Interesting, Albeit Pointless Stats for My Blog

I decided to take all of the search data for my blog and tally the instances of a given word.  Below are all the words that were used in a search to get to my site.  If someone comes to my site with the search term “bulldog rpg” then that would count as one instance for “bulldog” and one for “rpg”.

I have removed the prepositions and conjunctions to keep the ifs ands and ors out of the results. I also converted words ending in s to their likely singular tense.

Search Tearm Instances
rpg 191
bulldog 167
rule 67
world 64
burning 60
diaspora 58
tichu 56
wheel 55
fate 39
dungeon 38
game 32
gold 30
star 28
frontier 28
apocalypse 26
review 24
mah 23
cluster 22
jong 21
play 20
python 17
pdf 17
grail 16
monty 16
holy 14
card 14
dragon 12
open 12
point 12
speed 12
jungle 11
guard 11
license 11
creation 11
rolemaster 11
hollowpoint 11
gaming 10
mouse 10
blackbird 10

The next table collects pairs of search terms.

So if someone searches for “burning wheel gold” this would count as one instance for “burning wheel”, one for “gold wheel” and one for “burning gold”. (Note I sorted each of the search words)

Search Tearm Instances
bulldog rpg 136
burning wheel 56
burning gold 30
apocalypse world 30
gold wheel 29
dungeon world 29
frontier star 25
bulldog fate 25
diaspora rpg 24
cluster diaspora 20
jong mah 20
fate rpg 19
mah tichu 19
jong tichu 16
monty python 15
grail python 15
bulldog pdf 14
rule tichu 14
grail monty 14
grail holy 14
bulldog review 13
holy python 13
pdf rpg 13
holy monty 12
review rpg 12
cluster rpg 12
not that 11
jungle speed 11
rule speed 10
guard mouse 10

And for posterity, here is a list of search terms with at least 3 words.

Search Tearm Instances
burning gold wheel 22
bulldog fate rpg 13
jong mah tichu 12
grail monty python 11
bulldog review rpg 11
grail holy python 11
bulldog pdf rpg 11

GenCon Games on Demand – Bulldogs!

Having played Dungeon WorldLady BlackbirdHollowpoint, and the Tower of Gygax, I was a happy convention goer.  On Sunday, we went again through the exhibitors’ hall, hoping to score some good deals.  We did pick up a few boardgames for dirt cheap.

The highlight however, was Jenny saying “We should go to Games on Demand and see about playing another game.”  Almost reluctantly, I followed.  In my head, I think I was wrapping up this year’s GenCon.

We purchased two more generic tickets for the 12pm to 2pm slot.  As it turns out, the creator of Bulldogs!, Brennan Taylor, was going to run an adventure.  Immediately, my spirits perked up.  There would be one last hurrah!

Brennan ran his Jaws of the Barracado scenario.  The scenario was kicked off by with the captain accepting a package that needed to be delivered to a pirate planet…no questions asked.

I’ll skip the scenario details, as I’d rather people play the game than listen to my recounting of the plot.  Instead, I’ll focus on our tables interaction.

Excluding Brennan, we had 6 players at the table.  Two of us had read Bulldogs!, 2 of us had played a Fate game, one of us was a regular role-player, and one of us was a new role-player.  Brennan did an amazing job of providing help and insight for the newer players. He was patient, and I believe did a great job explaining the rules as they came up.

Brennan explained that each of the characters had signed three years of their life away to embark on dangerous cargo deliveries.  Clearly we were a flying hive of scum and villainy.

The table ended up choosing their characters, and I grabbed Gloop, a Tetsuashan systems expert.  The Tetsuashan are a small, slug-like race with the following racial aspects:

Begin Open Game Content

Aspects:

  • Short of Statur, Strong of Will
  • Slug-Like Form
  • Space is Home
  • Omnipresent
  • Fearless
  • Inscrutable

Stunts:

  • Slime Trail – Can walk on walls
  • Squish – Can squeeze body to extremely small size
  • Resilient – recover consequences faster; once per scene may clear away one minor consequence
  • Regenerative Power – can regrow lost limbs
  • Poisoned by Salt – salt inflicts extra stress
  • Reduced Speed – Movement costs more
End Open Game Content

Having practiced lots of Dr. Zoidberg impersonations, I opted to use a modified Zoidberg voice for Gloop.  I also decided he was somewhat petty and a real schemer.

