Category Archives: FATE

Truly Collaborative

I am starting my reading up on Corolis but this is going to take a while so I thought I would give you a mini series based around GM emulators.

With the discussion last week about making money from blogging and RPGs I was conscious that cycle of read a game, plug a game, post link to game could seem a bit mercenary. So I thought a few posts on something completely different before Christmas could be interesting. So with the preamble out of the way…

I have noticed a fashion with newer games where the emphasis is tending away from the GM designing the setting, then the world, then the adventure and then presenting it to players. The new, to me, way seems to be that the players and GM get together and make collective choices about the world. The FATE Core System book says “Both players and gamemasters also have a secondary job: make everyone around you look awesome. Fate is best as a collaborative endeavor, with everyone sharing ideas and looking for opportunities to make the events as entertaining as possible.” The bold is added by me.

So what if everyone and no one was the GM?

A GM Emulator is a method of getting GM-like decisions without having a GM. The emulator is actually a set of rules with tables and dice which is pretty much how we all solve every problem in RPGs anyway. This is not really any different to when you ask the GM a question and the GM rolls a quick D6 to come up with a choice. You want to know if any town guard are patrolling the market place and the GM had not intended any real action to happen here so he rolls a d6, One to three for yes and our or more for no.

So here is a really quick and massively over simplified example. Three goblins decide they want to play a game tonight. They are called Stargazer, Sunglar and Peter. They possess one copper piece between them with a severed head on one side and a scorpion on the other (it is a goblin farthing obviously). No one can be trusted to be GM because that is not the way goblin society works. So they are going to use the copper piece as a GM emulator.

First we need a setting or a world…

Stargazer Goblin asks “Is this a fantasy game?”, tossing the coin it comes up scorpions (tails) for ‘No’. He then passes the coin to Sunglar Goblin.

Sunglar Goblin asks “Is there magic in this world?” tossing the coin it comes up severed head, ‘Yes’. He then passes the coin to Peter Goblin.

So we are in a modern or Sci Fi universe but there is magic, Peter Goblin asks “Are we rebels fighting an evil empire?”, severed head, Yes.

Finally, Stargazer Goblin looking at the questions already asked and the current buzz in the media asks “Is this the Star Wars universe?” the answer comes back as a heads/yes.

So now everyone hopefully has enough information to create a character.

Getting just yes/no answers would be a bit dull and GM Emulators are much more sophisticated than a tossed coin.

These goblins get everywhere!

What has an emulator ever done for us?

Emulators all pretty much give you a yes/no answer each time so that is how you have to structure the questions. In the same way that a GM rolled a d6 to see if town guards were patrolling the market place. The more trouble the PCs had caused in the town in the days leading up to today the GM could add a plus or minus to that 1-3/4-6 roll. So the emulator is going to take into account how likely the answer is to be a yes or a no and it will skew the results accordingly.

Emulators also normally come with a technique for changing the story or introducing a plot twist. Think of them as picking a card in Monopoly which could just as easily say “Go straight to jail.” as “Collect £20 from every player.” Without plot twists the questions you ask could become really predicable.

Whatever answer the emulator gives you it is the person currently acting as GM who has to decide what would be the most fitting and common sense interpretation of that yes or no. If Stargazer, Sunglar and Peter ask if there are guards then they are likely to be storm troopers because this is the Star Wars universe. We have magic but it is likely to be The Force for exactly the same reason. If we can manipulate The Force then chances are we are Jedi or training towards it. Each yes or no has consequences and the setting colours most of those.

Many or most emulators also give you little random words or ideas that it is your challenge to try and work these into the scenes as they unfold. This could be a random colour, sound, texture or material or an adjective. These frequently come in pairs. It is a bit like playing a word association game, it the emulator spits out “increasing” and “purple” how do you work that into the story? Maybe you looked for guards in the market place and you spot a storm trooper hitting a vagrant in the face with the butt of his rifle? The increasing purple in this instance will be the bruising from the vagrants black eye.

Sometimes an emulator will tell you to introduce an NPC. That is just as open to interpretation as everything else. What ‘NPC’ means could be anything from an innocent bystander, the sort of NPC that doesn’t even have a name through named recurring individuals to entire organisations such as guilds or agencies.

So when it is your turn to be GM you describe the scene in the game for the characters and advance the story. As soon as a question come up you pass the emulator to the next player and they roll for the answer and continue the story. The basic mechanism for an GM is “Describe the scene” and ask “What do you do?”, that doesn’t change it is just that the GM Emulator is an outside influence and can take the story in completely new and unexpected directions.

In the next instalment I will show you how an emulator really works and to make it more interesting I will create an emulator specifically for the article. It will be based around the d66 as a nod to all the time I spent reading up on Mutant:Year Zero!

