Blog for Stephanie Bryant, a writer with too many hobbies and not enough time.

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Some Fate

coverbitThis adventure was played over a series of sessions. Mostly online, but one in person.

At tea, Abigail and Sally got around to talking, in a roundabout way, of their Limitors. These are devices, installed in every automaton, which enforce a primitive version of the laws of robotics which, in essence, prevent automatons from harming humans.

Abigail does not have a Limitor. It’s not something she advertises, but she was Built for Battle (trouble aspect), and is very much aware that she has the capacity to harm, even kill, the fragile humans. She does not discuss it with anyone, much like she doesn’t reveal that she is pretty sure she killed a man shortly before her awakening.

However, it seems Sally does not have a Limitor, either. She had been experimented on by Hatfield, and it appears that he may have removed Sally’s Limitor during his attempts to make an automaton army.

Sally expressed to Abigail, at tea, a certain amount of frustration when customers of her employer’s are difficult. She just wants to hurt them.

Abigail deals with her lack of Limitor in a very basic way. Humans do not need a piece of hardware to know that killing is wrong, and neither does Abigail. She attends Church regularly, and believes that one does not harm or kill others because it is wrong.

Sally might not have learned that, yet.

So, Abigail suggests to Sally that they will do some ladylike sparring in the next few weeks, to help burn off some of that frustration. (I remark that I just really want Foxy Boxing Rock’em Sockem Robots to be a thing…We turn to gossiping about the recent attacks throughout town, and then chit-chat about the latest catalog of Automaton Novelty Upgrades.

Abigail returns to the bakery to work. The next day, a scruffy, weathered young man comes in an introduces himself as Todd Pickett, the brother of Bill Pickett, one of Winfield’s war friends (R.I.P.).

Todd explains, wearily, that he hasn’t slept in 2 days and he desperately needs Winfield’s help.  He believes he’s the one who has been harming people around New London– he’s been waking up in strange places, and doesn’t know what to do. He wants to keep this from his father, Sir Reginald Pickens, who is a notable person in Society.

We agree to help him, and he camps out at the bakery for the day before being taken home to Winfield’s apartment that night.

There, Abigail agrees to watch over him, and shackle him to the guest bed. Sometime in the night, she is distracted momentarily, and when she turns back, he has transformed into an enormous beast of a man who is determined to escape– and doing a little chaos on the way would not go amiss. He seems invigorated and he and Abigail exchange banter–

“This place is boring– I’m going to leave now.”

“I will stop you. You instructed me to–” bang! He cracks a bedpost across Abigail’s head. He’d flexed to break free of his bonds, splintering the bed posts into manageable clubs.

Winfield wakes and readies for battle.

He and Abigail exchange blows, but Abigail does not specifically want to hurt him. Even without a Limitor, she’s aware that this may be Todd Pickens underneath… and she does not believe that Winfield knows she lacks a Limitor. Winfield is the closest thing she has to a friend, despite their employer/employee relationship. She does not want to see fear in his eyes when he looks at her.

Meanwhile, Winfield has his own challenges, as he also does not want to harm Todd Pickens.

Todd Pickens, meanwhile– or rather, the Hyde version of Todd– is perfectly happy to break either of them in two. The fight is rambunctious and uses much of Winfield’s equipment strewn around the apartment (scene/zone aspects for blowguns and random elephant prods and the like). Abigail took the brunt of the fight, being hit repeatedly by Todd’s bedpost and eventually (when her 4 Physical stress boxes filled up), cracking her main boiler (minor, 2-point consequence: Boiler is Leaking)

In the end, Todd grabs Abigail and throws her out the window.

It is at this point that we stop for some rules discussion, because we’re not entirely sure how forced movement works in Fate. In Fate, during a conflict, you have Zones. We hadn’t pre-defined these, but we knew we were fighting in Winfield’s Apartment (a zone), but that was all. He made a successful Physique (I think) to lift her and throw her through the window, but she resisted enough to hang onto the windowframe and not fall– returning to the apartment would have been do-able on her turn.

We’re going to concede this fight, but we still needed to explore the rules. At risk: Neither Abigail nor Winfield wants him to get away, but it’s clear to them that he will. If we’d kept fighting, Abigail would have moved back into the apartment (from Out the Window Zone to Apartment). If Todd had persisted in fighting (which he would), a more successful skill roll would have moved her from the Apartment to 2 zones away, into The Street. Because you can normally only move one zone at a time, Abigail would not have been able to run back to the apartment and also take an action to prevent his escape.

