23 February 2013

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Thread Item 03 - Ebony

This is the third Anatomy of a Thread Item in an ongoing series about Earthdawn. Introduction and Index.

If you happen to be a player in one of those games, please do not read this series. There will be spoilers and some of this information is subject to change.

Pretty much all of the Thread Items that I introduce into a game are designed for specific characters, even if it is a collection of mechanically identical bands - without any suggestion on my part, everyone is drawn to one in particular. This tactic may rub some players the wrong way, preferring to have more general gear for whoever wants it, rather than something bespoke for a particular character. That is their prerogative, but they won't really have fun in the game as a whole in the long run.

This particular Thread Item is no different. Unfortunately, the player of the character it was created for traveled from out-of-town and life happened in a big way. It was part of a set that would tie his obsidiman, who was the last of his brotherhood, to another Liferock on his path to redemption. The Group never got this Thread Item, but did pick up the other half. However, the character that item was designed for wasn't working out like his player had hoped, so he left as well. Meaning that the entire arc these two Thread Items were created around up and wandered away. Freakin' obsidimen and their flighty ways.

So, I am left with two Thread Items without a strong plot to connect them to the game anymore, but I am seeding some elements to hopefully bring things back around (this means Key Knowledges are in flux). This particular piece may never be used by the players. Mechanically and thematically, it is not a strong fit for anyone on the current roster. The character it was designed for was a Horror Stalker that used a sword and shield. While shields are good, they are not sexy or interesting. They are generally considered particularly uninteresting to Weave Threads to, unless they are crazy good (Orichalcum Shield, for example).

Mechanically, my goal here was to create a shield that was interesting and exciting and played off that character's strengths. Like, his massive strength. I always like to give more than just some bonuses with Thread Items, but something interesting to do that goes along with the natural inclinations of the character. I wanted a shield that did more than just pure defense, but the classic "reflection" bit is uninteresting to me. So I went with a big, freaking gauntlet that acts a lot like a shield. Because it is awesome.

A crystal raider shield was used as the initial template (with it spelled out while it can pick something up, that's about the extent of your manual dexterity for that hand). The ability I had planned was going to be on the powerful side and I wanted to bring it into play sooner, rather than later, so I made it Warden tier. In all, this means that the bonuses start to get pretty big. Some of the bonuses may seem strange (Avoid Blow instead of the more appropriate seeming Parry), but that is due to my House Rules; there is no Parry, so Avoid Blow can be a dodge, parry, or batting something out of the way with your massive metal thing.

There are two benefits provided: increased protection (through additional armor and deflection bonuses primarily) and Crushing Grip. The single Rank of Avoid Blow is to ensure that you can actually use the damn thing - I didn't want to hand out Riposte or Disarm because they are somewhat signature abilities to the Swordmaster, and Avoid Blow is common enough that it would provide more benefit across the board. Crushing Grip itself is offensive or defensive, depending on the foe, and most effective in general against a single, larger target. The latter part was important because of how it played into that character's tactics - as a Horror Stalker, he was all about taking on a single enemy and waiting for openings.

The original backstory to this Thread Item, and it's companion, was one of finding companionship and belonging where you may not be expecting it. About finding yourself through adversity and when you thought you had nothing left to live for. This gauntlet is for the eternal protector, grimly refusing to back down no matter the odds - because they have something to defend.


Ebony
Maximum Threads: 1
Spell Defense: 16
Legend Point Cost: Warden

The gauntlet is a massive affair of black steel and living crystal. Constructed of heavy plates with spikes and crushing surfaces, it is simply too massive and immobile to wear and use until a thread is woven to it. The fingers maintain enough dexterity for basic functionality, but any form of fine manipulation is beyond them.

Thread Rank One
Key Knowledge: The wielder must learn the gauntlet’s Name.
Effect: The wearer gains +5 to Physical Armor and Mystic Armor, a +3/+3 Deflection bonus and a -2 Initiative penalty. This gauntlet may not carry a shield or weapon and use them functionally. If used as a weapon it’s Damage Step is 3.

Thread Rank Two
Effect: The wearer gains a +1 rank bonus to the Avoid Blow talent.

Thread Rank Three
Key Knowledge: The wielder must learn the Name of the gauntlet's first wearer.
Effect: 
The wearer gains the Crushing Grip ability. For 2 Strain, after a Good Result on a Avoid Blow, Disarm, or Riposte Test against a close combat attack, this ability allows the wearer to make a Strength Test against the weapon’s Damage Step (this is not considered a Strength-only Test). If successful the Damage Step is reduced by 1. If a weapon’s Damage Step is reduced to 0, it is destroyed. This ability may be used a number of times per round equal to the Thread Rank. Weapons can be repaired as usual, Thread and Pattern Items repairing themselves. Forged weapons will lose the benefits of the forging first and require re-forging.

If used against a natural weapon, the wearer must achieve an Excellent Result on their Avoid Blow or Riposte Test. The wearer the makes the Strength Test against the attacker's Toughness Step and causes a Wound on a success instead of reducing the Damage Step.


Thread Rank Four
Effect: The wearer gains a bonus to Crushing Grip equal to the Thread Rank.

Thread Rank Five
Key Knowledge: The wielder must learn the original home of the first wearer and its fate.
Effect: The wearer gains +6 to Physical and Mystic Armor.

Thread Rank Six
Effect: The wearer gains a +4/+4 Deflection bonus.

Thread Rank Seven
Key Knowledge: The wearer must learn the fate of the first wearer.
Deed: The wearer must be Blood Sworn to the wearer of Ivory.

Effect: The wearer may now spend a Karma Point on the Strength Test for Crushing Grip. Additionally, when using Crushing Grip the Damage Step is reduced by 1 for each Result Level achieved (starting at Average). This has no additional effect on natural weapons.

Thread Rank Eight
Effect: The wearer gains +7 to Physical and Mystic armor. Additionally, the wearer gains a +5/+5 deflection bonus.

19 February 2013

The Tulip Academy's Society for Dangerous Gentlemen

The Tulip Academy's Society for Dangerous Gentlemen (hereafter referred to as "Tulip Academy") is a cooperative story game. It easily has one of the best pitches, where each player portrays a child from one of the most powerful families in the world attending the most prestigious school in the world, the eponymous Tulip Academy. From this elite student body, the very best are selected to join a ancient and secret organization, the Society for Dangerous Gentlemen.


Students within the Society have effectively limitless resources to pursue whatever goals they desire. Right up until they graduate and must rejoin their family. Once home, they will be adults and expected to carry on the family traditions. The Society is their chance to exercise their power and make connections. Whether they decide to travel through time fighting back an impending alien invasion, put on the most epic concert of all time, or change the fortunes of one very lucky girl, it is entirely their choice.

