Thursday, March 16, 2023

Fate: Best Practices


In a fit of nostalgia this week, I appeared on a podcast (Mastering Dungeons; long-time listener, first-time guest) talking about Fate, of all things. I was ostensibly there to talk about campaign creation, but I was, uh, all over the place. It brought up a lot of thoughts about Fate in general, some of which made it into the conversation, but many of which stayed on my page of notes (I had notes). And I thought, hey, if I were still blogging regularly, this could make a plausible blog post. So that's what it is now.

These are just things that, IMO, make Fate really shine.

Play honestly. I talked about this a little on the podcast, but Fate is not a game that's overly concerned with things like balance and action-economy. If you go into it looking for ways to exploit the system, you will find them, and you will make the game less-fun for you and everyone at the table. Play the character your aspects say you are; conversely, give your character aspects that make them a fun, integral part of the story rather than an efficiency-machine. Given Fate's roots in the Amber Diceless Roleplaying Game and the goals of its creators, it should come as no surprise -- if I had a nickel for every time I've heard Lenny Balsera say "F#ck balance," I'd have about 35 cents. Let us also heed Ryan Macklin's famous warning that "The math will f#ck you." I may have those attributions reversed, or maybe they've both said them, possibly simultaneously at the Big Bar on 2 at Origins. Regardless, nothing but respect for these two foul-mouthed kings and their massive contributions to our beloved Fate.

Rename skills and approaches. This really only applies if you're making your own campaign, but for a Fate game set in a very particular time and place, I think one of the best things you can do to set the tone is to tailor your game's skills and/or approaches (or whatever your equivalent) to match. Fisticuffs instead of Fight. Skullduggery instead of Deceive. That kind of thing. Til Dawn's approaches -- Chill, Dark, Fabulous, Fierce, Shady, and Technical -- are a great example of this. They don't correspond to FAE's usual Careful, Flashy, et al., but they indelibly lay out what your mindset should be as a player or as a GM. This is a game about futuristic, gender-bending mecha-DJs getting in and out of drama while musically battling it out with other futuristic, gender-bending mecha-DJs on stage. Imagine how much less evocative that'd all be if its approaches weren't so distinctive.

Go hard against the PCs. Don't hold back, GM. If it gets too hot for the player, they can always concede. In fact, make getting them to concede a primary goal, when the story warrants it. To do this, start with overpowering your major NPCs. The PCs have a top skill of Superb (+5)? Cool, this guy has Legendary (+7) Skull-Cracking. The players will frequently have a fate-point advantage over you, and an easy way to compensate for that is by just upping the skills/approaches of your important NPCs. Just keep the focus on offense. A superhuman ability to avoid damage will make for a superhumanly boring badguy. Overpowered antagonists virtually force the PCs to work together, creating advantages for each other and coming up with creative solutions beyond "I guess I hit him again." That dynamic is one of Fate's key strengths, IMO, so lean into it.

"Save your fate points for being awesome." You can't really talk about how to run a great Fate game without invoking (no pun intended) Morgan Ellis, whom I associate closely with these wise words. Setting aside the profound life-lesson this phrase represents to me, the idea here is to value what your character can do by spending your fate points on exciting action rather than avoiding the repercussions of someone else's action. Not to say that you should let yourself get taken out of a conflict, but don't pillow-fort and fritter away your precious narrative currency on playing it safe. Take some stress. Take consequences. Hell, take all the consequences, then concede and get more fate points to spend on being awesome later. The one tiny bit of Fate that I think everyone can agree isn't the greatest (how's that for diplomatic?) is that a successful defense doesn't explicitly force the fiction to change. Success with style gets you a boost, and a tie gets the attacker a boost, but there's that little two-shift range in there where kinda nothing happens. We don't like that. So really, there's no reason to not just take a point or two of stress instead. And then you can spend the fate point you saved on being awesome later on.

But do spend your fate points. Sort of a corollary to the above. The worst way to end a session of Fate is with a pile of fate points in front of you. What a waste! You probably earned those fate points with compels and GM-manipulation, so spend them already. One way you can at least limit the hoarder's tendency to hoard is by making the players "discard" fate points down to their refresh at the end of each scene. Or if you want to be more severe, refresh could double as your fate point maximum as well (although that could cause problems of its own, but that'd be a whole other blog post). Point is (again with the unintended puns!), spend 'em if you got 'em. They're not doing anyone any good otherwise. Spend fate points, be awesome.

