Planning for the Future

So the Atomic Robo game has been going well and I’ve really enjoy it. That said, I probably have about 2-3 issues (or 5-12 sessions) worth of ideas/interest left in me. Given the current rate of play, that probably means we’ll be wrapping up that game somewhere around June/July unless something goes horribly wrong, everyone is super jazzed to keep playing, an/or how-to-GM-Fate finally clicks into place for me on more than an intellectual level.

While I usually save most of my big picture thoughts on a game for after its finished, after having run Atomic Robo and Starforged as my last two games I don’t think I actually like telling pulpy science-fiction stories. I definitely love watching and reading those type of stories, but when it comes to putting together the pieces of those sort of stories for a game it just sort of feels off. Could also be that I just haven’t run those sort of games enough so I haven’t found my groove.

My current media intake has been a wide net of fantasy stories (Elden Ring, the Endwalker expansion for Final Fantasy 14, rewatches of Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke and Howl’s Moving Castle, the Castlevania and the Witcher TV series, reading through the Earthsea novels for the first time, and many others) and its really been getting me excited about the idea of magical lands where fantastic creatures lurk just beyond the forest and while the world is in decline, there is still hope for the future. The thing I liked most about the Starforged game was that the basics of its narrative was that the “end” of the world already came and gone, but the only thing that really ended was the old status quo and now our heroes are helping pick people back up and make a better tomorrow and I’d love to do something like that again.

end of days

The question is “what sort of game could do this?” I’m going to do my usual rambling about games I like, however, I am going to leave D&D and Pathfinder off this list even though they could run this sort of game simply because they’re D&D and Pathfinder, you don’t need me to sell you on those games. If someone is clamoring for a D&D game, I’m sure we could make that happen.

ICON is the latest game by Massif Press, creators of the mech combat RPG Lancer, and it ticks a lot of my boxes with its setting. Here is the base idea of the setting summed up in a couple paragraphs.

While this looks great, there are three major downsides with this game I see for our group. The first and smallest issue is that the game is still in playtesting. This didn’t seem to be an issue with Starforged, however, it does mean that the book is a bit rough in places and there are no Roll20 character sheets yet.

Second, the game is an odd mix of a narrative game and a tactical RPG. Both of these sections are completely divorced from one another to the point that you use different character sheets for each and your choices in one never affect the other. The book even says you could run the game entirely with only one or the other and have a perfectly fine game with the right group. I would likely run this strictly with the narrative game system, unless everyone was excited about grid-based combat.

Finally, the narrative game uses the core system from Blades in the Dark and Scum & Villainy, which our group previously had some hang ups with. While there are some differences (such as downtime not being the same as it was with S&V) it pretty much follows the high points and I think this would likely be an issue.

I do like this game and the ideas behind it, but I don’t think it would be a good fit for our group (though I would be pleased to be proven wrong).

  • Pros: Game’s internal inspirations are the same as mine listed at the beginning of this. Can play as a little beetle person.
  • Cons: Narrative/tactical game split could cause issues. BitD core system has issues with being fiddly. Work-in-Progress.

Rhapsody of Blood
I’ve written about this game before, but as a refresher Rhapsody of Blood is a setting/hack/spinoff of the game Legacy by UFO Press. In it, the PCs take on the role of both several families/factions/support-groups-for-cursed-souls who are in a generations long fight with the malevolent and corrupting Castle, as well as this generation’s champions of those groups.

The primary narrative arc of each game of Rhapsody of Blood is the champions of that generation assemble to fight the dark forces of the Castle and delve into its depths, hopefully defeating it for a time so the world can know an uneasy peace until the next time the Castle returns. Obviously this is not terribly deep and is very focused, but it definitely could work as an ongoing game returned to in between other, longer games as the occasional palate cleanser.

Not my first choice, but also not a bad choice either.

  • Pros: Already familiar with the core system (PtbA). Strong narrative focus.
  • Cons: Intended for several short campaigns which feature a different cast of PCs each time. Maybe too focused?

