Monday, September 11, 2017

FATE Playtest Notes: Playing with Half a Chess Set

Do not wing things in FATE. I know, the temptation is there; this is such a simple and fast game - why not wing it?

Because if you do you will be playing with half a chess set.


We ran into this in one of our last playtests, as a referee, I winged a lot of the enemies and situations, and things felt a little flat. Why? Usually this game is a blast to play! Well, for one, the aspects of the enemies and challenges were not laid out very well. The players had nothing much to go on, no enemy aspects to trigger, and the enemies and challenges themselves couldn't really work that well within the rules.

You need to design your enemies and challenges. You need to create those 'aspect hooks' for players to trigger and for enemies to take advantage of. You need to design those stunts the enemies or challenges can use on the players to ad some excitement, and also up the difficulty level.

FATE is a game where if the players have weak opposition, the players shall roll over said opposition easily. The game will start to bore, and the session will devolve into "my +5 skill against what?"

No, there needs to be moments where the players are forced back on their heels, and they need to start spending those fate points (and regenerating them) to push back. The game simply isn't fun unless the enemies push back.

And they need to push back hard, and have those aspects and stunts to make pushing back hurt.

Consequences beginning to stack up on the player's side is a good sign. They need to look at their character sheets with worried eyes. They need to start using those FATE points to save their hides, not overpower rolls.

But how you get there, and how you get players involved, is by taking a little time and spinning up those enemies and challenges. Not only does this give the enemies tools to push back, it opens up opportunities for the players to take advantage of an enemy's weaknesses and return the favor by loading the enemy up with conditions.

The game works better if everybody in the situation is playing by the same rules, and everything is spun up and working as a machine. Taking shortcuts and winging it, in my experience, makes the game feel like it really isn't 100% there - especially from a player perspective where you want them playing against the enemy's character sheet rather than the referee's whims.

More notes soon.