Published on 8/28/2014 Written by 6 comments

Five Reasons the FATE RPG is Awesome and Why The Rest of the World Sucks for Not Telling Me About it Sooner

Seriously, it's been out for over 10 years, someone should have pointed this out to me.

It's not like I was completely unaware of FATE. I knew it existed, I had heard of it, knew it won a bunch of awards. But in my "lalalala" land of blissful ignorance, I had no idea I was letting such a brilliant gaming system go by unmolested.

Since I know there are a few non-gamers and casual enthusiasts who read this blog, here is FATE in a nutshell (those of you who already know about it can skip this part and hang their heads in shame FOR NOT TELLING ME):

5. Cool Dice
This is not incredibly important in and of itself, but I always appreciate games that have something a little different that makes them stand out. Instead of using the numbered polyhedron dice you're used to, it uses FUDGE dice, which are 6-siders marked with two "+" signs, two "-" and two "blanks," which are considered Zero or even. All of the actions - absolutely everything - is resolved by rolling these dice and adding the appropriate bonuses (based on your character), trying to hit or beat a number.

4. Character Creation is actually "Creative" and SO Much Fun
The game is open and flexible. You don't make characters according to pre-set rules and templates. You make whatever you want, based on how you want your dude to react to the story and the world around him. If you want to make an acrobat thief, you don't have to pick through the rulebook and choose all the proper classes, races and feats to make an acrobatic thief, and then roll and hope you do well enough to actually be graceful. You write "Acrobat Thief" on your character sheet and *POOF* that's what you are.

3. It's Incredibly Story-Driven
Relationships to other characters, events and locations are important. You're not simply rolling dice to kill the next monster and determine how much treasure you get. Success is great, but failure is also an important part of the game as it determines how you and the world evolves. It's not that there's no strategy - you still need to roll well and choose your moments to succeed, but sometimes it's better to fail to give you bonuses for later on.

2. It's Generic and Endlessly Customizable
This one is so important. It works equally well with D&D-style fantasy as it does with pulp noire detectives or westerns or sci-fi or superheroes. Because it's about telling a story and creating dramatic conflicts and scenes, it's not so important if your character has a "Swordfighting" skill or a "Computer Hacking" skill. Well, actually, those things are important, depending on the game, but you get to decide which you need because...

1. Campaign/World Design is encouraged to be done together between the players and game master
There are hundreds upon hundreds of fan-created FATE hacks out there, in addition to some awesome official stuff, but the best part of FATE is creating or modifying your own world. There are even rules and worksheets in the book for this. This is so simple and I'm sure other games have done this before, but I've never seen it so concise and obvious. Everyone has a say in the game. Everyone can put their fingerprints on the world setting. The best games are the ones where players are truly invested in the world and how their actions affect it - what better way to do this than if they helped create it in the first place?

Not even counting those 5 great examples, the main reason I'm excited for FATE is that I see so much potential for PBEM (Play-By-E-Mail), which is how most of my games are run. In PBEM, finicky, nitpicking rules are a pain (I really learned my lesson playing 4E via email). I can see FATE working so, so much better, because the rules leave so much freedom for the powers and abilities of the players when they're writing in more detail of what their characters are doing.

I'm sure there are people out there who are not fans of FATE, and that's cool. I can understand if you want something with better defined rules and more structure (though to be fair, you can totally ramp up the rules and complexity of FATE if that's your cup of tea). But the fact is, this is just the kind of game I love, for all the reasons I listed above and more.

Now I just have to decide on what style of game to play. FATE would work perfectly for the Orange is the New Black game I envisioned a few months ago. It could be used for Splatter-Elf. It would work with a Walking Dead/Zombie survival/Horror setup, but I've always wanted to run a western-themed game, too. Watching my son's cartoons, I bet I could even come up with a bitchin' hack for Thomas the Tank Engine (there's some serious race wars going on in that show that would make for some great conflict and drama).

I suspect the next one will be a Sci-Fi space opera. My players love playing in universes they're familiar with. But will it be Star Wars? ROBOTECH? Battlestar Galactica? Serenity? Wing Commander?

