Posts Tagged With: Fatescape

Busy busy busy


At last! I’ve finally polished off the text for the next version of Fatescape – it’s basically FATE Core with a few added skills and a new magic system and a whole load of Planescape bumf included – so all I need to do is sit down for a few hours and drop it into a pdf layout and we should be good to go!

It could do with a decent infusion of Planescape flavour, I think, and I need to transfer more of the custom stunts across from the previous version, and I should write up some sample adversaries, and the magic needs examination… but by and large it’s at the point now where I’m tinkering rather than creating from scratch.

Big Pulp: Catskin

My short story The Canau Deception has been published in Big Pulp magazine, in the Summer 2013 anthology entitled Catskin. I’ve got my author’s comp copies but I’m not sure if its available to the general public yet – but when it is, you should all get a copy! You’ll be able to find it formatted for your e-reader of choice here, eventually.

Also, they’ve agreed to publish another short story of mine – Won’t Be Missed, about a wizard and his super-strong ex-girlfriend and the fight they have – some time in 2014.

Low Life

Continuing my publishing credits: I entered the Low Life, High Adventure contest run by Andy Hopp over at Mutha Oith Creations and my story Not So Smart scored me a place in the anthology!

If you’re not familiar with Low Life as a setting for RPGs, I highly recommend it – I originally only spun by the contest page because Andy was giving away the setting book as a free pdf, and I love free stuff, but once I’d read it I knew I had to enter. Over on Something Awful, someone described Low Life as “Gamma World meets Fraggle Rock, plus butt jokes” which is entirely accurate and still undersells how cool it is.

It’s a shame the Kickstarter for a new rulebook didn’t hit the ‘FATE version’ level, since I’m not a huge fan of either Savage Worlds or Pathfinder, but I reckon I’ll get my money’s worth just reading the pdfs as they arrive in my inbox.


Speaking of ‘getting my money’s worth from just reading’, I finally got around to backing Chuubo’s Marvellous Wish-Granting Engine – the latest work from the superlatively gifted Jenna Moran – and I’m so glad I did!

I mean, the basic premise doesn’t really sit well with me: it’s pastoral-style gaming, slow-paced and gentle; the main protagonists are all teenagers; and the sample campaign strongly expects you to play pregens rather than original characters.

But the execution! The pastoral style works for the kind of stories the game wants to tell (and there are other options, which as far as I can tell no one has seriously looked at), the pregens are without exception bloody fantastic – my personal favourites being Nightmares’ Angel, the Troublemaker, and the Prodigy – and… I still don’t care for teenage PCs* but I’ll deal. I haven’t wanted to play a game so badly in a long time.

*Says the man playing a teenage PC in an online Monsterhearts game. I think the difference is that in Monsterhearts the game tends to focus on a spiral of failure and doom, and watching the in-crowd self-destruct because they’re all terrible people is always a good time.

Shadowrun Returns

And another Kickstarter I backed is released today! I’ve got plans for the campaign editor already, so we’ll see if I can find the time to actually finish a module for the first time ever.

…oh, and I got engaged too. =3

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Whoops, haven’t updated this in some time.

I’ve noticed that the more actual gaming I seem to be doing, the less writing about gaming I do. Now I’m well into running Fatescape (and writing other material for Pathfinder) I find myself less inclined to post theoretical musings here.

Anyway, that said I’m about to muse about Fatescape and the various issues that have come up. In some ways this is also so that I’ve got a record of what needs fixing, since I’m working on other projects at the moment.

