Friday, June 27, 2014

Four-Color FAE: Supers Gaming via Fate Accelerated - pt13

Tomorrow is Go Play NW here in Seattle, a convention for RPGs and story games. We here at Station53 play to run an introductory adventure of Four-Color FAE, both because we love it and because it will be a great avenue to see how players, both experienced FATE players and those new to FATE, grok the rules. In particular, I want to see how easy it is to understand the power permissions concept. +Gary Anastasio has a Golden Age adventure prepped, which he describes as a "high octane classic superhero smack-down". We created a number of riffs on the classic archetypes of the era ready to go a pregens.

Next week we'll have a recap of that session, but for now, here's the characters we'll bring to the table (and links to each character's sheet):

High Concept: The man of!
Hero analogue: Golden-Age Superman

High Concept: Patriotic action hero fighting for justice
Hero analogue: Captain America

High Concept: Crusading Valkyrie Battle Leader
Hero analogue: Wonder Woman, Thor

High Concept: Stage magician turned amateur sleuth and crime-fighter
Hero analogue: Zatara, Doctor Thirteen

High Concept: Wise-Cracking Socialite Turned Crimefighter
Hero analogue: Batman, Golden Age Sandman

High Concept: Blue-Collar Elastic Crimefighter
Hero analogue: Plastic Man

High Concept: Jet-propelled freedom-fighter
Hero analogue: Hawkgirl

High Concept: Powerful Protector Of The Wilderness
Hero analogue: Bigfoot!!  (also, The Hulk)

High Concept: Headstrong Princess of Lemuria
Hero analogue: Namor, Aquaman, The Little Mermaid (per +Mike Lindsey)

High Concept: The world’s greatest detective! (and his sidekick)
Hero analogue: Green Hornet and Kato, Batman and Robin

High Concept: The Fastest Man Alive!
Hero analogue: The Flash


Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Tao of Fate: Challenge, Contest, or Conflict?

It's not always obvious how to stage a particular dramatic encounter in Fate. The game provides tools, such as rules for Challenges, Contests, and Conflicts. To pick the right tool for the job, I think of three things: stakes, momentum, and exit points.

For every encounter, start by asking: what's really at stake? What do the PCs get if they win, and what do they lose if they fail?

Something that would end the story on failure is never a good stake. Usually, this includes "the lives of the player characters", outside of a deliberately lethal conflict. If that's really what's on the line, you should rethink what the PCs are fighting for. Wherever possible, the stakes should reinforce the story being told, and they should be appropriate to the genre of your story.

If Superman is rescuing a crashing jetliner in his own comic book, and Lois is on it, then you can be pretty sure that Lois Lane isn't going to just die, because that will be jarring for the readers of a Superman comic book. Something else must be at risk. If Lois was injured badly enough in the rescue, would Superman be distracted from something more important? Would a villain be able to advance his plan further if the Man of Steel was in the hospital sitting by Lois' bed? Balancing his responsibility with his humanity is a core part of Superman's story, and those sorts of stakes reinforce his nature.

Changing Stakes

Sometimes, the stakes only become apparent as the encounter resolves itself. In "Blade Runner", during the final fight between Deckard and Roy Batty, Roy is already dying, and he knows it. Over the course of the conflict, the real stakes are eventually revealed: does his life matter? Will he leave behind any sort of legacy? Deckard is the last chance he has to make that happen. The stakes for Deckard seem to be his own survival, but they shift to protecting his identity. Can he keep being who he was? Does he want to?

If your group realizes that something has changed, it's perfectly legitimate to stop the currently running Challenge, Contest, or Conflict, or to reframe it in the new terms. In the Deckard vs. Batty Example Fight from Richard Bellingham (discussion thread here), this is exactly what happens, as the physical conflict becomes a mental one.


In "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom", Indy, Willie Scott, and Short Round are riding the rails in mine carts. Their goal, of course, was to avoid the villain's henchmen and get out of the mines safely. Shorty was explicitly told which route to take.

