Saturday, November 30, 2013

Evil Hat Street Team Activities In November


In November, we participated in the Evil Hat Street Team in several ways, including:
  • Gaming and posting our Project Generations FAE playtest report (Task 4). I had a second gaming event I wanted to share, but Task 4 only allowed one entry. Come back to FATE SF next week to find out about our Fate Core Tekumel event at U-Con!
  • Reviewing Fate Core on the FATE SF blog (Task 2)
  • Spreading the word about the Street Team by placing the icon and a link to the Evil Hat Street Team page in the left hand sidebar of the FATE SF blog (part of Task 5)
  • Reviewing FAE on the FATE SF blog (Task 2)
  • Further spreading the word about the Street Team by summarizing our own Street Team efforts (again, Task 5)
We look forward to the next set of opportunities to participate in the Street Team!

The FATE Library: Fate Accelerated Edition


This is the fifth post in our FATE Library series, in which I am looking at the FATE RPGs that I own, have read, and have used. The first post in the series was a review of Spirit of the Century. The second was a review of Diaspora. The third was a review of the inimitable Starblazer Adventures. The fourth was a review of Fate Core.

Today, we are taking a look at Fate Accelerated Edition, or FAE, a lite version of Fate Core designed as a companion and introduction to Fate Core.

First, my rating system:
  • Book Condition? My copy is in excellent shape. It is a 48 page slim softcover book, but I have been careful with it. When I take FAE somewhere, I usually put it in the zip bag that holds my iPad. That keeps it safe from dings and folds. I'm not that worried about damage however. At $5 per copy, you are not going to find a more easy-to-replace game book. In fact, I have purchased a couple of back-up copies of FAE in case one gets damaged or we need more than one book at the game table. 
  • Actually Read? A number of times actually. We started playing FAE when it was a pre-publication document with no art. I have read each successive iteration of the rules, probably more than once. 
  • Ever Played? YES! Many times in fact! Last winter/spring, I ran The Alwyn Campaign, a West Marches-style multisession post-apocalyptic campaign set on the far future Earth of the B5 universe. Over the summer I ran a Kerberos Club FAE game; Rachel Kronick did a very nice write-up about the adventure and her rather Buddhist android character in it over at the Blade & Crown blog. Most recently, I used FAE for a Project Generations playtest scenario last weekend at U-Con in Michigan. 
  • Science Fiction?  All of the FAE games I have run are for SF settings. Most of the creatures in my FATE Bestiary are SFnal and are statted-up using FAE. It is easy to add SF flavor to creatures in FAE: the key is using evocative Aspects and appropriate Stunts, since FAE's Approaches (which substitute for Fate Core's Skills) aren't favored in any way that suggests a genre.
Let's cut to the chase. FAE has a reputation as an intro game to Fate Core (and it is) and perhaps also as a kid's iteration of Fate. I think it can function as both of these, as well as for pick-up games of Fate. It worked quite well for this latter purpose in the Project Generations game I ran last weekend, where we first spent about 45 minutes creating the setting (a generation ship in really bad shape), and then about 15 minutes creating characters! FAE's streamlined Approaches eliminated the need to spend a lot of time selecting skills; it helped the players create distinctive characters quickly and get into the action quickly!

Most of FAE's game mechanics are the same as in Fate Core, other than FAE's substitution of six broad brush Approaches in place of Fate Core's numerous Skills. The change makes for more fluid, adaptive play, and I like the more abstract version of Approaches used as the basis of FAE in contrast to the D&D -based Attributes approach used in the Fate Freeport Companion. But that's a matter of taste, and one's appetite for abstraction/fluidity vs. familiarity/traditional system emulation.

FAE has an experience system (i.e., "Milestones") that is essentially the same experience system used in Fate Core. So, I can't see any reason why you can't have an ongoing, long-term campaigns using FAE. 

The only thing I wish they retained in FAE is Declarations. They are in Fate Core, and in practice we use them all the time in FAE. 

I want to close with a few thoughts about the art. The illustration used in FAE is fairly shojo manga in style. In fact, some pieces (particularly Voltaire) reminded me a bit of Revolutionary Girl Utena. Nothing wrong with that in my game, and I hope it does not contribute to the impression that FAE is not worthy of consideration by "serious" gamers.

Indeed, Claudia Cangini's art conveys some important messages. Take the representation of the game table here:


Two apparently female players, one apparently male, one (the right-most figure) who is rather androgynous. That's a pretty gender inclusive game table. Hopefully just about everyone picking the book up can see a player they identify with (in some way) in that illustration.

And then there are our cover stars. (Feel free to scroll back up to the top of the post for a second.) In the center, we have Reth, a youthful male martial artist/fire mage with dark skin and dreadlocks. On the left is a swashbuckling cat-woman pirate whose name, Voltaire, evokes an Enlightenment male French philosopher. So a tad more gender-bending. Finally, on the right hand side we have another androgynous cover star (whom the text identifies as female), the mage Abigail Zhao, who's all ruffles, tie, studded belts, and buckles. 

And of course, on the back of the book we have the all-akimbo gadgeteer Bethesda Flushing, Ph.D.  Just look at her eyes! Just what is she looking at???  WATCH OUT, Bethesda!!!

Friday, November 29, 2013

The FATE Library: Fate Core


This is the fourth post in our FATE Library series, in which I am looking at the FATE RPGs that I own, have read, and have used. The first post in the series was a review of Spirit of the Century. The second was a review of Diaspora. The third was a review of the inimitable Starblazer Adventures.

Today, we are taking a look at Fate Core, an updated, generic, universal implementation of the Fate system published in 2013.

First, my rating system:
  • Book Condition? My copy is in excellent shape. It has been in my possession since it was shipped mid-year, and I have used it to run games as well as play in other people's games. The book is a solidly built small hardcover of 291+ pages. The binding is very much intact, and that has to be intentional in these days in which the bindings of so many RPGs often deteriorate within a few days of purchase (when they aren't actually delivered to game stores already damaged). This core book is built to last. The only thing I don't like about the core book is the glossy paper. It reflects enough light that it can be difficult for these old eyes to read at times.
  • Actually Read? Twice, sort of. I read Fate Core straight through in early 2013 when it was still in pre-publication, and just completed a thorough read through over the last two weeks, as preparation for running a Fate Tekumel game at U-Con in Michigan.
  • Ever Played? YES! Many times in fact. That's at least 4 games as a GM, and at least two as a player.
  • Science Fiction? YES!, especially if you consider Tekumel to be SF (I do; it is part of the sword and planet or planetary romance subgenres). I have GMed three Fate Core Tekumel games this year, and played in another run by +George Harnish. I have also played in a wonderful prohibition era Crimeworld Fate Core game GMed by +B Cook. Finally, I have GMed a Dawning Star scenario for the forthcoming Fate Core edition of the game.  
This review will be a bit briefer than the last few. Well, maybe. There have been many reviews of Fate Core.  What I can say is that the system works, and most of the changes - which have focused on simplifying the system and codifying certain player choices (such as actions) - have been very beneficial. I have run Fate Core games for both veteran Fate players and newbies (including Grognards) and have found that folks who are new to the system grasp it quickly and use it fairly intuitively.

