Saturday, December 29, 2012

[Atomic Robo] Let's Play It Your Way

Did everyone have a good Christmas or whatever? Ours was... a little more complicated than we'd expected. And I'm pretty much run off my feet as a consequence. But in celebration of the Fate Core Kickstarter campaign hitting 5,000 backers yesterday, here's a tiny little preview of Atomic Robo: The Roleplaying Game. Specifically, it's an example of how we're using Atomic Robo itself to illustrate some game concepts.

In this case, it's conceding a conflict.

(But first, have you read Atomic Robo and the Flying She-Devils of the South Pacific yet? You really should. I don't want to spoil anything for you, but it's been out for a while now, so... that's on you.)

On with the example!
Robo tries to intimidate Takeshi with an Intimidation total of +4. Takeshi defends with Will and gets a +7—success with style. He gets a boost of Numbers On My Side.
Robo changes tack and decides to use Physics to try creating an advantage instead, based on the idea that using ion guns in an enclosed metal environment is an inherently bad idea. The GM decides that this will be an unopposed roll, and it succeeds. Robo creates the aspect Science On My Side.
Undeterred, Takeshi goes on the offensive. He rolls Intimidation and gets a +5, and invokes Numbers On My Side to make it +7. He also spends a fate point to invoke his aspect Only Victory and Defeat to bump that up by +2 more, for a +9. Then, in a gutsy move, he spends another fate point to invoke Science On My Side for another +2. Takeshi and his men don't care about their own safety. That makes his total +11.
Robo doesn't think he can beat that, nor does he want to end up with a consequence from this, so he decides to concede. He loses the conflict, but on his own terms: Takeshi will keep him alive for now, but incapacitated. Robo gets a fate point for the concession.
Now, a couple points:

One, this is only one possible interpretation of this conversation -- you could call Takeshi's first line in that first panel as an Intimidation attempt, for example, as well as Robo's rather threatening "It'd kill you too."   Or maybe Takeshi's first line is him creating an advantage. They're all valid, and any of them is totally plausible in play. But this is the one I'm going with. For me, up until the point when Robo literally threatens physical violence, they're just talking, sans dice. But when Takeshi casually insults Robo's piloting skills, Robo's player decides, "All right, it's on."

Two, normally in the book, I don't use characters as players, such as "Robo gets a fate point," but in this case I'm prioritizing brevity. These are captions; I don't want them getting too long.

I plan to use this technique as often as is feasible in ARRPG. The actual panels from the comic are an amazing resource, and we'd be crazy not to take advantage of them.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

[Off Topic] Baby! Again!

That right there is Will Robert Olson, born December 18th, 2012 -- two weeks earlier than expected. Surprise! He's currently at a top-rated children's hospital in San Diego and doing great. Welcome him to the world, everyone.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

[Fate Core] It's Skill Pyramids All the Way Down

I had a thought over on today on sub-pyramids of skills, so I figured I'd expand on it here.

Then I had further thought on the same thing, and suddenly it was skill pyramids all the way down. But we'll get to that soon enough.

First, let's say you have a skill that's important enough to your game that you really want to drill down into what it can do. Piloting, fencing, and magic are the first things that spring to mind for me. I'll go with magic, because the first two will entail a lot more thought and crunchiness. So we have a skill called Magic. It's about magic stuff.

Come up with a number of distinct things -- around 10 -- that the skill can do. "Distinct things" will vary depending on personal preference, game world, and campaign. For magic, I'd go with schools, and for the sake of convenience and my familiarity with the subject, let's say they're the nine schools of 2nd edition AD&D: Abjuration, Conjuration, Divination, Evocation, etc. (They used these in 3.X too, right? Anyway. That's neither here nor there.) I'm calling these specialties for now.

You also have these specialties in a pyramid, with an apex equal to your Magic skill. So if you have Fair (+2) Magic, your Magic pyramid might look like this:
Fair (+2): Evocation 
Average (+1): Invocation, Transmutation
Three slots in your pyramid, three schools of magic.

If you have Great (+4) Magic, you have skill in all schools of magic -- a wizard's wizard, who puts the study of the magical arts above all else. That might look like this:
Great (+4): Evocation
Good (+3): Invocation, Transmutation 
Fair (+2): Enchantment, Divination, Abjuration
Average (+1): Conjuration, Necromancy, Illusion
When you cast a spell, you don't roll your Magic skill -- you roll your specialty skill. So if you're casting a fireball, you'd roll your Great (+4) Evocation. If you're casting phantasmal killer, you'd roll your Average (+1) Illusion. Etc. Probably the only time you'd roll Magic is to know stuff in general about magic.

What do these specialties do? Give 'em some Fate Core actions, as appropriate. No need to define them more than that. Evocation overcomes by blowing stuff up, creates advantages by blowing stuff up, and attacks by blowing stuff up.

This is the part that goes rather completely crazy, in my opinion. Once you have this secondary pyramid, you make a tertiary pyramid for each of these schools of magic. What's in these skill pyramids? Not skills -- spells. Since this is already so AD&D-heavy anyway, open up your PHB and take your spells right from there.

So for Evocation, this wizard's wizard above would have 10 Evocation spells, rated from +1 to +4. For Divination, they'd have three spells. And so on.

Yeah! You're right! That is a lot of spells to keep track of. An ungainly number. It's ridiculous! See, I told you it was crazy. It's more a thought exercise than anything else.

There are a couple more reasonable approaches to this. One is to make the schools individual skills (instead of specialties), and then make spells the specialties. E.g., you have Good (+3) Evocation, which means you can have a Good (+3) Fireball, Fair (+2) Burning Hands and Melf's Acid Arrow, etc.

Another way is to ditch the whole "school" thing and instead go with types of magic, like Fire, Water, Air, Earth, and Death or something. Each of those is a skill, and spells are specialties -- but probably not cribbed from AD&D. I'd make them player-defined, then build the spells as custom skills in the style of Atomic Robo. Maybe you have n points to spend on making those spells, where n is determined by your skill rating.

(BTW, if you're an ARRPG playtester and any of the above reminds you of modes, it's sheer coincidence.)

This has nothing to do with skill sub-pyramids, but: Another way to go would be to have spells as stunts, possibly as stunts you could swap out via some sort of spellbook mechanism. So whether have you have schools of magic as skills or specialties, you can roll Evocation, Abjuration, and Divination all day long to do whatever it is you do with those schools (according to their actions), but then you might also have stunts that stretch those boundaries a bit. For example:
Fireball: When attacking with Evocation, spend a fate point to affect everyone in the targeted zone.
Shield: +2 to Abjuration when defending against physical attacks.
Discern Location: Spend a fate point and specify one creature you've seen or object you've touched. You know the location of that creature or object unerringly and in exacting detail, even if it's on another continent, planet, or plane of existence.
 Anyway. Back to Robo.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

[Fate Core] Rules vs. Settings

This is a warning.
So! That Fate Core Kickstarter's been pretty crazy, am I right? It's great to see so many people excited enough about it to back the campaign -- exactly 3,600 people, as I type -- and also to see how many of them are new to Fate with this edition. That's awesome.