Being the systems expert, Gloop kept the ship warm and humid, much to the chagrin of Prbrawl, a Ryjyllian pilot; The Ryjyllians come from an ice planet.

Gloop reprogrammed the medical robot to be a better meat shield than a doctor and systems expert; After all, having regenerative powers, Gloop didn’t really need a doctor.  And if Gloop wasn’t head and shoulders the best at systems, they might replace him.

The interaction with the other players was fantastic.  Prbrawl, the pilot, was played as a brown nosing second in command to the drunken captain.  This created a wonderful moments, as each of the crew worked to undermine Prbrawl’s self-appointed authority.

By far, this game was my favorite one that I played at Games on Demand. Brennan gently prodded the adventure along.  More importantly, he wisely yielded narrative control to the players our group, as we were clearly enjoying establishing our characters and the relations to other characters, and playing a day in the life of our disfunctional ship.

Character Creation Session for Family Bulldogs Adventure

On the deck with the family

On the deck making characters for Bulldogs!

This evening the kids were arguing about what game to play.  Ainsley, the youngest wanted to play Jungle Speed (with the extreme expansion).  Ellie and Jenny wanted to play Bulldogs!  Aidan, the oldest, wanted to play Dungeon World.  And Savannah wanted to play a role-playing game, but didn’t know which one.

I explained that Dungeon World is a rules easier version of Dungeons and Dragons (4E).  I then told her that Bulldogs! is kind of like Futurama and Planet Express; Your job is hazardous and your life is likely to end in the maw of a giant space hornet.

While Jenny and Ellie were at violin lessons, Aidan, Savannah, Ainsley and I played a quick game of Jungle Speed.  Once they were back, we made personal pizzas as a family.  We ate a hasty meal and quickly did the dishes to get on to the game playing.

Barely Controlled Chaos

Have you ever tried to help 5 people make characters at the same time?  How many of them were children?  Amazingly enough, things went pretty well.

First and foremost, I walked through all the races with each person, quickly describing them based on their defining aspects.  Aidan, Ainsley, and Jenny decided to play existing species.  Savannah and Ellie opted to create their own.

Thankfully, we didn’t have to define their species up front and moved on to aspects. We worked our way through each of their character aspects.  Ainsley, Aidan and Jenny chose from their species list, whereas Ellie and Savannah were making their race up as they went.

Creating aspects went amazingly well.  The kids would say what they were thinking, and I’d help edit their stream of consciousness into a solid aspect.  We ended up spending about 45 minutes on aspects.  In doing so, Savannah’s bartering cat-like Cathions and Ellie’s taloned avion hunters, the Deathwoles were fleshed out. (By this time Ainsley’s enthusiasm had waned and she was doodling.)

Kudos again to Brennan Taylor for creating a robust alien species system in which you can flesh out your unique alien species by adding FATE aspects to them and a handful of stunts.

With the aspects done, we moved to Skills, and wrapped those up in 20 minutes; I simply read through the list and they went through and chose the interesting skills.

Savannah is the pilot, Ellie the deck-hand, Aidan the systems and gunner, and Jenny the ship’s captain.  We’ll fit Ainsley in at a later point.

With the sun setting, we went back inside and wrapped up the character’s stunts; They still need their equipment, but they are dirt poor, so that won’t take long.

Observations

I love creating FATE characters, and Bulldogs! is no exception.  Aspects are such a wonderful means of mechanically describing your character.

The lack of tightly coupled relationship between species and the aspects, skills, stunts, and equipment, meant that we could keep rolling with character creation even though Savannah and Ellie didn’t have a fully defined race.  They could fill in their species aspects along with everyone else, but could hold off on stunts until later.

The rules of Bulldogs! is wonderfully well written.  There are a multitude of suggested Aspects for all the various game elements: Planets, Species, Crew, Captain, Former Associates, etc.  This plethora of examples creates an extremely rich well to draw inspiration from.

