Back in March we did a blog post called World Building for a Fan Fate Game where we gave some general ideas on how to convert your favorite book/anime/movie/tv drama into a Fate Core RPG world. Basically it was all about making that first session of world building a positive experience that points you into having a great campaign in the world you love so much.
Today we are doing a follow up on that, because we never really got down into the details of each step. So guess what we are doing today? That’s right. DETAILS!!!
On a quick note, we are going to refer to whatever subject you are fan Fating from as “the show” even though movies and books and other sources are perfectly acceptable sources for fan-based games. It just makes things simpler for our writing sake.
Choose Your Group’s Destiny
Before you do anything else with your group, you really need to decide what your group’s destiny is going to be. You are putting your own characters into a world that has already been established with its own main characters that have already lived stories that define that world.
Unless your group has already hashed out this topic before play, you are going to find that not everyone agrees. But end goals are very important. What do they want to accomplish? How will their epic tale in this fan fate world end?
Start by agreeing what sort of game you want to play in this setting. This can vary greatly based on the nature of the show its self, but I would say it boils down to 3 basic possibilities. Either you are trying to relive the show from your own point of view, you are trying to continue the show where it left off, or you are trying to experience the world of the show without the influence of the main characters.
Once you have agreed on that, coming up with a group destiny will be much easier. Experiencing the show from a different point of view leads to “what if” goals, where the group explores if they could do things differently than the characters in the show to get different results. Continuing where the show left off leads to goals of making your own story on the foundations of the show its self. Avoiding the influence of the show leads more to prequels or island games, where you are the ones setting the foundation for someone else (possibly the cast of the show even).
Create Aspects for the Overall Story
Once you have the group’s destiny decided, start making aspects! The destiny is a great place to start. You probably also want 2 more aspects, one about how your world is similar to the show and another about how your world is unique from the show. This trinity will help support the idea that this fan fate world is your world without completely ignoring the show its self.
For example, in a Scooby Doo game where the group is playing the children of the Scooby Doo gang, you might pick an aspect like “Monsters Aren’t Real, Right?” as a tie in to the show’s theme that the monsters were almost always men in masks but everyone was still afraid that the next monster was real. For an aspect to show your world as unique, maybe something like “Who You Gonna Call?” shows that the new Mystery Inc. is actually on call for solving mysteries rather than stumbling onto them as the old gang always seemed to do.
As for your group destiny aspect, depending on your end goals as a group you might pick “No Mystery Is Unsolvable” emphasizing that your group will follow in their parents’ footsteps. Or if you want to emphasize an end goal that ties the mysteries together, you could make an aspect like “Where Did Our Parents Go?”
Brainstorm on Locations
Coming up with locations and filling your world with faces will probably go hand in hand, but we’ll start here for the sake of simplicity. Almost every fan fate game you play is going to have some locations directly pulled from the show. Everyone has a place from the shows they love that they want to visit.
Jot down all the places that people want to go and visit. Depending on the timeline of your game related to the show, some changes may need to be noted. Maybe that planet has a new government. Maybe the bar tender has not met the cast from the show yet. Or maybe the zoo keeper is immortal, so nothing seems to have changed at all.
After you have pulled locations from the show, allow some brainstorming about new locations for your group. There will probably be some obvious gaps that need to be filled, such as a location for the group to rest or a location where they can get information. Fun locations are good too!
Fill your world with Faces
Again, this will probably go back and forth with your location brainstorming. You think up a character and need a place to put them. You come up with a location and imagine what sort of face would represent that place will. And like locations, these faces can be pulled directly from the show.
I would offer a suggestion to exercise more caution when pulling the show’s cast directly, however. Characters have relationships, and it can be hard to pull a main cast member’s lover into your game without pulling that main cast member in as well. And then you may find yourself with a limelight on NPCs that really should be on the player characters.
I am not saying that this is always a bad thing, especially if you have player characters that are main cast members of the show. But just remember that the reason you are playing a game based on the show rather than watching the show its self is because you want to live the story of that show rather than just absorb it.
Inventing your own faces is much easier. You can probably guess with ease what sort of characters fill the world of your game based on the show. Having relatives of the show’s cast is a good way to balance direct ties and unique faces. If a face is completely unique, make certain they have a stand out personality that can compete with other NPCs.
Build characters as you normally would for any Fate Core game. Discuss who is filling what role and who will cover which skills. Star and guest star in each other’s stories, and make some great dynamics. No extra steps needed here.
The only thing I would advise caution on is players with a mix of relations to actual stars of the show. If you have one PC that is a cast member’s kid, another that is an actual cast member, and a third with a completely unique back story then you might be due in for some rough game moments. In particularly when players play cast members directly as characters.
It is easy to upset other players when you play a character that they love differently than what they expect from that character. And while it is a good idea to be considerate of such players’ feelings, I mean this as a warning to you that is playing the cast member as a character. Other players will make life hard for you (usually unintentionally) with their nagging comments and their unreasonable expectations. Be sure that you are willing to put up with that if you are choosing to play someone pulled directly from the story.
Surprisingly I have found this to be MUCH less of an issue when everyone is playing direct pulls. Apparently that enlightens the players that they are all on the same page with playing their own version of heroes they all love, and more grace is allowed. Go team!
If you are worried about your game not feeling enough like the show, here are some tips to consider when wrapping things up. First, change skill names. There is actually a spot on the world building sheet to list skills. Just make sure that everyone has a copy of the new skill list so there is no confusion.
“Roll a physique check.” “Wait, I thought we were calling it Endurance now?” “Not me. I decided my cave man would call it Zum Zum.” “Hey dumb dumb. You bring gum gum?” “AUGH!”
Also, most fantasy and science fiction stories have something extra that makes their world unique. Usually it is just one thing (people can more easily relate to a world where most things are the same for them), but that one thing might be simple or complicated. If you cannot cover that one thing with stunts and aspects, consider making an extra to cover it.
The ONE THING unique is not necessarily the drive of the show but rather the flavor. Firefly is about the dynamics of the group when plans go wrong, but the flavor of the show is doing these jobs in space. So make an extra to cover space travel. Or take pokémon as an example. The show is all about monster battles, but the unique flavor is how you capture them to make them your own pocket monsters.
Not everything works for everyone. What is most important is what we covered in the original post. Make sure everyone is on the same page for the story you want to tell. This is especially important (and easily forgotten) in a fan fate game. Just because everyone loves the same show does not mean that they love it for the same reasons.
RPGs are cooperative social interactions. You will always have more fun when the players are on the same page. And having the GM there with you helps a lot!