Ghost-COM

A conversation with Clark Valentine a few weeks ago spawned an idea that just won’t let go of my brain. He said that he’d love to see a game on which dying had real weight built into the rules, not just “Oh drat, I need to make a new character.”
This comment, and playing XCOM and The Last of Us, got me to thinking. What if every time the PCs died, they returned to life completely healed but slightly changed, as if they’re bringing a bit of the “other side” back with them?
The setting would feature a rising tide of ghosts, zombies and other spookies and the PCs have been press ganged onto some sort paranormal focused XCOM unit. Ghost guns, zombie rounds and poorly/hurriedly trained unkillable soldiers? Sounds like a winning combo to me.
I’m thinking of using Savage Worlds for the system, because I want something that handles large numbers of enemies and highly competent PCs quickly. Plus it can be pretty deadly, which is good if part of the game is based around the PCs being killed over and over again.
One thing that keeps me from jumping on the Savage Worlds train is that I don’t particularly like Savage Worlds. If I do go that route, I’ll definitely mess around with the system, possibly stripping out the Edges/Hindrances and Bennies and replacing them with something more like Fate’s Aspects and Stunts. I’m also thinking about Cortex Plus Heroic.
Obviously there’s lots still be to considered and decided on but I needed to get this out of my brain and I thought I’d see if anyone else liked the idea at the same time. As usual, please let me know what you think.

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Kriegszeppelin X-Wing

I played in a session of the completely awesome Kriegszeppelin Valkyrie by Clark Valentine last night. If you haven’t had a chance to do so, I recommend you rectify this situation immediately. No seriously, right the fuck now. Go on. I’ll wait.

Okay, good? Excellent! Amazing right?

So besides the fun of rolling, fast pace dog fighting fun, the game really made me miss the old X-Wing PC games from the 90s. Unfortunately, those are so old I don’t have anything that will run them properly. Instead, my gamer brain immediately begin processing how to make KZV into an X-wing game.

Most of the mechanics work perfectly fine as is (Thanks again Clark) for an X-wing game. You just need a few add ons.

First up, shields.

Shields can be handled as a special type of armor. Say we’ve got  Good (3) Shields and we take a 4 Stress hit. Our shields absorb 3 of the Stress, leaving us with just 1 Stress to absorb. Simple enough right? Well, the thing is in Star Wars, and most space sci-fi in general, ship shields lose their effectiveness as they absorb damage. So when your Shields absorb damage they drop by one. So in our example, when our Shields absorb take that 4 Stress hit, they drop by one, leaving them at Fair (2) Shields.

So that’s the losing effectiveness sorted, but what about the fact that they also regenerate? Well, to regenerate your Shields you simply pay a Fate Point and make a Machinery roll. If you succeed, you restore one point to your Shields. If you Succeed with Style, you restore two points. Easy peasy.

Next there’s a few special weapons you need to work out.

Proton Torpedoes: Take a -2 to your Shooting to for Weapon 2 for one attack.

Ion Cannons: +2 to Create an Advantage when creating an Aspect relating to being short circuited.

Lastly we needs ships. Can’t dogfight without snub fighters!

X-Wing: The rebels’ mainline snub fighter, X-wings are both well armed and agile. +2 to Shooting rolls and +1 to Pilot rolls used to create an advantage when speed is of primary importance. They are also equipped with Good (3) Shields and Proton Torpedoes.

Y-wing: The rebels’ mainline bomber. While relatively slow, Y-wings are extremely rugged and tough. -1 to all Pilot rolls and equipped with Armor: 2 and Good (3) Shields, as well as Proton Torpedoes and Ion Cannons.

Tie Fighter: The Empire’s main snub fighter. Extremely maneuverable but relatively fragile. +2 to all Pilot rolls used to create an advantage when agility is of primary importance.

So there you go. Kriegszeppelin Valkyrie as Star Wars. Hope you enjoy and let me know what you think!

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Organizations as NPCs

Earlier today I was working on a FATE Core game idea that requires players to build and lead organizations in a struggle for resources and safety. These organizations will need to come into direct conflict, not unlike armies, so it won’t be enough to sketch out the leaders and let the players interact with them.

