Dungeons – The Logistical Nightmare!

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The kickstarter for the Dungeon Tours Limited is soon approaching. In the meantime, we’ll explore some of the origins behind the game.

But first, what is Dungeon Tours Limited?


miles_parchment-title-2Dungeon Tours Limited is an upcoming tabletop RPG from Tangent Artists. In it, players take on the roles of semi-retired adventurers in a fantasy world. Your days of delving into dungeons are almost over. However, there’s been a recent trend of young nobles going “dungeoning”; and you have a client lined up who is willing to pay crazy money to join your party on your next adventure.

But there’s a problem: the noble twit won’t last three seconds in a real dungeon. So, you’re going to have to fake it. You have three days to find a cave, fill it with foam spikes and papier-mache dragons, and guide the client through. Can you reach the end without the twit uncovering the truth?


Like many RPGs settings, we owe some inspiration to Dungeons & Dragons. One night, our group was going over some of the ridiculous pre-made adventures of 1st edition. You probably know the type: adventures with ancient tombs, teeming with living, breathing monsters, buried miles below the earth . Immediately, we some logistical flaws:

  • How did the 100 foot dragon get into a dungeon with only 10 foot wide corridors?
  • If there’s a live manticore down there, who’s feeding it? Who’s cleaning its cage?
  • If a tiny chamber has an ogre trapped in, unable to get out, waiting hundreds of years between skirmishes, how does he keep himself entertained? Sudoku?

This got me thinking; wouldn’t it be fun to flip the script? Instead of having the GM create the dungeon for the players, what if the players were the dungeon makers? This lead to:

Dungeon Tours 0.0

In this version, the players play monstrous humanoids (orcs, goblins, drow, etc.) working hard on a real dungeon. They’re been hired by a warlord to keep the lair safe from adventurers.

This was purely a thought experiment, with no actual rules were created. I was even unsure whether this would be better was an RPG or a boardgame.

However, I quickly stumbled upon a two-prong problem:

  • If the players wanted the adventurers to die, there must be some easier way to do it than through dumb monsters and convoluted traps.
  • If the players succeed in killing the PCs the first 3rd of the game, the remaining 2/3rds of the dungeon is wasted.

The solution: to develop a game that had to walk a tight-rope. Rather than trying an extreme goal that can be reached through extreme means (ex. kill all invaders), it had to be a balancing act. It must be have a certain amount of X, but not TOO much X.

Dungeon Tours 0.1 – Today

This is where the idea of a fake tour first took place. It’s had certain mechanics that I’ve tried and set aside (ex. the idea of a Scare-o-meter that must be hit just right –  not to much, not too little). However, the fundamental idea of creating fake threats has been in there since the beginning.

Fun Fact: It was the “build a project” backbone of DTL that would later provide the framework for Evil Hat’s Uranium Chef. It’s funny that they’re released in opposite order.

That’s all we have time for this week. Expect more previews as we get closer to the DTL launch date.

What are the best / worst features to show up in your dungeons?

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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).

Fate Mini-Hack: Gonna Pop Some Tags

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It’s been a few months since we went to GenCon2016, so I thought it was well overdue that we share one of the things we tested: The Skeleton Crew RPG!

As anyone who’s been following this blog the past few years, we’ve been fine tuning one of our magnum opuses (opera?), the Skeleton Crew RPG. This supernatural adventure game has seen a few changes of the years, here’s one of our newest innovation, meant to cement the setting and streamline character creation: tags!


TAGS

A tag are a special type of aspect or sub-aspect that defines how the character of aspect interacts with the world (or worlds). They are also different from normal aspects in that they have a narrow range possibilities.

In the Skeleton Crew game, they come in several categories: Mortality tags, Knowledge tags, and Reality tags.


HOW DOES A TAG WORK?

A tag can be used in the same three ways an aspect can:

A. To aid you.

Example: If a cop with the reality tag “Natural” is following the trail of a mercenary with the tag “Natural,” she might be invoke the tag to give her a +2 to her investigation; she’ll think to look for the cigarette butts, crumbs, and other normal stuff that an immortal might forget about.

B. To grant a +2 invoke against you.

Example: A normal cop with the reality tag “natural” is analyzing an ancient clay doll; is it has secret writing on it, but the symbols have the tag “ethereal”- the GM decides that this mean they next to invisible to the human eye. If the cop player wants to investigate it further, the GM may spend a fate point to raise the difficulty of the search by +2, or to have the cop automatically fail.

