Superhero Games for Kids: Using Fate Core and FAE

I’m a bit slow…

It’s taken me some time to get around to this follow-up to my previous post about gaming with your kids. I have wanted to do this for a while, but kept getting distracted. I was reminded of it recently, however, when Wil Wheaton of Star Trek: the Next Generation fame posted a video of Fate Core gameplay. I’ve also been re-reading the book myself, so it seemed like good timing.

Fate Core
Fate Core

Fate Core is a setting-neutral system. Unlike, say, Vampire the Masquerade, which is expressly about Vampires in a modern setting, or Dungeons and Dragons which assumes a typical high-fantasy setting, Fate Core can be virtually anything that your gaming group desires.

Do you want to be Space Marines exploring an alien craft? Are you a cyborg from the future coming to prevent the world you know from coming to be? Are you a cowboy in an alternate old west, where magic is as common as guns? Maybe a giant, transforming robot protecting humanity from your enemies while staying in disguise?

You can play all of those and more. In the video below, watch as Wil, Felicia Day, John Rogers and Ryan Macklin play a session of Fate set  in the modern day, but tinged with supernatural elements. The video is a bit long, as it includes character creation in addition to gameplay, so you may also jump over it and meet me again on the other side.

Gameplay

The basic gameplay of Fate Core is very simple. There are only four actions that cover everything that the players might want to do. They are:

  • Overcome     The player rolls to overcome some sort of obstacle. This can be rolling to sneak past some guards, seduce someone, break/ repair something, climb a tree, or almost anything else.
  • Create an Advantage    Unlike some other games that include lists of maneuvers that a character can learn and attempt, Fate Core allows the players to simply Create an Advantage. If you disarm an opponent, that is an Advantage. If you trip them or blind them with a flash of light, it is also an advantage. Pouring oil on the floor to make it slippery is another example. It can be pretty much anything you can imagine can be made into an Advantage, which you (or another player) can then use for a bonus of +2 on another action.
  • Attack    Pretty self-explanatory. If your Attack roll is higher than your opponent’s defend, you may injure him.
  • Defend   Pretty self-explanatory. If your Defend roll is higher than your opponent’s Attack, you defend successfully.

In order to take an action, the player will roll four Fate Dice, which are 6-sided dice, but with two plus (+) signs, two minus (-) signs and two sides that are blank. Each + adds one to whatever skill the character is using, while each – subtracts one. For example, a character trying to use Investigate to find clues at a crime scene would roll the four dice (gaining + + – and a blank die) would add +1 to his skill and compare it to an assigned difficulty.

Unique to Fate is the use of Aspects. Each player has multiple Aspects, which serve as a way to both describe the character and further define what he is capable of. The character above may be a detective with an Aspect of Nothing Escapes My Notice. This may give the character a further +2 on his roll if he chooses to Invoke it, which is done by spending a Fate Point– a finite pool of points that allows the player to assume some degree of narrative control.

Aspects may also be Compelled in a way that is detrimental to the character, but which will earn a Fate Point for later use. In this way, the player’s pool of points is constantly fluctuating as they spend points for bonuses, but accept complications to their lives to earn more.

Superheroes and FAE

Fate Core is an awesome game that can handle almost anything you can throw at it, but when it comes to Superheroes, as great as Fate is, I find that FAE is perhaps a bit better.

FAE stands for Fate Accelerated Edition, and as the name suggests, it is Fate, but simplified. Whereas Fate uses Skills to determine what a character is capable of, FAE uses Approaches. While Skills determine what a character can do, Approaches represent how a character does things. The six standard approaches are:

  • Careful
  • Clever
  • Flashy
  • Forceful
  • Quick
  • Sneaky

I find this to be perfect for younger kids, to introduce them to the concept of role-playing. In most RPGs, the player wanting to climb up the side of a castle wall to sneak inside and steal some jewels, might be asked to roll Climb, Athletics, or whatever appropriate skill is available. If they lack the skill, they might even be refused the opportunity to try, being simply told that they have no chance of success.

