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Hellsing House: A FATE Adventure

coverbitAlso at the ConTessa convention, I played an RPG called Hellsing House, which was a Fate setting/adventure created and run by Meera Barry, via Google Hangouts.

Hellsing House is a halfway house for, well, monsters. It’s a Fate setting that Meera created. The tagline is None who enter leave unchanged.

Mechanically, the skill list was limited quite a bit, down to about 10 skills, with new skills to reflect the monstrous nature. We discussed the mechanics of that a bit before we got started, since the game is a playtest and we wanted to talk about why we had made the choices we’d made. I wasn’t sure why Meera had changed the skill list so drastically, and I never did get an answer as to why she’d made that choice. The skill pyramid was +5, +3, +1– we skipped over the +2/+4 skills, which I think made the game a little more unbalancing.

In it, I played Nora Host, a Gorgon (not with snake hair… yet) who has an overbearing mother, an unfortunate inheritance (the gorgon eyes), and a lonely heart. She works as a guard at the house, being a bit older and somewhat protective.

Derek is a were-leopard who was hunting in Nepal when the hunter became the hunted. He has cat eyes and a tail which is hidden when he’s in human form. He is a very new resident in the House.

Sam is a bassist for a riot-grrl band who had a fling with a dark gothy girl who turned out to be Death herself, who is now in love with Sam. She’s giving Sam necromantic gifts which are usually given to Reapers. Sam belonged to bands like “Shut Up Cis Boy” and so forth. Sam doesn’t ever back down from a fight or a drink.

Lenora is a homeless dryad, approximately 200 years old, who still has a connection to her tree, but no idea where it is. She is usually a mediator for disparate groups (many supernatural), but she no longer has her core connection. Lenora is very peace-focused and believes that there must be a non-violent solution to any conflict.

Hellsing House is a sprawling mansion with large amounts of land and privacy in the midst of a city. It is walled, and space may not be entirely Euclidean. There are dungeons in the basement, perhaps.

There are three rules:

  1. Don’t stay out past curfew.
  2. Check in at therapy.
  3. Don’t taunt the cooks, aka the Omnomnomicons.

We open during group therapy, which Sam, Lenora, and Derek are attending, while Nora stands guard. Suddenly, a young boy named Timmy stands up and provides a prophecy about “Old Ambrose woke, with promises made and promises broke.” It’s nonsensical, and therapy resumes shortly after his prophecy is over and he goes back to complaining about being treated like a kid.

Nora went off to report to the steward and was told to find Sam, who had written down this prophecy.


Meanwhile, Lenora went to talk to a tree, who told her there were violently plucked golden roses which were plucked violently and left to rot in darkness, nearby. Sam is composing a punk ballad based on the prophecy. She and Lenora head down to one of the basements, with Sam kind of excited to get Lenora alone.

Derek goes off to talk to the psychologist, who is busy, then heads off to find out why the guards seem to be on alert. Lenora invites Derek to accompany them, while Sam is trying to tell him to buzz off!

Nora heads off to find Sam, but is directed to find out why the access alarm on stairwell D-7 has been triggered. She heads downstairs, on the trail of what she assumes is a couple of kids making out in the stairs. She follows the kids, but doesn’t ever spot them. Down at the bottom level, Derek scouts ahead into a cellar access hatch, while Sam cloaks Lenora in some kind of death shroud (high success-with-style), in which she scans for other inhabitants of the basement. Nora doesn’t see Sam and Lenora, but she does see Derek and follows him into the cellar. In the darkness, Nora takes off her sunglasses. We learn that her nickname with the other guards is “Stone-eyes,” a nickname that annoys her to no end.

In time, Sam and Lenora follow and enter the cellar.

At this point, Nora is getting chatter on her radio that the Ingram Method has been initiated, and all officers must respond with the Ingram Method immediately.

The Ingram Method is a slash-and-burn technique to kill the residents. It’s a last-ditch effort, and Nora looks at the kids she’s following and guarding, smiles tightly, replies over the radio that’s she’s still in stairwell D-7 and will take care of this sector. Nora then turns the radio way down so the kids won’t hear any more of it. She’s no more going to kill these children than she would have plucked out her own eyes, but she’s not telling those kids this.

