Category Archives: Approaches & Abilities FAE method

Deadlands Fate – Session 5

Deadlands Fate

See the Deadlands Fate Collection HERE.

This session was recorded and you can hear it at theRPGAcademy.com. It was divided up over two episodes.

Episode 6 – The Searchers… of the Barn

Episode 7 – Mcabre and Mrs. Wessell

What Happened?

The first portion of this session (Episode 6) picked up directly where the previous session had left off, on the front porch of the Wessell ranch house. Sebastian continued hitting on Lizzie, while Martin and Jonah interacted more with Samuel and Jared. They agreed to stay for the next day and help with some repairs around the ranch in exchange for a lodgings and food before they headed off on their way.

Things settled into exploration mode as the PC’s started checking things out. My goal here was to make things seem completely normal, but make the players totally paranoid. This first half was all interaction role playing. The action finally came with the climax in the second half.

Jonah made the acquaintance of Lizzie’s shy but charming little daughter, Annie. He also got a strong hint that Jared was a bad dude. This scene was just freaking adorable, and was a nice contrast to the otherwise dark tone of the campaign.

We got some wonderful insights into Martin’s background and personality as he hung out in the barn with Eric and the lonely cow, Bessie. I really wanted to bring out more of his backstory, since he’d sort of just been the random holy man that had hooked up with the other two. He really won over Eric in this scene.

Sebastian kept working his way into Lizzie’s skirts, but got sabotaged by Jonah. Good times.

They found the slaughter room behind the locked door in the barn (it is a ranch, after all!), which was more than a little creepy, but completely understandable. But they also realized that for a ranch, there seemed to be a distinct lack of livestock, aside from Bessie. There was a delightful sense of paranoia at this point, but no one could really put a finger on why. Scott was the most vocal, and I was just loving it!

The next morning they woke up to a fabulous breakfast being served. The meat was very unusual, and Eric stormed out, and Annie seemed noticeably depressed. What was hilarious was that Scott was freaking out, calling out his suspicions about the meat, but didn’t let it change Martin’s actions. He had actually pinned the tail on the donkey, but I just kept my cool and kept moving forward.

Breakfast came to an abrupt halt when Eric’s friend Steve came crawling down the stairs headfirst, (thump thump! thump thump!), which got everyone’s attention. Only when he pulled himself far enough forward past the stairs did I reveal that his legs had been amputated, and only bloody bandaged stumps were left. Quickly putting 2 and 2 together, the PC’s sprung to their feet and Sebastian had his guns drawn.

A fight broke out in the dining room that was pretty cool, involving flipping tables, running out the front chased by a freight train named Jared, and some fancy gun work from Sebastian. I handled the Wessell family  very loosely in this conflict, shooting from the hip on skill levels and some simple Aspects as I felt they made sense. From my prep, I had a basic idea of what made each tick, so it wasn’t too hard at all.

During the fight, Jonah ran out of the house, and headed to the barn to burn it down. At this moment I raised the stakes and showed him a horde of zombies descending on the property. There was a unanimous reaction of “Oh shit! I forgot about the ZOMBIES!” I couldn’t have been more pleased with this moment! This was one of those priceless moments where you legitimately surprise your players. The zombies started swarming the ranch busting in through the back kitchen door and windows, and generally making a mess of the conflict in the house.

The entire scene ended with the PC’s running away from the ranch house being overrun with zombies, the barn on fire. I would have liked to spend a little more time in this final scene, but we all had to call it a night, so the end was a little rushed. They now have Eric, a teenage boy, and Annie, a little girl, in tow, which should be all sorts of interesting. I will represent those two as a group Aspect, which I’m sure will see some use.

They are headed to their first legitimate town that we’ve seen since this began, which should dramatically change the nature of their challenges and conflicts. I’ll also use it as a chance to have the players help collaboratively create some of the Places and Faces of the city (a la the City Creation rules from the Dresden Files RPG).

Finding Inspiration

I totally stole this story arc from The Walking Dead video game Season 1 Episode 2 – “Starved for Help”. I knew that none of my players had played that game, so I felt free to steal with impunity. I made quite a few changes to convert the St. John family from Walking Dead to the Wessel family in my game, but I kept to the general premise. It gave me a very clever twist that felt totally in line with our creepy Weird West setting. Honestly, even if any of them had played the game, I think there were enough initial differences to obfuscate the connection until the big reveal at the end.

