Fate NPCs – Chimera Little Closer

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After a month detailing Kickstarter set-ups, it’s time to get back to the fun stuff. This week: Chimera-mobs, a new format for Fate NPCS.

The Background

When creating NPCs for the Skeleton Crew Bestiary, I quickly ran into the following problem:

In order for an opponent to be a competent threat in a combat situation, it needed to have a few key skills. In my Skeleton Crew setting, these generally equaled:

  • Fight (to Defend against fight)
  • Agility (to Defend against shoot and fight)
  • Will (to defend against mental attacks)

Notice nearly makes the list- it’s not as essential, but too many NPCS without Notice basically means the players always go first. This becomes a problem in the following ways:

  • Relying just on the above is fine with a few NPC teams, but after a while, it becomes redundant.
  • Having NPCs with none of the above results in NPCs that are glass cannons at best and worthless at worst
  • Adding skills on to the above results in very complex NPCs with way too many skills at the same level (Jacks of all Trades), or tiered, mega-stunt enemies that are too much of a threat.

So, I started wondering: how do you create a villain that provides a variety of different flavors, but is not a super-strong “big boss?”

My proposal: Chimera-mobs!

How it Works

A chimera-mob is essentially an NPC character or mob that is stronger than the average mob, but weaker than a full NPC villain. It enters the scene like a lion, but once you get past the first layer, it becomes increasingly easy to defeat.

First off, decide how many “parts” are in your chimera-mob. For this first example, we’ll start with a three-sectioned beast (that just happens to be an actual Greek Chimera.)

Chimera-Whelp

High Concept Multi-headed Monster of Myth
Aspects: Wild Animal; Foul-temper, Fouler Breaths; Hates Pegasi, Alicorns, & My Little Ponies
Parts:

Lion Head – Fanged & Savage Snake Head – Quick & Alert Goat Head– Stubborn & Fire Breathing
Fight +5
Physique +4
Notice +5
Acrobatics +4
Shoot +5
Will +4
Stress: O O Stress: O O Stress: O O
Stunts: None
Consequences: Minor (2)

How the three parts work:

Skills: When the Chimera first appears, it counts as having all skills as max level (+5 or +4). Likewise, when any part of the Chimera is attacked or targeted by actions, it counts as having all available skills; for example, when Shooting at a healthy Lion Head, it still counts as having Acrobatics +4 (which it borrows from the Snake Head.)

Dealing Stress: If a PC deals stress to a chimera-mob, it is up to the GM to decide which part receives the stress. You can base on the narrative (ex. The PC goes directly for the lion head; A PC is attacking from behind, which would bring him closest to the Snake-Head-tail), or based on the defending skill (ex. A mental attack would blocked with Will, thus any stress would be dealt to the Goat Head.) Either way, if a part is dealt more stress than it has stress boxes, that Part is Knocked Out. If you deal enough stress to take out a Part and still have extra stress, it is NOT carried over onto the next part, unless your attack succeeded with style. (Note: we recommend each of the Stress boxes above equals 1 stress, just to make bookkeeping a little easier.)

Knocked Out: Once a part is Knocked Out, it has all of it’s Skills reduced to a mere +1. If it has any stunts, it cannot use them. Once all parts are knocked out, the chimera-mob is taken out.

Actions: By default, each chimera-mob can only take one Action each exchange. However, if a part has taken an action, a GM can pay a Fate Point to have a different part take an action this turn.

LET’S SEE THAT AGAIN!

We’re going to give you a second example. This time, let’s see it with a mob of different individuals forming a chimera-mob. This one will be split a little wider.

THE ZOMB SQUAD

When the evil liche Sarcophoguy needs a small crack team of combatants for a task, he summons forth the Zomb Squad. These elite zombies have lost their personalities and memories in the haze of undeath, but parts of their inborn talent linger on, making them a versatile opponent.

Figures courtesy of Twilight Creation's awesome "Humans!!!" game.

Figures courtesy of Twilight Creation’s awesome “Humans!!!” game.

