Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Rogue Trader Campaign Log - Session 21 : Return of the Ancient Enemy [Endgame]

As Oberlieutenant Jurgen Borsch hung motionless in space, only the cockpit of his fighter craft separating him from vacuum his comrade Navigator York Benetec was sat in the meeting room of the Venerus, in conference with Captain Ajoku of the Imperial Destroyer Vigilance and Polaris Black (cousin to Admiral Fortunus and acting captain of the Venerus. Ajoku produced a data stick and plugged it into the display that squatted in the centre of the large table, a flickering scene showing an Imperial Satellite under attack by vast pyramidal ships sprang into hazy life in the air above the display, "As we left the system we came across some of the outer defences that the enemy had only disabled rather than destroyed, we were able to remotely link with them and pull this footage" explained Ajoku.

In the same system, aboard the Clanship Rod Hant, Enginseer Prime Pak (now captain) had learned his lessons well, still sore that his ship had been very nearly snatched out from under him, the Enginseer began the construction and installation of a remote kill-switch that would enable him to shut down the vital functions aboard the ship should anyone attempt to take it from him.

Below on the asteroid known to the local inhabitants as the "Eye of Byggmeister" (and which had been discovered to actually be the ruined remnants of the Adeptus Astartes vessel that had originally bought humans to this sector) Admiral Black was leading his men through the maze of twisting metallic corridors and vents that comprised the damaged shits interior, ahead of them they could hear the unsuspecting Clan Klok party that they were following continuing their exploration. Suddenly, the thin air was filled with the sound of gunfire and screaming for a few moments before falling silent; moving cautiously ahead the party discovered the butchered remnants of the Clan Klok party in a secure chamber, two weaponised combat servitors hung ominously from the ceiling, their heavy bolt weapons still smoking. Admiral Black realised that they would no doubt lose a lot of men trying to get past the servitors but that whatever lay in the chamber beyond them must be a worthy prize if it required so much protection; searching the area he eventually discovered a ventilation tunnel that appeared to lead into the chamber and would circumvent the need to pass by the servitors. Ordering his men to holster their weapons Admiral Black lead them into the ventilation system.

A few moments later, Admiral Black found himself staring down into a chamber the likes of which he had never seen before; a strange assemblage of technology head what looked like a golden urn bearing the markings of the Space Wolf chapter of the Adeptus Astartes, there also appeared to a be a member of the Astartes there, frozen in the act of reaching towards the golden urn. Assuring himself there was no-one else present the Admiral pushed the grating free and it tumbled down towards the floor of the chamber, however, Fortunus was surprised when, instead of hitting the floor with a clang, it stopped in mid-air and hung their silently as though frozen in time. Realising that the time effect must be connected with the urn the Admiral threw his personal vox device onto the urn and (using a vox from one of his men) contacted the Venerus to have the teleportarium lock onto his vox and transport the urn directly to the teleportarium chamber aboard the Veneurs; a few moments later there was a bright flash of light and the urn disappeared.

In the meeting room York Benetec spoke into his personal vox following a communication from the teleportarium chamber where he was aprised of the object that now resided within; with Polaris needed on the bridge (since apparently the energy readings from the asteroid had intensified) Benetec invited Ajoku to accompany him to the chamber.

Standing outside the glasscrete isolation bubble of the teleportarium Benetec explained to Ajoku and the technicians manning the machinery that they may have just saved some ancient Adeptus Astartes geneseed, the genetic material used to create humanity's finest warriors. Ajoku opened his mouth as though to replace and a torrent of metallic silver insects began to pour from his body as it spasmed and quaked; recognising them as similar to the devices used by the ancient enemy, Benetec sealed himself within the glasscrete bubble (with the golden urn) whilst the technicians struggled to escape, sealing the exits behind them (although some were dragged down below the rising tide of beetles.

"Give us the new host" said the thing that used to be Ajoku, metallic fibres sprouting from it's once human flesh, Benetec's only response was a sneer, his brow creasing in concentration as he used his psychic powers to communicate the danger to the ships astropaths from the otherwise isolated teleportarium chamber. A few moments later a red alert began to sound across the ship.

