With Great Power by Michael S. Miller is a superhero roleplaying game that emulates the melodramatic, four-colour style of the Silver Age of comics. It’s uncannily attuned to the tropes of that era, and what’s more it’s fantastic fun to play.
I wanted to play a staunch defender of the people, a larger-than-life, powerful, positive character and boy did I ever get that in the Glowing Guardian! With his allies, Little Young’un and the Armoured Arcanist, he defends New York City (because of course New York City) from the plots of supervillains like Zoltrak the Cursed and the Incandescent Inquisitor!
So how does the game itself encourage such incredible stories?
One week ago, Ryan Macklin launched the Furious Game Jam on his blog. The idea is to hack an existing tabletop roleplaying game to be like the Fast & Furious franchise.
I wasn’t planning to participate. I’d never seen any of the Fast & Furious movies. Michael Duxbury got excited about it since a mutual friend of ours had suggested (ages ago) a cool, feminist Fast & Furious hack of Psi*Run. (Said hack can be found here (link updated 19/02/2016)) Michael pitched two games… then he went and wrote a third completely different game. (Check it out here.)
Basically, I’m stealing the only one of Michael’s unused ideas that is based on a game that I have actually played: Swords Without Master.
Swords Without Master is a game by Epidiah Ravachol designed to emulate the classic sword-and-sorcery, weird fiction, pulp adventure tales typified by Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Cimmerian stories. I’ve mentioned the game before (in my post on using pictures as aspects in Fate), but I’ve finally played it properly and now I want to talk about it.
Overall, I like Swords Without Master. I think it’s a great game and it excellently captures the feel of the genre it’s trying to emulate. I would happily play it again as either a Rogue or Overplayer.
I had more mixed feelings about my first experience of the game. That’s not a big problem. Mixed feelings are entirely appropriate for Swords Without Master, which is all about tone (usually jovial and glum) and how different tones intersect in cool ways.
In this post, I’m going to talk about some of my first impressions. And because I’m fairly certain that most (if not all) of the issues I had with it can be resolved with more experience, I’ll talk about some things I’d do differently if playing again. Hopefully it will help other players that are thinking of trying the game have a more unambiguously jovial first session.
The Fate Core rulebook defines an aspect as “a phrase that describes something unique or noteworthy about whatever it’s attached to”.
But in many cases pictures could be used instead of phrases, and they would work as aspects just as well.
I am not the first person (by a long shot) to suggest using images as aspects in Fate. Ryan Macklin talked about using the cover image from Shadowrun as a game aspect back in 2011, and last year he revisited the idea when talking about using Dixit cards as session aspects. In both cases, he was primarily talking about inspiration and tone, something that pictures can often do much better than words.
Based on this, I was going to do a post on all sorts of different ways you might use pictures as aspects in Fate, only to find earlier this year that someone had already done it. Tangent Artists Tabletop has done an amazing blog post on image aspects, covering some ways they might be used even during play (that is, drawn right there at the table, e.g. in marker on a laminated sheet) and when it might be particularly appropriate. They even included some neat hacks, all of which seem to have been playtested.
So I’m not going to do the blog post I originally planned. Instead, I’m going to talk about something that wasn’t covered in these blog posts: pictures as character aspects.