Monster Showcase – The Guardian Bell

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This week on Tangent Artists Tabletop, we showcase a new monster for your Fate Game: The Guardian of the Bell!

The Guardian is intended to be a boss or mini-boss for the party to face solo. The players will face it in a conflict, but it’s special rules will force the players to act in ways they wouldn’t normally.

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GUARDIAN OF THE BELL

Thousands of years ago, a forgotten tribe of mountain dwelling people built a temple. Their names and the name of the god has been forgotten, but it is clear that they consecrated the ground with a blood sacrifice of some beast.

 

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Art courtesy of Gennifer Bone. For a full-sized version, become a patron of her Patreon.    (Warning: some images NSFW).

A great time later, a group of monks tore down the paleolithic temple, and founded a temple, dedicated to a more peaceful religion. They blessed the shrine, and wrapped the perimeter with sacred writings meant to ward off attackers.

 

On the hundred year anniversary of the shrine’s founding, the shrine was attacked by robbers.
To the monks astonishment, the sacred temple bell arose and began attacking the bandits, driving them away; but soon the strange guardian started hunting down the monks as well. The sacrificial beast of old and the prayers of the new had, instead of counteracting each other, merged into something entirely other.

The Temple of Osha-Rin still stands on the clifftop, abandoned. No doubt the overbearing guardian is still haunting it, slaughtering any pillager or pilgrim that comes near. 

RULES

 

High Concept: Reanimated Spirit Beast

Aspects: Beastlike mind; Holy terror; Territorial; Here and Gone Again.

Core Skills*

+5: Fight
+4: Provoke/Intimidate**, Will
+3: Physique, Notice,
+2: Athletics, Stealth

FAE Approaches

+4: Forceful
+3: Quick, Flashy
+2: Clever, Sneaky

*Core Skill Level – The Skill levels are based on a game with a Great (+4) cap. If playing with a higher or low starting cap, the guardian’s level should be +1 above the PCs.

**Intimidate: Tangent Artist’s upcoming “Skeleton Crew RPG” will feature the skill “Intimidate.”

 

Special Rules

Stunt / Extra – Indestructible: The Temple Guardian does not have a stress track. For all intents and purposes, it is indestructible, and players cannot use the attack action. (Note: Fight and Shoot can still be used to attempt overcome rolls and create advantages.)

Ring the Bell: The temple guardian will only disappear if the PCs can get the bell to ring five times. This can be done by making the spirit over exert itself (see below), or by besting the beast in an overcome roll (See “Shall Not Ring!” below).

Stunt – Shall Not Ring! The Guardian Beast gains a +3 to any skill/approach when defending against any overcome rolls to ring the bell. (Ex. If attempting to use Fight to ring the bell, the beast defends with a +8 before rolling; if using Athletics, it defends with +5.)

Stunt/Extra – Exerting: The beast thinks like a wild animal, and will spend its turn attacking if possible. If it cannot attack (ex. it is pinned to the floor by an obstacle,) it takes any appropriate action it needs to free itself, and then will exert itself. Whenever it exerts itself, it may take an additional action, but this causes the bell to ring. The beast will continue exerting itself until the bell has been rung a total of 5 times, or until it made an attack against a character (it doesn’t have to succeed). GM’s: As an exception, the beast will not exert itself to death in the first round.


GM Tips

Handling Indestructible – There are a few ways to let the players know that the players cannot use the indestructible action.

  1. Warn Them – Let the players know at the beginning of the combat that the attack action won’t work. This prevents them from wasting their time. (Of course, you can offer a compel to any players for PCs that would be a little too slow to realize this).
  2. Surprise Them – You can wait until someone attempts an attack, and tell them it doesn’t work; treat this as a compel, with the player getting a free fate point. This is less friendly, but matches the normal flow of the fight. The downside is, this will often make players upset. As a consolation, considering giving two fate points instead of one, or let the player take an extra action next turn / at the end of this turn. Also, if the player spend any fate points or special one-use stunts during the attack, make sure they get them back at the end of the turn / conflict.

 

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Speaking of creepy stuff, Tangent Artist’s comic “Skeleton Crew” is now on Web Toon! The first issue is up, with more to follow. Read it online or on the Web Toon app!

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MANOR OF FACT – Supernatural Roleplaying with “Betrayal at House on the Hill.”

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In a previous blog, I looked a GM can take the Kill Doctor Lucky board game and adapt it for an RPG game map. This week, we’re looking at one of my favorite new games, “Betrayal at House on the Hill.”

Betrayal at House on the Hill is a horror-themed board game designed by Bruce Glassco and published by Avalon Hill Games (now a subsidiary of of Wizards of the Coast, which is owned by Hasbro). The 1st edition debuted in 2004 and is out of print, while the 2nd edition debuted in 2010. The premise is simple, the execution complex; 3-6 explorers are locked in an old haunted house, encountering the many twisted and dangerous rooms. At some random point in the game, the Haunt begins, turning one of the “heroes” into a traitor; no one knows who it will be until it happens, even the traitor himself! To say that “every game is different” is a bit of an exaggeration, but with 50 random end games to stumble across, it means that there’s ton of variety and replay. If you’ve never played it, I highly recommend you go to your local store or con and buy it.