Did they go that way? Of course not!

Did failing to go the right way end the story? Of course not.

A good encounter works like a mine cart ride: no matter where you go, you have to keep moving. Like mine carts, a story is always worse if it derails than if it takes a new route. Don't fear failure - instead, fear not having a new direction to offer the group if the dice don't work out.

Exit Points

So what should you use - a Challenge, a Contest, or a Conflict - to model an encounter? For me, it depends on the ways the participants can leave it. Do these exit points center around the stakes (Contests), the participants (Conflicts), or the situation (Challenges)?

Contests have twists and turns, as rivals try to outmaneuver each other, but you're all still heading toward something or away from something. Everyone exits the encounter when one or another got where they wanted to go.

In a Conflict, exit points always come at a cost. Nobody makes it out in the same shape they came in, unless they bought their victory with hard work, effort, and good fortune. Even concessions carry a price.

In a Challenge, there's many ways to exit the encounter, with the PCs winnowing down the possibilities. Sometimes they get the outcome they most want. Sometimes they compromise. Sometimes they're left with a terrible choice. But the exit point they get to use is one they can afford with their resources of skill, Fate points, and luck.


Challenges, Contests, and Conflicts are tools. They offer a way to challenge your players and provide a believable, if sometimes surprising, outcome. Once you have a sense of what the PCs are risking, and an idea of how their actions will carry them from scene to scene, you will be able to choose the right tool for the right job.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Character Highlight: Akifumi Oh (Cyber Jadepunk)

As mentioned in Reagan Taplin's post last week, we are gearing up soon to play a Jadepunk game via Google Hangouts, with the first session scheduled for July.

Rather than using the world as presented, our future Jadepunk game (dubbed 'Cyber Jadepunk') will explore the world of Kausao City almost a century forward in time from the setting presented in the book: where jadetech has progressed well beyond the steampunky into something resembling cyber-technology. 

With this idea in mind - and to provide an example- let's look at crusading reporter turned super-hacker, Akifumi Oh:

Akifumi Oh
  • Portrayal: Crusading reporter turned vengeful hacker
  • Background: I gave up a life of luxury to pursue justice
  • Inciting Incident: Virtually imprisoned for twelve long years
  • Belief: I will taste all that life has to offer before I’m done
  • Trouble: Beneath the snow-capped mountain, an unquenchable fire
  • +3  Scholar
  • +2  Engineer, Fighter
  • +1  Explorer, Scoundrel
  • +0  Aristocrat

Black-Jade Implant
  • Type: Device
  • Function Aspect: Black jade subdermal implant
  • Features: Exceptional (Use your Professions to interact with jade); Focus 2 (+2 Scholar)
  • Flaws: Situational 2 (When interacting with networked devices only), Troubling (Aspect: The channel goes both ways...)
  • Cost: 1
  • Type: Technique
  • Guiding Aspect: Virtually imprisoned for twelve long years
  • Features: Focus (+1 Fighter); Harmful 1 (+1 Shift)
  • Flaws: Limited (Melee attacks only)
  • Cost: 1
Old-Boy Network
  • Type: Ally
  • Function Aspect: The old-timers still remember me
  • Features: Professional 2 (+1 Scholar, +2 Scoundrel); Aspect (Well-Informed)
  • Flaws: Limited (Once per-scene)
  • Cost: 1
Secret Bank Accounts
  • Type: Technique
  • Guiding Aspect: I gave up a life of luxury to pursue justice
  • Features: Flexible (sub Scholar for Aristocrat)
  • Flaws: Situational (Only when your purchasing power matters)
  • Cost: 1
  • Refresh: 3
  • Stress: OOO
  • Mild (2):
  • Moderate (4):
  • Severe (6):
Although born from an immigrant family, Akifumi Oh enjoyed a life of privilege: the best schools, the best opportunities, the best connections. A new white-jade powered roadster at age 16; and plenty of beautiful and well-connected friends. 

