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As part of its continuing series of RPG mini-conventions in celebration of the hobby, Gamers and GMs Philippines presents Love & Gaming, the February RPG Minicon! Whether you're a longtime tabletop veteran or a curious newcomer wanting to know more about the hobby, the minicon features informative talks and open game tables that offers a little something for everyone!


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On Learning How to Run Fate: Location, Player Character Creation, and After Action Report

As of this writing, I have run two sessions of Sails Full of Stars (SFoS) and the number of players in the game has increased by two, +Rachel Teng, and +Bianca May Canoza (Bim) having been invited and welcomed to the table. At first I was concerned that it would be difficult to integrate new players into an existing game, having been informed that this was one of the weaknesses of Fate. I count myself lucky (again) that the table was able to deal with this issue quickly and painlessly, but I get ahead of myself.

First, concerning the creation of Locations: this goes hand in hand with, and actually precedes, the creation of Faces (major NPCs). After all, the PCs have to meet and interact with the Faces somewhere. In the case of the game I am running, that location is Nova Tortuga, overseen, of course, by Mama Tortuga. Described as this setting’s “wretched hive of scum and villainy”, Nova Tortuga is a major port nestled in a large asteroid where the PCs can resupply, sell their goods and services, and pick up missions. As neutral territory, all ships are welcome regardless of affiliation, provided that the crews observe the laws and customs of the place--which pretty much amounts to keeping on Mama Tortuga’s good side.

The table felt that defining Nova Tortuga would be enough for the moment. By the way, the ship the PCs would adventure in is treated as a player character instead of as a location. Narratively, this makes sense, and appeals to me as a storyteller.

It is only after the game had been defined in terms of scale, location, and faces that the PCs are designed. This makes a lot of sense and I am surprised that I had not adopted this approach sooner in my earlier games. When players are clear about what is reasonable to expect in a game, they will design their characters appropriately and make it easy for the GM to build encounters that the players will find fun. The most important lesson I learned from this is that the PCs are the players’ way of telling the GM what they look forward to in terms of having fun in the game. It would be wise to pay attention.

The PCs the table came up with are as follows: first, those of the original players, in no particular order:

Leyla (+Cheska De Leon) (Che)
Swashbuckling Reader of the Stars (High Concept)
Runaway Bride (Trouble)
Never Los
Swordfight Captain of the Marines
Painfully Pragmatic

Amelie Tournesol (+mahar mangahas)
The Dashing Princess of Pain (High Concept)
Jilted Fashion Plate turned Pirate (Trouble)
Beautifully Ruthless; Ruthlessly Beautiful
People Must Obey Me!
I know Where the Cash Is!

Viktor Abuzova (+raymz maribojoc)
[The] Devil is in [The] Details (High Concept)
People Are Just Defective Machines (Trouble)
Phase Trio:
Likes Things to Go Boom
“Back to the Drawing Board. Excellent!”
Cold, Calculating, Calibrating

The Düsmüs Isik/The Fallen Light (the ship of the PCs)
She Steers Herself (High Concept)
Prized Ship of a Pirate Lord (Trouble)
Phase Trio:
Punches Above Her Weight
Blockade Runner
In it for the Fun (Crew)

I chose to present the PCs with just their respective aspects because I realized that they, like all PCs of all games, are works in progress. I feel that the aspects of Fate emphasize this superlatively and remind me that the PCs are at the heart of the game. The aspects suggest directions the game may take and what sort of twists and turns the PCs may encounter along the way. Before, when I needed inspiration for an adventure or even an encounter, I would leaf through my copy of the Monster Manual (three guesses what system this was and the first two don’t count). Now, when I want for inspiration, at least in this game, I read through the aspects of the PCs.

I ran another session of SFoS on Saturday, January 16th. I was able to get two thirds of the original table back (Che couldn’t make it) and added Rachel and Bim to the table. As I mentioned earlier, I was at first concerned about adding new characters to an existing game and was prepared to start a new game from scratch. As it turned out, integrating the new players took very little time and they created characters that drew directly on the first adventure I ran in which the PCs salvaged a merchantman and had to fight off an infestation of space spiders. It turns out, the new characters were aboard the merchantman, named the Fatima, and even set things up so as to have been the authors of the original adventure.

