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12:44 PM
Current thoughts on Fate after the above conversations: it's a game that's healthiest when you have a firm freefom roleplay with strong player investment in the story first, and need mechanics for assting it second. Fate's totally hands-off with saying how much stuff you can have and power you can have, and with saying how hard things might be; those things have to come from the narrative and the players' shared ideas of the world.
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I think Fate can be used that way... again, if the group wants it to.
If we choose Atomic Robo, or Morts, or Dresden Files, and say "This is what defines our game," then it can and will take over in that regard.
But Fate's loosey-goosey enough that we have to hold onto that.
 
I agree; I think the buy-in is partly necessary for holding onto that. From my POV at least, Masters of Umdaar gave us a setting I adore and can totally buy into and remain happy with, and I love what you've been doing with it as a GM and what we've done with it as players.
 
yeah, Umdaar was totally great
 
1:18 PM
It's on my list of campaigns we could return to.
(I've been putting together lists of systems and campaigns arranged by what I'd like to go back to or try out new.)
@doppelgreener I'm glad to hear you enjoy what we've done with Umdaar; can you elaborate on that at all?
 
1:40 PM
@BESW There's a lot to it! The fantasy setting's wonderfully set up and its nature is very clear to me so I know what's going on in it and I can say what's Umdaar-ish and what's not Umdaar-ish. I get a campaign where things can simultaneously be silly ("Sko-larr", "k-boing-nir", etc) and serious. I enjoy playing a character who's still a down-to-earth mortal (except slightly ridiculous, per setting), and she can do fantastic stuff but not all that much and has to work with what she's got.
I like that the fantasy elements are still roughly well defined in their impact on the world and story, they hit that sweet spot for me of letting you do fantastic things but not just letting you go and break all the rules with high-powered arbitrary magic.
I like that I know Mercia, the stakes she faces, and the world she's in; I like that I could have her get dragged through a desert and choose mechanical options that maximized drama for it.
I like that, sort of like the original series of Avatar, it's very well focused on our group and what we're up to, and our nemeses (and that we only had well-delivered glimpses of their existence until this final showdown we reached the verge of, keeping them threatening but keeping the focus on us)
I like overall that I can very solidly internalize the story because I know exactly what's going on and what the story's meant to be like.
I like that everything in it that we're dealing with matters strongly to us and has sustained relevance. I like how the coming and going of characters has been managed -- we're still pursuing the one quest, but people get divided up or go their separate ways in pursuit of that collective quest.
RedLetterMedia mentions once it's good to have stories with clear villains and objectives, and we have that.
 
Hmm.
 
(there's lots of stories where that's not the case; this was in the context of his review of The Phantom Menace, and he was saying it's a formula that demonstrably works really well, and oh look, the previous films were doing that, this one should've done that too)
 
I think Morts might be a hit too, on those accounts.
 
2:01 PM
I think boiling it down...
- I like having some levity in a story.
- I like being able to take things seriously. (This can coexist with the previous point. See also stories like Harry Potter.)
- I like playing characters who have firm constraints and work within them. These constraints make a lot of options unavailable, and working with the options that *are* left over as available is part of the fun.
- I like it when things that exist, and events that occur, matter, and when they potentially have lasting relevance.
 
...yup, I deffo wanna run a Morts adventure with you guys.
Morts is a kind of "Ghostbusters for zombies" concept: treating an awesome thing like hunting the undead as an glamorous blue collar job.
Morts's premise: The undead rose a few generations ago. At first the groups of people who fought on the front lines to save cities and towns were adored as heroes, but now they're taken for granted. You're a team of "Morticians" dedicated to keeping your town zombie-free and unhaunted despite the lack of gratitude or resources you used to get for this dangerous work.
Also, because it's such an unglamorous job, you and your fellow Morts are the only fools who will take this kind of work: the desperate, the reckless, and the dumb.
(...That should be "unglamorous blue collar job" in the line up there. Silly autocorrect.)
It's designed to have "slice of life" scenes, investigative scenes, and combat scenes, with maybe some local politics for spice.
 
