Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Discussing Character creation in FATE, Fiasco, Cortex, Traveller, Apocolypse world.

Discussing Character creation in FATE, Fiasco, Cortex, Traveller, Apocolypse world.

This dialog is slightly edited. I had time to chat with another player in the DND 4th edition that I am playing in with JJ, Ben, Sean, and Dan.  I'll snip the beginning of the coversation away. The DM is quite good, colorful and reasonable. The game is a straight dungeon crawl called Undermountain. Im not crazy about straight dungeon crawls. Especially this one. It doesnt seem to be going anywhere with a story line, but hopefully we can dredge some out sometime soon.


Me:  I like good emersive. rpg, where people get into char, accents, have personal boundaries(like real people). Thats the kind of game I run thats the kind of game I like to play in

 JJ I have a lot of that feeling too. I'm not super-big on accents, but otherwise, yeah. The NPCs don't have particularly interesting agendas beyond "Fight whoever shows up to the death." In most cases communication isn't even possible.   I've actually been told that 4e combats really sing most when there is interesting geography and something at stake besides just hitpoint attrition. But most of our combats are HP attrition in very flat environments.   That's why I actually enjoyed that Bugbear encounter. It wasn't "balanced," but there was clearly Something Going On and it wasn't just a matter of "Everybody immediately move to engage the monster and choose among your small suite of powers until someone falls over."

 me:  Bugbear encounter was good.  His intro game was very good. the Under mountain 4e isnt my cup of tea. The straight dungeon crawl went out with the  Ornithopter.

 JJ I think the intro game was definitely better.

 me:  Maybe he can give us an interim encounter before going back in. something that will take us outside, and give us some rp
 JJ:  I think from the DM's perspective, we are Getting Clues to a Bigger Picture. The problem is there are no stakes - in the sense that, there's nothing to make either characters or players care about the bigger picture especially. As GM, he knows there's a Plot in there, and we're getting pieces of it, a little bit at a time. Problem is, it's just a plot. Neither Thorgrim nor I have particular reason to care that this rich woman's nephew's companion has gone rogue and united the monsters, except.

 JJ You still have to have a reason to care about the clues. At least I do.

 me:  This is what you have to do with something like this dungeon crawl thing.  big picture issue to make it work somewhat theatrically. fight/clue.  Fight clue. lower boss/clue/draw conclusion. Go back to previous room/person investigate.   Rinse repeat:  To lieutenant;  Rinse repeat to BOSS.   That makes it cinematic. action oriented. Heroic. fun.  Other wise we are slogging from room to room.  As it stands there is nothing pulling these fights together.  he pulled that off in his intro game. I do. But there are none.
 JJ:I've been following the thread of "Rescue the fellow adventurers."  That's been good enough for myt character Thorgrim. He believes in karma, and I do kind of. You pay shit forward. He's a weird dwarf, but I like that about him. It gives me a reason to say, "Don't bother with that door now. We have to get these folks before we die."
    But the rooms themselves aren't interesting. And we don't have any personal connection of love or hate to the folks we're trying to rescue. And 4e doesn't have any mechanics for tying PCs into a web of relationships. So it all feels a bit empty.   Like, when a bone throne on a bone platform doesn't even block line of sight from someone behind it, everything feels flat. Like a map not a room. Or when the heavy leather curtain just suddenly opens wide up.  Part of me wants to ask Sean to swap out Thorgrim's training in Medic for Intimidation or Diplomacy, because I haven't used Medic at all. When you play at the Cleric's house you never have to worry about missing a healer! :D   But part of me worries that I wouldn't be able to use a social skill much the way the campaign is written and run.
 me:  Curtain opening up wide was deus es mach, but I follow you on your beef with terrain effects.  What do you mean by a game system tying into a web of relationships. and what do you mean about the social skill.

(here's where it gets interesting.)
 JJ Social skills like Diplomacy and Intimidate and such. Or Empathy in Fate Core.
Web of relationships a la how character setup works in Fiasco or a *World game.
me:  I dont play FATE or Fiasco. My experience with FATE for 3 games was with a problematic, manipulate DM. And manipulative dm's don't do well with fate or warp tokens. hence, I wont play it again.

