Fate: A Tale of Conversion-on-the-Fly

Randy's truckThis tale is late, but my writing time in the last quarter has been spent primarily on the War of Ashes RPG. Despite the lateness, I want to share this gaming experience because I think it may be useful to others. It’s on my mind because I’m wrapping up one of the last details for the draft of the War of Ashes RPG, the creation of short sample adventures.

When I was on Games On Demand duty at Big Bad Con in October, I had two options prepared: a FAE Muppet Show game or an octaNe game. Players sat down at my table, interested in trying Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE) for the first time but not too hot about the Muppets. Two were actually in the wrong age bracket, too young for the original Muppet Show and too old for the Disney re-launch; and one was my husband, who had recently played the Muppets game and had not played octaNe in a long time, so was ready for some post-apocalypse mayhem.

I wanted to give my players the game that would entertain them most, and somewhere in the back of my mind I had been making connections between the two systems; the spark went ZzzaPP! and I decided to run the game I had planned for octaNe but using the FAE system.

I’ve already talked about the game premise here: Eternal Earth-Bound Pets, USA contract employees, hired to retrieve the pets left behind by policy holders who were Raptured. The game writes itself! I had prepared an EEBP_brochure which I asked the players to fill; this would obviously be our adventure, the pets they had to save. The key points were these:

  • The contract had been taken by Hezekiah Lockhart in Twin Peaks, Washington;
  • The pets consisted of a cow, a duck, a chicken, and a pig;
  • The cow was diabetic;
  • The pig was “shy”.

While they were filling the insurance form, I quickly marked up the octaNe character sheets:

Character sheet: octaNe-to-FAE

I used the octaNe Styles straight-up as approaches and gave the customary +3, +2, +2, +1, +1, and +0 bonuses to spread, telling players that the +0 had to go to either Might or Magic. These two styles approaches cannot be used unless you have a positive bonus. [Edit: If I run this again, I will use the bonuses +3, +2, +1, +1, +0, and +0.]

I gave them the list of character roles from octaNe (last page in this PDF handout) and told them this would be their high concept; they could add a descriptor, for example: “Crusty Old Repo-Man.” The players were asked to also pick a “trouble” aspect and one to three more aspects to flesh out their character. Each octaNe role comes with a short description, including favoured styles and short lists of free-form skills that provided excellent guidelines for creating additional aspects.

Finally, we walked through the very basics of the FAE system and the creation of a few stunts. They created:

  • Randy Rhodes, Knight of the Road, with the trouble Dudley Do-Right, and the aspects My Companion Walmart, the World’s Ugliest Dog, and My Gigantic Truck.
  • Hank “for now”, who immediately became Hank Furnow, Greasemonkey; trouble: Kleptomaniac; other aspect: Long Hairy Arms.
  • El Cachorro (“the Puppy”), Masked Luchador; trouble: Just A Kid; other aspects: Heir to the Name, My Mariachi Band.

While the players were writing up their characters, I set to pulling together an adventure using Ryan M. Danks’ Fractal Adventure method, which I had used for my official convention game the day before. It was only supposed to be a 2-hour game, so I didn’t need to make it complicated:

  • I picked two overall adventure aspects, High concept: The Contract Is the Contract!, and Trouble: Psychotronic Pulp Trash-Culture America.
  • The adventure goal was, of course, “Rescue Hezekiah Lockhart’s pets.”
  • I assigned the adventure “skill” bonuses as Interpersonal +5 (the post-Rapture world is harsh), Combat +3 (everyone wanted some good butt-kicking), Exploration +3 (road trip!), and Lore +1 (I wanted it to be easy to find information.)
  • The adventure stress track got four boxes, as well as a mild (2), moderate (4) and severe (6) consequence. Note: In retrospect I think I was supposed to make it five boxes because of the number of players (base 3 plus 2 extra). Oh well.
  • I listed the following core scenes:
    1. Entering Twin Peaks
    2. Looking for Hezekiah Lockhart’s farm
    3. Rescuing the pets
  • I needed some opposition so I created a band of redneck survivalists and part-time cannibals, the Rovers, and recruited Mags Bennett from Justified as the villain and head of the band. (I actually really don’t like that show, by the way, but she was the most interesting character I saw in the season and a half I sat through.)