But during his schooldays young Akifumi saw a glimpse of how the other-half lived in Kausao City; and the spark of niggling doubt grew into the flame of righteous indignation. 

Upon completing his schooling he passed up other more lucrative opportunities to become of crusading reporter for the Kausao Times; covering the underbelly of lies and corruption that was the foundation of the city’s unequally distributed riches. 

By age 30 he was as famous as he was infamous; welcome at many a party, bar and bedroom door throughout the city. All of this changed one night: stumbling drunkenly home looking for late-night auto-rickshaw, he was abducted by unknown parties and immersed into saline bath, where he was locked into a virtual reality prison..for twelve long years.

Having eventually freed himself by learning how to communicate with and manipulate networked jadetech, Akifumi has sworn revenge upon the unknown parties that once made him their prisoner. And he is willing to use any tool at his disposal - including the permanent black-jade implant he gained when he was abducted - to achieve this goal, whatever the consequences might be for himself or others.


Friday, June 20, 2014

Jadepunk Character Highlight: Shen Hu

Mike recently shared his review of Jadepunk, which you can read here. I highly recommend you do, as its a thorough analysis of what makes the setting and the mechanics tick. Ryan Danks, Jacob Possin, and Mike Olson have created something that is chock-full of high-octane narrative, and supports a wide-range of heroic character concepts.

+Gary Anastasio is soon to be running a game that takes the setting to a very interesting place - about 100 years in the future. What does the region look like with jade powering an exponential growth in technology? What does such a society look like on the verge of a Transhumanism? He's re-imagined  Kausao city as a dystopian cyberpunk setting, and it fits like a Red Jade-powered glove. +Jacob Possin outlines the setting with a bit more detail in his blogpost, and shares the two-fisted character he'll be playing for the game - best summarized it as a "Jadei".

I wanted to play some kind of classic wuxia old martial arts master, a Shaolin monk who tends to the needs of the poor and disenfranchised. I wanted to use the Asset system to create a martial arts style that is an analog to that ideal, which was surprisingly easy to do. I thought it would be fun to have a cybernetic tiger companion with human intelligence. Who wouldn't want that, really? A future Jadepunk supplement is planned that outlines how such Chaemeras work in the setting, but I found the Ally asset system simple and powerful enough to handle what I was asking of it.

Shen Hu

  • Portrayal: Crusading Master of Bihu Xuanya Martial Arts
  • Background: Vowed To Assist The Poor And Helpless
  • Inciting Incident: Last Survivor Of the Bihu Xuanya Temple
  • Belief: Enlightenment Is Impossible Under Oppression
  • Trouble: Always Help The Poor And Needy
+3 Fighter
+2 Explorer, Aristocrat
+1 Scholar, Scoundrel
+0 Engineer

Immortal Dance of the Invisible Guardians
Spinning and leaping, moving in and out of the throng - this technique requires a calm mind to interpret the ever-changing features of the environment. When the mind is focused, the world slows down, allowing the practitioner to manipulate the subtleties of his environment to his and his allies’ advantage.
  • Type: Technique
  • Guiding Aspect: Crusading Master of Bihu Xuanya Martial Arts
  • Features: Exceptional 1 (When creating an advantage, instead of putting a free invocation on an aspect, you can create an additional aspect.)
  • Flaws: Situational (Only when at least one ally is in the same zone), Limited (Can only be used once per scene)
  • Cost: 1
Whirlwind Avalanche Of Infinite Solitudes
Altruism is a core tenet of Bihu Xuanya. Enlightenment can only be achieved when one freely gives of the self.
  • Type: Technique
  • Guiding Aspect: Crusading Master of Bihu Xuanya Martial Arts
  • Features: Protective 1 (reduces the shift value of a successful attack against an ally by one)
  • Flaws: Situational (Can only be used when the attack targets an ally in the same zone), Situational (Can only be used on someone else)
  • Cost: 1
Perfect Thoughtful Falcon Toe
In the Void, the soul is lost and alone, but in unison, two souls can achieve magnificence. A master of Bihu Xuanya is acutely aware of this, and with the faintest touch, can use this harmony to his advantage.
  • Type: Technique
  • Guiding Aspect: Crusading Master of Bihu Xuanya Martial Arts
  • Features: Harmful 2
  • Flaws: Situational (Can only be used when you tag an aspect created by an ally)
  • Cost:

