Fate of the Budayeen: ebook versions

An ominous meetingNow that I have finally completed my Fate of the Budayeen series, I thought I’d make up for the lateness of the last instalment by offering readers e-book versions.  All three are fully bookmarked and more-or-less spell-checked. Ahem.

  • PDF, with illustrations; two-column layout. Edit: All the hyperlinks are there but you have to hover your cursor in the right spot to see them.
  • ePub (for use with Nook, Kobo, iPad, etc.) with cover and metadata, in a zipped file. Just unzip and add to your library.
  • mobi (for use with Kindle, Mobipocket, etc.)  with cover and metadata, in a zipped file. Just unzip and add to your library.

Feedback is welcomed!

Credits: Image from OpenClipart.

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Fate of the Budayeen: Putting It All Together

Dubai street scene

[Turning a setting idea into a game world for the Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE) role-playing game system: this is the sixth and last in the series.  Sorry about the delay, I have to give priority to the War of Ashes RPG commission I’m working on for Evil Hat Productions, but while I think about extras and system issues for War of Ashes, this is a great time for me to go back to thinking about the Fate dials.]

We’ve been looking at the step-by-step process for turning a bright idea for a setting (we picked George Alec Effinger’s Budayeen setting for the cyberpunk series chronicling the adventures of Marîd Audran) into a campaign for Fate Accelerated.  Our objective was to get from light bulb moment  to game with a minimum of fuss for the Game Master.

Let’s recap what we have done to date:

  1. Gather inspirations (Assemble our clippings folder.)
  2. Define feel of the campaign and setting (What is it about the setting we’re trying to emulate with the game?)
  3. Adjust the rules, create extras (Using the Fate tools to get that flavour in.)
  4. Faces and places from the source material (≠ what the group will decide at the table.)
  5. Preparing to improvise (More clippings and lists.)

Step 6: Putting It All Together

Fine-Tuning: Using the dials

Before we sit at the table with the entire group, we still have a few decisions and adjustments to make.  Because we picked a gritty setting, Fate’s default pulp adventure mode may need a little tweaking.  We have a few tools available to adjust this.  They are touched upon in Fate Core but best explained in the Fate System Toolkit (Chapter 5).  A detailed discussion of these dials should wait until I have time to review the whole Toolkit, but let’s say for now that we are going to do a few things to give this dark, hard-boiled, dangerous quality to our campaign:  Continue reading “Fate of the Budayeen: Putting It All Together”

Fate of the Budayeen: Mise en Place

2013 - 1

[Turning a setting idea into a game world for the Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE) role-playing game system: this is Post #5 in the series.]

In cooking, mise en place means getting all your ingredients measured and utensils prepared, lined near your work area, and generally setting up so you won’t have to fumble around looking for something while your hands are covered with flour and egg.

It’s the same when you prepare to run a role-playing game: you want to have the information you’ll need at your fingertips, organized so you can find it quickly.  In a lot of systems, this means having fifteen different sourcebooks tabbed and bookmarked, but not here.  We’re using Fate Accelerated, which is a pleasantly short little book; while we’re also getting some additional material from the heftier Fate Core while we prepare, in play we won’t need to refer to it.

But our setting source material comes from works of fiction literature, and we certainly don’t want to have to flip through the books to find a good description of the locations or technology.  This is why we have set up our lists of Faces and Places in Part 3; now we will add a few more lists to refer to when our players ask: “What’s in the victim’s pockets?”, “What does the data deck look like?” or “What is Farrad eating?”

In the process, I’m going to be borrowing the method described by Robin D. Laws in his book of advice for Game Masters, Robin’s Laws of Good Game Mastering (published by Steve Jackson Games).  Laws suggests preparing lists of names, sample dialogue, and personality traits which the GM can just pick from when it’s time to create minor characters.

Step 5: Preparing to Improvise

or: What do you mean, I can’t play a white American?

In Part 2 of the series, I mentioned that gamer groups who have trouble thinking past “white American” characters will need to do a little more work.  I’m serious, on countless occasions I’ve observed gamers who, told they could not play white Americans in a given setting, then tried to play white Englishmen, white Canadians, white Australians, or failing those, other white Europeans.  If you really twist their arm, they may play a katana-wielding Asian character.

It pays for the GM to prepare against this by having lots of flavour bits to include in her setting, thus helping the players get in the right mood; and references to help her players choose a few character elements that will fit well in the Budayeen (name, physical description, connections, habits, occupation, orientation, beliefs, etc.) Continue reading “Fate of the Budayeen: Mise en Place”

Fate of the Budayeen: Faces and Places

City of Dubai at night, UAE

[Turning a setting idea into a game world for the Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE) role-playing game system: this is Post #4 in the series.  We finally return to our setting construction exercise, after a couple of more general posts on Approaches vs. Skills and Approaches vs. Aspects in FAE.]

