I’m supposed to be working right now but I’m not, and the reason is simple. Work is hard.
While The Great Way is getting an editorial working over, I’m putting together the game supplement for it. (For those who don’t know, I promised Kickstarter backers a Fate game supplement for the setting of those books.) Currently, it’s almost 10,000 words long, and not even half way done. Turns out that explaining your world-building takes time.
What’s more, writing game stuff is giving me major decision fatigue. With fiction, putting the sentences together is comparatively easy: There are characters who want things, places for them to pursue their desires, obstacles to overcome. That talk. They look at stuff. Maybe there’s a smell. It’s pretty straightforward.
In contrast, game material is all summarizing and making careful decisions on how stuff should work. What invokable aspects suit the capital city of this empire? How best to describe this sort of magic? What’s the best way to portray non-human intelligences without doing the xenophobe thing of giving them all a single personality? What if a player wants to play one of those non-humans?
Everything is as spare as possible, while trying to be as interesting as possible, while being as balanced as possible, while not contradicting anything I put in the trilogy, much of which I made up on the fly because shit sounded cool.
What the hell was I thinking?
This will have to cover two weeks because I didn’t do one after the session on 10/20. It will also be somewhat abbreviated compared to previous writeups, which I’m sure will be a relief to those of you scrolling past big blocks of text.
At the end of the last writeup, the team (which was down a member because a player was out sick) managed to lure one of the alien bad guys out to a remote location and overpower him, taking him prisoner. For those who don’t remember from previous updates, the alien is called a Shailun and, as we only recently discovered, they are the innocent aliens who have been taken over by a conquest-minded parasite called the Shinkara. In fact, the entire alien invasion was an attempt to destroy humanity to deny the Shinkara their next hosts, as the Shailun are just about all used up.
But! The first step in defeating the parasites is to learn more about them, so trickery and kidnapping.
Our missing character from that previous session was Evan, our degree-less mad scientist and anti-alien
terrorist resistance-fighter, so we wrapped the alien (named Gerlik) in an impromptu Farraday cage (during his abduction he showed a distressing ability to do Ego attacks and it was thought the cage might block them) and rushed to Evan’s secret lab. Unfortunately, upon arrival we discovered that someone had broken in and, judging by the security footage, used gen-en superpowers to overpower and kidnap him.
(This is what the GM does to you if you miss a session around here.)
Travis gets a call from his brother. Chandler has become a bigwig in the Roman Industries hierarchy, and he smugly reveals that he has a Shinkara parasite inside him and feels pretty sweet. He reveals (unnecessarily) that he has Evan and wants to trade him for Travis. Travis reveals that he would rather trade Gerlik for Evan, and Chandler agrees so readily that he confirms Travis’s suspicion that Chandler is a big fibber.
It’s unclear how much of the host’s memories the parasites have access to, but if the Shinkara knows what Chandler knows, Travis is the kind of guy who says “Let’s order Thai food” when he actually wants pizza, so nobody is trusting anyone here.
The party and the narrative split. Evan was held prisoner inside an extremely well-guarded Ex-Agg facility, getting alternately questioned and punched. Finally, he was put into a cell, where he used a metal spork to dismantle the light fixtures and turn them into a magnetic something or other to break the secure keypad. After overpowering the guard outside the door, he stole the dude’s uniform and began to sneak out.
Cut to the kidnapper portion of the party (as opposed to the kidnappee), where Finlay is using her underworld contacts to find a mob doctor (not that there’s a mob) with illicit imaging equipment so we can get a look at this parasite. Before we “trade” Gerlik, we might as well get everything we can from him. While searching, we discover that Walt, our gen-en soldier, has been framed as a terrorist. The Ex-Agg assault on his home (that nearly killed his daughter) is being sold to the public as a terrorist attack that killed way more people than were actually affected by the firefight. Travis and Finlay immediately get to work on a disguise for him, since there is a big fat reward for him, dead or alive.
Of course Finlay knows a guy (it’s one of her stunts) named Lynch and the only thing he wants in return is a date with her: he doesn’t even ask for movie and a dinner, just coffee. Of course, that was his offer before he saw who we’d brought to his door.
