UFO Press on Patreon!

I’ve launched a Patreon! Every month I’ll post new RPG content to the Patreon free for all backers. These could be playbooks or scenarios for UFO Press games, subsystems you can drop into ongoing games to do something different for a session, or micro RPGs similar to the ones we wrote for the 200 word RPG challenge:

There are a few other benefits:

  • Patrons get access to early drafts of my bigger games before the wider public.
  • I’ll host regular patron-only Q&As and polls.
  • Patrons above a certain level get full-resolution copies of all the art from UFO Press games I have the license to share.

Why a Patreon?

This patreon has a couple of goals.

First, designing these two for the 200 word challenge was a nice break from my bigger games. It’d be nice to be able to make more without feeling like I was wasting time I could be spending on those other games.

Second, the What Ho, World! kickstarter was quite a bit more expensive than expected. A regular source of funds like this will ensure I can keep UFO Press ticking over.

If you’re interested in being a part of this, go check out the Patreon page!

 

UFO Press: April Update

As I have a few projects on the go at the moment I thought I’d step back and write up where I am with each of them. Enjoy!

Revising the Apocalypse

At the moment I’m elbows-deep in Legacy: Life Among the Ruins, tinkering and tweaking to make a draft for its revised edition. I’m aiming to make it a bit more coherent and better-communicated so that the intended playstyle is both clearer and easier to achieve. Part of that is providing better procedures for moving between the different phases of the game (what I’m working on right now), and part of it is editing the old playbooks so that they hook more directly into the game’s core concept of building a new life in the wasteland and creating the history of a people over generations.

Haunted Space

I recently sent out the current alpha draft of Ghost Ship to some other designers and that gave me a lot of feedback to work on! In particular, it’s clear the ‘you are a post-death brain scan struggling to retain humanity` and ‘you are the crew of a cool starship’ aspects weren’t gelling very well. I’m overhauling the spaceflight and ship rules to put a bit more focus on the effects they have on the characters and their living connections, rather than nuts-and-bolts simulationism.

Other business

Finally, there are a few minor projects to complete (my 200-word RPG contest entries), finishing up Kickstarter fulfilment for What Ho, World and Wizards Aren’t Gentlemen, and maybe putting together a Patreon to keep everything ticking over; shipping for What Ho, World/Wizards Aren’t Gentlemen kicked my ass more than I was expecting, and it’d be nice to have a budget to put into microgames/minor projects/early access drafts.

Hijink system games now available! 

I’ve just made What Ho World and Wizards Aren’t Gentlemen publicly available! These games are one-shot zero prep comedy games, compressed down into a 90-card deck that fits in your pocket.

Loosely based on the Apocalypse World engine, What Ho, World tries to evoke Wodehousian humour: feckless gentlemen of leisure, dependable servants and meddling great-aunts.

Wizards Aren’t Gentlemen, on the other hand, takes its inspiration from Jack Vance and Terry Pratchett – naive apprentices, squabbling wizards, and scheming demons bound into service!
Both games are available here, on Amazon (UK only) (https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dtoys&field-keywords=ufo+press+storytelling&rh=n%3A468292%2Ck%3Aufo+press+storytelling) or Print-on-Demand at DriveThruRPG (https://www.drivethrurpg.com/browse/pub/6097/UFO-Press/subcategory/19570_27513/Hijink-system).

I’ve also uploaded YouTube videos talking about what the deck contains and how to play the game – see here: link to YouTube.

I’m very proud of them, and I hope you take a look!

Ghost Ship v0.1.3 now out

A spaceship, being assaulted by asteroids, yesterday.

I’ve just uploaded a new version of Ghost Ship. New in this edition:

  • Ship construction rules.
  • Drone and Ship modules.
  • Programs for your characters to use.
  • Strange quirks for characters to develop.
  • And much more!

It’s still not quite playable, but it’s getting close and closer all the time!

Check out the new version and handouts here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B4KAK_EamMB9bXZYazJPOVVwRkk?usp=sharing

Ghost Ship: Draft now available to read!

Ghost Ship isn’t anywhere near complete – I don’t even think it’s playable – but as I put a draft together for some friends to look over I thought I might as well put it up here for everyone else to check out. If you’re interested, here’s the main book:

And here’s the Google Drive folder with character sheets and so on:

Ghost Ship

Quick Characters for Legacy

One of the things I’m hard at work on is a revised edition of Legacy. Part of this process is to identify bits of the original version that didn’t quite work in play: the one I’m talking about today is character focus. One common complaint is that with every player getting their own faction, games often devolve into players taking it in turns to have solo scenes interacting with their families. While I’m also working on structuring the game so that there’s more to push characters to work together, I wanted something to liven up those single-family scenes.

