Ups and Downs and Ups

Thrilling news for me: A couple of weeks ago I received the green light from Evil Hat Productions to be creative director and primary author for a new Fate Toolkit focusing on espionage, heists, and confidence jobs. For now we’re referring to it as the Fate Infiltration Toolkit, but the name may well change along the way.

Not so thrilling: A week ago I got a terse note from my employer informing me of termination. Later that week I learned that other people had been let go as well, I’m not sure whether the entire office is closing. It was a miserable job for a short-sighted company, but it was a safety net — if a flimsy one. I had already been sending resumes around but I have to step up the job search.

Thrilling again: In the same batch of emails, I received one from Vigilance Press offering me a chance to write the next Tianxia book! It’s going to be a rules compendium that will present the Fate Core rules (based on the SRD) for people who are new to both Fate and Tianxia, along with game-master advice, optional rules, and so forth. We don’t have an official title yet for that one either, so I’ve been referring to it as the Tianxia Rules Companion.

Two books! Wow! I’m so excited about this.

 

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Fiasco: The Kai Tak Job, continued

rocket-propelled grenadesLast weekend we played the “HK TPK” playset by Corey Reid, John Rogers, and Gareth-Michael Skarka for Jason Morningstar’s game Fiasco (Bully Pulpit Games).  The game is intended to tell tales of things gone wrong, largely in the style of the Cohen Brothers’ movies; the playset simulates Hong Kong action movies.

We made it to the Tilt, and I took some very short notes.  I had hoped to transcribe them to narrative form, but I don’t think I’ll have the time and we’re playing the next portion tonight, so here they are.  I had already posted the setup and intro, but some of it is included again in the first two scenes here.

I can’t wait to see how our “stupid plan executed to perfection” turns out. Continue reading “Fiasco: The Kai Tak Job, continued”

Fiasco: HK TPK

So on Saturday we had a bitter-sweet online gaming experience, with a game starting fantastically promising but Internet technology deciding to leave us in a ditch.  We’re test-driving the “HK TPK” playset by Corey Reid, John Rogers, and Gareth-Michael Skarka for Jason Morningstar’s game Fiasco (Bully Pulpit Games).  The game is intended to tell tales of things gone wrong, largely in the style of the Cohen Brothers’ movies; the playset simulates Hong Kong action movies.

We had five players spanning different continents and time zones, plus my husband Edmund acting as facilitator.  We got our game set up and it started out as a convoluted generation-spanning tale of duty, regret, temptation and betrayal.  Then one of the connections decided that Saturday night’s all right for fighting, and gave us the boot.  We’ve rescheduled for next weekend, but in the mean time I thought I’d describe our movie’s beginning.

Tony Chin (picture of Chow Yun Fat in "The Replacement Killers")Maybe it all started in 1992, with the botched Kai Tak job.  An entire Boeing 747 cargo of North Korean rocket-propelled grenades, bought from China and destined for sale in Libya, intercepted by a consortium of Triads and Yakuza interests.  Tony got the the cargo, but shot a man he mistook for a cop.  Alas, it was really his contact.  In the scramble that followed, he stashed the cargo — but someone else found it and moved it.  He needs to find it again to free himself from his obligation to the fearsome Madame Wu. Continue reading “Fiasco: HK TPK”

Heist Jobs in Games and Fiction — Part 3

Con Jobs: Part 3Having recently talked about mysteries in games and fiction, I now expand on the related genre of spy missions, heists, capers, and con jobs.  In Part 1, I briefly looked at some staples of the genre in books, television and movies, then I examined a handful of game systems that attempt to bring the heist structure to role-playing.  In Part 2, I drew elements from these sources to discuss more generally what game masters can do to prepare this kind of adventure in any system and provided links to online resources for the genre.

In Part 3, I talk about running the adventure per se, and trouble-shooting typical problems.

Running the Game

As discussed in the first two parts of this series, stories in this genre typically unfold in three acts: Planning the Job, Executing the Mission, and Wrap-Up.