In FAE, however, the player can declare how they accomplish this. Do they find an area of the wall that is obfuscated from the view of the castle guards? They are being Sneaky. Do they climb up using their incredible natural agility? Maybe they are climbing Quickly or being Flashy (which would probably not be the best way to sneak in…) Do they go slowly, taking their time to search out each toe-hold on the way up. They are being Careful.

Some might find this unappealing, as they prefer the relatively more realistic use of skills, rather than assuming characters can take virtually any action, but Fate in general and FAE in particular, is about characters who are very capable and proactive. This is great for kids, because noting ruins their fun more than continually being th=old their character “can’t do that.”  With Approaches, they simply have to be able to narrate the manner in which they do something and roll the matching Approach.

When it comes to superheroes, that is where FAE really shines, in my opinion. In most games, if you wanted to play the Avengers or the Justice League, it would be incredibly difficult to balance the characters. After all, having Superman and Batman on the same team represents a massive range in power levels. In many games, Superman would overshadow Batman by quite a bit. If characters were made with a point-buy systems, where they could assign points to their abilities, a character like Batman would likely have half as many (or fewer) points as Superman, but in FAE, both characters would be able to shine.

How?

Each Approach is rated between zero (0) and three (+3). Both Batman and Superman would have one Approach at +3, two at +2, two at +1 and one at 0. Superman, for all his powers, wouldn’t have any higher ratings than Batman. One might assume that Superman would be +3 to Forceful and Batman +3 to Sneaky, or Clever (depending on your interpretation). They can thus be of equal effectiveness mechanically. Where they differ is in Aspects.

Aspects, as mentioned earlier, are ways to define the character with a simple phrase. Superman’s Aspects might be Last Son of Krypton, Man of Steel, Mild-Mannered Reporter Clark Kent, or something similar. Batman might have Dark Knight Detective, Trained to the Peak of Physical Perfection, Criminals are a Superstitious and Cowardly Lot and others.

Within FAE, Aspects are always considered true. so they can be a great shorthand way to describe a character. For example, Last Son of Krypton would mean just that. He is Kryptonian, with all that implies: super strength, speed, invulnerability and more. What this does is give permission to do certain things. Having this aspect, for example, would allow Superman to lift a car, or fly, or even allow him to ignore gunfire from street-level thugs. Batman wouldn’t have those same permissions, so while it allows Superman to do some things that Batman can’t he is still limited to a maximum of +3 on his rolls, the same as Batman.

This can be used a variety of ways.

Let’s say that the duo are facing off against Doomsday, one of Superman’s most powerful enemies. Superman, by virtue of his Last Son of Krypton Aspect, has the ability to harm Doomsday physically. Batman, being a normal man, cannot simply walk up to the monster and punch him. There wouldn’t even be a need to roll; he simply cannot affect him. What Batman can do is make use of other systems in the game, such as Create an Advantage.

In this case, knowing he cannot physically match Doomsday, Batman Cleverly uses one of his gadgets (maybe a smoke bomb) to temporarily blind Doomday. On his next action, Batman Sneakily gets in close and plants a device on Doomsday that emits high frequency sonics that throw him off balance. At this point, Superman can take advantage of the two Advantages to give himself a bonus to his attack, which as a result does enough damage to put Doomsday down for the count.

Both characters have contributed to the battle in ways that are consistent with their abilities and portrayal in the comics. It’s entirely possible that without Batman’s help, Superman wouldn’t have been able to harm Doomsday enough to stop him. Mechanically, each character was able to roll his highest score (Batman’s Sneaky maneuver and Superman’s Forceful punch), which was +3 for each of them. It wasn’t a matter of Superman rolling 20 dice versus Batman rolling 3 as might happen in other systems.

