Business End of a Boom Tube – FAE Supers Gaming with my Family, Part Four (of Four)

First, a disclaimer: I’m not very good at Fate.

There are players out there who can wave their hand, summon up ever-folding images of the Fate Fractal to illustrate off-the-cuff google+ posts, and write up detailed hacks for the core rules three times a week.

That’s not me. I’m running these supers games using nothing but the rules in the book(s), without any variations.* I basically ignore things like the “Extras” chapter in Fate and FAE, and mentally summarize the whole chapter with “Sometimes you’ll want the game to do something a certain way that is different than anything else in the book, and if so, that should cost something.”

(* – No variations that I’m aware of – it’s possible that stuff from older versions of Fate have crept in, but if so I haven’t noticed and didn’t do it on purpose.)

The reason I bring this up is that, in this section of the game, there were a couple of situations where I wanted specific effects, and set up stuff in a way to make that happen. In hindsight, I can see ways I could have elegantly applied existing rules to accomplish the same thing, but the actual solutions I came up with on the fly aren’t lovely crystalline matrices – they’re rickety Rube Goldberg machines that held together only so long as I kept thinking about them. I don’t recommend replicating some of the stuff here, verbatim.

Unless you think it’s cool. In which case, go ahead.

Now then, where were we?


We we last left our heroes, they’d just recovered most if not all of their memories of abduction by Braniac’s troops, and now knew that if they didn’t get off this ship soon, their friends and families were probably dead (or digitized and deleted, which amounts to the same thing).

Grim and determined, they ask Oracle for a new destination – someplace they can go to stop the digitization of their home neighborhood.

Oracle does a bit of searching – really all she seems to be able to do inside Brainiac’s system right now is find information; her access is too limited for serious hacking – and gives them a new direction to head: a control center located near the center of this section of the ship.

They proceed, and hit their first barrier in the form of an Automated Security Checkpoint in the next Junction Chamber.

Junction Room [Ugly Ver 1]

Characters need to make Good forceful overcome rolls to act each round (roll at the start of the round). If they don’t, they can’t move (defend, whatever). This is because of the Robotic Brain in the center of the room. The brain’s in an invulnerable forcefield and can’t be harmed.

At the start of the second round, three-unit squads of sentry-bots start showing up (3 stress for each squad, +2 at the stuff they’re good at, -2 to stuff they aren’t good at). They don’t have to make Overcome rolls to act.

If, in any round, all the heroes managed to overcome successfully, the Brain shorts out for a bit, and the forcefield drops for a round. The brain has 4 stress and, if destroyed, stops summoning patrol squads.

Or, you can do it this way:

Junction Room, [ver2]

Zone Aspect: Immobilizing Telekinetic Field (Allows Brain to forcefully Defend against any enemy action in the room.)

Brain in a Jar
Aspect: Telekinetic Construct
Forceful: +2
Stunt: Forcefield – Armor:4 versus all physical and most energy attacks. Does not work if Brain has Aspect: Shorted Out. If I am defeated “with style” on an Overcome vs. my Defend, I gain the Aspect: Shorted Out for one round.
Stunt: Summon Bots – Because I am a security construct, once per round I can summon a security bot patrol to the room.

Security Bot Patrol
Forceful: 2
Stress: 3 (Collective for group of three)

There are probably better ways to do it, but whatever.

Anyway, the trio enter the room. Due to her native telekinetic abilities (and related stunt), Angelia is able to forcefully overcome the telekinetic field immediately. Anna struggles but manages to keep moving by focusing on rescuing her parents (fate point and her new aspect), while Mikenna is basically immobilized.

The doors across the room open, and a trio of security bots march in and open fire. Angelia deals with them while Anna tried to freeze the metal Brain in the middle of the room on a pedestal (to no avail).

Angelia clears two of the three bots, but the remaining soldier gets reinforcements as three more bots rush in through a side entrance. Anna hurls ice at them to help out Angelia, but the girls are clearly struggling. Mikenna still can’t move.

On the third round, the bots are building up, and Anna is struggling to keep moving against the telekinetic force blanketing the room. Mikenna musters everything she’s got and manages to break free of the telekinesis. This added resistance shorts out the Brain for a few seconds and Mikenna takes that opportunity to turn the gold-plated bit of machinery into a non-functional pin-cushion. The telekinetic field drops, and the kids make short work of the remaining bots.

Alarms start sounding, and a stentorian voice starts droning about escaped prisoners needing to be stopped – converge on the control rooms – et cetera.

