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!

Masters of Umdaar Bonus Content – MISSION MOTHERLOAD

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In the last few weeks, I’ve shared some of the bonus material that couldn’t fit into the “Masters of Umdaar” book (available for “Pay-what-you-want” on DriveThruRPG.)

Artist by Tazio Bettin, Enrica Eren Angiolini. Copyright artists & Evil Hat LLC. Used without permission.

Two weeks ago, I shared some ways to create a Master, a Wildland, and an Evil Lair.

Last week, I gave you the basic set-up for Rescue Missions.

This week, we’re giving you the motherload: not one, not nine, but 54 more missions for you to generate!

MISSION TABLE

Roll two off-color fate dice and see what mission you are charged with:

0 +
Pick: Get! or mission table of your choice Discover! Thwart!
0 Rescue! Pick: Get! or mission table of your choice Escape!
+ Defend / Escort! Slay! Pick: Get! or mission table of your choice

[As we mentioned in weeks past, most of these adventures focus less on the Archaeonauts actually, y’know, doing archaeonaut-themed things. For this reason, we’ve adjusted the Mission chart to give you a higher chance to rolling a “Get!” artifact-themed adventure.]

SLAY

A threat has been threatening the peaceful peasants, and the perpetrator must be stopped. It follows this format:

The _Victim___ informs you of a threat so vile, that you might be forced to journey through the _____Wildland_____ to the __Evil Lair___, so your warriors might SLAY…

0 +
A New Warlord – Create a new Master, who excels at using physical force to get his way—Forceful, Quick— You can make him a member of an existing race, or create a new one. A Monster – A fantastic beast is razing villages and killing any who get in its way. Roll twice on the Monster Chart, and pick the one that sounds more terrifying! Your Old Worst Enemy – The villain is an established Master, or the nemesis of one of the party members.—Of course, old foes are notorious for cheating death.
0 A Warlock Master– A hermetic old warlock or witch has been pilfering poor peasants for centuries- but no more! The Evil Lair building has been the Warlock’s home base for centuries, and is full of clever traps! Master is skilled at Clever and/or Careful. A Demon! – A secretive figure is has summoned and bound a monster from another plane, and is using it to terrorize the land! Unmask the summoner, or face the much harder task of slaying the demon itself! An Ancient Evil – Long ago, the Demiurge captured an ancient evil- now it is free! Worse still, it cannot die, only be trapped. Generate a Wildland- this is the evil’s haunt. You must lure it back to the Evil Lair, or an equally powerful site, if you are to stop it. 
+ A Double Threat – Create a new Master or Beast—see Monster above, but the brute is not so mindless after all- it’s skilled at brain and brawn. The monster can speak eloquently, the warlord can quote philosophy. A Teetering Enemy – Whoever slays the Master will gain power over his domain- which means you have plenty of rivals trying to kill him/her first! The Crime Lord! Your quarry is a sneaky Bandit Lord—High Sneaky or Quick—Instead of having the Wildland and Evil Lair based around remote spots, build them around urban spots, like Bazaars, Slums, and Palaces.

DISCOVER!

Something is out there, lurking at the edge of knowledge, in the undiscovered county. It’s time to discover what it is.

The_Victim_asks you to travel through the _Wildland_____, in the hopes that you might uncover…

0 +
A New Religion – Missionaries from a foreign land have asked you to visit their temple, and their High Priest. Roll for the Evil Lair, which doubles as the holy temple- go and see what the religion is all about, and if the High Priest is an ally to win over or a new Master to subdue. A New Race– An undiscovered tribe dwells in the nearby Wildlands, attacking anyone who ventures through it. Rather than role a complete race all at once, add an additional Animal, Adaptation, Power, or Weapon with each new scene. Roll an Evil Lair for their base. A Hidden Treasure – In the Wildlands, you find hints of an Evil Lair, which holds an ancient Artifact. When you reach there, roll to see what the treasure is.
0 A Hidden World – Underneath a Land of Light, a crevice has opened up, revealing a hidden world beneath your feet. Search the underground Wildland underneath, and the Evil Lair it holds. Or, have a portal open to an entirely different universe. A Lost Tribe –A local tribe in the Wildlands could swing the balance of power in the region.

