Tag Archives: Abilities

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

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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


Deadlands Fate – Session 2

Deadlands Fate

See the Deadlands Fate Collection HERE.

We played the second session of our Deadlands Fate game right before the holidays. The recorded podcast of our session is up at theRPGAcademy.com.

Episode 2 – “The Good, the Bad, and the Zombie”

What Happened?

We jumped in right in where we left off the last time, with the dead train passengers rising from the dead. Martine fled from the zombie in his car, shutting him behind a door. He then moved through the train back towards the conductor’s car, where Jonah and Sebastian were. He reached a passenger car and saw the same scene of carnage that the others saw in the passengar car near them. Passengers rising from the dead, eyes glassy, their bodies twisted, attacking the other surviving passengers and Apache raiders alike. At this point the players suddenly thought to ask about the cowgirl they’d seen earlier. I got a big grin on my face as I let them know that in the confusion of the attack, she is nowhere to be seen.

Martine avoids the carnage by climbing on top of the passenger car, at which point he sees the cowgirl on top of the conductor car ahead of him. She swings over the edge of the train, kicking in through a window in a move that would make James Bond proud. She crashes through the window of the conductor car, where Jonah was, kicking the conductor square in the jaw, and immediately pulling her gun on Jonah. She insisted that he hand over Sebastian. To prove just how serious she is, she shoots the conductor in cold blood.

Sebastian was just outside the conductor car, and proceeds to pull a clever trick to send a stream of zombies from the nearby passenger car pouring to the conductor car, but not before Jonah managed to jump out of the way. The zombies attack the Wichita Witch assassin in the conductor car, and the last the group heard was a loud frantic chanting, and then a fiery explosion. Just outside the conductor car, Sebastian agilely makes his way up to the roof of the passenger car, where Martine has also ended up. Jonah was stuck down just outside the conductor car fending off the attacks from the zombies down there, with some assistance from covering fire from Martine up above. He turned a grapple to his advantage and leapt from the backs and shoulders of zombies up to join Martine and Sebastian on top of the passenger car. This whole sequence was pretty badass, and full of pulpy awesomeness.

At this point everyone realized that since the Witch’s explosion, the train was starting to slow down and would presumably stop, with them standing on top of a horde of zombies. Rather than get trapped up there, the heroes opted to leap from the train down a shrubby hill, with Martine’s mystically enhancing the vegetation to cushion their fall. Sebastian and Jonah had a little middair scuffle trying to make the other cushion their fall for them. It was pretty hilarious.

The train continued on down the tracks, carrying the zombies on down the line. We ended with the heroes realizing that they while they had escaped the immediate crisis, they now had a new problem on their hands. They were stranded in the middle of the Arizona desert and were completely unprepared for such a trek.

This was a super fun sequence. I felt like I invoked some legitimate horror at the beginning with the zombies, but things naturally took on a very cinematic and pulpy quality before long. The players started getting a better feel for how Creating Advantages can really be effective. The characters really started coming into sharp focus. And most importantly, everyone seemed to have a great time!

How Did It Work?

Through the train sequence, I established each car as a zone, with the platforms between them also creating another zone. We got into a bit of confusion when Sebastian tried to pull off his trick to sick the zombies from one car on the Wichita Witch Assassin in the other. I had to stop the action and sketch things out roughly (since I’m really not using tactical maps at all) to clear it up. I ended up letting Sebastian’s player, Michael, spend a Fate Point to declare that the doors opened up a certain way to pull it off. I probably made it too easy for his trick to neutralize the Witch, but it was clever, and I was just kinda rolling with stuff. In retrospect, I really like her as a recurring issue, so I’m kind of glad no one actually saw her die.

As Jonah found himself trapped on the platform with the zombies, I planned to ramp up the pressure by progressively stacking a growing teamwork bonus against him. However, he got out of that mess after the second round, so it didn’t really have time to build up that much pressure.

Frankly, there really hasn’t been anything too lethal yet. I’m still feeling my way out for how difficult different things are. A little stress was taken, and a few Fate Points were spent by the players, but there were no Consequences taken, and I didn’t spend any of my Fate Points. This was definitely a session where the “rule of cool” reigned.

I haven’t come up with a good method yet in Roll20.net to keep track visibly of PC stress, Fate Points, and aspects. The character sheets in Roll20 are just inaccessible enough, and awkward enough. Thus far, everyone has their characters on the same Google Doc, which I can easily toggle over to peak at. Not a great solution, but working… sort of.

-Razorstorm


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.”