I think that's it, and honestly this went way beyond my notes, so it ended up being more thorough than I'd expected. But now I want to hear from you, as seemingly every YouTuber says at the end of a video. What's your advice for getting the most out of Fate? And thanks again to Shawn and Teos of Mastering Dungeons for having me on.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Remembering Morgan Ellis

I've been trying to write this for the past 10 days, on and off, so stick with me.

Morgan Ellis, a good friend of mine, died last week unexpectedly. I say "unexpectedly" despite him having been hospitalized since before Christmas, during which time his condition improved and worsened but mostly worsened, because I never, ever expected that it would end like this. It's hard to believe. I know it's real, that he's really gone, but every time I think about what that means for all of us he had to leave behind, my mind recoils.

It's been forever since I posted on this blog, but Morgan has figured fairly prominently in it. We knew each other through conventions, where we'd show off our Fate hacks to each other. I don't think I'd be a professional in the RPG world if it weren't for us encouraging and pushing each other. We'd make plans in advance of Strategicon to align our schedules so each could play in the other's games. Our mutual enthusiasm fed upon itself, in the very best way. 

The night I learned he'd died, on a Zoom call with many of our mutual friends, I looked way back in my inbox to find the first emails we'd exchanged, and of course they were bouncing Fate ideas back and forth and asking one another what and when they'd be running at the next convention. It may seem unreasonable that someone I only saw a few times a year could end up being such an important person in my life -- I mean, it's not unreasonable to me, and if you're reading this it probably isn't to you either -- and to be honest I didn't realize just how important he was until I was forced to face a world without him in it. And I've been struggling with that ever since, trying to, if not make sense of it, because it doesn't make sense, then to process it in a way that might improve my life in his absence the way he improved it in his presence.

I think it's this, and it's going to be a little cloying and mawkish, but like I said above, stick with me:

Don't spend your fate points on defense. Save them for being awesome.

This is something Morgan and I said frequently when talking about Fate. Take the stress, take the consequences, whatever -- all of that stuff makes your character more interesting and the game more dramatic. Spending all your resources on protecting yourself makes for a duller game.

It always seemed like Morgan knew everyone in RPGs, especially in indie games. Every convention -- Strategicon, Big Bad Con, Origins, Gen Con, Comic-Con, and plenty of others I've never attended -- he had connections. Whenever it is we get to go back to Origins, it won't be the same without him in the Big Bar on 2. I didn't see him there a whole lot myself, for reasons I'll go into soon, but if I was looking for him and he wasn't at Games on Demand, it was a pretty good bet he'd be there, in a knot of what I'm going to affectionately call "cool kids."

I was not. When I'm at a convention I'm constantly driven by the thought that "I should be playing a game now." I build very little in the way of downtime into my schedule, if I can help it. This means I spend very little time socializing, the thing that, for many people, conventions are all about. I'm like, hey, I didn't fly all the way out here to socialize! I can do that at home!

Except I don't, because at Strategicon, our local convention(s), if there's a hole in my schedule that isn't a meal time, something has gone wrong. I remember the first time I went to Big Bad Con, and all my friends were going out to dinner, and I was like "I think I'm going to stay here in the hotel room and watch Forensic Files."

So what does all this have to do with anything. Okay. 

Morgan did not spend his fate points on defense. He spent them on being awesome. 

In the days after his death, social media was full of people mourning him, including many who'd never even met him but knew him by reputation. He was a tireless advocate for the things he loved, and he loved a lot of things. He made his connections one table of players at a time, and those people never forgot him afterward. He leaves behind only a handful of published credits, which is a shame because there was no end to his creativity and ingenuity. I'm so glad he was part of the team for Shadow of the Century, because no one on Earth was more qualified to work on a game about the '80s than he was. 

Morgan was well-known not so much for what he did, but for who he was. That is the mark of a good life. Far too short, tragically, heart-wrenchingly short, but very, very good.

I will always cherish the memory of the two of us on stage at the ENnies in 2015, accepting an award for Atomic Robo. Two dorks babbling about how great the source material is and how Morgan knew about it for years before I ever got an email from Brian Clevinger. That felt like such an achievement, and I'm so glad he was there to share it with me. 

