War of Ashes RPG: Campaign Creation, Part 2

Elvorix city

Continuing with Part 2 of my excerpt from the draft Campaign Creation section as I write the War of Ashes RPG for Evil Hat Productions; it’s based on the process as described in Fate Core. Part 1 (Premise and Scale) was posted yesterday.

Big Issues

In the The Big Picture we talked about some of the global issues for the world of Agaptus, issues that most people there can’t even see clearly because they are in the thingk of the action. Is Agaptus a doomed world, one on the cusp of change, or a backdrop you’re happy to keep more or less constant while you focus on local events? It depends on where you want the story to go.

But the issues for Agaptus may not be the ones your group will want to focus on in your campaign. Perhaps they are all about carving territory for a little lordling in the hills above Prolyus, exploring islands to the south where it’s warmer, or salvaging Ancient knowledge from an unstable ruined city before it collapses.

Types of issues: The issues should reflect the scale of your game and what the characters will face. They’re broad ideas; they don’t just affect your characters, but many people in the world. Issues take two forms:

  • Current Issues: The problems or threats that exist in the world already. Heroes tackling these issues are trying to change the world, to make it a better place. Examples: The on-going War of Ashes, the Kuld invasion, the loss of Ancient knowledge, the ossification of Elvorix society, the cult of ignorance in Vidaar society, the Jaarl’s loss of their Murmadon homeland.
  • Impending Issues: These are things that have begun to rear their ugly heads, and threaten to make the world worse if they come to pass or achieve a goal. Heroes tackling these issues are trying to keep the world from slipping into chaos or destruction. Examples: The cooling of the climate, a pretender to the throne bent on seizing control, the imminent invasion of the heroes’ town.

Foreshadowing the Issues: The default number of issues in a Fate game is two, and you can mix and match types. As one issue is being resolved, a gamemaster can foreshadow a new issue that is gaining prominence. That way, the group of heroes always has its collective hands full but not too full and the story flows with crests and troughs, like in our favorite epic tales.

Turning Issues Into Aspects: You’ve already seen how we’ve done something like this for every plot seed in this book. Distill your issues into aspects which you will use during play.

Expanding Story Seeds Into Issues: Speaking of the story seeds, maybe one grabbed your attention while thumbing through the book; why not expand it into more than a challenge or even an adventure, and make it part of your campaign? You may have to rephrase it to give it more scope.

Example: Sharlene is interested by the Great Catastrophe, its causes, and whether its effects can be stopped. Ben likes the heroic possibilities—saving the world!—and Isaac like the scope. Isaac would really like to see some swashbuckling adventures at sea but doesn’t have a specific issue. Since all three have shown some interest in Ancient technology, Kim suggests that maybe this idea of salvaging knowledge from an unstable Ancient site could take place on a small island off the coast of Sentia.

They boil this down to two aspects: Secrets of the Ice and Lost Island of Konaré.

Faces and Places

Now that you have your issues figured out, decide who the important people and locations are. In discussing these issues, you probably thought of some organizations or groups that are implicitly part of your story, whether to provide support or opposition. You will also have important locations. All of these will be more vivid in your campaign if they are represented by people; assign a few characters to be their faces, give each a distinguishing aspect, and think of some relationships between these and the player characters which you’ll create in the next step.

Example: Kim, Ben, Sharlene, and Ian agree that there will be some travel by sea to get to the island of Konaré, and perhaps a rival for the Ancient knowledge, a shadowy organization that doesn’t plan on sharing. Ian would like this rival organization to include an enemy captain so there can be plenty of naval battles and boarding actions. Ben suggests that the heroes should also have some sponsor or sponsoring organization who put them onto the track of this island.

They create the following:

  • The Seal of Prolyus, the rival organization for Ancient knowledge, dedicated to recovering science applicable to warfare to provide the Elvorix with an edge over their enemies.
  • Rogue scholar Laetitia Bibulus ix Gailus, sponsored by the Seal of Prolyus; her aspect is I’ll Show Them All.
  • Captain Volo Troll-Axe, Laetitia’s ally; his aspect is Is This Thing Valuable?
  • The Stone-Seekers, a faction of the Virian Order that is trying to find out the truth about the eruption of Mount Murmadon and the Great Catastrophe.
  • They’ve already identified the island of Konaré as a location, of course, and they know it will have Ancient ruins, but they want to leave it shrouded in mystery so they don’t assign a face to it for now.

Tomorrow: Group Character Creation.

Credits: Art ©ZombieSmith 2012-2013, used with permission.