The book itself is extremely slender (24 unnumbered pages), but full color and with evocative art. The text itself is endearing and very easy to follow. Given the high production quality, I can forgive the high price tag ($16) for such a slim book.

Character creation is simple and cooperative. It involves answering some questions about your Gentleman (e.g. How were you able to attend the Academy, what is your drive, what do you look like, etc.) and defining your strength and weakness. The other players will work together and offer you options for each that you get to select from. I am always a fan of collaboration in character creation, so this appealed to me a great deal. It also neatly avoids two of the common pitfalls associate with group input on character creation - thoughts from the group being cast aside, or being forced on you - by offering that choice. Finally, each character randomly determines an NPC who is either their unrequited love or rival. Though, how either of those can remain static before a Dangerous Gentleman is anyone's guess!

Again, the pitch for Tulip Academy is amazing and there are endless plot ideas. Gameplay doesn't have a traditional GM, instead each player takes a turn narrating one scene. The player in charge of the scene runs all of the NPCs for that scene, while the other players may choose to include their character in the scene, or take on the role of an NPC. At the end of each scene, the host will decide if the Gentlemen were victorious or not, note as such, and pass it to the King. Whoever is running the first scene will also portray the "King", an a senior student NPC that leads the Society. The King will introduce the scenario and close it out at the end, the After Party, where the votes are tallied and it is determined if the Gentlemen won the day or not.

All of the generalities for the session are determined through draws from a standard deck of playing cards, which will also be used for conflicts (more on those in a bit). The initial premise is determined through a card draw and can range from mysteries, competition, and revenge, to giant robots and zombie attacks. The host of each scene draws a card for the location and then two more cards for the NPCs.

The random theme is interesting and gives all of the players an objective place to start and begin to discuss where things can go, what they would like to see, really what they are going to be doing that session. This impression I got from play is that you can easily play a few of these scenarios in the span of a more traditional game, which may have some appeal.

A big downside to the scene structure as written is that you can end up with combinations that are awkward and require a talent for thinking on your feet - this is a group of people trying to host individual scenes that fit into a cohesive story, and that doesn't always work well. An unexpected problem that also came up for us was the exact same cast of NPCs for a subsequent scene, just in a different location. It gave an interesting continuity to events (clearly they went to detention for something that happened off-screen), but there wasn't anything new or interesting to play with the same characters. Given the limited number of scenes, this was something of a waste.


Certainly it is easy to call a mulligan on any of this and redraw the scene, or cards until it fits, but then why is anyone bothering with the random location/NPC mechanic in the first place?

There are only three kinds of conflicts in Tulip Academy: Art, Fencing and Science. Each is a unique mini-game played with the deck of cards. This is also where your strength and weakness come into play. If you invoke your strength, and everyone agrees that it applies, you gain some significant benefit to the mini-game (typically meaning that you are going to win), but you can only use your strength once a game. If your opponent uses your weakness, you win, but they get to narrate how your weakness robs the victory of glory.

When reading these, it sounded like a lot of fun, describing your actions during the mini-game exchanges. In play the mini-games were so separate from the actual game we were playing, that narration quickly fell by the wayside (or became ridiculously violent in the case of every incredibly one-sided fencing contest). Role-play and the scene disappeared and there was only a little card game with the occasional, half-hearted description. An even greater sin was that the mini-games weren't even fun. For example, the fencing conflict is just War with a small deck of cards.

In each case the strength gave an overwhelming advantage, which is fine, but it makes playing out the actual conflict uninteresting. Even the weakness was difficult to work into play - it isn't easy for everyone to describe that particular scenario well, and the victor is still the victor. This can create some difficult math for the host to determine success for the scene or not - does a weakness automatically cause a loss, even though they still won? It's not necessarily easy to determine, particularly keeping in mind that each host is also a player and they want to win in the end.


Even the After Party was somewhat fraught with narrative peril. It's more of a summary of victory, rather than a true ending. It can include some description of events that happened off-screen to support the ending, but there won't be much role-play to support that, or really a chance to revel in the victory. It feels artificial and forced (likely because it is). There is always the significant chance that we were simply doing it all wrong, or that this game simply is not for me, despite really wanting to like it.

While this game is likely not for me, I'm still willing to give it another play or two, just to try some different approaches. It still has a premise that I adore, and I still want to like it. My issues may not apply to everyone. If a semi-structured cooperative story game that requires a lot of on-the-spot thinking appeals to you, particularly with some different little card games involved, this may just be the game for you. Similarly, if you have played Tulip Academy, leave a comment and let me know what you thought and if I missed anything while playing.

16 February 2013

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Discipline 16 - Woodsman

This is the sixteenth Anatomy of a Discipline in an ongoing series about Earthdawn. Introduction and Index.

Here is the Earthdawn Fourth Edition version of this discipline.

Overview

The adepts of this elf-only Discipline call the forest communities of their people home. Before the Scourge, they were often dispatched from Wyrm Wood to protect the elf homes of Barsaive when it was lush and verdant. Now, they are the guardians of the elves, both in form and culture.

While most Woodsmen don't leave their homes, seeing the best way to fulfill their duties as guardians by remaining in the forests, this is not true for all. Some see the best way to protect their legacy is by venturing into the world and spreading elf culture to those of their own race and others who may benefit from their wisdom, much learned from difficult mistakes of the past.

Followers of this Discipline are fearsome combatants, both patient and practical. They are also typically what many players are looking for in a fantasy archer (as opposed to the Archer or Scout Disciplines). They are heavily geared towards their themes of forest guardians, best suited for that terrain and engaging in combat on their own terms. With a remarkable durability, they can engage in a long-running battle of attrition against most foes, taking advantage of their Talents and ranged combat.

On the whole, a Woodsman tends to be slower to act, preferring to gather all applicable information before committing to any action. This does not make them passive, by any means; it is simply in their nature to be wary of what they may not see initially and wait for an opening. They will rarely have numbers on their side, so must compensate with strategy.

When playing a Woodsman, it is important to consider their home and their culture. Where did they come from? This is going to be a key element to them, along with why they left that home. Similarly, what are the cultural elements that they hold above others, and what do they want to spread to Barsaive? What is it that they protect now? Their relationship with their Group will likely be extremely protective as they fulfill that niche they have left behind. A mother bear with cubs has nothing on a Woodsman with her charges.