The Skill list has been greatly simplified, which makes it much easier to generate characters quickly, as well as adjudicate which Skills are appropriate for which situations in play. Depending on the SF setting you plan to run, you may need to rename some skills to something more SFnal (e.g., "Crafts" is a perfectly misleading name as the skill for mechanisms and machinery). The book has some useful advice for GMs about modifying the Skills list.

A little earlier today, I was struggling a bit with creating the Bituin Commonwealth (an interstellar polity) using the out-of-the-box Fate Core list of Skills because some of them feel so terrestrial and lowtech. Nevertheless, I always try to use the game as it was written before modding it out, and I think it translated OK from my vision to the Fate Core mechanics. Sure, I could have done it better with Starblazer Adventures, but it's good enough, which what I really want (and need) from a generic, universal system.

I really appreciate that the Stunts list in Fate Core is very free form. When Diaspora came out with its more free-form model for Stunts (free-form creation really supports character customization in that game), it was a real breath of fresh air, since the existing Fate-based RPGs had very crunchy and often arborescent Stunt systems.

Finally, this book has some of the best GM and player advice out there. The entire book is written in the tone of a coach - one who wants to get the best out of both the players and the GM. Fate Core not only enables collaborative character creation, but also collaborative setting/campaign creation through its "Current Issues/Impending Issues" model for setting and campaign creation. 

And that's not all. The advice for GMs on how to build scenarios, arcs, and campaigns is both practical and outstanding, and rooted in what the system does best: character, campaign, setting, and situation Aspects.  A good GM could eventually figure out a lot of this on their own (but maybe not most or  ALL of it - at least not for a while). But with Fate Core, they won't have to do all this learning on their own. The book guides the GM with practical tools that help him or her to discover what will interest the players and motivate their characters, integrating all the scenario, arc, and campaign mechanics with the experience system, also known as Milestones. 

There are no Experience Points in Fate Core, but there IS character advancement. I rarely give out experience in Fate games, so I think this is going to be the biggest growth area for me going forward with Fate Core: tying character advancement to the progression of a campaign in the elegant and natural ways that the new Fate Core enables.

The Bituin Commonwealth

Logo courtesy of Hereticwerks

The Bituin Commonwealth traces its origins to the Bituin Expedition to the world of Kepler 22-B. The worlds that are part of the Commonwealth today descended from the various Filipino colonies established in Sector I-5 of that world. After the establishment of the initial colonies in Sector I-5, additional waves of colonists arrived from a range of Southeast Asian groups, including Malay, Thai, and Lao settlers. All of these groups were part of the secondary and tertiary expansions from the Filipino colonies in Sector I-5 which went on to settle six additional worlds. And so on...

The resulting Bituin Commonwealth is a loose confederation of systems. The Commonwealth has six core systems that are tied together by a series of slipknot connections into a single Cluster. Each core system has numerous tributary or affiliated systems - some 60 systems at last count - each connected to a core system by either a slipknot or via hyperdrive.

Like any galactic polity, the worlds of the Bituin Commonwealth today have a mix of human, alien, and machine intelligences as their citizens. Among the most common aliens are the Balanggtik, who are among the best independent star pilots in this region of space, and a vast variety of temperamental and often dangerous Tangalid subspecies.

No single sociopolitical system prevails, but several distinct tendencies can be identified in the Commonwealth's disparate star-archipelago of worlds:
  • Left-leaning and communitarian worlds (some authoritarian, others democratic) that trace their political roots to the original settlers of New Manila Bay. These are generally friendly toward the Empire and conduct a fair amount of direct trade with Imperial  worlds; 
  • The panoply of neo-Islamic star systems under the extremely fragile "rule" of the Sultanate of Managdao. The Sultanate often hires Comet Barbarians (Green, of course) as mercenary forces to keep some degree of coherence and order among its usually fractious and often warring worlds;
  • An anarchic mix of systems dominated by the pirate fleets of the Cojuangco crime syndicate and their local affiliates, lackeys, and compradors;
  • The Cordillera Star Confederation, a loose sub-confederation of worlds settled by various indigenous groups from across Southeast Asia and the Philippines Archipelago. These worlds fiercely defend their independence and resist interference in their affairs by the other worlds of the Bituin Confederation.

OGL MECHANICS

The Bituin Commonwealth
An interstellar Extra

ASPECTS:
  • High Concept: A Filipino Star Archipelago
  • Trouble: A Commonwealth torn by many competing interests
  • Aspect: Six Core Worlds tightly bound
  • Aspect: Trade relations with the Empire
  • Aspect: Sometimes too close to the Wild space of the Periphery
SKILLS:
  • Great (+4): Resources - the Commonwealth's worlds are resource abundant
  • Good (+3): Burglary - significant criminal operations occur within the Commonwealth
  • Fair (+2): Rapport - many disparate worlds and cultures means skill with diplomacy
  • Average (+1): Fight - the Commonwealth can muster armed forces for planetary defense
STUNTS:
  • Good at Alliances: The Commonwealth may bring a new ally (political, military, economic) to the table once per session by spending 1 FP.
  • Hire Mercenaries: The Commonwealth may increase its Fight in any session for one scene by +2 by spending 1 FP to hire mercenaries. Such forces often create problems soon after they provide help.
  • Pirate Fleets: The Commonwealth may use Burglary rather than Shoot to Attack/Defend against fleets from other interstellar states.
REFRESH: 3


Relief.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Project Generations FAE At U-Con


FATE SF ran two games at U-Con in Ypsilanti, Michigan this past weekend. Saturday's game used Fate Accelerated Edition. I ran a session of Project Generations, part of my forthcoming series of Fate-based generation ship offerings from Modiphius Entertainment.

The session started with the players taking Project Generations' collaborative and Diaspora-inspired "Create a Generation Ship on the Fly" rules for a test drive. That went amazingly well. The players created a rickety generation ship: a desperate, nameless ship fleeing a cosmic disaster. The way the players described the disaster was "Cthulhu ate earth." A generation ship had been under construction for a while. Humanity was already colonizing the solar system. When the disaster struck, survivors in the colonies decided to act immediately and launch the ship ahead of schedule.


At the time of the launch, certain things had been taken for granted. Most of the nameless generation ship's reaction mass was used in a getaway launch burst. Some technologies were still in their infancy, such as AIs and nanotechnology, but assumed to be on a good trajectory. By a couple hundred years after launch, everyone expected that things would be even better. Many problems at launch would have been solved.

Not so much.



