Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Doom. Doom. Doom.

During this week's Tribe 8 game we're going to (most likely) be embarking on a proper session zero with some actual play, which I'm both excited and a little anxious about -- mostly because of the learning curve with using Roll20.

I've been wrangling for the past week or so on the concepts of the Doom and Salvation tracks, mostly looking into other games that seem to use them. The Arkham Horror and Runebound boardgames are the only ones I can find that specifically feature them. I've not played either game, but the general idea seems to be about what I am looking for: when the track fills up, bad stuff starts happening. What I need to figure out is how the stress/Consequences model will be applied, and whether there's a need for two tracks at all, especially given that I'm using plot stress.

Runebound Doom Track
The players either bet against the oncoming doom to advance their agendas, or make sacrifices to try to make things right. I think the expectation is that, at least initially, there's going to be a lot of doom flying around. At some point either the PCs are going to figure out, stumble upon, or completely ignore what needs to be done to return balance to the cosmos. The way I'm envisioning it right now is that the Doom Track is set up like so:
[ ] [ ] Condition #1
[ ] [ ] Condition #2
[ ] [ ] Condition #3
[ ] [ ] [etc...]
These work basically like Conditions from the Fate System Toolkit. The boxes are standard 1-stress/2-stress boxes. Once they're checked off, the Condition comes into play. What the Condition is remains hidden until it' revealed. We can assume that from a Tribe 8 perspective, the foundational ways the world is fucked up  - you know, the bit about human civilization collapsing, the closing of the Fold, the Z'bri herding the survivors into the Camps, that stuff - are "below" this track. The universe is at a tipping point, and the things that wrack up the Consequences on this track are just accelerating the freefall.

So far so good. The Conditions are setting aspects that make the world a less happy place to live in. For anyone who knows anything about the Tribe 8 metaplot, somewhere around the last of the unpublished cycles things is where the last of the Conditions are filled in. The world is about to be Taken Out unless something is done to start clearing the Conditions up. The Conditions themselves would line up roughly with the large events from each arc of the metaplot (there are about five of them). Of course, they don't have to be statically yoked to the Cycles. If the PCs convince the Keepers to resurrect some nukes and turn Hl'kar into a parking lot, and then turn around and unleash steampunk mecha to wipe out the Tribes, obviously the Doom track can fill up pretty quick

And when that happens, this is exactly what I will be doing

Now knowing what the Conditions are ahead of time is part of the "betting" against the Doom. On top of that, others' actions can obviously inflict stress on the track as well. So when the players are eyeing the two empty stress boxes on the Doom track as they try to channel the River of Dream through some Keeper device, they don't know a bunch of renegade Melanis Z'bri are also mucking around with the Sea of the Lost - and that both of them together are going to inflict enough stress to incur a new Condition. Getting a free invocation on that new Condition will probably feel like a consolation prize when they find out it's The Dead Have Risen and now they have a zombie outbreak to contend with.

Of course, in the early parts of the camp practically everything the PCs need to do in order to to help the Fallen survive are likely to be Doom-stress inducing events. Attacks on the Tribes, hunting Z'bri, messing around with things that they shouldn't, etc. aren't exactly things that would avert the impending collapse of reality. It's also not likely the outcasts are going to become a bunch of pacifistic saints and start acting for the good of all. For one, there's no way they'd survive a single winter if they did and two, it would be really boring.

Finally, we come to the "salvation" part. If the Doom track is like the universe taking a beating, then salvation  means healing it. From a Fate Fractal perspective, this makes for a fun option: when the players do certain things, they get a chance to make a recovery roll for one of the Doom track's Consequences, or to clear some stress. Smaller actions would clear stress, while bigger sacrifices would rename and eventually clear Conditions. By the time the campaign is at the point where this is happening, the PCs are likely to be in a position to actively prevent others from re-incurring the Conditions.

Below is a rough version of the image I'll be using for the Doom Track in Roll20. The stress boxes are paired, with the white rectangle for the condition to be filled in. I'm trying to figure out what else to do with the real estate...I might create some spaces that can be used for other aspects and whatnot.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Oh, Hai There!

I've been kind of quiet lately. I was a little burned out, a lot of it having to do with my old job that was sucking a lot of motivation out of me. So I got a new, better paying, database engineer position. But the end result is that I'm not blogging from work - a habit I don't wish to get back into, since I actually want to work at work. And I've been making some changes at home to include some healthier behaviors (not physically, per se, just trying to eliminate some bad habits). I only blog when I really feel it, and the short version is that lately I haven't felt like it.

Now that I'm feeling a little more energized, I've started to tackle some concepts for  My Tribe 8 Fate Core game. I finally launched on Roll20 week before last, and while we're off to a slow start it's giving me time to think about the bigger picture.

Tribe 8 has both a strongly defined setting and an established metaplot. The strongly defined setting part isn't too hard to integrate into Fate Core (make the game about the characters and their personal struggles) but a tightly bound metaplot is hard to reconcile. There's just not as much room for players to drive the game in the direction they want if one is intent on following a metaplot, and that player direction is something that Fate Core thrives on. The obvious answer is to leave the metaplot bloody in a ditch somewhere, but that's not what I want to do. It's a pretty big part of the game for me, and how tightly DP9 bound the setting to the metaplot was one of the stand-out elements of the game. What it didn't have was for a way to engage the players in the same manner that one can using Fate Core. In light of this, I'd like to find a happy medium between the two.

There was a great thread on Story-Games about Tribe 8, and in it +Brand Robins suggests Doom/Salvation tracks. In order for the players to improve the world and move it toward salvation, they need to sacrifice things that are important to their PCs. This may mean they get nothing (in the end) in return, and their sacrifice may be in vain. Or, they can tempt the impending doom to try to get a "win" (such as taking the fight to the Fatimas or trying to exterminate the Z'bri). In the end, it may benefit the PCs or their side, but it moves the setting toward it's inexorable doom. In addition to some great thoughts about community vs. individualism, there's a lot to chew on in that thread.

Next, comes two posts from the Fate Core crew. Invoking at a cost, which +Fred Hicks suggested here, dovetails extremely well with the Doom/Salvation concept. It completely plays to both the question, "What are you willing to pay to succeed?" and the idea that "winning" often means tempting things that are beyond your control. Next, this post by +Rob Donoghue discusses a novel way of handling secrets in the campaign. The Tribe 8 world is full about secrets. And now knowing which of those secrets is true, and either trying to use that information to advance your agenda or trying to use it to try to bring about salvation could lead down a path of failure, death, or even worse.

Finally, to wrap things up are +Josh Roby and co's Destiny Deck, which I would kill to actually become a thing (even if it was just a virtual thing). I have a really strong feeling that the deck is a way to tie these elements together - secrets, doom vs. salvation, costs of success - in a thematic and cool way. So much so that I want to try to cobble together some images to use as cards, and figure out a system for doling them out.

So, that's what my brain is churning over as the gaming sectors come revving back to life. Oh, I also am going to have some Dark Phoenix Publishing fun soon.