Tell me about Spirit of the Century

Mallus

Legend
(please)

It looks like my gaming group is play some SotC over the summer. I've started reading the rules. We've started brainstorming characters (it looks like we'll all be detectives; a thawed-out caveman detective, a little girl detective, and a hyper-evolved detective who's basically a floating brain that can punch you). So far, so good. Unless, of course, we change our minds and make totally different characters.

But tell me, how does it play?
 

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Lackhand

First Post
(please)

It looks like my gaming group is play some SotC over the summer. I've started reading the rules. We've started brainstorming characters (it looks like we'll all be detectives; a thawed-out caveman detective, a little girl detective, and a hyper-evolved detective who's basically a floating brain that can punch you). So far, so good. Unless, of course, we change our minds and make totally different characters.

But tell me, how does it play?

"wonderfully" -- given what of your personality I've been able to glean from your posts, I'd be amazed if you didn't enjoy it :)

The rules-light nature can sometimes get on my nerves a little ("Whaddya mean I don't get a bonus for attacking from above without expending a resource?!"), but in a suitably pulpy game, that shouldn't matter too much ("Sorry. Mutated Renaissance Gorillas care not from whence your blow derives if it's only a couple steps up on the staircase. Now, if you wanted to maneuver onto the banister...").

On a related note, I keep fighting the trappings -- I don't want to play pulp 1920s, I want to play the campaign-world of D&D with a different ruleset! -- so I'm kind of annoyed at its lack of explicit support for the supernatural. The fireball-toting/lightningbolt-throwing/teleporting/charm-person-ing supernatural, anyway; it captures minor hedge-talents pretty well as writ.

Aspects, however, are awesome and it's now very hard for me to play any game that doesn't have them. Similarly, the bidding around them is also neat.

You may find the damage track is hard to fill, especially if everyone's a brawler and thus has nearly max ranks in Fists/Weapons/Athletics. A suggestion I've seen which seems to help is to change the damage system such that any hit that would fill in a box of stress above the character's track (whether it rolls up there or just starts there) takes the character out.
HOWEVER, a player may opt to take a consequence to decrease the stress of a blow by the size of the consequence, minor = 2 points, moderate = 4 points, severe = 6 points.

Thus, a player will probably aspect out of a hit or two, start running low on fate points so take a hit, realize that if they take another rollup will start to be a real danger, and start taking consequences.
In Fate as writ, however, they tend to take hits, realize that rollup is going to start happening, and start fate pointing out of hits, then take their 3 consequences. This is unfortunate because losing Fate Points isn't a great consequence -- consequences are! -- so discouraging this order of ablation is a Good Thing. Besides, is any one character ever going to get that beat on? Really? :lol:

I also play with only 3 stress instead of 5. :devil:

But what is it that you really want to know?
 
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Rechan

Adventurer
On a related note, I keep fighting the trappings -- I don't want to play pulp 1920s, I want to play the campaign-world of D&D with a different ruleset! -- so I'm kind of annoyed at its lack of explicit support for the supernatural. The fireball-toting/lightningbolt-throwing/teleporting/charm-person-ing supernatural, anyway; it captures minor hedge-talents pretty well as writ.
Wait for the Dresden Files RPG to come out. Same guys who wrote SotC are doing it. The title character is a Wizard, so that should fill your "Throwin' lightning and fireballs" quota.

Aspects, however, are awesome and it's now very hard for me to play any game that doesn't have them. Similarly, the bidding around them is also neat.
I definitely would like to see trying to get Aspects into other games. It's more a matter of trying to get it into my head to use them in stock d20 fantasy, and make it complicated.

Me, I've never played SotC (unfortunately), but I'd like to run it. However, I feel unfamiliar with the rules. Reading the SRD is one thing, but I'd like to see an example of a full combat, start to finish, to be able to grok how everything fits.

That, and I also just cannot come up with ideas for adventures, for some odd reason. :erm:
 

Mallus

Legend
But what is it that you really want to know?
Nothing specific, just impressions, potential issues, etc. Thanks for the reply.

I haven't gotten to the combat section yet, so some of what you wrote was lost on me. The gist of it is that tough-guy characters might be a little too hard to knock out, right? This is important, as my proposed PC will have the aspect "Tough as a Caveman".
 

