Friday, March 27, 2015

Achtung! Cthulhu: The Book of Eibon (A Study of the Dead)

When we last left off, our team of investigators had found Gaspard du Nord's burial chamber and were greeted by his undead guardians - Les Morts.

Him Who Casts the First Stone...

I figured the three who approached the sarcophagus, should get a reaction action first. Then the guardians. Followed by the remaining two.

Gerulf immediately picks up a brick and smashes the nearest one in the mouth. The dried flesh scrapes off revealing the jawbone underneath (sanity check).

Gerty looks them over, trying to cross-reference her studies, and identifies their weaknesses (sanity check). This was intended as a Create Advantage action, but I rattled off their resiliences instead, which I could have worded as aspects.

Yu decides his main goal is to obtain their daggers (feeding his obsession for artifacts). I thought there was a rule spelled out in the Fate Keeper's guide for grappling, but I couldn't find it. So we decided to do it as two separate Create Advantages: the first was to leap up on the sarcophagus to create a height advantage, the second to parry the height advantage into a disarm. Yu leaps up on the sarcophagus and creates Height Advantage with one free invoke.

The guardians attack Gerulf and Yu; knives slashing at their winter coats (causing stress - Yu spends his free invocation early to avoid a consequence).

Dr. Heidelberg bolts and runs up the stairs looking for a cross (no sanity check).

Oberst Loeb, heeding Gerty's discovery, hits the nearest Les Morts with the butt of his submachine gun, lining up the shot for Gerulf (tie, gaining a boost, and handing it off to Gerulf - sanity check).

Gerulf hits it square in the chest. He hits it with such force, its arms go wide and it lifts off the floor, looking like a dark angel ascending to heaven. Instead, it hits the back wall, its flesh crumbling to leaves, bones clattering to the floor (sanity check).

Yu continues to spar with the other guardian, trying to disarm it – literally if need be. We both burn up our Fate points (sanity check).

Max runs up to it and caves in its skull in with the butt of the submachine gun (sanity check).

I believe everybody lost a little bit of sanity.

We Finally Meet Gaspard

With some elbow grease and a puff of ancient air, they crack open the sarcophagus. Inside they find the small desiccated form of Gaspard du Nord, clutching the Livre de Eibon to his chest, a bronze disk at his feet. (Since the Book of Eibon is what the PCs have been looking for, I actually put together a short synopsis and modified spell list as another prop.)
Wheels of Eibon - Variations on a theme
I love it when players sketch in-game items.
Dr. Heidelberg does another field dissection and finds nothing unusual, but, despite Oberst Loeb's request, he can't explain Les Morts.

Oberst Loeb radios command to let them know the Book of Eibon has been found and they are on their way to deliver it.

A Colossal Hole in the Story

The team gathers their things and discusses whether to visit the dig site along the river. Initially, the team was considering being thorough. But the safety of the Book of Eibon and the completion of the Mission took precedence. However, Gerulf and Yu demand they at least check it out, so Oberst Loeb agrees to let them do a bit of recon as long as the rest of the team is concealed and ready to make a getaway.

Lapel patches on the German soldiers
They get to the the road leading to excavation site, park in the tree-line, and let Gerulf and Yu sneak through the woods to check it out. The excavation site is about as large as a Fußball (soccer) field. German soldiers wearing interesting lapel patches are ordering around French workers at gunpoint. A much older, stooped version of Gerty seems to be leading the group. They look to be digging up gnarled white tree trunks and loading them onto a flatbed truck. Gerulf realizes they are colossal humanoid bones and immediately decides they need to be destroyed or reburied. He works out a plan with Yu to create a distraction: Yu is to open the valve on a nearby fuel truck and set the fuel ablaze while Gerulf gets to the flatbed carrying the bones. Yu deftly sneaks into position and starts the fuel flowing. Gerolf, on the other hand, alerts a soldier and has to knock him out cold. As they are doing this the old woman excitedly calls for the crew to bring something up to her. From this distance, it appears to be a slab of mud. Yu lights the fuel, hurries over to Gerulf, and is surprised to find out they aren't leaving by the flatbed truck full of giant bones. Rather, Gerulf has turned the wheel and jammed the accelerator sending it into the massive grave. The old woman clambers into a truck and it speeds away. Gerulf and Yu sprint back through the woods to get back to the team.

