE SF Indexes - Starting With The Alwyn Campaign

Crumbly Fort Snelling

I started a FATE SF Indexes page, which you can find right under the blog header. This will be a place to find indexes for various FATE SF series.

To get things started, I have indexed The Alwyn Campaign materials, including its new Google Map.

So far there are two pins in the map! More will follow as the PCs go places and discover things.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Let Me Tell You About My Character

Wednesday night was our first session of play with the Alwyn Campaign model. I'll do my best tomorrow to post the overdue session report. It was a fun session!

Since at the beginning of the session, the players needed to spend a bit of time finishing their characters, I decided to do the +Brad Murray thing and create a character of my own - to use as an NPC or to play him myself if someone else eventually wants to GM.

Our setting is the post-apocalyptic Earth of Babylon 5's far future. Technology is at a 14th Century level. So blacksmiths are back in. And they're burly dudes. I have to admit it. Ever since I read Samuel R. Delaney's Neveryon series I've wanted to do a blacksmith.

So here he is. I won't give you his full name. Oh Hell, I will!  His name is Henry Leroy Jenkins. He doesn't call out his name when he wades into battle, and he doesn't get his buddies killed. And he has a big-ass hammer!

The Blacksmith

Name: Henry Leroy Jenkins
High Concept: Ass-kicking Blacksmith
Trouble: Cult of Hephaestus
Other Aspects:
  • Big Ass Hammer*
  • I can make Fire!
  • Good work doesn't come cheap
  • Forceful +3
  • Careful +2
  • Clever +2
  • Flashy +1
  • Quick +1
  • Sneaky 0
  • Hit the Weak Spot: Because a blacksmith knows how to Hit the Weak Spot, Henry gets a +2 to Forceful attack on an armored foe once per scene.
Refresh: 3

* Which led to a discussion in play about what an ass hammer was

Monday, March 18, 2013

Saint Paul Dungeon Crawl

In last week's set-up session for the Alwyn Campaign, the players first created a set of parameters and desired setting features and locations for adventure.

Urban Explorer MuppySkum
in the sewers beneath St. Paul
Just before the session concluded, the players decided that their first expedition would be to the St. Paul Caves. I am going to assume that they mean the Wabasha Street Caves, specifically, but the entirety of Downtown St. Paul has cavern complexes - some quite dangerous - as I learned while viewing the Action Squad's website on Twin Cities urban exploration.

Their goal is to find some truly ancient booze from before the Great Burn, which they believe may be squirreled away in the caves.

I am looking forward to their upcoming St. Paul Dungeon Crawl!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Monday Nova Praxis Day

Cover designs by Andrew Chason

We are expecting Void Star games to release Nova Praxis, their FATE-based transhuman SF game tomorrow.

Four years in the making, this is Mike McConnell's dreamchild!

If you look here, you'll see that FATE SF has run a series of features on the game, including a multi-part review of the beta edition last Fall.

More to come!

Alywn Campaign Setting - Parameters

This post is about the player-defined parameters for the Alwyn Campaign Setting

Here they are:
  • The fortress, located at the Headwaters of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers, where historic Fort Snelling was built, is the only safe, civilized spot in this wilderness campaign setting. 
  • Whatever's inside the walls is safe. The fort is the PCs' home base; adventures won't happen here.
  • This is a permanent settlement. Exactly 472 people live here. This settlement connects south to civilization, and is civilization's furthest outpost to the North.
  • Technology is at the 14th Century level. There may be a few gonnes available, but no wholesale firearms industry.
  • There are no discernible aliens at the fortress.
  • If there is a Ranger (Anla'Shok) at this location, the Player Characters don't start the campaign knowing who it is.
  • Some form of Catholicism exists here. There are other faiths too, such as Islam. These have evolved in various ways. For example, the version of Catholicism practiced here regards some characters from the B5 TV series to be saints (e.g., Sheridan and Delenn), or angels (the Vorlons).
  • The setting is multiracial. The populace includes descendants of the major population groups that lived in Minnesota in ancient (21st Century) times: there are folks of Native, Somali, Hmong, African American, and European American heritage at the fort.
  • There may be Native (e.g., Ojibwe or Lakota/Dakota) settlements, but these are hundreds of miles to the North and Northwest. The area that is a day's march in any direction from the fort is uninhabited.
  • The region has resumed its pre-climate change characteristics, thanks to a significant human global die-off. In Minnesota, that means extremely cold winters, and hot, humid summers.
  • The fur trade is the major form of commerce with the South.
  • There is sufficient agriculture in the vicinity of the fort to sustain its population.
Players also listed setting features and significant places to explore that they wanted in the game:
  • Monticello nuclear reactor
  • Arden Hills Superfund site  (munitions)
  • Caves in St. Paul
  • Locks/Waterfalls
  • Ford Parkway Ford Plant
  • The Downtowns/Ruins of Minneapolis and St. Paul
  • The Minneapolis-St. Paul Starport
  • Possible aliens in the wilderness
  • Buffalo, fur trade, wolves, wolverines, moose
  • Outlaws/brigands in the wilderness
  • Short faced bears
  • Telepaths
  • Mall of America
  • The University of Minnesota Ruins
  • The State Capitol Building
  • Apple Orchards - the St. Croix Valley
  • Tales of Giant Squirrels (some albino)