One time he said "We should figure out a game to play together outside of a convention" and I said "Totally!" and then we never did that. We only saw one movie together (at least it was at the New Beverly), despite both of us loving movies. We lived far enough apart that it wasn't easy to get together, and I felt too needed at home on the weekends to work something out. I was spending my fate points on defense.

So as broken-up and broken-down as I am about him being gone, I feel like I knew only a sliver of him. But it's a sharp sliver, and it's deep under my skin. Plenty of people knew him better, but I am still stunned, shocked, shaken. 

I don't have a great way to end this, no concluding epiphany. I didn't know how important he was to me until he was gone, and I'll always be grateful he was a part of my life.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

[DFAE] Ace Squadron: L'il Tweaks

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So those Ace Squadron games a couple weeks ago went well! But it was also clear that I needed to make some tweaks, much to the apparent chagrin of Torra Doza and Buggle, pictured above.

The prime candidates for tweaking are Hype Fazon and Griff Halloran -- specifically, each of them has a unique condition (Focus Fire and I'm On the Leader, respectively) that were just too much in play, as-written. Each of those conditions makes a powerful thing happen, and that thing's power is inversely proportional to how much they've used their other unique condition. It's no coincidence that they have this in common and that these conditions need to be nerfed.

Originally, Focus Fire increased the squad's scale with regards to a single target -- one degree for each of Hype's unchecked Command boxes -- and I'm On the Leader gave Griff a bonus to the Weapon rating of his attacks equal to the number of his unchecked Experience boxes. These were cool in play, and I'm sure Griff's player liked having Weapon:11 with his missiles that one time, but they ultimately proved too much.

So now, I've taken a step back. "Check all your remaining X boxes" is now part of each of those conditions, because I want this to be a late-game thing. I hadn't consciously realized that before, but that's a big part of it. I wanted the players to feel like they were going all-in against a single target, like it was a real commitment.

However! I've decoupled the effectiveness of those conditions with those other condition tracks, because I noticed something else: The players of those characters didn't want to check Command or Experience boxes, in anticipation of a Big Bad coming along later. They were saving resources I wanted them to spend. So now it's just "Check your remaining Command/Experience boxes," without the "+1 per box checked" bit. The revised Focus Fire increases everyone's scale by 1, and I'm On the Leader now gives Griff's Gunnery and Brutal attacks Weapon:4.

Honestly, +4 scale for everyone is ridiculous, but +1 scale is still good, so I'm not sad to drop that. Also, I've done some heavy hacking when it comes to scale to try to integrate the scale rules of both Tachyon Squadron and DFAE. I'd tell you all about them, but without the Ship Construction Toolkit for TS, it would require too much explanation. But also, my solution is extremely kludgey and I wouldn't want to encourage anyone else to run that nonsense.

Speaking of running that nonsense, Origins is upon us! I'll be offering Ace Squadron and one of two Danger Patrol hacks at Games on Demand. If you want to see my kludgey solutions (note to self: start a consulting firm) yourself, come on by and bring your generics. Obviously, I'm still way into this Star Wars Resistance game, but I also looked at my two Danger Patrol hacks again the other night -- Dungeon Patrol and Danger Wars -- and I'd be excited to run either of those, too! So it'll be a good time.

Come check it out!
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Thursday, May 16, 2019

[DFAE] Ace Squadron's Aces

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The ships of Ace Squadron, which consists of "aces," all have the word "Ace" in their names. I'm not sure if this is confusing or just appropriate, but it does make for some easy color-coding. 

I mean, Hype is a green Rodian, and his ship is green, and it's called Green Ace. Griff wears all black, and his ship is black, and it's called Black Ace. Et cetera.

Making these ships was fun not only because it's fun to make things (it's true!) but because it was also a test of the ship-construction rules I wrote for Tachyon Squadron. If you were a Kickstarter backer, you'll be getting that probably sometime this summer. (I'm guessing late summer; it's supposed to be in editing through June, and then there's layout and a couple rounds of last looks, so July or August?)

Two things must ye know about these ship-construction rules: 

One, balance was not a guiding principle. There's no tradeoff for having a low-quality ship vs. a high-quality ship. This was a mandate from Tachyon Squadron creator Clark Valentine, and I stand behind it. 