Mallus

Legend
I definitely would like to see trying to get Aspects into other games.
Our last 3e game used Aspects without knowing it. For instance, one PC, Burne the Alchemist was 'Really Good at Making Bizarre Magical Items' and an 'Elitist Pyromaniac'. These impacted game events quite often, even though they weren't formally described using game mechanics.
 
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Rechan

Adventurer
Our last 3e game used Aspects without knowing it. For instance, one PC, Burne the Alchemist was 'Really Good at Making Bizarre Magical Items' and a 'Elitist Pyromaniac'. These impacted game events quite often, even though they weren't formally described using game mechanics.
Well, among other things, I really like the act of Compelling an aspect. "Here's an action point. Do something to complicate matters. Mwahaha."
 

coyote6

Adventurer
That, and I also just cannot come up with ideas for adventures, for some odd reason. :erm:

I've only played SotC at cons, but one answer some GMs have used is to have the players do it. During character creation, the players write up the blurbs about their pre-game "novel"; those inevitably include info about villains, motivation, and the like. So, snag some bits from there, and have Villain A team up with Villain B to do something that crosses Motivation C, and that'll drag in most of the PCs. Between SotC assuming all the PCs know each other, and pulp sensibilities ("Why yes, Character Who Has No Intrinsic Reason To Be Involved, you do just happen to be on the scene when mayhem erupts. What a coincidence; roll for initiative"), that should drag everyone in. Then they kind of wing it from there.
 


Lackhand

First Post
Wait for the Dresden Files RPG to come out. Same guys who wrote SotC are doing it. The title character is a Wizard, so that should fill your "Throwin' lightning and fireballs" quota.
Oh, I'm waiting. And waiting. And waiting. Also waiting for Turn Coat to come out in paperback, for that matter. ;)

I've been toying in my free time with making up my own Menace Manual for SotC -- annotated fantasy bestiary with aspects & skill layouts. The only thing that's stopped me is that, as Rechan points out, DFRPG is coming (some day!) and will provide a slightly classier chassis for what I want it to do.


Compelling and invoking for effect are incredibly awesome. Rewarding a player for allowing their character to come to harm plays out very well -- the short term penalty is (or should be) enough to discourage metagaming, but the long term payoff of a little extra FP later is a very nice encouragement.

Do not skimp on character generation if you have the time. Set aside a session, or most of a session, to build your characters together. There's a lot to be said for the interconnectedness their 5 phase system creates and the plot threads that can be left dangling.

Consider preserving a few aspects -- 2 or 3 -- to be selected in-game. I've found that I often don't need all 10 aspects (6 seems to be my magic number) and the wildest, wackiest things about most RPG characters are uncovered in play.
Especially for the first time you're playing, it can be daunting to come up with all your aspects out of nowhere, with most of my D&D-players-to-SotC-players having a lot of repetition in their aspects.
 


Lackhand

First Post
Say. Is there a bestiary anywhere for NPCs/Villains/etc in SotC? Or does the DM make them all up?
Make 'em up, far as I know. But most villains are really weenie (mooks/animal companions, which really consist of only 1 number, their quality), with a few named villains who are built as characters.

The D&D player within me rebels, despite the stylishness of not needing to look anything up :)
 

coyote6

Adventurer
Did you like it?

Yes, most assuredly. Otherwise, I wouldn't keep signing up for SotC or SotC-based con games. :)

I do like the changes to the stress/"damage" rules that were mentioned previously; otherwise, the PCs have felt rather too invulnerable for my tastes. (OTOH, that might be at least partially an artifact of group size; the con games have all had 6-8 PCs, which is pretty big considering how relatively badass SotC characters can be. Ergo, the bad guys tended to get steamrolled.)

Add me to the list of folks really looking forward to Dresden Files coming out. (Hint, hint, Fred!)
 


Alex319

First Post
Would somebody mind giving a quick explanation of how aspects work?

Basically, when you create your character you write down a whole bunch of "aspects." Aspects can be adjectives describing your character (bookworm, gadgeteer, stubborn), magic items that your character owns (magical sword, one ring of power) or important elements in your character's background (long-lost parents, grew up in thieves' guild.)

