FFC: Gelatinous Cube

These are one of my favorite old-school monsters, and I had a need for some, so I whipped up Fate Freeport stats for my friend the ooze. It’s hard not to like a monster inspired by those quivering cubes of jello you find at cafeterias, one that also functions as a giant scrubbing bubble amoeboid wandering through the dungeon corridors to clean up the mess.

There’s a couple of nasty tricks I remember from my D&D days. One was describing a skeleton gliding towards the group, in reality the cube’s last victim, dissolving inside the ooze’s transparent embrace. That sounds like a cool Create Advantage waiting to happen (hence the stunt). The other was filling pit traps with gelatinous cubes, but that just seems cruel. And overkill.


Also, check out this link for gelatinous cube facts and rumors of the OSR variety.

Gelatinous Cube

Bits of broken weapons, coins, and a partially digested skeleton are visible inside this quivering cube of slime.

Aspects: Quivering Cube of Slime; Mindless Dissolving Slime; Paralyzing Ooze
Stats: STR +2, DEX +1, CON +5, INT –, WIS -1, CHA -2

Melee Attack: Engulf (+2 STR), normal damage and target is Dissolving and Paralyzed.
Defense: Amorphous Form (+5 CON)

Mental Stress: Mindless
Physical Stress: OOOO
Physical Consequences:
Mild (-2):
Moderate (-4):

Paralytic Acid: Anyone who touches a gelatinous cube is Dissolving and Paralyzed.
Transparent: Gains +2 to create an advantage with DEX or CON to hide or be less noticeable.

Jadetech: Red Jade & Green Jade

I reviewed Jadepunk not too long ago, but let’s go through from the top. Jadepunk is a steampunk wuxia setting for Fate that I rather enjoyed. Jadetech is the steampunkish magi-tech powered by colored jade, with each color providing different elemental effects… and the Jadetech game supplements take a more in-depth look at the different colors of jade and the types of jadetech they power. Green Jade was first, and Red Jade came second. (Insert joke about them being Christmas colors here.) Blue Jade is in the works and forthcoming.

A good example of Jadetech: Green Jade’s art.

These two volumes are the first of six products in the Jadetech line, all slated to be $2.00, 16-page .pdfs. Inside are two pages of flash fiction by Benjamin Feehan and ~14 pages of setting and rules by Jacob Possin. The books use the same sepia-toned design that impressed me so much with the core book, with some awesome new pieces of art that keep up Jadepunk’s high standards. Too many digital/print-on-demand books look like they’re cobbled together using sticks, previously chewed gum, and bits of string. The Jadepunk line puts them to shame, just a masterwork from a graphic design angle.

Both supplements follow in the footsteps of the Jadepunk core book; they excel at showcasing the fascinating parts of the setting without beating you about the head and ears with specific facts and finite details. You get a brief history of the jade, how it was discovered, what it was originally used for, and some really cool info about “quality of life uses”—how it makes life better for the average joe in the Jadepunk setting. And while all of it is really evocative and got the ole’ grey matter thinking, I most enjoyed seeing how the types of jade impacted day-to-day life—uses that anyone living in the setting would know about. Giving the jade’s original uses also made it less static, and I loved seeing the uses of jade evolve.

In terms of rules, you get a lot of things built using Jadepunk’s Assets system (11 items in Green and 12 in Red). Green Jade has a few minor additions—brief rules for building animals (spoiler: it’s replacing their Secret Aspect with one called Instinct),  which include some brilliant Assets, animals modified by green jade exposure. There’s also a new challenge scenario that looks pretty cool. (I was sold by its pulpy title, “Stuck in the Sargasso.”) Red Jade’s sidebars are more setting-centric and are rich in flavor; there’s not as much rules in Red though there is another scenario idea, evading the cliff guns of Kausao City in your airship. (Sold!)

Red Jade versus Green Jade -- which will win?
Red Jade versus Green Jade — which will win? (Trick question; answer is “both.”)

I’m finding it hard to work up any criticism. Red Jade would have been nice with a few more infusions (potions) instead of more guns, though Jacob Possin has already said he’ll include more infusions for the upcoming Blue Jade, so problem solved. Come to think of it, I would have liked to see creatures tainted by red jade as well. I’m still torn on the world: I love seeing it presented in broad strokes, with very evocative details yet still plenty of room to run wild in. But part of me really, really wants to see more—if the broad strokes are this evocative and rich, just imagine all the parts we aren’t seeing! I can wait to see that, though. I have no doubts that Jadepunk’s details—the things we don’t yet know about Kausao City, much less the world beyond—will be revealed in the long run.

