Friday, September 14, 2007

Fate: Dark and Stormy report #4

Picking up from last week, it was Leo's turn. The PCs were still engaged in combat against two noggit tomb raiders. Last session, Noggit A had thrown the magical glowing orb down the hall to extinguish all remaining light.

Leo quickly pulled out some random shards of metal from his pockets and launched them at Noggit A. Since it was dark, I made a quick decision to add a -1 to Leo's attack roll. Leo's adjusted outcome for his attack was 4, which became a 3 in the dark. Noggit A got a total of +1, so he took 2 damage (stress).

Quickly following this exchange, Rwake jumped down from the table behind Noggit A in an attempt to tackle him. Unfortunately, he got a total of 1 for this attempt. Dissatisfied, Llama (Rwake's player) passed me a Fate point to invoke his "With this knife I have killed lion and dragon" aspect. We decided this would be fair because Rwake, having accomplished several stunning feats in the past, would know a way to make good out of his weak tackle attempt. Llama used the aspect for a reroll of all 4 dice. This time his adjusted total was 4. Noggit A got lucky and matched Rwake's 4, effectively sidestepping the attack.

For those of you who haven't used the Fate system, you may wonder what Fate points are. Fate points allow you to do really cool things. They can be used to invoke or tag aspects, or they can be used for color, say, to conveniently have an item you need at the right time. Each player in SotC starts with 10 Fate points. When you use one, you pass a token to the GM. You can use any kind of counters for Fate points. They are nice to have so that you can keep track of your Fate point usage. The Fate 3.0 mechanics (as used in SotC) encourage the frequent use of Fate points - much more so than in Fate 2e.

While Rwake was diving through the dark at Noggit A, Elros was casting a spell using Illusory Magic to create a floating light so the PCs could see again. To make a long story short, he succeeded with 2 shifts. I had decided before his casting that the difficulty of creating a light for a short time would require a roll of Average (+1). I allowed him to use his 2-shift success to keep the light going for the rest of the scene.

This was the first of a couple areas where I felt like I failed somewhat as the GM. SotC has no built in magic system. GMs in the Fate community have come up with various ideas for using magic in SotC, but I wasn't satisfied with any of them and decided to create my own. It had been a while since I had read through my own magic system, so when Elros was casting his spell I was fumbling around trying to open the magic document on my laptop, and
AC (Elros' player) was a bit confused about some workings of my magic system. So the other players were sitting there waiting for us to decide how casting this spell would work. It was, after all, the first time Elros had attempted to cast a spell. My goal, and the goal of Fate's creators, is to keep the game fun and fast-moving, so I felt like my unfamiliarity with my own magic system was bad form. Were I Captain James Hook, I'd be berating myself.

Following Elros' spell, both noggits attacked. Noggit B attempted to heft his rope-wrapped javelin shaft up into Elros' chin, while Noggit A launched a backwards elbow slam at Rwake using his Fists skill. The PCs blocked well enough to take no damage from the attacks. In my imagination, the noggits were slightly confused as Elros' magical light suddenly filled the room, throwing them off balance temporarily.

Leo used a supplemental action to quickly reach down and gather the two knives he'd thrown earlier. He then threw them both at Noggit B, but slipped in the process and missed the noggit.

Rwake, avoiding the elbow slam from Noggit A, slashed out with his knife fighting skill getting a +3 against the noggit's +1: 2 shifts. Looking at Noggit A's health track, I realized that he already had boxes 2 through 5 crossed off. So this 2 damage rolled up and caused him a "Minor" consequence. This means that Rwake was given the opportunity to place a temporary aspect on the Noggit which would last for the scene. Llama explained that Rwake's knife sliced the noggit's forehead, causing blood to run down over his eyes. So we gave him the "Bloody Face" aspect. This aspect could now be tagged by anyone for the duration of the scene.

Elros followed this by stabbing at Noggit B while Leo's knives flew by. Using the noggit's temporary distraction, Elros took a clear shot at the noggit's knee (which also sounds like the name of a disreputable tavern). Elros managed a +6 on this attack, giving the noggit a minor consequence and placing a temporary "Slow Moving" aspect on him.

Noggit A turned to flee the battle out the door behind Leo. I allowed Leo to attempt a block because it made sense as a preventive action. So, Leo stuck his foot out, tripping the noggit and tagging his Bloody Face aspect, successfully bringing the noggit to the stone floor. At this point, Noggit A threw his javelin aside and put his arms out as a sign of surrender. Concessions such as this are common in SotC. AC, the most experienced roleplayer of the group, appreciated this feature, having played many other systems where you simply kill every enemy.

Seeing the noggit laying helplessly, Leo quicky sat atop him, weapons pointed at him, just to make sure he didn't try to pull anything.

Next week we should be able to finish this combat session and move on.

This scene may seem like it's taking a while to finish. Keep in mind that each session is 50-60 minutes because we're playing on our lunch hour.

In closing, let me mention my other blunder, which partly includes the other players as well. Earlier in the week I had sent an email to all players requesting they read specific pages of the SotC book to refresh themselves on the workings of guessing aspects, making assessments and declarations, and resolving maneuvers. Today we ran into an issue where we were trying to remember exactly how to use the free tag you get after placing an aspect on an person or scene. Because none of us had done our homework (including me), we had to waste time trying to decide when to use free tags. I had looked up the topic recently, but hadn't discovered
at that time the exact timing of this feature. This evening I looked it up and it was fairly simple, but I should have known before the session. Aspects are one of the fun and useful features that make Fate what it is, and I think all players should know how to use them. But even more so, I, as the GM, should know all the ins and outs. The players should be able to count on me to know some of these basic things.

To be fair to all of us, some of the principles of aspect usage in SotC can be confusing. There are many facets and possibilities involved, and not all of them are explained in the book as thoroughly as a detailed person (like me) would like. My hope from the beginning was that this short adventure would give us the chance to trudge through the process of learning SotC in practice. So far, that's exactly what's happening. Hopefully, actual play will continue to refine our ability to use the system well as a group.

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