Wednesday, August 20, 2014

[Actual Play Report] Fiasco: Saturday Night '78

When the mob hitman punched the undercover cop in the police station parking lot, I knew we had a fiasco on our hands.


The Setup

There were six of us, all veteran gamers, and all new to Fiasco except me (only by a hair's breadth, though) so I stepped back to facilitate the others. Saturday Night '78 won out over Flyover and News Channel Six. I was secretly happy because if we were gonna play Flyover I wanted in on the action, dammit!

I don't know if it we were trying too hard to connect everything at the beginning or if we just got a Setup that was more nonsensical than most, but there was an early speedbump in trying to get a coherent starting situation going. We got there eventually, but we had dry-erase markers and relationship maps drawn up, which made me wonder about getting through the game in two hours (hint: we were not done in two hours).

The situation was complicated enough at the start that 2 of the guys just used their real names for their character names. We had:
  • Mitch, playing Mitch the mouthy dance club boss, a has-been former rival of
  • Todd, playing Jackie the breakout disco star, coked-up daughter of a New York state senator. Her last dance partner, secretly an undercover cop assigned to protect her, was killed, and now her new dance partner was
  • Matt, playing Karl Correia, an undercover cop assigned to protect Jackie, but who was still sweet on
  • Ben, playing Tammie, secretly pregnant lover of Karl and
  • Joe, playing Joe, mob hitman employed by Mitch to kill Tammie's twin sister, who was Jackie's dancer partner as well as an undercover cop.
Whew.

Act I

Real early on, we set up a rivalry when Joe punched Karl in the police station parking lot. Everyone got arrested, Tammie let slip she was pregnant, and most importantly, Joe's car got impounded with Tammie's dead sister in the trunk. Karl got assigned to protect Jackie and as they started training for the Discocentennial dance party to be held in Mitch's club, Mitch started plotting against Jackie. See, she was the actual target. Joe fucked up and killed Tammie's sister, Sammie, instead. Mitch gave Karl and Jackie some doctored coke but it went all wrong for Mitch. The two dancers performed like nothing anyone had ever seen, leading Mitch to start obsessing over recreating this disco super-soldier coke. Oh, and he also sent Joe to kill the right person this time.

Joe knocked out Karl on the steps of Jackie's brownstone and dragged him and the seriously impaired Jackie inside. He didn't even bother to tie her up, she was so wasted. Joe just set fire to the house and walked back to his car. Karl had come around, coaxed Jackie into fishing in his pants for his penknife, freed himself, and crashed out the window carrying Jackie - right onto the hood of Joe's car! Joe got out to flee but Tammie came out of nowhere driving Joe's car (recently freed from the impound), Sammie's corpse riding shotgun. She tagged Joe with the front fender and sent him to the pavement. That left crazy pregnant Tammie with three unconscious or incapacitated people. What to do, what to do...

Apparently what to do was take everyone to an abandoned slaughterhouse, tie them up, and start torturing them until someone told Tammie who killed her sister. It was Sammie's idea. Joe was first, since Todd was still playing Jackie as completely useless and drugged out of her mind and Karl was a cop. It was interesting here that this was Karl's scene. He had us establish it, and most of the early interaction was between Joe and Tammie, but Karl finally got all those stereotypically great lines like "You don't want to do this!" and "It'll be worse for you if you kill him!" and "It won't bring Sammie back!" Inside, Karl was wrestling with his duty as a cop to save Joe's life. Joe, the scumbag who had been banging Tammie behind his back. Tammie took bolt cutters to Joe's pinky finger and Karl made up his mind. He reached his leg up and managed to reach the ankle holster. There were two shots, then screaming, then end scene.

Jackie had the last scene of Act I, and we learned that Tammie lived but lost the baby, Joe and Karl never made it to a hospital, and Jackie was still going to dance in the Discocentennial celebration. Especially if she could get more of Mitch's crazy coke.

The Tilt

Confusion, followed by pain
A dangerous animal (possibly metaphorical) gets loose

Act II

It was really, really late when we begun Act II. All the attempts to maintain continuity and our longer-than-normal setup phase were dragging us into the wee hours, so we made a group decision to just do one scene per player for Act II. Joe started it off duct-taped to Karl's car, his hand roughly bandaged, while Karl tried to set up a meeting with Mitch somewhere public, like a zoo. Mitch just hung up (dammit, no rampaging elephants!), Karl had Joe start driving over to Mitch's club at gunpoint.

Tammie's last scene was a flash-forward. She was in court, and Jackie and Karl were there near her. All she asked them was, "Can you ever forgive me?"

Karl replied, "You need to start by forgiving yourself."

Jackie just said, "Of course I forgive you!" We weren't sure Jackie knew where she was or even what she'd been doing the last couple scenes. Or ever, really.

Then it was back to the present and Mitch's club, which was packed with people. Some of them were even there for the Discocentennial. As things progressed, however, it became apparent that most of them were undercover cops or people working for Jackie's father, Senator Wolfe (there's your dangerous animal). What happened next had the "confusion followed by pain" covered. Karl tried to accost Mitch, but Mitch had several cops on his side in his VIP room. Plus, Karl's tape recorder had been pickpocketed on his way up to Mitch. He had nothing he could use to touch Mitch. Mitch, who was Senator Wolfe's biggest drug supplier. It was the 70s, man.