C. To compel a character act in a particular way.

Example: A cop (tag: “mortal”) is escorting a djinn (tag: “immortal”) through a haunted tomb. The cop may say, “stay here, I’ll go in first.” However, the GM might compel the cop’s fear of death; this causes her to hesitate slightly. In the meantime, the GM might compel the djinn to go into the dangerous tomb alone; it has no concept of fear, even as it walks into certain doom! Now the cop is racing to catch up!

Reminder to GMs: Remember the rule that dice rolls should always result in something interesting. If a character is compelled to fail a roll, due to attempting something outside their specialty, it might result in a negative repercussion. This is particularly true if you suspect a player is intentionally attempting a task they know they’d fail at (i.e. fishing for compel points). Make sure it blows up in their face!

Ex. If a mad scientist with the knowledge tag “Science!” attempts to study a priceless haunted crown (with the tag “magic”), he might be compelled to fail; but instead of resulting in nothing, he might do something foolish, like dissecting it into bits, or handling it such a way that their adversary learns something about the scientist!


WHY ADD TAGS TO YOUR GAME?

We came up with the tags idea after several trial and error attempts:

Version 1.0 – We originally tried the Skeleton Crew game with the default Fate Core skill list, but it made certain skills cover too far of a narrative range; it seemed strange that a robot-building scientist would know so very much about prehistoric magic. It needed more specialization.

Version 2.0 – We next attempted dividing the skill list into smaller parts; notice, lore, and crafts, and others were all split into magical and non-magical equivalents. While this worked with some skills, it made others so niche that you might go an entire adventure without using them. Also, the skill list ballooned in size. We needed something in between.

Version 3.0 – The tags system lays the groundwork for a simpler skill list, but to still allow some specialization amongst teammates. It allows players with similar skill to join forces and be versatile at times, while the GM can still veto an action to provide more of a challenge, or to reign if a character steps too far from their expertise.


THE SKELETON CREW TAG TYPES – IN DEPTH

MORTALITY

bonejack-sneakA mortality tag defines what you are. It comes in three types, mortal, undead, and immortal.

Mortal – you are a creature that was born, grew, and will likely die (but haven’t yet). Your life span will either be short (half a century), or, if you’re special, a century or two. This is the tag for humans, mutants, and some demi-gods.

Undead –you are a revenant; a creature that was born, grew, died, and came back; this is most likely due to dark magic or a curse. This is the tag for vampires, ghosts, werewolves, Frankensteinian constructs, mummies and other reanimated mortals.

Immortal – you are were made, not begotten; either by a god, a creator, or by the raw forces of natural. You can be destroyed, but left to your own, you will never age and never die. You have refined yourself over the years, but you didn’t learn as a child learns; your abilities are natural to you. This is the tag for elementals, angels, demons, robots, djinns, and similar beings.

Sidebar – Which tag applies to Faeries? No two players will see faeries the same way; we encourage each group to decide how faeries work in your campaign, to best fit the view points of the those playing. We recommend you give faeries their own tag; mortals see faeries as immortals, and immortals treat faeries as mortals.

Mortality Tag Interacts with: your high concept. It helps define what you are, and how you act. Certain tags like “undead” also interact with certain types of magics and wards (ex. a holy talisman against revenants).


KNOWLEDGE

The knowledge tag defines your background knowledge and how you explain the world around you. It comes in two types: Science! and Occult.

Science! – to you, the world is a matter of rules and equations. You know that history is fixed, and that a cause always precedes an effect. This is the tag of cops, scientists, teachers, doctors, and most modern mortals.

Occult – to you, reality is an illusion that manipulated or broken. You know that history is but a dream, that sometimes you getting the desired effect is more important than understanding the cause. This is the tag of warlocks, ghosts, mediums, priests, and philosophers.

Example: Both a psychic and a medium can perceive ghosts andlibrary hubris.png emotional residue; a medium will see these phenomenon in a traditional, philosophical way, while the psychic will see the situation from a modern, analytical point of view.

Knowledge Tag Interacts with: certain skills, such as Crafts, Lore, and Operate*.

Crafts: Science! allows you to build and deconstruct mechanical devices; Occult allows you to build and deconstruct artifacts and enchantments.

Lore: Science! gives you knowledge of modern science, medicine, current events, and Earth geography; Occult gives you knowledge of ancient history, magic, and other worlds.

Operate*: Science! lets you control modern vehicles, robots, and machinery; operate lets you use artifacts, magical transports, and low-level animated servants (ex. skeletal puppets).

