Nov 192009

Sorry, sorry…I know I said I’d try for one post a week. But I have a really good excuse. You see, there was this monkey, a giant space monkey. He needed a ride home and I was heading that way so I said, “What the hell. Why not?” Well, you’ve probably noticed my bandages by now, right? No? Well, never mind then. Suffice it to say the monkey and I have gone our separate ways. I got bandages and he got tetanus. (Long story.)

So, how about two quick posts this week to make up for my negligence? I knew you’d agree.

Part 3 of my Diaspora adventure. I post here  my player’s writeup.

Diaspora, Iron Spiral’s first adventure, 11/14/09  Note: My player came up with a new name, so cool.

IS (Iron Spiral) was selling lichen at some market somewhere, when the GM decided to try the social mini game. There was one other salesperson there, a woman also selling lichen. We had one customer, a man who to start with wasn’t looking at either of our stalls; he was checking out refractory materials nearby. IS decided to say to him, “Hey, what do you think of that near miss between two ships last week that almost caused a political scandal between Gemma and Demon Rock?” or something close to that, because she recognized that he was a pilot from his clothing. He said he was a pilot, but hadn’t been there. She said, “But I saw you on the news!” That caused him to say he hadn’t been there, but he had been on the news before. The other saleswoman said something like “Come get your lichen cakes while they’re hot,” which failed to grip him. IS turned out to have a fancy lichen sculpture/painting of two fleets of ships in front of a nebula. The ships were made out of iron, the rest out of variously colored and textured lichen (IS has a high Art skill). The pilot came over and admired the artwork. He said he was a Gemman pilot of a trade ship, and then he lowered his voice and said they had a goddess on board. IS asked what she was the goddess of, and he said the goddess of light and shadows, which turned out to mean that she could use a technology that could create impressive light-based phenomena. He said he’d buy all her lichen if she sold it for half off. There was a little haggling and he eventually agreed to buy the lichen at 47% off, which wasn’t really much of a deal, but what the hell. At the same time the other saleswoman had put on some weird music to try to get his attention, but gave up when she saw that he’d bought from IS. (End of social mini-game.) Oh yes, part of the 47% off deal was that IS would also get to meet the goddess. The pilot’s name was Gene-G(Gene) asked when IS would be free to meet the goddess, and IS said, “Well, since you bought all my stock, how about right now?” IS took down her stall and helped him carry the lichen to his ship, which was named the Cloudburst. The ship was very impressive. It also had gold decorations befitting a goddess. It had an odd smell coming from deeper inside. G led IS to a strange, large room which he said was called the ship “park.” This was where the smell was coming from, for it had grass and trees and a stream, all of which IS had heard about but never seen personally. Sometime while they were talking, during which G became quite animated when IS told him she was also a pilot and he started rattling on about the Cloudburst’s engines, G mentioned that the goddess had a “pet savage” who turned out to be a man from Demon Rock. This man had what G called a “thing” that G believed should be locked up because it was so dangerous, but that the goddess said would probably then break loose and kill people, so no, it got to stay free. G said he’d make an offering to the goddess of the lichen, and then IS could meet her. They headed toward the goddess’ office. IS thought she saw something metallic following them, but wasn’t sure. She mentioned this to G and he said he didn’t see anything. Then a voice said, “She’s right,” and a huge man in an antique armored vac suit with a horned helmet suddenly appeared, along with a very large granite boar. This was Deng, the “pet savage,” and his granite boar, whose name was Snaps and Drools (Snaps for short). G was extremely startled. D(Deng) said to G that the goddess wanted to see