The kids battle toward the control room, moving fast so that resistance can’t get organized, and storm inside. Oracle has explained that, based on schematics, she thinks there are four ‘connections’ between the ship and a shield generator that, if disabled, will allow her to send reinforcements to them via Boom Tube (whatever that is).

It turns out that the four ‘connections’ are a bit more robust than that: four giant bolts jut from the floor in the large room – all of which need to be destroyed. They’re about this big:

AthertonBolts

Also, there’s a big combat-grade command bot in the center of the room where Oracle’s schematics say a “control unit” should be:

Brainiac_Ship_Guardian

Finally, while they entered from the ‘south’ and jammed the entrance, the other three walls in the room are deep alcoves that basically look like teleporter platforms – looks like a great way for reinforcements to arrive.

“So, what do you do?”

At this point, they group tries a number of things, but the situation quickly stabilizes to a number of key facts.

  1. A squad of three patrol-bots (same stats as the Junction Room) shows up on each of the three teleporter pads, every round.
  2. The Command Unit (+3 to everything relevant, 3 stress and full consequences) has a force field basically as tough as the one around the Robot Brain from the Junction Room. (Armor:4, but only active if the Command Bot’s declared action for that round is a Defend, otherwise it’s down). He can basically be ignored for now.
  3. The big bolts are very difficult to damage.

Round 1

The kids decide the reinforcements need to be dealt with.

Anna puts up an Ice Wall covering the ‘mouth’ of one of the teleporter alcoves. (I just made a … thing … Barrier? that the bots had to destroy to enter the room, with stress equal to Anna’s successes. That’s old-Fate thinking, probably: should have just made it a means for her to active defend against them entering the zone.)

Angelia blocks a second alcove with a force wall.

Mikenna fills her alcove with arrows and mows down the reinforcements there.

Round 2

Anna ices over the alcove that Angelia had before. Mikenna keeps firing on her alcove, and Angelia tries to unscrew one of the massive bolts with her telekinesis… unsuccessfully. (I decided to do some kind of ‘gradual success’ thing here, and didn’t have time to look up to see if that’s a thing that exists in Fate Core, so I just give decided on a total number of successes she needed to accumulate to totally unscrew the thing.)

Round 3

Anna ices over the third teleport node. Mikenna takes pot-shots at the Command Unit, but does nothing. Angelia keeps twisting.

Round 4

Anna and Mikenna team up to freeze and damage another bolt. This kind of works, but… reinforcements are slipping into the room through the shattered ice walls.

Round 5

Anna reinforces the ice walls while Mikenna cleans up the bots that got through. Angelia gets a bolt loose and starts on another.

Round 6

Anna, from this point on, is basically playing a game of ice-blaster whackamole with the ice walls, reinforcing whichever ones seem closest to going down. It keeps the others clear to act.

Mikenna finishes breaking the damaged bolt.

Angelia makes major headway on the third bolt.

Round 7

Angelia gets the third bolt free and turns to the fourth-and-final. Mikenna is assisting Anna.

Round 8

The Command Bot drops his shield and starts powering up a MAJOR blast at Angelia’s back (one round to build up an Advantage first). Mikenna fires a couple shots at it.

Round 9

Angelia has the bolt loose!

Mikenna defends Angelia from the Command Bot’s blast, taking the hit herself for a Moderate Consequence (burned torso).

Oracle hollers “Shield is down! Reinforcements incoming! (pause) I can get into their servers! *gleeful cackle*”

Round 10 (and after)

A boom tube opens, and through it comes Wonder Woman, armed with sword and shield, armored in red and gold. She takes in the room at a glance, nods to the three holding back Brainiac’s troops, and says:

“We must hold this control room until Oracle has done her work.”

She leaps across the room and buries her sword in the chest of the Control Bot, then turns.

“Will you fight with me?”

Yeah. Like she needs to ask.

The rest of the battle is a blur. Mikenna runs out of arrows and resorts to hand to hand. Angelia is smashing swaths through the incoming troops with the shattered halves of the broken bolt. Anna freezes robots solid until there is literally no more moisture left in the air to crystalize.

And still they come. And die, and die.

Finally, they hear that same voice – Brainiac’s voice, they now realize – call for a retreat. Announce evacuation. Flee.

They win.

Wonder Woman tells them they can’t use the Boom Tube to exit the ship (Watchtower security clearance only), but helps them hurriedly clear a teleport pad that Oracle has commandeered.

