Monday, April 28, 2014

Legions Of The Imperial Sovereign III

"Spindle" Legion standard by Juan Ochoa

Today at FATE SF, we are continuing our series of posts detailing the Legions of the Empire. Legions XXIV-XXIX are collectively known as the Other Suns. Each of these in whole or in part includes alien species.


Legio XXIV Cohorts of the Shaking Earth: Heavy mobile infantry recruited from the Codex worlds. Legion is divided into cohorts with totemic aspects - Eagle, Jaguar, Tapir, Feathered Serpent, and Coyote - as well as the Jade Nose Plug and Smoking Mirror cohorts. Human members are often highly modified to resemble their cohort's animal totems. Phenotypically concordant aliens are also welcomed into these cohorts. Jade Nose Plug is composed exclusively of aliens with exotic atmosphere requirements. Smoking Mirror cohort is mixed-species cohort. Its members - often spectral or otherwise disturbingly alien - were recruited through the Smoking Mirror Engine gate network, and are accompanied in combat by warrior-priests of Tezcatlipoca. The XXIV has a distinguished record of service on high gravity, high radiation, poisonous atmosphere, and seismically unstable worlds, but it is deployed on many other types of planets as well.

Legio XXV Matriarch Nargri's Kin: Saurian pan-species legion skilled in the use of both ancient and contemporary weapons, although the cohorts stationed on Kanjobal are with out peer in the use of blackpowder weapons. The XXV is an all-genders unit but is always led by a female general from one of the Empire's multitude of saurian species.

Legio XXVI Iridescent Vibration: Formerly an independent military Order, Legio XXVI protects the worlds inside and outside the Empire that were settled by the ancient Glissendo-speaking insect species that fled the Core regions in antiquity. The XXVI's headquarters, hatcheries, and training grounds are located within a fleet of ancient space arks still fleeing the Core at relativistic speeds. A range of combat modalities; excellent fighter pilots.

Legio XXVII The Coronal Band: A host of energy beings sworn to protect the Imperial Sovereign from all manner of immaterial enemies; ancient enemies of the Tzitzimine Star Demons. The Legion's home is the corona of Altair, the Star of the Eagle King. The XXVII are always in the company of their General, known as The Prince With No Shadow: the undying 27th Imperial Sovereign.

Legio XXVIII Rabbit Banner: Light mobile infantry designed for scouting and fast strike operations. Jungle and mountain combat specialists. Recruited from the same Codex worlds as the XXIV. On less extreme planets, the XXVIII often serve in combined actions with the Cohorts of the Shaking Earth. Although primarily human, the XXVII recently opened its ranks to avian Glissendo-speaking insect species.

Legio XXIX Jade Collar: Largely ceremonial today, this Legion garrisons Old Earth. Its officers and half of its ranks are filled out by the descendants of the original Comet Barbarians who smashed the Star League. The other half of its ranks is filled out by alien species who suffered under the Star League's yoke. After its conquest, Earth was divided up among these species for settlement and spoliation. Today the XXIX often accompanies archaeological expeditions exploring the human ruins on Old Earth.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Deck of Fridays 18: Are You Kidding Me

Welcome back to DECK OF FRIDAYS, our weekly feature here at FATE SF. We make a draw from the Deck of FateRPG 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: Are You Kidding Me, a card with a -2 value. Perhaps a situation with an unexpectedly bad outcome.

In this case, something is wrong with your starship. Really wrong.

Starship Mishaps Table

Roll 4DF and consult the corresponding result below.
  • -4: The stardrive ejected - too bad you're still in hyperspace
  • -3: The stardrive imploded - welcome to your own personal singularity
  • -2: Out of phase - that's right, your ship is partly here, and partly, well, elsethere. Pick the alien dimension of your choice.
  • -1: Misjump, misjump, misjump - there's one happening about every 33 minutes
  •  0: Radiation leaks. Water leaks. Atmosphere leaks. Take your pick. It may be more than one
  • +1: No shields, no deflectors, no sensors
  • +2: KACHANG! - Crashlanding below decks. Or crashlaunch. Take your pick, and choose a location such as a fighter bay, shuttle bay, or drone retrieval system.
  • +3: Thunk-thunk-thunk. Did all the escape pods just launch?
  • +4: Your ship's computer didn't have an attitude before, but it sure does now. And it just tried to kill someone

First Taste of Mindjammer

The Anubian Ambassador contemplates the Commonality

A special package stamped 'Royal Mail' arrived just in time for lunch on board the Connibulous, the mobile embassy dreadnought of the Anubian Ambassador. A servant brought the package to the Ambassador's personal quarters, but of course was immediately tasked with attending to the Ambassador's culinary demands.

