Atomic Robo

[Let’s Study Atomic Robo RPG] Part 6: Wrap Up and Review

To wrap up this Let’s Study coverage of Atomic Robo, let’s talk about the last few bits that are present in the book that haven’t been discussed yet.

Among the chapters that I’ve not gone into detail yet are one focused on Tesladyne. The chapter presents Tesladyne as a character in and of itself, with a single Mode (Resources) and a number of Skills which are all detailed and explained, along with helpful information on using these skills in a game.

The March of Progress talks about long-term campaigns and player advancement, touching on Milestones and Consequences as well as the improvement of Tesladyne.

Timeline details the history of Atomic Robo, calling out various milestones that could serve as neat little opportunities to involve the players in any of the eras covered by the setting.

Finally, Character Writeups are one of the most amusing I’ve read so far, with neat insight to the various characters of the series. Fans will definitely enjoy this section and it will help translate just how the rules of Fate Core work with a given concept that they already are aware of.

Review

Atomic Robo is probably the most impressive RPG I have ever read that works with a licensed IP. It manages to hit all three most important factors in licensed RPGs: it’s fun, the rules reflect the fiction of the setting, and it manages to make me interested in the comic. Likewise fans of the comic might find themselves interested in the game.

The Fate Core rules fits Atomic Robo like a glove, and the custom mechanics for this game enrich the basic Fate Core system while highlighting the strengths of the setting. It’s relatively easy to learn, and there are enough examples to facilitate the learning process.

GMs and players alike are given freedom to make pretty much any character they want, thanks to Weird Modes, and the Brainstorm and Invention rules makes certain that Action Science is still the key theme of the game.

There’s plenty that other games can learn from checking out how Atomic Robo manages to provide a lot of freedom of choice, while adding a structure for guided fun in a game. The mechanics are elegant and each rule exists to further the theme and activities of pulpy fun.

Atomic Robo is a great game for those new to the hobby, and those looking to get into Fate Core. Old hands at Fate will find plenty to like here as well as Brainstorming and Invention Rules can work in any setting that needs it.

Definitely a must buy for any RPG gamer looking for pulpy action-adventure fun.

If you’re looking for a copy, the PDF for Atomic Robo can be found in DriveThruRPG for $11.99

[Let’s Study Atomic Robo RPG] Part 5: Running Robo

Welcome back to our Let’s Study series on Atomic Robo the Roleplaying Game. Today we’re taking a quick look at the GMing chapters. Given all the good things that I’ve read from Atomic Robo so far, I’ve got high expectations that these will be informative and useful for the GM.

I have to admit that I like the refreshing nature of the “What You Do” section of the chapter. GMing is occasionally arcane in nature, especially to those new to the hobby, so having something like this helps immensely. The book breaks it down into 4 key activities: Start and end scenes, play the world and the NPCs, judge the use of the rules and give the PCs things to do.

It’s a good breakdown of the role of a GM, and each step is given ample explanation and key advice all in a language that is friendly and refreshingly approachable. The addition of a few comic panels now and then doesn’t hurt when keeping the mood of the chapter light.

The chapter also goes over the “laws” of gamemastering, nothing new to old hands, but still good to read over. This section contains old nuggets of advice like “Never let the rules get in the way of what makes narrative sense” it’s an appeal to common sense, which is surprisingly absent in some of the more rules-oriented games, so seeing it here is something that made me smile.

At this point the book starts to get specific with how to apply the Fate Core rules from a GM’s perspective. This is invaluable to me as it delves into the why part, rather than the how of the rules. I’m not exactly a young GM, so systems like Fate seem a little arcane to me

The book is very thorough in terms of treatment, and will require a real sit-down read through by the GM to digest everything. If you’ve ever been curious about Fate, this is the best GMing chapter to address the system and how to use it in a game.

The following chapter, “Telling Stories The Atomic Robo Way” moves on from mechanics, to structure presenting the narrative scaffolding that holds an Atomic Robo game toghther. From Scenes, to issues to Drama, the chapter is a look behind the craft of storytelling from an Atomic Robo perspective. Again the book showcases the inherent understanding (and mastery) the authors have over the art of dramatic pacing and storytelling. It’s a great read to get a feel for the hows and whys of a good action-adventure serial and how to bring that feel across to your games.

Tomorrow we wrap up our Let’s Study series on Atomic Robo with a conclusion and review, as well as a few words on the other chapters that cover the timeline, Tesladyne industries and character writeups.

If you’d like to follow along, the PDF for Atomic Robo can be found in DriveThruRPG for $11.99

[Let’s Study Atomic Robo RPG] Part 4b: Doing Science! Invention

Happy Monday everyone, hope you all had a good Father’s Day. Today’s article tackles the other half of the doing science chapter, and covers a topic that is near and dear to my heart: Invention!