We start investigating the cellar and find an old woman with rotting books and serving some very supernaturally strong coffee, which Sam drinks. We talk with her a bit and learn that Amber Rose might be a thing.

We continue investigating, finding a room/stairwell filled with bright lights (turns out these are alarm will-o-wisps), which we keep trapped (whoops). We find a vampire who we leave alone. We find an old man and free him from whatever has him imprisoned. There’s a dead woman in the next room, and he goes to her and is reunited, turning into a rose. (All of this takes a while, with Lenora doing a lot of negotiation to get there.)

At this point, I turn my radio back on and hear the chaos and combat up above. The kids are ready to go take the rose up and plant it, but Nora has some bad news for them. She tells them about the fighting and says she’s supposed to kill them and the other guys in the basement. She hears on the radio that there’s a perimeter with the Steward and several of the residents inside, and stairwell D-7 will exit up there. And the perimeter is made of fire. Not happy for the dryad, at least. We decide to head up and ask the steward to help us get outside.

This is what we do, leaving a gap in the fire perimeter while we run for the gardens. Nora petrifies a couple of mooks while Derrick tackles a manticore. Sam guards Lenora while Lenora plants the rose and it grows firm and strong in the earth. Sanity returns to Hellsing House. Nora learns later that the Ingram Method was called by her supervisor without authorization. Her supervisor has, obviously, been removed.

Hannibal’s Triceratops

A couple of weeks ago, I ran TimeWatch for the online convention, ConTessa. ConTessa is a con organized and run by women (must be female-identified to run a game, and must run apolitical games).

I had actually run into problems with the “apolitical” charter when I realized that the adventure I had started writing was too close for comfort (the death of Elvis Presley in 1952 meant segregation persisted into the 21st century, but was bolstered by the black empowerment movement… a little too political for this con). So, I fell back to my original concept, which started with “Hannibal crosses the Alps with several triceratops.”

Writeup and the full video (2h45m) are below the cut.

Continue reading Hannibal’s Triceratops

Dragons and Dungeons, Oh My

This is a meta-post about the Moving Forward campaign. It’s not told from anyone’s point of view but my own. It spanned a night’s worth of gaming, but the majority of the action was a few seconds for our PCs. Gwenn’s journal entry on this event might be little more than a footnote: We fought a dragon. We won. The dragon is dead. Sad to kill dragons, but glad to deny the Regency another powerful weapon.

We made the DM cuss like a sailor last night. And it was good.

We knew from earlier posts in our forum that one of our players would be late or absent, so we had to muddle about trying to decide what to do next. We had some role-playing, in which we discussed in-party what to do with the bandit/refugees up in the Frostwood, but we didn’t really take action on it. Gwenn talked to Firiel’s brother, Gale (also Tyler’s backup PC) and came to a sort of agreement.

Gale went to chat with his comrades, but the reality is, they’re not going anywhere without a charismatic leader telling them what to do.

In strategizing over how to get the Frostwood refugees to join us further south and form an army for us, we came up with the carrot-and-stick approach. The carrot: The lands to the south are warmer and more liveable than a frozen forest with winter fast approaching. The stick: Also, the Regency and Erathis forces are looking for them.

We weren’t entirely comfortable with that, though, and Gwenn suggested that, if we clear out the caverns they have used in the past, the refugees can have a choice of two carrots– go south to get into position for a fight, or hide out in the caves. “That way, we only get the ones who really want to be there.”

It’s the carrot-and-carrot approach. We like it, we agree, we tell Steve (the DM) that’s what we’re doing.

“Okay…. let me, uh… give me a minute. This encounter shouldn’t be done without Tristram.” He sounded distressed.

“Well, how will it play with Gale in the party? He said he’d go with us.”

“Ah… yeah. That’ll work.”