  • Archery sucks. It needs beefing up, since most D&D-style combat takes place at ranges short enough that ‘two zones’ is overkill.
  • The stunts need rebalancing. This is most obvious in the case of Weapons, which has basically terrible stunts, but they really do need to be adjusted so that an equal ‘investment’ into a tree brings more-or-less equal results. I’ve written some new Weapons stunts, somewhere, but not presented them yet.
  • The presentation’s not great. Some of this is unavoidable (page xx) but I think the skill rules should all be rolled together under each skill, since right now people are having trouble finding things like the first aid rules. This is probably going to require an extensive rewrite, which I’m not looking forward to, so we’ll see how it goes.
  • Character design is A Thing. I was helping my girlfriend (non-roleplayer) build a character so she could play, and I discovered that FATE pretty much requires you to have a concept before you begin. One of the strengths of D&D’s class/race system is that you can get going after making only a few decisions – fewer if you’re playing 4e and content to go with one of the recommended packages. My plan for this is to re-organise the writing so that the stunts are tied not to skills but more to archetypes: here’s a tree for bard-type stunts, here’s one for wizard-type stunts, here’s one for fighter-type stunts, etc. I’ll do that at the same time as stunt re-balancing, but it’s another big slice of project that’s going to take serious time.
  • Racial aspects. A friend of mine (also playtesting) suggested that if someone wants to be a non-human race then they should get a free aspect to that effect, as spending one of your aspects on it feels like a bad deal. I’m in two minds about this one, but I’m inclined to include it. Aspects aren’t really an unbalancing factor between characters, so having one more or less is unlikely to be problematic.
  • Psionic power points. I’m wondering about lowering the costs of using psychic powers.
  • Monster rules. After a moment when a beholder was nearly killed by a bunch of 2nd-level characters, I’ve abandoned the idea that monsters should use the same (or similar) build rules as PCs; I’ll give them skills, aspects, and whatever health and special abilities they need to be a credible threat. I’ll probably keep making humanoid NPCs using PC rules, though.
  • The chase rules are non-functional. They just fail to produce an ending to the chase. They need a total rewrite, which is probably my top priority before another chase happens.

It can be a little demoralising to watch your system fall apart in front of you, but this is what playtesting’s all about.

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Further Fatescape/Shackled City Thought

It occured to me this morning that part of the problem with Jzadirune in the Shackled City is that it exists purely to give the PCs the XP and equipment they’ll need to face the Malachite Hold, where the interesting challenges are – I could have cut it out of the Fatescape version entirely without affecting anything in the greater plot.

Welp, too late now.

I’ve also got an excellent idea for a very-slightly-tongue-in-cheek 4e D&D game, which can join the ridiculous queue of games I would run if I had the time. Inspired by a throwaway comment on RPGnet about “the design space for a ‘dark lord of the storms’ is huge” I find myself driven to create a game where half a dozen dark lords of the storms have chosen the prime material plane for a giant storm-waving contest – to the detriment of the local peasants, of course, and requiring the intervention of low-paragon level heroes.

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Fatescape Under Way

Well, the first session in my new Fatescape test game was last night: it didn’t go too badly, all told, although there are a few places where the mechanics need shoring up. I’ve gone with The Shackled City as the module I’m going to run for them.

Translating the dungeon crawls into FATE is tricky, since I’m caught between several conflicting objectives:

  • Presenting the players with meaningful choices between routes through the dungeon.
  • Making sure key scenes get played out.
  • Cutting out as much of the pointless rubbish as possible.

The problem I’ve found is that if I cut all the pointless stuff and focus only on the key scenes, the dungeons become entirely linear. A lot of the meaningful choices in D&D seem to spring not from ‘do I go from A to B or A to C?’ but rather from ‘do I go from A to B via route X or route Y?’

I’m not sure yet how to convert that into FATE terms. The player choice of route from scene to scene should have consequences… hmm. I think there’s something in that, somewhere. I’m thinking some sort of flowchart-based dungeon design, where you map out which paths lead to and from which scenes (since in a site-based dungeon scenes and locations cross over to a great extent) and just make notes regarding the pros and cons of each path.

Yes, I’ll try that for the dungeons in Chapters 2 and 3. The second part of Chapter 1 offers enough interesting choices on its own that I don’t think it needs embellishment, but the following dungeons could do with some brevity.

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Fatescape 2.0!

Well, Fatescape 2.0 alpha – it’s still not complete, as you’ll notice if you actually read the thing (see if you can spot all the places where I went ‘argleblargle’ into the text in lieu of actual content).

Anyway, having completely overhauled the magic system and slightly overhauled the equipment system it is now ready for a second round of testing. I think I’ll try to run the Rise of the Runelords adventure path with it, since one of the stated design goals for that series was to include all the iconic elements of D&D: goblins, ogres, giants, dragons, evil archmages, a brief jaunt to another plane, and so on. If Fatescape can cope with all that and still be a fun, fast-moving game then I’ll be very pleased.