After dining, the Little Lady (as her most intimate associates are fond of referring to her) emerged from her spacious Dining Floor and went to the Sun Deck of her mobile embassy for contemplation. She enjoyed for a time the rays of the legendary class G star Sol Invictus, before retiring to her Ambassadorial Salon (reputed to be as sumptuously appointed as Captain Nemo's on the Nautilus) to read the daily mail.

There it was: the latest dispatch from the Commonality. No doubt the packaging - assembled in a Makepoint ensconced deep within the bowels of the Connibulous - was a joke on the part of Conniption Fitte, her ship's own Eidolon, the guiding intelligence which maintained and piloted her vessel.  Old Fitte has always harbored a deep hatred of monarchies of all kinds, the anarchist. 'Royal Mail' indeed!

Her servants brought her the contents of the package. Like most ambassadors, the Anubian Ambassador was leery of opening her own mail. But the sniffer servant said the item was safe to inspect. So she did.

The Anubian Ambassador licked the book. Yes, a real book. If it had not surely been manufactured by her own ship's Makepoint, the book might have been some precious print work from the dawn of the Information Age. (A few hundred thousand of these ancient texts still await incineration by a lazy robot attendant in the labyrinthine complexes deep below Earthport.)

She licked the cover, expecting the taste of "chips", perhaps, or "poop" - two ancient Earth delicacies. Instead, the Little Lady was immediately immersed deep within the sensuous material reality of the Commonality. It was a little like drift; especially when she established contact with the Chembu. The book was full of stars.

A touch of the Cordwainer's hand, in fact. Mysteries like space dragons. Glorious towers like Earthport. And shameful suffering deep below: so many of her kindred, oppressed as Underpeople.

Yet there was hope. The imaginative expanse of Stapledon. Species ever-evolving, a spiral outward in time. Force used for good. An end to scarcity.

And there were other legacies too. The sweep of Glorantha, but without the gods. A touch of storied Jakalla's spicy cuisine. Worlds without end.

Thursday, April 24, 2014


Andrei Tarkovsky's "Stalker"

You're old. Cold. Tired. Beat up. Bedraggled. Out of booze. 

That's bad in Russia, and worse in the Zone.

Hexcrawl. Dungeon crawl. Zone crawl.

Is there a difference?

Maybe not. But at least you made it this far.

Right to the threshold, right to the edge of the Room.

There's only one thing left to do.

But can you do it?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Phone Home?

Scientist calls the lab (in Andrei Tarkovsky's "Stalker")

What do you do when you find an operating phone in the midst of a long-abandoned dungeon? You're on the threshold of the final room on the final level. This is the kind of dungeon that has a destination.

Do you pick the phone up when it rings? Do you phone the people back in the lab? The ones who didn't believe in you? The ones who thought you'd never make it, that you didn't know what you were talking about in the first place?

The ones who ratted you out to the authorities.

When the phone's just there ringing at the threshold, it's strange to pick it up and answer. It's probably just as weird to phone home and brag that you were right after all.

But maybe understandable.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Vengeance Of The Patient

They can be awakened. 



Once stirred their aim is true. 

They are the ultimate weapon in the slowest of wars. 

The oldest of the old call them

"The Vengeance of the Patient."

Monday, April 21, 2014

Atomic Robo Is A Go!

The entire planet probably knows this by now, but the Atomic Robo RPG Print & PDF preorder just went live on the Evil Hat webstore. About two minutes ago.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Deck Of Fridays 17: Didn't See You Coming

Welcome back to DECK OF FRIDAYS, our weekly feature here at FATE SF. We make a draw from the Deck of FateRPG 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: Didn't See You Coming Point, a card with a +1 value. So, an element of surprise or distraction creates mildly favorable circumstances for someone who seeks to act first and/or evade detection.

Perhaps the PCs are approaching a checkpoint, roadblock, or security station. Here is a 4DF table of reasons why the person responsible for spotting your approach failed to do so!


Didn't See You Coming, the Table

Roll 4DF and consult the corresponding result below.
  • -4: I am so not high
  • -3: Sooooo sleepy
  • -2: Kinda busy flirting right now
  • -1: Distracted by communications (e.g., texting, VR, comms, phone, etc.)
  •  0: Oh, I'm just too busy noticing everything to have noticed you
  • +1: Wow, that person over there is really attractive
  • +2: You were not the person (droid, alien, etc.) I was looking for
  • +3: Busy with a real emergency
  • +4: You have a sympathizer or secret admirer*
*They really DID see you coming but they are on your side!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Llyddwdd's Grasping Hands

Llyddwdd's Grasping Hands (Evocation/Planar, Cost, Per Session, Permanent, Requires one other Planar spell): This casting is used by temporal scavengers to retrieve items from one or more Golden Ages in the past or future, times of technological marvels. It is also used to seize objets d'art or antiquities from another time, feeding present-time markets for collectibles.

The caster rolls CHA +2; success creates a window of access +/- 500 years from the caster's present time. Each additional shift increases the window by another +/- 500 years.