Baihu The Spirit Tiger
Sometimes, the universe expresses itself with a symbol of perfection. This is Baihu, a gentle but powerful soul. She can sense the Chi in others, and to those of pure spirit, is a formidable ally. To those who seek to corrupt others, she is a relentless foe.
  • Type: Ally
  • Function Aspect: Genetically Enhanced Tiger
  • Features: Professional 2 (Fighting +2, Exploration +1), Resilient 1 (1 mild consequence slot), Sturdy 2 (2 stress boxes), Independent (can act on her own without spending a Fate Point)
  • Flaws: Troubling 2 (I Didn't Steal Her - She Chose Me, Human Intelligence Doesn't Mean She Understands Human Customs)
  • Cost: 1
Green Jade Prayer Beads
The monks of the Bihu Xuanya temple are not materialistic; they only use that which charity gives them. The altruistic have donated Green Jade to the cause, which the monks use to recite their mantras. With practice, a Master can use these beads to channel the power of Green Jade to relieve the suffering of others.
  • Type: Device
  • Function Aspect: Fo Of The Five Virtues
  • Features: Exceptional 1 ( Reduce an ally’s consequence by one step)
  • Flaws: Effort: (Time: One action), Situational (Can only be used once per scene)
  • Cost:

Refresh: 2
Stress: OOO

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

Shen Hu has spent his long life at the Bihu Xuanya Temple, serving the the poor and the laborers of the Jade Mines and Refinery District. The temple espouses a philosophy stating “The Path To Understanding Comes Through Helping Others:, and “To Help Another You Must First Help Yourself.” To this extent, the monks provide food, education and spiritual enlightenment to all who ask. The temple humbly accepted any donation from those who have more, and strove to put use it to noble ends.

His rewarding life took a different turn a few years ago. In his dreams, he was visited by a spirit tiger named Baihu. A few weeks later, Baihu appeared at the temple. Baihu could understand the language of men, and claimed Shen Hu as her spirit brother. Baihu was beloved by the people of the area as the children would ride her back and play with her. Unfortunately, she is a genetically engineered tiger, designed to be a weapon by a biotech firm, and escaped. The firm threatened to shut down the temple if they would not give her up; the monks simply stated she was free to leave at any time if she wished.

Several weeks later, one of the mining companies pushed the worker crews to the limit, and they went on strike. The monks of the temple fed and cared for the strikers during that time. When the company cracked down on the strikers with force, the monks fought back, dealing a devastating below to the company’s military forces. Undeterred, and perhaps aided with the forces of the biotech firm, they destroyed the temple in the dead of night, killing all but Shen Hu and Baihu. Now the two fight side-by-side with the Jianghu, aiding the meek whenever possible, trying to right any wrong.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Character Highlight: Kasumi Tenaga (Jadepunk)

Hello again, everyone!

As a follow-up to my recent review of Jadepunk, we will be posting up some character builds using the system. First up is Lady Kasumi Tenaga, exiled noblewoman with a demon-blade.

Like all Jadepunk characters she is made up of Aspects, Professions and Assets. Kasumi spends most of her available Fate-Point Refresh on Assets: in this case her various dragon-school Techniques, a Device in the form of her fearsome demon-blade, and an Ally in the form of her loyal retainer, Toshiro Makabe.