You also start out with a reserve of "fate points" which can be used to "tag" an aspect. Tagging an aspect costs a fate point and gives you a +2 bonus to a roll related to that aspect. (That's a pretty sizable bonus, given that rolls are skill + (4d3-8)). For example you could tag "gadgeteer" to get a bonus on fixing a car, "magic sword" to get a bonus to your attack roll when wielding the sword, or "grew up in thieves' guild" to get a bonus to know where to find a black market vendor.

Also the DM can "compel" an aspect by paying the player a fate point to force him to act in accordance with the aspect. For example, the DM could compel a "stubborn" aspect to force the player to stand firm in a negotiation even when compromise would help them achieve their goals easier. The player can "defy" this compulsion by refusing the fate point and instead paying the GM one. Also the DM can give the player a fate point to introduce a complication based on the player's aspect (e.g. compel a "gadgeteer" aspect to say that the character's invention goes haywire and threatens the town.)

While this has potential for a lot of unrealistic or illogical scenarios (why does my magic sword stop working just because I picked a whole bunch of locks a while back (spending all my fate points to do so)?) it also has several advantages:

1. It's simple and universal. Almost any character trait you can come up with can go into the same system, with no additional "rules engineering."

2. It's self-balancing. If a player tries to "twink out" a character by choosing only aspects that are as broadly useful as possible (outstanding luck, offspring of the gods) and using them as often as possible, all that will happen is that he runs out of fate points earlier.

3. It eliminates or at least drastically reduces the "guessing game" aspect. There's no need to worry about "wasting points" on an aspect that you won't use because if you don't use it it doesn't cost you anything. And you can't try to take a flaw that will never come up in order to get "free points," because you only get points for a flaw when it comes up in play.

4. It encourages creativity and in-depth characters. Since the main way of getting fate points is to have your aspects compelled, you have an incentive to come up with interesting aspects that will provide more ideas for the DM, so that the DM has opportunities to compel your aspects. In particular, one thing it encourages is multifaceted aspects - aspects that can be good or bad depending on the situation (for instance, "bookworm" could be useful in order to research how to counter an alien threat, but could be a liability if the character has his nose buried in a book so he doesn't see the alien creep up on him from behind...)
 

coyote6

Adventurer
Yeah, I love that the "best"/most "power gamer" aspects are ones that clearly have both positive and negative functions - that way, they're easily compelled, thus earning you more fate points, giving you more fuel to do Cool Stuff. Of course, to get those points, you have to give in to the bad stuff . . .

BTW, in case anyone's interested, the SotC rules have an SRD available online, here, so you can check out the rules for free. They also have a wiki, with variants, sample aspects, etc.

(The variant rules for stress are available on the wiki, under Faster Conflicts.)
 

Mallus

Legend
Thanks for the info, folks.

FYI, the character I'm working on is Cro-Magnum, P.I, a caveman thawed from a block of ice who is trying to clean up the City of Angels. While he doesn't drive a fancy, borrowed Italian sports car, he does have a prodigious mustache...

So far his Aspects are:

Ladies (Cave)Man
Always Gives a Sucker an Even Break
Enemy of Snakes (actually all reptiles)
So Easy a Caveman Can Do It
Square Peg Fit Round Hole! (he can fix things temporarily using brute force)
L.A. Is My Tribe Now
and BONK! (his tendency to bash people in the head and ask questions later)

Anyone feel up to describing how these might get used during play, or suggesting additional/better Aspects?
 

coyote6

Adventurer
I think I'd be tempted to incorporate the mustache somehow -- "It's The Mustache, Right?", or something like that. But that might be too silly, I dunno.

So, as to how they might be used -- Ladies (Cave)Man is pretty obvious -- if you're trying to engage a woman socially, you might tag it to get a bonus or reroll (Empathy, Rapport, Contacting -- I can never remember all of the skills in SotC; I sometimes think some of 'em overlap a bit too much for me). Conversely, the GM could compel it to have you fall for some femme, fatale or otherwise.

Always Gives a Sucker an Even Break - another easy one for the GM to compel; some person comes in with a sad story, and here's the GM offering you a fate point to go along. You could tag it maybe when you're trying to help out said sucker, or when you yourself have been suckered (so, the GM compels you via Ladies (Cave)Man, and you get in deep trouble; later, when trying to catch the grifter who conned you, you tag Always Give A Sucker... to help you even the score).