We go to the caves and Steve moves our character tokens to this beautiful map in Roll20 he has set up. Firiel and Ordune scout ahead and count 7 humanoids, including a dragonkin and some guys of a similar type we faced before, in the mines. They don’t see us, and Firi and Ordune fall back to report.

Gwenn does a hasty battle plan and I say “All right. Let’s set up an ambush outside and draw them out, preferably in small groups. It’ll be best to do that with someone small and unassuming, but fast,” she says, looking meaningfully at Firiel.

We tell Steve we’re setting up outside for an ambush.

“Eff you guys. Eff you especially, Steph.”

What? Oh, right. Steve spends the next 5 minutes drawing a new map for the outside of the caverns, where the ambush will be. Because we’re jerks like that and just completely ruined his map usage.

The ambush works like a charm. Firiel goes in and draws three of them out– we just about have them all down when another 3 join them, who we’re in the middle of dispatching when wave 3 arrives. Then the dragonkin, a couple more brutes, and the dragon show up.

Well… dragon. Okay, then. We fight the dragon– our third, sorta. We fought one earlier, down to bloodied, and let it go. We fought a dragon construct and destroyed it in a furnace. We are sad that Tristram isn’t here, since he has a connection with dragons.

We defeat the dragon. How? Among other ways… Gale is a beastmaster ranger who pretty much does a prone attack every round. Dragons lose a lot of their power when they can’t fly. We beat the crap out of it, and Gwenn finishes it with an arrow. Its death nova nearly takes us out– Gale had 2 hit points left at the end of the session, but Gwenn was ready with two available heals when the dragon went down (I was saving them for after I attacked, in case it did something reactive that might drop an ally.)

At the end, Steve commented that he might have to ban Gale’s build from the game, as being too powerful. Part of that is the class– Rangers are always overpowered– the beastmaster is actually considered the least powerful type of ranger in 4th edition. But part of is it simply that we got into the right position (high mobility team), the fight was right in Gale’s wheelhouse, and we just harried that dragon until it had nowhere to go.

As an aside: we also released a baby rust monster, which ate one of Gwenn’s wrist razors, some axes, and a crowbar before Ordune convinced it to run off into the woods. We considered training it, but decided the cost of replacing Tristram’s magical armor would be too high.

Next week: Speechifying? Tristram comes back. We move north to finally face Ordune’s ghosts.

Psych: A Social Challenge Example for Gamers

psychThe TV show Psych has some of the best writing on TV these days. I’ve been watching it this week while I get over a head cold, and I was watching an older episode from Season 3 that had one of the best examples of a social challenge that I could ever have found without even looking.

First, let me explain what I mean by a social challenge. Most role-playing games have dice mechanics for “how do I beat someone up?” Because when we’re rolling dice around the table, we do not throw punches at each other to test our ability to knock out an NPC. If we did, there would be a lot fewer people willing to GM! The resolution mechanics are used for physical challenges or combat.

Social challenges occur when someone wants something, usually from another person, and they need to convince that person to give or do it. The challenge is when the other person is reluctant, and then we engage in a battle of words to convince them to do that thing. A real-world example might be a parent convincing their teenager to clean their room. You don’t want to haul off and hit the kid- -you need to convince them to clean his room.

Getting back to Psych, this is the scene I’m talking about:

[Spider_Single_Video track=”4″ theme_id=”8″ priority=”0″]

The basic structure of the scene:

  1. Shawn says he’s looking for information.
  2. Pookie resists telling him anything.
  3. Henry attempts bribery.
  4. Pookie resists bribery– he indicates that skill is not going to work.
  5. Shawn attempts to deceive Pookie.
  6. Henry assists Shawn by backing his story up.
  7. Pookie believes Shawn.
  8. Pookie tells the sleuths everything.

So, I want to break this video down in terms of game mechanics, as it would appear in different systems:

Continue reading Psych: A Social Challenge Example for Gamers

Lasers and Feelings Part I

SpaceStation1As usual, game mechanics notes are in italics and purple.

