Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Testing Fate, Part 1: Character Creation

Last night was my first attempt playtesting the opening encounter from my Fate/Freeport game, as well as my first time running a session in the system with a party (I'd previously run through a single fight with Catherine just to see it in action).

It's been four years since I last ran a game of any sort, and I'd had the benefit of playing in a few 4e games before that to familiarise myself with the system. This was 90% an entirely new experience.

Character creation is a huge part of the Fate mechanics, more so than any other game I've played. The emphasis on narrative and your relationships with other (N)PCs is possibly even more important to the character you're building than the Race/Class decisions from 4e.

The liberty that Fate offers in its character building was one of the major attractions for me when I decided to start putting a game together, but it's also a paralysing blank slate for players (and DMs) familiar with more structured systems.

Boiling your character's backstory simple but flexible Aspects is a difficult thing to explain, but fortunately once we'd sat down and talked through the characters everyone seemed to catch on quickly.

(My primary issue with the Fate Core rulebook is its lack of general, informative examples; everything seems to be presented as more of a case study, sometimes too specific for widespread application.)

Skills were easy enough to fill in, although some of the players still haven't completed a full pyramid. I'm wondering if knocking the peak down to +3 instead of +4 would help - having to pick a full set of 10 skills is overwhelming, especially if you're new to the whole system and can't envisage how you're actually going to be interacting with the world and its inhabitants.

Stunts, even more than the other parts of the character sheet, are an overwhelming element for someone used to just picking Powers out of a list. Even the limitations given for defining Stunts - which can be reduced to "using a skill in a new way, which you can do sometimes, but not all the time, and not too powerful, but it should be worth taking" - are frustratingly vague, and it puts a lot of responsibility on the GM (and other players) to rein in power creep and improve on weak Stunts.

I'm still not an entirely confident Fate GM (after only one session that's hardly surprising) but I do feel a bit better about how to guide players in the right direction when building characters.

The main takeaway from last night's character creation and the opening encounter (which I'll be writing about more fully tomorrow) is that I need to do more to encourage players and offer better examples. If I'm running this game I need to be knowledgable enough to lead the party to effective Aspects and Stunts (and do a lot more to demonstrate their use in the game itself).

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