Tuesday, April 25, 2017

"I Have Lost a Hell": Dresden Files Accelerated AP & Thoughts

I just finished three sessions of the forthcoming Dresden Files Accelerated for The Gauntlet Hangouts. I had a great time with them. I participated in the DFAE playtest and liked it then, but the revisions make it even stronger. So I’ve pulled together some thoughts about it. I like Fate and I dig this implementation

You can see the AP videos for our game here (Session 1, Session 2, Session 3).

1. Harry Who?
I’m not a Dresden aficionado. I watched a few episodes of the show and read one of the books. While I own the original rpg I skimmed it for system rather than background. My deepest contact with the setting has come through DFAE. The book does a great job distilling that information and putting the interesting bits out front. It clearly deals with the “present” circumstances of the book series, but that doesn’t get in the way. The layout choices in this version-- inserted marginalia and post-it notes-- felt much less obtrusive than in the DFRPG. Overall it’s a great presentation and it allowed me, a novice, to run sessions with verisimilitude.

2. Laws of the Night
The book tightly breaks down the Dresdenverse’s “Laws of Magic.” It lays out the Laws (Thou shalt not transform others, Thou shalt not invade the mind of another) and the context clearly. In fact the whole chapter on the regulatory and political nature of the setting sets the stage well. Dresden Files feels more high adventure and drama than World of Darkness. But it shares the intrigue and maneuvering that accompany high level WoD games. In that way it’s closer to Urban Shadows, just without the built in PvP and high risk of mixed success.

3. Put it on the Mantle
DFAE has a killer tech: Mantles. We’ve seen Fate “Worlds of Adventure” with archetype examples. Mantles feel like character classes-- in a good way. Each mantle has unique conditions and stunts, as well as key stunt(s) you get when you choose it. You can still pick stunts following the standard FAE formulation, but the Mantle stunts are more interesting and powerful.

I haven’t run the numbers, but DFAE shifts the classic Fate stunt-building restrictions. Instead they’re crafted on what’s appropriate and thematically interesting. Not all mantle stunts are created equal and I’m cool with that. Some of them, especially those for Wizards, require heavy player development and input. I’m OK with that. The game holds together and even feels right.

4. What Condition Your Condition is in
DFAE uses “conditions,” to add depth and flavor to the mantles. I’ve always appreciated that Fate characters could have multiple stress tracks to represent important elements in a game. For example you could have Reputation for one with social intrigue or Wealth for a resource-based game. DFAE takes advances that concept. Mantles have unique conditions representing their focus.

They’re both a damage and a resource track. For example, example the Law Enforcement mantle has three distinct conditions representing how much attention they’ve drawn for abusing their status. On the flip side, the Criminal has an explicit Heat track. Gain too much Heat and you’re hauled in for questioning. You can gain Heat from actions, but you also mark it to power some stunts. Again DFAE shows the remarkable flexibility of Fate. By stepping outside the box, they’re able to add new mechanics GMs can use to shape settings and archetypes. Some conditions can be marked to pay the cost of high level magic.

5. The Price of Ceremony
Magic-focused mantles have stunts to cover day-to-day spells. But DFAE includes a system for “Big Magic.” This isn’t restricted to Wizards. Non-Wizards can develop fictional justification for rituals, though they don’t have access to some cost-paying elements. The system’s simple and easy to use. I liked the DFAE playtest mechanics, but this streamlines that. There’s a simple way to calculate the difficulty, based on what you’re trying to do. You then pay costs, and here’s the neat part. Failure on the ritual casting roll doesn’t necessarily mean failure. It just determines who gets to pick the costs, the player or the GM.

6. Parity Party
A vampire, a wizard, and a cop walk into a bar; which one gets initiative? I like how DFAE (and Fate in general) handles the concept of balance and parity. Any two characters can have the same effect. One may be better at some things, but given creative thinking, dramatic license, and actions, they can be on equal footing. That’s a big difference from games based on levels, points, and ranks. DFAE acknowledges the differences in power by the use of scale. It re-presents Fate’s scale rules smoothly. A mortal versus a vampire has to work to overcome that scale difference. But even if they don’t, it isn’t completely debilitating. The system strikes a balance that feels right for the kinds of games I want.

7. Mystery Gang
I love mystery games. But one player in our session echoed something I’d heard before, that Fate isn’t good for mysteries. I disagree. Sure Fate has flexibility and collaboration, but that doesn’t have to undercut presenting a problem to solve. My usual approach is a Gumshoe/PbtA hybrid. If players look for clues and have an appropriate skill, I offer them basic information. If they want to go for more information, they can make a roll. That roll risks consequences (drawing heat, costing money, eating up time). Depending on their success, I let them ask questions about the situation.