Actually, I know it’ll be revealed in the long run, since the Kickstarter’s stretch goals included an adventure series, a martial arts expansion, and a world supplement, on top of *World and Cortex+ editions. So, safe to say there’s a lot of Jadepunk in the works.

For $2.99 at Drive-Thru or the Reroll Store (where 30% goes to charity!), you’re buying a lot of great ideas, a lot more inspiration, and some Assets that may help you understand what the versatile Asset system can do. These Jadetech books are worthy supplements with impulse-buy pricing; you really can’t go wrong at that price. The setting remains rich and evocative, and there’s a wealth of information to get you thinking not just about jadetech Assets but about jadetech’s role in the world. I’m eagerly awaiting future volumes.

Appendix E: Appendix N, Alive and Expanded

A few years back when I started down the dark path of book blogging, one of the first things I did was to slap a copy of Appendix N on the site. The appendix, as you may already know, was Gary Gygax’s reading and inspiration list in the back of ye olde Dungeon Master’s Guide, the pulp literature that inspired him to start building up medieval fantasy roleplaying games.


Originally I was going to try and read all the books on the list; I’ll still probably try, but I’ve only read a handful of them in three years and the rest just aren’t things I want to pick up and read, say, tomorrow. Maybe after a few more books, I’ll be ready to read them tomorrow; maybe after another few hundred. Who knows. There’s some good stuff on there, and a lot of it would be yet another re-read for me—I feel like I’ve read the Lankhmar tales to death, and while I want to read them again, and know I’ll read them at least another half-dozen more times in my life, there’s just so much else out there to read.

To bulk up the word count I threw in a few paragraphs of analysis—nothing particularly deep, just codifying some thoughts I’ve had over the years, and some thoughts that came to mind while posting.

As a gamer and speculative fiction enthusiast, I’m intrigued by the legendary Appendix N found at the back of the original Dungeon Master’s Guide. Gary Gygax was a voracious reader, and his reading preferences impacted the directions where his fantasy-based wargame went. Namely, its ascendency from a traditional medieval wargame with orcs into nerddom’s greatest and most enduring hobby.

Probably the most obvious influences include how magic works in Vance’s Dying Earth world, magic items and historical scope from The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the gritty pseudo-historic peoples of Howard’s Hyborian Age. Put Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser in Hyboria, populate it with Lord of the Rings-inspired elves, orcs, and dwarves, and you’ve got the basics of D&D.

It’s also worth looking at what’s included and what isn’t. Clark Ashton Smith, for one; granted, his reputation is largely a part of the pulp revival starting in the ’70s (and again in the ’90s),but he’s the vital third leg of the Weird Tales trifecta. Why mention Frederic Browne, who as far as I’ve read has mostly done (admittedly superb) science-fiction mystery tales, without mentioning C.L. Moore or Edmond Hamilton? Why Bellairs’ Face in the Frost and not LeGuin’s Wizard of Earthsea? And where the hell is H. Rider Haggard?

Seeing Fred Saberhagan and Gardner Fox on the list is mystifying to me; it’s like Gygax went to the local bookstore to see what was popular, and just wrote some applicable things down. Saberhagan’s entry (Changeling Earth) is post-apocalyptic sword-and-socery, so popular that it hasn’t been printed since the ’70s. Fox wrote what can favorably be called “Conan pastiches” and unfavorably called “sloppy Conan clones.” Several, like Fletcher Pratt and Stanley Weinbaum, have since faded into relative obscurity.

After making some friendly jabs at Conan clones—really, Fox wrote some passable to decent to surprisingly good historical fiction, adventure, and fantasy, even if I dislike Kyrik—I dug at what Appendix N would look like in the modern age:

Also interesting: consider the influences on the game since Gygax stopped being the influential factor. Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber, for sure; Frank Herbert’s Dune, arguably; Glen Cook’s Black Company; Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire; Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun; Terry Pratchett; Anne Rice (Vampire: the Masquerade); William Gibson (Cyberpunk 2020); Neil Gaiman (Scion); China Mieville, in an interesting case of the inspired inspiring the original. Star Wars and Monty Python. Fallout, Doctor Who, westerns, Mike Mignola, Heavy Metal. (The magazine.) Led Zeppelin and Iron Maiden.

