I ran a game at Dragonmeet this weekend. It turned out really well, and I got some great feedback from my players (all old friends, and it was great to get the band back together for that)
I tried something new to me, a game with very limited prep. I usually go overboard and type up what’s almost a publishable scenario, along with all the trimmings. It’s good, but a high overhead for a one off game. For this, I fancied using Fate Accelerated, and really going with the advice in the book, and just coming up with interesting and dramatic characters with hooks, in great locations with things to do. Sounds easy.
For a setting I went with an all time fave of mine: the D&D afterlife. It’s been part of Planescape, Spelljammer and really every campaign world ever written. The mortal worlds are all very different, unique to each DM, but once into the planes? That’s where the canon kicks in. I am unlikely to get a vanilla D&D game off the ground to cover the multiverse, but I wanted to hit a few high points in the one off and take in a few sights.
The idea of having all the PCs dead at the start of the game just tickles me anyway, but I thought it a good hook for a Con session. I always liked the notion in Wraith of ghosts floating about carrying their death wounds before they got to their permanent afterlife. In D&D, this is a temporary situation for any adventurer. I wanted to see what would happen if the people the PCs left behind tried to get them back with Raise Dead or Speak With Dead spells? What about if it were bad guys? Would the PCs want to move on, or stay as ghosts to protect their loved ones? Interesting dilemmas, and not ones I wanted to personally resolve in the prep. Let the play decide.
Making characters was fun. I didn’t want to do full char gen at the Con, even with a simple game like FAE. Too long, or more likely, choice paralysis. Nor did I want to do full pregens as a big part of Fate’s fun is the group making the decisions. So I mooted a card based idea, and ran with it in the end. I wrote 6 high concepts onto cards and let the players pick.
This got great buy in straight away. None of this is set in stone and I deliberately wrote Aspects with flex in them. Then, Troubles, on another six cards, and again with plenty of flex and some obvious conflicts written in.
At this point the players were brainstorming away and looking at each other’s picks. This was a big plus for me. Usually with pregens, players are so intent studying their own paper that they don’t pick up on the other PCs. With this, everyone was super aware of the party, all of it.
Then I put out some rules in the form of some pre picked Approach numbers, written on cards, taken straight from the FAE book. (see page 10). Easy. Then I killed the entire party.
I asked if the guys wanted to choose their deaths or go random. As in life, randomness won out. I handed out 6 cards: Stabbed! Suicide! Crushed!poisoned! Eaten! and Burned! Then the guys each took turns to narrate their deaths, with me throwing in a few facilitating questions along the way. Within seconds we had a pirate captain found swinging from his neck in the rigging of his own ship, witnessed by a prisoner chained in a cage on board. Who was poisoned by his lover in a game gone wrong. Who was eaten by sea monsters. Who fed on the survivors of the sea battle that crushed the cleric. Who couldn’t save the warlock from being stabbed below decks. Or the diviner who didn’t see his own end coming by swallowing acid.
I gave out some generic stunt cards too, but actually they weren’t effective. I should have either completely filled them in, or bette, left them out entirely. The game wasn’t long enough to accommodate them. And perhaps I should have done a card for stress and consequences too, but nothing too big a deal really.
So after 20-30 minutes we hadn’t rolled a dice but there were 6 players and one GM bent fascinated over the table looking, plotting and imagining. A great start, and one I had no real idea what I was going to do with. The only solution, call a comfort break, and pull out my 6 plot cards.
More on that another time.