Thursday, October 17, 2013

Fate Core OneShot Experimentation

A few weeks ago, I gm'd my group through a game of Fate Core, although I tweaked it on purpose.   I had supported the Kickstarter for it.  It seemed like it was time for me to try it out, and the rest of the group complied, interested to learn more about it themselves.

Fate Core is excellent to tweak and hack.  I've developed a habit of hacking tabletop RPGs, often out of a urge to up play or down play a particular goal I've had in mind.  In the case of running Fate Core this time, I wanted to run a one-shot, but I wanted some parts of it to go quicker than others- which had sort of mixed results.

I wanted character creation to go quick, so I reduced skills down into six "professions", using one of the subsystems in the Fate toolkit.  Professions are a sort of idea of a skill group- that is, for how I used it, six different approaches for handling situations defined by in-setting professions.  We ended up spending two sessions, one whole session for creating the setting and another to play out the game.

First we used the Sparks RPG/Fate crossover material (yes, Fate Core has a variant that uses world creation from yet another RPG.  The Spark RPG, perhaps just as clever as Fatecore is) to crave out a world for us to play with.  For Spark's purposes, this begins with inspirations, which kinda make everything else fall into place.  Our array of inspirations varied from Battlestar Galactica (the reimagined series) to Final Fantasy and Eldritch Horror.

We called our little nightmare thing "Secrets of the Heralds: A postamerican SciFi Horror."  Postamerican implied that the game was set in future after the fall of the United States, while Horror let us drift into creepy Lovecraftian fantasy.  A future where dark gods have re-emerged, using secret heralds who live among humanity to drive their misbegotten children into destruction, eventually rendering the Earth inhabitable.

Dark, gritty and very us.  "In Space."

The game itself revealed a bunch of things to me, but here is a brief synopsis:

Each player got six professions: Agent (for sneaking about), Diplomat (for talking), Soldier (for fighting), Engineer (for technology), Mage (for magic and Gods) and Scavenger (for scavenging).  This had the effect of making specializations by my players really, really effective.  Fate had its own hand in that, but does a Soldier-heavy fightng character really need to resort to using another other skill but Soldier?  Yeah, I took note of that.

The game turned into a classic horror game.  By game's end, the monsters I'd made for the session- the Caelung Tzakgan, a race of invisible worms that shared a hivemind and gestated in humans after their microscopic eggs, which had been planted in some relief effort food, had been eaten.

Last scene?  One character had used magic to fry off the skin of another character for a secret that had been revealed.  The last character knocked him out, and was forced to decide how to solve the problem of the worms, which had taken over the ship...

Another issue we discovered was the uncertainty of the magic.  Fate has a bunch of different magic systems, but I didn't define any sort of limitations.  There hadn't been any real clue of how magic in the setting should work, and to be honest, I find players when given unlimited power tend to lack the imagination to REALLY abuse it.

That's the weird trick.  Give a player the right amount of power, and they hang themselves with it (or so I believe).  Its like handing gasoline to a gorilla.  They don't know what to do with it, and if they did, good, trustworthy players don't abuse that power when its presented to them.  Its better to either trust your players, if you can, or assume the worst and prepare for that.  But I'm a improv GM, so sometimes that all evens out, and in this game, it did.

Fate Core succeeded where it's centered: Aspects and fate points excelled in our game.  Compels came naturally to me, and I tried to get my players to try and compel each other (because it makes perfect sense to me!)  I intended it as a oneshot, mainly because I'd like to run the Fate Core again, the same way, with the same people to see if prior experience made things easier or harder.

I'd like to think that something even deeper or kewler could result.  Best to plan for that test, then.  Maybe I can think up a review or something.  Fate Core is buy-what-you-like, but I'd suggest paying five bucks and picking up a copy.  Its got some great ideas under the hood.