Discipline Violations

These are best employed not as a stick, but as a chance for the player to take a deeper look at what it means to follow their Discipline. The most common issue to arise for a Woodsman is acting without considering all everything that is available. This may put them at odds with many adventuring Groups, but with Swordmasters in particular. In fact, any situation where they find themselves losing control will likely be an issue for these adepts - they like nothing more than to be in the driver's seat, even if they are not the leader. Even when patiently waiting, they are working towards something

Despite their devotion to their Group, they do not have the same need for harmony that a Air Sailor does. Still, they are protectors and defenders, and may form close bonds with Namegivers and communities they meet on the way. Their home and these other people and places can continue to be involved in a Woodsman's life and a great source of drama. What happens when a Woodsman is spread too thin to protect all of the things they care about?

Specialists

The only Woodsman specialist is the Assassin. They trade defense for offense on the whole: Surprise Strike is the Second Circle Discipline Talent and Mystic Aim is a Novice Talent Option, while Animal Bond becomes a Journeyman Talent Option. Also, Wilderness Survival is no longer available through Half-Magic, instead the Alchemy skill (only for poisons) is granted.

On the whole, these changes are very appropriate for the specialty - emphasizing patience and striking from surprise with every advantage you can muster (including Karma on damage and poison). That being said, this specialist isn't very good for the average adept. You are likely to miss Wood Skin more than you take advantage of Surprise Strike, and Wilderness Survival is going to be good often for any game a Woodsman is likely to appear in, while poisons may be iffy at best. The best upside for the average campaign will be earlier access to Mystic Aim and the occasional Surprise Strike murder.

Let me be honest, I don't think I have ever heard a player say, "What am I going to do with all of these hit points?!" On the other hand, I have heard grumbling that the troll Warrior makes surprise attacks this fantastic dream that will never happen. Just sayin'.

Talents

Initiate
Talent Options: Climbing, Melee Weapons, Sense Danger, Throwing Weapons, Wilderness Survival

First Circle
Discipline Talents: Avoid Blow, Karma Ritual, Missile Weapons, Silent Walk,  Tracking

Novice
Talent Options: Animal Bond, Borrow Sense, Creature Analysis, Detect Trap, ParrySearch, Sprint

Second Circle
Discipline Talents: Durability (7/6), Wood Skin

Third Circle
Discipline Talent: Wound Balance

Fourth Circle
Discipline Talent: Thread Weaving [Forest Weaving]

Journeyman
Talent Options: Detect Weapon, Dominate Beast, Empathic SenseEvidence Analysis, Frighten Animals, Maneuver, Mystic Aim, Spot Armor Flaw

Fifth Circle
Discipline Talent: Anticipate Blow

Sixth Circle
Discipline Talent: Safe Path

Seventh Circle
Discipline Talent: Stopping Aim

Eighth Circle
Discipline Talent: Lion Heart

This is by far the toughest ranged combat Discipline available. They have a good Durability and Wood Skin to increase their basic survival, Anticipate Blow for a passive defense boost and Avoid Blow as an active defense. Additionally, Wound Balance and Lion Heart provide more passive defense bonuses that are always welcome. This is good defense by any standard and simply amazing for a missile character.

Their offense is a little underwhelming in comparison - it begins a Missile Weapons and ends at Anticipate Blow. There are some additional Talent Options that a solid picks (Mystic Aim and Spot Armor Flaw), but like most ranged characters, this may be a continual problem.

Luckily, they have some out of combat options to bring to the table, such as Tracking and Safe Path to enhance their ranger status. Silent Walk is largely considered a must with these type of characters (including the Archer and Scout) - honestly, any character that can get it. Stopping Aim also opens up some options to prevent combat, or at least delay it, which is always nice.

While their defense is excellent, that is rarely as sexy as a good offense. This is a state that can be challenging for many players who are interested in ranged characters. The advantage of a ranged character is in their defensive nature - they are harder to gain access to, which means they pay the price in offense. Their raw damage output is less impressive than their melee counterparts because there is less risk associated in delivering it. 

This is a setup that I like quite a bit (it also tends to give ranged characters more to do outside of combat), but as I said above, it may be disappointing and every player should be aware of that when they make their decisions.

Initiate Talent Options are something of a mixed bag for the Woodsman. There are a few that can generally be ignored out of hand. The upside is that decision making here isn't difficult:
  • Climbing - Useful and requires minimal investment, but I have always found this a little underpowered as a Talent Option. This is because there isn't much benefit to raising it significantly, which is when Talents really begin to pay off over skills. This is a solid skill, but as a Talent only great if there are no other Initiate Talent Options that look good.
  • Melee Weapons - With Missile Weapons as a Discipline Talent, there isn't much reason to look into additional combat Talents like this. It will also require continual investment.
  • Sense Danger - My favorite Initiate Talent Option because it will generally always be useful and doesn't necessarily require a great deal of investment to get a return. It is also in theme as a Talent for a perceptive defender role.
  • Throwing Weapons - This is redundant with Missile Weapons, and thrown weapons tend to be worse overall. It will also need to be improved every Circle to remain relevant. If you really want this, look into Archer.
  • Wilderness Survival - Entirely appropriate. So appropriate, in fact, that it is available through Half-Magic. While the Talent has some advantages over the Half-Magic, free is a very good price.
 There is a particular build for this Discipline that starts at Novice that involves animal companions (let's call it the "Ranger" as an homage to D&D). You will want to read the Beastmaster for an in-depth discussion regarding animal companions and some of the difficulties you may encounter. If that interests you, then there may be some difficult decisions at this tier. Otherwise, there are a few solid Talents to be had:
  • Animal Bond - This is the first part in the Ranger build. On the whole, this serves better for scouting than any combat purposes.
  • Borrow Sense - The second part of the Ranger build. This is when it starts to pay off for scouting, allowing you to gain some advantages without endangering your pets.
  • Creature Analysis - I have always liked this Talent for any Discipline that relies on gathering information, particularly those that can afford to be patient. Rangers may find this particularly appropriate, but all Woodsmen can get something out of this.
  • Detect Trap - If you do not have a Thief, you may want to consider this. Though if you are in a campaign where it is unlikely you will encounter traps, then this won't likely see much use.
  • Parry - With Avoid Blow as a Discipline Talent and Anticipate Blow coming up at Fifth Circle, there isn't much need for another defensive Talent. It requires using a melee weapon, you cannot spend Karma on it, and must continually be improved. Just walk away.
  • Search - This is a great Talent Option and one that every character that has access should consider taking it. For a Discipline like the Woodsman, this is a gimme.
  • Sprint - While elves don't have a great Karma pool, and there are plenty of good things for them to spend Karma on, if you have an open Novice option you may consider this Talent. There isn't much investment and elves are already pretty fast. It can allow you to put more distance between you and attackers, making it harder for them to approach while you continue to stick them with arrows.
The Journeyman Tier sees some more Talent Options to support the Ranger, as well as a couple of good picks for those who want a little more offensive power in combat.
  • Detect Weapon - Not amazing, but certainly a decent pick for this Discipline if you have the open Talent Option selection. This Talent fits with the overall theme of the Woodsman well - the perceptive guardian.
  • Dominate Beast - While this is another piece of the Ranger build, non-Rangers may find some use here. For the latter, the value of this Talent is directly proportional to how many open Talent Option selections you have and how many times in the past you actually would have used this Talent.
  • Empathic Sense - I always like this Talent when I see it for a variety of reasons. It gives characters something to contribute in social encounters, in a particularly thematic fashion for this Discipline, and encourages cohesion with the Group. If you have a player that gets abducted every now and again (or you are afraid they will), this is a must.
  • Frighten Animals - This costs Karma and how often it will be useful is dubious; I prefer Dominate Beast because it has more versatility and does not cost Karma. However, if you have scorcher (or cavalry in general) problems, you may very well want this Talent. The ability to remove a mounted opponent from their mount can be rather crippling for them.
  • Maneuver - This is another Talent Option which requires a melee weapon. While this may seem like a trend encouraging a secondary melee weapon build, there is a problem - none of the supplementary Talent Options for melee weapons are any good. There is really nothing good about this Talent for the Woodsman.
  • Mystic Aim - If you are finding problems with your offensive capabilities, you will likely want this Talent Option and want to keep it's Rank competitive. It sacrifices an action, but when combined with Spot Armor Flaw (right below), it allows you to regularly bypass armor. This is a thing.
  • Spot Armor Flaw - Yes, this costs Karma, but it is worth it. This will mitigate many of the offensive issues that Woodsman suffer from and, when combined with Mystic Aim, will help to guarantee that your Karma was not spent in vain. This Talent is just really good in general.
Equipment