Lesson – Don’t be afraid to steal ideas. Steal from movies, games, published adventures. Take good ideas wherever you find them, and then twist them to fit in your game.

-Razorstorm


Deadlands Fate – Session 4

Deadlands Fate

See the Deadlands Fate Collection HERE.

This session was recorded and you can listen to the podcast at theRPGAcademy.com.

Episode 5 – Bad Day at the Watering Hole

What Happened?

This session picked up where the previous one left off, with our heroes emerging from the desert, exhausted and injured. In the distance they saw a ranch house and they headed there in hopes of finding some peace. As they neared, they saw 3 teenage boys at a watering hole between them and the ranch house. As the thirsty PC’s approached, the boys were suddenly attacked by tentacles bursting from the ground, trying to drag them towards the toothy maw that had just opened. The Desert Thing (basically a small Sarlacc Pit…) proceeded to eat one boy, and injure another, but the two survivors were saved by the PC’s. Notably, I compelled Martin’s “Quick to run” aspect to make him avoid the fight.

This was a fairly simple fight against a pretty hefty beasty. It was hard to kill, due to it’s stunt allowing it to defend with Physique (due to its massive bulk). I actually think this fight was a good illustration of aspects due to the recurring use of the Desert Thing inflicting a “Grabbed” status.

After the fight the PC’s found out that the uninjured boy, Eric, lived at the nearby ranch house, and the injured boy, Steve, lived in the nearby town. Eric was running away, but now his friend was badly injured, and they needed to take him back to the house to be cared for by Eric’s older sister, Lizzie. After learning that Lizzie was a good looking woman in her late 20’s, Sebastian perked up dramatically. They escorted the boys back to the house, and proceeded to have a very tense meeting with Eric’s family. First they met his older brothers, Samuel, the smart one, and Jared, the big mean one. It was clear early on that Jared didn’t want them there, and Samuel was to handled cautiously. Then they met Lizzie, a very polite, clever, capable, and not to mention sexy, country woman, and Sebastian was all over that action. We had to cut this interaction short due to time, and picked it up right there at our next session.

My favorite part of this was that right from the minute they spotted the ranch house, Scott (playing Martin) was  like, “guys, I’m telling you, this house is bad news!” He did an excellent job playing Martin without this suspicion (as if he wasn’t a character in a horror story), but underlying tension added a lot of fun, and continued into the next session.

 

The Desert Thing

Here is the Fate conversion I did of the Desert Thing from the Savage Worlds system, presented in the Deadlands Reloaded Marshals Handbook.

Desert Thing

Surprising tentacles from the sand”  “Aware of all nearby creatures”  “Very slow moving

Skills:
Physique +4
Notice +3
Fight +3

Stunts:
Massive Bulk – Defend against physical attacks with Physique
Grabbing Tentacles – Gain a +2 to Create Advantage “Grabbed” with Fight. Attack one zone away.

Stress: 4 

 

-Razorstorm


Deadlands Fate – Session 3

Deadlands Fate

See the Deadlands Fate Collection HERE.

This play session was recorded and you can listen to it at theRPGAcademy.com. It was broken up over two episodes.

Episode 3 – The Quick and the Left for Dead

Episode 4 – Dances with Chupacabra

What Happened?

This session began right where the previous had left off, with our three heroes having just jumped off the train. Introductions finally occurred, but Jonah & Sebastian did not divulge the details about Sebastian’s fugitive situation to Martin. We got the beginnngs of a conflict between Martin’s spirtuality, and Jonah’s “I blame God” baggage, which continued to grow throughout the session.

They knew that there was nothing anywhere nearby along the rail to either the East or West, but that if they headed south a few days travel through the Arizona desert they could get to several places. They knew that they were not equipped at all for this expedition, and that the desert would present a dangerous trek.

At this point I explained to them how we would be handling the desert trek mechanically, so that they could weigh their options. The main point to understand was that it was dangerous to travel at the peak of day, and while the night was least lethal, progress and foraging would be difficult. See below for the full write-up on the Arizona Desert.

