Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Dawning Star For FATE Core

A total of 802 pages of great SF 

+Lee Hammock has started posting design  notes for a FATE Core reimagining of his Dawning Star SF RPG setting. I'm really excited to see this happening, as Dawning Star, published by Blue Devil Games, was one of the high points in independent creative design during the d20 boom.

(Blue Devil Games' Passages is another gem of streamlined d20 Victoriana. Fans of our sister blog, The Everwayan, are encouraged to check out that multiversal gate-based RPG. )

Dawning Star has serious space opera appeal with simply great art and a clean graphic design, thanks to the art direction of Danilo Moretti.

I am sure the new iteration using FATE Core will be just as spectacular.

A post on the overall project is here.

That is followed by a post on Dawning Star species for FATE Core.

The Bootleggers' Bible

The Nash Quad, the first all-wheel drive vehicle
This past weekend was JonCon '13 in the Twin Cities. I ran a FATE Accelerated Edition version of Kerberos Club there (more on that later this week), and I was also fortunate enough to play in +B Cook's FATE Core prohibition-era game inspired by the CrimeWorld supplement for FATE Core.

Bob's game, "The Bootleggers' Bible", has a terrific write-up over at Rachel Kronick's Blade & Crown Blog. Check it out!

The Bootleggers' Bible was a really great scenario - one which I found it particularly enjoyable because I am a big fan of Boardwalk Empire. It is nice seeing how versatile FATE Core is. This one felt very focused, immersive, and real-world to me, like the best of the Jazz Age Call of Cthulhu scenarios.

Hopefully these kind of examples put to rest the idea that all FATE Core games have to be gonzo genre mashups. That's of course fun, but it is not required for fun with FATE Core.

That being said, the ease with which the game handled the Jazz Age suggests that FATE Core would also work very well for more occult/supernaturally inspired settings with a bit of the pulp gonzo, like +trey causey's fine Weird Adventures setting which is also featured on his blog, From the Sorcerer's Skull. Yeah, I admit I'm itching to try that out.

Monday, April 29, 2013


Image by Alvimann

After several years of playing FATE, I finally had a player decide to take a Concession during a combat. It happened in my FAE Kerberos Club game this weekend; the context was a devastating charge by a Triceratops. This doesn't happen every day in my games, but it was fun to see.

Preorder for Nova Praxis Hardcover

The preorder for the Nova Praxis hardcover is up now on the Void Star Studios website.

If you are looking for a transhuman SF RPG that uses the FATE engine, Nova Praxis has it! If you are wondering what the game is all about, you can check out the Void Star Studios page on the game here. I also did a series of posts and reviews of the game back in the Fall. The link to the reviews and a sample character (built using the earlier draft rules, which of course evolved) can be found here.

But a lot has changed since my reviews. Over the last few months, designer Mike McConnell has been hard at work to ensure that the game will work for YOU, especially if you are a fan of FATE Core. Not only does the final version of Nova Praxis have a custom-built implementation of the FATE engine - created for transhuman SF gaming - but Mike has also built reverse compatibility into Nova Praxis, so that it can easily be used with FATE Core.

So get in on the preorder if you think you'll want the hardcover!

And you don't need to wait for the release of the hardcover to start reading and playing the game. The Nova Praxis Augmented PDF is already available for purchase. It's simply the best PDF in my game collection. Nova Praxis Accelerated is a truly state-of-the art, highly navigable design that is optimized for tablets and for apps like Goodreader - one of the few PDF products that I could actually use to run a game at the table.

Congratulations to Mike McConnell for producing such an excellent game, and for running an exemplary Kickstarter!

We're looking forward to running the game at some events this summer! Stay tuned for details.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Hermione Grantham, The Black Cat Kerberan

This is an example of a Kerberos Club character created using the FAE quick chargen rules described in this post.

Hermione Grantham
The Black Cat Kerberan

  • High Concept: High Society Predator
  • Trouble: Never met a jewel I didn't want to steal
  • Class Aspect: Too much money for her own good
  • Aspect: The Cloak of Bast
  • Aspect: Pursued by the cultists of Anubis
  • Careful: +2
  • Clever: +3
  • Flashy: +2
  • Forceful: +1
  • Quick: +3
  • Sneaky: +4
  • Stealthy Prowler: When she wears The Cloak of Bast Hermione rolls 3DF + 1D6 on her Sneaky Approach.
  • Climb Like a Cat: Hermione can quickly climb sheer walls with the speed and ease of a cat. (High Society Predator Aspect), rolling 3D4 + 1D6 for her Quick Approach.

Using FAE To Run Kerberos Club

"Pierrot and Cat" by Aubrey Beardsley

Based on the scenario I recently ran at JonCon '13, what follows is a revised set of guidelines for playing Kerberos Club using FATE Accelerated Edition. The framework described here reduces the extremely crunchy power customization methodology used in Kerberos Club (FATE Edition), with a higher-trust, lighter rules framework more in the spirit of FAE.


Aspects: One for High Concept, one for Trouble, one related to Social Class, and two others.

