Friday, December 20, 2013

Character Highlight: Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner (FAE)

I was listening to one of my favorite artists play one of my favorite songs on the way to work, and it dawned on me: "Wow, this would make a fantastic character for a FAE game, either as a hero or a villain!" Without further ado, here is:

Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner

High Concept: Mercenary Ghost of Revenge
Trouble: The CIA Decided They Wanted Roland Dead
Other Aspects: Norway's Greatest Son, Eternal Thompson Gunner, Time Stands Still For Roland

+3 Sneaky
+2 Careful, Flashy
+1 Forceful, Clever
+0 Quick

  • Because I am the Eternal Thompson Gunner, I can become intangible, gaining a +2 to Forcefully Defend against physical attacks from melee or ranged weapons.
  • As I Hunted The Continent, I gain a +2 to Carefully Overcome or Create an Advantage when tracking down a target.
  • Because I Still Wander Through The Night, once per session I can appear anywhere, provided it is a region locked in conflict.

Refresh: 3
Stress: OOO

  • Mild (2): 
  • Moderate (4):
  • Severe (6):

Roland is a Norwegian who becomes embroiled in the Congo Crisis of the late 1960s. He earns a reputation as the greatest Thompson gunner, a reputation that attracts the attention of the CIA in foreign conflicts. Roland is betrayed and murdered by a fellow mercenary, Van Owen, who blows off his head. Roland becomes the phantom "headless Thompson gunner" (reminiscent of the Headless Horseman) and eventually has his revenge on Van Owen, when he catches him "in a bar room drinking gin." After this Roland continues "wandering through the night" as a sort of revolutionary spirit.

Besides the historical references to third-world conflicts around the globe, the 'Troubles' in the Six Counties in Ireland, and the often shadowy involvement of the CIA, the song is a sort of bittersweet rallying cry to the "revolution" in America. The final line of the song, "Patty Hearst heard the burst of Roland's Thompson gun, and bought it..", referring to heiress Patty Hearst's kidnapping and subsequent involvement in the Symbionese Liberation Army, throws a cynical twist into the song's portrayal of a mercenary come back from the dead for justice and revenge.


Friday, December 13, 2013

Character Highlight: Redbones and Pest (FAE)

Continuing our series of Cycle of Aea fantasy characters made with FAE, here is Redbones the barbarian, and her companion, Pest:

Redbones, Sakan Barbarian


High ConceptPint Sized Barbarian Dinosaur-Rider
Trouble: You May Be Bigger - But Not Meaner
Other Aspects: Dinosaurs Are A Girl's Best Friend, Beastly Instincts, Barbarism Trumps Civilization

+3 Forceful
+2 Clever, Quick
+1 Careful, Sneaky
+0 Flashy


  • When I am In The Saddle I may assign damage to either Myself or My Mount.
  • Because I use am Small and Shifty, I gain a +2 to Cleverly or Quickly Create an Advantage when facing larger foes.
  • As I was Born In The Wilds, once per session I may automatically create or edit a scene aspect while out in the wild.
Refresh: 3
Stress: OOO
  • Mild (2):
  • Moderate (4):
  • Severe (6):
Pest, Battle Axe, Warpaint


Gammalu Hunter, Pack Instincts

  • Skilled (+2) at: Stalking, biting
  • Bad (-2) at: Anything that isn't’ Stalking or biting
Stress: OO


Redbones hails from one of the many nomadic hunter-gatherer tribes that live on the savage plateau of Saka. Always a feisty competitor, she quickly graduated into the ranks of the Rakabu, the tribal knights who ride into combat on the backs of fierce Gammalu (Deinonychus). She excelled, but being small even for a Pech, constantly felt the urge to prove herself against her larger brothers and sisters, which often got her into trouble. Eventually, when Pest, her unusually intelligent Gammalu companion killed another, she was asked to put him down. Instead, she abandoned her tribe to seek fortune in the wider world.

Though Saka boasts no cities and few settlements, she had traveled to the border trading post of Ah-Khulassa, and was always fascinated with the sights and sounds of civilization. Riding into a broader world, she seeks to explore it to the fullest, seeking fortune and fame however she can.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Character Highlight: Lorcan of Muir (FAE)

Continuing my series of FAE fantasy characters, here is the consort and right-hand man of of Queen Nuala, Lorcan of Muir.

He is designed to be 'that one villain' for a starting-level group; as a PC, he would be +1 Major and +1 Significant Milestones.

Lorcan of Muir
  • Aspects
High Concept:
Demon Swordsman and Prince-Consort of Fomoria
Trouble: Nuala’s love is cold, but it’s all I have
Other Aspects: Bastard of House Balor; I’ll handle it myself!; Anger is both my fortress and my prison
  • Approaches
+4 Quick
+3 Forceful
+2 Clever
+1 Careful, Sneaky
+0 Flashy
  • Stunts
- Since I am a Demon of the Blade, I gain +2 to Quickly Create an Advantage when in melee combat and armed with a sword.
- My Reflecting Blade technique is to be feared; when I Succeed with Style when defending in melee combat I can inflict an automatic 2-shift hit instead of taking a boost.
- None are safe from my Flashing Blade; when I am in melee combat with multiple opponents I can choose to assign shifts from a successful attack as I like to any opponent(s) within range.
- As Captain of the Fomorian Guard, my legions owe me their loyalty; once per session I may declare that reinforcements arrive on the scene.