Oberst Loeb, Dr. Heidelberg, and Gerty hear a massive crash and see a roiling fireball erupt beyond the tree-line. This is followed by a truck tearing out of the woods in the opposite direction and then the two troublemakers. They scramble into the truck, Loeb maneuvers it around, and they give chase just as German soldiers run up to the edge of the road and leave bullet holes in the truck. Sadly, they lose the old woman and her muddy prize.

As they are speeding through the town roads of rural France, they get a call on the radio. Klaus answers and relays the conversation to Oberst Loeb as he frantically tries to find the other truck. They are told that the search for the Book of Eibon was a two-pronged mission, with two groups searching France to increase their odds. Apparently, Ahnenerbe Team U just radioed in to report they had found the Book of Eibon as well. However, apparently they are Black Sun members, they have gone off mission and have decided to keep the book for themselves. Team M (the PCs) are now charged with trying to find them, find out what they want the book for, and stop them. But, why would Team U call in to report they've gone rogue? To gloat?

Unfortunately, they lose the other truck. So Team M drives into Northern France – German occupied territory – find the nearest German military base, appropriate lodging and supplies, and begin studying.

A Little R & R (Reading & Rituals)

I allowed character advancement at this point. Finding the Book of Eibon seemed like a Significant Milestone [reshuffle skills or stunts, +1 skill point, recover severe consequences (there were none)].

Gerty, Dr. Heidelberg, and Yu Wong dove into reading the book, although Dr. Heidelberg waited a week to study the others and take copious notes before reading himself. In order to read the French manuscript, Yu picked up the Polyglot stunt and Dr. Klaus Heidelberg updated his trouble aspect to: I won't let a little thing like morals, conscience, or language get in the way of my pursuit of knowledge.

Despite the rules saying it takes months of study to absorb the dark scribblings, I gave them two weeks, costing a sanity point each week, but gaining the Mythos skill at Average (+1) and a spell for each week studied (i.e. Klaus only learned one spell).

During this time, Loeb pulls his contacts to find out all he can about the Black Sun and their interest in the Book of Eibon. He hears that there is an actual Black Sun and the organization wants to bring it into this world. He still thinks it's all hogwash and fairy tales, but as long as they believe it, they can be dealt with.

Midway through the two weeks, Gerulf barges into the team's study room and gives a drunken monolog about how the occult is not something to be dabbling in and all artifacts should be destroyed. It was fantastic!

Game Notes

As full of information that the Achtung! Cthulhu books are, the organization leaves something to be desired. And the index is of no help. For example, Gerty has the Polyglot stunt, but we couldn't find it again for Yu (it's under Languages, p. 60 of the Fate Investigator's Guide PDF). Also, I thought there was a blurb about grappling, but couldn't find it until I searched the PDF (it's hidden in the Mythos Creatures section, p. 197 of the Fate Keeper's Guide PDF).

Another minor but important note is that the some of the listed stress boxes have numbers attached to them. They are hard to see (especially for older eyes) and easily forgotten. Combat with particular baddies will last a bit longer if the numbers are heeded.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Achtung! Cthulhu: The Book of Eibon (A Study in Auvergne)

Last week, we had our first full game session of Fate Achtung! Cthulhu. This will be a quick game recap and some post-game comments.

En Route to Le Mont-Dore
I'm sure I'm on some watch list now after
doing Google research for this mission dossier.

Oberst Loeb receives the teams orders. A previous team of Ahnenerbe researchers were attacked. Their last known location is the Cistercian Monastery in Le Mont-Dore. Loeb's team is to drive to Le Mont-Dore, find the other team and assist them. Failing that, they are to pick up where they left off on their mission: to find the Book of Eibon.

The team makes the long drive to Le Mont-Dore through the snowy winter of 1942. Le Mont-Dore is a tourist town located in the Dordogne River valley and, as such, shuts its doors in the winter. As the monastery is not on the map, they bang on the door of one of only two houses with lights on. An elderly lady who looks like she's lived there all her life answers the door. Although intimidated by Oberst Loeb's scarred countenenace and German uniform, she wants no trouble and points out where to go.

After winding deeper into the valley and up one side, they spot Ahnenerbe Team K's truck parked in front of the smashed entrance to the monastery. It appears, many years ago, a large boulder has ended up in the front of the building with no easy explanation.

They enter the monastery foyer; wet footprints indicating recent activity. As they head into the chapel, they find Team K – scalped. Sturmbannführer Koch is pinned to the cross with his head smashed in. Everybody rolled a sanity check and all took a Will drain. Gerty lost a point of sanity.