Approaches: Players select one +1, two +2, two +3, and one +4.

Stunts: Powers are taken in the place of Stunts, but Stunts may also be used if the players and GM prefer to include them.

Base Refresh: 3

Powers combine aspects of Approaches and Stunts, and are similar to Extras in FATE Core.

The following are guidelines for building Powers:
  • Kerberans have one or more Powers; each power is linked to a specific Approach. For example, a Clairvoyance power would probably be linked to the Careful Approach, and Weird Inventor to the Clever Approach. 
  • Each Power must be tied to a specific, relevant Aspect. For example, the Clairvoyance Approach Power might be linked to the Aspect All-Seeing Eye of Ra. This Aspect might represent a powerful artifact or relic that is the source of the Approach Power.
  • Powers are designed free-form, just as Stunts normally are.Examples include:
A Power called "Clairvoyance" gives a PC the ability to remotely view objects for a number of zones equal to the effort rolled. In contrast, a power called "Firestarter" does stress damage equal to the effort rolled, minus any defensive effort rolled by an opponent.
  • The first Power is free. 
  • Each additional Power after the first free one costs a point of Refresh.  
  • A Power may be broadened to include a second Approach at the cost of an additional point of Refresh. If you have a Power with two Approaches, you may describe two possible actions, roll for each Approach, and take the better roll and its corresponding action as the result.
  • Each character must have at least 1 Refresh available at the end of character generation
  • To use a Power, a player rolls 3DF + 1D6 + Approach Rating.
  • Using a Power counts as a PC's full action.  
  • Players may spend 1 Fate Point substitute an additional 1D6 in place of another 1DF in their roll for ONE ACTION. This would make the roll to use the Power: 2DF +2D6 + Approach Rating.
  • Players may spend 1 Fate Point to add an Additional Approach to the power's portfolio for ONE SCENE.

Kerberos Club Character Creation - Strange FATE VS. FAE

Kerberos Club art
We'll be running Kerberos Club (FATE Edition) this weekend at Jon Con 13 in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. 

Tonight, I'll testing out the out-of-the box chargen rules for Kerberos Club (FATE Edition). I'll post an update this evening about how that's going.

Based on the experience, we will either run our con game this weekend using KC rules as is, or modify or emulate them using FATE Accelerated Edition.

I also have some very neat card based Aspect (and possibly power) generation rules I'll be trying at the con.

More to come this evening.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Architects: Silent Builders Of Refuge

Paolo Soleri's Asteromo

The Architects, or Silent Builders, should not be confused with The Engineers; they have nothing in common with those blundering celestial giants. Far from being engineers of bio-terror and death, The Architects are builders of refuges and sanctuaries for those whose lives have been endangered by others. Their species is at least 250 million years old, if one judges by the Silent Builders' artifacts: the great arcologies they reveal to those fleeing war, genocide, and persecution. Because of their antiquity, and the active role they play in preserving the weakest among the younger races, The Silent Builders are properly understood as a Forerunner-class species with a Preserver ethos.

The Empire first discovered the work of The Architects immediately after the legendary Anti-Annexation Campaign in which the Joyful Brigade laid waste to the numerous hive worlds of The Assembled Totality. Journeying far past the dead worlds of the Totality, the Imperial Dreadnought Brief Exposure and its seven escorts discovered something interesting - an impregnable orbital arcology of extremely advanced design - in a resource-rich but supposedly uninhabited system of the Dying Swan Cluster.

The Cluster's systems had long been mapped by the far-ranging agents of the RUR. As the Imperial vessels began new sensor sweeps of the system, they were suddenly displaced a hundred light years' distance coreward, their drives damaged beyond repair. The next mission the Empire sent to that system  was diplomatic; it negotiated a successful non-aggression and trade pact with the Enclosed Totality, the refugee state that controlled the orbital.

A dozen arcologies are known to have been built by The Architects within the Imperial Extents. They exist peacefully within the Empire as independent states; most are extremely ancient habitations which long preceded the Empire's rise.

Three of these arcologies are space habitats; the remainder are arcologies built on planets or moons. Ten of the Silent Builders' arcologies are home to refugee populations from one or more worlds; two house refugees from the Empire's own Wars of Expansion. Another of the dozen hosts no refugees; it is located in thhe poorly defended Interstitial Region of the Empire and has been taken over by pirates. The twelfth, known as The Unheralded Habitation, is a black hexahedral arcology that has been uninhabited for centuries. It is regarded with superstitious dread by the hillfolk who inhabit the distant mountain villages overlooking the great structure on the Plains.

Soleri's Hexahedron (pop. 170,000)

Hundreds of the Silent Builders' arcologies are known to exist beyond the Empire. The largest number that have been mapped exist in a halo of systems surrounding the RUR Workers-State. From the RUR, a "tail" of arcologies extends further coreward from RURspace towards the galactic center. New arcologies continue to be discovered near current zones of galactic conflict. The Silent Builders place these refuges just far enough away from epicenters of conflict to ensure that opposing parties of belligerents do not discover them.