Not surprisingly, there's a lot of discussion about Fate Core in various places around the Internet, and a lot of it's revolving around what it can do. Most of the time, inquiries about this kind of thing look something like this:
Really enjoyed the Terra Nova TV series when it was on and was wondering if it would be possible to make that kind of setup using the FATE system?
(That's James Cartwright, commenting on the Kickstarter page.)

Or this:
I would love to see a strong example of a heavily race based system. Ideally in my mind an anthropomorphic animal game in the vane of Redwall, Mouse Guard, or Ironclaw.
(That's Jonathan Dietrich, also on the Kickstarter page.)

These both sound like great games to run with Fate Core. Terra Nova may have let me down as a show, but the premise was cool -- sci-fi tech and dinosaurs! As for the anthropomorphic animal thing, well, I own Mouse Guard and backed Cairn, so I'm in.

My reaction to this kind of thing is always the same: Yeah, of course Fate can do that. What does it really involve, anyway? Knowing the source material? Fate Core gives you everything you need to sort out the rest.
This is a pretty unfair attitude, I know. I'm so used to hacking Fate and talking about hacking Fate and seeing Fate hacks that at this point it's kinda That System Everyone Hacks to me. You want to do something with Fate? Great! Go do it. What are you waiting for? Again, unfair.

However, there's an actual point to be made here as well. As I also said on Twitter, there's a real difference in Fate Core between saying "I want rules for..." and saying "I want a setting that's like...." 98% of emulating a genre using Fate Core is knowing the genre well in the first place.

Do you need special rules for shooting a dinosaur -- rules that aren't already in Fate Core? I don't think so. I mean, sure, you'll want to stat up some dinosaurs, but that's definitely within the scope of the rules as written. Do you need special rules for playing a sword-wielding mouse (as opposed to a sword-wielding human)? If everyone's playing an animal, make sure everyone has at least one aspect describing what kind of animal they are. (And then, y'know, stat out some cats and weasels.) Hashtag done!

Let's take Fate Core assistant developer Brian Engard's Wild Blue setting as an example. Wild Blue is part Western, part fantasy-magic stuff, and part supers. It has new rules for the magic-and-supers stuff (in the form of gifts), because Brian had a specific vision for how those work in the setting that he needed to convey. It has a couple new skills that suit the setting. And... that's it for new rules. Because Fate Core does everything else.

But Jonathan Dietrich came back with this:
Which is a great question! I tried to answer it on Twitter, but Twitter's not the best medium for that sort of thing, so let's see if it I can do it justice here.

What we're really talking here when we talk about sci-fi dinosaurs or heroic rodents isn't rules, but setting. Most of what'd be in a good Terra Nova RPG built on Fate Core would be descriptions and stats for things from the show -- an implementation of the system, sure, but off the top of my head I can't think of anything especially new it needs in terms of rules or mechanics. (Of course, I'm no Terra Nova scholar or anything, so maybe I'm misremembering.)

Anthropomorphic animals? As a complete game, I'd want lots of descriptions of animals and examples of aspects and stunts for each. But what I can't imagine is that any of that would deviate from the tools that Fate Core gives you. Maybe -- maybe -- you'd want size and scale rules, but extras can do that as-is. (The Extras Toolbox will probably have those size and scale rules, but still.)

The thing is, the protagonists in these stories do things that "baseline" human protagonists do in Fate Core anyway. (Well, apart from, like, gathering nuts for the winter, I guess.) They don't shoot laser beams from their palms or have super-strength or bend the laws of reality or anything. Even if they're mice or voles or whatever, they do what mice or voles or whatever in the setting do -- which makes mice or voles or whatever the new baseline, which means you don't need special rules for them. If you know your source material and follow the directions in Fate Core, you'll get the game you want.

With all that established: What makes Atomic Robo so special that it need its own book?

This is a fair and complex question.

One, Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener want to do it. I want to do it. Evil Hat wants to do it. Lots of Robo fans really want us to do it. So... we're doing it.

Two, ARRPG may be an implementation of Fate Core, but it has several significant divergences meant to engender the kind of play we want to see out of an Atomic Robo game. Modes simplify character creation and skills to get players playing ASAP. We expect some people who buy the book will be Robo fans first and RPG fans second, or totally inexperienced with RPGs, so right from the start "quickplay" was the default. (Fate Core's easy for first-timers to pick up too, of course; a lot of these core concepts of ARRPG were established long before I even set eyes on Fate Core.)

Y'know how I said I'm not a Terra Nova scholar? Over the past year, I have arguably become an Atomic Robo scholar. Eating, breathing, and sleeping Atomic Robo has had a huge effect on the game in a hundred little ways. Atomic Robo doesn't tell stories the usual Fate Core way, so ARRPG structures stories the Atomic Robo way. The game has mechanics that emulate some specific stuff from the source material, like a group of Action Scientists working together to apply science to a mystery, a quick method for handling the in-game invention of new technology, and the capacity of characters (like Robo himself) to greatly exceed normal human limits.

What else? Aspects are categorized differently. There are no phases. There's no refresh (another very early decision). PCs start with more stunts. There's a subsystem for building customized skills outside of the extras framework. ARRPG has the great GM advice from Fate Core, but with an eye toward telling Atomic Robo stories, and new tools to help you do it. And because I wrote it, it has a random table. Maybe two. Maybe a random number of random tables. We'll see.

(Incidentally, some of the above will probably make it into the Extras Toolbox in some form or other.)

On top of all that, it's a thorough sourcebook for Atomic Robo -- more information on the Robo-verse than you'll find in any other book, plus a bunch of great art from Scott, both from the comic and new stuff. As a fan of Robo, this might be my favorite part of it.

Anyway. What was I talking about? Something to do with rules vs. settings in Fate Core?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

[Fate Core] Surprise!


The Fate Core Kickstarter campaign has kicked off a little earlier than anticipated, thanks to editor Jeremy Keller and all-around provocateur Fred Hicks.

You've probably already checked it out. If you haven't yet, it's, uh, doing pretty well. Funded in under 15 minutes, hit the first two stretch goals shortly thereafter.

And in case you weren't already aware of this particular tidbit: If you back at any level -- including the $1 Access level -- you get immediate access to the draft copy of Fate Core.

Not bad, right?

This is all kind of novel for me. It's the first project I've worked on that's gotten the Kickstarter treatment. I had nothing to do with setting up the Kickstarter itself, nor am I currently on the hook to produce any new material as part of a stretch goal. So really, in a sense, I kinda don't really have much of a stake in this beyond wanting people to like and play a game I've worked on. (As I've said before, I've been extremely lucky so far in my RPG freelancing career to have worked on pretty much only fairly high-profile, well-received projects.)

But I'm going to be watching this Kickstarter with as much attention and enthusiasm as, I dunno, this, or this -- because it's always fun to see a highly anticipated campaign for a cool project go from "funded" to "ridiculous runaway success." Join me, won't you?

Join me.

Friday, November 30, 2012

[Atomic Robo] Covers and Progress

Scott's been noodling around with cover ideas for ARRPG. Thoughts? Other than my first thought, which was "Those robot fists are awesome!"?

("Of course they are," says Scott. "They're based on a real thing.")

