RPG a Day: Like the Phoenix Reborn

11. Which ‘dead game’ would you like to see reborn?

Ah, many are the older games I miss for setting, few are the ones I miss for system!

As I mentioned in older posts, I would really like to see SkyRealms of Jorune reborn with a modern system. It has appeared with three different systems, none of which are worth lingering over; but the setting was wonderful and the evocative art of Miles Teves gave it unique character.

In fact, Teves was the second of three authors listed in the first and second editions, unusual visibility for an art director and artist. It was well earned; the art was key in creating a unified setting “feel” and its memorable style—more reminiscent of 18th and 19th century travelogues than of contemporary role-playing games. So to please me, a reborn version would need to be illustrated with high-quality reproductions of Teves’ art.  Continue reading “RPG a Day: Like the Phoenix Reborn”

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Blast from the Past: SkyRealms of Jorune

Skyrealms of Jorune 2nd edition - coverFor a retro-themed role-playing game day at Endgame, Edmund chose to run SkyRealms of Jorune; specifically, he used the third edition published by Chessex under license in 1992 as well as some older sourcebooks from previous editions. I had played in a short campaign Edmund ran for me eight or ten years ago, and read a lot of the setting material on and off over the years before and since, but it sure had been a while.

If you don’t know the game, it drew a cult following back in the late 1980s-early 1990s because of its rich and original background, its effort to support fantasy conceits with plausible in-world explanations, and its atmospheric art by Miles Teves as well as Janet Aulisio, George Barr, and others.

But the system, in all its incarnations, was at best clunky and sometimes opaque. There is a lot of jargon, a lot of character sheet scouring in order to locate appropriate skills, a lot of rule mechanics that pull in different directions, and a lot of whiffing.

Despite the system obstacles, thanks to a game-master and two players anchored in modern role-playing aesthetics, we had a blast. Sean Nittner (of Big Bad Con game convention, Evil Hat Productions, and Narrative Control podcast fame) and I picked among the six pre-generated characters; Sean picked Persiphon, a human durlig farmer (the durlig is a labour-intensive crop), and I played “Dark” Mood, a Bronth private eye (a genetically engineered were-bear.)

We were harvesting durlig when a fearful Thriddle went running past us at high speed, before hitting a wall and knocking itself out. We discovered that it was suffering from hypothermia despite the hot Sobayid sun! After giving it care and reuniting the Thriddle with others of its species for medical care, we went investigating what it had been running away from. We found a hole that led to a crevasse that led to a room filled with crystals and a mysterious portal… We stepped through and found ourselves on a Sky Realm in the middle of a blizzard. We fought Cleash, we rescued Persiphon’s five-year old cousin Jessa from being eaten by the Cleash, we found a Shanta preserved inside a large crystal… We had adventures!

Edmund made it easier  to play by giving a large penumbra for skills we did have rather than demanding we use the skills we didn’t have. He also reduced the number of steps needed when we got into combat. The system requires: (1) an Advantage roll to determine who has the upper hand; an attack roll; if you hit, a hit location roll (which Edmund dropped), then a roll to penetrate armour if the opponent is wearing any, and finally a damage roll if you make it that far. Oh, and the defender may have a defense roll to avoid being hurt. You generally want to roll low… except when it’s time to roll for Advantage and for damage.

Because Edmund limited the rolls to where they made sense, and because Sean and I were completely into the modern mind set of “look at the die and narrate what happens,” rather than the old “Must Not Fail Roll!!” we had a great time. We also played our backwater hick-but-gung-ho characters to the hilt. In truth, I would love to play the further adventures of Persiphon and Moody!

For more on SkyRealms of Jorune, read Grognardia’s overview, Grymbok’s “Let’s Read” feature on RPG.net, or The Lonely DM’s review.

Bronth

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”