Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Reading Ambrose Bierce

Every Fall, either right before or right after Halloween, the Second Foundation Reading Group  in the Twin Cities picks a horror/supernatural-themed author for discussion at a session of our reading group. This year, we've chosen Ambrose Bierce. I've read about 60 pages worth of his ghost/horror/supernatural stories so far, including two of the ones that mention Hali, Hastur, and Carcossa. I am really enjoying this author.

If you're local and a fan, please join us on Sunday, November 2 from 2-4 to discuss the works of Ambrose Bierce. We'll be meeting at the Parkway Pizza on 4359 Minnehaha Avenue S. in Minneapolis.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Mayor Betsy And The Prince

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges

Mayor Betsy is clueless. At least about the occult underground in the Twin Cities. That's what the players decided.

The greatest supernatural force in Minneapolis is Prince. That's right, The Prince of the Purple Rain. Not some dumb vampire prince.

Wrong game.

Prince used to lead the Summer Court. But the people of Minneapolis are feeling his absence. Prince has withdrawn his favor from our fair city. We wish he'd come back.

The Revolution is trying to bring him out of seclusion.  Of course, they are all powerful Summer Court functionaries too. They're trying to hold things together, maybe renew things.

Then there is the White Court, fueling a massive wave of gentrification across the metro. Affordable apartments go down; luxury condos go up. What is the White Court up to with all their buying and selling?

Finally there is the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Narayana Kocherlakota. Everyone's sure he's up to something. But no one's exactly sure what.

Narayana Kocherlakota

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Midnight At The Witch's Hat

"The Witch Hat Tower And A Full Moon" by Mark Goodman Photo

If this stunning image doesn't convince you that Minneapolis, Minnesota has places of power, I don't know what will. The Witch's Hat in Prospect Park has been part of the Twin Cities' occult landscape since 1913. It was built as a water tower (with a bandstand deck at the top) and it occupies the highest natural spot in the landscape of Minneapolis.

This was just one of the numerous supernatural locations that the we identified in our first playtest session of Dresden Files Accelerated. Others included the Elf House near Lake Harriet...

Minneapolis Star Tribune

Where it looks pretty easy to leave a message... for someone.

Elf House

More to come on the "movers and shakers" in our Minneapolis' Dresden setting, as well as on the cool PCs that our players created using Dresden Files Accelerated's "Mantles".

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Dresden Dreams

Winter Knight Dice

The dice fall where they may, and sometimes they fall in your dreams. That was my experience last night. I spent roughly four hours reading the Dresden Files Accelerated Alpha Playtest rules, because our Thursday Night Group will be running it's first playtest session tonight.

We're doing some city generation, character generation, and campaign issues.

Once I had finished reading the rules it was 12 midnight, so I turned in.

Almost exactly an hour later, I woke up from a nightmare.

We had been playing the game.

We were rolling the dice. A spell was being cast.

The roll was a Bad One.

I was more than a little rattled.

It's just a game right?

Except that in the dream it was both real and a game.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Doomsdays & Dresdens


Quick post for today. Yesterday's write up of the USS Constellation for Paul Stefko's Interstellar Patrol prompted someone to suggest that I should do a write-up for the Doomsday Machine itself. I am thinking about how one might do that.

In the meantime, I am preparing to run the first playtest of Dresden Files Accelerated with our Thursday Night Group. I'm thinking our playtest adventures will take place in the Twin Cities, MN, one of the cities that gave birth to Urban Fantasy in novels such as Emma Bull's War for the Oaks.

Should be fun!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

U.S.S. Constellation

Commodore Matt Decker

The Constitution class of starship was a solidly build workhorse vessel suitable for deep space, long-term exploration. It was also used for perimeter patrols and defense of core systems of the Federation. This class of starships was also built to hold its own in a battle. The Klingons and Romulans soon learned that they needed to field three D7s against one ship of this class to ensure a superior prevailing force.

Commodore Decker - like Captain James T. Kirk and their peers commanding other Constitution class vessels - was a hard-headed commander and a bit of a megalomaniac. But you had to be to go out to the edge of the Federation and beyond with one starship on a five year mission. This ship could take you there, but you had to bring it back in one piece.