Related: Several chapters of ARRPG have been submitted. By this I mean that they've been put in a place online where an Evil Hat editor can eventually get to them. More chapters are being revised and written as I type this. Well, not exactly as I type, because I'm typing this, and I can only type one thing at a time. I guess I could alternate characters between this blog post and the chapter, but -- look, I feel like we're getting off-course here.

Also, Action Scientists, aka playtesters! Thanks for your work on the secret mission you've been assigned! Good stuff. Keep 'em coming.

Monday, November 5, 2012

[Atomic Robo] Playtest Closed

That's it!

Round 3 of playtesting for Atomic Robo: The Roleplaying Game is now closed, which means no new playtesters will be... what's the word... accepted? Required? You get what I'm saying. We have a lot of playtesters, but I don't anticipate any further significant changes -- changes large enough to warrant more full-scale playtesting -- to the rules as they currently exist.

So... if you were like "I'm gonna get in on that Atomic Robo thing on Tuesday!" then allow me to offer my sincere apologies. Missed it by that much.

If you're already a playtester, your feedback's still welcome, but now is the time to move into the next phase of things. That means turning what we have into something that looks like an actual manuscript, adding/adapting some more content from Fate Core, and generally getting everything in a state won't make the editor mad at me.

In the absence of constantly updating you on playtest-type stuff, I plan to offer some genuine preview-type stuff along the lines of the character sheets I posted yesterday. Stay tuned!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

[Atomic Robo] Invaders from Mars Characters

I had fun making these characters for the one-shot tomorrow, so I figured I'd share 'em with you all. Apart from a rare couple of exceptions, I haven't been making full-on pre-gens for these playtests, because I've wanted to see how players handled the E-Z No-Math Character Creation that's the default in Atomic Robo: The Roleplaying Game. But I think I've seen plenty of that thus far, and besides, I have to write up a number of characters from Robo canon anyway.

And you know what? It was a lot of fun. '30s Robo, Jack Tarot, and Helen in particular, because it gave me an excuse to pore over The Deadly Art of Science. Of the other two characters, one's based on Welles'  character in his War of the Worlds radio drama, and the other's wholly invented but a plausible participant in the events of the scenario. (I also enjoyed finding character portraits, which is something I rarely do.) Regardless, they all look fun to play. Here's hoping I'm right about that, eh? Guess we'll find out tomorrow at Dice House Games!

So here they are. If you're in the playtest, check it out! More characters ready-made for you! If you're not, then check it out! Here's what characters look like!

Friday, November 2, 2012

[Atomic Robo] and the Invaders from Mars

Full Disclosure: Image has been altered using MS Paint.
This Sunday I'm running an Atomic Robo playtest at Dice House Games in Fullerton. I was debating whether the scenario should be themed after Halloween or the election, since it's proximal to both. In the end, I decided that Halloween scared me less, so Atomic Robo and the Invaders from Mars it is!

1938. Grover's Mill. Robo. Jack Tarot and Helen. Tripods. Heat rays. You get the idea.

It's not really a big public event, but I figured I'd mention it to the big public nonetheless. If you're around and want in on that, let me know in the comments. I plan to start at 2:00, and I'll take up to five players. Plus, it's a Game Day at Dice House, so stick around after and play some other games.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

[Strange Fate] The SRD Has Landed

Hey, so this is very cool: user thecosmicgoose has extracted the OGL bits from The Kerberos Club (FATE Edition) and made a system-reference document out of it. Now, admittedly, it's basically two chapters from the book with all the non-OGL stuff excised, so it's not exactly pretty, but hey, what do you want? No doubt the it'll be subject to some prettification later, and by someone other than me, because man, I do not know what I'm doing on that front.

Anyway, the SRD is here. Check it out and have at it!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

[Atomic Robo] Playtest Round 3 Is Now

At last, the time is upon us, as foretold in the scriptures. By "scriptures," I mean "this blog, a few days ago."

Last night I sent out an email to the Round 3 playtesters. If you should've gotten it (because you sent in your signed Disclosure Pledge) but didn't, contact me and/or leave a comment here.

For pre-existing playtesters, this revision contains some pretty significant changes -- all improvements, from where I'm sitting. Weird skill construction has been spelled out more clearly. Ditto brainstorms, plus a minor change to how they work. One of the modes lost a skill. (Guess which one!) (It's Action.) All of the sample characters have been revised. A bunch of little typos have been fixed. Terminology has been updated. A chapter on the basics of Fate Core has been included. (About time, right?) Challenges have changed a lot. E-Z No-Math Character Creation has been simplified even further. Etc.

So yeah, it's been a pretty thorough revision. Every document got some attention to one degree or another, although the big winners were Modes, Skills, and Stunts and Challenges, Contests, and Conflicts (previously known as Contests, Challenges, and Conflicts). Part of this is because Fate Core is in an advanced stage of editing, which means I have a more definitive set of rules to draw from for ARRPG, and part of it's because we've gotten some great playtester feedback to incorporate. By "great," I mean consistent -- the commentary has been pretty uniform overall, which makes it easy to know what needs work.

In other words, thanks to all you playtesters who've gotten back to me with comments! Even though I haven't replied to all of you, because I'm just one put-upon man and you are legion, rest assured I read your emails and appreciate you taking the time to send them. Keep it up!

UPDATE: If you're not part of the playtest yet, it's not necessarily too late. Download this and follow the instructions.

Speaking of playtesting: Morgan Ellis, friend of the blog, ARRPG collaborator, and my platonic Fate-mate (starting to rethink that phrase now), is still looking for a couple of players for an ongoing ARRPG playtest campaign in the Los Angeles area. If you want in on that and you're cool -- what am I saying! Of course you're cool. You're reading this, aren't you? Anyway, get in touch with him if that's you.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

[Atomic Robo] Playtest Round 3 Postponed!

Heya, folks. Sorry to disappoint, but seeing as how it's Saturday night, I think I can safely say that I'm going to have to postpone the next round of playtesting to next week.

The past few weeks have been... profoundly unproductive, for a number of reasons -- not the least of which was the lymphadenitis that laid my son low this past week. It sounds worse than it is, but you know what? It's still pretty bad! He's okay now, though, and just in time for his birthday party tomorrow.

Anyway -- the Round 3 revision is pretty significant, so the additional few days' wait will definitely be worth it. E-Z No-Math Character Creation has been simplified even further, and I've cleared up how modes, skills, and actions are presented, which has important ramifications for other chapters as well (even if only in terms of consistency). There'll also be a chapter on "The Basics" of Fate Core, because it's kinda shocking there hasn't been one until now. And also other stuff. I'd rather own up to missing a self-imposed deadline than rush it.

So stick with me, Action Scientists. Better news to come next week.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

[Atomic Robo] Son of Playtest Updates

Good news first: Everything's comin' right along. I just finished updating the intro scenario to the most current version of the rules and will be uploading it for all you currently active playtesters out there (as opposed to the inactive ones -- maybe I should call you "Action Playtesters" and "Resident Playtesters" instead) sometime on Wednesday. Which is today, from where I'm sitting.

Feedback has been very useful, so thanks for that. Most of it's along the lines of "There's a misspelled word on page four!" but hey, that stuff's important too, so it's all good. More of that and everything else, please. Keep it coming. You're helping make a better game.