The Alwyn Campaign Setting

On Friday, I shared a brief glimpse of the new episodic sandox campaign framework we'll be trying out with our gaming group. The campaign model is based on the West Marches campaign model. This is an entirely player-facing campaign model. There's no plot or metaplot whatsoever - only such plot as is created by the PCs' actions. Each session, the player will need to communicate in advance what they intend to do and where they intend to go. Then it's the GM's job to create an adventure that lets them go there and get back in a single session. In our case that means in a two hour period.

The setting for our campaign will be based on the Leibowitzian retromedieval Alywn Campaign model which I blogged about back in January. This is the far future of Earth in the Babylon 5 universe, in which Earth has been reduced to a medieval level of technology and culture, due to the Great Burn, a nuclear war which erupted between rival Earth states.

In keeping with the West Marches model, our PCs are based in a safe area, a fortress town with exactly 472 inhabitants. This is a bastion of civilization in the wilderness. The fortress town is located on the bluffs overlooking the headwaters where two rivers meet. The rivers are the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. The name of the place used to be Fort Snelling.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Project Generations - Scenario Writing

Generation Ship art by Fraterchaos

I spent the day today working on the scenario chapter for Project Generations, the FATE-based SF series on generation ships that I am writing for +Chris Birch's Modiphius Entertainment. The first Project Generations product is tri-statted for Starblazer Adventures, Diaspora, and Bulldogs! 

Once I turn in the manuscript for this one, I'll be working on an all-new Project Generations product for FATE Core. I already have some great new ideas for that one. Really over the top!

Chapter Six of the current project is where the scenario lives. The previous chapters build up to the scenario, but also give you TONS of new tools for running games set on generation ships, stats for two sample generation ships , a deck-by-deck treatment of one generation ship, and stats for numerous auxiliary/support ships for use inside and outside the vessel. (These come in helpful because generation ships can be HUGE!)

The scenario chapter broke 31 pages today of single spaced text - it's a monster! The chapter includes background on the generation ship used in the scenario, information on its current state and the rival factions on-board, rules on awakening from cryostasis on a generation ship, drop dice tables for ship locations, and scenes. I think whether you like to use a scenario in its entirety, or you prefer to pick and choose a few elements of a published scenario to use in your own game, you'll get good value out of this product.

My goal is to get most of the scenario finished this weekend. We'll still have some NPCs to statt out during the week, but if I can finish the scene pieces this weekend, we'll be in good shape to finish the writing before April.

Then comes art and layout, which is in great hands with the team Modiphius has together!

Just look at what they are doing for Achtung! Cthulhu over here!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Playing FAE "Wrong"

I've read most of FATE Accelerated Edition and I like what I see. I have run FATE Core and found it to work well, but I was a bit annoyed by the narrow skill list. FAE boils that small skill list down even further to six Approaches. I like that a lot better. It has a real first edition D&D feel in terms of its simplicity.

Last night, my gaming group decided to give the system a test run. We created a setting that is influenced by the West Marches campaign model. So, we will be pursuing a very non-storygaming, purely sandbox episodic campaign model using a very storygamey-focused game system.

The group is looking forward to playing FAE "wrong".

More details on the setting this weekend.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Ancient Wisdom

It was centuries ago, long before the Empire began. Decades before Old Earth was destroyed by the venomous Mutain Queen, several ships of the First Diaspora had been launched towards Ancient Wisdom, the third closest solar system from Sol.
The pair of Brown Dwarf stars known as The Wise Twins welcomed them. The Wise Twins' dim, deuterium-forged light bathed the Earth-ships in dun-colored sunbeams. The explorers found a few rocky worlds, devoid of life, that orbited the twin stars.

But the ships of the First Diaspora weren't drawn there with the hope that they would find habitable worlds to colonize; they came here following an alien signal.