I’m also interested in having someone else try running it, with a group that I’m not in. One of my friends seemed interested so I’ll maybe nudge him and see if he’s ready to start another Planescape game – only this time I’ll not play in it, so I can get the feedback of a group of people who don’t have me to explain the rules to them as they go. I find house rules naturally form in that sort of situation, papering over the cracks where the game itself doesn’t quite reach, and I’m interested in swiping any good ones for myself.

(If you’re interested in giving it a go, feel free: here’s a handy link.)

Other News

I picked up a copy of a game called Microscope, which is an innovative take on a collaborative storytelling game that involves creating the whole of history, then zooming in on the bits that interest you and playing out no more than one scene at a time. I like it, but I can see it joining the ever-growing list of games to file under ‘neat idea, will never have the chance to play’.

It would probably be an excellent tool for collaborative world-building a la Burning Wheel, or if I was going to start a D&D (or Fatescape!) game without a predetermined setting – so perhaps I’ll get to use it that way in future – but as a game it feels lacking. Plus right now all the games I want to run – Fatescape RotR, Nobilis, Everway, Rogue Trader, Black Crusade – have settings built right in.

I think Microscope would also play very well online, with a few minor adjustments, but it’s still less a game and more a tool for enabling gaming later on. I dunno. I’d love to give it a try, in any case.

Other Other News

Doing a little more RPG writing for Purple Duck – Mark seems happy with my output even if I can’t stat up a Pathfinder monster to save my life.

A friend of mine sold me on the WH40K roleplaying games, especially Rogue Trader and Black Crusade. I also quite like Dark Heresy. Deathwatch, while more interesting than I thought it would be, still seems pretty boring.

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Gaming, Gaming, Gaming

So! Here are some things:

I have Nobilis 3rd edition! I like it, but my offer to run it for the locals was met with an echoing silence. Boo. My primary impression is that the parts that are based off Nobilis 2nd edition are clear, effective, and well-explained, while the parts that are new (Treasure, Projects) are the familiar impenetrable prose. It’s beautiful prose, no mistake, but it doesn’t explain anything.

And there’s a lifepath system for generating Nobles, which I initially rolled my eyes at but turns out to be awesome.

The art is exactly as bad as you have heard. Worse, possibly. That doesn’t matter, though, because the game is boss.

I have Everway! It’s the RPG WotC made before D&D 3.0 – a freeform storytelling game of fantasy superheroes that takes its inspiration from Planescape and classic mythology. Bearing in mind this game is from 1995 and it tanked on release I’m impressed at the ideas I can see germinating in there: point-based diceless stats, which you can also see in Nobilis; a move away from combat as the be-all and end-all; occasional spelling-out of the idea that player choices should drive the game and that all characters have a capital-M Motivation (both seen in Burning Wheel, among other places)… it says on the box “a visionary roleplaying game” and it really was.

Oh, and the primary* resolution system is something like a custom-drawn tarot deck of 35 cards. Flip the card, interpret it, move on. Clever! And very attractive. Heavily dependent on GM interpretation, though – giving the players explicit control over the outcome of their actions was still about ten years away at the time of this game’s writing – but I think, with a good GM, an interesting and flexible system.

*Well, not really primary. But it’s the one that stands out, and this isn’t a real review.

I’m playing Mage: the Awakening. If you want to read along with my exploits, I’ve started an actual play thread on RPGnet here.

Fatescape is coming along – I haven’t quite finished the magic section (the psionic stunts are missing) but it’s getting there. Now I just need to hack away at Equipment some more and it should be ready for another test run.

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So, what’s been going on since I last updated?

Well, Purple Mountain X has been finished off – despite a load of extra work being needed on the stat blocks to make it more dangerous, it seems that the man at Purple Duck was pleased enough to offer me a second piece. That is now the Crimson Caves, a stand-alone dungeon for level 1 characters which I’m having trouble rounding up people to playtest. Still, it’s pretty much finished except for a little polishing.

I’ve also (today!) finally finished the overhaul of the magic system for Fatescape. Now all I’ve got to do is add it to the main file, rewrite the rules so they’re easier to understand, and redo the Equipment section according to the notes I’ve already got. Man, this fantasy heartbreaker thing is hard. (On the plus side it’s back to a playable state again, so maybe I’ll run another playtest game.)

