Wednesday, December 26, 2012

CAMELOT Trigger - Heraldry

While I wait for CAMELOT Trigger to come back from the editor, I thought this would be a good time to talk about some elements of the setting.

Heraldry is important to knights. Colors, symbols and patterns have important meaning about who the knight is, where he falls in his household and what he's accomplished.

A blog entry isn't big enough to go into the meanings of everything, but a quick Google search can lead down a rabbit hole. In addition to the basic symbols above, there are animals whose meaning is different depending on their positioning. The crest on the shield was how you let someone know who you were when you met them on the field.

There are, of course, symbols for the planets as well:

Mixing these in with the classic symbols gives a distinct flavor to the knights of the setting. Arthur's armour, Calibur-N, featured the Earth symbol with each quadrant filled with an allied planet's symbol. Mars in the lower right corner, Venus in the upper left, closest to his heart.

When making a knight for CAMELOT Trigger, take a moment to design your crest. You can do it even if you are a terrible artist. Original knights painted their crest on their shield. A CAMELOT Trigger knight has a huge canvas in her armour. The colors and patterns might run across the whole of the armour, rather than a shield or a shoulder joint.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Night's Black Agents - Double Tap Outline

Now that the first draft of CAMELOT Trigger is away at Evil Hat HQ, I can talk about my next project.

Night's Black Agents combines to great tastes that go together - vampires and spies. Anyone who knows me will tell you how much I love these things. Ken Hite, Gaming Mastermind, brought them together in the simple genius of my favorite GUMSHOE game.

He also posted the outline for Double Tap, the first supplement to the game. I have three sections I'm cleared to talk about. I will be writing the expanded skills section, which includes suggestions for how to use skill spend to be even more badass than usual. I will expand my Adaptive Tradecraft article with more neat in the field tricks for tracking vampires and their minions. And I will be discussing how to run Night's Black Agents for a solo agent, since Bond and Bourne rarely roll with backup.

He's taking suggestions on the Pelgrane site. I'll open this entry to any questions or comments I might be able to answer.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

CAMELOT Trigger - MerGN-A

Today gives you two bonus looks in one. MerGN-A is the leader of the threat looming over the Solar system. After the jump there's her story, her stats, and the stats for the massive Medusa Moon she uses in battle. This photo was my inspiration:

Imagine this floating toward your armour...
The first draft is nearly complete. Thanks once again to everyone for your discussion and excitement on the project. Have a good holiday and we'll see you next week.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

CAMELOT Trigger - Megatron, Voltron and Unicron Walk Into A Bar...

The first draft of the mecha rules look well in hand. I'm excited to get them out so people can really fold, spindle and mutilate them. The enthusiastic response to the setting has fueled my creative fires, and I thank you for your anticipation. Since starting the blog, the biggest questions I've seen are "Can you do this kind of mech?" Let's look at the top three requests.

Transformer: Most of the legwork on this one has been done to me thanks to the Dresden Files RPG. There is an internal System that offers a variable split in Skills at the cost of a Fate Point. You can turn a Great Melee into a Good Melee/Average Zeal, a Fair Melee/Fair Blast, and so on. You must pick one Skill that must always be part of the mix.

Combiner: Choose 'Combination Socket' as one of your Systems. When you combine with other mechs that have the right Combination Socket System, the following occurs:
  • The Combined Form gets it own Stress Track - one box for every mech part of the combined form.
  • It gets its own set of Consequences. If the Combined Form takes Consequences, they must be divided up between the individual mechs when the Combined Form goes away.
  • It also gets an additional Mild Consequence for every pair of Combination Socket Systems in the Combined Form.
  • The pilots may chose at the time of Combination if they want to keep their own initiative or take the average initiative and all act on the same turn.
  • The Combined Form gets an action for each active pilot inside. Each pilot may use a Skill or system once in a turn.

Manowar: The Manowar is how to do the type of mechs that are bigger than the standard mech. It's built like a Combined Form, except it always stays in that form. The bigger they are, though...

  • The Manowar Form gets it own Stress Track - one box for every part of the Manowar Form.
  • The Manowar Form gets an additional Mild Consequence for every pair of Massive Superstructure Systems in the form.
  • The Manowar Form always goes on Mediocre.
  • The Manowar Form takes a number of actions equal to the number of parts in its construction. Systems may only be used once per turn, but multiple systems of the same type may be built into different parts.

