Thursday, July 28, 2016

Book Review: Do: Fate of the Flying Temple

 In the years since its release Fate Accelerated (aka FAE) has become my favorite flavor of Fate.  It's quick to kick off the ground, and fundamentally challenges the way we think of resolution in role-playing games.  Mark Diaz Truman penned Do: Fate of the Flying Temple, powered by FAE, a sequel to Daniel Solis' Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple. Both games cater to families with young/first time players, though Fate is probably better for older players than Pilgrims.

The games' core idea is the characters are adolescents in a Little Prince universe on a problem solving pilgrimage answering letters they received. From there the two games diverge thematically. In Pilgrims, the characters eventually return to the titular Temple at the center of the Universe and discover destinies shaped by their experiences. In Fate, the Flying Temple is gone and the characters steward a young Dragon on their pilgrimage. Each player defines the Dragon with an Aspect and a new Aspect after each letter. Shaping the future Flying Temple through their escapades. 

Mark Diaz Truman has a deep understanding of Fate and a deft hand explaining the core concepts and applying them. For more of his excellent work, check out the Fate Codex on Patreon. If you're looking for a game to introduce Fate to kids pr the young at heart, then Do: Fate of the Flying Temple is worth picking up.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Book Review: Bubblegumshoe

Confession time:  I love mysteries and crime fiction, and nothing hits the nostalgia like teen detective stories: Encyclopedia Brown, Veronica Mars, Lumberjanes, Leave it to Chance, the 3 Investigators, Goldie Vance, Gotham Academy, Durarara!!, Persona 3 & 4, Scooby-Doo, the Hardy Boys, Danganronpa, Atlanta Burns etc.  So I'm an easy mark for these kinds of stories. Ever since Ken Hite mentioned Bubblegumshoe (BGS for short) over a year ago on KARTAS, I've been eagerly awaiting its release.

What is Bubblegumshoe? BGS applies the fantastic GUMSHOE system to the teen detective genre. Your sleuths assemble clues, expose secrets, snarl relationships, avoid the police, solve crimes, and generally get into trouble.  And since it's high school the stakes are incredibly high and incredibly low.  The GUMSHOE skill list is refined to bare necessities and more specialized information is obtained through WHO you know, rather than WHAT you know.

There are three ingredients that differentiate these stories from their adult counterparts: sleuth focused, entangled relationships, and verbal sparring.  When creating a Sleuth you define their place in school through socio-economic class, clique, clubs, etc. and their Goals.  Goals are outside the investigation and ground the character in the larger narrative, ranging from being class president to evading that bully.   Accomplishing your goals feeds into your character's Relationships, increasing their ratings.  Defined by a paradigm, (Like, Love, or Hate) that's how your get access to university book learning and adult resources (a car if the characters don't drive or a weapon from your mom's gun safe for example.)

Physical conflict isn't really a point of focus in these stories, in parallel BGS emphasizes social over physical confrontations. Called Throwdowns, they emulate the verbal cut-and-thrust of teen double speak and questioning. Interpersonal skills fill the role of more traditional fighting skills, allowing the characters a wide array of social tactics to get what they want. Reassurance, intimidation, flirtation, and more provide creative, and complicating, strategies than just talking at GMC's with an anemic diplomacy check.  I could write another blog post about Throwdowns.

One of the best things about GUMSHOE products is the modular campaign drifts and tools provided to assemble your own.  Pelgrane has cracked Bookhounds of London, Mutant City Spies, Shadows Over Filmland, Moondust Men and others.  BGS carries on this great tradition with some great examples in the back covering diverse teen sleuth flavors. For example, want super powered Hogwarts? Danvers Academy fits the bill. What about some sleuths with a weird sidekick? Then Ruby Hollow lets you assemble your own secret riddled township, complete with creepy old men driving down property values dressed as monsters.

The hardcover is only $20, it's the high quality typical for Evil Hat, the pdf is complimentary,  and the game design is top notch. If you're interested in playing teen detective stories then BGS is the best game for the job. Emily Care Boss, Kenneth Hite, and Lisa Steele have outdone themselves capturing the spirit of these stories. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Gently Used Grimoires and Tomes

“Then, idly scratching his nose, he walks to the bookcase in the living room and stoops before a set of drab brown Victorian volumes gathering dust on the second shelf from the bottom.