Treat it as above result “Lost in the Mists,” but add a rival Master who is also trying to recruit the locals through guile and force.

A Hidden Base – A Master has established a new base camp, hidden somewhere in the Wildland. Roll for several Evil Lairs- only one contains the Master, but they all have their shares of danger!
+ A Hidden Purpose – In the Wildland is an Evil Lair structure- except, the entire structure is a leftover Demiurge machine. What is the function? Will the rival Master claim the structure first? A Hidden Menace – A new master is threatening the kingdom and is sending agents to assassinate the monarch. Stop the assassins, follow them to their Evil Lair, and discover their master’s identity.—Great for a 2-part story. An Aberration – An unknown factor is causing the denizens of the Wildland to warp and mutate. Is this a blessing or a curse, and how will rival Masters use it to their advantage?—Roll a Power or Adaptation for each group you meet, and an Evil Lair.</table>

 

THWART

An evil plan is in motion. Only you can prevent it from coming to fruition. It follows this format:

The _Victim___ beseeches you journey through the _____Wildland_____ to the __Evil Lair, where the vile _Master_ is carrying out his/hwe plot. You must stop…

0 +
An Evil Alliance! – Several Masters, who are normally fierce rivals, are meeting to plan an alliance. Stealthily sabotage them before they can ally against you! A Doomsday Machine – A villain has found a diabolical device from the age of the Demiurge, and is nearly finished repairing it.—Alternatively, it could be an original invention. An Evil Cult’s Ritual – A cult, possibly hidden in an ally’s kingdom, past the dangerous Wildland. Reach the kingdom, route out their temple, and stop from casting a dangerous spell.
0 A Treacherous Plot – You learn of a nefarious plot- and the chief suspect is a very trusted member of the royal family. This is not a matter to be solved by smashing- you have to find solid evidence incriminating the noble, or catch him in the act. For this adventure, the climactic final scene will be in the Land of Light. A Plague War – An unseen threat is intentionally spreading plague throughout a local settlement. Journey through the dangerous Wildland reach to the neighboring Land of Light, find the threat, and end it before it can spread. An Assembly of Power– The master is attempting to reconstruct a dangerous Demiurge weapon, which was split into several parts. They already have one piece, and will racing you to the Evil Lair for the second. This is a great Multipart story, with room for 1-2 more parts.
+ A Traitor in your Midst! A traitor has stolen a vital code from your allies. Find the culprit, and follow them wherever they go- the code must be intercepted! But are they the only traitor? An Invasion – While a team of crack infiltrators are breaking into the Master’s stronghold to stop his invasion plans, your team must act as the decoys. Can you draw out his forces, distract them long enough, and survive? The Launch – The Master is prepping an ancient Demiurge weapon for launch- if the StarSpear takes off, it will mean the destruction of the capital!

GET

A key item holds the balance of power in the Wildland. It follows this format:

The Victim_ tells you of the essential item- to reach it, you must brave the _____Wildland_____ to the __Evil Lair. Be quick, as the greedy _Master_ will try to stop you from getting…

