Familiars in an unfamiliar world - a Mephisto review
In a world where supernatural forces coexist with humanity, it is up to a cult to keep this threat at bay. This cult is organized into various cells that operate in secret. Its members not only know that alien entities exist, but as a sign of their power, each member binds such a being to himself as a familiar. The player characters belong to the scholars who have grown up within one of the cult's compounds and who have bonded with a familiar in order to gain the necessary power to face their opponents. The cult has been around since the days of John Dee, and its central tenet is that belief can shape reality - with dangerous consequences....
In Straw Boss, players create characters that are part of the cult. They know about supernatural influences in the world, and each of them is bound to a familiar. The familiar is a supernatural entity with whom the character makes a pact to gain power - but of course, this power comes at a price. Thus, the character creation with the usual aspects also revolves around this familiar in particular. Likewise, the common bond of the group is also in the foreground.
Rules for controlling the familiar are introduced, which is defined by its Vice and Virtue and uses the approaches of Fate Accelerated in terms of rules.
Thus equipped, the players arrive in a world altered by supernatural influences, and their task is to stop the worst dangers. There are people who stumble upon the secrets that the scholars also know about and thus become a danger with their magic. On the other hand, some entities act independently in the world or push to enter it.
A central rule concept is the corruption die, which can be added as a bonus die. In a roll, the four best dice are used for the player. However, the use of the bonus die causes corruption, and thus there is a risk that the familiar will take over the player character's body. This is solved by turning the character sheet upside down in the game, which brings the familiar's game statistics into play.
Of course, a ready-to-play adventure is included. Here the player characters must follow the trail of chaos left by a truck-driving preacher.
Straw Boss offers two interesting aspects defining this Fate world. On the one hand, the game world presents the fascinating conflict between the cult on one side and the supernatural forces on the other. In the adventure, it alludes to a twisted interpretation of Christian mythology (which is certainly not appropriate for players who dislike movies like Dogma). The idea of the familiars and the shifting control is well-implemented rules-wise. Even though this setting leaves room in many places for the gamemaster to fill in the details, as is usual for these Fate worlds, it offers a fascinating glimpse into a strange world. In my view, this makes Straw Boss one of the Fate worlds worth recommending.