Once they get a hold of themselves, they search the scene. Oberst Loeb checks Sturmbannführer Koch's body and finds a torn-out notebook page with a list of locations and a bloody thumbprint, stuffed into Koch's pocket. The blood is dry.
Gerty and Yu check the room and find the torn-in-half notebook page referencing Gaspard du Nord. It has fresh spittle on it.
Dr. Heidelberg does a field autopsy of the scalped individuals and determines they were shot to death before being scalped. He also finds a magazine of 9mm bullets, stamped SS, surreptitiously stuffed into one of the soldier's pockets, and a leather bookmark laying at Koch's feet (I added the bookmark to indicate a book was taken).
Gerulf starts checking side chambers for any signs of digging.
They all get a sense of what happened in the scene — there was a surprise shootout, Team K was killed, then scalped, and their research taken — and setup camp in a side room.

I compelled Yu's Overenthusiastic to a Fault to stay up all night searching the entirety of the monastery. He ends up in the catacombs and discovers them hastily overturned with nothing useful to be found. He spends the next day Exhausted.

The next morning, they break camp and head back into town to question the old lady. Overwhelmed, she invites them in for breakfast. She recalls that two days before she heard one truck pass and two trucks came and went yesterday, but she didn't bother looking outside particularly since there's been more activity once the Germans arrived in France.

The team rouses Yu from his slumber in a comfy chair and takes their leave. Just as they get to the truck, a band of French Resistance surrounds them. They demand the Germans leave town and stay out. Since Gerty is the only one who currently speaks French, she tries to ascertain if they were the ones who dispatched Team K and, if not, who did. A battle of wits ensues. As the heated discussion goes back and forth, Dr. Heidelberg takes a read of their body language (creating an advantage). He whispers his analysis in Gerty's ear and she handily turns them to whimpering fools. They reveal that the later of the two trucks passing in and out of town yesterday was German (they were still recovering from a drinking binge when the first truck rolled through). When questioned about the monastery, they shudder and claim they've never been there as it's haunted.

Bibliothèque du Clermont-Ferrand

Exhausting leads in Le Mont-Dore, the team heads to Clermont-Ferrand – the nearest town with a large enough library to do research. At this point, the props come out!

No rolls were needed and I did very little prompting ("What books are you looking for?", "C.A.S. look like they could be initials."). They sussed out all the clues, surmised that Gaspard du Nord is buried in Vyonne Chapel, and compared maps to find its most probable location: La Bourboule.

...And Back Again (to La Bourboule!)

The team drives back to the Dordogne River valley, and into La Bourboule. As they enter the Chapel, Yu senses the priests are acting like they are protecting a fugitive. They say nothing. Based on the notebook page they found, Yu suggests the team takes the stairs under the cat-headed griffon gargoyle and check the roof. Up top, they find nothing unusual, but do notice a excavation crew in the distance digging up the river shoreline – in the middle of winter (this was actually ret-conned in later).

The team then takes the stairs down to the catacombs. As they do, the priests bustle to the altar and start praying loudly. The catacombs also look like a dead-end, but Klaus finds a loose brick and a possible hidden chamber. The group heads to the truck to retrieve picks and shovels. As they return, the priests get louder; the Latin coming hard and fast.

They break through the wall, a cloud of ancient dust revealing an arch-ceilinged chamber with a stone sarcophagus. There are tall bronze braziers at the head and foot of the sarcophagus, and bowed, robed statues on either side. As Gerty, Gerolf, and Yu approach, sanity checks! Oberst Loeb and Yu succeed with style, but Gerolf and Dr. Heidelberg miss by three, taking a noticeable hit to their mental stability.

The "statues" are undead guardians under centuries of dust. They turn towards the intruders, skin cracking and flaking away as their lips part, "Who disturbs the resting place of Gaspard du Nord?"


Post-Game Notes

Here are some things that came up during and after the game:

• I prefer to do the sanity checks before the horror reveal as it ramps up the tension and doesn't dilute the impact of the scene by introducing rule mechanics directly afterwards.

• There was some concern that, since Gerty is the only who speaks French, she got more interaction and "screen time". I pointed out that almost everybody still had open aspect and stunt slots that could be utilized to give them the ability to speak French. However, given that option, still nobody wanted to do so. So, I guess playing their character as is is preferred, and that's fine.

• They are getting an idea of how creating advantages gives you aspects you can stack. Dr. Heidelberg was the first one to "get it" when he read the body language of the French Resistance to help Gerty out.

• Going against my own plan, I forced Bort-les-Orgues as the destination of Vyonne Chapel. Initially, Oberst Loeb chose La Bourboule as the chapel location. I should have said yes, and ran with it. I have changed the recap above to include Loeb's choice.

