Fate of the Inquisitor

TL;DR: Play materials for a Fate hack of Dark Heresy. Enjoy.

table_sign_foti
A year ago, I was planning on running demo games at conventions featuring the Open Content from War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus. The Advanced Conflict rules, which are now also available from Randy Oest’s awesome Fate SRD website, are intended to support miniatures as an integral part of of Fate. Since we have approximately 30,000 points’ worth of miniatures in the house — you think I’m kidding, but I’m not — it seemed like the grim, gothic future of the 41st millennium, as seen in the Warhammer 40,000 miniatures combat game and the Dark Heresy role-playing game, was a perfect match.

Of course, health issues soon forced me to cancel my convention plans, but now that I am recovering and convention season is upon us, I decided to go back to packaging the game for quick-start.

First, the pitch:

Fate of the Inquisitor

Inquisitor Lucanus has led you, his retinue, to the Hive World of Corundum IV amidst an ongoing Genestealer invasion to retrieve a priceless relic from the foul xenos. Now the Inquisitor has disappeared during a brutal firefight and the ensuing cave-in, and you are chased by a Genestealer cult. Will you find your master again? Complete his mission? Call for help? Or die bravely but pointlessly?

I made templates for nine types of player characters, using a playbook format like the one used in games Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA). The rules are pure Fate SRD, but I hope the playbooks make character creation quick and easy for time-constrained one-off games.Each comes with a choice of names, looks, customizable aspects, and stunts. The playbooks include:

  • Arbitrator
  • Assassin
  • Imperial guard
  • Ogryn Bodyguard
  • Ratling Scout
  • Sanctioned Psyker
  • Scum
  • Sister of Battle
  • Tech-Priest

I also modified the appearance of the blank character sheet from War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus. Then I made a cheat sheet of the Advanced Conflict rules I am using, and a table sign. All of these are available on Google Drive.

I have not yet put any effort into creating well-formatted single-page folding sheets because I expect mistakes may be pointed out and it’s easiest to update text prior to layout. Also, not a big priority right now.

Your comments are welcomed!

 

Dungeon World: Our Heroes!

Our Heroes - Ram, Rahi, Merit, and Kanta. Art by Claudia Cangini.
Our Heroes. Front: Ram the Holy Killer; behind him, from left to right: Rahi the Relic Bearer, Merit the Trickster, and Kanta the Mage. Art by Claudia Cangini, 2016.

We’ve been playing Dungeon World for over a year now, in Edmund’s own setting inspired by Southern Asia, “The Land of Ten Thousand Gods.” We’re nearing the epic conclusion of a big story arc so as a holiday present to the whole group, I commissioned a portrait of our four characters from the amazing Claudia Cangini. Tonight I unveiled it for the group and people sounded very happy — I know I am!

For those who, like me, enjoy seeing how a piece of art comes together, I will post the various steps of Claudia’s work. All images are in the slideshow at the bottom.

Continue reading “Dungeon World: Our Heroes!”

Masks: Play report and review

Masks

A few weeks ago, our friend AW ran a one-off episode of the role-playing game Masks for me, my husband Edmund, and two more friends, SP and MP. I thought this was a good time to talk about this game since the PDF version just became available on DriveThruRPG. First, I share a play report that goes a bit long, but talks about the mechanics as well as the fiction generated in play. I follow with a review of the game. Continue reading “Masks: Play report and review”

Night Witches: Wrap-up and Mini-Review

Yesterday we brought our Night Witches campaign to a close, as the war ended in Europe with Germany’s surrender. Here is a quick look back at the campaign, followed by my review of the game itself.

Campaign Highlights

  • The 46th "Taman" Guards Night Bomber Aviation RegimentAmazingly, four of the seven original characters made it out alive (Maryam, Elena, Vera, and Oksana, played by Edmund, Steve, Alan, and Sophie.) For a while now Elena had been close to taking her last mark — “Embrace death and find your final destiny” — so we were all trying to keep her from meeting the bad premonitions she’d been having!
  • Of the others, two players had to drop so their characters (Yulia and Valentina, played by Christine and April) were technically still alive.
  • One new character (Anya, played by Adi) had appeared after the earlier tragic death of an airwoman (Sveta, also played by Adi).

Most of us took a turn at being game-master for one duty station or another, which gave us a chance to learn GMing tricks from each other. I really liked that, and I know I will use some of these techniques with other games.

The most marking events in the campaign, the dramatic fulcrum, were Elena forced by circumstances to kill a German prisoner to save him from a worse fate, followed by Sveta abandoning hope and dying in a subsequent mission. We had tragic loves, stormy friendships, splendid bravery, and wistful secrets.