0 +
The Lost Scroll – You have been asked to pick up an important manuscript- only to find the scroll’s keeper dead, and the scroll missing. What was it, a weapon, a treasure map, an ancient spell? Find out fast, before the killer gets away. The Secret Plans – This can go two different ways- someone has stolen the defense plans to your local city, OR you’re trying to steal the defense plans to your arch nemesis. Either way, cities will fall over a few lines on a parchment. Trust no one. Your Memories – You are trying to recover your memories! You’ve woken up with no recollection of who you are. Find out the cause, and get them back.—<em>Note- this can be a literal object, like a snow globe holding your memories.</em>
0 The Target- Roll for an Artifact—but you and the Master aren’t the only ones seeking it- other forces hunt it as well, and will hamper you at every turn. The Lost Artifact – People have uncovered a powerful artifact from the Demiurge, which is able to shift the balance of power in the region. Roll for a random artifact. The Scattered Being—A powerful god, demon or spirit of energy has been split into several smaller beings, which have scattered to the winds. Collect them all, so they can be reunited—or before they can recombine into something worse!
+ The Blackmail – The enemy master is coercing you to—i.e. blackmail, threatening a loved one—into finding an Artifact in the Wildland, and bringing it to the Evil Lair. Will giving the artifact to the Master make things better or worse? Leverage – The Evil Lair holds an unknown object, which the Master defends zealously. If you can steal it from the Master, you might gain great influence over them- but what could he be hiding, and do you dare use it? An Exit– Start the adventure at the Evil Lair, near the desired Artifact. If you succeed in getting, you still have to escape through the dangerous Wildland, with the Master hot on your trail!

DEFEND / ESCORT

Someone or something precious is danger’s way- you must keep it safe. It follows one of these two formats:

Escort: You have to safely take the _Victim_ through the __Wildland___, and past the __Evil Lair__, and out of the reach of the __Master___.

Defend: You have been informed by a messenger that, on the far side of the _____Wildland___, is a _Victim_ or the __Evil Lair__, which you must defend against the onslaught of the __Master___.

0 +
The Distant Noble- Defend: You’ve learned of an assassination attempt, about to take out an allied noble who is at a ritual at a sacred temple. If you’re to get there in time, you must traverse the dangerous Wildland, and quickly! Your Guide – Escort: You have a guide to the Wildland, who is not much use in a fight- but their knowledge is essential if you’re to reach the Evil Lair. The Ambassador – Escort -An Master has asked for an envoy of a noble, or the noble themselves, to meet them to discuss a treaty. Even if you can get them to the Evil Lair safely, is the meeting genuine, or is it a trap?
0 The Citadel – Defend—A Master has laid under siege to a friendly city or settlement. To help, you must sneak into the settlement through the Wildland, and then prepare it for the assault. This time, you’re not avoiding the death traps, you’re building them! The Pilgrim – Escort – A zealous priestess or priest has set out to the Evil Lair for a religious rite, and has asked you to get them there safely. The journey won’t be easy, but should you hesitate, they’ll stubbornly go on, even to their own death. An Ungrateful Victim – Escort – You are charged to safely escort an individual or group, who is belligerent. They even suspect you might be the cause of the trouble in the first place! They mistrust your every attempt to help.
+ The Pass – Defend – A two-prong invasion force is heading to the citadel, and you have to buy the defenders time! You must make your plans, and then divide the party- one half defending a narrow pass in the Wildland, the other defending the Evil Lair against a simultaneous assault. If you can sufficiently cripple them, you can rejoin and retreat to safety. The Camp – Defend – Your travels have brought you to the abandoned Evil Lair, with no choice to be camp there for the night.You must quickly gather resources and fortify the location, before the beasts of the night begin their hunt. Survive until dawn, if you can! The Snitch – Escort – You’ve been charged with keeping a defector safe- but the Master that they worked for has placed a massive bounty on their head! Guide the snitch through the Wildland, and a populated Evil Lair, to safety, as rival rogues try to keep the snitch’s mouth shut!

ESCAPE!

Your heroes are trapped in a tight spot, and must fight for their lives. It follows the following format:

You start in the clutches of the malicious __Master__- you must break through his forces, and through the untamed _____Wildland_____, if you’re going to escape…

[In addition, most Escapes start with your heroes having been robbed of their weapons! Your characters must use what is available until they can recover their precious inventory. If a character has a Weapon Stunt, they start unable to use the stunt, but start with an extra Fate Point.]

