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Christopher Allen
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Christopher Allen

Play Reports  - 
 
 
I did my first "from scratch" spark-style Fate Accelerated Edition game at Kublacon last weekend.

I had 4 players, none with any Fate experience, though one said that they played a Spirit of the Century in a con game years ago. I told them I had no preconceived notions of the genre or type of game and that we'd collaboratively figure it out as we went along.

I gave each of them 5 fate tokens, and two small hand-held white boards. I told them that the first board was for general ideas, and that if there was unanimous consent we could move those to the other board to be permanent. However, at any time you could spend one fate token to "pin" an idea to the permanent board, either a new idea, or one copied from the first board. However, at any time you could also spend two fate tokens to remove an idea pinned on the permanent board (anyone have a better name for these two boards?)

The players quickly suggested either historical, or magical realism, or both. The idea "The South may rise" was proposed. One player paid a fate token for New Orleans, and another paid one for 1830s. There was a bit of a discussion for a while on what was interesting about 1830s New Orleans, but after a while one of the player threw in 2 fate tokens to kill the 1830s — he was concerned that with slavery being such a part of the environment that he'd be so strong on an anti-slavery / revenge mode for the game and he didn't want to play that. The players ended up settling on early 1920s New Orleans, more Magical Realism than Urban Fantasy (in particular, no vampires). One player threw in a token saying "I want a twist", I said that I would take care of that, so that was added as well.

Next we dived more into specifics, and they decided they all wanted to be spies from different nations, all drawn to New Orleans. They all wanted cover as musicians, and agreed it was the multicultural aspects of New Orleans that appealed to them. A title was proposed for the "The Voodoo Queen & the Pirate Gold Rag".

Three issues were raised: "Black rebels are seeking pirate gold" (pirates being on the old 1830s idea board), the player characters were "seeking to be relevant", and the "the Loa are restless". Scenario aspects for each of these issues were quickly chosen, after a push that these be aspects that could be used both ways.  — "Alligators everywhere!", "Not young anymore", and "Careful what you ask for".

We then settled on 3 places, 6 faces and a few items.

Now it was on to character generation. They decided to be from multiple countries, and that they would all have some reason to be older. They all came up with with nice High Concepts that reflected that: "Faded Femme Fatale (American Black)", "Jesuit Ethno-Musicologist (Italian)", "Last of the Gentleman Spies (English)", and "Cashiered Foreign Legionnaire (French, but ran to Legion away from a murder charge in America)".

After the High Concepts, they had no problem with Troubles: "Race matters", "Polylingual malaglot", "It's a small club", and "A chancy shot". Then I had them role-play with one other player for each of their remaining aspects, for a total of 2 more aspects (meaning each player had a prior experience 2 others, but didn't know a third).

I  was quite pleased with how quickly they came up with good aspects despite mostly having D&D playing experience. Some of my favorites: The Femme Fatal had "Not broken, just bent", the Englishman had "Plays the unwritten game", the Jesuit had "Jazz calls out to me". There was some good improv roleplaying for their back stories. 

To this point I was extremely pleased how well it went. However, we quickly got bogged down in FAE Approaches — I've talked here about problems with them in the past (I like the idea of approaches, but they default set confuse people). However, I was able to lead them through. but I felt I was a bit forcing them rather than truly helping them understand and choose them.

They also got quite stuck on stunts. The two templates provided in FAE don't have a lot of examples, and they had a hard time creating them. We spent far too much time getting them right. Next time I think I'll  be better prepared by adding a third template that I saw here once, and have a lot more examples on hand.

Then we got to the meat of the scenario, using the places, faces, and items they created earlier using fate points. They got their fate points back, arrived at the Blue Bayou Hotel & Parlor in the Garden District, met each other, and interacted with a Revenuer who was keeping an eye on illicit sales of alcohol. They went downtown to the French Quarter and boarded a gambling/speakeasy steamboat "The Lucky Tide" and met "the new kid", an up-and-coming musician and joined his band.