Given that Atomic Robo is all about Action Science, Invention is a big part of the game. Whether it’s jury rigging a makeshift jetpack of coming up with some sort of improvised lightning gun, Action Scientists are known to build the right tool for any situation.

Creating an invention in Atomic Robo happens in five steps:

Determine its function

As with all good building procedures, one must first indentify what the invention is meant to do before proceeding. This definition becomes the invention’s function aspect.

Define its capabilities

Time to transform that function into actual mechanics. This is as easy as just putting together a stunt benefit, much like in Mega-Stunts. The number of benefits the invention has makes it harder to build.

Put it together

Making a roll with the applicable Science skill, the Action Scientist attempts to assemble the said invention. Each benefit it has adds a +2 to the difficulty.

Interestingly enough, Action Scientists cannot fail to make an invention. Instead they note if the roll is a failure, a tie, a success or a success with style.

Pay for it

Paying for the construction comes from what complication or conditions need to be resolved to make the device happen. Samples of a catch include the need for Time, Materials, Help, a Laboratory, Attention or a Glitch. Each stunt in the invention has a catch, and who determines the catch depends on the outcome of the earlier roll in the previous step.

Determine its flaw

Each invention also has a flaw in addition to the catches that need to be resolved in its contruction. The GM is the one responsible for defining the flaw, which becomes the device’s flaw aspect. These range from things like “Weighs a Ton” to “Massive Power Requirements”

I have to admit that the Invention rules for Atomic Robo are by far one of the simplest and most entertaining I’ve seen. The rules reflect the intent of the activity with without losing sight of the fun factor. There’s an elegance to the mechanics, and I certainly enjoy how creating an invention is not a pass / fail issue as much as how many plot hooks it can generate upon creation.

Tomorrow we’ll start tackling how to run Atomic Robo, as well as the other chapters to support GMs looking to run this game.

If you’d like to follow along, the PDF for Atomic Robo can be found in DriveThruRPG for $11.99

[Let’s Study Atomic Robo RPG] Part 4a: Doing Science! Brainstorming

Good news, everyone! Today we’re going to be taking a look at the Brainstorming mechanics in Atomic Robo. AS implied by the game’s focus on Action Science, Brainstorming is an important aspect in any action-science yarn, and the rpg has special mechanics for implementing this activity in the game.

A Brainstorm is a series of scientific observations put together to form a hypthesis with regards to the phenomena under observation. This is rarely as boring or sedate as it sounds in Atomic Robo, as this is often accompanied by punching, or explosions.

So how does it work?

First off, it has to be triggered in-game by asking a relevant question. “What’s going on here?” “How do we stop it?” are all good for starting a brainstorm.

At this point everyone who wants to participate in the Brainstorm does so cites a reason why they’d join by compelling one of their aspects. This means that those who join get a fate point.

Next, it’s time to establish the facts. All participants roll simultaneously to create and advantage using a relevant skill against a difficulty of Good (+3). The player who succeeds with the highest result is the “winner” and gets to record a “victory” and introduce a fact.

This fact has to be related to the skill used, and relates to the situation at hand. It has to be stated as an objective fact, even if it wasn’t established beforehand. This is one of those instances when the Player characters have narrative control over an aspect of the game.

Next, the second fact has to be established, and is resolved in a similar manner, except for the difficulty, which is now the score of the previous fact’s winner. Again, a new fact arises on a successful roll.

The following step is to repeat for a third time, to come up with a total of 3 facts.

Finally, a Hypothesis is made, wherein all the players roll against each other in order to roll the highest. The winner of this roll gets to come up with a hypothesis that dictates what is going on. Again, this is a moment when the player gets to dictate the game through Narrative Control.

I find that the Brainstorm rules are quite brilliant and fits in the category of rules that further the mood and tone of a given fiction without being needlessly complicated. It’s a lovely exercise of giving narrative control to the players, but does so in a fashion that has a strong structure to guide them, and with an eye towards coming up with a fun game.

Next week we’ll pick up with the second half of the Science chapter, dealing with everyone’s favorite child of Necessity: Invention!

If you’d like to follow along, the PDF for Atomic Robo can be found in DriveThruRPG for $11.99

[Let’s Study Atomic Robo RPG] Part 3b: Weird Character Creation (For real this time!)

Today is Independence Day in the Philippines, so happy Independence Day to my fellow countrymen!