I love both Fate and FAE and consider them both to be excellent games. If you are interested in introducing your child to RPGs, either one is a good place to begin, with FAE having a slight advantage for the younger crowd and certain genres. Pick up one (or both!) and have some fun with your kids, or even your adult friends.

Let me know what kind of games you are running!

Craig

Fate and FAE are available as pay-what-you-want PDFs at Drive-Thru RPG

 

A Look at Some DC Comics in This Week’s Reads May 24

After a bigger-than-usual week, I’ve now had a smaller-than-usual week, but that suits my wallet just fine. It also gives me the opportunity to grab a few more back issues of certain titles to get caught up. I’m still continuing to focus on DC Comics at the moment, but there are a few Marvel titles that are catching my eye, so I may have to add a couple of titles, at least for a few issues, to see if they are worthwhile or not.

So, I will be presenting things a bit differently from today onward, now that I am able to include cover images (yay!) Beware of spoilers ahead.

 

Action Comics 980

Action Comics #980

I am enjoying Action. I went several years without reading much Superman, even before the New 52 started. Partly, this was due to not having a ton of disposable income and partly… well, ok, it was a money thing for the most part… But since the beginning of Rebirth, I have been drawn back in to comics in a way I haven’t been in years, and while I always liked Superman and considered him the “hero of heroes” in many ways, I didn’t expect myself to be as invested in his titles as I am right now.

There have been so many great moments in Superman’s books ever since I started reading again with Lois and Clark. There was something really exciting about seeing the real Superman again after the New 52 interpretation. Much like the people of Metropolis must feel, upon seeing him, I just knew everything was going to be ok.  Now that the Kent’s are settling back into Metropolis (I still wan to know how they afford that condo/ apartment…) I hope we can start seeing more of life at the Daily Planet again. That’s pretty much the only thing missing from the Superman titles.

With this issue, the Superman Revenge Squad sets out to add their final member– General Zod! I honestly can’t remember the last story I saw with the SRS, so this should be interesting. I am not sure how Superman will manage to cope with this, given that each individual member of the squad has been able to give him a battle. Having them combine forces looks like serious trouble for the Man of Steel.

I can’t help but wonder, though, if the Eradicator is really on board with the Squad’s goals. It didn’t make much sens to me that when he and the Cyborg Superman had Superman in a very vulnerable position, he insisted that they go and seek out Zod, as he is the key to the team… a team that wants to destroy Superman… So yeah. Great thinking there. Let’s not kill Superman right now… Let’s go get help to kill him later.

Deathstroke 19

Deathstroke #19

As I have mentioned previously, I have limited experience with Deathstroke. I know him primarily from reading Teen Titans years ago and from his occasional appearance in other comics and media. I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy his book given that I am presently more interested in the more traditional, heroic superhero. I am not usually a fan of villains-as-protagonists, or even anti-heroes, but I had heard enough good things about it that I decided I would give it a try. So far, I am rather enjoying it. Go figure.

It s probably a good thing that I am not overly familiar with his history, as I can approach this book based on it’s own merits without any potential nerd-rage over any changes being made to either his history or character. I decided not to read this current issue just yet, as I want to catch up on the previous issues that I have missed.

 

Detective Comics 957

Detective Comics #957

Spoiler is back! After having left the Batman family several issues ago, Spoiler has returned with the goal of showing Batman that his way of doing things is not working. This issue addresses the old question of whether Batman’s presence in Gotham actually serves to draw out and even create supervillains rather than dissuade them.

Having seen enough death and suffering, especially with the seeming demise of Tim Drake, Spoiler is determined to do things another way, without the fighting and confrontations that typify Batman’s approach. It’s a little difficult to fully understand how she intends to differentiate herself, as she still does confront the villains and attempt to protect the innocent. The only real difference at the moment seems to be that she wishes to remain unseen in the shadows and not take any credit for her actions.