Refresh: 3
Stress: OOO
  • Mild (2):
  • Moderate (4):
  • Severe (6):
  • Extras
Fomorian Sword, Ancestral dagger, Travelers pack + horse
  • Background
Lorcan is a bastard son of King Balor VI (‘of Muir’ means ‘child of the sea’).
Never truly accepted at court, but never quite belonging to the world outside of it, Lorcan suffered a bitter and lonely childhood, building up a resentment that he cannot let go of even today.

Lorcan was one of the conspirators to bring Nuala to the throne. He loves and is loyal only to her, and her wishes are as his own.

But this reversal of fortune hasn’t done much to cool the fires at his core. He has a chip on his shoulder as large and burdensome as a mountain, and is easily goaded into a fight.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Character Highlight: Nuala, Sorceress Queen of Fomor (FAE)

Heroes need villains: otherwise they have little purpose.

With this idea in mind, here is Nuala, the Mighty Sorceress Queen of Fomor via FAE. Note that she is created here as boss-level NPC: as a PC, she would be +3 Major and +9 Significant Milestones.

Nuala, Sorceress Queen of Fomor
  • Aspects
High Concept:
Avatar of Water & Queen of Fomor
Trouble: The old order must be restored
Other Aspects: Immortality allows for long-term planning; The waters speak to their Queen; I love all of my little pawns, everyone of them
  • Approaches
+5 Flashy
+4 Clever, Sneaky
+3 Careful, Forceful
+2 Quick
  • Stunts
- Since I have seized the Diadem of Power, I gain +2 to Flashily Create an Advantage when my ability to impose my will upon others can be of use.
- As I am Subtle as I am Beautiful, I gain +2 to Sneakily Overcome in social situations where I can apply seduction or deception.
- When I command my Pool of Scrying, I can ignore distance limitations when viewing remote actions, provided that there is a pool of water at the scene in question.
- As Sorceress of the Waters, I gain +2 to Flashily Create an Advantage where my command of water magics can be of assistance to me.
- While cocooned in my Protective Bubble, I can grant +1 to Defend Against Physical Attacks directed against a single area.
- Once per session I can summon Servants of the Deep; mooks thus summoned can have stress boxes equal to my Flashy Approach.
- Once per session I can create a Great Wave, allowing me to Flashily Attack an entire zone with a huge wave of water.
  • Refresh: 2
  • Stress: OOO
  • Mild (2):
  • Moderate (4):
  • Severe (6):
  • Background
As a young girl, Nuala spent a great deal of time at the shore of the sea: listening and communing with it’s waters, and seeing the great sea of mist that had both protected and imprisoned her people from time immemorial.

The mists seemed to speak with her, always saying:

“Remove us, and embrace your destiny.”

When she reached adulthood, Nuala heeded these voices by first seducing the mighty Fomorian King Balor VI, and then overthrowing him and taking his place as Queen of Fomor: devoted to re-establishing her people as the natural rulers of Aea. 

To this end she used her might to remove the veil that barred her people from the larger world; now they seek to rule the world that had both shunned and forgotten them behind the mists of time and memory.

Queen Nuala believes that her power is proof of her destiny to bring order to the realms. All that is within her all-seeing sight must be brought under her command. Even the Fomor, who she decrees the natural rulers of the world, are but pawns in her larger plans.

As Avatar of Water, Nuala draws upon her awesome powers from an otherworldly source. But the world must always be in balance- somewhere there must be another power that balances or even neutralizes her own, if only it were to be found...


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Character Highlight: Ailene, Princess of Fomor (FAE)

Here is the third of my FAE fantasy builds: Ailene, Princess of Fomor:

Ailene, Princess of Fomor
  • Aspects
High Concept: Princess of Fomoria in exile
Trouble: The throne of Balor is mine by birthright!
Other Aspects: I know a few spells...; Manor-born; The Otherworld ever calls to me
  • Approaches
+3 Flashy
+2 Careful, Clever
+1 Sneaky, Quick
+0 Forceful
  • Stunts
- When I hold my ancestral blade, the Sword of Conand, I gain +2 to Carefully Defend against melee attacks.
- As I am schooled in Fomorian Magics, I gain +2 to Flashily Create an Advantage when I am allowed to incant a useful spell. 
- My Enchanted Tattoos ever protect me. Once per session I can reduce a physical consequence by one degree.
  • Refresh: 3
  • Stress: OOO
  • Mild (2):
  • Moderate (4):
  • Severe (6):
  • Extras
Throwing knives, Survival kit
  • Background
Daughter of Balor VI, Ailene now lives in exile after the deposition of her mighty father and his loyal court. As last of her house, Ailene seeks to regain the throne of her ancestors, stolen from her by the Sorceress Queen Nuala.

The Fomor are the bridge between the physical and spiritual world. Aileen hears the call of this world, which can sometimes lead her into perils unknown to more grounded folk.

Ailene is beautiful and used to a privileged lifestyle and position. She is often arrogant and headstrong when a little caution and humility might serve her better. 


Monday, December 9, 2013

Character Highlight: Artimus Grimsngyr (FAE)

Continuing my series on fantasy characters via Fate Accelerated (FAE), here is my character Artimus 'Arty' Grimsngyr using the system.

Arty is a classic Sword & Sorcery character (ex. Grey Mouser) become an epic fantasy character: and he hates it.

I've long wanted to play him in a campaign: but very few systems I like would allow for such a character as a PC. Fortunately, Fate lets you play your character as you like!

