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Author Topic: [AP] FATE Wuxia One-Shot  (Read 4424 times)
Uruush
Member

Posts: 18


« on: September 01, 2006, 08:57:58 PM »

This is a long post.  I'm going to post the FATE/gameplay-relevant part up first, then respond to it in a second post with the game report I sent out to the players a couple days later.  You may just with to read the first post.  Sorry if it isn't particularly useful or interesting - it's my first AP post.

Context:

- Our regular Game of Thrones game cancelled for lack of GM and one player.  I offer to run a one-shot using FATE.
- Four players, most of whom haven't played much non-d20, especially in recent years.
- I am enthused about FATE but haven't really looked at the rules since I first read them a couple years ago and don't really have much time to prepare.  Also, although I used to GM a lot, I haven't for years.
- I solicit genre/game element input and ask the players to rank different possibilities on a scale 1-5.  The winning genre is FANTASY.  The winning elements are KUNG-FU, NINJAS, and BABES, with MONKEYS close behind.
- Day of game, I send out characters sheets modeled after the ones previewed for SotC, and provide links to 2nd ed. FATE (Fudge), as well as some Chinese and Japanese character artwork for inspiration.
- One page of GM notes, reminders.  Also some combat mechanics off the FATE wiki that I printed out but didn't have time to read.
- A poker chip case with 10 different colors of poker chips and matching Fudge dice for each color.
- A dry erase board with the SotC Ladder and spaces for poker chips alongside the ranks, placed flat on a coffee table around which the players and I are gathered.
- Portable ipod+speakers config playing the soundtrack from Hero once gameplay began.
- 10 phase characters peaking at Superb, but with only 6 Aspects each, 3 Fate tokens, and 1 "F U, I'm Awesome" (Spotlight) token.  (Read about it on some blog - I think a designer at GenCon coined the term.)

     I provide a reference sheet with some highlights of FATE, sample Aspects, and a Skill list, and explain the rules in maybe fifteen minutes.  We make characters on the fly with their Superb, Great, and 1-2 of their Good skills and 6 Aspects filled in.  Then we create the world.  Everyone has 5 "World Creation tokens" to provide structure to the exercise.  This part was inspired not specifically by FATE, but mostly from browsing on various boards.  We make a Fantasy Chinese/Japanese world, and the players have great ideas - a couple of them fill in some more Aspects and Skills based on this.  The "Stage" they came up with is below.  I show them two pieces of artwork.  They provide the entire context for the first, and for the second, I show a picture of three individuals and ask why they hate their characters, and they riff on that for a bit.  I finish by asking them "What horrible thing just happened to you all?" to Kick things off, and they come up with more awesomeness.  This all take about two hours so we are only left with about 2.5-3 hours to play.

-  I don't think I explained Aspects adequately.  I'd have liked to have given this part more thought beforehand as to how to explain them quickly and accurately.  The concept is both a little foreign, and a little ambiguous for players of more traditional RPGs.  It took me a while to get my head around them, and I haven't come up with a good way to talk about them.  There's nothing the players did or didn't do that make me think they didn't "get" them, and they came up with some great character/color/flavor Aspects.  I can't put my finger on it exactly.  I didn't go into the invoke/compel, "flexible Aspects are interesting Aspects part enough, I think.  All that said, Aspects are awesome tech and really seem to encourage cool character creation; players not having to worry about whether some aspect (small "a") of their character will provide a substantive enough benefit for the points/resources spent for it relative to other aspects they might invest in is really freeing.

-  We had 4 combats in 2.5 hours along with numerous other kinds of skill tests.  The four separate combats were against 5 mooks, 10 mooks, 2 mooks and 20 mooks along with a demonic Fire Sorcerer.  The mooks were all run as "Mook-Masses", using Exchange Based Fights.  I chose this method both because we were short on time, and because I wasn't really prepared for any other method.  I think the players liked how quickly the combats went, but I think I slipped a little on the narration side and didn't make them as colorful as I might have.  If you're going to handle combat quickly, and at a high level using FATE, I think I'd recommend having some good descriptions prepared.  People who had only a few minutes earlier been dropping creative bombs during "world creation," seemed to be waiting on me for all the narration, but I think I didn't provide enough prompting on this front.  That's pretty much the standard mode in our group - putting a lot of the heavy lifting on the GM.  I tend to do it myself.  But part of it was also because the mechanics were new.

- If you're running Mook-Masses against "Superb" combatants, you'll probably want to make them tougher than "Average".  Even with Outnumbering and Flanking and Surrounding, My "deadly assassins" were more like "keystone cops."  But that's okay, because I did have in mind heroic, "Hero," or "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"-type protagonists.