0 +
The Inescapable Prison! – You’re held in the Evil Lair, which is most feared prison on the planet. Can you escape where countless have failed? From Paradise! – You start inside the Evil Lair, which holds a beautiful secret kingdom that welcomes you with open arms. However, they don’t want their secret getting out. They claim you are not a prisoner, merely a guest-that can never leave! With Others—You’re not alone in the prison—half a dozen other people are stuck with you. Do you save them, or let them rot? Are they all innocent victims, or is there a rat hiding amongst them?
0 The Blame! – You must escape the Evil Lair and through the Wildland, all the while assigning each other the blame of getting captured in the first place—these show up as aspects. The Hunt – You didn’t break free—the master released you onto the Wildland so he and his minions can hunt you down! Fight your way past the outpost, the Evil Lair, and onto friendly territory, and you’ll be safe! From the Wilds – The local wildlife is hungry, and seeks your blood. Starting the Evil Lair, you must make it through past the savage beasts that stand between you and shelter!
+ The Arena! – Your characters are forced to fight in a savage arena against beasts, gladiators, and other slaves. At the beginning, you’re allowed to fight as a team- but if you’re too good, that might change.—You might want to skip the Wildland if this adventure runs long. The Craft – The heroes are aboard a craft—a galleon, an airship, a sailing ship, etc. —that has just been hijacked. You have to plan your escape carefully, as you are surrounded by death on every side! With the Loot! – You’re kept in the bowels of the Evil Lair, surrounded by riches untold. Will you escape alive, or will your temptations slow you down?

Between this week and last week, that’s over 63 missions you can run. Better still, if you randomly generate the Wildland and Evil Lair, that gives about to 900,000 different unique adventures you can run in Umdaar!

That’s it for the Umdaar related material for the near future; but don’t worry, I’ll definitely be revisiting at some point in the next few months.

One of my few Umdaar-based regrets is that the Mission Chart I created at the top of the page is a 9-box chart, with only 7 different mission types. If anyone wants to add adventures of their (ex. expand Escort and Defend into two charts), please share them! If you give your permission, I’d love to repost your awesome stuff here.

Until next week, game on!

Masters of Umdaar Bonus Content: No Noble Left Behind!

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Last week, I shared part of the bonus content I created for for Umdaar– namely, how to randomly create a Master, a Wildland and a Final Destination. This week, we’ll give you the WHY- your team of Archaeonauts is on a mission!

Art by Tazio Bettin & Enrica Eren Angiolini, copyright Evil Hat LLC. Used without permission. From “Masters of Umdaar,” now on sale for Pay-What-You-Want (click on the photo for the link).

THE RESCUE!

While spending a pleasant afternoon in [ a Land of Light], a missive reaches you: You must save the helpless [ Victim_] To reach them, you must first journey through the [Wildland]. Then, you must enter the Master [Name]’s land, and infiltrate the [Final Destination] !

The Victim

First, you must pick or generate a victim for you to save:

You Must Save…

  0 +
The Prince / Princess—The young noble comes from the Land of Light you started from. The Priest/Priestess—The hostage comes from a strong religion worshipped in the Lands of Light. An Innocent Peasant—The victim is a simple peasant, whom others have abandoned.
0 The Child of your Worst Enemy!—The victim is the child of a vile Master. Has a rival kidnapped the offspring, or is the child hoping to defect, and needs help escaping the clutches of their parent? A Fellow Archaeonaut – An Archaeonaut and comrade in arms has been captured, and it’s up to you to save them. This can be an old war buddy or a rival. The Sacrifice! It’s not a simple kidnapping- the innocent youth taken hostage is the object of a dark sacrifice ritual.
+ The Healer! The monarch is sick, and the only one who can heal them rots in the Master’s prison. You must rescue the old medicine maker. Your Man on the Inside – You have an ally that has snuck their way into the enemy ranks. They can even help you, assuming you don’t blow their cover. A Reluctant Party—through brainwashing, drugs, or stubbornness, the hostage doesn’t WANT to be saved. You have to convince them to leave, or drag them out by force!

 

Victim – Details

After you have your victim, come up with a few more details.