Last night, my weekly D&D game was derailed by a player absence. After an hour and a half, we gave up, decided to play Lasers and Feelings (not to be confused by the amusing DoubleClicks song, which could be the counterpoint to Skullcrusher Mountain), and one of the other players logged off (he may regret that decision later). At about 7:15, we said “OK, let’s play for an hour and then call it a night. At 7:30, the MIA player hopped on and joined the L&F game.

For character creation in Lasers and Feelings, you pick your role, archtype, name, and a number between 2 and 5. If you want to be more towards Lasers (logic, cold, calculating, precise), you pick a high number. If you want to be more Feelings (diplomacy, emotions, passion, wild action, intuition), pick a low number. That’s the extent of your character’s stats for the game. Aside from that, the team will equip their ship– in this case, the Raptor is fast and has a cloaking device, but only one medical bay which is currently occupied by the Captain.

For the GM’s side, you roll 4 d6’s and consult the table for the threat facing the crew. I rolled and came up with: Space pirates want to occupy the space pirate king/queen, which will start a warI didn’t like it. It didn’t make sense. So, like all good GMs, I cheated the dice and picked something to replace the space pirate royalty: ancient space ruin.

Space pirates want to occupy the ancient space ruin, which will start a war. 

Our heroes are:

  • Neznez, an Alien Engineer (L&F score 5). He’s a member of the Nasalians, a proud race of double-nosed people, who wants to meet sexy aliens.
  • Dash Carmichael, Hot-Shot Pilot (2).  His goal is to keep being awesome. He’s got nothing to prove.
  • RX1138, Android Soldier (5). His prime directive is to shoot bad guys. He is armed and dangerous. Also, his arms are armed and dangerous. And although he has a security station on the bridge, he is fully integrated into the ship’s combat mechanisms and therefore is a security station, even when away from the bridge.

I asked a few lead-in questions about the crew, what kind of captain they normally have, and what they do for the Consortium. With such a small crew and a cloaking device, they decided they’re a spy ship, contracting for the Consortium. So they’re not gung-ho company men, but they do their jobs, and they do it well. 

I also ask about the Space Pirates, who we learn are privateers for the Green Republic. Until that moment, by the way, I didn’t know who the adversary of the Consortium was, but I’m glad my players were able to supply the information. In fact, most of the setting information was generated by the players. I’d be filling in a detail, then say “Alex, tell me something about the Architects.”

Oh, but don’t let me get ahead of my story. At this point, it was almost 7:40, and I needed us to get going! I wanted to wrap up by 8:20.

According to Steve, knowing Capt Darcy, the last mission was at a space station with his drinking buddy, who must have slipped him something. He brought back some crucial intel, then succumbed to the malady.

The information was that the Space Pirates have found an alien space ruin, which was made by the Architects. The Architects provided space travel to us all. A long-lost race. NezNez’s people are descended from the Architects, but humans are not believed to be. They might have engineered much of the intelligent life in the universe, but humans are a fluke.

The Raptor has just dropped out of hyperspace in the far-edges of civilized space, near the alien ruin. Acting-Captain Dash Carmichael turns on the cloaking device and guides them closer to scan. Suddenly, a small craft, perhaps a scout ship, arrives. They move closer, bonk into a piece of space junk, revealing their location. The small craft fires on them. NezNez activates shields, Dash evasively maneuvers (unlike the previous piloting, evasive maneuvers for Dash is Feelings, not Lasers). NezNez realizes as he’s scanning the area that it’s a space pirate vessel.

In Lasers and Feelings, a Laser Feelings moment happens when you tie on one of your dice. Normally, you roll 1d6. If you are doing a Lasers act, you succeed if you roll under your number. If you are doing a Feelings act, you succeed if you roll over. If what you are doing fits into your archtype or role, or if you have specially prepared, or if an ally aids you, you roll an extra d6 (for each of those boosts). 0 successes is a total failure. 1 success means a complication. 2 is “yay, you succeed.” 3 is a critical success. If you tie on one of your dice, you have a Laser Feelings moment, which gives you special insight. You can ask the GM one question which she answers truthfully. You can then change your action and reroll. We determined, after multiple LF moments for NezNez that you should only reroll the tied die, though it would make sense to reroll all dice if you are going to switch from a Lasers to Feelings action, or vice versa.