Its destination? Their home neighborhood – the massive shield unit, tumbling from the ship, destroyed the magnetic jar below the ship, freeing their friends and family.

They arrive in the middle of the street, covered in ice crystals, sweat, blood, grime…

… and drowning in the cheers of those who know them best.


Every one of us, sitting at the table, is grinning from ear to ear.

It’s a good day to be a hero.

Garbage Disposal – FAE Supers Gaming with my Family, Part Three

In the last session with my niece, nephew, and daughter, the three young heroes were sneaking through the ship on which they’d found themselves following some kind of abduction they couldn’t remember.

Thanks to Angelia, they’d slipped out of the main corridors and into access passages that helped them avoid most of security patrols. Talking with Oracle (the voice on their earbuds) about what they could and couldn’t remember, the kids were able to recall they’d kind of known each other ‘before’ (and pick up Aspect to match this knowledge), but that was about it, so far.

They found their way to a choke point in the ship’s construction – a large room they needed to get through to reach the ‘transport’ section of the ship and, hopefully, escape. Stealthily scouting the room, they could see it was some kind of ‘trash reclamation’ chamber currently crowded with “Overseers”: a sort of commander-level robot that, according to Oracle, would be a challenge even if there were only one.

Meanwhile, Angelia had noticed that there were a couple warning lights blinking on the control terminals in the room. After working out what the lights are supposed to mean, she Cleverly deduced all the trash delivery tubes for the room are currently locked, and the supply of various kinds of trash were building up in the massive tubes overhead.

“What’s in each of the tubes?” Jadyn asks me.

Garbage Disposal

I work out a quick list of tube contents.

  • Tube 1: Rotting and liquid food waste.
  • Tube 2: Automobiles and other large mechanical devices.
  • Tube 3: Scrap metal.
  • Tube 4: Chemical waste.
  • Tube 5: Pillows and mattresses.

(Tube 5 got a muttered “Seriously?!?” from my niece as she peered at the list.)

This room wasn’t really meant to be a fight, or even a point to engage the dice – it was more of a puzzle solving challenge in which pretty much anything would work and the GM (me) was just curious what they’d come up with. Basically, anything they decided to do to clear out the Overseers would work if it made any kind of sense at all – the main question was what sort of consequences (Aspects) would they have to deal with in the room, afterwards, when they tried to cross it.

After some debate over the use of the Chemical Waste (and a few ideas in which they tried to use every tube, no matter what), they decided to empty the tubes onto the Overseers in the following order:

– Tube 3: Scrap metal.
This would introduce a lot of sharp ‘stuff’ that could damage the bots.

– Tube 2: Automobiles and other large mechanical devices.
They saw the main value here as being the weight of the stuff: dropped on the bots, with the scrap metal already in place, would, they felt, either puncture or rupture their outer casings. Then…

– Tube 1: Rotting and liquid food waste.
It was a toss-up between this and the chemical waste, but in the end they went for this tube because (a) it would be likely to seep or pour into the damaged bots and cause shorts and (b) while gross, wouldn’t turn the whole room into a chemical hazard they had to get across.

The tubes were opened, stuff fell with clangs and crashes and lots of sloshing and squishing, sparks flew, and the room was full of the smell of rotting garbage and fried wiring.

The kids made their way through the piles of junk (or over and around it in the case of Angelia and ice-sliding Anna). Oracle assured them they were almost to the hangar. Anna keyed the switch for the big door leading out of the room, which slide open to reveal a Master Overseer coming to investigate the disturbance.

Cunning, observant, and clever; Intimidating size; Heavy front armor plating
Skilled (+3) at: commanding security bots, blaster cannon, forceful defending, assessing tactical situation, strafing zone with missiles

The kids scattered, Anna throwing up a quick ice shield and rolling to the side as the Overseer let off a series of plasma blasts.

Anna
Stunt: Because I can make snap-freeze shields, I get a +2 to quickly defend against physical attacks.

The overseer stomps into the room, coming about halfway through the hatchway, and blasts out an order that all prisoners surrender immediately.

Angelia, already used to throwing around heavy objects, tried to hurl the thing to the side, but the Overseer was braced and clinging to the deck and couldn’t be moved. Mikenna tried a few exploratory bow shots, but couldn’t get anything through the Overseer’s defenses. Anna slipped past the Overseer and into the hallway beyond, verifying that the nearest hangar was only a few hundred feet further along, but couldn’t figure out how to get her friends into the passageway, past the giant robot.

