RPGaDAY – Round-up!

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RPG-a-Day 2018 (1)

This is long overdue (been very busy playing the lead in a local production of Sweeney Todd), so I thought I’d finish Week 3 & 4 in a single post.

Day 15: Describe a tricky RPG Experience that you enjoyed:
The trickiest I can think of is when I ran a playtest of Dungeon Tours, LTD at TCEP, and while I was setting up, I caught the attention of a younger kid. I’d guess barely nine or ten. He was curious about everything, couldn’t sit still, and constantly jabbering away about everything – you know, all of the same annoying traits that I definitely possessed as a kid. I felt having him in the game might impact the experience for other adult players, but I really hate not being included in things myself. So, while I didn’t ENCOURAGE him to join, I didn’t discourage him neither, and he jumped in.

He was a little distracting while he was in, but we yes-anded none the less. About 90 minutes in, he wandered off to another con room. We carried on without him (we treated his character as an aspect that could be invoked). An hour later, he came back in, took a look at the board.

Me: (filling him in) He’s falling for it so far.
Kid: Oh. Good!

The kid runs off again, glad to know his team is doing great.

I wish I could say the kid made amazing contributions and that it was the best, most original gaming experience of my life. Rather, I think those that stuck around had fun, and I hope the kid had some too.


DAY 16: Plans for your Next Game

Well, the next game I’m RELEASING is “Dungeon Tours, LTD” (coming soon to Kickstarter.

https://tatabletop.com/dungeon-tours-ltd/

However, the next new game that I want to release is based on +Richard Williams‘s theatre experience: basically, a super-loose, rules light LARP / RPG inspired by Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer’s Night Dream,” with bits of “The Tempest” and “As You Like It” thrown in.

Basically, the plan is to have the players create a brand new, improvised Shakespeare fantasy-pastoral comedy. I have about 75% of the rule book done, and can’t wait to playtest it.

dtl cover_web

And now, a preview of the cover!


Day 17: What is the best compliment you’ve received while gaming?

I react to compliments by squirming, and so I generally don’t remember specific things that have been said.

I guess the best general compliment I can think of is how amazingly supportive the Fate Community has been of my first work, Masters of Umdaar. People continue to say the warmest things about it, and I blush every time. The one that gets me the most is that they call it a great “gateway” into Fate or RPGs in general. Also, players will commonly say, “It reminds me of [a movie or show],” citing one of the very stories that inspired it.

I’m flattered to be part of the team that brought it into existence.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/155458/Masters-of-Umdaar-o-A-World-of-Adventure-for-Fate-Core


18. What art inspires your game?
This is a little bit of a shameless plug, but I’m going to have to go with my sister, Monica Marier, who is also the lead artist for our group Tangent Artists. To explain why, a little context: a few years ago, I pitched to Monica the idea of doing a comic about life and love in a superhero world. It didn’t really appeal to her, but she did love a group of supporting characters I had mentioned. It wasn’t the normal heroes, it was the weird, creepy undead “other” team that handled the oddball cases; they were the Skeleton Crew, who were like the Doom Patrol meets Hellboy. She is a trained artist with a decade of experience doing comics and illustrations, but this was her first real “creepy” comic. It turns out she’s a natural for it. Her creations are dark and inspiring, to the point that I always wanted to jump in deeper and learn more and more about this crazy world.
Eventually, this lead to me wanting to do an RPG set in the Skeleton Crew universe. (It’s not coming any time soon, I’m afraid, but it’s comings. It’s one of those “Magnus Opuses” that sits on the backburner until the perfect time.)
But some day, I’ll create something so fantastic that she’ll want to do the art for it; and thus, hopefully the cycle will continue.

http://tangentartists.com/skeletoncrew.html


19. What music enhances your game?
I typically don’t music when I PLAY a game. I do know that what I wrote Uranium Chef, my favorite Spotify playlist consisted of Background music from “Iron Chef America,” “Flash Gordon,” and the newest “Tron” movie. It helped remind to keep tension, but with various moods; there’s a difference between slow-building tension and the last-minute rush.
Typically, I have trouble writing over music that has a large among of lyrics; thus, techno music, Celtic instrumentals, and songs in other languages (ex. Gipsy Kings) tend to dominate my writing playlists.


