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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.

Iron Baker: BEGIN!

Sometimes, it’s good to have a fun, lighthearted adventure mixed in with big, pulpy stories about sentient robots and buildings that perambulate from their lower New London addresses to Hyde Park.

chocolate-birth-day-cakeLast night, our Martians Are Coming game began, as it usually does, in Winfield’s bakery. A scandal sheet reporter named Puddy Tyson came by to chat with us and watch for “some news of the weird.” We are apparently now on his beat. Ah, well– we’re pretty calm about the whole experience of encountering the weird. Neither Winfield nor Abigail is particularly secretive yet about their doings.

As usual, weirdness comes for us– a French woman arrived, flirted with Winfield, and bought “one of everything” from the shop. Noticing that she seemed to be followed, Winfield tracked her until some of the street urchins known as the Irregulars (our main contact having disappeared a few days ago) interfered with him. Abigail, meanwhile, distracted Mr. Tyson with stories of how the science building could walk.

Static challenges: Stealth for Winfield, and Rapport for Abigail.

Eventually, Winfield discovered that the French woman had swapped his pastries for pies and delivered them to the local police station. Nothing seemed to be amiss with the constabulary, but it was indeed a bit of underhanded deception. Abigail and Winfield went in search of a pie maker, eventually finding a Frenchman named Limon (who had been following the French woman), and his assistant Pecan (the Frenchwoman).

In the course of Limon’s bragging, Abigail suggested a bake-off. The young Prince’s birthday was coming up– what better ocassion? Abigail found a way to insert herself into Prince William’s life and impress him with her connection to “that baker who made all those people turn colors!” The competition would be held as a birthday tea for the prince.

When Abigail suggested the bake-off, Winfield was compelled to agree, due to his High Concept, which is “Iron Baker.” This scene resulted in a 3-part challenge for Abigail: Drive, Physique (to get trampled without damage), then Rapport.

The day of the birthday tea arrived. The bakers, grudgingly sharing a kitchen, took their positions. After tossing a few insults at M. Limon, Abigail attempted to calm and entertain the other noble children, but rather failed to convince them that they would not be turned into purple blueberries. Instead, she used their terror to convince Mr. Tyson that there was an alien conspiracy worth writing about, and solicited the Irregulars to arrive in a timely manner, acting like alien-controlled zombies.

4-part contest for both Winfield and Abigail. First Winfield: Shooting (static) to determine if he can accomplish the trick shot. Then Abigail: First, a create advantage roll where she insulted M. Limon to undermine him and gave him the Flustered aspect that Winfield could tap later (Rapport– Abigail has a stunt called “Bless Your Heart” to use Rapport instead of Provoke). Burglary (static) with the children to do magic tricks (failed), then Rapport with the Irregulars to create an advantage with Mr. Tyson. Then Rapport with Mr. Tyson, because Tyson doesn’t need to believe it– he just needs a story.

Meanwhile, Winfield was baking up a storm of deliciousness, delivering his creations by spinning plates and using a trick shot to catapult the pastries from the service plates onto the Prince and judges’ plates! The prince was delighted! The other children were terrified. Their parents, probably mortified. It didn’t matter, though, because once they bit into the confections, even the French judge could not contain himself. Winfield was the clear winner!

Final roll in hte contest: Winfield’s Craft roll. The social conflict comes down to this moment, so Winfield pulls out all the stops. He’s pretty good with Craft anyway, plus he taps his High Concept: Iron Baker for a +2. And he taps M. Limon’s Flustered aspect (“Oh, Monsieur! I see you forgot the powdered sugar on your cakelets?”) for another +2. The result was a Succeed With Style, resulting in even the French judge being impressed by Winfield’s cake.

“I cannot prove I am sentient, sir… can you?”

coverbitThe Martians Are Coming is a new Fate game in a steampunk world, played between me and 2 of my best friends.

“I cannot prove I am sentient, sir… can you?” Abigail Stracht, serial # ST-18, voiced the audacious words in the midst of the Royal Academy’s audience hall. Professor Hatfield was leading a debate on the nature of the Awakened souls– the elusive quality that meant a machine had attained self-awareness. This sentience, vaguely threatening to the humans who had built the automatons, was equally confusing to those who had achieved it.