They chose to follow the train tracks back just a little ways to see if they could possibly find the horses that the Apache raiders had abandoned when they attacked the train. This took them into the evening, without the possibility of making any prrogress (since they were going the wrong way!)  but with the hope of the horses giving them a significant advantage in the conflict. When it got dark, Jonah, being a “City Slicker” had had enough travelling, and made camp for them, while Sebastian and Martin kept looking for the horses. Martin was able to Create Advantage using his Mysticism to call the horses to them. Once the two horses came, Sebastian pulled a jerk move and hopped on one and promptly rode away into the night. Martin, not knowing that Jonah had arrrested him, was surprised, but thought it mostly inconsiderate. We all agreed that this would be an excellent compel for him to get pathetically lost in the dark and wind up going in a circle and ending up back in camp. He made up story that he rode off to lead some critter away from Martin. Between their various interactions, Martin now thinks that Sebastian is a fabulous fellow, and there is some tension between Martin and Jonah’s views on spirituality.

In the night, the group was attacked by a fierce desert monster called a Cupakabara (see this write-up for the full stats). The fight was fast and fierce. I had a rough time knowing how hard to make the monster to challenge the group of 3 PC’s. It actually ended up conceding before it could do too much damage. Had it just been an encounter on it’s own, without the combined pressure from the desert, it wouldn’t have been terribly meaningful, but in that context it worked pretty well. I think it also did a good job of enforcing the predatory and exotic nature of the desert. Coincidentally, it also corroborated Sebastian’s story about leading away a dangerous critter from Martin when they were getting the horses. Between their various interactions, Martin now thinks that Sebastian is a fabulous fellow, and there is some tension between Martin and Jonah’s views on spirituality.

They continued their trek through the wilderness, opting to travel for the morning, taking shelter and resting midday, then travelling for the evening and into the first phase of night, then resting again for the rest of night. To try and keep things from stagnating, I declared that they couldn’t repeat the same combination of Approach and Ability in from one exchange to the next. This resulted in some good creative problem solving as they came up with ways to shuffle their various Approaches and Abilities for best results. Their power combo was Martin being Carefully Mystic to Create Advantage to create a bonus for travel (since he had a stunt that spoke to this), and Jonah being Carefully Athletic to make the actual travel progress roll (since he had a stunt that spoke to this). They had to manage when they used different A&A combinations to ensure they could use this potent combo during their travel phases. This occasionally resulted in some situations that were somewhat questionable, but ultimately entertaining, like Sebastian using his Social Ability to “warm” everyone’s spirits against the cold night.

As we got on into the second and third day, I started throwing pumping Fate Points into the desert to up the ante. For example – I invoked the desert’s “Prairie Storms” aspect to intensify the challenge. The conflict took it’s toll, and by the time they finally “took out” the desert, every single player had at least one Consequence of some kind, and they were really sweating. But, they persevered, and a settlement appeared in the distance, to everyone’s relief.

How Did It Work?

The Fractaled Desert

Narratively, I wanted this session to focus on them working their way through the punishing desert, like a montage scene in a movie. At first, I was going to run it as a challenge, but I really wanted the desert to grind them down, with a real risk of being “taken out” by the trial. Then I had another idea, thanks to the awesomeness that is the Fate Core Google+ Community. Making use of the “Bronze Rule of Fate,” (aka- the Fate Fractal) I built the Arizona Desert as a fully statted-out opponent. I treated the whole trek as an extended conflict against the desert. Intead of a violent conflict, this was a conflict about survival skills and endurance. The Travel Progress checks, which would normally be Overcome checks, would now be “Attacks,” in that any shifts in excess of the Desert’s active resistance would deal stress on the Travel Stress track. It was one long, ongoing scene, so the stress from any fights during the trek would not recover until the conflict with the desert was resolved. If they were taken out by the desert, they would be at my mercy, which I had a plan for, but if they successfully “beat” the desert, it would fade into the background and no longer present a major obstacle.
In retrospect, I could have done without the Hunger & Thirst attempt to Create Advantage each round. It ended up just generally complicating things, and I don’t think it added much in return. While I do think it was valuable tactically, it definitely added a level of complication that I’m not really convinced was worth it.
One thing that was interesting was that this session highlighted the difference between Teamwork and Create Advantage. Teamwork only adds a +1, but it’s a guaranteed +1. While Create Advantage is potentially much more beneficial, it is by no means guaranteed.