Aftermath

We were all amazed at how prescient the Aftermath table results were. Even though Mitch tried his damndest to "win" in the narrative, most of the other players picked up on the strategy of poisoning a player's dice pool with mixed dice. Meanwhile, Todd (Jackie) wasn't really doing anything to antagonize anyone, either in-game or out, so although Jackie ended up with a small pile of dice, it was a monochrome pile.
  • Mitch (white 2): Mitch failed at disco dancing, and with the heat and suspicion brought on by the Discocentennial debacle, he failed at being a drug dealer. Mitch could never move on, though. Year after year, he'd travel to more and more backward countries as disco died, trying to recapture his heyday and failing every single time.
  • Joe (white 6): Joe avoided jail time because there was no conclusive evidence that he'd killed Sammie. He learned an important lesson about doing work for drug addicts, however, and kept his head down after that. A little smarter, a little older, and with nothing to show for his efforts, Joe kept on in much the same way he always had as the 1980s crept over the horizon.
  • Tammie (white 2): Tammie was convicted for the murder of her sister and went to fucking jail, where he still saw Sammie's corpse from time to time. Sometimes it rocked a small bundle in its arms.
  • Karl (white 5): Karl got thrown off the force for good and ended up manning a tollbooth. His existence was so banal he almost didn't notice that the latest guy to drive through the tolls was missing his pinky finger. Karl looked up in surprise and recognition, but the man was already gone.
  • Jackie (white 11): Jackie danced her way to the Discocentennial championships and won. Her coked-up meandering through life (and the lottery of being born a senator's daughter) ensured she never pissed anyone off so badly that they tried to kill her again.
We all loved Fiasco. What I'd probably do next time is, now that we have several people in the group who have experience with it now, is split any future games into 3 or 4 player chunks, as they recommend in the books. I also wouldn't worry so much about keeping internal consistency, because that really dragged the time out. Shorter scenes, more dialogue, less attachment to the characters. There's a very strange effect that happens where you know going into Fiasco that the dude you're playing is not going to make it out in one piece, but goddammit, you try anyway. You try like hell.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Review: Jadetech - Green Jade (Jadepunk, Fate Core System)

Authors: Jacob Possin, with flash fiction by Benjamin Feehan
Cover Artist: Nicole Cardiff and Jesse Ferguson
Format: 16 page, bookmarked PDF (14.4 MB)
Site: http://www.rerollstore.com/collections/jadepunk/products/jadetech-green-jade-pdf 

***
Overview

Mike - Before talking about the first Jadepunk supplement, Jadetech: Green Jade, let's talk a bit about MERPS (Middle-Earth Roleplaying System by ICE, Circa 1984-1999).

Reagan - Wait, what?

Bear with me a moment: there is a point to all of this.

MERPS is a wonder of 1980's RPG design: although a 'rules light' version of the ultra-crunchy Rolemaster engine, it is still ultra-crunchy beyond all comprehension compared to most modern systems.

This crunchiness extends to all aspects of the game: where Tolkien provided only a few lines of flavorful text, MERPS provides pages upon pages of detailed information, maps, character traits, stats, and tables. It takes the broad brush-strokes provided by the original creator's hand and fills in the fine details: ample fodder for the detail-oriented GM to set the scene in any possible scenario of a Middle-Earth based game.

So what does this have to do with the Jadetech: Green Jade supplement?

Well, herein we find the opposite approach employed; as in the main book, this expansion paints with a broad brush. It is about showing, not telling; it provides stories and flavorful examples.

This is a key point to talk, not just about this supplement, but the Jadepunk line in general. The majority of RPG products seem to follow the model of presenting the game rules and interspersing narrative and setting details in the sidebars and example text. Crunch over Fluff, if you will. The Jadepunk setting is well-written, full of flavor, and its obvious that a lot of time has been spent imagining what the society around this jade technology looks like.

Green Jade is the same in this respect, and I think its the right approach for the setting. Much of the mechanics are relegated to sidebars, to accentuate the narrative text. What text is devoted to mechanics reads as much as a suggestion on how to use it in a broad sense as opposed to actual mechanics, and I like it! Not only does it provide more space to reveal why the Jadepunk universe is the Jadepunk universe, but it allows GMs the option to mechanically flavor how green jade is both used and influences the game world however that GM likes. Bob's your uncle!

It shows some fine examples of green-jade gear (using the Assets build system found in the main book), it tells stories of the use of green jade in the game-world. No maps. No tables. No stats, apart from a few sample Assets. Instead, it paints a picture, and presents these pictures as fresh inspiration for your own campaign.

And it doesn't provide much in the way of new mechanics: the only mechanical addendum is the replacement of the 'secret' aspect with the 'instinct' aspect for creature NPC's. This is more of a tweak than a truly new mechanic. In conjunction with this idea, the book presents the idea of 'chaermera': animals enhanced in toughness and/also size by exposure to green jade.