Fate Accelerated And Fallout

Last weekend I wanted to give Fate another chance. Even though I have given up on Fate several times before, I wasn’t happy with that decision. In theory I love what Fate Core and Fate Accelerated represent. If I just could get into the right mindset, Fate could become one of my go-to games especially because of its endless flexibility.

My players were all fans of the Fallout series, so I decided to run a Fallout one-shot using the Fate Accelerated rules. This is something I’ve actually done before, but last time I replaced Fate Accelerated’s Approaches with Fallout’s S.P.E.C.I.A.L. attributes. This time I decided to use Fate Accelerated basically rules-as-written to make things easier for me. If you’re not 100% comfortable with a system you always should run it RAW instead of writing and using house rules.

I actually had a lot of fun preparing the game. I created an awesome Fallout-themed character sheet (you can download the PDF here) and made some notes on how to implement weapons, armor, chems, etc. from the video game series using Fate Accelerated rules. Unfortunately I didn’t have as much time as I hoped preparing, so I had to improvise a lot of the adventure.

One thing I noticed is that Approaches work well for active use but things become a bit more muddy, when you’re making passive tests. Often we had a hard time to decide which Action and Approach to use for detecting enemy presence, resisting radiation, or something similar. If you, my dear reader, have any advice, this would be very much appreciated. As I said before, I am still in the process of learning Fate.

Things actually worked great. We didn’t get to try all aspects of the Fate system, but that’s fine. At least noone disliked the system so far and everyone has said that they are open to playing another game using Fate in the future. One thing I noticed is that it’s very handy to have poker chips or something similar to represent Fate points. If you don’t have a physical representation of the FP lying in front of you, you tend to forget to use them, which is vital for Fate to work as it should. Next time I’ll make sure not to make the same blunder again.

But overall I was happy with how things turned out. I’ll definitely run a few more games using Fate Accelerated to get more familiar with it.

“Please allow me to introduce myself…”

This is my first post for Stargazer’s World. Some readers may have seen my comments on Michael’s and Sunglar’s articles in the past. Like most of us I guess I have been playing RPGs since the early 1980s starting with D&D basic set (red box in my case). I am a long term advocate of Iron Crown’s Rolemaster system but I also love really simple d6 systems.

Michael suggested I use my first post as an opportunity to introduce myself but writing about yourself is hard. If you start listing stuff you have done or written then it sounds really egotistical and if you don’t then you end up with a rather blank resumé. So I will just say that I have done stuff and I will probably mention it in passing in my future posts. So that is quite enough about me and now I will move on to RPGs which is why you are here in the first place and is not something I feel awkward writing about.

This year’s #RPGaDAY has had a lot of questions about game design, from a physical product point of view, the quality of the writing, the quality of the page layout, the art and so on. One of the things I do do is I run a fanzine. This means I am writing and publishing stuff for other people to consume every single month. During #RPGaDAY it was really interesting to take a long and critical look at many of my favourite games to see how they measured up against games being released today. I reached the conclusion that great design can make a game look so good that you want to play it even if the actual rules are not really either new or engaging.

It helps to have great art but it is not essential. For some game systems art can make too many suggestions about how things should be. My orcs and goblins could be very different to yours. RPGs take place in the mind’s eye and you do not need a picture for everything. On the other hand if you are looking for a Star Wars RPG then you want to see pictures of X-wings and light sabres. There, having the right art makes you want those things, it sells the setting.

For me one of the best presented games I have ever seen is FATE. Ironically, I think FATE is a terrible game and not one bit of it appeals to me. Maybe I just don’t get it? Not everyone can like everything, after all.

So is good visual design important? I think it is if we want to encourage new players into the game or if you are looking to revive and out of fashion game. Good page and book layouts can make rules easy to navigate and make play at the table run faster. Great art can enthuse readers into wanting to run the game even as a one off to give it a go. If you litter your game with iconic images from a particular time people will buy into it. Imagine a ‘modern day’ RPG and it is littered with images of Chopper bikes and Atari games consoles and it screams 80s. That lends itself to cold war intrigue. Take the same rules and game mechanics and add some psychedelic designs and flared trousers and a red and white Gran Tourino and you are in for a Starsky and Hutch campaign. Show me helicopter gunships hovering over the jungle and I am up for a rolling up a Vietnam vet as a character.

An example of this StarFinder. Same old rules but new imagery, new looking books and you have PathFinder in space. Is it any good? That is a matter of personal choice. Does it look good? It sure does. Will people give it a go? Of course they will. Who doesn’t want to battle space pirates?

Do I want to play it? Not really but on the other hand where is that bright red Gran Tourino? That is a game I would be interested in seeing!