Refugees from current and recent wars rarely discuss how they found these sanctuaries. But the historical records of long-established refuges contain vague yet tantalizing hints. The Architects' constructs are almost never discovered; they are almost always revealed in a previously uninhabited or disused star system. The Record Halls of these ancient arcologies often contain references to a "Herald" who appeared to their war-torn ancestors and led them to safety.

Where these arcologies actually come from, and where and how they are built, continue to be mysteries.   One day a system is entirely barren, empty of built structures and habitations; the next day a city-building is already there in-system, ready and waiting.  For this reason, if no others, many seek out the Silent Builders to learn and master their techniques.


The Architects, a galactic organization

  • High Concept: Builders of refuge-arcologies 
  • Trouble: Long-sought by the curious 
  • Aspect: Drawn to places of great conflict
  • Aspect: The weak must be saved
  • Aspect: From among the weak we find our Heralds
  • Careful: +3
  • Clever: +4
  • Flashy: +1
  • Forceful: +2
  • Quick: +2
  • Sneaky: +3
  • Sudden Revelation - Once per scenario, the Silent Builders may reveal one of their refuge-arcologies in previously uninhabited system. This puts a new location into the game.
  • A Herald Shall Lead Them - Once per scenario, the Silent Builders may uplift as their Herald someone from a species that is threatened with extinction. The Herald's body will be suffused nanomachines that render it nearly invulnerable, and their mind will know the words and the way to bring their people to a hidden refuge. After leading their people to safety, they will simply fade from sight and memory, joining the Silent Builders in their Greater Refuge.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Remembering Paolo Soleri, Rochester, And My Dad

Soleri's design for Babel IID,
with Empire State Building for scale

First some general background; then, a personal story.

Thanks to Porky's recent blog post, I learned that on April 9, 2013, Paolo Soleri passed away at the age of 93. He was the inventor of the term arcology, a term which combines architecture and ecology. A city that is a single
building. A city-building that creates its own environment.

Fans of Gibson's cyberpunk novels, and of the Shadowrun RPG, are very familiar with this term. It is usually used for the SFnal city-buildings of proximate cyberfutures. All too often, such environments appear in stories as the nexus-enclaves of extremely exploitative corporations and their employees.

This wasn't Soleri's vision at all.

Vision for Arcosanti, Arcosanti, AZ

His idea of arcology wasn't to isolate groups of humans from each other in separate city-buildings or even Metropolis-like city-tiers, reproducing on a whole new level the ever-increasing racial and social stratification of capitalist society.


Instead, Soleri's arcology pointed toward another way for humans to live in harmony with the non-built environment: build cities that don't spread horizontally to consume and destroy nature. Live in harmony with it. Make it easier to leave the city and experience nature.

Bridge it. Blend with it. Build under it. Think and feel it.


As someone influenced by Teilhard de Chardin, Soleri believed that changing the built environment in this way would change human awareness, consciousness, and behavior.

Arcosanti civic space, Arcosanti, AZ

It is a vision of the future that we still need. That's why his Guardian obituary begins:
"If you are truly concerned about the problems of pollution, waste, energy depletion, land, water, air and biological conservation, poverty, segregation, intolerance, population containment, fear and disillusionment," reads the sign at the entrance to Arcosanti, "join us." Beyond the placard lies the proposed solution to this list of ills: an otherworldly landscape of concrete domes and soaring vaults rising out of the Arizona desert, like a cross between an ancient Mayan ruin complex and the Star Wars cities of Tatooine. This is the experimental eco-town of Arcosanti, the lifetime's work of the visionary Italian-born architect Paolo Soleri, who has died aged 93.

So now to the personal.  I grew up in Rochester, New York. That city is best known for Kodak, but when I was a kid Rochester had an entire cluster of world-leading industries dealing with the image. When I was 15, my Dad took me to Soleri's exhibition "Two Suns Arcology, A Concept for Future Cities/Cities Energized by the Sun" which opened at Xerox Square in Rochester. The exhibition space was filled with scale models and drawings of Soleri's arcologies, including the one that is under construction: Arcosanti in Arizona. It had a profound affect on my sense of what is possible in the world, of what dreams can be given form.

It is one of the most important memories of doing something with my Dad.

Arcosanti 5000 Master Plan

Monday, April 15, 2013

Babylonian Encounters: The Sanctuary Of Enever

"Hello Babylon 5" by Egri

Timeframe: Season One and After

Location: GREEN SECTOR, Deck 2, Segment 7 (one unit Forward from Na'Toth's  quarters)

Name:  The Sanctuary of Enever


There is no Minbari temple in The Garden's Religious and Cultural Centre on Bablyon 5, but deep within the station is a sacred place to which only Minbari of the Worker Caste have unrestricted access: The Sanctuary of Enever. The Minbari known as Enever was the first of his race on the Station. In fact, he was here before construction was even begun, as Enever was a space-architect of the Worker Caste.

His duty to his Caste and to the Grey Council was to contribute funds on the behalf of the Minbari Federation to support the construction of Babylon 5, as well as to contribute the Minbari hand and eye to the construction of a space station that was both functional and beautiful. He succeeded, but at a great personal price.