The caster's hands stretch out, literally spanning a temporal displacement. If the target object has unusual physical properties (i.e., is hot or slippery, has sharp edges, an electrical charge, etc.) the GM may require a DEX roll to make sure the caster has a solid grip on the target.

The caster may then pull an object from another time into the caster's present. An object taken in this way must be inanimate, and something that a single person can grab hold of and carry in one or two hands. The caster can only see across the temporal displacement if they have access to the spell Negobipfel's Temporal Lens. Without access to that spell, the caster must select the object to be acquired by tactile sense alone.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Negobipfel's Temporal Lens

Forest Whitaker in "Ghost Dog"

Negobipfel's Temporal Lens (Divination/Planar, Cost, Per Session, Persistent, Requires Clairvoyance): When casting this spell, one or both of the caster's eyes begin to droop, as if the caster has a lazy eye. The caster's gaze shifts from their "present" location to the same place in distant times past or present.

The caster rolls WIS +2; if successful, the caster can gaze into the past/future for +/- 1,000 years from their present. The caster will see a montage with brief impressions of different times within this continuum. Each additional shift extends this time by another +/- 1,000 years.

If the caster achieves a Succeed with Style, they may also declare that they have targeted a very specific time, +/- 4,000 years of their present time, with great accuracy.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Shield Me, Please

"Faith," available as "The Great Doctor" on Netflix

I've been enjoying the Korean time travel drama "Faith", in which a general, the loyal retainer of Korean prince in the Goryeo period, travels forward in time. His task is to find a doctor who can save the prince's intended, a Yuan dynasty princess who was injured in an assassination attempt. He has to save his bride. Otherwise there will be Mongol trouble, and he will not become king.

The general passes through the time portal that connects a shrine in medieval Korea with a location in contemporary Seoul. He thinks he has arrived in sagely Heaven; he kidnaps the first doctor that he can.

Unfortunately for the general, the woman he kidnaps is an extremely whiney plastic surgeon, not some gifted physican-immortal. But he won't learn that until it's too late. The general fights the local police, grabs one of the fallen cops' plastic riot shields, and heads back through the portal with the shield and his doctor. Adventure ensues in the past. The intrigue of a jealous elder prince, bomb throwing assassins, an evil flute playing bishonen sorcerer, and much, much more lay ahead for our general and his heavenly physician.

The most important shield in Korean history

I love the detail that the general brings the riot shield into the past. It takes a beating. I'm about eight episodes into the series, and the shield is a mess of spiderweb cracks, and there's a fist-sized hole where a chunk of plastic has fallen out entirely. The shield is so Gamma World. But without the apocalypse.

That whole post-apocalyptic thing is starting to get really tired.

We need more of this kind of thing: the past, contaminated by relics of the future.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Jadepunk Playmat Reviews

You got Jadepunk in my Tekumel!

Over the last few days, we published a series of reviews, or, perhaps, practical elaborations, designed to show what you can do with the Jadepunk RPG's playmat:

Ryan M. Danks, one of co-authors of Jadepunk, released his first Jadepunk tutorial video this weekend, which explains how to use the playmat. It's very instructive and helpful.

Ryan told me recently that once I tried the playmat, I'd never go back to running Fate without it; he may be right!

The playmat costs $10 plus $6 shipping and can be purchased from the Reroll Store.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Jupiter and Ganymede

During the Latter Period, some 80% of the Empire's territory was directly incorporated to the R.U.R. Workers-State which lies coreward of the Empire. It happened across vast stretches of the Empire in the course of a six hour period. In less than a day, the majority of the Empire's most densely populated worlds were incorporated into a more advanced machine civilization. A prosperous humanity transcended to a new, effectively post-human state. The R.U.R. bulwark against the Anti-Consciousness lurking in the Core was likewise bolstered immensely by the territories added during the Subsumption.

After the R.U.R. Subsumption, the Empire's rimward expansion accelerated. The Late Expansion was rapid because the Empire kept the entirety of its fleets and Legions, which no longer had such a vast territorial expanse to defend. Imperial Sovereigns resumed the habits of the Empire's first rulers. Like their Comet Barbarian ancestors, they led the expansion from the front, at the head of their fleets. Their efforts were supported by an influx of new ships and R.U.R. legions manufactured in the Subsumption Zones.

All of these developments have caused many to wonder whether the Subsumption was planned from the beginning of the Empire. Was the Subsumption agreed upon thousands of years ago, during the Empire's Early Period? It seems likely. After all, it was the 13th Imperial Sovereign, known as The Cupbearer, who first befriended the Jupiter Brains of the R.U.R. He established the most enduring alliance in the Empire's history.

