Monday, December 29, 2014

Vintage SF Month Book Selected!

Source: Omni Magazine

The image above tells you what I plan to read for Vintage Science Fiction Month: Frank Herbert's Dune (1965). It almost feels like cheating to pick the most popular SF novel of all time. But the last time I read it was some 30+ years ago, so it will be fun to come back to it. The image below conveys how enthusiastic I am about this project:

We also have the Dune RPG as well as Jihad (a Dune-ish Burning Wheel supplement), so we may talk about them a bit next month too.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Vintage Science Fiction Month

From the excellent Battered, Tattered, Yellowed & Creased blog, I learned that January is Vintage Science Fiction Month. That's a month when you are encouraged to join others in reading SF&F written before 1979. You can check out all the details at the Little Red Reviewer blog, which hosts the not-a-challenge. Why participate? "Because vintage science fiction is where we came from" says the Little Red Reviewer. "Those novels and short stories are the steps we took to get to where we are now."

Sounds good to me. I already reviewed a couple of books that qualify earlier this year, such as this and this. I am reading another one right now.

So this should be fun! Stay tuned to find out what I plan to read.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Saturday Night Space Opera!

Jay Mac Bride of the EXONAUTS! and RAD ASTRA! blogs and I are starting something new: a regular space opera gaming event on the first Saturday night of the month! The easiest way to keep up with all the news is to follow our new blog, Saturday Night Space Opera!

The first session is this Saturday, January 3 from 6 PM until close (probably 9 PM) at Source Comics and Games in Roseville, MN.

First up, Jay is going to run a few sessions of a mini-campaign in his Rad Astra setting! His game uses the X-Plorers RPG, a first edition style SF RPG. It's super-easy to learn! I played in a session of it two years ago at Con of the North and it was a blast!

We'll be running a bunch of different systems here, and down the road, I plan to run the Fate edition of Trey Causey's Strange Stars setting (look for the setting book in the very near future), as well as Cosmic Patrol, and (once my copy of the deluxe edition arrives) Metamorphosis Alpha!

No system knowledge is necessary! In fact, we hope to grow this into a multiple tables, multiple games kind of event, but we're starting out with running one event at a time.

Post 500 - Adventures of the Ancient Star-Queens

The Star Queen Nebula

Today is the 500th post at FATE SF. So perhaps it's not inopportune that this morning, as I was awakening from a good night's sleep - the third night in a row - I had a great idea for a new Fate setting: Adventures of the Ancient Star-Queens.

Long before our storied Empire, ages before the rise and welcome fall of Earth's wanton Star League, the Star-Queens explored the galaxy. From jeweled worlds scattered among the stars, the ancient Star-Queens sent out their Emissaries to visit other worlds. Some Emissaries established settlements, while others simply explored or traded. Many helped worlds end age-old strife, establish a lasting peace, or solve seemingly intractable problems. 

Today, the Star-Queens and their Emissaries are best remembered in their epics and songs, still sung by their descendants on many worlds. Their traces can also be found in the gate-relics that once tied world-to-world, and by the rediscovery of their ancient star-vaults:  the time lost treasuries still found in these latter times. They were great when we were naught but the distant potentialities of their own far flung Outreach.  
-Saga of the Star Queens

The Setting: The game is set during humanity's ancient, first Diaspora. By unknown means, humans had been scattered among the stars long before the first generation ships set forth from Earth in the early days of the Star League. Many of these early societies were matriarchal, with communistic, socialist, or anarchistic leanings. A few -the Wolf-Queens - were authoritarian, mercenary, aggressive, or militaristic. In time, many of these worlds discovered how to visit other planets using gates, sorcery, or starships. The ancient Star-Queens sent out Emissaries to make contact with other peoples.

The Emissaries: Each group of Emissaries represents the Star-Queen of a particular world. Such teams are always led by a female, but typically include a mix of genders. Skill sets include diplomacy, trade, science, exploration/survival, and (an unfortunate reality) warriors. Many of the latter are warrior-scholars or poet-warriors (yes, the "bard" is a highly regarded archetype in this setting). Most Emissary groups also include a psion or sorcerer to open gateways between the worlds. As Emissaries have contacted other worlds, their teams grow to include beings of other species. (In fact, there is every reason to believe that some of the ancient Star-Queens were actually members of insect and reptilian species.)

Adventures: The emphasis is on exploration, discovery, diplomacy, and other forms of problem-solving, Empire-building isn't the norm among the Star-Queens, although there is some degree of competition among the Queens for fame and glory. Groups of Emissaries will be largely on their own. Back-up from the homeworld is infrequent, as operating gates requires significant expenditures of magical energy. Emissaries must act on their own, and are expected to uphold the largely altruistic values of their homeworld.

Inspirations: The biggest one for me is Catherine Asaro's Skolian Empire series. We know that the original Ruby Dynasty was a star empire led by matriarchal warrior queens. Unlike the Star-Queens described above, the queens of the ancient Ruby Dynasty were imperialistic and given to a great deal of internecine rivalry. They also kept male harems. Some of the males in the harems were masters of a glass bead game (although remarkably the author told me she wasn't familiar with Herman Hesse's novel). The game helps the queens anticipate the moves of their rivals, as well as simulate and extrapolate a range of cultural and political contingencies.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Kane of Old Mars

Last night I finished one of Michael Moorcock's early novels, his Burroughs pastiche City of the Beast, later re-published as Warriors of Mars. It is the first novel in his Kane of Old Mars trilogy, and a great example of the late/revived planetary romance genre. City of the Beast has many of the features of the planetary romance genre, particularly as influenced by A Princess of Mars and its many sequels:
  • An Earthman of military background transported to another world by unusual means
  • A world of decadent city-states in conflict
  • Barbarian tribes that cause trouble for the city-states
  • A world of swordplay and decisive action
  • Flying ships and other ancient high tech
  • Hints of highly advanced ancient races
  • Evidence of moderate religiosity among the varied races and peoples of the world
  • Things mistaken for gods, but no direct evidence that the gods exist
Moorcock later identified Kane as one of the exemplars of the Eternal Champion (other examples including John Daker/Erekose, Elric, Corum, and Hawkmoon). We don't see any evidence of greater cosmic forces (or planes) at work in the first novel, but if I had to peg Kane's alignment, I'd say he followed Law.

I can see traces of the later Moorcock in this novel. While some of the naming of races and people evokes Burroughs, there are names like the Argzoon (the race of Blue Giants on Mars) which would be right at home in an Elric novel. We also have a City of Thieves, which reminded me a bit of Nadsokor, the City of Beggars in the Young Kingdoms. 

I started Blades of Mars aka Lord of the Spiders, which is the second novel in the trilogy, last night. Hopefully the prose improves a bit as the series progresses. My biggest criticism of the first book is that while it operates in a genre that relies on Orientalism for its core affect, the setting is not quite "exotic" enough. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Playtesting Strange Stars

"Greetings from the Mighty and Benevolent Vokun Empire!" With these words booming planetside from an orbiting space fleet, we began our first playtest set in Trey Causey's Strange Stars universe. I'm 95% done with the Fate Strange Stars rules that will follow the release of the Strange Stars setting book. Tonight's playtest focused on testing and refining some factions rules I have created using the idea behind the so-called "Fate Fractal." Based on the notion that almost anything in a game can be represented similarly to a character, we have created rules for running the prominent factions of Strange Stars, as well as guidelines so that GMs can create new factions..

