WHISPERS IN THE DOORSTEP OF THE MOUNTAIN OF MADNESS – A Dark Comedy MicroRPG

Standard

WHISPERS IN THE DOORSTEP OF THE MOUNTAIN OF MADNESS

A Cosmic Horror Dark Comedy Micro RPG for 3-11 players

By Dave Seidman Joria

~~~~~~~~

RPGs are funny; even though players know they are playing fictional characters, and thus are not at risk themselves, they will still act cautiously. There is a strange paradox of embodying adventurous characters who live dangerous lives, yet they still want to shelter them and be cautious.

So I had a strange idea: what if player death wasn’t something to be avoided, but embraced.

Thus, I’ve made a MicroRPG using a new, untested system:


The Inevitable Doom System

Material

1d6s, paper, writing utensils. (The setting below also requires lots of slips of paper).

Characters

The players should collectively create a team of 5-10 playable characters. A small group of players (2-4) are encouraged to create 2 or 3 pcs each, while a large group of players (6-10) will only create one character each.

Each player creates a character with a name (don’t get too attached; they’ll be dead soon enough). They get to pick one stat to specialize in; this is the Specialty.

Examples: Mind, Body, Soul, Gut; Quick, Clever, Forceful, Flashy, Careful

Also, pick a Personality Flaw: ex. Vain; Too Curious; Never Back Down from a Fight

Equipment: Each player has two packs:

A basic pack, with generic things.

A specialty pack: filled with any special items related to their specialty.

Players don’t need to declare their items beforehand; they just naturally have them unless they are used up or lost.

Play

The game consists of multiple Encounters; each encounter includes some obstacle or threat facing the team. At each Encounter, the GM will ask: What does your character do?

Each player will pick at least one of their characters that they control. They will decide how they react, and share it; this may be said aloud, or written down and then said aloud, depending on the scenario (see below).

The GM decides the order of actions (use common sense) and asks the player to roll a specific number of one-sided dice (d6s).

  • If the action matches their specialty, they roll 1d6.
  • If the action does not match their specialty, they roll 2d6.
  • If the action is particularly dangerous (ex. Jumping off a cliff; Punching an Elder God), the GM may ask them to roll 3 or more d6.

Results:

  • No 6s: If a roll consists only of dice with the values 1-5 (no 6s), the character survives. Depending on how they roll (low good, high bad) or the difficulty of the action, the GM can decide if they succeed effortlessly, or at some cost (ex. Costs include: they use up their rations; they lose all specialty items; they’re injured; they trigger a random encounter).
  • At least one 6 is rolled: If the character rolls at least one natural 6, the character meets their Inevitable Doom.

If more than one character rolls a 6 in the same encounter, the PC that rolled highest dies. In case of a tie, they both die! Horribly. Or suffer something worse than death (let the player pick).

The player is encouraged to come up how the character dies; if a cause of death is not clear, the GM is encouraged to help. (If a good reason isn’t obvious, see “Stupid Deaths” below).

Sidebar – The “Me First” Rule! – If another player INSISTS their character die instead (as it fits they story better), they can volunteer to die instead.

If there’s at least one surviving member of the party, they managed to overcome or sidestep the obstacle of the Encounter and move on to the next Encounter.

Continue going through all encounters until all characters are dead. Bonus: Players pick the favorite death (not including their own).

Sidebar – Spread the Love – In some scenarios, a player with no surviving PCs may have nothing to do. If so, players with 2+ characters are encouraged to share their survivors. (This is not the case in the following scenario, where players without characters are still involved as Whispers).


SCENARIO – WHISPERS IN THE DOORSTEP OF THE MOUNTAIN OF MADNESS

The following scenario is half “man-vs-nature” struggle in the Antarctic, and half cosmic horror. It’s also a parody of Lovecraft (with hopefully none of the racism).

Material – 1d6s, slips of paper (or 1/2 or index cards)

Pre-game

Pass around the random question chart.

Each player rolls, picks that question, and writes a brief (1-2 word) answer.

  1. What’s a word that makes you squeamish?
  2. Name an animal whose name starts with the same letter as your last name?
  3. What’s the dirtiest word you would say in front of your grandmother?
  4. What did you eat for lunch?
  5. What is your favorite color?
  6. What’s something you feared as a child?

The GM keeps these slips and sets them aside, these the Back-up Suggestions.

Plot

Decades ago, a strange pyramid was reported in the Antarctic, hidden inside a mountainous crater. A team went to find it, and never came back. It was assumed to be an optical illusion and a fool’s errand.

But now, the year is 1980. New reports of the pyramid are circulating, captured by spy planes and fuzzy satellite pictures. It could be a natural phenomenon. It could be the breakthrough of the century. It could be your doom.

You are the team sent to find out if the pyramid is real. Oh, and by the end of the game, every one of you will die.

Character Creation

Players will create characters as above. Suggested Specialties for this scenario:

STANDARD EXTRA
Science! Wilderness
Action! Cowardice
Occult Greed
Heart Handiness

A basic pack: generic items for surviving the Antarctic: rations, flashlight, rope, radios, etc.

A specialty pack: filled with any special items related to their specialty (ex. Science has instruments and satellite phone; Action has a rifle and dynamite; Occult has dowsing rods and wards; Heart has med kits and pictures of family, etc.).

Play

1st Encounter

Sidebar – For suggestions on the Scenario, see the Suggested Encounters Table

During the first encounter, the GM will ask players to react to the Encounter. However, the players will write their reactions on slips of paper; these are called “Reaction Slips.” After everyone is done writing, the players reveal what they wrote and roll.

After the end of the first encounter, the GM collects all Reaction Slips to the side, but does NOT discard them.

2nd Encounter

Starting with the 2nd encounter, the teammates start hearing unearthly voices in their head.
The GM will describe the 2nd encounter as they did the 1st. The players will write their responses and keep them hidden.

The GM, however, will also submit a suggestion slip; this is called a Whisper. A Whisper can come from a discarded Reaction Slip, from a Backup Slip, or from the GM themselves.

The GM then picks a random player; they give that player the slip. The player shuffles their Reaction with the Whisper, picks one at random, and follows the action on it. If it is the Whisper, the PC must attempt to do the substituted action, rolling like normal. Once a “Whisper” has been used by a player, discard it completely.