Requests for a better character sheet have been heard. Unfortunately, they've been heard by me, but still I think what I have here is a definite improvement. I'm not saying it's the end-all-be-all or anything -- just that I like it more than the last one. I'll be uploading it (with a side of PCs) shortly after the intro scenario. If you have an Atomic Robo character sheet you've made for your playtesting group, or just because you like making character sheets, send it my way. (Unless you've already done that, in which case thanks for having done that.)

The bad news isn't really all that bad, but: I'm pushing Round 3 back by a couple weeks. Initially, I'd expected to time it with Big Bad Con, but owing to a few factors, including a totally unproductive first experience at SoCal Smackdown (...), I'm going to hold off. For one, I'd like to be able to incorporate a bit more playtester feedback, from home playtest groups and the Big Bad Con playtests. From my perspective, there's no rush to fix some desperately broken rule, so better to take more time on Round 3 and put out a more complete playtest packet rather than make you pick out subtle differences between the two versions like some overly wordy activity out of Highlights for Children.

Now, if you're in Round 3, which is a lot of you, but I guess you don't know it yet because I haven't told you, you're probably like, "Aw shucks." But don't be like that, because when you do get called up, you'll have a tighter, more complete game to play around with. I dunno. Sounds pretty good to me. Expect to see an announcement for that in mid-October.

And if you're reading this going, "What the what?" don't just go like that -- get in on the next round of the playtest. I expect it'll run through the end of October, so there's still time to sign up. Science needs you!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

[Atomic Robo] Playtesting at SoCal Smackdown

So hey! This weekend I'll be running Atomic Robo at SoCal Smackdown at the Anaheim Convention Center in beautiful-ish Anaheim, California. You may recognize Anaheim as the home of Disneyland, California Adventure, and fleeing suspects being shot in the back by local PD. Yes, you read that right! Disneyland!

I'll be there Friday and Sunday nights at 7:00 pm, so come on out. If you played ARRPG at Gateway or GenCon or wherever, this will be an entirely different scenario. Not only will we be playtesting the most current iteration of the rules, but I'm also taking the weird character and extras rules out for a spin.

In addition to a few proto-PCs -- they have just info provided in to start playing, but plenty of blanks for you to make them your own during play -- there'll also be a couple weird characters up for grabs:

  • Henry, a rogue Helsingard warbot fighting its inherited impulses who's joined Tesladyne to atone for its creator's/clones' sins, and
  • Jenkins. Jenkins.
Either or both should make for an especially interesting playtest -- especially if we have both of them in play. If you've read the Extras chapter in the playtest docs, that would make things... well, I'm just going to say "interesting" again.

Monday, September 17, 2012

[Atomic Robo] Round 2 -- Play!

Hey, so last night, as recklessly promised, the next round of Atomic Robo playtesting begun. If you got an email about it, that's you. Get to work!

Round 1-types, I'll send you an email today as part of our weekly check-in, but the revised playtest docs are up now if you want to download 'em. Everything labeled "Sept v2" is new or has been changed; everything else -- a ground total of one document -- is the same.

I'll go into the revisions in more detail in the email, but for those of you watching from the sidelines or still sitting on the bench waiting to get into the game (soon, I promise!), here's a short list of what's changed/new:
  • Aspects chapter
  • Extras chapter
  • Challenges in general
  • Hypothesis Challenges in particular -- they're not even called that anymore!
  • Stress
  • Skill terminology
  • GM's fate point budget
  • And much, much more!
I'm excited about the changes and new stuff, myself -- I think it's already a much-improved game, thanks to playtester input, and it'll only get better from here.

And if you want to get in on the playtest, it's not too late! Click here! Follow instructions! Remain calm! Trust in Science!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

[Atomic Robo] Playtest Updates

Lots of times, I like to make this joke I stole from Peter Schickele where I say "A number of people have asked me about [something-or-other], and both of them wanted to know..." etc. See, the joke is that it's not many people doing the asking, even though it doesn't sound that way at first.

I cannot make this joke with Atomic Robo.

Interest has been... high. Very high. A side benefit of this has been that I've really gotten familiar with contacts and mailing lists in Gmail. Just never needed to use 'em before! But now I really do, because as I type this -- and I'd have to check on this to make certain -- I'm pretty sure Round 3 of the playtest is full. Round 3. In case you're just joining this whole Robo discussion, I haven't even announced Round 2 yet.

Now, that said: Do not despair. If you're interested in playtesting, please please download the Disclosure Pledge and follow the instructions thereupon. These playtest rounds are like unto waves on the beach, one after another. I will get you in there somewhere.

So if you've done that already and you're not in Round 1, you're probably wondering, "Well, when do I get to get in on this?" Here's the scoop on that.

  • I'm in the middle of a revision right now. The game has already gotten better, thanks in part to the feedback of the Round 1 playtesters, which has been invaluable. I'm especially excited about this revision, partially due to the Extras chapter, which I think is pretty cool.
  • I expect to update the playtest docs this weekend. (An email will go out to the Round 1-types when I do.)
  • Shortly after I do that, I'll also email the Round 2-types. So: to more definitively answer your question, this weekend. That's the Mike Olson Guarantee.
  • Round 3, whoever you are (and there are a lot of you), I will get you guys up and running within two or three weeks. Thanks to Morgan and Chris, we've got a couple ARRPG playtests happening at Big Bad Con the first weekend of October, and I want to make sure that everyone involved gets to experience the best version of the rules I can make available. As it happens, the timing's perfect for Round 3.
  • Assuming there is a Round 4, and I see no reason to believe there won't be, it'll probably begin around the middle of October. It'll also probably be our last round of playtesting, because we need to wrap this thing up by November at the very latest. (Originally, it was October, but the parallel development of Fate Core, and the resulting revisions and rethinking of ARRPG, kinda messed with that a bit. Fate Core's awesome, by the way.)
For the record, even though I said I'd only be taking 20 groups in Round 1, I took... more. And even though one could reasonably assume I'd only earmark another 20 groups for Round 2, I've earmarked... more. Because I'm a big softie and have a hard time saying no to Atomic Robo fans.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

[Atomic Robo] Public Playtest, Round 1

Okay, here we go.
Behold, an ordinary playtest!

If you want to be a part of the Atomic Robo: The Roleplaying Game playtest -- and I think I know you enough to say that yeah, you do -- simply follow these steps:
  1. Ask yourself, "Am I going to have a chance to actually experience this with a group of players in the next few weeks and provide feedback?" If your answer is "Yes," proceed.
  2. Download a copy of the disclosure pledge.
  3. Read and sign it (typing your name on the signature line is enough to acknowledge you've read the pledge and agree to abide by it; no need to put your actual John Hancock on this thing).
  4. Email your signed pledge to the email address indicated on the pledge. The subject line should say "ARRPG Pledge."
  5. Remain calm and trust in Science.
  6. Once we have your signed pledge, you'll be sent a link where you can download the current playtest documents.
The playtest will take place in multiple rounds, and is expected to run through October. This first round of the playtest will include only 20 groups. If you don't make it in, don't sweat it -- the next round will start within a few weeks. We fully intend to include everyone who's able to make a serious commitment to playtesting.

And remember, if you're going to be at Gateway or Dragon*Con this weekend, you'll have a chance to playtest there as well.