Things just got worse and worse.

The PCs were part of the reserve crew for a future launch; they were already in suspended animation at the time of the launch, and knew nothing of the cosmic disaster which has struck Earth. Their first clue that something was wrong was when a ham-handed Engineering robot awakened them some 300 years after ship's launch. No Medical robots or personnel anywhere in sight. Things only got worse from there.

The ship was in very bad shape. The humans and robots on-board had company. The inimical kind, from beyond time and space.Fortunately our heroes were the A-Team. They pressed on, confronting horror after horror. Tough bastards that they were, they eventually got to the bridge and took control of the ship.

***

Everyone seemed to have a good time. One player even ordered a copy of the Deck of Fate while I took a brief bio-break. He liked how I was using it to flavor situations and dice rolls with the Aspects on the card. I can't say I mind being called "oracular" one little bit.

Great players, and a great game!

The Bananggtik Remix


I have remixed a FATE SF monster - an original SF creature based on Filipino mythology - for +Christopher Helton's OSR-based Philippines Relief PackageYou can get it here. This is the third of One Bookshelf's Philippines relief bundles.

Fate fans will want to know that the bundle includes some great Fate games as well:  Nova Praxis and Strands of Fate!

For my submission, I remixed and converted a creature from  to the fine OSR-based X-plorers RPG system. X-plorers is an uber-flexible d20-based SF RPG. I am fortunate to have both the whitebox edition of  X-plorers as well as Brave Halfling's updated folio edition.

I had a good experience at Con of the North 2013 playing in a game run by +Jay Exonauts!

We have created bonus content for people who choose to purchase the Philippines Relief Package. Purchasers of the Philippines Relief Package will find directions to my bonus content in the entry for the Balanggtik monster in the relief package.

The first bonus content is already available. There will be more published over Thanksgiving week!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Mapping Tekumel at U-Con

Photo copyright 2013 by John Everett Till

Yesterday, we shared a bit about the two Fate games we are running at U-Con later this week: a FAE game for Project Generations, my series of Fate-based generation ship offerings for +Chris Birch's Modiphius Entertainment, and a Fate Tekumel game.

We have developed a good list of Aspects for the town where my Tekumel game will be set. This list is based on canonical and quasi-canonical sources, as well as what players have already discovered in my previous Tekumel games in that setting. My plan - since there is no published map of the town - is to build the map collaboratively with the players.

I will prep a few set locations based on what we already know about the town.  These will be index cards with a location name and at least one Aspect. We will "fill -in" other parts of the town as we play, creating a map of the city which can be used in future games.

It's safe to assume the table with be a mix of Tekumel veterans and Fate fans (and some will be both), so this should be fun. I am looking forward to some nice collaborative give-and-take as we create typical - but above all useful and interesting - features of a Tsolyani town using the tools that Fate gives us - in particular using brief, pithy Aspects.

The next step post-session will be to find a cartographer.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Piecing Tekumel Together For U-Con

MesoMan photo copyright 2013 by FATE SF

It's been a weekend of piecing Tekumel together. First, helping +Chirine ba Kal and +Rob Leduc cutting out Amanda Dee's wonderful paper miniatures, so that Jeff could prepare a set for +Brett Slocum and I to bring to U-Con this week. The convention traditionally has a Tekumel Track, and both Brett and I are running games in that.

This year, the Con also has a Fate Track, and the Guest of Honor is none other than Fate Core designer +Leonard Balsera. I am running two games in the Fate Track. One is a crossover with the Tekumel Track, and the other is a FAE-based session of Project Generations, my forthcoming series of generation ship Fate SF releases for +Chris Birch's Modiphius Entertainment.

The other "piecing Tekumel together" activity this weekend has been developing content for a Tekumel Aspects handout that will debut at U-Con. I've developed Aspects for the planet Tekumel, Social Concepts, Religion, Tsolyanu, and A Few Playable Races. Oh, and Fresh Off the Boat, as well as the specific setting that will be featured in the game.  Rachel Kronick suggested the idea after my "Raid on the Temple of Vimuhla" scenario at Con of the North 2013.

Rachel thought it could be a faster way than exposition (aka the Tekumel 101 lecture/lecturette) to get people into the game quickly when aren't already familiar with Tekumel. We quite agree. It will also help Tekumel veterans grasp the Fate concept of Aspects more readily - and run with it!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Deck of Fridays 4, Part II: Grounded: Jailbreak! Scenario Seed



Earlier today, we drew a card from the Deck of Fate (a card with the Aspect Grounded). Then we created the Grounded! Table, a 1d6-1d6 FATE table in with 11 reasons why a starship might be grounded.

One of the items is the discovery that a bunch of kids on a grounded starship were themselves grounded - and that they went somewhere. Here's a scenario or campaign seed based on that outcome! My thinking for this scenario is very much influenced by my recent purchase of +Robert Bohl's fantastic indie RPG Misspent Youth, an SF RPG of youthful rebellion. You can get the free Eyebleed Edition PDF here, but I'd encourage you to get the print version too!

Part of the game's set up is that the players work together to create an enemy, The Authority, before they create their own rebellious youthful characters. The Authority has three attributes, a Vice, Victim, and Visage, as well as a need.

Grounded: Jailbreak! Scenario Seed 

The Authority on the ship is the adult crew. The Captaincy is a clonal gerontocracy. The oldest capable adult is the Captain. The next most elder make up his Council, and take the most senior positions on the ship.

All the crew - adults, youth, and kids - are clones of The Man: the original owner of the huge merchant vessel, Galleon. He thought the best way to run a ship was to do it all himself.

The Man bought the cloning technology and the autodocs required to make more of himself. These are kept in a secure area far below decks. Only a few adults have access. The crew have carried on this way for 300 years now.

The adults act as interchangeable parents for the youthful members of the crew. As adults age, the cloning machine spits out baby-clones as replacements. Some adult crew members take hormones so that they can breastfeed the babies.

Teens mind the little kids. Adults mind the teens. Deprivation, isolation, boredom and lack of stimulation are the adults' primary tools of control. Nobody wants to be grounded.

There are a lot of dietary practices that make no sense to outsiders. There's no marriage. No relationships between the adults and outsiders, except for brief business transactions. No passengers, no guests.

Strictly business with outsiders. Just one big happy clone family.
.
That's the official line. But who wants to live in a straightjacket? Kids will steal a shuttle and run away when they can. Even kids who are grounded dream of a jailbreak. That's who the PCs play. They'll have to decide whether it's better to run away, or stay and fight The Man's secret plan (see The Need, below).