One of my goals with the Fate Strange Stars rules is to have factions be something that players can tap into as a resource. That's fairly straightforward. The thing I wanted to test was rules that enable the use of factions as a tool for the table to participate in environment creation and evolution in a manner similar to Microscope. Through a series of exchanges in which factions cooperate and compete, recent history can be developed by the players as the backdrop to a new roleplaying campaign.

What we played out in the session was the rediscovery of a long lost star system in the Zuran Expanse, a region of space sandwiched between several large interstellar polities. Players took on the roles of the Alliance (the closest thing to the United Federation of Planets in this setting), the Vokun Empire (a ruthless and decadent polity led by a species of feuding Harkonnen-like alien clan elders), the Instrumentality of Aom (an interstellar theocracy that uses peaceful conversion where possible), the Zao Corsairs (space pirates so ruthless and successful that many other space pirates pretend to be them), and the Airrotten Unified Assembly (the one party state ruling the system's two inhabited worlds).

The new arrivals knew that the Airrotten system had ruins dating back to the ancient Radiant Polity era. Since Radiant Polity tech was more advanced than the mainstream technology of the current era, this was the primary point of interest for a couple of the other factions. Creating the conditions for access to these caches of ancient tech was one goal of the new arrivals. Another was adroitly pursued by the Vokun player, who quickly saw the value in obtaining Airrotten war captives from the Zao Corsairs to use as genetic stock for new servitor species. (The Vokun Empire is a racially stratified polity in which subaltern species play specific socio-economic roles; the Vokun are pretty nasty folks to have as either overlords or neighbors.)

People played their factions well, getting into "character" as their faction very quickly. Since my factions system uses six custom Approaches rather than the more granular skill set in Fate Core, it was important to see the Approaches in action and learn whether they made sense to players. People thought they did. However, the four Actions need some examples for the factions level of play, especially in a factions sub-system that includes the potential for PVP play. (Note that if you are signed up for the Strange Stars game at Con of the North in February, we'll be doing traditional roleplaying with characters - NOT PVP gaming.)

The players had a lot of great ideas for how the factions system could be clarified and improved. We'll be implementing a number of those, including building-in mechanical rewards for inter-factional deal making and mutual assistance. One astute observation was that the Fate economy slowed down due to the lack of Compels. This was probably because the GM was playing one of the factions, and not paying sufficient attention to the Fate Point economy. That being said, one player asserted there was no need for a GM with this kind of set-up. A lot to consider there.

One positive outcome was how many Aspects were in play simultaneously at the table. I'm usually forgetting about scene Aspects entirely and not necessarily doing the best job of tracking the Aspects that players discover or create during the game.

What was different this time? I used Avery Dry Erase Flash Cards for each of the two Airrotten planets, as well as to write down individual aspects and place them on the table (in "orbit" around one planet or the other) as we played. That made a real difference and added a lot of color and texture to the story. One downside of the flash cards is that they tend to smear ink across the card rather than completely erase the ink. They are still a great resource and I am going to continue using them!

(The "encounter" side of the Jadepunk playmat is another option, but our very generous host usually places a couple bowls of snacks in the table's center, and the players have mugs with beverages - so not the ideal set-up for using a mat.)

What's next? Refining the factions rules a tad! The time has also come for a careful rereading of the Fate rules for Actions; I get confused by the difference between Create an Advantage and Overcome Actions. So it's back to the book for a refresher!

I'm looking forward to running the full Fate Strange Stars RPG at Con of the North, so if what you see here as piqued your interest - and you're in town - stop by and play in this session. In fact, I may use what developed in the factions play last night as the scenario seed for the roleplaying.

We'll also have some opportunities to offer demos of the game next year at The Source. Stay tuned for details!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Cant Of The Limbo Of Literalistic Derision

Cant of the Limbo of Literalistic Derision (Abjuration, Cost, Per Scene, Persistent, Requires one other Ajuration spell): The ultimate counter-magical casting of the desperate, this formula evokes one of the garrulous and supernal Intelligences of Law. The caster rolls CHA +2 to summon this Mind. Once successfully cast, the distracting babble from this paragon of Law penetrates the minds of any living intelligent beings in the Scene, driving them to distraction with a barrage of rationalistic and subtly mocking quotidiana.

The affect of this disembodied otherworldly discourse is to raise the difficulty by +2 for any Create an Advantage or Overcome action requiring focus and concentration. The spell also blocks all other spellcasting actions (by any party, including the caster) for the remainder of the Scene. (Because of the latter restriction, this casting cannot be dispelled prior to the end of the Scene.)

Robots, androids, and other artificial intelligences are not affected by the Cant of the Limbo of Literalistic Derision.  Ignorance is bliss for those without imagination.

The name of this spell is inspired by a phrase in an essay by Clark Ashton Smith.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Sword Of The Underpeople

Sword of the Underpeople (Evocation/Necromancy, Cost, Per Scene, Persistent): This casting was developed by one of the innumerable subterranean and subaltern species that have dealt with undead infestations. A runeblade of bone, puissant against undead of all kinds, tears through the flesh of the caster's palm. The sword deals Weapon:2 in additional shifts of damage against undead creatures. It remains attached to their hand for an entire Scene or until dispelled by the caster.

The caster rolls CHA +2 to manifest the blade.

If the caster rolls a -3 on 4DF before Skills/Approaches are counted, the spell is successfully cast, but the sword remains extended for an entire Session, and cannot be dispelled before this time. (The sword can be physically removed using a bone saw, but this is messy and leaves a bleeding spur, for a Moderate Consequence.)

If the caster rolls a -4 before Skills/Approaches are counted, the same effects apply, but additionally the caster gains the Moderate Consequence of Rotting Flesh. This consequence promotes to Severe if an attempt is made to physically remove the sword using a bone saw.

The glowing arcane runes on this blade tell a story. They are invariably written in the most ancient written language associated with the caster's culture. Someone with the ability read the runes (such as a lich) will learn the caster's Trouble Aspect, and on a Success with Style, will learn additional secrets about the caster...

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Where Do YOU Gather Energy?

November was a low-output month on the blog. There were three factors playing into that:
  1. Investing more time in Fate of Tekumel, one of FATE SF's sister blogs. It's still a baby-blog, but it's moving. Six posts in November, whee...
  2. Some absolutely essential Tekumel travel, our second annual pilgrimage to U-Con in Ypsilanti. This is an outstanding convention with a superb Tekumel track that is an international draw. More on the con in the near future over at Fate of Tekumel! We also had a wonderful post-convention evening hangout in the bar with +Leonard Balsera of Fate Core fame, who was one of the Special Guests this year. It was a great way to unwind at the end of the con!
  3. A few days after the con I became extremely ill. Con crud? Perhaps. It was certainly a nasty cold, and one I am thankfully over.
So this is our first post for December. My energy is coming back. There will be more posts. 