As she and the professor exchanged quick-witted remarks, the crowd of scholars, nobles, and well-regarded merchants in the audience seemed swayed between Abigail and Captain Winfield’s arguments– that no one can truly know the mind of another, automaton or otherwise– and Professor Hatfield’s– that all automaton actions are derived in some form from their creators.

The day had started much like every day for the past several weeks– business was slow and mind-numbing, due to local subway construction tearing up the major intersections near Winfield’s Bakery. In fact, if not for the dreariness of the day, they probably wouldn’t have accepted Professor Hatfield’s invitation in the first place. After all, what Englishman orders a cruller and then fails to eat it? Winfield didn’t trust the man, and had said so to Abigail.

As they stepped outside after the debate, Abigail was approached by FG-36, the head of the Automaton Guild and keeper of the Registry of Awakened Persons for the Queen. They exchanged a few pleasant words– civil and more pleasant than Abigail had exchanged with him since refusing membership in the Guild proper. And then an older couple approached her and Winfield.

“We were so moved by your words…” The couple, Mr. and Mrs. Mers, were merchants who seemed more emotional than an academic debate might warrant, and Abigail and Winfield listened to their plight. It seemed their automaton, Sally– not Awakened– had gone missing several days earlier. In fact, FG-36 confirmed that several automatons had gone missing over the past several weeks. “We hope that she Awakened and may simply be… lost.”

“It is a very confusing time,” Abigail agreed, recalling her own traumatic awareness. She turned to FG-36. “Perhaps you could lobby the manufacturers to include some kind of… instruction set, for use when one awakens? Explaining where to go for registry and to get help?”

FG-36 regarded her coolly, and nodded. “An excellent suggestion. I will take it up with the creators.” He bade them a good evening and stalked away.

“…and take credit for the idea, no doubt,” Abigail muttered under her breath. She and Winfield continued on their way home in the late New London evening. Not long after they parted ways from the Mers, Abigail suggested they pop round to the police station. “They must know a little something about these missing automatons, right?”

Whatever Winfield thought they were going to do at the police station, he soon found himself staring in shock as Abigail scaled the outside wall and let herself in through an upstairs window. Just as he was about to call down for her, a couple of police officers rounded the corner. He distracted the coppers while Abigail raided the offices upstairs, looking for clues.

When she descended, it was with a large wall map and a sheaf of papers, all carefully tucked under her arm. She handed the papers to Winfield and the two of them took off for Winfield’s Fine Bakery.

At the shop, they used the map and their own cunning about the city to figure out that, indeed, the disappearances appeared to be random and unconnected, but in fact, they were all located near sites of the new subway system that was being constructed. The pair went off in search of an access point in the subway– taking the papers with them.

In time, they found a closed access door and heard sounds of someone behind it. Cracking open the door stealthily, they discovered a long row of automatons, all metal, standing deactivated in a long row. Off to one side was a well-lit office with a curious gentleman– Professor Hatfield, of course.

Abigail approached the long row of automatons, eventually finding Sally’s designation (SL-32). Just then, Hatfield came out of his office and spotted her. The two exchanged words, then he ordered his automatons to attack!

Abigail fought a crush of automatons while Winfield focused on stopping and capturing Hatfield. Heroically, he shot the door handle off the access door, effectively locking the two men in with two dozen rampaging robots.

Indeed… the rampage was brutal and efficient, as Abigail tore her fellow metal men apart, ripping limbs off of carefully-crafted bodies, and eventually using a power supply to electrocute the entire dog-pile of machines.

As she crawled out from under the pile of bent, broken, and smouldering bodies, she heard a voice from deep within the dog pile. “Huh-hullo?”

SL-32, miraculously, had not only survived the attack, but seemed to have Awakened in the process. Abigail introduced herself and had a few words with Sally, who also remembered Mr. and Mrs. Mers and wanted little more than to go home to them.

When the police arrived, Professor Hatfield was raving about “his” army of automatons, and his papers seemed to also contain all the stolen investigation notes taken from the police station (however could that have happened?!?) Abigail took Sally to the Registrar before delivering her home to the Mers, who were overjoyed to see her.

They returned to the bakery to prepare a double batch of fried dough goodies for delivery to the police officers in the morning.

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