The other day, I wrote a post about how I decided not to use Edge of the Empire as the ruleset for the Star Wars game I’m going to be running soon. While I think I cover everything about why I made that decision, upon reviewing the post, I see that I haven’t really talked about why I think Fate Core is a good fit for a Star Wars game.
With this post, I hope to correct that.
I’ve mentioned before that Fate Core is not really a generic system – it’s more accurate to call it settingless. Because one of the main goals of the system is to be useful in a wide range of settings, it is easy to adapt the mechanics for pretty much any setting. This is especially important for a setting like Star Wars, which is so big and encompasses so much that trying to stat it all up is a fool’s errand.
The structure of the Fate Core rules – specifically aspects and the Fate fractal ((The Fate fractal basically says that anything in the game – anything – can be constructed like a character, with aspects, skills, and stunts. It’s an elegant and simple way to attach mechanics to problematic elements.)) – means that I can take care of most adaptations by thinking up a couple of aspects, and maybe a skill or two. Examples? Sure!
- There are hundreds of different alien species ((Wikipedia lists 249. There may be more I don’t know about.)) in the Star Wars galaxy. Rather than having to stat up all the various species to make them available to the players as characters, I can just tell them to include the species in their high concept, use other aspects as desired to reinforce ((Or not.)) the stereotypes of that species ((A trick I ripped right out of Bulldogs!)), and build any special powers using stunts.
- Droids are always a problem to adapt well to a game. But I can just use the same guidelines as for aliens above, and done. Easy-peasey ((Lemon squeezey.)).
- Spaceships can be tricky to simulate well in games, and most games have a host of special systems and rules for them. In Fate Core, I can just build a spaceship like a character, using the idea of the Fate fractal – give it a high concept aspect, a trouble aspect, maybe another one or two aspects, and a stunt or two to make it extra-special. Easy to build anything from a droid fighter to a star destroyer like this ((I can even steal some ideas from CAMELOT Trigger for making extra big starships that have multiple zones.)).
The ease with which Fate Core adapts to the the various settings means that I don’t need to set anything in the Star Wars setting off-limits for the characters ((Though my personal preferences, and those of the players, will probably wind up doing so.)).
Which leads me to…
Saying that you’re going to run a Star Wars game doesn’t necessarily tell you much about what kind of game you’re going to run. Between the movies, the books, the video games, the comic books, the RPGs, and the various other tie-ins to the setting, there’s a vast number of time periods, locations, themes, group structures, etc. to choose from.
Typically, it’s the GM’s job to pick a specific setting and campaign set-up within the Star Wars galaxy, which can be problematic if the GM and the players have different ideas about what kind of game they want to play ((Mystery-solving cantina band members traveling around in a psychedelic spaceship with a wookiee called Scooby? Please.)). Alternately, the GM can throw it open to player suggestion, but that can lead to decision paralysis.
The Fate Core game creation system provides a structured framework for collaborative setting creation. It guides the entire group – GM and players alike – through a process of deciding on the big parts of the game, and then fleshing out the details. I’ve run the collaborative setting creation for two different DFRPG campaigns ((I’ve also tried to incorporate it into a lot of the other games I run.)), and both times I was surprised and delighted at the setting that emerged.
These two points lead me to:
The ease of adapting anything in the Star Wars setting to Fate Core, and the collaborative setting building leads to a great deal of freedom for players to play exactly what they want to play. Most published Star Wars RPGs limit what you can play ((The old WEG d6 game was the most open in this regard.)), both in terms of characters and settings, simply because there was just too much stuff to stat up according to their systems.
Now, because it’s a collaborative effort to create the setting and the characters, some people may not get exactly 100% what they want, but they’re going to be able to come a lot closer than in other games. And seeing as they’ll be the ones imposing the restrictions, it’s pretty much guaranteed that they will be restrictions they can live with.
There are very few games geared as perfectly for cinematic action as Fate Core ((Certain iterations of Cortex Plus match it, I think, but that’s not surprising as they are at least close cousins in design philosophy, modeling the fiction of the game world rather than the physics.)). It allows – nay, encourages – crazy, over-the-top, movie-style fights. Characters can run, jump, trick their opponents, swing on chandeliers ((Or chandelier-equivalents.)), slide down banisters, battle atop burning buildings, hit people with chairs, leap through windows, dive for cover, bully, intimidate, taunt, and anything else they may care to try.
A large part of this is that most brilliant piece of game mechanics technology, Create Advantage ((In previous Fate iterations, this was the Maneuver. Same idea, different name.)). The ability to create advantage means that sometimes ((I would argue – and I have – most of the time.)), just trying to hit your opponent is not your best action in a fight. Instead, it’s more important to set your target up so that a single hit will take him/her/it out, and that means creating advantages. So, it makes sense that, instead of standing toe-to-toe and slugging it out with your opponent, you throw sand in his eyes to distract him, kick his legs out from under him, drop a barrel on him, and then finish him off with a well-placed kick to the chin.
The other thing that makes for great cinematic battles is the idea of scene aspects. Aspects can mean that you’re fighting in a burning building, trying to escape a crashing starship, prying open the doors of a closing trash compactor, being chased through a dangerous droid factory, and anything else you care to come up with. And because it’s just aspects, it all uses the same simple mechanic, rather than a raft of various situational modifiers and special rules.
Easy to Prepare
All of the above points make game prep pretty easy, even for first-time Fate GMs ((And I am not one of those.)). Putting together even complex stat blocks for adversaries, planets, ships, or whatever is a matter of minutes, not hours. That means more time to spend on story, and the characters’ aspects work very well to generate plotlines that will grab them and keep them interested.
Easy to Improvise
The first Fate game I ever read was Spirit of the Century. That billed itself as a pick-up game, and it worked quite well in that respect. The Fate Core system is clarified and streamlined, leading to a system that’s even easier for improvisation, with the ideas of aspects and the Fate fractal, as mentioned above.
Add to the basic simplicity the fact that I have a fair bit of experience running and improvising in Fate, and it makes me very confident that I can wing it when necessary. Building a dangerous threat on the fly is a matter of deciding on a couple of aspects, an attack skill and defense skill, and stress track. If I want to get fancy, I can throw in a simple stunt to give it some colour.
Same thing with planets and spaceships. All very easy to throw together quickly, if necessary. And reskinning something you’ve prepared to appear different is trivially easy.
And so Fate Core is an ideal system for running Star Wars. At least, I think it’s going to be. I have every confidence, and have read a number of success stories of people using it thus.
I guess we’ll find out if I’m right soon enough.