And truth to tell, I have been a bit parsimonious with my posts, because we are also very close to Post 500 at FATE SF. Every post around that number should be meaty and substantive, no? 

Or celebratory.

So here's something I'm celebrating. Tonight my reading group got back together after a many month long hiatus. It felt good to get back together. It's a group that has been meeting several times per year for probably 14 years now. We formed to read Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's Empire (2000), and since then we read both of Empire's sequels and mavny other books as well. 

Tonight we discussed a very short book called Comradely Greetings: The Prison Letters of Nadya and Slavoj. That's right, a short book of correspondence between Slavoj Zizek and Nadya Tolokonnivkona of the band Pussy Riot. It was a great discussion and a great reminder that it isn't the girth or heft of the book that matters, but whether the book provokes a stimulating discussion.

Where do you turn for creative and intellectual energy?

Thursday, November 27, 2014


Sanitize (Evocation/Planar, Cost, Per Session, Requires one other spell from the Evocation or Planar schools): One of the Fourteen Essential Anti-Forensic castings, this formula was developed by the Nexialists to purify their ritual spaces - and to cover their tracks when necessary. It is often used to remove organic evidence from what the authorities might identify as a crime scene. It can also be used to purify a region contaminated by living pests and the organic effluvia of living things.

This formula destroys and removes all traces of bacteria, mold, fungi, and protozoans in the same Zone as the caster. It is also efficacious for the destruction of a range of small ectoparasites (e.g., lice) and other small invertebrates (flies, beetles, etc.) that may be present in a Zone. (It will never destroy a swarm cloud of attacking creatures, however, so Sanitize is useless as a defensive spell.)

The caster rolls their CHA +2 to cast this formula, with the following targets:
  •   0: Removes bacteria and protozoans
  • +1: Removes mold and fungi
  • +2: Removes viruses, ectoparasites, and arthropods
  • +3: Removes organic trace elements (blood, excreta, oil from fingerprints) and any associated stains, pools, splatters
  • +4: Removes other-planar life forms and materials (e.g., demon blood)
This casting will not remove the psychic residue of an event from a scene, nor will it remove other forensic traces of a crime or a struggle (such as kinetic damage to walls and surfaces, energy burns, etc.).

Friday, November 7, 2014

Cover Stars

We're digging the cover design for the Brazilian edition of Fate Core. You can never go wrong with suspenders and a trident. Leave the hightech gear for the lobsterpeople. That is about it for today.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Ten For Tzitzimine

Tzitzimine Star Demon by Juan Ochoa

The Tzitzimine Star Demons love Eyes and other technological devices that use other-planar energy. So let's give 'em some Eyes! There are actually twelve of them below, not ten. So feel free to roll a D12 and pick a few for your Tzitzimine!

"Things to gather, things to grasp, spheres in a halo, treasures to grant."

What are Eyes, you ask? They are “Devices surviving from the ancient and glorious days of high technology” is according to their creator, Professor M.A.R. Barker.[1]  They are a hallmark of his world of Tekumel, which is perhaps the most elaborate fantasy setting ever created for gaming. According to Barker, Eyes are “so named because they are shaped like small, dull gems, with an eye-like aperture on one side and a protruding stud on the other, which activates the device.”

Eyes are handheld superscience artifacts that use other-planar energy. Each one is like a printed circuit with a specific function. Eyes are a perfect embodiment of Clarke’s Law, which states that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” For this reason, they are often found in temple treasuries, in tombs and hoards within the Underworld, and in the hands of the powerful.

They are also very useful to adventurers, who often search for them in the Underworld and within the ruins of the temples, bases, and other facilities of the star-spanning Ancients. Each Eye has a specific power and effect. There is no way to discern an Eye’s power without using it. Each Eye has 1d100 charges, after which an ancient device must be used to restore their charges.

The Eyes below are non-canonical and were inspired by a number of authors including M.A.R. Barker and Cordwainer Smith. (In fact, Cordwainer Smith was undoubtedly an influence on Barker, since Tekumel has its own constellation of species called "Underpeople".) These Eyes may be used in any setting which includes ancient space empires and superscience in its background. 

[1] Quotes in this section are from M.A.R. Barker’s Empire of the Petal Throne (TSR 1975), p. 75.


The Eye of Friendship with Underpeople: Every world touched by the Lords of the Instrumentality had certain abject hybrid species who were created as laborers by the Instrumentality's cruel and inventive Gene Masters. Most of these creatures long ago broke their bonds to the ancient masters. Today they are retiring and resentful of Mankind. This Eye creates a temporary bond of friendship with one of these creatures. The bond lasts one Scene. Only creatures whose apex Skill/Approach is greater than +1 may resist the effect of this device. The Eye's user rolls CHA/Flashy +2  vs. the target's WIS; if the Eye's user rolls higher, the bond of friendship takes effect and a suitable temporary Aspect is created on the target, such as "Friend of Man".   The Underperson might take any action that is reasonable for a true friend to take (such as fighting alongside the Eye user) but will not take suicidal actions.

The Eye of Lord Tezcatlipoca: This Eye can activate any gate in the network of Smoking Mirror Engines that string disparate places and worlds together like black pearls in the shining void. These gates are one way portals (at least using the Eye), so an activated gate will open only to the next available egress from the Smoking Mirror Engine network - whether that is on the same world, another world, or even on an entirely different plane. The gate remains open for one Scene. Once opened, anyone may pass through the gate and will arrive at the next junction in the network.

The Eye of Adopting the Mien of a Lord of the Instrumentality: This Eye surrounds its target with the data cloud of one of the star-spanning Lords of the Instrumentality of Mankind. In ancient times, this Eye was a favorite tool of the assassins that these Lords (and the Guilds) used to settle their conflicts. Today it is mainly used to gain access to secure complexes in space, as well as to comparable planetside facilities, and certain long-forgotten areas of the Underworld defended by ancient superscience. The Mien created by this Eye is a temporary Aspect (for example, The Mantle of Lord Vex) that lasts for one Scene. The automated defenses of the Instrumentality’s ancient facilities will grant the target and their entourage unrestricted access to all but the most sensitive installations. Once the target gains access, they must act quickly. Reactivating the Eye within such an installation will awaken terrifying automated defenses.

The Eye of the Banishers of Gloom: The Banishers of Gloom are today one of the Legions of the Imperial Sovereign. In ancient times, they were an elite military unit of the Instrumentality dedicated to exploring dead planets and space hulks. They garnered a reputation as fearless hunters of the undead and of abominations from the planes beyond. On many worlds, they remain active within religious orders dedicated to Law and the destruction of the undead. This Eye is their signature weapon. The Eye unleashes a miniature hypernova beam upon its target, a 1’ in diameter beam of coalesced visible light, x-rays, and gamma rays. The Eye’s range is three Zones. All combustibles touched by the beam burst into flame.If an attack by this Eye hits its target, stress inflicted automatically bypasses the target's Stress Track and causes one or more Consequences of equivalent effect.