 Place / People of Origin: If the victim comes from a Land of Light, create the name of the country or clan that wants them back (or, plot twist, DOESN’T want them back!)

 Gender: I strongly support players and characters of any gender, genders, or lack of gender. Even more strongly, I don’t advocate the idea that a specific gender is weaker (i.e. more in need of rescuing) than any other. With this in mind, we recommend you pick the gender or genders of the victim randomly (ex. roll a die), which gives you the widest range of genders for victims while avoiding any stereotype or bias.*

*Note: This is NOT an officially Evil Hat LLC point of view, but given the conversations I’ve had with some of them, I would be very surprised if they didn’t back me up on this.

Name: Pick a Name for your victim (the generator from last week is a good start). If you have a person of higher birth, here are a few good titles:

Young Noble Titles

  0 +
Prince/Princess Priest/Priestess Magi
0 Hierophant Emir / Emira Raja / Rana
+ Pharaoh Tlatoani / Cihuatlahtoani Khanzada / Khatan

 As an extra note on the Mission “A Fellow Archaeonaut”: this is a great adventure to run if you have a player is that is unable to join you this session; their PC has been taken hostage, and it’s up to you to save them!


I hope you enjoy this week’s 9 adventures… because there are 54 more coming! (Don’t worry, the next chunk will be a bigger.)

Until next week, game on!

MANOR OF FACT – Supernatural Roleplaying with Kill Doctor Lucky

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In previous blogs, I’ve looked at plastic figures and ranked them on how well they could be adapted as characters in an RPG. In the next few blogs, I’m going to try a similar concept with a twist: I’ll be looking at board games that can be used as roleplaying playmats. More specifically, we’re looking for good ol’ haunted mansions!

This week, we’re going to focus on Cheapass Games’s Clue parody game, Kill Doctor Lucky.

Oh, he’s gonna die.

But first, a word from our sponsor!


Keep your eyes open for our new kickstarter, Fate Accompli: erasable notecards for your Fate RPG games.

New Header! Pretty, no?

New Header! Pretty, no?

The premade cards make it easy to write up NPCS, keep track of stress and turn orders, or create an aspect in a jiffy. Just a reminder, we’re launching this month! You may commence salivating.


Note: Tangent Artists did not create this image nor hold the rights to this game. We will tell you it is awesome and you should buy it.

Note: Tangent Artists did not create this image nor hold the rights to this game. We will tell you it is awesome and you should buy it.

Back to Kill Doctor Lucky! For those who’ve never heard of it, Kill Doctor Lucky is a darkly-comedic board game created by James Earnest, and first published by Cheapass Games in 1997. It is one of their most famous titles, and has been printed in numerous editions, including the original 97 version, the 2002 Directors Cut (with 2 maps), and a full-art version licensed through Titanic Games. I don’t quite know how the rights are handled, but according to their website, Cheapass Games will once again be releasing their version of the game in 2016.

What’s more, the Cheapass Games website will let you print out the 2002 version FOR FREE! (Just watch your printer settings, otherwise you might end up with a very small map.)

2002 Director’s cut Version – How Does it Rate as a Game Mat?

Objective: To have spacious haunted mansion that the characters are exploring for the first time.

I’ll be ranking the game on the following scales:

  • Structured vs. Random 
  • Mood
  • Suspense 
  • Space 
  • Extras 

Structured vs. Random?: This first criteria is more of a spectrum, as Structure and Randomness are polar opposites. The game board is already preconstructed, and there’s very little you can do to alter this (save taping over the names of the rooms and adding your own, or editing the digital file.) This would rank it a straight 10/10 on Structure, but it comes with TWO boards- which means, you can choose which version you want to play with (giving you a less rigid model.) If you wanted to be weird, if the characters are in different rooms of the house, you can flip from one map to the other- suddenly, rooms that were once on the ground floor are now on the second level! As another way to introduce randomness, should you want it, on the main map, the rooms are numbered 0-19, which means you can pick a random room with a twenty-sided die; alternatively, you can just use the shuffle the room cards and have a character mysterious walk out of one room into a random one. Structure: 6, Random 4.