High Concept: Zombie Professional Team

Aspects: Mostly Mindless; On a Mission; Rotting Shells

Rocker Cheerleader Surgeon Miner Mid-Level Manager
+4 Fight

+3 Provoke

+4 Acrobatics

+3 Rapport

+4 Lore

+3 Stealth

+4 Physique

+3 Craft

+4 Will

+3 Notice

Stress: O Stress: O Stress: O Stress: O Stress: O
Stunts: Rock Never Dies! – If the Rocker is Knocked out, your Fight becomes +2 instead of +1. Stunts: Ra-Raaahh! If successful uses Rapport to create an advantage to distract an opponent, it is applied to all PCs in the zone. Stunts: Reanimate – Once per scene, at the end of his turn, the Surgeon may pay one Fate Point to wake up a Knocked Out part and remove all stress on that part. Stunts: Pickaxe – +2 when using Physique to overcome physical obstacles. Stunts: On Task – Once per scene, may use Will instead of any other skill if it relates to their objective (ex. Will as Burglary if they’re sent to steal an object.)
Consequences: Minor (2)

When do I use a Chimera-mob?

As you can tell, it’s a chimera-mob can be as very simple, or amazingly complex (the Zomb Squat, for example, has five stunts!) However, they can provide a single threat that is a threat to most every teammate without feeling like a beefed-up supervillain.

Zones & Spacing

When throwing a Chimera-mob at a group, it works best to set the fight in a small area. In a narrow corridor, it’s easy to see how you can aim at Surgeon zombie, only to have the acrobatic Cheerleader-zombie leapfrog off of your head, making you miss your shot. In a much wider area filled with many zones, it’s a little harder to justify in the narrative how the Rocker can simultaneously be attacking a player on one side of a football field and defending for the Miner against a punch 100 yards down the field. As you might surmise, chimera-mobs also work well for GMs that run map-less campaigns.

So, tell us what YOU think! Have some Chimeras of your own?

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Paranormal Investigation Tool – Follow the Bread Crumbs

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I’ve been working hard on a new aid for Paranormal Investigation games this week, and haven’t got a chance to make a new post. So, to kill two birds with one stone, I’m giving you a sneak peak of the work in the progress. Presenting:


THE BREAD CRUMBS GENERATOR!

researcher discovery

BREAD CRUMBS – A PARANORMAL INVESTIGATIONS CLUE GENERATOR

The goal of the “Bread Crumbs” system is not to create a full adventure for you- like any Fate Core game, it requires some creativity of your group’s part. Rather, it’s here to help generate clues and ideas. It’s really up to you, the gm and the players, to string together the relevant bits into a narrative.

Will this fashion a masterpiece of mystery, the likes of Agatha Christie? Nope. But it’s great for your average, “villain of the week” style one shot adventure.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

The Bread Crumbs system uses a principle called Apophenia, which Wikipedia defines as: “is the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data.” In essence, we start the group with a crime scene. At the scene is a murder victim, killed in a specific way, an item, and a few random sensations. Let’s say you get “a bullet to the chest,” “a banana,” and “a strange sense of well-being.” What’s the connection between them?

At the start, absolutely nothing. However, as you question witnesses, follow hot leads, and uncover more clues, (ex. More bananas, and a huge pile of cash), your group can now start putting it all together.

Maybe they discover a ring is smuggling street by magically transforming them into bananas. Maybe a Love God / Goddess from a Tropical nation is luring greedy banana-republic salesmen to their death. Maybe the banana’s a red herring, planted there to by the NecroCats to frame their worst enemies, the Were-Gorilla gang!

But how do I come up with the connections? Hopefully the players will provide connections on their own, but if not, we recommend some source books on the symbolism of various objects. It also helps to brush up on your mythological beasts: if the random chart generates feathers and talon-marks, you might decide to make the monster a cockatrice and drop a few cockatrice-themed clues along the way (ex. County fair with a rooster that lays eggs.) Most importantly, keep an open-minded. Don’t pick the weirdest theory for the villains, pick ALL of the weird theories!

This also combos well with the Brainstorm system introduced in “Atomic Robo RPG.” We will be releasing a similar, Investigation based system in the near future.