Giles Atras AKA Giles Baldur (Rachel)
Mysterious Ace Pilot (High Concept)
Something to Prove/ The Other Child (Trouble)
Brother to All Who Know Me
Born At The Helm
The Secret Service’s Loyal Servant

Arma Kahneman (Bim)
Neurotic Mechanical Genius (High Concept)
Shiny Tech Makes Me Hot & Bothered (Trouble)
Don’t Worry, Baby. I’ll Make You Better
Leave Me Alone. You People Are Weird
I’m Going To My Happy Place

In the first adventure, the original PCs were tipped off by Mama Tortuga that there was a ship, the Fatima, up for salvage for the first one who could find it. The technology that enables ships to navigate space in this setting is called Rheosilk. It is the material that the sails of the space-faring ships of the game are made of and allows the ships to capture and sail the rheus, which I interpret as solar wind-driven aether. Rheosilk, however, has its drawbacks: a great deal of material is required to make a rheus sail and, when it catches the rheus, rheosilk scintillates, making stealthy sailing all but impossible.

Into this world I introduced Gossamer, a newly-discovered material that could rival and even replace Rheosilk. Gossamer is produced by a species of deep-space spiders and promises to deliver the same capability as Rheosilk but with much smaller yardage. All of a sudden, smaller, more agile ships now become feasible and there is talk about single-man sailing suits suddenly becoming practical. What’s more, Gossamer does not glow when it catches the rheus, which opens up a lot of strategic possibilities.

This was the cargo of the Fatima when it went missing, and Mama Tortuga, understandably, would be interested in such a prize. She sweetened the pot by hinting that she would offer top dollar should the PCs choose to trade with her.

Given the aspects of the PCs and their ship, it was not difficult for them to locate the derelict Fatima and board it. What followed as a desperate battle for survival as the PCs discover that the derelict overrun by space spiders. Quick thinking by the players and innovative use of stunts (which involved pheromone potions, jury-rigged engines, and space acrobatic swordsmanship) enabled them to clear the derelict with minimal casualties, netting them a cargo of Gossamer and a ship that they could either claim as their own or sell.

The second session introduced the new characters as survivors of the crew of the derelict Fatima. As it turned out Arma Kahneman was indirectly responsible for the outbreak of the space spiders, having cannibalized the compressor of the ship’s freezer to improve the performance of the engines. The crew of the Fatima had harvested Gossamer from a space spider nest but neglected to check the Gossamer for eggs. When the freezer began overheating, it turned into an incubator and hatched thousands of spiderlings that overran the ship.

The adventure of the second session had the newly integrated crew sell the Gossamer and the Fatima and hire a new crew. They also picked up a commission from Mama Tortuga to deliver the Gossamer to another asteroid “to be processed”. The problem was that the asteroid was several weeks away by conventional route. This is where Giles Atras got to shine as he picked out a route through the heart of the Belt. Everything went relatively well until the crew came across the former owner of their ship, a Chinese pirate named Fu Man Chu, and his ship, the Sì Zhǎo Zǎoshang Zhuózhuó or Four Claws Shining in the Morning. What followed was a short ship battle and a series of boarding actions and counter actions as the smaller but nimbler Düsmüs Isik out maneuvered the larger and more ancient Four Claws.

The boarding action was led by Amelie Tournesol supported by Viktor Abuzova. The battle shifted back and forth while Giles struggled to wrest control of the now-joined ships from his Chinese counterpart. Just when Giles thought that he had the upper hand, Fu Man Chu himself had taken the wheel and the duel of the pilots escalated.