The crews of the Earth vessels soon found the signal's source: a rambling, ramshackle, vast construct. The Agglomeration, as it came to be known by the Earthers, was to all appearances a melange of numerous different space vessels. Why had it come here? Had it "run out of gas?" Were there still crew aboard? Only time would tell.

First there would be a space battle, a war of all against all. The Star Captains of the First Diaspora had as a matter of course cooperated while crossing the deep interstellar void. This reciprocity was the best guarantee that at least most of their ships and crews would survive the journey between the stars.

But on these alien shores, all bets were off. They had all come for the same great Prize. None were willing to share.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Cover Stars

M.A.R. Barker's "Man of Gold"
Cover art by Michael Whelan

As a kid who grew up far from the center of Tekumel gaming, I always loved Michael Whelan's cover and content for Man of Gold. The cover model was hot. And the novel was one of the few ways to really get "inside" Tekumel for someone who grew up far from the Twin Cities, in the decades before the internet.

The Tekumel Foundation's intent to publish of a new edition of the book is very welcome.

There is currently a debate going on at the Tekumel listserv about the desirability of changing the cover. While I like the Whelan cover on its own terms, it is not a very good representation of how Tekumel looks. And while the model is certainly attractive, he is on the pale (i.e., "White") side of the spectrum for a Tsolyani person, and his dress is wrong.

So he will probably go away.

It's sufficient consolation that we will always have this guy:

Michael Whelan's cover for "A Sailor on the Seas of Fate"

I imagine if Elric ever made it to Tekumel, he'd fit in pretty well there - at least for a bit. He's smart; he'd pick up the languages well. The Livyani would no doubt appreciate his sorcerous skill. Given his amorous appetites, I am certain he'd make friends in the temple of Dlamelish.

As long as he stayed indoors and out of the sun, he'd be fine. Until he ticked someone off, or made someone nervous or... curious.

Elric did tend to stir up trouble.

He'd have to stay away from the Omnipotent Azure Legion, and the curious priests of Lord Ksarul. And a lot of other folks.

Yeah, he'd probably get eaten alive on Tekumel. Or become a permanent resident of Avanthar. Or maybe we have the temporal sequencing wrong, and Elric has always-already been there.

He might be the real Doomed Prince of the Blue Room.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Back To Tekumel

Today we got to play some Tekumel using Professor M.A.R. Barker's Empire of the Petal Throne RPG. We are playing first level marine trainees from a legion based in Penom, a city notorious as the "armpit of the Empire". I am very certain that +Jeff Berry will do a post in the near future with a few more details about the session and his excellent collection of "not-Barsoom" miniatures, which are perfect for Tekumel.

Here is our GM, +Rob Leduc with his son Evan in the background.

These days, I am kind of notorious at the gaming table for writing down witty or evocative things that players or PCs say that sound like perfect FATE Aspects.

Here's the take from our session today:
  • "The Last Metal Hlyss" - This is Jeff Berry describing an item from his Tekumel miniatures collection, but as a creature in its own right, it sounds respectably fearsome and interesting to me, and may show up in a future FATE Tekumel game of mine. 
  • "Mall-walk, if you will" - Evan dropped this one liner after a bloody encounter with a particularly nasty group of critters. We lost two of our contingent of 20 marine trainees. This is the equivalent of the "step lively" command you often hear conductors announce when the doors open after the train arrives at station on the NYC subway. You never walk slowly in the wilderness of Tekumel. Or run blindly. Instead, it is often prudent to walk briskly.

A Bit More On The Kerberos Club

We're continuing our slow but sure read-through of The Kerberos Club (Strange FATE Edition) which I will be running in April at JonCon '13. The setting background is the first 179 pages of this 363+ page book. The setting is well-researched and filled with potential plot hooks (alternate history, characters, incidents, etc.) that GMs and players can run with.

The Kerberos Club's clubhouse itself is filled with all sorts of artifacts (either known artifacts or ones to be made up on-the-spot by players or GMs) that can be temporarily "checked-out" and used by a player for a period of time with the expenditure of a Fate Point. This is a pretty stealable mechanic that could be appropriated for many different kinds of FATE games.

This morning over coffee, I had a chuckle when reading on page 45 that the U.S. has a Shadow Constitution, written on tanned human skin, called the Umbra Pactum. This secret constitution is backed up by an entire secret government, which regulates the occult world and seeks to prevent outright occult wars between the various contending occult factions in the United States. Since the original (ORE) edition of The Kerberos Club came out in 2009, it seems to me that this is probably a reference inspired by Warren Ellis' Crooked Little Vein, which came out the year before.