Back on the asteroid, Fortunus was surprised when, with the urn removed, the time freeze effect ceased and the large Astartes began to move; he seemed satisfied (after a moment) that the people he saw were members of the Imperium, although it was obvious from his questions that Gunnar had been frozen whilst the battles of the Horus Heresy were still in full flow. With energy levels spiking across the vessel, Gunnar agreed to accompany them back to the Venerus in order to save the precious geneseed.

When Fortunus and Gunnar arrived aboard the Venerus (followed shortly by Jurgen whose fighter squadron, the Void Krakens, had escorted them back) the did so into the middle of a red alert; quickly heading to the teleportarium chamber they found Benetec still trapped inside with the tide of beetles beginning to eat through the floor. Admiral Black quickly issued an order for the remaining personal staff of Captain Ajoku who were onboard to be rounded up and checked for signs of infection by the ancient enemy whilst Jurgen collected some fragments of metal that Enginseer Prime Pak had salvaged from similar creatures that they had encountered before and rigged them with melta-bombs. Opening the door quickly they threw the make-shift bomb inside and watched as it tore apart the gantry, cleared a path for Benetec but also removing much of the floor; nodding the Space Wolf Gunnar leapt across onto the glasscrete bubble and with comparative ease hurled the bulky Navigator across the gap before leaping back himself.

With the excitement seemingly over, Enginseer Prime Pak contacted Admiral Black via ship-to-ship link from the Rod Hant and said that he'd registered a power comms signal from the Venerus giving their location that had been beamed out of sector; it appeared as though some of the beetles had re-routed and boosted the comm systems on the Venerus and had used it to send a message out of system, no doubt to their masters currently attacking Port Wander. Realising that their only hope against such an enemy would be to secure allies, Admiral Black gave his permission for Benetec and Gunnar to travel to the Rod Hant, from there they would attempt to jump to a neighbouring sector and send an astropathic message in the hope that some of Gunnar's space wolf brethren still lurked in this area of space after all this time.

Fifteen minutes after the Rod Hant had departed the astropaths registered a disturbance in the warp as three sleek and alien spacecraft entered the system; Admiral Black felt his heart sink as he recognised Eldar vessels and anticipated a swift vengeance for the death of their emissary aboard his ship, however, the Eldar vessels moved away to a location on the outskirts of the system and broadcast a single message "They are coming."

Admiral Black was cursing the cowardly xenos, no doubt they hoped to let the two sides exhaust each other and then dispatch the survivors, when the helm began to pick up strange pyramid craft emerging from behind the shadow of the moon, green blasts of energy flashed out, destroyed several score of the escort fighters on patrol outside the Venerus; swearing vengeance Jurgen leapt into the cockpit of his own vessel and lauched, with the rest of the Void Krakens behind him. Weaving between two of the larger craft Jurgen was able to cause most of their blasts to go wide or hit their own allies, but the superior firepower and numbers of the ancient enemy vessels was beginning to show.

With an almost audible tear the Rod Hant burst from the warp back into the system, following it was a huge Astartes battle-cruiser and ragtag fleet of partially damaged Imperial Vessels

"Venerus, this is the Space Wolf Cruiser Ice Dagger, we are picking up a larger enemy craft still behind the moon, we will deal with it and are transferring command of the Port Wander survivors to you - in the Emperors name!"

With battle joined the previously black void of space grew bright with the stabbed of lance fire, the sickly green bursts of energy from the enemy and was filled with the thudding of macro-battery firing; seeing the battle turning around and not willing to let the Mon-Keigh claim all of the glory, three of the Eldar vessels even broke ranks, carefully placed lanced fire helped reduce one of the pyramids to floating wreckage. Freed of the need to navigate a vessel through the warp York Benetec turned his considerable psychic might to discovering the weak points of the enemy ships and relaying that to those fighting for the Imperium.

"I've got one on my tail, I can't shake them, I can't..." shouted Lieutenant Schultz of the Void Kraken squadron as his ship exploded in flame; Jurgen shook his head sadly as his vision of the future came to pass and then he jabbed at his fire controls, small explosions stitching across the flank of the vessel responsible.

As the last of the pyramid vessels exploded, the Space Wolf vessel emerged from behind the moon having dealt with the final enemy craft and a crackling voice came over the vox link "The enemy is defeated, the Space Wolves will not forget what you have done here for us today Admiral Black, nor the precious cargo that you have returned to us."