With a crew.

Which not everyone did.

Federation Starship USS Constellation
  • Propulsion: Two warp nacelles and impulse engines
  • Tactical: Phasers, photon torpedos, and shields
  • Sensors: Suitable for deep space exploration
  • Amenities: Everything needed for a five year mission
  • Special: Saucer separation
    • Someone at the helm may invoke this Aspect to detach the saucer section from the engineering section of the ship. Crew will be needed to staff a bridge on each section.
  • Special: Tractor beams
    • Someone at helm, engineering, or science may invoke this Aspect when using their Forceful Approach to grab hold of an object in space. 
  • Special: Self-destruct
    • In extreme circumstances, the Captain may invoke this Aspect and use their Forceful Approach to destroy the ship (often damaging or destroying a nearby enemy in the process).

Monday, September 15, 2014

Klingon Bird-Of-Prey

Klingon Bird of Prey

Here's another example of a starship built using Paul Stefko's Interstellar Patrol campaign frame for Fate Accelerated Edition.  The Klingon Birds-of-Prey are a beautiful line of ships.

Klingon Bird-of-Prey
  • Propulsion: Warp capable starship
  • Tactical: Klingon patrol [raider, scout, pirate] ship
  • Communications: An ideal vessel for espionage
  • Amenities: Hot, humid, and cramped
  • Special: "A cloaked ship is no small favor"
    • Someone at the helm may invoke this Aspect to make the Bird-of-Prey invisible to sensors for all or part of a Scene
    • A captain may invoke this Aspect to drive a hard bargain with someone who needs to get somewhere without being detected

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Fate Library: Interstellar Patrol

A little over a week ago, Paul Stefko published an eight page campaign frame for Fate Accelerated Edition called Interstellar Patrol. The first review to appear on DriveThru is rather harsh. The product is Pay What You Want, so if you like space opera, I'd encourage you to give it a look.

Interstellar Patrol bills itself as offering players the opportunity to play a campaign of relatively optimistic SF, such as the original Star Trek. This isn't a fully realized retro SF RPG setting though, such as Cosmic Patrol and Rocket Age.  Instead, Interstellar Patrol offers the barebones tools for creating a space opera game. If you needed to run a pick-up game in an hour, you could download this (provided you have downloaded and read Fate Accelerated Edition already), read this eight page guide, and offer your players a game.

The PDF offers quick suggestions for making PCs, primarily focusing on selection of two strong Approaches for each character type. The examples are perfect for the bridge crew/core cast for a show like Star Trek. I don't agree with all the recommendations but the examples are fine.

This is followed by some great examples of Stunts that are perfect for a space opera game. Here's an example:
Because I know every inch of the engine room like the back of my hand, once per session I can "give all she's got" and automatically succeed with style on one action using the ship's systems.
Next come quick 4DF tables for creating worlds and adventures. Again, these are perfect for a pick-up game.

Finally we get quick rules for creating spacecraft. Ships have four systems that are represented as Aspects with three possible damage conditions. Those systems are: Propulsion, Tactical (which includes both Attack and Defense), Sensors (which includes communications), and Amenities (which includes life support).

It would be easy enough to embellish these Aspects to make them specific to the vessel. For example, the shuttlecraft Galileo might have Impulse Engines (Propulsion), Harmless (Tactical), Planetary Range Sensors, and Barely Any Amenities. Note that the last Aspect will work equally well for any D7 Battlecruiser your players run into during a game.

Players take action with the ship using their own Approaches but only one player may operate a particular ship system at any given time. So you can't have three PCs each running Tactical and taking shots at the enemy.

Each system has three damage states (Disrupted, Damaged, and Disabled) which must be taken in order, and which absorb 1,2, and 4 shifts of shit-to-ship combat stress, respectively. Alternatively, a PC can take a number of shifts directly as a personal Consequence on their own character sheet, rather than the ship's. This simulates all the being tossed around we see during space combat in shows like Star Trek.

Again, this looks pretty sufficient for a pick-up game, but maybe less so if you enjoy the tactical complexity of Diaspora or the broader range of design selections possible in a game like Starblazer Adventures.

