I've mentioned roleplaying a couple of times on this blog but never really expanded on it. However, just recently I found a system that I think is the perfect fit for me - FATE.
Whenever I run an RPG game I always set out to tell a good story. If the players and I all come away with the impression of having read a good book or seen a good movie, then I consider that job done. Likewise, when I play a game I want to immerse myself in the character, but this can be really hard sometimes, particularly if you're spoon fed things that you can do, such as in D&D 4e. For example, I'm currently in a campaign where I'm a Dwarf fighter and I have a fixed set of attacks that I can make, some of them all the time, some just occasionally. Now, there's really no decent justification for why I can only make the more powerful attacks once a day other than the mechanics state that. Obviously I would be using the best attacks all the time otherwise, so for balance the rules impose a restriction but there's no narrative sense to it. And in this way, the mechanics are completely obtrusive to the game and I basically always feel like I'm just playing an extended board game. I certainly don't feel encouraged to come up with creative solutions to the problems set by the GM. Normally, just hitting something is the best way forward.
Contrast that with the way Call of Cthulhu plays out. Combat in that game is deadly, so you are very justified in trying to avoid it at all costs. Instead, it is a game of investigation, mystery and atmosphere. There are still only certain ways of attacking, etc, but there is also a massive skill list that allows you to try and roll against for most situations. Also, I normally only call for a roll when it is really necessary, so driving a car in normal circumstances doesn't need a roll. Chasing some fleeing cultists across a busy town? Now we need rolls! So, Call of Cthulhu's rules blend a lot better into the background. Most sessions I play in or run actually have relatively few rolls. But, it doesn't answer an age old question - how do you encourage your players to actual roleplay? One of the most common errors I see in games are when players fail to divorce themselves from the character. The player simply ends up reflecting their own motivations in the character, not accounting for the characters past at all. And I have to put my own hand up; I sometimes fall into this trap, but it can be difficult to make your character do something detrimental to them because you know it is!
Enter FATE! In this system each character actually has a very basic set of skills encoded by the rules, but what sets it aside is the concept of aspects. When you create a character you come up with a set of statements that define them, from an overall concept to a set of troubles and relationships. These are all completely free-form, but they actually have an impact in the game and the mechanics. If you fail at a roll or don't succeed well enough, then you can invoke an aspect for a bonus. But it can also work against you! Imagine your character owes another player a debt. The aspect might be "I owe my life to Jacob". In play, Jacob gets captured and you go to save him. When tackling his captor you can invoke that aspect to get a bonus because, narratively, your character will go all out to save Jacob. However, imagine that both of you were actually chasing your nemesis, The Jade Assassin! In our scene, you are just about to capture The Jade Assassin when Jacob is captured by a henchman. The GM can compel your character to have to save Jacob because of that debt and, thus, The Jade Assassin slips from your clutches. Damn your luck! Of course, there's masses more to it than that, but just the bare essence of the aspect rules sets my spine a-tingling with all the possibilities. Here we have a system that actually binds the character concept to rules mechanics and actively encourages the players to roleplay. Genius!
I cannot wait to run this system! If anything I have described above ticks any of your RPG boxes, then go ahead and check out FATE. You can get it from DriveThruRPG or RPGNow. It is Pay What You Want, so you can effectively try it for free (and hopefully reward the publishers afterwards with some of your hard earned cash! I think they earned it!)
- Black Smoke
- I'm a bit of a born-again wargamer! I played many of the Games Workshop games when I was in my teens and early twenties, but left the hobby behind when I went to University. Over the last few years I have gradually got back into it and am literally having a ball! I'll play pretty much anything now, ranging from ancient historical to the far future! I think that I get more out of the painting side of things than actually playing, but that might just be because I get more opportunity. Hence the title...this blog is all about the colour of war!!