I guess it is time to think of what the crew needs to deliver next.

On the deck making characters for Bulldogs!  Blankets are an important component.

On the deck making characters for Bulldogs! Blankets are an important component.

Converting Star Frontier’s Vrusk into Bulldogs!

The Vrusk

A cosmopolitan, business-minded, intuitive insect-like species, the Vrusk are practical and organized.  Read more about them in the Vrusk’ Star Frontiers Wiki entry.

Game History

The Vrusk originally appeared in TSR’s Star Frontiers RPG.  Steve Bartell’s “Alternate Frontiers” article in Dragon Magazine Annual 1998, ported the Vrusk into TSR’s Alternity RPG.  And Wizard of the Coast’s D20 Future RPG supplement ported the Vrusk to the D20 system.

Bulldogs! Conversion

Begin Open Game Content

Typical Aspects

Cosmopolitan

Invoke: you are at ease amongst other cultures. Though I’ve never had Wumpus intestine before, it is truly a complex and intriguing taste.

Compel: you can easily assume that other cultures are as open minded as you. I assure you I did not mean to insult the almighty Grand Tilixil by questioning his omniscience.

Industrious

Invoke: you are a hard worker. If we push through this, we’ll get it done ahead of time.

Compel: you just won’t let a project or task slide. That paperwork is due by 5pm, and you just can’t step away for a moment.

The Company is my Life

Invoke: You can bring corporate resources to bear when acting in its interest. I know I’m not authorized, but let me talk with my supervisor at PanGalCorp, I’m sure he can straighten things out.
Compel: Your first priority is to your company. “Yes sir, I will gladly get your suit dry cleaned.”

Seek Harmony in Beauty

Invoke: you are keenly aware of the ugliness of conflict. Hey guys, I know you’re upset but can I buy you a drink?
Compel: you may become too obsessed with art. That painting’s tone and lines are fascinating, I must have it.

Eight Chitinous Legs

Invoke: steady, impossible to knockdown or trip. I never understood the phrase “Don’t rock the boat”

Compel: You can’t possible fit in some places. Damn, this cockpit wasn’t made for me.

Special Abilities [-4]

Armored Carapace [-1]

Your body is protected by a thick insectoid carapace that protects you from bruises, cuts, and scratches. You have an automatic Armor: 1 against all hand-to-hand attacks.

Comprehension [-1]

You can size people up in a glance. Normally, using Empathy to get a read on someone requires at least a few minutes of conversation, if not more. You only need a few moments.

Extra Speed [-2]

Your quick reflexes and 8 legs help you move faster than most others. When moving as part of another activity, you may move one additional zone without taking the –1 penalty for a supplemental action. You also gain an additional +2 to Alertness for the purposes of determining initiative.

End Open Game Content

Bulldogs! Pre-Release Review

I was a participant in Brennan Taylor‘s Kickstart Campaign for the Bulldogs! RPG.  As I wrote about earlier, I received my pre-release PDF copy of Bulldogs! RPG.  Whereas that post was about my initial impressions, this post is a more in-depth review

Table of Contents

The table of contents is on a single page, providing a list of the 14 chapters and their related subsections.

  1. Introduction
  2. The Galaxy
  3. FATE Basics
  4. Alien Species
  5. Crew Creation
  6. Aspects
  7. Doing Things
  8. Advancement
  9. Skills
  10. Stunts
  11. Gear
  12. Ships
  13. Running the Game

The Wheat

Aspects Everywhere – As is expected, Aspects are everywhere: Corporations, Systems, Ships, Weapons, Scenes, Campaigns, Adventures, etc.  Entities (i.e. aliens, corporations, systems, etc.) in Bulldogs! have a two or three paragraph description followed by three (or so) aspects and possible invokes and compels. Below are the aspects of the Frontier Zone, an area positioned between two rival super powers.

Begin Open Game Content

The Frontier Zone Aspects

Patchwork of Jurisdictions

Invoke: evading pursuit, “We just left Korrell Consortium space.”