*Operate – in the Skeleton Crew RPG, the skill “Drive” is replaced with “operate,” which is broadened to cover any device that cannot reasonably be covered by “lore.”


REALITY

A reality tag defines what plane or planes of reality you find yourself tethered to. Are you a flesh-and-blood human, a ghost from beyond the veil, or something in between? There are two types, Natural and Ethereal, and the dual tag, Supernatural (for more on dual tags, see below).

Natural – A natural object is something based in the mortal plane. For persons and objects that are natural, the laws of physics are consistent; if you are a person, you likely have mass and find it easy to other things with mass. When investigating a clue that is natural, it is best to observe it through the normal senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. Natural objects generally have a low innate amount of magical energy, and tend to obey the laws of physics. Natural characters include mortals, robots, and revenants resurrected through science (ex. Frankensteinian constructs).

Ethereal – Smummy-ba-flyomething that is ethereal is based on the world beyond; there are many names for this, be it the afterlife, beyond the veil, limbo, the psychic realm, the etheric plane, etc. These beings are made up of magic and raw emotion, which are often indistinguishable on this level. To them, pain and joy are palpable enough to touch, while matter and gravity are sometimes hard to perceive. It is possible to have a natural object have a clue or aspect that is ethereal in nature, such as invisible writing drawn in magic on a brick wall. Ethereal beings, like most things of magic, have little regard for the laws of physics. Ethereal characters include ghosts, as well as some demons, fairies, angels, gods, and elementals.

Supernatural – Dual Tag An object that is supernatural is something that has real mass, but also carries with it strange psychic or magical properties. In this way, it can be seen and manipulated by both natural and ethereal characters, however their exact nature is sometimes hard to tell; a ghost can tell that a person has a high “supernatural quality,” but would be unable to discern if they’re a vampire, a psychic, a priest, or someone who’s just born lucky. Likewise, a supernatural character can see things that are natural and ethereal, but can only focus on one at a time. Supernatural objects generally tend to bend the laws of physics without breaking down. Supernatural characters include dhampirs, revenants resurrected with magic (such as zombies, werebeasts, vampires), spellcasters, priests, demigods, mediums and psychics.

Side Note – Holy Mass – Most daemons and angels are, in reality, ethereal beings; however, they borrow mass when they visit the material plane. Their true ethereal forms are nearly impossible to kill, but their physical bodies can be destroyed, or have be cleft from their spirits in a banishing ritual; if either is done, their souls are pushed so far into the etheric realm that they can’t interact with mortals. While in physical form, treat them as if they’re supernatural.

Reality Tag Interacts with: certain skills, particularly Notice and Investigate. Ethereal can also be invoked with other skills as well.

Notice: A Natural character will have a much easier time reacting to natural threats, or seeing hidden natural clues. Similar, an ethereal character will be more alert to ethereal threats.

Investigate: A natural character can more thoroughly investigate natural clues and clues that leave a physical trace; likewise, an ethereal character will be able to spy details that have no physical form, just as magical trails, feelings, and psychic echoes.

Ethereal Skills: The ethereal tag can also be invoked and compelled with any skill that involves the physical plane. They have less connection to matter, and thus they can invoke the tag to help them avoid physical objects (ex. for burglary when sneaking through a wall; for stealth when avoiding view, for athletics when getting past a guard; for fight when avoiding a punch). However, if they trying to interact with a physical object, it can also be invoked or compelled against them (ex. against burglary to make a stolen item slip through their fingers; with physique or fighting when pushing or punching an opponent). It can also used to help with Empathy to sense emotions; but for every invoke used to help spot feelings, make sure it is compelled to make it harder to Notice physical details.


Dual Tags

There are some instances of tags that fall under two categories; the most common of these is the Supernatural tag (see page XX).

For the most part, treat this is if the two opposing tags cancel each other out; the character is immune to unfriendly invokes and compels, but cannot compel their supernatural tag to aid in their roles.

Ex. a “natural” cop, an “ethereal” ghost, and a “supernatural” vampire are investigating a crime scene. When inspecting a gruesome “natural” blood stain, the cop could invoke her “natural” tag to get +2; meanwhile, the “ethereal” ghost investigating the same “natural” blood stain may receive an unfriendly invoke, or be compelled to notice nothing. The opposite would happen if the natural cop and the “ethereal” ghost were trying to investigate an “ethereal” psychic vibe in the air.

The “supernatural” vampire, however would be able to investigate the “natural” bloodstain or the “ethereal” psychic vibe; he’d be immune negative invokes, but could not invoke the “supernatural” tag to help his search.

