Monday, March 24, 2014

Thursday, June 6, 2013

[Play-Thru] Fate Accelerated Edition



When Spirit of the Century (SotC) was coming out, I was excited about a pick-up pulp game that used the new version of FATE. When I got the product, I was skeptical of the idea that a 400+ page tome could be used to do anything quickly, let alone throw together a roleplaying session.  Luckily SotC turned out to be a killer game, and once you have some time with it, it's certainly right for a pick-up game. Fast-forward several years and the promise of third edition FATE has come to fruition in Fate Core. It's brilliant--I'll say that--but my favorite thing to come out of one of the hottest RPG Kickstarters in history is not the main product, it's Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE). It's my favorite because it not only fulfills the promise of SotC, but it might just be the perfect pick-up game, period.

Before I get into my Play-Thru I'll clarify a thing or two. First, FAE is in no way limited to pulp adventure. You can literally use it for anything if you have a flexible mind and group. Second, at 48 pages I don't feel the need to get into too much detail about the mechanics. Just broad strokes folks.

The big difference between FAE and other versions is the skill list, in that there is none. Instead, players are asked to stat six approaches--no doubt taking a cue from Cortex+ [Edit: Turns out I was wrong about this bit; Cortex+ got it from Fate--credit where credit is due]. Players then start the game with two or three Aspects and one Stunt (which uses trimmed-back rules).

I decided to test FAE at a local charity game day. I called the adventure Quest for the MacGuffin. Here was the description: "Players will create pulp adventure characters with the new and not-yet-released Fate Accelerated Edition. These characters will then complete a quest involving a MacGuffin, in a setting the players help create."

With that information, I pretty much sat down, explained Aspects, Approaches, and Stunts, and we got to work. The players decided they wanted to do '30s-era pulp, with Nazis as the bad guys. They also decided there would be magic, but it would be extremely subtle. After the setting was decided, the players made their characters. Then the players decided their MacGuffin would be the Eye of Odin. Finally, they decided their characters learned the Eye was at a castle in Germany. The rest was left up to me.

That above process took about 90 minutes. There were four players, and two of them had never played any version of Fudge. We then used the remaining two and a half hours to play. I had the setting, the characters, and the destination, so I simply created obstacles in their path. Before the session ended, the players were in several scenes and five encounters, including a satisfying climax.

In my second test, I ran FAE for five people, three of which had never played any version of Fudge. We still got the creation process done in 90 minutes and played a satisfying story in about two and a half hours, this time the players were members of a space federation, dispatched to investigate what happened to Science Outpost Sagan and the Dark Matter Harvester. It went equally well.

One interesting side effect of both sessions is many of the players walked away with characters they cared about and wanted to play again and a campaign setting they wanted to spend more time exploring. I just found that fascinating.

Aside from pick-up games, I could see FAE being used as a sort of "proof of concept" tool. Let's say someone in your group has a setting idea, but the rest of the group doesn't get it. Run a session with the loose idea in FAE and figure it out. Alternatively, let's say your a designer and you get a setting in your head. Here's a way to brainstorm while playing.

The PDF can be had for literally any price you desire to pay. Evil Hat is selling it on a "pay what you want" model, and they encourage you to just download it for free if you'd like, and then give them money if you think it's worth more than zero dollars. The print version will only set you back $5 when it's available. Knowing what I know, the value of FAE can't be judged by page count. I'll pay the $2.50 Evil Hat asks for sure. That's a no-brainer.

Monday, June 3, 2013

[Read-Thru] Odyssey: The Complete Game Master's Guide to Campaign Management

I'm thinking of investing in one of those aluminum foil hats. You know, the kind that's supposed to prevent mind reading? Because I'm pretty sure the folks at Gnome Stew are scanning my brain for ideas. When Martin Ralya contacted me to find out if I wanted to do a pre-release review of the next Gnome Stew/Engine Publishing book, I was of course intrigued. Their last three entries were great, and I was pretty sure two of them were the result of reading my mind. Odyssey: The Complete Game Master's Guide to Campaign Management, by Phil Vecchione and Walt Ciechanowski, has me considering aluminum foil hats. The book has arrived as I'm feeling it's time to take starting and running a campaign seriously if I want to keep the buy-in of my group, who are all-too patient with my Game Mastering Multiple Personality Disorder (GMMPD). Odyssey should help me do just that.