With no further ado:

Artimus ‘Arty’ Grimsngyr

  • Aspects
High Concept: Ne’er-do-well rogue turned unliving revenant
Trouble: I am but a slave to the blade’s hunger...
Other Aspects: I miss the warmth of the sun and the bodies of others; All that glitters most is surely gold; It is in the shadows that I do my best work
  • Approaches
+3 Sneaky
+2 Flashy, Quick
+1 Careful, Clever
+0 Forceful
  • Stunts
- Whenever I Take Out an opponent with my cursed sword, Blood-Drinker, I may choose to apply any excess shifts to negate my own stress or consequences up to the gained value instead of taking a boost.
- As I am a Creature of the Night, I gain +2 to Sneakily Create an Advantage when operating in shadows and darkness can be of use.
- With the Eyes of the Vampyr I gain +2 to Flashily Overcome when attempting to bend another to my will.
  • Refresh: 3
  • Stress: OOO
  • Mild (2):
  • Moderate (4):
  • Severe (6):
  • Extras
Well-worn leather armor, Polished daggers, Sakan short-bow & arrows, Traveling kit

  • Background
Artimus has been transformed by the sword taken from the cold hands of a Strzygian blood lord. Although at first the weapon’s properties seemed a boon (his own wounds in battle were instantly healed as soon as he wounded an opponent), he soon learned the weapon to be a curse. He now seeks only to be free of the weapon and the cursed existence it has placed upon him.

As part of the curse of the blade, Artimus must feed upon the lifeblood of a warm blooded creature via Blood Drinker periodically or become progressively weakened by hunger. Artimus can only recover by using the sword on a living warm blooded creature.

He is vulnerable to attacks by blessed or holy weapons or devices and holy magic. Divine healing powers might even damage him, for example. Although he needs to neither eat nor drink, he still needs to sleep and breathe to live and function normally. Artimus is also adverse to bright sunlight, although this natural aversion causes no other negative effects. 

Blood Drinker speaks to Artimus, sometimes while he is waking, or via lurid dreams when he is asleep. These dreams can impart useful information at times; but usually it is simply the sword asking for more warm blood- preferably human blood.

Artimus misses his human existence, which mostly consisted of drinking, whoring, and stealing/adventuring as the means to pay for such activities. This is a constantly nagging pang at his soul and can cause complications if he is offered or denied a chance to enjoy his old life...


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Character Highlight: Naeriel Bladesong (FAE)

Related to my ongoing Dungeon World posts, here is my PC Naeriel Bladesong via FAE.

I hope to post up some other characters soon to demonstrate modeling traditional fantasy archetypes using Fate Accelerated.

Naeriel Bladesong (FAE)
  • Aspects
High Concept:
Elvish Blade-Dancer of Andulan
Trouble: The song of the duel is my reason for being
Other Aspects: Acolyte of Master Eangwine; The law of the balance must be maintained; The songs of my people ever guide me
  • Approaches
+3 Quick
+2 Forceful, Flashy
+1 Careful, Clever
+0 Sneaky
  • Stunts
- As I am Trained in the Sword-Dance, I gain +2 to Quickly Attack with a sword in hand.
- As a Master Duelist, once per session I can Create the Advantage ‘Locked in a Duel’ when facing a worthy opponent.
- Being Schooled in Elvish Lore, I gain +2 to Cleverly Overcome when my Elvish knowledge of nature and ancient records might be of use.
  • Refresh: 3
  • Stress: OOO
  • Mild (2):
  • Moderate (4):
  • Severe (6):
  • Extras
Ornate Elvish Blade, Fine Wood-spun Armor, Darts (hidden in armor), Traveling kit + rations
  • Background
Naeriel was born to noble family of Andulan. Even from a young age she loved to dance - in the dance she felt freedom and a profound connection to the Song of Aea.

One day she crept over the wall that shielded to exercises of the school of the elvish Bladedancers - and spying upon the students performing their ancient and graceful katas she was entranced by their fearful dance, and vowed to learn the deadly arts of their order. Under the watchful eye of Master Eangwine she learned to dance in the steps of these masters of swordplay. 

Now a master herself, Mistress Naeriel seeks the lands for worthy opponents to test and practice her skills; to dance the perfect dance, whatever the cost.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Character Highlight: FFX via Fate Core

Recently, a poster on Google Plus asked for help with making characters for a Final Fantasy X (Ten) based game using Fate Core.

Having played much too much of this game when it came out, and being a fan of all things Fate in general, I was more than happy to make some suggestions. 

But it also inspired me to make some builds of my own. Presented here are Tidus, Yuna and Rikku from Final Fantasy X via Fate Core. Note that this game allows for two basic Stunts, plus two for Equipment and one for an 'Overdrive', which allows for invoking consequences. Starting Refresh is at 3.

  • Aspects
High Concept:
Star player of the Zanarkand Abes transported to a strange land
I just want to go home
Other Aspects: Son of Jecht; Team player; This is my story
  • Skills
+4 Athletics
+3 Physique, Provoke
+2 Fight, Notice, Rapport
+1 Deceive, Empathy, Investigate, Will
  • Stunts
Play Hard: Tidus’ training in the Blitzball arena carries over to other activities. He may sub Athletics for Fight when he Attacks in melee combat.
Cheer: Tidus wasn’t made team captain for no reason. Tidus may give up his action to grant +1 to the next action of any and all teammates in earshot.
  • Equipment
Brotherhood: This sword once belonged to Wakka’s brother, Chappu. It does elemental water damage ranked at Weapon: 2
Knight’s Shield: User may take an additional minor physical consequence when in possession of this shield.
  • Overdrive
Swordplay: You’re at your best when the going gets rough. When invoking a consequence on yourself or an opponent, add +2 when making an Attack action.
  • Refresh: 3
  • Physical Stress: OOOO
  • Mental Stress: OOO
  • Mild (2):
  • Mild (Physical only, 2):
  • Moderate (4):
  • Severe (6):