2:21 PM
It definitely sounds enjoyable to me.
I am intrigued that the cover appears to have a skeleton Mortician, or at least someone with a skull-head.
i will probably not play a skeleton, but it seems like there's undead members of civilised society to some extent
 
 
7 hours later…
9:06 PM
@doppelgreener Yup! There's a simple test (a major part includes not trying to eat the test-giver) and if you pass it then you can be counted as a member of society instead of a threat. Not that this means there isn't prejudice...
Most undead are pretty mindless, but some have self-awareness and a few have self-control.
 
sounds like those are the most dangerous of them all :D
 
They can be.
In Morts, the undead are powered by spirits which have escaped the afterlife. Zombies are generally spirits wearing somebody else's body--and it's usually a poor fit, so they don't have a lot of control or awareness.
But if a spirit somehow manages to get back into its own body, you get an Omega-class revenant: a zombie that is so much still its original self that it might take a few days to even notice it's dead. And then you've either got a problem or a citizen depending on the guy's personality.
 
whoa, that's some good lore.
 
Zombies are spontaneously-ensouled corpses; ghosts are souls that couldn't find a corpse but are emotional enough to stick around a while anyway; animations are bodies or bits of bodies animated on purpose by necromancy.
Liches are Omega-class animations, where somebody has managed to kill themselves and force their soul back into their own body immediately after--on purpose.
 
9:22 PM
Daaaaamn
 
The guy on the cover, the skull-head? He's a lich.
 
Say whaaaaaaaaaaaaat
 
The power of the magic involved usually burns off most of your flesh in the process.
 
damn, that explains it
 
> Usually, liches are necromancers who skeletonize themselves, either because they don’t want to die right now, or they just want to show off their ability to cast a really, really challenging spell. But that’s not always the case. Some people ask to be transformed because they’re old or sick or just want a second shot at life. Tracking down someone who’s both willing and able to help you make the change is difficult and expensive.
 
9:24 PM
that sounds pretty great actually! i like their spin on the concept.
I remember you telling me a bit about this stuff a while back when Morts first came out -- I'm definitely learning new stuff and it's not all coming back to me, but I remember you telling me about the nature of magic in that world.
 
Ah, yes. Spells seem to just randomly appear on objects, and you have to use that object to cast the spell.
 
People just find inexplicable spells inscribed on something random, and if you want to replicate the spell, you have to copy it onto the exact same kind of thing. There's no rhyme or reason to it, and it's like some force is just chucking random spells out into the world.
 
So magicians tend to give the impression of being hoarders with very poor taste.
Lots of potential for levity in that concept.
 
i remember you mentioned an example of someone having to haul around an entire telephone book for one spell, because that spell only works if it's inscribed in a telephone book. you can't even just tear out the one page and carry that page around, because the page isn't a telephone book.
 
Aye.
 
9:27 PM
"Why're you carrying around that tyre?" "It's got a spell on it." "Is that really worthwhile?" "But it's a really, really good spell!"
 
Also, the mechanics for necromancy are kind of amusing.
Literally, step one is "Consider not doing this dangerous thing."
 
hahaha
do i remember correctly something about undead tending to lead to more undead? like, Omega-class undead citizens aren't allowed near graveyards or something like that?
 
> When a human dies, there’s a little tear in reality as their spirit gets pulled out of their body and sent to the place where spirits go. Maybe half the time, that tear closes right back up, no problem. Otherwise, a spirit from the other side pulls through and wears the corpse as a suit. The body gets up and causes havoc, and that’s what we call a zombie.
> One of the biggest problems that zombies pose is that the undead are sort of a walking weak spot in reality. When you die, the closer your body is to anything undead, the better the odds you get reanimated. If what killed you happens to be something undead, your odds of getting right back up again are nearly one hundred percent. With specters and animations, this is annoying, but with zombies it’s especially dangerous—outbreaks tend to keep reinforcing themselves and growing.
So, long-dead bodies aren't actually a problem: no zombies clawing their way up out of graves in this apocalypse.
 