Eventually I hit on the idea of taking FATE’s idea that “everything is a character” with Aspects one step further and having these organizations be complete NPCs with Aspects, Skills and Stress tracks. A few things would have to be renamed or reorganized. Physical or Mental stress don’t work as Physique and Will with an entity comprised of hundreds or even thousands of individuals. The physical track could be Membership or some such, while the mental track could be Faith or Confidence (in the leader/s).

The Skill list would need to be chopped down considerably, perhaps to five or six skills that all organizations share. Something to the effect of Fight, Defend, Coherence or something to represent the health and morale of the group, and maybe a specialty skill or two based on what the organization is.

This would let players interact and direct the organizations just like they would any other NPC, and the organizations could interact with each other in the same manner. The organizations might need an extra long Stress track or a free shift against individuals, so a single character couldn’t walk through an organization too easily (unless of course that’s appropriate for your setting).

Just a stray thought, but maybe one that would work. Interested in hearing what folks think.

 

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Timeless RPG: Flashbacks, Powers and Misc

Here’s what I have so far in terms of some mechanics unique to Timeless. I’ve still borrowed from The Dresden Files RPG, especially for Timeless Powers, but hopefully things feel unique.

Flashbacks

Setting up a flashback works just like a Compel. When the opportunity comes up for a flashback, the GM selects an Aspect, pays the player or players a Fate Point, and describes the basics of the scene. The scene resolves normally, with players and the GM describing their actions and reactions to what’s going on, with one exception. Characters all have three Flashback Aspects that can be assigned during the Flashback scene. To assign one of these Aspects, a player selects one of his or her regular Aspects, pays a Fate Point, and then chooses a new Flashback Aspect. This new Aspect must be based on the one chosen previously, but changed to reflect the events of the flashback scene. The Aspect Zen Warrior could lead to Raging Beserker, or the Aspect chosen to start the flashback could be used to set up a Centuries Long Enmity Aspect.

Example:  Bernard is sitting in a coffee shop reading a newspaper when a tall, powerfully built man walks in. The GM looks at Patrick, Bernard’s player, and says “When you see his face you have an intense memory of weeping over the bodies of your wife and children as man rides away at the head of a band of raiders, reminding you that Swords Make Poor Shields,” pushing a Fate Point across the table, “what happened that day?”

Patrick thinks for a moment. “Bernard ran screaming in the direction of the arrows that killed his family, cutting through any that got in his way, including a few villagers that froze at the sight of him. He cut into the archers, who tried to flee but couldn’t outpace someone carried by centuries of forced marches. He screamed futilely into the night as the leader rode off. I’ll pay two Fate Points to set up the Aspects Revenge Best Served Warm and Survivor’s Guilt.“

The GM pushes a third Fate Point across the table saying “Didn’t you say you killed a few of the villagers? That sounds like Blinded by Rage.” Patrick accepts the third Fate Point, concluding the Flashback. Now they just have to see how Bernard reacts to the sight of his family’s murderer….

Flashback Aspects are semi-permanent, remaining on a character until either the situation that caused them is resolved (a rival is killed or reconciled with) or replaced in a later Flashback, and function like normal Aspects in all ways.

Death

The Timeless are not just ageless, they are also largely immune to death. Most often when a Timeless suffers enough physical trauma to be killed (Taken Out in mechanical terms) they drop unconscious with all the appearances of death. After some time passes, which varies with each individual, they return to life and begin to heal. No matter what sort of physical injury they endure, be it burns, stab wounds, gunshots or something more esoteric, Timeless will always heal completely.

The only exception to this is when a Timeless is killed by another of their kind. If a Timeless falls at the hand of another Timeless, there is no miraculous recovery. Death is permanent and the killer absorbs some measure of the fallen’s power (see Aura Absorption, below).

Stunts and Powers

For Stunts, see The Dresden Files: Your Story, chapter nine.

Aura Absorption (–0)

Description:You gain a small portion of your enemy’s skills, experience and power when you kill another Timeless.

Skills Affected:Varies.

Effects:

Aura Absorption. On your opponent’s death you gain a single +1 bonus to certain rolls based on their Skills, Powers or Aspects.  For example, if Timeless Joe kills Timeless Bob, famous for his honeyed words, Joe would gain a +1 to rolls to convince people to do what he wants.