Mood: This is where the Lucky board does poorly. The basic set is, well, basic, with large empty spaces of white. This does give a GM a very blank canvas, allowing them a lot of variety (is it a well-preserved manor with residents, or a ramshackle manor barely staying upright?), but it also means they have a lot of work to do. The only flavorful elements provided by the board are the names of the room, which are not very scary, but provide a wonderful throwback to classic Edwardian manors. The boardgame version, which I do not own, has art that supports the mood better. Mood: 3/10

Suspense: To clarify, by “Suspense,” I am referring to the amount of information that is hidden from the players. With the Director’s Cut Board Game I was lucky to get about ten years ago, the board is broken into 6 different sections, giving the players information about 2-3 neighboring rooms, but nothing beyond (I’d give this Suspense: 8/10. For the other boards (the Titanic game board or the free print out version), the GM would either have to cover the other parts of the board or manipulate the image file (Suspense: 2/10).

Space: “Space” measures the practicality of the space. Personally, I found that the Kill Doctor Lucky rooms were perfect, especially in their slight variations. The majority of the rooms were big enough to house half a dozen figurines or markers with a little room to spare, making up a perfect fate core “zone.” A few rooms or hallways were just small enough that a few figures couldn’t squeeze in (which keeps it interesting), while the Ballroom makes for a dynamic scene for a conflict, requiring the heroes to scale up walls and swing on chandeliers to reach the top any adversary in the Gallery. Space: 10/10

Image by Cheapass Games. Buy it already.

Image by Cheapass Games. Buy it already.

Extras: The basic set doesn’t include too many extras (that was part of the point behind a Cheapass Game!) but it does include the cards. If you’re using the haunted mansion as the scene or a treasure hunt or a crime, you could use the various items as clues and red herrings; for example, a character digging around the nursery might find a Runcible Spoon. This would require taking out the room cards and all of the failure cards (although, you could leave in a few of the “distraction” themed failures to indicate that a character failed to find anything.) Extras: 7/10

TOTAL 38/50


What Kind of Story Can You Run with Kill Doctor Lucky?

Here’s an idea: Who Killed Old Man Miserkeister?

The city’s richest and meanest old man, Dr. L. E. “Old Man” Miserkeister, is finally dead. Despite being over 100 years old, he didn’t die of natural causes (likely too stubborn). Money would seem an obvious motive, but it not clear who would be the beneficiary; his wife passed away decades ago, and his daughter hasn’t been heard of in decades… some claim she eloped with a sailor, but loose tongues whisper about other, darker possibilities…

Old Man Miserkeister’s body he was found by his housekeeper (who only comes by once a month) in his dusty foyer, his head bashed in with a blunt object. The city forensics team have only started their investigation, but they suspect that the body was dragged, or quite possibly levitated, from another room. However, they have yet to find the murder weapon. Any officers that have attempted to investigate the many rooms of the moldy manor find themselves strangely distracted, disoriented, and driven slightly mad… almost as if something in the house, or the house itself, doesn’t want the truth to come to light. The police have turned to your team, which has experience with the paranormal, to find what they cannot. Find the murder weapon, and maybe a few other secrets along the way, and get out before you find yourself sharing Miserkeister’s fate.


That’s all for now. Join us next time for more thrills and chills!

FATE HACK – EVOKE – KILLING WITH KINDNESS

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I’ve pondered this in a previous blog or two, but now I’m going to explore it in full: I propose an alternative to the Fate Core skill Rapport. I give to you:

EVOKE

Elf Connection

Elf Connection

Evoke is the skill of friendship, inspiration, and seduction. While Contacts focuses on the friends you already have, Evoke judges your ability to make new connections and friends. Characters with a high Evoke are often skilled orators, knowing how to effectively move a crowd; but unlike Deceive, Evoke comes from honest emotion, as the orator talks about something that they believe in, or offers promises that they intend to keep. Alternatively, a skilled Evoker may be an artist, using a musical or dance performance to stir the emotions in an audience. It is the opposite of Provoke, which brings out the negative emotions in others.