QUICK (AND THE DEAD) MISSION BUILDER

Before you start, make sure you create characters

Create Urban Legends – have each player and the GM create at least one each (although, if a player’s feeling creative, don’t put a maximum.) Some of these (or all of them) may not show in the story, but it’s nice to get ideas before you start.

Generate a Mystery (see below)

Go to the scene of the crime and Investigate. Generate a Location

As soon as you get there, start making supporting characters. Make sure you include a Face character or two for every organization and location. Don’t just have a random cop, have Carl the Chubby Meterman. If the murder’s in a back alley, have the owner of the restaurant Greasy Ginny, already answering questions to one of the detectives. These people seem incidental now, but could end up your suspects, eye witnesses, allies, enemies, and potentially future victims.

The team then gets to scan the scene for clues. Each character may attempt to use an appropriate skill to survey the scene. Investigate is the best skill, but Sixth Sense can be used to pick up Sensory Clues, and certain and situations allow characters to use other skills (ex. A stunt that lets a mad scientist investigate with Science!; a smooth talker using Rapports to question witnesses; Connections to dredge up rumors from your network.)

Successes: For each Success, the group gains one clue. You can only have a total of three Evidence or Corpse clues, so any further clues must be Sensory Clues.

Succeed with Style: If a character succeeds with style, you can gain a boost to aid another player with their search, or may take an additional aspect about the crime scene- this likely not a full clue, but rather a “hunch” about the nature of incident.

Fail / Succeed At Cost: No matter how many characters you fail, you always gain at least one Clue. Alternatively, don’t forget that, with Fate, you can always Succeed at a Cost.

Example “Success at Cost”: Finding a bit of evidence by tripping over it (giving you a Consequence to show your hurt leg or hurt pride); getting contradictory eye-witness testimonials; discovering an important bit of evidence and accidentally destroying it before it can be examined closer.

Clue chart:

If your group rolls on the same twice in a row, roll twice in a row, to assure a mix of the three.

Corpse Clue – Roll on the Corpse Clue Chart
0 Evidence Clue – Roll on the Evidence Clue Chart
+ Sensory Clue – Roll on the Evidence Clue Chart

Whenever they search, they always find SOMETHING, even if it doesn’t seem important. A bent fender. A phone message from Crystal. A bar napkin. Even if they lead no where now, some player might make a connection you never thought of.

Once the crime scene and all witnesses are exhausted, try to follow the clues. Maybe a forensic scientist can analyze the mud sample, or a guest lecturer can tell you more about an ancient symbol. Dig into the victim’s past, stake out similar locations in case it happens again. Reward player proactivity with more information.

When providing answers, draw connections threads between the events and aspects that are proposed (including the Urban Myths). If the trail grows cold, have the crime reoccur, or introduce someone who knows more than you (a hired assassin coming for you; a new witness; a rival to the enemy; the critically injured victim regains consciousness with vague memories.)

The Twist – Just when everything’s going smoothly, add in a plot twist. This can be something of your own devising, or roll on your adventure’s Twist table. When in doubt, remember the Urban Legends… maybe your Mexican Standoff with the Romanian Mafia gets interrupted by Elvis and his Alien abductors.

The Reveal – The mystery is exposed. Maybe it was a creature you still know very little about, or maybe it was really Carl the Chubby Cop the whole time.

[SKIPPING THE CORPSE & EVIDENCE CLUES FOR NOW- GOTTA SAVE SOME FOR LATER, RIGHT?]

GIVING OUT SENSORY CLUES

The _sense__ is __(category), a bit like __example.__

This means you roll for the sense chart, then on the matching description chart, and then your group picks one of the examples in it. This gives you a definite fact (ex. It IS sweet), and less concrete suggestion (ex. “it reminds you of jasmine”). This lets you alter it slightly later if need be! Make sure you let the group in on picking the description. Ex. You can read the full list and let them pick; you pick “fruit” and let them throw ideas of which fruit it is.

For example, a roll might include “The smell is sweet, a bit like almonds.”

