Monday, September 12, 2011

Gateway 2011 Wrap-Up: FATE Edition

(I'll be doing a non-FATE version of this over on Roll Some Dice!)

This year's Gateway was pretty great, take it all around, but light on the FATE, at least for me. One Seth Halbeisen ran a couple, including a high-concept-sounding game called "Bataan Smurf March." And I'm kicking myself that I missed Morgan Ellis's two '90s tribute games, one for Torg and one for Shadowrun. But it was just too jam-packed a con for me to play everything I would've wanted to. So the only FATE game I managed to squeeze in was Colin Jessup's Bulldogs! game Sunday night.

I was a backer for Bulldogs!'s Kickstarter campaign, so I was eager to see it in action. Overall, it's "mainstream" FATE. If you're familiar with SotC or DFRPG, you're pretty fmiliar with Bulldogs! There are a few notable tweaks that caught my eye right away. There's only one stress track, for one thing, which I like, but both Endurance and Resolve add boxes to it, which... I'm not sure what I think about that. On the other hand, character aspects have categories, like Homeworld and Job, which I like.

Colin's one of my favorite GMs, and the other players at the table -- Andrew Linstrom, Vernon Lingley, Josh Roby, and Will Huggins -- were likewise of the highest caliber. And yet, for reasons mostly unrelated to any of that, and certainly unrelated to anything specific to Bulldogs!, it didn't completely, y'know, work. Which was weird, because I'm pretty accustomed to Colin's games not just working, but kicking a significant amount of ass. The issue was that the scenario pretty much mandated that at least a few of the PCs were put in direct conflict with one another, and FATE doesn't handle that sort of thing all that well.

For example, I played a Saldrallan who'd been a decorated commando until he was drummed out of the service. He had aspects like "Empire First" and "I'm in charge!" This last aspect in particular put me in pretty direct conflict with everyone else in the crew, who maybe didn't have anything against me personally, but weren't really down with anyone claiming authority over them. Will was a bitter Templar, Josh was an ornery Hacragorkan, Vernon (decided he) was an HK-47-style biological-life-form-hating robot... not exactly a willing crew of subordinates.

Putting pressure on all this was a McGuffin in our cargo hold -- something ridiculously valuable and desired by  the entire galaxy. Colin told us to give ourselves an aspect about what we'd do with the proceeds from selling the McGuffin, or what we'd do with the McGuffin itself. It was that latter option that really nutured the seeds of conflict. Me, I wanted to give it to the Saldrallan Empire and return to a place of prominence in the military. I already had, like, two aspects pointing that direction, and gave myself a third because it seemed to make sense.

Basically, I'm not sure I ever had a civil conversation with another PC, which meant I was almost always on the losing end of something. You know that aphorism about poker, where if you look around the table and don't know who the sucker is, it's you? Yeah. Something like that.

My Saldrallan was a big intimidating snake-thing who could riddle you with holes with his mag rifle, but Josh's Hacragorkan was muder incarnate in melee, so attempting to assert my authority over her in a face-to-face conversation was pretty much going to be the death of me. And Josh knew this, which was kind of a bummer for both of us, because it meant that she could quite easily negate my character's shtick of wanting to be "in charge." I kept pushing that conflict, though, because it was more straightforward than trying to outmaneuver Andrew's telepath or Vernon's ship-taking-over homicidal robot. I knew I'd lose in the end, both because of the character and player I was pitted against, but I was willing to take one for the team for the sake of drama.

Anyway. I don't want it to sound like I didn't have fun, because I did. But we all walked away from it kinda unhappy with the basic set-up and an ending that wasn't entirely satisfying.

The game, though, is a cool implementation of FATE, so... go get it and/or play it.


Unknown said...

TORG?? TORG!! Shweet! I'd be interested in any information on that!

(Was such a nerd for TORG in the day)

Mike Olson said...

Yeah, I thought that might catch your attention.

In short, Morgan used bits of FATE Kerberos to hack together a Torg game based primarily, I believe, on the basic premise of The Nile Empire and its cover art. Like I said, I had to miss it, unfortunately, so I don't really know more than that.

Well... I know he had some pretty awesome characters, and their sheets looked like FATE versions of the real deal. But that's it.

Jesse Q said...

I did get to play in both the Torg and Shadowrun games (my first time actually playing Fate, though I've been interested in it since I first saw it mentioned on the Fudge mailing list many years ago), and it was brilliant.

With Shadowrun, it was like the bookkeeping had been taken out and replaced with awesome.

The Torg game made me want to go back to fiddling with the various realities in Fate terms, and get a campaign going. I'd imagine using Fate would also lend itself to more flexibility in what realities invade - new genres, based on what the players want. (And yeah, Morgan clearly put some effort into making the Fate versions of the character sheets look like the orginal ones from Torg.)

Anonymous said...

Guy, what would you like to know about my FATE Torg game?

One thing that I was really pleased with was how well giving a player the Realities skill as their Extraordinary Tier Tag skill. Cosm laws and reality as aspect compels, which I finally figured out a few days before the con worked terrifically. But Vernon using his Core Earth covert agent's reality skill to just double tap a hostage holding bad guy, or pulling an Uzi on Dr. Mobius while he was monologueing, was a great way to capture his character being a modern man of action with grey morals in the Nile Empire's setting of pure Black and White morality.

The game itself could have done with a little more pacing and tweaking but for an initial run through I felt like it went pretty well.

Jesse thank you very much for the kind words about my FATE Shadowrun game. They mean that it works exactly as I hoped it would.

One thing that FATE really helps with is making everything in Shadowrun run together smoothly, no taking hour long breaks while the Decker hacks into a system, or when the Mages deal with the Astral plane or summoning up spirits. Everything happens simultaneously just like it was supposed to in the fiction.