My solution for this was Quick Characters. If you want to play out a particular player character’s actions in detail but the fiction makes it implausible for the other major characters to be involved, the other players take control of members of the active player’s Family using simplified playbooks. These playbooks give some options to flesh out your character, but mostly inherit stats from the active players family.

Using these new characters, you play through the story as normal until it’s time to shift focus to another family or character. At that point, the group can choose – either each player can keep these minor playbooks in case focus returns to that family, or the playbooks can go into a group pool for anyone to pick up as the situation desires. If you’re familiar with Ars Magica’s troupe play rules, this is intended to create a similar effect.

Here’s the playbooks:

How they work

Quick Characters still use the Character basic moves, and have Force, Lore, Steel and Sway, but have simplified playbooks. They inherit a stat line, a move and gear from their Family, enabling them to be generated quickly.

We haven’t written up the family side of this completely yet, but here’s an example:

Enclave of Forgotten Lore Quick Characters:

Stats:

Add +1 to Lore or Steel.

Gear:

Take gear according to your Surplus investment (more on this later), +1 to Data or Outfit.

Inheritance Move options:

  • Radio Rig: Can sense when Tech is within a mile, and track it down to within 100 metres.
  • Pain Box: You have a device that causes intense pain in anyone within a few dozen metres (melee, nonlethal, area, hi-tech).
  • Survey drone: You can roll +Lore with Wasteland Survival, so long as your trail is visible from the air.
  • Hot Rod: You have an exceptionally fast vehicle (land-based, Might 1 Chrome 1 Brawn 0), and can move points between its stats with 15 minutes of tinkering.
  • Educated: If you give advice to somebody based on your knowledge of the Before, they take +1 Forward.

Ghost Ship: Attack of the Drones

While a ship piloted by Ghosts can react quicker, travel further and need far fewer resources than a human-piloted vessel, a physical presence is still required for a crew to perform most of the tasks people are willing to pay big money for. The game’s solution for this is drones. A robotic shell housing a modified Ghost core, each drone is precisely tailored for their Ghost and is much an extension of them as a living person’s hand. The core in the drone runs an up-to-date version of the Ghost, experiencing the world from the drone’s perspective. Their experience is streamed back to the Ghost’s main core back in the ship, which is in a trance as they incorporate the drone’s feed into their memory and personality.

Thanks to the delicately engineered link between the two cores and streaming algorithms that prioritise which sensations and thoughts to stream based on available bandwidth, the experiences of the drone core are seamlessly integrated into the Ghost’s mind. Meanwhile, the locally present Ghost core allows the drone to function well even when the signal back to the ship has been cut or the time delay back to the ship becomes too great.

From a design perspective, Drones to a few helpful things:

  • They give you a physical body, meaning that your interaction with the world isn’t limited to command prompts and communication channels.
  • They mean there’s a sense of risk and danger to missions that’s a step less severe than the ship blowing up.
  • They provide a means of customisation and personalization, helping the players express their character’s personality at the table.

Drone Frames

Your main choice when picking your drone is its Frame. This gives you the basic environment the drone is built for, and the particular actions it’s proficient at. Frames have three ratings of particular importance: how durable they are, how quickly they can move, and how dextrous their manipulators are.

At game start, there are three Frames available, but more will unlock according to events in the solar system.

Pictures by Juan Ochoa – support his patreon here: https://www.patreon.com/juanochoa

Humanoid

The squat, bulky Humanoid frame is impossible to confuse for a human, but still allows you to perform most human-scale tasks.

Pros: High manual dexterity, humans find it easier to interact with, can pick up and operate designed-for-human equipment.

Cons: Low durability, limited space for mods and extra functions.

EVA

Light weight and an array of thrusters make this frame perfect at manoeuvring in zero-g.

Pros: Can explore zero-g environments with ease, can run indefinitely on solar power, plenty of space for mods.

Cons: doesn’t cope with gravity, distance from human body plan means it’s not very good at relieving Discarnate stress.

Explorer

With a rugged chassis and the ability to walk, swim and dig, this frame is great for missions on or beneath the surface of hostile planets and moons.

