This podcast has more interesting facts per square inch than its possible to count. And it’s funny too. It’s called No Such Thing As A Fish.
It’s brought to us by the once behind the scenes guys at QI. You get all the cool interesting stuff sans Fry, the scoring, the props, Davies, and the sat down stand ups. Which leaves nothing but pure cool.
It’s like Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff, but possibly even more applicable to gaming (in a round about kind of way, honestly). In fact, I’d love to hear Messrs Laws and Hite opinions on it. Either it’s all bunkum, or it’s sixteen new scenario ideas in 30 minutes.
I really enjoyed FAE. I look at it as being one of very few successful attempts at making a modern introductory role playing game. Best of all, it isn’t written in a way that’s shackled to the past or even to the long held assumptions of what an RPG is. As an entry product it’s got a load of very obvious draws. First, it’s small, running at under 50 pages. Second the price reflects that, with a Pay What You Want on pdf, or £3.99 for a hard copy (with a really luxuriant feel to it. Seriously, it feels like suede or something). Third, its actually written to the young adult audience, without being patronising, nor so childish as to put off the older reader. When you look around at other books in the wider hobby, all of those things in one package are remarkably rare.
My trouble is, I can’t pretend I’m a beginner anymore. Nor can I unread the reams of Fate material I’ve purchased in the past (in a few cases I really wish I could). That makes it difficult to be objective. No matter though, because the really clever thing about FAE is that it stands up as a game for veterans, both of Fate and the hobby in general.
But back to the novice gamer. I love that the influences and touchpoints are bang up to date. It mentions teenage wizards in it’s opening line. And animation. And the Hobbit, crucially, as a film. That’s the sort of thinking that pervades the whole book. It’s like they got a flip chart out and actually thought about this stuff, rather than the standard boilerplate that most games staple into their rules. I also love the concision. The incredibly effective layout helps, with each section completley filling it’s page count, with no wasted words. To the vet gamer, it might comes across as terse, or missing parts, but actually, I think what it’s doing is trusting the (nascent) gamer to fill in the blanks, either with their imagaination, or by talking it out at the table. I approve. Mightily.
This is unapologeticaly a game for telling stories with. It says so. In 42 more pages it confidently delivers on that promise. Yes, it starts with character generation, wrapped up in four pages, including the ‘aspects’ thing that has generated so many tortured words since I first saw them in Spirit of the Century. The innovation (to Fate at least) is Approaches which make my jaded old heart soar with delight. Where other games use abilities to measure what you do (trad) or why you do it (Indie), FAE decides that it’s how you do things that really matters. This gaming tech cannot help but add description to a players statements, which when layered with aspects (phrases of cool) and stunts (more words, written to be said out loud) make the FAE play experience completely about the colour, the plot and the story. It’s clever, and focussed as heck.
The rest of the engine is wonderfully explained I think. Like any book, it would help to have a vet on hand to show you how it all fits together, rather than the book telling you, but it’s a very strong effort. I haven’t had the benefit yet of seeing a complete novice pick this up and have a go on their own, but I can’t imagine them struggling too much. Certainly they would be better off than with most beginner offerings. Bear in mind, the system is very very forgiving. There really is no wrong answer in the rules (what can irk me as a dyed in the wool gamist is that there are very few defined right answers either!) and the sense is that the table should just move along with the story and not fret about it.
By page 35 the GM gets a go. Four pages, which cover a lot of ground, from mechanical encounter weighting to world building advice, with (yes) examples. It’s a masterpiece of concision. Speaking of examples, you then get four characters all done out with a cool picture (ah, the art, yeah it’s all by one artist, and it’s a perfectly pitched modern cartoon style. Again, I’d bet good money this was debated and project managed by a really strong team). The examples being a black male teen fantasy monk, a female swashbuckling ships captain, an Asian female high school wizard, and a female pulp gadgeteer. Diverse, cool, and a better introduction to four campaigns that many books manage in 300 pages.
