Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Dresden Files RPG - Extended Combat example

So, last time I tried to figure out the rules to a game I wrote my way through a little playtest and shared it publicly, which was a huge help, since one of my players caught some mistakes that I made. Since it worked so well last time, I’m doing it again. 

----

Elizabeth Carter is a dangerous woman. Her mother once told her that her father was an angel. As an adult, she wasn’t even really sure if angels really existed, much less if she carried the blood of one, but at this point her mother was long since dead, and there would be no way to ask her.

What she did know, however, was that she herself was no angel.

It was nearly midnight on the day that would become know as the Night of Burning Skies. Things were never exactly quiet in Amsterdam, but tonight they were downright terrifying. The creatures she had heard described as the ‘fomor’ had been in town for a while, but they had mostly kept a low profile. Tonight however they had moved in a big way, and some sort of war had erupted because of it.

Elizabeth wasn’t exactly ‘plugged in’ to the local scene, but she knew that had to be bad, and she had friends that she needed to check in on. There were plenty of faster ways around the city, but she had elected to run down the back alleys and stay out of sight as much as possible. The roads and waterways just weren’t safe for the talented right now.

In a city like Amsterdam, however, that wasn’t always possible, and it was only a matter of time before she found herself slowing to rest a little too close to the water.

The run had been exhausting, and she had been at it for hours. She had called people, convinced them to gather for safety, and sent out as many messages as she could, but still there were those who had to be checked in on in person. So far the number she had found missing, with their homes or vehicles in a state of disarray was frighteningly high. Now she had no choice but to stop and catch her breath for a minute. She’d be no good to anyone if she came across a fight already tired.

She scolded herself even as she finished the thought. She wasn’t exactly superstitious, but if ever there was a time to knock on wood…

Of course, that’s when she heard the furtive movement behind her. She whirled around, but it was already too late. The first of the fomors’ servitors was already out of the canals and getting ready to pounce, with two of its friends coming out of the dark water close behind it.

Elizabeth Carter
High Concept: Touched by an angel (if you believe in such things).
Trouble: I’m responsible for those who put their trust in me.
Aspects:
  • Anger issues.
  • Unknowing, unwilling, Sword of Heaven.
  • I fight for people, not causes.
  • Spirit of an angel, heart of a young woman.
  • Sins of the father.
Powers:
  • Channeling (Kinetomancy) -2
  • Inhuman Speed -2
  • Refinement -2
  • Inhuman Mental Toughness -2
    • The Catch (Alien thoughts) +0
  • Inhuman Toughness -2
    • The Catch (Unholy Power) +0
Skills
  • Alertness +2
  • Athletics +4
  • Contacts +3
  • Conviction +5
  • Discipline +6
  • Endurance +3
  • Fists +1
  • Guns +2
  • Investigation +2
  • Lore +4
  • Presence +1
  • Rapport +1
  • Resources +1
  • Stealth +2
  • Weapons +3
Gear:
  • Ring: +1 Offensive power (force)
  • Ring: +1 Defensive Power (force)
  • Anklets: +3 to Athletics, 2/session.
  • Cloak: Armor 4, 3/session.
  • Potion (Undeclared)
Stress:
  • Physical: OOOO
  • Mental: OOOO(OO) Armor: 1
  • Social: OOO
Consequences:
  • Mild:
  • Mild (Mental):
  • Moderate:
  • Severe:
Refresh: 2

Fomor Gorilla-Shark (3)
High Concept: Weird Fomor Minion
Aspects:
  • Freakishly Strong
  • Good Swimmer
Skills:
  • Athletics +4
  • Endurance +4
  • Fists +5
  • Might +5
  • Physical Skills at +3
  • Other Skills at +2
Powers:
  • Aquatic -1
  • Supernatural Strength -4
Stress:
  • Mental: OO
  • Physical: OOOO
  • Social: OO
Refresh: -5

Our battlefield is simple: A long alley bordered on the north and south by two-storey buildings, with entrances at the east and west. The west entrance exits onto a main street, with a canal just beyond it. To the east the alley stretches a long ways before emptying into a small, dark, side street.

Elizabeth is pretty sure she could get away if she needed to, and she has no illusions about how dangerous and powerful these things were, but it’s been a hell of a night, and she feels the need to strike back. With one last sideways glance she turns back to face the creatures head on.


Round One - Fight.
Elizabeth begins in Alley (2). The first fomorian creature begins in the Street zone, with two more in the Canal.

Thanks to her Inhuman Speed Elizabeth goes on a Fantastic (+6) initiative, while the FGS (Fomor gorilla-sharks) go at Fair (+2). Seeing the opportunity to even out the odds a bit, she starts by erecting a wall of pure kinetic force along the zone border between the Canal and the Street, hoping to cut one of the creatures off from the pack. These things are strong, so she knows it’ll have to be tough. Starting with her Conviction of 5, she adds one for her defensive focus item, and decides to live with the stress of adding four more, bringing the total shifts of power to 10(!) for the cost of a 5 Stress hit to her mental track. She still needs to control the power though, so she makes a Discipline test against that same 10. Dice come up ++00, so still not quite enough. Unwilling to take another big hit to her mental stress this early in the fight, she decides to tap her aspect: The Unknowing, Unwilling, Sword of Heaven, so she tosses in a Fate point to bring her Discipline of 6 (8 after the die roll) to a 10 for successful control.

Not realizing yet that he’s alone, the first FGS Sprints through Alley (1) to join Elizabeth in her zone. The difficulty is negligible, and with his Great (+4) Athletics he makes it easily, but the movement takes up his turn this round.

