Actual Play – Fight Fire (4/13/2013)

FateCoreBookCoverGM: Morgan Ellis
Players: Eric Fattig, Eric Lytle. Sean Nittner, Julie Southworth
System: Fate Core
Setting: Fight Fire by Jason Morningstar

I’ve really wanted to see what Fight Fire looks like in play since I first heard about it. A very specific system designed to emulate a very specific thing. When the doc was floating about and I first checked it out I saw that the skill list had changed to just nine skills, things like vent, and extinguish. Similarly the fires themselves were more than just “on fire” but had their own skills like spread, and burn, and had ways that they acted specific to fires themselves.

Jason took the idea of a Fate fractal and really ran with it. Though the core mechanics were the same, you wouldn’t recognize this as looking like any other Fate game. There was also a technical element to it. Certain thing had specific effects in game. For example if you use the vent skill you can either “Vent for Life” to let the smoke out so people can breath, but also gives the fire more oxygen to burn or you can “Vent for Fire” which smothers the fire, but makes smoke worse for anyone inside. These choices matter in this game.

We made our characters, the Roofer who was always late on his alimony check, the Irons who had dreams of making it big as a chef, the veteran Can who was bucking for promotion, and the rookie Vent who was trying to prove herself.¬† We did some relationships mapping during character creation. The Roof’s ex-wife was the Can’s daughter and all that sort of deliciousness.

Fire is a living thing

That’s a situation aspect on ever fire you fight. It isn’t a single threat you stamp out, it’s a living thing fighting to survive and grow. We started our game with a call “Apartment fire at 1732 Whimett Ave”. When we arrived the thing was a mess. A woman trapped inside, open fires in at least two rooms, and spreading.

We started up following protocol: Vent, Enter, Search (VES). That lasted about five seconds until problems started altering our plan. Irons had forgotten his mask, which was bad. Our Vent ran it to rescue the woman with a broken hip, but consequently wasn’t venting, and Cans sprayed his propellant but the hose wasn’t coming in for him to get more water.

This was generally a result of failed rolls that we push through anyway with significant costs. All grist for the mill. We saved the lady. We put out the fire. We all made it home alive.

At the Firehouse

We realized the game has no skills or mechanics for downtime interactions. I mean, there is the grease skill for getting funding and equipment, etc, but it’s hardly the normal breadth of personal skills that Fate Core normally has. We talked about this at the table, about how we wanted to handle it. Do we skip over personal scenes and go right to the next fire? We pondered if that was the intent of the game. After some discussion we decided we’d use the aspect compel mechanics to push tension and then Morgan framed a scene for each us, dealing with our trouble aspects. It was good stuff. We saw different sides of our characters as our personal lives reared their ugly head.

One fun conclusion we came to was that because we had no skills besides fighting fires, we should take from that the idea that fighting fires is all we’re any good at, and that we’ll generally just fail over and over in life outside the fire. It was a good premise, and watching our characters suffer a bit was lots of fun.

MVA = Many Viscous Aspects

Okay, it really stands for Motor Vehicle Accident, but the way Morgan presented them, as a series of horrific situation aspects we had to overcome, I think my acronym is better.

The MVA was at the North East corner of 2nd Ave and E Houston St. It was terrible, a car wrapped around a power pole, with leaking gas coming out, a sparking power line hanging precariously low, a meth lab in the trunk, a dying driver, noxious fumes, and a meth’d out passenger. JESUS.

The thing about this was, I could believe it. Things are that messed up sometimes. The way Morgan handled this was really just a series of aspects we needed to overcome, but some of them morphed from one problem into another one when we failed rolls. It was good times. It was also a great example of not being able to save everyone. The driver was bleeding out bad and using the jaws of life to get the passenger out, meant him sustaining trauma he simply couldn’t sustain.

My favorite part of this particular “fire” was when Morgan compelled my “Acting Lieutenant” aspect to say that the city didn’t have my name on file to authorize cutting the power to the power lines… so Irons had to cut up the box and do it for us. That was brilliant!