Pros: High durability, can operate in most environments.

Cons: low dexterity, difficult to retrieve once dispatched to a planet’s surface.

Dangers

Early experiments with Ghosts found that a physical presence resulted in a substantial improvement in psychological health and wellbeing. This close connection can have its downsides, however, especially when a mission stops going to plan. Here’s a selection of things that can go wrong with a drone:

  • Its memory buffer becomes too full, meaning that some memories are erased.
  • It gets destroyed, preventing the transition back to ship-Ghost from being cleanly managed.
  • It gets isolated, such that it starts operating independently of the ship-Ghost.
  • It can’t be retrieved, meaning you must go the rest of the flight without incarnation.

Legacy: Family Example of Play

The part of Legacy I get the most questions about is the interface between the Family and Character levels. We’re working on ways of making this more flexible in Legacy 2e, but for the current version I try to stick to two ideas:

1) The Character has de facto control over the Family’s operations.

2) All Family moves should begin with the Character asking Family members to do things and end with the Character being informed of the results.

This way the player’s role in the fiction is maintained and doesn’t cause dissonance. It does have the weakness that it limits what role the Character could have in the Family, but you can still create rebels and apostates by saying that this Age the player only has control of the wing of the Family that actually pays attention to the Character – or just ignore the Family layer if it’s completely irrelevant to your current character.

Getting Started

The situation: Isolde and Karl’s expedition into the wasteland of the robot-filled metropolis discovered a functional power plant – a source of strength and sustenance for the robot hordes. If they can take it out, they have a shot at increasing the size of their Homeland dramatically. Now, they’re back with their families and trying to put a plan together.

Players:

Alex

Family: The Last Battalion (Lawgivers). A surviving remnant of the pre-Fall military, dedicated to protecting the survivors in the territory around their bunker.

Character: Isolde (Sentinel). A battle-hardened tactician, in charge of the Battalion’s Special Forces group.

Chris

Family: Reclaimers (Enclave). A scattered mystery cult who teach secrets of the World Before to those members who successfully hunt down and dissect the aberrant robot beasts.

Character: Karl (Hunter). A rising star in the Reclaimers whose hunts have brought him fame but who takes too many risks for some of the cult’s elders.

Preparation

GM: Let’s start with you, Chris. Which settlement are you heading to?

The Reclaimers are Dispersed – they maintain bunkhouses/workshops in most of the Homeland’s settlements.

Chris: Let’s say I head to the South Circle. It’s the closest to where we left the Wasteland and I know they’re willing to fight.

South Circle was the grand park’s Metro station, and with the tunnels barricaded up, it’s well-defended and sheltered.

Chris: So Karl kicks open the door to the Reclaimer house and drags the dead bot in. Big entrance, you know?

GM: You see two of the Acolyte-Engineers – Skols and Warren – are here. They rush over as they see your haul and start poking the machinery and arguing over what different bits are for. Get 2 Tech from Holding Back Another Fall as they disassemble it.

Chris: I’ll leave them to their fun and head to the terminal to talk with the rest of the Reclaimers. I need to get plans of that facility if we have a chance of shutting it down, so I’ll put some of scouts and scavengers on the search.

GM: Ok, roll for Reading the Wind.

The Reclaimers have a Reach of +2, and added to the dice get a result of 9. Chris gets to pick one thing to learn about the power facility.

Chris: Let’s go with “The perspective of its neighbours” – I want to know the legends the scavengers tell about it.

GM: So your scouts come back having found some hermits in the wasteland and got their stories. There aren’t many willing to go near the plant, but they say its activity has peaks and troughs. During the day, the place is quiet – though still enough bots to be deadly. During the night, though, it lights up and there’s a strange humming noise, and bots from far and wide pour into it and leave at dawn.

Chris: I guess we should strike during the day, then. Wait, An Eye For Details gets me an extra question – what sort of power plant is it? How can we shut it down?

GM: Alright, one of the scouts took down notes of numbers and icons stencilled on the building. After a few days of research, a scribe of the order presents you with their findings. They say it’s a design that creates a self-sustaining fusion reaction that can be throttled up or down but never stopped – if you can disrupt the reaction at all it’ll be super difficult to start it up again, though the reaction chamber will be full of radiation.

Chris: Interesting, interesting. I’ll start planning out an assault.