Armor and weapons for these adepts is pretty simple. You need to go first to make Anticipate Blow work, which means light armor. With the very nice defense granted, light armor isn't much of a sacrifice. Since Mystic Armor is going to be the weak area, fernweave armor is a very good choice, in addition to considering crystal ringlet as you advance in Circle and can reduce the initiative penalty. With an espagra scale cloak, of course, but that should really go without saying. A buckler is a free point of armor (and mystic, if you can convince your GM that crystal bucklers work like that as well).

For a weapon it is as simple as elven warbow. It's the best missile weapon available and this is an elf-only Discipline.

12 February 2013

Dresden Files RPG: Part 3 - Review

This is the third part in a series about the Dresden Files Role Playing Game. Part 1 and Part 2.

The final part of this series is going to be about the session and some thoughts about the game itself, though not a full blown review - this is hardly a lesser known setting and/or system.

What I Could Have Done Better

My biggest struggle with the single session format is simply that my planning does not work that way. Previously I have been able to carve off enough extraneous plot to really hone in on a particular experience and story. That didn't happen so much during this session. The plot itself was rather complicated, weaving multiple, disparate stories and events together into a single event. From there the repercussions of actions would unfold.

This is all nice academically and the players were interested in the plot and the various threads. However, there were a lot of threads with complexity, depth and nuance, flavor pieces that weren't strictly necessary, and interesting characters to interact with. All good, but simply too much for the purpose of the session.

All of this lead to some uneven pacing at times, even though things never slowed down. It would have unfolded better as a slower burn game with more time getting involved in the city and the factions, themes and threats therein. Part of my feelings on uneven pacing (you would have to ask the players how they felt) reflect cutting a number of scenes and events that would have given more depth to what was happening, including most of the action scenes and the building tension surrounding the initial catalyst for action.

The end of the session was particularly rushed as I tried to provide the essential framework from which to hang all of the events and make some sense from them. I don't generally care for that level of exposition; I specifically do not like having some NPC faction with all of the answers (which is what I tragically had to introduce at the 11th hour to move that along).

My sincere hope is that the players realize I never intended that, but it was a sacrifice for the sake of some level of closure. To their credit, I had no doubt they would put all of the pieces together and come to all of the realizations on their own. It's always great to play with players that can synthesize all of the information provided from various contacts and events and be the group that has the answers. This group was on the ball and made effective choices at every turn - it was pretty awesome from my perspective. If any of you are reading this, thanks, it was an excellent game that you gave to me.

Mechanics

FATE, with Dresden Files in particular, is all about the Fate Point/Aspects interaction. The essential premise is that players are rewarded for portraying flawed individuals and being in character. This has some particular requirements, however. Specifically, you must be interested in that metagame - creating Aspects that aren't just fitting, but are useful. Where Tags and Compels will come when you want them, not when they will irritate you. Also, a strong sense of character going into the game is a must. You simply cannot create a semi-generic character with a few notable details going into the game to get very much out of it.

I know a lot of players (and sometimes am one of them) that has a general concept and wants to see what emerges from play. This system does not support that well, or even at all. It does provide some of the finest game play for those looking at a non-traditional character (perhaps the most useful characters in my session were the reporter and the aging loremaster) and those with some distinct frailties in the nature.

All of this points to investment in that character. Dresden Files also has investment in the city. Both of these things I love in running a game and in playing. The thrillers that I adore running generally thrive on a large cast of characters, players with a strong sense of who they are portraying, and some rigorous depth to the setting. For a one shot, none of this is particularly practical.


Again, to my players' credit, they quickly adapted to the implied backgrounds. Building some vague ties with each other, creating a sense of self from the Aspects, and generally running with things. That being said, the Aspects that I created wouldn't necessarily be what they would create. This is my own fault. Since they weren't their Aspects, it could be tricky at times to figure out what was implied there, how it was supposed to work, etc.

I like to think that all of the Aspects I wrote were flavorful (it's also worth noting that I think 8-tracks are going to make a come back). However, sometimes flavor comes at the cost of use, and nowhere was that more true than most of the characters' Trouble. (For those who don't know, Trouble is specifically an Aspect that is used to compel and make you do something stupid - it should generate a lot of Fate Points for you.) While they all said something about the character, and indeed represented possibly their greatest obstacle, there wasn't a lot done with them. Again, my fault here.

All of this demonstrates the importance of sitting down for a session and creating characters that everyone is invested in, not just you. That first session will make you care about all of the PCs at the table because you know about them, you played a hand in bringing them to life. They won't just be playing their own game, but you can be helping to create fun for each other. That's a helluva thing.