The other two FGS, blocked by the wall, decide to work together in an attempt to bash it down. FGS2 makes a Teamwork Maneuver check (Difficulty Legendary +8), rolling a +--- for a net of -2 to his Superb (+5) Might. Normally this would reduce it to a Good (+3) result, but Supernatural Strength adds +6 when trying to break things, so his final result is a 9. Good enough to place an Assisted by FGS2 aspect on FGS3’s Athletics attempt to move through the wall. Essentially he’s bashing at the thing trying to weaken it.

FGS3 then makes his Athletics check. ++-0 on the roll, plus the free tag on FGS2’s aspect brings his Great (+4) Athletics to Epic (+7). Still not enough for the mighty wall.

Current Damage
  • Elizabeth:
    • Mental: OOOO(XO)

Round Two - Prolonging the inevitable
Seeing the FGS’ strength in action, Elizabeth begins to rethink her decision to fight so many at once, but stay or run, she needs time. Hoping she can rely on the tricks up her sleeve to deal with the one on top of her, the decides to ignore it for now and reinforce her wall to buy some time. Making a roll to prolong, she summons 5 shifts of power, and pushes them all into the wall’s duration. Her Discipline roll is +--0, but she still makes it with her Fantastic (+6) skill, and only takes the mandatory single point of mental stress from casting. Now she has 5 more rounds to decide if she should stay, or if she should go.

FGS1, determined to make sure she’s going nowhere, makes his move, a powerful Fists attack, rolling +--0, bringing his skill down to a Great (+4). Elizabeth rolls Athletics to dodge, normally at a +4, but with Inhuman speed she gains an additional +1. Coupled with a good roll she ends up with a Fantastic (+6) dodge. Enough to avoid the damage completely.

FGS2 and 3 try to break through the shield again, and though they still fail, it’s a near thing. Elizabeth is beginning to realize that, even with such a powerful wall, she’s blowing through energy a lot faster than they are. Time to try going offensive.

Current Damage
  • Elizabeth:
    • Mental: XOOO(XO)
Round Three - Sink or Swim
Frustrated that her wall had cost her so much, but unwilling to let if be for naught, Elizabeth decides to redirect the energy from the powerful spell, pulling and compacting the wall into a spear of pure force that she yanks back toward herself, straight into the back of the creature attacking her. This still requires a Discipline roll to target the creature, but no additional energy, making it a free weapon 10 attack good for a single use. Rolling a +0--, her normally Fantastic Discipline drops to +5, but the FGS rolls even worse, not noticing the spear until it’s too late, and only dodging at Fair (+2). This creates a whopping 13 shifts of damage. Theoretically the creature could take a moderate and severe consequence to reduce it to 3 and stay in the fight, but the GM rules that it's more fun to just let the crazy powerful attack just Take the thing Out. He still has two more to continue the fight with after all.

With a toothy grin Elizabeth’s player describes how the spear of force takes the creature off its feet and pins it to the northern wall briefly before the magic dissipates leaving it to fall to the ground, limp and dead. She's seen a lot of friends disappear tonight, and the payback feels pretty good.

Free of the wall FGS 2 and 3 hesitate only a second to stare at their dead companion before quickly closing the distance and moving into alley (2) with Elizabeth.

Current Damage
  • Elizabeth:
    • Mental: XOOO(XO)
  • FGS1: Dead

Round Four - A good run of bad luck
Elizabeth turns her not-entirely-sane grin toward the closing monsters and lashes out again. Flush with success from her previous attack, she goes for an 8 shift spear of force directly at FGS2. Even with her offensive ring this attack is going to cost her another 3 stress, and she’s becoming very aware of how quickly she is tiring. A bad Discipline check later, and now she's really regretting it.

Reduced by dice from a normally Fantastic (+6) Discipline to Superb (+5), Elizabeth is suddenly staring down the barrel of three points of uncontrolled energy. Too much to save herself from with her last remaining Fate point, she is suddenly kicking herself for pushing so hard. At this point she has a choice: she can take the backlash, doing a 3 stress hit to herself, but casting the spell at full power, or reduce the spell’s power to 5 and allow the other 3 points to leak out into the environment as fallout, probably damaging the buildings around her, but keeping her safe at least.

Reasoning that these monsters will do a lot more than three stress if she doesn’t kill them quickly, and noting that she can always take the backlash as physical damage, which is untouched, she decides to push the full damage into the spell, and take the 3 stress hit. Unfortunately, her roll to hit is also her targeting roll, and the fomor’s dodge roll is an amazing ++++, bringing it to a Legendary (+8). Not only does it manage the dodge, it gets Spin (an optional rule, but one we use). Already hurt and tired, and now with her enemy at a +1 to hit, Elizabeth is in real trouble.

FGS2 returns Elizabeth's grin and lashes out at her, rolling well enough to bring its Fists roll up to a +7 after factoring in its +1 from Spin. Elizabeth dodges, but only manages Great (+4), and takes a 7 Stress physical hit. This includes 4 points for the thing's Supernatural strength and 3 more for its net successes. Unable to soak that kind of damage, Elizabeth triggers her cloak to gain Armor 4 against the attack. This reduces the hit to 3 stress, but since she just filled that box with backlash it rolls up into her 4th physical stress box.

Never one to be left out, FGS3 hits as well, with a Fantastic +6. The mage tries to dodge, but her Athletics roll, even with the +1 for Inhuman Speed, ends up as a Great (+4). Two net hits, plus four for the monster's strength leaves her with 6 damage. Once again Elizabeth triggers her cloak, reduceing the damage to 2 physical stress, but she’s running out of tricks.

