Yesterday, I discussed using the Fate fractal to design adventures. You’ll notice in the comments of that post that I almost immediately updated, and further simplified, that idea. Today, I’d like to talk specifics about those adventure stats. Tomorrow, I’ll discuss a workflow for creating these adventures in about the same amount of time as it takes for players to work through the phase trio (since GMs typically don’t have anything to do during that time).
In my opinion, no system for running games can get too simple for a GM. They already have so much to worry about, why make them have to also add bookkeeping to that list?
This update removes all complicated bookkeeping. You could literally have everything you need for the whole adventure on the front (and maybe back, for an adventure with a lot of scenes) of a 3×5 card!
You should create at least two aspects for every scene: one for the setting/environment and one for the obstacle the PCs will face – you can do more, this should be your minimum. If the PCs will face no obstacle, then there is no tension. You need to delete the scene from your list in most cases, as it will be fiercely boring. Even searching an office for information is an obstacle, Hidden Clues.
Adventures use the following skills:
- Combat: Governs NPCs attacking, defending and creating advantages using combative maneuvers. (NPC and setting uses of Fight/Shoot, and the defense portion of Athletics)
- Exploration: This sets the difficulty, or opposes, PC attempts to interact with, or move through, the environment, whether that opposition comes from an NPC or another obstacle in the setting. This covers movement, investigating clues, discovering details, determining NPC initiative, allow something to remain hidden from the PCs, etc. (NPC and setting uses of Athletics, Investigation, Notice, Physique, Stealth)
- Interaction: This is rolled to have the NPCs interact with the PCs. (NPC and setting uses of Contacts, Deceit, Empathy, Provoke, Rapport, Resources, Will)
- Lore: Governs how difficult it is to know some relevant information that comes up in the adventure. (NPC and setting uses of Lore)
To set the adventure’s skill ratings, set two of the above skills at the same level as the PC’s apex skill rating (called Average Difficulty), then choose one to be +2 higher than that (called Hard Difficulty) and one to be -2 lower (called Easy Difficulty). For instance, if the PCs have an apex skill of Great (+4), then you’d have a set-up of +6, +4, +4, +2. If the apex skill is +3 (like in FAE), then you would have: +5, +3, +3, +1.
Situate the skills so that they highlight the important aspects you have in mind for the adventure. Do you want this adventure to be a tough fight with low social interaction? Have Combat be your Hard skill and Interaction be Easy. Do you want a game of intrigue with next to no fighting? Use Lore or Interaction as your Hard skills and Combat as your Easy skill.
Give the adventure stress and consequences. Stress would begin at 3 and consequences would get a full set (mild, moderate, severe). Use the number of players as a “skill rating” to determine bonus stress and consequences (like how Physique or Will works for a character’s bonus stress/consequences). If you find that too easy for the players, consider adding 2 to the “skill rating”.
Use of these vital stats is identical to how they are used for a player. Anytime an NPC, environment, etc., takes stress, it subtracts from the adventure stress track, which replenishes at the end of the scene as usual. When the adventure is taken out, the GM can opt to keep the scene in play a little longer by filling one of the adventure’s consequence slots. No recovery check is necessary to begin the healing process of an adventure consequence – all that’s needed is time.
Of particular note are severe consequences. These remain for the rest of the adventure, but don’t follow into the next adventure. This means that if the GM has not used it by the end of the adventure, he has a basically free use of a severe consequence for the climax. This has the effect of making the climax last longer and become more difficult to overcome, which is a good thing. Tension should be higher in that final scene.
NPCs and Stunts
Instead of using large numbers of huge stat blocks and individual vital scores to keep track of, the GM instead records the name of the NPC, one or two aspects (which can be borrowed from the adventure/scene aspects), and a number of stunts necessary to set the NPC apart from the adventure mechanically.
And that’s it for adventure stats. The only thing that changed from my initial adventure fractal concept was the rolling of NPC vital statistics into the adventure itself. This makes the GM more like a player, with his own sheet, stress track and skills. It also simplifies things for him, which I hope GMs everywhere appreciate.
Tomorrow I’ll go over a workflow for writing these adventures up quickly, yet thoroughly.