Or maybe some unholy combination of all of them....


(No actually, that would be terrible. Any suggestions on what to play are welcome. As are gushy love letters to FATE.)

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Published on 8/21/2014 Written by 7 comments

How much Sex & Violence do you like in your games?

I've been pondering this question the last few days. I never really considered it in the past - it was always whatever seemed appropriate in the moment - but lately, spending more time in discussion online has made me realize that some people have strong opinions on this one way or the other.

First of all, let me state that I hate how "sex" and "violence" are always lumped together discussing the appropriateness or maturity of content, because they are completely different things that should probably be handled in separate conversations. The only reason I use them together in this scenario is because I suspect the biggest sticking point for most people will be the area where "sex" and "violence" blurs.

So how much violence is too much? For some players, just saying "You do 10 damage. He dies." is all the violence you need and they don't even think about it. For others, they want it to be really graphic, with descriptions of severed intestines spilling blood and feces onto the floor coupled with the sounds of ribs popping and tendons snapping. Does that turn you off from a game? Is it the responsibility of the GM and players to decide, or should the level of gore be suggested by the game itself?

As for sex, I know it's a touchy subject with many people. How much loving and boning do you want in your games? I posed a similar question a few years ago and most of the feedback was "we just fade to black and hand-wave the details." Yet from what I've been reading lately, there seems to be a market, or a least a sizable niche, for games that aren't afraid to shy away from sex.

I am fascinated by Lamentations of the Flame Princess, and I know there are a lot of fans of that game in the circles I frequent. When I first checked out the free (no-art) basic rules, it seemed like a really cool, streamlined retro-clone. It wasn't until I started digging a bit (and saw the actual art!) that I realized how incredibly dark and horrifying it is. There's a lot of sex and violence in there and the two are intrinsically tied together. On the other hand, it's still not as explicit or obscene as some of the stuff I've read from White Wolf. The LofFP modules (at least the ones I've read) mentions and implies a lot of sexual violence but doesn't spell it out too explicitly. It's kind of like it passes the buck to the GM, expecting them to take responsibility for putting that stuff in the game, even if the module kinda assumes that you will. It's a fine line that I think is brilliantly played even if no one in their right minds can argue that LotFP is isn't set in a dark, sexual world.

Full disclosure for bringing up this topic: I'm trying to find a sweet spot for the game I'm tinkering with. I know I want gore, blood and guts, but I'm wondering how much "tits and ass" should go in there along with it. To clarify, the violence in my game is so over-the-top that it's almost cartoon-y. Should the sex be the same? Should it be dick jokes and high school toilet humour? Should I steer clear of it altogether? I feel like it should be broached in some fashion.

I know I don't want to go that deep down the rabbit-hole, but how far is too far? Magical chainmail bikinis would fit perfectly in my game, as would giant crab lice and +1 magic wands of vibration. Should it just be left at that tongue-in-cheek kind of level, and leave the rest up to the player's and GM's imagination? That would be my gut reaction, but dark stuff seems to be all the rage these days. Do folks want this included in their games?

As an average RPG fan and gamer, what level of sex and/or violence are you comfortable with/want in your games?
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Published on 8/20/2014 Written by 3 comments

Timeless Games for Timeless Activities

Up here in the Southern Ontario portion of Canada we have a tradition called "cottaging".  It's very different then what the urban dictionary says it is.  What we do is pack up the car on a Friday, drive 2 to 5 hours in extreme traffic, hang out in a small building with limited amenities, and then drive home in the same ridiculous traffic 48 hours later.  Sounds crazy, right?
But there are some up sides.  Most of the time you are in a beautiful setting on the water somewhere, with lots of toys to play with, and with lots of fun friends and family.  And in the evenings, there's not much to do besides play games. So here are some of the classics that come up often with my friends and family at the cottage.