We had to call it a night at that point, but they had a blast and were really surprised how well the creation process worked and we got starting playing in about 4 hours. I think they were all intrigued and we'll probably continue the play at the next game convention we all attend next Labor Day.
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Christopher Allen

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My theory on inpex vs apex is that apex is best for well rooted sound models, of which Hijaz is one as it is basically a Phrygian minor with a strong E fundamental. Inpex is best with more rootless sound models, such as the Akebono (which by japanese tradition has no fundamental) or XXD which whose center is the either the dominant or sub-dominant, depending on what note in the tone circle you play the most will become the fundamental. I love my apex XXD, but as soon as you play the apex it is so strong you can loose the choices of the two fundamentals, whereas as an inpex XXD you'll never know where the root is except how you play the other notes.
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Christopher Allen

Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE)  - 
 
Since the release of FAE, I have been very appreciate of its simplicity and elegance. I have also been enamored of the concept of using Approaches rather than skills or abilities. If you are "The city champion fencer" the aspect can replace having a rated skill, or the aspect "Strong as an ox" can substitute for a rated ability.

However, the list of choices in FAE don't work for me. We have been advised to "use a genre specific set if you need one", but I my problem is that these are often just renames of the base set, and I believe there are some fundamental flaws in the base set that make choosing a new set difficult. 

The base set of Approaches is Quick, Forceful, Careful, Clever, Flashy, and Sneaky.  If you compare this list with the simultaneously written "White Picket Witches" (Fate Worlds Volume 1), you'll see Brilliant, Classy, Dangerous, Savvy, Treacherous, Powerful, and Sensitive. If you read those descriptions most don't well match up with any of the FAE Approaches. This illustrates the problem.

Here are my problems with the base FAE set of approaches:

First, both Quick and Clever also imply an ability, i.e. that someone using the Quick approach is fast, or the person using the Clever approach is smart. I much prefer the others that are more neutral in ability. You can be dumb and still be Careful (probably a good survival trait) and you can be weak and still be forceful (use poison or that shiv between the ribs). Thus whatever replaces Quick and Clever should still make sense with different abilities (i.e. clearly being slow and using the Quick approach, or dumb and using the Clever approach don't work.)

Secondly, there are some cross-overs that confuse players. I find that they often say they are using Clever when the mean Careful. Or Sneaky when they mean Quick. An ideal set of Approaches should be clear and not possible to confuse with each other.

Thirdly, some Approaches are more physical and others are more mental. IMHO, every approach should be able to be use for physical, mental or social tasks. 

Finally, I feel that there may be some important missing approaches. Where does stopping and listening fit in? Is it Careful? Clever? Sneaky? In a world with magic, or psionics, or even simple intuition, where does trusting your instincts fit in?

I've inventoried almost every suggestion in the G+ Fate Core and FAE groups, as well as reviewed lots of other games that have attempted to reduce the list of stats to a small number, including Apocalypse World and many spin offs, TSOY/Solar System, and many story game RPGs.

Here is my initial list of seven Approachs — I'm not completely happy with them, but I think they covers the territory marginally better than the original FAE six approaches. My initial choice adjectives clearly isn't as evocative as I'd like and I'd love suggestions.

Assertive/Instinctive: You approach the problem with alacrity, and rely on your fast reactions to "just get it done now".

Passionate/Volatile: You approach the problem with strong emotion. You may use your strengths to physically, mentally, or socially force the result you desire; possibly brutally.

Methodical/Disciplined: You approach the problem in a systematic and orderly fashion, taking the time as needed.

Inquisitive/Exploratory: You approach the problem in a probing way; actively testing different directions and alternatives.

Cautious/Covert: You approach the problem in a more cautious or non-obvious fashion, using your abilities to be deceptive about your actions. 

Sensitive/Intuitive: You approach the problem more passively — instead focusing on using all your senses to learn more or listening to your own intuition.

Classy/Flashy: You approach the problem using you social strengths, such as charm, wealth, persuasion, beauty, or charisma.

I believe that this set addresses all four criteria for a good Approach that I addressed above.

I'd love your thoughts on this set!
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I didn't make clear in my post that I'm not proposing that specific list of 7 approaches. Instead, it would be a starting point for discovering what your game specific approaches might be. 

My tests now for what makes a good approach:

* It should function as much as possible to be independent from ability (if you like abilities, use a aspect, stunt, or one of the approach+ability hacks), i.e. you can be volatile if you are weak or strong, sensitive if you are dumb or smart.

*  Cross-overs should be clarified. sneak and careful may both be slow, but the consequences of failure or success are different.

* Ideally a good approach applies to physical, mental and social tests.