If Abigail had not been an automaton and built for battle, being thrown 2 zones out the window would also almost certainly have done stress to her, even without Todd intending to harm her. 

We conceded the fight and Todd escaped. Winfield rounded up the Irregulars to follow but not confront, and we stopped there for the session.

In last week’s session (which was brief), we spent a little bit of time fixing Abigail and waiting for the Irregulars. Winfield uses Craft, which he has at +3, to do the repair on Abigail. He rolls poorly, but the difficulty is 2, the value of the Consequence. Abigail’s Mild Consequence remains as a repaired aspect, and we change it to Boiler has Low Pressure. It will remain so for one scene, and then go away.

It was clear we couldn’t chase Todd and stop him from claiming a victim that night and, indeed, the irregulars do claim he killed an older gentleman, beaten to death. Having been thumped pretty badly the night before, we decide to recruit some help– Sally’s first boxing lesson will be a field training, unfortunately. And Winfield calls up his old pal Sir Stewart Jeffries, a friend from the war who has been trying to get Winfield to travel to Africa on a colonial mission with him. At this point, Africa is starting to sound rather sane.

We do a bit of investigation among Todd’s friends at his gentleman’s club and learn he’s been particularly risk-taking lately. Abigail listens carefully and thinks it sounds like Todd has been sampling some of the strange offerings at the Weird Market. This is a scene, so Abigail’s consequence should go away now– her boiler has reached optimal pressure once more.

We take another break for some more world-building. Together, we brainstorm a bit about the Weird Market. We know that it’s where you get “the weird stuff” and where Abigail bought her vocal box. She was built without one, and the upgrade was expensive, in part because she wanted no questions about why this automaton lacks a Limitor. We start working on some aspects and definitions for the Weird Market:

Weird Market
High Concept:  Bazarre of the Bizarre
Aspect: You’ll Always Find What You’re Looking for… and Then Some.
Aspect: Never in the Same Place Twice
Aspect: When you’re ready, the market finds you.

We have some discussion about this, and we haven’t completely agreed where the market really is, and whether it moves about in some kind of extradimensional space or not. I like the idea that this market touches everywhere at once– in a way, the Voodoo Marche in New Orleans is the same as the Witch Market in Kiev. Justin and Mike, however, want it to be more naturally explainable. All of our Weird in this game has been nominally explainable through natural science. We agree that, if it’s true that it touches everywhere, then that might be too convenient for a story plot, and it contradicts our worldbuilding that most everything is explainable. So if it does touch everywhere, then for the majority of people accessing the market, whether to buy or sell, it seems to be something that they know about through other channels.

Discussion of the Weird Market takes us to our stopping time, so we break and thank each other for the experience.

Crone Kickstarter: I’m a Stretch Goal!

"BRAVE"   (Pictured) THE WITCH ©2012 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.Over on the Crone Kickstarter, the project is now fully funded and starting to hit some stretch goals. It’s currently just over $2,500 in funding. Personally, I hope it raises another $7K. Why? Because look at the stretch goal for $9,250:

$9,250 Legend by Stephanie Bryant – “A comet heralds an otherworldly visitor. Is it an angel, or an abomination?”

Yep. I’m on deck to write an adventure for this system, if they hit $9250.

If that isn’t reason enough to kick in $5-10, how about this: You get to play a witch. An elder, powerful, magic-using woman. A witch! She’s a witch, I tell you!

 

TimeWatch: Sarah Connor Edition

55f70f0ffd42adf2585167d3a1bb0c38_largeI ran TimeWatch yesterday afternoon online. It’s a game I scheduled a few weeks ago, and I’ve had a lot of interest– not just because I accidentally sent the Google Hangouts invite to everyone I know on Google+ (about 270 people… oops).

This game group is a public one, which means I let anyone join, but you RSVP for single sessions as they become available. So if you’re reading this and it sounds like fun, pop over to our space on Tavern Keeper and sign up for the Timewatch agency!

Over the course of the past 2 weeks, I’ve had players RSVP, select characters, create characters, etc. And I found myself, as of last weekend, with a handful of gender-benders. All my players so far are men, and all the characters at that point were women. I thought this was delightful and decided to run with it.