There's no aliens offered in the game, although it's straightforward to make an alien character. Just take an appropriate Aspect.

I should mention that the FATE Bestiary at here FATE SF is mostly written for Fate Accelerated Edition - so most entries there are 100% compatible with Interstellar Patrol.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Deck Of Fridays 25: A Simple Mistake


Welcome back to DECK OF FRIDAYS, our not-so-weekly feature here at FATE SF! Each week (more or less) since the release of the Deck of Fate, we have made 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 A Simple Mistake. There's a certain amount of metaphor at work in this one so it may or may not work well for your gaming table.

A Table of Simple (or not so simple) Mistakes 
(or B-b-b-lunders)

 Roll 4DF or draw a card from the Deck of Fate, and consult the appropriate outcome corresponding to the numerical result on the left. 
  • +4: "Listen, if you were to rescue her, the reward would be..."
  • +3: "Uh, uh...negative, negative. We have a reactor leak here now."
  • +2: "These aren't the droids you're looking for."
  • +1: "Now witness the power of this armed and fully operational battle station."
  •  0:  "It is obvious to even the simpleminded that Lokai is of an inferior breed."
  • -1: "Never. I'll never turn to the Dark Side."
  • -2: "Evacuate? In our moment of triumph? I think you overestimate their chances."
  • -3: "Don't worry, it's a slam dunk."
  • -4: "Cardassian* forces will not have a combat mission - we will not get dragged into another protracted war."**

*Or Klingon, or Romulan, or Sardaukar - or American.

**Actual quote is: "American forces will not have a combat mission - we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq."

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Rational Bullwark


Rational Bullwark (Abjuration, Cost, Per Scene, Permanent, Requires "Sphere of Force" or "Wall of Force"):  In the days of the long-gone Star League, the Nexialists acquired this formula by the ruthless extraction of recondite information possessed by a race of subterranean mutants. These creatures - whether human or alien - had developed mental powers to the point that they could, through sheer force of will, project illusions that were as solid and substantial as material reality itself. This refinement of intellectual capacities helped the mutants survive numerous environmental hazards in the shelters and warrens below the surface of their shattered world.

This INT-based casting erects a semi-transparent mental force barrier that is able to imprison persons on the opposite side of the force wall projection from the caster. The bullwark can be touched without pain, and will appear to oscillate and resound with a whoom when struck. The barrier is impermeable to physical force as well as to energy weapons, and will not allow a person or thing to pass through it without special counter-abjurative devices.

Rational Bullwark creates a semi-permeable barrier, allowing gas exchange to occur across the barrier without obstruction. It therefore makes an excellent prison cell door.

However, nanite swarms and similar invisible materials may freely migrate across the barrier in both directions.  Spells and spell-like abilities also have some ability to penetrate the barrier, so the caster of Rational Bullwark should make an INT +2 casting roll to determine the difficulty of all future attempts by others to cast spells across the barrier.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Zombie Breath

Putrescent Garland of the Copper Tomb (Illusion/Necromancy*, Cost, Persistent, Requires "Disguise", Corrupting): An essential casting learned by all who must tarry among the living dead, Putrescent Garland is a perfect disguise which convinces any living dead that the target of this spell has an aspect such as Zombie, Living Dead, or Overkilled. Boarding crews of pirate ships that use Annihilators are usually accompanied on boarding actions by someone who knows this casting.

Putrescent Garland does not bestow upon the target the regal mien of one of the undead elite, such as a vampire or lich. Quite the contrary. It creates the illusion that the target is one of the most abject, shambling, and rotting forms of undead,

Roll CHA +2 to cast this on oneself or others. An unwilling target resists with a WIS roll. If the caster should Succeed with Style on their casting roll, the target's appearance also convinces the living that the target is undead.

This casting is Corrupting and inflicts a Minor Infraction.  It is also unpleasant for the target. The target has the experiences dysgeusia as if their own flesh were indeed rotting. Other sensory systems may be similarly disturbed.