What I (Think) Went Well

The most important thing went well, way more than all of the other things listed above: everyone had fun. No matter what else goes on, that is what really counts.

Everyone was involved, contributed, and had things to do. No one character could resolve everything on their own. The strong niche protection that I engaged in when making characters certainly helped in that - as well no one was stuck with anything truly useless. Though some of the action characters had less to do than originally intended due to scenes (entire plots) that were cut (which I feel bad about, really bad).

Despite my issues with Aspects, I think that everyone quite liked their character (though I could be wrong). With some minor (or major) overhaul, they would have been set. Everyone worked well together, and even the characters that had similarities in skills used those to synergize rather than work at counter purposes. That last one may be more of a testament to the players than me, however.

I was honestly a little surprised by how well received the low power level I used was received. There were a few reasons I made the decision to go with Feet in the Water (20 skill points, 6 refresh). First, I wanted to cut down on the number of powers and stunts so that referencing the book was minimal. It would give each character a distinct focus and the low skills force everyone to rely on each other more than they may have to in a higher powered game. Another reason is that the lower power level makes Aspects more important - there are less bonuses and Fate Points going around. This may have worked against me a little. What it did do was give the mortal characters a more prominent role - the ability to have control over your success was pretty huge.

Note cards! Man, I love note cards. For a game like FATE and a setting where keeping notes on people, places, events, threats, etc, they are perhaps the most useful play aid out there (Fate Points might beat them out, but barely). I have generally had a positive response when you provide something tangible to use. Whether it is to record Aspects that you have discovered, or just some general notes.

A stack of people and places also directs attention from wondering about all of the things that might be relevant, directing it to specific people and places that are relevant. This does create a downside: it can also limit the scope of thought from what else might be relevant to solely what is at hand. I try to nip that one in the bud early by introducing more locations as they become relevant, clearly indicating that they do not have the whole story yet.

Red cards are generally used to indicate a mystery or immediate threat. This is something going on that demands attention. For games where there is a lot going on and multiple plots unfolding, these are useful to remind everyone what they are dealing with, keeping the details in a central place, and more easily allowing for potential relationships between these threats to be established.

My general impressions were that the players enjoyed the plot and the local color that they met during the session. The entire affair would have benefited from editing it down and cutting the extraneous material. While that would have created a neater package, I don't know if that would have improved the experience at all. This is definitely a story that would have played best as a three to five session mini-campaign. That would have given all of the plots a chance to breathe and all of the characters time to shine. Above all else though, everyone had fun. I cannot go back to that point enough, because it really is all that matters. People got together, had some drinks, some food, and had fun. Awesome.

10 February 2013

Dresden Files RPG: Part 2 - Characters and Setting

This is the second part in a series about the Dresden Files Role Playing Game. Part 1 and Part 3.

Here are the last of the characters, along with some information on the city and the setting. After the game, I will provide a recap along with some thoughts (maybe even some from the players).

Characters

High Concept: Unseelie Changeling Lorekeeper
Trouble: Time is a Thief to All Things
Background: The Family Business
Rising Conflict: Insatiable Thirst for Knowledge
Your Story: A Fine Line Between Old Friends and Enemies

Guest Star: "I Call them Silver and Cold."

Guest Star: "Where I Haven't Been is a Shorter List, Sir."
Average: Alertness, Discipline, Endurance, Investigation
Fair: Craftsmanship, Guns, Scholarship

Good: Contacts, Resources
Great: Lore
Powers/Stunts: The Sight (-1), Soulgaze (0), Inhuman Speed (-2), Filthy Lucre (-1)


The request for this character was frighteningly similar to a mortal that appeared in a previous Dresden Files game I ran. Learning what I did from that experience, I tried to apply that and make something that should work in a wide variety of circumstances. The high Lore without any magic is always problematic, but with the changes I am making to the Nevernever (anyone with Lore can get there), it will be more useful. 

On the whole, this is broadly a dark Indiana Jones character well past his prime, but still in it. As usual, I tried to give an implied background that has a lot of empty spaces to fill. He's wealthy, urbane, and there is a hint of violence and skullduggery about him.

High Concept: Winter Court Squire
Trouble: If Violence isn't the Answer, We Need a New Question
Background: Semper Fi
Rising Conflict: Nine Frozen Laments to Give
Your Story: Never Trust a Spy, and This City is Full of 'Em

Guest Star: Cloak and Dagger, but Mostly Dagger

Guest Star: Fast and Terrifying as a Hurricane
Average: Driving, Fists, Might, Stealth
Fair: Alertness, Guns, Intimidation

Good: Athletics, Endurance
Great: Weapons
Powers/Stunts: Marked by Power (-1), Item of Power (+1, Frozen Lament), Claws (-1), Inhuman Speed (-2), Supernatural Recovery (-4), The Catch (Fire), No Pain, No Gain (-1)


The request for this character was a dishonorably discharged soldier that has no clue what is going on. Also, a badass. As a part of the setting, the city is neutral ground which means that no official representatives of any faction can act there - thus, no Knights. So a special position, the Squires, were created. They have the backing of their Court, but have no officially been imbued with the trappings. Just an Item of Power to help them along. Frozen Lament is a brace of shards of ice/throwing knives.

This character's implied background is significantly more sparse. She's a badass and in a completely new situation that she mostly copes with through violence. It's simple and brutal - if this were a long-term campaign, I would not expect her to live long (except for that amazing recovery).

High Concept: Changeling Journalist
Trouble: Revenge is a Dish Best Served... Period
Background: St. Louise de Marillac School for Troubled Children
Rising Conflict: Nothing Can Keep Me From the Answers
Your Story: Knows People that Know People, and They Are Bad People

Guest Star: In Way Over His Head, but He Can Swim

Guest Star: Ear to the Ground, Nose for the Truth, Eyes on the Prize... You Get the Idea
Average: Burglary, Performance, Scholarship, Stealth
Fair: Alertness, Deceit, Empathy

Good: Contacts, Rapport
Great: Investigation
Powers/Stunts: Capable Researcher, Hairpin Maestro, Quick Eye


This character was a late addition and the concept played with many of the areas that other characters had already explored. Which was something of an issue for niche protection. They also wanted to be unaware of their powers. Despite being labeled as a changeling, I used the Pure Mortal template. That would make their powers active through Aspects for the time being and give a greater mystery to their parentage. The implication here is that they are supernatural, just no indications in what way. I think that should be an interesting way to handle things and will encourage some supernatural implications to the Aspects.

The implied background here is a very troubled orphan who has made some ugly friends over the years. Currently he is a driven journalist, though has an unsavory past and connections. Hopefully there isn't too much mechanical and thematic overlap with some of the other characters.