The PDF is of the typical quality expected from Engine Publishing. That is to say it's bookmarked and hyperlinked, and it's just the right file size to make for a super-smooth read on my iPad Mini--or any tablet, I imagine. The font size should make for easy reading whether your tablet is 7" or 10". For fun, I put it on my wife's phone, which has a 4.75" screen, and I could read it just fine in landscape mode.

After the obligatory introduction material, which includes a foreword by the inimitable Kenneth Hite, the book is broken down into four sections. The first part is all about how the author views campaigns and why he thinks managing them properly is important. Given my current GMing situation, I didn't need much convincing, but I also identified with a lot of the explanation of when things work and when they don't, and why. If you want to give your GM (who clearly doesn't need any help--just ask him) a gentle nudge in the right direction, I'd recommend asking him to read this section before poo-pooing the book.

The main three sections of the book are Starting a Campaign, Managing a Campaign, and Ending a Campaign. Each section is broken down into steps, and each step provides questions you should ask, steps you should take, and examples of what happens when you do it right and if you don't do it so well. Throughout the book, Phil and Walt provide real life examples from their own campaigns. It was refreshing to read their mistakes as well as their successes. Also, there's a fictional gaming group that is used to help drive home each lesson in the book. I like that the group didn't seem fake. They were completely believable because I was able to see myself and other gaming friends in them.

After reading Odyssey, I came away feeling better about the mistakes I've made over the years, and feeling great about the things I know I've done well. I'm really excited to apply my newfound knowledge to future campaigns. This book will be a useful reference whenever I'm between sessions. Of course it's my hope I will spend more time in the middle of this book than in the other sections.

As I write this, it's my intention to do a "Play-Thru" of Odyssey. I'm about to start a new campaign. I may as well report on how each step works for me. The Starting a Campaign posts should come rather quickly. Perhaps Managing a Campaign posts would come as they apply. Hopefully, the Ending a Campaign posts will be farther into the future than might be usual for me.

So after writing this post, I've decided not to invest in an aluminum foil hat. If the guys at Gnome Stew really are scanning my brain for ideas, the information is clearly in good hands.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Savage Last Night on Earth, Part Three

For GenghisCon XXXIV, I made good on an age-old promise: to Savage the excellent zombie board game, Last Night on Earth (LNOE). I've run the simple scenario three times now, and by all accounts it's a hit. For my final post on this subject, I'll go over the tools I used for GMing and the setting rules I went by. I'll also give a quick explanation of my scenario.

I made a list of all the buildings on the LNOE boards I used. I should point out I used the additional boards that came in the Growing Hunger expansion, so I would have 20 buildings in all. I arranged the building names on a d20 table, but never used the list to roll up a random building. Instead, when the players mentioned a location they wanted to reach I'd pick that board and a random second board to make up the rectangle; then that combination of boards would stay together for the rest of the session.

I mentioned in a previous post that the squares on the boards were two inches. It's the conceit of the board game that adjacency means in the same square, and there is no limit to the number of miniatures that can be in a square. I saw no harm here and just went with that.  I also kept the board game rules regarding line of sight and that zombies can walk right through walls--not literally, of course, but in keeping with the source material, it's assumed they can bash through walls or dive through windows and such. This ramps up the tension in the board game, and it worked for the Savage Worlds sessions too.

I made a list of equipment you can find in game, based on what's in the board game. Most of it was standard fare, but the standouts are:
  • Fire Extinguisher: Roll Agility vs. zombie Smarts to push all zombies in a square back one space, two with a raise. Extinguisher is empty on snake eyes.
  • Torch: Zombies must make a Spirit roll to attack someone with a torch.
  • Signal Flare: One shot; successful hit destroys a zombie.
  • Chainsaw: Str+d12 damage; only requires Strength d6+ to wield for full damage benefit. Out of fuel on snake eyes.
  • Pump Shotgun: 1-3d6 damage; range 1-3 squares; damage in excess of destroying a zombie carries over to the next zombie in the same square.
  • Any weapon made of with mostly wood breaks on snake eyes, like a pitchfork or a baseball bat.
In any case, here's a copy of the cheat sheet I used at the table.