*The Necromantic version of spell works differently. It has no Cost, and does not require knowledge of the Illusion spell "Disguise".  However, use of this spell often brings bad fortune on the caster. A draw from the Deck of Fate is required. If a negative aspect appears on the card drawn, the caster gains an appropriate Moderate Consequence related to that aspect.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


Return of the Fly (1959)

The existence of the human-fly hybrid, or Flybrid, is far from an accident of nature. They are invariably the cruel result of casting Dr. Langelaan's Mass-Discrepant Hybridization, the Nexialist formula that recapitulates one of the most horrific and memorable recurrent accidents in the Pre-Diasporic Era's early experiments with matter transmission. The Nexialists use this casting to wreak terrible vengeance on those who spy on or persecute them, or who spread skeptical propaganda against the Order's doctrines. For this reason, many Nexialists also refer to these creatures as ghe Reformed Skeptics.

A mosaic creature whose characteristics aren't terribly heritable, the best way to get more Flybrids is to make them using Langelaan's formula. That requires a good source of disposable humanoids, as well as access to flies or close analogues.

Nexialists typically use the Flybrids as guardians within the labyrinths found in the secure areas of Nexialist Institutes. Flybrids are very suitable for this role because they are able to subsist for relatively long periods of time on other-planar energy, and do not tire or sleep. Their exoskeletons provide  a superior defense against piercing (but not against bashing/blunt) weapons, while their compound eyes and antennae make them almost impossible to surprise.  They don't need weapons either, as Flybrids invariably have fearsome mouthparts and at least one pincer arm. That being said, some of the Reformed Skeptics certainly are armed (often with items reclaimed from their victims), and many have access to Eyes, charms, and other technomagical devices.

Sometimes they escape from their masters. It is common to find small numbers of Flybrids congregating or wandering as singletons in the ungovernable subterranean quarters of any city with a Nexialist presence. These wanderers are frequently insane and are invariably hostile to humans.

A final speculation about the Reformed Skeptics is in order. The creatures are most frequently encountered near Nexus Points (either within Nexialist Institutes in other locations). Given that they periodically escape their Nexialist masters, it is reasonable to assume that the Flybrids' compound eyes and antennae give them insights into hidden escape routes. They have spell-like abilities similar to Eye of the Nexus, and often enough Summon Planar Ally.


Human-Fly Hybrid (inimical)

  • High Concept: Bug eyed hybrid monster
  • Trouble: Prone to madness
  • Aspect: Hard to surprise
  • Aspect: Drawn to Nexus Points
  • Aspect: A wicked maw and pincers
  • Careful: +2
  • Clever: +1
  • Flashy: 0
  • Forceful: +3
  • Quick: +1
  • Sneaky: +2
  • Maddening Buzz: A Flybrid makes deafening sonic attacks using its Forceful Approach; this attack deals mental harm to any allies or foes within two Zones, and anyone in range must defend using their Clever Approach.
  • Eye of the Nexus: As with the Planar spell Eye of the Nexus but used at no Cost.
  • Exoskeleton: Reduces by two stress points the harm dealt by any piercing/slashing physical attack. 


Monday, September 8, 2014

Dr. Langelaan's Mass-Discrepant Hybridizer

The Fly (1958)

Dr. Langelaan's Mass-Discrepant Hybridizer (Curse/Planar, Cost, Per Scene, Permanent, Requires at least two other Curse/Planar spells, Corrupting): This casting dates back to the first experiments with matter transmission in the Pre-Diasporic Era. Failure to provide proper containment or shielding in these matter transmission experiments produced a series of disastrous random hybridizations between creatures of radically different morphologies and mass profiles. The most notorious of these sports of nature was the human-insect hybrid known as The Fly.

Dr. Langelaan's Mass-Discrepant Hybridizer requires laboratory trappings, or portable scientific equipment that provides the affect of scientific disciplinarity.  The caster rolls CHA +2 in a Create an Advantage attack vs. the CON of each targeted person/creature. If the caster's roll is higher than the individual rolls for each targeted person/creatures, then the result is a permanent hybrid combining the Aspects, Skills, and Stunts of both targets.

Resulting details for the hybrid will be determined by the GM.* Such creations are typically intelligent, but are quite often driven to madness by the transformation and the sudden perversion of their sensoria and memories.