How amusing, he thinks, as he withdraws one of them-amusing that a key to dark and ancient rites should survive in such innocuous-looking form.

A young fool like Freirs would probably refuse to believe it. Like the rest of his doomed kind, he'd probably expect such lore to be found only in ancient leather-bound tomes with gothic lettering and portentously sinister titles. He'd search for it in mysterious old trunks and private vaults, in the "restricted" sections of libraries, in intricately carved wood chests with secret compartments.

But there are no real secrets, the Old One knows. Secrets are ultimately too hard to conceal. The keys to the rites that will transform the world are neither hidden nor rare nor expensive. They are available to anyone. You can find them on the paperback racks or in any second-hand bookshop.”  - T.E.D. Klein, The Ceremonies

Mystics, warlocks, and their ilk share one fascination - a desire to be remembered after they have left the world, to stave off their memory's demise. In the past they would take an apprentice, but in the modern age it is much easier to self-publish than ever before.  In spinner racks and recycle bins, the starry wisdom of the ages is available to the truth seeker at bargain prices.  Be wary, the knowledge within will fundamentally change who you are and how you grapple with the world. 

When you read a magic tome, roll +Sharp: on a 10+ you choose 2 Benefits and 1 Backlash, 7-9 you choose 1 Benefit and the Keeper chooses 1 Backlash and 6- receive no wisdom from this tome, for good or ill.

Take +1 forward when applying the book's subject to a task. (ex: when you read a book on demon summoning you have more knowledge to draw on when summoning demons.)
Recover 1 point of Luck
Ask 1 question of the Keeper, expect authorial distortion. 

You are drawn to a person or place.
Attract unwanted attention.
Driven to distraction,  -1 forward to off topic rolls. 

A magic tome can only be gleaned once per group of hunters. 

Pelles Holocaustorum (Latin for 'Skinning')
Originally written in Mesopotamia, the Pelles Holocaustorum has belonged to several occultists and mystics through the centuries.  The modern translation was written by the infamous Russian mystic, Rasputin.  The book outlines an escalating series of self-inflicted initiations allowing the initiate to peel back the skin of reality and access its pulsating organs and twisted musculature.
Add the following Benefit and Backlash to the read a magic tome move.
Benefit: You may ask the Keeper 2 questions which they must answer to the best of their ability.
Backlash:  Take 2-harm as your limbs involuntarily begin your initiation.

Great Albert
Relatively common in the Southern United States, this book represents the pinnacle of Albus Magnus' quest for enlightenment.  Finding himself too base to undergo the Grand Transfiguration, the alchemist instead had parts of himself cut off and mixed with ink so he could literally pour himself into the Work.  Since then his essence has been difffused and all copies of the memoir bear matching traits: they weigh as much as a grown man, readers hear the author's voice in their heads, and once you've picked it up, you're stuck with it.  Unless you give the book a funeral.
Add the following Benefit and Backlash to the read a magic tome move
Benefit: You can use magic to create a philosopher's stone.
Backlash: Part of your body petrifies, probably a hand.

Spiritist's Telegraph
Recovered from a sinking library boat in the Ten Thousand Islands, the Spiritist's Telegraph provides a step-by-step guide to attuning yourself to astral frequencies and those who haven't moved on.  Further chapters detail how to invite the broadcasting entities within and similar mysteries.  Overall leaning on the metaphor of spine as antennae for the Otherside.
Add the following Benefit and Backlash to the read a magic tome move
Benefit: You may interrogate distant ghosts when you investigate a mystery.
Backlash: You're lost in the ghost's narrative and rush off to fulfill part of it.
The Verse of Kings
Brought to France by the Swan Knight and entrusted to the Merovingian dynasty, the Verse of Kings empathically selects its readers in pursuit of its own agenda.  The book details the responsibilities of would-be rulers and provides prophecies to those it feels are "worthy."  The book isn't actively malevolent, just understand that anything it shows you serves a greater purpose.
Add the following Benefit and Backlash to the read a magic tome move
Benefit: When you manipulate someone take +1 forward to further manipulate them.
Backlash: Become obsessed with a scrap of prophecy, sacrificing anything to attain the dream.