I really like how this all played out. My only complaint would be that towards the end the selection and rotation of Approaches & Abilities got a little more mechanistic, and a bit less narrative. I stopped pushing for detailed explanations of what they were actually doing. Part of this was that we were very pressed for time towards the end and needed to wrap up quickly, so we started cutting corners, but also just because I got lazy. Nonetheless, it created a very interesting tactical challenge, I got to explore some interesting new angles in the Fate system, and everyone had fun with it, so I’d say it was a victory!

The Arizona Desert

“Mercilessly scorching Desert”  “Stark rocky cliffs”  “Scrubby vegetation”  “Terrible things stalk the night”  “Praerie Storms”

Skills
Climate +3 (Attack)
Hunger & Thirst +3 (Create Advantage)
Travel Progress +3 (Defend)

Stunts

Scorching Days, Exposed Nights – During the peak of the day (Travel phase 2) gain a +2 to Climate Attacks (total of +5), and -2 during night time (Travel phase 4 & 5) (Total of +1)

Dark Night – Due to the intense dark, it is difficult safely travel at night, as well as to forage for food or water. During the night time (Travel phase 4 & 5) gain a +2 to Travel Progress “Defense” and Hunger & Thirst Create Advantage (total of +5 each).

Travel Stress [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]
Each day consists of five phases. Each phase will be an exchange in the conflict with the Desert.
1 – Morning
2 – Midday
3 – Evening
4 – Late Night
5 – Early Morning

Rules of Conflict

The party must rest at least 2 phases per day. During each phase, the Desert makes a Climate attack against all members of the party individually. In order to make progress, the party must make Travel Progress “Attacks” against the Desert. The Desert makes a single Hunger & Thirst attempt to Create Advantage against the group as a whole (single Defense roll for the group) only during the phases in which the party is active. The same members cannot contribute to both the Travel Progress attack, and the Hunger & Thirst active resistance, they must choose which they will contribute to.

If you use one combination of an Approach & Ability in a particular round, you may not use that same combination for the same action type in the following round. For example, if I used Cleverly Skilled to make a Travel Progress Attack this round, I could not do the same thing next round. I could, however, make a Carefully Skilled Progress Attack.

-Razorstorm


Deadlands Fate – Sebastian Kane

Deadlands Fate

See the Deadlands Fate Collection HERE.

This is one of the PC’s from our Deadlands Fate game. I’m aware that he has an extra Aspect than normal.

Sebastian Kane

Sebastien Kane

High Concept: Silver Tongued Rascal
Trouble: I was Framed! (in Kansas City)
I “owe” the Witchita Witches
I’m worth more alive than dead
I’m faster than the other guy
Living the Saloon Life

Approaches

Careful
Clever +1
Flashy +1
Forceful
Quick +2
Sneaky

Abilities

Athletic
Combative +1
Influential
Skilled +1
Social +2

Stunts

Because I am a Silver Tongued Rascal I get a +2 to Sneakily Social Overcome Rolls.

Because I am faster than the other guy I get a +4 Quick Combat roll on the first action of each fight. Also, If I do lose initiative, I can trade this +4 in and go first instead.

Because I live the Saloon Life I can spend a fate point to ensure the assistance of any neutral or friendly female NPC’s

Refresh: 3

Stress: 3


A&A Early Playtest Reflections

I’ve been rather quiet both here on the blog and on social media lately, so I thought I’d give a quick update. Despite my lack of updates, I’ve actually had games happening! My Deadlands Fate game had it’s second session, which you can listen to a podcast of over at DnDAcademy.com. If you are interested in hearing this method in action, you really should give it a listen. I also recently started a once-a-week  lunchtime gaming group at my office. This one is a modern fantasy game heavily influenced by Dresden Files RPG and World of Darkness. I’ll get more info up on those soon!

Some Basic Reflections

 Both of those are using my Approaches & Abilities method (A&A), and thus far, I’ve been very pleased actually seeing it in action. My one disappointment is that neither campaign lend themselves to any sort of politicking, or power struggles, or even needing resources (yet), so no one in either game has made any use of the “Influential” ability. I think I can safely say that many campaigns will ignore this ability, but I don’t think I can safely say that it doesn’t matter yet. In particular, I have my eye on an Age of Arthur game using this method, which I imagine having a very Game of Thrones kind of feel, and I think that ability would see excellent use in that game. I also think my other games will see some value in it at some point, but not often.
One thing that I have really started loving about this system is that the abilities are all interpreted through the lens of the character’s aspects and Approaches. Two characters may both have Athletics at a +2, but between their different Approaches and their individual aspects, that ability means different things to each character. This is especially true for the Skilled ability.