Because I’m relying on a setting detailed in several books, a lot of material has already been created for me.  I’m going to draw up more lists for Step 4: Faces and Places, summing up what I know about people and locations of the Budayeen that appear in George Alec Effinger’s books. (As a bonus, this can serve as a handy reference for people who are currently reading the books.)

These will merely serve as backdrop for our game setup, however.  Once the whole group sits down at the table to create our specific setting, people may say “I’d like to have a third crime lord in the mix,” or “There should really be a pilgrimage site near the cemetery,” or “I’d prefer if Marĩd Audran didn’t appear at all in our version.”  Continue reading “Fate of the Budayeen: Faces and Places”

Approaching Fate Accelerated: More Crunchy Bits

FATE Accelerated cover

Edit, Oct. 16, 2013: Rob Donohue discusses how approaches and skills differ, and why you need to look at them in a different light.  

In my recent review of Fate Core and Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE), the standard and streamlined versions of the Fate role-playing system, I discussed how FAE’s use of Approaches differs from the use of Skills in Fate Core.  I even argued that this made FAE a more faithful adaptation of the Fate “pillars”, Competence, Proactivity and Drama.

The latest post in my current series showing step-by-step how I use FAE to adapt a literary setting discussed using the FAE (and Fate) mechanics to model specific features of the Budayeen setting from George Alec Effinger’s Marĩd Audran series, a Middle Eastern cyberpunk version of New Orleans’ French Quarter.  This post attracted a number of questions on the use of Approaches, as well as on the role of Aspects; many gamers are still left somewhat confused on how Approaches fit in adapting specific settings to FAE, and exactly what they represent.

Here are some more thoughts to help clarify the issue.  While this post fits in with the Budayeen adaptation series, it addresses a more general context applicable to any game you plan using FAE — and, I think, Fate Core.

The Golden Rule

Fate Core CoverYou may have heard the Fate system described as “fractal” because you can use the same methods at different scales.  People usually refer to more specific rules mechanics, and we’ll discuss them further when we talk about the “Bronze Rule”; but in fact, Fate’s fractal or scalable nature applies throughout.

Fate Core’s Golden Rule (p. 185): Decide what you’re trying to accomplish first, then consult the rules to help you do it.  While this rule is first brought up when discussing the Game Master’s job during play sessions, it actually describes most of a GM’s job right from the moment you decide you’ll run a game.

Specifically in setting creation, adaptation, or conversion, you need to set clearly what you’re trying to accomplish in order to use the rules effectively to do it.

In my Budayeen example, my goal is to create a game setting that will provide the feel of Effinger’s Budayeen stories in a game powered by the FAE system.  Maybe I should call it Step 0: Goal, since in started my example with Step 1: Inspirations.  Most of the time when I work on a game setting that borrows from literary fiction, comics, movies or television, this fidelity to the setting is going to be part of the goal.

However, there are occasions where a GM may try to model other features; in particular, sometimes a GM wants to replicate the feel of another game system.  For example, maybe you’ve been running a campaign in another system and you’d now like to port it over to Fate.  Or maybe you’re creating a whole new campaign, but your players are die-hard fans of another system and you’d like to make this look as familiar as possible.

These are all fine and achievable goals, but unless we make them explicit, articulate them clearly right at the beginning (Golden Rule), it will be very hard for two people to have a clear discussion if their implicit goals are different.  Continue reading “Approaching Fate Accelerated: More Crunchy Bits”

Fate of the Budayeen: Crunchy Bits

Waiting[Turning a setting idea into a game world for the Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE) role-playing game system: this is Post #3 in the series.]

Despite the process shown in Fate Core pp. 22-24 and “A Spark in Fate Core” (see previous instalment in this series), I’m not going to directly move on to “The Setting’s Big Issues.”   Unlike a game world created from scratch, I’m borrowing tons of material from an existing setting, so it’s easier for me to grab the bits I want and build my issues around them, probably in collaboration with the rest of the game group unless this is a one-off game.

Instead, let’s jump to an element most gamers tend to spend a lot of of time on — probably too much: rules questions, or what Robin D. Laws calls “crunchy bits” in his inestimably useful Robin’s Laws of Good Game Mastering.

Step 3: Adjust the rules to the setting

Philosophy.  As you might guess from my choice of Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE) instead of Fate Core, I like simple game systems that get out of the way of building a good story when we’re at the table, and don’t require too much effort to adjudicate.  There’s nothing wrong with liking more crunch, many of my friends do; but when preparing my own game, if I’m tempted to create new rules material, I always ask myself whether it’s necessary or whether I can use what is already there.

