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Setting Design [Black Box Edition]
Publisher: Dancing Lights Press
by Jim B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/08/2018 14:33:34

While the subtitle is "for Writers and Roleplayers," I'm focusing solely on the RPG aspect.

What this is:

  • It focuses on story-driven setting design instead of a top-down approach (starting at the world level then drilling down into local details) or bottom-up approach (starting at the local level and then expanding from there). The story-driven approach has you focus on the story you want to tell. You include elements that help create and/or resolve conflicts for that story. The idea scales well. You could be working on a single story or a grand campaign arc.
  • It's game system-neutral and genre-neutral.
  • You could use these guidelines for building a very plot-oriented campaign or a very loose, player-driven campaign. You could have a very tight premise statement that supports a single story ("A group of strangers who met at an inn must defend a caravan from bandits as they travel to the big city") or a more open-ended premise statement that gives players a lot of leeway ("The crew of a starship patrols unexplored space seeking scientific discoveries and first contact with alien races").
  • The 10 main setting elements it covers are: premise, genre, place and time, theme, stakes, locations, people, technology, events, and vocabulary. Each element gets its own chapter. The writer invites you to "Use as many elements as you choose. Skip over any that don’t resonate with you, or fit the project you’re working on."
  • The premise chapter is particularly important for the story-driven approach. I'd compare the premise statement to a logline for a TV series or a movie. The premise chapter helps you craft a premise statement, with examples. It gives you a checklist of things needed to support your premise statement: characters, goals, obstacles, and setting elements.
  • Each setting element chapter discusses things you should consider as you pin down the particulars of each setting element. Each chapter ends with a list of questions for reviewing how your choices for this chapter stack up against the other nine setting elements. For example, in the chapter on Place and Time, one of the review items is how place and time interact with the stakes. It includes questions like "What stakes are specific to this particular place and time, as opposed to any other?" These questions help you integrate your choices into a whole that serves the story you want to tell.
  • You could go through the chapters in pretty much any order. You probably have at least the germ of an idea: a place and time, a culture, a technology, etc. Start with the chapter corresponding to that idea, and then hop around the other chapters as needed. Each chapter helps you build on whatever you've created so far.

What this isn't:

  • This work is story-driven, but not plot-driven. That is, it focuses on creating the environment in which your story will operate. It's not about building plots: no plot outlines, no scene lists or story beats, no plot points, no division of a story into acts, etc. The same publisher has other offerings about building plots. This work is just about the setting.
  • There are no tables for rolling up particulars about your world.
  • There are no map creation guidelines.
  • This isn't a reference source for world-building. There are some broad descriptions of things like climate, terrain, and culture, but only to the extent that you consider them as you establish your setting. You'll need other works if you want more details on those topics.


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Setting Design [Black Box Edition]
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FREE d20 to FATE Conversion Guide
Publisher: Adamant Entertainment
by Jim B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/06/2018 08:29:06

This conversion guide is now somewhat dated. The guide was released in 2007 (11 years ago as I write this). That's right about when Evil Hat started using Fate (the word) instead of FATE (the acronym). More to the point, it's 6 years before Fate Core and Fate Accelerated were released, and it's when d20 3.5 was the latest d20 release.

The guide is most useful if you're converting from d20 Modern to Spirit of the Century. It has you create up to 10 aspects, just as you'd get for a player character in SotC. It maps d20 Modern skills to SotC skills.

If you're not specifically converting from d20 Modern to SotC, this guide won't do much for you. You'll have to come up with your own skill mappings. The Fate "aspect economy" in Core and Accelerated would have you create no more than 5 aspects instead of 10. You'd come up with your own conversions for creating stress tracks. You could still use the guide's conversions from d20 ability modifiers to levels on the Fate ladder. The guide already suggests that you create Fate stunts from scratch instead of trying to convert anything to stunts, so that guidance can still be applied to newer editions of Fate.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
FREE d20 to FATE Conversion Guide
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Situation Aspect Cards (for Fate)
Publisher: Nothing Ventured Games
by Jim B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/29/2018 14:12:47

I was a little disappointed in the cards, but maybe that's a matter of mismatched expectations. I was hoping it would be a rich set of situation aspects usable in a variety of settings. Instead, it seems more like a sampler pack - possibly useful as inspiration for creating your own.