DFAE offers more Fate-imbedded approaches to detective work. It talks about the costs for failed checks and then breaks investigations into three types, defined by obstacle and structure. Player collaboration comes in the form of putting forward hypotheses. I like the ideas here. It isn’t how I structure things, but it makes better use of Fate’s own tech than I do. I’m glad to see these kinds of rules and advice.

8. Flip City
The original Dresden Files has great city-creation mechanics. They’re well integrated into character creation. Its drawback can be the sheer number of aspects generated. DFRPG city & character creation can take a session unto itself. Fate Core dials that back and FAE moves even further. That’s been my preference: smaller lists of setting and character aspects so that they have more weight.

DFAE consolidates the city-building mechanics to something the group could easily do in under an hour. In our video recording, went through the process quickly. We chose Detroit, since we wanted to echo Dresden, but not use Chicago. We identified four factions: White Court Vampires who feed on greed, desperate in the fading city; a Werewolf-tied group thriving on criminality and destruction; leftover Golems/Clockworks from the time when mechanomancers filled the city; and Ghost Cabals which we didn’t define but sounded cool. We established a few elements to use (tension of settlement & decay, small scale problem, big magic) and avoid (PvP, morally ambiguous bad guy).

Overall I dug the streamlined process. It worked especially well for online and short-term play. You could easily expand that with more details and connections to PCs if you wanted. Or you could use something like Microscope for that purpose.

9. Parish is Burning
I’m going to say something awful: New Orleans leaves me cold. I’ve run several games set there, always at the behest of folks who love the city. But the place has never grabbed my imagination. I’ve researched and read about it in prep, but it remains solidly meh for me. So I winced a little when I saw the sample city provided would be the Orleans parish.

But the section didn’t disappoint. It’s a solid example of how to organize and build a city. It follows the game’s own structure and rules. We begin with an overview of the major factions, then discuss the points of conflict, and then get background and character sheets for the major characters. The material doesn’t overstay its welcome and offers guidance on how to approach this. Unlike the Paranet Papers, it provides you just enough info to play from without info dumping.

10. Sell Me on a Game
I dig Fate, especially once I grokked how it worked. I’ve brought elements of it into the homebrew we use for many campaigns. In particular I’ve liked Fate Core, with the rich skill system, stunt lists, and slightly more involved rules. Fate Accelerated seemed like a clever but thinner version. I’ve changed my mind on that.

DFAE’s shown me you can do really interesting things with the simplicity of Approaches and unique sub-systems. This has firmly shifted me over to a Fate Accelerated fan. Though I still dig Fate Core, I’ll be reaching for Accelerated first for basic play and hacks. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