In terms of classic Savage Worlds setting rules, I had a few:
  • No ammo tracking; weapons with ammo simply run out on snake eyes; player takes an action to reload.
  • The No Mercy Edge was in effect for all characters.
  • Aces Wild from the Deluxe core rules.
  • Clint Black's classic deck shuffling rule, where the player with the fewest bennies gets a benny for shuffling the deck after a Joker was drawn.
The scenario I used for the game was simple. Based on the Burn 'Em Out scenario from the board game, the players had to destroy the pits from whence the zombies came. How many? Well I based it on how the timing of the game was going. In my initial playtest, it was four. At the convention it was three. I allowed Jake Cartwright and Sheriff Anderson to make Common Knowledge rolls to remember the first zombie attack, and therefore the spawning pits. I did tell the players to ignore the spawning pit art on the boards, and I used the extra spawning pit tokens from the board game to denote when there was a really spawning pit. Basically I started everyone in the diner and let them make their choices and had the occasional zombie attack. Super simple. Lots of fun.

Well that's it. I hope you can use this series to enjoy your own Savage Last Night on Earth!


This game references the Savage Worlds game system, available from Pinnacle Entertainment Group at www.peginc.com. Savage Worlds and all associated logos and trademarks are copyrights of Pinnacle Entertainment Group. Used with permission. Pinnacle makes no representation or warranty as to the quality, viability, or suitability for purpose of this product.

Last Night on Earth, the Zombie Game is Copyright 1999-2013, Flying Frog Productions, LLC. This is a fan work and no challenge to that copyright is intended.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Savage Last Night on Earth, Part Two

For GenghisCon XXXIV, I made good on an age-old promise: to Savage the excellent zombie board game, Last Night on Earth (LNOE). I've run the simple scenario three times now, and by all accounts it's a hit. For my second post, I'll go over how I handled the zombie enemy in the game.

I'll start out by providing the zombie stat block I used:

Zombie
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d4, Spirit d4, Strength d6, Vigor d4
Skills: Fighting d6, Intimidation d6, Notice d4
Pace: 1 (Running is Pace 2); Parry: 5; Toughness: 6
Special Abilities 
- Claws: Str+d4 
- Undead: +2 Toughness; +2 to recover from being Shaken; called shots do no extra damage (except to the head). 
- Weakness: Shots to a zombie’s head are +2 damage.

If you break open your trusty Savage Worlds Deluxe Explorer's Edition, you'll see this differs from the stat block in that book. I felt that LNOE zombies should do more damage but be slightly easier to take out. Also, there are cards in the board game that certainly allow players to sort of intimidate the zombies, so I dropped that. Finally, I slowed the zombies down and gave them a straight double move when they "run."

One thing I really love about LNOE is the cards the zombie player can use to enhance the zombies or mess with the players. I picked some of those and Savaged them, and then each time the players met a new set of zombies, I rolled a d10 and consulted my table to determine what their ability would be for that encounter. Here's the table with the Savaged cards:


1
Oh the Horror – Roll 2 Zombie Abilities.
2
Shamble – Zombies move d3 spaces. Running adds a d3.
3
Cornered – Zombies get +1 gang-up, to a maximum of +5.
4
I Feel Kinda Strange – If a hero takes one or more wounds, they make a Vigor roll. Failure causes an additional wound, which cannot be soaked.
5
Undead Hate the Living – Once per round, the GM or a Zombie Player may force a player to re-roll dice.
6
Uuuurrrggghh! – Zombies get a Wild Die.
7
“My God, They’ve Taken the…” – Zombies overrun a random building. It is lost.
8
New Spawning Pit – A new spawning pit forms at this location.
9
“This Can’t Be Happening!” – A random hero loses their Wild Die for this encounter.
10
Braaains! – Zombies get +1 to all attack and damage rolls.


One of the things I set up in the game is a player character would become a zombie if they were killed, which would give them one more chance to keep playing before they were completely killed out of the game. It never came up (though it came close once or twice), but here are the changes a player would make if they were killed and became a Zombie Hero (a Wildcard zombie):
  • Undead add +2 to their basic Toughness
  • Undead add +2 when attempting to recover from being Shaken
  • Undead don’t suffer additional damage from called shots, except headshots, which are +2
  • Undead Wild Cards never suffer from Wound Modifiers
  • Undead do not suffer from disease or poison
  • Pace –1 (Running adds a d2) 
  • Remove all Hindrances and Edges 
  • Remove all Skills, except Fighting d6, Intimidation d6, Notice d4 Claws Str+d4 

 Finally, I should note that since this was a convention game, I wanted to ramp up the tension as the game went along. I did this by ramping up the zombies. In hour one, the PCs faced one zombie per player. In hour two, they faced two zombies per player. Three in hour three. Four in hour four.