Two, every effort -- well, nearly every effort -- wait, let me back that up again -- efforts were made to avoid turning it into a point-buy thing. The guidance in the core book was the primary touchstone, and where more detailed design was needed, more detailed design was produced, but the rules in this supplement don't vary too wildly from what's in the core book to begin with.

On a very basic level, every ship consists of two factors, scale and quality. The higher the scale, the bigger the ship; the bigger the ship, the more it can hold (as in modular equipment bays) and the harder it is to handle. The higher the quality, the more upgrades it gets. 

There's no change to equipment bays, other than an expansion of what can be put in them -- there's a bunch of new modular equipment from Draconis, the Dominion, and the, uh, less-savory elements of the setting -- so I'm not going to into any detail on that. Upgrades more or less follow the guidelines for designing new ships on page 138, with a couple notable exceptions, such as adding an extra damage-instance box to a damage track or eliminating the implication that equipment bays go hand-in-hand with higher-quality ships (they can't, because that's a function of scale now, not quality).

All of the Aces -- Green, Red, Blue, Black, and Yellow -- are scale 1 ships of Good (+3) quality. They are significantly better than the standard Average (+1)-quality ship of their scale. If this were a Tachyon Squadron game, it'd be ridiculous how good these ships are. But it's not, and hey, these are the Aces, man! They all have supremely tricked-out ships. That's their whole deal.

Speaking of which, here are their character sheets. You'll note that their design is considerably different from the character sheets I posted before. I want to make sure there's no confusion regarding which sheet to use under which circumstances. As a player, I don't think you could reasonably mistake your ship's sheet for your character sheet. I'm constantly worrying about things like this when I make character sheets -- ease of use.

I think the sheets are pretty self-explanatory, but I'm gonna explain more anyway. Specifically, the character-specific reasons their ships have been designed and statted-out the way they are. The source material doesn't provide a ton of information about these ships, so I've had to make do.

Green Ace's big distinctive feature is those movable wings that can "shift angles for maximum maneuverability while speeding through turns." Given that, it seemed like the most suitable way to represent that was by making the ship especially good at getting on someone's tail or shaking a tail, so that's what we have there. Mechanically, I've treated this is as a piece of modular equipment, but narratively it's obviously not. Ultra-Maneuverable isn't a great aspect, but I'm hoping to think of a better one before Gamex. It'll do.

Red Ace's description is all about the practicalities of its design, which is great for me. "Technologically powerful," "built for precision performance," "delicate balance of speed, acceleration, and power" -- these are all very useful phrases. In contrast to Green Ace, I'm really into Red Ace's aspect (Power. Precision. Performance.) because it sounds like a commercial for a German car. The modular equipment here is straight out of the book, but I think they suit Freya very well. She's more cautious than the rest and more concerned about tactical advantage. She spends most of her time in Red Ace racing, but she's studied for a fight and built a ship to match.

The thing to remember about Blue Ace is that Torra Doza's over-protective father paid for it, so of course it's the sturdiest ship of the squadron. It has a shield generator booster, three shields, and an Armor rating. It's a Volvo. Captain Doza just wants to keep his little girl safe, but not so much so that she doesn't get to fly combat missions. Complicated relationship, there.

Black Ace is the opposite. Not only does it only have two shields, but Griff has rigged it so he can redirect power from his shield generator to his propulsion and weapons systems. He's still used to flying a TIE with zero shields; it's a point of pride with him. If you're a good enough pilot, you don't need those shields. Shields are for rookies! He's put all his upgrades into a high Weapon rating and a good targeting computer. The best defense, etc. 

Black Ace is objectively the coolest-looking ship of the five. Nothing game-related; it just needs to be acknowledged.

Yellow Ace is the weird one, as expected with a ship that can shift its four wings into different configurations. This is reflected mechanically in the ability to swap the ratings of the ship's starfighter skills. At the start of his turn, Bo can pick two skills from Pilot, Gunnery, and Tactics (but not Technology, which is always going to be +3) and swap their ratings. I hope this is interesting in play. I've tried to make it a meaningful choice by limiting the ratings in question to +4, +2, and +1, so you can never have, say, +4 Gunnery and +3 Pilot. That gap from +4 to +2 means that compromises will have to be made. As for the rest of the ship, apparently Bo pushes the envelope so much that he tends to crash Yellow Ace a lot, so he has a couple extra damage instances to help deal with that. Bo's ship is also be difficult to pilot for anyone who isn't used to it (i.e., anyone but Bo), so I threw in a little sorta-stunt to reflect that: anyone else who flies it minimizes a die on all rolls. It doesn't really fit in mechanically as an actual rules component, but it feels right thematically, and ultimately that's why we're here.