Warhammer: Age of Sigmar: Soulbound
Warhammer Fantasy is a game I have a long history with, but it also has a lot of baggage of the YIKES variety in its setting. About a decade ago, Games Work Shop rebooted the setting (for a variety of reasons, though one of the better ones was excising some of the yikes content) as Age of Sigmar which was initially poorly received due to burying a fan-favorite setting, but folks eventually warmed up to it (especially when GWS licensed the Warhammer Fantasy line to Cubical 7, who now make all of the tabletop RPGs based on GWS’ IPs).

The core concept of the game is very straight-forward, one of the gods of the setting has empowered the PCs into the Soulbound–a group of demi-god-like champions–to carry out some task. Similarly, the game system is very elegant–roll a number of d6s based on your skill, compare each die to the difficulty level (between 2-6) and each die that matches or exceeds that number is a success. The complexity does spiral out from there (there is a mechanic that allows you to add bonuses to dice, for instance pushing up a result of 3 up to a result of 4, 5, or 6) and I’d put it on the same level of complexity as D&D5E.

There is a bit of lore going on in the background, but the major point are the dark god Nagash destroyed the World-That-Was during the End Times, but that world was reborn was the Eight Realms where the mortals now live under threat by the forces of Chaos and Death. Each of the Eight Realms are a different world with slightly different properties (such as the Realm of Fire, with his blazing heat and sulfurous fumes, or the Realm of Beasts, with its endless forests and savannas inhabited by mega-fauna). If this all sounds a bit Nordic, it’s definitely on purpose. The titular Sigmar is a combination of Odin and Thor, who even has his own version of the Einherjar–the Stormcast Eternal.

  • Pros: Simple core system. Broad world(s) to set the game in depending on player preference.
  • Cons: Moderate amount of lore that runs behind the scenes. Moderate complexity. Those aren’t Dwarves, they’re Duardin. Hope you like semi-colons.

Now for some rapid fire ones that I don't have as much information about due to never running them/not reading the books to as fine a detail, but I figure I'll bring them up as possibilities in case any trigger someone's interest (it'll give me time to read into more in-depth):
  • Beneath a Cursed Moon: PbtA but themed towards Castlevania. Was interested when it came out, but haven’t followed up too much since then.
  • Monster Care Squad: Mostly bought this for the artwork, but the core concept sound cool: the PCs are a group of vets tasked with curing the ailment known as False Gold from the Monsters inhabiting the world.
  • The One Ring: The new second edition is out and it looks interesting. I’ve never been a big Tolkien lore guy, but Middle Earth has always been an interesting world and the RPG has gotten some praise, so figured I’d bring it up. Just know, I will probably be the least knowledgeable of anyone here when it comes to any amount of lore.

That’s everything off the top of my head. There are probably games and systems I either don’t know or have forgotten about that could run the sort of game I’m imaging, so now I’m going to turn it over to you. Is there something I missed? Something that sounds interesting?


One option is to run the setting you want (whatever that may be) using Fate - either Condensed, Accelerated, or Core, depending on how crunchy you want skills/approaches to be.

There’s a lot of interesting fantasy and science-fantasy options out there, like “Armour Astir Advent” and “Lost Eons”. In particular, “2400” might be somebody’s speed someday.

If you run into a game without Roll20 support, and there’s enough lead time, I’m happy to help making sheets or doing other work to support it.

I’m not fond of the Warhammer world for hopefully obvious reasons, but I’m happy to try any of the games from the list here. I’m personally okay with FITD as a system, I just don’t enjoy spending a lot of time messing around with a single roll or action.


This is probably the least exciting path for me, due to my previous statement about only understanding how to GM Fate on an intellectual level. I don’t know why, but it is always this struggle with the system. I think my biggest difficulty is knowing how much the game expects me as the GM to push things. Should I be making the opposition tougher (with more stress, higher skill ratings, and more impactful aspects) or should I be spending more Fate points from the GM pool? It always feels like I’m on either extreme of that (opposition too difficult or laughably easy) but never in the happy middle ground between them.