GM: Ok, let’s move over to the Battalion. Alex, what’s Isolde up to?

Alex: Arming up. The Reclaimers can help us with the whole hi-tech stuff, but to take this territory we need strength of arms. You said Karl’s scouting took a few days, right? So once she got back to the bunker and briefed the colonel on the plant she’d have got to work requisitioning arms and vehicles for the Special Forces unit. I’m activating Tooled Up and Looking for Trouble – I’ll exhaust Surplus: Weaponry, Transportation and Reconnaissance, getting me three hold.

GM: Going all in, eh? Ok, so you’re on the parade grounds looking out over your forces. Three dozen soldiers standing proud in haphazard armour they’ve painted to look like uniforms, two jeeps rigged to run completely non-electrically, a half-track with a mounted gun, and a whole heap of weapons. The Colonel’s there with you to send you off. She turns to you. “Looks like a small party, Sergeant. Are you sure this is enough?”
Alex: “I’m quite confident, sir. And there are people out there counting on our patrols – I can’t justify the risk of leaving them undefended.”

GM: She nods and motions for the compound gate to open. She looks back at you. “And, Isolde?”

Alex: “Yes?”

GM: “Come back safe, alright?”

Alex: I nod. “Yes, mother”. Then I motion the convoy to head out.

GM: You drive out, the gate guards saluting as you pass.

Alex: The convoy’s going to head south, swinging by South Circle. Karl, you coming?

Chris: Yeah. Though – we may need to do some way of dealing with the radiation. Do the Reclaimers have anything that would work?

GM: Not particularly – it’s not a common hazard in the robot hunting line of work.

Chris: The Hammer of Thorium still owes us a favour for stopping their meltdown, right? I’ll call that in to try and get some of their protection suits.

In an earlier age the Reclaimers showed a group of A-bomb worshipping cultists how to make the warhead they worship ‘safer’ to live around, and so gained 1-Treaty on them via their Alliance Move.

GM: Sounds good. How does that look?

Chris: I’ll send a local acolyte over to their stronghold, saying that we need the blessing of Thorium for our battle against the False Men. I think that’s their lingo, right?

GM: Sure, roll Access.

A Reach of +2 and a dice roll of 7 gives a result of 9.

Chris: Ugh, not quite enough. I’ll spend that point of Treaty and bump it up to an 11.

GM: That works. So your acolyte makes it out of there with four radiation suits, having had to hand back the holy sign of Thorium your grandparents won from them last Age.

Chris: Ok, less than I would have liked but better than nothing. Want to get this show on the road?

Alex: Sure. You bringing anyone along?

Chris: Yeah, Karl will bring a few other hunters and some Acolyte-Engineers – Skols and Warren, wasn’t it? We’ll hitch a ride on a jeep.

Alex: Alright, let’s get going.

Into the Ruins

GM: It’s many day’s travel to the Plant and it’s hostile territory – especially with three loud vehicles. What’s the plan?

Alex: Let’s go slow and quiet until we’re almost upon the plant. I’ll draw up a route given what we saw last time we were here.

GM: OK, give me a Wasteland Survival roll.

We’re temporarily going back into Character moves – Isolde is leading the expedition and is a dedicated navigator of the wasteland so the GM thinks that makes the most sense. Another option would be to roll Hold Together to see how well the unit handles the trip. It’s perfectly fine to read the fiction and see in that moment if the Characters as leaders or the Family as a group is the most important entity to focus on.

With Isolde’s Steel of +2 and a dice roll of 6 Alex gets a result of 8 – she must pick two out of staying out of danger, staying well-supplied and keeping to the schedule. After some consideration, she selects ‘you don’t get into danger’ and ‘you don’t get delayed’.

Alex: I figure we have to push the jeeps to their limit to get through this terrain and escape the occasional rogue bot. You ok with that supply loss removing one of my Tooled Up hold?

GM: Sure.

Attacking the Plant

GM: So the sun’s dawning as you reach the plant’s perimeter and it’s as the Reclaimer’s scouts described it – almost completely quiet, with a few bots wandering around chewing on power outlets.

Chris: No reason to wait, right?

Alex: Yup. I make sure the squad’s ready and equipped, and start moving on the compound. First up, I don’t like the thought of fighting room by room. I nod to my heavy weapons guy, Frank, and point at the biggest window I can see. I’m spending 1 Tooled Up hold on ‘force your enemy out into the open’.