Aura Perception (–1)

Description: You can read people’s moods and desires as easily as most people read street signs.

Skills Affected:  Empathy

Effects:

Aura Reading.  Make an Empathy roll against the target’s Rapport or Deceit. If successful, you gain a +2 bonus to interaction for the rest of the scene.

Enhanced Speed (–2)

Description:You are very fast, just past the edge of human capability.

Skills Affected:Athletics, Alertness, and some other physical Skills.

Effects:

Improved Initiative.Your Alertness is at +4 for the purpose of determining initiative.

Athletic Ability.All your Athletics checks are made at +1, including dodging. When sprinting (see page 212), this bonus is increased to +2.

Casual Movement.Whenever moving as part of another physical activity, you may move one zone without taking the –1 penalty for a supplemental action (page 213).

Almost Too Fast To See.Difficulty factors due to moving are reduced by two when rolling Stealth.

Enhanced Strength (–2)

Description:You are able to lift more and hit harder than the average human can, due to your supernatural heritage.

Skills Affected:Athletics, other physical Skills.

Effects:

Improved Lifting.Whenever lifting or breaking inanimate things, you gain a +3 to your Athletics score.

Bruising Strength.Roll Athletics at +1 whenever using that Skill in conjunction with grappling (page 211). This also allows you to inflict a 2-stress hit on an opponent as a supplemental action during a grapple.

Superior Strength.Whenever using your Athletics to modify (page 214) another Skill, it always provides a +1 regardless of the actual comparison of your Athletics score to the Skill in question.

Hammer Blows.With attacks that depend on muscular force (Fists, thrown Weapons, etc.), you are at +2 to damage, increasing the stress dealt by two on a successful hit.

Healing (Varies)

Timeless Healing (-0)

Description: You heal completely from any injury but at a regular pace.

Effects:

Total Recovery.You’re able to recover from physical harm that would leave a normal person permanently damaged. You can recover totally from any consequence (including extreme ones) with no other excuse besides time; simply waiting long enough will eventually heal you completely. If you are Taken Out due to physical trauma, you regain consciousness at the beginning of the next scene. In the case of extreme dismemberment, you regenerate from the largest portion of your body, regaining consciousness when enough of your body is restored to support it. Depending on the damage suffered, that may take a very long time.

Impressive Healing (-2)

Description: You heal slightly faster normal, with everything from cuts and bruises to broken bones healing in a few days.

Musts:  This ability replaces Timeless Healing.

Effects:

Total Recovery.  As with Timeless Healing.

Fast Recovery. Out of combat, you may recover from physical consequences as if they were one level lower in severity. So, you recover from moderate consequences as though they were mild, etc. Consequences reduced below mild are always removed by the beginning of a subsequent scene.

Shrug It Off. In combat, once per scene, you may clear away a mild physical consequence as a supplemental action.

Amazing Healing (-4)

Description: You heal significantly faster than a normal person. Broken bones and serious trauma heal in minutes.

Musts:  This ability replaces Timeless Healing.

Effects:

Total Recovery.  As with Timeless Healing.

Amazing Recovery. Out of combat, you may recover from physical consequences as if they were two levels lower in severity. So, you recover from severe consequences as though they were mild, etc. Consequences reduced below mild are always removed by the beginning of a subsequent scene.

Just a Scratch. In combat, twice per scene, you may clear away a mild physical consequence as a supplemental action.

Miraculous Healing (-6)

Description: You heal near instantly, ignoring all but the gravest of wounds.

Musts:  This ability replaces Timeless Healing.

Effects:

Total Recovery.  As with Timeless Healing.

Unbelievable Recovery. Out of combat, you may recover from all physical consequences before the beginning of the next scene after you receive them!

You’ll Have To Do Better Than That. Three times per scene, you may clear away a mild physical consequence as a supplemental action.

Herb Lore (–2)

Description: Your detailed knowledge of herbs and other natural medicinals allows you to create potions and salves with properties that modern science would consider magical.

Skills Affected: Scholarship, plus others.

Effects:

Magical Draughts.  Make a Good (+3) Scholarship check to create a potion that grants a +2 to a specific action (running, swordfighting, singing, etc.) that lasts for one hour. Extra shifts can be used to increase the bonus or the duration.