This is probably something I could work on more, but I’d be surprised if that ever changes to any great degree.

Of those, I only have heard of Armour Astir Advent, mostly because Zack Morrison did artwork for it. I’ll skim through them.

Much appreciative of the offer. :slight_smile:

Yeah, Warhammer has not had the greatest history (and a subset of the fandom who fanboy over the worst elements of it). It’s gotten better over the years but the shadow still looms, so I will never fault anyone with saying they do not want to interact with it.

I definitely feel like later implementations of FitD made significant improvements in this area. Many of the games (including ICON) removed the option to trade Risk for Effect, and instead treat it like in any other RPG. Risk and Effect are still things, but as a GM facing levers instead of a PC one. ICON specifically never changes the outcome of rolls based on the Risk (unlike BitD or S&V).


So this is just me.

The Status Quo

I’ve enjoyed Atomic Robo both conceptually (Action Science!) and the fun stuff you’ve run us through, Mike. I am, though, confirmed in my opinion, though, that FATE is a system that absolutely, structurally, should rock it, but always feels like weak tea to me for some reason. I am enjoying what we’re doing but in a “oh, a show I like is on tonight,” not a OMG THE GAAAAAAME IS TONIGHT WOOT WOOT WOOT! That is not a critique of the GM, but just of the system, and also progressivly where I think I’ve taken my character.


Sounds like an interesting setting, but the schizophrenic rule set sounds like an idiosyncratic design flaw that would drive me batty.

2. Rhapsody in Blood

Sounds like an interesting filler.

3. Warhammer yadda yadda

My awareness of Warhammer has always been very much on the periphery, and with a sense that that’s where I wanted to keep it. What you describe, though, sounds moderately interesting. And I do, in fact, love semicolons – not as much as I love em-dashes, though.

Quickfire Challenge

All sound like they could be a potential fit.

Other things mentioned

I’ll be honest in three things:

  1. I am actually enjoying my foray back into D&D 5e. So, I mean, if there were an interest there, I would not run in the opposite direction.

  2. I would be happy to play a defined module, vs. someone crafting an artisan dungeon. There’s a ton of material out there, and unless someone wanted to wing it all on their own, there’s not a lot of point in doing so.

  3. I would never actually push @Margie into the center of the stage with a huge spotlight on her, but she’s been doing some fun D&D DMing stuff for me and for me+James, and doing a great job at it, and she would be (IF SHE WANTED TO BE, AND I HAVE NOT CONSULTED HER ON THIS) a potential DM to do something low level in 5e (in a module we actually already have the Roll20 materials for). And if she did not want to, that is also utterly legit and understandable.

  4. For that matter, and fair is fair, I would feel kinda comfortable running a 5e thing, too. I’m also doing a game on Friday nights, but I have that pretty well plotted and reviewed and lined up for the next several monthsish, and could be convinced by wild enthusiasm over the prospect to pick up a limited-length module.

Other Games

Yes! I am suggesting other alternatives! Look at my 1337 gaming cred! Or, alternately, look at things I have kickstarted.

Usagi Yojimbo, the RPG – this doesn’t look like it uses any normal gaming rule set, but nothing too complex, so it might be possible to borrow Bill’s 1337 Roll20 skills to deal with it. Basically, gaming and adventure within the realm of Stan Sakai’s anthropomorphic samurai/ronin-era Japan.

Monkey, the RPG – Gaming around the Chinese Monkey King setting. System looks fairly straightforward.

Avatar, the RPG – Gaming in the world of giant blue Pocahontas aliens the various eras of the Nickelodeon Aang/Korra world (across all the identified eras). PBTA-based.

Since I am suggesting these, if there were sufficient interest I would feel obliged to actually run the game.

Other Factors

May-June, with graduation and gap-year shenanigans, James may be in a different setting/availability, location and job-wise. Just to complicate things, natch.