Which, along with my earlier complaint that LeGuin and Clark Ashton Smith and some others had been neglected, actually compares pretty well to the new Appendix E:


5th Edition has worked hard to bring the feeling of D&D nostalgia, and out of all the bits designed to evoke the D&D feeling players have felt between, what, six editions now?, seeing Gygax’s list intact with additions is one of my favorite touches.

Most of it isn’t a huge stretch. Several of the new authors are admitted gamers, including Mieville, Martin, Saladin Ahmed, and Patrick Rothfuss (man I still can’t believe I didn’t mention him in the original); I don’t know if Glen Cook and Gene Wolfe were gamers but they write like it. Leaving Mervyn Peake, Ursula LeGuin, and Clark Ashton Smith off the original list always felt a crime, like it betrayed the limits of the creators’ libraries. Prattchet is a nice touch. And there’s a bit more diversity there, with more than three woman—Leigh Brackett, Margaret St. Clair, and Andre Norton are joined by Margaret Weis, LeGuin, Elizabeth Bear, and Patricia McKillip.

I used to roll my eyes at arguments that gaming gave you math skills, taught you cooperation, helped promote reading, things like that, but now I look back and see that yep it was true. Fiction, be it books or movies, ends up driving so many of the tropes and concepts RPGs live off; it’s a prime resource for the average gamer. For reading in specific, gaming works on two fronts: it not only promotes an interest in reading and creativity for those who may have needed some prodding to pick up a book, but it also gives the creative, reader-types another way to implement and use that creativity. Maybe there’s a reason you can point to famous authors and actors who’ve played RPGs.

It’s not a perfect list—Anne McCaffrey or Marion Zimmer Bradley would have been a welcome eighth female author; I find Karl Edward Wagner superior to most of the ’70s swords-and-sorcery Gygax listed; J.K. Rowling would be the perfect addition, great for giving the younger-ish reader some more age-appropriate material. Why only Golgotha Dancers for Manly Wade Wellman? etc. And there’s the issue of personal taste, and that not everyone will like every book on every list.

But Appendix E keeps the spirit alive, and is perhaps the most complete and balanced list you can find that fits on one page, that will appeals to a wide audience, and covers the last sixty-four years or so of fantasy (with some science fiction). For heroic dungeon fantasy gaming, you can’t go wrong with these titles.

A Wild Kickstarter Appears

You ever notice how there’s this long gap between interesting RPG Kickstarters, and then a whole bunch pop up simultaneously, and after months of semi-drought between Fate/*World projects there’s suddenly a half-dozen ways to empty your wallet on prospective games? No? Well it sure is nice being you, isn’t it.

Breakfast Cult – Funds Sept. 27th

Imagine a mashup between The Breakfast Club done high-school-anime-style and Call of Cthulhu, and you have this game. That’s really all I needed to hear. But there’s more! It’s powered by Fate Accelerated, and done by Ettin of RPG.net/SA who did Inverse World Accelerated.  Still more! Then there’s the stretch goals, bringing in other related tropes like more cults and magical girls; it’s looming over the eighth stretch goal, which takes you on a field trip to the dreamlands. Check out dat art! One of the most original Fate projects to date.

Broken World – Funds Oct. 2nd

And winning the award for “most enjoyable Kickstarter video I’ve seen in a good long while” is Broken World, powered by the Apocalypse. Really, it’s something you need to wtach. Broken World builds heavily on Dungeon World and brings a semi-humorous Gamma World-style post-apocalyptic setting, with some gorgeous art. Creator James “Cheapshot” Claus-Nesbitt is both writer and artist, and from the samples looks to excel at both. The project’s smashed through five of its stretch goals so far, with a few more in line (c’mon people!).

You’re probably wondering why we need another apocalyptic *World game, but I think the creator’s explanation is legit. Broken World is from the Dungeon World school rather than Apocalypse World, and there’s a notable difference between the two: Apoc cares a bit more about drama and relationships—the illustrious “sex moves” are a good example of that; it’s a game that wants to play out the aftermath of sleeping with someone. Dungeon World cares more about adventure and exploration, and to be honest is a bit more approachable and less strict in its approach to tone and play.