A caster who plans to use this formula will often secret small vials of insects, or containers with snakes or similar vile creatures, in their sanctum for precisely this use. This formula is Corrupting and its use constitutes a Major Infraction.

This casting is one of the preferred punishments that Nexialists inflict on intruders and those who persecute their Order. In this way, the Nexialists create new monsters to stock the defensive labyrinths within their Institutes. At times they also release these hybrids to punish individuals and communities that they deem to have persecuted their Order in some way.

*But we'll present the Flybrid tomorrow, so stay tuned True Believers.

Sunday, September 7, 2014


Aftertaste (Nature, Cost, Per Scene, Persistent, Requires "Summon Nature's Ally"): The caster stuffs three living arthropods into their mouth, and mutters a brief metonymic charm in Glissendo. An enlargening version of one of the bugs leaps from the caster's mouth and immediately grows in size to equal that of a large humanoid. The creature obeys the caster's commands and will fight on its side in a combat. The bug's highest Approach/Skill is equivalent to the caster's Flashy Approach/CHA. The bug lasts for one Scene or until Taken Out in combat.

This casting was inspired by the spell Giant Insect in the Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook (5E)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Con Games!

Earlier in the week, I submitted three game events as part of the House of Indie Games theme track for Con of the North in February 2014:

  • The Condor Falls! A Spanish Civil War scenario in which the PCs play members of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Players will take on the role of the anarchist, communist, and socialist international defenders of an isolated Spanish village. This two hour session will use the Fate Core version of Achtung! Cthulhu
    • Prep work: We've had the PDFs of Achtung! Cthulhu for a bit, but we just ordered the omnibus print edition of the Investigator's and Keeper's Guides. A couple of days ago I got my hand on the Osprey on the Condor Legion; now I need to find the one they did on the International Brigades. Poking around in the online Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives seems in order too  (I visited them once many years ago.)
  • Strange Stars: A four hour romp through Trey Causey's Strange Stars RPG setting, forthcoming this fall from Armchair Planet. The game release is planned as a full color setting book (coming out this Fall) followed by a system book with stats using Stars Without Numbers and Fate Core (late Fall/early Winter). I'm running it using Fate Core.
    • Prep work: Since I am writing the Fate Core conversions for the game, the most important prep work is wrapping up the writing in September (we are on target for this).
  • Into Glorantha: At the very end of the con, I'll be running a four hour Gloranthan adventure using HeroQuest 2. I've owned every edition of HQ and Hero Wars, so I suppose it's time to actually try and run the thing.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Lola Of Peladon

2014 Minnesota State Fair grain art

Lola's full name reflects where her travels ended. But more on that in a bit.

Let's take a look at her origins.

Strax found her beneath Madame Vastra's carriage one day, He promptly declared that the black and tan shorthair miniature dachshund was a spy. After quite a tussle and chase, Strax finally got his mitts on her and presented the poor dog to Madame Vastra.

Vastra: "That's a poor excuse for a cybermat. Look how it wriggles!"

Jenny: "Can we keep her, Mum, and call her Lola?"

Strax nodded: "Every good boy deserves a dog."

And so it began.

But this queer Victorian domesticity was to be short-lived for Lola. Madame Vastra found Lola's incessant barking and scampering distracting and intolerably mammalian.

"It gives me migranes."

Vastra told Strax to dispose of the beast. In the middle of the night, of course, so as not to cause Jenny any distress.

Strax did as he was told, and deposited little Lola inside the first open door he could find.

It was a blue door. Thus began Lola's adventures with the Doctor and Clara.

Lola had a pretty good time on the TARDIS. Clara liked her, and made sure (whenever she was on the timeship with the Doctor) that Lola had regular meals and walks. Even the TARDIS liked her, creating an infinity of small branching corridors through which Lola could run, hunt, chase, and hide.

Lola even got along well enough with the Doctor. She helped him on a number of his adventures. Lola was very good at finding and shredding Nestene plastics, had an infallible sense of direction in the bug tunnels on Trellisane, was deft in avoiding the death-beams of the Daleks, could outrun and outmanever even the quickest cybermat (to say nothing of the lumbering Cybermen). She also sprung a deadly surprise on the Vulture Priests of M'nektu!