The other important thing about today is that I finally tackle Weird Character Creation. I decided to swap things around since it was important to get a handle on what Modes were, and how you can go about creating a Weird Mode to match whatever concept you might have in mind. While the book does have a great list of pre-generated Weird Modes, it at least has the necessary mechanics to let you go about building your own.

Right, so let’s get started with a new (Weird) character concept. Today we’re going to make an Octopus raised by Action Scientists who just recently acquired his PHD. So let’s name the concept: “A REAL Doctor Octopus.”

Modes in Weird Character creation is a point-buy system. All the standard Modes have their respective point costs, and I get to build my own Weird Mode.

Using the rules discussed in the previous article, I’ve come up with the following Weird Mode for “Octopus Doctor” which I’ll rate at +3

  • Contacts (“Of course I know Dr. So-and-so!”)
  • Empathy (“Doctor Octopus will made the boo-boo go away”)
  • Notice (“Does it hurt… HERE?”)
  • Rapport (Bedside Manner)
  • Will (“Don’t… die… on ME!”)

This mode costs me a total of 7 points.

I also decide to take the Science Mode +1, and the Banter Mode at +2. The REAL Doctor Octopus isn’t a fighting sort.

This gives me the following skills:

  • Octopus Doctor: Contacts, Empathy, Notice, Rapport, Will
  • Banter: Contacts, Deceive, Empathy, Provoke, Rapport, Will
  • Science: Notice, Will

After Reinforcing these skills, I’ll end up with:

  • Octopus Doctor (+3): Contacts (+4), Empathy (+4), Notice (+4), Rapport (+4), Will (+5)
  • Banter (+2): Deceive, Provoke
  • Science (+1)

It’s not a bad looking skillset, with a lot of high skill ratings. A REAL Doctor Octopus does very well at whatever an Octopus Doctor can.

Stress Boxes come up next. Sadly Doctor Octopus has no Physique or Athletics, so no boses for Physical there, but he’s got Provoke and Will so Mental Stress boxes seem to be the way to go.

Aspects come up next, and since he’s an Octopus Doctor, I think I’ll go with “Don’t worry, I’m a Doctor! An Octopus… Doctor. What?”as an Aspect.

Stunts come up next, so I’ll give The REAL Doctor Octopus a Mega-Stunt. Since he’s a real doctor (as well as being a real Octopus) I’ll give him something like:

“It’s only a flesh wound!” Spend a Fate Point to give a character an Armor rating to resist an attack as long as he is within arms reach so you can check on it.

At this point the REAL Doctor Octopus is more or less complete, with the exception of a few more aspects and stunts and a little bit more tweaking.

Tomorrow we’ll take a peek at Doing Science in Atomic Robo, which involves Brainstorms and Invention!

If you’d like to follow along, the PDF for Atomic Robo can be found in DriveThruRPG for $11.99

 

[Let’s Study Atomic Robo RPG] Part 3a: Modes and Stunts

After giving it some thought, I figure it might be a good idea to discuss Modes first before going into Weird Character creation again. It’s a slight shift in the schedule, but nothing bad. Modes are an interesting mechanic in Atomic Robo that I’d certainly like to see in more FATE games.

As discussed in yesterday’s article, Modes are like skill packages, a broad area of competence represented by a group of skills that revolve around a theme. As shown in the E-Z Character Creation yesterday, there are 4 standard modes: Action, Banter, Intrigue and Science, but there’s an option to take on more unique Modes to represent stranger concepts. These are called Weird Modes, and players of Atomic Robo may choose from a list of pre-fabricated Modes, or make new ones on their own.

Weird Modes are optional and often player defined that cover unusual concepts and special powers. The book has a few example weird modes including Robot, Dinosaur, Psychic, Mutant, Pilot, Secret Agent and Reporter. As you may have noticed, Weird Modes can also be used to represent special skillsets from a given profession.

Making Weird Modes

Let’s try to figure out making a weird mode for the purposes of this series. I’m thinking: Shaolin Monk.

The next step involves picking the Skills that apply to this Weird Mode. Each of the skills has a corresponding cost for Weird Character creation.

I figure I’ll go for the following skills for Shaolin Monk

Athletics (Shaolin Kung Fu)
Combat (Shaolin Kung fu)
Empathy (Monk-like Wisdom)
Will (Monk-like Willpower)

This selection costs me a total of 8 character points on the Mode.

It’s actually remarkably straightforward, and easy to do with minimal math involved.

Stunts and Mega-Stunts

As with any FATE Core game, Atomic Robo characters also have Stunts, little ways at which characters can bend the rules to be better than others in certain things. Stunt creation is detailed in the book, with all the variants explained and with examples offered.

This is very handy for those like me who aren’t quite so savvy at FATE just yet and need a lot of hand-holding in terms of creating Stunts.