***
Authority details: In this section, we describe The Authority's key attributes: its Vice, Victim, Visage, and Need. We also represent each of these attributes with an Aspect; the Aspects are in italics.
  • Vice (i.e., The Authority's underlying motivation) is Fear - Their biggest vice isn't greed. Being a merchant ship is just a vocation. Being One Big Happy Clone Family; now that is an avocation. But if the youth run away, no more Big Happy Family. The crew will its lose coherence and functionality.Everything The Authority does, it's whole weird familial corporate culture, is based on the Fear that the family will fall apart (Trouble). 
  • Victim (i.e., who or what The Authority beats down, chews up, feeds on) is Humanity - On this ship, The Authority grinds down the next generation, the youth. Conformity is everything. 
  • Visage (i.e., what form The Authority takes) is Corporate - The Authority on the ship takes the form of a family-owned business.  A merchant ship with an all-clone crew (High Concept).
  • The Need is what The Authority wants, and what it would do without the PCs to stop it - The Authority's need is to put an end to runaways and youthful rebellion. They think the solution is to modify their clone line by creating a collective telepathic consciousness for the crew. They have started making experiments toward this end with A special batch of clones, which are hidden away in a sealed deck in the depths of the ship.

Deck of Fridays 4: Grounded!

Welcome back to DECK OF FRIDAYS, our weekly feature here at FATE SF. We make a draw from the Deck of Fate, RPG Inspiration Cards, or another Aspect-generative randomizer. Then we do something interesting with it, using the Aspect as inspiration for a campaign or scenario seed, a situation, scene, location, NPC, thingie, etc.

This week's draw from the Deck of Fate is a card with the Aspect: Grounded. We're using that Aspect for today's post, which includes the Grounded! Table, below.

There will be a related scenario seed later in the day!

Grounded! Table

There's got to be a reason why your ship is grounded. Here's 11 of them, Starblazer Adventures, stylee!

Roll 1d6-1d6.

RESULTS:
  • -5: "What a revolting development!" A tractor beam has pulled you down planetside. This was supposed to be an uninhabited world - what gives?
  • -4: It was a crash; you're all just lucky to be alive! 
  • -3: There were "Imperial Entanglements" after all. Surprise, surprise!
  • -2: One of the crew got hurt or killed on shore leave. Too bad it's the pilot, or you'd be out of here already!
  • -1: You're not going anywhere until you find that replacement part. Oh, and find a way to pay for it.
  •  0: They said this port was "duty-free" but they lied. You're ship won't be leaving until you pay up.
  • +1: Smuggling can be lucrative. This deal seemed that way too. But where's the buyer?
  • +2: One or or more of the crew aren't back yet from shore leave. Time to hire on somebody to replace them, or go find them?
  • +3: We told those kids they were grounded! Where the hell did they go?
  • +4: A passenger of high value was kidnapped on shore leave. You know because you just got the ransom note. They're the high net worth person - not the crew - so paying up isn't an option. A rescue mission maybe?
  • +5: You have discovered something of great value planetside. Captain says no one's going anywhere until we figure out how to take it with us! 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Albion Trigger: The Gloriana Project


We're thinking about combining the Camelot Trigger setting from Fate Worlds 2 (interplanetary SF mecha with Arthurian themes) with this:


Maybe we're losing it. But we think Early Modern Europe has a great deal to offer. It's much more intelligible to us moderns than medieval Europe is, as Silvia Federici has shown us with Caliban and the Witch.

In Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene we have Tudor state ideology, Arthurian mythos, a touch of the Italian renaissance epics, and so much more coming together in a heady mix. Add in Camelot Trigger's mecha and modify its SFnal storyline, and I believe we'd have a very interesting alternative Camelot Trigger setting indeed.

All we have is a name so far, so please feel free to drop setting and story ideas in the Comments.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Tzitzimine Star Demons


Our friend +Juan Ochoa  made this beautiful illustration for one of the Aztec-inspired minions I submitted as part of Gorgonmilk's forthcoming Petty Gods Expanded project. Today is the 300th post at FATE SF, and we are providing a Fate conversion for the creature to celebrate the milestone!

The Tzitzimine, more popularly known as the Star Demons, are spider-like servitors of Chaotic celestial deities such as Chicxulub, the Goddess of Decaying Orbits.*  Also known as the Enemies of Radiance, one of the Tzitzimine sleeps within every star and planet in the heavens. During events such as solar eclipses, meteor showers, and rare planetary conjunctions, the Tzitzimine awaken and come forth to consume light. There is a sickening lurch in the sky, as stars and constellations twist and swirl into sudden motion. During eclipses, the Tzitzimine swarm around the darkened sun in a feeding frenzy.

Chaotic celestial deities such as Chicxulub are all too willing to bargain with astrologer-sorcerers and priests to awaken the Tzitzimine within a star or other celestial object. Chicxulub will then nudge the Star Demon onto a downward trajectory toward the summoner’s preferred destination for the summoning. The Star Demons are usually summoned for their services as an assassin.

When awakened by a summoner, a Star Demon will turn its attention toward the nighttime lights of the terrestrial world it sees spinning beneath the stars. It descends to earth on web-threads, making its way toward the beckoning lights of the city or temple below.

Summoners must prepare properly for the Tzitzimine’s arrival, because they are also known as The Greedy Assassins. The patterns must be drawn properly to draw those who journey beyond. The correct incenses must be burned. The words of invocation and invitation must be pronounced properly and recited with the ease of deep familiarity in order to draw the Tzitzimine closer.

There must be attractive items with which to attract the Star Demons. They relish the opportunity to steal Eyes, wands, scrolls, and magic weapons from their intended victims, as well as from careless or unwitting summoners who have not taken the proper protective measures in preparation for their arrival. The Greedy Assassins are particularly fond of superscience devices and possess an intuitive understanding of all of the Indistinguishables.

Tzitzimine are extremely difficult to spot during their descent from the stars. Their carapace is the darkest obsidian black, and the only tell-tale sign that a Tzitzimine is about to arrive is the faint trace of a silvery spider thread in the night sky. Star Demons vary tremendously in size, from the size of a bison to the size of a great dragon. Indeed their apparent size can shift tremendously during the summoning itself, which frequently startles and confuses its summoner.

There is great danger in this.

Those who would control – or more realistically guide – the actions of a Tzitzimine need to stay within two zones of the creature at all times. The Star Demon will establish a mind link with its summoner which functions like the ESP spell (range of three zones, duration 12 turns, not blocked by stone or walls). It will continue to carry out its agreed upon mission as long as the summoner stays within range of it.

It goes without saying that there must also be a significant light source near the locus of summoning such as a bonfire, fireworks, alchemist’s powders, or the bright lights of a great palace or temple. This blaze gives the Tzitzimine the ample light it requires to fuel its Bite the Sun power. Once so-powered, the Star Demon will be able to stalk, blind, and overcome a target. The victim will see and hear little more than the flash of a death-dealing Eye, and the quick flurry of blades preceding their death.