Turns out the mob doc has a deathly fear of aliens, but we pressure him into running the scan.
And we see the alien we’ve been fighting against. It turns out to be made of energy, in that Star Trek:TOS alien sort of way.
Lynch is thoroughly freaked out. We assure him he has good reason to be, and Travis shares the link to the Video That Explains It All with him, asking him to spread the word as much as possible.
At that moment, Walt, in a spirit of full and friendly disclosure, takes off his disguise and reveals himself as the guy who’s been all over the news because nothing says “Join Our Resistance” quite like “I am the man everyone blames for the deaths of several hundred people oh, and also, Mr. Criminal and his several bodyguards, my cooling corpse is worth six figures.”
You know, sometimes I tease my buddy Jim about the in-game choices he makes, but I think everyone reading this will realize that I’m completely justified in doing so.
Luckily, Lynch is too freaked by the alien to realize what a profit center his new visitor would be and we carry the still-unconscious Gerlik out of there before the light bulb switches on.
In the meantime, Evan is searching for an exit when he passes a pair of guards speaking Shinkara-ese. It would cost a Fate point to pass them by without incident but he opts to accept a Fate point for spinning and shooting them both in the back. The gunfire draws a bunch of Ex-Agg baddies, including the two gen-en supers, but Evan remembers that he has a sturdy +2 Deceive and sends them on a wild goose chase.
Eventually, he makes his way to a hangar bay and steals a hoverjetcopterthing.
The kidnappers are in the midst of planning the quintuple-cross that will rescue Evan without losing Gerlik when Evan calls them. He is, obviously, the self-rescuing sort of kidnappee. Unfortunately, he was unable to recover his two Extras, although he probably can whip up spares.
Evan has yet another secret lab (the last one without a stunt or something, our GM assures us) and we carry Gerlik down a secret hatch, through a long dirt tunnel, into Evan’s last (absolutely last!) secret lab.
He finally wakes up in the lab. Travis tries to use Empathy, Deceive and Rapport to control him, but Gerlik is no mook. He also reveals that, rather than being the glorified shipping clerk we’d originally been told, he was actually in charge of security for everything shipped to the space station. So, he’s actually an important dude.
Then Gerlik gives Walt a hard look and Walt staggers back with a sudden nosebleed. Travis has been on the sharp end of Gerlik’s mind powers before, so he doesn’t buy Walt’s assurances that nothing was wrong. Unfortunately, his Empathy roll is a huge pile of ass, and he is forced to succeed at a serious cost, which is that Gerlik panics and triggers the mental suggestion he’d just planted into Walt’s mind.
Hey, everyone on the team is pretty competent, but Walt is built for fighting. His duplication powers return and he cuts Gerlik free.
Fight scene! Gerlik is a difficult opponent on his own, but with the hardest hitting in the party on his side (not to the point of murdering his former teammates, but punching is allowed) we’re in for some trouble. Finlay moves to the door and draws her pistol. My notes are unclear on what she’d planned to do, but her roll was so terrible that she just couldn’t bring herself to squeeze the trigger.
Walt had no such hesitation and he “sweeps the leg”, putting Finlay on the ground. Gerlik, rather than kick Travis’s ass (again) bolts for the exit, making it as far as opening the door. Travis shouts at Walt that he’s fighting the only people who are willing to help him with his daughter, which pushes one of Walt’s aspects and breaks Gerlik’s hold.
Evan decides this is a good time to throw a grenade. I have to admit I facepalmed this harder even than Walt stripping off his disguise in front of Lynch–Gerlik was standing right beside Walt, with Finlay on the ground beside them–but it turned out the grenade was for the dirt tunnel outside. Evan rolled well (luckily) and the grenade bounced down the long tunnel and blew it, collapsing Gerlik’s escape route.
So, that turned out to be a better move than it seemed at first. Walt and Finlay turn their aggressions on Gerlik and put him down again.
At this point, Travis becomes pretty much useless, especially since he failed the Empathy role that would have downgraded Walt’s Will consequence. Walt gets busy digging out the tunnel with his duplicates, which Finlay and Evan get to work separating the Shinkara parasite from its Shailun host. Travis plays Candy Crush or whatever.
