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.


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.


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.


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.