FATE Actual Plays: How Differently Does Diaspora Play Out

Started by Erik Weissengruber, November 09, 2011, 10:16:17 AM

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Erik Weissengruber

A recent thread on Dresden Files brought up comments on the paucity of FATE discussion at the Forge. 


In that thread I outlined what functional FATE/SotC Gm-ing might look like.  The GM I cited as just put up an AP report from a recent convention in Hamilton, Ontario. 


It fits pretty well with what I perceived his approach to be.


This week I will be running Diaspora with a view to making the Compell mechanics work.  Also, I want to bring in fictional positioning.  Comming off of Apocalypse World experiences, I have noticed a habit of forcing die rolls when none really need to be made and which sometimes actually work against the system.  Maybe not everything in FATE needs to be made into an Aspect or a Fate Point reward. and maybe there are ways that role playing can fit into the mechanics but NOT as Aspects.

Players' decisions and fictional positioning will affect the shape of the diagrams which are essential for the sub-systems of Diaspora!  The diagrams used to plan out social conflicts, battles, space fights, all depend on zones laid out on paper. 

The fictional positioning can be concretized in zones on maps and needn't be tied to a direct FP spend/gain or a roll or an Aspect.

Erik Weissengruber

I ran a session at Hammercon (in Hamilton Ontario) that was way too loose
I showed off some of the FATE mechanics and the sub-systems appropriate to Dresden but there was no real meaningful scenario.

Compells to STOP character action were thrown about between GM and players, but no inter-player Compelling.  Some good drama when either the GM or player decided to resist the imposed Compell by offering up a Fate Point.

There was a "climax" using the Social Mechanics sub-game and incorporating a number of the players' different aspects into a "mega-character" that played off against a "mega-character" of my opposition.  The trouble is that the character in the "Kirk" role got too much of the spotlight.

When the scenario is played out again I will use one of the practices I noticed in Hans' writeup: spring off of character actions to propose scenario-relevant future badness and attach it to FATE point compells:

Quoting from Hans' writeup:
QuoteAt one point, Trisong Detsen Rinpoche was making his way through the Rookery, looking at the extreme poverty that surrounded him. As one of his aspects was "Infinite Compassion for all Sapient Beings" he started handing out Shamballan coins to people on the street (and probably wrecking the English economy in the process, with the amount of wealth he was spreading). I immediately grabbed two fate points and waved them at Trisong's player and said "Wow, I think you are handing out so much money that word of you will get around, I mean REALLY get around" with a tone of menace. (IN KC Fate, some aspects called Convictions and Major Complications are compelled with two, not one, fate). The player immediately accepted the fate points. Later, when the players arrived at Kewish and Kewish, Pawnbrokers, where they believed the sinister Mr. Bloom's criminal organization was coordinating the distribution of Red Lady's Slipper, the awful Gilbert Kewish was well prepared for their arrival, showing them a Shamballan coin that an informant had passes his way.

Erik Weissengruber

The Hamilton game ran into troubles because I player was assigned the Sir Walter Raleigh/Kirk role in running the merchant adventurer company.  So there was some player tension when a few players had story ideas that conflicted with his.

I wanted gameable contested goals, not interplayer frustration.  A showing of the B-grade Clark Gable war flick "Command Decision" gave me a solution: Everyone is on the same team with an agreed upon overall goal: beat the Nazis.  But professional, personal, political, and ethical differences put the commanders at cross purposes with each other as to continuing a risky operation, picking targets that would make them popular with other branches of the military, etc.  If I still had a CEO and the rest of the players were prominent members of the MAC, and they had to petition a 3rd party for some kind of approval there could be space for different tactics, different inter-character allegiances, etc.  So, Clair of Usk had won the monopoly over Usk trade with the backwards world of Hijaz; however, much of his support crew, fuel, weapons, and a cargo hauler were only being leased to him by the Royal Family of Usk and the CFO, Factor Elaine, had to sign off on any proposal that would involve Usk's property or cause a diplomatic scandal.  The Hyper-matriach did not want to be drawn into another war with Rhone.  As it turned out, the players did work together to come up with a plan to beat the opposition.  And they agreed to do it on Claire's dime and did not have to enter into any social conflict against each other or with the Factor to get their operation going.

Erik Weissengruber

Without a "Kirk" figure greater scope was opened for independent courses of action within the broad "establish a trading post on this planet with the agreement of local leaders" aim.

I there were certain starting situations where characters were going to start.  And they were going to start in the middle of 3 of the subsystems: social conflict, space combat, and personal combat.  But I inserted a round of free scenes before those conflicts to allow the characters to establish some sort of fictional position.

Tilde Happenstance: the no-nonsense crack pilot in charge of Claire's vessel, Glory's Blazon.  A recruit from the world of Piroquay, an aquatic planet under the dominion of Usk.  A conversation with a booze toting Usk crewman was angling toward the character's "I've been drinking ever since ..." Aspect but the conversation wound around to "No world is my home" and the crewman trying to rope her into a scheme to divert a few trade goods into a circle of cronies.  Tilde brushed him off, he taunted her for her outsider status and there were hints of payback.  As the conversation developed I held out a Fatepoint as a Compel, suggesting that brushing this guy off now would lead to payback later.  Tilde's player accepted it.  There was no payback by the end of the scenario, but it was remarked that such Compells would work to develop campaigns.  I might have pushed the incipient alcoholic angle but it didn't seem organic to the conversation as it evolved.  Had Tilde taken the bottle and continued slugging as a result of a Compell, it would have affected her positioning in the Space Combat.

