Drinking & Dragons


From Drinking and Dragons


http://mqstout.com/vat-files.zip Contains:

  1. A short, quick writeup (from the Witchcraft demo kit) of the Unisystem rules.
  2. The writeup from Dresden Files about aspects and concessions. This is a more flavorful/example-filled writeup than what the link to the FATE SRD has below.
  3. A snippet from the d20 Modern Unearthed Arcana book to set (some) mood about how the setting may feel.


We will be meeting at Daryl's place Saturday 12 May 2012 at 2 PM for group creation -- including exchanging our expectations, some world building and character building.

What to do before coming? Read this page. Try to read the aspects links below. Think (broadly but not deeply) about what character you'd like to play. You can look over qualities/skills, but please don't pre-build a character or get to set on one before we meet. I want character building to be a GROUP effort. As in: The character gets made, then only later does the character sheet (mechanics) get even considered. This is a foreign concept to what many of us are used to (especially from D&D): the rules serve the character; the character should not serve the rules.

Character Creation Rules

As The Game Master (page 32) suggests, these shouldn't have to be stated but must be anyway: there are four rules to character creation:

  1. The Legion of Superheroes Rule
    • "No two players may fill the exact same role in the party."
    • This is easily avoided in Unisystem.
  2. The Scooby Doo Rule
    • "Your character is a person who exists in society on some level."
    • This means your character isn't a loner. Isn't totally nonfunctional. And so on. Please try to get along well-enough.
    • Intra-party conflict can, will and should happen! It should be limited to meaningful moments and for good reason. Iron Kingdom's seemed (barely) reasonable; you worked together but disagreed about methods. Wilding's was too much (and was my fault for not reigning in too varied alignments).
  3. The "You are an Adventurer" Rule
    • "You are an adventurer. You go on adventures. You do not avoid going on adventures."
    • You don't necessarily have to be truly heroic, but no roleplaying Wally from Dilbert. It won't be fun for you, nor for others. (Attempting to do so can also violate Rule #4.)
    • We've had successful and fun campaigns that seemed to violate this before, but they did not. In LRC, for example, we were still adventurers. We might not have been "Save the world!" top tier, for-the-glory heroes, but we were still adventurers.
  4. The "No Dark Secrets" Rule
    • "Your character is not out to betray the party. Period."
    • This includes a self-destructive mindset.
    • Nor betray the world...

For this specific game I'm asking these few small facts:

  1. The character should be gainfully employed and GOOD AT what they do (the former's negotiable; the latter's a requisite). This should be something useful to an organization that does things related to investigating/researching/hunting/training the supernatural. (Yes, everyone will be working together as a unit in this organization. It's easily to for nearly anything to apply.)
  2. Your character will have at least one point in the Influence quality, reflecting your successful employment before joining the above organization. (This gives your character bonuses to interacting with or calling favors in from a particular group. Example influences: Law Enforcement, Journalism, Science, Political, Army, Intelligence, Criminal, Business... )
  3. Think of your character as a normal human in society. Due to the way Shadow works (see setting below) that's what you have been all your life. While you may (and many if not all of you probably will) have supernatural -- possibly even non-human traits, you've been a "norm" up until around the start of the game. During character creation, we CAN spend points on supernatural powers. We will start play slightly flashed back from that.
  4. Don't fret about mechanics! If you want me to build the character's stats, I will. If the system doesn't have what you want, and it's reasonable, we'll build it.
  5. You will CAST your character. It doesn't need to be an actor or someone famous, but do associate a real-life portrait with someone who would (visually) portray your character assuming it were a film.
  6. Your character may have had a brush with the supernatural (external? internal?) at some point in its life. The character will not know this, but might suspect "something was fishy". This is not a requirement, but is recommended.