ahh, got it
i can just see it now, as well
[offers fate point] it sounds like a really, really good idea to accept this guy's offer of becoming a lich
 
But not everybody really understands this--it's mostly Mort knowledge--and the undead are creepy anyway. So "documented undead" are generally ostracized to the edge of settlements.
Here are the options for PCs:
> • Alive: The default. Good in most social situations, and able to clear away physical stress. You’re normal enough.
• Revenant: An omega-class zombie. Easy to hurt but able to take a beating, and likely to trigger a “shoot on sight” instinct with some people.
• Lich: A magically created skeleton. Liches are often necromancers, so be prepared for that assumption. Since skeletons don’t have many vital areas, liches are hard to hurt, but hits that do connect last a while.
• Ghost: A specter in that delicate position between forgetting who they are and going full-on obsessive. They’re almost
Revenants have no physical stress boxes, but extra mild consequence slots. Liches have no physical stress boxes, but they have armor against all physical damage. Ghosts have no physical stress boxes, but physical attacks deal them mental stress and they have more mental consequence slots.
 
9:50 PM
niiiiiice.
good job design team
 
Morts is generally a very solid piece, in both lore and mechanics.
Necromancy is ridiculously dangerous but there are ways to make it safer... difficult and/or reprehensible, mostly, but ways.
 
10:07 PM
is it standard practice that just about any mort will carry a spell or two?
 
Usually not--when I say "ridiculously dangerous" I mean "you're courting insanity at best unless you practice human sacrifice as part of the ritual." Depends on the area, though, the University of Davis is fascinated by non-sacrifical necromancy.
The minimum difficulty for any necromancy is +6, and necessarily involves desecrating corpses.
You can self-inflict 1 physical stress for a +2, and take a few minutes to draw a really nice circle for another +2, but after that you start to get into consequences as currency to boost your roll if you're not into human sacrifice.
Making a basic zombie is a +8, and it'll be out of your control and only last a day unless you hit +11 or better (at which point you can choose "obedient" or "permanent," but not both).
If you fail a necromancy roll, you die permanently--so maybe consider consequences as currency your buffer because you can recover from them.
 
wooooowwwww.
that's pretty brutal.
@BESW this i like though.
 
The physical stress is "splash some blood of a living human around."
Also, spells are hoarded by those who value or fear them. If a Mort has a necromancy spell, it's their own that they found or inherited. Nobody on a Mort team has the money or influence to just go out and acquire a spell from somebody.
 
10:22 PM
dresden files has super risky magic, right? so the idea is, in Fate mechanics, you take time creating the necessary advantages so you can draw on that power and control it. in Fate gameplay, though, that turns into: "uh, so, how many arbitrary advantages do I get to create? like ten? if one of my avantages is "spend three days hunting down the right leyline", do I also get to count "bought some nice red candles" as +2? what about "centered myself"?"
 
You can start play with a necromancy spell by taking a stunt for it.
 
so if the game says "you can spend 1 stress and you can do this one other thing, and beyond that, good luck", that draws the line and that's very helpful.
 
@doppelgreener I think the idea there (which, admittedly, isn't often well handled) is that "the right leyline" is a necessary permission while "red candles" is just an "makes it easier."
But yeah, it leaves the difference between "makes it easier" and "absolutely necessary" perhaps too open for the group to control.
This comparison is a good example of what you were talking about with Fate being hard to use as a limiting system to define the play itself.
 
I agree, though there's also another comparison that feels appropriate.
Dunkey (aka videogamedunkey) once did a youtube video about Difficulty in Videogames (he cuts back to League of Legends a lot in that video: Dunkey has some history with that game, having established his fame on it before getting banned from LoL). In it, he talks about how games usually offer you various difficulty levels, but it's hard to know what the "right" one is.
If you're finding the game easy, are your successes invalid because you're on a lower difficulty than you should be? If you're finding the game hard, do you just need practice, or do you need to go down a difficulty? If you do go down a difficulty, does that undermine your achievements in the game?
He holds up games like Zelda and Dark Souls that just give you a difficulty and don't let you choose one as pretty good in that regard: they set what the expected experience is, they don't give you a choice in the matter, and the authors work hard on the gameplay to make sure it delivers on their chosen difficulty appropriately. If you're winning, good job, you're doing well at the intended game.
 