(Bo is my favorite.)

You may have noticed that I've basically separated the pilots' spacefaring skills from the actual pilots, and then renamed them to "starfighter skills." Again, that's me being concerned about players having to look back and forth between two pieces of paper, and I figure if I put all the skills they need for space engagements on the ship sheet, there'll be a lot less of that. 

Also, they all have Pilot at +4. They're five of the best pilots around, and they routinely race each other in their downtime, so it didn't feel right for one of them to be objectively better than the others at this stuff. Using the ship-construction rules, I could have bumped that +4 up to a +5, but I didn't want to do that for two reasons: one, +4's already literally Great, and two, they're obviously going to face some pilots who are better than they are (on paper) and I don't want the skill-ratings arms-race to get too ridiculous.

Monday, May 13, 2019

[DFAE] Ace Squadron Mantles

Oops, I know I said I was going to offer a sneak preview of Tachyon Squadron's ship-construction rules, but there's something else I want to talk about first: mantles.

In case you're not familiar with Dresden Accelerated, mantles are the game's primary way of communicating a character's archetype and their general "place" in the setting. Some are pretty broad, like Reporter or Magical Practitioner. Some are much more specific, like Knight of the Cross or Valkyrie. (At least, those latter two seem more specific to me.) Every PC has one -- sometimes they might have mostly one and a bit of another.

Mantles give you some unique conditions and a couple of core stunts. There are also optional stunts you can buy with refresh, like in most Fate games, but everyone with a given mantle will have its unique conditions and core stunts. And the unique conditions frequently don't work like other conditions, where you check a box to avoid being taken out. Lots of them are a much more proactive resource.

(Standard conditions are a resource too -- they're things you expend to avoid being taken out -- but we don't tend to think of them that way because you're normally spending them reactively, not proactively. Same with stress. This is one of my needlessly pedantic distinctions. Let's continue.)

For example, the Reporter's unique conditions are Press Credentials and Off the Air, and its core stunts are Journalist Favors, Word on the Street, and Media Frenzy. Everyone with the Reporter mantle has those conditions and stunts. I think I've made my point about a game that's been out for a long while now that you probably already know about because it's very good.

Sometimes a mantle will have a unique condition with five boxes, and you can check a box to make a thing happen, and sometimes there'll be an accompanying unique condition with only one box that makes you check all the boxes on that other unique condition when you use it. Some examples of these multi-box, proactive conditions are the One-Percenter's Wealthy condition and the Changeling's Called condition.

And oh man, do I love those. I think you can tell just from looking at these character sheets.

Why do I love these so much? We already have stunts and aspects for making characters distinctive, but mantles offer a third way through strong worldbuilding. They're like a higher high concept. And the conditions in question are a mechanical widget that ties directly into that. If your archetype is this thing, you have this resource available to you. There's usually also some interesting way of recovering those marked conditions, which is more or less another way of letting the player how to behave in character. Not always; sometimes it's just a matter of waiting, like how the One-Percenter recovers one Wealth box at the beginning of a session, but usually it requires purposeful action. This is also a big deal to me.

Strong bonds between mechanics and setting -- that's like... like you know how people who are sensitive to ASMR find flipping pages and sussurus and whatever else weirdly pleasing and/or gratifying? That's me with a good fusion of mechanics and setting.

Now, with Ace Squadron, I have the luxury of being able to just come up with a mantle that fits each character without worrying about what those say about the world at large, but I honestly think you could take those mantles, apply to them to Star Wars, and have them fit right in. That wasn't a key concern for me (or any concern, really), but, y'know, it's nice!