If the PC’s action did not kill the PC but did not clear the obstacle, the GM may ask that the PC complete their original intended action, rolling as normal. Alternatively, the GM may just decide that the obstacle is cleared (ex. Another pc might have resolved it during their action).

Using the Backup Slips: A GM may give a Backup slip as a whisper. These are vaguer than normal; when these are revealed, the PC treats it as a dangerous threat, rolling 3d6. Using the slip as inspiration, the player and GM should work together describing the dangerous, compulsive action the PC took (if they survived), or the bizarre threat that killed them (if they died).

Ex. The PC reveals a Whisper Backup Slip that says “Red.”

If they live:

  • The player may decide that their character became enraged and ran off on their own.

If they died:

  • They might explain how they exploded (at some badly cooked shoggoth?)
  • They hallucinate the color red, causing them to walk into a chasm
  • They get crushed from a falling red Chevy Corvette (nothing’s too weird for this game.)

3rd + Encounters

The GM continues with the adventure. They may give out an increasing number of Whisper slips (i.e. 2, 3, 4) with each encounter until at least 1 player is dead. The GM should do their best to give out whispers evenly, avoiding hitting the same person multiple times in a row.

Special Scenario Rules – Voices from the Dead

When a player dies, they are not out of the game; just like the GM, they are now passing Whisper slips on to the players. They can do one of the following:

  1. Pass out a used Reaction Slip. (This can be a slip that was written by any PC; if it is from their dead character, it is quite flavorful).
  2. Roll a D6: on a roll of 1-3, they write a harmful action, inspired by the dark forces of the mountain. On 4-6, they write a helpful action (at least, what their dead character would think of as “a good action”)

The GM and dead players should distribute the slips as evenly as possible between the living players.

Suggested Encounters

The following are inspired by Lovecraft’s Mountains of Madness; however, do not be afraid to stray all you want.

  1. Lost in the Artic snowstorm – Your transport breaks down partway to the mountain.
  2. Climbing the mountain – Scaling the frozen icy mountain to the peak.
  3. Opening the Cyclopean Door – Before you stands a massive door, too large to be made by humans. It is covered in eldritch language. How do you open it? SHOULD you open it?
  4. Albino Cave Penguins – You encounter giant, flesh eating Albino Cave Penguins, with electric tentacles.
  5. Falling Stalactites – Your encounter with the penguins has loosened the ceiling, and you must run to avoid being impaled by falling icicles.
  6. Cave In – There’s a cave in, and the way before you and behind are blocked by rock and ice.
  7. Don’t Wake the Sleeping Elder Thing – You find a lair of sleeping elder beings, which looks like frilled cucumbers.
  8. Shoggoth Attack – A giant, indestructible Shoggoth, the slug-like rebel servant of the Elder Things
  9. Mental Barrage – You come to the realization that humans were crafted by Elder Ones to serve as a food stock for their Shoggoth workers. Everything you know is a lie!
  10. Albino Cave Penguin Cult – Turns out the Cave Penguins were secretly cultists all along! They are not happy you interrupted their summoning.
  11. Elder God Awakens Returns – An Old One has returned, risen from the frozen wastes! (Pick one: might be Yog-Sothoh, or Cthulhu; maybe both, and they’re having a slap fight. If any PCs aren’t dead by now, have them roll a fist full of d6s).

Random Encounters (To Throw in when Flavorful)

  • The Group is Split – How will you find each other?
  • Dark, Cold and Hunger – You have lost your rations and are starting to grow hungry and cold
  • Sudden but Inevitable Betrayal – One of you is Secretly a Mi-Go, come to collect your brains.
  • Lost Something Vital – You lose something vital to the mission (ex. A key, a map, your satellite phone to signal the rescue team). How will you recover it?
  • Injured – Someone’s leg is badly hurt. Can you save them?

 

Stupid Deaths

Need a Stupid Death that can be used anywhere? Here are a few:

  • Alien Possession – Your mind and body functions are taken over by a Yith. Sadly, the Yith doesn’t realize that you need to breath, and you suffocate to death.
  • Ghouls – A pit opens beneath your feet, and you fall into a cavern of ravenous ghouls. (I hate when that happens).
  • Existential Crisis – You suddenly remembered that you don’t exist. You instantly cease to be.
  • Glowing Rock from Out of Space – You are crushed by colorful meteor that happened to land on your exact location. You are dead (or, worse still, become mutated into a half-dead monstrosity that serves as the next Encounter).
  • Finally Caught You – The grizzly, ghoulish hound that has been tracking you for years finally catches up with you, tracking you all the way to Antarctica. It tears you apart in seconds. Guess you shouldn’t have stolen that Jade Amulet from that grave all those years ago!
  • Light Reading – You pull out your “Necronomicon – Pocket Edition” and read a few pages before your mind dissolves.
  • Grizzly End – By some strange compulsion, you pick a fight with a polar bear. You lose badly. How the polar bear wound up at the SOUTH pole shall remain a mystery.

Got a chance to try it out? Any feedback? Please let us know. Until then, Game on!

-Dave Seidman Joria

Kobolds Galore! – 5e and Fate Core

Standard

Morning, Tangerines! This post, we thought we’d try to mix it up. Lately, I’ve been playing around with Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, and I created a few new sub-races for Kobolds. However, they were looking so lonely, I thought I’d keep it going; so I made some quick rules for using Kobolds in Fate Core.

DUNGEONS & DRAGONS CONTENT

KOBOLD SUBRACES

(These subraces require the reader to own the Kobold rules from Volo’s Guide to Monsters)

MOUNTAIN KOBOLD

(Note: this is the default Kobold as found in Volo’s Guide).
Modifiers: +2 Dexterity, -2 Strength
Darkvision, Sunlight Sensitivity
Grovel, Cower and Beg – See Volo’s
Pack Tactics – See Volo’s

DRAGONWROUGHT / DRAGONSHIELD KOBOLDS

The dragonwrought kobolds are unique, in that they bear some semblance of coloration, much like a dragonborn; this proves their lineage to the dragons may bear some creedance. Dragonshield kobolds are similar, except that they were born normal kobolds, but were gifted by dragons to make them better guards for their eggs. They are typically stronger, revered in their tribes, and have longer life spans.

Choose: +2 Strength, +2 Charisma, or +1 to each.