On a personal note, I hope you're all as excited as I am about all of this. I mean, I kinda already know you're not, but if you're even approaching my level of excitement, this is going to be a fun time. The playtests at GenCon were really solid, and the rules have only gotten better and tighter since then. It's only going to improve going forward, and that's largely going to be because of playtesters like you. So thanks, and let's do this!

UPDATE: The interest level has been... well, I don't want to say "overwhelming," but it's right up there. As of 8/31, I have all the Round 1 playtesters I need. But! Round 2 still has plenty of room. Please keep 'em coming! Science needs you!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

[Atomic Robo] GenCon Playtesters

Hey everybody. I'm just putting this post up here so when I tell the ARRPG playtesters at GenCon to come by the blog and leave a comment, they'll land here and feel special.

Playtester-types: I welcome your comments. You'll have talked to me or your duly appointed ARRPG GM about your feelings on the game, but if you want to say anything else, good or bad, this is a place to do so.

Everyone else: You can just read this and, I dunno, be jealous, I guess.

Friday, August 10, 2012

[ARRPG] Atomic Robo at Gateway!

Did you know that Gateway is just a scant two weeks after GenCon? I feel like that can't possibly be the case! And yet it is. If you're going to be some combination of a) there, b) wanting to play Atomic Robo, and  c) available Friday night, Saturday afternoon, or Saturday night, come on down and playtest.

These playtests will no doubt benefit from ARRPG having been through the wringer at GenCon, so odds are quite good that the rules will be all the better for it. Plus, the public playtest will have started by then, so people may even show up familiar with them before coming to the table. Imagine that!

Here's the extremely non-committal blurb, in case something horrible happens at GenCon and I need to ditch the intro scenario I've planned:
Come playtest Atomic Robo: The Roleplaying Game, currently in development and due for release from Evil Hat Productions in early 2013. ARRPG is based on Fate Core (also currently in development!). New to Fate? No problem. No familiarity with either Fate or higher-dimension mathematics is required. Just remain calm, trust in Science, and roll those dice.
(As you can see, I tend to return to the same gags over and over again.)

I'm running the Friday night and Saturday night games, and a friend who shall remain nameless is running the Saturday afternoon game. No matter what game you play in, though, you'll have a good time.

Event pre-registration begins tomorrow, August 11th at noon-ish. If history is any guide, these games will fill up fast, so get on it!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

[Fate Core] Men's 100pg Hurdles

Pictured: My office.
As of... now, the Fate Core chapters I was assigned to revise and/or rewrite have been sent off to Camp First-Round-Edits. They'll be back before the end of the month. I'll miss them, but at the same time it's good to have them out of the house.

So that's one hurdle hurdled, then. Whew! What a relief. Now I can just relax.

Except that before I get on a plane for Indianapolis a week from tomorrow, I still have to bring ARRPG up to the new specs, devise and/or revise an ARRPG scenario, make proto-characters for said scenario, figure out the rest of my Kerberos Club (FATE Edition) scenario, make a few pre-gens for that scenario, and... I dunno... pack, I guess. And for all I know, my Fate Core chapters could come back to haunt me before GenCon, too. So while it's nice to have met a goal more or less on time, it's just one hurdle of many over the next couple weeks.

Incidentally, I made mention on Twitter of a way-too-long sample magic system I wrote for a Fate Core chapter that's already been removed for being, well, way too long. But assuming it doesn't turn out to be the late-night rantings of a freelance writer working on a sleep deficit, it'll see the light of day somehow or other. Might be here on this blog, might be part of a supplemental Fate Core PDF. I dunno yet.

Don't sweat it too much, though. It's not some revelatory thing you can't live without. It's just an example of how to use elements of Fate Core to make a magic system for your game. I mean, I hope you like it and everything, but there's no need to batter down my door to get it. My office is noisy enough as it is.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

[Atomic Robo] Minor Repairs

Good news, everyone! Turns out the aftershocks from Fate Core Rules-Quake '12 weren't as severe for ARRPG as I'd originally feared. I mean... they were still pretty serious. We lost a whole thing. But it looks like everything's working out pretty well, skill-wise. It's probably even an improvement, actually.

Let me elaborate on that, because you're probably all, "Hey, could you be less specific about the thing in question?" But, like, in a sarcastic way.

So I'm pretty sure I've mentioned before (at least once) that, in ARRPG, there are these things called modes. You can think of modes as thematic bundles of skills that reflect broad areas of competence. Action is a mode. Science is a mode. Modes make on-the-fly character creation easy, because they don't require you to make a decision for every single skill your character has.

Prior to yesterday, there were a total of five standard modes (among them, Action and Science). Now there are but four. When you make a character, you pick (and rate) three modes. With only four standard modes to pick from, however, what you're also doing (as Fred has pointed out) is deciding which of the modes just isn't important for your character.

Why was this done? A number of reasons -- so many, in fact, that when I wrote them all out I was surprised by how compelling they all were en masse. But the most practical reason is the math.

There are two ways to make a character in ARRPG. One involves making choices. The other involves some simple math. Neither method is better than the other, but the choice-making one is simpler in practice than the math-doing one (an important difference when making a character during play). The thing that makes that no-math one work, though, is the math going on behind the scenes. Thanks to a certain change in the Fate Core rules, that math wasn't working out anymore, which had the potential to be a pretty serious issue.

What with one thing and another, the way to fix this issue was to cut one of the modes. Actually, it's probably more accurate to say that two modes have been merged, but... not that much more accurate, to be honest. Regardless, in the process each of the remaining modes has been made a little more distinct, which is a good thing. (Except Science. Science has experienced no change whatsoever. Science don't care.)

If you're wondering how four themed skill-bundles can possibly reflect everything that, say, Atomic Robo does, or Dr. Dinosaur purports to do, the answer is simple: They don't! Those four modes are just the standard modes, but there are other modes -- weird modes -- that you can make yourself.

I'm not going to get into all that now, though. I have a literal ton of work to do. (Not literally.)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

[Greyhawk] Magic Resistance

Spirit of Greyhawk has been proceeding slower than I’d like, though it is still occurring! Now that most of the larger blocks of mechanics have been translated, the challenge has been to keep the Fate’s design fractal intact as I get the point of “filling in the blanks”. In other words, I’ve been trying to avoid creating new mechanics in SoG, even if the source material did.

My most recent instance of this fractal challenge has been Magic Resistance and consistency with Armor.

In the source material, Magic Resistance and Armor effectively do the same thing--make the possessor harder to hit. The distinctions between them are what's being used for the attack and the specific mechanic for that determination. So the attacker has to roll to hit then if the hit is successful, only then do you take damage into account. Neither provides a reduction in damage--only a reduction in the chance of taking damage.

SoG already reflects that Armor reduces the number of shifts of damage done, which seemed important as degree of success and damage are linked to the same roll in the Fate mechanic. While inconsistent with SoG’s source material, it has playtested pretty well. Stated differently, I don’t like the source material’s mechanic for “Armor Class” enough to translate it into Fate as is.

