Archive for ‘ October, 2010

Rakehell At Gaelcon

Using the FATE system for Rakehell started out as a marriage of convenience. I’ve loved parts of FATE since I first played it – Aspects are a wonderful piece of game design, some of the stunts are very creative, and the whole game is nicely simple yet comprehensive – but I had intentions of writing up an original system for the Rakehell setting when I first started. After Gaelcon, I’m now committed to using FATE for it.

Admittedly, one of the reasons is nakedly commercial – FATE’s got an established userbase and is very popular. (Dresden Files is a huge success, Strands of Fate is sitting right on top of Drivethru as I type). What really sold me on the system for Rakehell, though, was the use of Compels. In my previous experience with FATE (primarily SOTC), Compels only got used once or twice a session, and even then mostly on NPCs. We were all playing Pulp Heroes, so there wasn’t much scope for conflicted emotions and self-destructive drives.

In the Gaelcon playtests, Compels were flying all over the place. All the characters had really passionate, conflicted goals, and coupled with the downward-spiral mechanic of gaining Infernal aspects, Compels meant the characters were tempted to embrace more and more damnation to pursue their goals. Half the time, the players were compelling other players, hitting True Loves and Desires for Revenge all over the place. At my table, Jack rode into Hell to rescue Jane, while Timothy tried to Compel Elizabeth to come with him and flee England. She refused, and his True Love got swapped out for Broken Hearted. By the end of the game, two of the PCs were in Hell, two more set off on a quixotic quest to find Heaven, and poor Tim Kestrel was last seen setting fire to Eden House.

A challenge in future development will be encouraging this sort of operatic, tragic, compel-driven play.

Free Download: Rakehell

or, The Highwayman’s Lament.

It is the closing years of the 18th century. England has sold its soul. The burgeoning industrial revolution is, in secret, an infernal revolution. Aristocrats bargain with devils, souls are traded in the financial markets, and dark satanic mills belch sulphurous smoke over the blighted countryside.

Wealth breeds thieves, and the highwaymen who prowl by highways and byways of London Town are driven by more than greed. They are damned men, bereft of the greater parts of their souls. Through black criminal deeds, they seek to reclaim that which they lost – or had taken from them. Folklore calls them rakehells – they rake the coals of hell by their misdeeds, making their eventual fate all the worse through their defiance.

If a rakehell could steal back his soul, if he could reclaim that which he lost or squandered before it is carried away into Hell, then perhaps he could redeem himself…

Rakehell is a FATE-powered game that’s been knocking around my head for several years. I finally used Gaelcon as a deadline to get the basics of the setting and gameplay down on paper, and that scenario is available for download here. It’s a one-shot game, complete with five player characters, and should take 3-4 hours to play.

Depending on feedback, Rakehell may get developed into a full setting and maybe even released commercially. If you do play it, let us know at

Stirrings in the depths

No, we’re not dead.

It’s been a busy few months since the last post, with getting married and many life changes and going back to university and a lot of freelancing, but the fish has kept on swimming.

Patience will be rewarded.