There are 10 cards for environmental conditions. Most of them cover a scattered handful of specific weather conditions. I'd have used one card for weather, say, "Severe Weather," letting you adapt it to your setting. The other environmental cards offer a small sampling of environmental conditions. Again, they were a little over-specific. For example, instead of having two cards for different ways to have poor visibility, I'd have gone with "Poor Visibility" as one card, leaving you to adapt it for your setting. Your campaign probably has a lot of variety in your locations, but the environmental condition cards would be applicable to only a small subset of them. A better mix, if I had to squeeze a broadly useful set of environmental conditions into 10 cards, would have included other circumstances that could apply across a variety of settings, such as "Poor Footing" or "No Room for Vehicles" or "Creepy Surroundings."

The 10 personal condition cards are a decent mix, because they're more widely applicable to the things that can happen to characters, regardless of your setting. All the same, one could easily double the number of persoal conditions, especially if you have setting-specific conditions. D&D5e, for comparison, lists 15 personal conditions: 13 that are applicable across almost any setting, and two that are specific to a D&D-like setting.

The 10 social conditions aren't bad. Well, 9 of them actually. One of them had me wondering how it counted as a social condition. Anyway, they're not bad, but again, one could easily imagine some common social conditions that aren't represented here.

The 10 danger cards are good about covering a variety of settings, but as above, you could easily come up with dangers that aren't covered in these cards.

Bottom line: Don't expect this deck to stand in for coming up with your own situation aspects. It's effectively a sampler pack. Maybe you'll say "It's raining hard" and then you'll remember there happens to be a card that covers specifically that. Or maybe you'll say "The undergrowth makes progress difficult" and there won't be a card for that. The cards aren't bad, just eclectic.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Situation Aspect Cards (for Fate)
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Plot Twists
Publisher: McDonald Publishing
by Jim B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/27/2018 23:28:56

It's a good mix of twists. If you think of a plot twist as a "wow this changes everything" moment, well, not all of the entries are radical changes, but there's still a good mix. If you need a truly radical twist, you might need to reroll/redraw, or you might need to think up a way to turn a seemingly mundane event up to 11.

Each entry gets a title and a one-line description. The titles are often self-explanatory on their own. The descriptions are pretty clear about what the twist is. The descriptions leave room for interpretation, as they should. For example, when "extreme natural weather" crops up, it's on you to decide what sort of weather that is.

Most of the twists are genre-neutral. Several of them assume magic or the supernatural. All of the twists are game system-neutral.

Virtually all of the twists are suitable for a mid-adventure twist: twists that are revealed somewhere in the midst of the adventure. Some of them are suitable for the start of an adventure - things you could find out right off the bat (for example, learning that there's a great distance to travel). Only a few of them are suitable for end-of-adventure zingers (e.g., finding out there's no reward after you've accomplished your mission).

Some of them are good for unplanned, unexpected events, so it's no big deal to have them pop up randomly during an adventure. A change in the weather is one example. Other twists are revelations of something that should have been true all along, such as finding out you've been dealing with an imposter. Those might be better as planned twists instead of random twists, if you want to avoid the risk of creating inconsistencies.

The setting-specific dice roll columns are a nice touch. Each column is a d1000 column. The Random column gives you the full range of 150 twist types. The Underground, Wilderness, Large Urban Area, and Small Urban Area columns include only the applicable twists for locale in question. The User column is blank so you can write in your own list of probabilities for the entries you want to allow.

Including pages for printing the twists on business card stock is another nice touch. Using cards makes it fairly easy to exclude the cards you'd consider irrelevant. They recommend Avery 3612 printer stock, but it seems that Avery no longer offers the 3612 stock (8-up business cards). Avery has other 8-up business card stock now, but I haven't tried them with this PDF. The PDF includes a page of blank cards (blank except for the frame around the twist's text) in case you want to make up your own twist cards. There's also a page of card back images.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Plot Twists
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Fate Solo
Publisher: Cabbage Games
by Jim B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/22/2018 21:07:00

It could really use an editor's hand to clarify the text.

Things you might like:

  • What it comes down to is that if you're looking for a solo GM emulator that uses Fate dice instead of other dice, here you go. Given that there are dice apps and online dice rollers, and given that many RPGers already have an assortment of physical dice, you should have little trouble finding a way to roll dice for some other tool. I don't see much need for a Fate-dice-only tool.
  • You could use Fate Solo for Fate Core or Fate Accelerated. The character creation section is written for Fate Core, but it wouldn't be hard to adapt it for Fate Accelerated.