• Prior to Fate Achtung! Cthulhu, we played Fantasy Flight Games' new Zombie Apocalypse RPG under their The End of the Worrld Roleplaying Line. Although we had fun, the system felt clunky. As such, there was a comment on how Fantasy Flight Games could have done well licensing Fate for their new line.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Achtung! Cthulhu: The Book of Eibon (A Study in Fate)

Last week we had our first Fate Achtung! Cthulhu play session. None of the players had tried Fate before (well, one player had tried a sample combat in Spirit of the Century and was unimpressed). I have played and run several Fate games, but I have not run any Cthulhu or horror games prior to this one.

A Note on Nazis

I want to point out that the group has decided to play a team of researchers working under Germany's Ahnenerbe. The Fate Keeper's guide addresses this (p. 15 of the PDF, or p. 135 of the softcover) and suggests against it, but provides the resources to do so. As a group, we discussed it and agreed to tread lightly. To the players' credit, we ended up with two disgruntled veterans of the Great War and three civilians taking advantage of the German War Machine to further their own ends.

Character Generation

For the most part, we did character generation by the book. To facilitate this, Modiphius provides a handy character creation worksheet!

Although we did the phase trio (Life Before the War, Getting Noticed, and Crossing Paths), I asked the players to hold off on choosing aspects at that point. Ryan Macklin, who developed the Fate edition of Achtung! Cthulhu, wrote an article on Decoupling Aspects from Phases that basically says: Do the character creation phases, but don't tackle aspects yet. Once you have a character background, then fill in some aspects, with the option of leaving some blank to fill in during play.

Once we had full backstories and crossed paths, some of the players decided to use that information to create aspects. I did require at least the High Concept and Trouble aspects.

Here's what we ended up with:

Oberst Maximillian Loeb - The soldier
Maximillian started his military career almost missing end of the first world war, losing the opportunity to prove himself to the Fatherland. Between the great wars, he would take any assignment in order to further his career, even if that meant testing experimental weaponry. Unfortunately, one of those experiments backfired, scarring his face and derailing his plans of promotion. Despite his protestations, he now finds himself in charge of this rag-tag bunch of civilians.
• Grizzled veteran of the Fatherland.
• These scars keep me from claiming a soldier's glory.
Dorothea Bate –
The inspiration for Gerty.

Gertrude (Gerty) Hoffman - The archeologist
Gerty has been interested in the natural sciences since she was a child. Her fieldwork has only been interrupted by her studies. Her paper on Archaeozoology got her noticed by the Ahnenerbe. For better or for worse, she's found an outlet for her knowledge in the them.
• German pioneer of archaeozoology.
• I'm a woman in a man's world.
• I learned my social graces in the field.
• Science is my religion.

Gerulf Fuß - The veteran
Gerulf also fought in the first world war and was also scarred. However, his scars were more of the mental variety. He had witnessed some unnatural horror that wiped out the rest of his unit and left him with one eye that permanently peers into the Dreamlands. After several years of drinking, fighting, and therapy, he's sociable again, more or less. The alcohol seems to help.
• (Hard drinking) Great War veteran with an Eldritch eye.
• Don't take my bottle.

Klaus Heidelberg - The doctor
Dr. Heidelberg is well known in psychiatric circles, both for his understanding of the brain and his unorthodox methods. He is driven to know how the human mind works, particularly in the presence of occult phenomena – even if that means studying the brain directly. The Ahnenerbe seem to provide plenty of subjects.
• Neuropsychiatrist studying the effects of the occult on the brain.
• I won't let a little thing like morals or conscience get in the way of my pursuit of knowledge.

Yu Wong - The occultist
Yu started as a clerk in a warehouse cataloging artifacts for a national museum. What started as a passing interest in the occult turned into a full-fledged OBSESSION. During that period, the museum's curator was lost in an accident. Fortunately for Yu, he's just been assigned to Germany to protect Japan's interests in matters of the occult.
• Japanese Mythos Occult Enthusiast.
• Overenthusiastic to a fault.
• Always looking for an opportunity.
• Nothing is an obstacle.
• Blissfully arrogant.

Some post-character generation notes:
1. It's still difficult to explain exactly what aspects are, what they do, and how to use them. I find it's best to show though in-game example.
2. There's more fiddly bits and a longer skill list in Fate Achtung! Cthulhu than in Fate Core. It would be helpful if everybody had at least a digital copy of the Fate Investigator's Guide, which could be cost-prohibitive for some.
3. At least one player got the "role-playing comes first!" intent of the Fate system.