Can I invoke the Dual Tag for anything?

Tags define a very specific thing about your character (generally how you perceive the world and how others perceive them); while a dual tag cannot be invoked to help with exact field related to it, it can be invoked or compelled for completely unrelated matters.

Ex. A supernatural vampire does not get a boost when searching for normal or for ethereal clues; however, she would be able to help her in a social situation, such as convincing another supernatural psychic that she ought to help them out.

Are there Dual Tags for Mortality? –

We recommend you don’t have any dual tags for mortality, unless a player wants to create an original character that straddles the line, like someone who is half-alive and half-dead. Similarly, you could treat Faeries as a dual tag for “mortal” and “immortal” (see above).

Are there Dual Tags for Knowledge?

If there were to be a dual tag for Knowledge that straddles both “Science!” and “Occult,” it would be “Alchemy.” However, we advise that GMs only allow it small groups. If there is only one “know-it-all” character in the group, it’s fine if they know Alchemy. However, you don’t want a “Science!” inventor and an “Occult” librarian to feel redundant next to an alchemist character that knows everything.


 

Tags in Action – Sample PC Type

ANGEL / EUDEMON

You are a loyal messenger to a god. If you are an angel, you serve the Great Light, and are made from light, air, and/or fire. If you are a eudemon, you serve a lesser god (like Zeus, Mardok, or Isis) and reflect the element of your master.

Eudemons are the middlemen between mortals and the gods, and thus do not take pleasure in hurting humans; however, they have no qualms against smiting the wicked. Similarly, they can grant humans what they need, which is not always what they want (ex. an angel of death ending a mortal’s suffering).
A Note to GMs: Angels and Devils are typically portrayed as having immense power. If a player wants to playing one, have your group come up with an explanation on why their powers are limited: maybe they’re a daemon-in-training, have had their powers sealed, or have had their “membership card” revoked.

High Concept: Angelic Servant to ________

Suggested Tags:

  • Mortality: Immortal
  • Reality: Supernatural or Ethereal
  • Knowledge: Occult

Suggested Skills: Will, Fight, Empathy, Evoke*
Suggested Stunts: Pillar of Strength

Pillar of Strength – Will –  When defending against Intimidation attacks, any of your teammates who have a lower Will than you may reroll their defense roll once per turn. This stunt may only be used if you’re in the same room as the teammate, or only if you are still in the conflict (i.e. not taken out).


What Other Tags Could Exist?

The above tags work with the world of magic and mad science of Skeleton Crew, but your game might find your own.

An additional tag we considered but eventually scrapped was a tag for Provoke and Rapport- you could easily merge the two into a single, emotion-influencing skill, and add a tag dividing it into “positive” emotions and “negative” emotions.

However, adding a tag for a single skill seems to waste, but what if you also added it to Empathy? In your world, maybe characters are more attuned to emotions of a certain nature.

I don’t see the “emotion” tag being useful in Skeleton Crew, but what about a Star Wars hack? I could easily see a “light side” / “dark side” tag affecting provoke, empathy, and maybe a slew of other skills. Try it yourself, and tell us what you think!

Until next time, GAME ON!

Masters of Umdaar – The Facemonger

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This week, we’re providing you with another NPC and adventure for your Masters of Umdaar setting: we give you, the Facemonger!

It was inspired by one of Gennifer Bone’s Monsters of the Week. Support her patreon, you can get access to more images like the one below. https://www.patreon.com/ladyredfingers (Warning: some images NSFW).


 

The Facemonger by Gennifer Bone

 

 

THE FACEMONGER

The Hierophant Ria faces you; her heart is heavy, but her resolution is clear.

“In my kingdom, there is a noble… his name is Duke Mullinix. His fiefdom is officially within the borders of our land, Callaria, but our spies report that he’s under the thumb of the neighboring Master, FrauSpaw. Mullinix is popular in the court, and to accuse him without proof would be disastrous. However, should FrauSpaw and her SkeleSpiders attack, Mullinix is unlikely lift a finger to aide us; he might even join the Master.

Worst of all, Mullinex has a rare artifact in his vault; the Nethermoon Mirror. Should it be used against us, it would spell our downfall. I must ask you act with the utmost discretion and care; I need you to obtain that artifact, but it can level be traced back to me.

If Duke Mullinex has any weakness, it’s his idleness; he is constantly throwing balls and parties. Tonight, he is throwing a masquerade; a perfect chance to sneak in, steal the Mirror, and get out without being identified.