It's "pretty much" the real world. Except it's not. It's a parallel nearly-the-same world (this allows for 'artistic license'). This world primarily differs in that extra-natural things kind of sort of do exist. They come and go in waves both spatially and (especially) temporally.

d20 Modern Urban Arcana and Shadowrun use a similar guise for bringing mystical elements into the modern world. Perhaps some times in the past really were inhabited by the shadow (maybe the world of Ars Magica is truly Earth's history).

The game -- at least initially -- will be site-based, with the site being one city and its surrounding areas. We will embellish this setting during our pre-game meetup (and throughout the game) by selecting sites or NPCs that interest us for further exploration.


The game will begin 27 December 1991 -- just a few days after the final dissolution of the USSR and the creation of modern Russia. AKA, a few days after the official end of the Cold War.

Why did I choose this time? It was primarily a choice of technology. Modern technology -- especially the prevalence of the Internet and widespread, affordable mobile communications -- makes certain things quite difficult. It's harder to suspend disbelief when these things are prevalent. I wanted some computer technology around though. When that narrowed the range, this event was clear to me as a world-shifting time where we can fork reality.


Dresden Files
Too full-blown conspiratorial, overpowered, and complicated by the various powerful courts and so on. This game will not have strong technology-hates-magic.
This is more like it. Things will be a bit less "entrenched" than the series portrays. As time progresses, it's likely to become closer to this than to others.
Night Watch
Pretty good comparison, but without strong "light" and "dark" poles. Also, few to no long-established lineages. What happens to "Others" who then become "initiated" to the supernatural -- that's the PCs!


The system used for this game will be Eden Studios' Unisystem. Unisystem comes in two flavors; we will be using the classic flavor, which includes the games Witchcraft, Armageddon, All Flesh Must Be Eaten, Conspiracy X and Terra Primate. (The cinematic flavor is used for Buffy, Angel and a few others and will not be used except perhaps as inspiration.)

Some parts of the FATE RPG (the system used for Dresden Files and others) will be grafted into Unisystem. This will (primarily) be aspects. However, I ask you also to read over concessions to consider while playing. If ever any combats/conflicts require a map, I shall also likely invoke FATE's zone-based handling of them, rather than performing a gridded tactical combat (for which Unisystem does have rules).

If using aspects does not work out to my liking, it will be scrapped and the game will be (nearly) pure Unisystem.


Unisystem is a rules-medium roleplaying game that uses a d10+modifiers as its primary mechanic. Successes come easy -- a 9 or higher is a success. However, the quality of success matters just as much as whether or not you succeed. The higher the result, the more you succeed. In combat, you might deal more damage; in social skills you might leave a lasting impression; when building something you might do it faster; or you might just do it better -- like learning more or making a higher-quality repair.

Unisystem is a point-buy, skills-based system. It does not have classes or levels. Characters have three main areas to spend points:

  • Attributes (more or less just like D&D).
  • Qualities/drawbacks (analogous to D&D's feats; drawbacks give more points for mechanical penalties).
  • Skills (again, more or less similar) -- including supernatural powers.

Unisystem's skills are open ended. You can use pretty much any skill with any attribute in different situations. Say your character took a "Sport (Football)" skill. You would make a strength + sport check to make a tackle; dexterity + sport to pass; constitution + sport to resist injury; intelligence + sport to device a play; perception + sport to find an opening or officiate a game; willpower + sport to keep it together during play, avoid distraction by the chearleaders and so on. The skills also include a certain amount of "technobabble" with you coming up with explanations to use these combination. That said, some are still limited. Notice will still go with perception nearly all the time



  • Conspiracy X is the latest classic Unisystem core rulebook. It will be our top reference. We will NOT be using its setting (including professions) -- the game will not be 'militarized', revolve around aliens and conspiracy, etc. It's just the main reference for the rules. AFMBE: Dungeons and Zombies is the latest supplement for many of the supernatural rules.
  • Witchcraft and Armageddon will be the primary source books for qualities and powers, with various All Flesh Must Be Eaten supplements rounding out the choices. Again, we will not be using the settings from these (including: organizations, angels/devil offspring, and so on -- though characters may be build that might utilize some of their powers lists)
  • I have these books in print and will gladly lend them out. WITCHCRAFT is a free PDF on DriveThruRPG here.