  • Aspects
High Concept:
White Mage & Summoner of Bevelle
Trouble: I must defeat Sin!
Other Aspects: Bringer of The Calm?; Daughter of Braska: My journey should be full of laughter
  • Skills
+4 Empathy
+3 Lore, Rapport
+2 Contacts, Notice, Will
+1 Athletics, Fight, Investigate, Resources
  • Stunts
Cura: Yuna gains +2 to Overcome when using Lore for curative magics.
Aeons: Although not a great fighter, Yuna can take an action to summon any Aeon gained in play to fight in her place. Summoned creatures are mooks with skill ranks capped at her Empathy skill; Yuna must use one of her own actions to give her Aeon commands.
  • Equipment
Enchanted Rod: A mystic rod of ancient origins. Grants +2 to Create an Advantage when using Lore to cast magic spells.
Magic Ring: Once per session, Yuna can can edit/remove any situation aspect that limits her use of magic. This effect does not work against the Silence aspect.
  • Overdrive
Grand Summon: Once per Exchange, Yuna can invoke a Consequence on herself or an opponent to grant an additional +2 when a summoned Aeon attacks.
  • Refresh: 3
  • Physical Stress: OO
  • Mental Stress: OOO
  • Mild (2):
  • Moderate (4):
  • Severe (6):
  • Aspects
High Concept:
Perky Al-Bhed thief
Trouble: I look after my family and friends
Other Aspects: Oh!! Machina!; Five-finger discount; I hate thunder!
  • Skills
+4 Burglary
+3 Athletics, Crafts
+2 Empathy, Fight, Rapport
+1 Contacts, Drive, Lore, Notice
  • Stunts
Mug: You may Attack with Burglary in melee combat. Score a success and you successfully steal an item: you may apply additional shifts as physical stress.
Use Item: Gain +2 Create an Advantage via Crafts when using an item gained in play.
  • Equipment
Claw: Grants +2 to Attack in melee combat with Fight.
Targe: Gain +2 to Defend vs melee attacks with Athletics
  • Overdrive
Mix: Your expertise shines through in the heat of battle. When invoking a consequence (either for yourself or an opponent), gain +2 to Create an Advantage or Overcome using Crafts.
  • Refresh: 3
  • Physical Stress: OO
  • Mental Stress: OO
  • Mild (2):
  • Moderate (4):
  • Severe (6):

Friday, November 22, 2013

Character Highlight: Louis CK, Bard (FAE)

Louie, in his natural state...
Ah the bard, the bastard of fantasy games everywhere! He's not good enough at casting spells to substitute for the wizard, he's not good enough to be your primary fighter, and he lacks the skills to do all the stealth/trapfinding/lockpicking your thief or ranger has in the bag. Sure, he can heal a bit, but he's no cleric! He's the jack of all trades, but the master of none, and your party will often grumble when he can't do all the stuff other classes do. To top it off, no matter how you flavor him, jokes about floppy hats and jinigling bells never go away.

Alas, poor bard!

The next time you feel like playing a bard, make his shortcomings the focus of the character! Afterall, he can do a lot right? Who else uses his shortcomings to his advantage? Well, none other than the master of self-deprecation, Louis SzĂ©kely!

Armed with a strong sense of self-loathing, your hate is his strength. Need a boost in combat? Perhaps snarky observational comedy will put you over the edge! Have to charm your way past the armed guards to get into the necromancer's castle? Louis CK has you covered with some fart/poop/fat jokes to completely disarm them! Fear not, my powerful band of adventurers, this bard is armed with the power of COMEDY!

Louis CK, Bard
There's no such thing as a cheap laugh.
High Concept: The Bard Of New Amsterdam
Trouble: I Know The Enemy And It Is Me
Other:  Jack Of All Trades - Master Of None (Except Failure), The Power Of Comedy

   +3 Clever
   +2 Careful, Flashy
   +1 Sneaky, Forceful
   +0 Quick

  • Because I was a Surrealist Comic, I gain a +2 to Sneakily Attack or Overcome when Astragaloid Pyuria Admits Shrimp Tire Iron.
  • Because I Eat A Lot Of Junk Food, once per session I can reroll any Defense against a Food-Borne Or Poison Attack.
  • Because I am Experienced With Hecklers, I gain +2 to Cleverly Defend when someone tries to Charm, Coerce, Intimidate or Trick me.
Refresh: 3
Stress: OOO

   Exasperated (2)
   Discouraged (4)
   Fuck It         (6)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Character Highlight: Iron Man via Fate Core

Damn, it's good to be a super hero. 
Ever since I noted that Fate Core supported supers, I've been posting up supers for Fate. 

It's no secret that FAE is my preferred flavor of Fate in general, but I have recently been trying to shore up some love for Fate Core as it is the mothership for the current version of Fate. 

With these ideas in mind, here is my take on Iron Man/Tony Stark using the 'out-of-the-box' rules from Fate Core. Note that the build below assumes a massive +11 Refresh for Stunts/Extras.