And then the android RX1138 opens fire, destroying the enemy weapons and doing significant hull damage. Boom!

A few moments later, Neznez notices that the small vessel has been hailing them. It’s the Excelsior. At first, a nervous junior crewman keeps asking them who they are, claiming they mistook them from someone else, “Uh, but who are you?!?” Eventually, Capt. Chase MacIntyre gets on the comm and negotiates with Dash. He explains that they’re fleeing the Space Pirates, because this vessel might be a resurrection ship, and the Space Pirates are going to use it– and the Architects they resurrect– to force all-out war.

During this exchange, Neznez pulls up a lot of information from his database on the Architects. The message from the Excelsior is a set of coded instructions in an alien language, that would assist in interfacing with the station. Neznez gets to work installing it as an app on his communicator.

This is where we had a chain-reaction of Laser Feelings moments for Neznez and decided to limit the rerolls to just the dice that tied.

Dash navigates in and realizes due to the lack of resistance in the docking bay, there is no air in the bay (Laser Feelings moment for Dash during his Lasers roll to dock carefully). RX1138 does a bio-scan of the station and finds 5-500 lifesigns. They enter the station, and find in the center of the atrium a statue of the Architect god, the Chairman.

Neznez arms a grenade, but the fuse is short (unsuccessful Lasers roll). RX1138 blasts the statue with the grenade at close range, toppling the statue and crushing the enemy that is trying to sneak up behind them, but destroying his gun-arm. Lasers roll: I gave RX1138’s player a choice to either take damage from the grenade and get a careful shot, or throw it away and probably miss. He chose to self-harm. Too bad the other crewmen were also right there.

Dash leaps out of the way, firing on the run. He blows a few holes in several mooks and the ricochet obliterates one of the computer panels.

Because it’s a Feelings roll instead of Lasers, Dash has a better chance of hitting when he isn’t careful, when he fires while dodging and doesn’t even look at his target.

Meanwhile, Neznez has activated his personal force field. It’s a backup plan. I decide on the fly that “preparedness” is a Lasers roll that being an Engineer certainly will help him with. Unfortunately, the force field goes both ways. Neznez fires his shotgun sidearm, which bounces off his force field and takes off his own ear.

RX1138, meanwhile is kpow kpow kpow’ing more Space Pirate mooks with individually placed head shots. We’re picturing The Terminator. He’s okay with that.

Dash tries to negotiate or intimidate the Space Pirates, and they begin to talk, but… it’s not going to go well here in a moment. Really, he’s just buying time.

Neznez leaves off from combat and approaches the access panel, using his double nose to interface with the access port. He identifies a threat, and the station responds with “Instruct allies to assume the worship position. Activating countermeasures in 3…. 2….. 1….” Thinking fast, Neznez tells everyone to “crouch down and, uh, stick your fingers up your nose!

Dash does so, also cupping his hands so it’s not obvious that he only has one nose. RX1138 dives for a space pirate, forcing the poor guy to stick his fingers up his nose while the space station eliminates the remaining space pirates with nerve gas. RX1138’s flesh is flayed from his shiny metal skeleton, but he did salvage a space pirate who survives.

The party has the station under their control, and have killed about 40 space pirates, all but 1 of the force on the station. This location is secure. It’s just about 8:30– a little later than I wanted to wrap up, but within reason.

We end for the night and I text the player who had logged off early to let him know we saved a PC for him to play next time we return to the crew of the Raptor as they decide what to do with an Architect resurrection ship. There isn’t a “space pirate” archetype for player characters in L&F… but I think I’m good with handwaving that. 

Gameplay in Lasers and Feelings is similar to both All Out of Bubblegum and, interestingly, Fate Accelerate Edition, where firing a gun might be easier if you do it without looking, if your Careful score is lower than your Flashy one, for example.

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