Spirit of 77 – Funds Oct. 2nd

And coming in at a close second for “most enjoyable Kickstarter video I’ve etc. etc.” would be this one for Spirit of ’77. I’ve always liked those gonzo settings that are a throwback to the 1970s (anyone else remember Damnation Decade or Solid? Much less Interstate 76). It’s a setting I wouldn’t mind playing around with, especially since Spirit of 77 awesome. It’s a project that got a lot of coverage across the internet; I assume it’s because of its unique setting, but if you take a look at the demo rules the game is a solid adaptation of Apocalypse World. (I especially love the attributes, and would totes borrow them for a FAE game.)

Smoke & Glass – Funds Oct. 3rd

Returning back to Fate for a moment. I haven’t paid as much attention to this one, but Smoke & Glass is a Fate Core supplement of steampunk urban fantasy. The emphasis leans heavily towards heists and crime, which is right up my alley; the description makes me think of Shadowrun… if the cyberware was replaced with brass horns, and the neon was replaced with soot and grit. It’s a stone’s throw away from its first stretch goal, which is a music EP for all backers—a real nice touch right three, since I dig soundscapes.

The Sprawl – Funds Oct. 3rd

Powered by the Apocalypse, The Sprawl is gritty neon-and-chrome cyberpunk action, its mission-centric design making some great use of *World’s countdown clocks for the planning and execution stages. This one also has a (very extensive) draft available for backers to peruse, and it looks like a solid adaptation of Apocalypse World to gritty ’80s cyberpunk. The first stretch goal funded was a set of missions, the second is $5,000 away and will introduce magic (cough Shadowrun cough).

[Fate Freeport] Robots! – Arachnid Robot

PZO9270-ArachnidRobotMore robots! More! Truth be told I’d been thinking a lot about hacking—and I use that term loosely in this instance since it’s not a huge stretch—hacking Fate Freeport to run something in the vein of Metamorphosis Alpha or Gamma World by way of Burn Shift. Especially since I’m now thinking about a science fantasy ala Barsoom mashup. No ideas or plots or anything yet, but that’s a genre I can run in my sleep.

So, the Arachnid Robot, from the Numeria setting book (on my trip across Paizo’s Science-Fantasy Sourcebooks of Note). This is kind of “baby’s first robot” where they swarm you and explode… which is kinda funny since the picture for them is pretty rad. They’re effectively mob-less mooks in Fate, and I’d consider throwing a couple at the players at once. (Explosion is the same as the corpse flower in the Fate Freeport Companion.)

In PF they’re also low-level enough (CR 1/2) to be a companion, and it mentions that technologists keep them as pets. I think it’s pretty awesome to have your own pet robot as some freakish Ranger animal companion or Wizard familiar. Just don’t let it get blow up and you’re jake.

Arachnid Robot
This dog-sized, spider-like robot has a plasma torch mounted on a stinger-like limb and gripping claws on its forelegs.
High Concept: Exploding Bug ‘Bot
Trouble: Fragile Systems Lead To Excellent Self-Preservation Instincts
Aspects: Can Go Almost Anywhere; Mission: To Repair and Salvage
Skills: STR -1, DEX +1, CON +0, INT +0, WIS +1, CHA -2
Ranged Attack: Plasma Torch (+1 DEX).
Defense: Dodge (+1 DEX)
Mental Stress: OO
Mental Consequences:
Moderate (-4):
Physical Stress: OO
Physical Consequences:
Moderate (-4):
Death Burst: When destroyed, the Arachnid Robot uses Plasma Torch for free with a +2 bonus (total bonus of +3).
Plasma Spray: By spending a Fate point, Plasma Torch can affect all targets in a zone.

[Fate Freeport] Robots! – Annihilator Robot

If you can’t guess, I like a good big stompy death machine every once in a while. Something to cap a campaign off with, once the characters have leveled a bit and have to save the world from some nefarious threat. Take for example one of the first Pathfinder robots, the Annihilator in the Inner Sea Bestiary (though it had several art appearances before that). This one was another attempt to see how much I could jam into Fate Freeport. In Pathfinder they’re CR 16 combat monsters, bristling with weapons and special attacks.