Things you might not like:

  • If you're not already familiar with solo RPG play, solo oracles, and so on, this isn't the place to start. This isn't an introduction to solo RPG play. You already need to know how you'd use a solo oracle before you can make sense of this document. That prerequisite should be called out in the product description.
  • If you're not already up to speed on Fate Core, this isn't the place to start. You need a decent familiarity with Fate Core before you use this. That's another prerequisite that should be called out in the product description. This isn't a stand-alone product.
  • It asks you to use a randomizer "to discover what the modifier means" or "to help frame questions," but it doesn't tell you what a randomizer is, where you might find one, or how you might make your own. It doesn't tell you how a randomizer might explain a modifier or frame a question. Presumably, it's talking about things like the Event Meaning tables from the Mythic Game Emulator, or the situation/adventure generators you can find in various resources. If you already have these other resources, however, why do you need Fate Solo? Your other resources probably use something other than Fate dice anyway, so there goes the "philosophy" of Fate Solo - "That when playing Fate you don't have to pick up non-Fate dice." Is it really so horrible to touch non-Fate dice?
  • There's no explicit explanation of the notation used in the oracle, which is an odd omission for a core tool. The text gets around to telling you that the number of pluses or minuses is the number of "surprise factor" rolls to make, but it doesn't tell you how to handle Yes+ vs Yes-, for example. It doesn't tell you if Yes+ and Yes++ differ in ways other than the number of surprise rolls. One can guess that Yes+ means "Yes, in a beneficial way" while Yes- means "yes, but there's a catch." Or maybe it means that if there's a surprise, Yes+ is a beneificial surprise while Yes- is a problem surprise. Either way, leaving the notation to guesswork is still an odd omission.
  • It's odd that the "first non-blank dice" helps you pick between two options. Does the author expect you to roll your four Fate dice one at a time, every time?
  • The surprise factor description could definitely use some editorial help to clarify the text. In essence, the chance for a plot twist increases the longer you go without one.
  • If you want help using the oracle to establish a game world, a campaign story arc, a short-term story arc, or a scene, too bad. This doesn't offer any help with any of that.
  • The interview, which takes up roughly half of the page count, has a lot non-nutritive filler ("great to be here," "umm," etc.). It includes some brief, limited comments on forming questions and runnnig NPCs, but that information should be incorporated into the description of the solo engine. The interview itself isn't important. (Or if the author considers the interview important, he should give the context - who the interviewer was, and when, where, and why this interview was conducted. As presented, it's an anonymous interviewer without any context. Maybe it's the author's own hypothetical interview?)

The more I look at solo engines for use with Fate, the more I've realized that Fate doesn't need an outside solo engine. Fate's own discussion of "Scenes, Sessions, and Scenarios" gives you questions to pose. Aspects can describe a situation and assert truths about the setting. The Create an Advantage action lets you create aspects on the fly, and you might or might not get the answer you were hoping for. You've got everything you need to ask and answer questions, without an outside oracle. You can use "Create an Advantage" for meta-questions (questions about the situation instead of actions your character carries out), and there's your oracle.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Fate Solo
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The Covetous Poet's Adventure Creator and Solo GM Guidebook
Publisher: Covetous Poet Publishing
by Jim B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/07/2018 18:32:18

I'm always on the lookout for tools to give me fresh inspiration in creating adventures. This is a decent tool. Is it better than other such tools? Hard to say.

Things you might like:

  • It's system-neutral.
  • It includes genre-specific charts for fantasy, horror, and sci-fi. The Covetous Poet blog adds free superhero and mystery charts. The Kickstarter page adds a free spy genre.
  • The genre-specific charts have lots of entries (but see my other remarks farther down). Opposition table: dozens. Motivations (for your antagonist): 100+. Themes: a few hundred. Complications: 100+. Locations: 200+. Plot devices: a few hundred.
  • There are a few genre-independent tables (events, challenges, etc.). These figure into the plot creation process. They can also be helpful if you're inclined to provide your own genre-specific details, using these genre-neutral tables to tie them together.
  • It walks you through using the tables to create a three-act structure.
  • It discusses alternative structures (though in less detail), such as a one-act structure that could work in a single session, or formats combining short-term and long-term stories.
  • It includes an answer oracle for solo play. You could also use it for GMless play or as a GM aid.
  • If you like the Action + Thing model for inspiration, each genre has such tables.
  • You might find the Location chapter helpful. It offers a few paragraphs each on a dozen or so location types - the sorts of people you'd find there, what happens there routinely, etc. If you need great detail, this chapter won't be enough for you, but you might find a high-level overview helpful.