Compel: issues with proper legal authorization, “Well, that writ was good two systems over. It’s nothing but words on the screen over here.”

“On this planet, I am the law.”

Invoke: you’re in tight with the locals, “Well, my buddy’s the administrator of this station, so you might want to rethink that.”

Compel: local hopped-up bosses can mess with you, “I don’t give a damn who you work for. Write an appeal to the AFFS if you want.”

Your Rep is all You’ve Got out here

Invoke: your rep is good (or scary), “I heard you were a fair dealer. Let’s talk.”

Compel: you’ve left a trail of infamy, “Aren’t you the guy who shot up the bar on Galvatorix V? My brother lost an eye in that gunfight.”

End Open Game Content

Resources – I really like how Bulldogs makes reference to loans.  The idea that you are going to slowly payback something that is beyond your financial means is very interesting.  It is well established that scruffy looking space scoundrels naturally owe gangsters money.

Minions – There are rules for quickly defining minions, and how a group of minions can work together.  The rules are rather elegant, defining a single as Average (+1), Fair (+2), or Good (+3).  This reflects their prowess in combat as well as the amount of stress they can take.  There are then rules for having minions act together so they can receive additional bonuses.  A nice rule for generating a meaningful battle between a group of stormtroopers and a couple of heroes.

Alien Creation – Aliens are comprised of stereotypical aspects and stunts.  You needn’t select the stereotypical aspects for your character, but they do provide a mechanical backdrop for playing a character of that species.  The stunts further define the uniqueness of your character’s species.  Below is the mechanical write-up of the Saldrallans.  The suggested aspects and stunts show us what a Saldrallan is all about.

Begin Open Game Content

Typical Saldrallan Aspects

Exothermic

Invoke: you can lie very still and quiet when resting, “Holy crap! I didn’t see that Saldrallan there!”

Compel: you’re sluggish in cold weather, “It must be 10 degrees in here. I think I’ll take a nap.”

Lidless Gaze

Invoke: this can really freak people out, “OK, I’ll tell you! Just stop staring at me.”

Compel: you seem weird and scary, “I don’t want to talk to you. Just go away.”

Ruthless

Invoke: no one can tug your heartstrings, “Damn. I can’t believe you shot him down like that.”

Compel: you’ll cut even friends loose if you need to, “Sorry, there’s no time to wait for you.”

Eefficiency, Expansion, Power

Invoke: you’re relentless in pursuit of what you want, “This is what it takes to succeed.”

Compel: your desire for success can strain your friends, “Again? I’m getting tired of doing all this work.”

Tolerant

Invoke: you can get along with anyone, “I don’t mind his peculiar habits. He has an excellent eye for investigation.”

Compel: you may miss problems that actually demand attention, “Hmm. His gambling wasn’t an issue before.”

Flexible Morality

Invoke: doing bad things just doesn’t bother you, “This may be illegal, but the net gain is quite high.”

Compel: you don’t understand why it’s bad, “I am confused. You didn’t want to sell your vintage discs? The profit was exceptional.”

Saldrallan Species Abilities [–2]

Heat Sense [–1]

Saldrallans have heat organs underneath their eyes that allow them to see in the thermal spectrum. Any scene aspect that restricts vision or other senses must directly block this additional sense, otherwise the Saldrallan can ignore the aspect.

Poison Bite [–2]

Saldrallans possess long fangs that can inject poi- son into an opponent. Once per fight, in addition to any normal damage, a Saldrallan may place an immediate consequence on an opponent (Poisoned, Spreading Weakness, etc.) if Fists is used for the attack. Only the lowest available consequence is used, and you must successfully strike your opponent to use this ability.

Cold Blooded [+1]

Saldrallans require external heat or cooling sources to regulate their body temperature. The GM can compel this attribute as if it were an aspect once per session. If the player wishes to avoid this compel, she must spend two fate points to refuse. Check out the Aspects chapter for more on compels (page 55).

End Open Game Content

The Chaff

Guessing Aspects – Standard fare for most Fate games, I prefer aspects to be known but not free-taggable.  The idea of guessing that the encounter has the aspect “Shadow-filled” seems a bit odd.  Perhaps in play this works a bit better.

