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Ian O'Rourke
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Approaching Act II

Fading Suns is moving into Act II and has five sessions behind it, this provides an opportunity for the focus of the campaign to change and to review some of the approaches I'd hope to embed in the sessions themselves. To one degree or another these don't survive hitting the table, but I figure you're best having some goals.

The crucible has changed. It's going need to shift from a ship-based game of discovery to a station-based game of knowledge and action. The location based element of this isn't that binary, as elements of both did and will exist in both acts, but Tartarus Station certainly rises in prominence (with the characters not just being visitors). The main difference is shifting the characters out of discovery to being powerful actors.

Obviously, this isn't all present yet, but the mechanisms by which it can happen are present in the game, being spread across across one character being the heir apparent to a Dynastic House with a loyal following, another a living legend from the point everything went wrong, one is now a host to something that absorbed all intelligent life and fought the 'War in the Heavens' and then we have an eminent scientist, prominent (to be) member of a secret society and who has access to the Technical Apocrypha. There is no shortage of mechanisms to shift the model.

The remaining items are all related really, but I'll address them in turn.

I need to use the rules more. This has been an issue to differing degrees in each session. It's purely a function of me spending my time concentrating on other things and the pace of the game picking up a bit. I need to alter my approach to factor in Aspects directly, push the Fate Point economy in the game and, when needed, make sure conflicts happen.

The interesting thing about the conflicts is there has to be a real conflict, not just one manufactured so a conflict can occur - that's been one of the main problems. When one really exists it sings, but I tend to default to 'no conflict' if the NPC isn't that invested or the narrative direction isn't worth challenging. It's all too easy to get conflict fatigue, which I felt was the case in the Smallville system, with every scene becoming a conflict making interaction with important NPC's feel like a war of attrition. The conflicts can also result in weird situations were it's a sensible conflict dramatically, it's sensible for the NPC to be in conflict but no one at the table wants the player to lose.

It can get quite odd. I need to find balance and put a bit of effort into identifying sensible and meaningful conflicts.

Then we have the issue of using the rules right. Combat never feels right, but this isn't a function of the system as dramatic combats work well in Fate (issues of length aside they sang in Thrilling Tales) but the fact they come up so little they seem so inconsequential. It's a question of the effort being put in (ironic for me, and unexpected).

We've also been doing compels wrong as players have been compelling each other directly from their own Fate Point pool. A player initiated compel , whether against another or themselves, suggest a compel which the GM then runs with. This is a better model as the compel can then be negotiated and the Fate Point doesn't come from the refresh of the player who suggested it! It also reduces the PvP feel of the experience by smoothing out the edges.

I'd like to manage Fate Points in a different way. If you ignore unlimited GM Fate Points to compel character aspects, which sort themselves out in the economy, it still doesn't feel right each NPC having their own pool based on the full character design rules. The issues are a mixture of each NPC coming to a scene with a full refresh (and probably only having one conflict in the session) and needing to stat each NPC completely (which is rarely relevant). If GM Fate Point use becomes divorced from NPC refresh totals there needs to be some way to either (1) balance out unlimited GM Fate Point use or (2) a method to decide number of GM Fate Points per scene that factors in participants.

I had a dig through Fate Core and it runs with option (2) suggesting that a GM has one Fate Point per scene based on the number of PC participants. I like this sort of model as it keeps the GM scene pool 'flat' while allowing the PC's to burn their refresh over an extended period. I may need to tweak it slightly as I'm sure that one Fate Point per PC rule is based on the 3 refresh minus stunts set-up of Fate Core while Fate Fading Suns is running with eight minus stunts!

A bit more discipline over scenes. This was always the plan but it's easy to lose focus once events hit the table and the game gathers pace. Now I'm more comfortable in the GM position there may be opportunity to apply a bit more rigour in this area. The original intention was to have a looser, Primetime Adventures framework. I don't think this went too badly, but it could probably be looked at again. It just may need to be codified more to gain the advantage of things being structured and explicit.

A simple focus around any scene being described in terms of: purpose (which can be exploration or conflict), location, participants and potential scene aspects. The aim, as usual, is just to make intentions a bit more explicit rather than all participants trying to figure each others intentions out.

I also really need to start making notes. Some of this is I get distracted and put my thoughts elsewhere, but also slowing the scenes down a bit might also help. You never know, I suspect it will remain a continual issue. It needs to be folded into the scene structure with me just accepting the conclusion of a scene means noting it down!

I think Act II could be the most difficult. You're not running directly to an end goal at this point, which makes things a bit less focused. You're essentially on a journey to clarify what those end conditions are. As is typical in a campaign, you have the shape of those end conditions in your head but they may change and the exact way they manifest either isn't known or will be different by the end of the middle act anyway. It can also mean the middle section can be longer and at risk of dragging (while Act III could be shorter as you know the end conditions).

It also means you have to stop throwing things in and seeing where they go. This in itself is difficult as the abstract has to start become more concrete. It's the point in TV shows were people start to figure out not all things add up and the writers hope the audience don't mind elements just fading into the background. I've not reached that point yet, as there has been a weak glue at work and some work on linking things together has enhanced rather than degraded, but it could rapidly get to that point if Act II isn't managed well.

It'll be interesting to see how it plays out.

Permalink | Comments(0) | Posted by: Ian O'Rourke on 10/02/2013 Bookmark and Share
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