My initial take on Magic Resistance was more consistent with the source material: an additional chance that a magic effect has no impact. Initially I felt it was necessary to bring this assumption over intact because in the world of Greyhawk, the great consensus is that a 20% resistance has as much chance to resist a 1st level spell as it does a 3rd level spell. It turns out that this is not an entirely accurate assumption--in order to play the game as it was written, Magic Resistance is adjusted up or down depending upon the level of the spellcaster (DMG, p. 228)

Reviewing that definition for Magic Resistance gave me the following assumptions about how it acts in the gameworld:

  - Magic Resistance is separate from Saving Throw (i.e., opposed skill roll).
  - Magic Resistance can negate a magic effect BEFORE any opposed skill roll is rolled.
  - More powerful magic users can reduce or entirely offset the value of the magic resistance.
  - Magic Resistance is more effective against less powerful magic users.

So for me there was a decision point in translation: Accuracy or Consistency?

Here’s two different ways it might be handled in Fate. One is more accurate to the source material and one is more consistent (fractal) with existing mechanics.

“More Accurate” Magic Resistance

Translating the Magic Resistance Value

The source material is expressed in the source material as a percentage.  The defender must then roll that value or less.  To turn that into a 4dF difficulty that must be met or exceeded (as per the normal SotC mechanic), you could do the following:
10% Magic Resistance is +4
20% Magic Resistance is +3
30% Magic Resistance is +2
40% Magic Resistance is +1
50% Magic Resistance is 0
60% Magic Resistance is –1
70% Magic Resistance is –2
80% Magic Resistance is –3
90% Magic Resistance is –4
100% Magic Resistance is -5
This means that in its most basic form, something with 80% Magic Resistance must roll -3 or better on 4dF in order to resist the magical effect.

Basic Rule

When a magic effect impacts something with Magic Resistance, the defender rolls the dice TWICE:
The first die roll is to determine if Magic Resistance cancels the magical effect.  If Magic Resistance does not work then the defender rolls again... 
The second die roll (if the defender’s Magic Resistance fails) is for the defender’s Opposed Skill Roll.
The defender rolls the 4dF and if the roll MEETS or EXCEEDS the difficulty the defender is immune to the magic effect.

You could accomplish a similar effect by only rolling dice a single time and then translating that roll in those two contexts, but it didn’t seem to have the right “feel”.

Adjusting Magic Resistance

The skill of the caster has an effect on a defender’s Magic Resistance.  To be consistent with the source material (again, DMG, p.228) and some of the other general assumptions that SoG makes about levels of skill/power, adjust the Magic Resistance (as above) by the following rule:
Subtract 5 from the power of the Magical Effect and apply the difference to the Magic Resistance’s "difficulty".
Spell Power +3 - (5) = -2 to the difficulty (makes it less difficult to resist)
Spell Power +6 - (5) = +1 to the difficulty (makes it more difficult to resist)
So putting it all together you’d have the following scenario:
Defender has a “base” 10% Magic Resistance, which means rolling +4 (or better) on 4dF.
Defender is targeted by a spell with a power of +4, which then adjusts the defender’s Magic Resistance to be:
+4 (Spell Power) - 5 = -1 modifier to the Magic Resistance of +4 = +3 or better must be rolled.
Defender rolls +2 on 4dF, so Magic Resistance doesn’t work and then the Defender rolls his Opposed Skill Roll (as per normal).

The Bottom Line

Though this feels like a fairly accurate translation, I don’t think it’s playable “enough”.

“More Consistent” Magic Resistance

Going to back a previous statement, there’s the gameworld assumption that Magic Resistance is similar to mundane Armor.  So this translation considers Magic Resistance consistent with Armor, just used against magical effects instead of mundane attacks.

Translating Magic Resistance

A closer translation of Fate Shifts to a 100% scale, means that each shift is worth between 15% and 20%.  For ease of translation, let’s stick with using 20% = +1 shift.
+1 Magic Resistance equates to Magic Resistance 1% to 20%.
+2 Magic Resistance equates to Magic Resistance 21% to 40%.
+3 Magic Resistance equates to Magic Resistance 41% to 60%.
+4 Magic Resistance equates to Magic Resistance 61% to 80%.
+5 Magic Resistance equates to Magic Resistance 81% to 100%.
By virtue of Fate's different level of granularity, there’s a bit of a fudge factor there especially in the 81% and up range, but I think it’s balanced out during play (see below).  So the reduction in shifts of effect is not entirely accurate with source material, it is more consistent with the changes that were made to mundane armor.

Basic Rule

Magic Resistance applies the shifts in the same way as armor protects from mundane attacks.
A creature with Magic Resistance listed in the source material as 40% (worth +2 in SoG) is attacked by a spell generated by a Wizard with a Magic skill of +4.
The Wizard casts the spell, the player rolls 4dF and gets +1 for a total of:  Skill (Magic +4) + Dice (4dF, +1) = Magical Power of +5
The creature has an opposing skill (let's say Willpower) of +2 and rolls +2 on 4dF.  Including the Magic Resistance, the opposed result is:   Skill (Willpower +2) + Dice (4dF, +2) + Magic Resistance (+2) = +6
The creature's +6 is greater than the Magical Power of +5 and the spell has no effect on the creature.

The Bottom Line

Though this translation allows for a reduction of magic effect (which doesn't exist in the source material), it is still consistent with what I think is the more important gameworld assumptions, is consistent with mundane armor and avoids the creation of another modified mechanic.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Double Whammy of Fate

So. Lots of stuff going on. Eventful!

Here's the news: What with one thing and another, Fred Hicks asked if I'd be willing to help Lenny Balsera (along with Bulldogs! co-author Brian Engard) with the development of Fate Core. Uh, yes. Obviously. I want to go to there.

Initially the idea was that I'd let up on Atomic Robo for a few weeks and get back to it in a big way after GenCon. This would've pushed ARRPG back about a month, but whatever -- as long the delay wasn't going to stem directly from me, I was fine with it.

But it became clear pretty quickly that the changes in Fate Core that'd prompted Fred to reach out to Brian and me in the first place are simply too significant for ARRPG, in its current state, to escape unscathed. If I were to leave ARRPG as-is, the GenCon playtests would be... less than productive. They'd still be good for buzz and hype and all that, but the playtesters probably wouldn't be contributing to its development. And that's not really an option, from my perspective.

What to do? We can't cancel those playtests. I don't want playtests that aren't actually playtests. Nope. The only way out is through.

To that end, I'm now going to be working on both projects simultaneously, incorporating as many of the changes to Fate Core as possible into ARRPG before getting on that plane to Indy. If you playtest ARRPG at GenCon, know that you'll also be among the first, for all intents and purposes, to playtest Fate Core. 

You're probably asking, "What are these changes to Fate Core that are affecting Robo so significantly?" No? You weren't asking that? Well, I'll just proceed as if you were. I'm not going to go into that here, because both games are still in development, but I will say that Lenny's taking a really cool, inspired new direction with Fate I really like. And if I like it, it's gotta be good, right? 

To paraphrase Philip J. Fry, "Don't you worry about Fate Core. Let me worry about blank."

Anyway. I'm still figuring out just how much ARRPG's going to feel all this. I suspect it might not require a ground-up redesign of some fundamental subsystems. I also suspect I may be wrong about that. But whatever -- it's all good. I'm up for it. My duties on Fate Core involve writing/re-writing about half the book, so rest assured I'll be at the epicenter of this thing from start to finish.