- I only did one Compel (against the Greedy character), and he was all to happy to grab a Fate token for something he was likely planning to do anyway.  Even though I had a big cardboard sign with each of the PCs, names, Aspects and best Skills, I neglected to fit in some more Compels for/against other characters.  The visual aid was good for prompting me to put in some Tests for the Skills that the players wanted their characters to be good at.  One of the players used their Intimidate Skill as a combat maneuver, without me having provided any prompting or mechanical definitions for this.  (I likely would have given more time beforehand)  It was very cool, so I gave him a roll and he pulled it off.

- The PCs decided to take on the main group and the sorcerer Ming Feng , and I made up for my "keystone Ninjas" by making Ming an Epic baddy with chilling hellfire bolts.  They all had to burn all of their Fate tokens, and one of them used their "Spotlight" token (automatic + + + +) to finally help take him down (this token was a once in a lifetime thing and does not refresh).  Two of the characters were Hurt and one of was Injured.

- I gave myself nine Fate tokens (to the players' twelve) mostly because I wasn't sure on how to tune the challenge level and thought I might need them to fall back on.  Next time, I wouldn't give myself any and I would instead give important opponents some "active" Aspects.  Spending Fate tokens here and there felt a little like "Oh No You Don't"s to me.  Not good.  And also narrative weak/non-prompting/generic.  Better Ming Feng had had "Hellfire Bolt", "Maddening Laugh", "Shadow-form", and "Devil Sword" Aspects for re-rolls, than me having Fate tokens to just bump up his effectiveness here and there and having to stone cold improv the conflict denouement.

- This may or may not end up being a One Shot.  The world the players developed is interesting and would be a fun place to revisit next time the main campaign falls through.  If we do, I'll be much better prepared and will have created some genre-appropriate FATE mechanics, Static and Dynamic Challenges, and some better play-aids/advice.  I'm hoping the pulpy Spirit of the Century will provide some great over-the-top mechanics I can adapt to wuxia.  I'm looking forward to giving locations Aspects for the characters to "tag" as well.  Overall, I am *really* impressed at how well FATE handled given a seriously rusty and ill-prepared GM, as well as players new to the system.  Having four to five hours of actual play time with everyone more familiar, is likely to go much better.
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Uruush
Member

Posts: 18


« Reply #1 on: September 01, 2006, 08:59:16 PM »

Qin Kurai (Chin Kur-EYE)
The Stage:
- The Qin Kurai empire is ruled over by a benevolent, but doddering old emperor, Xiao-wei, who's reign from the province of Qin, was marked by conquests to bring Seven Kingdoms under his rule.
- The empire is now marked by factionalism among competing nobility, some seeking to wrest power from the emperor, who has no male heir.
- Xiao-wei does have a daughter, Seng-wei, who might be able to take the throne under certain difficult terms.
- The Imperial City, and center of the empire, is Xiang Hu, "The city on the Eastern River".
- Xiang Hu is known for its impressive structures and temples, some of which have ornamentation of Red Jade, which is mined from the mountain range NE of Xiang Hu.
- Many of the police and militias in Qin Kurai are corrupt and in the pockets of various petty nobles and crime lords.
- The emperor maintains a secret police force that is loyal to him and which is run by the famous warrior Wong Fei Hu.
- Wong Fei Hu has an intelligent animal companion, a great white Tiger named Li, who is said to possess the ability to pass through walls.
- Qin Kurai has a feudal system with its presiding emperor similar to that of medieval Japan.
- There are a series of mountain monasteries throughout Qin Kurai, seven in total, one from each of the former Seven Kingdoms. At each of these, a different martial style is taught by the monks, some concentrating on weapons, some on hand-to-hand fighting.
- Three of the most prominent of these are the Golden Phoenix Monastery, the Black Dragon Monastery, and the Jade Monkey Monastery.
- The monks at each of these worship a different god(dess): Szu, Mau, and Dim-Bong respectively.
- Szu is a beautiful goddess, whose theology includes aspects involving the cycles of life and death, followed by rebirth. The Sun and Light are common themes. Her adherents believe in reincarnation. Among the pantheon of gods, her religion is prominent, having its origin in the Qin province. Most of the martial monks are female, but the order does accept a few worthy males. One member of the monastery, Pei Zi, is a worthy archer and a known babe. The Order wears mostly red.
- Mau is the god of death. His followers constitute an illegal cult, unsanctioned by the state. His death is the final death, leading neither to rebirth, nor the Ten Hells, but oblivion. Monks from the Monastery of the Black Dragon are noted as supreme assassins. The Black Dragon Monastery is in the province boarding Qin, but it's exact location is a closely guarded secret. The Order wears mostly black.
- Dim-Bong is the Monkey God of Mischief and Greed, among other things. The masters at his monastery teach a weaponless "Monkey-Claw" fighting style, which is marked by defense and evasion. Dim-Bong is also believed to bring luck to the crafty and is worshiped by merchants, thieves, sailors, and others seeking good fortune. The order wears mostly purple.
- The Golden Phoenix and Black Dragon monasteries are rivals, but opponents who respect one another and enjoy their competition.
- There is an annual tournament of martial prowess, which is held in Xiang Hu. Warriors throughout the empire, monks or no, compete for the title of "Eastern Champion."
- The Eastern Champion receives a golden amulet, a grant of land, and the right to be a suitor to Seng-wei, who has just recently come into the age of marriage.
- Women in Qin Kurai can and do marry other women, so it is possible that a female Eastern Champion could win the hand of Seng-wei.
- There are terrible monsoons in Qin Kurai that destroy whole villages during monsoon season. It is currently monsoon season. Some fearless (crazy?) souls known as Monsoon Riders, brave the monsoons and ride the air currents small para-sailing craft. The monsoons come from the sea to the south, and it is often said that "a south wind is an ill wind."
- The leading would-be usurper for the throne of Qin Kurai is Cao Tsu, a general who won many military victories when the empire was being formed. Two of his primary allies in this ambition are his adopted son Ju-Jin, a warrior devoted to the perfection of Jianshu, and Ming Feng, once a pupil at the Golden Phoenix monastery, now a vile fire sorcerer, possessed of a demon from one of the Ten Hells.