Upon his abdication, the 13th Imperial Sovereign lived out the remainder of his life in R.U.R. space, in the company of his machine-friend, the Thingmaker-class Intelligence Panjandrum. Almost alone among the Imperial Sovereigns of the Early Period, The Cupbearer chose one of Panjandrum's disused factory wheels as his burial place, rather than the Eagle King's machine world of Altair IV. (The Nexialists claim that Panjandrum's current speech patterns resemble those of The Cupbearer, so perhaps he yet lives on in some form?)

Further evidence that the R.U.R. Subsumption was a long-planned event can be found in the storied history of The Interstitials, the numerous post-human statelets that formed, dissolved, and reformed on the borders of R.U.R. space and the Empire. Such statelets have existed since the time of the 17th Imperial Sovereign as places of innovation and encounter. Many were short-lived experiments, and for this reason are also known as the Firefly States. They were the first places where humans (and aliens) and machines learned to live in harmony, growing together and developing new states and forms. From this living dream, the first seeds of the Subsumption grew.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Pus Geyser

The Underworld is a living place; it is corrupt, fecund, and rhizomatic in structure. The Underworld has many tributaries. That is because Lords of Xibalba are ever-eager to expand their domains. They often gift sorcerers with spells that spread their corrupting influence.

Pus Geyser (Curse/Necromancy, Cost, Per Scene, Permanent, Requires two other Curse/Necromancy spells, Corrupting): This spell creates a small spurting tributary from one of the great rivers of the Underworld. It may be a river of pus, blood, centipedes, scorpions, spinal columns, fingernails or any other of the contaminating flows surging through the heart of Xibalba.

The spell can only be cast below ground. Any tunnel, cave, sewer, or cellar will suffice. The caster must lance an infected wound; the exudate drips to the ground, and charged by the spell opens a small gate to one of the rivers of Xibalba. The ground bubbles, and then spurts.

One zone is corrupted by the first casting. Each successful further casting spreads the riverine infection to another zone. Such follow-up castings require a rotting corpse to feed the river. The discharge from a pus geyser may be temporarily mopped up, dried, or otherwise quenched, but the flow will resume as soon as such activity stops. However some supernatural "plugs" exist; consult the priests of Kukulkan and Ix Chel.  

Zones affected by a pus geyser have the following aspects:
  • River of pus (or blood, centipedes, etc.)
  • Unquenchable geyser
  • Underworld poisons spread disease
Flow creatures may be treated as swarms, as per the Fate Freeport Companion rules.

Visitation Of The House Of Knives

"Trials of the Hero Twins" by Diego Rivera

The House of Knives (center top in the illustration above) is one of the places of torture in the Mayan Underworld of Xibalba.   In this place of testing, intelligent obsidian knives fly in every direction, thirsting for the flesh of all who enter this place where heroes are tested.

Those sorcerers who have earned the favor of the Lords of Xibalba or Lord Tezcatlipoca may learn the spell for summoning one or more of these demonic blades into our world.  But only the most favored and corrupt sorcerers learn the spell Visitation of the House of Knives. This spell brings the deadly House into our realm for a time; it has caused the slaughter of many.

Visitation of the House of Knives (Planar, Cost, Per Scenario, Persistent, Requires Call Knife Point and at least one gate spell, Corrupting): The caster rolls Flashy/CHA +2 to summon the House of Knives. Such castings can only be attempted on a planet during nighttime or an eclipse. If the summoning is successful, part or all of the current Scene is enclosed by stone walls on all sides.

The size of the chamber is determined by the results of the roll. A result of one shift produces quite a small chamber; anything in the same zone as the caster is enclosed. Two shifts produces an enclosed space of 2 zones. Three shifts produces an enclosed space of three zones, the maximum size of the House of Knives.

The chamber is plunged into darkness unless a preexisting light source is present. It is filled with an intelligent swarm of flying obsidian knives, which Attack all present (with the exception of the sorcerer and those under their protection) with a roll of 4DF +2 each turn.

The House of Knives has the following aspects:
  • Flying obsidian knives!
  • A stone chamber with no source of light
  • No apparent exit
Such magic is a major infraction, doing 2 points of Corruption stress to the caster.

Because the knives are intelligent, a clever hero may attempt to bargain with them. The knives thirst for the flesh of both the living and the dead. If approached with an offer, the GM should draw a card from the Deck of Fate. If the card drawn reveals a favorable aspect, the knives will pause after their first attack to negotiate.

If normal ants, Napoleon ants, or other ant-like intelligent species are present, their collectivity may be bargained with for help against the knives. Such species of diggers and tunnelers frequently have their own conflicts with the meddlesome and diseased subterranean Lords of Xibalba, and the smallest of their kind are usually immune to the knives' attacks.

Jadepunk Playmat, Pt. II - Zoneside

Today, we are looking at the Zoneside of the Jadepunk playmat. Earlier this week, we took a look at the Cityside of the Jadepunk playmat. The playmat is available from the Reroll Store for $10 plus $6 shipping.

