Monday, April 14, 2014

The Fate of All Mankind

Note: Sorry for the poor editing and formatting on this post friends, I seem to have overestimated my ability to update while on vacation.  Later this week we'll finish this discussion with narrative timing.

Today we return to our discussion of Fate and how to use elements of its rules for other games.  The week we'll cover the team based city and character creation rules, specifically those that appear in The Dresden Files RPG, and the narrative based timing Fate uses for wounds and healing.

Group Character and City Creation

The Dresden Files RPG (DFRPG) focuses heavily around making the characters and their world feel deeply interconnected.  The PCs feel as though they have a shared history throwing off the clich├ęd trope of murder hobos meeting in a bar and becoming fast friends.  Additionally the game encourages making the city feel like another member of the ensemble, emulating stories like The Wire or (of course) the game's namesake.

The primary way it achieves this is by making character creation part of the game.  During  character creation players incorporate at least two other characters into their narrative, leaving you at the end of the process with an interweaving web of relationship on which to draw.  Before this happens though, and I think that it is very important that this happens first, the group as a whole work together to create the city the characters inhabit.

While the book calls this City Creation it's important to note that this process can be scaled up or down for the story.   The same principles apply if your describing a college campus or and multinational agency of super spies.

For our purposes though we're going to look at using this process to handle a superhero game.  My game of choice for supers is Champions but as this process doesn't have to interact with the rules it can apply to any system.  

The first session of your Champions game, sit everyone down and encourage them not to settle on a character yet.  As soon as you say superhero game ideas will have already started to form, but bring open minded at this stage is helpful. First, as a group decided which  city you want the game to take place in.  You can also at this point decide on a globe spanning game but the process remains the same.  The next step is defining important locations that the characters will be interacting with.

A useful way to think of this is like you were making a TV show, a fee key locations is all you have the budget for so you have to make them each have their own sense of character.  In our superhero game you may have the local PD, the city tabloid's office, the roof tops, the villain's corporate HQ, the here's base of operations and the city limits sign for example.  To save on effort make sure that each location you detail has a rule to play in the game and people other than the PCs associated with it.  Pepper Pots at Stark Tower, Commissioner Gordon at Gotham PD and J. Jonah Jamison at the Daily Bugle all breath life into what would otherwise just be set pieces. 

One you've established your locations and populated them you should define their expected impact on the story.  In the DFRPG this is done through aspects but even if your not using that rule module writing down a phrase or two here will help to cement the location in your mind. Going the examples I mentioned earlier you might note Stark Tower with "boundless wealth and innovation" and "everyone knows where to find you".  Gotham PD on the other could be described as having "a tense peace with heroes" and being "rife with corruption".  This descriptor will help you know the sorts of scenes to set at the location and give the players a sense of how to act there. 

Now that you've established the where of your Champions game you can get to the who of the characters, some of whom may be inspired by this process.  When you think about what really is the difference between Lexcorp and Stark Tower other than the association with a PC.  

Group character creation is an easy step to incorporate into your game that in my experience greatly enhances the experience at the table and the ultimate narrative that ultimately forms.  In the DFRPG this is tied directly to the Aspect system, but it doesn't have to be in your game.  

To bring this stage into you game all you have to do is get everyone at the table before the characters are made and have each player look to the person to their left  and the person to their right.  For a Champions game I would have the players use the classic types of superhero interactions.  The player to left's character is someone they initially fought with but then the teamed up to fave a bigger threat (let the players come up with the threat and that's one less villain you have to come up with a concept for).  The player to their right is someone who they owe their life to, either because they saved them or for some other reason.  Finally, after there's decisions are made, have the players switch seats at the table.  With the interconnected stories this will help prevent it from seeming silly, and will encourage other characters to get involved when these stories come up in the game.

To prevent me from having to type evenore on my phone for now I'm going to leave it there and we'll come back to narrative based timing later this week.  On Monday I'll share with you a falafel recipe that a great snack and vegetarian friendly.

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