However, you are very famous in these parts, and your work for me is well known. Normal masks won’t be enough to disguise you. It was difficult, but I have arranged a meeting with a… specialist in this matter.

I can only vouch for the specialist’s skill, not her virtue. Do not trust him, for she is not what she seems.


 

On the outskirts of town, in the Black Market square, is a dark velvet tent. It bears no sign or markings, but is open to the public.

Inside the tent is a young girl, small and frail. Her face is white and simple, like she a porcelain doll’s. However, every hair on your body stands up on end; despite what your eyes tell you, you feel the presence of a hulking figure in the room. Even as “she” speaks in light, dulcet tones, you feel your chest rumble with the buzz of a deep inhuman voice, just out of hearing.

“You want artifatzz, yezzz? I helpzzz you get artifact. You scratchz my back, I scratchz yourzzz. I helpzz you. I give you new facezzz.”

The facemonger tells you what she wants: the Brinestone Mask, which is one of the many treasures held within Mullinex’s vaults. She’ll help you, if you promise to bring her back the mask.

If you agree, she gives each of you a mask- it’s beautifully made, and in low light, it might even be mistaken for your real face. In full low, however, it does like a full masquerade ball mask.

However, if you put on a mask, you will see its true power; it doesn’t just mask your face, it changes your entire body. You find your height changed, the skin of your hands covered in strange skin, and your voice sounding strange to your own ears.

The good news is, there’s also no risk of the Duke’s men removing your mask…  the bad news is, it seems to be permanently sealed to your face.


 

THE CURSED MASKS- RULES

When you receive a new face from the Facemonger, remove the bioform from your high concept and replace it with completely different bioform; they can pick this, or choose one at random.

In addition, remove all of your approaches and replace them with question marks.

Whenever you would attempt to make an action, if the approach you wish to use has not been revealed (i.e. still a question mark), then you must pick an approach that is skill hidden.

Next, roll 1 fate die:

+ The approach you picked is revealed as being the approach of your choice. Record it on your sheet, and continue with your roll.

0 It is unclear if the approach is the right one or not. For the sake of this roll, treat it as if the value you picked is the approach, but leave it blank.

– The approach is definitely NOT the approach you were hoping for; instead, write it down as another approach. If possible, record it is the as opposite approach (flash / sneaky; careful / quick; forceful / clever); if the opposite approach is already discovered, pick a random approach instead.  For the sake of this roll, treat your approach level as Mediocre (0).

Example: The mighty Princess Kraj, wearing one of the Cursed Masks, tries to deal with an enemy in her normal way: forcefully! She picks the unknown approach in the Good (+3) slot, and rolls 1dF: she rolls a negative! This means that the Good approach isn’t Forceful, it’s Careful. She might have a fierce spirit of a barbarian, but she has the weak wrists of a priest! She treats this roll as Mediocre 0, due to the shock.

Once five approaches are discovered, fill in the sixth one automatically.


 

The Adventure

We will leave the adventure up to you, but some possible things to consider:

  • The Duke is particularly nervous… is this ball a cover for something else?
  • What other treasures lie in the Duke’s vault?
  • Should you try to steal the mirror, what enemies (or even allies) will attempt to thwart you?


 

The Nethermoon Mirror

In addition to having hidden, Demiurge abilities, the mirror, has one overt quality: it shows the true reflection of anyone caught it in. Thus, any masks are ignored (including yours), illusions are overpowered, and shapeshifters are revealed.

Which begs another question:

Who else is hidden amongst the courtiers? Who else is not what they seem?

Oh, and lazers are reflected by the Nethermoon Mirror… for that extra “Saturday Morning Cartoon” touch.

Removing the Mask: You will find that removing the mask without theFacemonger is impossible. Should you get the Brinestone Mask to theFacemonger, she will remove the masks for you (assuming that’s what you want). Likewise, there’s always the chance that the Facemongermight renege on the deal, forcing you to go on other errands before keeping her end of the bargain. She might even send you to retrieve the legendary Mask of Menos.


 

That’s it for this week. More updates on our projects and kickstarters to come. Until then, game on!

Fate Accelerated: I Don’t Like Spam!

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I like Fate Accelerated. I really do. Hell, I’ve made two Fate World settings using it, and will likely make my third setting FAE too. That being said, it’s not perfect.

Sidenote: If it’s not perfect, why do I play it? To paraphrase Winston Churchill, “[Fate] is the worst form of [RPG], except for all the others.”