What followed was a few rounds of the Overseer proving Oracle right – it definitely was not the sort of thing the young heroes wanted to fight, if they could help it. Mikenna, dodging nimbly, was still unable to entirely avoid the thing’s plasma blasts and picked up several Stress hits and a “twisted knee” Minor Consequence. Angelia’s force fields handled the blasts a bit better, but she was still accumulating Stress. Anna avoided the worst of these attacks, but working on her own, her ice couldn’t do anything significant to the Overseer.

Once again, the kids ran through their (choose who goes next) initiative in such a way as to allow the Overseer the last action in a round, followed by it giving itself the first action of the next round. It took advantage of this by (first) blanketing the room in withering missile fire (successfully creating an advantage on Angelia of “pinned down”) and then Blasting her with everything it had. The force bubble held, but Angelia was driven straight down into trash and waste, sinking into and being swallowed by the muck.

Given the not-so-subtle example of the benefits of Create Advantage, the kids started working together.

The most memorable bit in the rounds that followed was Angelia rising up out of the trash with a MASSIVE ball of muck and gunk over her head and burying the Overseer in the stuff. Anna froze the whole mess solid, then both Mikenna and Angelia shattering pieces of it.

The end of the fight came as Anna and Mikenna were taking turns freezing and shattering pieces of the robot while Angelia used her telekinesis to ‘Pin Down’ the bot: it looked like it was going to get another big attack, but Mikenna managed to get an attack success JUST big enough to be impossible to handle with a combination of Stress and Consequences – the Overseer collapsed and shorted out. The kids managed to make it out with Stress and only Minor Consequences, though it was touch and go for a bit, and all three were completely out of Fate Points (I was treating the whole ‘escape from the ship’ as a single scenario, so breaks between play sessions didn’t refresh their pool).

Anna and Mikenna also picked up their last Relationship Aspects.

Mikenna
– Anna is too young to be put in danger.

Anna
– I will prove (to Mikenna) I’m a hero, just like everyone else.

The trio made their (limping) way out of Garbage Disposal and down the hallway, with Oracle telling them that the ports up ahead should give them a good view of the ship’s nearest hangar.

Unfortunately, the hangar was occupied.

Specifically, it was occupied by rank upon rank of the smaller “security” bots, larger humanoid combat models they hadn’t encountered yet, and dozens of overseers.

“That must be the whole invasion force for this ship,” said Oracle.

The Classic Flashback

This is where we pulled away the last remnants of the amnesia. They all remembered these forces. They remembered what had happened.

Ships had appeared, months ago, over many major cities through the world. New York. Chicago. Gotham. Central City. Mercury Bay. And, of course, their own home of Metropolis. Sections of each city were surrounded – encased, actually – in weird energy fields: gigantic forcefields that not even superheroes like Wonder Woman seemed to be able to do anything about. Worse, if the bubbles stayed up for too long, they would fade away and the area they’d bottled was just… gone. Erased. Deleted.

The news called them “jars,” and said that the attacking force was run by someone called Brainiac.

Still, it didn’t seem to matter that much from day to day. Even the areas in Metropolis that had been encased were far away from their home neighborhood – those were wealthy, important parts of town, and they lived in a low-income project – not even an invading alien would care that much about them.

Then something happened. The news started talking about new heroes showing up – helping the well-known heroes with the defense of Earth. People started noticing friends and neighbors with strange new abilities.

Then a bottle swallowed their neighborhood, followed almost immediately by Brainiac’s troops, dropping out of the sky like a storm, ordering everyone into the streets for ‘inspection.’

Everyone was scanned.

The kids remembered the scanners beeping when they were pointed at each of them. The light on top pulsed – the Collectors said something like “exobyte detected”… and everything went black.

They’d gotten powers.

And those powers had called Brainiac right to them — had dropped a jar over their friends and families — had started a timer ticking. Very much longer, and the only home they’d ever known would just be… gone.

I pointed to the last blank on their character sheets and asked each player to write down an Aspect that covered their reaction all this.

Angelia, the natural leader, started working on a plan:
– Aspect: We’ve got to get that Jar down before it’s too late.

Anna was more personal:
– Aspect: I will get my parents back.

Mikenna, thinking about it for longer than the others, rejected the personal or tactical for big and angry:
– Aspect: Brainiac needs to pay.