This game references the Savage Worlds game system, available from Pinnacle Entertainment Group at www.peginc.com. Savage Worlds and all associated logos and trademarks are copyrights of Pinnacle Entertainment Group. Used with permission. Pinnacle makes no representation or warranty as to the quality, viability, or suitability for purpose of this product.

Last Night on Earth, the Zombie Game is Copyright 1999-2013, Flying Frog Productions, LLC. This is a fan work and no challenge to that copyright is intended.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Savage Last Night on Earth, Part One

For GenghisCon XXXIV, I made good on an age-old promise: to Savage the excellent zombie board game, Last Night on Earth (LNOE). I've run the simple scenario three times now, and by all accounts it's a hit. This is the first of multiple posts (don't know how many it will be), explaining the Savaging.

I started by putting together some design goals. First, I wanted to use the miniatures (duh), boards, and other bits from the LNOE game. I ended up using the spawning pit markers as well, and I made the Zombie Hero tokens available in case they were needed. Second, I wanted to use the characters from the game. I decided on the eight characters from the core game. The rulebook provided great bios for each of them, and their character cards would provide me with the rest of the inspiration I needed. Third, I wanted to Savage some of the LNOE rules that felt like part of the feel of the board game.

I only used the corner boards for my RPG sessions because the center board's spaces are a different size. In addition, the corner boards aren't really formatted to be laid together in a large series, so I only presented two boards at a time, forming a rectangle, handwaving travel between them. Also, I used the two extra corner boards from the Growing Hunger expansion. I found out you can buy replacement boards for $12 for LNOE. I think in the future I'll get a set of those and mark up the center board to make the squares the same size. We'll see how that goes.

Before I present the characters, I have some quick notes. 1) I decided that Sally would have a Quirk that didn't allow her to use guns. In the board game, she's limited to a pistol, but I thought that wouldn't translate well to a great Savage Worlds hindrance, so I went with no guns at all. Much to my chagrin, Sally's miniature in the core game is holding a pistol. I know that doesn't need to be a big deal, but it bugged me. Luckily, Sally is a survivor character in the Timber Peak expansion, and that figure had a knife. Winning! 2) There are no real powers in LNOE, but I thought it appropriate to give Father Joseph a very basic turning power. I felt like it didn't change the flavor of LNOE, and it felt Savage to me. 3) The squares on the corner boards are about two inches, so I have simply halved the Pace on the characters and gave them d3 for running to account for this. We'll talk more about my movement and combat tweaks in another post. 4) Finally, I fancy the idea of expanding this game out, and running continuing adventures at conventions, so I started the characters at 0 XP.

Here are the stat blocks:

Sheriff Anderson
Abilities: Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d8, Strength d6, Vigor d8
Skills: Driving d4, Fighting d6, Healing d4, Intimidation d4, Investigation d6, Notice d6, Persuasion d4, Shooting d6, Streetwise d6, Survival d4
Charisma: 0; Pace: 3; Parry: 5; Toughness:
Hindrances: Cautious, Heroic, Loyal
Edges: Command
Gear: Pistol, handcuffs, Maglite

Becky
Abilities: Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d4, Vigor d8
Skills: Fighting d4, Healing d10, Investigation d6, Notice d6, Persuasion d6, Survival d6
Charisma: +2; Pace: 3; Parry: 4; Toughness: 6
Hindrances: Curious, Pacifist (minor), Quirk (flirtatious)
Edges: Attractive, Healer, Nerves of Steel
Gear: Medical kit

Billy
Abilities: Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Climbing d4, Fighting d6, Lockpicking d6, Notice d6, Shooting d6, Stealth d6, Taunt d6, Throwing d6
Charisma: -2; Pace: 4; Parry: 5; Toughness: 5
Hindrances: Mean, Overconfident, Stubborn
Edges: Fleet Footed (+1 Pace, d4 running die), Lucky
Gear: None