Scribbling the adventure took minutes, just like writing the characters. The final adventure notes looked like this:

The Pet Professionals

High Concept: The Contract is the Contract!
Goal: Rescue Hezekiah Lockhart’s pets.

Death Overhanging: Psychotronic Pulp Trash-Culture America.
Anything can happen, and will. Whenever the PCs fail or stall, something dangerous and insane must happen.

I made these aspects known from the beginning, so people could invoke them at will for a fate point.


Entering Twin Peaks

Environmental Aspect: Nice But Nervous Town.
Obstacle Aspect: We Have A Problem and We Need Your Help.

Characters: King, the grizzled guy behind the counter at the cafe; Libby, the short and red-cheeked mayor.

Here, I just wanted to see how the players would interact with the town folk and, if I could, saddle them with another job because I love multiplying obligations for my PCs. Sure enough, they got themselves tangled into helping the town folk with their problem—the cannibal raiders who kidnapped people to eat them.

Particularly entertaining were El Cachorro’s effort to charm and impress the townies, helped by his accompanying band of mariachis.  The PC also discovered that before moving on to long pork, the raiders had pretty well cleaned up the local livestock that was left after the End of the World. So they moved on to go check on the old farm…

Looking for Hezekiah Lockhart’s Farm

Environmental Aspect: Out in the Boondocks in southeastern Washington.
Obstacle Aspect: The Rovers’ Barricade across the road, made of broken-down car bodies; the Rovers (+2 to Combat when shooting big guns).

The Rovers are not subtle and they are there to let the PCs cut loose.

The scene was just wonderful, with every PC getting a chance to show off their coolness. Everybody’s favourite moment happened when the Rover leader ended up pinned under Randy Rhodes’ monster truck, with just the head and shoulders sticking out. Rover guy begged for his life, promised the PCs help and peace henceforth, but wasn’t coming across as a terribly trustworthy guy. Randy’s trouble was Dudley Do-Right, so in order to fish for a self-compel, he decided to be magnanimous and accept the surrender. Hank Furnow the Greasemonkey, however, had had a chance to slap together a Toyota Corolla from all the wrecks in the barricade, and would have none of it; when Randy’s truck pulled back to free the Rover leader who was just about to signal to his boys to shoot, Hank rolled right in and ran over the Rover.

[Edit: Somewhere in my handwritten notes I’m missing the stats for the Rover leader that got run over; I was thinking of him as a henchman, the rest of the Rovers as mooks, and Mags as the boss. This became important because during the fight at the barricade, the players decided to take the leader out first, so his being run over was the result of the adventure taking a moderate consequence.]

Luchador kidDuring the skirmish, El Cachorro and his mariachi band had become separated from their companions, rolling off a slope in an old claw-foot bathtub. (Yeah, I know.) He had had bad dice luck so I wanted him to get a chance to do something epic anyway, so I had him run right into the Rovers’ boss, their mom Mags Bennett (+2 to Interpersonal when trying to convince people to do something directly against their self-interest.) El Cachorro had a heroic confrontation with her before she ran off.

Rescuing the Pets

Environmental Aspect: Save the Animals!
Obstacle Aspect: The Rovers’ Final Stand.

Naturally, the surviving Rovers fell back on the Lockhart farm, rallied by Mom.

There was a final battle which included a cattle stampede through the house. Of course the heroes found proof of the Rovers’ terrible deeds, freed a group of prisoners from surrounding towns, and a few surviving animals including the cow, the duck, the chicken and the pig; but one of the pig’s legs had already been eaten! Randy decided to adopt him and call him Target, and Hank made a cyber-leg for Target the Cy-Boar.

Naturally, this is just the sketch of the tale, there was much banter, show-boating, and zany ideas. The players created temporary aspects such as Impressed with My Bulging Muscles, Walmart is on the Loose!, and I’ll Intimidate You Right Back!. The write-up does not do justice to the players’ inventiveness.

But what I wanted to share with readers is how easy Fate Accelerated made it to convert on the fly and create an adventure in the same time it takes to make a character. If I had had a longer time slot to fill I would have thrown in more scenes, but as it was we did great. Players filled this tiny structure with lots of goodness and I merely had to keep up with them. You can read Edmund’s notes on the game from the players’ perspective.

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