The best part of FAE is that there is always another way to skin a cat; if a party’s sorcerer has to leave the game early because they have work in the morning, you’re not suddenly stuck with a group incapable of overcoming the magic door down the hall; through cleverness, careful study, or barbaric vandalism, they will find a way.

Deep-fried_spam_(2041662434)

Yum. I think. Conflicted.

The evil flip-side to this is that whenever you want to encourage a player to approach a problem from one of their lesser approaches, someone will insist that they can use their strongest approach; this frequently called “spamming.”  While they mean well, these sophisters will turn every turn into a drawn out negotiation, which can kill the mood and drag the evening out. Of course, the GM could always say “No, you have to use this approach,” but that’s against the spirit of FAE, and saying “No” leads to an unfriendly atmosphere (one of my very first entries discussed how much a GM should say “yes.”)

Evil Hat’s Zen Master of Fate Rob Donogue has proposed some ways to get around this on his blog, The Walking Mind, but I thought I’d try one or two ideas of my own:

Option 1: the Permission Aspect

If a player wants to use an approach that doesn’t seem obvious Require a “Permission aspect” first. This will likely be a situation aspect. If they already have a character aspect, require that they invoke it (which gives them the ability to use the approach AND the invoke bonus).

Ex. Chartok, Marna, and Phil all want to attack the a vicious ingredient in Kitchen Arena, the Monstercheese. Chartok’s player wants to charge straight in using Forceful, while Marna’s player wants to use Clever, and Phil’s player wants to use Sneaky. The GM sees no trouble with Chartok using the Forceful approach to make a raw attack, but feels that using Clever or Sneaky is less justified in this instance. The GM requests they get permission aspects first: a rational person like Marna wouldn’t charge in blindly, but if zhe spends an exchange looking for a weapon first (create an advantage for a Giant Cheese Machete), zhe could attack with Clever during any later exchanges. Similarly, a sneaky attack from Phil out of nowhere seems forced, but if Phil’s player spends a fate point to invoke his aspect “Born in Shadows,” the GM will let him use Sneaky to attack (and also gets the +2 invoke bonus). The GM is feeling generous, and decides these invokes are enough to let them use those approaches for the rest of the scene, or until it no longer makes sense (ex. Marna loses the Cheese Machete; Phil uses Flashy to draw attention to himself.)

If the player has a weapon that’s also a stunt, which is tied to a specific approach (ex. The Bow in in Masters of Umdaar using Quick), then the character can always use that weapon to attack; however, they can only use it whenever it seems right for the weapon (ex. Can’t use the bow in close combat), and only if they possess the weapon (ex. They haven’t been disarmed).

Option 2: Critical Hit

If players don’t like the stick, give them the carrot! Whenever a character makes an attempt with an Approach that is Fair +1 or lower and succeeds, automatically treat the result as success with style. Thus, they have a lower chance of success, but a higher gain should they pull it off. A GM might offer this all the time, but it seems better to me as a bargaining chip.

Player: I don’t want to use Forceful to attack, I want to use Quick, it’s higher!
GM: Okay, but if you hit with Forceful, I’ll give you a Critical Hit bonus…


 

Which option sounds better to you? Tell us what you think!

Until next week, GAME ON!

 


Image Citation:

Spam image courtesy of Father.Jack from Coventry, UK, Transferred from Flickr by User:Fæ. Used with permission through Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Neither licensor nor the Spam corporation endorses this blog or its use.

 

Gods and Masters – A Fate World Mash-up

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Welcome to this week’s TA Tabletop! But first, an anecdote:

In 1994, the band Blur wrote the very catchy song, “Girls & Boys.” According to Wikipedia, the front-man of Radiohead, Thom Yorke, once said he had wished he had written the song, and called Blur “bastards” for writing it first.

In 2014, Evil Hat Productions gave me the amazing opportunity to write a Fate World for them. I am very pleased with how “Masters of Umdaar” came out, but that doesn’t mean I don’t hold an overwhelming sense of awe and fist-shaking frustration towards fellow author Chris Longhurst. Mr. Longhurst, who I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting, is guilty of writing “Gods and Monsters,” a setting so brilliant and original that I kick myself for not coming up with it. Worse still, I must acknowledge the fact that any attempt of mine to create a creation-god setting would have been far inferior than his… curse the scallywag!

Thus, in a vain attempt to cash in on some of his genius, this week I’m proposing rules for merging “Gods & Monsters” and “Masters of Umdaar” together.

Speaking of other people’s ideas, the idea of mashing-up “Gods and Monsters” and “Masters of Umdaar” was proposed by someone else on G+ several months ago. Sadly, I did not record the person’s name… if he or she remembers, please let me know, and I’ll be glad to give credit where it is due.