Oddly a direct conversion makes it less powerful, showing you how much was weighted towards its base attack bonus and level to make it deadly; the version below isn’t as powerful as some of the beasties in the Fate Freeport Companion, but it’s got a good set of stats and solid offensive/defensive abilities. Not a challenge to throw at beginners.


Annihilator Robot
This towering, scorpion-like construct makes tortured shrieks as it moves, its metallic weapons thrumming with otherworldly energy.
High Concept: Destruction Made Metal
Trouble: Eats Through Ammo
Aspects: Hulking War Machine; Mission: To Destroy and Enslave
Skills: STR +7, DEX +4, CON +4, INT +2, WIS +1, CHA -2
Ranged Attack: Dual Linked Chainguns (+4 DEX)
Defense: Armor Plating (+4 CON)
Mental Stress: OO
Mental Consequences
Moderate (-4):
Physical Stress: OOOO
Physical Consequences
Mild (-2):
Moderate (-4):
Hardness: Comes with armor plating on par with heavy armor, giving three free invokes/session.
Jump Jets: By spending a Fate point, the Annihilator Robot can move up to three zones ignoring any environmental/situational Aspects or similar hindrances.
Plasma Lance: By spending a Fate point, the Annihilator can unleash a ball of molten plasma from its tail on everyone in its zone. This is a CON attack against DEX. Anyone hit takes normal damage and is Bathed in Molten Plasma.

[Fate Freeport] Robots! – Collector Robot

I’ve always been a huge fan of science-fantasy, though it’s something of an untapped vein in fantasy gaming—for all those sword-and-planet novels where some earthman is whisked away to another planet in Appendix N, we pretty much just have Expedition to the Barrier Peaks and Adventures on Dungeon Planet. (I’m being facetious, but it really is an under-appreciated, if niche, genre.) The new Pathfinder adventure path, Iron Gods, is looking like a pretty rad science fantasy campaign in the “barbarians and robots” land of Numeria, which has me inspired. I’d like to run something in that vein—if not an Iron Gods conversion, at least some kind of science fantasy mashup.

To do that, I need robots.

Collector Robot
A soft whirring noise accompanies this flying mechanical creature. Its arms and hands end in spindly, multi-jointed fingers, and four circular rotors hold the creature aloft.
High Concept: Flying Collector Robot
Trouble: Prone To Electrical Overload; Fragile Sensor Suite
Aspects: All-Around Vision; Mission: To Acquire New Lifeforms
Skills: STR +3, DEX +3, CON +0, INT +1, WIS +2, CHA +0
Ranged Attack: Integrated Stun-Gun (+3 DEX) Nonlethal.
Defense: Reactive Gyros (+3 DEX)

Mental Stress: OOO

Mental Consequences:

Moderate (-4):

Physical Stress: OO
Physical Consequences:
Moderate (-4):
Advanced Tracking System: Gains +2 to Overcome with Wisdom when tracking.
Hardness: Comes with armor plating on par with light armor, giving one free invoke/session.

I started out with the collector ‘bot from the first Iron Gods module, giving it a bit more meat/crunch than my previous attempts. It’s a medium-sized CR 3 designed as a tracker/scout, and to acquire new lifeforms and bring them back for study. Robots in d20 don’t have any Constitution, which made that fun and interesting; rather than finagle with a Con score out of thin air I wanted to see how adversaries worked using the same armor system as players, figuring it may be a good fit for that. (Free invokes will draw combat out a bit more; ditch it if you prefer things fast and cinematic.)

Originally I was going to give it a stunt that put Biometric Tagging Chip Aspects on things, kind of like a dart gun to aid in tracking (and assist in aiming for future ranged attacks). But really, that’s what Create Advantage is for. Mentioning it as an idea generator.

This also brings us to the Nonlethal weapon tag:

Nonlethal Weapons

Nonlethal weapons, like stun-guns, tasers, and blackjacks, are designed to incapacitate instead of kill. A target may be Taken Out or take a Concession as normal with a nonlethal weapon, but neither should lead to the death of the target due to the weapon’s non-lethal nature: it knocks them out or stuns them without grievous bodily harm. Granted, someone with a heart condition may run into problems, and it’s always trouble if you’re stunned and unconscious when flying hundreds of feet in the air…

[Kickstarter] Tact-Tiles Reborn!

