Tuesday, February 26, 2013

RPG Review Recess - FATE Core #WhitePicketWitches

One of the interesting things that I look forward too with FATE Core being released under CC is the wide variety of games that are going to come out with it. I'm thinking about the really interesting worlds and ideas that come with a really fun, flexible, story driven system like FATE.

That was one of the things I was excited about with the Kickstarter. They had a whole bunch of them as part of the kickstarter, which was an amazing idea that should be stolen by many people.

I'm going to talk about White Picket Witches by Filamena Young which is described on the kickstarter page as:

Small towns are cauldrons full of family secrets. In Salem, those cauldrons bubble over. Inspired by paranormal cozies like Practical Magic and the Witches of Eastwick, White Picket Witches give the players magic and charms to deal with small town pressures... and sometimes, the forces of evil. It's about accepting the past, fitting in, or breaking out. It emphasizes friendships, brother/sisterhood, community, and a touch of romance.

The setting is Moon Island where five families of witches have lived there since before the Salem witch trials. The island itself is full of magic as the members of these five families who have their own loves and hatreds mixed in with years of living on the island to stew. The game does a great job of giving that feeling as you build your characters and with every single conflict (called a Face-Off) in the game.

There are a couple of things that this games does brilliantly. The first is that it gets rid of what doesn't work for it from FATE and replaces it with what works for White Picket Witches. It's a great example of what you want to do when using a system for a setting. You don't need to flaggelate yourself to try to fit everything from the system into the game. Take what works, keep the feel of the rules for what you change but change what you will. For instance, there isn't any skill pyramid because the skills have turned into a total of seven each one describing how you would deal with a situation rather than a particular skill that you would have.  Instead of Hand to Hand or Melee there's a Dangerous or Powerful kind of attack. The thought behind it is more important than the doing which is awesome because it makes your motive the focal point of the action rather than the action itself.

Shoot a cool gun is great for an action game, shooting that gun because you're trying to make someone cower behind your Dangerous action then that's great for a game about relationships.

And there are plenty of relationships in the game. The beginning of the game allows you to define everything about Moon Island. Each player gets to create a Place of Power, these are the locations where Face-Offs happen so they tend to be powerful even if they're kind of mundane. They get a Lietmotif (a mood or theme that defines the place) as well as Assets that can be used by the GM in a Face-Off to affect one character or another depending on the situation. You also get to define an Antagonist for your character, so you really get to have this small town kind of feel with everyone knowing everyone and a few cool/odd/spooky places to deal with.

Much of the game, forget much all of the game, is spent picking up on Face-Offs between characters. It's the conflict that comes up between them. It doesn't have to lead to a roll but they really all should because it's all about the Drama in the scenes. Because there isn't a different Stress track, any type of damage hurts no matter where the source or what's going on but instead of someone dying there's just a lot of narrative control that happens where the winner gets to define and change aspects on the loser. Of course, like any other FATE game you don't have to get knocked out, figurative in this case, to end a conflict you can choose to and modify what the other person wants to a degree.

Now, I mentioned the GM above but what I really think is brilliant about this game is that it's really a GMless game masquerading as a GM needed game. Seriously, all the stuff the GM does you can have the "audience" do which is come up with what the Place of Power does when it's turn to do something, or play the various NPCs as needed.

I asked Filamena if she had considered going GMless and this is what she said:

I did, but I was worried it would be too unfamiliar to many Fate players. So I suggest ways they could do it without being too obvious. As long as everyone is doing their job as audience, and someone is willing to run the place of power in a conflict, you don't need a GM

The only thing I would have like was a little bit more discussion about sex in the setting. It didn't need to go as far as say Monsterhearts where I have had a friend tell me, "Jonathan ... I can't get my players to stop fucking each other," but talking about it would have covered something I think is kind of lacking for the document but sometimes you only have so many words and you have to describe what keeps the game going.

That said, this is one of those settings that makes me glad I got in on the Kickstarter. If you didn't, pick up the World's book when it's made available to everyone. I've only read two of them, but each of them has been amazing.

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