The City

Given the nature of the game, a one shot, I'm not going to invest quite the level of time in creating this setting that I normally would. This includes removing the cooperative elements which can help to bring everything to life and give significant player investment in the setting from the word "Go".

I had previously mentioned that there are parts of the setting that I will be changing. From the standard Dresden Files, things are going to be significantly darker and more broken. The various supernatural factions will have more sway over humanity and the White Council is hopelessly out of touch and entrenched in bureaucracy and politics that move glacially. There very natures encourage a "wait and see" attitude. Which is what I am using to explain in part why they aren't involved in these happenings.

The supernatural factions have greater investment in this world because the Nevernever is less it's own thing and more echoes of our world. The layers closest to the "real" world are a little stranger, layers on top of what we would normally see, but containing memories of what used to be, crowded in the landscape. Particularly strong emotions or events may still live in these layers and can cause them to wear thin. This tends to have an affect on everyone in the area. The deeper you go, the stranger and more abstract it becomes. The dark Nevernever is a place of dreams and the subconscious. Many of the supernatural factions that don't fit in (particularly the fae) call these places home as they struggle to fit in the world unnoticed. The changing of society trickles to them and they find nothing more fascinating than our world. Our world where the eddies and ripples fundamentally change the landscape of their own over time. It is our dreams, hopes, fears, love and darkness that give them strength and power, and there is nothing more that they want than to continue being a part of that. Which, of course, means controlling it as best they can.

Portland is something of a mecca for this. An amazing triumph with such power and promise that the dangerous battles from long ago made it a terrifying place to be. Since the Accords were drawn up and it declared a place of neutrality, it has flourished and all parties have benefited (perhaps the fae more than others, but still). They distance between our world and the dream is very thin there, and the dream extends further than most imagine. There are depths that even the "native" denizens do not realize, in their own hubris.

Theme: A city of bridges, physical and meta-physical.
  • Aspect: Crossing Over
  • Face: Ed, The Troll Union - Post 205
  • Face: Mugsy, Street Roots - Homeless Newspaper
  • Location: The Troll Union and Street Roots, Burnside Bridge (Worlds Collide)
  • Location: Diablo's Pizza (Dangerous Questions)
  • Location: Charles Mortimer Thannet, The Pi Shoppe (To Die for Pies, All Slices $3.14)

Theme: While everything seems great on the surface, underneath it is rotten, also a play on the City of Roses
  • Aspect: American Beauty
  • Face: Tsing Tsong, Clenched Fist Tong
  • Face: Sergei Desnova, The Boyars
  • Face: Nicodemus Whatley, The Whatley Family
  • Location: Donny A, The Acropolis ("Harmless" Fun)
  • Location: Pioneer Courthouse Square (Filthy Heart)
  • Location: International Rose Test Garden (Unfettered Vision)
  • Location: Mistress Bodica, Spartacus (Unchained Appetites)

Threat: A neutral meeting ground, a city of spies
  • Aspect: Spark in a Tinder Box
  • Face: Kincaid Thomas, Supernatural Fixer
  • Face: Leslie Allen, Summer Court Squire
  • Location: Oolong, Chinese Garden (Eye of the Storm)
  • Location: Jet Black, La Luna (Darkness Growing)
  • Location: Larry, Pier 451 (Port of Ill Repute)
  • Location: Thomas Peasemill, Powell's Books (Knowledge is Cheap, Wisdom is Pricey)

06 February 2013

Dresden Files RPG: Part 1 - Characters

This is the first part in a series about the Dresden Files Role Playing Game. Part 2 and Part 3.

A good friend is in the area to visit family and friends. To celebrate his return, I offered to run a game for him, his wife, and other local friends. Any game he wanted. Well, there are a lot of options, but he has never played a FATE game. So a one shot using the Dresden Files RPG was the winner.

In my planning for this game, I decided to do all of the prep work myself. This includes making the city and the characters. While this decision can take a lot of what is great about the collaborative city and character creation out of the picture, given the time constraint (one session), there couldn't be the time devoted to that activity to make it worth it, nor would there be the same payoff in the end from that investment. Additionally, I could ensure that the characters presented show some different aspects (hah!) of FATE, provide niche protection, and not run afoul of anything that would slow game play to a crawl (magic, I am looking at you).

The city is Portland, Oregon, March 2010, in a setting that is loosely inspired by the Dresden Files. My intended audience isn't incredibly familiar with the novels, so relying on the details from that would have little payoff and more likely prove frustrating for those not as familiar with the source material. This is good because it also allows me to change some of the underlying assumptions and ultimately remove the magic system. While wizards are integral to the Dresden Files setting and one of the more innovative pieces to the system, they require a significant degree of system mastery to make work and I would rather keep the game moving than continually stop to address how to use the powers.

Beyond just magic, there are a number of setting elements I intend to play around with, and will likely address them in a future post. For example the Nevernever. While I like it as presented, I'm going to try it more as a reflection of the cognitive memory of humanity and the world with different levels. At the layer closest to the world, it is a reflection of the world that remembers what once was. Perhaps old buildings that are no more still exist, you just have to shift a little deeper. The further you get, the stranger things are and the more primal the expressions are. Hopefully more on that later.

Each of the players was asked for a summary of what kind of character they would like to play. From there, I did all of the heavy lifting and putting the pieces together. While putting a character together may be a snap for some, I've seen players struggle with the options and particularly Aspects. Writing good Aspects is not an easy task and I will make no claims at being good at it. As I mentioned above, making each of the characters means that I can tailor certain events to bring them together and ensure that they will have something to do.

The first two characters that I got proposals for were a gargoyle and a Kenzi-expy. For the former we chatted a little bit and used the idea of a gargoyle timelessly perched on and guarding a building for inspiration. The latter was pretty straight-forward and well supported with the system.

High Concept: Gargoyle Guardian
Trouble: Man Out of Time
Background: Faded Memories of Another Life
Rising Conflict: Bound to the City
Your Story:
"There is only one way this can end - I will find them."
Guest Star: 
Body of Stone, Heart of Flesh
Guest Star: When a Door Closes, Just Go Through the Wall
Average: Athletics, Intimidation, Lore, Scholarship
Fair: Alertness, Discipline, 
Investigation
Good: Endurance, Fists
Great: Might
Powers/Stunts: Psychometry (-1), Human Form (+1), Inhuman Strength (-2), Supernatural Recovery (-2), Supernatural Toughness (-2), The Catch (Magic, +2)


I'm trying to give an implied background that the player can fill in the details from. The goal here was to create a supernatural investigator that has been pulled through time and moved from city to city. Whatever city he would call home, he would be a part of it and unable to leave. Waking when needed and returning to sleep. Over time their number dwindling. He would also be a powerhouse, able to change into a stone wrecking machine when needed.