Which Sense?: If a character has no particular focus, roll on the following chart. However, if a player has an aspect that suggests that one sense is stronger / more appropriate than the next, allow the character to pick which one. (Ex. A psychic picking up the Sixth Sense Clue; a werewolf with the aspect “Follow Your Nose!” getting a Smell Clue.)

Sensory Clue – Sub-Chart
0 +
Another player picks one! Smell Touch
0 Sight The GM picks one! Sixth Sense
+ Taste Hearing Pick one!

SIGHT

The location itself appears to you be ______, much like a _______

Sensory Clue – Sub-Chart
0 +
Disarray Neat Phony
0 Hidden / Blind spots In Full View Secrets Revealed
+ Snap Shot All in the Details Seen This Before

Disarray – The location is in shambles. You might mean: there was a great struggle; someone was looking frantically for something; the attack was made in hot blood; the attacker was a beastlike in its savagery.

Neat – The location is startlingly neat and tidy. You might mean: the victim was subdued without a fight; the murderer was someone the victim knew; the murderer is a master of stealth (vampire, ghost, ninja); attack was calculated and made in cold-blood; the attacker wasn’t looking for something / wasn’t a robbery.

Phony – You can’t prove it yet, but your gut tells you something about the placement of the body and articles feels fake, altered, or unnatural. This might be: a phony suicide letter or “dying message”; a half-hearted robbery; objects / evidence that looks planted; a “random” attack with perfect timing; an assailing “stranger” who knew too much.

Hidden / Blind spots – The murder occurred in a spot that is secluded, dark, or obscured from others. This might mean: the murderer is a creature of the night / has night vision; the murderer is hurt by sunlight; the murderer is an ambush hunter; the murderer lured the victim into the location; the victim agreed to go into the secluded place (trusted murderer, doing a shady activity.)

In Full View – The murder happened in spot that was well light, exposed to the elements, and where others could easily see it. They might mean: there are witnesses to the d

Secrets Revealed – upon investigation, you find a secret way in, possibly utilized by the murderer. This might be: a hidden door; a grate leading to the sewer; a passage behind a portrait.

Snap Shot – Something in the area let you catch a blurry picture of an unknown person at the scene, possibly the murderer. This might be from: the victim’s last selfie; traffic camera; ATM camera; satellite image.

All in the Details – You find a near microscopic piece of evidence that other eyes would miss. Roll on the Sensory table to see what you find (reroll any Sixth Sense or additional Sight results). It’s not much now beyond a simple smell or touch, but it’ll be more defined when the lab gets to analyze it.

Seen This Before – The sight seems strangely familiar to you. This might be: you have been to this spot before; you’ve seen an identical before (perhaps an unsolved case!); you recognize the victim from somewhere (maybe searching the mug shots will help).

SMELLS

The smell is ______, a bit like _________.

Sensory Clue – Sub-Chart
0 +
Floral Caustic Common Chemical
0 Metallic Foul Sweet
+ Smokey Earthy Spicy

Floral – perfume, cologne, lotion, flowers, green tea, violets (turpentine), fruit

Caustic – acidic (hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, vinegar, ammonia, lemon), basic (rubbing alcohol, methanol, quicklime, paint thinner, hydrogen peroxide), cleaning agents (bleach, detergent, soap, disinfectant, chlorine, “pine-fresh”), poisonous (bug spray, pesticide)

Common Chemical – Shoe polish, aerosol, hair spray, soap, new car, alcohol

Metallic – ozone, copper, burnt oil, melted plastic, ammonia (ex. Smokeless powder ammo)

Foul – rotten (flesh, wood, milk), bodily fluids, rotten eggs (sulfur, brimstone, gas), B.O., poo gas, fish (nickel tetracarbonate)

Sweet – fudge, vanilla, almond (cyanide, marzipan), cookies, rotting fruit

Smoky – candles, tobacco, gunpowder, fuel, wood, burnt meat / flesh, incense, burnt rope, gasoline, burnt hair, black tea, coffee

Earthy – damp leaves, mud, sea breeze, minerals, rust, grass

Spicy – pepper, garlicky (onions, phosphorous, arsenic), mustard (mustard gas), mint / menthol

TOUCH

The touch is ______, a bit like _________.