I’m wondering if this will lead to a change in Batman’s M.O. as well, perhaps having him return to the shadows and operate more like an urban myth again. This, if it were to happen, might be interesting, but it would seem to conflict with his goals for the Justice League of America, which he intends to use to show the average person how they can fight back against the things that are happening all around them.

Personally, I like Batman as the bogey-man. I wouldn’t mind seeing him go in that direction.

Wonder Woman 23

Wonder Woman #23

Finally, we come to Wonder Woman, a title that I have been loving right from the first issue. This week, we reach the final part of  The Truth.  After totally enjoying everything leading up to this point, I found myself somewhat disappointed. It felt like a rushed ending, with a bunch of answers dropped in our lap and a quick resolution.

What I do  give this issue credit for, however, is the way Wonder Woman resolves the conflict with Deimos and Phobos. Rather than the usual slugfest, Diana reaches out to them in a way that I feel totally suits the character and emphasises the fact that she can do more than fight.

I also love the art, even though it can be uneven at times. I will be sad when the creative team moves on after issue 25.

 

So that’s it. As I said, it was a small week, but overall a good one. What have you been reading? Let me know what titles you are picking up and why they are worth reading. It doesn’t have to be DC only. Tell me about your Marvel titles, or anything at all that you are currently enjoying.

Craig

Pick up these titles and more at Amazon

 

Roger Moore, James Bond Films and My Dad

Roger Moore has died.

Some of my fondest childhood memories involve Roger Moore, James Bond films and my dad. My father was a big fan of Bond. I am not sure if he ever read the books, though I suspect he must have read a few, but my dad was a fan of the films. His favourite Bond was the original, Sean Connery, and I might agree with that choice now (it’s kind of hard to choose), but as a child my preference definitely was for Roger Moore.

Bond. James Bond.
Bond. James Bond.

I can’t remember the first Bond film I watched. I just know it was Moore’s version of Bond and I have a feeling it was the Man with the Golden Gun. But whichever film it was, I was instantly caught up in the excitement of the Bond mythos. Any time a new film came out, I was there in the theater. More importantly, any time one of the movies played on TV, I was allowed to watch it.

My parents were reasonably strict when it came to bedtime, but when a Bond film was on TV, I sat with my dad and watched. Sometimes, the movies would start early, at about 8:00, but more often than not, they started at the usual TV movie time of 9 PM. It didn’t matter that my bedtime on weekends was about that same time; Bond movies were a “special event” that I was allowed to stay up for.

My dad was 45 when I was born and though my father had been active as a younger man, by the time I came along, he was settling into a rather sedentary lifestyle. I didn’t play baseball with him, or any sport really. That might have been part of the reason I never really developed a fondness for most sports. No, if I did anything with my dad, it was to toss a Frisbee, or occasionally go for a bike ride, but those things didn’t happen very often. My dad was a busy man. He had a lot of responsibilities at work and I can remember him occasionally bringing paperwork home. He would start it after supper and continue past my bedtime. Combining that with the fact that my father was the disciplinarian in the house meant that when I was very young I didn’t have a particularly close relationship with him. I loved him, of course, and felt loved, but we just didn’t seem to have much time together.

But when Bond was on? Well, that was our time.

When I read about Roger Moore’s passing, it brought back all kinds of memories about my dad, but mainly the simple act of sitting beside him on the couch watching these movies. So, thank you Roger Moore for giving me and my dad something to “Bond” over.It may seem like a silly thing, but the memories are priceless.

 

Craig

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Wonder Woman Reviews So Far Are Great

Despite concerns from many fans over the past several months, the reviews that are coming in for Wonder Woman have been overwhelmingly positive. This is such great news, not just for DC, but for the prospect of female-led superhero films. Yes we have had great female action leads in the past (Ellen Ripley comes immediately to mind), but we are lacking a strong female presence in the superhero genre.

 

I am hopeful that this will lead to more diversity and chance-taking within the genre. Perhaps if Wonder Women does well enough at the box office, we will finally see Marvel put out a Black Widow movie, thought there are any number of other female characters that they could (and should) bring to life as well.