Iron Man (Fate Core)
  • Aspects
High Concept: Billionaire playboy turned Armored Avenger
Trouble: Smartest guy in the room..and he knows it
Other Aspects: Soul of an artist, heart of palladium; I can make it better!; It’s lonely at the top
  • Skills
+4 Crafts
+3 Lore, Resources
+2 Drive, Rapport, Shoot
+1 Athletics, Fight, Notice, Will
  • Stunts
Tech Genius: Adds +2 to Crafts or Lore when dealing with high-technology.
Charming Scofflaw: Tony’s reputation as a rake helps in certain circles. Gain +2 to Rapport when dealing with parties that might find a handsome billionaire genius attractive.
Alternate Armor: Once per session, Tony can reallocate his Extras below to represent an alternate armor design, provided that story permissions grant access to his tech.
  • Extras
Iron Man Armor: When in his Iron Man armor, Tony Stark has access to the following effects:
  • Gold-Titanium-Alloy Armor (3): Grants Armor: 4 vs physical stress. He is also immune to environmental stress up to and including the vacuum of space, provided that his life-support system is online.
  • Super-Strength (5): The armors servos greatly enhance the users physical strength. Add +6 to Overcome via Physique while in the armor, and Weapon: 4 to physical attacks.
  • Weapon Systems (2): Targeting enhanced weapon systems make the Iron Man a formidable opponent. Add +2 to Shoot at Weapon: 4 when using the armors systems.
  • Combat Computer: Add +2 to Fight or Athletics once per Exchange, when used in Defend or Attack actions.
  • Spectrographic Scanners +HUD: The Iron Man armor features an on-board computer (JARVIS) driven spectrographic array. Enables +2 to Overcome when sensory superiority can be a factor.
  • Terrestrial Flight: The Iron Man armor is capable of Mach-2 speed flight: gain +2 to Create an Advantage via Drive while in the armor.
Refresh: 1
Physical Stress: OO
Mental Stress: OOO-O

  • Mild (2):
  • Moderate (4):
  • Severe (6):


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Actual Play Report + Review: Dungeon World - 1st Session and Impressions pt3

Logo from the beautiful Italian version of the game!
Continuing where we left off from my first and second posts, here are my continued thoughts and AP from my group's first session playing Dungeon World.
The small crevice opened up by the dwarvish miners was just wide enough for a single body to pass through at once: and even this made for a tight squeeze.

As self-appointed protector of the party Naeriel was tempted to go in first, but when she peered out into the darkness without she saw nothing; only her hearing gave her any impression of the contents of this new area, filled with the sounds of the clanking and clamor of iron against stone.

Backing out, she allowed the dark-elf Briza to take a glance instead, as her eyes were able to see as if day in the pitch-black gloom.
Apparently Dungeon World elves don't get infravision...bummer.
Moving stealthily through the opening, Briza pokes her head out and peers within:

Her gaze rapidly adjusting to the nigh-absent light of the room, she views a vast columned chamber which could only be described as being carved out of the earth; almost like a natural cave but clearly worked by human or human-like tools, with evidence of the work of picks and shovels throughout.

The apparent origin of all of this industry was in plain view as well. Lining the walls and working with picks and shovels were strange man-sized figures, covered only in bandage-like wrappings that covered their thin and emaciated bodies.

Disturbingly, their eyes were covered in the same wrappings, which like the rest of their filthy grave-clothes-like raiment was covered in mysterious sigils. Only their mouths were completely free of the wrapping, and these revealed agape and drooling jaws (complete with lolling tongues) to a one.

Turning away from this disgusting sight, she peered down further into the vast hall where she could just make out the faint flickering of torches, as well as the sound of guttural voices punctuated by the cracking of a whip. Apparently the 'workers' had overseers, and by the regularity of the sound of the whips, cruel ones.

Not risking being seen (although it wasn't certain that the mummy-like figures could 'see' at all), Briza lithely moves back through the entryway to report what she had seen to the party.

When questioned whether or not the workers she saw were truly alive or undead (a serious point of interest to Naeriel, who needed to know exactly who she might be fighting), Briza had to say that she did not know.

What she did know for certain was that the cruel overseers she heard were definitely goblins: although she did not speak their tongue, she knew the sound of it well. And goblins are the exact sort of minion that a lich-lord might hire as well.
At this point we started discussing marching order, D20/OSR style. Naeriel wanted to go first, since she was by party role the tank: but the thief Jagelio was by far the best at sneaking about, so it was decided to let him explore before everyone else popped in. Naeriel's bond demanded that she look after him though, so order was decided at Jagelio, then Naeriel, then Briza, followed up by Emen.
Jagelio took to the shadows; disappearing completely from view like he was a shadow himself. Following behind, Naeriel cautiously traveled from pillar to pillar, moving towards the dim light and sounds produced by the cruel goblin overseers.

Soon she became separated from the group - in the dim to absent light it was hard to gauge relative position, and she had no idea where Jagelio had gone to (as usual for the thief). Swiveling around a last pillar, she found herself face to face with one of the goblin overseers!
At this juncture I started rolling a lot of 6 and under results....hilarity ensues!  
For a brief instant, the goblin simply stared agape at this new interloper, too shocked to take action. Then, suddenly it opened it's overly toothy mouth and began to scream! As if called to action by this sound, slowly but with determination the workers stopped their toil around the hall and began to shamble in close upon the elf.

Naeriel was seized by an uncharacteristic uncertainty: if these creatures are alive and somehow ensorceled to serve these cruel masters, it would be wrong to do violence to them. Holding her sword up in a defense stance, she freezes in hesitation as the shambling workers close ranks on her.

But the cruel goblin had no hesitation at all; still screaming loudly, it raises up the whip in it's hand (the whip itself appearing to be crafted from bones), bring it down hard up on Naeriel. She is able to block the brunt of the attack with her sword, but the tendril still reaches around to strike her arm: rending her elvish woven armor and drawing blood.

Cringing from both the pain as well as the embarrassment of being caught off-guard, Naeriel quickly counter-attacks the horrid goblin with her two-handed blade. But between the pain of her new wound and the now crushing presence of the still closing ensorceled workers she loses her balance..and the sword flies free from her hands, clattering onto the cold stone floor.
Nasty little gits, really. 