GM: Alright – Frank nods, hefts his rocket launcher and fires a missile straight through the window. There’s an explosion that shakes the glass from the power plant’s windows and a loud droning noise starts up as insectile robots pour out of the plant. You see one in particular striding through the horde, towering over the others. Electricity keeps jumping from it to the other droids in bright blue arcs, and the electrified droids seem to be entering some kind of frenzy and smoking.

Alex: I don’t like the look of that. I make a motion at the unit’s sniper to target it. Spending 1 hold on ’Take out a specified target immediately’.

GM: Hah! Ok then, a shot rings out and the thing crumples to the ground, its giant capacitors exploding in a shower of sparks and lightning.

Alex: That should have softened them up. I signal the charge. Chris?

Chris: The Reclaimers are ready to back you up – I’ll let you deal with the straightforward attackers and try to shut down the ones that try anything weird.

GM: Alex, you’re taking the lead, so you roll +Grasp on Claim By Force. Chris, roll +Treaty with the Battalion to help out.

Chris has a +1 forward from his Reading the Wind about the plant. He adds that to his Family’s Treaty on the Lawgivers of +2 and his roll of 5 to get an 8 – the Reclaimers add +1 to the Battalion’s assault but are exposed to danger, retribution or unforeseen consequences.

Alex adds her Grasp of +1 and Chris’s bonus of +1 to her roll of 8 to get a 10. She succeeds at taking the plant, but has to choose a cost.

Alex: Thanks, Chris. I don’t want to get wounded or make more enemies, so I’ll pick that our hold on it is tenuous.

GM: So I reckon your assault is enough to completely drive off or destroy the robots that were squatting here, but more will come tonight if the power’s still flowing. Karl, as the battle’s raging a suicide bot flanked the unit as was about to explode when Warren jumped on its back and tore out the detonator. He stopped the explosion but was crushed when it rolled over – he didn’t make it. Meanwhile, Skols caught a bit of shrapnel to the temple and is still woozy.

The group could have chosen to Claim by Force as soon as they got to the plant, but the Battalion’s precision attacks meant that the fictional consequences they suffered were much better than they could have been otherwise. Positioning yourself in the fiction to minimise your risks is a powerful tool!

Chris: Ah crap, I was relying on them to shut this place down.

Shutting it down

GM: Without the experts, you have two options. You can try to remotely shut down the reactor from the control console, but that’s been rewired and probed by generations of hungry robots. Or you could head directly into the reactor chamber to turn off the reaction manually, but you’d have to trust in the radiation suits.

Chris: Sure, we’ve had casualties, but this is why the Reclaimers came along. I’ll put the suit on.

Alex: Isolde takes a brief break from securing the plant to come and talk to you. “Are you sure you want to do this? We’ve done the hard part of flushing them out – we can hold this place long enough to get support in.”

Chris: Karl pulls the battered and patched helmet on, and through the helmet’s faceplate you can see he’s determined. “C’mon, Sarge, we both know you don’t have enough ammo to last that long. Trust me, I know what I’m doing.” He grins. “And they’ll have no choice but to make me an elder if I pull this off!” Then I pass my bow to Isolde and head to the airlock. “Look after that, alright?”

GM: As the airlock cycles and opens, the room’s filled with a blinding blue light. The bad news is it’s Harm 4 – good news is that your suit’s 2 Armour against this.

Chris: Ouch. I’ll mark off ‘On the Defensive’ and ‘Blood-soaked’. Can’t stay long here. What do I see?

GM: There’s the reactor assembly – a globe suspended in the centre of this huge, multi-story room. It’s glowing bright blue and the light’s pulsing painfully. There’s all sort of cables and pipes going in and out of the sphere, attaching to various places on the room’s walls.

Chris: I mutter curses about those superstitious idiots and their shoddy protective gear and start working out what needs to be sabotaged.

GM: So you only have enough time for one approach: do you want to break whatever you can, or work out a controlled way to shut it down?

Chris eyes his Force of +2 and Lore of +1.

Chris: The second one… probably sounds better for everyone involved. Let’s give it a go.

GM: Ok, roll for Defuse with Lore.

A Lore of +1 and a roll of 3 is not enough!

Chris: Well, shit.

GM: Yeah, it’s not good. You’re scanning over the pipes and cables, frantically trying to find a way to shut it down, but you’re getting woozy and it’s hard to focus. You find yourself staggering and stumbling. Take another 2 Harm. Maybe you have time to get back to the airlock?