Chaermeras are great - yet another example of how jade influences the overall gameworld. Given that Jadepunk was conceptualized originally as 'What if we mashed up old we-st gunslingers with wuxia heroes?' - you can see just how much the authors explored jade's societal impact.

With it's small size (16 pages total, including the back/front cover & credits page) and low price-point ($2.99 USD for the PDF at DriveThru RPG), Jadetech: Green Jade reminds me of the Gadget Guide and Power Profile PDF's for Mutants and Masterminds 3e

Like these guides, it is available as a low-price point PDF; and also like these supplements, it presents little - if anything - in the way of new rules; instead, it shows you how to use these rules to build new and wonderful things for your own game. Considering publisher +Ryan M. Danks publicly confessed love of Mutants & Masterminds, I can only assume that these parallels are the result of inspiration/emulation rather than coincidence.

You get a lot for $2.99!
Buy or Don't Buy?

Like Jadepunk itself, this supplement provides a beautiful and easy-to-read presentation. Also like the main book, it gives all the flavor you need about the subject at hand while providing plenty of whitespace to make it all your own.

But is it worth your hard-earned gaming dollars?

Well.... at US$2.99 for the PDF, it's basically an impulse buy. So I would think that price-point is hardly an obstacle for most. On the other hand, most of the beauty that the book presents will live on your computer/tablet screen only, unless you have the option of making a HQ printout.

  • Buy if: You love Jadepunk, and would like most examples of the setting and it's flavor for your table. Plus, it presents some great sample assets to use in play, or to inspire some of your own creations.
  • Don't buy: If you are using Jadepunk rules to run a generic campaign, there isn't much here for you. The chaemera rules might be of use to you for building beast-type NPC's, but I basically already spoiled that already in this review. On the other hand.... it's $2.99. You might want to download it anyhow for the read alone.

Final Word

Although this is a wonderful supplement- kudos to +Jacob Possin & +Benjamin Feehan for your lovely work here - this really isn't the Jadepunk supplement that I truly want.

I want mountains, Gandalf- mountains! I wish to know more about the larger world sketched in broad detail in the main Jadepunk book. Tell me more about the Cairn Mountains of Aerum; inform me about the Funarino Channel of Kaiyu. I'd love more on the history and conflicts between the major mining companies. Tell me about the honored traditions of the Nottila ship-captains! Show me how to run a game set in the fronteir-era of Kausao City, when the different powers jockeyed to see who would control the black jade of the Xibu Bati mountains. The Aerum Empire has airships!

I know that there are adventures to be had in Far Harad: tell me what I might find there. I want to know all that you can tell me.

But I have every faith that all of this - and more- will be explored in further supplements. And I cannot wait to see what Reroll Productions has in store for me going forward.

****
Jadetech: Green Jade (Reroll Store)


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Avengers Accelerated: The Sacrifice Play (part 5/5)


Joss has six players who want to participate in a supers game, called Avengers Accelerated, that uses the Fate Accelerated Edition rules. They've finished the conflict and are moving to the final phase of the Battle of New York. The participants are TonySteveClintNatashaBruce, and Thor. Joss's adversary character Loki, backed up by the invading Chitauri force (created as a character using the Fate fractal). New York City is also built as a character.

I'm using FAE stats for all the Avengers, posted here. The sheets include aspects, approaches, and stunts.

You can reread Part 1Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 of the session.

The conflict between the Avengers, Loki, the Chitauri invasion force, and New York City was resolved. Loki conceded, and New York City escaped without taking Consequences.

----

I could play through the final moments with Tony and the warhead, but that could as easily be a matter of pure roleplaying. So instead, I wanted to talk about the decisions that went into this mock game session. 

Use of the Fate fractal for the Chitauri and New York City. This was one of the most remarked-upon choices in Part 1. I did it for two major reasons: first, it simplifies the combat by minimizing the number of actors; and second, it presents the players with a clear success-or-failure indicator ("New York City has to survive"). Ryan Macklin talks about when not to use the Fractal here; I hope that my staging of this combat was a good example of when to do so.

Use of the basic Fate Accelerated rules for a big superhero battle. Why didn't I use Atomic Robo, or Venture City Stories, or whatever? Because I didn't need to. You can make Fate Core and FAE work for supers with the right set of assumptions. Here are mine:
  • The PCs and NPCs can roll on any action that's reasonable for their origin and powers.
  • As long as everyone has something interesting to do, differences in power level are fine.
That's it! Now: is this for everybody? Absolutely not. Many people like more crunch. For them, crunchier rules are the right thing. But for a fast, fluid, engaging supers game, Fate by itself works fine.

Use of Fate Accelerated vs. Fate Core. FAE's approaches are less granular than Fate Core's skills, and the risk of approach spamming is a reality in any game. In trade, I don't need to add new skills or anything else to account for all the things these characters can accomplish. Thor doesn't need high levels of Physique, Fight, and Shoot to do what he does; he's Forceful by nature, and he's good at it. Everything Tony's great at is Clever or Flashy, from his plans to his weapon attacks. And so on.

Use the right rules, and only the right rules, to do what you want. I skipped zones entirely for the fight - I only made location significant at one point of the fight (Natasha getting to the portal device), and since location didn't add any value, neither did the zones rules. Similarly, I pulled in the Marvel-style initiative system posted here by Ryan M. Danks. For Fate in particular, I personally prefer this to rolling initiative since it gives the PCs power to orchestrate interesting fights.

