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Playing With Loose Threads

Evil Hat’s latest Fate World setting is a fairytale within a fairytale, aiming to let us play those people involved in the magical worlds we imagine with a spoonful of reality we have come to expect. It lets you play heroes that give others a chance at their “happily-ever-after” ending while wrestling with your own place in the world.

loose-threads

We are not here to review this new setting today. Instead, we are going to talk about how to play with Loose Threads well. The game is based on a good relationship of aspects to compel, making it easier for players to build interesting characters that are closely tied into the story. Even if you never end up playing this version of Fate, there are some very good principles to apply to your own game as a GM or a player.

Playing With Aspects

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Player Control

The biggest difference between a GM and a Player is how much control they have over the story. Now a good GM will allow the players to influence the game’s backstory and populate the world with their NPCs. But even then, the majority of the game is something that the GM has control over. They decide which rules to follow, what plot each session will face, and what opposition the players will face.

In real life, we do not have any control of any of those things. Not really. We can try to influence them as best we can, but when it really comes down to it we do not have control of what happens to us, what rules we have to follow, or what new twists will come into our lives.

This makes playing RPGs an excellent place to learn, from experience, just what control we do have in our lives and what we can do with that control. Yes, games really are a place to learn things that can be applied to real life. Who knew?

What We Have Control Of

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Making It Fit Your Campaign

There are a lot of tools out there for a GM to bring into a game: pregenerated adventures and characters, NPC name generators for every genre, maps, rules adjustments, monster stat lists, video tutorials, reviews, and even podcasts of sample play through sessions. Finding tools is easy if you know how to search the web.

Today we are going to focus a little more on actually using some of those tools. Specifically, we are offering some tips on how to make other materials fit your game. This is something GMs do all the time, even with their own materials that players bypass. We move an unused dungeon to a new location, change the name of an NPC that was ignored, and reuse maps over and over again.

Adjusting your own materials is easy enough with a bit of practice. But using other people’s materials can be more challenging. Especially when some key differences prevent an easy drop-in.

Know Your Core Game

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Playing The Same Game?

Have you ever been at one of those tables where not everyone is playing the same game? I mean, you all think you are playing the same RPG together but something feels off. One player wants to rescue people, and another player keeps stealing from fellow PCs. Some players want to kill bad things to level up, and other players want to be clever and talk their way out of harsh situations.

Today we are going over some of the basics of communication with your group: how to figure out the tone of your game, how to get the sort of adventures you want to play, and how to work effectively with your fellow PCs. These may all seem like obvious suggestions to a seasoned gamer, but that is also what tends to make them easily overlooked when we are all at the table.

I Like Your Tone

I love this picture:

starting-groups-and-ending-groups

Games can quickly devolve from serious questing to hilarious RP moments. And there is nothing wrong with that, so long as everyone wants to play a lighthearted pun-filled game. Some people are coming to your game as a break from real world drama and just want to have fun.

Different people often like a game or genre for different reasons. Some people read Dresden Files because it reminds them of Harry Potter, and some read it because it reminds them of Dick Tracy. Session 0 is a great place to talk out what sort of game you are expecting to play, especially if you are a GM. Do you want light fantasy or dark and gritty? Is good and evil black and white, or are you wanting complex characters?

When a group agrees on a tone for a game, take it very seriously. Do not stray from that tone too much without getting a group consensus. If a group cannot stick with the preset tone despite genuine efforts, talk with everyone about why. It might be a problem that you can fix, or it might not be a problem at all if everyone is happy with the way things are.

Dynamic Party Dynamics

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Reacting to Players

Improvisational GMing is becoming more and more of an accepted practice in our hobby, to the point where many gamers actually expect it. Today we want to cover a few of our favorite basic go-to moves for when a player does something unexpected. Hopefully these ideas will prove useful to you in your own games as GMs or at least get you thinking of more ways to handle your unexpected player actions.

Keep in mind that these improvisations are geared towards players that are invested in the story. Games benefit greatly from feeding off of player enthusiasm and energy. If a player is trying to derail your game or do something unexpected for meta-game reasons, that is just an unwanted distraction.

Unexpected Interest in an NPC

Sometimes an NPC becomes more interesting than they were originally intended. Maybe the PC grabs a random young boy to send a message for them. Maybe a hero gets smitten by a princess. Or maybe the innocent beggar does something that the players find suspicious and obsess over. It happens to GMs all the time: an unimportant NPC suddenly gets pulled into the spotlight by the players.

The tricky part of having an unimportant NPC become important lies in the conflict. If you’ve already planned out your adventure, then you have already assigned all the important NPCs to the important NPC roles your adventure needs. But if you dismiss an NPC that the players show interest in, they are likely to become less invested in your world and thus less curious about those NPCs you intended to be important.