20. What game mechanic inspires your play the most?
The game mechanic that I’ve latched on to the most is Fate Core’s “aspect” mechanic. You could play Fate without aspects, but you’d essentially have a weak, generic RPG that you’ve likely seen a hundred times before.
What aspects do is bridge the gap between the abstract world of language and concepts, and the tactile, grounded world of mechanics. Other games can achieve this, of course, with intense mods, new charts, or add-on supplemental guides, but Fate can achieve the same result in SECONDS.
Now, I’m a little behind on my Fate mechanics (I haven’t read Dresden Accelerated, Fate Adversary, or Fate Horror yet), but I feel that fate aspects are ideal for two types of scenarios:
a. The Improvised Weapon / Destructible Environment – Aspects let players improvise their way through a scene, turning random props on the wall into weapons, or swinging off chandeliers like swashbucklers. It creates rich, exciting, and cinematic environment. I often advise to new Fate GMs, “every room should be a playground.”
b. Additive – Aspects work particularly well when they are used to represent a creative process, as the character’s creative actions literally create something on the table (or at least a notecard describing this thing.) This is why I was inspired to make Uranium Chef an actual game (which involves creating meals), as well as our soon to be released Dungeon Tours, Ltd, which involves creating fake monsters and traps for your dungeon.


21. What dice mechanic appeals to you?
This isn’t a dice mechanic from an RPG, but it still stuck with me none-the-less.
It was actually from an old, Sci-Fi football boardgame that I bought on clearance; I think it was called Battleball. It came with a lot of dice and cheap minis, so I thought, “why not?”
But there were some brilliant ideas in it. Each type of player had a specific die: the big blockers had a 1D6s, the medium sized guys various from 1D8s to 1D12, while the fast runners had 1D20s. These dice determined speed AND combat.
When moving, you roll, and the move up to the number of spaces – (i.e. higher die is better).
When in combat, you roll, and the player with the LOWER score wins (i.e. lower die is better).
It is such a beautifully elegant system. You don’t need stats, charts, or algorithms – it merely takes the simple dice type and fills it with personality and a sort of specialization.


22. What non-dice system appeals to you?
I have yet to play it, but I would LOVE to play Dread one of these days. The Jenga – ahem*sorry, NOT Jenga*ahem. The DREAD block tower is such a brilliant design that I can’t wait to try it out sometime.


23. What game do you hope to play again?

At some point, I want to play Dungeon World again. I ran in once for my friends, but never felt I really got the hang of it. I felt like I was always one round away from having something “click,” but it never did.


24. What RPG do you think deserves greater recognition?

An unsung game that I wish was back in the limelight is Teenagers from Outer-Space. As a youth, I bought the rulebook (specifically with the amazing art of the 1997 edition, reminiscent of Rumiko Takahashi’s “Urusei Yatsura / Lum” series). I’ve never had a chance to run it, but it seems the perfect mix of low-stakes cartoonish silliness combined with the infinite possibilities of sci-fi. If I had a million bucks to relaunch and/or reprint any old RPG, this would be it.


25. Name a game that had an impact on you in the last year.

Last November, I had the pleasure of playtesting Paul Stefko’s game Chromeshoe, a cyberpunk setting for Gumshoe. I had be curious about Gumshoe for a while, and this was my friend real exposure. It reminds me a lot of Fate 2.0 (in that it is very collaborative and player focused, but more bookkeeping than Fate Core or FAE). I have a dream project that I suspected Gumshoe would be a good fit for, and playing it only confirmed my suspicion.