Thoughts on this game

It was still not in the printing stage when we played, which means after I got to talk to Jason and Brian Engard (the system developer) and Brian added in a bit about how to handle play at the Firehouse, which I think is a great addition.

The game was a ton of fun and I think would be more fun the more acclimated we became to the implicit constraints (moving between two rooms with the door open still isn’t a trivial action if the room is filled with blinding smoke and/or a raging fire).

Morgan, as always, was stellar. He’s a very pro-player-fun GM and it shows every time he runs. Great time.

Lytle… how could you let the captain go like that? For shame.

 

Actual Play – Camelot Trigger (4/13/2013)

FateCoreBookCoverGM: Sean Nittner
Players: Mike Bogan, June Garcia, Tyson Fultz, and Eric Fattig
System: Fate Core
Setting: Camelot Trigger by Rob Weiland

FateCon was this Saturday the 13th at EndGame. Two sessions of nothing but Fate games. Good times. Since I very first got my eyes on Camelot Trigger, I’ve been wanting to run it, and this was my first chance to do so.

I’m working for Evil Hat now as project manager, so I get to see a lot of of the products as they are being produced. That is awesome, but it also means I have a lot of exposure to them not as a gamer, but as a project manager. It was really great to play Fate Core and enjoy it as a gamer again.

The Camelot Trigger setting is one of Arthurian knights, along side giant mecha robots. As I read it, it is extremely anachronistic, which I love. I imagined the people drinking from pewter chalices, and talking about handmaidens and “thine honour” right up until the point of starting the joust, when they would, you know, jump into an 80′ mecha and thrash each other with them.

I was recently having a discussion about game prep, and I boiled my prep (and execution) of games into five steps. So I’m going to give them here, and show how they were used in this game.

  1. Give players some setting and character expectations (like “You’re knights an Arthurian setting, but you also fly Mecha armor!”)
  2. Ask them questions to flesh out their characters and the world (“is your marriage a loveless one?” along side “what are the alien invaders, and why are they a threat to humankind?”)
  3. Present them with a threat that we have established (in step 1 or 2) that they care about AND that they can’t ignore.
  4. Let them respond as they will, offering opportunities to be awesome, and opposition (usually crafted by them) until there is a natural lull…
  5. Hammer them with #3 again but this time a different threat. Some kind of twist on the original, or something else we established (in step 1 or 2, or through play) that they care about.

It was awesome, as confirmed by my tweets!

Step 1. Put a whole in the box… wait, wrong list.

Step 1. Establish the character and setting expectations. I told the players about my rough ideas for the setting, and the characters that I had started. I told them together we would finish off both the world and character creation. Here were the characters, their situation, and their Armour (mecha).

ElaineElaine the Bold (hee, in bold)

Elaine started (in my hands) as a cross between Theon Greyjoy and Brienne of Tarth. She was a hostage in house Andell after the War of Titans,but had never truly been accepted into the family.

Her process in battle was undisputed, however. She and her house Stuart “Gor-Tank” were a menace on the battle field. And yeah, that gorilla mecha, that’s totally for Fred Hicks.

 

CorrynSir Corryn Andell, son of Duke Orion.

Corryn is an exceptional student of the artificial intelligence MerLN, and has crafted an amazing transforming Armour with that knowledge, but he’s doomed by his own passions.

Corryn is married to the Lady Merrowyn, but in love with his older “sister” Elaine. I imagined him as a Arthur/Lancelot figure in terms of his love plots, full of duty to his house to be a good husband, but secretly (or not so secretly) loving his sister. There is of course a bit of Jamie Lannister there as well, you know loving his sister, but in this case it wouldn’t be incest (she’s a hostage, not blood related) but would certainly be forbidden.

 

MerrowynLady Merrowyn

I just love that name, Marrowyn. Not sure why but it conveys a lot of confidence and clear-minded focus to me. Merryn of house Ferrun has just married Corryn, providing military might from her family to secure the house Andell’s legitimate rule, and been made a future duchess in the process.

The political pressure of representing now two houses, however, is unbelievable.