True Deathlessness (-4)

Description:  You are incapable of dying and will return to life regardless of what trauma you might suffer. How quickly this occurs is determined by the Healing power.

Effects:

True Immortality. You can never be Taken Out by physical trauma, even by another Timeless.

Spirit Companion (–2)

Description: You have a mystical connection to some sort of spirit, be it an ancestor, a nature spirit or a totem animal, that guides and assists you.

Skills Affected: Empathy.

Effects:

Spectral Guidance.  You can call on your spirit guide for additional insights and assistance with a situation. With a Good (+3) Empathy check, the GM reveals to you one Aspect or piece of information that would otherwise be impossible for you to know. For example, your spirit guide might inform you that the business man your dealing with has Secret Cayman Bank Accounts, or that you’ll land on in the bed of a passing truck if you jump off the bridge in exactly 6 seconds.

So, please let me know what you think!

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Timeless RPG: Skills

This the current skill for Timeless, which is still in a state of flux. I’ve borrowed heavily from The Dresden Files RPG again, though I changed a few things, adding some Skills and eliminating some others, but over all it’s the same list. I’ll go into the new Skills in detail after the chart.

Skill Trappings
Alertness Avoiding Surprise, Combat Initiative, Passive Awareness
Athletics Climbing Dodging, Falling, Sprinting, Other Physical Actions
Burglary Casing, Infiltration, Lockpicking
Computers Data Retrieval, Hacking
Contacts Gathering Information, Getting the Tip-Off, Knowing People, Rumors
Deceit Cat and Mouse, Disguise, Distraction and Misdirection, False Face Forward, Falsehood and Deception.
Driving Chases, One Hand on the Wheel, Other Vehicles, Street Knowledge and Navigation
Empathy Reading People, A Shoulder to Cry On, Social Defense, Social Initiative
Endurance* Long-Term Action, Physical Fortitude
Fighting Brawling, Close-Combat Defense
Guns Aiming, Gun Knowledge, Gunplay, Other Projectile Weapons
History Memory Recall, Past Events
Intimidation The Brush-Off, Interrogation, Provocation, Social Attacks, Threats
Investigation Eavesdropping, Examination, Surveillance
Performance Art Appreciation, Composition, Creative Communication, Playing to an Audience
Perseverance* Concentration, Emotional Control, Mental Fortitude, Mental Defense
Presence* Charisma, Command, Reputation, Social Fortitude
Rapport Chit-Chat, Closing Down, First Impressions, Opening Up, Social Defense
Resources Buying Things, Equipment, Lifestyle, Money Talks, Workspaces
Riding Animal Handling, Riding,
Scholarship Answers, Declaring Minor Details, Exposition and Knowledge Dumping,Languages, Medical Attention, Research and Lab Work
Stealth Ambush, Hiding, Shadowing, Skulking
Swordsmanship Distance Weaponry, Melee Combat, Melee Defense, Weapon Knowledge

*These skills affect stress tracks.

Computers

This skill is how familiar you are with the trappings of modern technology. A high Computers skill allows a person to write code, find back doors in software, and operate and maintain all manner of high tech devices. Someone with a low Computers Skill can barely check their email.

Data Retrieval: Your expertise with computers allows you to ferret out and reconstruct anything, regardless of how degraded or cleverly hidden.

Hacking: Even the most advanced security measures are no match for you. Use computers to access secure information, break encrypted files and to hide sensitive documents behind layers of digital trickery.

History

This skill represents how well you remember the specific details of your long and eventful life. A character with a high History remembers what she had for dinner on a particular night in the late 17th century, while a character with a low History remembers only the broad details of their life.

Memory Recall: Use History whenever you need to recall obscure details or events from your past.

Past Events: Timeless’s lives span centuries, if not millennia , and they gather an amazing amount of experiences over the years. Roll History to draw upon your past experiences and create a related Aspect.

Perseverance

This skill measures how well you hold up under pressure and in the face of adversity, as well as how you deal with great loss and tragedy. Characters with a high Perseverance are able to weather any storm and hold up well to the endless march of years and the many tragedies that they bring with them.  This mental and emotional fortitude also allows them resist torture or overcome fear. Characters with a low Perseverance tend to be easily off put by hardships, or fall to pieces in the face of tragedy.