The mood at the table changed dramatically. They weren’t scrambling for an escape route anymore: they were looking around for something to break.

Needless to day, I was very impressed with how each character had come together. Treating the whole flashback as a refresh scene, I told all three players to reset their Fate Point totals to 3 and clear their Stress and Minor Consequences.

“Okay,” they asked Oracle. “How do we stop this?”

“We’re on a Ship?” – FAE Supers Gaming with my Family, Part Two

[Not a lot of dice rolling and no fights in this one, but good character building stuff.]

When we last left our heroes*, they’d just beaten down three guards and escaped from the “science tube” room where they’d been held in some kind of suspended animation. Rather than going out through the main exit that their mysterious ‘voice in the ear’ benefactor had provided them, however, they’d slipped out through a maintenance hatch that Angelia (Jadyn) had discovered, and were now crouching in a narrow passageway, next to an access terminal.

(* And we the players did actually leave them for awhile – this game took place over the four days my niece and nephew were in town. After the first fight, everyone crashed for the night and just left everything where it was on the gaming table. Being able to do this is, in fact, why we *have* a dedicated gaming table.)

“I wasn’t expecting you to find another way out of that room,” says the voice in their ears. “Heck, I didn’t even know there was another way out: the schematic I’m working with only shows the public corridors – it must be something they use for the patrol and security robots, so there’s a good chance the guys with guns don’t have any idea where you are right now. That’s good news, since it means I can get you a lot closer to getting off that ship without alerting more guards.”

“We’re on a ship?” Mikenna asks.

“Of course we’re on a ship,” Anna pipes up. “Can’t you tell? We’re probably in deep space right now.”

“Actually…” says the voice on their ear buds. “You’re not, though you are pretty far up – directly over one of the…” There’s a pause. “Is… any of this ringing any bells? We’ve had problems with amnesia from some of the people we’ve freed in the past.”

No on says anything.

“Riiiight,” the woman on the other end says. “Well… is there anything you *do* remember?”

So we talk a little bit about what the characters know about themselves and what they know about each other. I encourage really sketchy levels of detail. The kids determine that Angelia  (Jadyn) knows both Mikenna (Malik) and Anna (Kaylee); Anna knows Angelia, but only knows of Mikenna; Mikenna recognizes Angelia, but doesn’t know Anna at all.

Anna is eight, Angelia is 14 (a freshman who’s been taking high school classes for the last two years), Mikenna’s a junior.

At this point, we stop to talk a bit more about Aspects and what they do. Once that’s covered, we talk about the High Concept aspect they all already have, and what the other Aspect ‘slots’ are for.

  • High Concept (already covered)
  • Trouble Aspect
  • Relationship with Other Character 1
  • Relationship with Other Character 2
  • Something I’m not talking about yet.

I ask the players about Trouble Aspects and if there’s any sort of Aspects of their character that, while sometimes useful, tends to cause them problems more often than not. The kids, perhaps unsurprisingly, immediately get this concept. Kaylee already has one written down (Bites Off More Than She Can Chew, another expression of the character quality at the core of her first stunt), and with that example, it’s pretty easy for the other two kids to come up with something.

Angelia: “Wait a minute, let’s think about this…”

Mikenna: Good with crowds, bad with people.

I’m really happy with all three of these as Trouble Aspects. To be honest, they’re probably the best examples of these types of aspects that I’ve seen, let alone gotten to play with first hand; they’re absolutely doing their “first job” of giving me an easy level to pull that will reward the player with fate points, but they’re also actually useful – every one of them can be used to legitimately provide benefit in certain situations, and that’s so often not the case with Trouble aspects.

We also take a look at the information they came up with earlier about each other, and look at relationship aspects. Jadyn already has one written on Angelia’s sheet (I look out for Anna), and based on that the girls decide that Angelia babysits Anna sometimes.

From that, Kaylee writes down her first Relationship aspect: “Angelia is like the big sister I never had.”

Malik and Jadyn talk about their situation a little bit more, working out that Angelia is one of those kids that kids her own age don’t like because they’re taking advanced classes, and that older kids don’t like because the younger kid is showing them up. The kids work out that Mikenna is getting secretly, informally tutored on math and science by Angelia.

None of them really remember what happened, or how they got where they are right now, or much about anything or anyone beyond the people they’re looking at, but they remember a little.

Malik writes down: “I trust Angelia with the ‘brainy stuff.'”

A fascinating dynamic develops out of this, in that Angelia (the ‘middle’ kid, both in the game and at the table) is essentially the leader of the group.