Current Damage
  • Elizabeth:
    • Mental: XOXO(XO)
    • Physical: OXXX
  • FGS1: Dead

Round Five - Last chance
Frustrated by last round's setbacks, but bolstered by the fact that she still has all of her Consequences free, Elizabeth decided to give it one last shot. Channeling a 7 stress force attack into her own hands she lashes out with a whip of energy at FGS3’s hand as it is turned aside by her cloak. She takes a 2 stress mental hit from the energy, but her gamble pays off as she rolls +++0 on her Discipline check. This brings her base skill from Fantastic (+6) to +9, or +10 after adding the bonus from her ring of Offensive Control. The creature tries desperately to dodge, but only manages Great (+4) on its Athletics. Adding her net success of 6 to her Weapon 7 attack, she just smirks as another 13 stress rips through the monster, just like the earlier spear did to its friend. When the GM concedes that it is Taken Out as well, she described the whip of living energy wrapping itself around the shark-headed thing until its struggles (and breathing) cease.

She has anger issues.

FGS2 is close to running himself, but he knows the young woman can’t keep this up forever. Deciding to give it one last chance he strikes out at the girl with both fists, as if trying to drive her into the ground. One last good roll puts his Fists attack up to Epic (+7), and Elizabeth knew she was in trouble. Even with her exceptional ability to dodge, and her last use of the cloak, she'd be hard pressed to get that hit down to 1 stress, and anything more than that would definitely roll up and either Take her Out, or force her to take Consequences. As a last ditch effort she decided to protect herself with magic instead of Athletics. The skill was slightly higher.

Elizabeth needs at least 8 shifts of power to deflect the attack, and even with her ring that means she takes a 3 stress mental hit. Since her 3 stress box is already full it rolls up to a 4, but she still only has to Roll her Discipline against the 8. Starting with a Fantastic skill, and rolling +-00 on the dice, she only manages a 6. She can’t afford the backlash, she's too low on Stress. A 2 stress hit on her mental track would roll all the way up to 6, and even on the physical track it would force a Consequence. Sighing she tags her Touched by an Angel aspect and uses her last Fate point.

Current Damage
  • Elizabeth:
    • Mental: XXXX(XO)
    • Physical: OXXX
  • FGS1: Dead
  • FGS3: Dead
  • FGS2: Unharmed

Round Six - Live to fight another day
Having fought until near exhaustion, Elizabeth decides to choose the better part of valor. She has let her anger run away with her again, and she knows it. Luckily for her, the creature looks hesitant to keep going as well.

A part of her knows she could take it, but at what cost? It's not worth leaving herself vulnerable and injured in a future attack just to polish off one more of these things, which mean nothing to their masters.

Instead of attacking again, she triggers her anklets and Sprints toward the southern wall. At a full dash her Inhuman Speed adds 2 to her normally Great (+4) Athletics. With the +3 from her anklets and a good roll (+2 more), her total is an 11. That’s enough to Sprint straight up the wall, across the roof, and jump over to another nearby building.

Lacking both the ability and desire to follow the powerful mage, the last FGS standing decides to let her go.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Jadepunk Skill Modes

So, when I started my Jadepunk game I mentioned that the Professions system was pretty close to Fate Accelerated's Approaches system, which isn't really my cup of tea. Professions is closer, but I'm a bit too much of a crunchy, traditionalist gamer not to at least play with it a bit.

The thing is, after discussing it with my players we decided that you couldn't really take a Jadepunk character and translate it directly into the Fate skill pyramid, so I decided to give Modes a try instead. This feels closer. It's not quite right, I need to move some skills around before I'm really happy with it, but I like the direction it's moving.


So, it's not ready for use yet, but here's what I've got so far.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Catching Up with Jadepunk (part 3)

So, this is the last of these updates, enough to get us caught up to date so people can get an idea of how we put together a #Jadepunk campaign and got it rolling. If anyone has any interest I'll keep making my session updates available. I'm going to write them anyways for my own notes, so if it doesn't become annoying to my readers I may as well share them.

Session Three

Knowing they needed to hurry in case the Green Tiger came back with reinforcements, the group got right to work. Han and Saffron set about freeing the prisoner and bandaging the most grievous of his wounds while Keiko started searching the warehouse and fallen guards for clues.

The old man told them what had happened in the hours since he was kidnapped. Apparently he had been badly tortured, and in an effort to end his pain and get the Hu brothers to leave his daughter alone he had told them where the item (a book) that his daughter had stolen was located. The Red Dragon, the Hu brother the group had met during the fight at the tea shop had already left with several men to retrieve it, but his brother remained to continue gathering information from the old man.

Retrieving the stolen property hadn't been enough. They wanted his daughter dead.

Keiko, meanwhile, had found something else interesting. All of the fallen guards had evidence of old, congealed blood on their boots. Thinking that it was unlikely the entire squad had somehow walked through a murder scene, the group came to the decision that they must have been to a nearby slaughterhouse for some reason.

Having discovered what they could, Saffron picked up the Green Tiger's fallen knife and the group returned to their bolt hole to decide on their next course of action and give the old man a safe place to heal. There it was decided that the Red Dragon probably had too much of a lead on them to recover the book. That left them with only one choice: They had to leave the city, find the girl, and figure out what she knew that was so important that a large number of private police officers had been willing to die for it.

Thus the group split up one more time. Saffron returned to her shop to prepare some devices for their travels, Han returned to the Qin household to "borrow" a blue jade cloak that they kept there, and Keiko moved to investigate the slaughterhouse.

From the outside the slaughterhouse looked much like one would expect, a low structure in a bad part of town, clearly still in use. The smells were terrible, attracting all sorts of vermin and birds. Around back however was a different story. Keeping an eye on the place for a couple of hours, Keiko watched as one by one men would approach the building, pay a heavily tattooed guard, and then enter. Using her disguise to try and fit in Keiko approached the guard herself and learned that the people who came through here were selling some sort of jade concoction, but she was unable to produce enough money to buy-in herself, and was forced to exit before the guard became suspicious.

----

Finally ready to leave, the group got directions to the hiding hole from Mr. Nguyen and made their way to the train leaving town as quickly as possible. Most of the journey went well, but the end would be tricky.