Limitations: Cannot use “Grovel, Cower and Beg”; you’re too proud!

Abilities:

Dragon Resistance: Pick a dragon lineage:

Black / Copper Acid
Blue / Bronze Lightning
Red / Brass / Gold Fire
Green Poison
White / Silver Cold

You have resistance to the damage type associated with your draconic ancestry.

Dragonborn Related: If your group uses the optional Feat rules, when you take a feat, you have access to Feats with the prerequisite “Dragonborn.”

URD KOBOLD

You are a special kobold, born with the unique feature of wings. This makes you a pariah in the community, for your supposed link to the a renegade god.

Choose: +1 Intelligence, or +1 Wisdom

Limitations: May not use Pack Tactics against an enemy who is within 5’ of you; this does not include enemies that are the target.

Flight: You gain a flight speed of 30’, provided you are not wearing medium or heavy armor.

CITY KOBOLD

Choose: Only +1 Dex (instead of +2). However, you gain +1 to any Skill

Limitations: You don’t speak Draconic.

City Folk: You have a different dialect that other Kobolds spot and resent. You are at a disadvantage when using Deceive to convince other non-city Kobolds you’re one of them, and disadvantage when using Persuasion against non-city Kobolds.

Special Rules: You may start with one feat from the feat chart; in addition, you may pick feats that would normally require the prerequisite “Human.”


That’s it for D&D stuff. As a little bit of a plug, don’t forget that Tangent Artists also does webcomics, including the swords, sorcery, and sarcasm series, CRIT!

You can read it on Crit Webtoon and our Crit Webcomic, including the very first adventure, which features this little guy.

Crit-009

 


FATE CORE CONTENT

Kobold Player Character

High Concept: Kobold Rogue
Trouble: Fight or Flight
Aspect: Coldblooded (but not Heartless); Team Player
Country Kobold: Stranger in a Strange Land
Dragonwrought: I’m the Big Fish in My Pond
Urd: I Fly Solo
City Kobold: Need to be Useful

Great +4 – Athletics
Good + 3 – Stealth, Shoot
Fair +2 – Fight, Notice, Deceive
Good +1 – Craft, Will, Burglary, Provoke

Stunt
Too Small to Hit – You can use Athletics instead of fight whenever Defending against an opponent that’s larger than you.

NPCS

Kobold Soldiers (Mob)

Aspect: Smelly, Scaly, Skittish
Skills: Average +1  Fight, Athletics
Stress: 1
Conditions: 1

Stunts
Spears – Unless they are ambushed, the warriors armed with Spears always have the option of acting first in the first round of any physical combat scene.

Pack Mentality – When using Fight skill to Attack, a mob of Kobold add double their teamwork bonus. However, if they use this bonus and succeed, they can only deal a maximum amount of stress they can deal is 2 per round.
(Tip: An easy way to find the total is: X = 2xSize – 1; i.e. a group of 3 will Attack with +5; group of 4 will attack with +7; etc.)

 

Kobold Trap Master (NPC)

High Concept: Kobold Engineer Tactician

Aspect: I Prepared for That; Glass Jaw

Skills:
Good +3 – Craft
Fair +2 – Stealthy, Fight

Stunts:
Hidden Obstacles – In any scene in which a Kobold Trap Master is present (or has been present), the GM picks up to three zones and adds the aspect “Potential Trap” as an obstacle to each. If a non-kobold character tries to move through a zone with a Potential Trap, a player may invoke the aspect to create a trap; replace the Potential Trap aspect and replace it with a trap aspect, named however you want, with one free unfriendly invoke; depending on trap, this may create an obstacle (that opposes the character’s movement through the zone), deal an Attack (Fair +2), or something similar. As their action for the round, a character within 1 zone of a Potential Trap may use the overcome action to attempt to find it (Difficulty +2); a successful roll will either remove the Potential trap (it was never there), or reveal the trap (Placing it on the board) and making it less lethal (it loses the free invoke). Revealed traps may also be disarmed or sidestepped (using overcome).

Alternate Rules: Alternatively, if your group has a character with a high Notice, you can make the value of a sprung trap more difficult (Great +4), but the character gets a free Notice defense roll to dodge or circumvent it. (Spotting it as an Overcome action is still only a Difficulty Fair +2).


That’s it for today. Any monsters you’d like to see in 5e or Fate? Let us know! Until then, GAME ON!

-Dave Joria – Twitter

Tangent Artists – Twitter

DOMESTIC SERVANT – D&D Roguish Archetype

Standard

Hello, gamers! Today we thought we’d try something new: a class archetype for 5e Dungeons & Dragons!

(Fate fans, fear not: I still plan to write plenty of stuff for Fate, but it’s nice to try out new stuff every once in a while).

Story: While talking to a friend,  Kara Dennison, writer for CruncyRoll (follow her on twitter @RubyCosmos), I was thinking about how Japanese RPG games (JRPGs) and Western RPGs differ. For example, in many JPRGs like Fire Emblem, players learn one skill at base level (ex. white magic using Cleric, a fighter, a rogue), and then merge the two together to form a 2nd level multi-class level (ex. cleric + fighter = paladin). Many of these, like the paladin, have equivalents in Western RPGs too; except for the Maid / Butler.

In JRPG games, the Maid or Butler combines the roles of rogue/assassin (ambushing, ignoring defenses) with the roles of a healer. It occurred to me: why not have a similar role in Dungeons and Dragons?

So, after consulting with D&D savvy friends of mine, we give you the first draft of a Rogue (with a touch of Paladin) archetype, the Domestic Servant!

*Warning* It has not be playtested at this time.


DOMESTIC SERVANT

333px-Dante_Gabriel_Rossetti_-_The_Bower_GardenA wizened human nursemaid, who watches her adult charge like a mother bear. A tiefling butler who carries out his master’s wishes with much alacrity and little morals. A nimble halfling gardener whose courage far surpasses his size.

You have chosen the path of the domestic servant, a loyal attendant who is bound to another person by oath; they hold this oath sacred and few things else. Your mission is twofold: to heal your master when they are injured, and to eliminate anyone who would seek them harm.

How did you fall into this lot? Perhaps you were a street urchin given employment and a second-chance by a rich benefactor. Maybe you were an assassin or spy in your youth, and settled into the serving life as you “retired.” Maybe you’re a devoted bodyguard who acts the part of a domestic servant so others will underestimate you.