I’m happy with getting the trouble and the first relationship aspects down at that point, so when the kids struggle with their second relationships, I wave that off for later and move things along.

“Okay, this is Oracle again,” say the voice in their ear buds.

‘Oracle?’ mouths Mikenna. Angelia shrugs.

“I’ve been going over the schematics for the tunnels you’re in, and I think I’ve found a way to get you closer to one of the hangars, which should be the best way to get you off the ship.” The maintenance screen they’re crouched next to light up with a map, and a series of passages light up. “Follow this route, and that should get you almost all the way there without you needing to go back into high-traffic areas.

“Almost?” asks Mikenna.

“Yeah… there’s a little bit of a problem, but let’s get you moving for now.”

The trio heads out, and traverse a fairly large distance without any problem (bypassing about a half-dozen rooms I’d sketched out encounters for and now discard, unmourned). Oracle brings them to a room with a round shaft leading down.

(This is something I’ve put in place to encourage the players to come with some kind of ‘movement power’ for their guys.)

“You need to get down to the bottom of their shaft,” says Oracle, “but it’s quite a ways down – don’t just jump.”

“How about we slide?” say Anna, and creates a kind of ice platform anchored to the side of the shaft, steps onto it, and starts building the platform down like a large spiral slide. Pretty normal ice-guy thing, but new to the players, so we do some rolls to control the descent and keep from descending at an out of control speed.

Meanwhile, Mikenna has pulled a line out of her utility belt, and is using it like a abseil/zip line, while Jadyn describes Angelia getting down by holding onto the walls of the shaft with her telekinesis and lowering herself that way.

I point out that anyone looking at Angelia would think she was just flying down slowly. Jadyn says “I can fly?!? Cool!” and Angelia’s movement accelerates rapidly.

We roll some dice to see how everyone’s new method of getting around works, and given the opportunity, all three kids decide to accent their ability with a Stunt. Jadyn can’t think of one yet, but knows she wants one.

Anna

  • Because I can make ice-slides, I get a +2 to flashily overcome movement-related obstacles.

Mikenna

  • Because I have a zip-line, I get a +2 to cleverly overcome Physical obstacles.
  • Clever +2 (Despite leaving ‘the brainy stuff’ to Angelia, Mikenna is quite smart herself – she just doesn’t apply it much of the time, apparently.)

The shaft opens out into a utility control room, and we’re sort of back to a room vaguely like a scene in the DCUO tutorial.

“Okay,” says Oracle, “the good news is, you’re almost to the hangar. The bad news is, they know you escaped from the holding pods, and they’ve put guards on all the choke points that might let someone off the ship. That’s the next room – it’s marked ‘waste accretion’ on the schematics. Take a peek in there and see what kind of guards they have posted.”

Anna (stealthily) creeps up, and reports a half-dozen “really big spider robots.” Basically these guys.

Stats coming next session.

Meanwhile, Jadyn has noticed that there are a couple warning lights blinking on the control terminals in the room. After working out what the lights are supposed to mean, she Cleverly deduces that the room next door is supposed to be where “Earth trash” is accumulated and destroyed, but all the delivery tubes for the room are currently locked, and the supply of various kinds of trash are building up in the massive tubes over the robot’s head.

“What’s in each of the tubes?” Jadyn asks.

And therein begins a plan.

“Escape from the Science Tubes” – FAE Supers Gaming with my Family, Part One

I could write about this game for a week. It’s possible I might.

There’s so much to take out of this experience, both in terms of game design, game running, game playing, and just the experience of playing with new players, that I probably need a few days just to organize my thoughts, but I don’t have that kind of time – I’m on a plane in 24 hours, and soaking in wall-to-wall busy for the next two weeks.

So instead, you get a series of slightly disorganized actual play reports. Hopefully that’ll work.

Right. Here we go.

The Most Wonderful Time… Of the Year

My sister was coming out to visit for the four or five days between Christmas and New Years. In tow, my nephew (14) and niece (10), and it was pretty much assumed that while everyone was out, Uncle Doyce would be playing games with the kids.

No Experience Required

Although neither niece or nephew do tabletop gaming regularly, I’ve played quite a few games with them in the past. Pilgrims of the Flying Temple went well, as did Happy Birthday Robot, though Dread was probably the biggest reigning hit – my nephew ended up writing a play about the events of that game session (and a proper ending, since we didn’t actually finish the story). At some point, I’ve also run something that required full sets of polyhedrals, but neither they or I can remember what that was. At any rate, they didn’t have a lot of gaming experience, and I needed to keep that in mind.