And because I specifically like those five-box conditions, well, every one of the mantles I made for these PCs has one of those. What's funny is I didn't even list the names of their mantles on their character sheets, because this is for a one-shot and I don't want to give the players extraneous information that may confuse things. But for the record, they're these:

  • Hype Fazon: The Leader
  • Freya Fenris: The Scholar
  • Torra Doza: The Heart
  • Griff Halloran: Ex-Imperial Veteran
  • Bo Keevil: The Daredevil
Now, you can see that I went off-script a little there for Griff, but for concepting purposes I really wanted to hit the ex-Imperial thing hard and I couldn't think of a more elegant way to do it. The guy has the symbol of the Galactic Empire tattooed on each bicep; you gotta give it to him. Plus everyone else's mantle sort of pays lip service to the five-man band concept, but Griff sets himself apart from them in some ways, so if you squint just right it makes sense that his mantle would diverge from that pattern.

What was fun after that was coming up with a good name for each mantle's primary unique condition, and then figuring out what it should do. Would it maybe have been wiser to consider that this one-size-fits-all approach might not work for every mantle? I dunno, maybe, but I think it worked out, and besides, trying to distill what each mantle brings to the table in a single word was very informative. Everything else about the mantle had to connect in some way to the name of that condition track. 

I mean, yes, it derives from the name of the mantle too, but the condition names feel more important, because that's what the players will actually interface with -- not the mantle name, which is much more ornamental in this case and doesn't even appear on the sheet.

You can see for yourself what each mantle's unique conditions are, but I have a whole blog here so I thought I'd talk a little about my reasoning for each of them, because I found the process fun and enlightening.

The Leader's main unique condition is Command. I wasn't sure about this one at first, but there's a Star Wars Resistance short in which Hype totally comes up with a plan and tells everyone how to execute it, so whaddya know, he's a leader after all. Hype can mark Command boxes to help ensure that his squadmates successfully execute a plan. This mantle also has a secondary unique condition, Focus Fire, that lets him mark all his remaining Command boxes to give the squad a big advantage against a single target. Hype recovers a Command box when he makes a new plan, which could conceivably be every scene, but I'd rather trust my players to act in good faith and just let that go. Plus this is a one-shot, so everything's a little truncated.

Oh, that's another thing about these unique conditions: How easily or quickly do they recover? Can't be so easy that marking boxes is meaningless, but -- especially in a one-shot -- it can't be so difficult that the player balks at marking them at all. This was another big source of lonely fun for me making these characters.

Anyway -- moving on.

The Scholar's unique condition is Study. Pretty straightforward. Freya recovers a Study box at the end of a scene in which she absorbs new information or reviews her past performance. I gave it two triggers so the player can be proactive about it. If it was just the thing about absorbing new information, I'd be concerned that the player would twist themselves in knots trying to find some sweet, sweet new information and it'd come off as contrived. Freya's a studious, driven pilot; I can totally buy her reviewing her gun-cam footage to improve her performance.

Oh! And what does Study do for her? Checking a box gets her a big bonus to overcome or create an advantage when she can bring her erudition to bear, and also she has another stunt called Corrective Pedantry that lets her alter and improve a situation aspect created by a squadmate. I hope that's as funny in play as it is in my head.

The Heart's unique condition is Teamwork. Torra Doza's voice actor said in an interview that Torra's all about her friends and family and love and etc. She's less jaded than the other Aces, being the youngest by far at 15, and I like the idea that she's sorta the squadron's resident optimist, always believing in the team to pull through in the end. She's the kind of character who'd probably refer to the Aces as a family at some point, and then Griff or someone would reluctantly grunt agreement. So she's all about that Teamwork, and can check a box to help an Ace who can see or hear her. She recovers a Teamwork box at the end of a scene in which an Ace helps her (mechanically speaking) or in which she spends a fate point (important distinction) to invoke a situation aspect created by another Ace. I.e., her belief in the team (and her special mechanical ability to help them) is stoked by her teammates actually giving back.

The Ex-Imperial Veteran's unique condition is Experience. This was probably the first one of these that came to mind -- that or Torra's Teamwork condition -- because it's just so... appropriate. It's 34 ABY and this guy used to fly a TIE fighter for the Empire. He's been around, and that should be his big strength. He can check those boxes not for a straight-up bonus, but to improve the reliability of his performance by maximizing dice. His secondary condition is I'm On the Leader, a blatant homage to another famous Imperial TIE pilot (Darth Vader -- I'm talking about Darth Vader), that makes use of his unmarked boxes against a single enemy. So there's some tension there for Griff's player: check Experience boxes for better results in a variety of situations, or leave them blank to really stick it to one foe later? I look forward to seeing what the player does. 