This is basically how Mike Lindsey runs his supers game. You can read more of his thoughts, collected here, under the label "Four-Color FAE".

----

This series of posts wouldn't have been possible without the efforts of the following people:
  • +Mike Lindsey for writing a series of excellent articles on running superhero games in Fate Accelerated, and actually running such a game.
  • +Reagan Taplin for getting the ball rolling on the idea of depicting Fate mechanics via the Avengers movie, and for supplying several page images.
  • Ryan M. Danks for the Avengers pregens which helped me write my own, and for the initiative rules used in the conflict.
  • William Keller for spurring me to write full sheets for everyone, which gave us Natasha's Wounded Gazelle Gambit and made Clint Barton an advantage-generating machine.
  • Luca Bonisoli, Samuel Purdy, and Avram Grumer for some feedback on Part 1 that helped clarify parts of the text.
Thanks for reading Avengers Accelerated! Now, go forth and game!

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Essential Four-Color FAE

I've seen several posts on the Fate Core and FAE communities asking for a guide to running supers. +Mike Lindsey+Reagan Taplin+Gary Anastasio, and others have worked on writing, refining, and playtesting these rules. For my part, I want to collect those posts into a single list.

The Four-Color FAE series:
  • Part 1 - Power facts, the basic idea behind supers in FAE. Includes a character sheet for Miss Martian as an FAE super.
  • Part 2 - Character roles in the supers genre, or "who is playing the fighter?"
  • Part 3 - Approaches vs. Skills in Fate. Why FAE does a better job at supers.
  • Part 4 - Extras in FAE. "Where does he get those wonderful toys?"
  • Part 5 - Aspects and immunities in Fate. A suggested house rule for how to handle characters who are simply immune to something.
  • Part 6 - A list of inspirations for the New Troy supers game.
  • Part 7 - Mercury Man, a PC created in FAE and based on the Flash.
  • Part 8 - Concessions Before Consequences, or how to model the ebb and flow of comic-book conflict.
  • Part 9 - Starseed, a PC created in FAE and based on the Green Lantern.
  • Part 10 - Character creation for the New Troy game, including PC concepts. Uses A Spark in Fate Core, a tool for creating a campaign world.
  • Part 11 - Issue 1 of the New Troy game, introducing the PCs.
  • Part 12 - Muramasa, a sample villain created in FAE.
  • Part 13 - Character sheets for Golden Age PCs in FAE.
Bonus characters:
Batman:

You can see the evolution of an FAE super character, Batman.

Young Justice characters:

AmazoArtemisKid FlashMiss MartianRobinSuperboy

Avengers Accelerated:

The Battle of New York from "The Avengers", if it had been played out as a conflict in FAE. An illustration of how to use the Fate fractal to stage large-scale fights.
  1. Part 1 - The Invasion Begins
  2. Part 2 - The War
  3. Part 3 - Avengers Assembled
  4. Part 4 - Hope is Lost
  5. Part 5 - The Sacrifice Play
Games using Four-Color FAE:

This list isn't complete, but if you are looking for ways that people are applying these rules, here's where to start.
  • Super Powereds - University for Heroes (OOC) (IC)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Avengers Accelerated: Hope is Lost (part 4/5)




Joss has six players who want to participate in a supers game, called Avengers Accelerated, that uses the Fate Accelerated Edition rules. They've finished three exchanges in the conflict so far. The participants are TonySteveClintNatashaBruce, and Thor. Joss's adversary character is Loki, backed up by the invading Chitauri force (created as a character using the Fate fractal). New York City is also built as a character.

I'm using FAE stats for all the Avengers, posted here. The sheets include aspects, approaches, and stunts.

You can reread Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3 of the session, or continue to Part 5.

During the last session, nobody took any new stress. Joss spent 2 Fate points from the GM's pool, and Bruce spent 1 to transform into the Hulk. Bruce created an aspect, Always Angry, while other members of the group reinforced and invoked their existing aspects. Loki also created Chitauri Reinforcements, and added a new supporting NPC.

----

Joss: "Thor, you went last. Who's up?"

Thor: "New York City can go."

Joss: "Okay. New York doesn't have much offense yet, but they're going to try and overcome Chitauri Reinforcements. You see armored Humvees and soldiers pulling up and deploying in the streets. Several of them open fire on the Chitauri. The police radioed in with Steve's instructions, so they're going to be assisting civilians where they find them. They succeeded, but at a serious cost - the reinforcements are no longer after you guys, they've cornered a pocket of civilians trapped in a bank, and they have a bomb! Steve, you're up. If you can inflict two stress on the Chitauri, the troopers who have them pinned down will be neutralized."

The New York City character's Overcome action came at a cost. Joss doesn't have a specific mechanic for this, so he hands Steve something to do that's in line with his previous actions - protecting civilians.

Steve: "Yeah, alright. I'll head into the bank, charging into melee with them. I tumble in, tossing a shield at the one with the bomb, then kick an overturned table into two more. I'll throw one over the rail, and tell everyone to clear out - I'm Rallying New York. The Containment Strategy is helping here because the Chitauri are an isolated team and don't have a backup team, sharpshooters or snipers to pin me down."