You want an example of a Manowar? Check back in on Friday for an introduction to MerGN-A, the literal Big Bad of CAMELOT Trigger!

In the meantime, feel free to leave comments, check out the Fate Core community on G+ or drop me a line on Twitter @robowieland. Don't forget to use #camelottrigger !

Anthology - We Are Dust

We Are Dust is a short story collection unlocked during the Kickstarter for Our Last Best Hope. The game is a great way to model disaster epics, so the story I told was one about what was happening on the ground during the big scenes. Since the players are out saving the world, I wanted my story to focus on the poor suckers they were saving. Background Noise was also a deliberate choice to stretch into romance rather than my usual snappy dialog and twisty plotting, though there is a little bit of that as well. It also comes in epub formats, for those of you with a Kindle or other fancy reading gadget.

Magpie Games is a great company, and I have a project brewing with them I hope to be able to talk about soon.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

CAMELOT Trigger - First Playtest Report

I ran a session of the game over the weekend. It was received well with the characters driving MerGN-A back through the Wyrmgate above Earth. Things I discovered:

  • Change two Skill names. Stoutness is now Vigor and Vigor is now Zeal.
  • Zeal controls movement in armour and out. Armour is your defensive skill when you get hit.
  • One of the players went right to the jugular and wanted to play Arthur's bastard. 
  • People love playing Zodiac Templars.
  • The Phase Trio got a complicated web of rivalries and alliances set up. but I needed to be more clear in helping people pick Aspects that defined their characters rather than whatever character.
  • Cancelling a compel is a rare thing indeed, especially with my players.
  • Mech construction was good. I need to support people who want to pick a mech and go, people who want to adjust a  pre-existing mech, and ones who want to bake from scratch.
  • The big mech battle at the end went well, though I played MerGN-A poorly. She got her butt kicked. People grasps the concepts of zones alright, though in a game like this it's more important.
  • Should lady knights also be called Sir?

If you want to see the PCs we used, check them out after the jump. Otherwise, comment away or check me at @robowieland on Twitter, or the FATE Core Community on G+.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

CAMELOT Trigger - Ye Olde Skills

Should I rename Skills? On the one hand, this setting was for FATE Core, and the less hurdles between it and the core rules, the more people who would be willing to give the setting a shot. On the other hand, not all the Skills in the main list fit. I wrestled with this topic for a bit. I tweeted about it. I went into the Louis Wieland, Jr. Memorial Gaming Library to meditate upon the question. The answer presented itself to me in a shelf of blaze orange books.

Deadlands is one of the games where I own the entire line. One of the things I loved about the game was the flavor. All the skills dropped the "g" at the end. It's shootin' not shooting. The Edges and Hindrances were also dripping with sauce. Your character is not obese. He's a Big 'Un.  Your character doesn't have a temper. She's Mean As A Rattler. That flavor goes a long way to get players into the spirit of the game.

Aspects do this in FATE for the characters. Taking an Aspect like Master Swordsman is good, but taking an Aspect like God of the Twelve Blades, Scarred By None defines a lot about the world and your character's place in it. The Skill list is the foundation those Aspects built upon. A world where Swagger is a skill is different from one where Confidence exists. Synonyms matter.

Let's briefly look at the skills in CAMELOT Trigger and take a moment or two to discuss why they exist and how they differ from their Core counterparts.