My daughter, by contrast, has done quite a bit more gaming with me, most recently a Fate Accelerated Edition “supers” game, very loosely set off the beaten track in some backwater DC Universe (I called it Earth-23). When I mentioned I’d be running something when Malik and Jadyn were in town, she got very excited at the idea that she’d be able to play some version of Fate with her cousins.

Note: I didn’t say “Fate” at any point; that was her assumption, and any hint that it might not turn out to be true was met with lukewarm enthusiasm at best. No surprise, as she clearly likes the game.

I didn’t feel like arguing, and at any rate I had some decent ideas for what I could do with a supers game.

So this is what I have:

  • Nephew, Malik, 14. Little gaming experience. Passing familiarity with ‘supers’ thanks to the Batman “Arkham” console games.
  • Niece, Jadyn, 10. Little gaming experience. Very little if any supers familiarity.
  • Daughter, Kaylee, 8. Some gaming experience, almost all Fate or FAE. Has watched Young Justice, JLU, and Justice League series straight through, several times.

Clearly, I can’t just jump in and assume that everyone knows what’s going on with either the game or a setting. Forget “does everyone know who Solomon Grundy is?” – in terms of tropes, I can’t assume most of the people at the table will be familiar with common superhero powers, let alone how you’d express them in Fate or any other game.

So, what I need is a good introduction both to the setting and the system.

The best example I had of this sort of thing was The Demolished Ones, a really fabulous Fate scenario that scratches about every gaming and story itch I have. Unfortunately, the tone and concept are more than a little dark for young/new gamers, and it was too long to wrap up in any kind of satisfactory way in the time we had. Still… the “you start out with amnesia” thing…

I’d asked Kaylee early on if she wanted to play Nataly (her girl from our solo game, about which I still need to write about three or four more blog posts to get caught up), or make up someone new for her cousins’ visit, and she opted to make up someone new, because she likes making new characters almost as much as playing them. (Don’t we all?)

Knowing that, I chucked the “Christmas Gone Amuck in Mercury Bay” concept and focused on the idea of a group ‘origin story’, which brought me back around to something I’d been toying around with a few months ago – basically using the premise of DC Universe Online as the starting point of a tabletop supers game.

They Call It a “Tutorial”

See, the terribly useful thing about the start of most MMOs is that they set things up with the assumption that the new player is somewhat interested in the game, but doesn’t know that much about it – the character is a bit in the dark, and so learns along with the player. Also, a good tutorial at the beginning of the game like this starts out with simple concepts (this is how you attack) and slowly adds mechanics to the experience (this is the room where you learn to use your movement power) until, by the end, you’re doing all the ‘stuff’ you need to do to play the rest of the game (barring more esoteric activities like crafting and whatnot).

This sort of idea is easily (but, sadly, not often) mapped to an introductory scenario for a tabletop RPG like Fate.

Combine that with the amnesia stuff from The Demolished Ones, and good things start to happen.

As you’ll see.

You Wake Up In A Tube

I sat down with my players, an FAE book for each of us, lots of Fate dice, and blank character sheets.

I start with Jadyn, describing a dream her character is having in which she’s swimming around a coral reef, but in her normal street clothes, and she can breathe just fine. As soon as she realizes she’s dreaming, however, she starts to wake up, and finds herself inside some kind of glass tube, breathing mask and other wires strapped to her head, floating in some kind of liquid roughly the consistency of hair gel.

A female voice crackles in her ear (and in those of the other two players who are in similar tubes). “Right! I found you! Give me just a second and I’ll get you out of there.” Probably another minute passes and then the glass front of the tubes starts to roll down like a car window, spilling the goop out onto (and through) the metal grating floor of the large room. The goop flow carries all three of them out onto the deck as well, coughing and trying to squeegee the muck off their arms and faces.

Now’s the time to borrow from The Demolished Ones.

To Jadyn, I say, “You look over at Kaylee’s character. What is the first and most striking thing you notice about her appearance?”

She tells us that the girl has perfectly white hair, and I have Kaylee write that down on the back of her sheet.

I then repeat this for the other players, having each dictate a noteworthy physical feature of the person to their left at the table. Malik’s character has shockingly blue eyes. Jadyn’s character’s eyes are all black, with white pupils.