***
The Players:
Ji Xiao - Jianshu adept of the Golden Phoenix monastery. Friend of Pei and former friend of Ming Feng before he had him expelled from the Golden Phoenix monastery year ago for dishonorable conduct and cruelty towards his sparring partners. A somewhat vain soul. Well-oiled.
Lan Tao - master swordsman of the Black Dragon monastery. Lan Tao anonymously won the title of Eastern Champion five years ago. He was not allowed to retain the lands he won, but has held on to the golden amulet indicating his victory and his suitor rights.
Su Yu - Monkey Claw fighting-style master of the Jade Monkey monastery. Known for his amazing reflexes and dangerous love of wealth.
Shin' Zu - Silver-haired, master swordswoman of the Black Dragon monastery. Daughter to Cao Tsu, who would not permit her to compete in the annual tournament, and replaced her in his affection, pinning his ambitions instead on Ju-Jin. She feels she has much to prove.

***

The Play - Act I:
Soundtrack: Mournful Funereal Drums
Image: Burning leaves swirl through the air.  Burning arches and burning wood and paper houses are seen in the background. The sky is grey and foreboding.
Brother Chin Yau is dying, his body marked by both steel and flame. Four companions, members and adjuncts of Wong Fe Hu's secret police, kneel over him in the smoking ruins of the Golden Phoenix monastery. He looks into the eyes of his beloved former pupil, Ji Xiao, and breathes his final words, "Ming... Feng..."
Ji Xiao grimaces and nods, "And.. the Master?"
Chin Yau looks confused. He shakes his head, shudders, and lies still.
Brief synopsis:
Lan Tao determines that they are in some danger of having their way back to Xiang Hu cut off by the forest fire now raging in the Demon Wood, but that they have a few minutes to look for survivors and/or determine which way the culprits went.
Shin' Zu finds many tracks leading to the monastery treasure house to the SE
Su Yu sneaks off in that direction.
A scream is heard to the N.
Ji Xiao and Lan Tao run towards the scream. Shin' Zu maintains a central position between the now split party and scans for foes and survivors.
Ji Xiao and Lan Tao come upon 5 brown robed swordsmen, two with red sashes. They are preparing to rape the archer Pei Zi by the Floating Leaf River.
Lan Tao recalls that the two with red sashes work directly for Ming Feng.
Ji Xiao and Lan Tao take the five by surprise and slay them all before they are even fully aware they are under attack.
Pei is grateful and happy to see them. They question her and it becomes clear that Ming Feng and many of his brown robed assassins attacked and burned the monastery while most of the adherents were either working in the nearby fields or at prayer. They might have mounted some resistance, but there were many young disciples that were still green and in harm's way. The bulk of the members elected to flee north with these young ones across the Floating Leaf River. Pei says that Ming was headed with most of his force towards the treasure house.
Ji Xiao gives Pei Zi his bow and asks if she is prepared to fight any other assassins that may till be nearby. She is still shaken, somewhat injured, and believes she should head north to help protect the rest. She tries to persuade Lan Tao and Ji Xiao that there are too many assassins remaining and that they should head north with her, but they wish her well and head back south towards Shin' Zu.
Meanwhile, Su Yu has crept near the treasure house and sees at least ten men nearby, with perhaps another ten inside including one barking orders in a commanding, almost unearthly voice.
Su Yu's greed gets the best of him and he elects to attempt to sneak into the treasure house and find the famous Monkey Eye gem which once belonged to his Order but which has been in the possession of the Golden Phoenix monastery for some time.
Amazingly, Su Yu manages to sneak past all outside, including two men posting guard near the entrance to the treasure house. He observes a carved wooden box with a monkey design underneath some silk cloth bolts in one of the rooms inside. He tucks the box away and steals out of the treasure house, evading all the men inside, and pulls himself up onto the roof of the building and out of sight.
Ji Xiao, Lan Tao, and Shin' Zu spy Su Yu on the treasure house roof and are headed south when Ji Xiao sees five more brown-robed assassins near the mountain temple entrance to the east. The three determine to slay these men who are separated from the main contingent.
Ji Xiao and Lan Tao charge the men, while Shin' Zu takes a more circuitous route, attempting to flank and surprise them.
