Monday, February 23, 2015

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.