Since the group didn't have the white jade kite that Daiyu had used to get off the train while it was still in motion, they would have to jump when the train slowed down to cross a bridge passing over the river. Timed just right they would be able to land safely in the deep, muddy water and continue along their way.

I was too lazy to bring out tokens and cards to represent the
characters and zones, so you get to see my terrible art work.
Of course, nothing is ever quite that easy. As the group jumped into the river Saffron slipped. She landed without injury, but slipped too deep for a moment and disturbed something very large that moved beneath the surface.

Never content to let a bad roll go, and unwilling to let a single mistake bring the game to a halt, I generally use them to introduce some sort of consequence. In this case I decided to introduce something new: a very angry, green jade tainted, hippopotamus.

The thing came out of the water in the midst of the group like a force of nature. Saffron and Han quickly made their way to the shoreline while Keiko stayed to engage the thing. The fight was hard, complicated by the fact that Saffron's pistol had gotten clogged with mud (thanks to a compel on its aspect) during her fall and the fact that Keiko refused to run from a fight (thanks to a compel on her personal aspect.

The poker chips represent fate points (white), created advantages
(blue), and boosts (red) that had been spent during the fight.
In the end the group was successful in killing the thing, but now they were cold, wet, stuck on the banks of a river in the middle of nowhere, and very short on Fate points. It was going to be a very long night.

Left with little choice, the group gathered on the shoreline and began the next part of their journey into the mountains surrounding Kausao city. They needed to find Daiyu and figure out what she knew, and hoped that whatever it was would make all of this worth while.


End Session Three.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Catching up on Jadepunk (part two)

Second Session

Picking up with the #Jadepunk game where we left off, the characters decided to regroup and quickly gather what information they could before the authorities began to show up. Unfortunately there wasn't much they recognized. The enemy had been unusually skilled and well armed, each bearing a tattoo of a red tiger and green dragon arranged in a yin-yang on their left hands. They knew it had to mean something, they weren't simple thugs, but there was no time to investigate it further.

Saffron and the still-injured Keiko decided to take Mr. Nguyen and get out of there, while Han stayed behind to smooth things over with the authorities and see whet more she could gather. This proved to be fortunate, because a member of the city watch and several city guards showed up soon thereafter.

Though they didn't seem particularly interested in Han's story about what happened, they did give away some valuable information. the "thugs" the group fought were members of a private police organization run by the Hu brothers, a pair of famous (and dangerous) mercenaries. These weren't the kind of men that should be messed with, and the watch was content to let them handle their own business.

Armed with that knowledge Han left the scene and rushed off to find where the others were laying low.

Meanwhile, being the member of the resistance tasked with smuggling people out of Kausao City, Mr. Nguyen had a number of hiding holes in which the group could take refuge. The one they settle for was an old cellar for a building that had burned down years ago. When the new building was built on top of it no one realized that the cellar was there, and thus it had no access. This made it a perfect place to store refugees, since everyone assumed the store room belongs to someone else.

Today the cellar was empty save for a group of ravens that watched with interest as the group took their turn to take refuge there. Nguyen and Keiko were hurt badly, but luckily Saffron knew a bit about healing, and took the time to bandage everyone's wounds while Nguyen told them what he knew.

Mr. Nguyen had called the group together because he had what he thought might be a massive blow to several of the city's most prominent houses. A young but accomplished thief named Daiyu had stumbled across several important members of the bureaucracy gathered in some sort of clandestine meeting. Once it was over she broke into the chamber they had gathered in and stole something valuable (though Nguyen did not know exactly what). She had thought she managed to get away clean, but ever since then the Hu brothers and their gang have hunted and hounded her.

Unsure what else to do, Daiyu went to her father seeking help, who in turn came to Nguyen hoping that the rebellion could smuggle the girl out of the city. Nguyen agreed, but on the condition that she leave whatever it was that she had stolen for the rebellion's use. Once they had reached an understanding Nguyen gave the girl directions to a place in the nearby mountains where she could be safe, and he brought her father to the group so that he could tell them where to find the stolen property.

Which catches us up to what happened in the tea shop.

This left the group with two basic options: Find the girl, who was presumably safe in Nguyen's hiding place, or rescue her father from a powerful group of well armed men.

Ever the heroes, our players decided to do the latter.

Bandaged as much as possible, Keiko hit the streets to check with her informants about where the Hu brothers might be keeping the old man, while Han did much the same in more diplomatic circles. Saffron, in the mean time, decided to hit her engineering shop and put together a few surprises for the enemy.
Our map, with a few marked locations around town.

In the end all of their intel lead to the same place: One of the Hu brothers was holed up with a large number of his men in an old, abandoned warehouse and sifting plant along the river.

Their quarry identified, the group moved in, Keiko using her extraordinary mask and scoundrel skills to disguise herself as a member of the gang, and Han helping Saffron to sneak up to the building around back along the river.

When the time came to act it happened all at once. Han separated himself from Saffron to check out a skylight on the roof, so the engineer took the opportunity to throw herself into the midst of the guards watching the building's rear entrance. Unseen by all but the ever-present black birds that circled the area, and armed with only a holdout pistol and a blade, she did an admirable job of creating a distraction. Half of the guards at the rear door were down before they knew what hit them. This allowed Han to slip in through the skylight unnoticed, and gave Keiko time to get inside the front door, throw off her disguise, and call out the men there.

The group was better prepared for the fight this time, and it went much better. It was long and hard, given the straight on nature of their attack plan (thanks to some creative invocations of their aspects), but it was clear from the beginning that the group had the upper hand. Even when the Green Tiger, the famous Hu swordsman entered the fray it was too little, too late to turn the tide of battle.

That's not to say it wasn't without difficulties however. In the middle of the fight Saffron discovered some sort of Jadetech refining operation and decided to destroy it while she had its engineers cowed into a corner. Unfortunately the whole thing was highly unstable however, and the resulting explosion killed all of the engineers, and nearly took out Saffron herself.