 

MelinoreSir Melinore

A justice of the regent (i.e. lawman), sir Mellinore is the officiator of many ceremonies as well as judge of disputes. He didn’t get this position on his own however, he’s deep in debt to house Stuart (Elaine’s house, and rival of the Andell’s).

 

Step 2. Asking questions about the world and the characters

I went around the table asking questions to figure our more of what was going on in the world and we learned of the threats, both alien and personal.

We started with the outside threat. The invaders are a sentient virus, called the Emergent (name taken from the default setting since we couldn’t think of another) that corrode and corrupt armor. Once they have captured armour, the re-design it in their own horrific image.

Threat: Emergent – Sentient Virus

Closer to home, I said that the first Emergent attack happened long enough ago old rivalries which were temporally forgotten have now reared their ugly head. Who on earth was a threat?

We started with a rival house (always a good start in my book), house Mordirgaine. Yeah, I liked that name. Their beef with house Andell, Lady Rowena Mordrigane was supposed to marry Corryn, but he called it off… and was now married to Merrowyn of house Ferrun. That gave the house plenty of reason to have a mad hate on all of the player characters.

Threat: Rival house Mordrigaine

Quests!

The characters started half-baked, with a great, good, and fair skill, as well as a high concept and trouble. The rest of the skills slots and their other aspects were left open, however, to be filled in during world creation and in play.

We started with Corryn, and found out that he had attempt to best the Space Apes of the Moon in a tournament to prove that Humans were the greatest Armour pilots in the solar system. Space apes? Awesome.

Melinore though, knew this could not pass. if the Andell’s bested the Space Apes, it would create an untenable political situation for earth. To prevent him from competing Melinore sabotaged Corryn’s Armour… making it inoperable.

Everything was accounted for except Elaine. Knowing Corryn could not fight in his Armour, she gave up her own, the House Stuart Gor-Tank (defeated by house Andell, mind you) to Corryn so he could compete… which he did in her name… political disaster!

Some great aspects came out of that.

Elaine: Corryn wins at my expense
Corryn: I think I’m subtle, I’m not.
Melinore: Deception is a necessary part of valor.

More quests

Normally, if you wanted everyone to have their stories tied together each character would have an adventure (which I was calling quests) and two other characters wold aid or complicate it. In this case, we already had enough connections backed into the characters, that I only called for two quests, you know, so we could get to the playing!

This time we started with Merrowyn… and the rescue of her younger sister, who had been whisked away by dastardly rogues, only she wasn’t kidnapped, she was running away from home.

As we got to talking about them, these rogues in their smaller “peasant” armor, how they had become a roving menace in the land and thus created a new problem for the realm:

Threat: Dastardly rogues in “Peasant” Armour

With that…we started the action!

Step 3. Present a threat they care about and that they can’t ignore.

I asked everyone how they felt about starting the game at the nuptials. The big tournament that happened right after the wedding. It seems like a good time, one rife with potential problems. They were down so I opened a scene with Lady Elaine trouncing a rival opponent (in Armour of course) at the tournament… the rival opponent was Rowena Mordrigaine, who cried foul!

Elaine was challenged as a cheater. Melinore had to adjudicate the claim. Merrowyn and Corry wanted to keep peace on the their wedding day. Boom!

Step 4. Let them respond as they will.

This ended up being even more awesome than I expected. Elaine and Rowena got in a duel (one with swords instead of Armour). Melinore officiated it, cheated and declared Elaine the winner without blood drawn.

We got a good chance to engage the mechanics here. We started with a couple very common overcome rolls. Melinore didn’t want a duel to happen in the first place, he failed the roll and opted not to pay the significant cost (of becoming personally implicated in favoritism) and instead allowed the duel to proceed, with him officiating. Merrowyn requested that no-one die in her wedding day, and succeeded on that, setting the terms to first blood only.

