Friday, May 24, 2013

Beyond the Wall: It Takes a Crowd to Source a Village

One of the best parts of Flatland Games' Beyond the Wall & Other Adventures neoclone is the way that its character playbooks seamlessly merge character creation and setting creation: as the players generate their YA-fantasy heroes, they simultaneously build and populate the heroes' home village. I thought it would be interesting to go through this process publicly, and so I asked for some partners-in-crime over at the Google+ OSR community.

Our premise is that the participants' blogs are actually players sitting at a table and going through Beyond the Wall character creation. Each blog is "seated" to the right of another blog, so the character it creates will take part in another character's backstory (as per chart 6 in each Beyond the Wall playbook). In addition, the locations and NPCs generated by each blog will be combined into a single village map and NPC key.

Here's the list of participants, blogs, and playbook choices in the order in which they're seated at the virtual table:

+Rob Barrett of Vargold: The Wolf-Time is creating a Dwarven Adventurer.
+Brett Slocum of The Eye of Joyful Sitting Amongst Friends is creating a Would-Be Knight.
+Henry Wong of The Campaign Expanse is creating a Self-Taught Mage.
+Pearce Shea of games with others is creating a Witch's Prentice.
+Anthony Simeone of Once More Unto the Breach is creating a Young Woodsman.
+Mike Lizardi of Fear No Darkness is creating a Halfling Outrider.

Brett is to my right, Henry is to Brett's right, Pearce is to Henry's right, Anthony is to Pearce's right, Mike is to Anthony's right, and I'm to Mike's right. Playbooks were selected in reverse order (i.e., Mike got first choice, Anthony second, and so on).

Before we begin, I'd like to thank the others for agreeing to take part in this exercise. Look for the first character post soon!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Fate Accelerated: Menolly of Half-Circle Sea Hold

Ever since I was a boy I've had a soft spot in my literary heart for Anne McCaffrey's first six Pern books: Dragonflight (1968), Dragonquest (1971), Dragonsong (1976), Dragonsinger (1977), The White Dragon (1978), and Dragondrums (1979). The three Harper Hall books—Dragonsong, Dragonsinger, and Dragondrums--are my particular favorites, both because I prefer Menolly to Lessa as a protagonist and because I like empathic fire lizards better than telepathic dragons. It's also the case that the Bantam paperback edition of Dragonsong (the one with the amazing Elizabeth Malczynski cover, reproduced above) was the first Pern book I encountered—so I guess we Impressed one another.

I was always miffed that a tabletop Pern roleplaying game never came about. I did spend a little time on one of the Pern MUSHes in the 1990s, but I soon tired of playing an Ista Weyr guard while all the established MUSHers were off having tinysex with their dragons elseweyr.

When reading Fate Accelerated Edition, it occurred to me that here was the perfect ruleset to run a Harper Hall game. (I suspect that a Dragonriders game would be better served by Fate Core.) Menolly as depicted at the start of Dragonsong was the obvious choice for a sample character. Here she is:

Menolly of Half-Circle Sea Hold

High Concept: Apprentice to the Deceased Harper Petiron
Trouble: Only a Girl
Aspects: Youngest Child of Sea Holder Yanus, Tall and Lanky


Clever +3, Careful +2, Quick +2, Forceful +1, Sneaky +1, Flashy +0


Because I am a Musical Prodigy, I get a +2 to Cleverly create advantages when writing songs.

"Apprentice to the Deceased Harper Petiron" represents Menolly's musical skill and training, while "Only a Girl" (a direct quote from the first page of the novel) is the source of all her difficulties: women aren't supposed to be Harpers, period. "Youngest Child of Sea Holder Yanus" covers her family situation, her elevated position within Half-Circle Sea Hold, and her various fishing-related abilities. "Tall and Lanky" accounts for Menolly's athletic aptitudes even while it also undercuts her appropriateness for the female responsibilities forced upon her by her Trouble. I've left one Aspect slot open for Menolly's unprecedented Impressing of nine fire lizards (e.g., "More Fire Lizards Than Anyone Else on Pern"?).

"Musical Prodigy" is my first attempt at a Stunt; Menolly's playing is certainly skillful, but it's her song-writing ability and the intricacy of her tuning that makes her stand out. Once she picks up her fire lizard aspect, I envision giving her some sort of fire lizard stunt, possibly a defensive one (reflecting the overwhelming assault her lizards carry out when someone threatens Menolly).

Thoughts? Suggestions for improvement?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Beyond the Wall: Dwarves, Elves, and Halflings, Oh My!

Flatland Games has now released Dwarves, Elves, and Halflings, their second free supplement for the Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures neoclone. Once again there's an introductory booklet with new fae-themed spells (e.g., Elf Shot, which lets a character imbue an arrow with paralyzing power) and NPCs to use in adventures (e.g., the Erl-King, a powerful fae lord who is as likely to play tricks on the characters as serve as their patron). There are also six demi-human playbooks, two for each kindred: the Dwarven Adventurer (Warrior), the Dwarven Rune Caster (Warrior-Mage), the Elven Highborn (Warrior-Mage), the Elven Ranger (Rogue-Mage), the Halfling Outrider (Warrior-Rogue), and the Halfling Vagabond (Rogue). This time round the killer app is the Halfling Outrider's magic pony: you get a 1d6 roll to find out what your pony's special talent is. I'm partial to the pony who can open doors, climb stairs, and always find the good stuff the tavern-keeper otherwise hides.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

RIP, Ray Harryhausen

My favorite of Ray's many amazing monsters (although Medusa from Clash of the Titans runs a very close second). A giant has passed today.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Fate Accelerated: The Grey Mouser

I've been tinkering with the draft of Fate Accelerated Edition, the rules-light version of Evil Hat Publishing's upcoming Fate Core game, and thought I'd post this FAE version of Fritz Leiber's Grey Mouser for comment. It's based on my 2010 write-up of the Mouser for Barbarians of Lemuria, although I've opted for the Mouser of "Jewels in the Forest" (the first published Nehwon story) instead of the "Ill Met in Lankhmar" version I used before.

The Grey Mouser

High Concept: Rogue of All Trades
Trouble: Curiosity Killed the Cat
Aspects: Bromancing the Stone with Fafhrd, Failed Wizard's Apprentice, Surgeon with a Blade


Quick +3
Clever, Sneaky +2
Careful, Flashy +1
Forceful +0

I'm holding off on generating some stunts for the Mouser because I still don't fully grok them, even with the streamlined FAE rules. I do think that at least one stunt should handle the Mouser's noted ability with a sling while another might deal with the statement in "Jewels" that Mouser is an expert forger of documents and objects. With a Refresh of 3, the Mouser technically gets a third stunt, but I'm not sure what that could be.

Overall, I'm quite pleased with the way that FAE cuts to the chase. The approaches (how the character gets things done) are a nice alternative to skills, and I like the system's relegation of magic to little more than an aspect. Any changes that need making here?