Crystal Rain and Death Sworn

Tobias Buckell’s Crystal Rain is post-technology sci-fi, where people have colonized a distant star, but lost the technology (due to war). The resulting society is interesting; in the Capitol there are a number of forces who remember a star faring era, but the leadership and common people live no more advanced than riffles and trains.

One twist is that the local culture is Caribbean derived; the language has propagated forward, with regional variations. Similarly, the aggressors are Aztec, but manipulated by aliens to have strong reinforcement in their ways of sacrifice.

The conflict between the two is interesting; all of my sympathies were on the Caribbean side, but the peeks we get at the life under the Aztecs makes them understandable. John deBrun is interesting; I found myself doubting and disappointed in him–just the way he and other major characters view him. The reveal near the end is okay, but the resolution of the ship seemed arbitrary. (Well, the final run, at least.)

In the end, I’m mildly curious about the next books in the series, but it didn’t inspire “must buy now”. Though the galactic situation that was setup is quite interesting, and was barely touched on in this book.

Death Sworn, by Leah Cypress, was a fast, fun book. It’s YA, with a solid protagonist, who really does have a reason to mope. Her struggle to uphold the responsibilities placed on her, and her navigating of the assassin’s society, were all captivating. Her big breakthrough–in figuring out how her whole mission had been manipulated into being–was a surprise to me, but made perfect sense in the resulting conversation.

The relationship between the two main characters was very interesting and felt authentic; their sense of duty to their organizations, suspicion at the setup, confidence in their own abilities, and such all worked very well. The Empire has just enough threat–and the characters seem to have an appropriate for their age lack of understanding of the details of the Empire’s modern nature and recent acts–that I’m interested to see what we learn about them.

If I’d had the sequel on hand, I’d have immediately begun reading the next book. (Admittedly, that’s true of most books… but I did enjoy it. And its low complexity made it an easy read.)

I picked up my Winter and Spring issues of Boom: A Journal of California and finally read them. Both were engaging on their main topics; Winter’s theme was The Future, and included articles about how California has often stood in for “the future” for authors. An article about sustainability was excellent, and dug under my perceptions of what sustainability should be trying to maintain and how it’s measured. It seems intuitive… which is how is escapes from being challenged on its underpinnings.

Spring’s subtitle was THE WORLD IN CALIFORNIA. CALIFORNIA IN THE WORLD. It felt more loosely connected, but I enjoyed most of the articles. (Bring the World to California felt a little too like an informercial–and the hard parts were signposted instead of solved.) This issue felt dreamier, more reflective, though the border article was concrete.) I enjoyed them and renewed for another year…

Summer will bring “What’s the Matter with San Francisco.” I’m curious to see what they’ll see.

Fate and Fate Accelerated resources

I just spent too long tracking this down, so I’ll keep it here for reference.

Contests under fire (a contest/conflict merge)

Community Fate Core Extensions

Mousguard via FAE: Guard Mice Accelerated

Doyce: Gaming with Kids, and FAE tutorial

From Making Stunts, is a stab below, leading to a randomized version by Fred Hicks called Stuntmaker.


Still confused on how to make a Stunt? How’s this handy chart- just match one of the WHAT’S with any appropriate WHEN:

Grant +2 to a specific action using a specific skill…
Switch one specific skill with another specific skill…
Add an action to a skill (ex. you can now Attack; now Defend)
Ignore a simple rule (ex. can’t use a skill twice in a challenge)…
Add a +2 opposition to a specific thing (ex. block moving; writing in code)…
Grant a 2 stress hit…
Cause a mild consequence…
Create an Adventure (no free invoke) that takes a Fair +2 roll to remove …
Upgrade a boost to an aspect (with free invoke)…
Switch ANY skill with a specific skill (Requires TWO “Whens”)

…when attempting something that’s your speciality (ex. expert on Languages)
… in a specific circumstance (ex. when you’re On Fire; when you’re Surrounded)
…once per scene
… when you pay a Fate Point
… when doing a specific action (ex. Overcome, Create an Advantage, Attack, Defend)
… when you succeed with style for a specific action (Attack, Create an Advantage). This replaces a Boost, and is optional.
… when you invoke the aspect related to the stunt (this costs an invoke or fate point, and replaces the +2 bonus.)

Ex. I have an evil witch. I match the “cause a mild consequence…” with a second half. “Once per scene” would work. Or if I want more color, maybe, “when you succeed with style (instead of a boost.” I like the second one better, as it means her bonuses are other’s downfalls.

When in doubt, the safest, easiest stunt template is “+2 to a specific skill, when doing a specific action (overcome, create an advantage, attack, or defend) in a specific situation.” For example, “My Little Burro”: +2 to Drive when Creating Advantages when in your favorite humvy, “Burro.”

Fred Hicks: That’s a good list. My only quibble is the “when” option of “… when you pay a Fate Point” because paired up with a lot of the WHAT’s it’s not really different from not taking the stunt and just spending the fate point on an aspect invoke as needed. Typically when I have a stunt cost a Fate Point, it’s because it’s granting a 3-shift equivalent benefit or something else pretty potent instead of the standard 2-shift equivalent benefit.