OATH OF THE DOMESTIC SERVANT

  1. Safety – You will keep your master safe no matter what.
  2. Obedience – You will get the results your master needs. If possible, you will achieve those ends in using the means your master prefers.
  3. Humility – You will not upstage your master; they are the focus, not you. It is best to speak when spoken to and be seen only when your master needs you to be seen.
  4. Hospitality – You will offer hospitality to those who do not have it. Should they accept, nothing is more important than the safety of a guest, except the safety of your master.

Note to DMs: At this current time, we don’t have any rules for a Domestic Servant that breaks any of the oaths. However, as a means of positive reinforcement, we encourage DMs to freely reward Domestic Servants with inspiration when they act in the spirit of these oaths (even if it’s detrimental to themselves or their party.)

DIFFERENT TYPES OF SERVANTS

There are many types of Domestic Servants that your rogue can be, depending on which era you are evoking and the role of your master. These include but are not limited to:

Butler, maid, valet, handmaid or handmaiden, squire, lady-in-waiting, bodyguard, manservant, cook, governess, nurse, nanny, batman, orderly, chamberlain, secretary, gardener, tutor, coachman, steward.

Note: We did not include “slave,” “bondservant,” or “indentured servant” because a. OWNING ANOTHER PERSON IS WRONG, and b. If the domestic servant is allowed to leave at any time without legal repercussions, it makes their decision to stay that much more meaningful.

Domestic Servant Features

Rogue Level Feature
3rd Master’s Bond, Servant’s Life, Spellcasting
9th Saving Instinct
13th Wine and Dine
17th Raise their Spirits

MASTER’S BOND

At level 3, you may pick another character to be your master (or mistress, or similar title). We recommend another PC in party, but it can be an NPC that is frequently with the party to.

Whenever you use a spell with spell slot 1 or an item to heal the master, they heal an additional 1 wound. If use a spell slot of 2 or higher, they instead regain extra wounds equal to the spell slot used.

You may only change your master:

  1. When your rogue goes to another level.
  2. Should the master die and be past the point of resurrection.

SERVANT’S LIFE

At level 3, you know the secret language used by servants “below stairs”; the ability “thieves cant” is extended to also include servants, allowing you to slow communicate in a way non-servants don’t understand.

Also, your rogue gains proficiency of your choice of the following: Calligrapher’s Supplies OR Cook’s Utensils.

Spellcasting

When you reach 3rd level, you gain the ability to cast spells. See Spells Rules for the general rules of spellcasting and the Spells Listing for the paladin spell list.

Cantrips

You learn three cantrips chosen from the following list: Guidance, Light, Mending, Message, Prestidigitation, Spare the Dying, Resistance. You learn another cantrip of your choice from this list at 10th level.

Spell Slots

The Domestic Servant Spellcasting table shows how many spell slots you have to cast your paladin spells of 1st level and higher. To cast one of these spells, you must expend a slot of the spell’s level or higher. You regain all expended spell slots when you finish a long rest.

For example, if you know the 1st-level spell searing smite and have a 1st-level and a 2nd-level spell slot available, you can cast searing smite using either slot.

Spells Known of 1st-Level and Higher

You know three 1st-level paladin spells of your choice, two of which you must choose from the enchantment and illusion spells on the paladin spell list.

The Spells Known column of the Domestic Servant Spellcasting table shows when you learn more paladin spells of 1st level or higher. Each of these spells must be a spell of your choice, and must be of a level for which you have spell slots. For instance, when you reach 7th level in this class, you can learn one new spell of 1st or 2nd level.

Whenever you gain a level in this class, you can replace one of the paladin spells you know with another spell of your choice from the paladin spell list. The new spell must be of a level for which you have spell slots, and it must be an enchantment or illusion spell, unless you’re replacing the spell you gained at 8th, 14th, or 20th level.

Spellcasting Ability

Charisma is your spellcasting ability for your paladin spells, since you learn your spells through your passion and conviction. You use your Charisma whenever a spell refers to your spellcasting ability. In addition, you use your Charisma modifier when setting the saving throw DC for a paladin spell you cast and when making an attack roll with one.

Spell save DC = 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier

Spell attack modifier = your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier

DOMESTIC SERVANT SPELLCASTING

      Spells Slots per Spell Level    
Rogue Level Cantrips Known Spells Known 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
3rd 3 2 2      
4th 3 3 3      
5th 3 3 3      
6th 3 3 3      
7th 3 4 4 2    
8th 3 4 4 2    
9th 3 4 4 2    
10th 4 5 4 3    
11th 4 6 4 3    
12th 4 6 4 3    
13th 4 6 4 3 2  
14th 4 7 4 3 2  
15th 4 7 4 3 2  
16th 4 7 4 3 3  
17th 4 7 4 3 3 1
18th 4 7 4 3 3 1
19th 4 8 4 3 3 1
20th 4 9 4 3 3 1

 

OATH OF THE DOMESTIC SERVANT SPELLS

At certain levels, your Domestic Servant will gain access to the following oath of the domestic servant spells. Once you gain access to an oath spell, you always have it prepared. Oath spells don’t count against the number of spells you can prepare each day. If you gain an oath spell that doesn’t appear on the paladin spell list, the spell is nonetheless a paladin spell for you.

Domestic Level Spells
3rd Cure Wounds
9th Pick One: Warding Bond or Find Steed
13th Pick one: Leomund’s Tiny Hut or Create Food & Water
17th Raise Dead

 

SAVING INSTINCT

Starting at 9th level, when you use Evasion to dodge out of area effect, you may attempt to save another character within 10”. You must choose to use this ability before either of you have rolled to save; if the target agrees, this single roll is made for both of you, and the target does not get to roll to save. Depending on how you roll, either one or both of you may avoid damage, or either or both of you may suffer worse.

TABLE

  SAVING NON-MASTER SAVING MASTER
If you succeed Dexterity save Both take no damage Both take no damage
If you fail Dexterity save Both take full damage You take full damage, the master takes half damage

 

WINE AND DINE

Starting at Level 13, whenever your rogue provides a character with food, drink, shelter or comfort (ex. a bonfire in the cold) to a character, all members of your party gain advantage on any Persuasion (Charisma) checks against that character for the next hour.