Kasumi Tenaga
Rebellion_Wojtek Fus.jpg
  • Portrayal: Last scion of Clan Tenaga (Kaiyu)
  • Background: Trained in the arts of the Onaga Sword School
  • Inciting Incident: Lord Asano destroyed my family
  • Belief: I must restore my family’s fortune and honor
  • Trouble: I don’t know if I am worthy
  • +3 Explorer
  • +2 Aristocrat, Fighter
  • +1  Scholar, Scoundrel
  • +0 Engineer

Dragon Takes Flight
  • Type: Technique
  • Guiding Aspect: Trained in the arts of the Onaga Sword School
  • Features: Focus 2 (Explorer +2)
  • Flaws: Situational (Only when overcoming obstacles through movement)
  • Cost: 1
Dragon Strikes True
  • Type: Technique
  • Guiding Aspect: Trained in the arts of the Onaga Sword School
  • Features: Focus 2 (Fighter +2)
  • Flaws: Situational (Only when attacking in a duel)
  • Cost: 1
Dragon Moves With Grace
  • Type: Technique
  • Guiding Aspect: Last scion of Clan Tenaga
  • Features: Focus 2 (Aristocrat +2)
  • Flaws: Situational (Only when you attempt to impress in high society)
  • Cost: 1
Ancestral sword, “Ao Oni no Tsurugi”
  • Type: Device
  • Function Aspect: Demon-blade crafted from green jade
  • Features: Harmful 2, Exceptional (Deadly sharp; a defender cannot mark a stress box when hit)
  • Flaws: Troubling (Aspect: The sword demands that I fight!), Situational + Limited (Exceptional feature is only applied if you succeed with style, once per scene)
  • Cost: 1
Toshiro Makabe
  • Type: Ally
  • Function Aspect: Loyal retainer of Clan Tenaga
  • Features: Professional 3 (+2 Fighter, +1 Engineer, Explorer, Scholar), Sturdy, Independent
  • Flaws: Troubling (Aspect: Legendarily stubborn and contrary)
  • Cost: 2
Refresh: 1
Stress: OOO
  • Mild (2):
  • Moderate (4):
  • Severe (6):

Born into a life of comfort and privilege, Kusumi’s life was shattered when her family was framed as plotting against the government by the conniving Lord Jubei Asano.

Armed with her family’s ancestral sword and accompanied by her loyal retainer Toshiro Makabe, Kusumi has come to Kausao City - where Lord Asano is now an influential council member - to expose his misdeeds and restore the good name of her family.
Kusumi is armed with the Green (Jade) Demon Sword, Ao Oni no Tsurugi. Legend states that the crafter of the sword had a heart filled with turmoil and violent passions: and indeed, she finds that whenever she draws the sword she is compelled by a powerful urge to fight. But the demon-blade also lends her it’s strength: a strength that she believes necessary to stand any chance of achieving her goals.

Kasumi Tenaga (Google Docs)

*Note: Edited to reflect correct costs for Assets. Thanks to Ron Frazier on G+ for the assist.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Review: Jadepunk (Fate Core System)

Jadepunk: Tales From Kausao City
Authors: Ryan M. Danks, Jacob Possin, and Mike Olson
Cover Artist: Conrad Javier
Format: 139 pages, softcover
ISBN: 978-0-615-98624-1

Funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign started summer of last year (2013), Jadepunk is yet another of the gaggle of Fate-based RPG's to appear since the wildly successful launch of Evil Hat's Fate Core in 2013.

All of this reminds me of the plethora of d20 based games launched with the advent of the OGL in the early 2000's, with similar results: a handful of great games launched using a basic universal system, and a lot of also-rans.

So where does Jadepunk fit into this equation? In my opinion it fits neatly into the 'great' category, for the reasons outlined below.

