Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Masters of Umdaar [Fate Accelerated Edition]

Evil Hat has just released Dave Joria's Masters of Umdaar, the latest "World of Adventure" for use with the Fate system (specifically the Fate Accelerated variant of the rules). As Joria notes in his introduction to the book, Masters of Umdaar is more or less a love letter to Planetary Romance; he mentions John Carter, Thundarr, Kamandi, Flash Gordon, She-Ra, Thundercats ... you get the picture. Players take on the identity of brave Archeonauts, freedom fighters protecting the Lands of Light from the evil Masters of the Dark Domains by seeking out the lost technologies of the Demiurge. The game's motto: "When in doubt, dinosaur!"

I did not take much convincing to fork over the recommended $4 PWYW price.

The real selling point, though, is the random "bioform" generator. If a player is willing, they can roll up their character's bioform—mostly inspiration for Fate aspects and stunts, but also a way of suggesting what one's best approach should be. I see this system as "Fate char-gen meets Gamma World char-gen," and I give it an Incredible Hercules thumbs up:

Results range from your bog-standard Humanoid through Energy Being and Mutawarrior to Chimera and Cytyr (a cybernetic satyr). Many of the bioform results direct you to make additional roles on the Animal Kingdom chart, which is in turn divided into sub-charts for Invertebrates and Marine Life; Reptiles, Amphibians, and Dinosauria; and Birds and Mammals.

You then select one of several classes. Joria suggests that the FAE approach attached to your bioform guide you in selecting your class: e.g., a Sneaky Mutant would do well to become a Rogue or Illusionist, while a Flashy Energy Being might make an effective Swashbuckler or Courtier. Note that this is only a suggestion, not a requirement. Your Mutant does not have to be sneaky, roguish, or illusionary. But her class choice will determine her ratings in the six FAE approaches. (New classes are as easy as assigning one approach to Good +3, two approaches to Fair +2, two approaches to Average +1, and one approach to Mediocre +0.)

Characters have just four aspects. The first is the high concept aspect (referencing the character's bioform, class, and lead approach); the second is the motive aspect (phrased as "I must [fill in the blank]"); the third is a personal aspect related to the character alone; and the fourth is a social aspect linking the character to at least one other member of the party. (The decision to pare the number of aspects down to four is a good one for a quick-playing variety of Fate.)

Finally, you are encouraged to pick two stunts. These fall into three categories: Powers (mystical and superhuman), Weapons (technological and item-based), and Adaptations (biological and evolutionary). You can randomly determine your stunts, and you are also given three very simple verbal formulas for making more. Since stunts are always the hardest part of Fate for me, I appreciate both the charts and the formulas.

There are also rules for Cliffhangers (a pulpier version of Atomic Robo RPG's already pulpy Brainstorming system) and charts for generating beasts, monsters, and artifacts. Plus a pre-generated adventure (which I want to test-drive). All in all, an awful lot for what's effectively a free product (although I do think the recommended $4 charge is fair to the creators and a steal at that).