The book ends with a reference sheet, an index and a character sheet that just works.
Now, it might well be that my prior Fate knowledge has helped my understanding, but I don’t think so. If anything, this book has cleared up a lot of the messy thinking that I inherited from the occasionally clumsy explanations in it’s predecessors. When I get stuck with Fate, I get the answer from FAE. Yes, Core is there, muddying the waters, and there’s a lot to love about that, but as with the old Basic/Advanced set up of AD&D, perhaps the years have shown me that simple doesn’t have to mean simplistic.
The only things about the this I think could have been done better? I’d love to see it in a box, with dice, character sheets, tokens, and some scenario sheets. And lose the Accelerated tag. Just call it Fate.
And that’s it. It’s easily the most concise and elegant complete game I’ve seen in decades. If I really had to grab a single book to take to my desert island, this might well be it. It’s quite quite brilliant.
I sometimes pick up books pretty much on a whim. I like the cover, or the heft, or the genre, or I’m just in a particular frame of mind that somehow the book syncs with. Which is how I ended up taking a chance on Station Eleven. And I’m so glad I did.
Idly leafing through the Monster Manual and I find myself looking at the entry for Hobgoblins. I wouldn’t normally bother after five editions of largely the same old lore, but I’ve been looking for something a bit martial for my baddies in an upcoming con game. I’m only going to nick the stat blocks, but I did like the illustration, and the succinct text got me wondering.
I think I could write a scenario like this: you play a squad of Hobgoblins. You’re part of a Horde that is laying siege to somewhere (probably a city full of goodies, you know, adventurers and the like). You’re the crew of a siege tower. The adventure is event based, and it’s all about the build up to the final assault on the city walls.
The key here is not to get into the battle as such, it’s more about the life of the soldier in the trenches, in the hours before he inevitably gets cleaved like the low level humanoid he is.
I’d play up the military stuff, with a nod to Blackadder Goes Forth. Not so much the humour, but let’s face it, goblins are likely to be present and they’re always a catalyst to cheap laughs. More the pointless bureaucracy, and the futile orders. Events off the top of my head include:
Rivalry with the ballista crew
Inspection from the top Warlord
Ration hunting run
Prisoner of War guard duty
Supervising goblin sappers digging latrines
Sabotage, in either direction
Paladins sally forth
Secure that Bugbear!
The priesthood show up
Shove the siege tower forward
Stabbed in the back (field promotion)
Reclaim that fallen body (and its loot)
Raise the banners
Over the top
Now, flesh out half a dozen PCs, a similar number of NPCs, scribble out a battle line, and note down a few rules, and you’ve got yourself an adventure. Hmmm.
In the ever growing lists of things that can go and do one, I add spells for pre gen characters in D&D. I’ve spent blooming hours putting 15 characters onto form fillable pdfs for an upcoming con, and I left the pigging druid til last. Why? Because they get to prepare from the whole list of available spells. Which means I have the following options as a friendly DM for the empty handed but eager player:
Hand them the Players Handbook. Good luck with that, the spells are all arranged alphabetically.
Give them a cheat sheet, that I’ll have to type by hand.
Scan all the relevant bits out of the PHB and construct a mini spellbook.
Stump up for the card deck on sale from Gale Force 9
Scrap the druid, and write it up as a nature cleric instead, meaning I can copy/paste from the Basic pdf.
Any way I look at it, it’s work. My fault for doing Druids at levels 3, 7 and 11. I have Sorcerers and Rangers too, but heir lists are much more manageable..
I’ve started an RPG Book Club over at UK Roleplayers. It’s like regular book clubs in that each month we pick a book that we all commit to reading, hopefully playing, and then we come back to discuss it on the forum.
There’s a few takers already, which is heartening. Feel free to join in. The first pick is Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE for short) which is readily available at Pay What You Want.
We start the chat first week of April. After that, who knows? Could be Phoenix Command, could be Lasers & Feelings, could be Dragon Warriors. It’s up to Club membership which is a browser click to join. See you there.