The Eye of the Dutiful Corvee: While the Instrumentality was an advanced interstellar civilization, social relations under the Lords of the Instrumentality often took on a semifeudal character. The ancient Lords used this Eye to compel corvee labor on many worlds. The device only works on humans, as other species were by definition suitable for enslavement rather than beings subject to a labor tax, This device works infallably on beings whose apex skill is +1 or less. With each use, a total of 1D20 such beings may be commanded to work indefinitely on some major project. Legends tell of isolated worlds where nearly immortal humans continue to labor on great works for the Instrumentality even today.

The Eye of the Beshadowed Labyrinth: This Eye opens a gate to ruined planet. The gate itself is entirely invisible. An individual might pass through it quite unwittingly.  The ruined planet's lifeless, airless surface is constantly abraded by the deadly energy beams emitted by the magnetar - a species of neutron star with intense magnetic fields - which the world orbits. Below the surface is a world-labyrinth inhabited by innumerable inimical species. Vast subterranean machines maintain a barely breathable atmosphere tainted with a thousand exotic chemicals. The entire labyrinth is shrouded in shifting dim light which projects shadows everywhere. Adventurers who survive in this deadly realm will need to find another way home: the gate opened by this Eye only offers a one way trip.

The Eye of the Glorious Instrumentality of Mankind: A favorite of galactic tomb raiders everywhere, this Eye projects a 3-D holographic representation of the regions of space ruled by Instrumentality of Mankind, showing the location and disposition of all Instrumentality resources including fleets, legions, bases, and nodes in the Smoking Mirror Engine network, as well as protected trade routes. Points of interest may be zoomed in upon by using physical gestures; this reveals planetary maps and additional data such as day length, climate levels, etc. The projection lasts for one Scene.  It automatically updates once daily within Instrumentality facilities that remain connected to the Smoking Mirror Engine network. But few do.

The Eye of the Lady of the Jade Skirt: This Eye will summon the nearest minion of a god or goddess of rivers, lakes, seas, rain, or storms. The ahuizotl is an example of one of these, as are anaconda, crocodiles, and hippos. Caution must be taken when using this Eye in open seas, as it can summon particularly nasty creatures such as mosasaurs, plesiosaurs, killer whales, kraken, akho, and avanc. This Eye has even reportedly summoned a 'Zotl. The creature remains for one Scene.

The Mystic Eye of the Hexagonal Chamber: Zealously sought by scholar priests, archaeologists, and obsessive antiquarian biblophiles, this Eye confers upon the target the ability to read, comprehend, and memorize any religious, mystical, or sorcerous manuscript, no matter the language in which the text was written. The user fires the Eye at the head of the person desiring to read the text in question (this is often none other than the user of the Eye). The effect lasts for one session. But that's not all. A degree of harmful other-planar informational decay is associated with the use of this device. With each use, the reader must make a Clever/WIS roll to defend against a mental Attack with an insanity trigger of +2.

The Majestic Eye of Lord Pacal: This Eye allows its user to pilot telepathically a Pacal-class Vimana - one of the ancient chariots of the gods - for an entire Session.

The Eye of Petty Theogony: The target upon which this Eye is used selects a temporary Aspect reflecting a minor deity, or a lesser avatar of a great deity. The target selects a suitable temporary Aspect to reflect this. Their CHA/Flashy Approach also increases by +2 for the remainder of the Scene. Intelligent beings who are friendly or devoted to that deity will be favorably disposed; those intelligent beings who are opposed or hostile to that deity will be more likely to attack or flee. Any Consequence will completely dispel the effect of this Eye. No one likes a god that bleeds.

The Eye of Vague Auguries: When this Eye is pointed at an object such as a door, secret panel, or other portal (including interdimensional gates) the Eye will issue two vague-but-true telepathic auguries about persons, items, and conditions on the other side of the threshold. The auguries become scene Aspects as determined by the GM.  For example, if a PC uses the Eye at the threshold of a doorway in the Underworld, the auguries might be “reptile god” and “priests”. The resulting scene aspects might be:
  • Threshold of the Temple of the Snake Demon Ysxthici. 
  • A high priest, unwilling sacrifices and numerous cultists.

  • The devices above are copyright 2013 by John Everett Till.

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014

    Who Can Use Magic?

    This is a rough guide to the creatures in the FATE Bestiary that are able to use magic spells. Some will have a preference to use other means, and will rarely use magic, but this is a representative running list of creatures that can use the kind of spells featured in the Galactic Grimoire at FATE SF:

    The Anapa



    Crocodilian-Humanoid Hybrid Demons

    Crocodilian Guardian Mummy



    False Beholders

    Ghost Wolves

    Imperial Sibyls



    Mother Mass

    Old Martians

    Planarian Nine



    Red Martian Scientist


    Serpent Folk

    Tzitzimine Star Demons

    The 'Zotl

    Tuesday, October 28, 2014


    Glastegs glitter, Glastegs shine, Glastegs come from another place and time. Glastegs are rare as hen's teeth but they have been spotted on several different worlds with saurian megafauna, including Sector I-5 of Kepler-22B. Glastegs are modified stegasauri resulting from genetic engineering by the Translucent One Who Chimes, a mysterious visitor to the pocket universe known as the Land Between the Pylons.

    Glastegs can modify their chromatic properties of their integument. They can become translucent to the point of near invisibility, thereby evading detection by predators. They can also become blindingly reflective, startling and confusing their attackers. There is at least one instance of glastegs working together to concentrate beams of light between them, and then channel this energy in a beam attack upon an opponent.

    But that's not all. Glastegs can also affect local gravitational fields when they become enraged. When attacked, they may bombard adjacent zones with gravity waves of 2-3 standard gravities, overturning the earth, tearing flesh, and breaking bones. Working together, they can even disrupt planar boundaries, creating temporary interdimensional Nexus Points.

    Glastegs can survive on a diet of plant matter, but only have access to their special abilities when they consume energy sources such as matrix gems, batteries, and power packs. In the Land Between the Pylons, they lurk near these enigmatic structures, hoping to startle a passerby and consume any matrix gems they may be carrying.

    Glastegs have a nose for such energy sources, and will track and pursue persons who have these items. They are drawn to the ruins of technological societies for the same reason, as there are often long-abandoned power sources upon which they can feed.  No doubt that is why the Glastegs seem to thrive on Kepler-22B.


    Modified Stegasaurus (neutral)

    • High Concept: Mirrorskin Stegasaurus
    • Trouble: An appetite for batteries and power packs
    • Aspect: What's that chiming sound?
    • Aspect: Look at me long enough and you'll go blind
    • Aspect: Glastegs come in threes
    • Careful: 0
    • Clever: +1
    • Flashy: +3
    • Forceful: +3
    • Quick: 0
    • Sneaky: 0
    • Blinded by the Glitter: Glastegs take +2 to their Flashy Approach to Create an Advantage against an opponent using their blinding mirror skin. This only works in daylight. The more suns the better.
    • Ray Blast: When three or more Glastegs work together, they can add +2 to their Flashy Approach to blast someone or something with a laser beam. This can be used as an Attack or an Overcome an Obstacle action.
    • Tailcrack: By slapping its spiked tail against the ground, Glastegs can propagate gravity waves into adjacent Zones. They take a +2 to their Forceful Approach to Create an Advantage such as Crushing Gravity. This effect propagates in a particular direction for two Zones on a result of +1, or three Zones on a result of +2 or better. On a Succeed with Style, the total effort of the roll can be directed as an Attack on each creature in the direction of the gravity wave.
    • Turn Translucent: Glastegs take +2 to their Sneaky Approach when becoming translucent as way to Creating an Advantage against a pursuer or enemy.  
    REFRESH: 2

    Wireless Message

    Wireless Message (Divination, Cost, Per Scene, Permanent, Requires one other Divination spell):  A Wireless Message never brings good news. This casting is used to keep tabs on a loved one, or a person the caster has been charged with protecting. It requires a photograph, a lock of hair, or some other arcane connection to its target. Once cast, the spell is permanent, but is only discharged if the target is threatened in some way by their immediate external environment (e.g., fire, drowning, abduction, an accident, or assault). If a triggering event occurs, the caster receives an immediate sensory impression of the local environment from the target's point of view. The caster will also be aware of the target's thoughts and feelings at the time of the triggering event.

