Saturday, December 13, 2014

Fate Core AAR: "The Saxony Jewels" One-Shot

So, wow, it's been over a year since I ran my last Fate one-shot, a scenario I found online titled "Spirit of the Tentacle." That experience had been less than satisfying for pretty much everyone involved, I think.

What has happened in the intervening year was that I wanted to put together a campaign to run, but have not had the spare time to coordinate with a group. We had also tried building characters at one time, but some of the phases I had defined were too nebulous. I finally decided to break the stalemate by writing up a one-shot adventure that takes place in the same alternate-history campaign world I had been developing, but which didn't involve any of the major players or major conflicts of the campaign.

I settled on a treasure hunt/race. The Crown Jewels of Saxony had been stolen from a museum during the California-Pacific Exposition in San Diego in 1935. The players would compete in teams to try to track down the jewels first. I built each of the characters to be a unique archetype, tightened up my approach to aspects, and wrote for each character not only a background and a unique reason to search for the jewels, but also explained the aspects and possible ways to invoke/compel them so the players could understand them better.

I had four people scheduled to show up, in two teams of two. When the scheduled night arrived, one player canceled, so we ended up playing with three, and I played the fourth PC as an NPC (well, I intended to, but tended to forget, so Kendall ended up tagging along silently, mostly doing nothing until the big final confrontation).

I did my best to switch back and forth between the teams frequently to keep everyone engaged, although sometimes I think I concentrated more on the two-player team. I tried to give everyone some interesting interactions and choices. I think it was somewhat frustrating for the players, because the sandboxy nature of the scenario made it hard to figure out where to start, and the clues to the mystery developed slowly. But the clues did develop, and I think that helped keep the players engaged.

One weird thing that happened was that the players often got really awful die rolls, while I (whose bad die rolling as a player is somewhat legendary) made consistently better ones. But smart use of skills and Aspects gave the characters some moments to shine. And as it happens, I was able to draw all the PC's to the treasure at about the same time for a final confrontation.

I'm not sure if the ending was entirely satisfactory to everyone. I had designed the characters' motivations such that, if they decided to cooperate and split the treasure, they could do that, and I think I might have railroaded them into that outcome a little bit. But they seemed to have a good time, and I had a much better time than my previous Fate running experience, so I'm happy with the outcome.

Now I'm wondering about Google+ Hangouts or maybe running a campaign on Saturday or Sunday afternoons, since my nights are taken. We'll see what happens.

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