See Vat:Info

Supernatural Powers Types

Unisystem has many types of supernatural powers, most with their own mechanics for unique feel and abilities. Randy did a good compilation of them. PDF These lists are NOT comprehensive.

  • Invocations ("magic")
  • Inspiration (faith magic/inner fire)
  • Spirit Patrons (voodoo or amerindian style, or fairy-gifted, and so on)
  • The Sight (psychic abilities)
  • Tao Chi (includes gun fu)
  • Keys of Solomon (rune powers)
  • Necromancy (specialization in magic of life, death and souls)
  • Discipline of the Flesh ()
  • Primal Powers (like D&D divine/cleric powers)
  • Feral Powers (lycanthropy)
  • Gadgeteering/Jury Rigging/Bag of Tricks (not exactly supernatural... prone to limitations)
  • Races? (talk to me if you want truly to become non-human...)

True Immortals/Atlantean Tech will not be used.


FATE is a quirky rules-medium storytelling system based off FUDGE. We're only using a few parts of it as discussed below.


One part of the FATE roleplaying game is being transplanted from it into Unisystem for this campaign. Aspects can fit easily into any RPG with minimal effort. Think of them loosely as "always on" circumstance bonuses in D&D, or the allegiences system in d20 Modern or vices and virtues from True20. They flavorfully describe things in the game and can be used creatively to have a mechanical effect in the game.

Aspects don't only apply to characters, but also to anything that can be described. A battle scene in sewers might have an aspect of "dark, dank and dreary" applied to it. Any time this descriptor might apply to a situation for you, you can try to use it for a bonus (or penalty for others, as apropriate). In D&D terms (since that's what we're all most familiar with), you could use that to apply a penalty to an enemy's saving throw against fear, or as a bonus on your stealth roll (and so on). It only takes some creative storytelling! An added side effect of using aspects it it empowers research and knowledge type skills. Successful checks with these will let you learn of (or even establish!) an aspect around something that you can then use to your benefit. In fact, the campaign itself will have some aspects applied to it -- to help set the themes for the whole game.

To learn about aspects, read the following web links.

General description
http://www.faterpg.com/dl/sotc-srd.html#aspects (only 1.6)
This briefly describes what an aspect is.
Guidelines for aspect selection
This section (only 2.15.2 and its subheader "Powerful Aspects") will set the mood for what to think about selecting for aspects; what makes aspects good and not.
Full details for aspects
Please, if you can, read the whole chapter. Pay particular attention to the examples. You can safely ignore the other FATE-specific components (such as die rolls, etc) that might be in it.
Aspects during progression
Describes how aspects possibly can change as the game progresses.

The specifics of how Aspects will be implemented in this campaign will be detailed after character creation.

If you want more details about aspects, the zip file linked at the top has the relevant pages from the Dresden Files RPG that covers them more fully, with more depth an examples. Remember, we're only using this part of FATE, so some of the things mentioned in the PDF might not be relevant.

What aspects will you need? We will generally follow the aspect-selection part of FATE's character creation. You will need one "high concept" aspect that broadly encompasses who you are -- something like a "race and class" analog -- one phrase describing who your character is. You'll also need a "trouble", which is an aspect that's a regular source of conflict (often, but not required to be internal). You'll also generate a couple paragraphs of "prior life events", each of which be distilled into an aspect.

Here's an example of Harry Dresden's aspects, as they would be at the beginning of Storm Front:

  • High Concept: Wizard Private Eye
  • Trouble: Temptation of Power
  • Development aspects: My Mother's Silver Pentacle; Chivalry is Not Dead, Damnit; Not So Subtle, Quick to Anger; Epic Wiseass; Perpetually Broke
Other Links

Zone-based Combat

Will be explained when and if it is ever used.