Joss: "Sounds good. With that invocations, you inflict your two stress. Their bomb goes off, but you duck behind your shield just in time and are knocked out the window. The remaining Chitauri in the bank are down for the count. You come down hard on a car outside. Thanks to your invocation, nobody panics - they saw Captain America in action! The soldiers start escorting the civilians out as soon as it's safe. And a brief interlude.."

Joss: "On the Helicarrier, Fury hears from the Council that a nuclear strike has been ordered on Manhattan, right where you guys are fighting. Fury is refusing to do it - he has faith in you guys."

Steve: "Okay. Clint set Tony up pretty well last time, what magic can he work for us again?"

Clint: "I'm going to take another shot at Loki. He's Scepterless and Running, so he's in the air - probably chasing after Natasha, so can I say that I get a sneak attack on him while he's focused on shooting her down? And I'm spending a Fate point to invoke Arrows For Every Occasion."

Joss: "Sounds good. You inflict some stress, and he's going to take a Moderate Consequence. What do you have in mind?"


Clint: "He's a god, maybe, but he's on a flying machine, and I want to out-sneak that son of a bitch. I shoot an arrow, he catches it 'cause he's so awesome, but as it's right there in his face it blows up - one of my explosive arrows - and takes out the hover-bike. It blows up, he crash-lands right into Stark Tower in a humiliating pile. How about Shot Down In Flames - literally and metaphorically? And I want Bruce to go next. Let's finish Loki off."

Joss: "Excellent! Loki's downed, and you got some much-needed payback. Clearing up the opposition also lets Natasha land safely next to the portal generator, so she can do whatever she wants on her action. Bruce, what do you do?"

Bruce: "I'm gonna come smash into Loki, and knock him through the glass into the tower! Then I'm going to give him the beating of his life."

Joss: "Okay. He's spending a Fate point to invoke I Can Talk My Way Out of Anything and Thor's Overlooked Brother as a defense - he's a god! He'll try and cow the Hulk through intimidation and sheer presence."

Bruce: "Oh, he shouldn't have done that. Double shots of Always Angry, and he was Shot Down in Flames. Plus I'll spend a Fate point on Strongest One There Is. He may be a god, but I'm the Hulk."

Joss: "Alright. You beat the ever-lasting tar out of Loki, Odin's son, brother of Thor, god, and would-be heir to the throne of Asgard. He takes a serious Consequence and some stress."

Bruce: "Puny god!"


Joss: "Loki makes a quiet whining noise on the ground. He's got a stress box or something left, but screw it, he'll concede."

Bruce: "Yeah! I'll leave him there and get back to the Chitauri. Natasha is on the roof, so she's up next."

Joss: "Okay. Natasha, you landed on the roof in a roll and came up ready for anything - and what you found was Dr. Selvig, apparently unharmed and back to his old self."

Natasha: "Wonderful. Can he tell me how to shut down the portal device?"

Joss: "You guys have tried blasting it, but he explains that when building it, he apparently put a failsafe in - the scepter's energy, the Tesseract energy, and the protective force field are all the same, so the scepter should be able to shut it down. Thor knocked the scepter out of Loki's hands earlier, and Selvig is looking right at it. You can spend your action to go fetch it and be ready to use it."

Natasha: "Okay, I'm doing that. Any roll?"

Joss: "Nah, you just do it. This conflict is almost over, so that'll set up the next part of the adventure. Who's up next?"

Natasha: "Thor and Tony can wrap up the Chitauri."

Thor: "I'll throw the hammer around some more, and probably tackle one of those big Leviathan things. Those guys are great!"

Tony: "I'll help out. Hey Joss, we can't cut through their armor very easily, so I'm invoking Weak Spot again - I want to make like Jonah and dive right into its mouth, cutting it open from the inside!"

Joss: "Your rolls are good enough that the Chitauri reinforcement character goes down. Congratulations! The conflict is finished, but the Battle of New York isn't over with. Some narration.."


Joss: "On the helicarrier deck, a fighter jet scrambles. Fury's been cut out of the loop - the pilots are taking their orders directly from the Council. Just as it starts to take off, Fury comes out with an RPG!"

Tony: "I bet it's powered by Fate and on Kickstarter already."

Joss: "Funny guy. A rocket-propelled grenade launcher. He shoots the bird down on the deck, but there's a second jet. So you guys have one nuclear warhead coming towards New York. The portal is still open, and the Council wants to deal with it by any means necessary - there are still plenty of Chitauri around, after all. Tony, Fury contacts you personally to let you know it's on its way. You have three minutes."

If New York City had been Taken Out, Joss would have brought in Thanos to survey the wreckage of New York City and engage the Avengers. Fortunately they averted that catastrophe, but they must still deal with the nuke - and stop the Chitauri invasion at the source.

Steve: "Alright. Then on the ground, we'll still be fighting off the Chitauri, trying to draw their attention away from Natasha and Steve so they can deal with the portal and the nuke."