RAISE THEIR SPIRITS

Starting at level 17th, when you use the spell Raise Dead, you do not have to use spell components (it is assumed your rogue stole them at some point in the past). In addition, if the character raised is your master, every time the resurrected master finishes a long rest, the penalty is reduced by 2 with each rest (instead of 1) assuming the Domestic Servant is there to help with the recuperation process.



Have any thoughts? Have you tried it out? Let us know!

Until next time, Tangent Artists and Dave Joria says, GAME ON!

Fate Accelerated – Adding More Crunch

Standard

Howdy, folks! This post, I’m sharing another rules hack (two, actually).

I LOVE Fate Accelerated. I’ve run it at conventions and one-shots with kids and adults of every age.

However, I’ve asked players who prefer Fate Core skills over approaches, and I generally hear three different complaints:

  • Players spam their lead approach for every action
  • There’s not enough complexity / crunch
  • In large parties, player’s expertise overlap (not enough differentiation)

Then, to extrapolate even more about locked actions (as created in Save Game and discussed in a previous blog post), let us consider:

What if we split each approach up into multiple actions? Or better yet, into a sort of “sub-skill”?

With 6 approaches, each with 4 actions, becomes 24 skills.

Approaches – To help with alliteration, we’ve decided to rename “careful” as “peaceful,” “flashy” as “blaze” and “Quick’ as “zip”. (Which is not perfect, but works for a blog).

 

Approaches –

FORCEFUL

o- Fracture
Caa – Fault
A – Fight
D – Forebear

 

CLEVER

o- Crack
Caa – Conjure
A – Capture
D – Circumvent

 

PEACEFUL

o-  Pick Apart
Caa – Perceive
A – Placate
D – Protect

 

SNEAKY

o-  Split
Caa – Shroud
A – Stab
D – Shirk

 

BLAZE

o- Blow over
Caa – Bedazzle
A – Befriend
D – Blind

 

ZIP

o- Zoom
Caa –  Zero In
A – Zap
D – Zig-zag

Q. What is your level of approach?

A. For ease, I would recommend that PCs have all sub-skills within the same approach all share the same level . Ex. All unlocked Forceful skills be Good +3; all unlocked Clever be at Fair +2. 

Q. How many do the players start out unlocked, and which ones?

There are several ways to do this:

a. Players are given a certain number of points to unlock any subskills they want (mandatory: at least 1 skill for every approach over Average +1.)

b. Players unlock N subskills of their choice for each approach over Average +1. (N would equal either 2 or 3). (ex. 2 unlocked for Forceful, 2 unlocked for Clever)

c. For flavor reasons, each approach has a specific approach auto-unlocked, and players get to unlock N additional subskills (either 1 or 2). (ex. Forceful at Good +3 would have Attack unlocked and a second action; Clever at Fair +2 would have Create an Advantage and a second action).

d. Reverse tiered – the lower to value, the more skills are unlocked. (Ex. One unlocked at Great +4, two unlocked at Good +3, etc.)

Personally, I think B

Q. If I haven’t unlocked an action/ skill, can I still use it?

A. Of course! However, you get no bonuses. (Alternatively, I could imagine paying a fate point to temporarily “unlock” an action.)

Q. Can I have more than two actions unlocked?

A. Not by default. However, stunts can unlock it in set circumstances. Ex. Suave Swashbucker – you may use Flashy to make attacks when you are armed with a rapier. 

Q. Do NPCs have actions locked?

A. No. To keep things simple, NPCs always have access to all 4 actions.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

Before I finish with this post, I had one last idea: what if you used the same Approach/lock/unlock set-up with Fate Core? Perhaps this is a new way to bundle skills for fast character creation.

I call this FATE Accelerated Bundled Core, or FATE ABC

CAREFUL
Investigate
Will
Empathy

CLEVER
Craft
Lore
Provoke

SNEAKY
Burglary
Stealth
Deceive

QUICK
Athletics
Notice
Shoot

FORCEFUL
Fight
Physique
Drive

FLASHY
Rapport
Contacts
Resources

Q. How would this work?

1.. GM’s would pick a pyramid type, either Tall or wide.

  • Tall: Approaches have 1x Great +4, 1x Good +3, 1x Fair +2, 2x Average +1, 1x Mediocre +0
  • Wide: Approaches have 1x Good +3, 2x Fair +2, 2x Average +1, 1x Mediocre +0

2. Players would pick their approaches based on that frame (Ex. Forceful at Good +3, Clever at Fair +2).

3. Players would then pick 2 skills under each approach that’s Average +1 or higher: those two skills are unlocked. The third skill is “zeroed out” (as in, can be used, but at Mediocre +0). Here’s an example (using the Tall set up):

fate abc2

Q. How does it compare to normal character creation?

A. In theory, it should be a lot faster. For example, picking 10 skills requires 10 decisions (or, by reverse, 8 skills you choose to not have). With this system, players pick 1 approach to have at zero, and then one of three skills that’s zeroed out- thus, you’re only making 6 choices.

Q. How does this compare to Skill Bundles from Toolkit / Atomic Robo?

The Advantage of this system is that it creates PCs that have skills that overlap in flavor, but still can be unique.

Take Fight for example: It results in 4 different PCS with 4 different feels:

Zero Drive – A strong a burly character that’s not good with machines.

Zero Physique – A tough scrappy get-away driver who might be physically tiny

Zero Fight – A gentle giant who loves machines

Stunts / No Zeroes – Using stunts, this character is can conditionally access all three skills.

Further Advantages

1. Another fun advantage is it provides a nice shorthand for stunts – by adding in the approaches, we now have another value to reference and technology.

  • Calm Mind – Once per session, I gain +1 to each of my Careful skills for the duration of the scene.
  • Cornered Trash Talker – When I have taken stress or a consequence, I unlock Provoke (same value as my Clever).
  • Backstab – If you are attacking an opponent who is not expecting your attack, you may use Fight skill using your Sneaky Approach value instead.

This saves players having to think of a direct parallel for substitution skills – rather, they have to pick a general approach that covers the category.

2. NPCS – The greatest use would be the fact that NPCs can keep using Approaches; this means GMs spend less time and energy creating complex NPCs, and don’t have to worry about minor NPCs that are too vulnerable against a specific type of attack (ex. Having to give them all Will to protect against a psychic PC).