Approaches, and Player Psychology

 One thing I’ve found myself doing is that a player will make a basic statement of what they want they want to do. I will respond with something like, “Great, that’ll be a Combative check, but HOW are you doing it?” Basically, I nail down the Ability that is being used, but let them determine the Approach. It seems to help provide helpful structure for the players. If they state an Approach without any further explanation, I usually say “What about how your doing this makes it [Approach]?” and at that point, I always get a good colorful description of what they’re doing. I feel like my original hypothesis of the A&A method is playing out as I predicted. The Abilities provide a clear anchor for the action, which makes it easier for the Approaches to drive flavor, description and characterization.

I am also occasionally finding myself saying, after they state a desired course of action, “based on what you’ve described, there’s no way you can use [Approach].” Or “if you try to do that using [Approach] then it will be harder, how else might you do it?” I usually only bother doing this to push them off of their peak Approach, to get some variety in things, and keep them on their toes. Also some things I just lock into a certain Approach. For example – I’m handling Initiative by always calling for a roll using their Quick Approach, plus an ability appropriate to the conflict. For combat (the most common example) they can use either Athletic or Combative, their choice. I’m finding that these factors keep players from always relying on their peak Approach.

To be honest, I’ve actually been surprised at how often players happily volunteer to use their secondary Approaches and Abilities instead of their peak approach. They pretty much NEVER use Approaches or Abilities that they have zeros in, but I’m honestly not surprised by this. My wife straight up said this after our first play session with her swashbuckler, Scarlet VonRosen. “Those other things may as well not exist, because I’m going to do my darndest to figure out how solve every problem using either Combative, Social, or Athletic, while being Flashy, Clever, or Sneaky.” To which I say, bravo! Instant character style and identity. There’s enough variation there to keep things interesting, but it also keeps characters focused on what makes them awesome.

I’ve also just updated the playtest doc with a few minor additions. You can get it here, if you want to give it a spin for your own game.


Deadlands Fate Collection

Deadlands Fate

This post is a collection of all posts and content related to my Deadlands Fate game.

Rules and Setting

  • We are playing in the setting of Deadlands, published by Pinnacle Entertainment for the Savage Worlds setting, but we are playing using the Fate RPG system by Evil Hat Productions.
  • This game is using my Approaches & Abilities FAE method. At this time I have not added any other special rules related to converting Deadlands, but I probably will in the future.

Session Writeups

Podcast Recordings at theRPGAcademy.com

Characters

Bestiary

Resources

  • We are playing the game over Roll20.net, using the Google Hangouts integration for audio/video.

Magic in A&A FAE

Here is how I’m treating magic in my campaigns I’m playing with my A&A FAE method. This includes my Deadlands Fate game, as well a few others I haven’t written about yet. I’m treating this as the standard Extra for most all of the Campaign Special Ability XYZ’s that I left an open slot for in my Ability spreads. I will probably tweak this as I deal with more specific stuff, but this will always serve as my common starting place. I see this being used easily for magic of all stripes, but also for things like Net-Running in a Cyberpunk game, or Vampiric Blood Power, or Werewolf Gnosis, or the like.

Magic (or other Campaign Special Ability)

Permission: At least one Aspect that references your special Ability

Cost: Investing points in an Ability appropriately named for your campaign (Arcane, Alchemy, Psychic, Shamanic, Mysticism, etc). Sometimes a player may opt to not invest any skill points, and simply rely on Approaches, or perhaps an Ability Swap stunt. The aspect is granting permission.

Actions: Without any investment of stunts, this ability can be used to Overcome, or Create Advantage. It can also be used to Defend against Attacks of it’s type (in a campaign featuring a variety of magics, I’d allow them all to defend against each other). It cannot be used to Attack without investment of stunts. My default, the assumption is that this Ability can be used at range, up to whatever distance you and the DM agree is appropriate.

Stunts: Beyond these two standard stunts, additional stunts can be added following the normally proscribed patterns for the A&A method.

Defend: Use this Ability combined with an Approach to Defend against any type of Attack, not simply Attacks of similar type.

Attack: Use this Ability combined with an Approach to Attack.

Ability Swap: Use another ability instead of the main ability for certain applications. Example – “Use Social instead of Druidic Magic when Creating Advantages to inflict curses on your targets.”