  • Armour: This is the skill you use to pilot your giant robot. Naming this Skill also helped me to answer an important question - what are the mecha called in the setting? Using the English spelling was a perfect fit, letting it stand out when talking about regular armor.
  • Blast (Shooting): This skill was originally Archery, but Fred Hicks gave me a good piece of advice: "I dig 'reinforce Camelot through skill names' as a design goal, but it also has to support 'reinforce giant stompy robots through skill names', somehow, too -- or at least not run counter to it." Giant stompy robots blast things. And their pilots do too.
  • Chivalry (Empathy): Honor is an important thing to knights. When they read people, one of the important things they want to find out is if the other person is also honorable. Chivalry can be used to suss out Aspects related to honor (or lies) as well as how well people take it when you are being honest.
  • Cunning (Deceit): Honor is important to knights, but so is winning. This isn’t just deftly navigating the courts with a silver tongue. This is also tricky tactics, dirty fighting and the ends justifying the means.
  • Daunt (Intimidation): Talking trash is an important tool in the knight’s toolkit. That can mean anything from an intimidating yell to telling your opponent about all the knights you’ve beaten before. Either one can daunt an opponent, which means you can win the battle without firing a shot.
  • Devotion(Will): Devotion to something – love, faith, honor, family – is what keeps a knight fighting when her arms are heavy and her body is bloodied. It also keeps him from being tempted to do the wrong thing. That’s why Devotion is what they use to resist mental stress
  • Household (Resources): Knights have to pay for the maintenance of their armour. Most of this money comes from their household. Where does the armour get stashed when the knight isn’t questing? Having a little extra wealth to throw around beyond your upkeep is also useful for solving other problems.
  • Inquisition (Investigation): A slight tweak from the core skill. Knights don’t investigate. But they do inquire.
  • Intrigue (Rapport): Navigating the world of courts is tricky business. Rapport is more about being personable. Intrigue is about knowing how to act sociably. And how to get what you want politely.
  • Larceny (Burglary): I could have left Burglary alone, but I wanted to expand it to include not just low skills but also knowing who to talk to to do dirty deeds dirt cheap.
  • Lineage (Contacts): A knight's bloodline is important. Most of her contacts are going to come through relations or associates of those relations
  • Lore: A straight port from Core. But stunts allow for knowledge specializations.
  • Mark (Notice): Another slight tweak for some delicious flavor.
  • Melee (Fighting): Melee is more old school and distinct from Blast
  • Pilot: A straight port from Core. Driving anything not Armour.
  • Skulking (Stealth):Skulking applies to sneaking about and looking unobtrusive. Pretending to he a commoner is a common element in knight stories, so I widened this skill.
  • Smithy (Crafts): Mostly repairing technology, but also for the connotation of building things with heavy metals. 
  • Stoutness (Physique): Another slight tweak for some delicious flavor.
  • Vigor (Athletics): Another slight tweak for some delicious flavor.

The list is not set in stone. It's a fine line between wonderful flavor and accessibility. Please drop me a line @robowieland on Twitter or leave a comment below if you have any thoughts.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

CAMELOT Trigger - The Outline

One of the great debates in writing is the outline. Should you have one? How detailed should it be? I started out as a No Outline guy. As time and experience wore on, I found it was more difficult to adhere to my college writing practices. Procrastinating and then writing 10 pages over a weekend works fine when you're a student, but when you're a Dayjobber, you can't just blow off work on Monday to recover.

My outlines aren't very formal. Often, I'll drop them straight in the doc and write around them, then delete the outline as I fill it in with actual text. I scribble additional notes in front of the main text block to not forget them.

CAMELOT Trigger has a lot of big ideas so I went with something a bit more formal to organize my thoughts. One of the important skills a writer has to learn is how to control the flow of inspiration intoo information. It's a big rush when the ideas come hard and fast but it's important to catch as many as possible to use when you have time to craft them.

One of the important goals is to make a setting where interesting things happen but let players determine the outcome. Situations that inspire plot hooks. Characters that feel real but can be beat up by the PCs. It can be very easy and tempting to write a setting where all the cool stuff has already happened. The setting also has to be easy for GMs to make their own.

The other important goal is to make this useful for people who want mecha but not the setting. I'm glad to see people respond positively to CAMELOT Trigger, but I know there are plenty of folks who want mecha rules to use for Gundam, Battletech, and the dozens of other Big Stompy Robot worlds that inspired me.

So, here's my first outline for CAMELOT Trigger. Not everything will make it in, and there's stuff I'm hoping others will suggest that's not on here yet. Drop me a line @robowieland on Twitter or in the comments below to tell me what parts of the outline you want to see expanded.

Mecha rules

  • Pick parts
  • Pick systems
  • Pick suites
  • Name tech 

Mecha builds/types

  • Light
  • Medium
  • Heavy
  • Manowar
  • Vehicle
  • Combining

Mecha systems

  • Strategic (Overcome)
  • Tactical (Advantage)
  • Offensive (Attack)
  • Defensive (Defend)

Mecha suites

  • Focused (+4)
  • Wide (+3/+1, +2,+2)
  • Broad (+1/+1/+1/+1)
  • Variable (spend an FP to switch between Focused, Wide and Broad)

Rules variants

  • Salvage
  • Power Armor/scale discussion
  • Ammo
  • Alpha Strike
  • Ejection


  • History 
  • How Arthur won
  • Arthur’s friends
  • Arthur’s enemies
  • The current threat
  • The looming threat


  • Mercury - MerGN-A’s secret clone base
  • Venus - The Sisterhood
  • Earth - Hail to the High King
  • Mars - The Blood Red Sands
  • Asteroid Field - Brigands, Emergents and Legends
  • Jupiter - The Petty Titans
  • Saturn - The Saturnine Senate
  • Uranus - The Polaris Monastery
  • Neptune - The Emergent Knight
  • Sidebar - Et Tu, Pluto?