High Concept: Fast-Talking Street Rat
Trouble: "It seemed like a good idea at the time!"
Background: Hidden Talents
Rising Conflict: Old Debts, Repaid with Interest
Your Story: Sharp Eyes, Sharp Tongue
Guest Star: "I've never been in a tight spot I couldn't get out of."
Guest Star: Semi-Charmed Life
Average: Empathy, Investigation, Presence, Weaponry
Fair: Alertness, Burglary, Stealth
Good: Contacts, Rapport
Great: Deceit
Powers/Stunts: Ear to the Ground, I Know Just the Guy, Pick-Pocket, Takes One to Know One


Again, I was trying to give an implied background and letting the player decide what this all actually means. My biggest goal here was to give some very useful Aspects since that is a mortal's primary advantage - Fate Points. She has some good stunts and maintains a reasonable Refresh of 4. 

02 February 2013

Earthdawn: Anatomy of a Discipline 15 - Scout


This is the fifteenth Anatomy of a Discipline in an ongoing series about Earthdawn. Introduction and Index.

Overview

The Scout seeks to experience the world in its entirety. Only by opening all of their senses and truly learning a single place in a single time can they claim to be living that moment. Regardless of the setting, from untouched wilderness to a bustling urban area, Scouts enjoy little more than seeking out new things. They want new sights, sounds, scents, feelings, in new combinations, all at once. They are the quintessential wanderers, always wanting to see what is next and go somewhere new.

Through this, they learn and process a considerable amount of information. Because of those abilities, these adepts are invaluable to any task where gathering information is vital, from investigating in a city, to searching for a lost kaer in the wilderness. The Scout brings a unique set of skills to any Group. If you want someone that knows something, it is likely best to see a Troubadour or a Wizard, but if you want someone to learn something for you, there is unlikely to be a better option than a Scout.

Because they spend so much time taking in their surroundings, many Scouts are prone to remain inactive. There is a reluctance to get involved, instead to observe. They do not want to spoil the natural order, this includes Namegivers. The contemplation over the correct course of action, as well as deciphering all of the information they are taking in, may delay their actions to the point where it is too late.

One of the main questions for any Scout is to define what drives them: why do they seek to experience the world? Perhaps even, what are they looking to find? What are some of their favorite sensations that they seek out? Do the love the feeling of a warm rain on their face, the crisp scent after a thunderstorm, or sitting perfectly still and letting their surroundings just wash over them?

Discipline Violations

These are best employed not as a stick, but as a chance for the player to take a deeper look at what it means to follow their Discipline. The greatest trouble a Scout will face is their unwillingness to get involved. That hesitation, because if they disrupt how things were, then they have changed things and that is against their ethos. They exist to experience the world, not shape it. If their actions destroy part of a forest, they may be compelled to do what they can to restore it. The same can be said for a Namegiver's home. While doing nothing will almost certainly lead them into conflict with their Group. It is truly a fine line that Scouts must tread, though there can be reward in exploring these elements.

Specialists

There are three specialties for the Scout: Burglar (or Delver), Explorer and Infiltrator. Two of these specializes in a different surrounding; the Explorer in the unknown wilderness and the Infiltrator in the urban wilderness. The Burglar specializes in removing (or liberating) items typically from ruins or lost kaers.

Burglars learn Research as a Second Circle Discipline Talent and Speak Language is a Novice Talent Option, while Detect Weapon is removed from the list entirely. Detect and Disarm Trap are both Novice Talent Options, and Anticipate Blow and Disguise Self are now Journeyman Talent Options. This presents a relatively significant change to the structure of the Discipline and puts a great deal more emphasis on traditionally Thief duties. If there is a Thief in the Group already, this will probably be unnecessary. Otherwise, this is a great way to cover those missing Talents at an early opportunity.

An Explorer has Creature Analysis as a Second Circle Discipline Talent, while Speak Language is an Initiate Talent Option, and Sense Danger as a Fifth Circle Discipline Talent and Evidence Analysis as a Journeyman Talent Option. This is a slightly more combat ready adept, not necessarily capable, but ready. A potential downfall here is that you may find less to do proactively. Both of the Discipline Talents you gain, while good, don't tend to contribute outside of combat. The ability to spend Karma isn't vital for any of these Talents (other than being mostly irrelevant for Speak Language).

The Infiltrator has Silent Walk as a First Circle Discipline Talent and Wilderness Survival as an Initiate Talent Option; and Disguise Self as the Third Circle Discipline Talent, but Navigation as a Novice Talent Option. This adept is going to be marginally less useful adventuring (because the Navigation skill is still granted through Half-Magic), but act more as a spy. The most attractive element here is Silent Walk as a Discipline Talent. This is typically a test that you don't want to fail and having access to the Shadow Hide Knack at First Circle is always good. If you don't want Disguise Self, however, this may not be great.

All of these specialists are good for their respective roles, but neither of them are simply better at being a Scout. All three flavors of Scout have something good to bring to the table; though if you already have a Thief in the Group, a Burglar will likely be a poor choice. Unless you expect to find that many traps.

Talents

Initiate
Talent Options: Avoid Blow, Creature Analysis, Melee Weapons, Missile Weapons, Silent Walk

First Circle
Discipline Talents: Climbing, Karma Ritual, Search, Tracking, Wilderness Survival

Novice
Talent Options: Anticipate Blow, Detect Trap, Detect Weapon, Disguise Self, Great Leap, Read/Write Language, Sprint

Second Circle
Discipline Talents: Durability (6/5), Speak Language

Third Circle
Discipline Talent: Navigation

Fourth Circle
Discipline Talent: Thread Weaving [Scout Weaving]

Journeyman
Talent Options: Conceal Object, Direction Arrow, Disarm Trap, Lock Picking, Maneuver, Sense Danger, Trap Initiative, Trick Riding

Fifth Circle
Discipline Talent: Evidence Analysis

Sixth Circle
Discipline Talent: Astral Sight

Seventh Circle
Discipline Talent: Empathic Sense

Eighth Circle
Discipline Talent: Safe Path

The Scout is all about gathering information, with a side order of surviving in the wilderness/adventuring. There isn't particularly much to say about there Discipline Talents beyond that, they will support one, if not both, of those themes in some way. Climbing, Search, and Tracking are good for both themes. Speak Language, Evidence Analysis, Astral Sight and Empathic Sense all support their information gathering theme, and Wilderness Survival, Navigation, and Safe Path are all solid wilderness/adventuring Talents.