    This spell requires a WIS/Careful +2 roll:
    • A normal success means that the spell has been cast successfully. 
    • If the caster Succeeds with Style on their casting roll, they will experience Wireless Message as a premonition which occurs one day before the triggering event. 

    A target may resist the casting by rolling their CHA/Flashy vs. the caster's WIS/Careful +2:
    • If the target rolls higher than the caster, the spell fails. 
    • If the caster rolls higher than their target, the spell is successfully cast upon the target. 

    This spell was inspired by the Ambrose Bierce short story, "A Wireless Message".

    Monday, October 27, 2014

    Planarian Nine

    Planarian Nine is a species of other-planar flatworms that range in from 1 cm in length x 3 mm in width on the small side, to the dimensions of humpback whales when full grown. The average specimen is 3-4 M long x 1 M wide x .3 M from dorsal to ventral surface. These planar vagabonds squiggle and squirm their way between dimensions. They extend their ventral feeding tube into nexus points to prey on unwitting travelers. They also scour a world's tidal pools and planar adjacencies - at least in those adjacencies with two or more dimensions - seeking fleshy morsels. For that reason, Planarian Nine are one of the main interdimensional wanderers feeding on the flesh that is displaced when the formula Skeletizer is cast.

    A Planarian Nine secretes a sheet of mucus whose special properties lubricate the interstices between dimensions, facilitating smooth transitions across the planes. Their skin is much sought after for these properties. The eyes of the Planarian Nine are on their dorsal surface, so the creatures seldom view what they are consuming. Instead, the eyes help them to discern the energies coursing within and between dimensions, facilitating the identification of planar adjacencies that are nutrient rich. The creature's eyes are much sought after by those seeking a permanent version of the spell Eye of the Nexus, as its ocular tissues can be sectioned in exquisitely thin sheets for use as contact lenses.


    Planarian Nine
    Planar Flatworm (inimical)

    • High Concept: Huge interdimensional flatworm
    • Trouble: Can't see what it's eating
    • Aspect: Moves on mucus and leaves a trail
    • Aspect: Drawn to Nexus Points
    • Aspect: Quiet as a mouse
    • Careful: +2
    • Clever: +1
    • Flashy: 0
    • Forceful: +3
    • Quick: 0
    • Sneaky: +3
    • Dimensional Editing: A Planarian Nine takes a +2 to its Sneaky Approach to a Create an Advantage by collapsing three or more dimensions down to two in an adjacent Zone. This forces any three dimensional creature to move one Zone further away. On a Succeed with Style, this action inflicts one Moderate Consequence on any targets in the Zone being edited; such individuals are also displaced to an adjacent Zone.
    • Planar Squeeze: Once per Scene, the Planarian Nine may shift itself to another plane of existence. They cannot return to their original location during the remainder of that Scene.
    • Regeneration: At the end of any Scene, the Planarian Nine may remove one Moderate Consequence.
    • Twinning: After taking a Severe Consequence, the Planarian Nine may split itself into two smaller organisms and begin to regenerate. The Severe Consequence is downgraded to a Moderate Consequence for each twin. If the parent also had a Moderate Consequence at the time of twinning, each twin gains two Moderate Consequences. Each twin also inherits any Stress that its parent had at the time of twinning. Both have the memories of their parent.
    REFRESH: 3

    Monday, October 20, 2014

    Dr. Hern's Anaetheric Lacuna

    Dr. Hern's Anaetheric Lacuna (Abjuration/Planar, Cost, Persistent, Requires two other Abjuration or Planar spells): This formula disrupts the luminiferous aether, creating an airless vacuole of absolute darkness that is roughly 10' x 10' x 10'. Any individual trapped within such a vacuole takes a Consequence each round (starting with the Medium Consequence Breathless, Blind, and Freezing), and will soon freeze and suffocate in an absolute, terrible pocket of darkness. No sound, light, or energy of any sort penetrates the membrane of this void, but physical objects pass through it normally.

    This casting is not infrequently used as a means of assassination. It is particularly effective in this capacity when used at night, since it can often be cast unseen directly in a target's immediate path.

    If the target can see Lacuna being cast, the caster should roll CHA/Flashy +2 vs. the target's DEX/Flashy Approach. If the defender's roll is higher, they successfully evade the specific location where the caster placed the Lacuna.

    A second, no less important use of Lacuna is to shield its caster from the fire of energy weapons. Because light cannot enter the vacuole - it has no luminiferous aether - the vacuole's membrane harmlessly deflects energy weapons of all sorts, scattering their rays away from the caster.

    This spell was inspired by Ambrose Bierce's short story "Charles Ashmore's Trail."

    Monday, October 13, 2014

    Imperfect Conflagration

    Imperfect Conflagration (Abjuration/Evocation, Cost, Persistent, Requires one other Abjuration or Evocation spell): A classic containment/detainment formula used by the Nexialists and many others to thwart their aggressors, Imperfect Conflagration imprisons up to five humanoid creatures within four vertical flaming walls, Each wall face is up to 3 x 3 meters in area. Those imprisoned by the walls of flame cannot pass through them to escape but are also not harmed by their proximity to the flames.

    The caster rolls CHA +2 vs. the targets' individual DEX rolls. Any targets that succeed in their roll are successful in dodging out of the way of the casting at its moment of imminence.

    The walls of flame first appear as a 3 x 3 meter square of flame at ground/floor level, each face of which whooshes rapidly upwards to create four flaming walls. Once erected, the walls create an impassible barrier from either direction. The area overhead is open, however, and presents a possible means of escape for creatures capable of feats of saltation, levitation, or flight.

    If the floors or spaces upon which this formula is cast contain combustible materials, the space will take on the temporary aspect On Fire or In Flames until the casting AND the flames are both extinguished.

    While this casting only lasts one Scene in the field, Nexialists often use this casting within their Institutes to interrogate enemies and imprison those who have persecuted their Order. Within the Institutes' meditative labyrinths, the caster can make the duration of this casting Permanent, because the formula has the ability tap into the circuits of other-planar energies circulating within these spaces.  Targets imprisoned indefintely using Imperfect Conflagration do not age or die, and will not need food or drink.

    This spell is inspired by Ambrose Bierce's short story "Imperfect Conflagration."  We're reading a lot of Mr. Bierce this month of October.