The Zoneside of the laminated playmat gives you a dry erase space in which to create zone maps for action scenes. The Zoneside of the playmat is setting-neutral: you can use it with any Fate game. The playmat offers an open space for zone creation, rather than superimposing a grid of hexes or squares as do most playmats designed for conventional RPGs. This is in line with the Fate system preference for abstraction with respect to space and movement.

We gave the playmat a test drive on Thursday night, as Bob ran the second half of our Pilgrims of the Flying Temple playtest. The adventure took place in a forest, in the caves below a giant tree, and inside the giant tree itself. Our use of the map was a bit whimsical, and traced our itinerary through the forest adventure, with situational/environmental aspects being recorded along the way.

Later this weekend, I'll post a more tactical use of the playmat over on my Fate of Tekumel blog.

In the upper right hand side of the playmat, there is a box labelled "Situational Aspects". Since this was the second half of an adventure that happened 3-4 weeks ago, I used that box to record the names of the NPCs.

The action started with the PCs chasing a dog named Ulf. We had been sent to a village outside the forest because of a letter from a village girl called Molly. She had requested our help, because all of the village's animals had disappeared. Once we discovered Molly's dog Ulf deep in the forest, we followed the dog into a branching tunnel complex under the giant tree in the center of the forest.

Next to the sketch of branching caves, I wrote down one of the important environmental aspects that Bob put out there for players: Luminescent Moss. As we went in deeper, we encountered an underground river. All of us went in the drink, chasing the dog.

As you can see from the detail shot below, the river has one of Bob's signature aspects:

The river was swift, and some of us were NOT good swimmers. That led to a number of Approach rolls, as one PC attempted to avoid drowning, while a few of us struggled to catch-up with the others.

Over several rounds of Approaches rolls, Bob used the lower left hand box on the playmat (designed for recording Boosts) to make hash marks for each player's relative progress moving down the underground river. The fewer X's you had, the farther ahead you had gone; the more X's you had, the further you had fallen behind in swimming, stalactite swinging, or walking on water.

Yes, that's right. Walking on water. My character decided that since he knew how to walk on treetops, it should be easy to walk on water. The trick is to keep moving, so you don't sink! He grabbed a stalactite, kicked off his wet shoes, and began walking on water. Stunt creation on the fly!

Eventually we made it out of the cave, and found ourselves back right outside the giant tree at the center of the forest.

We climbed the tree, eventually found an opening, and went inside. There were ant-folk. We communicated with them by making "antenna gestures" with our hands. Eventually we encountered the blobular sapling creature living in a pool of sap.

We negotiated - get ready for it - a Tree-Tee, and brought it back to the villagers outside the forest so that they could sign it.

The villagers promised to treat the animals better, and eventually some of the animals returned!


Our first experience with the Jadepunk playmat was very fun. Sure, we didn't use it for tactical play in a single zone, as much as to represent the succession of scenes where the action took place. So we used the playmat as a set of linked scene maps. I think that is a legitimate use of the artifact.

The two boxes on the right side of the playmat were not used exactly as intended. Instead, the GM found a new use for each box which supported play in that specific adventure. I think it adds value to the playmat design that a GM can make versatile use of these small compartments.

Finally, a couple of words about the physical quality of the playmat are in order. In my original review of the Cityside of the map, I commented that I would have preferred a rolled mat, as opposed to a folded one. I have since heard back from the playmat's designer that they experimented with a rolled format. It didn't work too well, as the rolled mat kept trying roll up on the game table. I can tell you that in a 2.5 hour session, the fact that the mat had been folded made no difference for play. 

No less importantly, I want to underscore how erasable the playmat is. One dry napkin was totally sufficient to remove all traces of dry erase marker from the playmat. Reuse is everything with a playmat, and this one is a very good value. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Deck Of Fridays 16: On Point

The Terrible Lords of Xibalba

Welcome back to DECK OF FRIDAYS, our weekly feature here at FATE SF. We make a draw from the Deck of FateRPG 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: On Point. Today we're casting a deadly spell, a sharp-edged mirror knife made of the darkest glass: Call Knife Point.


Call Knife Point (Evocation/Planar, Cost, Per Scene, Persistent, Corrupting): Deep within the Underworld of Xibalba lies the place known as the House of Knives. It's where the Hero Twins were tested, a place where obsidian knives hurl through the air in all directions. Demonic knives tear the living into ribbons of bloody flesh. 

The Lords of Xibalba teach the spell Call Knife Point to priests or sorcerers who please them in some way. Lord Tezcatlipoca also knows this spell; Lord Smoking Mirror teaches this spell to mortals who strike the right bargain. Both the Lords of Xibalba and Lord Tezcatlipoca favor those who sow the kind of chaos and terror which the House of Knives brings to its guests. 