Things you might not like:

  • The tables don't help you apply motifs across tables. For example, if you want to tie everything to a certain terrain type, or a particular mood, or a particular type of opponent, you're on your own. (To me, any advice to "just keep rerolling" indicates a design flaw in the tables.)
  • Similarly, the tables don't tie into each other. For example, your Theme might be Man vs Nature, but none of the other tables make use of your chosen theme. It's completely on you to figure out how your theme affects anything else. Again, either pick without rolling or you're stuck with the "just keep rerolling" approach.
  • The answer oracle is a basic yes/no oracle at a few levels of probability, with a chance for an Interruption roll. If you want something more nuanced, you'll want another solo engine.
  • If you're not easily inspired by Action + Thing rolls, these tables might be problematic for you. They're not terribly orthogonal. For example, many of the actions are applicable to people, places, OR things, while many of the Thing rolls are also people, places, OR things. Many combinations won't make much sense. Ambush Ambush? ("Ambush" is on both tables) Estimate Chef? Befriend ID Card? The more you wind up rerolling, the more the tables have wasted your time instead of helping you.
  • The PDF isn't bookmarked or cross-referenced. The table of contents isn't linked.
  • While having lots of table entries can seem like a good thing at first, there are potential problems too. You want the difference between one entry and another to be significant, as in "Wow, that completely changes things." Take taverns on the Fantasy Locations table, for example. When there are several entries that are different terms for the same thing or something only slightly different, you've cluttered the table, not improved it. A nice clean table would combine entries that don't add much separately.
  • The distinctions between some of the tables gets blurry. There's overlap among Complications, Plot Devices, Interruptions, Events, and Challenges. This reduces variety (because of the overlaps), creates conflicts (when tables contradict each other), and adds to the chore (because you could bounce from table to table if you're trying to shake things up but you keep rerolling until you find an outcome you like).
  • The Adventure Creator's "how not to railroad" material seems a little thin. Railroading is a risk of any plot creation method, if you force the PCs into a particular plotline no matter what they do. You can prepare extra scenes to cover various possibilities, and then use or adapt the ones you need during play, but I still think the document could have included more material on how to strike a good balance between plotted events and player agency.
  • The Character Companion chapter is nothing new, just the usual list of system-agnostic traits you'd find in any of a zillion other character trait generators.
  • The project's blog archive says the last posting was July 2014 - no updates in four years, so apparently there's no new content in the works.
  • The blog site's Bonus Materials / New Adventure Sheets entry has no content. You could instead print the blank sheets at the end of the document and write on them. I'm not aware of any form-fillable PDF versions, Word templates, or the like.
  • The document could use a trip through a spell-checker.


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Covetous Poet's Adventure Creator and Solo GM Guidebook
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Building Characters [Black Box Edition]
Publisher: Dancing Lights Press
by Jim B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/01/2018 04:23:23

I'm looking at the RWR_1601 edition. The book has been through revisions here and there.

Although the subtitle is "for Writers and Roleplayers," I'm reviewing it from the RPG perspective. This is DriveThruRPG, after all.

Take to heart the message from the "How to Use This Book" section: "There are many elements that go into the creation of a great character. All are optional." The book would be WAY overkill if you applied every element to even a few characters. As the old quote goes, "Perfection is achieved not when there's nothing left to add, but when there's nothing left to take away" (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, in case you're wondering).

I'll sum up first, and then get to some details. To sum up: The descriptions of 24 different character roles is the best part. A lot of the other sections make up potentially handy checklists, but there's a lot of unnecessary, redundant, or excessive description. Those sections could have been much shorter without a loss of information.

Things to like about the book:

  • It's system-neutral and setting-neutral.
  • The descriptions of 8 protagonist types and 8 antagonist types are very good. For each type, you get a useful one-paragraph overview, examples of the type from popular media, a description of the type's values, and how others perceive the type. Another interesting element is that you get a "supporting cast" for each type - the interactions a given type is likely to have with other types. This is all great material for making an interesting character. This is mainly for a player creating a PC or a GM creating a major NPC.
  • The 8 supporting types are also helpful. For each of these, you get a discussion of how the type interacts with a main character, examples from popular media, and a description of why you might want such a character in the story. This is mostly about secondary NPCs.
  • The good part of the Dimensions chapter is that it's a checklist of things to consider when describing your character's "physiology, sociology, and psychology." It's also a 14-page temptation into overkill. Only include the elements that will help you run the character in an interesting way.