This month's RPG Blog Carnival theme is the Ways of the Wise, click the image below if you're interested in other fine entries from other fine blogs.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

RPG Blog Carnival: Wizards, Magi, and Warlocks! Oh My!

Early in Christendom's history magic and sorcery are forbidden, but practiced, disciplines granting mastery over the Invisible World of spirits, angels, and demons.  Whether "playing God" or "exerting Man's primacy" the study did not abate and many magi glimpsed too much behind the curtain of reality.  Burdened with knowledge Man was not meant to know some go mad, some spread the knowledge through secret societies and others become monsters.  Outside of prescribed occurences, they do not mingle or share their iniatory knowledge with outsiders or each other.

Below are three sorcerers entagled with forces beyond mortal ken for Monster of the Week.

Kathulos, the Skull Faced Sorcerer - The Outright Monster
Rising from an ancient sarcophagus in Victorian times Skull-Face has been playing the long game. Tendrils of criminal influence slither from the House of Dreams, his franchise of movie theaters. As films lull audiences into a false sense of mental security they become hypnotically programmed to commit crimes after receiving a particular trigger.  Hapless antiquarians and professors around the worlds find themselves besieged by a mob seeking Atlantean artifacts. His network of enforcers, informants, and other assets aim and collect from the rioters once it's done.

Monstrous Motivation Queen - to possess and control
Mesmerism,Un-Dead, Alchemy, Magus
Harm-  Withered Claws 1-harm, messy, magic, armor piercing Armor- Un-Dead toughness armor-3 Health: 13 Health
Unique Moves
 Elixir of Life - this alchemical concoction is administered to all Kathulos' enforcers. While under its effects minions and monsters deal +2 harm in hand to hand and gain +3 Health. The potion causes physical dependence and death if the user can't consume it regularly.
Sepulchral Womb- when Kathulos is killed, he rises from his sarcophagus on the next new moon.
Counterspell- When a hunter rolls +Weird against the monster, reduce the success level by one.

Good Granny Bulloch, Appalachian Witch - A Lesser Evil
Living in the high hills and backwoods of Appalachian as long any can remember, she weilds a quiet tyranny over the small logging community of Goodberry's Hollow.  With a bucker of milk, a dram of blood, and a shovel she killed the postmaster's wife after he wouldn't give her a stamp.  She'll fix anyone who crosses her, you just can't prove it.  Best to hide behind your SATOR squares and hope this she-devil doesn't come to your house asking for a cup of sugar.

Monstrous Motivation Parasite- to infest, control, and devour
Face of Innocence, Magus, Shape Thief
Harm-  The Devil's Ladle 3-harm, magic Nailgun 2-harm, messy Armor- charms braided into her skin armor-1 Health: 12 Health
Unique Moves
Worm in the Apple - Anyone who owes Good Granny Bulloch a favor bears her worm in their ears, it shares their senses and takes over their bodies when they are willed to do so.
Counterspell - When a hunter rolls +Weird against the monster, reduce the success level by one.
Iron Nails - Good Granny Bulloch can hex any place or person that has one of her iron nails stuck in it.  They look like normal nails with hair wrapped around it. She has these loaded in her nailgun.

J.P. Faust, Diabolic Soulbroker
Some people are always looking for shortcuts to success, eager to avoid toil at any cost. These are the sorts that J.P. Faust and Associates are looking for. Offering a broad portfolio of demonic mortgages and infernal futures he will provide whatever you desire for a fair price.

Monstrous Motivation Sorcerer- to usurp supernatural power
Sense magic, Goetic Magic, Surrounded by muscle
Harm- handgun 2-harm Armor- Goetic seals etched into his flesh provide armor-2 Health: 10 Health
Unique Moves
Accidental Summoning - Goetic seals require blood for activation. When J.P. takes harm a Goetic demon is summoned. 
Outstanding Debt- J.P. can't be slain until his accounts are balanced. If he takes 12+ points of damage in a scene he becomes a Walking Wound, then things get worse.

This month's RPG Blog Carnival theme is the Ways of the Wise, click the image below if you're interested in the other entries.  Come back later for mystical tomes and grimoires these bastards hide their secrets in.