(This article is based on Chapter 2 of Fate Core – Game Creation.)
FATE Core has a lot of good ideas or setting creation, and many helpful hints about the sort of characters that it is good at producing, and the sorts of games that it is good at facilitating. Lets look at a few of the details
What Makes a Good Fate Game?
There are several characteristics of a good Fate game. These include Proactivity, Competence, and Drama, All of these characteristics map well to Blue Rose – characters in Blue Rose are often proactive, being dispatched on missions with wide-ranging authority to handle things in the name of the Sovereign or some other powerful faction. They are not just grunts who follow orders, but leaders who are expected to use their own ingenuity to assess problems and solve them. PCs are also considered to be quite competent which, in my opinion, maps better to the intent and feel of romantic fantasy than the typical “Hero’s Journey” leveling system built into so many roleplaying games. In Blue Rose characters should start off competent – you don’t get inducted into the Sovereign’s Finest or the Knights of the Blue Rose straight off the street or by walking into the palace and filling out a form after all. Player Characters are elite, highly skilled in their area of expertise, and broadly knowledgeable even outside of it – able to be flexible in problem solving and expected to use their abilities without needing close supervision. They are trusted by the authorities, and that trust comes only with demonstrated competence (well, that, or if the Golden Hart jumps out of a window and touches you). Finally, there is drama, and here again Blue Rose fits well. Characters lead dramatic lives. They do things that matter, that have wide-ranging effects, that can actually change the political and social landscape. An interesting thing to note is that Blue Rose lacks the defined scale that is mentioned in the Game Creation chapter of Fate Core. The Sovereign is interested in her people’s welfare at all levels, and the egalitarianism inherent to the nation of Aldis means that Player Characters will be assigned to missions of all levels of scope – whether spying on Kern, negotiating with the Rhy, or just helping out a village that has suffered a devastating fire. In Blue Rose, drama plays out on all levels.
Setting Up Your Game
Much of the hard work of setting creation has already been done for Blue Rose – Jeremy Crawford, Dawn Elliot, Steve Kenson, and John Sneed did an excellent job of creating an evocative, interesting, and immersive world for Blue Rose. Many future articles will go into converting specific ideas from the world of Blue Rose to Fate Core, but for now I am going to accept that a lot of the world design has been done and I just need to make it work in Fate Core, and move on to the setting’s big issues.
There are a lot of big issues that can be used as the basis for a campaign in Blue Rose – the shadow gates, the empire of Kern, troubles from Jerzon, court politics in Aldis, etc. etc. Normally these issues are decided between the GM and the players, and I encourage GMs not to skip this step. Having player buy-in to your world right from the start is valuable, and sets a tone of interest and excitement that can carry your game far. Allowing your players input into what the world is like and what the big issues are saves you as GM from trying to pitch or sell your game to the players. Instead the players, through their input, give you a setting that they have already bought into.
For purposes of discussing the conversion, however, I am going to set up a couple of big issues for my Blue Rose game.
The first big issue I title “Light and Shadow”. One of the major tropes of romantic fantasy is morality choices. In Blue Rose morality is represented by your character’s alignment either towards light, shadow, or a mixture of the two. Not only do I want this struggle between light and shadow morality to be a major part of the campaign, eventually (when I convert it to Aspect form) I want PCs to be able to invoke it and compel it for benefits during the game. “Light and Shadow” should encourage players to have their characters perform feats of dramatic bravery in the face of long odds, and to struggle with their more basic urges at dramatic times and places.
The second big issue I title “The Rise of Sayvin”. In Blue Rose Sayvin is the son of the former Sovereign, and is secretly embittered that he was not chosen by the Golden Hart when his father died. He has begun to dabble in sorcery. He makes a good future threat – something that the PCs can uncover the truth about slowly, and that I as GM can take the time to develop.
Faces and Places
Now it is time to come up with some concrete setting elements that go with the setting ideas that I have above. There are a few individuals and locations of particular prominence that I should look at fleshing out.
First, for “Light and Shadow” I should come up with an NPC or two who embody or personify this problem. This is pretty easy for me, as Queen Jaelin clearly personifies light, while the Lich King Jerek represents Shadow. But wait! While that clearly lines things up between good and evil, light and darkness, it seems a little too pat and simplistic for Blue Rose. Jerek is never portrayed as anything approaching a sympathetic or interesting character (he’s a LICH KING!!!). Perhaps it would be better to represent this struggle by using Jaelin for the light and the Hierophant for the shadow. That would allow for potential redemption by the Hierophant, and would also allow for the conflicting parties to join together occasionally against a common foe like Jerek (nobody likes a Lich King). This sounds much more dynamic and interesting to me.
Queen Jaelin (representative of the light)
Aspect: “Everyone matters.”
The Hierophant (representative of the shadow)
Aspect: “Darkness can only be kept at bay through discipline and fire.”
For “The Rise of Sayvin” my ultimate opponents are going to be Sayvin vs. the Golden Hart, but both of those characters are far too large to be brought forth initially for a threat that is in the future. So instead I invent Rhuthlar, a Vata’an merchant and childhood friend of Sayvin, whose mercantile family lost heavily when Jaelin was selected as sovereign. Rhuthlar is now rebuilding his family fortunes and attempting to help his friend rebuild his power base. Rhuthlar is not shadow tainted, but he does dislike Jaelin and like Sayvin, and is not above a bit of petty revenge or bending the rules a bit to find Sayvin a proscribed book of sorcery that he is interested in.
Rhuthlar (Vata’an Merchant)
Aspect: “The money is in my purse.”
Now we have some interesting overarching plotlines – the struggle of the light against the shadow is ongoing, and the rise of Sayvin as a future threat, looming and awaiting discovery. This, along with the genre aspect created previously and all the good writing done on Blue Rose already gives us more than enough of a framework to build the foundation of a plot line and some initial story arcs. The next thing to do is create characters, and that will occupy my next several articles.