Friday, September 27, 2013

Extras - Adding complexity but for all the right reasons

It would almost seem to me that FATE Core has nearly ruined my life. Ok, that is a bit of an exaggeration, but if I start calculating the amount of time I have spent tooling around with FATE once I got my hands on it, I can truthfully say that it has become somewhat of an obsession. When I got my hands on the Toolkit, the problem became worse. What can I say, I love playing with this game system because it gets my creative juices flowing and it stimulates my puzzle solving brain meat centers.

+Wil Hutton‘s post about +Jacob Poss‘ post on a Blue Planet hack along with some other Google+ posts with +Craig Hatler  about equipment conversions to FATE have brought a question to the forefront of my mind. How much is too much when it comes to Extras? In other words, how many layers of complexity can we add to a game in the name of “feel” or “flavor” before we muddle the fractal too much and detract from game play?

FATE is designed to be minimalist and transparent. You can see from +Mike Olson ‘s posts about his upcoming Thrilling FATE that if you break the system down to its very bones, you have Aspects, Consequences/Troubles and Stunts. FATE can simply run off those three things with little difficulty, even with the omission of Stunts. At times, going this route actually opens things up more than creating individual rules for things. It is simply up to the players and GM to construct stories around the narrative “aspects” they bring to play, but it’s also up to them to create a consensus on what those elements represent.

This made me ask myself, “to what extent do rules fuel feel?” My gaming background is filled with games like Shadowrun, Mechwarrior, Dungeons and Dragons and Mekton Zeta. These games are not rules light. In fact some of them are at their core, tactical simulations as much as they are role playing games if not more so. To a certain extent I kind of like rules crunchy games. Not so much because it gives me clear boundaries to work within, but because it created a firm idea of the impact certain things had on the setting. It created a contextual uniformity to the world which gave it a very specific feel. A general consensus on the feel of a game became inherent in the rules set and required little investment on the part of the players to determine.

That is why world building in FATE is so critical. When the group is involved in creating the setting for the story, that consensus is generated up front. But what happens when you are dealing with a conversion of an already fully realized setting like Blue Planet? It’s up to the “hacker” to decide to use rules to create context and consensus or rely on the players’ knowledge and creativity to drive that feel.

Extras can provide some form of context to elements in your story. To me, that’s the best way to view them. Transhumanism is a big part of Blue Planet. Having Extras that bring Transhumanism to the forefront provide players with built in options to explore that theme within the game. The inherent value to creating these Extras is fairly clear. That’s what it’s all about, understanding that Extras are only necessary if they provide value to your story in some way. They provide pre-packaged Aspects or Stunts that establish story elements that bring your characters into the context of established game themes. If an Extra does not provide that, it should simply be represented as a standalone Aspect of a character, scene or story.

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