3. This system allows players with Core and players using Approaches at the same table. For example, you might have one experienced player use Core, while another player (perhaps someone who is less experienced, younger, or differently-abled) uses just the approaches. Balance should not be a major priority (as it’s cooperative), but if you wanted to make it more “even,” the PCs using straight approach would have fewer stunts (which reduces their complexity further still).


That’s it for this post! What are your thoughts? Would you use Locked or ABC set-up? Tell us what you think!

 

Fate World Tour – Secret of Cats

Standard

Welcome back, readers! Sorry for the small hiatus, had a busy few months (including a belated honeymoon.)

Next up on the Fate world tour, we visit one of the most popular Fate Worlds:

Secret of Cats

Author: Richard Bellingham
Artist: Crystal Frasier

Genre: Animal; Urban Fantasy; Gothic; Supernatural

Elevator Pitch: The Aristocats meets Supernatural

Full DescriptionCats are magical; cats understand sacrifice and the power of names. A decapitated mouse left on the doorstep or pillow is a powerful ward, and a spell wailed by the cat chorus confers even greater protection. When evil is on the rise and the safety of the neighbourhood is at stake the Parliament of Cats is there to stand firm against the darkness. Take Silver Ford, for example, a sleepy tourist town near a played-out old silver mine. When kids messing around in the mine accidentally rouse an ancient evil on All Hallows’ Eve, the secret and magical cats of the neighbourhood are the only thing protecting their special people from the things that go bump in the night. This 50 page Fate Core adventure provides everything you need to play from character generation to plot and setting ideas, including a new feline magic system based on true names and sacrifices made to protect your human Burdens. The Secrets of Cats. Sharpen your claws and prepare to defend your territory!


Mechanics

Subsystem: Skills – 13 Fate Core skills, + 4 New Magic Skills

General Mechanics:

Magic System – Magic is divided into 4 areas.  Warding – Defense; Naming – manipulate others; Shaping – manipulate self; Seeking – Divination.

Masters and Dabblers – At creation (and at milestones), cats can choose to be a master in one of the four magic types. If they do, they can access exclusive “master only” stunts.

Scale rules –Larger targets are easier to hit, but harder to deal stress to; the opposite also is true (smaller = harder to hit, deal extra stress.)

Spirits – Spirit NPCs use approaches instead of skills.


REACTION

I’m gonna go ahead and say it; I’m not a cat person (I blame the allergies). Don’t get me wrong, I bear them no ill will, and wish every cat and cat owner long and happy days. However, roleplaying as a real-life cat doesn’t really grab me.

Which makes the following statement carry even more weight: this is a great world book, and you should definitely pick it up. Speaking as someone without pro-cat bias, I can see that this system is a perfect (purrfect?) gateway game for anyone wanting to hack Fate worlds of their own.

It has:

  • A skill list based on default Fate Core, but with minor alterations
  • Strong NPCs factions to play off of
  • Taboos that guide what steps a PC should / shouldn’t do (but no restrictions to keep a player from doing it)
  • A strong but simple adventure
  • Pre-gen tables for character creation.

Here are some more specific reactions:

Sapient vs. non-sapient: The setting establishes that all cats are sentient; however, not EVERY animal is sentient. I find this very clever and important; it lets the GM throw mindless beasts at them, with the occasional super intelligent ally / nemesis. However, it is especially important because cats power magic by “sacrificing” animals. If everything they sacrificed was sentient (or that they ate; cats are pure carnivores), they’d be absolute monsters, making them far less sympathetic protagonists.

Scale rules – I believe the scale rules were written previous to Secret of Cats, but I’ve never seen them better implemented. This really helps set the tone for smaller PCs living in a big world.


HACKS

4 Masters Roles – The game guides the PCs into being a master of one of the four magic areas. Without too much work, I suspect this setting could be ported over to the Powered by the Apocalypse Engine (i.e. the system used in Apocalypse World, Dungeon World). Given the Urban Fantasy setting, it might be a great hack for Evil Hat’s PbtA game, Monster of the Week.

 

320px-Herbie_at_a_show_in_Portland(OR)

Courtesy Moribunt through CC License

Secret of Cars – While writing this blog post, I accidentally mistyped the title as “Secret of Cars.” As silly as it is, it’s hard to get the image out of your head. Picture it: benevolent compact cars and motorcycles saving their drivers from haunted hot-rods and gloom carts. It’s Herbie vs. Carrie: The RPG. Mechanically, it’d be easy: just reverse the scale rules, with cars interacting with smaller humans and appliances (which using “large scale” rules when attacking the occasional evil Big Rig).

 

Secret of Toys – This is a hack I’ve been wanted to do for years. One of these days, I’ll have to type it up. Same concept, except with toys and stuffed animals keeping children safe from nightmares (and worse).

Bunnicula – SoC seems the perfect setting for bringing your favorite childhood books to life.

More Animals? – Don’t want to play just cats? If so, you can use the Zootopia rules that only / mostly mammals are sentient.

Mash-Up – Merge with White Picket Witches. The Location settings for White Pickett is a great way to increase tension. You can even include human witch NPCs; maybe PCs are the cat familiars belonging to the Five Families?

Secret of Umdaar Cats – Merging Umdaar and SoC. (This idea came from Richard Bellingham himself, so I take no responsibility for it.) I’m not certain what this would look like; either feline humanoids surviving through magic, or the adorable cat sidekicks (a la Snarf and Kringer) being the real heroes behind the scenes.


That’s all for this post!

What world would you like to see next? Let us know!

Fate Hack – Locked Approaches

Standard

Hello! Dave here from Tangent Artist Tabletop. I’m taking a brief break from the world tour to explore a mechanic introduced in Save Game (see our review of it here). Specifically, I wanted to go over the mechanic of Locked Actions.

To explain: in Fate Core, there are 4 actions

  • Overcome – Remove aspects and handle small threats
  • Create an Advantage  – Create a free aspect (without spending a fate point) with one or more free invokes; OR add invokes to an existing aspect.
  • Attack – Used in conflicts to Deal stress / attempt to take an opponent out
  • Defend – Used to defend against create-an-advantage or attack.