  • John Arthur - High King of Earth
  • Gwen the 4th - Regent of Venus
  • L4-NC3-L07 - Warlord of Mars
  • Dr. Vyvyan Locke - Mother of Artificial Intelligence
  • MerGN-A - The would be
  • MerGN series robots (MerGN-B through MerGN-L)


  • Armour
  • Blast
  • Chivalry
  • Clash (Bout?)
  • Coachman
  • Cunning
  • Daunt
  • Devotion
  • Household
  • Inquisition
  • Intrigue
  • Larceny
  • Lineage
  • Lore
  • Mark
  • Skulking
  • Smithy
  • Stoutness


Setting variants

  • I wanna be Arthur!
  • Siding with MerGN-A
  • Gender Flipping
  • Love, Camelot Style
  • A Knight’s Retinue
  • Defined By Your Passions
  • Sufficiently Advanced Magic

Monday, December 10, 2012

CAMELOT Trigger - Armor 1.0

I will have the exciting opportunity to playtest CAMELOT Trigger with some of my players this week. This is exciting, but it also means I have to get off my butt and get some mecha rules down.

One of my goals is to have rules that let people build the mech they want, but not get bogged down in points buy hell. Jeremy Keller's excellent Tech Noir is a great example. Cyberpunk games have a distinct "designer weapon" feel to them. It's not a handgun, it's a Ares Predator. I want to capture that feeling with this design.

Each mech has five equipment slots. They correspond to a body part on the mech. For most knights, since the mechs are controlled by a neuralhelm, these parts correspond to the human body - head, front torso, back torso, arms and legs. For the designs of the Emergent, the evil robot barbarians threatening Arthur's realm, these designs allow for non-human shapes. For example, the MerGN-B "Boar" armor is head, torso, torso, leg, leg.

You can choose either an internal system or external system for the slot. Sure, your armor has lots of cool gadgets, but the equipment highlighted in the slot is the best feature. It's like buying a car. A buyer cares more about the horsepower or the soundsytem rather than power doorlocks or the adjustable seats.

Internal systems give you a higher Skill level while in your mech. This replaces your characters Skill, so if you have a Fair Shooting and the internal system is an Average Shooting, you are better off with your natural skill. Each slot offers a spread of skills ranging from getting one skill at Great to four skills at Average.

External systems work like stunts. They give you a +2 for a skill in a narrow circumstance, let you swap out one skill for another, or otherwise break the rules. These do stack with internal systems, so if you pick up a mech with a Good Shooting and give it a weapon that adds +2 at long range, that's a Legendary +6 when that mech shoots at you at long range.

To counter those big numbers, the mecha can absorb stress like consequences. Shutting down a system absorbs 2 stress. Shutting down either all internal or all external systems absorbs 4 stress. Shutting down all systems absorbs 6 stress. Bringing these systems back online requires a Smithy roll, with the difficulty set as the number of systems shut down.

We'll see how well these rules handle contact with the players. If you have any thoughts, please leave a comment below or tweet @robowieland. And one final tease: one of the test mechs I built. I give you: The Broadsword!

  • Head: Death’s Head (Use Piloting for Intimidate)
  • Front: Kiloton Breastplate (+2 Fighting vs. Physique defense)
  • Back: Self-Repair Pack (Spend a Fate Point to bring a system back online)
  • Legs: Stabilization Spurs (+2 Physique when on solid footing)
  • Arms: Energy Gunblade (Use Fighting for Shooting attacks)

AV Club - Local Shopping Guide 2012

Once again, it's time to pick up last minute gifts and highlight some awesome local businesses. Thanks to everyone who suggested places to cover.

Friday, December 7, 2012

CAMELOT Trigger - Fellow Travellers

I have a wedding this weekend, so my time to work on the setting is limited. This does give me the opportunity to talk about the other settings and what I love about each of them.

J.R. Blackwell's Court/Ship
Social mechanics flow effortlessly in FATE. I love that the system makes trash talking just as dramatic important as fighting. This setting will offer some great ideas on how to run games where a sharp tongue is more deadly than a sword.