Approaches in FAE.  Fate Accelerated replaces skills with six Approaches that describe how a character does things, in what style.  It’s excellent to model very competent characters (see my earlier review), but will it be too powerful for the gritty cyberpunk feel of the Budayeen?  Well, George Alec Effinger’s books are certainly rough on main characters, so NPC opposition will have to be brutal and the stakes will be high, but on the other hand, the reader hardly wonders whether the overwhelming odds will be overcome, merely at what cost.  So at first glance, FAE would work.

Let’s check our specific Approaches and decide whether we need to rename them or even replace them in order to reflect the setting.  Can I readily think of typical character actions in the Budayeen that would be covered by each approach? Continue reading “Fate of the Budayeen: Crunchy Bits”

Fate of the Budayeen: Establishing Foundations

night-dubai-street-with-palms-and-pool-general-view-small
[Turning a setting idea into a game world for the Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE) role-playing game system: this is Post #2 in the series.]

Collaborative or GM-Driven?

Yesterday we talked about the Budayeen setting as seen in George Alec Effinger’s stories, and listed some other sources inspirations we’ll be using.  Before I go any further, I should take a minute to discuss how my approach will fit with the game creation process described in Fate CoreContinue reading “Fate of the Budayeen: Establishing Foundations”

Fate of the Budayeen: Let’s kick this off!

Dubai at night -- concept for proposed "rain cloud" building on the right

A few days ago I posted a little poll to see which setting people would be interested in seeing used in a step-by-step example of creating a setting in the Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE) role-playing game system, all the way from initial Light Bulb! moment when an idea grabs you to prep notes for a game.

I just closed the poll, and it looks like the Budayeen setting, from George Alec Effinger’s “Marîd Audran” series, won the poll.  That suits me fine because, as Fred Hicks pointed out, too many people still think FAE is just for whimsical or light-hearted games.  I am convinced that FAE can be successfully used for any setting which the more detailed Fate Core can power.

My ambition is to convince readers that it’s quite easy and they can do it with modest effort.  Just to be clear, I will be putting in way more effort than I normally have to, because I want to write clear posts giving you context — which means way more legible than my typical game notes!   For those who have not read the books, I will throw in a little background.

What is the Budayeen?

Continue reading “Fate of the Budayeen: Let’s kick this off!”

More cyberpunk readings

The word “cyberpunk” was first used in 1980 in a short story of the same name by author Bruce Bethke. Decades later, he sounds a little bitter that he didn’t trademark the term (among other things), but he does make his story available free as a PDF (but requests donations if you liked it): “Cyberpunk” He also has some thoughts on the story of the word and genre here.

Then the word was popularized by science fiction editor Gardner Dozois to describe a then-emerging subgenre of literature, at least according to re-posts of old alt.cyberpunk Usenet FAQs. It’s no surprise at all that the cyberpunk subgenre was an instant darling with the old BBS and Usenet crowd.

I enjoy the cyberpunk range quite a bit, but my favourites are a trio of trilogies (ha-ha), as well as associated short stories.

Burning Chrome Neuromancer (Sprawl Trilogy, #1) Count Zero (Sprawl, #2) Mona Lisa Overdrive (Sprawl, #3)
Naturally, William Gibson‘s Sprawl trilogy of Neuromancer, Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive plus the short stories gathered in Burning Chrome. The original, defining series — not the first, not the last, but the reference material for all other cyberpunk authors.

Next, as I’ve only mentioned about one hundred times:
When Gravity Fails A Fire in the Sun The Exile Kiss Budayeen Nights
George Alec Effinger‘s Marîd Audran/Budayeen trilogy, When Gravity Fails, A Fire in the Sun, and The Exile Kiss as well as the collected short stories Budayeen Nights (released posthumously). Honestly, I think Effinger was a better writer than Gibson at the time (though Gibson continued to develop while Effinger died). His blend of cyberpunk and hardboiled detective stories à la Raymond Chandler is smoother, more accomplished, his stories are stronger, and his characters are better developed.

That said, my third panel in this tryptic is William Gibson’s Bridge trilogy:
Virtual Light Idoru All Tomorrow's Parties (Bridge, #3)
With Virtual Light, Idoru and All Tomorrow’s Parties, Gibson showed that he planned on continuing to grow as a writer and trying new things rather than serving us the endless series of sequels and self-pastiches that some authors might have opted for.

When talking about cyberpunk I should mention Neal Stephenson and Bruce Sterling, who were also pioneers of the genre and remain strong. While I recognize the former’s creativity and impact, I simply don’t derive as much entertainment from his books; and I have yet to read a story by the latter where I did not feel let down by the ending, despite some strong world-building.