I’ve always had a tough time with gaming mats. The issue of use isn’t in question; I like to draw really crappy maps, sometimes a visual aid is worth a thousand pretty words, and I get a cool retro vibe from drawing out expansive ruins and dungeons as the players slowly explore them. It’s more the issue that despite all the RPG battlemaps and battlemats in the world, I’ve never found the perfect one for all situations:

  • Small map packs like Paizo’s Gamemastery line are great; they pack in a lot of details into a little space, but they tend to be too small in my opinion. Plus, my OCD tendencies get me annoyed when I’m either using a map once (and only once) or have to rely on the same 5″x8″ room for a dozen encounters. And as high-gloss, heavy cardstock, pre-printed designs, it gets expensive to pick up new ones for new encounters.
  • Big battlemats are expensive, but are worth their weight in gold. One of my friends got a miscut Chessex Mondomat, which is impressively huge at 54″x102″—I drew the entire monastery from the first Legacy of Fire volume on it. They roll up nicely, but you still end up with a big ungainly tube you’ve got to lug around, and getting to the edge of the map is always so frustrating—you have to erase the darn thing and redraw any relevant sections. Using them on a carpeted floor was also a challenge; one friend snagged some pieces of fiberglass to lay on his mat to keep it flat and protected.
  • Or you could go the route of the Dwarven Forge miniatures terrain tiles. I’ve seen them in use and the tiles are gorgeous, just great to see the quality of those. Having walls made things pretty interesting as well, giving a little more depth to things. But arranging them for each room gave a decent delay, and the price of them is beyond my scope—I didn’t have $300 lying around during either of the Kickstarters, and sort of balk at throwing a few hundred dollars at painted scenery tiles.

Long ago, I heard of a legendary RPG mapping solution that solved most of these problems while only having a few of its own—the biggest problem was that their first publisher vanished from the internet and production ceased, despite rave reviews from the likes of Monte Cook, R.A. Salvatore, and a Gnome Stew review. This solution was Tact-Tiles, and thanks to a Kickstarter running now, they’re going back into production.

Tact-Tiles in their un-adorned, natural state.

I’m really interested in Void Star Studios’ kickstarter for Tact-Tiles because those look like they’d solve a number of problems I’ve had with mats/maps while covering the same benefits as a normal. Made of heavy plastic, Tact-Tiles are 10″ square-ish map tiles that lock together like a puzzle. The tiles are only one-sided, but the grid side takes wet and dry erase markers, and the grid is laid out with a mix of thin and thick lines to help distinguish distances. You can arrange them in non-standard designs, like L’s and T’s and crosses and the like, which gives a wider range of options to map with.

Even better, when someone progresses past the edge of the map, just plop down another Tact-Tile and continue on. Or if you’re out of Tact-Tiles, take one of them from far back at the beginning—one of those sections that has already been explored and isn’t going to be revisted anytime soon—erase that and slot it in. Voila! No more erasing the map just to keep progressing: you just need to erase what’s no longer useful. I’ve seen people use maps, mats, and even dry erase boards, and one of the few issues has always been that progressing past the map’s edge means the whole thing needs to be scrubbed.

Even just four Tact-Tiles makes a pretty sizable 20″x20″ map.

Yeah, that’s fine, but what if you’re using a game that doesn’t use a grid—games with abstract distances like Fate or Dungeon World? Void Star thought of that, and is also offering blank tiles to go with the gridded ones. While I don’t think I’ll need as many blank tiles as grid tiles, I’m glad Void Star included them. It’s nice to see some coverage for all systems—especially since Void Star has their own Fate products—and they do look like they’d offer enough of a benefit over a dry erase board to pick up a few.

The only drawback is the price; none of these mapping options is cheap, and since Tact-Tiles are petroleum-based they do come with a decent pricetag. I’m figuring they’ll more than last long enough to pay for themselves; given how rugged hard plastic can be, I’d expect them to hold up through the wars. (And there’s still a few lucky souls out there with their original Tact-Tiles in functioning order).

Here’s what six tiles can do: that’s pretty impressive.

And did I also mention that as 10″ squares, they’re a lot more portable than lugging around a huge rolled-up mat, or a zillion bits of scenery tiles?

