|Sep. 21st, 2013 @ 06:19 pm Fate and Other Simple Games|
|It's been a long time.|
One thing I've been paying attention to lately is simple RPG systems. Mini Six is a free system using only d6, described in a pamphlet of 38 pages of which most are optional rules like magic, plus sample settings, vehicles, and common characters. There's also Mythic (about $5-10), which runs on answering yes/no questions with 2d10 and has a variant here that I've used in its "GM Emulator" mode to help with story writing.
Then there's Fate, a remake of the old FUDGE system, which is available through "pay what you want" downloads. Everything is described using "Aspects" that define the setting but have little mechanical effect unless you spend points per use to make them more significant. Eg., you might be "Wielder of the True King's Sword". That means there's said to be a True King in the setting, and that you can fight with a sword... but you get no specific bonus for it except when spending Fate Points. Well-designed Aspects can also be used by the GM against you to make your problems relevant and harmful, eg. by siccing regicidal assassins on you who get a one-time +2 to attack. I prefer the Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE) which is about 64 pages to Fate's 200+, but refer to the main book for more detail. FAE has simpler rules that replace skills with "approaches", so that a character might get +3 to Clever actions but only +1 to Careful ones. You customize PCs with their Aspects and with Stunts that do specific cool things. A neat thing about the system is that anything can be described using the same basic tools as a character: a ship, a country, an organization or a plotline.
Lately I've been playing a lot of Pathfinder (ie. D&D 3.75) in person at a game shop. My enthusiasm is just about gone for that, but I had some fun with it for a while. Doing "organized play" like these games requires a lot of sacrifice to the game design, so that players can enter or leave the game each week or play at a different location with different people.
It's been an interesting exercise to try looking at the same character in a different rule system. For instance, what might I do with my usual Pathfinder character, Pine the Sorcerer, in Fate?
-PF magic is generic do-anything stuff. Let's give him a theme! Do that by giving him the Aspect "Force Mage" reflecting a few of his spells: Mage Armor and Toppling Magic Missile. Now, pretty much any spell he casts will be described in terms of raw mystic force. The GM should use this Aspect against him if he tries to cast something unrelated to his specialty.
-His negligible backstory is that he's from the nation of Andoran but disillusioned with their fledgling democracy; he joined a formerly-evil watchdog group called the Shadow Lodge. Aside from the existence of the Shadow Lodge as a provider of secret secondary missions (one of Pathfinder's best ideas), that story never came up. So, give Pine a more negative Aspect of "Andoran Dissident", which gets him into trouble by having the GM suggest foolish behavior or lead him into traps -- but which he might use to help himself at a task like researching Andoran history.
-The most fun aspect of the character has been a running gag about his possibly-evil familiar. With PF there's hassle over exactly what abilities it can get and which books I have to buy to get permission to use them, and I really should've gone druid if I wanted the critter to remain useful at high levels. In FATE, the red tape is gone. Give Pine an Aspect like "Dire Squirrel Familiar", and then it's there and I can amuse myself for RP purposes, but it's no more powerful than another character's Mage Hand or something unless I spend Fate Points to make it so. Then maybe give him a stunt to define the ability further like, "My Dire Squirrel Familiar gives me +2 to overcome obstacles sneakily where a small, aggressive critter can help."
Also I tried writing up a character called Papyrus (squirrel-world mage) in both Mini Six and Fate, and found it interesting to see what each system emphasized and what additional info I had to invent about the character.
I came close to joining a Pathfinder game online where the GM would've let us use pretty much any race we wanted to design (so, no organized play restrictions), but gave up when I noticed I was obsessing over buying specific items of camping gear and calculating weight limits. Not fun. I've been GMing some Fate online, and am still clumsy with the system but liking it so far. Most interesting part for me has been setting up a situation with various obstacles, where the PCs have three rounds to prepare for a battle, and seeing what they do to overcome the obstacles and create advantages like weapons and training.
So, if you're interested in RPGs but not in excruciatingly complex rules, you might check out Fate, Mythic or Mini Six.