The Mental Fortitude trapping also adds to your mental stress track.

I folded the trappings from Discipline and Conviction into Perseverance. They don’t fit perfectly, but I thought it at least made for a good starting point. Adjustments well undoubtedly be made as I playtest the game.

So what do you think? Please let me know if you have any suggestions or comments.

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Timeless RPG: Character Creation

This is what I’ve put together for character creation so far. You’ll notice it’s based heavily on the process in The Dresden Dresden Files RPG, as it much of the rest of Timeless. This is because I was already using FATE for the system and because the folks behind Dresden put together an amazing process that puts out well rounded, interesting characters with deep back stories. My goal is to create characters with a deep history, full of interesting stories of tragedy and loss. A modified version of the Dresden Files seemed perfect for this.

I went through character creation last week with three players and everything went very smoothly. There were a few hiccups mostly related to logistical issue and the fact two of the players had never made a character in FATE before, but over all we were pretty happy with how it went.

I’ll post the results soon, but for right I present you Timeless’s character creation.

Timeless Character Creation

Step 1: Where did your character come from? Did he grow up as a clan member in the Scottish Highlands? Was she a socialite in Victorian London? Or maybe a whiskey runner during Prohibition? Choose one Aspect that reflects this heritage.

Step 2. What has your character done over the years? Did she her smile capture the heart of a painter? Did he ride with Genghis Khan? Choose two Aspects to reflect your centuries long exploits.

Step 3: The years aren’t kind to anyone and the Timeless have more than most. What have you lost over the years? Did you find your one true love, only to watch her grow old and die? How many sons, daughters and other descendants have you buried? Did you gain vast tracts of land and wealth, only to have them taken from you by invaders? Choose two Aspects to represent the tragedies of your long life.

Step 4: The Timeless are drawn together by fate and cross and recross one another’s path as the centuries pass. When these ageless wanderers come together the results are epic rivalries, romances and tragedies that would make Wagner weep. Choose one Aspect that represents a past encounter with another player’s character.

Step 5: What do you find strangest about this modern world? Men skydiving from space? Global, instantaneous communications? LOLCats? Choose one Aspect about how you don’t completely fit into the world around you.

Steps 6 through 8 deal with selecting Skills, Stunts and Powers. Characters have 30 points for Skills and 7 Refresh for Stunts and Powers. The Timeless are characters with centuries or more of experience, so I want players to have enough starting resources to reflect this.

As usual I welcome any comments or suggestions.

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Timeless RPG

Recently I began working on my first game, Timeless. This is the first time I’ve ever done more than mess around with some minor mechanics or re-skin something and it’s been an interesting process. Things have been simultaneously easier and harder than I expected. I’ve had to learn to look at mechanics and design choices and ask myself “What does this really say about the game or world?” Something I probably wouldn’t have done without the help of John Adamus, who’s been gracious enough to patiently answer all of my newbie questions and encourage me as I’ve been trying to work things out.

The game started out as a random idea for a Highlander game hack, but has evolved into more of it’s own thing. I love the old movies (Well, maybe not the second one) and the tv show, but for the most part they gloss over how horrible it would be to watch everyone and everything you care about age and die. I’ve shifted the focus from “Look at all the incredible things you get to experience!” to a darker tone that looks at that as more what you have to endure. In short, immortality is a curse.

How people become a Timeless is also more open too. Some might have discovered a potion that granted them immortality, others may have made a deal with some sort of spirit, while a few might have a trace of something not entirely human in their lineage. I like the idea that almost every Timeless sought out immortality, only to find it to be more than they bargained for. A very literal “be careful what you wish for” scenario.

After a bit of circling I settled on FATE for the system. I love the Bring the Pain! mindset it encourages in players, which will make the curse a source of fun rather than frustration, and how easy it is to make deep, rich characters. I’ll post more specifics over the next few days, specifically character creation and a few custom mechanics.

I’m hoping that other folks will find this idea as interesting as I do, but I’m enjoying the process regardless. I’ve just started play testing, so things are still very much in flux, but I’m going to start blogging about my progress here, so be sure to check back for more!

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