500 Cyberpunkish Names

Ashutosh Paradise
Child Daksha
Olinski Loss
Vikas Misiak
Helmet Master
Chaudhry Child
Flaminio Mist
Chalk Anirudhh
Steel Cryptic
Sanat Vinaya
Warren Manami
Boar Lover
Ratti Imagawa
Caiazzo Jasper
Isabell Bobko
MacGriogair Mcintyre
Ai Warlord
Glorifying Dharmavira
Gemstone Rain
Sinha Kuranosuke
Knight Nymph
Tanya Matsuko
Hadley Vasumati
Young Acid
Raman Petal
Fang Vinay
Taneja Manacle
Munenori Maiden
Joel Lord
Enlarged Ramesh
Heart Neon
Driss Denmaryk
Den Anton
Wave Werewolf
Citadel Twentieth
Svante Crushing
Brobutl Rachna
Victoro Cherian
Patterson Ray
Florence Buczynska
Alias Books
Kanak Strasburg
Bali Servant
obufusa Cursed
Cook Kubilus
Mië Wing
Noriyori Esther
Kathia Presta
Fanny Granite
Discordant Jurian
Manuel Silver
Ryan Pandey
Loving Xie
Wickes Sniper
NíScolaidhe Cryptic
Zylphia Kieber
Tomone Worshipping
Grandjean Gothic
Muni Slutsky
Harris Amaya
Mind Zilá
Lachman Azure
Mad Ghost
Bitterness Steiger
Silver Elisabeth
Richy Tobin
Ice Gina
Tara Manacle
Sunna Blowtorch
Hattori Orchid
Moonsilver Masatoshi
Sundering Hanusa
Dalal Praising
Annihilation Cloth
Sally Kozloff
Face Sharmistha
Asia Shobha
Plutus Crawford
Mikie Ninurta
Tsunami Dolinski
Makary Odalisque
Al-Tayyeb Gerwin
Takayoshi Kelly
Copper Lila
Mockus Ketaki
Alias Serge
Kanetsugu Tora
Bodhisattva Manju
Consuming Shield
Nori Great
Rufus Okita
Pallavi Serpent
Dot Faulkner
Unlamented Seat
Flak Andris
Neena Sawhney
Mahavira Jans
O'reilly Rakesh
Vyas Viola
Wason Decimo
Roborn Dalenky
Variya Gunter
Ignazio Tsunenaga
Tyranny Annihilation
Jack Ginny
Tomiju Vibhuti
Second Alderdice
Chui Maitreya
Tak Excellent
Narang Kusagra
Athanasiou Pulkit
Satiated Eduardo
Kameyo Victorie
Stok Hiram
Master Mainchín
Rust Flowing
Ore Smith
Ekström Charan
Tor Sanjog
Satayu Wesley
Fulop Coxand
Pain Dubuisson
Anger Sjöholm
Diminished Ii
Tarpana Everardo
Sìle Lalla
Ottelien James
Blindfold Vitkus
Lord Groge
Mist Heerwagen
Freitag Bail
Bradley Feodora
Kemp Seraphina
Void Jessamine
Fayyad Preshea
Strewth Kramar
Selma Oda
Nagayasu Hōjō
Uppal Dead
Lonsdale Jue-Chuo
Mccoll Drunken
Saunak Ognibene
NicCruadhlaoich Tamara
Hundredth Doshi
Medard Fearghasdan
River Demeter
ÓCathal oshitaka
Bert Johnsson
Lover Ooka
Whiskey Grasmick
Thorwald Moroz
Dass Frida
Constance Unfettered
Boar DiBerardino
Cruz Sane
Takenaka Nagakura
Devantaka Drive
Drakenberg Charity
Meera Undefeated
Doerr Devin
Ogasawara Buccini
Ōtomo Turing
Golden Smalbrugge
Forsberg Kirchner
Skies Venom
Elisha Kikkawa
Masako Cursed
Laugh Strange
Fuwa Flak
Momo Naoie
Tokimune Cerulean
Thomas Gudrun
Lalima Macris
Surya Kagekatsu
Lea Edifice
Mariann Gunda
Sophronia Hiroie
Sinnett Wolstenholme
Bockus Nagamoto
Chiyoko Narain
Chadha Anya
Ujiyasu Lady
Kozma Jain
Gaffy Dobrow
Procession Eagle
Seth Chokei
Ore Bogdán
Norbut Klara
Flip Petal
Jones Quantum
Number Takakage
Satyavati Egidio
Nikita Belly
Bright Dominik
Ginchiyo Seventh
Rai Andō
Eracla Grim
Avinash Aroused
Gaby Mccarthy
Henk Gitika
Rainbow Sunrise
Exultant Ekachakra
Lucian Satyen
Amol Ramaswamy
Sagacious Mukul
Major Nagamasa
Pirate Lemken
Bright Anzu
Camila Zachariah
Sunder Stream
Jansson Pacho
Soulsteel Mattie
Arima Edna
Bairbre Saffron
Rat Malas
Nirupa Pearl
Neele Manacle
Anthes Hari
Killer Mohini
Nitro Bureau
Hatsu August
Ashwin Ishida
Orchid Bella
Hurley Manoj
Chinami Wave
Sawyer Ashwini
Lundholm MacPhàidein
Laura Mitsuharu
Wada Herbert
Bhaltair Data
Cryptic Risa
Bashō Knobben
Micajah Killer
Merz Ajit
Grey Ramiro
Olivia Pale
Tamaki Ruin
Shindou Unfettered
Beneficent Koto
Millee Keisuke
Hitotsubashi Gun
Ádám Ore
Porter Anshul
Seoras Galinis
Ankur Nankervis
Rogue Bindiya
Lover Narcyz
Ebon Lord