Enever was already dying when he arrived at Epsilon III. He came with a crew of 50 Minbari architects and engineers of the Worker Caste. Enever told no one of his illness until he was very near the end. He suffered in silence. Enever endured the great pain through meditation and prayer. He worked night and day to devise plans that were pleasing to both Minbari and human eyes, and acceptable to EarthGov. Enever and his fellow Minbari workers designed the hull exterior "to reflect the light of errant and missing souls", an expression they explained to their confused human counterparts as an allusion to the tragedy and loss experienced by both sides in the Earth-Minbari War.

The architect's body was found shortly before the official opening ceremonies for the new station. His Worker Caste colleagues brought him home immediately for final ceremonies. But they left something of Enever behind, in the diplomatic aide's quarters he had used during his time on the station. These quarters became The Sanctuary of Enever, a meditation space within the deck reserved for Babylon 5's most important ambassadors and their aides.

Only a member of the Worker's Caste can open the door to this sanctuary. In the center of the room is a small dais on which a lavender crystal stands on a pedestal. When the door to the room is closed, the crystal glows to life. A holographic model of the Babylon 5 station is then projected within the room. Once can use hand gestures to expand the model to zoom in on particular areas and features.

Curiously enough, the model somehow stays up-to-date with the station's current configuration (including its complement of fighters, defensive systems, ships and shuttles docked in the Zero-G Docking Bay, and other internal features). In fact, the map is more accurate than the station's official maps, which are imprecise for certain areas of the ship. How the holographic model is updated is uncertain, as the walls of the sanctuary are unusually well-shielded against all manners of eavesdropping and electronic surveillance.

Once every year on the anniversary of the station's official opening, a member of the Worker Caste arrives from Minbar to conduct a special ritual of remembrance for Enever. At other times, members of the Worker Caste come here to meditate and pray. The Worker Caste say: "In this place, the eye, the hand, and the mind are in harmony; the soul is united".

The sanctuary's door will open for any member of the Worker Caste but only for members of that caste. Station personnel have not been able to break the code that controls access to the room.

  • One rumor about the sanctuary is that the hologram has another setting: it can also project an ever-outward spiraling network of jumpgates and star systems, with Babylon 5 at its center. Many of these are unknown to Earthforce and IPX, both of whom would like access to the sanctuary in order to map them.
  • Ambassador Kosh has been witnessed entering and leaving the sanctuary without Minbari escort. The Minbari refuse to comment about this. Commander Sheridan once asked Ambassador Kosh: "What do you do in there?" Kosh replied: "Silence makes the mind sing."*
  • Anyone with psi-skills who passes by the sanctuary will sense the presence of a powerful mind at work within the room - even when no one is inside. If they venture within the sanctuary, they will be drawn to the lavender holographic crystal on the dais. It is psychically active.
  • Immediately below the sanctuary is a 7' x 3' x 3' cavity that is surrounded by very advanced machinery. Scans reveal the outline of a body within the chamber... one with a Minbari skeleton.


  • High Concept AspectA living tribute to Enever
  • Trouble Aspect: Many wish to enter 
  • Only the Worker Caste has the key
  • One hologram hides another
  • A favorite haunt of Ambassador Kosh

*Thanks to +Jeremy Whalen for letting me use this fine Koshism.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Babylonian Encounters: Bartoli's Breads & Bakery

Timeframe: Season One and After

Location: Two locations: one in Blue Sector, Central Corridor, Segment 10 (just opposite the entryway from Customs), one in Red Sector, Deck 28, Segment 8 (just aft of the Lower Zocalo).

Name:  Bartoli's Breads


Infamous with station personnel for baking and serving "the worst bread in the universe", Bartoli's Breads & Bakery's kiosk in the Central Corridor is a quick stop for pastries, sandwiches, and coffee for new arrivals on the station. Bartolli's also has a full bakery and restaurant in Red Sector for shoppers willing to take a few small steps off the Lower Zocalo. You will always find a Centauri or two buying pastries there.

Both locations are indeed very popular with the station's alien residents. Bartoli's markets itself as offering "real human treats, just like the first Bartoli's Bakery back on Earth." This slogan has led to jokes about "Bartoli's pastries being people." While most humans think the pastries aren't very good, the aliens don't seem to mind, and the price point is high enough to make up for the lack of repeat human customers. Business is so good in fact, that Bartoli's near-Zocalo location is a sit down restaurant. Some of the canned sandwich meats are actually quasi-fresh.

Owner Luciano Bartoli is meticulous about paying his bills on time, unlike many station vendors, and he has leveraged this reputation for punctuality and reliability into a side business in catering. Bartoli's provides pastries and sandwiches for many station conferences, with the exception of those held in the Babylon Hilton. The delivery business means that Bartoli's personnel have the run of many areas of the station, including a number of very secure areas. You can find them making deliveries almost everywhere it's safe to go.