Official Box Art from the Game, used without permission. Find it at http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=ah/prod/houseonthehill

How Does it Rate as a Game Mat?

Given that I’m looking for a spacious haunted mansion that the players are exploring for the first time, I’ll be ranking the game on the following scales:

Structured vs. Random

Creepiness & Surprise

Space

Extras

Structured vs. Random?: This first criteria is more of a spectrum, as Structure and Randomness are polar opposites. By default, the map you create is definitely random. If that’s what you want, wonderful. However, some of the rooms are designed to show up in more specific locations: you will only find the Bedroom in the Upper Floor, only find the Furnace Room in the basement, etc.
Can it be Structured?: If you want to go through the time of mapping each room by each room, recording it, and having the characters run through it, you can, but it is a bit of a hassle. The best way to handle this would be to build the entire house and then flip the tiles over- those, the players know where the next room is located, but not what’s in it. (Although, you’d still have to keep records yourself so you know without having to peek every few minutes).

I would recommend allowing a little bit of randomness; for example, have some important events in your adventure occur in specific rooms, and trim down the deck so players will stumble upon those rooms faster. Likewise, you can craft three “decks,” one for the ground floor, one for the upper, and one for the basement; this means you have strict control of which rooms will appear close to other rooms, even if their exact placement will shift about.

Random: 7, Structured:3

Monica Marier and a rulebook that's very clear (mostly)

Monica Marier and a rulebook that’s very clear (mostly)

Mood: This game is dripping with mood. Drip. ping. Be careful how you stack it on your shelf, as it will drip on to games underneath it, turning your edition of Candyland dark and spooky. Dripping ceilings? Check. Great art? Check. Even the font keeps me up at night. I give it a 9/10- about a 7 by itself, but the bonus cards pick it up to near perfection (more of those later). Mood: 9

Suspense: Whether you’re going with a randomly generated map or one that the GM has created and flipped over, it is very easy to keep the players in the dark over what is coming next. The only people who are likely to see what’s coming are the players who own the game and have memorized all of the room names. (On a side note, if you want to study game craft, the default game has great ways of building suspense on its own.) Suspense: 9

Space: This is the one place where Betrayal is poorly suited for RPGs: the space. Each tile is roughly 2.5” by 2.5” long, which is barely big enough to fit the six 20mm figures that come in the box, let alone any monster or larger size figures you might supply yourself. If you’re playing Fate Core, it’s hard to imagine any room being bigger than a single zone, making the conflict in one room nearly identical to a conflict in another. The exception is the entrance hall, which is three long rooms connected together, making it the most interesting location to have a conflict. With this is mind, it might be a good idea to have a “Betrayal” RPG adventure involve the characters exploring in and retreating back to the entrance; alternatively, you can have them wake up in the strange place and have them explore until they find the way out.

The only other option I see setting up complex multi-zone areas involves a partially pre-built the map: a GM could link together three separate room tiles and declare them as one space that’s split into three zones (ex. The characters start in on the Balcony, with slender Tower bridge which leads to the open air Chapel.)

The last issue comes from Movement. Fate Core is very loose with moving out side of a conflict (no limit) and very strict during a scene (one zone for free, nothing else). I recommend that outside of a conflict, a character can explore one new room a turn. Once explored, they may move one room OR one room for each Athletics point unless they’re in a conflict. If a fight breaks out, they can move one for free, or use their action to move several (must use Athletics, to an overcome a difficultly equal to the number of extra rooms you’re moving). For, tiles have special rules regarding movement (ex. The Tower, the Collapsed Room) treat those rooms having situation aspects, which make movement in the zone difficult and will block someone from running through several rooms that exchange. Space: 2

The game we played... as lightning crashed outside. Brrrr.

The game we played… as lightning crashed outside. Brrrr.

Extras: Almighty Jeebus, the extras in this game are fantastic. If you ever need inspiration for random events to occur in your game, look no further than the 13 omen cards and 45 event cards, which range from mildly creepy to Grade-A Nightmare Fuel. The game includes decent plastic figures, close to 145 tokens, and some decent mechanics. Some of the room tiles themselves have suggestions for obstacles and situation aspects. If you don’t mind spoilers, you can even read the scenarios themselves for ideas for adventures (but at that point, you might as well just play the game as is). I almost wonder, though, if the Omens and random tiles are enough to create a random adventure on the fly as it is (although, Fate Core might not be the system for that… I’m wondering if that would work better with an Apocalypse World game, like “Monster of the Week”). Space: 10

Total Score: 40 / 50

Comparison: Kill Doctor Lucky: 38/50

Even if the game was terrible (which it’s not), the tiles and extras make this game a great buy for any GM that loves running horror games. Snatch it up and break it out for a Halloween.