Chris: No, I don’t think so. Even if my lore has failed me there’s always smashing. I’m going to mark my Dead box – even as I die I make one last strike, destroying whatever killed me.

GM: Yeah, that’d do it. Want to describe what happens?

Chris: Sure. I always have more weapons, right? There’s a blast arrow still in my back quiver – probably shouldn’t have brought that in, but too late now. I tear open the suit, grab the arrow, and start climbing the cables. I climb on top of the reactor, and smash the arrow into it where the cables and supports are holding it up. I’m thrown away by the explosion, as the reactor falls to the floor and crumples apart in a second blast.

GM: Alex, how’s Isolde taking this?

Alex: I’ve been watching tensely on the plant’s monitors. As Karl starts climbing it I’m already running to the airlock and I’m putting a radioactive suit on as the explosion happens. I try and open the airlock – maybe I can still help?

GM: The generator’s gone – the airlock isn’t working. Maybe you could push it open with Force?

Alex: No, I can put two and two together – if there’s no power he succeeded and he wouldn’t want me risking my life for nothing. I say a prayer for Karl, then go to the roof and launch a flare so the Battalion know that the mission’s succeeded.

GM: Yeah, you’ve definitely seized claim of this plant and this territory.

Alex: Good. I’ll leave the troops to secure this place and head back to the farmland – I have to deliver Karl’s bow to the Reclaimers.

Chris: Thanks – I’ll pick that bow as Karl’s Relic.

With a section of the city made safe and the Homeland greatly expanded, the group decide it’s time for a Turn of Ages…

Any questions or comments? Want an example of another mechanic? Let me know!

What Ho, World! – now on Tabletop Simulator

What Ho, World! is a game that really benefits from the physicality of cards – you’re flipping them over, passing them around, stacking them and discarding them. But a large amount of roleplaying is done over the internet these days, which has presented me with a bit of a quandry. I’ve tried writing versions of the game that play in your browser (see Trying Twine) but as it turns out there was a much easier way – Tabletop Simulator.

If you haven’t seen this before it’s a game on Steam that’s focused on simulating the board game experience as accurately as possible – you can pick up and chuck about game pieces, flip tables, chat to the other players and so on. Importantly for my purposes, it’s very easy to make custom decks providing you have the art assets to hand. I’ve made a Steam Workshop entry for What Ho, World! – if you have the game, go check it out here:

https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=846197033

It’s not the most recent version of the game – I don’t have card images ready for that yet – but it should be enough to test if it’s something people would be interested in. If so, I’ll keep it up-to-date and current with the physical version, which (fingers crossed) should be heading to the printers very soon.

Legacy: Character Example of Play

One of the things I’ve often been asked for with Legacy is an example of play. It’s been a while, but I finally made time! This example focuses in on character mechanics and combat – I’m also going to write up some family-level play.

Machine dawn

Here’s the initial situation. Our party of characters is travelling through the wasteland, here a ruined city that stretches from horizon to horizon with only the parks and greens a safe zone from the mechanical nightmares that feed from the city’s power grid. After a long day’s journey they find a reasonably safe place to camp – an overgrown public square, with good sightlines on the surrounding buildings and a still-functional fountain providing fresh water. Aware of the threats night may bring, they’ve set up a guard rota to keep watch.