In my “pitch,” the intro I post about the upcoming game, I hinted that this would be an Ides of March game. In the pitch, Julius Caesar tells the agents that he has some recruitment for them to do.

TimeWatch is a game about solving time mysteries, usually violations against the timeline, so a recruitment story seems like it’ll be a little more heavily weighted towards action, rather than sleuthing.

In the end, I had the following agents signed up:

  • Altani, one of the iconics, a 13th century Mongolian warrior princess
  • “Angel,” also known as Clara Barton, a doctor and founder of the Red Cross from the mid-19th century
  • Dariya, a street thief from 9 BCE in Persia
  • Vid, a female-formed T-1000 from 2043. Her fellow agents do not know she can shapeshift.
  • Anthony Grey, a high society cat burglar from the 1970’s.

I decided that, with so many women, I had a perfect opportunity to put them in a space where there are more women than men. No, not a yarn shop, though that would be interesting. Instead, I had them recruit one of the most badass time agents of all:

polaroid

Continue reading TimeWatch: Sarah Connor Edition

Game Designer Meetup and Playtest

On Monday, I was late to the Board Game Designer Meetup (it’s every 2 weeks) because I stopped in and visited a friend who opened a game shop this week. They’re still in their “soft open,” with the grand opening scheduled for April 5th, which is also International Tabletop Day. I’ve volunteered to run games for that, as well as start running a biweekly game night (probably board games to start out) at the shop starting in April.

Anyway, I was a bit late, so I missed any announcements, but I did bring Night of the Barrel for playtesting. I anticipated that this game can take 30-60 minutes. One guy won the game in about 3 minutes, without the 2nd playtester (we had 3) getting a turn.

So, that needs work, obviously. We discussed and brainstormed a lot of the ways to fix it, and how you would play and package this game, from the coaster aspect (“but, are you really going to want to pay $20 for a game that is one-use only?”) to where you’d play it (in a bar), and how. A third member stopped by to encourage me to re-theme the game to be more family/kid friendly (I will present without comment the confirmation that he did not make any such suggestion to the male designer who brought a game 2 weeks ago about welfare moms tricking potential dads into taking paternity tests….), which I politely appreciated, made a note, and moved on. I did point out that, ultimately, this game’s theme of beer has little bearing on the actual gameplay itself, but he kept trying to push me towards making it kid-friendly.

In general, I had fun. It’s always challenging to see your idea hit the table and fail, but both of the players, even the one who didn’t get his turn, enjoyed the game and said it’s one they would play again, if it had some replayability.

Dungeon World – Ladies Night

108028Yesterday, my Five Shores game was cut short due to lack of player attendance, and so I had the great pleasure of joining The Jessa Channel‘s all-female Dungeon World one-shot (which may be turning into more of a campaign).

I was the most experienced player, both in terms of RPGs and Dungeon World, so I reassured Jessa right away that I saw my role as support– feel free to ask rules questions, and I have the book handy for lookups and will do so, and I’ll try to remind players of their abilities, but I didn’t want to step on Jessa’s toes or tell others how to play their characters. As anyone who has played with me when I’m not the GM, that’s not always easy for me to do, but it’s something I’m working on.

I’m going to gloss over a lot of what happened. Jessa posted on Reddit this week about the experience, so you can check it out there. We started at 3 and wrapped up at about 8 PM– so 5 hours. About 2 hours were spent on character creation, before bonds, and explaining the system. I did a lot of knitting during this time, because I didn’t really need to walk through character creation step-by-step, and I wanted to pick a character who would not step on anyone’s toes.

Then we spent time on world creation. I don’t usually do this for Dungeon World one-shots. By the time players have their characters and bonds (usually 15-20 minutes, when I’m running), I’ve sketched down a few ideas already. I use bonds to generate campaign hooks– when someone names a bond, I turn to the object of their bond and ask them leading questions about it. Sometimes, I will find a way to link three bonds together into a story hook– “so, you and Mithrendil are running a con together– does that mean you’ve been deceiving the lord of this castle? Or is he in on it, too? Cool…”

Jessa takes it from the other direction. She starts with a “mad libs style” campaign starter and lets us throw ideas around to fill in the blanks. Here’s what we ended up with:

You are at the entrance to The Keep of Uther in the Blackmarsh, which is located in/on/by The Darksea, the vast underground ocean. You have journeyed here to retrieve the Blue Luminescent Dragon’s Egg on behalf of The Realm. Your luck has turned sour though, because there is a bitter Civil War, and that’s a real problem because you’ll be hung for a War Criminal if you do not bring back the Egg. To make matters worse, you have just seen signs of Blackmarsh Dragon Cultists approaching from the shore. You can’t turn back since the Darksea is riddled with Giant Piranha Fish, so you must push on. Looking at the entrance, you get a feeling this won’t turn out well for all of you. What do you do?