Presentation & Layout

First impressions: Jadepunk is a beautiful book. While there isn't art on every page, in all places there is a degree of artistry: from the use of genre-appropriate (but still very readable) fonts, to the ink-splashes and 'torn pages' effects that sub for the additional info boxes in Fate Core and other RPG's, the presentation throughout is slick, artistic and easy-to-read.

Where interior art does appear (provided by Nicole Cardiff, Conrad Javier, & Kurt Komoda) it ranges from good to absolutely excellent; some of which you will see scattered throughout this review. This is a book from an indie-press publisher and this is their first product: but you sure as hell cannot tell that by looking at the end result.

In fact, I think that some better established publishers should look at this book for an example of how to properly sell your game through sheer presentation. No complaints at all in this department.

Introduction + World of Jadepunk 

If you've read Fate Core, or more to the point Fate Accelerated Edition (and if not, you should: see my review) then there's not much the introduction has to offer that you haven't read before.

Much of the text explaining the system goals and intent is lifted/reworded from Fate Accelerated (FAE), which in my opinion is great choice: FAE is the tightest and most succinct presentation of Fate rules to date.

The overall philosophy of FAE reverberates throughout the entire text: present the tools you need to build your characters and world, explain how to resolve actions at the table, then get the hell out of the way so we can all get to gaming. The more RPG's that embrace this approach going forward, the better I feel about the future of our collective hobby.

What is new here is the unique setting of Jadepunk: a kind of wuxia + classic western mashup with serious steampunky overtones. From the book:
"...what would it be like if gunslingers from the Western literary genre were present in a wuxia world? Exploration of this idea found that the code of Xia (followed by many wuxia heroes) has very similar values to the code of honor many gunslingers follow. A perfect fit. Add to that an original take on the steampunk genre, with all its quirky fabulousness, and you have an original setting."
The jade in Jadepunk is integral to the setting: rather than being just the decorative stone it is in real life, in Jadepunk it is the source of magic in a world without overt magic - and also the thing that powers the world's most powerful technologies. And as a limited resource, it is also the main source of conflict in the world.

Although other regions of the world of Jadepunk are touched upon in the core book, the default setting for the game is Kausao City, which is basically a panache of early 1900's Shanghai mixed with Victorian-era Birmingham: like Shanghai, it is controlled by and split into quarters dominated by the Great Nations (a bit about them later). Like Birmingham (UK in this example, although true of the US version as well) it is also a source of a resource that powers industry: in this fantastic world this is Black Jade rather than coal.

Also akin to Shanghai in the early 20th century, this is a place of great wealth and grinding poverty: a place where the rich scheme to get richer, and keep the poor in their place...often with violence. What middle classes exist are simply treading water, hoping to get to the unassailable top while dreading falling into the bottom; from which there is no apparent escape.

And this is where the PC's come in: by default players are assumed to take the role of the Jianghu, men and women that fight against injustice, and are the protectors of the destitute and defenseless.

Character Creation: Professions and Aspects

This is Fate game after all, so character creation begins with the creation of aspects. I've discussed Fate aspects quite a bit on this blog already, so I won't get into the mechanics of them here.

What is unique to Jadepunk is how your five aspects (the same number suggested by Core) are stacked: rather than the High Concept + Trouble + Other stack presented in Fate Core, the required aspects are formalized as:
  • Portrayal
  • Background
  • Inciting Incident
  • Belief
  • Trouble
Portrayal is basically the same as a High-Concept in Fate Core: it's the one-sentence description of the character you are playing. Background is just that: where did you come from?  Following this, the Inciting Incident is what put you on your current path. Belief is your characters most deeply held conviction, and Trouble is...well, the main thing that causes you trouble. 

As in all Fate games, these aspects tie your character to the world, and the world to your character: major story elements both supporting your characters goals and presenting opposition can be presented during the character creation process. 

