Fate, the generic roleplaying game system, is at its best when its doing pulp. Atomic Robo is one of the best pulp comic books of the last ten years. It’s a match made in heaven and executed well to boot.
With the upcoming release of its first supplement, Majestic 12, I thought it’d be a good idea to tell people why I think it’s one of the best sourcebooks for Fate Core on the market.
It can be hard to really get a sense for what to do with any generic system’s mechanics from the core rulebook. Often, those rulebooks lack settings and are vague in describing how to use their mechanics, something that makes sense for a generic game. This is an issue Evil Hat has made a concentrated effort to fix — launching 3rd Ed with Dresden Files, offering numerous PWYW microsettings –, but I feel no setting book does it better than Atomic Robo.
It uses excerpts from the comic to give examples on how to use the rules. This does a great job of letting the reader figure out how and when to implement the rules and is great for new players and GMs. This is how I learned to use the Fate engine.
For experienced Fate players, the Atomic Robo is more than just a repacking of the Fate rules. It has a great alteration to the Skill Modes mechanic, originally seen in the Fate System Toolkit. While you can get down and dirty with it and make some interesting things, E-Z No Math Character Creation isn’t false advertising and great for new players.
Players who love quick chargen or newbies will love being able to put three modes together and be right into the game where those who love chargen will revel in making weird modes.
Where the upcoming Venture City Stories is made for mid-level supers, Atomic Robo’s Mega-Stunt system is great for low-level supers. It gives just enough framekwork to make the outlandish, but low-level supers from the AR comic series without going overboard. In other words, a good subsystem: enough new rules to do the job, but not so much as to feel like bloat.
The condensed skill list in AR is also my preferred skill list with Fate and may or may not have been my default going forward with my adventures in Fate Core.
A lot of it’s new subsystems make Atomic Robo not only great for AR games, but also for a lot of science heavy, pulp games.
Brainstorming, in particular, is great for both shared world building and doing those heavy, investigative/research scenes in a lot of shows and series.
Flashbacks are great for handling those days when not enough people show to go forward.
The invention rules are a cool and involved way of building tech. It has a good amount of framework to get the job done without being too involved and it allows people to work together to come up with the right tool for the job.
High-tech itself is handled nicely with the new mega-stunt rules. It’s a good way of keeping the rules from getting too bloated while allowed high-tech to have a real punch.
It has a great framework for doing games where players belong to large organizations with its rules for organizations and the Resource Mode. Once again, it handles things nicely with what already exists, but still gives enough framework for it to feel like a good fit for the job.
Overall, experienced Fate Core players, even those not interested in AR, can use it as a great resource for making science fiction games. Fans of AR, who almost assuredly already know of the title, will find it perfect for playing out their action-science fantasies.
For those not interested in AR, I want to take a moment to mention that AR’s setting is very game-able. It is full of weirdness, conspiracies, and tons of room for player characters to get wrapped up in insane adventures. Unlike most settings where discussing history is more for background knowledge, you can set the game anywhere along the timeline and be surrounded by conspiracies, super villains, and science weirdness. Not a surprise as the comic jumps from key event to key event in Robo’s long, long life.
Even without heading the author’s advice to not to worry about canon, most GMs won’t feel straightjacked by the comic’s timeline or adventure since they often happen in the background and often jump around timeline-wise.
Also, the entire comic is now legally online for free so I suggest giving it a look.
I suggest this game for anyone who loves weird Sci-fi pulp. It can be easily adjusted to handled a bunch of sci-fi pulp settings and is a good resource, if nothing else, for experienced Fate Core GMs looking into a low-level sci-fi game.* If you’re an AR fan, you want this game.
*Quick warning: it has no rules for spaceships, if that’s what you’re looking for in a sci-fi Fate Core resource. AR’s trips to space have been short and only to orbit (‘cept for that one issue where he went to Mars, but that was a comedy issue).
It’s also worth mentioning that AR:RPG is for Fate Core, the more rules-medium of the Fate titles. It is not for Fate Accelerated, the rules-lite variant of Fate.