Anyway, I’ve probably gotten myself into enough trouble here, so –


This is definitely the same boat I’m in. Everything should be awesome but for some reason things are always sort of stuck in first or second gear and I could not point at why. This might misplaced, but I think part of it is just how nebulous the outcome of a given roll is until both sides agree they’re done. A roll is more of a negotiation with the outcome of the dice just saying who is in the better stating position with that negotiation.

Every time I feel like I have a handle on Fate, it just continues to allude me.

Not a unfair assessment, though I do feel as just ignoring everything involving the tactical combat of the book still makes a perfectly serviceable game.

I don’t have any issue with D&D (5e or otherwise). I think it’s a fine game. Some day I look forward to playing an Abjuration Wizard who has opinions about mathematics and the metaphysical concept of Order. I just don’t think D&D works well in a 2-hour time slot and we have many constants on expanding that time slot. I could be wrong with that though and if so, I would be pleasantly surprised.

I’d totally play in a game ran by Margie (not that I am pushing for that either, it just sounds like it would be a fun time).

I would never push anyone to run two simultaneous games, that way leads to burn out all too often. But I do trust folks to make their own decisions, so that could be a possibility.

I too have the Usagi Yojimbo and Avatar RPGs. Usagi looks a bit like if someone have heard of PbtA games but never played one and so made their own (not saying that’s a bad thing, just may base assumption). Avatar looks like Magpie really wanted to make Masks but this time with a license and it does all the fun stuff I would expect from that sentence. Never heard of Monkey the RPG, but I do like me some Monkey/Journey to the West shenanigans.

A very good point that I had not foreseen as a possible complication. I’m sure James will have more details as those days get closer, but no rush until it happens.

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Yeah, you got there before me. I do not currently have a solid line up (I’m working on it. Oh boy am I working on it) but given what I have been looking at it’d be fair to assume I might be MIA for at least part of the summer.
Should not change all the new game plans, but just something to keep in the back of folks minds.


It’s certainly a challenge. My Friday game runs 3-4 (once you strip out the weekly half hour of catch-up-chit-chat), but if we’re mid-melee, it’s okay to go somewhat longer because, well, Friday.

As someone who burned out in the past, I can completely appreciate that sentiment. I would approach it with some trepidation, but I wanted to put myself out there in into the GMing pool.


It has not gone unnoticed. :grin:

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So here’s what I’ve got for system suggestions.

CRYSTALLINE: This is literally “off-brand FFXIV”. It uses the LUMEN engine, which is very fast-paced and easy to work with. The game includes everything you’d need to run something A Realm Reborn style.

Earthdawn: this is “fantasy Shadowrun”. Back in the day it had a very unique system for stuff, including a relatively crunchy magic system (spell matrices!) and equipment system (do deeds of legend, weave threads to your gear, get bennies). I don’t know about their fourth edition but they have a quick start.

Numenera: This is a big fat lot of RPG to digest, but it’s atmospheric as heck. The Cypher system’s characters are easy to put together and the dice system is simple to use.

There’s the usual generic RPG systems, aside from Fate: Genesys, Cortex Prime (now that their legal team isn’t claiming ownership to everyone’s indie hacks), Savage Worlds, even GURPS. SW and GURPS in particular have solid fantasy & post-apoc sourcebooks for inspiration.

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Since we’ve got a little bit of time before the next game session (June 16th at the earliest by my count), I figured it was time to come back to this thread. It’s been a little bit, so I figured I would update on what I’m feeling at the moment.

I’m currently running Warhammer: Age of Sigmar: Soulbound: The Subtitling for the guys at the house (and our friend also named Dave) on Mondays and so have a bit of an outlet for my high fantasy shenanigans. This isn’t to say I am opposed to another high fantasy game in my life, but I do like having some variety in my gaming.

I can’t put my finger on it, but I have softened on my opinion of Fate since we wrapped up the Atomic Robo game. I think part of it was that things really started coming together in those last couple sessions and I felt a little less beholden to running the game “they way the book suggests” because I knew the end was coming. While I’m not hyped to run another Fate game, I don’t think I would balk at the idea either at the point.