    Wednesday, October 8, 2014

    The Lords of Paganistan

    Vampire Dice for Dresden Files!

    We've had three Dresden Files Accelerated playtest sessions with our Thursday Night Group so far, with our fourth scheduled for tomorrow night. It's been fun! In earlier posts with labelled Dresden File Accelerated, I've described the Twin Cities supernatural setting we've created collaboratively. Now I'm going to give you a quick snapshot of the PCs.

    The players decided they wanted to live in a commune of sorts in the Powderhorn neighborhood of Minneapolis. It's an interesting part of the city: high crime with many low income families, a bourgie corner with upper income families, a lot of renters, an increasing rate of Latino homeownership, and a significant lesbian community. And hippies and alternative types. A bit of everything really, and the largest pagany cultural festival in the metro area.

    They decided on a group identity for their commune: The Lords of Paganistan, a motorcycle gang of magical bounty hunters. They fit right in with this neighborhood. Now Dresden Files Accelerated uses Mantles as the template for different classes of supernatural beings, and Weight Classes as the scaling system for the disparate power levels that we see in the Dresdenverse. Our players decided to play the first Weight Class up from Mortals, which is called Unnatural. The PCs are as follows:
    • Fred Silverbloom, High Concept: Badass Biker Turning Into A Bug. Fred's Mantle is Changeling: Troll Blood. He is good at fighting but needs to avoid being touched by cold iron. His Trouble is The World Is Not Your Ashtray. He gets really mad when people pollute.
    • Lotus, High Concept: Consulting Psychic; Trouble Believes Everything. Lotus is a trip. She has the Mantle Minor Talent: Cassandra's Tears. Lotus has visions of the future that she can't control. Her other aspects include Let's talk it out, Commune with Nature, and Embrace the power of "and." She is the most hippie-like of a hippie bunch. 
    • Juice, High Concept: OCD Aspiring Beat Poet. Juice has the Mantle Psychometrist, which means that he can read objects by touching them. First GM ruling in the first session? Whether dead bodies are objects. Trouble: Organic Vegan Only. Juice wears gloves because meat eaters have touched so many things. He doesn't like the contact residue of animal screams that rubs off on the objects that meat eaters touch.
    • Draka (aka Donald), High Concept: Bounty Hunter, Trouble: Drinks Too Much. Draka's Mantle is an Einherjar, one of the honored dead who have been returned to the mortal world and who is gifted with battle skill. He always has on a duster jacket (that should be an aspect for him!) and wears a sword under it. 
    Next time, I'll tell you about the PCs adventures against Minneapolis' Evil short sale gurus. Realtors make great monsters!

    Monday, October 6, 2014

    Enkidu FerJabbersSake

    Enkidu FerJabbersSake is my first character for 5th edition D&D. Yesterday, I posted the backstory for this character at The Everwayan. I thought it might be fun today to translate him for Fate Freeport Companion.

    Keep in mind that a beginning character for the Fate Freeport Companion is significantly more capable than a 1st level D&D character.

    Enkidu was originally created for a new western continent in the Forgotten Realms setting. But he'd work well in Freeport or Razor's Coast - really in any setting with a colonial port city and a wilderness where indigenous groups clashing with settlers from across the seas.

    Although I originally wrote Enkidu as a grudging worshiper of Bahgtru, the orcish god of idiot strength, this version of Enkidu taps into 13th Age's Icons cosmology.

    Enkidu FerJabbersSake

    • High Concept: Hulking Half Orc Ranger
    • Trouble: A taste for human males
    • Icon Relationship: Conflicted Relationship with the Orc Lord
    • Aspect: My missing Half Orc brother
    • Aspect: Surprisingly handsome
    • STR +3
    • DEX +1
    • CON +2
    • INT 0
    • WIS +1
    • CHA +2
    • Favored Enemy: Because I have not forgiven my own goblinoid-kind for enslaving my little brother, I take +2 to my STR Skill when Attacking orcs or goblins.
    • Half Orc Smash!: Because of my great size and physical prowess, I take +2 to my STR Skill to Overcome an Obstacle where might can help.
    • Natural Explorer: Because I have lived all my life in the forest, I take +2 to my WIS or INT Skills to Create an Advantage in this environment.
    • Rough Trade: Because I am ruggedly handsome, I take +2 to my CHA Skill to Create an Advantage with someone likely to be attracted to me.
    REFRESH: 2

    STRESS TRACKS: Physical - 3 boxes, Mental - 2 boxes

    Saturday, October 4, 2014

    The Skeletizer

    Moche Dancing Skeletons

    The Skeletizer (Curse/Necromancy/Planar, Cost, Permanent, Corrupting, Requires two other Curse, Necromancy, or Planar spells): Once used exclusively in necromantic religious rituals requiring a willing target, The Skeletizer is now  a casting in wide use for the creation of living dead for a variety of purposes including military operations and labor in dangerous environments (such as zones with high radiation or a vacuum).

    Cast on a willing, living subject, The Skeletizer shifts the target's living flesh into a planar adjacency where it remains until the casting is either dispelled, or the missing meat is gobbled up by an other-planar entity that happens by the adjacency. (The knowledge of this possibility is usually withheld from the target of the casting.)

    The target becomes an Undead articulated skeleton with Free will and normal intelligence. Such a being is undetectable using technologies that sense living organisms but can be easily detected using Divination castings such as Detect Magic, or Planar spells such as the Eye of the Nexus. The target also becomes immune to poisons, the effects of weapons such as death rays, and the Overkill effects of Annihilators.

    Use of this casting is a Major Infraction, but that doesn't people from using it. Quite the contrary. The Skeletizer has the strange name it does because the casting is often incorporated into pseudo-technological items that appear to be energy projectors, or into wands, deaths-head style rings, and pins.

    Thursday, October 2, 2014

    Historical Gaming

    Yesterday, +Evil Hat Productions asked G+ folks to say who they'd like to play a game of Fate with, if they could travel anywhere throughout time for the game. My first thought - still my preference - would be to play with folks from my current group - as well as my friends Boris, Amon, and Mark. Play maybe 10, 15, 20, or 30+ years ago.

    We have quite an age spread in our group - from late 20s through 50s - and some of us started gaming in the mid-'70s. So it would be kind of fun to game with our current group when we were all around 14 or 15, maybe in the mid-70s with EPT, D&D White Box, or Black Box Traveller. This would of course require a certain amount of shuttling of people between different locations in spacetime.

