Structured Aspects

I’ve been thinking a lot about aspects recently as I’m starting to consider what is going to go in my PWYW PDF ‘All About Aspects’, at the same time I’ve also been thinking about submitting a pitch to the Fate Codex, in their writers guidelines they claim to be looking for:

  • Quick Start Adventures that contain a short setting, NPCs and plot hooks, and pregen characters (roughly 4,000 words).
  • Fate Core Essays that explain how to do exciting things with the Fate system in your local game (2,500 – 3,500 words).
  • Extra Systems that can be added to your game to provide new ways for your players to engage the fiction (1,000 – 1,500 words).
  • Short Fiction that will help to inspire you with new worlds and characters that will be statted up along with the prose (roughly 2,500 words).

I quite like the idea of trying to write an adventure that is self-contained but that also does something a little different with the basic Fate rules-set, so I’ve been thinking about how it might be interesting to tweak the structural guidelines that are provided for creating aspects. The default method in Fate Core asks players to think about their first adventure and then each person works out how their characters play a supporting role in the other peoples adventures and pick aspects based on them; some people love this idea and some people hate it, and of course there’s nothing that says you have to use it, however, having some guidelines can be useful to prevent people from stalling or getting that blank expression when aspects are first explaining.

When it discusses running horror games using Fate the Fate Toolkit one of the pieces of advice it gives is:

Compels Aplenty: While compels aren’t tools for forcing outcomes, they are tools for making things go wrong. So make them abundant. Place aspects on the scene, the story, the campaign—and compel them to make things go wrong for everyone. Simply dropping Death Comes for Everyone onto the story and compelling it at the exact worst time (for the players) to make things that much worse will get lots of traction. Yeah, the players affected will walk away with some fate points—which they’ll need in order to survive—but they’ll also feel the emotional gut-punch of the moment—and will wonder when the next compel is going to land. Make them hurt. Make them worry.

Often one of the problems with horror gaming is that, unless the PCs buy into the genre conventions then it can fall flat; after all everyone knows that splitting up is a bad idea, that reading the old book is a death-sentence and don’t even think about going down into that dark cellar. Still, the characters/victims in horror films and stories do exactly that because, unlike the players in an RPG, they generally don’t know they’re in a horror story; if your players are too concerned with survival and playing it safe then the horror RPG experience can seem a bit limp and deflated.

I think aspects could be just the thing to change that; using compels frequently could, if used with appropriate aspects, re-inforce the genre tropes and reward players who buy-in to the setting whilst still allowing those who wish to pay a fate point to avoid the compel, although doing so eventually means they will succumb to the dark forces of whatever nameless horror stalks them.

Taking the standard five aspect approach, I’m intending to define them something like this (I’m using the example of a haunted house investigation below, if the goal/setting of the game were different then some of the wording might change):

  1. What is your job? – this replaces high concept
  2. What brought you to the haunted house? – this replaces trouble
  3. What are you hoping to find in the house?
  4. What do you fear is in the house?
  5. What will keep you investigating when weird stuff starts to happen?

And there are examples below:

  1. What is your job? Newspaper photographer
  2. What bought you to the haunted house? Some people have disappeared here and the place has a bad reputation.
  3. What are you hoping to find in the house? A big scoop.
  4. What do you fear is in the house? Some kind of crazy person or killer.
  5. What will keep you investigating when weird stuff starts to happen? I need the money that the story will bring me to support my family.
  1. What is your job? None, I’m a homeless person.
  2. What bought you to the haunted house? My dog ran off and disappeared into the building.
  3. What are you hoping to find in the house? I just want to find Rex and get out.
  4. What do you fear is in the house? The house was built on an old graveyard and they say ot’s haunted.
  5. What will keep you investigating when weird stuff starts to happen? Rex is the only friend I have, and who knows I might find something worth something in the old place.

I’m hoping to keep refining this idea over the next few weeks and then look at making it into an adventure with a view to playtesting and submitting to the Codex.