Oh, and Griff recovers an Experience box at the end of a scene in which his player voluntarily fails a roll. I don't call for extraneous dice rolls when I run Fate, so this should be significant, but if it's not I'll adjust!

Finally, the Daredevil's unique condition is Risk. I was going to call this one Stunt, but I figured that could get confusing, and Risk works. I really enjoyed just loading Bo Keevil up with mechanical bits that strongly encourage his player to put him in constant peril. Bo can check a Risk box to get a bonus to overcome or create an advantage in dangerous conditions. More importantly, he recovers a Risk box when he takes damage or chooses to succeed at a cost. Generally speaking, overcome and create an advantage don't intersect with avoiding damage, so taking damage to recover Risk is always an option for his player in combat. I hope that there's sometimes a real choice between marking a box to succeed on an overcome action and not doing that so the player can succeed at a cost to recover a box. 

On a related note, Bo Keevil also has a couple other stunts that encourage foolhardiness: Thrillseeker and Danger Zone. The former gives him access to a new approach, Reckless, at +5 when he's marked a 4-shift damage condition, and the latter lets him mark a Risk box to attempt an action so desperately dangerous as to be virtually impossible otherwise. Will that work in play? Like, shouldn't a good GM just let players try stuff regardless? I see that perspective, but I'm hoping the mere presence of that stunt on Bo's character sheet encourages the player to do some real stupid stuff.

If you're going to be in the Los Angeles area over Memorial Day Weekend and want to see any of this in action, come to Gamex and get in on it! I'm running this game Saturday and Sunday at 2pm, and while pre-reg is full for both, that just means two out of five seats are taken.

Next time: The ships, I promise!

Thursday, May 9, 2019

[DFAE] Star Wars Resistance

So... it's been more than three years now since I've posted to the ol' blog. Let's just acknowledge that up front and move on with this new entry.

(Why's it been so long? I kinda haven't had a whole lot to write about, to be honest! A lot of my work in the past few years has been with Evil Hat's Fate Worlds line, mostly as a system developer. Sure, I contributed to Tachyon Squadron -- about which more later -- and Shadow of the Century, but I don't know that I had a lot to say about those games in terms of Fate-hacking, which is ostensibly the topic of this blog. Okay, explanation delivered!)

I'm running a Star Wars Resistance game called "Ace Squadron" at Gamex in a couple weeks, in which the players will portray the criminally underused pilots of said squadron. For most of the season I was pretty lukewarm on Resistance -- it's had its ups and downs -- but one consistent flaw of the show, in my eyes, has been that it's almost completely ignored its potentially most-interesting characters: the Aces, pictured above.

Who are the Aces of Ace Squadron? What's their deal? They're the first line of defense for the Colossus, the big floating fueling platform that serves as the setting for the series. It's sort of a hive of scum and villainy writ large, a place where pilots and associated tradespersons from all over the galaxy either gather or end up -- it's not entirely clear why most of them are there. It's like a Happy Bottom Riding Club for the Star Wars universe. For whatever reason, this is where anyone who wants to fly faster than anyone else comes to prove themselves. The Aces are the best of these pilots, practically treated as royalty both in recognition of their skill and as compensation for the services they provide.


Only one-and-a-half of them really get any screentime (Torra Doza's the one, Hype Fazon's the half), but the other three, probably the most interesting of them all, are virtual ciphers. You've got an ex-Imperial pilot in a heavily modified old TIE fighter, a Kel-Dor stunt pilot, and... a pale woman with an accent?

Yeah, the show doesn't do much with them, and you wouldn't even know anything at all about Bo Keevil, the Kel-Dor, from the episodes themselves. You'd have to have watched this not-quite five-minute behind-the-scenes video with the production staff and the Aces' voice cast (most of them, at any rate) to even know that much about Keevil. He doesn't have more than, like, two lines in the entire series thus far!

And Freya Fenris, the Pale Lady, doesn't fare much better, but at least they invited her voice actor into the studio to get her perspective on the character she plays. If nothing else, it's good to see that the actors have some insight into these characters.