Find out more about Paul’s work and how to support it at his patreon
https://www.patreon.com/PaulStefko


26. Your gaming ambition for the next year.

HAHAHAHAHAHA. Man, this could be a lengthy answer. Some projects I hope to accomplish:

Kickstart “Dungeon Tours, LTD.”; finish and publish “Haunted Grove”; Start work on Umdaar Sequel. This does not include any boardgame projects, which I am equally ambitious / psychotic about.


27. Share a great stream / actual play
I don’t listen to many, but I have heard a little of Rag-Nerd-rok when I discovered they have a whole lot of Fate and Umdaar sessions.

http://ragnerdrok.com/

(Edit as of 11/2018: And I just learned Stumpt ran a series of actual plays for “Uranium Chef.” There are a few small errors regarding how to play Fate, it’s far too entertaining for me to care.)

 


28. Share whose inspiring gaming excellence you’re grateful for.
(That is a sentence that’s hard to decipher.)

I haven’t had a chance to play it yet, but this last year, I was really impressed with the new RPG “Bluebeard’s Bride,” designed by Whitney “Strix” Beltrán, Marissa Kelly, and Sarah Richardson. I really am glad that the community is seeing more non-male authors, and works that explore different narratives. (For example, Bluebeard’s Bride is definitely reminiscent of Women’s Gothic Literature.)


29. Friendship you’ve made;
In the last year, I’ve definitely enjoyed talking on G+ with +Don Bisdorf, +Jon Freeman, and +Brie Sheldon. I don’t know if they consider me friends, but I’m grateful for the company.


30. Learned about playing your character
Not. A. Thing. Ignorance is bliss.


31. Why take part in RPGaDay?
I wanted to challenge myself with a daily deadline and see if I could keep it. (Didn’t quite meet the daily quota, but I made it by the wire for all 31). I used to do NaNoWriMo, and I enjoy a writing challenge with a deadline. My work doesn’t tend to be as good, but writing on a time-table is a kind of muscle; it needs exercise to keep it in shape.

Well, that was all 31! Hope you enjoyed!

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URANIUM CHEF HACK – FEAR FACTORY

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205720I am pleased to announce that this week, my setting, “Uranium Chef,” has been released through Evil Hat’s Worlds of Adventure Patreon. You can buy it here (pay-what-you-want) at Drive-Thru RPG The game is about a reality cooking show in space, but as I’ll show in this blog post, you can hack it for all sorts of constructive competitions.

But first, a word from our sponsors:


If you didn’t know it, I’ve been working with Tangent Artists to create a brand new Fate Adventure, Dungeon Tours Ltd. Can you take a rich noble on a safari through a fake dungeon without them guessing the truth? It’s “Dungeon Keeper” meets “Leverage,” with a dash of “Trading Spaces.” 

Right now, DTL is in Open Beta; but the last day to sign up is March 5th. Make sure you sign up here!


HACKING URANIUM CHEF

The game “Uranium Chef” is not limited to reality cooking shows in space; even the book mentions how you can port it to any other cooking contests in other settings (ex. fantasy; anime high school).

In this article, I want to push the boundaries even further, and demonstrate that you can use the same mechanics with any creation game show. Let me present to you:


FEAR FACTORY

For the last few centuries, technology has stagnated in all fields but one: simulacrums. These puppet-like lifeforms, made with a mix of cybernetics and bioengineering, have been implemented in everything from combat to domestic work force. Most simulacrum factories focused on churning out realistic and pleasing simulacrums by the millions.

As far as we know, the malchemist Hag-Queen Zaggria was the first to pervert the technology to another purpose: making monsters. She created her own laboratory, called the Fear Factory, and used it to create a slow but steady stream of nightmarish horrors. Most of them were commissioned by conquerors, who magnified them in size and used them as weapons of war. Some of them were used in fiction- they were the starring villains in movies and neutrowave shows. It is rumored that the Hag-Queen Zaggria once spent a year on a monster for the sole purpose of scaring her brattish nephew into behaving. To Zaggria, all that matters is that the client pays up front, and that they’re satisfied with the result.