TL;DR: I'm also working on Fate Core now in addition to Atomic Robo. It's going to be awesome. See you at GenCon.

In the meantime, go back Race To Adventure!

Friday, July 13, 2012

[Atomic Robo] San Diego Comic-Con Playtest!

Okay, I'm biting the bullet here and finally settling on a time for the ARRPG playtest on Saturday. It's going to be in room 15AB at 2:00 pm.

I've decided that there's no way I have the patience to get into Hall H for The Hobbit anyway, so let's play Atomic Robo instead.

Saturday, 15AB, 2:00 pm. Look for the guy in the Tesladyne shirt. First four or five people there get to play. I FORGOT MY TESLADYNE SHIRT. Damn it. Well... look for a guy in some kind of shirt who looks like he's playtesting a cool new game about Atomic Robo.

Those of you lucky enough to be at Connecticon, of course, can maybe squeeze into Adam's ARRPG playtest, also happening Saturday at 2:00 pm. Get on it!

Incidentally--playtest last night (Thursday) at Gam3rcon went really well. Only one guy knew Atomic Robo, and only one (other) guy was familiar with FATE. The other three were just curious about new games, I guess. But they acquitted themselves well and had a lot of fun. The scenario (based on a premise by Scott Wegener) was effective and the players enjoyed sorting it all out. We didn't have time to finish, due to a variety of factors--it's been a pretty harried Comic-Con for me already--but that didn't dampen anyone's enthusiasm for the game. Everything rules-wise was well-received. Despite their best efforts, though, they evinced a nearly frustrating lack of criticism!

Morgan Ellis will probably be harsher at tonight's playtest. Or maybe not.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

[Atomic Robo] Progress so far...

Note: Progress not to scale.
For the last couple weeks, I've really been pushing to put things together for the upcoming ARRPG playtests at San Diego Comic-Con and Gam3rcon, Connecticon, and [another almost-confirmed convention in Wisconsin] next month.

(BTW, have you seen the gaming schedule for Connecticon? Swords Without Master! Misspent Youth! Fiasco! Shock! Dresden Files! Damn, that looks like a pretty great con.)

(Also remember that, at this point, we expect Brian Clevinger, Scott Wegener, and Zack Finfrock to be in attendance at Connecticon, possibly playing ARRPG, possibly just hanging around the table and pointing out everything that's wrong about it. Either way!)

As for the game itself, I'm really pleased with where things are so far. I sent the GMs in question four PDFs, entitled Skills and Stunts, Making Characters, Other Rules, and Sample Characters. I'll give you three guesses what they're about!

There are a lot of new twists and turns to the FATE you know and (hopefully) love, and more than a few to Fate Core, but you haven't even seen that yet so there's almost no point bringing it up. If you're a Strange FATE fan, you'll find some familiar tidbits in there as well. As I've said before, a major design goal for ARRPG is the versatility of Strange FATE in a more streamlined package.

I'm happy -- almost pleasantly surprised, even -- with how easy and fun those sample characters were to make, even if Robo's is likely to draw some criticism. I mean, I think it looks good, but it's a given that when you make a character sheet for a comic-book character, someone's going to point out that you've done it wrong, right? I have nothing but respect for those people. Keep me honest, pointer-out people.

In an odd way, the thing that might stand out the most as a big deal about these new rules is the elimination of Refresh as a character-specific stat or measure of power. It's something that's been in every FATE-based game I've ever played or seen, as far as I can recall, so for that reason alone it feels kinda cool to cut it out. That was another early design decision, too. This way is better, at least for Atomic Robo. You'll see for yourself soon enough.

Anyway. That's the update. I'll post another after Comic-Con, when there's something new to report. Until then, remain calm and trust in Science!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

[Atomic Robo] Playtesting at San Diego Comic-Con

Real quick note here -- I know the blog's been concentrating on the "blank" part lately, but I wanted to get a post out to announce that I'll be running at least one playtest of the Atomic Robo RPG at Comic-Con next month. That's in addition to playtesting at Gam3rcon just down the street that same weekend. (More info to come on that soon.)

For some reason, it didn't occur to me to, y'know, register a game officially with Comic-Con until yesterday. Now, of course, it's too late to get something on the schedule. But there's an "open play" room at the con where I can basically run whatever I want whenever I want to run it, so that's what I'm doing. What better place to playtest ARRPG than at a huge pop-culture-and-oh-yeah-also-we-have-comics convention?

So I don't have a day and time worked out yet, because Comic-Con hasn't published their schedule yet. But when they do, I'll post about it ASAP here and on Twitter. There'll be no way to pre-reg in advance, so it'll have to be first-come, first-served. So get someone to hold your place in line for Hall H, and we'll play a one-shot without you having to miss that panel on, I dunno, The Dark Knight Rises or whatever.

Monday, May 21, 2012

[Atomic Robo] Bear Swarm Podcast

Last weekend -- not this past weekend, but the one before that -- I know how important it probably is to you that I clearly define when a thing happened before I even get around to telling you what the thing was -- Rob and Kevin of the Bear Swarm Podcast were kind enough to have me on as a guest. The topic, naturally enough, was mostly the Atomic Robo RPG. Fine by me. I could talk about ARRPG all day. But we also found time for me to turn one of their own unfair questions back on them. Ha! Ask me what my favorite RPGs are these days, will ya? You mess with the bull, you get the horns.

Anyway. The episode's available here for your listening probably-pleasure. And yes, my name's misspelled. A delightful error we can all laugh about later!

UPDATE: Hey, they fixed my name. Thanks fellas.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

[Atomic Robo] [Kerberos] GenCon Events! Again!

I Googled "gencon logo" and got this.
A while ago, in a moment of benign "The sky is falling!" confusion, I incorrectly warned about the imminent opening of event pre-reg for GenCon. I was wrong, I apologized, and, as a nation, we all moved on. Now, though, it's on -- that thing I was talking about in the previous sentence (see above) starts tomorrow, May 20th, at 9 am PST.

To help get you ready for that, here are the dates and times of the FATE games with which I will be involved in some way.
First, the Atomic Robo RPG sessions, run variously by myself, Morgan Ellis, Andy Blanchard, and Chris Czerniak:
Thursday, 2:00 pm
Friday, 2:00 pm
Friday, 2:00 pm (another one)
Saturday, noon (changed from 2:00 pm)
Saturday, 2:00 pm
And also another one for Saturday, 2:00 pm

They're all at the Marriott in the Indiana Ballroom, as part of Indie Games Explosion, a subsidiary corporation of Games on Demand. So there'll probably be more ARRPG games available on demand, as well.
I'm also running one session of The Kerberos Club (FATE Edition) on Friday at 2:00 pm. It's called "A Past from the Blast," and, to recap, the blurb is as follows:
Danger! Intrigue! Explosions! It's all in a day's work for the Strange members of the Kerberos Club, who answer the call when a series of bombings spark panic in the streets of London.
That one's also at the Marriott, in Ballroom 2, if I'm reading that correctly. Let's hear it for centralized gaming.