Meanwhile, this left Keiko largely alone to fight the bulk of the warehouse guard and the Hu brother wielding an extremely sharp green jade sword. Luckily Han was able to pick up a pistol he found on a dead guard that had been stationed on the catwalk at that point and join in the fight.

In the end it wasn't without cost, but the group won the day. The Green Tiger was forced to leave behind one of his trademark daggers and flee into the river, leaving the group in control of the warehouse and the old man they had come to rescue.

End of Session Two.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Catching up on Jadepunk (part one)

I know I've fallen behind a bit over the last few weeks, so I'm just going to jump right in and get to work covering our first three sessions. To keep the length manageable I'll split it over a few posts, but I expect them all to come out within the next few days.

First, let me say that I'm very please with the direction our game is going in. I'm a pretty big fan of giving players some shared authorship over where the campaign begins and where it is heading (see my posts on Campaign Mapping and the Jadeborn Campaign Map for details), and the technique hasn't let me down yet. Between our map and some outside inspiration from books and video games I have a very solid idea of what my version of Kausao City looks like, and what the opposition is likely to do. Now it's just up to the players to throw a wrench into their plans.

Speaking of which...

The Characters

Other than myself our group consists of three players: 
  • Lisa, playing Han, an aristocrat serving one of the most powerful families in Kausao City (The Qin). Once a loyal servant until his love was captured by them and sold away. She now works from within the family, using her access to their information and Jadetech to tear down the system from the inside.
  • Schroeder, playing Saffron, an Aerish jadetech engineer who uses her knowledge and a series of cleverly built devices to take on the enemy in a language they understand: power and explosions.
  • Willy, playing Kei (or perhaps Keiko, depending who you believe actually lives under the jadetech mask), a former gang leader who was taken off the streets by an old monk and taught to use his skills to help the people instead of being part of the corruption that's oppressing them. Kei's primary weapon is a blue jade staff that can be manipulated to grow or shrink depending upon current needs that the character inherited when the monk was captured and sent to work in a penal mine.

First Session

Unfortunately we didn't get a ton done on our first night. Between finalizing characters and discussing the setting all we really had time to do was a quick intro. In this case we picked up right where my post on the Opening Scene left off. Our players chose to be members of a small but growing resistance movement dedicated to taking down the corrupt government of the city, and working to free people who are being held or worked unreasonably.

To this end they were tasked with meeting at a tea shop in an upscale portion of the city where My. Nguyen (their contact with the resistance) would be meeting them.

Now, I should throw in here that I like to start campaigns off with a fight. I find it gets the characters active and working together right away without the awkward small talk. It also serves as a crash course on the system for newer players, as well as making sure everyone knows what the team was capable of. Tonight was no different.

As soon as our characters were (mostly) ready to play we jumped right in. The group's contact was escorting an older man into the tea shop on the floor below the group when a lit lantern was thrown through a window, spreading burning oil across the middle of the shop. Immediately following it was a group of eight armed men, looking for trouble.

The group jumped right into action, with Keiko covering her face with her mask and extending her staff to slide down into the midst of the enemy. In the mean time Saffron wet a piece of cloth with water and used it to cover her face, hoping it would protect her from the smoke, as well as protecting her identity in the crowded shop. For his part, Han knew little of combat, and couldn't afford to be seen fighting in a shop his employers frequent. Taking the safe route, he pulled at table cloths and drapings to attempt to smoother the fire.

The fight itself was a lot tougher than anyone expected. The enemy outnumbered them badly (especially with a third of the group caught up fighting a fire that I also ran as a character), and it was all the group could do to hold their ground in the tight quarters. Keiko and Saffron managed to take out 5 of the enemy, but their ally Mr. Nguyen was badly injured and pinned to the ground by an enemy spear, while Keiko was (Thanks to a concession after losing two consequences) thrown out of a window, too badly hurt to return to the fight.

In the end Saffron managed to chase away the remaining three thugs, but not before they captured and carried off the man Mr. Nguyen had brought for them to meet. A scattering of ravens took flight as the young woman chased the enemy out into the street, hoping to follow them. Unfortunately, the enemy's rear was being protected by a newcomer to the fight, a tall man wearing a duster, with his hand resting casually on the grip of a red jade revolver, a red dragon tattoo etched in jade on his hand.

The fire finally out, Han ran to the door and dragged Saffron back inside. They were too hurt to continue this fight and face a new, unknown opponent.

End of Session One.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Back again

Sorry that it's been so long since my last post. I'm not sure if I mentioned it before, but I'm transitioning to a new job and my schedule is a bit hectic. More importantly, my free time has a bit of a drain on it.

I may have said it before, but right now I'm running four RPGs. The Jadepunk game I keep talking about, an Earthdawn game that I wrote about a while back, a sci-fi based Savage Worlds game, and a 5th edition dungeons and dragons game.

Two of those (Jadepunk and Savage Worlds) started very recently, both on the same week, and without much in the way of warning. This basically means that I'm playing catch-up on both of them to varying degrees, trying to get out setting info, re-reading rules that I haven't (in the case of Savage Worlds) seen in years, and trying to keep up with the emails that my group uses to bridge between sessions.It works great to encourage down-time actions, keep players in the game, and allow some space for easy player-generated  content. Unfortunately, it's also time consuming.

That said, things are finally evening out. My settings are well set, my rules re-read is through, and I'm only a couple of weeks away from finishing training at the new hospital. My apologies for the spotty posting, but I'm working towards getting back up and running.

Thanks for your patience.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Jadeborn: Setting the Opening Scene

Mr. Nguyen was not the kind of man to waste time on petty things like tea shops. Never-the-less, this was where he had asked to meet them. They all knew each other of course, or at least knew of each other. The resistance was a small world, and few of its members were as capable as the three gathered around the table today.