him, alone. It was about letting unauthorized people onto the ship. G hurried off to her office. D said he was the ship security officer, and asked why IS was there. She told him. He said, “Well, you’re here, so you might as well get the rest of the tour of the ship.” She petted S(Snaps) and it licked her. D said, “He thinks you taste good.” While D escorted IS, he told her that there was a vacancy on board for a secondary pilot, because the secondary pilot had gotten injured by S (he shouldn’t have tried to play with S). IS got to meet the goddess, Tu-Anon-Romten, who G had said was the least popular in her family, and that her father (also a god) had given her the Cloudburst in order to get her out of his hair. T(Tu-Anon-Romten) appeared backed by a godlike glow, and offered IS the pilot job. IS accepted. IS had a tearful farewell with her parents. Her father gave her an energy gun that had belonged to her grandfather. T also arrived and gave IS’s family gifts, which had been tribute given to her by some worshippers. IS boarded the ship. After she familiarized herself with the bridge, T appeared by hologram and gave commands. T also revealed that IS was the new captain, replacing G, who’d been demoted to secondary pilot. T ordered that they fly to Plug. It took a day to get to Demon Rock, at which one had to refuel in order to get to Plug. Actually IS took the ship to the Demon Rock refueling station, not the planet. The administrator assigned the Cloudburst one of the last to be refuelled, which pissed off T. T had D, S and IS come with her on a visit to the administrator. Inside the station, two Demon Rock guards saw them and reached for their weapons, but D made signs at them, and they saluted and stood aside. The station actually had Gemmans and Demon Rockans working there, plus I think a few visitors from Plug. T had D order S to burrow/eat through the administrator’s door. Inside was a terrified Gemman administrator. S started eating some of the furniture in the room. T and IS convinced the administrator to move the Cloudburst up to #5 in the list, out of about 180 ships. The administrator claimed he didn’t know the Cloudburst had a goddess on board. T wanted the #1 spot, but the administrator told her that was taken by the God of Heavy Weapons and Machine Guns, so T backed off. So now it wasn’t going to take weeks to get refuelled; only a few days. As they were returning to the ship, they noticed that they’d turned up on the news. D was not happy. T gave D and IS the day off and thanked them for their support. IS asked to meet D at the park, where she asked why he was unhappy about being on the news, and he said it was because he was something of a celebrity on Demon Rock because of his saving that warren from rogue granite boars and taming a wild one, which isn’t something normally done (taming a wild granite boar, that is). He said he preferred to lead a low-key life. He asked IS out to dinner on the station. Said he knew a good restaurant, which was owned by his foster mother, and he wanted IS to meet her. On the way to, and during dinner, S had taken the form of a large walking stick that D held. D explained that normal granite boars eventually decided to stop shapeshifting and settled on a preferred shape, but not S. D’s foster mom was a tall, tough blonde named Ping. She and IS liked each other. She chastised D for not writing, then they started talking about life on Demon Rock, which was better because there hadn’t been any recent granite boar attacks. IS, feeling paranoid, noticed four young vac-suited Demon Rock women at another table watching, but they seemed to be only interested in staring at D. IS commented how much she liked the view of the Hyathis nebula from Demon Rock, because at the Triskidar Belt, all you could see was the nebula’s top left tendril. P(Ping) said she’d like to visit the Triskidar Belt again because she hadn’t in a long time, and IS encouraged her because now happened to be the regular but infrequent occurrence in which the Hyathis tendril would move, as seen from the Belt. It was an altogether pleasant dinner, after which, back at the ship, IS went to bed. Okay, nothing adrenaline-pumping happened, but I had fun.