Video Response: Horror Tips

Fantastic Dimensions asked for some additional tips on running horror games in his video, so here’s my response:

[NaNoWriMo] Starting NaNoWriMo

I’ve been aware of the National Novel Writing Month for a few years now and have always fancied giving it a go, but I’ve always either left it too late or been too busy when November rolled around; this year though a post on a friends facebook reminded me about it in the dying stages of October and, with my life not likely to get any less busy in the forseeable future I decided to give it a go this year. After all, what’s the worse that could happen (as Dr Pepper commercials are so fond of reminding us)?

For those not aware NaNoWriMo (www.NaNoWriMo.org) is when a lot of people get today online and encourage each other, over the course of the 30 days of November, to each write a 50,000 word novel. 

I’ve always fancied the idea of being a writer, the dream for me would be to be able to make a living doing it, that might never happen but having started NaNoWriMo I feel like I’ve taken a tiny step closer to realising that dream.

As of this post (on the first day of the month) I’ve already written over 2300 words on my novel ‘The End of You’ and am on target for my 50000 by the end of the month; as the month continues I’ll be posting updates to my blog, all the entries will be preface [NaNoWriMo] to seperate them from my RPG content. 

 Good luck to everyone else taking part 🙂

RPG Blog Carnival – October 2013: Spooky Spots – ROSE CORNER

The RPG Blog Carnival is an idea to get groups of bloggers to all writing about a monthly topic, the aim being to build a dialogue across many different blogs, providing different viewpoints and ideas to the viewer. The way it works is that a blog discussing a monthly topic will post the RPG Carnival Logo and will link back to the ‘hosters’ post.

This month the topic is spooky spots.
Below is my effort:

Rose Corner

Rose corner, as it has been nicknamed by the locals of the city, is nothing remarkable, it looks just like any other street corner and could be in any city, even your own home town; however, 50 years ago a young man was rushing home from work on a dark and stormy Valentine’s night, despite his hurry to return home to the arms of his beloved the man was careful not to squash the bunch of white roses that he carried under one arm whilst balancing his briefcase under the other. The man had never missed an anniversary yet and this was a big one, it had been ten years since his knelt proposal had been accepted, he still remembered the nervousness as he knelt trembling in the italian restaurant, a rose gripped between his teeth and the feeling of jubilation when his beloved had accepted his proposal; every year since then, to mark their anniversary he had delivered her a bunch of white roses.
Opinions and local legends differ on what happened next as the man reached the corner of the street, passing by a large private garden; some say that he was distracted by the smell of the flowers or some sort of insect buzzing from the bushes that lined the side of the street, others say that he was busy talking to the office on a cell phone and some that he was just in a rush to return home to the arms of his beloved. Whatever the truth of the matter is, the man rushed out into the road without looking, failing to see that the lights had changed to green or the onrushing traffic; a few moments later there was a crunch of grinding metal and shattering flesh as the mans body was flung from the road into the large bushes at the side of the road. The man was dead by the time the paramedics arrived, his white flowers stained red with his blood, crushed and scattered across the sidewalk.
As a result of the accident the old woman who owned the house next to rose corner (as it rapidly came to be known) moved away, although she refused to ever sell the house; the paperwork eventually became another casualty of bureaucratic mis-filing and it was never sold, being allowed to slowly fall into decay, the gardens becoming overgrown and tangled. Opinions vary locally to why the old woman moved away, some say that she couldn’t look after the grounds any more due to her advance age, others that she moved to be closer to relatives, however some of the local people tell a different story, that she was scared by the white roses that had sprung up in the hedgerow ajoining the street corner, flowers not planted by herself that seems to wrap themselves around the existing topiary and blossomed only once every decade with the pure white flowers shot through with a red as vivid as freshly spilled blood.
The rose strangled bushes with their occasionally blooming flowers can still be found next to Rose Corner, flowering once every ten years with their beautiful white and red flowers; people say that when they bloom if you listen closely enough you can still hear the echoes of the dead mans footsteps running between the worlds, always running to get home to his love (now long since dead) and deliver his gift and that when the rain beats down heavily and thunder is in the air, even though the roses may not be flowering, you might still catch the scent of the flowers on the breeze or find petals littered the sidewalk.