The privacy of identities was, of necessity, almost sacred among the members of the resistance. Deeds and results were however things to be celebrated, and each of these had accomplished a great deal in their time. Looking around the table they didn't just see colleagues, they saw indentured servants freed, resources stolen for the greater good, evil men vanquished in the name of justice.

They saw works of freedom written in old scars and hard eyes.

Still, gathering in one place like this was awkward. They had heard that the shop was the kind of place where they could meet with absolute discretion, but it still felt wrong. Dangerous.

Of course, it was only a matter of time before their fears were proven accurate. Sitting in their quiet, well-concealed booth on the second floor they heard the commotion below. Shouts, weapons drawn, screams, and the sound of a window breaking as a lit oil lamp was thrown in among the crowd. They stood as one, bracing themselves for the attack to come, but it became quickly apparent that their gathering wasn't the target.


Carefully looking below they saw the flames starting to take hold and armed men forcing the crowds back as they crowded Mr. Nguyen and an elderly companion towards its warm embrace.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Last Night on Earth: Timber Peaks

As I'm writing this I have just gotten done playing Last Night on Earth with my son. We play the core game a lot, but this was our first time playing this expansion. I have to say, it really added something to the game for me.

If you haven't played Last Night on Earth before, it's billed as a B-movie zombie board game, and it hits that point pretty spot on. Play is for 2 to 6 players, divided into two teams. One side plays the zombies, the other plays as the heroes. Each side takes a turn until the win conditions are met.

Because of the modular nature of the game those win conditions change, as do the heroes, and the board itself. This adds a little variety to the game that we find really fun.

Anyways, I wanted to comment on this expansion in particular because it added a couple of compelling new rules to the game. First, heroes and zombies now gain experience as they hurt the enemy. This really encourages more aggressive play, and adds just one more level of variety to the game. Now the heroes themselves are different each time you play.

Second is fire. The way it's handled in this game isn't exactly new. It works much like it does in games like Flash Point (though maybe not as well since fire isn't the true focus here); each round you roll for each space that is occupied by fir. roll high enough and it expands to a random adjacent square.

This was huge fun for me, maybe just because of the way it worked out in my game, but it added an element of randomness that was dangerous to everyone on the board. At one point one of my heroes tossed gasoline into a building that my son was hiding zombies in (I needed to kill them for the win condition and my heroes couldn't get in), and then set it alight with a flare gun. Many of the zombies survived the initial attack and came pouring out of the building into my hero's space, followed immediately thereafter by the fire which expanded to engulf them all. It was all she could do to get away, and I had to spend the rest of the game with her hiding just to keep her from turning into a zombie too.

And that's why I love it. Why I love random elements in games in general. It's why I use fudge dice in my campaign creation system. Randomness creates emergent gameplay. It creates stories, and forces existing ones to bend in unforeseen ways.

If you haven't played Last Night on Earth or any of its expansions I recommend them. I don't have them all (yet), but the ones I do have proved to be great fun.

If you never use randomness in your story creation I recommend that as well. There's nothing wrong with a well plotted story, but by adding in a random element you allow everyone to be surprised, even yourself. It takes away a bit of predictability and encourages creativity.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Shadowcraft: The Glamour War Kickstarter

So, I'm not one to try and sell anyone something, but right now the team that put together Jadepunk (which I obviously adore) have a kickstarter going on their newest project: Shdowcraft. I'm really looking forward to this game, so I've been encouraging everyone to at least give it a look. Kickstarter may not be your thing, I know it takes something special to make it mine, but at least go listen to their pitch. They've proven themselves with Jadepunk, both as capable designers and reliable producers, and I feel like this is a pretty safe bet.

Anywho, I'll let their work speak for itself. They do a better job of explaining it than I can, but it's Fate with nifty new mechanics, and that's pretty much an automatic win for me. Toss on top of that a cool, unique setting, and I'm in wholeheartedly.

Now I just need you to back it too, so this actually becomes a thing.


Friday, February 27, 2015

Jadeborn Prelude

Just to give you an idea where we're headed with the new game, here is the prelude story I sent to my players to get us in the mood for our first game, set up our starting point, and introduce a few important characters:

Daiyu ran toward the train holding the fragile bundle she had received from the jade engineer carefully. It was very light and delicate, and she feared that it would snap in her rush, but there was no time to lose. Behind her two men fought their way through the crowd yelling for everyone to get down, trying to bring their red jade pistols to bear.

She was running late, and the train was already in motion by the time she made it to the platform. By the time the first bullet sailed past her head, she knew she had little choice.

Without thinking she whipped out her nine section whip and shot its sharp, green jade tip out and into the wood of the train's car, leaping as the thing jerked her forward.The light, white jade latticework kite in her opposite hand fanned out, catching the wind and bringing her into an uncomfortable glide as the vehicle picked up speed and made its way to the outskirts of the city. She wouldn't be able to keep this up long, and she knew it, but with little choice she began winding the chain painfully around hand, bringing her closer to the train and safety.

Already she could hear the shouts of city guard inside the train, but she'd just need to stay on long enough to clear the edge of the city.

She needed help, or things in Kausao city were going to get a lot worse

----

Behind her, the Hu brothers cursed quietly, watching as the girl pulled herself atop the train before vanishing out of sight. If they couldn't take the girl they'd have to send some of their men after the old man's tea shop directly, and that was sure to make enough noise to attract unwanted attention.

Still, there was no help for it. The Qin family was paying them well, and they weren't the sort of men to fail on an assignment.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

My son the DM

Last year I introduced my 11 and 9 year old kids to gaming for the first time. They've seen me run for my friends, and we play a lot of board games (including the D&D 4e games), and they were keen to try their hand at an RPG.