(or where are they now?)

  • Admiral Black, still wary of the plans that his father had for him, accepted a commission in the Imperial Navy, retaining command of the Venerus but fighting more directly for the glory of the Emperor.
  • Oberlieutenant Jurgan Borsch accompanied Admiral Black into the Navy, following his heroic deeds in the Battle of Endeavour, the war-sins on his record were sealed and the Void Krakens went on to become an official elite squadron.
  • York retired to the homeworld of the Benetec Navigator family where he helped trained the next generation of Navigators from his house, cautioning them all against dabbled with the Ruinous Powers or trusting in the fickle attentions of primitive navigator-like shaman.
  • Enginseer Prime Pak went on to help the primitive iinhabitants of the Endeavour system become fully integrated as a thrall-house into the Space Wolf chapter of the Adeptus Astartes, working with them as the chapter to help set up a joint venture with the Adeptus Mechanicus in the Endeavour System.


RPG review - God Machine Chronicle (video)

Reviewing Onyx Path Publishing/WW's God Machine Chronicle.

GM Tips - Players doing the Unexpected (video)

GM Tips - Players doing the Unexpected (video)

Discussing how to handle players doing unexpected things in your RPGs.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Episode 7: flashback session (actual play)

Serpents Fall - Session 7 (flashback session)
"Curse of the Pirate King"

We look back in time to the origins of Captain Benito's curse.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Ares' Legacy - Planning Session using Microsoft Onenote

Recently I ran a Fate Accelerated pulp-action game (think Indiana Jones or Doc Savage) for two fellow members of the RPG Brigade using G+ Hangouts on Air (video is available here); i'm always looking for new and better tools to improve my session planning and to help manage the job of running/preparing for a session, currently i'm reading "Never Unprepared: The Complete Games Master's Guide to Session Prep", released by Engine Publishing and written by Phil Vecchione and in it he talks about using various note taking software, one example being Microsoft Onenote. Now i've had a copy of MS Office for quite some time and had noticed Onenote but never really used it, so I decided that I would plan/run my Ares' Legacy session using it as a sort of tester for the software and how suitable it was for my GM-ing style.

The game seemed to go really well and I will certainly be using Onenote in the future due to it's ease of use and flexibility; for anyone who is interested I have uploaded a copy of my notes for the session (in pdf format) to my Google Drive, link below:

Ares' Legacy - Fate Accelerated (video)

Ares' Legacy - Pulp Action Fate Accelerated One-off.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Adapting 'Age of Arthur' mass battle rules for use in Fleet battle scenarios

Anyone who has listened to my recent review (viewable here) of Wordplay Games excellent game Age of Arthur (written by Paul Mitchener and Graham Spearing) will know that I was particularly taken with the magic systems and the mass-battle rules presented in the book; we had a great session of my Serpents Fall Fate Accelerated swords & sorcery game recently (actual play video viewable here) and i'm looking to follow it up with an equally impressive session. Currently the party are in Saxony looking for someone who might be able to help Captain Benito (one of the player characters) remove the curse that has been laid on him preventing him sailing the seas; with the curse removed Benito would be able to start seriously planning to take back the title of Pirate King that was usurped from him by the scurrilous Horningold Blythe.

Usurped Pirate King Benito

Current Pirate King Horningold Blythe

We ended the last session with a couple of the characters discovering an old seer in the castle dungeons of Saxony's villainous Regent, the seer was attempting to peer back into the past of Captain Benito to see how the curse was first laid on him (hopefully this would provide some clue to lifting it). My plan is to run the next session as a flashback with the players playing through how the curse was first levied; we are one player down and I have checked with the others that they are okay with playing pirate-NPC allies of Captain Benito (since their characters haven't met at this point), it will also give Benito's player a chance to enjoy being the Pirate King, giving him a taste of what he might regain should he regain his crown.

Adapting the Mass Battle Rules

My plan is to begin the session in the middle of a high-action scene as the pirate fleets of the Scarlet Brotherhood come under attack by vessels from Saxony; this could be done with individual combat rounds following the normal combat rules, however, it doesn't really have the grand feel of fleet-scale action that I want to capture in this encounter. Thinking back to the mass-battle rules in Age of Arthur I intend to adapt them for the first scene and subsequent fleet-battles in the game.