What else? Another short piece of mine is being published in Schlock Magazine, and I’m waiting to hear back on two other submissions – one is a writing contest which I have no hope for at all, but since the prize was £1000 I figured it was worth a stab anyway, and the other is a pulp fiction story for royalties (i.e. bog all) which I reckon is much more likely to make the cut.

Oh, and I reckon I might start my own pulp fiction publishing enterprise. All I need is £800 and a name…

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Collected Thoughts #1

Welp, haven’t posted here in a while. Should probably fix that.

Fatescape: Still Awesome

I’ve been working on Fatescape behind the scenes – reworking the magic system pretty much from scratch, overhauling the equipment rules – and once I’ve sorted all that I’ll put up the newest version for people to look at. Maybe recruit some more guinea pigs for playtesting, that sort of thing.


One of the primary reasons that progress on Fatescape has been slow recently has been the devotion of my November to Nanowrimo. Things are going pretty well on that front – they were going really well until my ex decided to get all funny and put me into something of an emotional death spiral, but I’ve more or less put that behind me (again) so excellent progress should resume this evening.


A bit of good news from the weekend is that one of my short stories – The Canau Deception, known in my head as Cranston Burroughs vs. the Lizard People of the Hollow Earth – is going to be published in a pulp anthology called Big Pulp. (Not until June 2013, though. >.> ) This marks the first time that someone I don’t know personally will give me money in exchange for fiction I have written and publish it in an actual physical book; i.e. I’ll be a proper ‘published author’.

People I don’t know personally have previously given me money for RPG stuff I’ve written – On Silver Wings for the Witch Hunter game, and a handful of spells in Azagar’s Book of Rituals for 4e D&D (which earned me the princely sum of $8, paid by cheque) – but before I refer to myself as a “published author” I wanted to make sure I satisfied a definition of such that a random person on the street would agree with.


Since I last posted I have discovered Metric (creators of the best song on the Scott Pilgrim movie soundtrack and also many other good songs), Van Canto (a cappella power metal), and the soundtrack to the video game Bastion, which is better than a lot of modern commercial albums.

I would also like to share the first verse (two verses?) of Rasputina’s Choose Me to be a Champion, which has always struck me as being about paladins:

Choose me to be a champion
I am possessing of a very righteous style
I understand what’s going on
I have charisma and of course a winning smile

I stand accused of being an audacious redeemer
Not a charge I can deny
I have refused the ways of the liar and the schemer
And I’m not afraid to die

And then it goes off onto stuff about the Bounty mutineers – a subject which pops up no fewer than three times on that album, and is less relevant to D&D paladin-hood.

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I love Planescape. I make no secret of this; I’ve got almost a complete collection of the original material and I’ve committed most of it to memory by now. Whenever I run games, the planes always intrude sooner or later. So, a couple of years ago I was thinking of running a Planescape game but I hit a bit of a snag: no version of D&D I know seems up to the job.

FATE, on the other hand, offers immensely flexible character creation (hooray for aspects), an integrated system for social shenanigans, characters who can be capable without being overpowered, and the ability to prep four sessions’ worth of adventure in about three hours.

So I took Spirit of the Century – the only FATE game I had access to at the time – and added enough D&D flavour to it that you could run Planescape with it: alignment (in the form of aspects), levels (an arbitrary measure of power), a reshuffled skill list, a more granular equipment system and a magic system that better reflects how D&D works.

And the result is Fatescape. You can see a link to it on the right-hand side.

It’s not quite finished yet – quite apart from the typesetting elements and writing that still needs doing, the magic system needs an overhaul and the healing mechanics have been changed based on playtest feedback but not yet incorporated into the pdf.

I feel here is an appropriate place to mention the existence of Strands of Fate, a generic FATE-inspired game that’s supposed to be able to simulate any kind of game with the basic FATE engine. When I started writing Fatescape, Strands of Fate didn’t exist; now it does I still think Fatescape is better for D&D emulation*.

Also, Fatescape is free. Freeeeee.

*If I ever run Exalted again, though? Totally doing a SoF conversion.

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