As you might have guessed, there is quite a lot of player-based story being added here. My GM style is to create realistic NPCs with goals (usually clearer stated in their aspects). Each NPC will follow their goal to its logical conclusion if the players are willing to follow that course. This allows me the flexibility to drop story threads as they become uninteresting to players. It also creates an organic “lived-in” feeling for the universe, which some players respond to. It has its complications as well. A large group (I’ve run up to twelve players at once) will immediately start splitting off to pursue their characters’ interests. This can be a challenge for a GM and all that parallel processing can bog a game down. There is also a certain player type who will take advantage of loopholes in the system, derail the adventure, or attack apparently important NPCs. These players are flummoxed by this method of driving a story. Since each NPC carries a goal he or she is trying to reach, exclusive of the players, they are quickly outnumbered and neutralized, usually, by other players.

That’s how I do it anyway.

Posted by Lodger Tagged with: , , ,
Nov 042009

Hello again,

I’ve delayed writing a review of Spirit of the Century (SOTC)  by Evil Hat for, well, really, no good reason. I didn’t have a blog at the time I ran these. No excuse, I know. SOTC was the first FATE-based game I had purchased. Oh, I’d purchased a few FUDGE-based games, but this FATE thing was new. I thought I’d give it a fair shakedown. I even found a Meet-Up that was semi-local to me and joined a group. The GM of that group moved on after a couple of games and I took over. The Actual Play (AP) sessions I’ll be posting are a record of the games I ran with the exception of the very first one, because that is a PDF I’ll be posting for download after it is cleaned up (i.e., readable).

Mechanically, FATE takes the typical D&D player a little time to find their footing. The aspect system takes a little getting used to. In practice, I had a group of folks with mixed experience levels. So, most of the learning curve was pretty smooth overall.  SOTC has the advantage of being simple for a player to enter and exit an ongoing campaign, because all characters are at the peak of their careers. No tedious leveling up to the fun stuff.

The setting is open. It is loosely set in the 1920s and revolves around an organization of heroes who call themselves Centurions. My take on the setting carried a steampunk flavor based off my intro adventure about a dangerous cult from ancient Atlantis fronting a proto-Nazi terror cell in Brazil. The action centered around a floating city of ex-convicts, sky pirates, and cultural outcasts. But enough of that; I loved SOTC and ran it for the better part of a year for a variety of characters. I had a few regulars and a bunch of drop-ins.

Our scene opens in a popular Etheropia (flying city, currently hovering near Rio) bar on open mic night.

J = Jolly Roger, the Sky Pirate

UJ = Union Jane, Bad Ass Crowdbreaker

TM = The Musician (Guitarist/Werewolf)

MM =  Minnetonka Mike (Gun Man)

D = Darken (Stealth Expert/Living Shadow)