Before moving on to Professions, I think should address a non-apparent aspect of character options in the game: although this certainly an Asian-flavored game world, you are under no obligation to play a Pan-Asian character at your table. The world of Jadepunk is ethnically diverse, and Kausao City itself is a melting pot.

Populated -and dominated - largely by members of the Great Nations, Kausao City sees members with ancestry hailing from:
  • The Aerum Empire - A steampunk British Empire
  • Kaiyu - Tokugawa-era Japan with the serial numbers filed off
  • Naramel - The Near-East, complete with camels and minarets 
  • Tuyang - China in no particular era: but I read it as a steampunk Song Dynasty
Other nations are briefly touched upon, but so lightly that I can't really grasp their character in any detail. Hopefully these will be fleshed out with later supplements. 

On to Professions now: these replace Skills in Fate Core and are more akin to Approaches in FAE, or the six d20 inspired 'Skills' that appear in the Freeport Companion. Available Professions are limited to:
  • Aristocrat (Social/Resources)
  • Engineer (Tech/Mechanical)
  • Explorer (Athletics/Agility-based tasks)
  • Fighter (Melee + Ranged)
  • Scholar (Intellect & Education)
  • Scoundrel (All things sneaky and underhanded)
In practice, I should expect these skills to work roughly like FAE Approaches/Fate Freeport Skills, but far-less broad: there is a very clear line of demarcation between what your Engineer and Scholar abilities allow you to do, for example.

Before moving on to the next section, note that Jadepunk features the same single stress-track (used for absorbing physical and psychic 'damage'), as FAE: your Profession level has no influence on this track. You can, however, improve upon your characters ability to withstand stress via Assets, discussed below.

Assets, and the Colors of Jadetech

I've done a fair number of Fate Core/FAE builds. In fact, I'm not aware of anyone outside of - maybe! - the game's designers who have done more. I loves me some character builds, basically.

But when I first looked at Jadepunk's Assets system - which replaces both the Stunts and Extras presented in Fate Core - I really could not wrap my head around them. My first impression was that Jadepunk had taken the elegant Stunt rubric from Fate 3.0+ and replaced it with something wonky and overly mechanical. 

Having played around with the Assets feature over the past few weeks, however, I have slowly come around to liking this aspect of the system: although there is a learning curve to mastering building Assets, this does pay off in terms of flexibility and ease-of-use once you get the hang of it.

There are three sorts of Assets that you can take:

  • Ally (NPC or NPC's helpful to your character)
  • Device (exceptional gear that your character has access to, including Jadetech)
  • Techniques (exceptional abilities that you can draw upon)
Broadly speaking, Assets can be as powerful as the amount of resources (in terms of Fate-Point Refresh) that you choose to sink into them. We will talk more about Fate Points and Aspects below, but know that PC's start with 7 Refresh by default that they can spend on buying various Assets.

Let's say that you want to play an airship captain with a loyal crew. Easily done: you can buy the ship itself as a Device asset, the crew as an Ally (which includes options to make them numerous and independent to perform more actions for you). You might also take a Technique that gives you a boost when commanding or piloting the ship.

Or a martial artist who is a one-woman army into herself? No problem - take a high Fight Profession and list of Techniques to back it up. For some extra oomph and flavor, you can even take a jade-ink tattoo as a Device.

'Jadetech' is exactly what it sounds like: technology powered by jade. As mentioned in the first section of the review, in this world jade has certain mystical properties that can be exploited to produce powerful effects. The five colors of jade noted are:
  • Green (Earth: associated with strength/stamina)
  • Red (Fire: courage and power)
  • Blue (Water: cold, cunning and change)
  • White (Air: breath reason and freedom)
  • Black (Faith: basically an omni-jade to create strange effects)
In Fate terms, jade and the associated jade colors can be thought of as in-game aspect justification: while there are no hard rules to how jade can be incorporated to produce certain effects, the properties of each provides good guidelines.