    If I couldn't run that game, - well, then, maybe a gaming group made up of different members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.  A few of the key players and their styles with Fate:
    • Lenin needs to be there for sure.  He has a keen eye for opportunities and openings. He'd be the most consistent user of the Create an Advantage action. Some of the Aspects he came up with were really funny and creative, like this one: "Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country."
    • Alexandra Kollontai for sure. Not just because she's the only woman available, I mean just read her bio. Left her husband and child to study Marxism. A Leader of the Left Opposition. That's two big Aspects right there. 
    • Trotsky. Incredible revolutionary orator and supreme military tactician of the Red Army, he always leads with the Attack action using his Flashy Approach. He's a power gamer but even worse, he's a rules lawyer and always picking fights with the GM and other players. Even when they know he's right a lot of the other players won't help him because they think he's a contentious asshole. 
    • Bukharin. A conservative player, Bukharin always thinks he's playing the long game. Truth to tell, he probably does have an extra Stress Box and one additional Moderate Consequence. A cautious player, he rarely takes advantage of any Aspects on the table. A philosopher, he does some of his most intriguing work once he's been Taken Out.
    • Stalin. Of course, everybody knows he's Trouble with a capital "T" don't they? He's another power gamer, but unlike Trotsky who likes modern art and jazz, Stalin is conservative about everything. Stalin is the OSR dude at the table: for him, everything's about rulings, not rules. Nobody takes him too seriously at first. Lenin has to do a rewrite on Stalin's paper on the National Question, the first draft is so crude and stupid. But Stalin has a way of winning in the end. His M.O. is the social Attack using his Sneaky Approach. Most of the time when he Takes Out someone, it's an NPC doing it for him. A lot of his victims just think Stalin doesn't know, or that It's some kind of mistake. More players exit the game because of his play behavior than because of anything else.

    Tuesday, September 30, 2014

    Reading Ambrose Bierce

    Every Fall, either right before or right after Halloween, the Second Foundation Reading Group  in the Twin Cities picks a horror/supernatural-themed author for discussion at a session of our reading group. This year, we've chosen Ambrose Bierce. I've read about 60 pages worth of his ghost/horror/supernatural stories so far, including two of the ones that mention Hali, Hastur, and Carcossa. I am really enjoying this author.

    If you're local and a fan, please join us on Sunday, November 2 from 2-4 to discuss the works of Ambrose Bierce. We'll be meeting at the Parkway Pizza on 4359 Minnehaha Avenue S. in Minneapolis.

    Monday, September 22, 2014

    Mayor Betsy And The Prince

    Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges

    Mayor Betsy is clueless. At least about the occult underground in the Twin Cities. That's what the players decided.

    The greatest supernatural force in Minneapolis is Prince. That's right, The Prince of the Purple Rain. Not some dumb vampire prince.

    Wrong game.

    Prince used to lead the Summer Court. But the people of Minneapolis are feeling his absence. Prince has withdrawn his favor from our fair city. We wish he'd come back.

    The Revolution is trying to bring him out of seclusion.  Of course, they are all powerful Summer Court functionaries too. They're trying to hold things together, maybe renew things.

    Then there is the White Court, fueling a massive wave of gentrification across the metro. Affordable apartments go down; luxury condos go up. What is the White Court up to with all their buying and selling?

    Finally there is the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Narayana Kocherlakota. Everyone's sure he's up to something. But no one's exactly sure what.

    Narayana Kocherlakota

    Sunday, September 21, 2014

    Midnight At The Witch's Hat

    "The Witch Hat Tower And A Full Moon" by Mark Goodman Photo

    If this stunning image doesn't convince you that Minneapolis, Minnesota has places of power, I don't know what will. The Witch's Hat in Prospect Park has been part of the Twin Cities' occult landscape since 1913. It was built as a water tower (with a bandstand deck at the top) and it occupies the highest natural spot in the landscape of Minneapolis.

    This was just one of the numerous supernatural locations that the we identified in our first playtest session of Dresden Files Accelerated. Others included the Elf House near Lake Harriet...

    Minneapolis Star Tribune

    Where it looks pretty easy to leave a message... for someone.

    Elf House

    More to come on the "movers and shakers" in our Minneapolis' Dresden setting, as well as on the cool PCs that our players created using Dresden Files Accelerated's "Mantles".

    Thursday, September 18, 2014

    Dresden Dreams

    Winter Knight Dice

    The dice fall where they may, and sometimes they fall in your dreams. That was my experience last night. I spent roughly four hours reading the Dresden Files Accelerated Alpha Playtest rules, because our Thursday Night Group will be running it's first playtest session tonight.

    We're doing some city generation, character generation, and campaign issues.

    Once I had finished reading the rules it was 12 midnight, so I turned in.

    Almost exactly an hour later, I woke up from a nightmare.

    We had been playing the game.

    We were rolling the dice. A spell was being cast.

    The roll was a Bad One.

    I was more than a little rattled.

    It's just a game right?

    Except that in the dream it was both real and a game.

    Wednesday, September 17, 2014

    Doomsdays & Dresdens

    Quick post for today. Yesterday's write up of the USS Constellation for Paul Stefko's Interstellar Patrol prompted someone to suggest that I should do a write-up for the Doomsday Machine itself. I am thinking about how one might do that.

    In the meantime, I am preparing to run the first playtest of Dresden Files Accelerated with our Thursday Night Group. I'm thinking our playtest adventures will take place in the Twin Cities, MN, one of the cities that gave birth to Urban Fantasy in novels such as Emma Bull's War for the Oaks.

    Should be fun!

    Tuesday, September 16, 2014

    U.S.S. Constellation

    Commodore Matt Decker

    The Constitution class of starship was a solidly build workhorse vessel suitable for deep space, long-term exploration. It was also used for perimeter patrols and defense of core systems of the Federation. This class of starships was also built to hold its own in a battle. The Klingons and Romulans soon learned that they needed to field three D7s against one ship of this class to ensure a superior prevailing force.

    Commodore Decker - like Captain James T. Kirk and their peers commanding other Constitution class vessels - was a hard-headed commander and a bit of a megalomaniac. But you had to be to go out to the edge of the Federation and beyond with one starship on a five year mission. This ship could take you there, but you had to bring it back in one piece.

    With a crew.

    Which not everyone did.

    Federation Starship USS Constellation
    • Propulsion: Two warp nacelles and impulse engines
    • Tactical: Phasers, photon torpedos, and shields
    • Sensors: Suitable for deep space exploration
    • Amenities: Everything needed for a five year mission
    • Special: Saucer separation
      • Someone at the helm may invoke this Aspect to detach the saucer section from the engineering section of the ship. Crew will be needed to staff a bridge on each section.
    • Special: Tractor beams
      • Someone at helm, engineering, or science may invoke this Aspect when using their Forceful Approach to grab hold of an object in space. 
    • Special: Self-destruct
      • In extreme circumstances, the Captain may invoke this Aspect and use their Forceful Approach to destroy the ship (often damaging or destroying a nearby enemy in the process).

    Monday, September 15, 2014

    Klingon Bird-Of-Prey

    Klingon Bird of Prey

    Here's another example of a starship built using Paul Stefko's Interstellar Patrol campaign frame for Fate Accelerated Edition.  The Klingon Birds-of-Prey are a beautiful line of ships.

    Klingon Bird-of-Prey
    • Propulsion: Warp capable starship
    • Tactical: Klingon patrol [raider, scout, pirate] ship
    • Communications: An ideal vessel for espionage
    • Amenities: Hot, humid, and cramped
    • Special: "A cloaked ship is no small favor"
      • Someone at the helm may invoke this Aspect to make the Bird-of-Prey invisible to sensors for all or part of a Scene
      • A captain may invoke this Aspect to drive a hard bargain with someone who needs to get somewhere without being detected

    Sunday, September 14, 2014

    The Fate Library: Interstellar Patrol

    A little over a week ago, Paul Stefko published an eight page campaign frame for Fate Accelerated Edition called Interstellar Patrol. The first review to appear on DriveThru is rather harsh. The product is Pay What You Want, so if you like space opera, I'd encourage you to give it a look.