L.A. Is My Tribe Now - similar to above; some poor Angelino needs help, he's part of your tribe, right? Hello, compel. And if you'll tag it when you're trying to help a tribemate or save L.A.

Enemy of Snakes (actually all reptiles) - Clearly, whenever you're fighting snakes, snakemen, etc., you'll want to tag this for bonuses/rerolls. Conversely, you know how Indiana Jones always ran into snakes? Yeah, don't be surprised when you encounter snakes in the oddest places, and they always seem to go after you.

So Easy a Caveman Can Do It & Square Peg Fit Round Hole! - easy to tag these (the former's good for just about anything); compelling them is probably tougher, though. I might try compelling "So Easy..." to get you to act overconfidently ("of course you should KO the pilot; you can always land the plane -- it's so easy, a caveman could do it!"), or otherwise bite off more than you can chew.

I might, as GM, ask if "Square Peg" could mean you might barge in where you'll stand out, not realizing you'd be the square peg not quite fitting the round hole (so, maybe you show up at the formal ball, thinking you'll blend in, when in reality you've just alerted the villain that you're on to him). But that might be kind of weak; kind of a forced interpretation. It would fit more easily if the aspect were "Square Peg, Round Hole - No Problem", or along those lines.

BONK! - obviously, you will be BONK!ing people. However, if you've ever read any classic L.A. detective fashion, you'll know that you will also be BONK!ed over the head yourself every now and then. So, the GM might compel this to have you sapped from behind, and carried off to meet some miscreant or otherwise wake up in a precarious position.
 

Lackhand

First Post
Ladies (Cave)Man
Always Gives a Sucker an Even Break
Enemy of Snakes (actually all reptiles)
So Easy a Caveman Can Do It
Square Peg Fit Round Hole! (he can fix things temporarily using brute force)
L.A. Is My Tribe Now
and BONK! (his tendency to bash people in the head and ask questions later)

Note that I wouldn't compel BONK! with an attack from behind as a DM -- that seems unfair, since the player probably intends that they be the BONKer, and others be the BONKee -- but I might compel it in a fight with a fairly slippery foe to do some collateral damage, to have a villain frame your character for murder-by-BONK, or to have a survivor of a past misdeed come forward ("It was you who BONK!ed my boyfriend -- so now it's you who has to level things with Baby Gambino!").

I feel like Square Peg and Caveman have a lot of overlap -- which is good, since you can tag both for a +4 to the roll! -- but something I tend to try to avoid. You might consider taking something like Mastadonian Physique or similar to reflect your Cro-Manon construction; as is, you wanted to be the tough guy but don't actually have anything that makes you hard to knock out.

Still, sounds really good -- have fun, good luck, and let us know how it goes!

Edit: the mustache, PI License, and block-of-ice could both form good aspects too. ::shrug:: :)
None of them are necessary, but having connections in the Police Department could definitely be aided by something like "Private Investigator ID of my mustache" or "License to Chill" or some other terrible portmanteau of a pun.
Similarly, I often advise picking at least one "normal" person as an aspect so that you always have someone to come home to, and the DM (who is going to make you miserable anyway) has to pay you to kidnap the NPC you care about. Picking a detective as an aspect could be a useful connection, or failing that, picking an arctic explorer or something.
 
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tleilaxu

First Post
(please)

It looks like my gaming group is play some SotC over the summer. I've started reading the rules. We've started brainstorming characters (it looks like we'll all be detectives; a thawed-out caveman detective, a little girl detective, and a hyper-evolved detective who's basically a floating brain that can punch you). So far, so good. Unless, of course, we change our minds and make totally different characters.

But tell me, how does it play?

it is an excellent game, very fun. you just have to think 'pulp'. my character was Doktor Wilhelm Heinrich Otto Ernst Manfred Erwin Reinhold Weiss, Graf Von Elbing. He was a mad scientist, and looked exactly like Dr. Strangelove. He recieved inspiration from radio signals eminating from Enceladus, a moon of Saturn.
 

Silvercat Moonpaw

Adventurer
While it sounds like a lot of fun I'm waiting for the generic rules-set they said they'd come out with so I don't end up adapting pulp rules to a genre that needs something they don't give me.
 

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