The Tzitzimine can climb large buildings and rain down terror from above. The best defense against the Star Demons is to trap it in an environment where it can't climb away. Teamwork and a diversity of tactics are essential. Pikes or ranged weapons can be used to reach the headbody of the creature. Weapons such as maces and warhammers are a good option against its pincer legs, because forceful blows can crack the exoskeleton. Fair warning: the smoke-sap that gushes out of its wounds has toxic and hallucinogenic effects.

*For more on Chicxulub, see the forthcoming Petty Gods Expanded from Gorgonmilk.

OGL MECHANICS


The Tzitzimine 
Spider-like Star Demons 

SPECIAL: The Tzitzimine is a Very Large Monster. It's Headbody takes up one Zone. It's Legs take up another. Each Zone uses the same Approaches, but has its own Stunts, Refresh, and Stress Boxes. Each Zone gets its own Attack each turn.

ASPECTS:
  • High Concept: Huge spider demons from the stars
  • Trouble: Greedy for Magic Things
  • Aspect: It can climb anything...as long as it's BIG!
  • Aspect: Summon them with care
  • Aspect: Assassins tiptoeing on numerous blades
APPROACHES
  • Careful: +1
  • Clever: +2
  • Flashy: +3
  • Forceful: +1
  • Quick: +2
  • Sneaky: +1
***

HEADBODY ZONE: The Tzitzimine's headbody ordinarily occupies a Zone immediately above its legs.


STUNTS:
  • Bite the Sun - The Tzitzimine may Create an Advantage by casting a Zone of Absolute Darkness about itself for one scene. The spell encompasses the two Zones comprising the headbody and legs; it moves with the creature. All other beings in the same Zones will not be able to see anything, but the Tzitzimine will continue to see everything as if it were in bright light.* A large heat-producing light source (such as a bonfire) must be exhausted to fuel the spell.
  • Demon of Many Eyes: Take +2 to Flashy Approach when Attacking with technomagical devices, wands, or scrolls.
  • Hellshift - Once per scene, the Tzitzimine can phase through a wall into a chamber large enough to accommodate it. The area must be three zones or more in size. 
  • It's Growing, It's Shifting! - Take +2 to Clever Approach to Create an Advantage by confusing foes about its exact dimensions and location within the Zones it occupies. 
REFRESH: 2 

STRESS: 3 Boxes

***

LEG ZONE: The Tzitzimine's legs ordinarily occupy a Zone immediately below its head.

STUNTS:
  • Cathedral Warrior - The Tzitzimine may scale any large structure, enabling its head to continue reigning down death from above with spells and magical devices. The legs cannot be used to Attack while the Tzitzimine is climbing walls or structures, but may be used to fight on top of roofs and structures if pursued there by opponents. 
  • Obsidian Blade Cloud - Take +2 to Forceful Approach when using 3 or more legs to launch a flurry of blade Attacks against an adversary in the same or an adjacent Zone.
WEAKNESS:
  • Brittle Exoskeleton - The Tzitzimine is fast on its feet, but its exoskeleton is brittle. This weakness may be Compelled by the use of weapons such as maces and warhammers. Cracks in the exoskeleton appear with the Compel. Any further Stress incurred causes toxic and hallucinogenic smoke-sap to gush out explosively from the cracks in its exoskeleton. GMs may use this to create a variety of Compels upon the Star Demon's adversaries.

REFRESH: 3

STRESS: 3 Boxes

*The summoner may continue to see normally if it remains in physical contact with at least one limb of the Star Demon.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

My Chlen-hide Noteboard

Photo copyright 2013 John Everett Till

We purchased a Noteboard this weekend, and thought we'd let the Chlen give it a try. The photo above shows one of Tekumel's Chlen beasts. These great lumbering creatures are six-legged ceratopsian reptiles that are used for land-based transportation on Tekumel. They are slow and poop a lot, which I suppose creates work for street and road cleaning clans who in turn no doubt double as the clans that sell fertilizer to the agricultural clans.

I emphasized the Chlen's carting Aspects up above, but because Tekumel is also metal poor, Chlen hide also plays a critically important role as a raw material for the manufacture of weapons and armor. Specialist clans know how to peel and treat the Chlen's armored hide to make these weapons. The formulae and processes involved are craft secrets of these clans.

***

Noteboard may be the first office supply product specifically marketed to gamers. It's an uber-foldable dry erase laminated whiteboard. You can write on either side. One is side blank, and the other has three different grids: a sq. inch (divided into 16ths of an inch), sq. cm (divided into 10ths), and a hexagon (1").

Unlike many laminated maps (such as Paizo's) Noteboard lies fairly flat.  The fact that it is so highly hinged and sectioned probably helps with that. Unlike many maps, Noteboard also readily remembers how it folds up for storage; which is very convenient and increases its portability. Noteboard, marker, and pouch can easily fit in a pocket.

Noteboard comes with a small dry erase marker, with an eraser on the cap. The marker is a bit shorter than desirable, and the eraser works well, but can be dislodged if you try to clean it (the eraser). Dry erasing with the eraser will leave a residue on the board. I was readily able to remove this with a wet napkin.

My only complaint, which I have also heard from others, is that the material used for pouch actually resists your efforts to slide Noteboard back into the pouch. A pencil pouch would probably accommodate one or more Noteboards and a few extra dry erase markers.

I will probably buy at least one more of these. I'd like to cut one up for use as Aspect cards/Zone cards, as well as for use as a more modular dungeon mapping tool, allowing one to reveal index card sized areas of a dungeon or other terrain feature section by section.

I've seen a few gamers snicker about the product. It looks different from a traditional dry erase game mat. It's flimsy and foldy in all directions, and creaks a bit when you are handling it. I don't use miniatures very often, but I like having a game board that is this compact.

All-in-all, a great portable product.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Recent Field Reports From The Zones


UPDATE: +Mark Craddock has just submitted a monster for 13th Age: the Carcassmen. You can see all the entries here.

Over the weekend, some great posts came in for From the Zones Community Project from a few different contributors! On Friday, +Brett Slocum posted a short fiction piece on a Stalker and Zone in Africa. Then Sunday morning, +Brad Murray published a piece on G+ about a Zone in Calgary, and +trey causey did a great post on weird Zone Phenomena.

More is on the way as well: +Bruce Baugh is planning to contribute something, as is +G Kohls of Gorgonmilk!

And there is still plenty of time to contribute! Here is a brief description of the community project, including a brief summary of the sources that inspired the project, and guidelines about how to contribute. It's really all you need to make something of your own, and get in on the action. That's exactly what Brett Slocum and Brad Murray did with their posts, and I think they both hit the nail on the head.

Brad may have had some kind of lateral cognition going on with his. In contrast to the Zone in the movie Stalker - wet Zone fulled with drips, puddles, streams, and drizzle - the Calgary Zone is dry, dessicated, dessicating place. One of the interesting facts about the movie Stalker is that Tarkovsky's first filming site was dry: it was a desert mining facility deep in Soviet Central Asia. Because of a devastating earthquake in the region the film crew switched to a hydroelectric plant that was abandoned during the Nazi invasion during World War II. So the Calgary Zone is what Stalker might have looked like minus an earthquake!