Remember: Just because a character is filled with positive emotions doesn’t make them “good.” Many tyrants and zealots have killed out of love.

ACTIONS

OVERCOME:

Evoke may be used to overcome simple NPCs that stand in your way, by using your words and body language to befriend or convince them you are on their side. Evoke may also be used to remove negative emotional aspects placed on other characters, a group or a scene, such as aspects about fear, depression, or anger. They may not be used to remove aspects placed on yourself or heal consequences without additional stunts. The target opposes with Will.

CREATE AN ADVANTAGE:

Evoke may be used to place positive emotional aspects on characters and scenes, such as giving a teammate a Boost of Morale, or telling a joke to a crowd to Lighten the Mood. It generally cannot be used to discover hidden aspects on a character (this is better done with Empathy). The target opposes with Will.

ATTACK

In mental conflicts, Evoke may be used to “attack” other characters – rather than dealing physical or emotional harm to the defender, it signifies your efforts to seek a compromise and erode away the defender’s will to fight. Any consequences you deal would be themed around the opponent sympathizing with your ideal (ex. He’s Got a Point), feeling an attachment to you (ex. Crush on the Enemy), or trusting you implicitly (ex. I Can Trust This Guy!). Characters defend against Evoke with Will. Like Provoke, you may only use Evoke to attack if you have had a previous opportunity to discover a weakness or establish a short relationship with the target (ex. You have used Empathy to discover what positively motivates the defender).

DEFEND

Evoke does not grant any defense without stunts.

A rare day for Morf.

A rare day for Morf.

SPECIAL NOTES
Provoke – Just as Evoke lets you overcome negative emotional aspects from others, Provoke gains the ability to remove positive emotional aspects placed on other characters and on scenes.

Animals – If your setting includes a nature-themed skill (ex. Survival, Wilderness), Evoke cannot be used to deal mental stress to animals; instead, Survival/Wilderness gains the ability to deal mental stress to animals as if it were Evoke. Characters may still use Evoke to create aspects on animals as normal.

AN EXAMPLE

A great example of Evoke in popular media is the Sir Didymus scene in the Labyrinth. When attempting to cross a bridge, Sir Didymus stands in their way, refusing to let them pass. An attempt to fight him in hand-to-hand fails to remove him; however, it did succeed to winning his respect, and it did reveal more of his personality. He is not a bully hindering them out of spite, but an honor-bound knight.

This is where Evoke comes into play. Sarah politely asks him what the exact words of the oath he swore, to which he replies, “that none may pass without his permission.” Sarah then does what none have done before: ask for his permission. A confused Sir Didymus gladly grants it.

She overcame Sir Didymus because she appealed to what he cared about most: his honor. Fueled by her earnest love of her brother, she used a combination of logic and courtesy to weaken her opponent’s resistance. She used a positive interaction to remove an obstacle and, as a bonus, gain an ally.

EVOKE – STUNTS

I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough, and Gosh-Darnit, People Like Me! – You may use Evoke to overcome negative emotional aspects placed on yourself. It may not be used to overcome consequences. Also, once per session, you may attempt to place a positive emotional aspect on yourself as you attempt to psych yourself up.

Laughter is the Best Medicine – You may use Evoke instead of Empathy when you are helping other characters to recover from mental consequences. You may not use it to heal yourself.

I’ll Play the Good Cop – If one of your teammates has successfully used Provoke or Intimidate this scene to deal mental stress to an enemy character, any of your successful Evoke attacks against that character deal an additional two mental stress.

Siren’s Call – Whenever one of your Evoke attacks takes an opponent out during a conflict, you have effectively hypnotized the target. After the conflict, you may make the character go to sleep, forget recent events, talk about anything, and/or carry out simple commands. However, the character will not do anything to harm themselves or others.

