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May. 4th, 2014 @ 05:25 pm Sort-of review: Fate World vol 1: Worlds on Fire
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Part of the Bundle of Fate were the two Fate Worlds books: settings and scenarios that demonstrate how to use the Fate Core system for various settings. I've since finished reading the first one: Fate Worlds Volume 1: Worlds on Fire.
I'll not go into too much detail about the settings -- you can look them up here, but instead focus on what I, as a prospective Fate GM without experience (as of yet), learned from the setting. That is also the stated goal of the collection: in the introduction, it says that the authors were encourage to introduce "something an enterprising reader might steal for their own games". I'll talk about those things in this review.

The first setting, "Tower of the Serpents", is actually a scenario, set in the low-fantasy setting used for the examples in the Fate Core rule book, called "Tower of the Serpents". The set-up is pretty amusing: the characters are tasked to get something out of a mighty sorceror's tower, but two other groups also want it. It neatly shows how to stat out the opposition and how to think up Aspects for NPCs, organisations and places. I would have liked a bit more guidance on the personalities of the NPCs and a 'flow chart' of how to resolve the scenario -- right now, it's basically "everybody shows up and claims the item, and they'll be pissed if the PCs pass it to another group". But I guess this is all you can cram into 30 pages. It's a better case study in scenario construction than a scenario itself.

The second setting, "White Picket Witches", is 34 pages long. It details a soap-like setting where the characters have supernatural powers (think 'Charmed' and others in the genre). The tricks it plays with the Fate rules is to introduce a semi-rigid, episodic structure, just like in the source material. Each episode has to have a 'confrontation': a show-down between two characters who have come into conflict. (Perrin's "Mecha" has this as well, with each 'episode' including exactly one fight.)
But the thing that was new to me is the way that the places where these confrontations are concluded, so-called Places of Power. The rules for constructing these places, along with their Aspects, show how flexible and powerful the rules surrounding Aspects are. These Aspects can then be invoked by either participant (or the supporting cast who just happen to be present) to make things more interesting.

The third setting, "Fight Fire", has the players playing firefighters. The setting described in 50 pages. Along with a description of the various experts in a typical team and some new skills specific to that expertise, there's also a good description of how a fire spreads and reacts. The PCs are a fire fighting team, and of course they get into all sorts of trouble on and off the job, though the 'off the job'-part wasn't fleshed out that well. I guess if you've seen police dramas and other TV series where a person's job is intense and tends to take precendence above everything else, you know how to play the 'home front' as well.
What was new for me, is that the most important adversary of the setting, fire itself, gets its own stats and skills! When the fire tries to spread from room to room, it has to make a skill check. If gas cannisters are stored somewhere, that's an Aspect that fire can invoke to spread. The actions the firefighters take will oppose this. Fighting the fire then becomes incredibly dynamic, because you get an indirect interaction between the fire and the players: instead of direct opposed rolls, the PCs try to add Aspects to the environment to stop the spread of the fire ("Thoroughly Soaked" on a corridor, for instance) while the fire tries to create Aspects to aid its spread. The example emergency calls are interesting as well.

The fourth setting, "Kriegszeppeling Valkyrie", also clocks in at 50 pages and has the players play as WW1 flying aces. With their squads of wingmen, they have enlisted on board of the epynomous giant zeppelin to travel from Germany to Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa to defeat the evil Dr. Schottky and his army of Galvanic Warriors! If it sounds like pulp, it is because it is pulp. In this setting, the PCs are in competition with each other for the most kills and the best press coverage.
There were two things that I found interesting in this setting. The first is that the enemies learn from their confrontations with the PCs. There are rules for ramping up the opposition in a way that makes sense and precludes overwhelming the PCs. The second is that every character has the same Trouble! This means that the players can compel this Aspect on each other to create trouble for others, but they will realise before long that every complication they invent for their rivals can easily be applied to themselves too.

The fifth setting, "Burn Shift", describes a post-post-apocalyptic setting. It has the most pages of a setting, coming in at 68 pages. After a nuclear conflict, the survivors (including old combat robots, mutants and sentient animals!) formed various societies. Some are militant, others are more pacifist; some are allied in a loose alliance, others are stand-alone; some share the same culture, others are completly alien to each other. Conflict over resources (mainly arable land and clean water) is built into the setting. The characters are members of various (or the same!) society who have to defend their resources and aim to further their Big Plan for the world.
The most important innovation in this setting is that every society has its own Aspects and skills, as a measure of the collective cunning or power of the members of the society. The characters have an Extra of the society they're a member of, with its own stats, signifying how well the character can influence the society to do what they want. That's a really cool mechanic to make a PC part of a larger whole that they can try to invoke for back-up.
Burn Shift also includes rules for picking up a mutation: they mostly start as a consequence from a radiation attack. Then you can turn them into a power, which you can even grow over sessions to become a more and more powerful mutation. That's a neat trick too, and might be of interest to people looking to run a super-hero/mutants game.

The final setting, "Wild Blue", is 36 pages. It's like a fantasy/faerie/wild west mash-up, with lots of wild, undiscovered country where the arm of the law does not fully reach. The characters are born with super powers, and are inducted as Wardens -- people charged by the queen to uphold the law in remote parts.
There's not much to say about the setting itself, which consists of five cities and a handful of NPCs. The most interesting part is, again, the description of the super powers. We get great advice on how to balance the super power with a draw-back. Again, people seeking to run a supers game might find this most interesting.

The book itself is laid out in the same fashion as the Fate Core rulebook itself: clear font, clear 'side bars'. There's not much cross-referencing going on, but there is an seven-page index -- quite extensive for a 280-page supplement! That will make it easy to go back through the book again once you've got an idea of the things you want to do in your own Fate Core-powered setting, to look up that one trick that you want to use.
Each part/setting is illustrated by a different artist, which is nice because it gives every setting its own 'style'. The art is quite nice, with visual styles that fit nicely with the setting they've set out to illustrate: a realistic style for the realistic setting of "Fight Fire", more cartoonish for the comic-like "Wild Blue".

If you are considering running a Fate Core game, this book gives many suggestions and tricks to add some extra spice to your game -- even if you don't use any of the settings as-is.
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