Sample Combat

I always like to start a Fate game with a quick conflict – it gives players a chance to become familiar with the rules and it starts the game off with a bang. This time, I tried to get in as many Fate concepts as I could.

So I had Oberst Loeb gather up the group and "extract" the last member needed for the team – a veteran of the Great War who was accidentally "gifted" with the ability to see into the Dreamland. Unfortunately, he's a fan of the bottle, was well into it by the time the team showed up at Die Milch Mädchen, and someone had tried to take it away from him...

Compelling an aspect (decision-based): To start things off, I compelled Gerulf with, "You have the aspect, Don't take my bottle. You've had too much to drink and the bartender is trying to cut you off, so it makes sense that you'd lash out at him. This goes wrong when a whole bar brawl breaks out." and offered him a Fate point (in this case an empty 9mm Luger shell casing). He took it with a grin.

Situation aspects: Then I established the aspects on the scene: Bar brawl, Broken glass, Wet floors. They were invoked once or twice.

Physical Conflict: Throughout most of this scene, Gerulf is going toe to toe with other bar patrons and making quick work of them. Since this is one of the more common situations, I'll leave it to your imagination to fill in the fight sequences.

Mental Conflict: Once Oberst Loeb and the team shows up, Oberst commands the German soldiers in the mix to quit brawling and stand at attention. I asked the player if he wished to make it an aspect on the scene or to directly affect the soldiers. He chose the latter. For simplicity, I made it an opposed check: Provoke vs. Will. With his Stand to Attention! stunt, Oberst Loeb gets a +7 versus the soldiers' -1. Eight soldiers immediately stop fighting. One of them gets smashed over the head with a bottle just as he clicks his boot heels together.

Create an Advantage: Since Oberst Loeb is now the center of attention, one of the more inebriated patrons decides to splash a beer on him to try to bring him down to the rabble's level. The drunkard rolls Fight and Loeb actively opposes with Athletics. The player decided the defense was an instinctual sidestep and didn't invoke any aspects. Unfortunately, he rolls low and the drunkard hits his target placing Looks Foolish on Oberst Loeb. He ignores the attack and marches his way through the brawl to speak with Gerulf. Sadly, I never got a chance to compel the advantage later.

Refused Compel (event-based): Once Gerty realizes Oberst Loeb is talking to a friend of hers (Crossing Paths phase), she crosses the room as well. Since the room is packed, I tried "You have the aspect, I'm a woman in a man's world and you just happen to be in a room full of drunk uninhibited men. So it makes sense that one of them tries to get his grubby mitts on you preventing forward progress. Damn your luck." She refused the compel, paid the Fate point, and responded with, "I knee him in the nuts." He goes down like a sack of potatoes, marking the beginning of a string of ball crushings.

Teamwork with NPC mobs: Since single individuals are no match for Gerulf, a couple of them team up and tackle him mid conversation with Oberst Loeb. Together, they were able to do five shifts of damage, which brings us to...

Taking a Consequence: With five shifts of stress coming at him, Gerulf decides to soak up three with his third stress box and take a Mild Consequence. I decide the brawlers inflict a Pummeled (Battered may have worked better) consequence on Gerulf.

Yu finally ends the combat with a well-placed karate chop, Maximillian convinces Gerulf to join the team through some lovely roleplaying involving duty to one's country, and the team returns to base where Oberst Loeb receives the team's orders...

Monday, March 16, 2015

Achtung! Cthulhu: The Book of Eibon (A Study in Props)

I posted this image to the Fate Core Google+ Community with the lead-in "Here are my props for tonight's Fate Achtung! Cthulhu:"

This generated quite a bit more interest than I expected, including requests to see notes, images, and recaps of the game.

So here goes!

For starters, let me say that this is my first time running a Cthulhu game (or any horror game for that matter), so my knowledge of Cthulhu Mythos is weak. Fortunately, the folks who worked on Achtung! Cthulhu put a lot of work into all the historical and mythos research. I was able to put together a solid plot outline with only the core Investigator's and Keeper's Guides (well and a bunch of Googling, which probably put me on some watch lists...). Understanding the plot will show how I arrived at the props.

The Plot (oh, and Props)

In 1935, Heinrich Himmler founded The Ancestral Heritage Research and Teaching Society, or Ahnenerbe, to research, recover, and revive Germanic traditions by studying several cultures around the world. The various expeditions undertaken by the Ahnenerbe made it the perfect organization to look into Himmler's interest in the occult as well.