Things I liked less about the book:

  • The subtitle, "for Writers and Roleplayers," sounds like scope creep. There are things that would matter to a fiction writer that generally don't matter in an RPG. For example, a writer might spend many a paragraph throughout a story just on a character's thoughts and feelings, and how they evolve. In an RPG, you spend no time watching a character ponder. Fiction writing and RPG characters aren't the same thing. If there's too much irrelevant stuff to wade through, the whole work becomes harder to use, and therefore less useful.
  • I found the the section on "Stages of Life" to be overkill. Do we really need explanations of how a child is different from a young adult, who's different from a much older person? At 8 pages, it's both too much and too little - too much if you're thinking "Yes, I know the difference between a child and an elderly person," or too little if you want to pursue all the nuances and complexities of a given age level.
  • The "Motivations" chapter also felt like overkill. Now, you may well want to understand a character's motivations. However, if that character fits one of the 24 types described earlier, you've already got a decent idea of the character's motivations. Also, the motivations get excessive description. Take the Stakes element, for example, which is under Goals, which comes under Motivations. If your character has Stakes at the Low Stakes level: "Neither the reward nor the consequence will have much impact on anyone." Maybe that's there for some desire for completeness, but if the stakes are that inconsequential, don't include them! The whole motivation section could have been a lot shorter not by describing all five levels of every motivation, but by listing only the useful descriptions, the ones that show that one motivation or another is compelling, not useless.
  • The "Aptitudes" chapter also felt like overkill. It discusses 10 different aptitudes - body, empathy, language, etc. - but I found most of it unnecessary for turning over to RPG purposes. Besides, if a character has "Below Baseline Nature Aptitude," I already get that he doesn't know much about nature. I don't need extra description to explain that.
  • The "Experiences" chapter offers a list of skill categories: Academic, Athletic, Creative, etc. Getting that down to specific skills for your character and your setting is up to you (as it should be, because this work is setting-neutral). Maybe a checklist of skill areas would be helpful to you, but chances are, you already have skill lists in place if you need them, so you wouldn't need this chapter. By the way, this is another chapter that could have been a checklist, but instead it goes into excessive, repetitive description.
  • "Resources," like the other chapters, is over-described. Maybe it's a good checklist of the types of resources a character might have or lack, but each item was overdescribed. Besides, once you've developed a basic concept of the character, most of these resource items are going to be fairly obvious.
  • "Wonders" felt too generic. It brushes by the topic of adding magic, psychic powers, or superpowers to a character, but with no actionable content.

All in all, the book is worthwhile for the character types at least, but it could have been a lot shorter and more tightly written.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Building Characters [Black Box Edition]
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It's Not My Future!
Publisher: Tangent Zero
by Jim B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/01/2018 01:50:21

If you like It's Not My Fault (INMF), you'll like this sci-fi variant. The game lends itself well to a pick-up GMless improv game. It prints out as a single page.

Like INMF, each player pulls three cards to create a character. This variant uses an ordinary deck of playing cards (no jokers) instead of the custom cards used by INMF. That makes this even easier to use as a pick-up game.

In Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE) terminology, you wind up with the usual six approaches, rated 0-3 each, totaling 9 points. You also wind up with three aspects. The game avoids conflicting aspects by asking you to avoid using two cards of the same rank. Example character: a silver-tongued navy gunner with acrobatic running skills. Approaches: Careful +1, Clever +1, Flashy +2, Forceful +2, Quick +2, Sneaky +1.

Unlike INMF, this game doesn't give you any FAE stunts. If you understand the FAE system, you could make up FAE stunts on the spot. If not, it'll probably be enough to recognize that you can do what any silver-tongued navy gunner with acrobatic running skills can do. And you can do it well, because you're a hero in this story.

Like INMF, you draw cards to create the situation. Draw three times to answer three questions. You wind up with something like you'd find in a classic sci-fi action/adventure movie. There's nothing above a PG-13 rating. Example situation, generated by card draws: We're in what appears to be natural caverns. The alternative was getting recycled. It's about to get worse because the natives are restless.

Your job as players is to figure out what the initial situation means, and then you take it from there.

Perhaps a key difference between this game and INMF is that this doesn't tell you what to do or how to play after you've created the characters and the situation. Maybe they assume you already know how to play INMF and how to use the FAE system.

From my perspective, you don't have to know INMF or FAE. Just improv the story starting from the situation you generated, and have fun. Wrap up the story when it feels like it's time to wrap it up. If you don't know how to play FAE, at least come to an understanding of what the six appraoches mean. Make up some game mechanic for resolving situations using the approach you've chosen for handling it.

For our use, we decided it needed goals, so we created a table of 13 goals, and then we draw a card at the start to pick one.

It's been a fun game for our gamng circle.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
It's Not My Future!
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Facing the Consequences
Publisher: Sune Nodskou
by Jim B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/25/2018 23:13:39

I like the concept but I find many of the consequences too severe and somewhat uneven.