  • Station authorities have received anonymous complaints from humans about the food at Bartoli's: specifically, that the fillings in some of the pastries contain Centauri spoo. Regulations require the authorities to mount a food inspection since some humans have food allergies to this popular food (and we use the term loosely). 
  • Bartoli's delivery staff have recently been observed several times bringing new packages back from a delivery location. Sometimes the packages are brought all the way back to the bakery, while at other times, the packages get delivered to a third location. These deliveries often involve Centauri customers, but also sometimes Security personnel. Station authorities want it investigated...discretely.
  • A group of Narn toughs has on several recent occasions roughed up Centauri patrons at the Bartoli's location near the Zocalo. Luciano Bartoli has had enough. He decides to hire some muscle (and brains) of his own to figure out who these ruffians are, and teach them a lesson. 


  • High Concept: A favorite stop for aliens and new arrivals
  • Trouble: The worst bread in the universe
  • We pay our bills on time
  • Fresh canned coffee and meats
  • The run of the station

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Babylonian Encounters: Maxwell Flint

We're resuming our long-promised sub-series about the people and places of the Babylon 5 station. This sub-series uses Diaspora RPG as its systemic reference, but will use FATE Core/FAE's High Concept and Trouble Aspects to help define the most important Aspects of a person or place.

We begin with a station resident who is a veteran of the Earth-Minbari War.

Timeframe: Season One and After

Location: RED SECTOR, Deck 30, Segment 6, in the block of cheap housing adjacent to the lift. There is a mixed retail area nearby, as well as Alien Sector lodgings and Alien Bazaar space (see Mongoose's Guide to the Station, p. 54 for the deck map).

Name:  Lt. Maxwell Flint, Earthforce, ret.

Jerome Flynn as Maxwell Flint


Maxwell Flint is a veteran of the Earth-Minbari war. After serving on several Earthforce vessels as a communications and intelligence analyst both during and after the war, he mustered out and used his Earthforce connections to secure a construction job as part of the workforce building Bablyon Station.

He helped build-out the station's communications networks, and currently works on an on-call basis to assist with repairs to the station's communications systems and interstellar tachyon communications network. He can also be hired out for repairs on private ships' communications systems.

Max, as his friends call him, undoubtedly knows numerous back doors into the station's communication systems and the local hub for the jumpgate's tachyon communications network. His apartment on the station is filled with vintage military communications equipment, much of which is directly connected to the station's communications secure hub.

Station staff haven't discovered this intrusion yet.

But a careful review of the station's communications logs would reveal many brief and almost untraceable communications ... some occurring within the station itself, some being station-to-ship transfers, and others being data transfers piggybacking onto Earthforce's own transmissions through the tachyon network.

A careful search of  Flint's quarters will also reveal numerous hidden and highly encrypted data crystals... way too many for a communications repairman. His quarters are also better shielded against EM noise than most; and the shielding goes in both directions.

Like many veterans, Maxwell Flint resents the Minbari, He will stay clear of most aliens, with the exception of the Narn. He has done many favors for them, they pay well, and he appreciates their straightforward manners.

  • Earthforce has engaged Flint as an asset in running a counterespionage operation against the Narn. Through Flint, Earthforce is feeding the Narn false intelligence in order to see how they respond to different political and military scenarios.
  • Flint is deeply in debt to loan sharks in the Downbelow. To recover his funds and pay off his debts, he has been snooping-in on Earthforce military intelligence signals (such as Earthforce fleet locations and intelligence such as Centauri diplomatic chatter) and selling that information to the Narn. 
  • Flint is a comms repairman who often picks up privileged information from his private customers (typically small merchant and diplomatic vessels). He uses this information to tip off allies on Babylon 5 about potentially lucrative trade deals.
  • On who knows? behalf Flint has been installing transponder software on a number of private ships he services. The software transmits a location ping using a ship's tachyon transponder just before a jump into or out of hyperspace. This allows a ship's location to be tracked inter-systemically.


  • High Concept AspectMustered out, but always on call
  • Trouble AspectNarn-friendly xenophobe
  • Communications and cryptography expert
  • Veteran of the Earth-Minbari War
  • Been on the Station since the beginning
Apex Skill: Communications (space)

Stunt: Military Grade Communications 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Napoleon Ants

Worker Ant image by Mariana Ruiz
Image made available by Creative Commons license
available through the link above.

The Napoleon Ants are an ancient species of translucent-bodied ants whose probable origins are in the times before the Great Burn. The Holy Book mentions "small-bodied but mindful saints whose voices were raised in the unison of constant prayerful labor. They restored life to a dying world." The sacred text may be referring to this species of hearty toilers.

Napoleon Ants have a high resistance to chemical, radiological, and biological toxins. Their resiliency is matched by their determination to isolate and cave-in structures where these dangers accumulate. Napoleon Ants turn over contaminated soil, and have the ability to break down stone, concrete, metals, and plastics. They break down and sequester many dangerous materials. They are also quite invasive and expansionist, but are generally not hostile to humans. Their activities are more likely to intrude upon concrete and worked stone than to destroy crops and food supplies.

