A Twist of Fate

 

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Photo by Dylan Greene

 

I remember when I was looking for a setting-neutral RPG to play when I wanted to play something outside of Dungeons & Dragons. Originally, I was playing d20 Modern for a Silent Hill campaign but with the end result having so many rules thrown out for the sake of streamlined play and less searching through the rulebook that 3.5e derived systems often entail.

I was directed to a system known as Fate Core and it quickly became my go-to universal RPG system. While I still enjoy D&D, I have a particular fondness for Fate Core’s sheer flexibility and design elegance.

It took a bit of a learning curve for my d20 regulars to get used to it. I ran a single Silent Hill session which was not so well-received. Then I took it to another group and the outcome worked better. But it was when I ran two steampunk campaigns in a homebrew universe (Cloudrunner) that I was able to truly explore the system.

Much like how D&D opened up a world of possibilities within a fantasy universe, I was similarly engaged by the immense amount of possibilities that Fate Core had to offer.

A World Beyond

The system’s modularity makes it incredibly simple to tweak, it’s something of a GM’s dream RPG. The merger of mechanics and storytelling, in particular, stood out as brilliant. While a game like D&D often segregates its mechanics and narrative, Fate Core ties them together in a way that gives narrative progression mechanical weight.

The key to a character is the usage of Aspects. These are small character traits that say something about them. For example, “Plucky Airship Mechanic” can be used mechanically in relevant rolls. This allows for a more flexible implementation of characters than strictly defined class roles. Fate Core uses skills and stunts, which are like feats in D&D. Its lighter cousin, Fate Accelerated boils them down into approaches.

Fate Core overcomes the “combat first, roleplay second” nature of d20 based games by folding combat into the broader “conflict”. By making stress tracks instead of the typical hit points and by allowing those to go beyond physical, one can make mental stress attacks. Extending beyond those two is also possible, and in one campaign I portrayed a conflict between nations with political and military stress.

Character creation, normally framed as a necessary step to reaching play in other games, is instead treating as an act of play itself. It’s also collaborative and does a great job of connecting characters together to create interesting character dynamics.

The Bronze Rule, or what’s commonly referred to as the Fate Fractal, posits that anything and everything can be made into a character or have gameplay mechanics of a character applied to it. In my Cloudrunner games, airships would often be given this treatment. But you can also take mechanical pieces such as aspects, skills, stunts, stress tracks, and consequences a la carte.

Of course, players looking for large lists of tables aren’t going to find it here. It is not as crunchy as a system like GURPS, and it does take a slight shift in mindset to play. But it also benefits from modern design and is additionally easy on the wallet with the core rulebook costing about $25 and ends up being very portable.

In many ways, Fate Core has become my go-to RPG and it’s one that I’m looking forward to exploring more.

Plato’s Digital Cave

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Admittedly, summer has been particularly slow in regards to blog content. Perhaps it’s the lazy days of the season that make writing out of reach for me, or possibly because I just didn’t have much going on that warranted a blog post. However, that has changed.

I’m going to talk about World of Warcraft and game addiction. More specifically, my own experiences with the game and what happened as a result.

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What is Going On With Final Fantasy XV’s Soundtrack?

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Photo by ManicMorFF @ Morguefile.com

I have to stop making announcements about what I’m going to write about next because I tend to shuffle around articles. I am still planning on that Final Fantasy VII Advent Children review, since I have seen the movie several times as to highlight flaws with the narrative. But now I have a different issue.

Recently I took the time to pick up a copy of Final Fantasy XV, and for the first time in a long time, I was tempted to pick up the deluxe edition. This temptation was left unfulfilled because I wanted something very specific: the game’s soundtrack.

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The Apathy of Mighty No. 9

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As with many game releases, I often hold back for a while in order to get a more accurate and less charged point of view. I had heard of the infamous “Mighty No. 9”, helmed by Keiji Inafune. While he was not the creator of the Mega Man franchise as is often believed, he certainly was a major part of it.

There is a certain element of modern folklore to Mighty No. 9’s development history. Indeed, many can easily recount Mighty No. 9’s rise and fall.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Capcom virtually demolished the Mega Man franchise after Keiji Inafune’s severance, relegating the property to cameo appearances (which varied from extremely unflattering to being fairly well-received) and an abysmal mobile game with gameplay so stripped down that it was easily replicated within 24 hours, minus the card game aspect.