Here's a table with the content that people have created so far.

So, is there a Zone near you? Do you have ideas for locations, inexplicable alien artifacts, or weird phenomena? We now have content for Fate, as well as more old-school inspired material. It would be great to see more system-free posts, as well as more content for Fate, OSR systems, as well as other games like Unknown Armies and WaRP/Over the Edge.

Please join in the fun!


"From the Zones" and "Zones" images are courtesy of Hereticwerks.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Deck of Fridays 3: The Zone As Character


Welcome back to DECK OF FRIDAYS here at FATE SF, our new weekly feature in which we make a draw from the Deck of Fate, our deck of  RPG Inspiration Cards, or another Aspect-generative randomizer - and then do something interesting with it - using the Aspect as inspiration for a campaign or scenario seed, a situation, scene, location, NPC, thingie, etc.

This week's draw from the Deck of Fate was pulled on Thursday morning, for Bujilli, the weekly experimental literary and gaming serial over at Hereticwerks.

We pulled a card with two useful Aspects: Low Morale and Slippery. We're using them both in today's post. The Aspects tie into our "From the Zones" cross-blog collaboration. Check it out and consider joining it!


The Zones are places where the Visits occurred. Finding new Zones around the globe wasn't difficult. Their pattern of distribution was very predictable. The so-called Pillman Radiant* resembles a series of shots from a gun, with each shot landing at a different-but-predictable point on the surface of a rotating sphere.

But the results of the Visits were anything but predictable. The Zones changed the local environments, twisting and in some cases breaking both the local built environment and local landscape. The effects were sometimes subtle but often quite dramatic. The changes were often quite inexplicable, as were so many of the artifacts and phenomena resulting from the Visits.

One of the things you experience when entering a Zone is the feeling of constantly being watched. The Zones feel alive and self-aware. The often feel like subtle and clever adversaries, slippery, constantly placing traps underfoot and treasures just out of reach.

As a result, the Zones are bad for morale. They are stressful places, both physically and psychologically, as well as ontologically. Stalkers expect people to breakdowns in the Zones. They select their hirelings and companions carefully, and prepare for sudden desertions.

*The Pillman Radiant was based on simple Newtonian physics, but won its discoverer a Nobel Prize.


OGL MECHANICS


The Zones
Otherworldly environments

ASPECTS:
  • High Concept: The Visit happened here - and maybe it's still happening
  • Trouble:  Everyone wants in - until they get here  
  • Aspect: A slippery place filled with subtle traps and inexplicable treasures
  • Aspect: Expect breakdowns and suddent desertions
  • Aspect: No one leaves unchanged
APPROACHES
  • Careful: +2
  • Clever: +1
  • Flashy: +1
  • Forceful: +2
  • Quick: 0
  • Sneaky: +3
STUNTS:
  • Innermost Wish - Once per campaign, if a player reaches a special place in the Zone known as The Room, or the object called the Golden Sphere, the Zone will grant their innermost (subconscious) wish. This often relates to their Trouble aspect, but will always touch on some aspect.
  • Low Morale - The Zone may take a +2 to its Forceful Approach to Attack a PC or group of mooks. This is almost always a psychological attack, and Consequences will manifest accordingly. Mooks which are taken out flee the scene.
  • Ontological Slipperiness - Traps and treasures constantly move around in the Zone. No map is ever completely reliable, and no Stalker's memories of the safe path are ever entirely accurate. Once per scene, a treasure, danger, or both can move to a different place. Also, with the expenditure of 1 FT, one of the Zone's Approaches in any given scene may increase in intensity by +2 for the entire scene.
REFRESH: 3


"From the Zones" and "Zones" images are courtesy of Hereticwerks.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

From The Zones Community Project Table


Project Contributions:
  1. Zone-age Rumors (1d30) by Porky's Expanse!
  2. "Zones" and "From the Zones" logos by Hereticwerks
  3. Things Found In the Zone - List A by FATE SF
  4. The Zone As A Character by FATE SF
  5. Jack Moulsen, Stalker by The Eye of Joyful Sitting Among Friends
  6. The Calgary Zone by +Brad Murray 
  7. Zone Phenomena by From the Sorcerer's Skull
  8. Carcassmen for 13th Age - by CrossPlanes
  9. The Library Holes by +Bruce Baugh
  10. STALKER: IEC Incident 6447 (NO PICNIC) by +Mark Carroll 
  11. Zone Anomalies by Book Scorpion's Lair
  12. Classification scheme for objects found in Zone 6N by Rachel Kronick
  13. Zone Tigers by Dungeon of Signs
  14. Brain Jelly by Carapace King
  15. Galactic Outfitters reverse-engineered alien tech by Exonauts!
  16. Fading Zones: A Nightroadside Picnic by Armchair Gamer
  17. Fading Zones: Husks by Armchair Gamer
  18. Fading Zones: Tech from the Zones by Armchair Gamer 
  19. The Warehouse-Cathedral and The Quiet Zone by FATE SF
  20. From the Zones: Phenomena by The City of Iron
  21. From the Zones...a few things by Hereticwerks
  22. Near Future Wor*Fare by Porky's Expanse!
  23. The Savannah Zone by FATE SF
  24. The Savannah Zone: Street Milk by FATE SF
  25. Cobbled Zones by FATE SF
  26. The Edge of the Zone by FATE SF
  27. Moira Tesla by +Bruce Baugh
  28. The Picnic Basket by +Mark Carroll
  29. Cthonospheric Compass (Exploring Lovecraftian Zones) by Hereticwerks 
  30. Images From An Abandoned Camera by Hereticwerks 




Project Resources: 

Feel free to leave links to your own project contributions in the comments below here, or in the comments of the original Project Description and Guidelines Post.

"From the Zones" and "Zones" images are courtesy of Hereticwerks.

This is a non-commercial fan project inspired by the book Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky and the movie Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

From The Zones - A Community Project!



FATE SF invites you to participate in a cross-blog community project about the Zones, starting now! 

Let's start with a little background.  

The Visit ended almost as soon as it began. Aliens landed in several places. They departed without any communication or cultural exchange with us.  They left behind a ruined landscape. One littered with wrecked buildings, alien waste byproducts, inexplicable technologies, lesser extraterrestrial life forms, and various otherworldly traps, dangers, and strange phenomena.

The military moved into the Zones quickly, trying to conquer and dominate them. This was folly. Most of the soldiers never returned. Plagues broke out in the towns near the Zone. Many residents cleared out. Of course, many also stayed behind.