Rules and rulings: Actions, Aspects and Consequences

If you are familiar with Fate Core, you already know much of how to do things and resolve action in Jadepunk: it uses the same four actions (Create Advantage, Overcome, Attack, Defend) as Core. The use of Aspects are the same, and the same systems for conflict resolution are presented as well. And if you aren't familiar with how to handle these things in Fate Core, all the rules are right there for you to read and reference.

And this is a good spot to point out a fact that I haven't specifically touched on until now: at a scant 139 pages, Jadepunk is a complete game system. Yes, I would like to see more Asset and character samples. And yes, I would like to see much of the world fleshed out some more. Hopefully we will see more of these in later supplements. But as it is, you have everything you need to play a full campaign and more, right here in a single volume. That's snazzy.

What is new here is the system for resolving duels. Well, actually, it not entirely new: it's simply a repurposing of the Contests system from Core to quickly and flavorfully resolve one-on-one fights. I won't go into the details here - this is a review, not an SRD - but suffice to say that I love the implementation and plan on using it for other Fate-based games.

If you are looking to convert your L5R game to Fate, I dare say that Jadepunk has you 90% covered already.

Kausao City and Beyond

The rest of the book covers the default setting of Kausao City, with gamemaster advice and instructions for creating NPC's with plenty of flavorful examples. If you are planning on using the setting - and you should consider it, it's a great setting- there's plenty of material for you to draw on here.

It's worth noting that by design Kausao is left with plenty of 'white space' for the GM and players to fill in their own details: you are expected and encouraged to make the setting your own at your table. If you are anything like me you were going to do that anyhow, but it's great to see this design philosophy called out and reinforced by the game's creators.

The suggestions for building NPC's (or 'faces') follows the cardinal rule that any great GM follows: Take Only What You Need to Survive. A basic NPC only needs a few aspects to define them; presented here as a Portrayal, Need and Secret aspect.

If they are more important to the story, and/or are meant to provide more active support or opposition, you can flesh them out with Professions and Assets. But most NPC's won't need these things, so a GM shouldn't bother building them out.

The book closes out with a very short section on District Creation (for filling in those white-spaces), some sample characters, and the all-important comprehensive index. And! On the PDF the index reference pages are bookmarked. This is in-line of the quality of the rest of the presentation and nice to see.


Jadepunk is a rare thing nowadays: a Fate game that costs actual money, even in PDF format. So does this game deserve your hard-earned gaming dollars?

I'm going to say that the answer to this is a resounding yes. The full PDF is only $14.99 - about what breakfast for two at Starbucks will cost you (Yeah, I live in Seattle. And yes, I get breakfast at Starbucks. Shut up, already). And the print and PDF version together is only $24.99 at the Reroll Productions store, which nets you a beautiful soft-bound book and a fully bookmarked and page-linked PDF.

Plus, as of this writing 30% of the profits from Jadepunk are contributed to worthy charities*. So some of your gaming dollars are going towards making the world a better place in larger ways: there's that too.

*Edit: This only applies to purchases made through the Reroll Productions store.


We will be looking at more at Jadepunk in the coming weeks and months, including some sweet character-builds as well as game reports from our upcoming 'Cyber Jadepunk' game, GM'd by the inestimable Gary Anastasio and featuring game co-designer Jacob Possin and his Jedi-inspired PC.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Four-Color FAE: Supers Gaming via Fate Accelerated (update)

Hello dear readers! Its been a while since I posted here, and for that I apologize. That being said, the Games continue to be played! We're 10 issues in on our Supers game, using the Four-Color FAE guidelines, and we plan on posting a great deal more about it soon.

In the interim, I'd like to share a very well-written series of posts by one of the players in our group, +Bill Garrett. Bill has distilled down many of the core tenants of not only creating a Supers game, but how the genre works in general - with the unique lens of Villainy. Its a great read!

You can find his thoughts and analysis here: Not only is it educational, but he has a very fun style.