Effectively each fleet is treated like an army in Age of Arthur with the following stats:

  • Size: The number of ships in the fleet.
  • Fleet skill: The skill of a typical fleet ranging from 0(untrained/press-ganged crew) up to 4(legendary ships crew).
  • Fleet commander: The Fleet Skill is supported by the Clever and Sneaky skills of the commander (if one of this is higher than the skill level of the fleet then the Fleet Skill gets a +1 bonus, if both are higher then the bonus rises to +2).
  • Aspects: A Fleet has between one and five Aspects.
  • Stress Score: The larger Fleet has a stress score of 10, the stress score of the smaller Fleet depends on it's relative size (for example a Fleet of 10 ships facing a Fleet of 20 ships will have 5 stress).

Before the battle begins there are a few steps to go through:
  • Manoeuvring: The commanders make an opposed clever roll, the winner of this roll gets to place an Aspect representing their superior positioning on the enemy fleet.
  • Take advantage of the weather: A character nominated as navigator makes a an opposed quick roll against their opponents navigator to move to take advantage of the winds and currents, the winner gets to place an Aspect on his own or the enemy's fleet to represent the benefits that their mastery of the weather conditions brings them.

The Battle
The battle is divided into a series of turns :

  • Individual Heroics: A character may spend a fate point to make a test based on what they are trying to do, the difficulty is the is the remaining stress of the opposing fleet. If they win then it places an Aspect on the opposing fleet that can be used once for free (without paying a fate point). If they fail then the character suffers damage equal to the amount that the roll failed by.
  • Getting Personal: Attacking an important NPC costs no fate points (it is assumed that their ships come close during the conflict and, amidst the swirling melee of boarding actions and cannon fire the two individuals fight each other). This interrupts the fleet battle with a standard combat. The enemy NPC will be accompanied by a mob of lackeys with the same combat skill and armament as the rest of the fleet and with numbers equal to twice to the current stress score of their fleet. It is fine for multiple PCs to take part in a single combat like this; winning gives a free Aspect indicating the fallen enemy or loss of morale.
  • Fleet actions: The smaller fleet attacks first and the other force defends. Damage from a successful attack is inflicted on the opposing fleets stress tracker, causing half the degrees of success rounded up. A draw does no damage but lets the attacker place an Aspect. This aspect can be used once for free by the army that placed it at no cost.
  • Resolution: When a fleet is reduce to zero stress it cannot maintain an active part in the combat, it may concede a combat by withdrawing or surrendering; this ends the battle but prevents further stress on the defeated fleet. Even a fleet reduced to zero stress probably has a few survivors remaining.

Looking forward to seeing how these rules play out in a couple of weeks when we have our session in a couple of weeks time :)

RPG Review - Blood & Smoke : Strix Chronicle (video)

Review of Onyx Path's "Blood and Smoke" for the Vampire Requiem line.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Using the Fate Core chase rules in Fate Accelerated

Last night in our online swords & sorcery RPG Serpents Fall (link to actual play video of the session here) part of the session involved chasing a suspected poisoner over the rooftops of a faux-medieval (i.e. not strictly historically accurate) castle; i've been wanting to incorporate a couple of dramatic chases into the game once we were all a little familiar with the basic rules and decided that session 6 seemed an appropriate time. The rules that I decided to use are from the Fate Toolkit (video review here) and they are also available online on the Fate System Reference Document website:

Essentially the chase is represented by a stress tracker with a marker partway along it, when the marker reaches one end (in the case of my game ten) the player group have managed to catch the person/s that they are pursuing, if it reaches the other end of scale (in the case of my game zero) then their quarry has escaped them. The length of the stress tracker determines the likely amount of time that the chase will take and the position of the marker on the tracker determines how much of a head start their quarry had (the nearer to the start the marker is, the harder their opponent will be to catch, the nearer to the end of the tracker the marker is then the harder it is for their opponent to escape).