Now, Hag-Queen Zaggria has opened the doors to her laboratory, and will be training her replacement. With the support of Mongongo Studios, she is hosting her own reality TV show competition. Many applicants will apply, but only the season winner will be chosen (and receive the 4 billion space-buck prize). Can you win her favor by creating the most inspired monsters in the galaxy?

Who are the Player Characters?

The PCs are creative monster-makers from every corner of the galaxy. These include:

  • Black-sorcery-wielding malchemists
  • Mad scientists, teknolocks, and xeno-engineers.
  • Disgraced doctors and unlicensed surgeons
  • Disgruntled toymakers
  • Haunted artists and puppeteers
  • Special Effects and make-up experts (who now get to make the real thing!)

 

Luckily, the creators have plenty of android helpers to help with the science and dark magic; thus, even a shaman from a backwater planet with no experience with technology can create an impressive cyborg monster. The hardest part is supplying the vision!

 

Builder Approaches

Instead of six culinary approaches, there are six builder approaches. There are: Beautiful, Creepy, Cute, Ferocious, Gross, and Weird.

  • Beautiful – The approach for creating monsters that are beautiful to behold; this can be for animal that are elegant, or for humanoids that are alluring. Examples of beautiful creatures include: cats; unicorns; dragons; swans; vampires; sirens; incubi / succubae.
  • Creepy – The approach for creating monsters that are scary in an unconventional sense. Creepy monsters tend to mimic something normal, but are somehow out of place. Examples of creepy creatures include: the Slenderman; clowns; Children of the Corn; manikins; tooth fairies; dolls; Michael Myers.
  • Cute – The approach for creating monsters that are cute and lovable. Sometimes these are for friendly monsters, or for monsters that lull the victim into a false sense of security. Examples of cute creatures include: Pokémon; Chucky; Gremlins (fuzzy or evil); Ewoks; the Muppets; the Bumble; Gollum; Sigmund the sea monster.
  • Ferocious – The approach for creating monsters that are mean, threatening, and dangerous. Examples of ferocious creatures include: tyrannosauruses; tigers; demons; gorillas; Jason; Godzilla; the Wolfman.
  • Gross – The approach for creating monsters that look (and especially SMELL) gooey, disgusting, and dirty; alternatively, this can also be for morbid monsters that have their internal organs showing, or are leaking bile, blood, and other bodily fluids. Examples of gross monsters include: slugs; blobs; zombies; corpses; Freddy Krueger; Leatherface.
  • Weird – The approach for creating monsters that are strange and alien; this can include featuring inhuman qualities (such as insectoid, plant or robotic), or sometimes it’s merely the absence of humanoid features (ex. neither eyes nor mouths). Examples of weird creatures include: bees; praying mantises; grey aliens; jelly fish; sea stars; Venus fly traps; Mecha-Godzilla.

Side Note – Destroy All Monsters

In the set adventures, the monsters don’t really do any actions. However, if you plan to have your animated monsters take actions, assign them a lead reality approach based on their lead builder approach:

  • Beautiful – Flashy
  • Creepy – Sneaky
  • Cute – Quick
  • Ferocious – Aggressive
  • Gross – Careful
  • Weird – Clever

 


 

Creating a Monster

Creating a monster is very much like a creating a dish. There are a few small differences:

Instead of using the term, Dish Aspect, this show uses the term “Feature Aspect.” Similarly, features are grouped into Main Feature aspects and Side Feature aspects.

Instead of a “Plating” aspect, the monster has a “synthesis” aspect – up to this point, to monster, has been nothing but a lifeless hunk of muscle and metal. It is the synthesis stage that binds the parts together and brings it to life (this normally involves a lot of lightening and maniacal laughing).

Adapting Courses

In “Uranium Chef,” some challenges require a chef to create multiple courses. In the “Fear Factory,” show we instead use the term Categories. These can be split up several ways:

  • Multiple monsters – The creators might be required to create multiple monsters, each with their own category. (This is common in challenges when there are 2-3 creators on a team).
  • Adaptations – In addition to making a monster, the monster must also have a specific number of special features; these are called adaptations. For an example, see the sample episode, “Sieging is Believing.”
  • Body parts – Most Robeasts are built small, and then enlarged; however, if a team has to build a giant monster in actual size, you might want to separate the monster in different limbs and major body parts (ex. arms; tors0; and I’ll Form the Head).