Five more assassins, carrying red jade statuettes appear at the entrance, joining the others.  The battle is joined and the three companions make quick work of the ten without injury, and without alerting the main group.  One attempting to flee gets a throwing star in the back of the head from Shin' Zu.
Ming Feng and the remaining assassins give up on searching for the Monkey Eye and head for their horses to the south.  The forest fire continues to rage.
The risk of attacking Ming Feng and a score of assassins is briefly discussed and it is decided that vengeance must be served.
Su Yu spies two assassins that had been sent north to collect the others.  They have seen Ji Xiao, Lan Tao and Shin'Zu and are running south towards the treasure house, shouting a warning.  Su Yu prepares to ambush them from the roof.
Ming Feng hears the warning and sees Su Yu on the south slope of the treasure house roof.  Ming Feng orders a barrage of arrows, all of which Su Yu manages to evade, but he is struck by a bolt of cold hellfire.  Su Yu hears the moaning of the damned, and hears Ming Feng's voice in his head, "The Eye!"
Su Yu leaps from the roof to get out of line-of-sight and attack the two assassins but is unable to surprise them.
Su Yu, addled from the tormenting hellfire, engages the two assassins as the rest of the party circles towards the main group to the south, moving quickly but stealthily.
Su Yu take out his two opponents with some help from Lan Tao's arrows.
Ming Feng continues hurling devastating hellfire at the group.  Ultimately, both Lan Tao and Ji Xiao are struck by hellfire and are injured.
The four companions close on Ming Feng and twenty assassins, and are quickly surrounded.  The melee is a sea of blades and fists.
Ming Feng lights his blade with green hellfire and swings it in a deadly arc, cursing Ji Xiao all while for "robbing" him of his rightful place in the Golden Phoenix monastery.
The companions whittle the assassins down, first to fifteen, then to five, until finally Ming Feng stands alone, a whirling, howling dervish of evil.
In a spotlight moment, Ji Xiao sunders Ming Feng's blade, leaving him momentarily without defense.
Soon after, the four fall on the villain as one, with a particularly deadly strike through the throat from the rear by Shin' Zu.
Ming Feng's tortured soul is seen to emerge from his body and seeks to ascend to the heavens, but it is dragged down by a by an enormous demonic claw that appears from out of the ground.  A deep booming laughter and Ming Feng's shrieks of horror are heard from below.
Smoke from the forest fire fills the air, panicked horses race in every direction. The companions gaze at the carnage around them and consider what do next.
Soundtrack: Victorious-sounding string instruments rise, but with an undercurrent of foreboding percussion…
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iago
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« Reply #2 on: September 01, 2006, 09:24:44 PM »

This is fantastic stuff.  Sufficiently so that I'm struck dumb at the moment, with nothing to add.  That may change once I finish spinning in my seat!
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Uruush
Member

Posts: 18


« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2006, 02:32:10 PM »

This is fantastic stuff.  Sufficiently so that I'm struck dumb at the moment, with nothing to add.  That may change once I finish spinning in my seat!

Hope you enjoyed reading it.

Hmmm...  No editing of posts.  That'll teach me not to proofread, I guess.  Stinks though.

- One other thing I thought worth mentioning is that the players seemed to enjoy leaving Skill slots empty and having the option of rolling at Mediocre, or deciding that, yes, their character was actually pretty Fair at Streetwise or what have you.  I think even if you had weeks of prep time, (rather than a day), you still might wish to have the players leave several slots open on the bottom two rungs of their pyramid.  One player mentioned all the times he'd added "Use Rope" to his character's abilities in various campaigns and never had the opportunity to use it.  FATE's emphasis on "what's important to the story right now?" makes me think that "on the fly" generation, at least in part, ought to be the default.
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iago
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« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2006, 06:42:47 PM »

"On the Fly" is definitely one of our primary supported methods in Spirit of the Century.  It's good fun.  I just don't want to do it exclusively -- I get too much value out of the slow-and-long character creation, in terms of establishing the relationships among the PCs.
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