Sensory Clue – Sub-Chart
0 +
Gooey Slick Rough
0 Sharp Soft / Smooth Rubbery
+ Cool Hot Unearthly

Gooey – mucus, goo, adhesive, glue, tar, syrup (honey, maple, soda), plant sap, insect / spider silk, congealed blood

Slick – oil (gun oil, lighter fluid, cooking oil), grease, makeup, butter, snot, sweat, scales, ice, mold, lubricants

Rough – grit, sand, salt, dust, wool, sandpaper, sharkskin, bark, hair stubble, plaster

Sharp – fragments (glass, porcelain, metal shavings), splinters, shrapnel, shark skin, thorns / prickles

Soft / Smooth– moss / mold, wax, fabric (silk, cotton, satin), petals, natural (fur, suede, down), dirt / clay, marshmallow

Rubbery – rubber, skin (leather, skin), plastic, mummified / jerked flesh, leaves, latex (prosthetics / make-up, rubber gloves), dried goo (see Gooey)

Cool – Ice, Liquid (water, rain, alcohol), metal, long dead, from cold place (freezer, ground, teleport), balms / anesthetics

Hot – burnt (fire, electricity, steam, acid, magic), recently used machine (gun, engine, phone), living or recently dead human/animal, burned rubber, hot drinks (coffee, tea, cider), from hot place (indoors, oven, shower, teleport)

Unearthly – The substance of something at the scene seems unearthly, like it was made for unknown materials. Whenever you touch the surface with your bare skin, you get a strange feeling or impulse. Roll on the Sixth Sense chart for the sensation (if it doesn’t fit, reroll).

WILL SAVE THE REST FOR ANOTHER DAY… IF ANYTHING SEEMS A LITTLE UNCLEAR, OR YOU HAVE ANY SUGGESTIONS, ADD THEM IN THE COMMENTS SUGGESTION!

2014 – Back in the Highlights

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Despite my expectations, it would appear that the readership on this blog has increased since I started, (from “Holy cow, I have a reader!” to a staggering, “Holy Cow, I have readers [ plural]!”)  I am surprised as the next person to find this out, and welcome any man, woman, or spambot that has wandered on to this site by mistake.

IMG_0692

One of my more glamorous shots.

 

To round off the year, I thought I’d give a quick play-by-play of the posts this year, in case you missed any that might appeal to you.

JULY

  • So Much Time, So Little to Do – A breakdown of all of the Tangent Artist games we’re working. Since then, I’ve talked about… um… maybe a third of them. Yeah. Will have to tease you more about those next year.
  • Monster Gallery – Gloom Cart – A preview monster for Skeleton Crew (although he fits in with Dresden Files too.) Haven’t done too many solo monsters since… let me know if you want more.
  • Costume Clash – Behind the Scenes – I’m very pleased with this WIP game, and while it won’t be launched in 2015, we’ve definitely made a lot of progress with it this year. This article is also a fun glimpse at the creative process for all you creative types.
  • Skeleton Crew 101 – The first teaser (of many) about the Skeleton Crew game.

AUGUST

  • Dungeon Tours Ltd – 101 – Sneak peak at our WIP rpg setting, Dungeon Tours Ltd. We’re currently thinking about releasing this one digitally, potentially through Drivethrurpg.
  • Gen-Con or Bust – Won’t even bother linking this, as it only covers where we were at Gen Con.
  • Feedback to Back – Pt 1 – A breakdown of the many games we ran at Gen Con, the feedback, and the fun experiences… too much to fit in one blog entry!