I find that the easiest thing to do is make that NPC what the players expect, or at least as close as makes sense. If the PCs suspect a random NPC of being the main villain for example, have them working for the main villain so you don’t waste all the work invested in the actual villain NPC. On the other hand, if the party really likes a shop keeper you pulled out of a hat for a random shopping trip, have them continue to be a shop keeper the next time the party is in the area.

Avoiding the Intended Path

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For Story’s Sake

I recently played a game of Dead of Winter, which I often play with an RPG mindset. After making sure it was impossible for me to be exiled for a couple of rounds, I pulled my people out of the base, let several innocent bystanders die, and then started a vote to exile another player. Hopefully that all makes sense to you, whether you’ve played the game before or not.

It did not make sense to my fellow players. Sure we all won in the end (unnecessary Redemption for the Exiled player), but everyone seemed confused and a little frustrated by my actions. I tried to explain myself during and after from a logical, strategic, and even mechanical point of view. But it didn’t seem to be going through, and I felt like it was my fault that no one had enjoyed the hard-earned victory we all contributed to.

betrayed

*Editor’s note* The Editor totally wasn’t the player who was voted out for no good reason.

When I finally said “I thought it would all make for a better story,” the player I had caused exile to said, “Dude, you just should have said so.” Like that was all I needed to say.

Everyone Cares About the Story

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Using D&D Monsters In Fate Core

There are a lot of settings that need good monsters: medieval fantasy, modern horror, post-apocalyptic science fiction, space opera, and even super hero to name a few. Monsters are a huge part of our mythology, and as such they can be found in just about every game.

Fate Core does not have its own monster manual because it is a generic system that can be easily applied to any genre we want to play in. So where do we get our ideas for monsters? Well there are plenty in Fate-based games: Dresden Files, Atomic Robo, and so on. But you can also pull them from other sources. My personal favorite place lately has been the D&D monster manual.

d and d fate core

Why D&D?

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Making Things Scary

Horror is not my particular genre of choice. I enjoy my sleep, and I dislike anything that might give me nightmares and keep me awake. Moreover, my style of GMing is to empower the players to tell their characters’ stories and allow the possibility of success in everything that they try.

But just like every other type of story, there is a time and place to make things scary. Characters can have powerful moments when they are helpless. The world can seem more real when it is twisted. And you really do find out who you are and what you are willing to sacrifice when death stalks the character that you have put 3 years of love and development into.

So for those of you that want to have some scary moments in your campaign, or a scary campaign as a whole, here are our 3 tips to make your roleplaying game scary.

Start With Normalcy

normal family

“Oh, Timmy.”

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The Power That’s Inside (Pokémon Fate)

This is a simple Pokémon Fan Fate adventure designed for 2-4 players early in their adventures. The story works best for low-level characters that have not yet acquired a full set of 6 pokemon nor any individual pokémon having more than 2 stunts and 12 skill points. See our previous post for more details on how our Pokémon Fan Fate game works.

Who’s That Pokémon?

The PCs start at a morning breakfast in their own campsite out in pokémon wilderness. Roleplay a little bit with the players to see how they start their day. Then have everyone roll a Notice (2) check. Those that succeed will notice a nearby shrubbery twitch with something inside that teleports away in a flash. If no one succeeds, have them see the flash of teleportation as the pokémon steals a hat or backpack or other personal possession.

If someone succeeded with a 4+, they can see that the pokémon only teleported to another bush a short distance away and that it is relatively small (about the size of a Pikachu). Otherwise have everyone roll a Survival (3) check to track the pokémon. Once they find it, following its teleportation flashes as it flees from bush to bush is easy enough.

The fleeing pokémon is a Frail Psychic Abra (Shy Teleporter): Attack 0, Defend 1, Special 1, Speed 2, and Evade 3. Teleport – Requires a Psychic aspect. For this pokemon’s movement movement, you may ignore barriers to instantly move a number of zones equal to your special. If attempting to bring others, roll a Special check with the difficulty equal to the number of characters you teleport with.

This wild Abra uses Evade to dodge attacks and pokéballs while it is running since it is not engaged in combat. Identifying the Abra while it flees is a Lore VS Evade check, with the Abra receiving a +2 while it is hiding (Staying Out of Sight is the temporary aspect). When the group finally catches the Abra or gives up on it, start the next scene.

You Fell For It

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Do You Want to Be the Very Best?

Have you heard about the new app called Pokémon Go yet?

<insert slowpoke image>

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Seriously though, this game is grabbing hold of a LOT of people’s inner childhood and pulling it back into the light. It is having a profound impact on our local geek culture as well. People getting caught up in the app are also reaching out to other pokémon-related hobbies: electronic games, board games, cosplay, anime marathons, and toy collection! So why not snag some new RPGers?

slopoke

We previously talked about making a pokémon Fate Core world in Gotta Catch Them All. All the basics are there for you to make your own Pokémon Fan Fate game. But today we want to talk about how to reach out to fans of the app that might be new to the RPG.

How to Sell Your Game

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