Joss: "Sounds good. In fact, everyone's going to take a pounding, - the Chitauri are desperate, and more of them are going to come through that portal unless stopped. They gang up on Hulk, bombarding him with laser fire from their hover bikes. Clint, a bunch of Chitauri have finally noticed you, and they come at you. You're out of arrows! Steve, a lucky shot hits you in the gut, but your super-soldier constitution is tougher than that and Thor helps you to your feet."

Clint: "I probably shot one of them point-blank, so I'd grab that last arrow out of his chest and use it as a grappling hook to jump into one of the buildings or something. Since you hurt everyone else, let's say I go through the glass window of the high-rise and have to lie there for a few."

In Fate, the fact that the characters are all under assault can simply be part of the narration, meant to emphasize the real drama. In this case, Joss is reminding the players that the Chitauri are still a threat and that closing the portal is their next and most important goal.


----

Stay tuned for the final session of Avengers Accelerated!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Avengers Accelerated: Avengers Assembled (part 3/5)

Joss has six players who want to participate in a supers game, called Avengers Accelerated, that uses the Fate Accelerated Edition rules. They've finished two exchanges in the conflict so far. The participants are TonySteveClintNatashaBruce, and Thor. Joss's adversary character is Loki, backed up by the invading Chitauri force (created as a character using the Fate fractal). New York City is also built as a character.

I'm using FAE stats for all the Avengers, posted here. The sheets include aspects, approaches, and stunts.

You can reread Part 1 or Part 2 of the session, or continue to Part 4 or Part 5.

During the last session, the Chitauri gained two extra stress boxes due to the presence of the Leviathan, and nobody took stress. Tony spent one Fate point, and Loki spent one from the GM's pool. Tony's It's All On You aspect on Loki was overcome, but Loki took a Minor Consequence of Scepterless and Running from Thor. Tony created an aspect, Weak Spot, on the Chitauri after having JARVIS analyze a flying Leviathan. The ground team created We've Got Steve's Back, Rallying New York, and Back-to-Back Badasses.

----

Joss: "Last time, New York was barely starting to recover from the chaos of invasion. Civilians are just now being escorted off the streets by the police. The Chitauri are focusing on you guys, just like you wanted. The Leviathan is still prowling around in the sky. Currently, only Iron Man and Thor can really engage it. And Loki is flying around too. What do you want to do?"

Tony: "Do I need to roll an action to get the Leviathan's attention and bring it into melee range with the ground team?"

Joss: "Failure in that case is pretty boring, unless it's going for some high-value target and you need to peel it away from that. So I'll say no, you can make that happen as long as you describe it."

Tony: "Great! I shoot it in the face with a barrage of micro-missiles, then whip around and peel out, leading it towards the ground team."


Joss: "Sounds good, it follows you - smashing into the corner of a building as it goes. Rubble rains down, smashing a hot dog stand but not hurting anyone. The Chitauri will let New York go first. It's going to try to create an advantage, Civilian Evacuation. Blowing that boost of Perimeter Established, and rolling Our Town thanks to Steve, gives success with style. Aspects are always true, and you guys couldn't do much with just a perimeter, but you can invoke this new aspect when attacking, reflecting the fact that you don't have to call your shots for fear of hurting an innocent. New York appreciates Cap's contribution, and so Steve goes next."

Steve: "Alright. I want us to really power up for this next big push - either against Loki or the Chitauri. Ground team, can we get some badass narration?"

Natasha: "To conserve ammo - and for my attack stunt, if it comes up - I've put my pistols away and grabbed a Chitauri energy weapon. I'm swinging that thing around, blasting them with pinpoint precision."

Clint: "Arrows everywhere - I do a baseball slide under a swung attack and shoot a few guys. I'll do that Legolas move of stabbing someone in the chest with an arrow, too."

Tony: "So that's why you're playing an archer character. I get it now."

Steve: "I'll come running back from the cops just in time to beat down a few of them with my shield, too. Okay, I think we're ready--"

Thor: "Wait! I want to be there for this. I land in a shower of lightning, wiping out the remaining Chitauri you guys were fighting. I'll give Steve the lowdown on the cube."

Steve: "Okay. I'll start giving out tactics. We want Stark up top--"

Bruce: "Hey, guys, sorry I'm late. Joss, where am I?"

Joss: "You saw some devastation in New York City and figured there was trouble. You have a crappy motorcycle, some borrowed clothes, and a headache. So of course you rode to the center of town, under this huge portal in the sky swarming with flying bad guys, and of course find the rest of the PCs."

Steve: "Hey Joss, since Hulk missed the first couple of exchanges, can he get at least a free action of some kind? You've been sitting on six Fate points with only five PCs."

Joss: "I think that's fair. But make it interesting."

Bruce: "Alright. Joss, I want to create an advantage. Tony kept nagging me about my secret on the Helicarrier earlier. Here's my secret: I'm Always Angry. Success with style, baby! And I'll transform into the Hulk."

Joss is making up for a player missing out on some of the crucial combat by having him roll in a single supporting aspect as he comes in. This seems fair to the table, even if it's not officially in the rules - and what the table finds acceptable is at the heart of Fate.

Tony: "Oh that's awesome. Hey Joss, instead of Steve's action next, can it be Bruce? I want to lead this Leviathan right to him."