-- Christopher Allen
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Christopher Allen

Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE)  - 
 
What is the CC status of "White Picket Witches" by +Filamena Young? Is she a member of this group? I'd love to see they way she describes the seven skill "assets" in that hack adopted for the standard 6 FAE approaches. I'd love to also hear about her thoughts on that module and assets vs. approaches now that FAE is out.
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I hope they had insurance and off-site backups. I'm fairly low-income and I have both of those. Including replacement-level coverage. CrashPlan is a great service you can "fire and forget" and never lose a file in case of robbery or fire. It's really sad to lose kid's presents just before Christmas.
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Christopher Allen

Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE)  - 
 
I would love to see a shared google doc that is a unofficial FAE Toolkit. It would have FAE specific hacks, like variants of approaches for different genres, approaches as costs, approaches + abilities, offer +Rob Donoghue Tiniest Fate Hack, and my family friendly hacks from Steampunk OZ.

What else would you like to see in a FAE Toolkit?
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How to license, to monetize and  to protect the integrity of the product would be a great topic for the gathering. 
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Christopher Allen

Samples, Examples & Actual Play  - 
 
I did my first "from scratch" spark-style Fate Accelerated Edition game at Kublacon last weekend.

I had 4 players, none with any Fate experience, though one said that they played a Spirit of the Century in a con game years ago. I told them I had no preconceived notions of the genre or type of game and that we'd collaboratively figure it out as we went along.

I gave each of them 5 fate tokens, and two small hand-held white boards. I told them that the first board was for general ideas, and that if there was unanimous consent we could move those to the other board to be permanent. However, at any time you could spend one fate token to "pin" an idea to the permanent board, either a new idea, or one copied from the first board. However, at any time you could also spend two fate tokens to remove an idea pinned on the permanent board (anyone have a better name for these two boards?)

The players quickly suggested either historical, or magical realism, or both. The idea "The South may rise" was proposed. One player paid a fate token for New Orleans, and another paid one for 1830s. There was a bit of a discussion for a while on what was interesting about 1830s New Orleans, but after a while one of the player threw in 2 fate tokens to kill the 1830s — he was concerned that with slavery being such a part of the environment that he'd be so strong on an anti-slavery / revenge mode for the game and he didn't want to play that. The players ended up settling on early 1920s New Orleans, more Magical Realism than Urban Fantasy (in particular, no vampires). One player threw in a token saying "I want a twist", I said that I would take care of that, so that was added as well.

Next we dived more into specifics, and they decided they all wanted to be spies from different nations, all drawn to New Orleans. They all wanted cover as musicians, and agreed it was the multicultural aspects of New Orleans that appealed to them. A title was proposed for the "The Voodoo Queen & the Pirate Gold Rag".

Three issues were raised: "Black rebels are seeking pirate gold" (pirates being on the old 1830s idea board), the player characters were "seeking to be relevant", and the "the Loa are restless". Scenario aspects for each of these issues were quickly chosen, after a push that these be aspects that could be used both ways.  — "Alligators everywhere!", "Not young anymore", and "Careful what you ask for".

We then settled on 3 places, 6 faces and a few items.

Now it was on to character generation. They decided to be from multiple countries, and that they would all have some reason to be older. They all came up with with nice High Concepts that reflected that: "Faded Femme Fatale (American Black)", "Jesuit Ethno-Musicologist (Italian)", "Last of the Gentleman Spies (English)", and "Cashiered Foreign Legionnaire (French, but ran to Legion away from a murder charge in America)".

After the High Concepts, they had no problem with Troubles: "Race matters", "Polylingual malaglot", "It's a small club", and "A chancy shot". Then I had them role-play with one other player for each of their remaining aspects, for a total of 2 more aspects (meaning each player had a prior experience 2 others, but didn't know a third).

I  was quite pleased with how quickly they came up with good aspects despite mostly having D&D playing experience. Some of my favorites: The Femme Fatal had "Not broken, just bent", the Englishman had "Plays the unwritten game", the Jesuit had "Jazz calls out to me". There was some good improv roleplaying for their back stories. 

To this point I was extremely pleased how well it went. However, we quickly got bogged down in FAE Approaches — I've talked here about problems with them in the past (I like the idea of approaches, but they default set confuse people). However, I was able to lead them through. but I felt I was a bit forcing them rather than truly helping them understand and choose them.

They also got quite stuck on stunts. The two templates provided in FAE don't have a lot of examples, and they had a hard time creating them. We spent far too much time getting them right. Next time I think I'll  be better prepared by adding a third template that I saw here once, and have a lot more examples on hand.