Are you planning on seeing Wonder Woman? Do you have reservations, or are you excited for the film? Share your thoughts below!

Craig

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Dr Manhattan Finally Revealed in This Week’s Reads May 17

This was a pretty large week for me. yes, I know I don’t read as much as some other comic book fans– and I really wish I could– but having kids comes with sacrifices!

Aquaman
Aquaman Issue 23

Aquaman # 23

Crown of Atlantis part 1.  Tired of conflict with the surface Aquaman’s seeming preference of the surface world to his kingdom of Atlantis, the Atlanteans move to depose their king. As powerful as he may be, how can Aquaman fight against his people’s perceptions?

 

 

 

 

Batman
Batman Issue 23

Batman #23

The Brave and the Mold  Called in by Commissioner Gordon to assist the investigation onto a mysterious murder, Batman finds himself teaming with Swamp Thing, who has ties to the victim.

 

 

 

 

Batwoman issue 3
Batwoman Issue 3

Batwoman #3

The Many Arms of Death part 3. In the lawless nation of Coryana, Batwoman finds herself in need of allies. far from Gotham and the rest of the bat-family, she is left with no other option than to try to recruit a band of warlords and gang leaders, but will they follow her lead?

 

 

 

 

The Flash Issue 22

The Flash #22

The Button Part 4  Pursuing Eobard Thawne as he races unwittingly toward his death, Batman and the Flash draw the attention of another speedster, long forgotten to the world.

 

 

 

 

Justice League Issue 21

Justice League #21

Endless part 2  Caught in a time loop, Flash and Batman race to prevent what could become an extinction-level event, butwith the Flash having already tried and failed multiple times, can they and the rest of the League prevent disaster?

 

 

 

 

Nightwing Issue 21

Nightwing #21

Split Second  Dick and Wally West have a night on the town, but when someone seems able to mysteriously manipulate time, it’s time for Nightwing and Flash to suit up and save the day!

 

 

 

 

 

Superman Issue 23

Superman #23

Black Dawn part 4  The mystery of Hamilton County begins to unravel, but while Superman has his hands full defeating rampaging monsters, a foe from the past takes steps to turn Jon against his father.

 

 

 

 

Super Sons Issue 4

Super Sons #4

When I  Grow Up part 4.  Superboy and Robin face off against the deadly Kid Amazo. Can the two put aside their differneces long enough to defeat their foe?

 

 

 

 

Teen Titans Issue 8

Teen Titans #8

The Lazarus Contract part 2. Deathstroke has a plan to rewrite the past, and he needs Kid Flash to do it. As the Titans and Teen Titans come together to face this threat, hints of Nightwing’s betrayal come to light.

 

 

 

 

Trinity Issue 9

Trinity #9

Dead Space part 1  With the Watchtower compromised by an alien force, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman must try to rescue their fallen Justice League companions

 

 

 

 

 

Spoilers Follow

This week’s Aquaman gets into what I had been hoping to see more of: Atlantean politics. Atlantis is such a unique setting compared to many other DC titles, so I think there is a ton of opportunity to show their culture, beliefs and politics. I think this should be an interesting arc.

Batman had one of the better issues of the series this week. I liked the art and the writing was better than I have come to expect from King… at least until the somewhat disappointing ending. I still get the feeling that his view of Batman just doesn’t quite match his portrayal throughout the other titles in which he appears. I will give credit though, for Swamp Thing asking him “why do you need a car?” I have wondered this myself recently, as it has been shown that he has easy access to teleportation technology. Why drive across the city for half an hour when teleportation is an option? Still a decent issue, though and it was fun to see Swamp Thing again.