Actually, I stepped away from the computer to get my kid some food at this point, but Evan and Finlay work together to give themselves serious boosts and make some stupendous rolls. Not only do they remove the Shinkara parasite, but they manage to save the Shailun host’s life.
Oh, actually, Travis did have a role to play in that last part; he had to convince Evan that saving the Shailun was worth the effort.
The session ended with the Shailun comatose and the captured Shinkara, bereft of a host body, died. At this point, we need to figure out a way to weaponize the process Finlay and Evan created to separate parasite from host, then mass produce it.
Also, will the Shailun still go by Gerlik when he wakes or was that his Shinkara name? Hey, as long as he can resume his post as head of security so he can sneak some fun gadgets into that space station stronghold, we’ll all be happy.
The outside world: comics film funny games interesting things people publishing
by Harry Connolly
2) Steve Rogers: Premature Anti-Facist. h/t James Nicoll
6) Pacific Rim in the Power Rangers style! Video.
7) Want to deter pests without using chemicals or traps? Try an automatic lawn sprinkler with a motion-sensor attached.
Last session knocked off with the rescue of Walt’s daughter Ever, a girl who had her life shortened via genetic engineering. This session opened with a cut scene, in which the players saw a group of Xenari soldiers (those are the aliens who tried to commit genocide against the human race) found the body of the Xenari scientist our team interrogated and then… ahem… executed in cold blood.
In our defense, he was a big jerk.
Sadly, the alien soldiers didn’t seem all that pleased to find his corpse and the scanning devices they used promised to be quite advanced.
Action came up for the PCs with the party split. Evan (our resident mad scientist/anti-alien war hero or terrorist depending on your POV/Xenari executioner) was out of the party due to player illness. Finlay had returned and was sorting through her newly-acquired alien tech, trying to figure out what she could get for them. Walt retired to his home (which, seriously? Rich guys take out a contract on your life and you take your kid to your house?) with his daughter. Travis, for his part, had requested a meeting with his industrialist father and now found himself on a shuttle heading for an orbiting space station.
Ever began to get sick, running a high fever and experiencing quite a lot of pain. Walt shortly began to show similar symptoms, but with added nosebleeds. He called Finlay and she rushed over to help. As the two of them began to show increasingly severe symptoms, an X-Agg hit squad showed up and began shooting at them through the walls. more »
As a followup to last session, Our Team was stuck in an underground bunker with a dead alien. One of the players couldn’t join the game this time, so her character took off (with the alien hard drive that had been our macguffin) and we agreed to meet up with her PC later. For this session, it was Evan the mad scientist/anti-alien revolutionary, Walt the Gen-En soldier with super-powers and a shortened lifespan, and Travis the disreputable party boy and habitual liar who is pretty sure he’s a good guy now since he’s doing all the good guy stuff he’s seen on TV.
But first! Travis Roman, (high concept: Corporate heir trying to do right) had to be rejiggered before the session started. When I created him, I thought we were going to be playing a game about anti-corporate pro-democratic revolutionaries, but we’re actually caught up in an alien conspiracy. As a result, he didn’t have a lot of aspects that couple be easily compelled. So I changed the aspect “I love my family but admire their enemies” to “Must protect family from itself” (since some of my siblings are obviously In On It). The aspect “Just when I thought I was out…” was changed to “The conspiracy is everywhere!”
First order of business was for Travis to note that the slow physical collapse of the Shai’lun, which was the reason they were becoming unsuitable hosts for their parasitic masters, was remarkably similar to the slow physical collapse that Walt was experiencing. The Gen-En process that gave him duplication powers was aging him very fast, and his adopted daughter, too.
Gosh, wasn’t it a coincidence that the Shai’lun were the ones who gave him his powers? You know, those aliens who saved the human race from interstellar genocide solely so we could be the new short-lived hosts for their Shinkara masters? Why, you don’t think… The Shinkara are parasites, aren’t they? And Ex-Agg messed with Walt’s body, didn’t they?
Gee, could Walt have a Shinkara parasite in him right now? Could the parasite be even now transmitting everything we say and do to our enemies? Walt might be an unwitting traitor!