Joss: "Go for it. Bruce, there's this massive metal-clad beast flying right behind Tony through the New York skyline. It's taking out parts of buildings and cars and stuff as it comes. He's guiding it right to you. What do you want to do?"

Bruce: "Punch it in the face!"

Joss: "That's a hell of a roll, especially with your Attack bonus stunt. You inflict four stress on the Chitauri - and the Leviathan goes completely down. Tony blows a hole in the tail that was about to fall on you. The rest of the team takes cover or shields themselves. Steve can probably shield someone else. From the towers of New York, the Chitauri are howling angrily. All the PCs are now back-to-back and badass, and the entire team is ready to kick ass. Bruce, who goes next?"


Bruce: "Loki's still around here somewhere, right? How does he react?"

Joss: "He just whispers, 'send the rest'. He's creating an advantage, Chitauri Reinforcements. As a result, I'm bringing in another composite character, since two more Leviathans - along with the corresponding troops - come through the portal. Of course they have the same huge-ass number of stress boxes, but no Consequence slots."

Bruce: "Joss, I hate you. Are you the reason those two other players quit and I picked up this PC?"

Joss: "You wanted to be the angry guy, now you have a reason. Loki defers back to Steve."

Steve: "Alright. I'll lay down our strategy. I'm giving everyone specific roles. Clint goes high, Thor on the portal, Tony in the air, Natasha and I on the ground, Hulk wherever the hell Hulk wants to go."

Joss: "Sounds like you are reinforcing your existing Containment Strategy aspect. That sound about right?"

Steve: "Yeah, sounds good. Success with style again, for a total of four free invokes. Alright, team, let's get to work!"

Tony: "I'll carry Clint up to a rooftop with my suit's jets."

Bruce: "I'll leap into the air and start tearing Chitauri apart, leaping from roof to roof."

Thor: "And I'm summoning lightning and channeling it through this huge metal building I find, blowing up Chitauri reinforcements right and left."

In Joss's staging of the battle, zones have been left out to simplify the combat. Thus, the PCs can freely move themselves and each other around, like Tony positioning Clint. In other combats, Joss can re-introduce zones if he finds them useful.

Joss: "Sounds good. The Chitauri are coming in endless waves, so I'm going to up the stakes a bit. Since there's a second Chitauri character, we're going to bring in SHIELD. On the helicarrier, Nick Fury takes a call from the Council.. they're going to take a very significant action next round. Steve, who's next in your strategy?"

Steve: "Clint. He's good at setting up opportunities for us."

Clint: "Okay. I'm on the roof of an office building. I have a stunt that says because I watch everything like a hawk, I get a +2 to Carefully Create an Advantage when observing from a distance. Is this high enough to qualify? I liked Tony's Weak Spot maneuver earlier. I want to either reinforce that or find something new, maybe by watching the Chitauri hoverbikes. Of course I'll be shooting arrows everywhere too."


Joss: "Okay. With that roll, and your stunt bonus, you succeed with style. The Weak Spot aspect gets two more free invocations. Is Tony going to capitalize on it now?"

Tony: "Yeah, I can go next. Let's say they can't bank worth a damn, so I'll be doing awesome high-speed canyon chases on the streets of New York City! Hordes of Chitauri flying after me, but one after another meets his end in a fiery crash!"

Joss: "So a Flashy Attack, naturally. With your roll, and a free invocation of Weak Spot, you dispose of the last of the Chitauri! Well, the first invaders anyway. Now you guys have to deal with the reinforcements. Who's next?"

Bruce: "I'm still attacking the Chitauri Leviathans!"

Joss: "Got it. Natasha, you look like you're ready to go."

Natasha: "I think our problem is that portal. I want to get to it. Joss, can I catch a lift on the Chitauri hoverbikes? Like did we shoot one down maybe? I don't want to spend a Fate point to make it happen - I feel like we've got some crazy stuff still coming."

Joss: "In that case, no such luck, but you can probably leap onto one. Since the Chitauri will oppose you going to the portal, I don't want to just let you move freely. But I like your combat pragmatist stunt, and the fact that you're on the ground is kind of your disadvantage right now, so let's call this an Overcome roll to hijack a bike and get up there. The Chitauri get to actively defend - you have to get through their numbers before you're in a position to act on the portal."

Natasha: "Alright. Hmm, that roll is bad. Hey, if Steve is around, can he boost me using his shield? Can I use one of those Containment Strategy invocations, since we're working as a team to contain the invasion at its source?"

Joss: "Sure, mark off an invocation and you'll succeed. The Chitauri won't bid any Fate points to resist that, so tell me what happens."

Natasha: "I vault up onto one of the hoverbikes, on the back. Using some daggers, I stab one of the pilots and toss him over. The next one gets some knives in the back, and I'll use those as a sort of harness to force him to steer. Let's let the Chitauri go next."

Joss: "Steve has their attention, and they're pissed, so the Chitauri are going to focus fire on the ground team, starting with him. I'm spending some Fate points to make this happen, invoking Invading Chitauri Force and Chitauri Reinforcements. Steve, how do you want to defend?"