At this moment, Briza has finally made her way to see the commotion caused by Naeriel's discovery. Without hesitation she channels the powers of her attuned element, causing a dagger of purest ice to fly from the focal point in her forehead and impaling the shoulder of goblin that had assaulted Naeriel but a moment before, causing it to drop it's whip.
The goblin looks now towards Briza with a mix of shock and anger, lurching towards her...only to be stopped when a hurled dagger flies out of the darkness and into it's forehead. Almost comically, the creature stops for the briefest moment before dropping dead where it stands. Jagelio's handiwork.
Meanwhile, Naeriel is scrambling to pick up her sword. From the darkness, she sees a second goblin began to run towards it as well. The race is on!
Moving lithely through the grasping hands of the workers she comes to almost...almost just!..grasp it, before being caught finally in the grip of the circling mindless mob. Once in their clutches, they began to mercilessly tear and rend at her flesh with their sharp, unclean nails, dragging her away from her prize and salvation.
A note here about Dungeon World's initiative system: there isn't one. During all of the action outlined here rather than taking turns we took 'screen time' where the players took action. The GM Gary balanced this well, giving the action a highly cinematic quality. Very cool.
Seeing that his comrade was in trouble, Emen finally joins in the fray. Calling upon the dark powers at his disposal, he curses the goblin reaching for the sword, making one of it's healthy legs now lame. The goblin trips and falls before it is able to grab onto Naeriel's ornate elvish blade.

But the exercise of these dark forces comes at a high price: suddenly the nearest shambling workers turn their shrouded faces towards the necromancer in unison, and began lurching towards him with clearly violent intent!
At the same time, Naeriel finally breaks free of the vicious grasp of the workers, the somersaults forward and swiftly takes back up her sword.
Rising to her feet in single fluid motion, she points the blade at the goblin who had been lunging at it but a moment before and asks rhetorically:
"You wanted this?"
..before stabbing the creature with it through the heart. The creature dies instantly. A clean, quick death: Naeriel's forte.
As the workers close in on Emen, the necromancer quickly works to animate the nearby corpse of the goblin recently felled by Briza and Jag. Daggers fly out of the darkness - Jagelio again- but their numbers are too many and quickly Emen is encircled by the shambling workers...
As she pulls her sword from the fresh corpse of the goblin, Naeriel realizes, that she is also surrounded by a closing circle of shambling workers. Already covered in wounds and still uncertain whether it is right to slay them, she steels herself for the very worst...
Briza is torn...the necromancer is surrounded, but so is the party fighter. She knows she must take action, but she hears Emen say:
"Uh...undead shamblers. I'm working on it..."
And with that decides to aid Naeriel. Summoning the power of cold again using her focal point, she covers the ground in a thick sheen of black ice, sparing only the 5ft circle where Naeriel stands. The shambling workers (revealed as undead per the necromancer, who should know) slip and fall over one another in unison.
Calling again upon the black forces that power his craft, Emen reanimates the corpse of the goblin taskmaster as his thrall. With a flurry of action the creature is able to buy Emen some space with the biting of teeth and the slashing of claws before disintegrating: having worked so quickly, the animation magic made the vessel unstable. Once again the shambling zombies begin to close in...
Naeriel's elvish eyes might still struggle with the gloom, but her long elvish ears work just fine here: she heard the necromancer state that these enemies were undead..and therefore fair game!
Taking up her 'Circle of Death' stance, Naeriel makes sure that she has a firm grip on her sword, then makes a single deadly whirlwind strike upon the surrounding zombies, still tripped up or stilled upon the ice.
The carnage is gruesome: everywhere lifeless limbs and heads are hewn asunder, black ichor spraying carelessly onto the icy dungeon floor. When she arises from the single long strike like a dancer exiting a pirouette, the entire mob of them lies before her, mangled and defeated.
The necromancer, however, is in no position to view this exercise in martial prowess, as he is now surrounded by his own mob of attacking zombies. Together they claw and rake at his flesh, while Jagelio fires daggers from some hidden spot in the shadows, and Briza summons her element again to come to his aid...

Seeing that the battle is not yet won, Naeriel jumps onto the ice, using it to skate over to where the mobbed necromancer stands. She arrives and her blade strikes true: and together the trio manage to slay the last of the zombie workers.
Meanwhile, the last goblin overseer, seeing as he is horribly outnumbered decides to make a run for it. But he doesn't get far before two swift daggers (Jagelio again) pierce him in the leg and head, ending both his escape and his life.
With the last of their opponents still, the party takes a moment to reflect and take inventory. Both Naeriel and Emen are worse for wear: especially Naeriel, who is now covered in red weeping gashes where her beautiful elvish armor has been torn.
And this is but the first room: what other terrors might the lich's tower hold within?

Continued in part 4!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Character Highlight: PunPun (FAE)

Back when D&D 3.5 was still young, WOTC had a thriving message board community. Of note was the Character Optimization forums, a wonderland of ingenuity! Originally conceived of as a place for you to work out your character concept, it was quickly overrun by optimizers, and WOTC was forced to split the forum into Character Development (fluff) and Character Optimization (crunch).

Strange and wondrous things could be found in this place, where math majors went to work using spreadsheets calculate your Power Attack bonus and how to best make some Chosen of Mystra with 10 actions per round and a sweet Figurine Of Wondrous Power: Obsidian Camaro. In this seething cauldron of nerd-heroin, no published rule was safe; no splatbook neglected! For years, the Cleric and Druid fought for the title of Most Likely To Give Your DM Hives.