The spell Call Knife Point summons forth into our world one of the obsidian flying daggers from the House of Knives. This spell can only be cast at night, or when the caster is in the Underworld. (It can also be cast in the depths of space, as long as the summoner does not face a nearby sun.)  A living demonic shard of volcanic glass from the Underworld, the Knife Point does the bidding of its summoner for one Scene. The dagger obeys the conscious thoughts of its caster. It can fly across up to three Zones per turn to strike a target of the caster's choice.

The summoner rolls CHA to call the Knife Point. If they Succeed with Style on the roll, two Knife Points appear rather than one.

Each turn, the Knife Point may attack a target of the caster's choice. The Knife Point Attacks using the caster's CHA vs. the target's DEX; shifts scored cause Physical Stress.

If a Knife Point Takes Out at least one individual, or inflicts at least one Consequence on a target during the Scene, the caster may dispel it no later than the end of that Scene.

However, should a Knife Point fail to draw blood in the Scene, the GM should draw a card from the Deck of Fate, and select the most appropriate aspect on the card to determine what the Knife Point does next.

Unquenched Knife Points frequently turn on their summoners, as the Lords of Xibalba enjoy the irony inherent in such predicaments. Such blades may also seek to escape the location where they were summoned in order to explore, and search for new prey.

Loved ones of the summoner are particularly choice targets for Knife Points. Such a loose blade remains an active threat until the sun rises - or indefinitely in a dark place such as the Underworld or the lower decks of a space hulk.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Jadepunk Playmat, Pt. I - Cityside

Last week, we ordered the Jadepunk RPG playmat from the Reroll Store. It cost $10 plus $6 for shipping. It arrived in three days, remarkably fast when you consider how long some gaming vendors make you wait before they even take your parcel to the post office!

The playmat has two sides. One side is a map of Kausao City, the default setting of the Jadepunk RPG. That's what I am looking at today.

The playmat is laminated so that you can use dry erase markers with it. The city map has a few key locations that are labelled, but most of the map is designed for on-the-fly specification of locations used in the scenario. So we have a city resource that is closer to Vornheim than to Ptolus. This works well with Fate's collaborative and on-the-fly approach to setting creation, although there is nothing to prevent a GM from specifying setting details by fiat, as I have done in the photo above.

On the top left side of the map we filled-in two Scenario Aspects:
  • Find the Meteor Hammer
  • Pursued by the Red Jade Swallowers

Boom! We have a scenario!

Now we link the scenario to the map! You can click on the photo above to enlarge the map. For the scenario, I have marked three locations on the Kausao City map:

  • The primary location is the Nighthammer District (circled in blue), a borrowing from the city of Nexus in Exalted. This district is where the city's iron and steel are made. On the left side of the playmat, Nighthammer's aspects are listed:
    • Many forges
    • Smoke
    • The sound of hammers
  • A discoverable clue location, "Ling last seen here" is circled in rust colored ink on the lower end of the map. The location is known as The Red Garden. It's aspects are:
    • Smugglers trade here
    • Rough trade (it's close to the docks and people so inclined come here to pick up stevedores)
    • Pickpockets
  • A discoverable clue location, RJS haven? noted at the top of the map in red. The Red Jade Swallowers are a secret society which is trying to steal a Red Jade artifact, the Red Blood Cloud Meteor Hammer.
Now we link back to some important Faces (NPCs) of Kausao City that will be featured in the scenario.

Apprentice Ling
  • Portrayal: Apprentice Smith
  • Need: Sell the Hammer
  • Secret: On the Run
Master Chen
  • Portrayal: Master Smith
  • Need: Recover the Hammer
  • Secret: Promised the Hammer to two different customers
Mao Yang
  • Portrayal: Ling's Lover
  • Need: Find Ling
  • Secret: I have the money to start a new life with Ling
Debt Collector Yao
  • Portrayal: Collect what is owed
  • Need: Wants Yang for Himself
  • Secret: The Red Jade Society have my daughter

So, a macguffin, a love triangle, and a man who made too many promises.

Then we have our mysterious villain:

Mystery Vang
  • Portrayal: Boss of the Red Jade Swallowers
  • Need: The Meteor Hammer
  • Secret: ?

Conclusions: If you are playing Jadepunk, the city-side alone is worth $10. It is easy to use it to create adventures on the fly. The map is color-coded to show the major nations' turf in Kausao city, but there is plenty of neutral territory that the GM can use as they see fit. In fact most of the map works that way.  

My only critical feedback is that I would have been willing to pay even more to get the map without folds, rolled-up in a tube. I just prefer maps that lay perfectly flat. I might not have bought the product if I had known it was folded, but in practice that turned out not to bother me too much when I used it.

We are doing the second half of our Pilgrims of the Flying Temple playtest tonight, so we'll see if the GM wants to use the other side of the map, which offers a Zone Map.   