It’s close to dawn. Isolde, a Lawgiver Sentinel, is on watch.
GM: Isolde, it’s about halfway through your watch. What are you doing?
Alex, playing Isolde: Hmm… I put my camo netting up over the camp at the start of the night… can I have used Citadel of Dust at the same time?
GM: Sure.
Alex: Ok. Now I’ve got everything in place I’m probably trying not to draw attention. Let’s say I’m sitting a short distance away from the main camp, keeping an eye out with my binoculars.
GM: Right. So you’re sitting there, scanning the surrounding city, and as the light of dawn hits a building on the west side of the square you spot movement.
Alex: I take a closer look with my binoculars – what do I see?
GM: The first thing you see is some solar panels, rotating towards the sun. As they lift up you can see they’re welded like wing cases to a beetle-like body, easily two metres long. As the machine leaves its dormant state you see a camera array push out of the front of the body and start glancing around.
Alex: Shit. Does it see us?
GM: Not yet – the camouflage seems to be working. But you spot its cameras focus on something else – an overgrown shape a few dozen metres from you. You hear the drone of rotors starting up…
Alex: Can I quickly move to the shape?
GM: Yeah, it’s still warning up. You’ve got time.
Alex: Great. What do I see?
GM: Brushing away the vegetation it looks like an old junction box. There’s a faint light of LEDs behind a battered panel.
Alex: Ah, crap. Right, I’ll try to shut this down – maybe if there’s no power this thing will leave us alone. I pull of that panel and start tearing out cables.
GM: OK, sounds like a Defuse with Lore.
Alex rolls, and gets an 8 – she’s bought some time. She picks ‘It’s only a temporary reprieve’.
Alex: Well, that’ll give me some breathing space. I quickly head back to the camp and start waking up the others. I’ll start with Karl.
Chris, playing Karl (an Enclave Hunter): Huh, what?
Alex: I bring him up to speed.
Chris: Karl mutters an oath to the Good Machine and picks up his bow – no time to get armoured up.
GM: There definitely isn’t – as you pick up the bow you see a flash of electricity from the junction box and the sound of buzzing rotors immediately fills the square. The bug-machine launches itself from the roof and into the air.
Alex: Has it seen us?
GM: Not yet, but it’s pretty much certain it will by the time it gets to the junction box.
Alex: OK, I’ve got a plan. Karl, get into a good position for a shot.
Chris: Karl nods and quickly climbs a tree.
With A Shadow in the Wind there’s no risk of Karl being spotted doing this.
GM: OK, as the bug comes down to land you see its camera-head focus on the camp and it suddenly changes direction. It’s coming straight down through the trees towards you. What do you do?
Alex: I prepared for this. I’ll spend one of my hold for Citadel of Dust to blunt an enemy assault, stopping it in its tracks.
GM: Cool, what happens?
Alex: Remember that nanofibre rope I found a while back? I strung it through the trees, and as the bug comes flying down I reach down and yank it taut creating a web to catch the bug in.
GM: Hah! Okay, so the bug smashes into the rope. Branches and machine parts rain down, and then the machine falls to earth with a crash. It quickly rights itself, but you can see one solar panel’s been torn off. Its camera swings around, searching for its foes. What do you do?
Alex: I’ve got to keep it contained. As its cameras swing by us I’ll lift up my shield to catch the light and draw it to me.
GM: It takes the bait, and its rotors roar as it surges towards you. Holding Back the Tide?
Alex: Yep.
Alex rolls +Steel (with a +1 from her shield). She gets an 11.
Alex: That’s two options then. I’ll go with no harm coming to me, and no harm to those I defend. I’ll leave it to Karl to actually fight this thing off.
GM: Alright, you’re able to parry away its mechanical limbs as they rain down on you, though you can feel your arm going numb. Karl?
Chris: I’m in place, I’ve got a good shot, I’ve prepped my arrows. Time to destroy this thing.
Karl’s bow has the tags Ranged, Silent and Hi-Tech. As he’s definitely established his ability to engage with this enemy in the fiction, he can roll Fiercely Assault with the intent to hurt the enemy. He rolls +Force and gets… a 5.
GM: Your arrow flies down, and Isolde raises her shield just in time to not be blinded by the flash as it fries the thing’s circuits. But somehow the bug isn’t stopped, and while you’re recovering, Isolde, it surges forward and pins you to the ground.
Chris: Wait, it’s still confused from my attack, right? I’ll use Call For Aid – even on the ground, Isolde should be able to capitalise on that.
GM: Yeah, alright. Isolde?
Alex: Alright, I’ll stab up into its guts with my taser (melee, nonlethal). Roll +Force… that’s an 11!
Chris: Brilliant, that’ll raise me up to the 7-9 result. As Isolde hits it from below I’ll use the explosive arrows to just devastate this thing. Let’s go with ‘Savage, terrifying harm’ – I want this thing dealt with.
GM: OK, it’s completely mangled! For my two picks, I’ll go with… taking harm appropriate to the enemy, and the situation is destabilised. Isolde, it got a few good hits in while you were pinned – take 3 harm – and those explosions aren’t exactly subtle so other things in the city will start moving towards you.
Alex: Ouch! Even with my armour that’s 2 harm. Let’s go with… Bruised and Angry. I need my energy for whatever comes next…
Chris: Yeah, let’s tear down the camp and get out of here.

The group quickly packs up and heads out into the city. Another day in the wasteland begins…

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