In the Fate Core, each skill in the default list can do at least 2 actions (Overcome and Create an advantage), while some can do 3-4 actions (adding attack and/or defend).

However, with the setting Save Game, the author Rob Wieland made it so that every skill has only 2 actions. Save Game has 11 skills. But, I wondered: how many unique 2-action skills could there be?

The answer is 6. Which, as coincidence would have it, is same number of approaches in Fate Accelerated. So, here’s an experimental version: FAE-Locked!


FAE LOCKED

Each of the following approaches has access to the following actions:

Clever

  • Overcome – Unlock locks; devise clever ways to bypass obstacles; trick minor NPCs.
  • Create an Advantage – Create tools; confuse enemies; prep plans; bolster allies.
  • Locked – Attack, Defend

Forceful

  • Overcome – Break obstacles; power through weaknesses; bully or subdue minor NPCs.
  •  Attack – Deal mental or physical stress with direct attacks to the target.
  • Locked – Create an advantage, Defend.

Careful

  • Overcome – Detangle dangerous situations; disarm bombs; remove complications.
  • Defend – Carefully stay out of range of attacks and entanglements.
  • Locked – Create an Advantage, Attack.

Flashy

  • Create an Advantage – craft flashy stories and distractions; bolster allies; create dazzling tools and plans.
  • Attack – Overwhelm the opponent with attacks and displays.
  • Locked – Overcome, Defend

Sneaky

  • Create an Advantage – Sow rumors, create disguises, position self tactically.
  • Defend – Use denial, obfuscation, and stealth to avoid detection and harm.
  • Locked – Overcome, Attack

Quick

  • Attack – Quickly shoot, strike, or insult without pause or analysis.
  • Defend – Instinctively dodge attacks and attempts to hinder you.
  • Locked – Overcome, Create an Advantage.

Exceptions: In some cases, it might be good the bend the rules; for example, during a Challenge, it makes sense to use any appropriate approach to overcome.


But, I’m sure you’re objecting, “But what if I want to attack with my Rogue using Sneaky?”

Fear not! Just like Save Game, we encourage players to create stunts that unlock an action for one of those approaches. We recommend phrasing the stunt in such a way to give the player almost-endless access to the Stunt, with a few rare exceptions (to keep things interesting).

Here are some examples:

Flashy – Unshakable Ego – Unlocks Overcome – You can use Flashy to overcome mental and social aspects (ex. Despair, fatigue, pain, bad reputation), or to overcome minor opponents in a non-violent way.

Forceful – Shiny Inspiration – Unlocks Create-an-Advantage – You can use Forceful to create an advantage, provided you have a bladed weapon near at hand.

Careful – Defense is A Good Offense – Unlocks Attack – You can careful to Attack, provided you are attacking an opponent who has attacked (or threatened to attack) you or someone else.

Clever – Elemental Wall – Unlocks Defend – Your elemental abilities allow you to throw up magical walls of ice and water. You can use Clever to defend against attacks and corporeal advantages; may not be used if the location has an aspect signifying that there’s no water nearby (ex. “Desert”; “Parched Land”; Sealed Bank Vault”)

Best of all, you can use this to create Reinforcement Stunts for players – phrased in such a way that new players are reminded of the right way to use an approach (and potentially cut down on Fate Debates).

Quick – Be Nimble – Unlocks Overcome – You can use Quick to make overcome actions, provided it deals with you moving or reacting quickly (ex. Nimbly jumping a fence; wriggling out of hold).

Careful – Plan Ahead – Unlocks Create Advantage – You can use Careful to create advantages, provided you are not rushed or distracted (ex. Not multitasking).

Sneaky – Surprise Attack – Unlocks Attack – You can use Sneaky to make physical and mental Attacks, provided the target is not expecting the attack (ex. You’re hidden; target is distracted; flanking the enemy).


That’s all we have for this post. Next time, we’ll be continuing on the Fate World Tour!

 

Fate World Tour: Save Game

Standard

Hello! Dave Joria of Tangent Artists here with the fifth stop on the Fate World Tour.

Part 1 – Worlds Take Flight
Part 2 – Worlds Rise Up
Part 3 – Worlds on Fire I
Part 4 – Worlds of Fire II

Today we’re covering the Fate World “Save Game.” Video game nostalgia, here we come!


Save Game

Vs-ThingCreators: Writer: Rob Wieland. Editor: Joshua Yearsley. Art: Brian Patterson.

Elevator Pitch – 8-bit video game heroes barnstorming through corrupted video game worlds.

ThemesAction / Adventure, Drama, Video Games, Nostalgia, Dark Fantasy

Description – THE GLITCH HAS COME TO TENDORIA. A vicious computer virus threatens to corrupt the entire internet, and the only ones standing in its way are the characters from your video games.
8-bit heroes battle monsters and corrupted files—it’s Wreck-It Ralph meets Lord of the Rings in a fight for the fate of the world!
This 56-page Fate Core adventure provides a complete world to adventure in, including randomized character generation rules, ideas to govern digital adventures, and new Fate point hacks. PIXELS ARE FALLING. IT’S UP TO YOU TO SAVE GAME!

Mechanics – Subset – Unique Skill List

Mechanics – 

Hearts & Lives – Hearts replace stress; unlike stress it doesn’t automatically disappear after a scene. Instead, damage goes away with items you can purchase, with an overcome roll, or when you lose a life (see below).

Lives – Replaces consequences. If you are taken out in a conflict, you may spend a Life to jump back in (without waiting until after the conflict). You can buy lives back with coins.

Coins – Replaces Fate Points.  Compared to Fate points, coins seem to fly fast and loose; this means you might see 2-3 times the number of coins be collected and spent compared to FP. Case in point, there’s a new way to earn points during a conflict, known as a Combo pool; if buying in, each player could potentially earn 3 or more coins in a single scene (though it is a gamble). Players cash in coins for upgrades, lives, and healing items.

GM Coin pool – The GM’s fate point / coin pool increases with each stage; the closer to the big boss, the greater the amount by a large factor.

Skills Unlocked – Each skill can only handle two of the four actions. Stunts can be purchased that “unlock” additional actions for skills.

Hax – The “magic” or uber-stunt system. This is expensive, both requiring a skill (that can’t be used without the stunts), and a coin cost. Glitch Mutations.  Antagonist NPCs often use these (making it a nice reference and resource for building new NPCs that’s not overwhelmingly long).