We do a bit of roleplaying and “what do you do first/next?” type things as I get them talking with each other for a few seconds – there are a lot of these suspended animation pods (immediately dubbed ‘science tubes’ by the players) in the room; most are empty, and those that aren’t contain people that have been in there so long their limbs are skinny and weak, their hair is mostly gone, and their skin has gone ‘water wrinkly’ all over and so badly their faces can’t easily be made out. They may not even be alive. Eww.

Once everyone gets a chance to actually roleplay themselves, I ask each player to tell me the first impression of the personality of the person on their right. Kaylee’s character is a “worrier,” Jadyn’s is “a nerdy expert,” and Malik’s is “an all-star athlete with attitude.”

Right.

My “tutorial” goal for this room:

  • Get (and explain) High Concept aspects
  • Get (and explain) at least one Approach for everyone
  • Build a stunt (if they need it) and explain them

The voice in their earbud returns. “Okay, the good news is, I can get the main door to your room open. The bad news is, there are guards right outside. Are any of you good with weapons?”

Malik says “What have you got?” and some kind of weapons locker opens in the corner. I tell him that it has whatever it is that he’s hoping to find, and he finds a bow and quiver of arrows and some random ‘utility belt’ stuff. No one else even checks the thing.

The door opens and a trio of ‘guards’ turn and then rush in. These guys:

Guard: Small quick combat unit. +2 at: patrolling, pulse rifle. -2 complex thought. Stress: 1 (2 hits takes it out)

I’m basically using the initiative system from Marvel Heroic, with just a touch of Doctor Who, so I ask if anyone is planning to do something that involves just talking.

Jadyn says she is, so I have her go first. She shouts “KEEP THEM BUSY” and runs off into the rows of “science tubes.” I ask what she’s doing, and she informs me she’s looking for a different exit.

Here, of course, is where an MMO disappoints you and a tabletop game (especially Fate) shines. I say “that’s very Cunning” and have her roll her dice and add her rating for the Cunning approach.

“I don’t have a rating in Cunning,” she replies.

I explain she can give it a rating at either 3, 2, 1, or 0, and how many of each rating she has to use, and she gives Cunning a 3, rolls, and easily adds the aspect “Concealed Maintenance Hatch” to the room.

“That’s what you’re doing while they keep the guards busy,” I say. “Who’s going next?”

She hands off to Malik (character: Mikenna), who uses his bow not to shoot the robots, but to burst a pipe and fill the area they’re standing in with steam (interesting choice, that). During this, he picks his +3 approach, writes out his High Concept, and picks up the first Stunt of the game

Mikenna

  • High Concept: High School All-star Marksman
  • Quick: +3
  • Stunt: Because everything moves slowly to my eyes, I get a +2 to Quickly create advantages.

Malik gives the turn to the robots, who have to overcome the passive steam obstacle to shoot, and end up not only missing, but giving both Mikenna and Anna (Kaylee’s character) a boost for their Defense success with style.

Anna is last. She’s scrambling for cover from the plasma blasts of the robots, shrieks, flings her arms out, and freezes… well, pretty much everything. The steam in the air, the water condensing on the bots, the bots themselves… pretty much everything. Two of them are taken out, and the last one is damaged, with ice stuck in its joints.

Anna

  • High Concept: Sub-zero Super Hero
  • Trouble: I bite off more than I can chew (didn’t come up here, but Kaylee already had it written down)
  • Flashy: +3
  • Stunt: Because I don’t know my own strength, I get a +2 to Forcefully attack multiple targets.

Kaylee starts off the next round by handing initiative back to Jadyn, who reappears out of the stacks just as the last robot rounds on Anna, gun leveled.

Her character (Angelia) shouts “Don’t you DARE!” and slams the robot into the ceiling… then the floor… then the wall.

Angelia

  • High Concept: Telekinetic Science Nerd
  • Relationship Aspect: I Look Out for Anna
  • Clever: +3
  • Forceful: +2
  • Stunt: Because I’m better at lifting heavy things, I get a +2 to Forcefully overcome obstacles. (Didn’t get used in this conflict, but the player really wanted it right away.)

“Come on,” she says, while the other two stare at the smashed robot. “I’ve got a way out.”

… and we’ll stop there… for now.

Next Up: “What Do You Mean, ‘Spaceship’?”

  • Sneaking through access tunnels I didn’t even know were there.
  • A little memory returns, leading to…
  • Relationship Aspects, Trouble Aspects, Scene Aspects