One of player party (this is down to the player group bit is generally the person with the highest relevant skill/approach) makes a roll relevant to the chase, as do their opponent:

  • If you fail, your opponent has the choice to either create a boost that works against you, or to move the stress track one check in their direction.
  • If you tie, you may choose to move the stress track one check in your direction, but if you do so, your opponent gains a +1 on their next roll.
  • If you succeed, you move the stress track one check in your direction.
  • If you succeed with style, you get to move the stress track two checks in your direction, or one check and you gain a boost that you can use against your opponent on your next roll.

This repeats until either the players have caught their quarry or their opponent manages to escape; the GM will describe different circumstances in the chase, requiring different rolls to give different players a chance to shine and to keep the chase interesting.

Although the chase mechanics are designed to work with Fate Core (referencing the skill mechanics of the Fate Core build) it works fine with the Fate Accelerated build of the system by simply replacing the skill rolls with Approach rolls.

Of course a lot of the atmosphere and pace of a chase does rely on the players and the GM keeping the narrative going and not agonising too much over the decisions that they have made.

So how did I run the chase?

Well first of all I looked at the people who were liable to participating in the chase and what Approaches their characters possessed, I then jotted down a few potential situations that could arise during the chase that would require certain rolls; all of these were written on an index card for easy reference during the session and I include a few examples below (along with the Approaches that were rolled against):

  • Sprinting across a rooftop - Quick
  • Opponent knocks a load of barrels in their way - Clever (to plot a course through the tumbling barrels without slowing down or tripping)
  • Opponent slams/locks a door infront of them - Forcefully (to smash through it)
  • The quarry leaps onto a horse and begins to ride away - Flashy
  • Leaping a moat - Quick
  • Attempting to lose the players through a twisting maze of side-streets - Clever

So how did it run?

Because the chase is, if boiled down to absolute basics, a series of rolls and basic decisions made by the player characters it needs to not drag on for too long or allow the players time to agonise over the decisions that they are called to make; chases are supposed to be quick, rapid-fire scenes that whiz past in a blur of motion, frantic shouting and overcoming of obstacles. I think that if ran more slowly or if the chase went on too long then it would become a tedious exercise in dice-rolling, the suggestion of a ten space stress tracker given in the Fate Toolkit was about ideal for the game I ran; the tracker started halfway, but the player group clearly had an advantage since they were picking the highest scores from a group of them whereas their (single) quarry only had her own scores, that's fine though, it kept the chase brisk and, of course, the player characters are the heroes of my game.

All of the players commented at the end of the session how much they enjoyed the chase scene and have asked for more scenes like that in the future; having some pre-prepared obstacles and rolls noted down definitely helped run the chase without any unnecessary halting or interruptions (although I did drop a couple of improvised ones in there) and I think that i'm going to attempt to come up with an index card or two full of 'general chase actions' that I can have on standby in future when chases take place. With this list of standard actions I can then use actions/rolls specific to the chase in question but will have a useful list of fallbacks should the chase go on a bit longer than anticipated.

In conclusion

I think the chase mechanics work excellently as long as the GM remembers to keep it moving at a brisk pace and not let the players get too bogged down in thinking about who is going to make the dice-rolls; it worked really well for my players, who really got into the spirit of the chase and seemed to thoroughly enjoy it as a result.

A Shadow over Winchester: Serpents Fall - episode 6 (video) - actual play

"A Shadow over Winchester" - Session 6

In the small saxon village of Wulfricingas our heroes have uncovered and stopped a plot by one of the warriors Anlaf and his wife Ceolwyd to slowly poison the Lord of the village, Wulfric; it appears as though the plot was sponsored by the current ruler of Saxony, Regent Eadweard, brother of King Godric (currently away crusading in the north with his knights).

Ozuchi has received an unsettling vision from the spirit world of Kind Godric's death and forsees a civil war engulfing Saxony; our heroes have decided that something must be done about the Regent and are travelling with Lord Wulfric to the capitol of Winchester.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Updated Serpents Fall handout 01/02/14

Following some excellent feedback that I received from Alfredo Taranc√≥n (many thanks) I have re-tooled the layout and some of the text in my Serpents Fall handout.

Please note: I do not own the copyright to any of the imagery used in this handbook, the booklet is intended purely for non-profit purposes and no challenge is meant to any intellectual property rights or copyright.