Sally
Abilities: Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d8, Strength d4, Vigor d6
Skills: Fighting d6, Notice d8, Persuasion d8, Stealth d8, Streetwise d6
Charisma: +2; Pace: 3; Parry: 5; Toughness: 5
Hindrances: Loyal, Quirk (refuses to use guns), Yellow
Edges: Attractive, Danger Sense, Lucky
Gear: None

Johnny
Abilities: Agility d8, Smarts d4, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Fighting d8, Intimidation d6, Notice d4, Persuasion d6, Streetwise d4, Taunt d4, Throwing d10
Charisma: +2; Pace: 3; Parry: 6; Toughness: 5
Hindrances: Arrogant, Illiterate, Quirk (misuses common colloquialisms; uses wrong "big" word)
Edges: Charismatic, Lucky, Martial Artist
Gear: None

Jenny
Abilities: Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d8, Vigor d6
Skills: Climbing d4, Fighting d8, Intimidation d6, Repair d6, Riding d4, Shooting d6, Survival d6, Taunt d4
Charisma: 0; Pace: 3; Parry: 6; Toughness: 5
Hindrances: Big Mouth, Quirk (pretty, but weird)
Edges: Lucky
Gear: None

Father Joseph
Abilities: Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d8, Strength d4, Vigor d4
Skills: Fighting d6, Healing d8, Investigation d8, Knowledge (Occult) d4, Notice d8, Persuasion d8, Streetwise d6
Charisma: 0; Pace: 2; Parry: 5; Toughness: 4
Hindrances: Elderly, Pacifist (minor), Vow (protect the flock)
Edges: Common Bond, Turn Undead (brandish holy symbol; opposed Spirit roll: success = Shaken, raise = wound; range is half Smarts)
Gear: Crucifix, bible, rosary

Jake Cartwright (my favorite character in the game, mostly due to his background)
Abilities: Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Fighting d6, Healing d4, Intimidation d6, Notice d6, Repair d6, Shooting d6, Streetwise d6, Survival d6, Tracking d6
Charisma: -2; Pace: 3; Parry: 5; Toughness: 6
Hindrances: Bad Luck, Delusional (thinks the dead speak with him), Outsider
Edges: Brawny, Quick
Gear: Duffel bag, knife

This game references the Savage Worlds game system, available from Pinnacle Entertainment Group at www.peginc.com. Savage Worlds and all associated logos and trademarks are copyrights of Pinnacle Entertainment Group. Used with permission. Pinnacle makes no representation or warranty as to the quality, viability, or suitability for purpose of this product.

Last Night on Earth, the Zombie Game is Copyright 1999-2013, Flying Frog Productions, LLC. This is a fan work and no challenge to that copyright is intended.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Town of Waypoint

In an effort to make time for some friends I haven't been able to see as often as I'd like, I'm starting up a monthly fantasy game. I'm going with Savage Worlds and the Fantasy Companion (and maybe the Horror Companion at some point) for my basis. We've decided to use inside-out design for the setting. Below is the town I've begun designing. I've kept it varied and generic so the players can feel free to design themselves into the population more easily. I give you the town of Waypoint:

Waypoint is a small town—larger than a village, but not much larger. It’s immediate surrounding area consists mostly of farmland. Waypoint is important because it stands atop a crossroads that links the mountain strongholds of the dwarves, the enchanted forest of the elves, and two human cities, one of which is a major port.

Waypoint began its days as a roadhouse, known as the Waypoint Inn. It still exists and has played host to travelers of all stripes. As the inn became more popular, a farming family settled nearby to provide food and other goods. Soon the town had a blacksmith, a mill, and various shops, aimed at the needs of passersby. These days there are more farms, and Waypoint has begun exporting produce and other goods.
 

Recently, a temple was built for worship, and while it belongs to the goddess of nature and the hearth, it has a more generic worship area for those travelers who follow different gods. Occasionally, the temple will play host to guest clergy from different deities.
 

Due to it’s fluid population, the citizens tend to be easy going and tolerant but—with the exception of the merchants and tradesmen who do business with travelers—keep mostly to themselves. Waypoint has had it’s fair share of tensions, especially when naturally adversarial groups are in town together, such as dwarves delivering ore to the smith while an elven delegation passes through.
 

Although Waypoint is part of the human kingdom, the town does its best to act as neutral territory. It has a small accompaniment of soldiers from the kingdom, who try to maintain that peace, ostensibly acting as a local constabulary.