But like all the Doctor's companions, Lola was only with him for a time. Her travels ended rather abruptly when the Doctor and Clara paid a visit to the lonely and never-married Last King of Peladon.  Lola walked ran out of the TARDIS.  She jumped right into the lap of the lonely King Peladon!

Undivided attention at last! And what better lap to sit in than one perched on a throne?

Lola of Peladon
Canine Companion of the Doctor

  • High Concept: Miniature dachshund companion
  • Trouble: Needs a carry-carry from time to time
  • Aspect: Squeeze in tight spaces
  • Aspect: A very loud bark!
  • Aspect: A big appetite for such a little dog
  • Careful: 0
  • Clever: +2 
  • Flashy: +1
  • Forceful: +1
  • Quick: +3
  • Sneaky: +2
  • Ankle Biter - Take +2 to Quick Approach to trip an adversary with longer legs than yours. 
  • Hound's Eyes - Take +2 to Clever Approach to beg or plead for something you want.
  • Big Jump! - Take +2 to Flashy Approach to attempt a leap or jump that looks impossible for a creature of your small stature.
  • Sniff It! - Take +2 to Careful Approach when using your nose and mouth to Create an Advantage in learning something about a Mystery Substance. Don't be surprised when you are Compelled to eat something that is Bad to Eat anyway. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Welcome To FATE SF

Tesla grain art from the 2014 Minnesota State Fair

Or welcome back, if you are a regular here at FATE SF! I thought I'd post a brief introduction for folks who might be stopping by because of Charles Akins' EN World article Ten RPG Blogs Everyone Should be Reading. With this post, we are at 465 and counting, and I'd imagine we'll hit 500 before year's end!

I normally post about 3 times per week, and daily when time permits. We've been publishing at a slower pace this summer due to an extremely demanding project at work, but we expect the pace to pick up considerably once we are out of September.

So why FATE SF? I started this blog to preserve my sanity. After the big financial collapse of the last decade, working in non-profits became significantly harder. Grim, in fact. I needed a creative outlet.

This was a good year before Fate Core became A Thing. I thought a cool niche for blogging would be Fate-based SF games. Now mind you, back then, we only had two big Fate-based SF games: Diaspora, and Starblazer Adventures, although Bulldogs! would soon be along too I still love them, with a slight bias towards Starblazer Adventures - it just hits the spot so well for a kitchen sink space opera RPG.

Daniel Swensen's blog World Without SYN was a definite inspiration! So were a couple of OSR-inspired free thinkers, the creative geniuses behind Hereticwerks and From the Sorcerer's Skull. Through them, I discovered other points of interest and illumination such as Porky's Expanse!.

A bit more about myself. The first two SF novels I read were back in the 6th and 7th grade: James Blish's Spock Must Die, and Robert A. Heinlein's Orphans of the Sky. Delaney's Babel-17 and Nova followed shortly thereafter, as did John Christopher's City of Gold and Lead. In recent years, I have been reading more of the greats, including Alastair Reynolds, Iain M. Banks, Cordwainer Smith, and Eleanor Arnason to name a few.

My first RPG was black box Traveller. We actually played Whitebox D&D before Traveller, because my friend Steve Gear had purchased that after hearing about it from friends in school. Just as important for me was the SPI wargame Starforce: Alpha Centauri, which offered one of the earliest future histories in gaming. (I used elements of two races from the SPI setting at Con of the North 2014 in my "Ringworld Reloaded" Mindjammer scenario.)

True Confessions:
  • My favorite game worlds - since childhood - have been Tekumel and Glorantha. 
  • My most recent Fate-based purchase wasn't SF. It was the print edition of Ryan Macklin's capable Fate conversion of the Modiphius' Achtung! Cthulhu setting. It's going to prove useful for a convention game I'll be running in February (more on that soon). (Of course, a good argument can be made that much of the Mythos is SF, so Achtung! Cthulhu could arguably be considered pulp SF!
  • I'm very interested (but haven't yet purchased) a non-Fate SF space opera game called Myriad Song. It seems pretty groovy and very Roger Dean-y.