Friday, February 21, 2014

Weird Adventures: The Anagrammatist, Part One - The Setup

Our next Con of the North game was a four hour session of Trey Causey's wonderful Weird Adventures game setting. Fans of Spirit of the Century and Strange Tales of the Century should really get to know Trey's setting. You'll find a lot of synergies there! Plus a model for a modern urban Undercity/Underworld. Do yourself a favor and check it out!

The City of Weird Adventures is a D&D-ified pulp analogue of New York City. You have neighborhoods whose names have what Wittgenstein called a "family resemblance" to Manhattan neighborhoods, and a lot of historical references to the old Gotham.

Weird Adventures also has a TON of occult and supernatural Easter Eggs built into it.  You can build a scenario or even a campaign with almost any page in his book, a big chunk of which reads like a traveler's guide book to The City. We took that one step further for this game: we generated about eight characters in advance for people to play. Each one was the result of a random roll to assign the character a neighborhood in The City, and each character consequently had a Neighborhood Aspect.

I used Fate Freeport Companion as the engine for the scenario for three reasons:
  • Characters are built using D&D's six attributes as their Skills, instead of FAE's more abstract and admittedly flexible Approaches. Since The City is a D&D-ified pulp setting, it made sense to me to play-on gamers' 40 years of experience and intuition about the meaning of Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma. It helps ground who their characters are, and how they can interact with the world. The D&D-based Skills have a weight and meaning far beyond the 3D6 bell curve.  
  • Fate Freeport has both Physical and Mental Stress Tracks, and Sanity rules, all of which were pertinent to the kind of story I wanted to tell.
  • The Companion has rules for discrete D&D-style spells, which I really like. Anybody who has visited FATE SF over the last couple of months has probably seen the Galactic Grimoire, our growing SFnal spell corpus, which is based on the spell creation model used in Fate Freeport. 

Here's a sample character from the pregens. The character is a Taxman, one of the city's tax collection specialists.

Name: Lucre

Neighborhood: Welleran Heights (i.e., Washington Heights*) is your home. You used to be a Taxman. Now you work at the Union Nuismatic Society in that neighborhood.

  • High Concept: A retired Taxman who still loves money
  • Problem: You need to gamble
  • Neighborhood Aspect: Sticky-Fingered Collections Curator, Union Nuismatic Society 
  • Aspect: Friends (and Enemies) in the Financial District
  • Aspect: Invested heavily in the Fate Exchange**

SKILLS: Str +1, Dex 0, Con +1, Int +3, Wis +2, Cha +2

  • Wooden Nickel - You kept your Taxman's Wooden Nickel which Detects Lies. Roll your Wisdom +2 vs. Target's Charisma to Detect a Lie.
  • Wooden Quarter - You kept your Taxman's Wooden Quarter which quivers in the presence of gold or valuable gems and jewelry. 
  • Forensic Reading Glasses - Roll Wisdom +2 when wearing your Forensic Reading Glasses to create an advantage by uncovering a carefully concealed clue.
  • Physical: 3 boxes
  • Mental: 3 boxes

Special: You may invoke the Eikone of Management. The Eikones are supernatural personifications of the way the universe works. Most represent aspects of human life and culture.

*Washington Heights was the first place I ever visited or stayed in New York City, back in the early 80s. I remember the small museum district that Trey is alluding to here.

**The Fate Exchange is like the Stock Exchange (which also exists in The City). The Fate Exhange is all about the incremental manipulation of  future possibilities.


The characters that the players chose to run were:
  • Vernon Asta, a wealthy socialite of Empire Park East, who of course has a permanent residence in the Borgove-Astra  Hotel 
  • Alex Gold, the Bronze Titan of Science, who has his own laboratory apartments on a few floors of the Imperial Building in the Circus District
  • Doctor Haint, a Black American stage magician with real powers of illusion, who lives in Solace (The City's equivalent of Harlem)
  • The Gasworks Monster, a living coal-fired chemical accident, whose skin is forever smoldering; he lives in The Gasworks, a stinking industrial area on the Middle East Side, along the Wyrd River
  • Camilla, a diminutive China Doll Martial Artist from fey Aldwood (i.e., sinister Inwood aka Spuyten Duyvil), a part of the city where a Broad Boulevard musical adaptation of F. Marsh Loam's "The Magical Monarch of Mu" came to life (and lives on). We might add that the player who ran Camilla did a super creepy, creepy job roleplaying the character! Seriously!
Each of the players was on The City's Master Contract (something which I added to the setting, based on my real world experience with county government). They are specialists whose skills go well beyond the limited powers and portfolios of The City's Taxmen, and of the Municipal Department of Animal and Pest Control, better known as the Exterminators (the monster hunters on The City's payroll).  People on the Master Contract are paid well, and have relative indemnity if they create collateral damage - as long as they pursue The City's interests.

Each person on the Master Contract has a token: a specific way that The City summons them when it needs them. For Vernon Astra, it is a limousine service that appears at the Borogove-Astra Hotel. The stage magician, Doctor Haint, knows he is being called when all of his the cards suddenly come up Jokers. For Alex Gold, the Bronze Titan of Science, it's simple: he gets a transmission on one of the special frequencies on his wrist radio.

So much for the set-up! Next time we'll talk about the scenario itself!


  1. I love these characters, I mean everything you've done with the setting I think is great, but this setup and these characters: awesome.

    1. That's high praise coming from the author, Trey! All I can say is you built a framework that is easy to work with and add onto.

  2. I had a great time with Camilla, and the setting was very intriguing. Thanks for running it, John!

    1. it was a real pleasure to run! And very nice meeting "Doctor Haint" and you!