Bulldogs, Fate Core Edition by Galileo Games

Bryan and I discussed the old Bulldogs game in the past, but this new edition was the first time I read through the game myself.

It’s a good setting, with a lot of the Diaspora/Traveler/Firefly feel of tramp freighters crossing the galaxy, trying to make ends meet. The decision to set the game mostly in a balkanized neutral zone between two great powers does a great job of reinforcing the feel of small-fry trying to keep under the radar. Smuggling and the like are a sure result.

The character creation section is good, with another good discussion of Aspects. Alien Species are handled well-they come out as flavorful, but not just stereotypes, with common aspects and species abilities that replace stunts. And the Aliens are pleasantly alien. Sure, there are a few Aliens that are basically humans (with or without scrunchy noses), but space slugs and tripeds are great. Similarly, there’s a nice implementation of Credits and Gear.

The debate around heirachry in ship games is settled in Bulldogs by making the Captain an NPC representative of the company. Everyone has an aspect reflecting their relationship to the captain.

Anyway, rather than lots of detail, I’ll just end with: this game looks great. I’d be happy to play it.

Circle of Hands by Ron Edwards

In this book, Ron created a thoroughly interesting setting. The mechanics seem simple and a bit random (in character generation), but that fits the less scripted times that he’s emulating.

The book covers four undifferentiated nations in a very local dark ages setting, with two sweeping magics running through the area and altering the world in their image. The four regions are very similar; there’s little coinage, a great deal of mistrust for outsiders (who, to be fair, are often raiders), a presumption that everyone you’ll encounter is culturally the same.

It’s a direct, honest culture. As players, you make a pair of Circle Knights who are among the new King(ish) of Rolke’s kitchen cabinet–and who are each familiar with both black and white magic. Most of the time you’re in villages; cities over a thousand people are rare and won’t often be visited by the knights on their ventures.

The magic system is strongly thematic, which is reinforced by the cultural implications of magic being introduced before character creation and spell lists. The culture and Ron’s presentation of it is excellent–if you’re looking for a way to play people who don’t feel like 20th century people in costume, this game gives both a complete setting and strong guidelines for conveying that culture. (As a closest analogue, think 9th century Germany or England.)

Playing it is trickier; I’d be interested, but I’d really want fellow players to have read a bit–or at least be willing to set all of their assumptions aside. Since so much gaming is fantasy gaming, there are a lot of assumptions to peel away.

So… mark me as interested, though probably not interested in running it quite yet. With a similarly invested group, I think it’d be interesting to experience in play. The website for Circle of Hands.

Apocalypse World by Vincent Baker

This was my second read through, with over a year and exposure to several other Powered by the Apocalypse games in the meantime. It made all the difference–probably alongside seeing the new Mad Max movie and listening to discussions about how it would make an excellent AW scenario.

I want to play it now–to the point where I’m considering working on a campaign for it. I’d probably lean a little differently on my sources; it’d probably feature a lot more Canticle of Leibowitz and The Road, since I’m much more a reader than a movie goer.

Interestingly, moves of all kinds and the MC’s role came through solidly; I get, in a way I missed the first time, how the MC acts and how that results in a particular game style. The responsive nature was apparent, but this time the advice about how hard you respond, etc., really came through. (I was looking for it, of course, since it was something I’d felt that I’d lacked the first time around.)

Even Sex Moves, something I’d tittered about before, came clear on the reread. The only thing they really do is affect your history with someone–and the game makes a statement about the characters are affected. For example, the operator picks up his companion as a job to juggle; that’s very different from other playbooks that immediately leap your history (Hx) to +3… or just giving you +1 to your next roll.

A big difference in this go around, I think, was reading the characters not as classes, but as solid chunks of setting. It’s a world with characters like these, where these characters shine…

Atomic Robo by Evil Hat

I wish I was more familiar with the source comics… but so far I’ve been good about resisting reading them during work.

It’s Fate, but they have an interesting character creation system using “Modes” that somewhat streamlines character generation by having you pick three of four modes and ranking them +3, +2, +1. The modes have associated skills, and where they overlap (a skill is on both lists), they auto-bump up, so the overlap isn’t wasted. Plus they have weird modes beyond the standard 4, to model specific concepts from the comic (like being an Automaton or dinosaur).

Something I really want to see in play is brainstorming–a structured way to bring science and similar “background” skills into prominence, by letting you influence the problem you’re trying to solve. Plus brainstorming is a competitive/cooperative thing… you’re all working together, but if you win by the most, your idea is true and the other players have to work their ideas around it.

I haven’t played it yet, but I’d like to.