With another 140 pages of setting to go, it may be a while before I start posting my own Kerberos Club/Strange FATE creations here on FATE SF. Look for some in April.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Cyber Salute From The RUR-Workers State

Don Quixote De La Richfield
Photo copyright 2012 John Everett Till

Photo copyright by John Everett Till

We have downloaded retrotemporal transmissions from the RUR Workers-State. The message consists of the three images above, and a brief statement:

"Companero, Knight of Labor, we have uploaded you to eternity."

This Cyber-Leg Is Still Kicking
Photo copyright 2012 John Everett Till

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Traveller Subsector Mapper

Alex Schroeder has developed an online Traveller Subsector Generator. You enter the UWPs for the subsector and it generates the map - or a random map using the same system data. We have added this item to the General SF and Science Links right under the FATE SF header.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Diaspora Parameters for Babylon 5

Back in January, I posted revised Diaspora parameters for use with the Babylon 5 setting. A couple of weeks ago, I put together a set of Aspects for the station. Today we are putting those two things together, treating the station as a planet or system using Diaspora mechanics.

Some of the ratings below may be controversial. I am certainly interested in what others might say.

For System Type, I am using "Major Power Base". When the series starts, Babylon Station is an Earthforce facility, and therefore an asset of a Major Power.

For the Technology parameter, I am using only T+1. This isn't simply because the station lacks artificial gravity - an area where the humans are clearly "behind" the other great powers at the beginning of the TV series. The lower score reflects the fact that B5 most likely lacks the capacity to manufacture items of the size and complexity of jumpgates. It can certainly operate these systems, and can probably repair these systems within certain limits - but it isn't laying down new track, so to speak.

With respect to the Environment parameter, I chose "Survivable World". Again this is probably subject to debate, but it seems pretty clear to me that while there are certainly large areas of the station which are extremely comfortable, there are many other areas, such as Downbelow, which are quite miserable.

For the Resources parameter, I selected "Multiple Dependencies". It is pretty clear that without fairly continuous trade, the station cannot maintain itself and its population.


System Type: Major Power Base

Technology: T+1 ~ Minor Powers
  • Use jumpgates, use tachyon communications networks
Environment: E-1 ~ Survivable World

Resources: R-3 ~ Multiple Dependencies

  • Babylon 5 was a dream given form
  • A port of call for refugees, smugglers, businessmen, diplomats and travelers from a hundred worlds
  • Our last, best hope for peace
  • Nothing here is what it seems

With thanks to Babylon 5 Quotes, and in particular to "The Gathering" quotes page.

The Funnel Of Death

This is the second part of my Con of the North report on running a six hour marathon of the Ubiquity-based Leagues of Adventure RPG. The first part of the report was here

The PCs had commandeered a Royal Air Navy airship in London, and in spite of Nathaniel Walker's incredibly poor sense of direction had successfully piloted it to the vicinity of the Cosiguina volcano in Nicaragua. Cosiguina was where Nathaniel's brother, William Walker had departed for the Hollow Earth a few years earlier. It was a race against time to rescue him.
In the way were the forces of none other than Walker's arch enemy, the shipping and railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt. Mr. Vanderbilt was hot on the trail of William Walker, and had constructed rail lines up the slope of the volcano which would be used to deploy a mole machine in a cave on the inner slope of the volcanic caldera.

Our heroes were determined to reach that cave - an opening to the Hollow Earth - first. So they crashed the airship on the inner slope of the caldera, and sledded part of the airship's gondola - and the pilot's personal ornithopter - right into the mouth of the cave. But the mole machine on rails continued its advance. 

The heroes were pursued by Vanderbilt's advance men who entered the cavern hot on the trail of the airship crew.
Before their pursuers could set up their Gatling gun, one of the PCs henchmen - a bomb-throwing anarchist - made short order of Vanderbilt's advance team by tossing an improvised bomb. Of course, this took care of our heroes' pursuers - as well as caving in the cavern's entrance.

From there, as the saying goes, there was nowhere to go but down. That involved a battle with a giant centipede, as well as with three pterodactyls. The pterodactyls were quite formidable, but through sheer luck and dogged persistence, our heroes - with a little help from Mays, the daring female aviator and Doctor Crisis, weird science inventor, they managed to get the entire party safely down a huge funnel made of cascading rivers and waterfalls, all the way down to the Hollow Earth. 

Oh yes, and the mechanical man Vanadine Ironsides managed to explore a bit of the underwater shoreline directly beneath the funnel. Walking the bottom, as it were. It was a fun adventure!