I relied on someone else having the Megamat/Mondomat for years, and now find myself without a map-bearer. Perfect time to kick for Tact-Tiles for me, because they’re filling a sizable gap in my gaming arsenal—I have all those dang Reaper Bones, but nothing to put them on. Ideally I’d like 9 or 12 gridded Tact-Tiles and 4 blanks for Fate/DW, though I’ll have to balance what I can afford with what I’d actually use… even 6 Tact-Tiles is a huge arsenal, as you can see from some of the neat samples on the Kickstarter page.

There’s still four days to pledge for your own; funding is currently closing on $81,000 out of a $90,000 goal ($ USD), though based on current trends I’d be very surprised (and quite disappointed) if they didn’t fund.

[Fate] Dynamism At Work

One of the things that I love about Fate is that there’s always multiple ways to interpret or implement an idea, and none of them are wrong. For example, let’s say your character has an Aspect—even better, they have a Consequence. Broken Leg. How do you interpret it? What does that mean? How does it impact that character?

  1. Compels: “Well, don’t you think running after him may be a bit much on that Broken Leg?” *brandishes Fate Point* This one requires a leap into Fate narrative logic—having a broken leg only matters when you’re compelled, so you either don’t have to worry about it or you get a FP for it. (That said, giving up a Fate Point to resist the Compel is a big cost.) That leap of physics leaves me a bit cold due to its inconsistency—the Consequence only affects the narrative when it’s compelled to do so, and if it matters every time a related action comes up the player will be drowning in Fate Points from Compels—but it has a good mechanical balance to it.
  2. Unfriendly/Hostile Invoke: “Well, because you’ve got that Broken Leg, I’m going to take a +2 to my roll to outrun you.” *spends Fate Point* What’s good about this method is that it’s super-transient; it doesn’t cost the player anything and doesn’t restrict their options but still provides a challenge. They also get a Fate point for it… but it’s at the end of the scene.
  3. Aspects (including Consequences Are Always True: “Well, you have a Broken Leg, that means you have a broken leg.” By taking that Consequence, you just narrated yourself into having a broken leg. You aren’t going to be sprinting anywhere, will take longer to go up and down ladders, and will have some issues with movement actions. There’s no compel, no expenditure or gain—the Fate Point status quo—you just can’t do certain things. It’s probably a bit too absolute for most Fate tables. But it can work both ways (e.g., on the opposition), and some groups love this kind of thing.
  4. As above, but rather than preventing actions, “Aspects being true” justifies a higher difficulty: if everyone else needs to make a +0 Athletics roll to jump from rooftop to rooftop, your Broken Leg may see difficulties raised slightly (requiring a +1 or +2 Athletics roll). You’re still allowed to act, even though it’s less attractive than usual, has a higher chance to fail, and is more draining (represented by the fact you’ll spend some Fate Points after you roll enough -‘s on those slightly-higher difficulties).
  5. Or “Aspects are always true,” but lead to narrative justification of the four actions: “Because you have a Broken Leg, you’ll need to Overcome using Physique to chase that dude into another zone.” It’s requiring the use of an action (usually Overcome) to accomplish something you’d normally be able to do without cost. In this case, movement into a nearby zone doesn’t usually cost something, but with that busted-up leg you’re going to have to hobble like the wind without hurting yourself further.
  6. Or pull out ye olde Fate Time chart, and say that due to that problematic Aspect, it’ll take one step longer to complete an action—climbing up that fire escape may take A Few Minutes for all the healthy people, but 15 Minutes because of your *Broken Leg*.
  7. Or you could haggle between Player and GM, again backing up a gain with a cost: “How about I do manage to scramble up after them, but from straining to keep up I hurt my leg more—move it up from a Moderate to a Severe Consequence?”

With all those options, most of them can work together in the same game depending on the circumstances—3 is the exception; I would either use for all instances or none. I tend to like the methods 4 and 5 because they don’t completely limit what you can do, but instead make it more challenging than it normally would be. Which is a pretty accurate representation of a Broken Leg: it’s not like you can’t climb a ladder on it, it’s just more complicated.

But, really, there’s no wrong answer besides what you as a group/table feel is the best at the time. There’s probably a bunch of options I didn’t even think of. And I think that’s kinda cool.

RPG Review – Grim World

There’s a backlog of RPG products I’ve meant to comment on for some time now; first in was Grim World, a supplement for both Dungeon World and Fate.