Rati Usami
Hunter Stanley
Molis Kikuë
Kairis Kojima
Willow Nettie
Jeevan Koko
Christodoulou Madhav
Coen Abramov
Runciman Kazi
Beneficent Kamakshi
Srikant Mander
Din Kato
Wattan Sudarshan
Lotus Georgia
Flowing Suté
Hisa Bolotin
Allen Magnuson
Naomasa Iagan
Urjavaha Plummeting
Walton Vermillion
Armor Grinder
Rokosz Gandhi
Gilmore Kiyoni
Price Master
Minerva Prokop
Fujitaka Onyx
Parnika Iginia
Eliza Viviana
Crater Simkus
Domhnall Stephens
Final Vault
Katsumi Loes
Zoe Sharp
Sunrise One
Muadhnait Valeri
Mist Israel
Félix Mckenzie
Fuji Twentieth
James Gate
Cox Bunny
Colbert Blitz
Jayant Sergi
Charlotte Hepner
Jatin Tiger
Sunrise Kennyo
Prachi Guardian
Rezső Abi
Prison Patrido
Besson Pain
Dhananjay Mechanation
Ireland Hikaru
Hill Spider
Yoshimichi Viswanathan
Godelieve Seshadri
MacTuirc Verma
Som Lala
Harris Shruti
Dhawan Skies
Vinita Joyous
Grey Sobha
Jubilant Kura
Johal Patrick
Meson Bronze
Lucian Overload
Thérèse Kazue
Takatoyo Bawa
Rajagopal Toshikatsu
Sayoko Bala
Rancorous Khalsa
Nozomi Someina
Prasoon Mand
Gurkin Masked
Bhavsar Citrasvana
Sumanna Geronimo
Gavan Alabaster
Vikrant Dani
Chu-Kai Vaisakhi
Jeff Banshee
Shukis Shintarō
Duskin Medard
Yoko Taga
Yashodhara Kova
Robert Mazzetti
Crozier Shiho
Koemi Garden
Rosenquist Ekta
Oak Sood
Angry Tapti
Aeson Shikha
Cipher Zou
Spigot Macklin
Abád Mather
Stewart John
Buch Omy
Jayani Aleksander
Deena Serena
Stag Florieke
Myrtle Imai
Intonation Vineet
Genevieve Gijsbert
Temple Granqvist
Grasshoff Stream
Vivek Lamberta
Asvin Phoenix
Nobutomo Caetana
Radgärd Dead
Nobuchika Azure
Devouring Ten
Oza Edit
Schroth Ami
Bailey Boulle
Purohit Martin
Kowaleski Jinx
Narayan Kazutoyo
Mathieson Marianna
Trusha Kai-Zu
Crimson Wable
Shere Prakash
Butterfly Rantidev
Ivan Grievous
Marlina BenAbdelaziz
Anna Angel
Kazushige Yuka
Marble Iris
Rogue Tearing
Lecia Bornholdt
Dawn Blind
Bishop Forsaken
Alloy Citizen
Masako Fourth
Tokiwa Del
Vairaja Cliff
Pau Kissing
Albert Levi
Jonathan Ran
Lind Lyuba
Pohl Komal
Braga Largo
Promire Chandra
Doctor Varun
Smirti Grigas
Nyoko Nimrod
Dòmhnall Tomb
Serial Jaya
Palmer Thrashing
Léonard Eeada
Walia Rosalina
Haeffner Sorrowful
Kakar Ox
Giertych Rout
Refuge Alice
Goda Maksim
Juda Upendra
Sandy Gour
Shark Hatano
Tapi Redoubt
Mellor Rose
Random Valiy
Kaedé Klukas
Dai Plot
Tyranny Annaisha
Forova Sparrow
Moss Hellberg
Tear MacIlleDhòmhnaich
Soul Sour
Finger Lance
Doctor Nene
Moon Naina
Shackle Wali
Nayak Maitryi
Xue Nitro
Faga Keane
Canino Ore
Kaylock Bhandari
Izō Kiko
Chhabra Shigetsuna
Foster Master
Débora Bunny
José Rüdiger
Bhalla Goodwin
Suri Gavrie
Kortman Rui
Stanton Gustafson
Toufiq Roelofs
Worshipping Venkatesh
Lysagh Spyridon
Síoda Thumpston
Durmada Doi
Wilfred Starmetal
Komara Mega
Shah Lord
Prisha Elm
Number Davidson
Tami Vault
Brewer Cyber
Cho Hardesty/Hardisty
Tapesh Lawrence
Markowski Ōta
Jibran Lodewijk
Hermine Binson
Running Lord
Alaine Oksana
Tadaoki Gamo
Kumar Turtle
Mary Rachna
Owl Deviant
Sumitra Hiroshii
Marsaili Corinna
Nagi Pitters
Motochika Rao
Zaccardi Miskinis
Ravana Mcneil
Asharya Tulasi
Perry Jackpot
Hammond Sour
Elm Jade
UíhAinbhthín Walla
Agrawal Panagakos
Angry Cat
Sriram Mclachlan
Wreckage ÓGlaisne
Watanabe Collier
Sessai Zandra
Kura Knife
Kanetsugu Stack
Ezra Kiyotsuna
Ramachandran Zasha
Tower Zlotnik
Fourth Eugeniusz
Ijuin Kageyu
Campisi Rupali
Krantz LoCastro
Spenkelink Popoff
Nora Maffia
Liddle Dubow
Bentzen Citizen
Lady Johnny
Sabharwal Kazan
Ora Anand
Chip Silveira
God N’Ait
Wilkinson Tsuru
Percoco Basu
Jade Seventh
Stalwart Dance
Halder Keszo
Matsudaira Mullen
Mariska Hasegawa
Invincible Oishi
Bittencourt Butler
Nelson Shaila
Third Stallion
Menkous Mek