FATE one-shot advice

(From the FATE mailing list: this post)

I posted most of this earlier to this list, so look through the archives for that thread, as there were other good hints. But here are my tips for one shot/con games.

Characters –
I would shy away from full chargen at the table. My local group loves to spend a whole evening generating characters, but it’ll take too long in a convention slot.

Use partial to full pregen characters. Don’t choose stunts at the table, again it will take too long. Either you pick them before or go stuntless, by choosing good aspects(which is the path I prefer).

At a minimum choose the top skills (the +5, and the 2 +4s for each characters). Let them fill in the rest, but also allow them to put them in in play so you can get going.

Pregenerate several aspects for each character. Make sure you have a list of them and write down possible places in the adventure that you’ll be able to compel them. You won’t be able to track more than one or two aspects per player at a table of 6 for very long. Have some compels up your sleeve and any others are gravy.

Cut their fate points to 5, and compel early and often. Explain self compels, and try to get them to the work for you.

Use the faster damage rules on the wiki if you want to speed up combat.

The Adventure –
In a 4 hours slot with pregens and 5 players I usually get either 3 bigger or 4 smaller encounters. Not much more.
Be sure to design the adventure so that you can drop whatever is needed out to get to the Big Bad at the end. Players are more forgiving of plot problems than not getting to the triumph stage.

Start them in the middle of something. Ignore the “meet in the bar/clubhouse/ diner and plan” stage (players will overthink it, and spend too much of the precious game time looking for things that aren’t there.) Get them into the action as soon as possible.

Jeff

Maps and Legends by Michael Chabon

A solid and consistently interesting non-fiction book of collected essays. I like his take on Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, his Maps and Legends essay about growing up with a love of maps and exploring the neighborhood, and many more. Other essays were short and targeted elsewhere– his brief applause of Will Eisner didn’t fire me with a passion to find out more.

American Flagg looks interesting, and I really enjoyed the in depth review of Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. It sounds like a first book I’d enjoy, and a remainder that would be… blah, but OK.

EndGame Minicon

The minicon was interesting– in a good way, mostly. I played three new games over the course of the day. The store, EndGame, was awesome!

The first was a pre-release version of Mythender, which I’d never heard of before. It was run by its creator, Ryan Macklin, who is working on the Dresden RPG for Evil Hat. [Though I didn’t make that connection until lunch afterwards.] I played Roland, Charlemagne’s knight, beside two other characters– Merlin (King Arthur’s adviser) and a hero who had slain gods in Europe, hoping to end untimely death forever.

The mechanics were a little complicated, and the game was a little transparently preachy, but it made for a neat one-shot. I suspect a 3 session campaign is as long as it’d ever go, but it was interesting. Afterwards, I had sandwiches with the other players at a shop just down the street. (Ryan’s offhand comments about “Dresden” finally clued me in to who he was.)

The 3 pm game [Burning Wheel] that I had signed up for was canceled by the GM– I think I was the only player who had signed up. I got into a game of Scooby Doo with the Inspectres RPG engine. It was fun and very different– clearly, my memory of the cartoon was hazy in comparison to the other players, but we camped it up and had a lot of fun. The session was very fast– we completed an 8 Franchise die mission in the first two hours. Since the next slot wasn’t until 8, the GM came up with a second plot after a ten minute break and we played it through. It wasn’t as good, but it was still very enjoyable.

When we finished, we crossed the street to the English brew pub across the way. I had a couple of sausages and sauerkraut– it was tasty.

Then I wandered back and joined the 8 pm game of Wild Talents. It’s an ORE game, and the GM had an interesting twist: it was set on the Germanic frontier with Marcus Aurelius as Emperor. We got stuck on a [self created] riddle for a while, but enjoyed roleplaying roman citizens with unusual powers and investigating in the depths of Germania. It was the most traditional of the three games, and was quite fun for being straight forward. As we cleaned up, the GM told us about a very separate path we could have chosen. It would have been an interesting scenario too!

Hunted by James Alan Gardner

Another solid book. I really like the hero– unusual for me, given his “slowness”. It is interesting to see the League enact their dictate, and Edward’s struggle is easy to empathize with. Nanotech makes another big appearance, as does genetic engineering.

The alien races continue to impress me; the Troyen castes and history mesh well with the personality of the characters we see. It’s one of the best books in this series. (I gobbled it down in a couple of “can’t put it down” nights.)

Trapped by James Alan Gardner

An excellent League of People’s book set on Earth. Our viewpoint character is as normal as you can get, surrounded by all kinds of interesting companions. Despite that, his strength of character buoys him throughout.

Characterization is strong. Page flipping is less compulsive than Expendable, but it’s a very enjoyable book, with great characters. The setting (and its explanations) are very interesting… nanites are awfully cool in this execution. It’s a very strong book, set off from the main line of Festina Ramos books. [She doesn’t show up at all.]

Vigilant by James Alan Gardner

An interesting book in the League of People’s universe, with Festina present but secondary. The main character is messed up in interesting and sympathetic ways. There are well done mystery elements and the society is fascinating. The main character, her family, and the Vigil are all well drawn and easy to inhabit.

This was a reread and a relatively quick one. It was very enjoyable; I’d forgotten some of the core mysteries (Maya, the peacocks), so it was new to me again. I’ll keep rereading it when I want something effortlessly satisfying.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

This was a reread. A bleak, introspective novel, with strong characterization. It’s a ravaged world, highly stylized (people and world both), with some interesting flashback/narration tricks to enhance a straightforward story.

Not much happens– superficially, it’s all about how they survive in a world where scavenging is the only option. Theft and starvation are the main foes; people are to be avoided, but there’s no recurring conflict with anyone throughout the book. It’s definitely not a quest style book– they wander places, but there aren’t any goals; they find loot, but only to stave off starvation a little longer.

In the end, it’s an interesting read, but this second time was plenty for me.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

This was a reread. A bleak, introspective novel, with strong characterization. It’s a ravaged world, highly stylized (people and world both), with some interesting flashback/narration tricks to enhance a straightforward story.

Not much happens– superficially, it’s all about how they survive in a world where scavenging is the only option. Theft and starvation are the main foes; people are to be avoided, but there’s no recurring conflict with anyone throughout the book. It’s definitely not a quest style book– they wander places, but there aren’t any goals; they find loot, but only to stave off starvation a little longer.

In the end, it’s an interesting read, but this second time was plenty for me.