To handle the actual duel, I opted for a challenge. It was early in the game, and with only one PC involved, I didn’t want to jump into full blow conflict. Plus, since our goal wasn’t death, but first blow, a challenge seemed to be the best choice anyway. Melinore started it off by cheating. He drew his own sword and drew a circle in the sand, but using the stunt Thumbs on the Scales of Justice he created an advantage “smudge in the circle” and declared that first blood or leaving the circle would disqualify you.

Based on that I set the challenge rolls as a Daunt roll to brag of your prowess in battle, a zeal roll to stay inside the circle, and finally a melee roll to either draw first blood or force the other contestant out. The first two had passive resistance, the last one was contested. Elaine won with flying colors, but the melee roll (which was by fare the toughest) was rigged by Melinore, who pointed to the smudge and called that Rowena had stepped out of the circle. She was furious… and there was much rejoicing.

Corryn saved the day (which could not end with a hostage besting a great house) but including yet another Armour duel, between himself and Sir Alric of house Mordrigaine (Rowena’s older brother) who trounced him mightily (a significant cost to his failed Intrigue roll).

We continued to the feast afterwards, which was a blast. We had the situation aspect “Gossip flowing like wine.” We found out that Merrowyn really didn’t have a problem with Elaine and Corryn sharing affections as she “preferred the fairer sex” and to keep Elaine from revealing that, she offered her a position as one of her handmaidens.

Corryn spotted Rowena and her brother Alric plotting and then followed him into the wine cellar where he caught him poisoning a bottle that was to be served to Merrowyn… which turned into a great chase through the keep!

Melinore got wind from a deputy that during the feast several security systems had been disabled. Perhaps it was routine maintenance, but something seemed amiss. He followed the trail all the way to the treasury room, where unsurprisingly he overheard the dastardly rogues trying to lighten the financial load of house Andell. Melinore was brilliant, and with clever use of his unoccupied but threatening looking Armour, convinced these dastardly rogues that they would do far better to be paid deputies of him than criminals locked in chains.

Step 5. Present another threat and repeat

Just as things reached a point of uncertainty between the rogues and Melinore, Alric and Corryn, and Merrowyn and Elaine, that’s when the trumpets sounded! The Emergent were attacking!

This was great. Personal rivalries set aside, the Emergent had identified a high concentration of their enemies in one place, and decided to make a large scale assault!

We had some mad dashes to get into armor, followed by a gigantic explosion of lasers, missiles, and Ferrun scythes. The battle had four zone, lots of combatants, and plenty of damage to spread around.

The giant Medusa headed mega-armour and dozens of snakes attacked from above, while two corrupted Emergent, one the corrupted armor of Melinore and Merrowyn’s little sister, erupted from the ground. After a valiant battle (read: conflict) the Emergent were defeated and Camelot was saved!

Pic of the game afterwards

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Thoughts on the game

One of the recurring quotes in the game, which I thought was pretty awesome: “Worst wedding day ever!”

Sometime in the middle of the game, I asked “I wonder what happens to the pilots of the Armour when it’s corrupted by the Emergent?” I pushed in the end (the the disappearing sister’s armor showing up all corrupted) to find out. We got cut off on time, but that would have been a cool way to open the next session, with the armour popping open.

I was really excited about the Rob’s Camelot Trigger. The setting is a ton of fun (knights + mecha) and the mechanics are really fun. I didn’t talk about them much here, but each suit of Armour gives you five locations (things like head, chest, arms, legs, etc) that each either grant the user a Great [+4] skill, or a stunt. And these are always flavored with the technology, so a head unit might have an Advanced Targeting system (Notice, or in this game, Mark, +4), legs could have or Retro-Rocket Thrusters (granting +2 on Zeal (Athletics) rolls to move between zones). Then, when the armor is damaged, instead of taking normal consequences or stress, the wearer can shut down systems (out of fuel, damaged, overheating, offline, etc). I love this system, because it covers both how the pilot is tougher in armor (they have 5 whole systems they can shut down in place of taking stress or consequences) and allows things to break all over the place, which is fantastic.

I really, really enjoyed Fate Core. Fate Core is is THE Fate game for me. The success at a cost and the boosts really work for my style of play.

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