Shiny KeyPlanning Phase

The planning or preparation phase typically include getting the job or the mission, and meeting the client if there is one; investigating to get more information to work with; and planning the operation.  Future complications may be foreshadowed.

Continue reading “Heist Jobs in Games and Fiction — Part 3”

Heist Jobs in Games and Fiction — Part 2

Con Jobs: Part 2Having recently talked about mysteries in games and fiction, I now expand on the related genre of spy missions, heists, capers, and con jobs.  In Part 1, I briefly looked at some staples of the genre in books, television and movies, then I examined a handful of game systems that attempt to bring the heist structure to role-playing.

In Part 2, I draw elements from these sources to discuss more generally what game masters can do to prepare this kind of adventure in any system.  I’ll round this up by providing links to some nifty online resources for the genre.

In Part 3, I will talk about running the adventure per se, and trouble-shooting typical problems.

The Game Master’s Toolbox

Although in Part 1 we looked at five heist-specific games, what if you don’t want to switch to a different system but you want to run a caper or con job to your game?  Here are some tools for the GM, which I gathered from the sources discussed in Part 1 and many more.

Continue reading “Heist Jobs in Games and Fiction — Part 2”

Heist Jobs in Games and Fiction — Part 1

Con Jobs: Part 1Having recently talked about mysteries in games and fiction, I will now expand on the related genre of spy missions, heists, capers, and con jobs.  In Part 1, I’ll briefly look at some staples of the genre in books, television and movies, then examine a handful of game systems that attempt to bring the heist structure to role-playing.

In Part 2 and Part 3, I will draw elements from these sources to discuss more generally what game masters can do to run this kind of adventure in any system.  I’ll round this up by providing links to some nifty online resources for the genre.

Genre Essentials

What I’m talking about here is the kind of fiction — book, movie, television show, or game — where a team of highly skilled pros take on a seemingly impossible job using criminal means (electronic surveillance, breaking-and-entry, theft, swindles, etc.) in full view of the audience or reader.

The genre is characterized by suspense, action, misdirection, the boldness of the plan, the high level of competence of the crew, the relationships and interplay of trust and betrayal between characters, and often a mix of humour and drama.  The crew usually cover distinctive roles, each with their area of expertise such as mastermind, technical whiz, explosives expert, master of disguise, etc.  In addition, the team is often working with limited resources, at least once the plan is under way.

The genre covers an array of gamer favourites.  Surprisingly, it can be found in just about any era or fictional setting  from fantasy to science fiction.  There are several sub-genres (some even classify them as different but related genres):

Continue reading “Heist Jobs in Games and Fiction — Part 1”

Prepping for another con: Blowback

Blowback and Shadowrun covers

Update: I posted the finished playset, sans images because of copyright issues.  Enjoy!

I’m working on my games for Convolution next weekend (alas, they’re not showing up in the schedule yet, but I submitted them late).  Right now I’m writing a new Shadowrun-based play set for Elizabeth Shoemaker Sampat’s Blowback game.  Blowback is a game where you play highly skilled spies who are short on resources and must rely on family and friends; excellent to play Burn Notice, Haywire, Desperado, or The Bourne Identity.  I figure that maps pretty well over to shadowrunners, who plan and execute elaborate operations on the wrong side of the law.

I set up a technique for this last time I prepped a playset, and it works pretty well for me.  Here is how it goes:

First, I decide how many players I want.  I like five: one Lifer as a well-rounded leader and four Artists as specialists in each area of expertise (in Burn Notice, Michael would be a Lifer and Fiona and Artist).  I’ve also done it with different mixes, but I like this one.

Then I line up four columns but I don’t label the columns yet; I distribute top stat values (4 for Lifers and 5 for Artists) with as many sets as I have players.  (I do this by hand in a ruled notebook, but you don’t want to see my handwriting…)

First step: distributing top stats

Continue reading “Prepping for another con: Blowback”