Consider mild consequences. In Fate Accelerated, which is what I use, "mild consequences vanish at the end of the scene, provided you get a chance to rest" (page 22). In Fate Core, "Mild consequences don’t require immediate medical attention. They hurt, and they may present an inconvenience, but they aren’t going to force you into a lot of bed rest" (page 163). I recall someone's rule of thumb that mild consequences need first aid or a brief rest, moderate consequences need a doctor, and severe consequences need an emergency room; I'm not sure that's official, but it seems compatible with the Fate Accelerated and Fate Core descriptions.

And yet this deck includes "mild" consequences such as Lost Some Fingers, Cooked Off Ear, and Fractured Thigh. A brief rest or a little first aid isn't going to grow back your fingers, you know?

And then among the severe consequences, we find [1-5] Fingers Crushed and Broken. Broken fingers are severe but missing fingers are mild?

My workaround is to tell players who pull harsh "mild" consequences to replace them with a milder equivalent that can go away with a little rest or first aid. But if we have to make up our own consequences anyway, that works against the stated purpose of the deck.

I realize now that although the deck is tagged here with Fate as the rule system, Fate is not mentioned anywhere in the product description or in the deck itself. The deck includes not only mild, moderate, and severe consequences, but also extreme consequences, which I haven't seen in any Fate products (although my knowledge may well be incomplete on that point). If these cards weren't intended to go with Fate, it's been tagged misleadingly.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Facing the Consequences
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Character Generator w/ bg
Publisher: Ken Wickham
by Jim B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/04/2018 21:41:03

I'm looking at the v1.5 document.

Things you might like:

  • It's a system-neutral way to give a qualitative description of a character - personality, traits, etc.
  • It's easy to mix and match different elements, rolling up some and assigning others non-randomly.
  • The brief personality descriptions give you a good thumbnail picture of each type: desires, temptations, fears, etc. For some characters, the personality description alone may be sufficient, and you won't need to roll up the other elements.
  • Similarly, the Virtue and Vice descriptions are brief but also flexible and useful. Rolling up either or both might sufficient for some characters, without having to roll up the other elements.
  • The Stat Archetypes are descriptive and system-neutral, not numeric, but it'll probably be easy to figure out which character stats you should nudge up or down.

Things you might not like:

  • If you're looking for a quantitative character generator (rolling up specific stats and selecting a particular species), you'll want another tool. That's not what this is.
  • Since it's system-neutral and setting-neutral, there's nothing to factor in differences between species (which ones are taller, stronger, faster, ...). Obviously, you could decide for yourself that Hobbits will tend toward certain personalities and Wookiees toward others, but that's on you. This tool makes no distinction.
  • The probability distributions are odd here and there. In the d10, d12, and d20 columns, the tables make the middle rows more likely than the upper or lower rows. So far so good, if the intent was indeed to make the middle rows more likely. The 3d6 column, however, makes the top row the most likely outcome. That is, rolling 3-7 on 3d6 is more likely than any other table result (probabililty 36 out of 216 instead of 27 or lower for other results); that seems like a mistake, or at least it's an unexplained inconsistency with the other tables. Another unexplained probability quirk is that the d100 column makes the middle row the least likely result instead of the most likely, with only a 3% chance instead of the 11-13% chance for each of the other rows. These unexplained quirks seem more like mistakes than design features, but if they're deliberate, it would help if the text pointed them out.
  • The Encounter column (which is called Common Professions in the text) is fairly brief and generic. If you have a setting, and if you want a table of common professions, you'll probably want to cook up your own list. Also, note that because of the probability quirks mentioned above, farmers are either the most likely or the least likely profession, depending on which dice you use. Or guards can be anywhere from least likely to most likely, again depending on the dice you use.
  • Mistake: The Vices table lists Crazy as the bottom entry. The text explanation uses Deceitful instead. The obvious fix is to decide on your own whether the character is Crazy or Deceitful. I mention this because it looks like a mistake the author might want to fix in a future version.
  • Mistake: Every d12 column leaves out a roll of 4. This too has an easy DIY fix, but I mention it in case the author wants to fix the tables.


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Character Generator w/ bg
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FRPG6 Dialogue Engine
Publisher: Ken Wickham
by Jim B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/01/2018 10:21:02

It's on the right track, but it needs work. Its worthy goal is to guide how NPCs converse and react without falling into the rut of having all the characters sound and act the same.

The Vocal Quailty Table can be skipped. Variations in vocal quality are a good thing, but the random combinations of keywords from this table aren't inspiring. Suppose you roll up Throat, Jargon, and Child-Like. That's too arbitary. Instead, ask yourself how someone like this NPC would talk and skip the table.

The Dialogue Mood & Topic table is more promising.