We started with Dungeon World. It's a simple game to jump into, and doesn't require a lot of specialized knowledge on the players' part. They adored it, particularly my son, and ask to play all the time.

Unfortunately we don't have enough time to just sit and play very often, so my son has decided to draw upon his other resources: his friends.

Yesterday he asked me if he could borrow my Dungeon World book. Today he's half way through reading it and asking me to print character sheets. I'm proud of him, he's a smart kid, but doesn't always follow through and apply himself. Having been that kid myself 30 years ago, I know how much RPGs (or any hobby that requires a certain amount of work really) can help with that.

It's kind of a weird place to be at really. I never thought I'd raise gamers. Not that I have anything against it, but I know people who actively encourage hobbies or opinions outside of the norm, and that's just not me. I sit back and try to let my kids discover their own personalities instead of pushing my hobbies and ideas on them, and yet they came to this on their own.

It's a little cool, I'm not going to lie.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Providing some context, part I: Earthdawn

So, let's talk a little about what I'm currently doing with my games, so when I mention one later it might make a bit more sense.

First, I'm going to start with Earthdawn 3rd Edition. The game I've been running the longest right now is my Earthdawn campaign. It's been going for nearly two years now, though in fairness we've only played 16 times. This is a solo game I run for one of my players when we want to do something, but no one else is around. When I was in school this was pretty infrequent, maybe once every 4 to 6 weeks, but now that I'm done we're trying to maintain a steady every-other-week schedule.

Something that really sticks with me about this campaign is how resilient it is. 90% of the time, if I missed four or five weeks in a game, I'd be ready to move on to something else. With just one player and no real hurry though we've managed to really flesh out these characters and this world. We know them well enough to jump right back in, and would miss playing them if we were to outright quit.

The story itself is your standard Earthdawn fare. Our main character, Rask, is from a community newly emerged from spending more than 300 years trapped underground, hiding from the Horrors (a race of demon-like creatures that cross over into our world whenever the magic level grows too high). The community is short on supplies and finds itself at odds with another nearby community who sees their newly planted farm fields as a solution to their own food problems.

Meanwhile, ork raiders start harassing both communities driving them ever closer to war. In the end, when a battle does come it is only stopped by the intervention of a newly discovered enemy more dangerous than any of the others, forcing all of the communities in the area to band together. \\It's not a perfect truce however, and always on the verge of collapse as we enter winter and one of the towns begins to starve, so our player is off to find a magical sword, a symbol of leadership for the starving people, and a new place for them to call home.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Campaign Mapping

Here is the playtest document for the Campaign Mapping mini-game that I use in my games. It's not only for Fate, I use it for basically every game I run, but it was written with Fate in mind.

Basically it's a way to guide collaborative campaign building, inspired by the system used in Smallville. We've used it at least a score of times so far, and it's undergone some changes here and there, but for the most part it is very solid. It produces neat results, and because everyone builds the game as a team you get instant group buy-in.

It hasn't been edited or anything, so be aware. It's actually part of a larger project I've been working on, so sorry if the references aren't perfect. I just cut it out so I could share it.

Enjoy.

The Jadeborn Campaign Map

So, I thought this might prove somewhat interesting to all the #Jadepunk  players out there. Earlier this week I posted the pitch I used to talk my players into my Jadepunk/Mistborn hybrid, and this Thursday we got together to discuss characters and play a little campaign mapping mini-game that I wrote that helps us get buy-in to our new games.

Linked is a PDF of the output from that mini-game.

To make it easier to read: the gray circles are my players. All other circles are people or organizations (fill colors don't mean anything, it just makes it easier for us to tell different types apart). Squares are places. Diamonds are campaign concepts we want to explore. Triangle are objects or things players own/want to work toward.

Size and position are important. The bigger something is, the more important the placing player wants it to be. The closer it is to something else, the more closely they are related.

The green and red circle round a shape indicate details and traits players have added to each campaign element. Green indicates a possible asset to be used/acquired in play, red is a complication or plot hook. The text guides you as to the placing player's intention, and serves to inspire the Aspects related to that element.

That's about it. There'a a whole mini-game to figure out who gets to place what, since I find that limitations give guidance and breed inspiration, but that's far too long and unrelated to go into here. I just wanted those who cared to have an idea how to read the map, as it defines the starting point of our campaign.

Jadeborn: A campaign pitch for Jadepunk

Below is the pitch for my #Jadepunk  game by way of Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series. I took the basis of Kausao City, made it a touch darker, and changed the governor o be a mythical figure so that he can serve as a single, identifiable bad guy. My players need a clearly defined win condition for our next game. He's it.

I'm tentatively calling it Jadeborn.

Mists, subtly colored in shifting hues by the nearby jade refineries, cling to everything; reaching out as though they are searching for some bit of life to hold onto. Nights are always dangerous in Kausao City, but nights like these make your skin crawl. The already dark and crowded streets lose all visibility, encouraging desperate men to make their move and lowering what few inhibitions the dangerous and powerful have about harming those they oppress.

Men like that think these nights belong to them. They're wrong.

These nights belong to you.

Kausao City can be beautiful. The billowing sails of huge ships float above the port like a snowy sea. Glistening airships sail overhead painted with the likenesses of dragons and the beautiful lettering of foreign lands. The spires of the rich and powerful lift to the skies like the praying hands of a hundred wisemen.

Beneath it all lay something darker. All around you men are treated like animals. They suffer in pitch black mines denied food until they meet their jade quotas. They are beaten in the fields because they are too weak to go on. They are killed in the streets because they crossed a rich man's path close enough that he was forced to smell them. They are, for all purposes, owned by nobles and corporations, unable to pay down debts to buy their freedom and move about because the cost of the meager housing and rotten food their masters supply is higher than the wage they earn, forcing their children to take on their burdens.