You're seeing Morts as clearly telegraphing how hard magic is, where DFRPG doesn't?
 
10:30 PM
Yes.
Dresden Files magic is a bit like "so which difficulty do you want?" in that regard. I can choose any difficulty I want by how many aspects I want to try to justify. Mort's saying: "It's this hard: very."
 
I'd say that's pretty accurate. DFRPG has... tables and lists of effects and relative difficulties, but it's all quite airy-fairy despite looking like a hard and fast ruleset.
 
or at least it sounds that way.
oh good, it's not just me then
 
Once again, I'm impressed at how almost every new Fate product Evil Hat releases is measurably more proficient with the system and how to wield and present it.
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DFRPG is sorta flail-y and tries to do a lot of D&D-esque things with its structure and presentation.
 
11:03 PM
@doppelgreener Another interesting way they defined the difficulty of magic: You use Will to cast necromancy, but it takes Crafts to draw a nice enough circle to get a free invoke on it, and Necrology can be used to create more advantages but the difficulty is almost as bad as the spell itself.
 
@BESW nice. :D
that's funny. i like that.
the "you could get advantages with Necrology, but do you really want to?" thing
 
Oh, and every other active spell you've got adds +2 to the difficulty of the casting.
"You are a conduit for the spirits, and there are limits to your bandwidth."
 
11:22 PM
would controlling an existing zombie count as an active spell?
 
Yes.
If you choose permanent on a spell, it stops counting toward your total for that effect.
But you have to choose permanent OR obedient, never both.
...wait, you mean a zombie you just bump into, and cast a spell to control?
Necromancy can't do that--at least, not within the rules as presented. Necromancy summons and binds souls, it doesn't manipulate already-bound souls.
> When you’re designing spells, remember that magic can allow corpses to defy physics and operate in impossible ways, but it always comes down to a spirit forcing a semblance of life into a dead thing.
I guess you might be able to bind a new spirit to an existing zombie, and hope it forces the previous one out, but that'd involve major difficulty levels.
 
or horrible successful results!
 
And of course, first you'd have to figure out how to cast it.
If you don't find a Teakettle Of Spirit Replacement, you'll have to cobble it together by combining whatever spells you have on hand--which implies you have multiple spells of sorta the right kind of thing on hand already, and are willing to play mix-and-match with them.
 
> (after some rolling)
> GM: You force the new spirit into the zombie.
> Player: Hooray!
> GM: The old one's still there though.
> Player: Oh...
> GM: You've successfully created an overstuffed zombie. It seems very unhappy and agitated about this.
> Player: We'd better leave.
> GM: [offers a fate point] It seems to be moaning out to you, its creator, for help. Do you take pity on it and stay?
 
...in other words, unless you're a citizen of the Republic of Davis, you probably have neither the resources nor the gall to pull it off.
@Radhil Hi!
 
11:31 PM
@BESW Or a member of the Unspeakably Evil club!
 
@doppelgreener Many people outside Davis feel that's pretty much the same thing.
 
(i'm now imagining how a conversation would go in the Scott Pilgrim-verse with someone revealing they're in such a club.)
@BESW I see, hahaha
 
Davis is a militant Republic based out of the old University of California campus, and its academic focus has been turned on necromancy. Their version of Morts are trained in necromancy, and have permission to kill anyone who misuses it; Morts in other places are only allowed to kill people who are already dead.
 
@BESW /waves Happened to spy the room, curious so I'm peeking. 'Ello.
 
We're talking about the World of Adventure for Fate, Morts.
If you'd like more general RPG stuff, there's also the RPG General Chat.
I gotta dash and do some errands before my Dungeon World game. ttfn
 
11:37 PM
@BESW That sounds like Davisian(?) Morts would also be taking a vow they'd do no less to their colleagues should those colleagues misuse necromancy.
 

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