Good elements of the Dialogue Mood & Topic table:

  • I like the mix of response types. Each row has a common theme, with variations for the friendly, hesitant, and hostile columns. There's a row on generalities, a row that touches on character motivations, a row for commentary on the scene or conflict, and rows for the character's personality, virtues, and vices. That gives a good mix of things for an NPC to mention.

Not-so-good elements of the Dialogue Mood & Topic table:

  • Despite the table's strengths, it can be disruptive to the mood and flow and unnecessarily time-consuming if you stop to make a series of dice rolls and table lookups - only to find out an NPC says, "Nice weather, huh?" or "Idiot."
  • You can offset that disadvantage by pre-generating a few conversational things for each PC, but a) that could involve a lot of prep work for conversations that might never happen, and b) your prep work might not cover all the potential conversations anyway. Instead, you might need to hone your skills at improvised NPC dialogue instead of relying on table rolls.
  • The product description says certain other generators by the same author are "required." They're not. In particular...
  • The table cites the Fact Generator in case you need inspiration for a character making small talk. Do you really need inspiration for small talk? Just have the character state something minor and obvious about whatever's going on at the moment. Rolling up (for example) "Further" or "Manipulate" from the Fact Generator doesn't help.
  • The table cites the Motivation Generator in case you need inspiration for an NPC discussing motivations. While you might want that inspiration, the table isn't "required" if you already have some character motivations in mind.
  • It cites the "FRPG conflict or Plot Generator." If you're using those to generate situations, fine, go for it, but they're not required. The table has the NPC commenting on the scene or conflict, which works no matter how you came up with the situation.
  • It cites the Character Generator for references to the character's personality, virtues, and vices. Again, the extra generator isn't required. You can still use this table no matter how you create your characters.

The Archetype Dialogue table is the most helpful piece.

Good elements of the Archetype Dialogue table:

  • Whereas the Vocal Quality Table is completely arbitrary, this table is very much not arbitrary. It's not a random combination of disconnected elements. It's a unified set of guidelines on how nine different character archetypes might handle a conversation.
  • Each column adds a useful element for each archetype. Which archetypes are more interested in taking action, or more interested in discussion? What are their likely goals? What are some typical things for them to say?
  • The Pressured and Relaxed columns in particular are a nice touch. They offer a straightforward approach for altering a character's behavior in high-pressure or relaxed situations, namely, by temporarily using a different profile. For example, a Caregiver has a set of reactions, but in a high-pressure situation, the Caregiver temporarily becomes a Skeptic. In a relaxed situation, the Caregiver temporarily acts like a Lone Wolf. That's an interesting extra dynamic for character interaction.
  • You could skip all the rest of the FRPG6 Dialogue Engine and just have the Archetype Dialogue table ready for quick glimpses during play. Assign each NPC an archetype, either in advance or on the spot, and glance at the Archetype Dialogue chart when you need a quick inspiration for how the NPC might react.

Not-so-good elements of the Archetype Dialogue table:

  • The archetypes are listed without the descriptions you'd find in the Character Generator. That's a negative if you'd want the extra description (and if you weren't planning to use the Character Generator), but the archetype names are obvious enough in most cases. If some of the labels are less obvious to you, skip them. The Character Generator isn't required, as stated in the product description.


Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
FRPG6 Dialogue Engine
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36 Dramatic Situations
Publisher: dicegeeks.com
by Jim B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/09/2018 23:21:36

This is a copy-and-paste job on the century-old English translation, except it's just the headings. The one-page introduction slapped onto this version can be summed up as "Pick one of these situations." This document adds nothing to the original.

Do a web search for Georges Polti Thirty Six Dramatic Situations and you'll find the full text. Reading a 100-year-old English translation of a 19th-century French work about classic (mostly Greek or French) literature can still present some challenges, but at least you'll have the full text if you want to read more.

Your web search should also turn up articles that will help you put the "36 Dramatic Situations" to use, although generally from a fiction writer's perspective, not from an RPG perspective.

Whichever source you use, keep in mind that these are situations, not plot outlines. Suppose you go with the sixteenth situation ("Madness"). You find that you need a Madman and a Victim. Suppose you pick variant B ("Disgrace Brought Upon Oneself Through Madness"). In this stripped-down version, that's all you get. If you use the full text, you'll get Polti's discussion of the topic, but it's still not going to help you with inciting incidents, plot points, encounters, or possible goals.