According to the Achtung! Cthulhu Keeper's Guide, in 1933, Himmler united the Order of the Black Sun, a group of occult scholars (with their own agenda) under the Nazi flag. Once the Ahnenerbe is established, the Black Sun took the helm of occult research. However, another subgroup, Nachtwölfe, splintered off from the Black Sun focused on what technology could be developed from occult artifacts. There is an unsteady truce between them, but some artifacts cannot easily be categorized as either arcane or technological (p. 73 of the Keeper's Guide PDF, p. 193 of the combined softcover book).

Enter the Book of Eibon, a spell book written by the Hyperborean wizard Eibon and translated by a handful of scholars - all manuscripts of which have been hidden or lost. If the Reich gets their hands on a copy, they could theoretically turn the tides of war in their favor. So, the Ahnenerbe send out teams from both the Black Sun and Nachtwölfe.

Unfortunately for Nachtwölfe, the Black Sun wants all the glory - and, well, to unleash the Valley of the Black Sun into this world. To further this end, they have let slip the current location of the Nachtwölfe team that's searching for the Book to... well... what the heck... The Inglourious Basterds. Bear with me here, this is alternate WW2 and there's nothing saying there wasn't a savage band of American soldiers scalping Nazis...

So, assuming you buy that, the Nachtwölfe team has a lead. There's a legend about a necromancer named Nathaire who builds a giant out of corpses. He is stopped by another necromancer named Gaspard du Nord. There is rumor that Gaspard is one of the scholars who translated the Book of Eibon to French. The team is checking out a monastery in La Mont-Dore that matches a description from the legend just as the Basterds rush in and start taking scalps.

After the Basterds leave, the Black Sun sweeps in, takes any remaining notes and leads, and picks up the trail without getting Nazi blood on their hands.

This is where the players come in. They are tasked to go to the monastery, find the original team, join them if possible, and continue the quest for the Book of Eibon.
A Note on Nazis

I want to point out that the group has decided to play a team of researchers working under Germany's Ahnenerbe. The Fate Keeper's guide addresses this (p. 15 of the PDF, or p. 135 of the softcover) and suggests against it, but provides the resources to do so. As a group, we discussed it and agreed to tread lightly. To the players' credit, we ended up with two disgruntled veterans of the Great War and three civilians taking advantage of the German War Machine to further their own ends.
Since I am sending them into France in December of 1942, I needed a map. Doing a Google image search for "France occupation 1942", I get this:
I dropped that into a simple image editor (in my case, Preview on a Mac) and cranked up the sepia filter to give it some age.
Fortunately for the PCs, the Black Sun overlooked a few clues. The first is a torn notebook page referencing Gaspard du Nord and the story "The Colossus of Ylourgne". The leader of the Black Sun team finds the idea of a "good" necromancer ridiculous, tears out that segment and spits on it, leaving it behind. Also, the head of Nachtwölfe had just enough time to tear out and pocket the page listing his leads to where Hyperborea may be located.
For the torn notebook pages, I simply Google Translated a few important phrases, practiced handwriting that looked more driven (and less like mine), wrote them on actual notepad paper, and tore them. For the bloody thumbprint, I did a Google Image search and printed that on the note paper before writing on it.

Here's a PDF of the Torn Notebook Pages.
Hopefully, that first scrap of paper has the PCs looking for Gaspard du Nord's resting place by checking libraries for a book or story called "Le Colosse de Ylourgne." Which is a French "translation" of Clark Ashton Smith's short story, "The Colossus of Ylourgne".
You can find a copy of it here: To make the hardcopy, I basically munged the text through Google Translate, tidied it up in Word, exported it as a PDF, and used Adobe Reader to print it as a booklet on some brownish paper. Here's my version: Le Colosse de Ylourgne. This booklet I will then tuck into an old book a friend gave me (sadly, it is only about steam power and not the occult).
Since my players do not read French and I want them to focus on specific parts of the story, locations Gaspard du Nord visited in particular, I decided to leave a note as if another researcher has headed down this path before. This "poem" (which is really just passages from the short story) gave me what I needed.
I modified it a tiny bit, changed it to some handwriting font, and printed it on a 5" x 7" sheet of notepad paper. Here's my version of the file: Gaspard du Nord. This, I tucked into the short story booklet.
I figure while they are searching the library, another character will find this excellent map, done by Tim Kirk, inspired by Clark Ashton Smith's stories:
I also slapped a sepia filter on this.
Now, and here's the leap of faith, the players just have to pick out Gaspard du Nord's favorite locations on the Averoigne map and try to cross reference them with actual places in Auvergne.
As such, they will need some reasonably decent maps of France showing the land features of Auvergne. After some more Google-fu, I found these lovely specimens:
I printed them out on larger paper (11" x 17"), trimmed them up, folded them (the first pleated like a road map, the second folded down the middle like a book), and scraped a sharp knife along all the edges and folds to prematurely age, rough up, weaken, and tatter them.
I'm hoping the players decide to select the curly source of the Dordogne River as their place of interest, but (WARNING: Sneaky GM Trick) will go with whatever they decide. (But to help them, I included a tiny hint from the first clue: the "...ogne-Fluss" along the tear in the page.)
Sadly, I have been unable to find a good map of Auvergne that shows towns, major roads, and land features (Google maps is terrible at doing land features). The best I've found so far is, but it's far too modern a map, so I'm still looking for better.
Following up on snippet from "The Colossus of Ylourgne" should give the PCs some clues as to where Gaspard du Nord is buried. There they shall find a his copy of the Book of Eibon.

