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Ian O'Rourke
United Kingdom
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Fading Suns Is Go!!

It would seem Fading Suns is going to be the post-4E Campaign. That's a big deal, since it's coming off the back of two of the longest campaigns we've ever run (Pendragon before it) and it's the first game to run under the Golden Rules, officially anyway. So, time to move to the next level of planning, and more importantly, understand what is not part of that planning. The idea being to stake a step forward from milieu to actual play at the table.

First, how I see the milieu. I set about creating the milieu on the Fading Suns wiki because I needed to set the trajectory. I needed to establish Fading Suns, for the simple reason science fiction and space opera are big beasts and setting the trajectory meant everyone signed on knowing the deal. This doesn't mean player input isn't part of it. The Fading Suns milieu is essentially my World War II backdrop (or insert other commonly understand backdrop as required). I certainly don't see all of it being present and centre, but colour is good. Obviously, if nothing else happens, player Aspects will necessitate an element of player authored content at a minimum, as will the group creation of the 'starship', players may be related to important people (will be important people) and need to define them, organisations, establish worlds or systems, the list can go on and on. After all, what has been defined so far is very broad brush and not carved in stone. In short, communal content creation is good!

Second, the Aspects are everything. If Fading Suns turns out anything like Spirit of the Century, a large part of what will be the campaign will be sourced by the Aspects (don't get me started on the current waste with respect to the Spirit of the Century aspects). Aspects build the dramatic landscape of the character (who and what is important to them and why), it's essentially that character's story in bullet points and the physical stuff that should be present to tell it (the genius is the how isn't present).In short, the Aspects are your strategy and vision which give you the beats you have to hit on your way to a conclusion.

In Fading Suns, one Aspect will be the Issue Aspect. The Aspect is different to no other in terms of its wording, but it must represent the core issue the character is currently wrestling with and seeking answers for. In principle, it may be why he's out there seeking his destiny amongst the stars. If a player designs a great naval leader of the Hawkwoods who lost his fleet in a key battle during the Emperor Wars and now bums around as a Charioteer his Issue Aspect might be the one labelled 'Haunted By The Loss of His Fleet'. It could be anything, Mal Reynolds in Firefly would have one related to his issue of being on the losing side of the war, etc. Aeryn Sun in Farscape would have one related to her seeking redemption for her Peace Keeper past, etc. In truth, most characters have such an aspect as it comes out naturally, acknowledging its existing will mean all will have one.

I like the Primetime Adventures approach to this, what can I say?

Third, it's about maximising the potential of it being 'short'. I have around nine sessions, maximum of 12. I won't want to run for longer and I don't think it's necessary for richness and character development either. This means I can't afford much fat. Our sessions can last five hours (1400 to 1900). If we assume a typical 3 Act structure, though I realise it's not followed slavishly, and I'm certainly not going to be sitting there with a stopwatch, that is 1.5 hours per act. The principle of two hours of awesome is going to have to be adopted, how much of what happens in an RPG can be condensed down by a factor, from series to session, from session to act, etc? I don't mean literally, but I do mean applied focus. After all, we watch great films all the time that condense more drama into that two hours than is often present in a few sessions or even a whole series of a role-playing game (as role-playing games can attenuate drama and conflict unnecessarily). It's not a hard and fast goal, more a philosophy to keep in mind.

Fourth, it has to be about situation and not structured plot. There is a certain irony to this. I tend to see role-playing games in terms of the relationship of characters to things, people or organisations. It's all about the changing relationships, conflict and resolving them is what constitutes plot. I know it's about situation, I do make it about situation and relationships when I run. Despite this, I inevitably get drawn into plot structure, if and then plotting when I prepare. If the 'plot' and its 'elements' stand up to scrutiny, etc. This then draws me into the plausibility of it and the next step is absolute ruin. This is the second big irony as, when I'm a player, I don't demand any of this stuff, dramatic reality, dramatic time and taking a flexible approach to plausibility are fine. I'm all for cinematic TV show and film realism (which doesn't necessarily mean constant, over the top action).

A part of me is thinking of stripping things down to two presentation slides in principle (the obligatory stats for some things aside). A relationship map on one. A situation map on another. The situation map potentially being split into a 3-act structure. That's it. The rest will have to come from mentally rehearsing look, feel and descriptions on the fly when I have a spare moment. Basically, thinking strategically, not tactically. It's an abstract idea at the moment, have to see how it pans out in practice. I just know I need to minimise prep as a very important factor to success, it's probably the next significant challenge in my expectations management approach.

Finally, the focus of the game will be on the scene. Not in a rigid Primetime Adventures way, but certainly in a way that understands it's the primary construct of the session, the construct that resolves things or move things forward. This is when getting the maximum use of time becomes a matter of slowing down, thinking about what we are doing at the table, and allowing out of character discussion to occur. It allows common understanding to form and for a better return on time that is in character. It's about not falling into the trap of just rushing headlong forward ignoring these meta-game constructs. I think by recognising scenes exist you get more return for your time. It's essential for good framing.

That's it. The next task is to create some materials for character creation. Nothing major, it won't take long, but I want the experience to get a good return on the time invested. It's little stuff like a summarised check list of the character creation process, the starship stuff, etc. Possibly something representing the landscape of aspects, etc. Half the time these are references for me as much as anyone else to keep me focused.

Permalink | Comments(0) | Posted by: Ian O'Rourke on 19/04/2010 Bookmark and Share
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