Speed Run and SideQuests – When Rob wrote each stage, he also included additional Sidequests. Then, he provides recommended lengths / modes for running the game. A group can do normal mode (normally 1 sidequest, 1 session per stage), a speed run (no side quests; obstacle + Zero – multiple stages per session); or a marathon style metroidvania (all the sidequests, 2 sessions per stage).

Reaction

I really enjoyed this setting; part of the reason that this review took longer than normal is that I wanted to big deeply into every part of it. Some of my thoughts:

Tone – To my surprise, the tone of the piece is surprisingly dark, bordering on Grimdark. This is not inherently a bad thing (it’s actually quite original). However, I would keep it in mind when picking your play group. A group of 20+ year-olds are unlikely to mind playing the dark “Dr. Chompa” adventure as written. However, if playing with a younger group of 9 year-olds, you may wish to create an original stage from scratch that is less severe. (When in doubt, robots make pretty harmless NPCs).

Great for one shots – I can see how this would be great for one-shots, or for conventions in general. This is true with both normal mode (one stage) and with speedruns (all of the stages).

danky_kang_doodle_1_by_kevinbolk_d71qfcg-fullview

Dankey Kang by Kevin Bolk, used with permission. Read his comics at: http://www.interrobangstudios.com/

Speedrun – I have one concern regarding speedruns; as written, it seems to encourage the play format to be: a. visit a stage and have only a short scene or obstacles; b. big conflict with the Zero; c. Rinse repeat. Without playing it, I predict that with conflicts making up 90% of the action, the action might get a goal. With this is mind, I pass on my normal recommendation when running a long Fate game; try to separate your conflict scenes with a non-conflict scene in the middle. Maybe the 2nd stage involves racing the corrupted Dankey Kang in a contest, or involves defusing a live Rob-Bomb in a tense challenge.

Skills Unlocked –  I love this mechanic, and will steal it the first chance I can. Reason 1: the beautiful symmetry of having each skill have only two actions makes it both easy to remember, and wonderfully fair.  This would normally be great in any setting, but it is particularly justified for a video game world. Why? Let me explain:

The only downside of the Fate rpg system is that it’s so loose, that any hard rules are often hit with resistance. For example:

Player: I want to use my Physique to attack and crush them.

GM: You can’t, Physique isn’t an attack skill.

Player: Why not?  I can break a door in half, but I can’t break a person pinned to the ground?

GM: Because… you can’t?

Of course, you can ask the player to pay a fate point to temporarily or permanently gain the ability to Attack with Physique, but that’s not the point; the point is, the player sees a rule added for a mere arbitrary reason that doesn’t match the physics of their world.

However, in a Save Game, being told “you can’t attack with that” is fine, because you can argue, “because you aren’t PROGRAMMED to attack with that skill.” Also, by calling any inaccessible actions, “Locked,” Rob has made a forced restriction seem more fun; it’s not that you can NEVER attack with that skill, but rather you can’t attack with that skill YET. When a player finally gains a skill to unlock it, they have the added joy of unlocking an achievement.  (Also, kudos to whoever created the great character sheet at the back of the book).

Coins – I enjoy the novelty of showering players with coins / fate points. My only concern is that I fear if it would disrupt the Compel economy; who would accept a compel for 1 fate point, when you have 7 already?  Some ideas:

  • Have some warp pipes that lead to shops in the middle of a stage; let players level up (and more importantly, unload their coins). If players want to save up for something big, offer a “piggybank / gift card” system. Merchant: Tell you what… for each coin you give me now, I’ll give you 2 coins worth of store credit when you visit the main shop after this stage. What do you say?
  • If coins are in high supply, I would recommend doubling or even tripling the amount of FP when compelling; offer 2-3 coins to accept a compel, or 2-3 to refuse.

Likewise, the GM Pool of Fate points would be heavy stocked too. Make sure any new NPCs you create have lots of aspects, don’t skimp on the using GM pool.

Hacks (Clarification: World hacks, not the mutation)

Here are some fun hacks and setting ideas.
Note: In most of these hacks, the PCs would know that they are part of a computer world. “Save Game” is a rare video game setting in that the characters are not meta-aware that they are in a video game.

Reboot – I could easily see using Save Game to visit the 90s show Reboot without any real tweaking (with maybe a slight focus on PC game nostalgia vs. console.)

Captain N – You could recreate this classic TV show about a teen gamer sucked into an all-star team of video game characters. Alternatively, I could see merging this the Fate World “Nest,” in that a whole team of humans are sucked into the games of their youth.

Matrix – For a serious twist; you’d want to focus on the skill Hacks for extra special fun.

Wreck-It Ralph – As a fun twist, why not pull a “Wreck-it-Ralph,” and have all of the PCs be Villains, saving the day from the corrupted heroes? Prove that Bad-guys aren’t Bad GUYS.

Iron Street Combat – I have yet to read this newest video-game-inspired Fate world, but I bet there’s some way to combine the two.

Lastly, based on what video game world you want to visit, you might want to read one of the following Fate Worlds

  • Underwater – Like Echo the Dolphin? Try Deep Dark Blue
  • Western – Tweak Blood on the Trail for fighting Glitch-Vampires on the Oregon Trail!
  • Space – For a space setting a la Metroid or Star Fox, try Andromeda, Red Planet, Sail Full of Stars
  • Food – For food-based games like Diner Dash, Tapper, or Cooking Mama, try adding Uranium Chef (had to work at least ONE shameless plug in this article)
  • Music – For musical games like Guitar Hero, try another new setting, Til Dawn

Sorry for such a long delay between posts, everyone. I’ve been working hard at finishing a prototype of my newest card game, “Don’t Go In There!”

It’s a game themed around slasher movies.

jaime sample

Model image from Adobe Stock, granted through license

I’ve got one playtest in, and it went fantastically (more on that another time). I’m praying to test more and tweak it until I can have a prototype ready for Origins Con.

Here’s a sample of one of the cards:

Speaking of which, Dave Joria will be at Origins Con! Tangent Artists will not have a table there, but we may have some of our Fate Accompli products coming (more on that as it develops).


As for the next Fate World, tell us what you’d like to see! Shall we do another early world, “The Secret of Cats?” Skip Ahead? Put in your requests, on this blog, or on twitter @DaveJoria.