Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Starter Kitting Divine Blood

Geek and Sundry has recently started a new show called Starter Kit which they produce on their Alpha channel. The premise is to run a short adventure for a game to serve as an introduction into how the game is played. They start with character creation and move onward to running through the adventure. The players they use are mostly new to roleplaying games with one or two players who are more experienced with RPGs in general but perhaps not the game being featured specifically. They started with Dungeons and Dragons, of course, and have since moved on to 7th Sea. Their forums are already taking suggestions for future features.

Being the developer of an small roleplaying game, I've given some consideration to how I might set up such a show. Of course, there's no reason I might appear on the show. I've sold perhaps three hundred copies of the game to date and while I've heard from a few people about their campaigns, I'm hardly a well-known or popular game, but it is an interesting thought process none-the-less.

That said, you are likely to find at least some of the mechanics of my game show up on the Starter Kit as my game is a variation of Fate and I am sure that we'll see Fate at some point or another. Most of my gameplay is taken from Fate Core with a few things here and there from Strands of Fate. On the other hand the character creation is almost entirely based on Strands of Fate.

So, how to go about creating a Divine Blood Starter Kit.

First thing is that character generation is a combination of on-screen and off-screen and the options are pared down quite a bit. The D&D starter kit only involved the four classic classes (Cleric, Fighter, Rogue, Wizard) and the four common races (Dwarf, Elf, Halfling, Human). The 7th Sea starter kit had the characters choose one background of their own and a shared background together and often offered two or three options very close to what they described for their character.

So, first, I'd have to come up with an elevator pitch of the setting for people to get an idea of what character they wanted to play. This is relatively easy at least as I have done this before. So I'll take a bit from the start of the book.

Welcome to the Party 

The world has been changing at a rapid pace and no one has really noticed. Not the scientists inventing the high-tech wonders, nor the soldiers that use them. Not the Demons in their brimstone, or the Gods in the heavens. Not even those who seek to bring change are aware of how things are progressing. Everyone is moving about their lives as if the world is stable and everything is going as it is expected to.  The world is stirring into a hurricane of change, and no one can predict completely what the end result of this will be.

The people in the most position to see what is happening are spending their time chasing or creating symptoms of the overall problem. Soldiers and spies exchange fire and secrets in isolated batttlefields away from the public eye. Exorcists chase paranatural beasts and ease the passing of ghosts. Demons and Gods continue to stare at each other across a gulf of past war and scattered rogues.

Look at it from the outside, where you sit with this tome in your hands or on your computer's screen. Take a sip from the cup in front of you, perhaps some hot tea with a twist of lemon. Can you see where the problem is? Do you know how to fix it? Will you try?

*****
Beyond that, I would have a longer primer to expand upon that basic lead in. Probably a more updated version of the various posts on this blog pared down to a few basic concepts central to the setting.

Immortals - One of the major facets of the setting is that there are Gods and Demons and most of them aren't any more powerful than a baker at the corner store. They are both pre-human species that evolved to an unaging state and mastered the development of psychic abilities and technologies. They have collective mindscapes through which they can share power and knowledge. They took human forms long ago and after eons of conflict, those currently alive were mostly born in that appearance or even used to be human. So having the option of playing a God or Demon would be there. They periodically return to childhood to keep mentally and physically healthy and to reconnect to with mortal society.

Visionaries - An extension of the above concept. Visionaries are a branch of humanity that has evolved to the same base physical state as the Gods and Demons, only they still appear to age and even age faster because they have yet to develop the techniques that the Gods and Demons used to stabilize their collective without consuming the individual minds into a single entity. Visionaries are often the source of the amazing technology being developed in the world.

The Supernatural Obeys Rules - The nature of physics is different enough from the real world that on a brief examination everything functions as it does in the real world but also psychic abilities are possible. They are predictable and through thousands of years of trial and error sorcerers have found techniques and rituals that they can teach to achieve predictable results. It is powered by "Life Force" generated by living beings and even more so by sentients. However, the mechanics are left vague enough that quite a lot of things are possible. There are beings in the world that aren't on level with Star Trek's Q, but most people would be hard pressed to see that.

Most Supernaturals are Civilians - Close to 1% of the world's population is supernatural in some form or fashion. This is a fact that nobody has realized yet because the vast majority of these people learn just enough to not lose control or have some useful day to day tricks. Even those that make a living from psychic skills like exorcists, feng shui shih, shapers, magicians, and the like mostly learn boring utilitarian techniques and have never even thought about weaponizing their powers. People looking for the supernatural look for the secret societies trying to control the world and those are a much smaller part of the population.

Tech is Far Advanced - Mecha about 11 to 15 feet tall are used in battle, law enforcement, construction, and sports. There are genetic treatments that can change your hair color, eye color, ethnicity, or gender. Japan has already legalized mods for tails and cat ears. Smartphones have roughly the power of high-end desktops in the real word. Fossil fuels are generally only used by planes and some civilian ships. Power plants are mostly nuclear but phasing out to solar and fusion plants are being established. Luxury airships make cruises around the world. An international space-station houses close to a thousand diplomats and scientists.

