Fate and The Expanse on Roll20: Playmat

I just wanted to share what the playmat looks like right now.

Edit: To answer questions I received, the blank character card was made with the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) 2.10. The original dimensions are 1000×700 but I place the card at 50% size, 500×350, so it will look good even zoomed in. If you would like to use them, here is an archive with .xcf, .psd, and .png format files. The fonts used are Alenia by shanayastudio and Spotnik demo by Alexatype.

I place copies of the blank card on the Map & Background layer on Roll20. The character info is filled on the Objects & Tokens layer in Contrail font.

The Fate bookmark is available from Evil Hat Productions as a free download. And I discuss the aspect tokens in a how-to post on Evil Hat’s website here.

For more tips, including where I got the idea of the character cards from, see How to Run Fate Online.

Ariadne’s Spindle: The Truth Is Out There

We had our Session 0 for our Fate adaptation of The Expanse, leaving me with scribbled notes for adventure- and world-building.

Focus and Sub-Genre

Our strawpoll on themes and genre resulted in the following votes from four players:

Political intrigue: 3
Action and suspense: 2
Character drama: 2
Spaceship combat: 0
Mystery and investigation: 3
Horror: 0
Espionage: 3
Wacky hijinks and banter: 2

Setting Issues

At the moment I’m going with the following issues:

  • The Truth About Eros
  • The Churn Throws Unlikely People Together

Faces and Places

Some of the movers and shakers at the UN and their extended network will probably feature in the backdrop. We discussed the following characters from canon:

  • Sadavir Errinwright
  • Chrisjen Avasarala
  • Cotyar Ghazi
  • Arjun Rao

In addition, we have a new NPC, Thomas Marshall III, the CEO of Marshall LifeTech and father to one of the PCs. He moves in rarefied circles and has some pull with the UN.

Players also mentioned Tycho Station as a place they would like to check into, and Camina Drummer as someone to interact with.

Venus, with possibly old half-built orbital staging platforms meant for the abandoned cloud cities project.

The rings/gates have not yet made their appearance at the start of our campaign. (In other words, we’re aiming more for Outland than Stargate.)

The Main Cast

Our four main characters:

Thomas Marshall the Fourth

Tom is a young man of 22 and he’s the only son of Thomas Marshall the Third, the CEO of Marshall LifeTech, a big player in life support systems. Tom has a lot of crazy conspiracy theories and his father indulges his little “journalistic” endeavors, but Tom lacks experience with the hard edges of the real world. Tom has managed to convince his family to fund a “fact-finding expedition” to Venus to follow one of his many flaky theories, but Thomas Marshall III made sure to add one trusted member to the crew, a young diplomatic attaché called…

Gabriel-Adan Zhao Cantador

Sometimes familiarly called Gaz, Gabriel-Adan Zhao-Cantador is an independent consultant, formerly affiliated with the United Nations Diplomatic Service. Zhao-Cantador was raised in a family on Basic in one of the Earth-Moon LaGrange-4 point. During school, [TBD] inspired Zhao-Cantador to push for a space at the Lower University. Zhao-Cantador studied political science at university and then accepted a position at the United Nations Diplomatic Service before being seconded to the Diplomatic Intelligence Directorate for further training.

While posted as a legal attache at a small station in the Belt, Zhao-Cantador exceeded his authority in authorizing refugee visas for Belters in need of relocation to Earth-jurisdiction, setting them up on Basic Assistance without prior clearance. Had this been a matter of simple corruption, the right people would have been paid, and the situation would have been ignored.

It wasn’t.

As a result, Zhao-Cantador was summarily recalled to Earth, and placed on paid administrative leave. While awaiting disposition of his career, Zhao-Cantador was referred to a meeting with Thomas Marshall.

Keilana Kamealoha

A proficient if quirky xenobiochemist and the first (and possibly only) child born on Triton. Their parents were also xenobiochemists, sent to examine exoplanets with the big Triton arrays for signs of life. Extra mouths were unwanted so everyone was on some form of birth control, but mom and dad were on a timetable so they smuggled a fertilized embryo up with the rat and monkey embryos. Hilarity ensued. Born and raised Triton among a great community of science nerds.

Cécile Izakawa

Born on Eros, from a proletarian family. Her dad was a union representative on a drydock of Eros. Her mom worked menial jobs like cook, EVA suits repairs, whatever she could do to feed her kids.

Self-made woman who had to get her education through work and apprenticeship. She started working when she was 12 on small ships tasked to remove dangerous debris from stations vicinity. Tough jobs that involved EVA, piloting drones, heavy machinery. Later she got also involved in the commercial aspect of the trade: negotiating price of scrap or removal of hazardous material. When she reached her twenties, realizing that she’d be stuck in dead-end job if she didn’t switch career, Cécile got involved with smugglers and low grade criminals which opened her horizon to more profitable job opportunities. Now she wants to know the whole truth about Eros and everyone she lost there.

Cécile is a tall lanky woman. She sports very short hair usually by habit. It’s cleaner and you don’t get Belter lice this way.

The Expanse in Fate: Ship-Building

On with our adaptation of The Expanse to Fate! Along with character creation and ship combat, spaceship construction is one of the most important pieces in this system conversion. Compared to character creation, however, we don’t have as good an internal blueprint for how ships should be modeled in a role-playing game.

As I explained in my interlude, how detailed the ship rules should be in a specific campaign depends on how interested your group is in directly controlling ships and how often this element will show up in the story. At the most basic, ships may be a backdrop, important but more of a scenery aspect the way space stations or planet-side locations may be. At the other end of the spectrum, ship-to-ship combat may be a your characters’ bread and butter.

I gave my players a mini-survey to see where their interest lie: Political intrigue, Action and suspense, Character drama, Spaceship combat, Mystery and investigation; Horror, Espionage, or Other. The two options that go no votes were horror, which didn’t surpris me, and spaceship combat, which did. I had my answer: keep the spaceship combat rules light for my players, don’t burden them with detailed mechanics they’re not interested in using. (Good thing I asked first!)

Therefore, I will use the lightest version possible in my own campaign; in essence, I will treat the AGE System ship profiles as narrative descriptions. Does it say the ship has a med bay? OK, your PC gets a bonus for recovering from appropriate conditions such as Injured or Wounded. Does it have an advanced sensor package? You’ll see other ships coming a little earlier in the fiction.

However, I promised you a more detailed version and here it is. I largely based it on Tachyon Squadron and its supplement, the Spaceship Construction Toolkit, but I do follow The Expanse RPG as closely as I can, especially in the technology lingo.

Continue reading “The Expanse in Fate: Ship-Building”