Monday, June 17, 2013

My first experiences with Fate Core - A Star Wars game.



When we started to put together our Corellian Corvette scenario for X-Wing, I started writing a story behind the event using the 42nd Tactical Combat Squadron whose members were all loosely based on the members of the Plus Ten to Awesome game club. Once we were done with the event, I thought it might be nice to actually run an RPG detailing their adventures.

+Chris Morrison had run an adventure using the Edge of the Empire system and that was pretty fun. At first, I had planned on using that as the system for my game. From what I saw from the Beta, the system as ok, but I had some issues with the fact that the game used “archetypes” for character generation, which in my opinion limits a game severely.  That and the idea that each character had to generate a hook in the form of a debt or obligation didn't sit right with me since it limited the form of conflict the character has starting off. The game does a pretty good job of leading a player towards making a character with a background and some RP goals at generation, but it seemed geared towards a specific kind of character that comes from the seedier side of the Star Wars world and that didn’t quite work for my story. On top of these issues, the full game itself was delayed and I had nothing but the Beginner Game set that didn't even have character generation rules in it.

At that point, Fate Core had come out and I was very excited about it. I had been following several blogs, including that of +Wil Hutton and some others and this game seemed fantastic.  I had some experience with the Dresden Files RPG and loved the system. So I decided to have this story arc be my introduction to Fate Core. Here are some of the mods I did for the Star Wars Hack.

I am actually looking for the advice of people who have had more experience with Fate Core than I have. In particular, I am looking for what people find to be the most important aspects of Hacking Fate for specific worlds, settings or genres. Feedback is appreciated.

Aspects, most especially High Concepts

I definitely didn't want to see “Just like Boba Fett” High Concepts. Although I don’t mind the hero worship that Star Wars engenders in some people, I didn’t want to fall into the trap of people playing the same archetypes that I saw in Edge of the Empire. After all, one of the reasons I went with Fate Core was to open things up to a fully creative experience within the setting of Star Wars. In the first three characters we generated, I really didn’t find this to be a problem.

The issue I did have is that people came up with High Concept Aspects that seemed a lot more like regular aspects.  For example, one of my players had “Dead Eye Shot” as a High Concept. I asked him to rethink that unless he wanted that particular thing to best describe his character’s role in the galaxy. I have found that I like esoteric high concepts like “Disgruntled Idealist”. I don’t know how something like that would work in a game as far as Invokes and Compels, but we will see. Perhaps something like “Wily Smuggler” might work better, but one of the great things about it is that the players can change these things as they go along without it being a great big deal.

Coming up with Aspects that have a good feel in regards to Invokes and Compels seems to be the greatest challenge, at least to me, in character generation.

Skills

I did some very basic work on skills for the game and changed the skill list very little. I basically just changed Crafts to Mechanics, Drive to Pilot (which are just thematic changes to skills that already exist) and added Tactics to the skill list. The reason for the Tactics addition was based on some of the characters in the game and the stories already told within the narrative. Some characters were already written as being excellent tacticians and I wanted a skill to build some Stunts on later on for those characters. The Tactics skill will be used for combat order as a default with the basic game rule as a backup default and tie breaker.

I am also thinking about doing a “specialization” system for skills. I got the idea from Shadowrun and thought it might fit thematically into this game and adds a little flavor to the very broad skill sets that govern action in Fate Core. It’s similar to creating a stunt but far more basic and uniform.  The way it works is by allowing a player to choose a specialization for a skill by subtracting one from the base skill and adding one to the specialization.  For instance, a skill of Shoot +3 (Good) would be reduced to +2 (Fair) while the specialized skill of Bowcaster would be added at a +4 (Great). Therefore when shooting anything other than a Bowcaster the player would be at +2 (Fair) and with a Bowcaster the player would be at a +4 (Great) at no extra cost.

I know what you are thinking. Something like your specialization idea already exists in the game with Aspects and Stunts. That is true. The reason I went with this idea is because the Star Wars setting is very heroic to me. I tooled with the idea of expanding my skill list, adding more stunts for starting characters, etc. That seemed like a little too much work and could maybe be overkill. But giving someone a +1 at a signature skill at the cost of a more generic one seemed like a good way to simulate the heroic feel of the setting to me. I will also be limiting these specializations to something that should be a signature skill for the character justified in his/her background. Also, I thought it would make my players have to be a little more creative with their Stunts than simply stating “Badass with a Bowcaster” since they already will have an inherent bonus with their signature weapon if they choose to.

I am going to work on a Force system using the framework set up by West End Games, with the skills of Alter, Sense and Control. Then characters would build stunts for each skill to represent Force Powers. This is not something I need to fully develop right away since I don’t have any force users in the group, but I will tinker with it for future games. I also like the idea of Force using characters starting with a lower refresh and more stunts and will more likely have to do so if they need to spread stunts around three Force skills.

Stunts

I have to admit that I don’t like “suggested” or “generic” Stunts. I can actually see some game companies publishing books of Stunts like the “Complete Thieves Guide to Fate” sometime in the near future. Fate Core does a great job explaining how Stunts work with well laid out guidelines on how to make them.  I didn’t feel the need to hammer out a bunch of pre-conceived Stunts for every skill. There are plenty of examples to be had. I will probably create a bunch of Stunts for Force use, only because the basics of what a Jedi can do have already been laid out in some detail and I want to guarantee a decent representation of those powers in the game. Otherwise I am pretty sure my players can come up with appropriate, “I’m a badass commando” Stunts for themselves.

The Phase Trio

I have to say, that I was a little skeptical about how this would pan out with my players. I didn’t really know if they were willing to surrender so much control over their character generation. The whole idea of cooperative character generation is pretty alien to more traditional styles of play. I was very pleased to see that my players not only liked the idea but truly embraced it.

The tack I took was to have them simply put together a story involving one other player (as per the Phase Trio) and then the group came up with an appropriate Aspect that fit the story. That worked surprisingly well. We did it from a couple of angles. Some players fished for something they were looking for and some just went along for the ride. Either way we had some pretty appropriate Aspects created. Whether they are going to be useful in play is yet to be determined.

Equipment

Luckily, I don’t have too much to worry about in terms of equipment as far as what my characters have access to in the game. I don’t have any crazed Mandalorians in full armor and a flame thrower (oh no continuous damage!). Nor do I have to deal with any Light Sabers.

I will have some Stormtrooper extras with Stormtrooper armor that presumably (I never really saw evidence of that in the movies) provides some protection from blaster fire. I am so inclined not to care and just give the Stormtroopers an extra physical stress to compensate for being in full armor, but I see this as a chance to experiment. I thought about giving the ST armor its own stress levels that can be used by the character to absorb damage. That causes more book keeping and I hate that. So what I am going with for now is making three categories for armor: Light, Medium and Heavy. Real original right? Each one automatically takes away one shift value of damage from any attack. Light armor has no other affect. Medium gives the character the Aspect: Resilient. Heavy gives the same features as Light and Medium but adds the Aspect: Environment Sealed. I was thinking about adding the Aspect Cumbersome to heavy armor but I don't think that really fits since I never noticed that the armor restricted movement in any way.

I am assuming that a lot of stuff is covered in the Toolkit which I do not have access to right now, but I will be picking that up as soon as I can. From what I understand it has a lot of ways to handle gear and a bunch of special situations.  I am looking forward to that a great deal since I will probably need to stat out things like heavy repeating blasters and speeder bikes.