Friday, June 10, 2011

FATE Triangle

So user Gullerbutry, known in real life as David S. Goodwin, has created a pretty nifty randomizer using only Fudge Dice -- notoriously not especially well-suited to random tables. It's called the FATE Triangle, and you can find a form-fillable PDF of it here.

It works like this: Normally, when you roll Fudge Dice, you're only concerned with the total, from -4 to +4. What makes the Triangle work is that it cares about the actual results of those dice, not their total. So 0000 is not the same as ++--, and 00-- is a different result than +---. This gives you 15 possible results and a bell curve with more variation than what Fudge Dice normally deliver.

I'll let Mr. Goodwin explain it a little more:
I've had two insights into this table concept since I wrote it up.  
The first is that the main difference between it and a regular 2-dimensional range of results (from -4 to +4) is that it opens up the middle of the bell curve. That is, on a normal 4dF, you roll a 0 about a quarter of the time (or something like that). On this table, you expand that single result into three results (0000, 00+-, and ++--). Which is handy, and adds variation, even though it only actually adds 6 new results (15 total, instead of 9). 
The other interesting thing about this tale is that it's actually an equilateral triangle - the three corners being ++++, ----, and 0000. I didn't realize that at first because of how I laid it out, and because FATE trains us to ignore blank side of the die - but it means we've got a chart with three different axis. There are probably a lot of triads you could use that would give you a neat table: crown, church, and guild; social, mental, and physical; heaven, hell, and mundane...
Here's an example he did to illustrate how he intends to use it:

You get the idea. Like I said, nifty.

But it doesn't stop there. In that same thread, he shows how you can use this to establish elements of a character's background, intra-party relationships, or the politics of a setting. It's a campaign-in-a-box, basically. It's also awesome.

As I said in that thread, if you combine this with the Random Adventure Generator in the Legends of Anglerre Companion, you can throw a pretty cool game together in no time. Which is probably exactly what I'll do when the Companion comes out, if not sooner. 

Or match it up with Diaspora's cluster creation and figure out some more stuff with those clusters. Really, the possibilities are fairly limitless. Thanks, David S. Goodwin!

(My enthusiasm for random tables is in an especially high gear these days; I just bought the original three Traveller LBBs at DiceHouse the other day, and I've rolled up a dozen or so characters since then, many of whom survived the character generation process.)

PS: Sorry about the weird formatting on this post. It's Blogspot's fault.

Monday, June 6, 2011

[Kerberos] Kerberans! Come Out And Play!

Just a quick note to say I'll be running a FATE Kerberos scenario, "The Pyramids of Atlantis," on June 26th at DiceHouse in Fullerton, CA. It's part of a Dead Gamers Society game day; they do one every few months, and even though the DGS is ostensibly a World of Darkness-oriented Meetup, all kinds of games get run at these things. Last time I played in a Dogs in the Vineyard game, f'rinstance.

As it happens, the scenario I'm running there is also the one I'm running at GenCon in August. Here's the blurb:
When unexpected violence shatters the secret peace between the British Empire and the Atlantean Nations, Her Majesty the Queen covertly sees to it that a number of Strange operatives from the Kerberos Club join Her Naval expedition to "investigate." But after two weeks of deep-sea bombardment and demands for surrender, the Atlanteans remain curiously silent. Just what are they up to down there? A sneak preview of The Kerberos Club: FATE Edition!
Note the gratuitous plugging of the forthcoming book! If you're going to be around, come on by and play a couple games. I know someone's running Dungeon Crawl Classics, but other than that I have no idea what'll be on offer. I believe the DGS will be announcing everything later this week.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Gamex 2011 Wrap-Up: FATE Edition

(For my non-FATE Gamex experience, see Roll Some Dice.)

First, an overview: This was a good Gamex. From 2:00 on Friday through midnight on Sunday, I ran two games (three if you count the one off-the-books non-convention game I ran that just happened to occur during the weekend) and played in four (five if you count an overlong game of Descent). Every GM was great, and only two or three players were annoying, so that's a pretty good percentage. Of course, part of this is that I hardly ever play or run games for people I don't know -- I've been attending Strategicons long enough that just about everyone I end up sharing my time with in four-hour chunks is someone I've gamed with before. This is theoretically bad in the sense that I'm not meeting new people (and/or they're not meeting me), but practically good in the sense that everyone at my tables bathes regularly.

So! Saturday morning was Morgan's DFRPG game, "Showdown at Camp Kaboom." We played recent Warden-school graduates who'd just gotten their cloaks and swords, and were then [spoiler alert?] framed for an attack on the very training facility (the aforesaid Camp Kaboom) that we'd been attending for God knows how long. It should be said again that I don't really know the Dresdenverse very well, or at all -- apart from stuff I've learned playing in a handful of Dresden Files games, I've had no exposure to it -- but that doesn't stop me from enjoying Morgan's games nonetheless. I played a snooty rich-kid type with the aspect "Born with a Silver Wand in my Hand," which you're not going to beat in an aspect-coming-up-with contest, so don't even try. The early game was marked by a lot of people trying to figure out or even just understand spellcasting in DFRPG. I'll admit, it's crunchier than I'd realized. I've never played a proper wizard before, so in the interest of not slowing things down I stuck with my rotes -- a defensive tornado-type-thing and a full-on Lightning Bolt! -- and kicked a fair amount of ass.