What finally brought the PCs victory was the combined efforts of the boarding party, the piloting skill of Giles and the inability of Arma to resist shiny technology. As Amelie and Viktor drove the marines of the Four Claws deeper into the hold, Giles pulled off a deft maneuver that caused a passing asteroid to shear off the wheelhouse of the ancient Chinese rheoship. Just as that happened, Arma, who had snuck into the engine room of the Four Claws, stumbled upon its main power source: an egg-shaped jade stone the size of a man’s head. Naturally, he had to take it, causing the Four Claws to lose all power. Fu Man Chu, in the tradition of pulp villains, had escaped to fight another day and the PCs found themselves with a venerable ship of ancient, mysterious technology as booty and her crew as prisoners.

At this point, we adjourned the game and agreed that we would pick it up again in the future when our schedules permitted. This time around, I got a better feel for how the Fate Dice, the Ladder, the Skills, and Aspects worked together. There is an art to running Fate that involves knowing what Skills to call out, how to interpret the rolls, and how to deploy Aspects. It’s a different point of view for gamers like me who began the hobby when only Dungeons and Dragons was the only game in town, and frankly, I welcome it.

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Fate More!

Putting this up in here because the latest update has THE MOST exciting information in it -- stretch goals towards open-license content. The proprietary systems of Atomic Robo? Open and available on the web. The proprietary systems of War of Ashes? Open and available on the web. This is, understandably, HUGE.

It means that when +Marc P. Reyes decides to complete his playtest of his system/setting, he can publish it legally. It means that I can change my plans to only release Fate Online, a game about playing in a VR-MMORPG, as a fan product to one I might be able to produce as a fully published one.

And it means more people can do the same, which means more games, ideas, settings, hacks for everyone!

So please, please, please back this. The personal value is already immense ($10 for everything digitally, $35 if you want a physical book shipped to you -- including everything digitally) but now the community value is gargantuan!

Inside already - superheroes, wuxia, pulp, compilations of some of the best from the Worlds of Fate Patreon. Get some!

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Dive into the world of RPGs through the Old School Renaissance! OSR brings Tabletop roleplay back to its roots by using core rules that are compatible with the earliest games of this dice-tossing tradition. Through matured game rules with decades of storied history, OSR games are able to focus on innovations, resulting in a movement that is surprisingly new and undeniably D&D.

Come this Sunday for our RPG 101 – What’s Old is New! – to learn roleplaying games using the (modified, refurbished, faster, better, stronger!) system that started it all!

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"All of this feels, to me, like an antidote to the world we live in - [...] Gaming means devoting time and energy to making and doing things that are good. This is important. There is a sanctuary in craftsmanship."

A short but poignant article on the craft of gaming and the importance of worlds of adventure in balancing our lives.

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Now that we have more incentive now to design adventures...

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If you are a hard science fiction RPG fan, now is a good time to pick up the PDF of the Mindjammer RPG. Normally 1270 PHP, it's now on sale until January 14 at 952 pesos. Aside from having an awesome posthuman setting, it also has all the tools to run a science fiction game belonging to any sci-fi setting. From aliens to tech to hacking, Mindjammer has rules to cover it! Plus it's powered by Fate. Though if you prefer Traveller, Mindjammer will be out for that system later this year.

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On Learning How to Run Fate: Game Creation

I ran Sails Full of Stars (SFoS) last Monday, December 28th, to learn how to run Fate. SFoS itself is A World of Adventure for Fate Core product, one that I got specifically for its setting which I like to describe as “Pirates of the Caribbean, gone steampunk, in space”. I was lucky to get three players who had prior experience playing Fate: +Cheska De Leon, +mahar mangahas, and +raymz maribojoc. Che had played in a few Fate games, and Mahar and Raymz are experienced GMs, with Raymz having used the Fate system to run a few games before. I had played a couple of Fate games before, but this was my first time running one and my table had more experience with the system than I did. I made sure that my players knew this and they agreed to help me learn how Fate works. As I said, I got lucky.

Raymz took the lead in walking me through the game and the table chose to start with game creation. I gave the table an overview of the setting and commented that I found the material rather sparse. Raymz confirmed that this was how most Fate products are presented: just enough to get one’s creative juices flowing, with the details of the setting meant to be customized at the table’s game creation phase.