Meanwhile, the Black Sun is digging up where Nathaire is buried and they find their own copy...

The rest needs to be fleshed out, but the plan (and where the second torn notebook page comes in) is that Black Sun and the PCs are racing to find Hyperborea - The Black Sun, to break the Hyperborean seals preventing the Valley of the Black Sun from entering our world, and the PCs hopefully to stop them. The spell will require 24 hours of darkness so that means a trip to the Arctic Circle, conveniently on December 21, 1942.
Fortunately, searching Wikipedia for Hyperborea, you can see this lovely map:

Look at that interesting red circle...

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Atomic Robo: Katsumi Reborn

About a month ago, we finally got the chance to give Atomic Robo - The Roleplaying Game a whirl.

Character Generation
To help with character generation, I put together a set of worksheets with examples. You can check them out here: ARRPGchargenWorksheet

What we ended up with was:
Bongo (Experiment P37) - Sapient Circus Bear (Weird Character Creation method - Beast mode. Okay, brief backstory here: Bongo was a circus bear that had enough of riding bicycles and lashed out at the crowd, killing a few of them. Rather than put the bear down, they (who?) tried some behavior control experiments via gene-splicing. Going too far, they ended up with a sapient bear who now works for Tesladyne.)

Katsumi - Ex-Science Team Super Five (Yellow) Ninja Scientist (Weird Character Creation method - Martial Artist mode)

Rust - Plucky Battle Bot Jock (E-Z No-Math Character Creation method)

First Play Session
Since Josh (Katsumi's player) had a stated interest in Science Team Super Five, it was easy to make the jump to say that Big Science, Inc. called Tesladyne asking for help. I looked at him and asked, "why is that Josh?"

Josh responded that Science Team Super 5 was tasked with checking out a disturbance on a nearby island that has an abandoned outpost from World War II. Unfortunately, the whole team has gone missing, so Tesladyne was called in to help find them...

As the Teslajet sets down on Big Science, Inc.'s airstrip, the first thing Rust asks for is to borrow one of their drones. (Mistake #1 - The GM should have added a Fate point to the reserve for providing special equipment to the PCs.) She gets it up in the air and to the island with ease. From the air, she can see the wreck of Science Team Super Five's boat near the mouth of a cave inlet. On the island, she can make out the remains of a hangar that opens onto a large airfield that has been completely overgrown with trees. Rustling through the trees, she sees some movement and puts the drone into a dive for a closer look.

Just as she gets close enough to make out what appears to be a walking tank, it fires on the drone. The machine is no match for Rust's battle bot skills — she dodges the incoming rounds with ease and retaliates with missiles! Unfortunately, the multi-inch thick steel has no problem shrugging off the blow. Rather than risk losing the drone in the one-sided battle, Rust returns it to base.

At this point, the group is convinced the walking tank is invulnerable. Perfect time to try out the Brainstorming rules!

Step 1: Begin the Brainstorm
Question posed: "How do we defeat that walking tank?"
Step 2: First Fact
Bongo rolls high with Physics, 1 success. Considering the mechanics involved with a walking tank, he states, "Thinner armor in the rear."
Step 3: Second Fact
Rust rolls high with Engineering, 1 success. Noting that nobody has been on the island for years, she states, "It's remote controlled."
Step 4: Third Fact
Katsumi, allowed to use the free invokes on the previous facts, rolls high with Chemistry, and succeeds. Since the metal monstrosity has been on a Pacific island for centuries, he states, "Corroded."
Step 5: Hypothesis
Katsumi hypothesizes, "The easiest way to get to the control circuitry is through the thinner corroded rear armor. In other words, stab it in the butt."