Unwitting was said several times, but no mention was made of the way Walton disrupted Travis’s interrogation of the Xenari prisoner, yelling at him, hitting him with the butt of his rifle, engaging him in a stupid shouting match, and practically taunting Evan to shoot the unarmed prisoner. At no point did Walt feel he was being accused of being an deliberate traitor, but I was prepared with assurances that it wasn’t so, along with Travis’s +3 Deceive skill and the actual dice in my hand, just in case.
Returning to Evan’s home/lab, as opposed to the warehouse lab we’d visited before–I’m beginning to suspect that everything Evan owns is a blank/lab–he ran some tests on Walt and found that there was alien DNA mixed in with his human DNA. Science! Could these be traces of the Shinkara? He didn’t appear to be actually hosting an alien parasite, though, and of course we all trusted him when he assured us he was fine. Just fine.
Travis also wondered where the real Walt was, since it was completely possible that the Gen-En soldier was just a cloned and altered copy of the original man, who could even now be sleeping in one of those big glass tubes (or decomposing in a mass grave).
Walt was so pleased by all this speculation that he immediately walked out. He rushed across the city to bring his daughter to Evan’s place to have her tested, too. She doesn’t have super powers (at the moment! Dum dum DUMMMM!) but she received the Gen-En procedure and is aging quickly. Immediate decision: Split the party! Because that’s always a good idea.
Walt takes off to get his daughter from the neighbor who looks after her while he’s out shooting people, while Travis and Evan make plans for a new safe house that Walt won’t know about. Just in case.
After parking some blocks away from his babysitter’s place (in a terrible part of town–it’s nearly dawn and people are still out on the streets, scrounging and staying warm by trash can fires) Walt makes his way down the sidewalk.
Two doors of a parked car open. One of the guys who gets out is very small and the other is so freakishly large that he almost falls off the far end of the bell curve. For humans, anyway.
Walt has an investigation stunt that allows him to put an aspect on a scene, and he rolls well. The little guy is now Payton Farraday, the Ex-Agg fixer that turned Walt and his daughter into Gen-Ens.
And he’s come to bump Walt off.
Farraday fires his machine pistol at Walt. The big guy grows even bigger, his left arm swells and changes shape, and he begins to press bullets into his the skin of his forearm… where they are absorbed into his flesh. He begins shooting at Walt, Bushwacker-style.
The big guy turns out to be an Aberrant. When the Shai’lun were making Gen-En soldiers to fight off the Xenari’s genocidal attack on the Earth, the Xenari were making Aberrants to do the same thing for their side. But while Gen-Ens look human, Aberrants are monstrously deformed. One of Walt’s aspects reflects his belief that these two types of altered humans are actually one group, and the poor pitiable Aberrants should not be shunned and mistreated the way they are. However, this guy doesn’t look like he’s about to sit down with a cup of coffee and a McMuffin to discuss it.
Walt starts making duplicates of himself as he runs straight at Farraday. The GM offers a compel: For one fate point, Travis can be paranoid enough to follow Walt and join the fight next round. Travis accepts.
Gunfire continues, causing general panic on the street and even hitting some innocent bystanders. Evan and Travis jump from Evan’s car, and join the fight. The most useful attack Travis does is mental, and he throws a can at the car then yells “Incoming grenade!” in the most believable way you can imagine.
The Aberrant dodges away from it, giving Walt only enemy to deal with. Evan takes out a weird metamorphic cube he invented–essentially a multi-tool made from semi-aware nanites–and he throws it at the Aberrant.
This turns out to be a pretty spiffy move, since the nanite tool wraps around the big guy’s forearm, digging into his flesh and jamming his creepy bone gun. Travis rushes forward, shotgun in hand, and the bodyguard gets down on the ground and surrenders.
Payton Farraday concedes the fight and gives Walt what he wants, which is information. He was hired to kill Walt by one of the Roman family, and the only cure for the Gen-En procedure is to go through the Genesis project. Or Genesis procedure. (I forgot to make a note of the name.)
Having given up the info Walt wanted, Farraday and his bodyguard vanish in a flash of light, which is a neat trick that our team should learn Real Soon Now. We hear sirens in the distance, and race to fetch Walt’s daughter since he won’t do the sensible thing and leave her safe with her babysitter and get out well ahead of the police.