We all stamped our mark on the squadron: Maryam was our fearless leader, fiercely protective of her airwomen; Elena was the career communist, slowly losing both faith and ambition; Vera was the cheerful pragmatist who always had a trick up her sleeve; Yulia was the sweet young recruit painfully hardened by war; Sveta was the tough-minded survivor who lost her zest for life after one too many tragedies; Oksana was the secret romantic who always tried to have her sisters’ backs; Valentina was the wild rebel; and Anya was the gutsy late-addition to the squadron, trying to make her place without being pushed around.

Mini-Review: Night Witches

Hardcover book and card deck, Night Witches RPGThe role-playing game Night Witches was written by Jason Morningstar and released by Bully Pulpit Games in January 2015 after a successful Kickstarter funding campaign ($48,806 pledged, well surpassing the $5,000 goal.) The game is Powered by the Apocalypse.

The Good

Night Witches brings its own refinements to the basic structure introduced by Apocalypse World. For example, the general moves are divided between those taking place during the day and largely involving caring for the regiment, your own squadron, the airwomen and the planes; and moves used during the night missions to accomplish mission objectives and survive encounters with the enemy. Several day moves allow the players, if they so wish, to accumulate “mission points” which can be used one-for-one to add to rolls on night moves.

These general moves are well designed to daisy-chain and create story material. Combined with the handouts supplied by the publisher for duty stations, missions, Witch-y things that can happen, period history, lists of names, etc., these make the GM’s game preparation very easy. No need to plan for complex story arcs, just sow some seeds and the story will happen. Like all PbtA games, it does require that everyone be willing and able to improvise in response to other players’ choices and any triggered moves.

Night Witches book and card deckThe setting is fantastic, of course. The game’s focus on the experiences of women in one of the most brutal theatres of this exceedingly brutal war is new, refreshing, and challenges a lot of role-playing tropes. The fact that it is also historical, documented, real makes it resonate all the more. If you want to expand from the useful notes on the period provided in the book and handouts, there is a wealth of material available (free or inexpensive), including patriotic music and amazing Soviet and German maps of the era.

Finally, I also got the optional card deck that supplements the book with character portraits, play aids for flight missions, medals, and quick-start character background elements. As I’ve said before, I’m a sucker for visual aids and this one combines art by Claudia Cangini (portraits) and Rich Longmore (plane schematics) with vintage Soviet playing card deck backs!

The Bad

Like most other PbtA games, Night Witches‘ character creation process centres around playbooks, essentially templates with a menu of options each character can choose from. There are only five playbooks or “Natures” to pick from: Owl, Raven, Hawk, Pigeon, and Sparrow. You are encouraged to include as many as you can in the game, but you can have more than one player using the same Nature. You can never go back and change a character’s Nature, however. Each has its own special moves.

After picking your Nature, you choose one of six Roles (Adventurer, Misanthrope, Leader, Zealot, Dreamer, and Protector) which will also give you access to a special move. Roles can change throughout a character’s life.

Unfortunately, the Natures did not feel intuitive for anyone in our group and the special moves granted by Natures and Roles were not as fitting as they might have been.Most of us ended up picking very few advancements from the special moves available to use, preferring to get promotions, improve stats, or forge and change bonds. I believe every character still in play at the end had used their one opportunity to go get a special move from a different playbook, reinforcing the sense we got that playbooks did not hang together in a satisfying way.

In some other PbtA games, such as Monsterhearts, Dungeon World, Monster of the Week, or Masks, the playbooks correspond to easily-grasped archetypes and the special moves fit well with them so that you have little trouble figuring out “what my character would do.” Then again, the game that started it all, Apocalypse World, contains playbooks and associated moves that I found difficult to understand (e.g., the Battle Babe that doesn’t actually, y’know, battle), so as they say: your mileage may vary. Nevertheless, if there is ever a second editions I would recommend revising the Natures, Roles, and associated moves.

Overall Assessment

Hero of the Soviet Union medalThis is a memorable game that has produced intense episodes in our campaign as well as in one-off convention games. I have never had a boring session. It’s easy enough for a GM to pick up and run, provided you familiarize yourself with the PbtA style. (For example, a GM has to realize that she never needs to roll dice in these games — the players do all the dice rolling.) Five of us took our turn at the helm during the campaign, including two that had never game-mastered a PbtA game, and everybody did a bang-up job.

This is not the kind of game book that provides extensive setting material (for example, most GURPS sourcebooks); it offers well thought-out summaries and sketches, just enough for the reader to understand the situation without getting mired in detail. (Naturally, our group of geeks immediately turned to historical sources and went down the rabbit hole of research!) For my style of GMing, the amount of material was just right.

Yes, there are wrinkles around the playbooks, but they are not show-stoppers. Perhaps fan-made playbooks will appear and add the finishing touch to this already amazing game.