 EPISODE ONE – SIEGING IS BELIEVING

This week, you have been grouped into teams of two.

Your challenge: The client this week, and one of the judges, is the warlord Empress Graxahna. She has commissioned you to build her a Robeast (i.e. a biological war machine) that will be used when besieging an entrenched city.

Each team will pick an inspiration, and an obstacle that their monster will overcome.

Inspiration: Your team will use one of the following life-forms as inspiration:

  • Mammals
  • Reptiles / Amphibians
  • Arthropods
  • Marine Life
  • Birds / Dinosaurs
  • Plants / Fungi

Warning: The judges hate it when you are too literal. If your inspiration is Birds, and all you do is make a really big eagle, they’re going to be disappointed.

 

Obstacle – Your robeast will be designed to circumvent a specific type of city defense.

  • THICK, TALL WALLS – We can make our robeasts tall, but they keep building the walls bigger! Can you bypass it?
  • PLASMA MOATS – Some cities are protected by a magnetic dome, filled with white-hot plasma. Can your monster swim through it and survive the heat?
  • EXTREMELY STRONG DEFENDER ROBOTS – The defenders often have a giant defender robot, strong enough to punch through anything! Can your monster survive it?
  • TOWER DEFENSES – The cities are defended by watchtowers, armed with rocket launchers and laser cannons. How can your monster get past them?
  • RATIONS / SUPPLIES – Laying siege makes food and supplies. Can your robeast be self-sustaining; or, better still, can it supply the troops with food and/or ammo?
  • MORALE – The defenders are often far too optimistic. Can your monster weaken their morale?

 

The GM picks a team, who will pick both their inspiration and their obstacle at the same time.

BUILDING THE MONSTER

Each teams will create a monster in two stages: the monster itself (course 1) and the adaptation (course 2).

The contestants will be building a human-sized robeast, but can choose to have it magnified up to 100 meters tall after completion.

 Example: The group decides to make a giant Kangaroo Rat robeast that can leap over walls. The monster itself has a main feature aspect (Wiry Rat Body – Ferocious: Value 3), a side feature aspect (Large Black Eyes – Creepy: Value 2) and a final synthesis aspect (Cyborg neural net – Weird: Value 1). They create the adaptation in two steps: a main feature aspect (Robotic Legs – Weird: Value 3) and synthesis aspect (Fuzzy Hair Overlay – Cute: Value 2).

JUDGES – The three judges this week are:

Hag-Queen Zaggria (loves Creepy), warlord Empress Graxahna (loves Ferocious), and Science-Prince Lotan (loves Beautiful).

 


 

Lastly, I did include several thanks in the Uranium Chef book, but I wanted to thank a few other people:

  • I can’t take credit for the Uranium Chef concept; that goes to Fred Hicks and Tazio Bettin, who first included images of the fictional cooking show in the Fate Toolkit. I couldn’t help but look at those crazy images and think about how much fun it would be to play. Thank you Fred, and everyone else at Evil Hat, for letting me take a crack at it!
  • Likewise, I want to thank Brian Engard for the Conditions rules (also in the Fate Toolkit) which I used in Uranium Chef.
  • I’d also like to thank Cheyenne Rae Grimes and Nicole Winchester for their fantastic article in the Fate Codex “Adding Reality to your Fantasy”; also to Mark Diaz Truman for making the content free to use. The original draft for Uranium Chef included a number of their reality TV show rules; most of them didn’t make it to the final edition (due to word limit), but it was a huge inspiration to me none the less. I highly recommend it to any GM who wants to add even more drama and executive meddling into your Uranium Chef game (see Fate Codex – Volume 1, Issue 7).