Anyway again. I'm a sucker for spaceship dogfights and test pilots and everything in that general milieu, partially due to watching The Right Stuff a lot as a kid, and reading Chuck Yeager's autobiography in high school. So naturally I'm drawn to these Aces.

AND THAT BRINGS US TO THIS BLOG POST. As I mentioned before, I'm running a Fate game about these five pilots at Gamex. At first I was going to back to my version of Faith Corps I'd tweaked for previous Star Wars games, then it hit me like a ton of bricks. Dresden Accelerated!

I've yet to play DFAE or use it for anything, and this seemed the perfect opportunity. Boy, am I glad I made that choice, because making these characters has reminded me how brilliant this book is. Man. So good. Mantles feel like a puzzle piece that fit into a gap in my brain that I didn't even know was there. Hats off to the whole team on that one.

Between reading DFAE, making these characters, and zhuzhing their character sheets to within an inch of their lives, I've spent a lot of time in the past week or so on this game. Reminded me of old times! So here I am to post their character sheets. Get them here! Click here!

Next time: The Aces' ships, and a sneak peak at Tachyon Squadron's starship construction rules! Yes, there'll be a next time!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

[Faith Corps] Rebelling Out of 2016

Pictured: January 1, 2017.
What's it been, six-plus months?

Anyway, I'm gearing up to run another Star Wars Rebels game in February at OrcCon, and I'm expanding the cast of characters beyond the five members of the Ghost crew I used last time, so... I thought I'd post them here, because where else am I going to do it?

There's Rex, former clone captain in the Grand Army of the Republic.

Ketsu Onyo, former partner of Sabine during their Imperial Academy days and then later their Black Sun bounty-hunting days. (My son gave me Ketsu's ship, the Shadow Caster, for Christmas, which may or may not have been a factor in the inclusion of this character.)

C1-10P, aka "Chopper," the Clone Wars-era astromech for whom the word "cantankerous" seems to have been invented.

(Have you been keeping up with Rebels this season? It's real good.)

It was tempting for a bit to try to include a Rogue One character or two in this scenario, but... I didn't. Jyn doesn't really work as a rebel earlier than, like, a week before the events of Episode IV. Saw was fair game, because he showed up briefly in the last scenario, but -- and this is going to sound a little ridiculous, I know -- there isn't a good picture of him in the style of Rebels, and the depiction of him in The Clone Wars isn't really consistent IMO with how he's presented in Rogue One. But that'll change soon!

Plus, I dunno, it felt a little like I'd be doing it just to reference Rogue One, which isn't the best reason. And he wasn't a great fit for this story. I'm a little concerned about him showing up in Rebels, to be honest. I still want him to be an unhinged rebel nutbag in Rogue One; making him a team-player like this... I dunno, I'd pictured his slow descent into extremism and having a robot foot to have been a years-long process rather than a... two-years-long process. He looks better in Rebels than he does at the beginning of Rogue One!

(Everyone's seen Rogue One by now, right?)

And for a bit, I was like, "Hey, Chirrut and Baze!" But I got the impression that two years before the Battle of Yavin, they were doing a lot of hanging out on Jedha rather than gallivanting around the galaxy on some damn-fool idealistic crusade. I could've had the story come to them, but I have another one in mind that I like a whole lot. Maybe next time, fellas.

I also thought about bringing Leia in, for obvious reasons. Maybe I still will. I still have a few weeks to sort all of this out. Besides, as it stands, I have seven PCs for hopefully only five players.

At any rate, this story takes place between the season 2 finale and the season 3 premiere. So Ezra's darker, Kanan's had that thing happen to him (now I'm worried about spoilers?), the Phantom's still around, and -- oh, what the heck -- Thrawn hasn't shown up yet.

In case you're already familiar with the sheets from the Rebels game I ran at Gamex last year, I just want to say that I really their layout, but I had to change things up for this game. Apparently Disney never released any good full-body posed pictures of Ketsu or Old Man Rex like they did with the Ghost crew in season 1, and those art elements were a real focal point of the other sheets. I like these too, though. You probably don't care about this part, but seriously, I think a lot about it. Too much. And I'm only working with Word here, so I'm doing the best I can.

So! Happy New Year, and may the Force be with all of us.