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.
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