RPG a Day: Character development

31. What is your preferred method of character improvement and why?

[Alternate question from BrigadeCon’s list. The default question for today was: “What is the best piece of advice you were ever given for your game of choice?” but it didn’t shake loose any ideas.]

For me, the question of character improvement has become less about “advancement” and more about “growth” over the years.I like getting rooted in plots and organization, forming relationships with characters, seeing a player character mature and change.

A number of modern games offer characters that are very competent from the start and playing them over a long time means not so much accumulating skill points and treasure, and more becoming integral to the story of the setting, whatever its scale.

A number of systems offer ways to modify your drives, motivations, descriptors, relationships, and so forth rather than just increasing ratings: games based on the PDQ, Fate Core, PbtA or Burning Wheel engines, for example. Alternately, some more traditional games are exploring options like “partial levelling” and more narrative rewards; I’m thinking of 13th Age and The One Ring, for example.

Hera_ABC-1

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RPG a Day: Historical character?

oscar_wilde_216. What historical character would you like in your group? For what game?

Oscar Wilde, who would play in a Monsterhearts game. If that couldn’t generate major humour and drama, nothing could.

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RPG a Day: Next game?

12. What game is your group most likely to play next? Why?

MasksAside from the continuing ones (Dungeon World, Night Witches, and a Savage Worlds game based on a setting mashup of The Sixth Gun and Through the Breach), the next game we play should be a one-off episode of Masks (Magpie Games). Powered by the Apocalypse, Masks is a game of young superheroes.

It’s the most likely because it’s scheduled for tonight!

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RPG a Day: Best game session this year

2. What is the best game session you have had since August 2015?

Tough one! Since then I’ve had great games at conventions like Dragonflight, CelestiCon, and Big Bad Con, as well as with friends in our semi-regular campaigns of Night Witches, Bloodshadows, and Dungeon World, and great one-offs of Monster of the Week, Fiasco, Kapow, Icons, and many more.

I think my top three are Christine’s Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game “We Are Iron Man” at Big Bad Con; an episode of Night Witches game-mastered by Alan where we had particularly intense drama last winter; and as overall winner, I think I’ll have to go with a recent episode of Edmund’s Dungeon World: Land of Ten Thousand Gods, “The Return of Ram,” which was so very good.

Big Bad Con 2015 - MODOK roll NW1 Relationship map after Episode 8

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As the Dungeon World Turns

COver of Dungeon WorldDungeon World (Sage Kobold Productions 2011, 2012) is probably the best-known descendant of Apocalypse World, the family of games “Powered by the Apocalypse” (PbtA for short.) It owes its popularity not only to its use of the most popular trappings in the history of role-playing (the Gygaxian dungeon crawl and character roles) but also to the clarity of the writing and some simple but effective choices of mechanics.

One of its significant modifications to the AW model is the way characters gain experience and advance. In AW (including the second edition previews released so far) and several of the PbtA games based on it, one player and the GM each highlight a stat on your character sheet at the beginning of the session; your character gains experience by using (i.e., rolling dice based on) the highlighted stats. I really hate this; typically, the stats highlighted are not the ones that interest me as player. In addition, a few specific character moves may instruct you to mark experience under limited circumstances.

In Dungeon World, there are no highlighted stats; instead, you mark experience every time you roll a failure (6 or less on two six-sided dice.) In addition, the End of Session move rewards the behaviours typical to the Gygaxian inspiration: playing your character’s alignment, learning something new and important about the world, overcoming a notable monster or enemy, and looting a memorable treasure. Between these, you can expect characters to earn two to six experience points per session.

But there is one more thing that can earn you experience, and it’s very unexpected in light of the old-school model DW emulates: relationships between characters. Here is how it works: Continue reading “As the Dungeon World Turns”

The Land of Ten Thousand Gods: Map

I like making graphics!  My husband has written a hack of Dungeon World for a setting inspired by the mythologies of the Indian sub-continent and southeast Asia, called the Land of Ten Thousand Gods.  We play it twice a month over Google Hangouts, and fellow player Sean Nittner has posted the tale of the first few episodes here, here, and here.  Edmund created a hex map, which I re-interpreted in my own way.  (Right now, we’re in Fish-for-Dinner, the city on the coast at the lower edge of the big river delta.)

wet-plains

I wanted it to look a bit odd, like watercolours and ink by an NPC artist who doesn’t normally do maps, working on the direction of the adventurers.  I also wanted to keep it sketchy because in Dungeon World the players may keep adding locations in-between known sites.  I used MyPaint 1.1.0 because it offers an essentially infinite canvas, and added the symbols and labels in GIMP.  The font is Samarkan, obtained from fonthindi.blogspot.com; the symbols are primarily from StarRaven’s Sketchy Cartography Brushes on starraven.deviantart.com and a few other brush packs.