This can easily put the Scout in a role of keeping the Group together and out of harm, though there is little to suggest a leadership role. They would more likely to be the quiet supporter of safety in numbers. Keep in mind, these adepts are not combat characters and do not have much to do in a fight. If you are looking for a character that can get into trouble and hold their own beside a Warrior, then you may want to keep looking. The Archer or Woodsman have many similar themes, but are also significantly more combat ready.

With that out of the way, the questions focus on what else you would like your Scout to do, primarily through Talent Options, but also potentially with multiple Disciplines (not all groups like to include that option). Scouts have some solid Talent Options and you may feel like you don't have enough space for all of them - and you may not. They can also substitute for a Thief if you Group is lacking in that area, but at Initiate, they have one very important choice:
  • Avoid Blow - This is still something that I advise against as a Talent Option, not because it isn't good, but because the math doesn't tend to work out favorably when you cannot spend Karma. It also has a requirement to improve every Circle if you want it to remain relevant and you probably aren't going to have enough Talent Options to get everything you want in the long run. I'm starting to feel like I should just make a post about this Talent and link to it.
  • Creature Analysis - Scouts are all about gathering information and this is well within that schtick. If you have the space and no one else has this Talent, you can do a lot worse.
  • Melee Weapons - You're going to want a combat Talent if you don't have one already. If you prefer doing damage, this is going to be the way to go in the long run.
  • Missile Weapons - You're going to want a combat Talent if you don't have one already. If you prefer relative safety over damage, this is going to be the way to go in the long run.
  • Silent Walk - I honestly don't know if I have ever seen a Scout without this Talent. It allows you to gather information covertly, and when you say "I'm going to go scouting", it doesn't have to mean "I'm going to wander that way and maybe stumble into a fight".
There are more good Novice Talent Options and likely to be tempted by at least one from Initiate:
  • Anticipate Blow - This is the only defensive Talent available to Scouts and has the upside of working for both Melee and Missile Weapons. The only downside to the Talent is that it puts you in the position of needing a good initiative. This means melee characters will have to sacrifice better armor to keep it useful. Ranged characters won't find that sacrifice as significant. You will want to improve this regularly to keep it useful.
  • Detect Trap - If you intend on fulfilling the role that a Thief would typically play (dealing with traps), this is going to be the first step on that path. Unfortunately you won't actually be able to disarm them until Journeyman. If you happen to have a Thief, ignore these - they will be much better at this than you and you will have plenty of other options available. Keep in mind that you get this skill through Half-Magic.
  • Detect Weapon - Scout is actually one of the few Disciplines where I quite like this Talent because it is what they are about: they discover potential threats before they come into play. If you are finding too many good options, this may be one of the first sacrifices; it isn't likely to be relevant that often.
  • Disguise Self - Very useful in a intrigue or urban-based game. A typical adventuring game may use this during city adventures, but likely won't find much value when confronting a Horror or espagra.
  • Great Leap - Both melee and ranged characters will find use out of this. The former in conjunction with Down Strike to improve damage and the latter to get of the way from attackers.
  • Read/Write Language - A natural compliment to Speak Language (it's easy to forget that you cannot read the many languages you speak), but may not make the cut with other, more tempting options.
  • Sprint - The Karma cost isn't as pressing for Scouts simply because they don't tend to spend as much (specifically because they don't have any combat Talents to spend it on). If you have the open Talent Option, this could be a good choice. It will certainly make getting away from pursuers back to the safety of the Group much easier (see Silent Walk above).
On the whole, I don't find the Journeyman Talent Options as compelling. Probably because they are mostly Talents that you find at Novice in other Disciplines and the increased costs are unfortunate. That being said, if you are fulfilling the Thiefly duties, there is a lot to like here:
  • Conceal Object - For most Disciplines, this Talent focuses on concealing weapons, but for the Scout it is typically about infiltrating some form of contraband, or ex-filtrating evidence. If that seems useful for your Group at this point, give this some consideration.
  • Direction Arrow - A return to gathering information. This works very well with Empathic Sense to ensure that the Group stays together. If it doesn't seem like a game where one character will get in trouble all on their own and need some saving, then this might not be relevant to you.
  • Disarm Trap - If you took Detect Trap previously, this is a nice compliment. Otherwise, it is pretty useless.
  • Lock Picking - If you don't have a Thief and are engaged in espionage, then this is a must. Even if you do have a Thief in the Group, this might still be valuable.
  • Maneuver - If you are a melee character and find your damage lacking, this might be the answer, though I would suggest Great Leap and Down Strike first
  • Sense Danger - This is bound to come up at some point and supports the Scout's theme. The downside is that you can get a weaker version with a cloaksense brooch. 
  • Trap Initiative - You will want this to go along with Detect and Disarm Trap, maybe even if you don't have them, but probably not.
  • Trick Riding - With all of the other good Talent Options, this sticks out more than a little. While the mounted Scout makes sense, it simply brings along all of the problems the Cavalryman has. Unless you have a compelling reason and the space (and by this point you should have a good idea of how useful this will be), I would give it a pass.
Races

Perception is a Scout's most important attribute, and since the difference between the best perception in the game (elves and windlings at +1) is only two more than the worst (obsidimen and trolls at -1), there isn't a whole lot to be said there. The good dexterity that elves and windlings bring to the table will be useful, but since this adept isn't a combat character, it isn't quite as necessary to carry your own weight in a fight. The array of Discipline Talents means that having great Karma isn't a necessity. Essentially what you are looking at is the other abilities that each race brings to the table.

The heat sight and low-light vision that some races have will be useful in scouting during the night without bringing a light source. Windling's flight is very valuable, as is Astral Sight up until it becomes a Discipline Talent. A human's Versatility can be a great way to fill out some of your perceived holes, though be certain to determine what other Disciplines (if any) you would like to pick up first. Tail attack is a great ability, but a t'skrang Scout won't have any default way to use it and will need to be a melee character to really use it. The odd Namegiver out is the obsidiman, but even so, a melee obsidiman Scout with Great Leap and Down Strike will still be a Thing. One final thing, obsidiman and troll Scouts will want to be melee characters to take advantage of their size.

Equipment

If you have selected Anticipate Blow as a Talent Option, you will want to be aware of your initiative. Otherwise, it doesn't particularly matter what your initiative is. In the former case, light armor will be a must and melee characters will want a two-handed weapon; ranged characters will still want to use a buckler. If you don't care about initiative, then load up on heavy armor and melee characters can even use a big ass shield.