Hein (fub) wrote,

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Sort-of-review: Fate Worlds vol 2: Worlds in Shadow

I've since finished reading Fate Worlds Volume 2: Worlds in Shadow. As with the sort-of-review of volume 1, I'm going to focus on what a prospective GM can 'lift' from the settings presented in the book.

The first setting, "Crime World", is not really a setting. Instead, it is 32 pages of excellent advice about running cons and capers. It starts off with introducing some jargon, and then uses that jargon for the rest of the text. I'm not a fan of jargon in my RPG texts, but here it works out wonderful: because the jargon abstracts from the actual caper or con, you get a high-level overview instead of a blow-by-blow description. That makes it very easy for the GM to apply the advice here to their own scenarios. I especially liked the advice and examples of "failing forward".
If you plan to run a game where crime is a major component, then this right here is worth the price of admission. And since it's so abstracted, it's also applicable to non-Fate games as well!

The second setting, "TimeWorks", deals with a shady corporation that sells time travel services. Their operatives travel back in time to change details (sometimes minor, sometimes larger) that are to their clients' advantage. (Anyone who has played Continuum knows that things don't quite work like that, but I'll let this one slide for now...)
The setting itself is pretty interesting, and it shows nicely how the 'Bronze Rule' (the 'Fate Fractal') works by assigning a time-line a stress track, and details how it fights back from being changed. Not unique -- we've seen that in 'Fighting Fire' in the first volume as well -- but a nice reinforcement of the idea. The setting runs for 38 pages.

The third setting, "The Ellis Affair" is a pulp investigation scenario set in the 1930's. In true style, we go from Japan to China and back again, dealing with a German mad scientist and the Japanese navy officer who exploits his weakness.
I'm not overly fond of pulp adventures, and this scenario did not win me over. However, the four pages of advice on running mystery adventures in Fate are pretty good and more broadly applicable. But only four of the 54 pages of the setting give general GM advice. If you're not into the pulp genre, then this one is kind of a miss.

The fourth setting, "No Exit" is described as 'existential horror'. It's 36 pages long. Characters live in The Complex, having lost part of their memories. The Management won't let them leave, and they have to piece together their memories from small fragments and little revelations. It reminded me a bit of the old TV series 'The Prisoner', except with more weirdness.
There are some interesting mechanics in this one. One is a neat trick where The Complex (which has skills of its own) can 'possess' any of its management personnel, tranferring its skills. Think of how Agents possess 'normal' people in The Matrix.
The other one is how, by forgoing invoking one of your Aspects, you can let the GM give you a fragment of your memory back -- thereby changing the Aspect into something else. This is a neat trick to use in settings where characters have only part of the picture.

The fifth setting, "Court/Ship" takes 44 pages to give us a brilliant mix of alien invasion and the court of Louis XV in Versailles. In the court, nobles vie for the favour of the king and his inner circle, attended by servants and guarded by soldiers. And the aliens land not very far from the palace, seeking the juicy innards of the humans, taking up their skin and playing their role...
The whole invasion-thing is a bit underplayed: there is no real guidance as to what happens when the aliens meet the court and how they will behave there. But the stuff about courtly intrigue is very interesting. Most useful trick in this setting is how you can cope with characters having secrets for each other, and what to do when a secret is revealed.

The sixth and last setting is "CAMELOT Trigger", 47 pages long. It is, in essence, a mecha version of the Arthurian Legend, complete with the Arthur/Guinnevere/Lancelot love triangle. Knights don their "Armour" (basically, giant mecha suits) to do battle -- mostly against an evil AI and her monstrous robotic minions.
As with most mecha RPGs, the most interesting thing are the mecha themselves. We get guidelines on how to build them, and how the mecha can complement or replace the skills of the pilot. This is not only applicable for mecha, but also for on-board computers in spaceships and other vessels, or even magic items.

We also get seven pages of index -- that's quite a lot for a book of 255 pages of content, so that makes it easy to find what you're looking for if you want to reference a trick, setting-detail or something else during play. The PDF has bookmarks to make navigation easy as well. The layout is the same layout that is used for the other Fate rulebooks.
Again, the art is done by different artists for each setting. Most of the art is quite elaborate and fit with the setting. The art for Court/Ship is not drawn, but are photos of various characters playing some sort of LARP-version of the setting (though to my untrained eye, it looked like stills from that one Army of Lovers videoclip. Remember that one? Except that one character has some monstrous features to show that she has been taken over by an alien).

All in all, I am less enthusiastic about this volume than the first, with the exception of the information in "Crime World". But perhaps that is not because the settings in this book are any less detailed, fun or interesting than the settings in the first volume -- perhaps I have gotten used to the various things you can do with Fate Core, and the tricks used do not 'wow' me as much as they did when it was all new to me. And still, this volume makes a nice addition to your Fate Core library, because it shows different things than the first volume does.
Tags: rpg

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