SEPTEMBER

OCTOBER

  • Vampire Bloodlines- A fluffy-breakdown of the many different vampires around the Skeleton Crew World.
  • Open the Gates! – An experiment with open-ended games, and a great set-up for a Skeleton Crew adventure. (I guess this was the prototype for the GMprov posts to follow.)
  • Inktober Two-fer – A super-early peak at the art for two character in the upcoming Skeleton Crew rulebook (it’s so secret, it wasn’t even in the Beta version!) Art by the amazing Monica Marier.
  • Inktober Day 19 – Another sneak peak character. This week: the ghostly Chucky Crumb.
  • Inktober Day 20 – A third sneak peak character. This time: Padre Vinnie Sargento
  • Gmprov Part 1 – My first official post devoted to merging Improv and Games-Mastery. This week focuses on Conversations and Eavesdropping.
  • Gmprov Part 2– More on merging Improv and Games-Mastery. This week: Bargains & Interrogations.NOVEMBER
  • Lost-in-Translation- Muddling Messages – A post about mangling and mistranslating messages for your players.
  • GMprov 3 – More improv for Games Masters. This week focuses on “Yes, And,” and building a collaborative environment.
  • Skeleton Crew Beta – A post announcing that the opening of the Skeleton Crew RPG Beta, and the many things you’d find in the rulebook. We’re still accepting testers, if you’re interested!
  • GM Brainstorm – LARP – An attempt to move Fate into LARPing, and the introduction to the Gladiatron rpg game.DECEMBER
  • Advent Calender – Sharing a project from our writer/artist, Monica Marier, as she presents the Christmas Carol in 25 illustrations in 25 days.
  • Gladiatron – The rules to the Gladiatron RPG setting.
  • TOY-BOX-REVIEW – A review of a toy set I bought off Amazon, a free Fate Core / Skeleton Crew monster, and a psychological dissertation on cheap plastic figures.
  • GMprov -It’s a Set-Up! – More improv for Games Masters. This week focuses on setting up scenes in a jiffy.
  • GMprov – Ask Me No Questions – More improv for Games Masters. Focuses on the ways asking Questions of your players can add or detract from the gameplay.

All-in-all, I think it’s been a pretty good year! What do you want to see more of in 2015? Have any guest articles you want to submit? Let us know!

Monster Gallery – Gloom Cart

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For our first RPGee-Whiz entry, we thought we’d showcase on of the monsters that shows up in the Skeleton Crew RPG: The Oboro-guruma, aka the Gloom Cart.  This is a fun monster for any supernatural Fate Core game, as it merges two things together: Driving and Combat. Know, any epic chase scene doesn’t have to include stats for the cars AND for the mooks driving it- they’re one in the same.  Though the skills are slightly different, feel free to try it in your Dresden Files game.

Oboro-guruma – Gloom Cart

It used to be said that if a woman was killed by an ox cart, her spirit would merge with the cart, resulting in a terrifying cart that roamed on its own, bearing a woman’s face.  Luckily, ox-carts are not that common in New Manchester, but it appears that victims of other wheel-based accidents (cars, trolleys, shopping carts, segways) are starting to surface.For Oboro minions, here’s our recommended sizes: tiny vehicles (scooters, segways, etc) as Average (+1); small vehicles (motorcycles, hot dog carts, mini-coups) as Fair (+2); mid-sized cars as Good (+3).  While we do not cover them here, we recommend you treat large vehicles (vans, SUVs, food trucks, semis) as Great (+4) Named PCs.Racial Aspects

Ghost in the Machine – Oboros are undead, and as such, might have weaknesses to holy magic.  Unlike most undead, silver and salt doesn’t hurt the “ghost” inside much, as it’s protected by a metal shell.

Hell on Wheels – Uses dark energy for speed.

Vengeance Against Bad Drivers!

STUNTS: Aggressive Driving – If the Oboro is given enough room to maneuver, it may use Drive to make close combat physical attacks against characters and other cars. It may also use Drive to make Overcome rolls to overcome minor obstacles.

Hit & Run (Good +3 Oboros only) – If the Oboro makes an Attack and succeeds with style, instead of taking the Boost, it may immediately move up to two zones away.

AVERAGE (+1)+1Drive, Physique, WillStress: No stress boxes—a one shift hit is enough to take them out. FAIR (+2)+2 Drive, Physique+1 Will, Intimidate

Stress: One stress box—a two shift hit is enough to take them out.

GOOD (+3)Aspect: Two-Ton Menace+3  Drive, Physique

+2 Will, Intimidate

+1 Engineering, Notice

Stress: Two stress boxes—a three shift hit is enough to take them out.