Like all ants, these little Napoleons function as a collective. They operate purposefully and in a coordinated fashion. Napoleon Ants can collapse large structures within a few hours when the collective determines it is necessary. They know how to identify and exploit the weak points in both natural and built environments.

Their ghostlike appearance is rather disconcerting. And when humans are near one of their colonies (which can reach into the millions), they often feel they are being watched, assessed, categorized, and processed.

They are.

Napoleon Ants are yet another iteration of the General Intellect in nature. They have a collective consciousness that operates through the a local telepathic field. This field exists whenever two or more ants are in close proximity. While ordinary minds cannot penetrate or communicate with this consciousness, more sensitive minds will feel its presence.This gestalt stores data, and creates and sustains a group memory for the collective. Napoleons visiting from other collectives may upload data to the local collective, or download it to share later with their home collective, allowing information and experiences to be shared over large areas.

Some hive-minds are quite old. It is even possible that some precede the Great Burn itself.

Pray these ancient angry minds have retired to some Elba deep within the earth.


Napoleon Ants
Collective Intellect/Species-Being

  • High Concept: We're all about conquest 
  • Trouble: Creepy little transparent ants
  • Aspect: Collective telepathic consciousness
  • Aspect: Process and isolate
  • Aspect: There's always a way in or out
  • Careful: +2
  • Clever: +3
  • Flashy: 0
  • Forceful: +1
  • Quick: +1
  • Sneaky: +2
  • Find the Weak Point - Because they are skilled at finding the weak points in structures, Napoleon Ants gets a +2 to Cleverly create an advantage by further weakening a structure.
  • Long Memories - Because their collective consciousness persists over multiple generations, once per session a Napoleon Ant colony can remember something from the distant past.

Note: The collective consciousness of the Napoleon Ants exists so long as at least two ants are in the same Zone. It normally radiates outward no more than three Zones from the population center of the collective, although cases of chained clusters of consciousnesses existing over large areas exist.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Silent Teacher

Illustration by Rachel Kronick

Alwyn Campaign player Rachel Kronick was kind enough to sketch the medallion that was recovered from the Short-Faced Bear in our first game session. The medallion is now worn by Big Al, Fort Snelling's Hardest Working Hustler.

The Silent Teacher is about the size of a human hand. The face of this octagonal medallion has a mouth with a protuding tongue; the mouth shaped as if it were forming words. The medallion is made from a heavy black metal  and is attached to a bulky - and even heavier - metal chain of the same material.

The specific metal from which the medallion and chain are made is unknown, as is whatever may be inside the medallion. The object has decorative roundels, but there are no traces of casting lines on the it. There are no markings on the back of the object or anywhere else on it that suggest or reveal its origins, but it is likely that the device was created before the Great Burn..

The Silent Teacher establishes a telepathic link with its wearer, allowing the wearer to understand any language being spoken by a living being in their presence. The user of the medallion will also be able to converse in these languages with other living beings.

However, the medallion does NOT give its user the ability to read and write another language, and does NOT facilitate understanding of communications delivered by the devices mentioned above.

Similarly, no true learning of languages occurs as a result of using the device. The translation effect ends as soon as the wearer moves three zones away from anyone speaking the language.


Ancient Device
  • It has a mouth that helps you speak
  • Yes, there's a tongue on this medallion
  • Something from before the Great Burn
Mechanics: Once per scene, this telepathic medallion allows wearer to understand and converse in languages that it has not previously learned or mastered.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Napoleon Ant Intelligence Briefing I

Spider Napoleon:
A close relative of the Napoleon Ants?

In the last session of the Alwyn Campaign [campaign background and session logs here], the players asked their new Napoleon Ant allies for an intelligence report on the Wabasha Street Caves and for the area around their new colony.

It will take the new Napoleon Ant colony near the Fort a bit of time to burrow through the dirt and rocks and get the lay of the land in their new environs.

However, the colony was quick to share some deep intelligence on the Wabasha Street Caves.

The ants' intelligence report is as follows:
  • Corrupted animals vary from Earth-normal template - they must be deleted
  • Many strange eggs deeper inside - they must be deleted, and WE cannot do it alone
  • A giant egg we cannot smell - this is a puzzle to US
  • WE are processing whether to reformat the tunnels - plans are being devised

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Lamprey Centipedes, Napoleon Ants, And Bear Cubs (Oh My!)

A lot, and I mean a L-O-T, happened in our post-apocalyptic Babylon 5 Alywn Campaign's second session tonight!  The players decided to return to the Wabasha Street Caves in Lowertown, St. Paul. Their goal was to explore the caves further and recover more booze from the Booze Cavern near the Bear's Den inside the cave complex.

The PCs this session were Larissa, Big Al, Francis (a human who was raised by bears after his village was destroyed by cannibal Iowans), and Henry (the character that I created last session), who was run by Big Al's player.