Love is Stronger – Whenever you use Evoke to create a positive aspect on a character or scene, and someone attempts to use Provoke to overcome it, you can use Evoke to actively oppose the roll.

Incurable Optimist – Your natural positivity is your best defense. When another character attacks you using Provoke or Intimidate, you may defend with Evoke instead of Will.

OTHER STUNTS

Remember that Place with the Thing? – Contacts – Whenever you use Contacts to create a character, you may use Contacts as if it were Evoke to deal positive mental stress to that character. This represents you weakening their resistance with stories about mutual friends and the good times you used to have.

Would I Lie to You? – Deceive – You may use Deceive as if it were Evoke to positive mental stress to a character. However, the target may defend with Will or with Empathy. Once they have successfully defended against one of your attacks (i.e. one of your attacks fails to either deal stress or to tie), that character gains the aspect “I See Through Your Lies.” While that aspect is on that character, you may not use Deceive to attack it.

Sympathetic Soul – Empathy – You listen more than talk, but when you do open your mouth, you know just what people want to hear. Once per scene, you may use Empathy as if it were Evoke for any action (ex. overcome a minor character, deal a positive mental attack, etc.)

Want for Nothing – Resources – You have everything that could make you happy. When an opponent uses Evoke to attack you, by attempting to bribe you with promises, you may defend with Resources instead of Will.

Iron Resolve – Will – Your ideals are unshakable. You gain +2 Will when defending against Evoke attacks.

Hate is Stronger – Provoke – Whenever you use Provoke to create a negative aspect on a character or scene, and someone attempts to use Evoke to overcome it, you can use Provoke to actively oppose the roll.

I’m Not a Pessimist, I’m a Realist – You don’t just induce negative emotions, you embody them. When another character attacks you using Evoke, you may defend with Provoke instead of Will.


That’s it for this week! Next week, I’ll be exploring Evoke some more, and possibly giving you more sneak-peeks of the Kickstarter launching month, Fate Accompli!

Skeleton Crew: Don’t Hate the Playtester, Hate the Game

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sc open beta events

The Open Beta for the Skeleton Crew Playtest ends in a little over a month. (It’s not to late too squeeze a few more into the playtest, if you know any who might be interested. Share the documents with your friends, or better still, give them the link to our website, so they can join in the test themselves.)

If you find yourself at one of the following cons, give us advanced notice, and we would gladly arrange time to run a game:

  • Ravencon – Richmond, VA – April 24-26
  • Tidewater Comiccon – Virginia Beach, VA – May 17-18
  • Awesomecon – Rockville, MD – May 29th-31st
  • DC Capcon – Washington DC- June 19-21
  • We can even see if we can arrange an over-the-interwebs game!

This week, we’ve posted all of our pre-made character sheets. While creating a character can be one of most enjoyable parts of an rpg, we know that it can make one-shot games hard to arrange. To help you out with your games, we’re sharing our pre-made sheets with you–if you want to run a one-shot game, just print them off, and you’re good to go!

Below Average: If you open the sheets, you’ll notice that the nearly all of the Average (+1) skills are left blank. That’s intentional! We’ve found that giving players that extra little space gives the players more flexibility and creative input. When I run these games at conventions, I laminate the character sheets, and have players write them in with dry-erase markers. (Speaking of dry erase, you DID see our kickstarter for Fate Accompli launching in July, right?)

Enjoy the following ready-to-run characters!

SC Character sheet Abby Normal– Librarian

SC Fate Character Sheet Amonanda- Mummy Sorceress

SC Fate Character Sheet Bulldawg – Gangsta Werewolf

SC Fate Character Sheet Caomh Culain – Wight Berserker

SC Fate Character Sheet – Doc Turnell – Mad Scientist

SC Fate Character Sheet – Peekaboo – Small Medium

SC Fate Character Sheet – Shelley Turnell – Frankensteinian Construct

SC Fate Character Sheet – Weston Peese – Vampire

SC Fate Character Sheet – Zomboy – Teen Zombie

SC Fate Character Sheet- Blank