Sometime thereafter, around 2005, a thread was created called 'Incentive to Play a Kobold.' A poster named Khan_The_Destroyer came up with a build that would forever change the universe. Hither came PunPun, green-skinned, fiery-eyed, viper familiar in hand, a wizard, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to ravage the patience of every GM under his omnipotent feet!

PunPun 1

PROTIP: Don't Google image search PunPun at work.
High ConceptKobold Divine Minion 1/Wizard 1/Master of Many Forms 3
TroubleI Will Make Your GM Hate You
OtherImmune To All The Things, You Can Shove Your GM Fiat

+30 Clever
+30 Forceful, Careful
+30 Flashy, Quick
+30 Sneaky

  • Because I can Manipulate Forms At Will, I gain a +20 to Forcefully Overcome or Attack when I change shape.
  • Because I Legally Exploit All The Books, I can change my Aspects, Approaches and Stunts At Will.
  • Exasperated Sigh (2):
  • Goddammit, NO! (4):
  • Kicked From The Group (6)
You can read the original PunPun post here. Of course the community, being as it is, could not just let PunPun be; many tried, and all failed to defeat him. The best part would be the multitude of posters chiming to express their dismay at trying to convince their DM to let them play PunPun, despite the original poster expressly stating that he is a thought experiment and never meant to be actually played. This is a good thing, as allowing him in your game is directly analogous to Robert Oppenheimer's dismay at witnessing the Trinity test!

This is the only known photograph of PunPun in play.
1Note - while Pun Pun may be legal in D&D 3.5, he's certainly not in FAE; here he functions as a conversion.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Actual Play Report + Review: Dungeon World - 1st Session and Impressions pt2

A continuation of my earlier post about playing Dungeon World: part 1 available from the link.
I'm going to start this post about Dungeon World by not talking about Dungeon World (stay with me here, there's a point to this...)

Instead I'm going to talk about Feng Shui.

For those otherwise unaware, Feng Shui is a RPG created in the mid-nineties by the talented Robin Laws. Tied in with the same universe as the equally fun Shadowfist CCG, it was designed to emulate the fast and furious cinematic action of Hong Kong action movies, as well as works inspired by them (notably John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China).

Sometime in 199x (those years all kind of flow together for me at this point) I had the opportunity to play a game of Feng Shui with Jose Garcia, who had co-designed the Shadowfist CCG.

Now by this point I had been playing and running RPG's for over 10 years, starting with D&D 'red box' and launching from there to AD&D 1e/2e, Marvel Super Heroes, Paladium, DC Heroes, etc. So I thought that I knew my way around an RPG by then, thank-you-very-much.

But in the process of creating a character and playing the game with Jose and our group, my eyes were opened not only to a new school of RPG design, but an entirely new way of thinking: one where the GM is there to say 'yes', and not 'no'. One where the entire game was there to facilitate the kind of gonzo things you might like to do in a game, if only the rules would let you.

To provide an example, when creating my character I came to the table with just a few ideas:
Jose: So what sort of character do you want to play?
Me: I want to play an ornery Chinese waitress that yells at her customers in broken English, when not beating down bad guys with her Kung Fu.
Jose: Sounds good! There's an archetype that should work for that here...
Me: Oh, also! Is there a shtick that lets me run over people's heads? Because I want to do that.
Jose: Not in the book....but, there should be! I was thinking about making that a shtick called 'Grass Gliding' that allows you to cross surfaces that normally wouldn't support you. You want to take that?
Me: Yessir!
Needless to say, at some point during the adventure my character wound up in a narrow hallway with an army of angry mooks between her in the exit. So my little waitress just jumped up and ran over their heads to the door. In that moment, the dream became the reality. :-)

That session opened up my eyes to new possibilities in playing RPG's in general: what has become largely the 'new school' of RPG design popular today. When the game didn't have a rule to support what I wanted to do, the GM simply made up a new rule. Then he set up a scenario where exactly that skill came in handy.

So this has become my litmus test for any RPG, whatever the genre, whatever the system is:
"Is this as much fun to play as Feng Shui?"
And with the first session of Dungeon World behind me now, I can say that for this system the answer is an unqualified 'yes!'

With this thought out of the way, let's get on to the details of our game:

  • Step 1: Character Creation

Character creation in Dungeon World is a snap. The process is:
  • 1. Choose a Class. The main book has the classic Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Paladin, Ranger, Thief and Wizard as available choices.
  • 2. Choose a Race. To simplify things, available races are listed by Class. Each race selected grants a special move only available for that race. For my Elvish fighter, this granted her the ability to change one weapon to Hack & Slash using Dex rather than Str as the modifier. 
  • 3. Choose a Name. Honestly, this took almost as much time as the rest for my group. Fortunately, I had a name ready.
  • 4. Choose Look. I also had a picture ready, so no issues there.
  • 5. Choose Stats. You can assign these scores to your stats: 16, 15, 13, 12, 9, 8. 
  • 6. Figure Out Modifiers. Your modifiers for Moves are based on your stats, so this is important. Since 16-17 grants a +2 bonus to die rolls, this should be assigned to your logical core stat. 
  • 7. Set Maximum HP. Your maximum HP is equal to your class’s base HP+Constitution score. You start with your maximum HP. As a Fighter with 13 Con, I started with 23 HP.
  • 8. Choose Starting Moves. These are the superpowers that largely define character competence. More on this as we get to gameplay. 
  • 9. Choose Alignment. Kickin' it OSR style! Good, Neutral, Evil, Lawful and Chaotic. For our game, the whole Chaos/Order paradigm was ignored, so we were allowed any non-evil alignment. Since there were no Clerics or Paladins in the group, we all took Neutral, naturally. 
  • 10. Choose Starting Gear. Each Class gets an available gear list to choose from. My Fighter automatically had a Signature Weapon on hand, so I chose light armor and extra adventuring gear. Much to my liking, the 'adventuring gear' is assumed to have the flinklock, 30ft rope, oil, etc. that you would assume that it would have. Easy-peasy. 
From start to finish, the whole of character creation took about 30-40 mins, even accounting for a player (Shay) who joined us late. 