At the moment, I’m very open to the sort of game I would want to do next. Genre-wise, I’m sort of feeling urban fantasy but that is probably because of the books filling up my shelves at the moment. Also the Librarians Adventure Card Game showed up Friday and so I’m rewatching those movies. But as always, I am very flexible to what I want to run/play. The gaming is just an excuse to hang out with people I care about on a semi-regular basis. :wink:


Then I would say, pick the world or genre you most want to vibe with, pick the first system you like and associate with it, and let us know how we can help make it happen

Since it’s Thursday and even when we’re not playing I like to take a few moment to at least turn my attention towards the subject of our gaming group, I thought I would narrow my own options down to two and let you folks either decide between them or choose the third option of “Actually, I kind of felt like running this for our group.”

  • Run something in the urban fantasy genre with Fate Condensed. I’ve ran several games of Dresden Files and Dresden Files Accelerated before and they were always a lot of fun and I’m interested to see what corners of urban fantasy this group gravities towards. The only reason I’m steering towards Fate Condensed rather than one of the Dresden Files derivatives is that I don’t want to limit folks to the implied setting of those books. Every time I’ve run them I always say “I don’t care about book canon, I want to do what you guys find interesting” but they always seem to gravitate in that direction anyway, so I figure I would try to snip that off entirely by not even using those rulesets as a basis. Instead we can just spend a session zero discussion what themes, tropes, and other stuff we want and build from there.
  • Run the Root RPG. I fully admit that I’ve only skimmed this a bit, but so far it looks interesting. The player characters play as a group of Vagabonds, which are wandering mercenaries not tied to any of the settings’ several factions, constantly pulled into machinations much bigger than them. The ruleset is PbtA and looks like a much more matured Dungeon World, striping out all the D&D-centric rules and focusing more on low fantasy action and political maneuvering.



I’d be interested to see what the group does with urban fantasy in Fate. Condensed means avoiding a lot of the questions that came with Atomic Robo’s advancement system, but may mean fewer specifics that players can use as tentpoles to build characters at start. So I’d also suggest bringing some “seed” ideas to session zero for people to evaluate & bounce around, not just say “hey guys what do you like”.


And here we are!

Okay, Ima talk scheduling over in that thread, and will talk settings and systems here.

  1. While I am feeling more comfortable with FATE after the Atomic Robo campaign, I’m not sure it’s really my cuppa. The system seems to either demand more of me than I’m usually comfortable with when the spotlight pins me down, or else allows another person with the spotlight to do something incredibly cool that also deflates what I was thinking of doing. This is kind of a me thing, not a commentary on the system itself (which continue to admire for its flexibility). I mean, I’m not running screaming for the doors if that’s what we go with, but my preference.

  2. I have been steeped in Urban Fantasy reading this year, apparently deciding to catch up with everything Seanan McGuire’s been doing, both her InCryptid tales and her October Daye fae noir. (I’ve read some other things, too, but those have held most of my word count). So I’m absolutely jiggy with that as a setting concept.

  3. I will do a PbtA game at the drop of a virtual hat, and Root sounds like a (forgive me) hoot.

Magpie’s Urban Shadows is probably the highest profile PBTA urban-fantasy game. I think the 2nd edition is still Kickstarting. It sounds like it emphasizes the political maneuvering typical of White Wolf’s line. It’s supposed to be pretty good.

I have the playtest material for the second edition and have played in several games as part of Magpie’s playtesting of the game. It is a good game, but I don’t know that I want to run the sort of game it is geared towards. Much like Apocalypse World the intent isn’t that the PCs are a team but more allies of convenience who are only as aligned as their agenda are.

While I don’t dislike those sort of games, they definitely require a particular mindset from everyone involved and I don’t know that I want to run a game of that sort of any length of time.

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Is there a PBTA game that captures the spirit of what you want to do, that can be reskinned for the urban fantasy genre?

Before reskinning other games, let’s look at what we already have to work with in the urban fantasy genre for PBTA. These are just the ones I am familiar with, so if anyone knows of others feel free to share.