It'll be very interesting running both of these systems at the same convention. In many ways, the world of Atomic Robo feels like a kindred spirit of the world of the Kerberos Club -- if you advanced the setting of The Kerberos Club forward several decades and changed a few (admittedly big) things, you could end up with Atomic Robo. So I guess it only makes sense that the versions of FATE that power these two games have a similar relationship. Some of the design goals for ARRPG owe a lot to Strange FATE, and some elements of the latter have been carried over whole-cloth into the former. I'm looking forward to it. Look forward to it with me, won't you?

UPDATE: And a few hours after pre-reg opened, everything's sold out. That's encouraging, right? If you missed out, buy some generic tickets and keep hope alive.

Monday, April 30, 2012

[Atomic Robo] Super-Secret Playtest

I trekked down to San Diego yesterday to run a super-secret playtest of Atomic Robo as part of a Gam3rcon Game Day. It was advertised thusly:

Super-Secret Evil Hat RPG Playtest
This is an early playtest of an RPG in development, to be published by Evil Hat Productions (Spirit of the Century, The Dresden Files Roleplaying Game). Your name will appear in the credits as a playtester. All necessary materials will be provided. That's, uh... about all we can say about it. Don't worry; it'll be fun. Remain calm and trust in Science.
It was a pretty loose little adventure, inspired by this charming but absolutely bogus "news" article from a few years ago, and my four players and I had a good time. Feedback was very positive. They liked the way skills work. They liked being able to define their characters during play, in the moment, instead of doing everything in advance. They liked collateral consequences. They liked the story. Basically, they thought everything was great.

Normally, that'd be fine, but c'mon! Playtest! Gimme problems! Back to the drawing board... to... look at the drawing board, I guess.
Seriously though, I'm not especially concerned with the lack of issues -- I'm happy everything went smoothly, plus there's enough to do as it is, thanks -- and it's actually even more notable considering that two of my players were 12-year-old twins with no prior FATE experience. They were able to pick it all up with minimal difficulty, aspects and all, and even managed a couple perfectly valid self-compels, so that's encouraging. Maybe it helped that they're already Atomic Robo fans, which, of course, means they're smart.

So when and where is the next Super-Secret Playtest? You're not cleared to know that, Citizen. (Wrong game.)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

[Sword-and-Planet] The Spirit of the Red Planet

Late on mentioning this -- I've been sick, and then other pressing matters just kept on pressing -- but I got to play with the Actual People, Actual Play crew a few weeks ago, and the podcast of our after-game discussion is now available online.

Hopped up on John Carter as most of us were (all of us who'd seen it), we decided to play Morgan Ellis' excellent Spirit of the Red Planet, his sword-and-planet FATE hack. I've talked about it on the blog before, I'm pretty sure. Previously, I'd played Throk, the token Thark-esque Martian. (Perhaps it's no coincidence that my favored Spirit of the Shattered Earth character is Gorlla the Mighty Crorc.)

This didn't happen in our game, but it could've.
Nobody played the John Carter surrogate Cyrus Turner, so, in a weird twist, he ended up an antagonistic character, the third corner in a love triangle between the princess and Kalyan the heroic-ish pirate. Me, I played a Red Martian psychic/shaman-type. There were towering three-legged battle-mechs, an epic sandstorm raging out of control forever, and an extremely Pyrrhic victory, among other things. Great stuff, as always.

Monday, March 19, 2012

[Atomic Robo] [Kerberos] GenCon Events!

Friendly reminder: Today's the last day to register games for GenCon, so if you haven't gotten on that, get on it.

Another friendly reminder: Pre-reg begins tomorrow, I believe. No it doesn't! Brace yourselves anyway.
If you're eager to check out Atomic Robo's progress, we'll be conducting the first public playtests at GenCon in August. It looks like we ("we" being Andy Blanchard, Chris Czerniak, Morgan Ellis, and myself) will be offering six scheduled sessions between us:

  • Thursday, August 16th at 2:00 pm
  • Friday, August 17th at 2:00 pm (two sessions)
  • Saturday, August 18th at 12:00 pm
  • Saturday at 2:00 pm (two sessions)
And possibly a Sunday game as well. Odds are also good that you'll see some ARRPG games at Games on Demand, too.

You can find all of them in the schedule as Atomic Robo: Sneak Preview. Not an evocative name, maybe, but it gets the point across. The blurb's the same for all of them:
Action! Science! Robots! Playtest the new RPG adaptation of the hit indie comic book series Atomic Robo, coming soon from Evil Hat. No experience with FATE or higher-dimension mathematics required.

But that's not all!
I'm also running a FATE Kerberos game on Friday at noon called A Past from the Blast. I am unreasonably amused by that title, partially because it's almost clever, and partially because I'm not actually sure what it means yet. This is how I design convention scenarios, folks!

Anyway, the blurb sure makes it sound like it's about something:
Danger! Intrigue! Explosions! It's all in a day's work for the Strange members of the Kerberos Club, who answer the call when a series of bombings spark panic in the streets of London.
(Any similarities in format between those two blurbs are entirely coincidental.)

Lots of good gaming to be had at GenCon this year! See you there.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Morgan Ellis' The Spirit... of the SHATTERED EARTH!

Back in 2008 -- seriously, 2008! -- I posted this:
Finally played in Morgan Ellis's "Spirit of the Shattered Earth" game -- well, I say "finally," but it's only the second time he's run it at Strategicon -- which was a lot of fun. If you know your post-apoc references, you'll dig this game. Any game that explicitly acknowledges Kamandi and Thundarr is all right in my book. I caused a ruckus as Gorlla, the Mighty Crorc. I've encouraged Morgan a couple of times to get his act together and publish this thing in some form or other, so hopefully he'll do that.
This is sort of him doing that, via this blog.

Behold, the Shattered Earth!

What he's done is organize the scenario builder and the pre-gens he normally uses into a single, Blackbird-esque packet, so you can just download it and play it at a con or something. It's a totally no-prep game (other than all Kamandi reading, but you should be doing that anyway) -- like Danger Patrol and many other games of its ilk, it relies on player input to get the ball living radioactive boulder rolling.
I just love this map.
Here's what Morgan has to say about SotSE (and if you haven't heard this first paragraph delivered in his stentorian Saturday-morning-cartoon announcer voice, you're missing out):
Eons ago the world was sundered in a great cataclysm, the cause of which can never now be known. Humanity’s civilization was cast in ruins. In its place lies The Shattered Earth! A world of savagery, mutation, super science, and sorcery. But a few heroes still fight for freedom and justice against the forces of evil in a world gone mad! 
The Shattered Earth is a gonzo post-apocalyptic setting inspired by all sorts of post-apocalyptic media, the main inspiration is of course Jack Kirby's classic comic book Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth. But there are many other influences as well, like Marvel Comic's Killraven, TV's Thundarr the Barbarian, films like Planet of the Apes and The Road Warrior, and RPGs like After the Bomb and Gamma World. It's all about running fun, over the top, 1970s era comic book style post-apocalyptic adventures. I hope you enjoy it, and don't forget the Kirby dots! 
If you'd like to hear an explanation of how I run The Spirit of The Shattered Earth and FATE convention games in general, you can check out the Actual People, Actual Play Podcast: Episode 44 FATE for Convention Games: Hail to the King Baby.
(Definitely listen to that episode of APAP. It's pretty great.)

So there you go. Download it immediately. The Shattered Earth needs heroes!