The characters we came up with were:

  • Naeriel Bladesong, Elvish Fighter. Played by yours truly. She lives in the Parish of Andulan: her homeland now swallowed up by the City of Dis. An elvish duelist, she lives only to find worthy opponents and thus carry on the songs of her ancestors in battle.

  • Emen Graycastle, Human Necromancer. Played by Jim. A suitably creepy character, he lives in the now run-down castle of his father and may be the last survivor of his world. He sees death as merely the continuation of life's journey, and summons the corpse of his now dead girlfriend to aid him when in danger. 

  • Briza Adaragon, Drow Chaneller. Played by Meriam. Another visitor to the mysterious City of Dis. As a Channeler, she serves as a conduit to elemental forces that she doesn't truly control (in this case, the elemental power of ice). As a dark elf, she can see in absolute darkness just as well as in daylight.

  • Jagelio, Human Thief. Played by Shay. He came to Dis when following a 'mark' around a corner: the alleyway somehow led to Dis, and he hasn't been able to figure his way back. Not that he minds very much...he's a pragmatist at heart, and there's always plenty of work to be found in the city. 

Note that Emen and Briza's character classes are from the Grim World supplement, and not the main book. 

The GM established that we were already operating as a group, so we skipped over the whole 'meet cute' adventure that is semi-standard for the genre.

The Bonds feature really helped to reinforce this: notably, Naeriel looked after Jagelio and suspected that Briza wasn't really all that fit for dungeoneering, whereas Emen appreciated Naeriel's propensity to leave fresh corpses behind for him to exploit.

  • Step 2: The Setup
As noted in the earlier post, the GM established that we were operating in the City of Dis as 'Freebooters': the sorts of folks that take dangerous jobs that no normal person would even consider. 

He even provided the following image for what a gathering of Freebooters might look like:
A typical group of adventurers (Freebooters) in the city of Dis.
Half guild, half social-club, the Freebooters are who you go to when you want something done that might involve some wetworks and a little B&E. Just our sort of people!

We were also established as currently living in the Ditchwater Slums (see the map linked above), which is exactly what it says on the tin. Naeriel's home of Andulan lives between the slums and the palace, serving as a vast central park of sorts. 

  • Step 3: The Heist
“So, what do you do?”
 The above phrase is really key to Dungeon World: the GM creates the situation and adjudicates, but the players are meant to drive the action. Which is awesome.

In our game, the GM Gary embraced this idea fully and handled it like a champ:
Gary: You are hired by a temple in Dis to recover an item. Describe the temple, and the item.
Me: Ummm....well it's a temple to a foreign god, unknown to all of us.
Gary: Sure. What god?
Me: Uh...let's say that it's a Temple of the Nameless God. In fact, it is forbidden to speak the name of the god, or even what it looks like. Only the Hierophant of the order is allowed into the inner sanctum where the idol of the god resides.
Gary: OK, cool: I like it. And what item was stolen?
Shay: Maybe it's a book?
Gary: Great: so you are going to recover a stolen book?
Me: But! When we are hired we are warned by the priests to never look at the contents of the book.
Gary: Cool! Describe the priests: what are they like?
Me: Hmm..they serve an unknown and faceless god, right? Maybe they wear masks themselves then...
Gary: What sort of masks?
Me: Black masks that entirely hide their faces. They are unknown, like their god. And hoods as well; so when you gaze at them, all you see are shadows...
Gary: Great, great: I like it!

With this, the GM established that player creativity was a big part of the game. Then he moved on to full traditional GM mode:
Gary: The book was reportedly stolen by a Lich, that lives in an impenetrable dark tower within the city. Legends tell of dark dealings within, and also that the tower is defended by a series of fiendish traps. 
What do you do?
How bad can it be, really?
Since breaking into things and dealing with traps seemed largely the purview of the party thief Jagelio, we deferred to his wisdom in this matter.

Shay (as Jag) decides to come up with a foolproof plan to break into the tower: he rolls the dice for a Discern Realities roll....and gains a total of 6, which counts as a failure.

The GM declares that Jagelio is convinced that the only way in is to dig under the city and create a tunnel into the tower. He is so convinced, in fact, that he convinces the party that this is the only way to achieve their goal, and to share their reward with dwarvish diggers who will make the tunnel.

Now all the players at the table knew that Jag had failed his roll, but we had agreed to go with thief's plan, so that's what we were doing. For his part, Shay role-played this quite well:
Shay: C'mon guys: I've looked at all the angles. This is the only way to do it: I have a good feeling about this!
For over a week, the dwarvish hirelings dig, and dig, and dig some more: with ruthless precision they carve their tunnel into the earth. The dwarves in question are not the ruddy and brusque dwarves of Tolkien's stories: they are straight out of Norse mythology, with pale bluish skin and weird glowing eyes. Only their professionalism and the fact that they are working for our pay gives us some solace that these creatures are not a threat to us.

Finally, they carve their way into an opening into the tower: and with this final break, they conclude their work is done, stopping only to take their pay as they head down the long tunnel and into daylight.

But for our hardy adventurers, this is just the beginning of their task. Steeling themselves for anything, they prepare to go through the newly created breech and into the unknown....
Continued in Part 3!