The mode of travel was once again a large raft (about 15' x 15'). This time, the mid-October weather (as determined by a RPG Inspiration Card draw) was not snow but a thunderstorm. The latter is much less typical here in October than a snowstorm. A second RPG Inspiration Card draw determined that the PCs were being observed as they rafted down the river. Unfortunately, their Create Advantage roles using the Careful Approach (basically a skill) to notice being noticed were pretty miserable. Finally, Big Al's player made an Overcome Obstacle roll to see if he had improved (from relative neophyte) in poling a raft. He was definitely poling better.

So a few session Aspects:
  • Thunderstorm in October
  • Watched while unawares
  • Better poling
The PCs arrived in Lowertown, beached their raft, and approached the double door entrance to the caves. The padlock that they had picked and liberated last session had not been replaced. Instead, the door handles were roped shut; Big Al made short order of those.

When they entered the cave, the three bound and badly mauled corpses fron last session were missing. They listened carefully, and decided to explore in the direction of some skittering sounds they heard. The air was foul (thanks to a check on Hereticwerks' Cave and Tunnel Hazards I table), but Francis (the closest thing to a Druid we could ask for) used a series of animal calls and some pemmican to attract the creature.

This backfired. The creature was a giant Lamprey Centipede with a round tooth-filled maw, and clashing pincers on either side of the mouth dripping with goo (grue?). Larissa made short work of the Lamprey Centipede, however, with a well placed arrow, and Francis bug-crushed it. Icky innards - similar to the material that was inside the Short-Faced Bear from last session, splattered everywhere.

The foul taint in the air got a lot worse.

In the guts, they found some human rib bones, and a human finger wearing a gold ring with some kind of circuit-jewel on it.

The PCs decided to backstep a bit, and went back to the branch of the cave system leading to the Bear Cave and the Booze Cave. Another roll on the Cave and Tunnel Hazards table brought an encounter with some very industrious translucent ants. The walls in one area of the caverns had become porous and crumbly from the activity of these ants, who are rock-tunnelers. This was all new activity since the previous week's adventure. These ants work fast!

Big Al used his telepathic medallion, The Silent Teacher, to communicate with the ants. These ants were intentionally weakening and "reformatting" the structure of the caves. They had a collective consciousness and were quite determined to EXPAND their territory.

Their Aspects as determined in play were:
  • Creepy ants
  • They tunnel through stone
  • Expect some cave-ins
  • All about conquest
  • Time to get out of this small ant village and... expand
We decided to call them Napoleon Ants.

Big Al negotiated with them. In exchange for future favors (i.e., for more information about the caverns, and for information about their discoveries around future ant-habitations) the PCs would resettle a group of ants and their eggs somewhere outside the cave complex. He had them climb inside an empty bottle of booze for the ride back. (Did I mention that these adventurers drink and smoke on the job?)

With that matter settled, the PCs went further in. They sneaked back up to the Bear Cave, and found three scared Short-Faced Bear cubs within the cavern. Francis offered pemmican to the bear cubs and gradually won them over. They were scared, and missing their mother (who the PCs had killed the previous session). The cubs noticed that Big Al was wearing The Silent Teacher (which had previously hung around the cubs' bear-mother's neck). This creeped the cubs out a bit, but they followed Francis and the rest of the party from that point onwards.

The PCs returned to the Booze Cave, and recovered two more crates of fine liquor. They loaded up the barge and headed back with the three baby bears. There was a brief encounter with a group of brigand archers called the Red Valentines. The Valentines wanted to barter for goods, but they have a bad reputation for fighting and robbing rather than trading.

"Sounds like a shitty Valentine," Big Al said. "Not sure I want that one."

The PCs took a pass on the trade opportunity and kept moving along the river.

Francis found the three bear cubs an adoptive bear-parent in the woods.

Once they returned to Fort Snelling, Big Al's player spent a Fate Point and looked up (made up on the spot) a contact, Ambrose, who is a dealer in ancient items from before the Great Burn. The player pulled an RPG Inspiration Card for quirks/characteristics of Ambrose, and drew a card that indicated that as a quirk the character coughs frequently. We decided this meant that Ambrose had a nervous cough as an Aspect. We also identified that Ambrose likes to show off what he knows about antiquities. He gushes with information.

Ambrose identified the booze that the PCs recovered as Brivari, an ancient alien vintage from before the Great Burn. Larissa also asked him to look at the ring she had recovered. Ambrose offered to buy it; Larissa declined. Ambrose indicated that it was probably a key or controller ring for an ancient facility, vehicle, or machine.

This piqued the PCs curiosity.

Then there was the matter of the Napoleon Ants. By mutual agreement, the ants were released at some distance from the Fort, with the understanding that they would not tunnel into it. They were satisfied with that arrangement, and shared information about what else they knew about the Wabasha Street Caves (which will be shared in an upcoming post).

Before session close, the players debriefed about where they want their players to go next week. It was agreed that the PC would begin exploration of the John M. Ford Minneapolis-St. Paul Interstellar Starport, which is quite close to Fort Snelling. Their first objective will be to investigate a perimeter checkpoint or parking garage on the periphery of the long-abandoned starport.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Short-Faced Bear

Yesterday, I created a FATE Bestiary page to put all the creatures and aliens I have created in one place for the reader;s convenience. The FATE Bestiary is near the top of the blog; it's the center link right under the FATE SF masthead.