Streets and alleys crawl with gangs and predators. The wilds are full of beats mutated by pollution from factories and refineries. Buildings of the poor are left barely standing, coated in the ash and soot of a hundred thousand fires.

And somewhere out there among it all is a governor who styles himself a god. They claim that he is jadeborn, an immortal naturally infused with the power of jade. They say he is unstoppable, that his corrupt rule will last forever, that he is untouchable, unapproachable.

You're here to prove them wrong.

Maybe you can't get to him directly. Not yet. He is not without weaknesses however. His reign depends on a tight-fisted control over the nobles that oppress the common people, the corporations that dominate the production of jadetech, and a population too afraid to fight back.

In this lies his weakness. Corruption seeps from his rule like an infected wound. This is where you will hit him, striking at councilors near to him, taking down businesses that own men like slaves, and striking back at justice ministers who have been paid off or imprison men unjustly.


So pick up you razor sharp blade of green jade. Ready the red jade six guns. Prepare your black jade elixirs. However you choose, fight. Step out into this dark and dangerous night and teach evil men what it is to fear.

Jadepunk

Before I talk about #Jadepunk  , I need to make something clear. I game a lot. Like, three to four games going at any given moment, and nearly always at least one of the is powered by #Fate . It's certainly not the only game I play, but if you were to ask me to run something for you tomorrow, Fate is what I'd use. For me, it just clicks.

That said, I'm always on the look out for something to add to my Fate games. Some new mechanic I can steal or idea I can use as a jumping off point. I almost never use settings as is, and this is particularly true of Fate. I never played Fight Fire, but I stole the fire mechanics and made them zombies in my horror game. I never ran No Exit, but I used the ideas to write a Matrix-ish game. I never Ran Atomic Robo, Diaspora, or Starblazer, but I used bits and pieces of them all.

So, when I saw Jadepunk all I really wanted was the Asset system. I missed the Kickstarter, so I got to see people raving about it in a void, and decided then and there to use it for magic items in my Fate fantasy game (which worked beautifully by the way).

Then I read it. Sure, it had the system I wanted to steal, and it worked just like I had hoped, but it also had an incredibly interesting story outline. It's not super detailed, but it gives you what you need for inspiration, and in that way it works even better. I own Ptolus, and it's great, but I don't need every little detail mapped out for my. I want enough to put me in the world and make me want to create my OWN stories there. Jadepunk does this in a number of ways.

First, I can't say enough good things about the art. I'm not an art guy. My creativity doesn't go in that direction, and it's never been super important to me, but the way it's inserted into the text draws me in. Most of the pictures are small, sitting there in the margin, showing some small glimpse of life in Kausao City. It doesn't always need to show a fight scene, though those are there too and add some excitement, but some are just people going about their lives, tinkering with devices, or showcasing something unique to the setting. It uses hints of color to remind you that, in the end, it always comes back to the jade. Not being an artist, I don't know if that's exactly what I was supposed to get out of it, but for me it just works.

Next, there's the writing about the city itself. This comes in a couple of flavors: little glimpses of fiction (that like the art just serve to flash a little piece of this really neat setting in front of you), and write ups for everything from jade and jadetech to nations and power groups. The latter really impressed me because it would be so easy to overdo, but instead it just gives me enough to get an idea about where to come from when building plots and playing these NPCs, followed frequently by a little blurb with some adventure seeds or aspects that tie it back to the game and give you an idea how to use them in play.

Finally, there's the setting and how the players are intended to interact with it. It makes no bones about presenting a unified way to play. Sure, you COULD play it however you want, but it doesn't try to be something for everyone in a single book. There are no qualms about telling you that there is oppression that needs to be beaten back, people that need to be saved, enemies that need to be dealt with, and goals that need to be accomplished. I for one really appreciate this because the whole text paints a single picture. It's a dark world, and you are meant to be a light within it. The text talks to you as though you're already one of those heroes just waiting for the chance to prove your worth.

Setting aside, the book is well written and clear. I had no trouble opening it up and reading cover to cover, which is something I just don't do with game books. It's pleasing to the eye, easy to read, and the rules sections are well detailed so as to not leave the reader with a ton of questions.

Rules-wise, the subsystems are excellent. I already mentioned the asset system, which in my experience is fairly unique compared to other Fate games. Dresden comes close, but Jadepunk is the only one that just treats the rules as rules instead of trying to hand-wave everything. You pick your asset, assign it properties from a specific list, give it flaws to keep the costs reasonable, and then spend a set amount of refresh based on the total cost, which is derived from the powers you chose. Straight forward, simple, and intuitive. No guess-work. It has a cost based on its abilities and you pay it. Same thing with Aspects, they are tied to specific things. Jadepunk isn't alone in this, but it implements it well.

I'm not going to call it my perfect game or anything. I'm not a fan of Fate Accelerated, and the professions Jadepunk uses in place of skills definitely smack of approaches. This is totally a personal taste thing though, and I totally own that. Some people love approaches, it's just not my personal thing. Even this isn't a turn off though. They're implemented well here, and If I decide I can't handle dealing with them it would be easy enough to use a more standard skill system instead.


I'm not sure if this long-winded discussion will help anyone but me, but for what it's worth I can't wait to jump right in to running the game (as is, not stealing pieces) set in Kausao City. My players need a win. They need a target t focus on, and a chance to do real good in game after too much gray or worry about right vs wrong. Jadepunk is going to give me that.

Relaunching

So, I'm terrible at maintaining a blog, or at least I have been in the past. My biggest problem was always school, and that's behind me now, so I'm going to give it another try.

The biggest driver for this is the fact that I keep posting things to Google+ that I'd like to have some sort of permanency, so I'm going to try for that here. The first few posts will simply be adding in those things here. After that I'll try and maintain posts whenever possible, shooting for twice a week.

Thanks for you patience.