Urban Shadows

  • Urban Shadows is a game about being an inhabitant in the City and dealing with the drama of warring factions. You are member of one of these factions, a community of similar individuals based on your history with the supernatural: Mortalis for discovered the supernatural, Power for those who wield the supernatural for their own benefit, Night for those who were pulled into the supernatural and forever changed by it, and Wild for those who were always a part of the supernatural and do not know another way to live.
  • The PCs are allies of convenience, tied together by bonds of Debt and aligned goals.
  • Advancement is done by interacting with the different factions within the city (Mortalis, Power, Night, and Wild). Whenever you have marked all four of these factions (by using a move that uses your status within that faction or involves a debt with a member of that faction) you erase all of your marks and check an advancement.
  • There is a secondary Advancement track as you give into your darker nature, embracing Corruption. Corruption comes easily if you want it, but always ends the same way: “Retire your character; they may return as Threat.”
  • Urban Shadows is inspired by crime fiction, and treats its factions (even ones with seemingly legitimate authority) as warring gangs. The game is as much based of series like the Wire and the Shield as it is stories like the Dresden Files.

City of Mist

  • City of Mist is a noir-themed game about investigating the mysteries of the Mist while also looking into your own personal mystery. Your character is separated from the rest of the world by their interaction with the Mist, pulled into the secret world that the normal people of the world cannot interact with.
  • The PCs are a group of investigators, flavored by their group playbook. They could be private detectives, defenders of a community, or some other group with a shared goal that leads them to dive into the mysteries around the City.
  • Advancement is done by exploring your character’s personal mystery (which is determined during character creation) or by you or the MC invoking your Weaknesses during a roll. Once you’ve built up three XP (called Attention) in your XP track, you erase all of it and select an advancement.
  • City of Mist is inspired by noir fiction, like the Maltese Falcon and the works of Raymond Chandler. Mysteries and the solving of them is baked into the core assumptions of the game.

Voidheart Symphony

  • Voidheart Symphony is a game about rebelling against the authoritarian system put in place by the occult and oppressive Castle. The Castle rules through its henchmen, the Vassals and Enforcers. Only by combatting these forces can you every hope to free yourselves and loved ones from the oppression of the Castle.
  • The PCs are rebels, secretly fighting against the Castle using whatever scraps of power they can manage while lying low so as not to draw the Castle’s attention. When you have identified a Vassal, it is time to delve into the Castle and assume your full power in order to directly combat them.
  • Advancement is done by two conflicting XP tracks: World and Void. As you struggle in the City, you will mark World as you help to lift others up and mark Void as you work to improve yourself and your station. World advances grant you new options and Moves, while Void advances improve your Stats and rolls.
  • Voidheart Symphony is a game of rebellion, inspired by series like Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles, the Persona games, and a tinge of the Silent Hill games, but also things like Star Wars: Rogue One.

Do any of these sound interesting to folks? Of these, I know Bill has played City of Mists when I ran it for him and Doyce, so I’ll defer to his opinion of the game.


  • Root is a game about being at the fringes of a war encompassing the entirety of the Woodland, working with the various factions and watching the consequences of your actions ripple out around you.
  • The PCs are vagabonds, outcasts from society but very capable and useful outcasts. The vagabonds are not tied to any one faction and may often act against them, standing against oppression and keeping innocents safe from their machinations.
  • Also of note, Root features the most playbooks I’ve ever seen for PbtA game with 19 playbooks ranging from the Champion and the Ronin, to the Prince and the Heretic.
  • Advancement is done by perusing your Drives. Each PC has two Drives, and at the end of each session there you accomplished one of your goals, you get an Advance. If you accomplish both goals, you get two Advances.
  • Root is obviously inspired by the board game Root (it’s a licensed game after all) but also has some Mouse Guard and Redwall in its DNA.
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Of the ones you listed Mike I think Urban Shadows is the most interesting to me, but I think all of them sound fun.
Also as Dad said in scheduling stuff, I’m moving in today and should also hopefully be getting wifi (huzzah and praise be!). Will be able to better tell how good the wifi is tomorrow but most anything would be better than what I have now.

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