The second installment of our Atomic Robo game went well last night. In it, we jumped from the modern day (see the last play report a bit down the page) to Philadelphia, 1943. This first of several WWII “issues” was titled “The Philadelphia Experiment” — in which the Strategic Science Division and Office of Naval Intelligence tried to cloak a destroyer, USS Eldridge, with some Teslatech they got from the inventor’s destroyed labs (this was established in the comics…) They have no idea how it works, and the players tried to do some brainstorming to figure it out.

One of the players has a “Gearhead” weird mode we made up (see Finch from the She Devils) — a WAVES aviation machinist’s mate that just has a knack of gizmos. She realizes it pulls its power from the Earth’s magnetic field, somehow. During the test, the ship is cloaked or gone for ten minutes, but for the crew — one of the PCs was aboard — it’s a harrowing few seconds of bulkheads dematerializing, strange electric effects, and other weirdness. A later brainstorming session they decide that it might have created some kind of Einstein-Rosen bridge.

Note: the brainstorming sessions are less fun than I suspect they would be for a bigger group — we have two players and a GM, right now, and that cuts down on the back and forth banter I think these sessions are supposed to generate. Still a great set of mechanics, though.

The science is interrupted by imposter FBI agents collecting the plans to take them to the vault on the Philadelphia Naval Yards. A foot chase ensured that led to a throw down with local mobster mooks. While the PC naval officer was fighting and interrogating one of the suspects, the WAVE and an NPC member of the SSD chase down a shore police jeep with the other bad guy on a messenger’s Harley-Davidson. The officer learns the mooks have been hired by a dame — English — and they are taking them to the rendezvous by boat and grabs the a nearby Chrysler Airflow and tried to catch up in the chase.

It’s taking some getting used to throwing aspects on zones and scenes — I’m used to doing that on the fly and narratively — but we’ll get there, I think. The chase wound up on the wharf, where the baddies were transferring to a launch. The Chrysler wrecks into the jeep and takes out a mook, and the harley hits the Chrysler and the whole shee-bang winds up in the Delaware. Now with the bad guys having a big lead, they give chase in another launch that wound up with a wreck and gun fight in the marshes south of the yards.

The bad guys got away — the players got fate points for conceding so we could continue the story — but they find out the English dame is possibly Eurasian and was holed up in a boarding hotel on Carpenter Street that the naval officer knows. Turns out, he’d had a drunken night a few weeks back with the girl and knows what she looks like. He has to talk his way out of being a suspect in the whole issue and vows to catch her, convincing the SSD leader to take him on the mission to stop her.

They track her on a TWA transcontinental flight to San Francisco and give chase, requisitioning a B-25 that was headed to Crissy Field. That was the end of Issue 2. Next week, issue 3: The Face of the Enemy.

The general consensus is that this version of Fate runs very smoothly and quickly. The mechanics are simpler, in some ways than the gigantic list of aspects you have in normal Fate (5 compared to 10.) I’ve noticed we’re plowing through adventures in about a 2.5 hour session, rather than the usual two 3 hour sessions of something like Battlestar Galactica. Partly, that the pulp genre nature of clipping along on a story rather than wallowing in character development, partly the mechanics lend to a faster play (we think.) I’m still not a huge fan of the +/nought/- dice mechanic, but it’s not awful. I rather think the Cortex Plus d4-d12 is a bit more fun, if only because it entertains the classic fun of rolling polyhedral dice.

I’m not won over from classic Cortex for some of the campaigns I’ve got in mind for the future, but this version of Fate and the pulp universe of Atomic Robo lends itself well to doing some of the niche campaigns (a ’40s spy game, a ’70s blaxploitation/James Bond-style action game) and allows me to connect these disperate ideas I’ve had in a single campaign and system of rules.

So far, so good.

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