The paramilitaries and police erected cordon sanitaires around the Zones. The Institute was established to study what remained after the Visit. They hired some of the locals who stayed behind as Stalkers, holy fools who risked death to help scientists enter the Zones and recover artifacts left behind by the Visit. A black market for recovered artifacts began to grow in the towns outside the Zones. Various governments, corporations, and wealthy individuals put together their own covert shopping lists. 

Some Stalkers began moonlighting, offering their services to the highest bidder, and leading freelance missions into the Zones in search of artifacts. The job is dangerous; most Stalkers live short lives.  

***
For more than a decade, Andrei Tarkovsky's SF film Stalker has been a major influence on RPG campaigns I have played-in and run. In October, I had the chance to see Stalker on the big screen for the first time. This led me to read the fresh, uncensored translation of Arkady and Boris Strugatsky's novel Roadside Picnic, about the aftermath of an inexplicable encounter with aliens. It was the book which inspired the movie. About the same time I was getting ready to publish my first post on Stalker, Porky was getting ready to publish a review of the film. We saw this as a sign that the time might be right for a community fan project about Stalker and Roadside Picnic.

***

FROM THE ZONES is a cross-blog project about the Zones. Here are the details:
  1. Write something about the Zones for the system of your choice. Describe a specific Zone, or an artifact, or a location within the Zone, a strange threat or phenomenon found in the Zone, a Zone scenario, a table of encounters, a Stalker character class, or something else.
  2. This project is cross-system. Write for a system you love. I'll be writing for Fate Core/FAE, but you may want to write for a different system, such as Labyrinth Lord/Mutant Future, X-plorers, Diaspora, Stars Without Numbers, WaRP, Open D6, or something else. System-neutral is also fine!
  3. Post your content to your own blog. You own whatever you write and post to your own blog.
  4. If you don't have a blog you can write a document in Google docs (aka Google Drive) OR publish your content as a public G+ post.
  5. Download one of the From the Zones or Zones logos from Hereticwerks right hereuse it in your blog post or Google doc! The art is courtesy of Hereticwerks and you may use it on your blog for non-commercial purposes related to this project. Please credit Hereticwerks and provide a link back to the site. You can use the credit example at the end of this post as a guide.
  6. Leave a comment in the comments section of this post (see below) with a link to your blog post, Google doc, or public G+ post
  7. We will create a table with all the links and a brief/title description of each item here at FATE SF.
  8. STILL NOT SURE WHAT A ZONE IS? Check out this link
The table itself is now live at FATE SF! This will be an ongoing project, so share a link to your blog post or Google doc whenever it is ready.

This is a non-commercial fan project inspired by the book Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky and by the movie Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky.



"From the Zones" and "Zones" images are courtesy of Hereticwerks.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Roadside Picnic

Penguin's 1979 edition of "Roadside Picnic"

This cover looks like something we'd see in the Starblazer Adventures comic or RPG, no?

It is perhaps the most bizarre cover done for Arkady and Boris Strugatsky's classic SF novel Roadside Picnic, but it got two things right. Stalkers in the novel do wear suits when they enter the Zone on the Institute's official research business. The suits are called specsuits. I think this poor fellow forgot his gloves. Or he just took them off to inspect the device he just found.

Let's hope that's not a mistake.

The second thing the cover got right is that the landscape inside the Zone has altered from what it once was. Inside the Zone there are a variety of environmental hazards - graviconcentrates, hell slime, and silver cobwebs to name just a few - that have resulted in both the natural environment and the ruins of the built environment inside the Zone becoming otherworldly and dangerous.

That's why it's fenced off.

So what is the Zone?  We know it resulted from an alien Visit. But let's have the Strugatsky Brothers explain it in their own worlds. They do that through a conversation in which the Visit is described as an event which is prosaic for the aliens, but nearly unintelligible for the humans. What's left behind as the Zone are like the leavings from a "roadside picnic":

"A picnic. Imagine a forest, a country road, a meadow. A car pulls off the road into the meadow and unloads young men, bottles, picnic baskets, girls, transistor radios, cameras...A fire is lit, tents are pitched, music is played. And in the morning they leave. The animals, birds, and insects that were watching the whole night in horror crawl out of their shelters. And what do they see? An oil spill, a gasoline puddle, old spark plugs and oil filters strewn about...Scattered rags, burnt-out bulbs, someone has dropped a monkey wrench. The wheels have tracked mud from some godforsaken swamp... and, of course, there are the remains of the campfire, apple cores, candy wrappers, tins, bottles, someone's handkerchief, someone's penknife, old ragged newspapers, coins, wilted flowers from another meadow..."

"I get it" said Noonan. "A roadside picnic."

"Exactly. A picnic by the side of some space road. And you ask me whether they'll come back."  

Monday, November 4, 2013

Of Omega Men And Living Legends


The movie The Omega Man (1971) was one of my all time favorite movies as a kid. It stuck with me for a number of reasons. As an only child, I could certainly appreciate the devil-may-care attitude of the main character, played by Charlton Heston. He wasn't bothered by solitude; he seemed to thrive on it. He had a nice apartment with cool manikins, a really neat SMG, and a sportscar. Plenty of monsters to kill. Who needs companions, with all those spiffy toys? They take the edge off a lonely apocalypse...


Of course, The Omega Man is a less-than-faithful adaptation of Richard Matheson's vampire SF novel I Am Legend. An earlier film The Last Man on Earth (starring Vincent Price) was a lot closer to the novel. The protagonist of I Am Legend isn't Charlton Heston's Nietzschean superman-survivor from The Omega Man.

In I Am Legend, Matheson's still-human viewpoint character Robert Nelville is military veteran: the last veteran, in fact. But he's hardly a combat monster or superman. He's the last little bit of the military-industrial complex, as a friend pointed out yesterday. The last bit of a dying social order.

Neville's home isn't cool; it's a sad place, more or less constantly subjected to vandalism. The windows constantly need re-boarding with fresh planks because the house is besieged every night by vampires living and dead. In fact, as my friend also observed, Romero's whole house-under-siege by shambling zombies motif in Night of the Living Dead owes more than a little to the shambling dead vampires of I Am Legend.

Now, I always liked the vampires in The Omega Man. They were kind of scary. Robed vampire-cultists hiding in dim communes in all the abandoned buildings of downtown Los Angeles. They were also cool. The vampire cult leader Matthias (perhaps a play on "Matheson"?) was intelligent, menacing, and charismatic; a long-haired icon of the undead counterculture with great shades. (Later in life I got to meet the actor Anthony Zerbe who played Matthias - a nice guy!) With their spotchy pale faces and dark hooded clothes, they also resembled the mutants who lived underground in the ruined human cities of the Planet of the Apes series.