FYI: cops in the post apocalyptic world are not the gentle, procedure-loving Officer Friendlies of the pre-invasion world. These guys are more likely to be yahoos with guns, and we do not want to say the words “Self-defense” to them.
After fetching Ever, Walt’s daughter, Mr. Bopples, her teddy, and Joey the babysitter who wanted to shoot us when we rushed into her place, we all piled into Evan’s car.
I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before, but the car Evan drives is one he built himself. It looks very much like the Homer-Simpson-designed vehicle that bankrupted Homer’s brother’s car company, if you added glowing neon racing stripes to the side. It also goes very very fast.
We take off with the cops in hot pursuit. It’s a contest! I’d thought it was strange that Evan, an alien-hating mad-scientist hunted by the law as a terrorist, used one of his +3 slots for the Drive skill, but it turns out to be surprisingly useful for a wanted criminal to be good at getting away.
With a sudden turn onto a vacant lot (and two very good rolls) we leave the cops behind and return to Evan’s house with a little girl who was not nearly as traumatized as you would expect from being waken in the wee hours by a gunfight on her street, crammed into a strange car with desperate, terrified people, pressed down on the floor of said car while her father leaned out the window and laid down suppressing fire at the pursuing vehicles while sirens where wailing everywhere, and finally dragged into Evan’s bachelor pad/terrorist cell/lab. Luckily, Travis knows how to sooth people, too, and he calms her down fairly quickly.
Walt nervously asks Evan to test her DNA, and what do you know? She’s got some alien stuff mixed in there, too. What’s more, unlike Walt, she has only two months to live. If he doesn’t find the cure for her by then, his little daughter dies.
Stakes! We got ‘em.
Travis receives a phone call from his sister. She’s concerned that one of his brothers (he has as many siblings as the plot requires) is really pissed at him, and wants him to be careful. Travis, at least, now has the name of the family member who tried to kill Walt. He asks his sister to set up a meeting with good old dad, since he’s not on speaking terms with the head of Roman Industries anymore.
Oh! And Evan finds a bit of the Aberrant’s blood on his cube, and he runs some tests on it. It turns out that, while the Gen-Ens have some alien DNA, the Aberrants are 100% terrestrial. Wildly distorted, yes, but they’re people.
Who do you pity now?
Next session we hope to have Finlay back. Travis needs to gather evidence to show his father about the Shinkara, not to mention the way Ex-Agg and some of his own family have sold out the human race to them. And we need to find a way to turn the human race from a suitable host species for these parasites into barren land where their seed can find no purchase.
Oh, and we still haven’t dropped a neutron bomb on the Ex-Agg dropship. Must get bomb.
Hey, if you’re a Fate player who’s new to my blog, you should know one of the rewards in the Kickstarter I’m running for my epic fantasy trilogy includes a Fate supplement: At the $30 level, you get all three books in multiple ebook formats (DRM-free, naturally) along with a little write up of the novel’s setting, an adventure or two, and whatever else seems pertinent to playing a Fate adventure in the setting of The Great Way. Check it out.
I’ve long enjoyed James Nicoll’s Wednesday Night Gaming posts, so I thought I’d
rip off pay homage to the idea by writing up our semi-weekly FATE game, which we’ve just started.
The setting: In the very near future, Earth is invaded by an alien race, called the Xenari, bent on genocide. We would never have driven them away without the help of a friendly alien race called the Shai’lun, who lent us advanced weapons, ships, and apostrophes.
It’s been a few years since the Xenari have been driven away, but a great deal of infrastructure is still unfinished. Also, local political figures are now beholden to corporate interests–corporations are pretty much in control now. The United States exists mostly as an idea of something people used to have; as a nation, it’s all but over. The Xenari are mostly gone, but the Shai’lun have stayed, mostly in orbit, as friendly but standoffish assistants.
The characters: more »
While I’m on my internet fast, I give you this:
Yeah, I’ll be getting that. I’m still playing the hell out of LOTR, trying to be a completist, so I guess I have until next Giftmas to wrap it up.