Steve: "Crap. My roll wasn't that great. I'll invoke We've Got Steve's Back. So let's say that Tony is flying past Natasha as she goes up, and he'll be on the scene to help me out. I'm also invoking Civilian Evacuation so we're free to blast these guys to kingdom come without worrying about hitting innocents - it'll just be a war zone down here. Let's see... Hey Tony, how about you bounce your repulsors off my shield, and I swing it in a big arc to hit a bunch of these guys too? That brings my shield stunt into play, and gives me a +2 to Forcefully Defend. That's enough!"


Joss: "Great job. You successfully defend, inflicting heavy casualties. Everyone except Thor has gone."

Thor: "More attacks. Let's say Hulk earlier leaped onto one of the Leviathans' backs, and is pounding on Chitauri that came up to attack him. I'll land next to him and start wailing on them too. Hmm... since this is going to be an attack, here's what happens. I'm invoking Weak Spot - the Leviathans are flesh under the armor, right? So Hulk breaks off a huge chunk of that armor and drives it halfway into the creature's body underneath, then I summon lightning and hammer it down with Mjolir! That's invoking Back-to-Back Badasses since we're doing a team-up attack. And we're going to crash-land in an evacuated building, doing damage to pretty much every Chitauri left on top of this thing as we do, invoking Civilian Evacuation to make it okay. How's that sound?"

Joss: "By all the gods in Asgard, Thor, that left a mark. The Leviathan - and plenty of Chitauri troops - are down for the count."

Bruce: "And oh yeah. I'm punching Thor in the face too. For that fight we had earlier."

Joss: "Fair enough. He goes flying. That's the end of the exchange! Great job, guys, you have the Chitauri on the run. But it's not over yet."

----

Stay tuned for the next session of Avengers Accelerated!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Character Highlight: Lotus-Blossom Mei (Tianxia)

Following my recent review of the wuxia RPG Tianxia, I thought it might be fun to post of some the builds made for our game here in Seattle.

First up: courtesan and Jinyiwei Imperial agent, Lotus Blossom Mei:


"Lotus Blossom" Mei

  • Aspects
High Concept: Imperial Secret-Agent and Courtesan
Trouble: The heart must be held in secrecy
Other: Master Ling taught me everything; Beautiful viper; Trust no one
  • Skills
+4 Deceive
+3 Fight, Rapport
+2 Athletics, Chi*, Empathy
+1 Burglary, Investigate, Notice, Will
  • Jianghu Rank: 1* (Ghost Serpent Form)
Ghost Haunts the Shadow: You may use Chi instead of Stealth to create an advantage based on moving silently or remaining unseen.
Serpent Bites the Hand: If you gain shifts on a defense, you can sacrifice your action next turn to immediately inflict an attack on your opponent using the shift value of your defense as your attack result.
Serpent Strikes Twice: +2 bonus to Deceive rolls to create an advantage based on disorientation, distraction, or unbalancing against opponents you have already inflicted stress on this combat.
  • Stunts
The Scent of Jasmine: +2 to Overcome with Deceive when dealing with those who might find you attractive.
Resplendent Flower: Sub Rapport for Lore when dealing with matters pertaining to fashion and beauty.
A Hundred Flowers: Once per session you can call upon a helpful ally in the area, provided you can recount a story of your previous meeting.
  • Refresh: 2
  • Physical Stress: OO
  • Mental Stress: OOO
Consequences:
  • Minor (2):
  • Moderate (4):
  • Severe (6):
Special Ability Bonuses:
  • +1 Zone Movement, +1 Passive Opposition (Jianghu Rank 1)
  • Chi Armor (Chi +2, see Tianxia pg. 60)
Background:

Orphaned at a young age, Mei was taken in by Captain Ling of the Jinyiwei (Brocade-Clad Guard). Although Master Ling was like a father to her, he did not take her off the streets out of sheer charity: instead he aimed to train her as a secret member of Jinyiwei, who served as the Emperor’s feared secret police force.

Under a series of tutors Mei learned to read and write, sing and dance, and various other arts appropriate for a charming lady of high-society during the day: while at night Master Ling himself taught her the techniques of the Ghost Serpent school of martial arts.

At age 18 she was told to report to Madame Qi: trainer of Courtesans and herself a secret member of the Jinyiwei. Under Madame Qi’s watchful eye she learned to manipulate the hearts of men and those prey to easy flattery, while never forgetting the most important lesson taught her by Master Ling:

“Your heart is your greatest treasure: keep it secret, and never let anyone steal it.”

As a member of the Jinyiwei, Mei travels the remotest corners of the Emperor’s dominion, seeking to gather intelligence and bring to justice both criminals and corrupt officials alike, all whilst under the guise of ‘Lotus Blossom’ Mei : famed and much sought-after courtesan.

***

Although the Emperor has many judges and magistrates in his service, members of the Jinyiwei typically make very little use of them, having been authorized by the Emperor himself to bring any in all to justice without due-process or trial as they see fit.

Mei enjoys the full authority of any Jinyiwei member: when dealing with highly placed or influential individuals who could feasibly escape prosecution it is not unusual for her to serve both as judge and executioner when other means are not available.

***
"Lotus Blossom" Mei (Google Docs)