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.
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
The game suggests 6 character aspects: High Concept, Heart’s Desire, tension, motivation (or method) for problem solving, and 2 relationship aspects with your group. This is a good set up for any Fate characters that the mechanics will support.
Your High Concept defines you. It is who you are in the game, and the aspect that most often applies to what you do. Your Trouble is also who you are, or perhaps who part of you really wants to be. Calling it your Heart’s Desire gives you a good focus on that aspect that the GM is supposed to often compel. It isn’t just what you want. It is who you want to be, regardless of how much trouble it gets you and your friends into.
Tensions are a new mechanic to the game, but they make for great aspects in and of themselves. These are 2 conflicting ideals that your character wants, but because they are conflicting they can’t have both. Torn between duty and adventure? Absence makes the heart fonder? Am I am man, or am I a Muppet? These sorts of conflicts help us learn and discover more about our character.
The last 3 aspects are meant to develop in session zero, and they are great for building group dynamics. Choose a default go-to for your character, either their base motivation if they are more feelings driven or base method if they are more logic driven. And having aspects to help define relationships make for some easy compels that show the dynamics of the group.
Playing With Skills
Loose Threads does away with Drive and Contacts, 2 skills that you really have to build a player (and the adventure) around to get much use out of them. The function of Contacts is added to Resources, making it a more useful skill. If you are playing this sort of character in Fate Core, a stunt that lets you roll Resources to establish a contact would probably be worth the skill points in the long run if you are making a wealthy social character.
As you would expect from a fairytale fantasy, the game also has 3 magic skills: zaps, alchemy, and wish. Zaps is your evocation magic, alchemy is your magic item crafting, and wish is your thaumaturgy. That last one is sort of an anti-fate point, as you roll and give control of your character to the GM. It is an interesting concept, but one that should be approached with extreme caution as it can be easily abused and lead to a lack of investment by the player.
Like any other Fate game, don’t try to cover EVERYTHING with your player character. Look at your motivation/method aspect and put your highest skill as something to support that aspect. Lower skills should back this up, and having a low skill that is aimed for your Heart’s Desire can make things fun as well. Be sure to have an attack skill for physical and social combat at least Fair (+2), one of which at least is probably covered by your high skills.
Playing With Favors
Loose Threads is not trying to be a romanticized fairytale setting. It is trying to be the realistic side of those fairytales. It is about making hard choices and sacrifices. In this setting, you do this with your Tensions and Favors.
Favors are exactly what you would expect. You make a deal, and later you try to get out of it or cash it in. This works as a special type of boost mechanically, letting you carry an IOU with you to aid or hinder someone later based on your agreement.
Tensions are where Loose Threads tries to be unique. You get mechanical bonuses and penalties as you take actions towards one of the two extremes. This aspect is basically the player telling the GM “I want my character to struggle here. Please compel this aspect as much as possible.” And it goes one step further by letting the GM compel that aspect in two different directions, providing a unique struggle.
If you like character development, this is a good setting for you to check out. Especially if you are into the fantasy genre. Even a one shot will teach/refresh you on a couple of good keys for roleplaying a character effectively.
Have you given Loose Threads a try yet? What did you think? What sort of stories are you playing out? Let us know!