Sorry, wrong Bauer...
1) Euchre. This is a trick collecting card game with 24 cards, which can be made from any standard 52 card deck.  It is most often played by 4 players in pairs, though there are 2, 3 and 6 player variants. Trump is called by a player and that player's team must collect more than half the tricks in that hand to gain their point.  The full rules are available here.  This game has a fair amount of strategy to keep it interesting.  It also helps to know your partner and their playing style as you must trust them to help you and no table talk is allowed.

Betty White has always been awesome.
2) Password.  This game has many other names, but this is the most common as it is based on the 1960's TV show.  There are many versions of this as a board game, but we play a simplified version that requires nothing to be bought other than some paper and pens.  In our version, we cut paper in to small strips, and each player gets a set number (usually 10 to 15) of them.  On each strip they write a word or simple phrase.  All the strips are then folded and put in to a bowl.  Players are divided in to teams.  One player from a team takes a piece at a time from the bowl and attempts to get their teammates to say the words on the paper by describing them, but without saying any of the words themselves.  They do this for as many as they can in 1 minute.  Play is then passed to the next team.  One point is scored for each word correctly guessed. Any passed words go back in to the bowl and are counted as a negative point. Once all words are guessed, points are totaled and a winner declared.

Not sure these ones are
in the official dictionary.
3) Scrabble.  A classic game for 2 to 4 players that never gets old in my opinion.  Players make words with letter tiles and score based on the value of each letter plus modifiers on the board.  There are official word lists and Scrabble dictionaries.  It is up to the players to decide what words will be accepted before the game starts.  I prefer some of the older word lists that don't accept some foreign words.  The best part of this game is that it is always a learning experience, and a chance to expand your vocabulary.

With friends we also play a ton of newer games; Euro board games like Ticket to Ride, Carcassone, and many of the others I've mentioned on this blog, and Cards Against Humanity is becoming a great favourite - but not when I play with my parents...
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Published on 8/12/2014 Written by 4 comments

So my players fought a vagina...

So more Splatter-Elf happened on Splatterday night. Despite me being (at least in my opinion) woefully unprepared, I think we had a pretty good night.

There was significantly less combat than previous games, and probably not enough for good play-testing purposes, but the players seemed to just want to talk their way out of everything. Usually after picking fights with stuff way out of their league than backpedaling when they realized they were fucked.

Truthfully, maybe I shouldn't have let them befriend the troll AFTER they paralyzed and urinated on him, and certainly shouldn't have let them buy their freedom with half a coil of rope, a rusty dagger and a burnt-out torch, but the troll was given the promise of great riches and heaps of treasure, which is all he really wanted anyway. He was a smart enough troll to know that a troll's life span is decidedly shorter when pressed by a gang of dedicated adventurers. And true to their word, the players did return and pay off the troll after they dealt with a giant vagina pit monster.

Not as sexy as you would have imagined.
Long-time readers will know that this is actually the second time a vagina has appeared on Rule of the Dice. In John's case it was entirely accidental, but I can't feign ignorance; I knew damn well what I was doing.

My version of the Sarlacc Pit is the Sandimangina, a Splatter-Elf original which is basically carnivorous lady parts in the ground, but when it consumes a hapless victim and sucks out their blood and internal organs, the pit spits the poor bastard back out as a sort of sand-filled ghoul. Kinda like a scarecrow stuffed with dirt that only exists to find more victims to lure back to their unholy "mother."

Oh, and the thing is covered with giant crab lice that the ghouls would use as ammunition in their slings to fling at the players, which would then latch onto their victims and start sucking their blood.

One of the players had the quote of the night when he said, quite earnestly, after pulling a giant crab louse off his face and getting stuck in the pit up to his waist (losing his boots in the process):

"Does Splatter-Elf have any free clinics?"

That's just how we roll in Groteskia. The squeamish need not apply.
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Published on 8/05/2014 Written by 0 comments


No big post today. I've been doing short daily updates over on Google+ following the #RPGaDay gimmick. So if you've always wanted to know what my first, favourite and weirdest games, etc are, follow me or circle me on Google+. All the cool kids are doing it.

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