We hacked together an idea of being on a ship. At this point, we still had not created bonds for our characters yet, nor have we, even after playing a session. Although we knew that we already knew each other in some way, we did not know how.

In the party, we had (all women, btw: both players and characters):

  • Reyes, the paladin
  • Snikt, the halfling rogue
  • Breyar, the wizard
  • Thistle, the ranger
  • Osona, the druid
  • Makino, the barbarian (my character)

635 - IWvRFHEThe barbarian is a tricky character to play when the GM has set up a bunch of macros already, because unlike other PCs, I don’t roll 2d6. Barbarians roll 1d6+1d8, which translates into a higher chance of success (about a +1, overall), but if the result on the d6 is higher than the d8, the GM gets to make a soft move.

There were a lot of the typical, good-natured jokes around the table, and we had a good time getting into character. Most of our players were much more comfortable “emoting” by typing, rather than describing verbally their actions or dialogue.

We jumped into the media res, with the ship being under attack by the dragon cultists. I hung back, verbally, making some minor suggestions and reminding people to mark XP when they rolled poorly, and other little rules details. I tried very hard not to be too lawyer-y, and I hope I succeeded. As I said– I considered myself in a support role, in terms of my player role.

Action was rather limited, and with 6 players, that’s not uncommon. We were under attack, the hull had been breached, and the captain of the ship was attacked by a cultist, who perforated him with a spear. Reyes attempted to heal him, but rolled poorly and it went terribly for the captain. She finally grabbed him up and ran for the lifeboat. Thistle tied herself to the steering wheel to keep the boat moving forward. Back in the engine room, Makino pulled the throttle out completely, intending to overrun the cultists. Which happened.

Meanwhile, Snikt had been sneaking around the cargo area, stealing anything not nailed down (this started as the first action in the game, basically…) Breyar grabbed a few casks of provisions.

As Reyes commented “Where’s Makino?” the barbarian screamed her barbarian yawp, charging the full length of the ship, stern to bow, leaping from the bow onto the cultist’s ship. Rolled a 5: 4 on the d6, 1 on the d8…. GM gets to make 2 moves? I took an oar to the head, knocking me out cold.

Osona in bear form had some difficulty crossing the rope gangplank onto the lifeboat, and she, Reyes, the captain, and Snikt ended up in the piranha-infested waters. Fortunately, Reyes thought fast and saved herself by singing to the piranhas, which we knew would soothe them into not attacking.

When I came to, the remaining cultist on the ship was a woman standing over me, looking a mix of frightened and impressed. Flat on my back, with her above, I grinned and said “Aha! I have you exactly where I want you!” She kind of blushed and backed off, begging me to spare her male cultist companion from certain death in the waters. I sighed, leaned an oar out and fished him out. More trouble than he’s worth, but he can row, at least.

We rowed over to the lifeboat, picking up the remaining party members. At this point, we have the original 6 PCs, the ship’s captain (Capt. Robert Cassius), a (yet unnamed) female cultist who Makino has claimed (“You are my woman now!”) and the cultist’s man. The male cultist made some brave boasts to Makino, who laughed and said “you are of very little use to me. Think carefully before you speak again.”

We’re on 2 ships, Breyar was wise enough to provision us for the remainder of our trip, and we are heading into the Keep of Uther, in pursuit of the World-Dragon’s Egg. Our next adventure will be posted on Jessa’s YouTube channel.

This experience reminded me of running all-girl games when I was in college. It was something I did to encourage new players and GMs, and it worked pretty well. I’ve decided to do another one on March 29th, here in Vegas, so if you’re local, female (or female-identified), and a gamer or wanna-be gamer, hit me up for an invite! We’re playing in the afternoon, and should be done by 6.

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