If you can run with "Madness" and "Disgrace Brought Upon Oneself Through Madness," this document may be enough for you. If you want to get more understanding of what Polti meant by those things, dig up the full text. If you want more help and inspiration to turn this seed into a fun adventure, neither this document nor the full text are enough.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
36 Dramatic Situations
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Interstellar Patrol (Fate Accelerated Edition)
Publisher: Nothing Ventured Games
by Jim B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/06/2018 21:57:43

Set your expectations correctly before ordering. It's only $1 and it's only 8 pages long. It'd be even shorter without the artwork, which is thematic filler, not illustrations of game elements.

In short, I'd use it to seed a Star Trek-like one-shot adventure.

You might like this title if you're expecting:

  • Fate Accelerated. It's there in the title.
  • A somewhat Star Trek-ish setting in that characters are members of a starship crew, facing aggressors and seeking out new worlds.
  • A straightforward, non-crunchy way to handle starships.
  • A page with some general discussion on creating characters for this setting, including some sample stunts.
  • Material suitable for a one-shot: five basic world types, six typical plot seeds. These are seeds only, not fleshed-out worlds or fleshed-out adventures.

You'll be disappointed if you're expecting:

  • Fate Core. There are no skill lists.
  • Star Trek canon (or any other canon). That's not what this is.
  • A full campaign setting. You get a one-paragraph overview, and that's it.
  • An adventure generator or a sample adventure. These are simple seeds.
  • A world generator a la Traveller. Each world type is described in a few sentences. The descriptions are qualitative, not quantitative.


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Interstellar Patrol (Fate Accelerated Edition)
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It's Not My Fault! (A Fate Accelerated Character & Situation Generator)
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions, LLC
by Jim B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/31/2018 09:45:52

As a character creation system, it's brilliant. There are 20 ways to combine 6 approaches taken 3 at a time (without repetition and order doesn't matter). That makes a convenient deck size. The system ensures that all approaches are in the 0-3 range, that there'll be variety in the approaches, and that each character has 3 aspects and 3 stunts. Doling out cards ensures that we'll have a mix of character types.

The character system also strikes a good middle ground between other potential methods for creating one-shot characters. It's less time-consuming and less daunting than having players make up characters from scratch. It gives players some say in their characters instead of handing them pre-made characters.

I've started making custom character decks for various settings. I can fit the necessary information into a business card size. I can make a custom deck with two sheets of business card printer stock.

The situation generator has some decent variety, but not all cards are suitable for all audiences. I take some cards out ahead of time, depending on who'll be playing. For example, I knew that a certain father/daughter pair of players wouldn't want to see the "Currently naked" card come up.

I added some goal cards. Some players said they were at a loss about what to do or they had trouble recognizing when the game was over. A goal card gave them something they could focus on and run with, without feeling railroaded. It helped keep the action crisp and created a recognizable ending.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
It's Not My Fault! (A Fate Accelerated Character & Situation Generator)
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Plotlibs - Classical Fantasy Edition
Publisher: Morningstar Productions
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/30/2018 16:08:31

All in all, the product offers a good mix of elements that have the right feel for Greek and Roman mythology.

Things you might like:

  • The "plotlibs" template sentence lays out a decent situation.
  • The tables have generally good content for the topics they cover. They capture the spirit of a lot of stories from Greek and Roman mythology (although see below for some omissions).
  • Hallelujah, the author (or his editor) can spell and punctuate and put apostrophes where they belong. A quick skim just now finds only one editing mistake, and it's a minor one ("an disbelieved oracle"). (Okay, maybe that's "Things I might like" more than "Things you might like," but I'm saying it anyway!)

Things you might not like:

  • If you need help turning random elements into a coherent whole, this doesn't provide it. It's on you to find a way to tie the random pieces together and flesh them out.
  • A strange omission from the tables are the Greek and Roman gods themselves. Some of the lesser ones appear by name (Hecate, Pan) and a few others appear by indirect reference (god of the sea, hunting god/dess), but most of the Olympians are nowhere to be found in tables that are supposed to have "a very Greco-Roman flavor."
  • The tables don't give you any help for rolling up locations found in Greek or Roman mythology. It would have been helpful to include the rich variety of locations found in the myths, by generic type (temples, typical city-state features, magical springs, sacred mountains, mysterious islands, oracular shrines, etc.) or by specific name (specific city-states, islands, foreign lands, etc.).
  • The table entries offer no explanations. Some entries are obvious. For many items, such as the Sibylline Books, Cercopes, the Titanomachy, and Stymphalian birds, you may need to spend some quality time with web searches to figure out what they are, where they occur, and what you might do with them.
  • There are some anachronisms, such as "Gypsies," Mithraism, and the Dancing Plague, that didn't appear in the Greek or Roman myths.

None of those are negative enough to make me regret the $3.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Plotlibs - Classical Fantasy Edition
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