Arctodus, the Short-Faced Bear

Today we are sharing a monster that recently made its appearance in the Alwyn Campaign. The Short-Faced Bear, or Arctodus, was a prehistoric North American bear of the Pleistocene. According to Wikipedia, the Arctodus species are considered to have been larger than any existing species of bear.

Below you will see how I statted the  bear up using FATE Accelerated Edition.

Keep in mind that this version of the creature is quite... special.


Short-Faced Bear

  • High Concept: On all fours, I'm taller than any of you
  • Trouble: Constant hunger
  • Aspect: A demon once stirred
  • Aspect: I don't belong in this time
  • Aspect: Smarter than I should be
  • Careful: +3
  • Clever: +2
  • Flashy: +2
  • Forceful: +4
  • Quick: +3
  • Sneaky: +1
  • The Silent Teacher - Once per scene, this telepathic medallion allows wearer to understand and converse in languages that it has not previously learned or mastered.


Monday, April 1, 2013

Showdown In The Wabasha Caves!


This is the session report on our first adventure using FATE Accelerated Edition with the episodic sandbox Alwyn Campaign setting.  The campaign model is based on the West Marches campaign structure. The setting is the post-apocalyptic future Earth of the Babylon 5 universe's far future. The campaign has a medieval feel, even though it is set in the future. All posts related to the campaign are archived here.

The prior week, when we designed our campaign parameters and began creating characters, the players decided that they wanted their first adventure to be to the Wabasha Street Caves, which are located in present day Lowertown, St. Paul. They wanted to go there to search for ancient booze that they could bring back and sell in Fort Town (the safe base area for the campaign, a fortified town on the location of the historic Fort Snelling).

They found some. After they fought and killed a supposedly prehistoric Short-Faced Bear. There have been changes in the landscape since the Great Burn!

The session started with the players finishing their characters. I created my blacksmith character while the three players finished theirs. The PCs were:
  • Derek, High Concept: Outcast Merchant, Trouble: Drunkard. Other Aspects include: Knows the cost of everything, value of nothing; "Million Pockets"; and Skankeroon.
  • Big AlHigh ConceptFort Snelling's Hardest Working HustlerTroubleIt always costs a favor. Other Aspects include: Pillar of the (criminal) community; and Nothing worth having is behind an open door.
  • LarissaHigh ConceptIntrepid HunterTroubleCurious, other Aspects include: At home in the wildEagle-eyed; and Iron Stomach.
I used a D12 to determine the month of the year for the campaign start, and RPG Inspiration Cards to determine a number of variables such as the weather (the PCs rafted down the river under snow squalls), whether the PCs were being observed as the rafted down the Mississippi River toward Lowertown St. Paul, and other conditions and circumstances. The card below was drawn for the environs of Lowertown, which was eerily devoid of most plant and animal life. (Later, when the PCs returned to Ft. Snelling, they felt sick for a while.)

RPG Inspiration Card

The PCs pulled their raft up on the shore and walked toward the Wabasha Street Caves. They saw two open cave entrances, as well as a set of large metal doors secured with a huge iron padlock. They approached the doors. The padlock was picked and pocketed in short order, and the PCs went in to explore.

The PCs discovered three badly dismembered corpses right inside the newly unlocked cavern doors. The victims' hands had been bound behind their backs, but this was no simple execution. The bodies were badly mauled.

The PCs cautiously explored a bit. For the session I used two - that's right only two - of the geomorphic dungeon tiles from Hereticwerks' wonderful dungeon Revised Geomorph Series One.

Hereticwerks' Geomorphs Series 1, Set 0

The PCs soon discovered that the two open cavelike entrances had been trapped. They explored in different directions and then entered some twisty tunnels where the eventually picked up the scent of an animal. They came upon a sleeping Short-Faced Bear. It was a furious battle, with Larissa using bow and arrow, while my blacksmith (being run by Big Al's character) and Big Al himself engaged the short faced bear up close. Derek hung back, distracting the bear in various ways using Create Advantage skill.

The Short-Faced Bear had the disadvantage that the PCs were able to start their attack while it was still sleeping. It nevertheless took a while for the PCs to take it out. The bear somewhat disconcerted the PCs because during the battle, they saw its lips move as if using words. It wore a medallion with the image of an open mouth, which hung from its neck by a great chain. Both the medallion and the chain were made of some ancient material.

The PCs skinned the bear readily; they were happy to recover the bear skin, but very surprised when foul alien guts began spilling out from the bear's body cavity. You get the picture:


The PCs took the bear skin, chain, and medallion home with them after the battle. Elsewhere in the caves, the PCs also found a crate of ancient spirits to sell back at Fort Snelling. The bottles of what looked like wine had a strange peacock symbol on the label.

The players thought the session went pretty well. Everyone had something to do in the combat, and FATE Accelerated Edition (which we call FAE) worked really well. One player commented that "this is the first time we have used just about ALL the rules in a FATE game, instead of just a few."

Our next session is this Wednesday.