Then we got to the meat of the scenario, using the places, faces, and items they created earlier using fate points. They got their fate points back, arrived at the Blue Bayou Hotel & Parlor in the Garden District, met each other, and interacted with a Revenuer who was keeping an eye on illicit sales of alcohol. They went downtown to the French Quarter and boarded a gambling/speakeasy steamboat "The Lucky Tide" and met "the new kid", an up-and-coming musician and joined his band.

We had to call it a night at that point, but they had a blast and were really surprised how well the creation process worked and we got starting playing in about 4 hours. I think they were all intrigued and we'll probably continue the play at the next game convention we all attend next Labor Day.
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+Christopher Allen Thanks for the explanation. How do you feel about a 4 hour game being 75% and 25% play? That would make total sense in a multi-session game, but for a con game, that seems a little unbalanced. 

I've been thinking a lot about use Fate at con games recently, and the "from scratch" idea is very appealing. Although I think I would lean towards a "mostly from scratch" approach.
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Sounds great! Nice to meet your father Emilio on the airplane to Seattle! 
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Christopher Allen

Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE)  - 
 
I'm working on a family-friendly version of the FAE rules that will be the SRD that we will be using for Steampunk OZ.

What aspects of FAE are confusing or need a bit more explanation?

My goal is not to go too far toward Core — instead just fill in a few holes, add few elegant and/or very easy additions.

Clearly approaches is an area that needs clarification (my personal top of the list for this is a White Picket Witches style list of what you can do with approaches, along with integrating some of the ideas on costs of failure).

Another area I think needs a little help is something simple about zones. Maybe one or two things from toolkit such as more stunt templates.

What else?
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I don't want to add complication or complexity to FAE. But clearly approaches is an area that despite its simplicity causes a lot of misunderstanding. As far as zones in FAE and some of the other things, maybe just one more really clear example is enough.
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Christopher Allen

Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE)  - 
 
Now that there are more people familiar with FAE, what do people think about FAE for LARPS? Any suggestions or improvements?

Some things that I like about it are:

* Halving the ladder and using rock-paper-scissors for resolution.

* Ability to have "secret" aspects that may be discovered with create advantage, or have a "cover" that hides it.

* The ability to "give in" before RPS in exchange for loosing but being able to declare the narration of the loss.

* Having one of the approaches be -1, making it a second form of "trouble".
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I'm very interested in it. Here's my current draft:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1sdA3j07d5tGoWeXbIydy66Fjx_MT9nRiG-hJIHXLBPY/ Let's compare notes. I think you have a lot more work put into the actual exchange between the players, when there is a test. I was staying light on that, but I can see the value in it.
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    Publisher, 1999 - present
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    Associate Faculty, Director of Collaborative Strategy, 2009 - present
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Introduction

Christopher Allen is a long-time entrepreneur, advisor, technologist and educator whose many ventures center on tools of collaboration and facilitation of online communities. As the founder of Consensus Development, Christopher helped develop SSL, the world's dominant internet security protocol, and was co-author of the IETF TLS internet-draft that is now at the heart of all secure commerce on the World Wide Web. 

More recently Christopher has been a startup advisor, an executive coach, founded a multiplayer online game company, and consults for Fortune 500 companies on social web strategy. He has spoken about the social web, collaboration, privacy, and iPhone development at various conferences.

Since 2003 Christopher has been sharing his experience at his blog Life With Alacrity, where he discusses a variety of topics including entrepreneuring, the social web, social media, social software, blogging, groupware, collaboration, group dynamics, rating & ranking systems, online communities, facilitation, internet security, trust, privacy, iphone development, interface design, online game design, and internet tools.

Christopher teaches in the sustainable MBA program at BGI.edu the classes "Using the Social Web for Social Change", "Digital Influence", and is part of the faculty team that designed a totally integrated first-year sustainable business curriculum. He also acts as Director of Collaborative Strategy where he is establishing standards for digital content, ebooks, flipped classroom, online teaching platforms, and is creating a 21st-century cognitive and social pedagogy for hybrid higher education.

Christopher is also co-author of the book iOS 4 in Action an introduction to iPhone and iPad development, is co-founder and keynote speaker of iOS Dev Camp where he moderates the popular Hackathon Contest, has produced six iOS games at RPG.net/iPhone, and is currently producing for the iPad a new platform for non-linear media  called Infinite Canvas.

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