While I missed the Kickstarter, I barely got my order in before the post-Kickstarter gateway closed in December, and ended up with my own personalized copy. If you wanted it, the designers would draw a unique Dungeon World move on the inside cover; I got the Zen Skunk. Probably because I was late. (I’m being sarcastic; it’s pretty awesome.)

What is it?

Grim World is a sourcebook containing material dual-statted for Dungeon World and Fate Core, mainly character classes and ideas designed to evoke a dark fantasy world. It’s more creepy/kooky than pure blood-and-guts, kind of like if Dungeon World had played a lot of Warhammer Fantasy and Dragon Age, but wanted something more epic. Cinematic grittiness, if you will.

What Makes It Awesome?

Let’s start with the design: it’s a full color hardcover, with full-bleed full-page full-color art that is impressive to behold. I’ve seen books from “professional” game companies that don’t look half this good—it’s a thing beauty. The only mild complaint is that the paper is matte instead of high gloss, but given costs that was an understandable choice, and doesn’t change that much.

Anyway, the rules. Grim World is kind of like those 4thcore or OSR games—almost but not to the point of Wicked Fantasy Factory—where the world is brutal and the characters may (will?) eventually die—especially thanks to the new “Death Moves,” in which player death leaves a lasting impact upon the world. (These are very tastefully done: they don’t break the mindset of DW/Fate, and kind of add to the narrative style by making sure death is not ignominious.) It’s a dark and brutal fantasy world, with a lot of inspiration from Lovecraft (e.g., a lot of Lovecraft love in the bestiary chapter). You can tone it down—it’s still Dungeon World, it’s no character-eating Call of Cthulhu or depressing Warhammer or something—but where’s the fun in that?

The meat of the book are the 7 new classes: each have Dungeon World playbooks and Fate Core character building pages. Classes include the tactical genius Battlemaster, spirit binding Shaman, undead-controlling Necromancer, and mobile Skirmisher. The Dungeon World playbooks are slick two-page affairs with new moves customized to the classes; as mentioned, each class gets its own death move that leaves a lasting mark and makes no death in vain. The Fate sections include background ideas and a lot of suggested Aspects and big lists of Stunts to aid in creation. (I kinda love that presentation for Fate; choosing from a predetermined list is a lot more limiting but gives the D&D feeling of character class while still allowing a realm of flexibility.) Also, the death moves make an appearance. Because they are what make Grim World AWESOME.

There’s a lot of supplemental material as well, from the Kickstarter’s stretch goals. The large bestiary includes a ton of new Dungeon World monsters, which is another big draw in my book; these also have some Aspects on the Fate side, as well as the monster’s three peak skills. There’s some artifacts, a bunch of playable races, a really cool GM toolkit to build locations, and even a Dungeon World/Fate hybridization hack. Plus community content, though it’s Dungeon World only. Lots of good stuff in here.

Would I run this?

Hells yeah, kick in the door and start crawling that Dungeon World! I already have tons of ideas for running this. (When I saw the Darkest Dungeons Kickstarter a while back, my first thought was to use Grim World for a pen-and-paper version.) My only problem is finding a local group that’s willing to give Dungeon World a shot, though I feel that is turning around as the *World games gain popularity. More to the point, I think the aesthetic is a bit specific and won’t sell everyone; as much as I love it, not everyone hears “dark fantasy world with death moves” and goes “Huh, that sounds like fun.”

The bigger question is whether to run it in Dungeon World or Fate Core, choosing between my current favorite systems. There’s a lot more content in the book for Dungeon World, so I’d probably go in that direction—to be honest, it gives a lot of monsters, classes, and ideas for the Dungeon World GM, but most of what it’s giving Fate are some sample Stunts/Aspects for specific class ideas, and some vague outlines for monsters and other things. That is my biggest nitpick with it—the Fate content feels a bit slim and tacked-on—but as a fan of both games, the more the merrier. And the writers didn’t just grok the mindset of the two systems, they also came up with an innovative, creative, and balanced product.

If Boldly Games releases any other content for Dungeon World (or Fate for that matter), they have my hard-earned dollars. On time for the Kickstarter this time, I promise.

Grim World can be purchased for $15 as a .pdf, or if you act fast, $40 for print + .pdf. (It’s a hardcover with lush production values; if you’re interested, it’s worth it.) EDIT: if you wanted the dead tree edition, too late, they’re all gone. Check eBay.

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