Birelli Lagrange and Claire: a Rhone defector and Claire are discussing plans with Factor Elaine.  Birelli's player develops a personality inspired by the Aspects: someone eager to distance himself from all things Rhoneish.  Claire is snooty and dismissive of the natives but comes across determined to put his nation's best foot foreward in upcoming negotiations with a chieftan.  No rolls are made.  However, when the conflicts unfolded, I put Claire in a Zone close to that of the Chieftan on a simple diagram of the type discussed in the Diaspora rulebook.  No dice were rolled or FP exchange during the free-play round but the fictional positioning was concretized in the resolution mechanic of the map.

Ild and Jamir: a recruit from a late medieval world kitted out in powered, enviro-sealed armour stalking about with a dinosaur-riding native guide near an Aztec-style pyramid.  I just let them roll with a free-flowing conversation about how they were going to get even with the Rhoneish for their atrocities on Median.  Jamir's player was good at improvising the personality of the Tecumseh-like ally of my pseudo-British Usk.  They roleplayed being on alert for the baddies.  It seemed organic to give them choice about where to position themselves on the map when we went to the personal combat mechanic.  But a contested roll to place the aspect "We Got the Drop on Them" seemed in order, and their success game them an Aspect that they could free tag during the combat.

By giving us a 1/2 hour of "Let's Pretend" I was able to see which aspects from their character sheets were coming out as narration, monologue, dialogue, questions, etc.  From that I was able to target Aspects for future Compells and to build up an idea of what form the final conflict might take (Space Conflict, Personal Combat, Social Conflict, Platoon-level combat).

Erik Weissengruber

In all of the conflicts, Diaspora's explicit turn structure or its subsystems made it easy to intergrate Fate Point Compells.

Any confusion was, in my opinion, a consequence of playing the game for the first time.

Space Combat:
* Tilde's player has played Dresden Files.  She appreciated the clarity with which Compells are implemented in this game: in the general resolution system they stop a player's plan or declared action. 
* Each of the subsystems breaks that down into Compelling specific kinds of actions.  The space combat system dictates a sequence of actions, each stage of which may be Compelled. 
* There was some murk due to player expectations and the specific sequence of actions: Tilde would be attempting to do something with Lasers during the Torpedoes phase or something like that.  Some of her complicated ideas were hard to straightjacket into the tightly-specified sequence of space combat.  But, when it doubt, a character's fictional action can be translated into an Aspect that will feed into the next stage of space combat.
* Early on there was some murk as to when Compells take effect.  Diaspora, unlike FATE, has a very specific "Declare Actions" phase.  The player would hear my NPCs' plans and say "I Compel THAT" or "I take such and such an action and that rules out any action on your part." The syntax just had to be clarified.  Everyone has a "this is what my guy is thinking of doing" moment.  Then, as actions unfold in initiative sequence, people bust out Compells.  The rigidity of the "declare" and "initiate" separation might be too metagame-y for some.  But the moment when a player busts out a Compell that you weren't anticipating provides real tension and surprise during game play.  Murking the boundary between declaring and initiating intentions might feel more "spontaneous" to some but it frustrates some of the fun build into Diaspora.

Erik Weissengruber

The social conflict in negotiating for the trade post was made on a metaphorical map, representing proximity to achieving a social goal.


[[[Usk wins trade post  B]C]]     [[[Rhone maintains monopoly A & Br]]]

The aim was to pull the chief into the "centre" of one domain.

Clair was 1-step away from centre.  In free-play before the social conflict, Claire narrated something about "going foreward with an open hand" which, to me, suggested he was approaching the chief with some concessions and thus, on the map, should be 1 step away from his centre and 1 step closer to the chief.

Compells in social conflicts are easy to run.  A Compell means "that action does not happen."  One may also take proactive steps like moving an opponent to another space.  Doing so at range, like shooting a target at range, has increased levels of difficulty.

Worked like a charm.

And using maps corresponding to in-game physical spaces works in the identical manner.

Alternating between rounds of social and physical combat -- with their minor differences -- brought out the procedures (compells, aspects, setting up boundaries) governing all FATE interactions.

Erik Weissengruber

Given that I did not use Compells to bring in plot points later in the session, I didn't really approach the coherence between unfolding fiction and currency exchange that he did.

Players did use FP to push for results when they needed them, or accept mid-conflict Compells to build up FP for later use. 

What didn't happen was using Compells to push PCs into a corner -- or to really put them in interesting places during the sub-games.  Frex: the greedy character could have been Compelled to make a crass move that hampered his negotiations with the locals.  Saying "you either give up some influence on future die rolls, or you will face some challenging fictional positioning" with the offer and rejection or acceptance of a Compel never happened.  During the post-game chat I explained that the game really encourages this but that I had soft pedaled things in the interests of teaching.

I also pointed out this is a game where Players can Compel each other's PCs, can hold forward a FP and say "if your guy really is only in it for the money, he won't mind if I sell our captives into slavery, will he?" -- a Compell that another player might not even have enough FP to buy his way out of.   And I didn't receive any objections when I said that most players aren't used to other players looking across at thier character sheets and saying "oh really, you really think your character is about that?"

At least Diaspora doesn't dodge the possibility of that happening.