We talked about the scale of the game that we wanted to play and I proposed one that centered around the characters trying to make ends meet and keeping their ship space-worthy and adequately crewed, ala the Millenium Falcon, or the Serenity. The players agreed that while their PCs would be important members of the crew of the ship, none of them would be the captain or the first mate. Instead, the PCs would be the movers and shakers who keep the ship flying and the crew in line. There may be bigger issues in the game world--three competing empires dominate the politics of the setting after all--but these are far removed from the concerns of the player characters, at least for now.

I loved the game creation process of Fate, not the least because it was a lot of fun but also because it built player buy-in. I’ve never done something quite like this in all the years I’ve played RPGs. In my day, it was always a case of you discovering the world your GM invented; as a player, you would never have any control over what appeared in the game world, you would only react to it. In my experience, this has led to some players becoming unsatisfied with the game they are in to the point of sabotaging the game. On the other hand, back then when I started gaming, there were very few options available, and not very many alternatives.

The table went on to create the Faces of the game, NPCs that the players would most likely interact with on a regular basis. Having the table do this lifts a great burden from the shoulders of the GM, IMHO. Instead of creating an NPC and hoping that the players would take to her and interact with her regularly, the players do that work for you and make sure that the NPC will show up again and again. You as a GM not only get fun NPCs to play, but you get to know what your players are after in the game because they tell you that through the choices they make and what they put into the game world.

This is what we came came up with as a table:

Capitan Admiral Banderas: the captain of the ship the PCs serve on. Once a decorated naval hero, the events of his life and the many betrayals he has endured had broken him and driven him to drink. He is the owner of the ship, having captured it in battle. Now he is drunk most of the time and locked away in his cabin. He is played by Antonio Banderas (naturally).

First Mate Penelope Banderas: the daughter of the captain and arguably the only sane man on board. She runs the ship and takes care of her father. The PCs trust her implicitly and she the PCs. She is played by Penelope Cruz.

“Dr. Bones”: the ship’s surgeon and naturalist. He serves on the ship because he gets the equipment and freedom he needs to conduct his experiments and inquiries, many of which would get him hanged on Earth. He is played by Karl Urban.

Mama Tortuga: the most powerful person on Nova Tortuga, a port of call that the PCs frequent and which is located somewhere in the asteroid belt. She is the one that the PCs like doing business with the most. She is played by Queen Latifah.

Robert Baldur the Bright, aka Bobby Bright: the players wanted an NPC who was not quite the bad guy of the game but was someone that they would nonetheless love to hate. They came up with a Prince Charming on steroids: handsome, charming, independently wealthy, generous to a fault, loved by everyone, particularly his men, naively idealistic, idealistically naive, fortune’s favored son. He and his crew always compete with the PCs and frequently leave them in the dust. He is played with great effect by a cleaned up Josh Holloway.

Sophia Brillantes: the evil genius of the setting, she is a female Moriarty who is playing off the three dominant empires of the setting, the Ottomans, the French, and the Chinese, against one another and is bent on drawing the world into war. She is also the ex-wife of Admiral Banderas, and the mother of Penelope Banderas. She is played by Sofia Vergara.

Creating the Faces the game was great fun for me both as a GM and as a player. Each was an NPC that I would relish playing and Raymz, Mahar, and Che each expressed interest in role-playing the Faces as well when opportunities presented themselves.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to play many of the Faces when we did get around to playing. It was a short game and I got to briefly role-play ‘Admiral’ Banderas and his daughter. I wasn’t worried though because things had been set up to make the game a long running episodic one.

I’ll describe how the table handled Place and PC creation (where the ship itself is treated as a PC) and how the first short adventure played out in a later installment. Suffice it to say that the game was off to a good start and I hope that it keeps on going.

(art: Sky Galleons of Mars by flaviobolla on DeviantArt)

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Though this technology is being marketed to the athletic set, I think that this might also work for our hobby, especially for venues where noise is an issue. Note that it allows the group to share voice AND music! 

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As it says on the tin: a tight, four-hour, zero-prep scenario for Dungeon World by +John Aegard and which was recently run by our +Erich Lichnock with excellent results.

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