Pushing Beyond the Limits – I feel that Diaspora pushed the envelope of the Fate system, whereas Bulldogs! settled within the boundaries of what was already established.  Then again, if it ain’t broke…don’t fix it.

Conclusion

Bulldogs! is a very engaging system that builds on the solid foundation of Spirit of the Century and other Fate 3 games.  The tone of the game is all about playing a scruffy looking band of scoundrels flying around the galaxy in their hunk of junk.  I’m eagerly awaiting my print copy so I can proudly add it to my game shelf.

Good News Everyone…Bulldogs! RPG is Here!

Full disclaimer: I have not read Bulldogs! in it’s entirety.  The book, however, renders gloriously on my Android tablet.

Update: My pre-gameplay review.

Yesterday saw the arrival of the Bulldogs! RPG (in pre-release PDF form), a Kickstarter Project, by Brennan Taylor of Galileo Games.  Bulldogs! was originally published as a d20 system game, but has been refreshed and re-imagined as a Fate game.

Take a look at Brennan Taylor’s blog post concerning developing Bulldogs! for Fate.  Creating balanced characters in the d20 system can be a tremendous choir, whereas Fate opens you up to defining your alien races via aspects and possibly a handful of stunts.  Certainly there are balance concerns with the stunts, but it just isn’t as regimented.

But What of Diaspora?

Don’t worry, I’m not dissatisfied with Diaspora, another Fate-based sci-fi RPG.  Quite the contrary, I love it, and eagerly look forward to our next session.

Where Diaspora is billed as hard science fiction, Bulldogs! is…

…sci-fi that kicks ass! Bulldogs! is a high action space adventure. Bulldogs! is about freebooting ruffians flying from planet to planet causing trouble. Bulldogs! is about far future technology—sci-fi movie technology that probably wouldn’t work given what we know about the universe today, but who cares? Bulldogs! is about blasters and faster-than-light travel. Bulldogs! is about hopping from planet to planet and running into a vast variety of weird aliens. Bulldogs! is about being shot at and pissing off powerful locals and fleeing just in time. Bulldogs! is about starship dogfights and ambushes by space pirates in rarely traveled star lanes.

Diaspora is a setting-agnostic toolkit RPG; Whereas Bulldogs! loudly and proudly lays out the setting  and tone.  The various organizations, races, etc are defined both with a bit of narrative fiction and with Fate Aspects.  The Aspects also include suggestions on how to Invoke or Compel them.  Unlike Diaspora, Bulldogs! rules closely adheres to Spirit of the Century and The Dresden Files RPG.

Diaspora models varying technology levels.  Bulldogs! has an assumed technology level that is available to the player characters.  Powerful things are modeled by wealth cost.  Personally I like the Diaspora model of civilian weapons vs. military equipment and the required stunt to use military equipment.

But What of Bulldogs?

Bulldogs! setting is also chock-full of aliens, each with a full color illustration.  The book includes 10 alien species and strongly encourages making others.  Thankfully, Fate makes this tremendously easy.  After all who doesn’t want to make a Vrusk?

The artwork is full-color and fantastic, invoking memories of my Star Frontiers: Alpha Dawn days.  The world at large may be civilized, but your role as a space explorer/delivery boy is anything but civilized.

One element of Bulldogs! that I like is the better defined aspects for the spaceships.  Whereas Diaspora’s ships have 5 general aspects, Bulldogs! has you define 3 aspects: it’s high concept, it’s trouble, and it’s strength.  These constraints provide focus for the ship, and I believe provide greater clarity.

And lest I not forget, the stunts of Bulldogs! are exceptional.  Diaspora keeps the stunts very limited in scope, but in some ways it feels like a bit too much is left for the reader’s imagination.  Bulldogs! provides a healthy dose of example stunts, and they continue to build on the game’s setting.

In the days to come, I will most certainly be mining Bulldogs! for ideas and inspiration, and right now I’m waxing nostalgic. Kudos to Brennan Taylor and crew.  I love your work, and am proud to be a supporter of such a finely crafted creation.