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Imperial Cult Shrines

Vibia Sabina

Imperial Cult Shrines are one of the most important and ubiquitous symbols of the Empire's unity. Every inhabited system in the Empire has an Imperial Cult Shrine; most systems have many. Each particular shrine is dedicated to an Imperial Sovereign - but never to the living, reigning one at the time the shrine was built. Each shrine calls to mind an act or deed of that ruler - for the good, or for the bad. Each shrine teaches a lesson.

Shrines dedicated to the Imperial Sovereigns of the Early Period commemorate their glorious deeds in founding the Empire: abolishing all manners of slavery and involuntary servitude, overthrowing the numerous tyrannies found under a thousand suns, and banishing a panoply of shameful, ignorant, and superstitious practices. These shrines are places of glory and wonder. Many were built upon the ruins of the ancien regimes torn down by the Empire's founders.

The hallmark of the Imperial Sovereigns of the Middle Period was the practice of seclusion. Their shrines are quiet, often solemn places, suitable for meditation, introspection, and philosophical study and reflection. The shrines of the Middle Period are often also pilgrimage sites, as visions and apparitions of Imperial Sovereigns are common in these locations. The Middle Shrines are doorways to the Empire's past, present, future - including to the Empire's myriad alternities.

The shrines of the Latter Period are gaudy and self-aggrandizing. The Empire's expansion continues ever-onward, and the Imperial Sovereigns of the Latter Period continue to hold back the Terrible Night looming in the Core. Many of the Latter Period shrines are built directly on top of shrines from earlier ages. No more the shrines of the Early and Middle Periods, which sometimes expressed subtle or not-so-subtle critique of a past ruler. The shrines of this period sing the Latter Empire's songs too loudly. Perhaps the Imperial Sovereigns now fear the inevitable too much.


  • Symbols of the Empire's unity
  • Calls to mind an act or deed
  • Each shrine teaches a lesson
Early Period:
  • Commemorate the founding of the Empire
  • Places of glory and wonder
  • Built upon the ruins of ancien regimes
Middle Period:
  • Quiet, solemn places
  • Visions and apparitions
  • Doorways to the Empire's past, present, future
Latter Period:
  • Gaudy and self-aggrandizing
  • Built directly on top of shrines from earlier ages
  • A fear of the inevitable

Monday, April 7, 2014

Legions Of The Imperial Sovereign II

Spindle Art by Juan Ochoa

The Predecessors are Legions that existed in some form prior to the foundation of the Empire. Armed companies, rebel armies, standing armies of conquered realms, religious orders - each of the Predecessors can trace its roots to turbulent times and places in the distant galactic past.

Legio XIII The Legion That Sorrows Failed: Ancient, cursed and disbanded for unknown reasons in the Empire's Middle Period; their standard is preserved in an ostensorium on a lunar shrine orbiting a dead planet.

Legio XIV Lanterns of the Star-Silk Road: Protect interstellar trade routes and trade stations throughout the Empire and beyond; incredibly wealthy wheelers and dealers.

Legio XV Adjuster of Attitudes: Sometimes called the "Knee-Breakers", this ancient order of reprisal-artists, assassins, and thugs has always been used to suppress rebellious tributaries.

Legio XVI Banishers of Gloom: The discoverers of the Spindles long before humans took to the stars, the first Banishers served as the legendary jump-gate scouts of the Sun-King of Amarna. Today their descendants are charged with scouring and cleansing dead worlds and space hulks of insidious threats.

Legio XVII Red Principalities: Assembled from the multitude of fighting men and women from the Red Martian city-states. Light infantry (sword and radium pistol) their members are uniformly attractive, and popular with the court. More than a few astute members of their ranks have risen from being the lover of a court functionary to occupy the throne as an Imperial Sovereign.

Legio XVIII Greensworn Hordes: Assembled from the multitude of Green Martian hordes, the Greensworn are born in special hatcheries within Imperial Cult shrines. They are raised and trained by Green Martian warrior-priestesses of the Imperial Cult. Light cavalry (lance and radium rifle) as well as light infantry (Imperial Cult shrine guards); religious fanatics.

Legio XIX The Tripods: Tripod war machine pilots - primarily Old Martians, with a smattering of other tentacular races. Never to be deployed with the XVII and XVIII. Siege experts, combat engineers, and expert terraformers. Raconteurs; excellent if perverse occupation forces.

Legio XX Ares Panzerai: Ageless bishonen/bishoju, these Mobile Suit pilots are genetic supersoldiers from the Red Planet's human warrior clans. Many subunits, each with their own clan, planetary, and lunar sigils. Usually deployed in subunits, as the Panzerai are fractious, quarrelsome, and prone to duels.