GODS AND MASTERS

Image avaible through Creative Commons 4.0, courtesy of Wellcome Trust http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/

Image avaible through Creative Commons 4.0, courtesy of Wellcome Trust http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/

Gods and Masters” is a two-part campaign set on the planet Umdaar. The gods in question are the Demiurge, the deities / demons / super-advanced aliens that made the planet as diverse and bizarre place it is today.

Gods & Monsters– Recommending Changes

In Thy Own Image – While some of the bioforms of Umdaar were created by accident or out of scientific curiosity, many were created or molded into the image of a certain god. Thus, I recommend looking (or rolling) on the Umdaar Bioform chart for inspiration. A centaur god of the wilderness makes sense, and the mind boggles at what a cyborg god would be like!

Regions – When creating regions, use the areas and rules listed in Gods & Monsters, but do not be afraid to add a sci-fi twist (for Umdaar-themed biomes, see this post from a few months back). Pick a distinct otherworldly name for each region, like the Crystal Forests or the Phantom Mountains. These regions will show up in both parts of the campaign, so make ‘em good!

Communities – Don’t forget that the communities on Umdaar don’t have to be human; likewise, any humans you encounter might not stay human for long! For the Demiurge, altering genetics is child’s play; you can raise dumb animals into sentience and shape worshipers into your image. If your power starts to bleed or a station is too close to a village, it might accidentally warp the mortal creatures nearby into strange new bioforms.

Artifacts – The Demiurge love their artifacts; its practically a compulsion. When they are working, they create tools to aid them. When they are courting, they give baubles and toys. Even if you’re not a god of Smithing or Tech, your Demiurge will have the ability to make artifacts that are metal, crystal, or even biomechanical in nature. Similarly, we recommend making artifacts part of the god’s identity, like Thor’s hammer or Hades’s Cap of Invisibility. This item might show up in a stunt. Alternatively, you can tie it into the God’s Boons, as follows:

Tier 1 – Innate – Your god may use this ability without an artifact.

Tier 2 – Requires the god to have their minor artifact (ex. a cloak, a piece of jewelry) at hand*

Tier 3 – Requires the god to have their signature artifact at hand*

The only exception to the “at-hand” rule is that a god can still use a boon if their artifact is in the care of a loyal community that worships them; this allows the god to use the boon “hands free,” but also opens your artifact up to theft or desecration.

If your artifact is lost, destroyed, or desecrated, your Demiurge will have to go on an epic journey to retrieve it, or to find the rare materials needed to rebuild it.

Sci-Fantasy: If you see the Demiurge as aliens, artifacts are easy to picture. However, for fantasy players, think of the artifacts as the god’s mantra-turned-object. Like Voldemort’s horcruxes or Sauron’s ring, they bear a part of the god’s soul.)

The Fall – When players start their campaign, it is in the early part of the Demiurge’s rule- there might not be races on Umdaar, or even a planet at all. However, at some point, eons in their future, the Demiurge will be gone. Did this take them by surprise, or do they have only have a limited window to be in our plane of existence? Do they learn of a prophecy, detailing how each will fall, like the Norse gods knew of Ragnarok? (Normally, I find “prophecies” lead for boring stories, but I make the exception with gods!)

Masters of Umdaar – Recommended Changes

Use the G&M approaches instead of the Fate: Bold, Subtle, Clever, Mighty, Wise, Swift.


PUTTING THEM TOGETHER

I see two easy ways to put the two games together:

NOW & LATER – The simplest way is to move from G&M to MoU is to play a short Gods & Monster campaign, end it, and then start a Masters of Umdaar campaign. If so, the G&M campaign is really about setting the stage; fill the world with wonders, bioforms, and artifacts. Demiurge should be encouraged to bleed power and leave loose threads- a small monster that the Demiurge let go because it is no threat to them might be a scourge that the archaeonauts have to deal with thousands of years later.

In this format, any godly Stations will likely become prominent regions in Umdaar. Of course, it’s possible that some of them will be inverted or corrupted: the Sky City becomes the Sky Ruins, the Shimmering Sea could become the Sludge Sea, or the forest god’s Screaming Forest can become the bustling industrial city known as the Screaming Furnace. The archaeonauts might even encounter a fallen god that has devolved into a monster (or even into a mad Master!)