Mega-Stunts on the other hand are super-powered versions of a stunt that require permission. You can gain a permission by getting a Weird Mode, and an appropriate concept aspect to explain it. The Mega-Stunt must therefore be an extension of the mode and aspect that granted this permission.

Mega-Stunts also come with a cost or a weakness. These should be tied again to their Mega-Stunt and how it can get you in trouble, or costs you something when implementing it.

The book then goes on to provide examples of Mega-Stunts in it’s 4 basic forms: Weapon or Armor Rating, Absolute Ability with one skill, Bulletproof or duplicate a Stunt Benefit.

Mega-Stunts can also take the form of hardware, super-tech that is fairly common in the world of Atomic Robo from jetpacks to lightning guns.

—-

Modes and Mega-Stunts are neat modifications to the FATE core rules that helps play up the feel of Atomic Robo. I’m very happy with these rules and I can definitely see the Atomic Robo rules working very well in any kind of two-fisted adventuring game.’

Tomorrow we’ll try our hand at Weird Characters, for real this time!

If you’d like to follow along, the PDF for Atomic Robo can be found in DriveThruRPG for $11.99

 

[Let’s Study Atomic Robo RPG] Part 2: The Basics and E-Z Character Creation

Up and at ’em boys and girls of Tesladyne! Today we’re taking a look at The Basics of the Atomic Robo RPG, and the E-Z Character Creation Rules.

The Basics

Being a game based on a licensed IP, Atomic Robo is more likely to attract an audience that might not be familiar with the hobby. As such it becomes important to introduce the activity properly and in a manner that is clear, inviting and exciting.

Thankfully Atomic Robo does exactly that. The Basics is nothing new to old hands of FATE, but one thing that I did like was the comic panels used to illustrate how the game works. They’re fun and work very well for the purposes of teaching, without coming off as pretentious or annoying.

That said, Atomic Robo does use a few things that differ from the normal baseline FATE Core rules. Among them are Modes and Mega-Stunts. We’ll go into those with more detail later once we hit Character Creation.

E-Z Character Creation

Atomic Robo: the Roleplaying Game has two means of creating a character. The first is called “E-Z No-Math Character Creation” and is meant to generate characters on the fly. The other is “Weird Character Creation” which handles characters that are outside of the baseline “normal” human, such as mutants, robots, cyborgs, and other things.

Modes

Each character in the Atomic Robo RPG has three Modes. Each mode has a rating, one at Good (+3), one at Fair (+2) and one at Average (+1). There are also four standard modes to choose from: Action, Banter, Intrigue and Science.

Each mode is a collection of skills, and these skills are all rated at the same rating of the mode. Skills can be reinforced if the same skill exists in more than a single mode, automatically increasing in value for each mode that has the same skill in it.

E-Z No Math Character Creation Sample: Justin Tiberius Case

Right, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s try our hand at some E-Z Character Creation.

First off, we need a Concept Aspect. Given that the basic setting assumes Action Scientists, I’ll go for “Daredevil Statistician.”

Next up, I’ll need to pick and rate three modes from the four standard modes of Action, Banter, Intrigue and Science and rate them at Good (+3), Fair (+2) and Average (+1)

Justin T. Case is a risk-taker, so he’s not adverse to some action. IN this case, I’m going for Action (+3), Banter (+2) and Science (+1).

This gives me the following skills:
Good (+3) Athletics, Combat, Notice, Physique, Provoke, Vehicles
Fair (+2) Contacts, Deceive, Empathy, Provoke, Rapport, Will
Average (+1) Notice, Will, All Science

At this point I’ll start reinforcing the skills that repeat themselves in the various modes. That bumps Notice and Provoke up to a (+4) and will up to a (+3) resulting in a final list of:

Action (+3): Athletics, Combat, Notice (+4), Physique, Provoke (+4), Vehicles
Banter (+2): Contacts, Decive, Empathy, Rapport, Will (+3)
Science (+1): All Science

After this, all that’s left is to fill out the stress boxes. Justin has a lot of the required skills for stress boxes. A +3 in Athletics gives 2 physical boxes, and the +3 in Physique gives another 2. For Mental, Justin has 2 extra boxes for Provoke +4 and another 2 for Will +3

Finally we wrap up with the details, including other Aspects, Stunts and a Name.

As expected from a Fate game, E-Z character creation works well for getting characters up and running right away. But there’s more than just the standard action scientist running around in Tesladyne, and that’s what we’ll be dealing with tomorrow as we delve into more information about Modes, Weird Modes and the Weird Character Creation.

If you’d like to follow along, the PDF for Atomic Robo can be found in DriveThruRPG for $11.99

 

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