So fans were eager to back Inafune’s Kickstarter, the spiritual successor to Mega Man known as Mighty No. 9. But how was that going to play out?

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Session One of “Curse of The Lonely Hearts”

 

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Photo by GaborfromHungary at Morguefile.com

 

This past Sunday I began my first session of my therapeutic Dungeons and Dragons campaign. I took careful notes during the session as to preserve what had happened. All in all, it was a successful session and my therapist and I both agreed to hold several sessions. I wanted to see where this goes.

Since we only had an hour, we played a streamlined campaign. What this really means is that combat was extraordinarily simplified, which was assisted by the fact that it was a one on one session. Since she was busy with work, I took the time to pick up the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide so she could have a premade world to drop Halador into.

I was told some information that Halador doesn’t know. Omveus’s plan is to bring winter to the city of Neverwinter. I assume that he’s going to target the fire elementals that warm the river in Neverwinter Wood underneath Mount Hotenow.

The rest of the adventure notes are as follows. It began, appropriately enough, with Halador celebrating his birthday. All of it comes from Halador’s perspective. This is his story.

First Frost in Neverwinter

I spent the morning celebrating my birthday with an entourage of bards. My reputation is not unknown, I have with me a small but loyal entourage. They sing high praises of my goodness and nobility.

Yet being exposed to that constant praise did not lift my spirits. On the contrary, I believed that their words were hollow. I grew uncomfortable and left the inn. I was walking along the streets of Bluelake District, crossing the Dolphin Bridge into Protector’s Enclave. I headed for the House of Knowledge to speak with one of Oghma’s priests. Though Helm is the deity I am bound to, I often seek to acquire knowledge.

But my stroll was cut short when the sky grew dark. An ominous shadow arose from the ground. I pulled out my holy symbol of Helm to drive it away. It left a black Box of Uncertainty on the ground. I placed it in my backpack, though I was unsure of what it meant.

I was shortly thereafter accosted by a pixie. She whispered to me words that I could not understood, and blew a puff of intoxicating pixie dust in my direction. I could not resist it and was brought into Neverwinter Wood.

Treefall

In the Wood, I received a vision of a more glorious Neverwinter, a prosperous city of hope. I was told it could be mine if only I completed my journey.  The pixie handed me an acorn and then went on her way.

As I made my way through the Wood, I stumbled across a group of woodcutters. I had overheard that they were under Omveus’s employ. I was approached by a massive treant who sought an alliance with me. I agreed, as it turned out there three hundred of these woodcutters who sought to deforest the Wood under Omveus’s orders.

We were not alone. A hundred treants rose from their slumber to fight. I went after the ringleader, who shed his human disguise to reveal himself as a deadly lich. The ground around him had grown cold and dead. I thought I was done for, but I felt the trembling of the acorn that the pixie had given me.

I took it out and observed its shift. Not only did it tremble, but it changed color. It went from a matte brown to a shimmering gold. I dropped the acorn and it burrowed itself into the ground.  The lich became weak and I killed him with a single blow.

Going Forward

At the end of the session, I remarked at how quickly time passed. I was enthusiastic for the next session. Hopefully, we’ll get into meatier territory as time goes by. I’ll keep adding notes on this, perhaps this could prove beneficial to someone else.

In the meantime, Omveus’s presence looms over Neverwinter and the Curse of Lonely Hearts remains.

No Man’s Sky and The Death of Hype Culture

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I’m certain that I’m late to the party on this subject, but I do want to throw in my two cents on the broader pattern of the presence of “hype culture”. The recent release of “No Man’s Sky” helps to highlight a key problem with how consumers and media creators interact.

Hype culture is the result of the process of elevating the consumer’s expectations through tantalizing press releases, trailers, demos, or other forms of marketing and promotion that are meant to produce “buzz”. After the product is promoted, consumers begin to jump on the bandwagon in anticipation for release.

But does this expectation always match with reality? To that, we turn to the case study of No Man’s Sky. What happened with No Man’s Sky, and why did it turn out the way that it did?

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