Batwoman is developing nicely. Hmm. That doesn’t sound quite right… At any rate, the story thus far has been serviceable, and I am looking forward to seeing where it goes from here. I am not sure if the intention is to keep her on Coryana for an extended perios of time, but it looks like that could be the plan. If so, I hope to see more personality injected into the locale, beyond the “den of scum and villainy” that has been shown so far. With the way the Kali Corporation is developing the area, I get a strange Madripoor-like vibe from it.  Like many other leads in other titles, my main desire is to see more of Kate out of costume (so to speak). I want to know her beyond her role as Batwoman.

The Flash is one of the best reads this week. It’s probably my top pick, with Nightwing and Superman coming in close behind. This issue sees the long-awaited return of Jay Garrick and I am very happy about that. Much like Wally, he recognised that he needs someone to remember him iin order for him to return fully, and I am not sure what happened in his interaction with Barry. It looks as though Barry’s bond with him was not strong enough to restore him, but I also had a moment where I thought he might have been sent off to a different Earth… It remains to be seen. And of course, the big event of this issue (well, Jay coming back was the biggest part for me…) is the confirmation of just whom is behind all of the goings on with the entire New 52 and now Rebirth. According to the ad at the back of the book, though, which states Doomsday Clock  is coming in November (!) this storyline is going to progress slowly over at least six more months.

Justice League was… ok. I’m really not loving this title, though I don’t really have anything against it. I’m just not finding the stories suitably “epic”. There is a recurring theme that the world is about to be destroyed, but it doesn’t really engage me. I’m not feeling a connection to the title and suspect that it will be the next title that I drop unless things change.

Nightwing gave me some of what I have been hoping for in other books: normal life outside of heroics. The relationship between Dick and Wally is a great one and I want to see more of this kind of interaction. Having them take the night off (or attempt to anyway) and just hang out together is a nice change of pace. Nightwing actually stands out at the moment as the only title I am reading– outside of Superman’s books– that showcases character relationships, and it’s great. As a side note, we need a Wally West book, please.

Superman explores the secrets behind Hamilton County in this issue and we finally learn who is behind everything. I was slightly disappointed in the way that I figured it out early on  from one single word: “telly”. Does that give it away for you too? Yes, that’s right, it’s all a plot of Manchester Black, whose got some serious plans for Jon, whom he hopes can succeed where Superman “failed.” I’m not a huge fan of Black, but it’s an interesting idea and it should be interesting to see how it wraps up.

Super Sons continues to be enjoyable, and my on-again off-again feelings toward Robin continue. Here, he is not so bad. Being paired with Jon just works. It grounds him, reduces his annoying side to manageable levels, and even on occasion makes him likeable. If this was his regular portrayal, I would be good with him. Unfortunately, there’s also…

Teen Titans. Ugh. I’m back to wanting to slap Damian. This kid seriously gets to me. Robin aside, however, it’s good to see the two teams of Titans come together. I would like to see more of this and as the new timeline comes into play across the various titles, I am still hopeful of seeing Raven return to her former self. I also want to see a bit more interaction between Nightwing and Starfire. Teen Titans seems to be one of the titles that has been impacted the least so far by Rebirth and the aftershocks of events in Superman’s books, and it is a strange read to me because certain characters are simply not how I used to know them anymore. I haven’t heard anything about future plans, so I have no idea whether they will stay this way (likely) or revert to their old selves (unlikely, I believe).

Trinity was another ok issue that wasn’t bad but was far from thrilling. It was a decent enough read, but like Justice League, it doesn’t seem to be at the level I would expect and worse than that, I feel like the events of issue #& may just as well have not happened given the way nothing has come from them. I know it’s only two issue later, but to have no references at all to what seemed like a significant setup in that issue, makes it seem like the plot was abandoned.

Well, that’s it for this week. What have you all been reading? I would love to hear back from you all about what you’ve been enjoying and not enjoying. What are your predictions for the coming months? Do you love, hate, or not care about the involvement of Dr Manhattan in Rebirth? Leave a comment and let me know!

Craig

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