It’s a tie. The folks at Evil Hat did a multi-book Kickstarter that included the Atomic Robo RPG. It was well-run, successful, got the books out on time, and kept the backers informed every step of the way. Similarly, the Transhuman Kickstarter by Posthuman Studios for the Eclipse Phase game was excellent on communication, delivered slightly ahead of time, and had been continuing to pump out their stretch goals on time.

I would also throw in a big shout out for Dr. Dante Lauretta and the people at Xtronaut Games for their superb Kickstarters for Xtronaut and the soon-to-ship Constellations board games. Lauretta is a project manager, I believe with the OSIRIS-Rex mission, and both campaigns were absolute exemplars of how to do Kickstarter. The games are also superb and I highly recommend them.

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Admittedly, this is the “partially redacted” e-book version for the Kickstart backers, so some of this may change with the final version. With that out of the way — the boys at Evil Hat and Atomic Robo writer Brian Clevinger bring us the first sourcebook for the game: Majestic 12. The book revolves around the eponymous bad guy organization from the comic (and in particular their latest volume The Ring of Fire.

M12-Front-Cover-Mock-662x1024It’s a short splatboot, only 82 pages in .pdf. It begins with “The Secret History of Secret History” and outlines the creation and developmetn of Majestic 12. The second chapter briefly outlines the other secret organizations of the Roboverse — including Project Daedalus (which specializes in Helsingard tech), the Soviet’s Department Zero, China’s Most Perfect Science Division, and Big Science, Inc. This was a section I think could have been built out a bit, but more on that later.

Chapter 3 and 4 are the meat of the book. Three deals with new Weird Modes for characters, each for the six sections of the organization, and includes new skills like Teslology — the study of Tesla science and gear. Four focuses on some new rules — creating mission briefs, and requisitioning gear — which works like Inventions, except here you are getting gear not by building it, but by navigating bureaucracies. It’s a cool conceit and works well with the Atomic Robo rules.

There’s write ups of the various Majestic characters we’ve seen in the comic, as well as a few new ones. The final chapter is a series of adventure hooks.

It looks great, using mostly Scott Wegener’s art from the comics, but includes a comic vignette of the creation of Majestic with art by David Flora. some of the art, the indexing, and other things were incomplete (hence the funny redaction, which works very well with the flavor of the organization. I can’t wait to get the physical copy in a few months.

That said…I was very disappointed that they didn’t expand rules on Factions. In the core book, there’s very basic rules for Factions to cover Tesladyne, and how you can use the company to achieve your goals. In the core book, Factions only have a singular mode: Resources. Resources then have skills: Armory, Intel, R&D, and Transport. There is no write-up for Majestic. It would have been a simple text box to include it, so I’m hoping it’s in the offing, (and this may be the case, as Majestic’s Intel skill is mentioned in a few places) but I think adding similar stat blocks for the other organizations would be a good idea for those players and GMs that don’t want to write the stuff up themselves. With the new rules for Requisitioning, it might be an excellent chance to build out faction rules. (If you want some rules regarding organizations, you could also crib from Mindjammer by Sarah Newton…)

Style: writing and artwork (minus the Flora stuff) is solidly in the mode of the comics. I’d give it a 4 out of 5, for capturing the comic well. Substance: here’s where I have to ding them a bit. The lack of faction stat blocs is a big omission, but they might be part of the unfinished artwork. If so, I would expect to rate it higher than the 3 out of 5 I’m giving it, right now. Call it a solid 3.5/5.

So is it worth it? At $20 in physical form and you’re playing the game, yes. If you’re not a fan of the comics and game, then you probably weren’t looking to buy anyway.

Evil Hat — the makers of many Fate titles — has a Kickstarter campaign going to help finance their next run of product. For each $20 bid you get one of their print books of your choice.

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At least the Majestic 12 book for Atomic Robo has been funded…now if we can just get a few thousand more, they’ll been releasing the Atomic Robo version of the system to their open license.

I finally getting around to responding to a reader’s question…

“Hey, Scott, why do you hate Fate so much?”

I don’t hate FATE, so much as I find some of the fast and loose aspects (See what I did there..?) can create a much higher level of complexity that is needed. I had the same issue with Marvel Heroic Roleplaying and Firefly from Margaret Weiss — which are essentially Fate with Cortex die schemes. The plehtora of assets, complications, etc. adding to dice pools can get a bit hard to manage. (Although it doesn’t reach the wheelbarrowful dumping of dice majesty of d6 Star Wars when a Stardestroyer opens up on you.) I also dislike the “damage” system of the rules. (I’m not a hit point guy, either.)

Speaking of dice: I hate the idea of the Fate dice, which is why the MWP stuff is a big more palatable for me. Similarly, I was okay with the positive/negative die mechanic of Chameleon Eclectic’s The Babylon Project, although I’ll admit it was also a crappy way of resolving chance. I’ve bought the Ubiquity Dice for Hollow Earth Expedition, but they aren’t needed; they simply make rolling dice pools (and Ubiquity does have a Shadowrun-esque love of dice pools) easier. You can play HEX with a bunch of coins, if you need to.

“But, Scott, you can do Fate die with a normal d6 — just assign positive, negative, and nought to the sides.” Well, there you go making sense. Away wi’ you!

The real issue isn’t Fate — they’re great pick-up game rules that can be tweaked any ol’ way you wish — it’s that I can’t seem to get a game that doesn’t have Fate trying to claw its way into the game mechanics. It’s like trying to escape OGL d20 junk in the early aughties.

“You like [enter game name]? you know you can get those rules in d20, right!?!” Scott: “Screw you, and get off my lawn!”

I’ve looked over a bunch of the new Fate and Fate-infected products that have been hitting the shelves over the next few months. There’s some really good stuff. I’ve been very complementary of Mindjammer — a game that really plays to the strengths of Fate — and Firefly — a Fate-ified Cortex product that makes good use of some of the Fate ideas, while retaining some of the flavor of old Cortex, but which, like the previous book, really shines for the writing, production values, and background material. I’m looking forward to Atomic Robo, but anticipate that’s going to get played using the MHR rules.

Addendum: This is also, apparently, the 1000th post for The Black Campbell!

Despite a dickish Twitter exchange with one of the creators, I am still a firm Atomic Robo fan and have Comixology on the iPad set to let me know every time a new comic drops. So i was very happy to hear an RPG of the comic was coming, and despite the rules being FATE, I signed the group up for playtesting. We didn’t get to do as much as I hoped, thanks to folks leaving New Mexico or finding gainful employment that prevented them from playing, but it looks like the game is finally here.

You can now preorder Atomic Robo through Evil Hat’s website. Clickenze here to do so.

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