(Morgan, if you're reading this, it's probably not news to you that you seemed a bit flustered or something. That doesn't change the fact that you're still my platonic FATE-mate.)

In the end, we were all screwed not by crafty South American Red Court vampires, but by the hotel's fire alarm, which some jackass pulled in the course of being a jackass. The entire hall's worth of conference rooms cleared out into the lobby -- all except ours, because c'mon, it's obviously not real. This happened at about 12:30, effectively robbing us of the game's perfectly timed climax. Ah well. Morgan described to us what would've happened, and we all agreed that it would've been good. You're running it at GenCon, right?

Sunday morning I finally ran the long thought-about, only-recently-realized Agents of F.A.T.E. game I've been talking about here lately. Despite a full roster of six players and two alternates signed up, we only had five players for the actual game. Fine by me, says I -- I only wanted five PCs anyway. So Lars Thorsson went unplayed. No matter.

I'll split this into what worked and what didn't.

What worked:

  • The +XdF Areas of Experience. Change nothing. Predictably, this roll-and-keep dice mechanic worked fine, because I'd already used it for the swashbuckling game, so no surprise there. Denys almost engaged the table in a discussion of its mathematical rigor, but I shut him down, because let's go
  • Player-contributed locations. Earlier, I'd planned to rip off Morgan's Spirit of the Shattered Earth and have the players come up with a bunch of details for me, including various cities the story would visit, what the badguy was up to, and so forth. In the end, I cut all of that except for the locations. Each player wrote a location down on an index card; these told us the basic geography of the story and where it would go. In our case, we had Hong Kong, Paris, Hoover Dam, Lincoln Memorial, and Volcano. Three of those were explicitly used (as in "Now we're in Paris"), while two of them were only obliquely referenced. Unfortunately, Volcano was in the latter category, but that's down to me (see below). Regardless, it gave things an appropriately globe-trotting feel, I think.  
  • Cool Points. Likewise, I've used this mechanic plenty, and it worked fine here, too. No complaints. Morgan pulled out a classic 4d6 roll, spending all his Cool at once to crush the opposition, who was, indeed, duly crushed.
  • The Challenge Point thing. The only thing wrong with this was that I didn't have the foresight to assign each scene a Challenge Point rating from the start. This meant that I quickly racked up four Challenge Points in the early game before the players had earned Cool, but had almost none later once they'd gotten some momentum. In future -- because I'll probably use this again somewhere -- I'll keep that in mind. Every scene has a Challenge Rating from one to four. The players totally picked up on the introduction of complications, though; as expected, this took some of the burden off me to come up with stuff on the fly, but it also lulled me into a sense of complacency, such that I was forgetting to introduce scene aspects, or even spend Fate Points for my NPCs. (Running Dungeon Patrol the night before didn't help. That thing runs itself.)
  • Gadgets. They didn't get used as much as I'd expected, but that's fine. When they were used, they were used well. Nobody did anything too insane with their gadgets. The craziest thing was probably Laura turning her briefcase into a laptop with wireless access to reroute an important bank transfer without anyone noticing. This wouldn't be so crazy if the game weren't set in, like, 1965. But later seasons of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. were like ten times crazier than that before even getting out of bed in the morning, so I have no objections.
  • The players getting the tone of the game. Nailed it. I mean, my Platonic Ideal of it would've been more serious, but I am physically incapable of pulling that off, so it was pretty jokey all around. Again, no objections.

What didn't work:
  • My ability to communicate vital information without resorting to heavy-handed OOC exposition. Seriously, I don't know what's wrong with me lately, but at some point, after Morgan fairly begged for something concrete to hang onto, I just had to come out and say, "Look, I don't know how to smoothly couch this in the narrative, but here's what you discover is going on." They'd made plenty of investigation-type rolls and so forth, so they'd earned the details, but it irritates me that I wasn't able to deliver them in a prettier package. On the plus side, we had a lot of cool espionage-type non-combat scenes in which clues were dropped and gathered, and that was great, but it was helping them put everything together that stymied me. Hrm.
  • The end. True to form, I wasn't happy with the rather anti-climactic ending I forced on them. I mean, we could've ended up in a volcano; instead, the last scene took place in the basement of a rather non-descript house in Hong Kong. Boo. I even wrote down in advance what that final scene would entail, but almost none of it was there. I incorrectly assumed things would work themselves out and we'd just get there somehow. Let me tell you about things: They often don't work themselves out.
At any rate, it's a pretty good hack, and I may run something with it again. Of course, it didn't hurt that everyone at the table was a FATE veteran, so there was no need to set anything up or explain what aspects were or any of that. We just got into it and went.

So that's another Gamex in the can. And now I take a break from all of this game planning oh no wait GenCon.