Nobody is Talking to Each Other - There are several nations and organizations of more positive potential than negative, but they are largely not in communication. Likewise, there are numerous dark forces building up their own plots unaware that they are not alone. None of the guardians have all the pieces and the villains have no idea about the chaos they might trigger. Psychic abilities are publicly proven but lots of people continue to not believe in them or else believe all the wrong things.

Several Play Modes are Possible - I have run slice of life high school hijinks, creepy eldritch horror, mecha battles, espionage, divine politics, combat heavy action, and am now running a lost-in-space style campaign.

*****

That said, I'd likely have the following list of possible species available out of the 20 or so templates that have been created by myself or backers. The wolfen is a bit more complex, but the idea is just amusing, so they're included. Lemurian, Chijou Oni, Sidhe, Ravens, and Dvergr are simple non-humans with human inheritance that are often not psychically active. Galatea and Seraphim are minorly psychically active. Demons and Gods are connected to some of the major facets of the setting.
  • Human: Including Talents
  • Immortal: Demons and Gods
  • Lemurian: Deep-Ones if you want to start a fight
  • Chijou Oni: Have to drink alcohol to function properly.
  • Dvergar: The inspiration for both Norse dwarves and Greek cyclops.
  • Galatea: People able to turn their skin to stone.
  • Seraph: Agender humanoids engineered by a goddess as warriors.
  • Sidhe: Insanely beautiful people with a penchant for illusions.
  • Raven: Harpies if you're rude often have a thing for music or athletics.
  • Wolfen: Telepathic wolves that can change size and control small animals.
For occupation or skill templates, I'd suggest the following:
  • Average Citizen - May also be a God.
  • Akira: Untrained psychic.
  • Scientist or other Scholar - Includes ritualists.
  • Military or Law Enforcement - Includes trained psychics.
For power level, I'd choose Ring 12, which is the lowest level, (Ring 5 would be the highest power level). This limits flexibility a bit, but that's part of doing the starter kit.The three more complex species above (Demon, God, and Wolfen) would use up all their resources for the base templates.

I'd also likely cut down on the Aspects from the normal ten. I'd have a Defining Aspect (known as a High Concept in other kinds of Fate), a Disadvantage (Trouble) and a Background Aspect for what their history is. Then three specialty Aspects, probably the Extraordinary Skill, a signature piece of Gear, and a friend or organization they are connected to.

This would give the following resources:
  • 3 Character Aspects
  • 26 Ability Points
  • 3 Specialty Aspects
  • 3 Free Expert Advantages - Drawn from the list.
  • 3 Advantage Points - Possibly spent by a species template
  • 4 Refresh - Possibly down to 2 if they have an expensive species template.
I'd probably run four characters.

For the actual adventure I would want to show case the following:
  • Standard Tests
    • Fate Core Mechanic
  • A Challenge - Where the players take on something that doesn't immediately threaten them.
    • Fate Core Mechanic
  • A Contest - Where two or more characters are in conflict but not trying to harm each other.
    • Fate Core Mechanic
  • A Conflict - Where two or more characters are in conflict and trying to harm each other.
    • Fate Core Mechanic
  • Activation rolls for Psychic powers.
    • Strands of Fate Mechanic
  • Setting Difficulties based on characters having appropriate Aspects. 
    • Common to many forms of Fate.
A good Challenge might be to try to examine a crime scene or build a booth for a fund-raising fair.

A good Contest might be where the players are escaping a tornado or where they're having a sing-off.

A good Conflict would be where someone is trying to prove a person is a murderer or a battle with a supernatural serial killer.

Depending on the desire for the game mode I could run either of the basic scenarios I've played before:
  • Day at the Fair - Students are mostly high-school students with maybe a teacher. Hijinks at a school fair with a touch of drama.
    • Comedy/Light/Touch of Drama
    • Stage 1 - What sort of booth are we building.
    • Stage 2 - Build the booth and weird things start to happen.
    • Stage 3 - Start the fair! Who's this jerk reporter?
    • Stage 4 - An akira episode.
    • Stage 5 - Calming our friend and winning BEST BOOTH EVER
  • Don't let the Sun Go Down - Following a terrible storm and earthquake in Seattle, Amaterasu, currently a middle school student, has gone missing.
    • Disaster/Rescue. I've done it with both a deliberate plot and just simple natural disaster.
    • Stage 1 - Amaterasu is missing! Who are you people?
    • Stage 2 - Rain, rain go away!
    • Stage 3 - Finding a trail!
    • Stage 4 - Rescue the Goddess of Beginnings
    • Stage 5 - Getting to safety!
 As to the Starter Kit itself for the players:

The Core Book. Dice Set in the color of their chosen species' life-force. Laminated Aspect Cards with wet erase markers. Art of their character. Character sheet.

(Incidentally, Alpha is well worth the $4.99 subscription.) 

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