Brian Engard's Wild Blue
I love Westerns. I love superheroes. And I love fantasy games that are set outside of the pseudo-medieval Tolkien paradigm.

Mark Diaz Truman's Timeworks

As much as I want to get back to work with Mark on REDACTED, I want to see his take on time travel even more. Time travel is a ripe genre for RPGs. Even though The Coriolis Defect didn’t fund, I’m still excited to see what Mark does with one of the most challenging ideas in gaming.

Jason Morningstar's Fight Fire
Jason is the super-genius behind Fiasco, which is one of those rare games that hits the table and always creates memorable stories. Anything he does is work reading. I also love that modern designers are willing to push themselves out of genres that are focused on fighting.

Filamena Young's White Picket Witches
The evolution of the modern supernatural genre is fun to watch. Shows like Supernatural don't get a lot of respect even though they are carrying the torch of X-Files and Buffy. This game looks like a fun balance between soap opera and supernatural drama, which as anyone that's played Vampire with me know me how much I love that blend.

John Rogers' CrimeWorld
Besides gracing my Leverage blog with an interview, John knows a thing or two about clever capers. Since so many RPGs have busting into places for treasure as part of their mission statement, this segment will go a long way even outside the original genre.

Shoshana Kessock's No Exit
FATE games have a reputation for being big, loud and heroic. This looks like it's going to be none of those. There's a clamor for "gritty" FATE games and this looks like a great place to start.

Sarah Newton's Burn Shift
Most post-apocalyptic games are about wallowing in the destruction of second (and possibly final) dark age. The appeal to gamers is obvious, since there are a lot of parallels to the classic setting for fantasy game. But a game focused on rebuilding? That's awesome.

Brennan Taylor's Fantasy Adventure
Bulldogs is the favorite FATE version at our table. Fantasy is the most popular genre in tabletop gaming and this looks more like a Grey Mouser tale than a D&D riff.

Thanks to you, CAMELOT Trigger is GO! But the battle rages on. Tell your friends to back the Kickstarter you you can see all of these fine settings in print!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

CAMELOT Trigger - The Ingredients

At the behest of Fred Hicks and inspired by some of the other enthusiastic writers for the FATE Core stretch goals, I'm putting up some design blogs about the game. I can't promise keen designer insight or FATE system wonkery, but I'll do what I can to entertain.

So, to start, let's look at my inspirations for CAMELOT Trigger.

Battletech: This game is the gateway to a love of big stompy robots for so many people. For me, the real lure was the Battletech Center in nearby Chicago. It was a LAN party before LANs where you paid to sit in a simulator of a mech with all the buttons, switches and controls at hand. The original neo-feudal setting was also something I loved. This was where I pulled the idea of knights in mecha.

Pendragon: You ever have one of those albums that everyone tells you to should listen to and when you finally you feel like time travelling because you should have picked it up after the first friend's recommendation. That was Pendragon. Virtues and Passions are fascinating and flavorful mechanics. The dynastic game is also amazing and is one of those campaigns I wish I had the time and patience to run.

Mekton: My friend Deacon and I would sit around and design dozens of mechs for this game. He was a huge Robotech nerd. His love of big stompy robots was infectious, but I always had more fun running pilots through their life path. The mechs in this game a bit more anime than walking tank, but I want to make something he could sit down with and crank out some fun robots to blow up today.

The Once and Future King: This was my first exposure to Arthurian legend in high school thanks to my friend Jeff. It was mythic, funny and irreverent enough to make me seek out the original legends. I might even go so far at to prefer it to Lord of the Rings, but my taste in fantasy is not the usual. While I want to mess with Arthurian myth, I still want to be respectful of it.

Camelot 3000: This is one of those Iron Age comics that straddles the line between silly and serious. But it has some neat takes on elements of the myth and clearly does so out of love.

That's what's currently bubbling in the pot, . Thanks for taking the time to read this first entry. If there's anything you'd like to see in one of these entries, feel free to leave a comment or Tweet me at @robowieland.

FATE Core Kickstarter - CAMELOT Trigger

Like King Arthur? Like Big Stompy Robots? How about a setting where you get both? Hop into your mechaknight and help Arthur unite the Solar Sovereigns against the Emergent threat led by the AI MerGN. Unlock CAMELOT Trigger by pledging to the FATE Core Kickstarter today!