FLASH BACK / FAST FORWARD – The second way to run a “Gods and Masters” game is to run both campaigns simultaneously; the group might play a G&M game one night, and a MoU game the next. This can lead to some messy bookkeeping, but it means that the actions of a G&M game might set up the problem for the next game; likewise, the archaeonauts might uncover a glorious artifact, only to flashback to its origins. This can be done with two sets of character sheets, but it is not necessary; we recommend the Reincarnation set-up detailing below:

ReincarnationA seasoned group of archaeonauts, who have been together for years, encounter a half-mad sage. The sage tells the baffled archaeonauts that they are the demiurge reborn*, reincarnations of the godly warriors and creators. The party members laugh it off… but as they keep hearing more myths of the old gods, and stumble upon the relics of their “former incarnations,” they start to wonder if it’s true…

*It’s possible that you’re a reborn god, even if you’re playing a robotic archaeonaut that was never technically “born.” After all, as the Umdaar proverb says, “Even Ozell [the Bronze Goddess] was once a toy.”

Reincarnation Set-up – Players will create one character sheet for both Demiurge god and mortal archaeonaut. The approaches will be identical. The player should aim to create aspects that overlap as much as possible, but some aspects will be split in half, like the high concept (ex. Barbaraic God of the Beasts / Mortal Beastman Barbarian) or be intentionally inverted for different back-stories (ex. Crown Prince of the Gods / Orphaned Street Rat).

The only major difference will be the stunts and boons. A god will have one set of godly stunts, and access to boons. The archaeonaut will have a different set of stunts to represent their more modest abilities (and will likely be more action/adventure oriented). Of course, there might be potential for overlap; at the end of a long adventure, an archaenaut might recover an artifact of their former incarnation (granting them the stunt / boon in BOTH incarnations!)

Intention & Approaches: Whenever a god’s power fluctuates or an archaeonaut hits milestones, any Approach changes in one incarnation will be also changed for the other incarnation; this can represent an avatar embracing their older incarnation, a mere mortal being inspired by the tales of a god, or pure coincidence. However, the invokes and actions of an archaeonaut will not alter the intention tracker (at least, not at first… who knows what will happen when they start to embrace their destiny!)

Refresh: As the refresh of the character changes at milestones, it changes for both incarnations.

Stunt Changes: If a character gains a stunt at a milestone or buys a stunt with refresh, both characters gain a different stunt which only that specific incarnation can use (or, in rare cases, a stunt that they both can use).


Have any suggestions of mash-ups of your own? Let me know! Until next time, readers, game on!

Masters of Umdaar: Monster Showcase – The Elektrokhan!

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This week, I’m presenting a new monster to use in “Masters of Umdaar”: the infamous scourge of the Silicon Steppes known only as the Elektrokhan!

This week showcases an amazing creation by Gennifer Bone; by donating to Patreon, you can support her creating monsters on a weekly basis. But your generosity won’t go unrewarded: Gennifer is granting publishing rights to anyone who pledges her work. Support her, and you can use her work in your own game books! Find her page here!


THE ELEKTROKHAN!

Art by Gennifer Bone, used with permission. See more at https://www.patreon.com/ladyredfingers?ty=c

All travelers in the Silicon Sands are cautious of the copper cobras, and with good cause, but there is one beast that is most feared of all; the Elektrokhan. It is ten times larger than any other specimen of it’s species, and hundreds of years old. It is the destroys caravans, devourers who herds of batgoats, and barks lightning into the summer skies. And every year, it grows stronger, and bolder…

High Concept: Legendary Electric Sand Worm

Aspects: Ambush Hunter; Don’t Walk with Rhythm; Shock and Awe

Skills:

+5 Flashy

+4 Sneaky, Forceful

+3 Careful, Quick

+0 Clever

Stunts:

Tunneler: Whenever Elektrokhan successfully uses Sneaky to leave a zone, it gains the aspect “Burrowed.” It may still be attacked, but may invoke the aspect for defense. At the start of any of it’s turns, it may discard the aspect to appear in any zone and use Sneaky to attack.

Lightning Strike: The Elektrokhan can spit lightning. It may use flashy to attack characters up to 2 zones away, and gains +2 if they are wearing or made of metal. It may not use the Lightning Strike if it started the turn Burrowed.

Stress: 1 2 3 4

Consequences: Mild & Moderate

Copper Cobras

High Concept: Electric Sand Worm

Aspects: Shock and Awe; Fight or Flight

Skills:

+2 Flashy

+1 Sneaky, Forceful

Stunt:

Ambush! – Unless the plot says otherwise, Copper Cobras always go first in any conflict.

Stress: 1


That’s it for this week! Until next time, game on!