Sunday, February 26, 2017

What's My Fate?

After doing so many Shadow of the Demon Lord reviews, and doing that on the heels of a few 3rd party D&D reviews, I decided I wanted to do a bit of a pallet cleansing and review some science fiction material for a bit before doing any more fantasy RPG books.



I also decided that I wasn't in the mood to do whole game systems, or extremely long books. That pointed me towards some of the Fate Worlds of Adventure settings that I have been accumulating. Before I did a review of those, I felt like discussing some thoughts on Fate in general.

I absolutely love Fate as a roleplaying toolkit. One of the reasons that I love Fate is that it can use the same system for combat, social interaction, research, or investigation, so if you are playing in a genre where all of those things have equal weight (or where some of them have more weight than combat), you have the tools to roleplay without the number of pages devoted to a topic making you feel like something else should be getting more effort devoted to it in the game.



That said, if you are playing in a genre where fighting is a big deal, there are lots of bells and whistles in various Fate products to make combat more robust. If you want more structure to investigation or discovery, there are extra structures you can add in for that as well.

Despite all of the above, I don't think any roleplaying game is the perfect solution for all things at all times. Even when a roleplaying game does something well, there are times when I want to approach that same thing from a different direction. So even though Fate is a powerful universal toolkit, I don't want Fate all of the time.

There is also something about Fate that I can only speak to from my personal perspective, but Fate, more than any other "generic" system I have used, seems to require a lot of clarification and buy in from players. What I mean by this is that if you paint a setting for a game in broad strokes, you have to expect that each player is going to push outwards from those broad strokes in different directions. Even if you didn't have much of an expectation for the game, you may find it going in directions you really didn't want it to go if you don't spend a good deal of time getting a firm grasp on how everyone envisions what was discussed.

I'll give you an example from my own experience.



I ran a one shot of Fate Accelerated one time, and I explained that I wanted the one shot to be an Urban Fantasy Monster Hunting game. I gave examples like the Dresden Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Supernatural. My expected parameters were pretty broad. For example, Buffy has some things that are a little bit more "out there" than Supernatural, but Supernatural veers into apocalyptic situations more than Buffy, and Dresden has a lot wider range of mythical creatures showing up than either of the other two examples.

What I ended up with were the following characters--


  • One character that was a smart, bookish investigator that was pretty much Thelma from Scooby Doo
  • One character that was a spell slinging monster hunting wizard, much like Harry Dresden
  • One character that carried a van full of guns and wanted to punish the guilty . . . monsters, who was essentially monster hunter Punisher
  • One character that was a Rostafarian bagpipe playing shaman who produced magical effects by shooting spices out of his bagpipe in accord with certain notes
So while I expected the world to range from "gritty, human like monsters" to "mythic creatures returning in modern times," I wasn't totally prepared for "cartoon like atmosphere next to brutal gunplay, and also, magic exists so why not make the most screwed up spellcasting system ever."

This was a very fun one-shot, but there is no way I would have tried to make all of that work for a campaign, even a shorter story arc of 6 to 9 sessions. This is why I have said Fate is more prone to becoming the shared delusional space of 3 to 7 people than any RPG I've encountered. 

That's not a failing of Fate, it's a side effect of the very broad tool box nature of the game system. 

I mention all of that to say how much I love the Fate Worlds of Adventure line, because there are so many different concepts and genres that have been touched upon, which gives a group a wide range of campaign frameworks, but it narrows down the expected universe enough to make it workable without a great deal of compromise or back and forth collaboration to "build" the setting that is about to be played.

That's not to say other groups can't reach consensus on what should be in or out of a game quickly, or that other GMs might not be much better able to create a setting that accommodates a wide range of extreme character concepts. But from my personal perspective, and given many of the players I have played with, having a strong set of guidelines contained in a setting, while having a huge number of settings to choose from, is a wonderful thing.



And as an aside, and keeping in mind I've yet to be able to run any flavor of Dresden, I think my second favorite Urban Fantasy game behind Monster of the Week is probably The Secrets of Cats

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