J, UJ, TM, MM & D were all in a bar on Etheropia.TM was performing with a guitar. UJ & J were sitting at a booth. MM was at the bar (he’s a crack shot ex-circus performer cowboy drinker type). A beautiful auburn-haired woman who looked like she was in charge of something was there. D decided to try to seduce her. MM decided to eavesdrop on the action, while ordering a drink. D detected him and surreptitiously told the bartender to give MM a lousy drink. D was so insulting in his come-ons that the woman, who’d introduced herself as Captain Petra, captain of the Sky’s Mistress (a dirigible), pulled a lightning sword on him. He took it from her. Somewhere around this time a bunch of members of the Gray Sharks (they were members of the pirate group whose flying fortress the party attacked in the last adventure. They were manufacturing a hallucinogenic drug called “sky ash”) revealed themselves to be in the bar and attacked the party. J decided to throw a brass exploding monkey in the middle of them.  UJ dove under the table and MM started shooting. TM attacked (eventually he experienced “Blood Rage,” one of his aspects, in which he became a homicidal maniac). Everyone defended themselves, basically, although D might have caused some of the opponents to back off because they thought he’d be extra-dangerous since he didn’t know how to use a sword. He ended up breaking the sword. J tried to shoot Petra and/or her minions, but D put himself between them and J, so J shot him instead. Eventually, all the Gray Sharks were killed, but Petra and her all-female minions kidnapped D. MM, who’d had some experience dealing with animals, convinced TM not to attack the rest of the party (since now that all the opponents were dead or gone, the Blood Rage compelled him to try to attack anyone who was left), and TM transformed back to normal. One of TM’s biggest fans, Luigi (and there had been fans mobbing TM in the bar before the fight started) turned out to work for the “port authority” or something, and he was able to lead the party to where the Sky’s Mistress was supposed to be moored. UJ used her influence to tell the dockworkers to delay the dirigible, since it was in the process of trying to leave. All the workers went on break. Once there, UJ also faked a document to order the dirigible to stay docked, with help from a fellow unionist. So Petra had two of her women shoot the mooring ropes. Oh, yes, while the rest of the party was concerned with trying to keep the dirigible  from leaving/getting onto it before it left, Petra had mostly stripped D and tied him up and fetched some olive oil and a cage of weasels. D was hoping to be rescued soon. TM had climbed onto one of the mooring ropes, trying to enter the dirigible. After the mooring ropes had been shot free of the dock, MM and UJ managed to jump and grab onto the flying-away ropes. MM got his own rope; UJ jumped onto the rope TM was on. MM wasn’t able to get in at first because the closest door was closed, but he shot the lock off or something, because he eventually got in. TM was able to open a door close to him and UJ, & they both climbed in. Everyone had to make Resolve rolls to not be stunned by the appearance of D, who had in the meantime managed to slip free of his bonds, grab the box of weasels & was threatening the crew members who were there (oh God). In the meantime, J somehow had found his own way into the dirigible, possibly using his jet belt, and had gone to the cargo hold, where he found mechanical stuff. All the crew members who were in the room with D (except Petra, who had withdrawn) surrendered. One said, “Please get this weasel off my leg.” Petra had gone through a door, and TM and UJ followed her. I don’t remember exactly the sequence of events hereafter, but at some point four or so semi-humanoid robots attacked MM and J. J couldn’t hurt them with his lightning guns or re-engineer them or something like that, because all the robots (except maybe for the engineer bot; see below) were steam-based. TM & UJ ended up getting attacked by wolflike robots, whom they defeated. TM and UJ got separated; I think TM went off to help MM and J. MM shot at least one of the robots in this vulnerable spot they had that looked like a green glass plate. After those robots were taken care of, J and MM went off and found the engineer who had designed all these robots, who was alone in the engine room. Oh yes, J had at some point surmised that Petra had copied some of his technology. MM intimidated the engineer into surrendering. She said she was Petra’s prisoner. He asked her to stop the dirigible. She ended up releasing more wolf robots, & shedding her human-looking skin to turn out to be a robot herself.  D put himself between J & Petra as J was preparing to shoot, and J shot him. Somehow D had confronted Petra again, and she stacked so many modifiers on him, so to speak, that she made him her willing servant. He ended up with a new aspect: “In Love with Petra.” She said she’d been looking for a second-in-command. She allowed him access to some controls which would release more robots on us, which he did. (There turned out to be a maze of tunnels in the dirigible that had allowed her to escape). UJ tried to go to where all the noise was, but she was blocked by six marines who ran in and were about to start assembling something. She talked them into telling her what they wanted to build, and into leaving the dirigible (which had by this time landed on the dock).They were going to build a self-destruct device. UJ talked them into believing she would finish making the device for them. After they left she looked into the boxes of materials and found mechanical stuff she didn’t recognize, including some stuff that glowed. She decided to toss the boxes into the ocean. In the meantime, the others were fighting the engineerbot and her wolfbots. MM managed to pin her under some of the wolfbots, and he or J shot up all but one of the wolfbots on her. UJ headed for where the others were. On her way there, she saw Petra and D in a lifeboat thing, and D was rowing it away. UJ entered the room and stabbed the engineerbot in an eye with her battle staff, thus blinding her. She was blinded for only a moment though; she pulled out a screwdriver and repaired her eyes. I think it was MM or maybe it was J or maybe it was both of them, but she ended up being damaged by one or both of them so badly that she decided to shut down. They tied her up. The remaining wolfbots were destroyed; they had been severely damaged. J and MM decided to claim the dirigible. The party searched it and found two things:  a link between Petra’s group and the Gray Sharks, and the other was a letter from Goodwin to Petra, asking her to meet him. Goodwin was a police officer who, for reasons yet unknown, killed his family in the last adventure. He’d gone missing from his job. He had been noticed lurking in a warehouse near the place where the biplane was parked that the party then used to fly to the Gray Shark fortress, but the party didn’t confront him at all.

It is clear to the casual observer that gameplay can twist and turn as players generate their own content within the GM’s setting. This adventure would have been a fight against the Gray Shark pirate clan. But, instead the players played Fate points to link Petra’s group of pirates to the Gray Sharks. Originally, I had intended Petra to provide the troops and ships for an epic battle. It still worked out that way in the end, but Petra ended up firmly on the enemy side of things. She took her pet player with her, as well. :)

Tons o’ fun.

Thanks for reading.

Posted by Lodger Tagged with: , , , , ,