Legio XXI Union Guard: Originally a Republican Guard unit of the long-vanquished Maltruskan Union, this all-Maltruskan military formation was re-established by the Banisher Pontiff and empowered by treaty to protect Maltruskan worlds and settlements. Heavy mobile infantry; two Hierophant-class Battle Carriers and other assorted naval vessels equipped for travel to and from the pocket universes where Maltruskan worlds are protected by Excommunication.

Legio XXII Sodality of the Lens: A female-only mystical order established in the galactic core millennia ago, this multispecies formation long ago fled the core and established Sacred Offices throughout Known Space. Members of the order who operate within the Empire are considered members of Legio XXII, although they do not report to the Imperial Sovereign and have no battle standard. Members often operate as singletons and/or in small special contact units.

Legio XXIII Nexialist Service Corps: This all-Nexialist unit has never lost a battle, but they haven't won too many, either. During the Nexialist Revolt their ranks were divided - some stayed in their quarters, while others sided with the Nexialist Communes. Light infantry, potent combat psychics. Not trusted; kept out of the way of the serious legions - except when an Imperial Sovereign wants to thin out the Nexialists' ranks. Then, they're thrown into the thick of battle. Needless to say, no standard.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Deck of Fridays 15: Charged Up

Welcome back to DECK OF FRIDAYS, our weekly feature here at FATE SF. We make a draw from the Deck of FateRPG 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: Charged Up. Today we're sharing a Nexialist spell, designed for all those times when, well, something's Out of Juice.


Blasters, beamswords, tablets, personal shields: it's terrible when our handheld devices lose charge, flicker out, and die. It always happens at the most inopportune times. This is why the Nexialists believe in always being prepared. Back-up weapons, extra battery packs, charging cords. 

But there are always those times when you are just plain Out of Juice: there's no nearby power source. Or it's one of those interminable Yangs vs. Kohms battles, and you've exhausted every weapon and battery on the advancing hordes. 

Time for a recharge the Nexialist way:

Nexial's Living Battery (Evocation, Cost, Per Scene, Persistent): This Nexialist formula is used to sacrifice some of the caster's life energy as fuel for a small technological device. The caster rolls CHA to Create an Advantage by replacing an existing temporary aspect on a device such as Out of Juice with a new temporary aspect such as Temporarily Charged. This aspect lasts for one Scene. 

While most commonly used in battle, the formula has other applications. For example, archaeologists often use it to infuse energy into long powered-down ancient devices in order to awaken them. This often has unforeseen consequences as many of the devices of the ancients were self-aware, and can be distrustful or even vindictive toward those who disturb their dreams...

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Lucifer Unboxed

Lucifer of the IL Series

The most humanoid of the original Cylons, the IL series served as the Cylon empire's first military commanders and planetary governors. They weren't particularly well-liked by anyone, including by others their own kind. The IL's are ambitious, duplicitous, manipulative, sarcastic, and given to sartorial excess. These traits, combined with their epicene character, made them perfect villains for their era.

They're resilient, the ILs. They play the long game. ILs know how to dig-in and stay unnoticed until the opportune moment arrives when a rival makes a stupid move. They also know how to sneak away and start again elsewhere.

Due to the iterative and cyclic nature of Cylon civilization, many of the ILs have branched out, well beyond the boundaries of their original civilization. Some have leaped forward in time; others have gone backwards. More than a few have even stepped sideways, passing through the boundaries between universes, to resume their personal empire-building somewhere else.

At least one IL series is a General in the Legions of the Imperial Sovereign. A few are said to be operatives of Omega House. Paradoxically, at least one IL is living out an apparently quiet retirement in the R.U.R. Workers-State.

Their spacetime wanderings continue, and their ambitions keep pace. The ILs are an expressive totality of the itinerant nature of Cylonic civilization, as well as of the Cylon's Imperious Leader principle.

There is always one sure sign that an IL is about to make a move. Before undertaking a new scheme, an IL will unbox a number of old Centurions and drones.

After all, it's hard to be a leader with no followers.


The IL Series
Manipulative Android Satraps

  • High Concept: Flamboyant and manipulative android commanders
  • Trouble: Pride cometh before the fall
  • Aspect: Named after a devil for a reason
  • Aspect: Too clever by half
  • Aspect: Never suffer fools gladly
  • Careful: +2
  • Clever: +3
  • Flashy: +2
  • Forceful: 0
  • Quick: +1
  • Sneaky: +1
  • By Your Command: Take +2 to Flashy Approach to persuade any cyborg to follow you. 
  • Enemy of My Enemy: In any Scene involving social interaction, you may gain a deep insight into the interests or motivations of another character in the scene. 
  • Sartorial Delight: Once per Scene, you may pull a concealed device or object (other than a weapon) from within your colorful and ample robes. The device/object is immediately useful to your character in some way.
  • Two Brains: Take a +2 to your Clever Approach to Create an Advantage resulting from focused brainpower.