With this information in mind, they take a boat out to the island. Smartly deciding not to take the same route Science Team Super Five did, they find a nice sandy chunk of beach to quietly coast into and disembark; Bongo taking the boat's machine gun with him. (No, seriously, imagine a big brown bear, wearing khakis, a white short-sleeved shirt and a tie, and carrying an M-60!) Discretion being the better part of valor, Rust and Bongo start sneaking up to the hangar. Ignoring that valor nonsense, Katsumi makes a beeline towards the walking tank.

Upon arriving, Katsumi sees that it is indeed a Laufpanzer and tries to make an entrance with a hastily concocted smoke bomb using his portable chemistry set. Since "stab it in the butt" was established, it became important to know which way the Laufpanzer was facing. Looking at the table for a random direction generator, I noticed that the Fate Coins we were using (also for the first time!) had nice big arrows on them! Check out the A in the embossed Fate logo at the right. After a quick coin spin, unfortunately for Katsumi, it was pointing directly at him. The dance begins! Sword flashing. Machine guns fire. Both sides ducking in and out of the smoke.

With the sound of gunfire, Bongo decides to go help Katsumi. Rust sticks with the plan (she's stubborn that way) and makes it to the hangar. She steps over the fallen and dilapidated hangar doors into the dark maw. Just as her eyes start to adjust to the darkness, three sets of red lights blink to life - each set attached to another Laufpanzer.

Back in the tarmac forest, Bongo's arrival is just the added distraction Katsumi needs to get position on the metal monster. Two quick stabs with his katana and the beast powers down. (Mistake #2 - Some bad guys cost Fate points from the scene's allotment.)

Rust makes out a human-sized doorway behind the three warmachines and bolts for it, just as they open up with their machine guns. She clears the doorway and through the observation bay as bullets shred the glass and furnishings. Bongo decides Katsumi's got the tarmac under control and sprints towards the gunfire at the hangar.

Katsumi pops the rear hatch of the Laufpanzer and finds Guardian Blue inside! His Science Team Super Five helmet has been removed and replaced with some sort of neurohelmet that connects directly to the tank, but Katsumi can't figure out how to disconnect it without frying the Guardian's mind.

Bongo arrives just in time to draw the attention of the three walking tanks in the hangar. A protracted battle plays out between them.

Meanwhile, Rust is following fresh footprints in the ancient dust when Katsumi calls her over Facetime/Skype/TeslaTV and shows her the mess of wires. With her input, Katsumi removes the wires from the tank first, then removes the neurohelmet from Guardian Blue, saving him.

After some cleverly aimed shots and lots and lots of ammo, Bongo is able to disable one of the Laufpanzers. (Mistake #3 - Don't forget to take into account Armor:2 rating!)

Rust follows the footprints all the way down to some sort of control room. There are several banks of clunky controls, eight or nine ancient monitors, eight vestibules, four of which are empty, four with neurohelmets dangling, and (What the heck! Why not?) a Helsingard Warbot at the controls! Rust fires the first shot with a snarky comment about how far behind all his technology is. He returns fire with a giant robotic fist.

With Bongo holding their attention, Katsumi is able to run past the two functioning tanks and join Rust. The two of them spend a few cycles discovering swords and pistols have no effect on Helsingard's chassis. They also discover being pummeled by a warbot hurts. Rust resorts to belittling Helsingard's lack of progress in the field of robotics.

Bongo is able to cripple another Laufpanzer and Helsingard Warbot brain #6 explodes after a string of extra-harsh insults. (Mistake #4 - Don't forget to give Helsingard Warbots their extra three stunts!)

Rust is able to shutdown the the remaining Laufpanzers, the team extracts the remaining members of Science Team Super Five, and brings their semi-conscious bodies back to Big Science, Inc. At which point, there is some awkward conversation between Dr. Junji Yumeno and Katsumi as neither of them look at each other.

Somewhere in a secret underground base, Helsingard brain #7 is being loaded into the next Warbot frame...

Josh and I decided that this was to be Katsumi's "origin story". It turns out he was the only survivor of Super Team Science Five's mission to the island, he doesn't remember a thing of what happened, and he was disgraced enough to leave the team and join Tesladyne.