Category Archives: RPG

War v.1

Finished the first pass on War Stories tonight. It’s the rules, sans many of the examples, but otherwise polished up to a level where the game is playable as is. It’s 52 pages, and it’s taken about 30 hours of writing, 300 of thinking.

It’s still recognisably Fate Core, but by the time I’ve added in the fluff and colour, it might be hard to tell.

Very pleased to have gotten to this stage. Next step, firming up some of the squad level rules. Then, round one of playtest.

Speaking of which, let me know if you want in on the playtest. The minimum I ask for is a read through and feedback. Cheers!

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Setting Boundaries

In my ongoing quest to keep my WW2 game Fate based, but still trad as funk, I’m really tightening up the way FP are spent and accumulated. I see so much (justified) confusion and calls for clarity online about Fate stuff that would be so trivially accomplished in many trad games. I’m talking about the classic On Fire aspects, the stealth/perception issue, the group compel etc etc. At its heart Fate really is very simple, but the multiple ways it handles tests and conflicts do sometimes seem to throw a spanner into otherwise straightforward situations.

I believe a lot of this comes from sideways usage of FP. The simple invoke is no problem. The simple compel is ok. It’s when players start either of those on other players, or NPCs, or on the scenario, that things start getting weird. When the GM does any of these things, it’s not a worry. This is because while players have a very finite pool of FP to play with, the GM has an infinite resource. The answer is to keep the boundaries rigid. Players play. GMs GM.

For example, a player wants to compel another player. In true Fate, that player has to pony up a FP of their own. In my game, player suggests compel, FP comes from GMs infinite pool. It’s as if the GM suggested it themselves. Problem solved.

This works in a few other ways, which I’ll spell out in detail in the game. Given the genre I’m working with, infiltration, cover and area attacks are going to be commonplace. I need to make the FP economy work for everyone. Keeping the player/GM mechanical roles separate can only help.

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Kitted Out



April 3, 2014 · 10:36 am

On the cards

If I can’t get this into my War RPG something has gone very wrong indeed


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Fudging Fate

Here’s a perhaps counterintuitive move for my Fate game. You get to spend a FP for your bonus, but you don’t have to find an aspect for it. By all means narrate away, but don’t sweat it.

Why? Well, those who like to carry a bit of the narrative weight will do that regardless of mechanical incentives. Just having aspects on their sheet means they’ll get announced in play. For those who are are a bit more quiet and introspective, then throw the token in and move along. Why judge?

My hack is going to make FP much more available to the table, and give them slightly less weight than standard. They’ll be aside to use too.


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Taking (away) the Initiative

Writing rules for games is easy. Writing rules explanations is hard.

I’m at that stage with my game where I’m writing out the bits that flesh out the mechanics. They are the bits that most gamers have long since internalised, and probably haven’t said out loud in ages. Like, what do you get to do in your turn? And what constitutes a turn anyway? Two things are pulling at my method here. One, I’m always looking to be as concise as possible, and that sometimes means saying nothing. Two, I want to explain what I expect from the game, which means more words more often than not.

Take initiative. It’s been in almost every game I’ve ever read. I’m now at the stage where I’m wondering how much will actually be lost if I simply didn’t include rules for it at all. And don’t forget, my game is WW2 so it’s going to have plenty of combat!

You see, outside of combat, no one needs, or misses, initiative. Ever. When combat starts, I guess the point of it is to parcel out the spotlight, and to make things seem fairer somehow. Well, how about just let the group dynamic take care of all that? It works fine outside combat as I say.

But with the writing bit, would I need to justify the absence of initiative like I’ve just done here? Or would its omission completely confuse the reader? I intend to discuss spotlight time and how to include people in a way that they feel comfortable with. Right now I’m thinking make all stuff combat agnostic.

What would you prefer?


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You can do anything!

Considering the only limit in games is your imagination (according to ye olde box sets) I wonder why so many of them have to spell out what you can actually do?

Thinking some more about both Fate and Savage, they both have basic, generic actions to encourage players to do cool stuff. In Fate it’s the Create Advantage action, in SW, it’s Taunts and Tricks. Other games have similar. I’ve noticed that unless someone points those rules out, the actions don’t get attempted. It’s strange, but it’s true. I think the writers added those actions in because they really thought they would come up a lot, not because they wanted to encourage their use.

They happen all the time in other media, and perhaps we unconsciously want to have our RPG sessions be as whipsmart as a scripted and polished consumable. But RPGs aren’t like that, and I’d submit that players aren’t either.

That said, once the rules get explained, and the possibilities become clearer, they get used a lot.

Perhaps we do need to have mechanical heft to the sort of actions we want to see used.

Example: fleeing. Rarely do I ever see a party flee from an encounter (and subsequently get involved in a chase). Equally rarely do I see any rules for disengaging. Coincidence?

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Help or Hindrance?

Played a great sesh of Savage Worlds last night. It was a playtest of a sci fi scenario that’s getting run out at the Seven Hills Con soon, so no spoilers here.

I haven’t played Savage for absolutely ages. Back when it was all fresh and new I played and ran the heck out of it. It’s a system I have huge fondness for, and respect too. One of the things that really stood out for me last night was how uncomplicated it was to use our Hindrances, and get Bennies (for those who don’t know SW, Hindrances are your basic disadvantages, sometimes mechanically, sometimes roleplayey. Bennies are tokens for getting good stuff).

With all the head scratching I’ve been doing with Fate recently (and I know I’m not alone in that), especially around compels, it’s been very refreshing to see how it works under a more trad system. And why should it feel so different? After all, they’re essentially the same thing. A Hindrance is an Aspect when you look at it. As players we used them a lot, and suggested others use them too, just as Fate says you should for Compels. But, for some reason, it doesn’t flow as readily with Fate as it did with last nights Savage game.

So why? Couple of possible reasons. One, Hindrances are short, snappy, and do what they say on the tin. Often, Fate troubles are phrases, or suffer from being too poetic. One of the guys had “Curious” last night. That’s a perfectly good aspect too of course, it’s just that I don’t think it would ever get thought up in chargen. It’s almost too basic maybe?

Second, we’ve all been playing Fate recently, so maybe that got us more in the mood for playing up those characterful bits. Also, we were all very comfortable with Savage, so knew we weren’t going to be asked to carry much if any of the narrative weight that Fate would ask us to do.

Lessons for me and my WW2 game? I’m making the Trouble aspect way easier to invent in the first place, by providing lists of examples, presented in a similar way to that of trad games disadvantages. I’m also tying Troubles to the High Concept. I also want to make them easier to engage with too, by making the Fate Point flow much… flowier. I’ve got some mechanical ideas for that.

A good game last night, for dice rolling fun reasons as well as for game design rumination reasons. Go Savage!

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Under the Skin

I started my WW2 Fate game by reskinning a few things. By the end, it turns out nothing has survived unscathed. Here’s what’s changed so far:

Aspects = traits
Skills = talents
Stunts = knacks
Situation = scenario
Fate points = Luck points
Stress = harm
Consequences = injuries
Boost = edge

Pretty much all the skills (talents) are something different now too.

Some nomenclature changes are quite subtle. Instead of “invoke” or “compel” I use the term “use”. Some changes are more fundamental, like the skill ladder that now has terms like “first rate” and “so-so”.

Why go to all the bother? Mostly personal preference, but I think it gives my game it’s own flavour. It’s all a bit more British and try’s to capture the parlance of the 40s.

The downside is that Fate veterans have changes to internalise, but frankly every Fate iteration brings changes. At least these ones are clear and obvious.

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The setting for my game in two volumes


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March 15, 2014 · 8:43 pm