    Interstellar Patrol bills itself as offering players the opportunity to play a campaign of relatively optimistic SF, such as the original Star Trek. This isn't a fully realized retro SF RPG setting though, such as Cosmic Patrol and Rocket Age.  Instead, Interstellar Patrol offers the barebones tools for creating a space opera game. If you needed to run a pick-up game in an hour, you could download this (provided you have downloaded and read Fate Accelerated Edition already), read this eight page guide, and offer your players a game.

    The PDF offers quick suggestions for making PCs, primarily focusing on selection of two strong Approaches for each character type. The examples are perfect for the bridge crew/core cast for a show like Star Trek. I don't agree with all the recommendations but the examples are fine.

    This is followed by some great examples of Stunts that are perfect for a space opera game. Here's an example:
    Because I know every inch of the engine room like the back of my hand, once per session I can "give all she's got" and automatically succeed with style on one action using the ship's systems.
    Next come quick 4DF tables for creating worlds and adventures. Again, these are perfect for a pick-up game.

    Finally we get quick rules for creating spacecraft. Ships have four systems that are represented as Aspects with three possible damage conditions. Those systems are: Propulsion, Tactical (which includes both Attack and Defense), Sensors (which includes communications), and Amenities (which includes life support).

    It would be easy enough to embellish these Aspects to make them specific to the vessel. For example, the shuttlecraft Galileo might have Impulse Engines (Propulsion), Harmless (Tactical), Planetary Range Sensors, and Barely Any Amenities. Note that the last Aspect will work equally well for any D7 Battlecruiser your players run into during a game.

    Players take action with the ship using their own Approaches but only one player may operate a particular ship system at any given time. So you can't have three PCs each running Tactical and taking shots at the enemy.

    Each system has three damage states (Disrupted, Damaged, and Disabled) which must be taken in order, and which absorb 1,2, and 4 shifts of shit-to-ship combat stress, respectively. Alternatively, a PC can take a number of shifts directly as a personal Consequence on their own character sheet, rather than the ship's. This simulates all the being tossed around we see during space combat in shows like Star Trek.

    Again, this looks pretty sufficient for a pick-up game, but maybe less so if you enjoy the tactical complexity of Diaspora or the broader range of design selections possible in a game like Starblazer Adventures.

    There's no aliens offered in the game, although it's straightforward to make an alien character. Just take an appropriate Aspect.

    I should mention that the FATE Bestiary at here FATE SF is mostly written for Fate Accelerated Edition - so most entries there are 100% compatible with Interstellar Patrol.

    Friday, September 12, 2014

    Deck Of Fridays 25: A Simple Mistake

    Welcome back to DECK OF FRIDAYS, our not-so-weekly feature here at FATE SF! Each week (more or less) since the release of the Deck of Fate, we have made a draw from the Deck of FateRPG Inspiration Cards, or another Aspect-generative randomizer. Then we do something interesting with it, using the Aspect as inspiration for a campaign or scenario seed, a situation, scene, location, NPC, thingie, etc.

    This week's draw from the Deck of Fate is a card with the aspect A Simple Mistake. There's a certain amount of metaphor at work in this one so it may or may not work well for your gaming table.

    A Table of Simple (or not so simple) Mistakes 
    (or B-b-b-lunders)

     Roll 4DF or draw a card from the Deck of Fate, and consult the appropriate outcome corresponding to the numerical result on the left. 
    • +4: "Listen, if you were to rescue her, the reward would be..."
    • +3: "Uh, uh...negative, negative. We have a reactor leak here now."
    • +2: "These aren't the droids you're looking for."
    • +1: "Now witness the power of this armed and fully operational battle station."
    •  0:  "It is obvious to even the simpleminded that Lokai is of an inferior breed."
    • -1: "Never. I'll never turn to the Dark Side."
    • -2: "Evacuate? In our moment of triumph? I think you overestimate their chances."
    • -3: "Don't worry, it's a slam dunk."
    • -4: "Cardassian* forces will not have a combat mission - we will not get dragged into another protracted war."**

    *Or Klingon, or Romulan, or Sardaukar - or American.

    **Actual quote is: "American forces will not have a combat mission - we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq."

    Thursday, September 11, 2014

    Rational Bullwark

    Rational Bullwark (Abjuration, Cost, Per Scene, Permanent, Requires "Sphere of Force" or "Wall of Force"):  In the days of the long-gone Star League, the Nexialists acquired this formula by the ruthless extraction of recondite information possessed by a race of subterranean mutants. These creatures - whether human or alien - had developed mental powers to the point that they could, through sheer force of will, project illusions that were as solid and substantial as material reality itself. This refinement of intellectual capacities helped the mutants survive numerous environmental hazards in the shelters and warrens below the surface of their shattered world.

    This INT-based casting erects a semi-transparent mental force barrier that is able to imprison persons on the opposite side of the force wall projection from the caster. The bullwark can be touched without pain, and will appear to oscillate and resound with a whoom when struck. The barrier is impermeable to physical force as well as to energy weapons, and will not allow a person or thing to pass through it without special counter-abjurative devices.

    Rational Bullwark creates a semi-permeable barrier, allowing gas exchange to occur across the barrier without obstruction. It therefore makes an excellent prison cell door.

    However, nanite swarms and similar invisible materials may freely migrate across the barrier in both directions.  Spells and spell-like abilities also have some ability to penetrate the barrier, so the caster of Rational Bullwark should make an INT +2 casting roll to determine the difficulty of all future attempts by others to cast spells across the barrier.

    Wednesday, September 10, 2014

    Zombie Breath

    Putrescent Garland of the Copper Tomb (Illusion/Necromancy*, Cost, Persistent, Requires "Disguise", Corrupting): An essential casting learned by all who must tarry among the living dead, Putrescent Garland is a perfect disguise which convinces any living dead that the target of this spell has an aspect such as Zombie, Living Dead, or Overkilled. Boarding crews of pirate ships that use Annihilators are usually accompanied on boarding actions by someone who knows this casting.

    Putrescent Garland does not bestow upon the target the regal mien of one of the undead elite, such as a vampire or lich. Quite the contrary. It creates the illusion that the target is one of the most abject, shambling, and rotting forms of undead,

    Roll CHA +2 to cast this on oneself or others. An unwilling target resists with a WIS roll. If the caster should Succeed with Style on their casting roll, the target's appearance also convinces the living that the target is undead.

    This casting is Corrupting and inflicts a Minor Infraction.  It is also unpleasant for the target. The target has the experiences dysgeusia as if their own flesh were indeed rotting. Other sensory systems may be similarly disturbed.

    *The Necromantic version of spell works differently. It has no Cost, and does not require knowledge of the Illusion spell "Disguise".  However, use of this spell often brings bad fortune on the caster. A draw from the Deck of Fate is required. If a negative aspect appears on the card drawn, the caster gains an appropriate Moderate Consequence related to that aspect.