 JJ Ouch. One thing Fate does though is reveal a manipulative DM PDQ.  In Chicago I ran a retirement-community supers game using Fate Accelerated. I was sick of high-school supers!
If you look at the Dungeon World playbooks, you'll see how, at character creation, each player picks two other PCs to establish facts about from a list of generalized statements.  You do this with discussion and consent, but it generates a nice basis for PC-PC interaction.
 me:  Since the my entry of into the  roleplaying games hobby, it was up to the players to re-inforce the socialization amongst each other, rather than having to roll it up on the relationship binding tables from games produced in the 1990 game

   Table one: favorite object.  
   Table 2: person you look up to. 
   Table 3: girl friend/boyfriend/it friend  
   Table 4: hated enemy. 
 These all seemed very contrived, and I find that its better to elicit these from individual players, or the sort of roleplayers Id like at my table.

 JJ In Apocalypse World, you have a History score with every other PC, and when you roll to Aid them (or Interfere), your History score with them is what you add to the die roll. And the History score keeps changing as everyone interacts. Keep in mind that I'm not talking about personal traits, I'm talking about interpersonal traits. Different thing.

 me:  I would have to look at it myself.  So, I run heroic and gritty scenarios.

 Jim:  My history with D&D-type games is that, without mechanical support for both inter-PC agreement and disagreement, you either get no real relationships, which is what we've got now IMHO, or you get griefing.

 me:  I am old school i prefer that characters develop it at character creation time. Which is why i tried to make you a relative at the first game. We don't need no stinking charts. but i would be happy to look at them.if you have a good group you don't need that extra stuff, but im not blowing it off. im open minded. if it works well then it works.

 JJ Making people relatives e.g. is very much in scope for the kind of thing I'm talking about. I just couldn't carry off a brogue. :)  As it is, Thorgrim likes your guy not just because you're a dwarf, but because you help people.Thorgrim's really a nice guy. It's not necessarily to his credit that he's chosen to bash people's heads in for a living.
 Me:  Here's a solution that Ive done at creation time. for example in the traveller game I ran.  Each player goes through character creation. during traveler there are events that come up in your life time. When chars are almost done with creation they share it with the other folks. a describes then B describes and links to a or waits. then c describes then links to a or b... etc...each person has a link to some one else. Whether it was helping at an event or crisis... then they have the basis of relation to form a group. Then we go around again and make a second connection. usually the link comes in the form of telling an a story adlib.  Its good stuff.
Jim:  Sure. That stuff's awesome. The *World games just bake this kind of thing into the chargen rules, that's all.  So do most Fate games.  Smallville RPG did it too, but not other Cortex Plus games.
In Fiasco, the entire character generation process is JUST establishing relationships.   It's at the far edge of that kind of thing.
 JJ The problem with FATE I've found is coming up with those descriptive words. i found it... stressful. they push you to be unique. ID just rather rely on that first session. it worked well for us.
 JJ Sure. I am big on Develop-in-Play myself.
 me:  Fiasco, I tried playing at origins, i didn't find it particularly interesting. you have to have a group that leans that way. Also the scenarios have to have a certain feel... (of falling out a window and hoping you have a net.) i am pretty sure i left the fiasco demo early.

JJ:  Oh yeah. It's not for everyone. I have an improv background so I love it to death. But there's no perfect game, so it certainly isn't that.
I do find that even games that "aren't for me" often have interesting bits I can learn from.
But that doesn't mean I want to play them every week...
 me:  Agreed.
 JJ Fiasco's GMless, but in my experience that means you either need a table of experienced Fiasco players, experienced improvisers, or someone who will take a kind impresario role and keep things moving along. Particularly with new, sometimes shy players.

Epilogue: (me)

I think I will stay away from the touchy feeling games like FATE and Fiasco.  I would like to try some of the newer ones. I would also like to see Diaspora from the Evil Hat Game company. Those are the folks that Own Fate Core. 

One thing that I discovered today about FATE Core is that there are NO stat blocks. You define your character by SKILLS. Then there is a small version of the game called FATE Accellerated, which has absolutely no skills: only stats.   Make your minds.  :)