Matthias on the left, played by Anthony Zerbe

The Omega Man's vampires were the figure of race rebellion, 60s counterculture, and insurgency against The Man:


There's a lot to work with here. And perhaps it's not an accident that a year later Charlton Heston's political career began its decisive turn to the right. He supported Nixon's reelection. Another decade, and a self-financed right wing PAC later, the former civil rights advocate of the 60s would be just another of Reagan's ex-liberal camp followers. By the time of Heston's interview with Michael Moore in Bowling for Columbine, and now suffering from Alzheimer's, he fell readily into the trap created by his own ideology, blaming America's pervasive gun problems on our country's racial diversity.

In the end he had become Neville. The last of his kind, out of touch with the present times, and irrelevant to the future.

A sad end for the man who kissed Zira in the 1968 Planet of the Apes.

Nelville's undoing at least opened up some positive possibilities: a new society of living vampires, for which he would be a living legend, a Dracula-in-reverse. We can't say that any good came out of Heston's decline and fall. As Marx pointed out in the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, history repeats itself: "the first time as tragedy, then as farce."

***

But on to the vampires of I Am Legend!  The novel is best known for being the first full-length treatment of vampirism as a disease caused by bacterial infection. People become infected with vampirism through infection of open wounds by bacterial spores. Once these spores germinate, the patient experiences a period of lassitude. Many of the infected die, to rise again as quasi-intelligent, shambolic "dead" vampires.

A minority of the infected never truly die. Instead, the bacteria and the body enter into a new symbiosis in which the vampire retains its full intelligence and vigor. These so-called "living" vampires are revealed by the novel's end to be developing into a new (post)human society. In fact, they begin an aggressive campaign to clear the cities of the dead vampires.

Both forms of vampire require blood for sustenance. Both are also resistant to bullets, but readily killed by staking or other weapons that create open wounds penetrating more deeply than 1" into the flesh. Both kinds of vampire avoid sunlight, because it kills dead vampires and harms living ones. Both kinds avoid garlic, and many if not most are afraid of crosses.

The avoidances are revealed to be a psychological vulnerability or category mistake of sorts on the part of newly risen vampires. They see that they are now obviously "undead": they crave blood, have fangs, and are vulnerable to sunlight. So they become vampires through a kind of auto-interpellation. As a result of this psychological operation, vampires instinctively fear the trappings of the vampire hunter - such as crosses and garlic - and develop a kind of psychological blindness to their own reflection in mirrors.

Poor things.

OGL MECHANICS


Living Vampires
Intelligent human-bacterial symbiotes

ASPECTS:
  • High Concept: Living vampires thanks to a bacterial infection
  • Trouble: Stakes kill us
  • Aspect: We crave blood
  • Aspect: We have the same feelings you do
  • Aspect: We're building a society of our own
APPROACHES
  • Careful: +2
  • Clever: +3
  • Flashy: 0
  • Forceful: +1
  • Quick: +1
  • Sneaky: +2
STUNTS:
  • I'm A Survivor Just Like You: Take a +2 to Clever Approach to persuade someone that you are not a vampire - you're just another human being.
  • Molecular Glue: Bullets cannot harm living vampires because they have a subcutaneous layer of glue that acts like living kevlar.*
  • Walk Among You: With a little make-up to block the sun's rays, living vampires may walk outside during daylight unharmed.    
REFRESH: 3

*Piercing weapons that can keep a wound open (arrows, crossbow bolts, swords, pikes) deal normal stress.


Dead Vampire Mooks
  • +2 at: Grabbing and biting; Vandalism
  • -2 at: Running; Thoughtful action
  • Aspect: Shambling, snarling, dead vampires
  • Stress: 6-12 (12-24 dead vampires; 2 per stress box)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Fate System Toolkit And Worlds


The Fate System Toolkit and the two volumes of Fate Worlds have arrived in the Land of 10,000 Monsters. Here in the heart of South Minneapolis, in fact.

With the arrival of these three volumes, we now have African American or at least potentially characters of African descent as cover stars on the five essential Fate books: a young martial artist on the cover of FAE, a working class hero fireman on the cover of Fate Worlds Vol. I, and SF-flavored heroes (female and male) on the cover of FST and FW2.

I remember Dante on the cover of Mage back in the day. He was a revelation for the hobby: a truly non-stereotypical African American representation on the cover of an RPG. It's nice to see the range of roles continuing to expand.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Deck Of Fridays 2: Well-Read


Welcome back to DECK OF FRIDAYS here at FATE SF, our new weekly feature in which we make a draw from the Deck of Fate, our deck of  RPG Inspiration Cards, or another Aspect-generative randomizer - and then do something interesting with it - using the Aspect as inspiration for a campaign or scenario seed, a situation, scene, location, NPC, thingie, etc.

This week's draw from the Deck of Fate was pulled on Thursday morning, for Bujilli, the weekly experimental literary and gaming serial over at Hereticwerks.

I liked the card so much, I am also using it as the subject of this week's DOF post.

So here we go, with a scene Aspect!


Well-Read

A robot (or alien, or replicant/fabricant) sits far underground reading. It's surrounded by stacks of books. Piles of them, arranged haphazardly, great Jenga towers of made of words.

That's right, books.

Not the CodeXs stored on data crystals overlaid with the psychic imprint of their authors: crystals strung onto necklaces and rosaries, worn by those who wished to create an impression of intelligence and sagacity, and of the devotion of the well-read.

These books are the real thing. Books made of paper, ink, glue and cloth. A few with leather and fur. Others with feather and bone. They come in all shapes and sizes, all colors and smells. More than a few are first editions with signatures. Many have color plates and blossoming monochromatic stains and molds.

Adjacent to this room there are dozens of others, each filled floor-to-ceiling with more books.

It's gotten waylaid, this robot.  It was built for Pest Control far below the city. After all, it had been programmed as an entomologist before it was repurposed (as the barbarians are wont to say these days) for its current assignment.

(In fact, the robot is quite conversant in both the glyphic and song-forms of Glissendo, the insectile conlang cobbled together millions of years ago by numerous arthopod species living around the Core. It relishes the opportunity to read the numerous glyphic Bug Texts squirrelled away in the stacks. Books you can read, taste, smell.)

The robot retains a bug hunter's fascination with structure, complexity, and variation. It finds the books interesting, especially with all their varied languages, fonts, and material forms. The robot's masters have forgotten all about the robot. No one is tracking its current progress against a production schedule.  (Or , more accurately, against a timetable for the books' destruction.)

This old rubbish was supposed to have been gotten rid of hundreds of years ago. The incinerator is still there, glowing in anticipation. But the robot can't quite force itself to feed the furnace yet.

It is committing each book to memory first.

Book-by-book, day-by-day, the robot sits and reads. Being well-read is its own reward the robot tells itself. Who knows: maybe one of these days, one of the so-called "delvers" who walk past the robot will want a few of these books.

There are many kinds of treasure.

This vignette is inspired by four sentences in Cordwainer Smith's novel Norstrillia. And Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, of course.