GenCon 2011 Debrief, Part 3 (Games Played, cont)

Two games I got to play at GenCon used modified versions of the Fate system: Dresden Files, and Bulldogs.  I also tried a short in-booth demo of the upcoming Mistborn RPG from Crafty Games.


I’ll just talk about Fate in general a bit before any specific thoughts on particular games.

If you’re unfamiliar with the system, you roll 4 Fudge dice for everything. They’re 6-sided, with 2 blanks, 2 -, & 2 +. Roll that, modified by your skill in something (generally 0-5 outside other special modifiers).

Fate seems to be one of those systems I always have fun playing with at cons, but it never quite feels deep enough to entice me into buying games that use it. Which is kind of odd, because there’s a number of things that really ping my interests. Aspects are great from both sides of the table. As a player I can (and I’m unfamiliar with the exact terminology here) tap them to re-roll or get bonuses on a roll. The GM can also offer me fate to act in accordance with a particular aspect — this tends to be somewhat of a negative thing in gameplay. As in, the GM is saying if you stick to your aspect and do this, I’ll give you a Fate point. I’ve yet to refuse a fate point from this. It’s always too good to pass up! I like anytime I can look at my sheet and have character bits that really help me decide how my character will act. Even better when there’s the enticement of in-game rewards to play to them. More games need this sort of thing.

Dresden Files

I’m really only marginally familiar with the source material. I haven’t read the books, but I did see the short-lived TV series (GASP).

So, I could be totally wrong when I say this, but Dresden Files strikes me as a somewhat dark setting. If that’s the case I’m not convinced a Fate system really gives it the right feel. Most Fate games I’ve played in are more light-hearted and pulpy. Fate seems to do that well. I’m not sure that’s the sort of treatment Dresden Files needed in an rpg. Really, though, I just need to start loading the novels on my Kindle. That may very well change my opinion.

Past that, I had a good time playing it like I tend to do with Fate games. The characters were all high-school students exploring a haunted house. I played the trickster and had a blast using my stunts to fuck with the other players — going invisible, changing my appearance and scaring them, etc. Eventually I burned the place down when things got too hairy (I had a “coward” aspect).

Having only barest idea of the setting I can’t really say much else about it. Once I get around to reading the books, I’d probably give it another shot, if only to see how the modified Fate system matches the books.


Sci-fi that kicks ass!

Much about what I’ve already said about Fate goes for this as well. I think Fate was a pretty good fit for the setting in Bulldogs, which has a very space-pulp feel to it.

There used to be a Bulldogs d20 game that is now, apparently, out of print. I have no experience with it and hadn’t heard of it until I heard about this new version. I did get to play with Brennan, though, and it’s always a great experience to play a game with the designer. It seems to add something to it.

What else to say? I had a good time playing it. I played a non-combat character and Fate definitely handles that sort of thing well, which is always a big bonus. Some games definitely feel very shallow outside of combat and Fate isn’t one of them.

One other thing worth noting is that the funding for Bulldogs! is thanks to a very successful Kickstarter campaign. I’m seeing more and more things using Kickstarter and it’s a trend I like. If your idea is solid enough and people will pledge money for it, it’s a fantastic way to do it. In every Kickstarter I’ve seen there are different levels of incentives depending on how much money you want to put into the cause.

Mistborn RPG

First things first: I’m a huge fan of the setting. I sort of happened onto Brandon Sanderson a few years ago before I knew he was the author taking over the Wheel of Time after Robert Jordan’s passing. He created a really compelling world and one of the most interesting magic systems I’ve ever seen.

Now, I only got about a 10 minute demo of the game at Crafty Games’ booth at GenCon. The mechanics seemed like a simplified version of ORE. The main difference is you’re only looking for pairs to determine the outcome. Multiple pairs don’t matter and more than 2 of something doesn’t matter. Rolling 6’s (there’s some name like surges or some such) can increase the effectiveness of what you’re trying to accomplish.

In the game you can be a full-on Mistborn or a Mistling. I’m sure you can be a normal person as well. In the demo I only saw a taste of burning Pewter which simply added to your physical stat (so roll more dice).

From chatting with the guy at the booth, here’s a bit more I learned: the rule book will have some exclusive flavor text about the setting written by Sanderson that’s not available anywhere else. As far as the guy knew everything in the books was covered in the rpg. So all the different types of magic should be available. You can burn metals and you can surge them for a boost.

Can’t really offer much of an opinion on the game with such a basic demo, but I’d like to see more. I didn’t put the cash down for the pre-order set, because I didn’t find it that compelling, but I’d like to see more once it’s out.


7 responses to “GenCon 2011 Debrief, Part 3 (Games Played, cont)

  1. I am not very familiar with Fate (although I have read the module you played!), but Dresden IS pretty dark. The actions of the characters almost always lead to sad consequences, despite their good intentions, and there are a lot of creepy monsters lurking in the shadows.

    On the other hand, the books DO feel pulpy, with lots of dramatic fight scenes, quips, and smokin’ hot dames. Most of my pulp experience is with Howard’s Conan, and that has a similar, sometimes depressing, “he wins, but…” theme.

    The aspects look like a great fit for the series, and something I look forward to trying.

  2. One fun thing about the scenario we played was the characters were about 75% created. They only had a few aspects, so we got to add some of our own. And there were some skill slots empty so we could fill those in as well.

    Having a little creative control over a character in a demo is always fun. Much easier to tie players in when they get to tweak their character a bit.

    This just tells me I really need to reserve further judgment until I get around to reading the books. I don’t think I’ll ever be fully sold on Fate, but I definitely want to know more about the setting whether I think I’ll play more of it or not.

  3. We played Diaspora for a very short few sessions, and that was my first experience with FATE. I actually really like the system quite a bit. Was excited to see they were using it for Dresden because despite my also limited exposure to the setting, I felt like it would fit really well. But maybe that’s because my first exposure to FATE was basically using it to play Traveller.

  4. I’m still trying to figure out why FATE feels kind of shallow to me.

    I mean, yes, I’m an unabashed Burning Wheel fan boy, so I love me some crunch.

    On the other hand there are definitely games that are way less crunchy that I find really enjoyable. I just got running In A Wicked Age for my group. And, like most of Vincent’s games, it’s pretty rules light. But we had a blast playing it!

    It probably doesn’t help that my only experience with FATE games have been one-shots of 3 different versions (Spirit of the Century, Dresden Files, & Bulldogs!). Maybe there’s something I’m missing that I’d see after a few sessions.

  5. I can see it being shallow against Burning Wheel, but what isn’t? I think FATE is a fun, streamlined, versatile little system.

  6. Very true. The part I’m having trouble with is there are definitely games I enjoy that are less crunchy than FATE, so I’m not sure why I tend to find it unfulfilling. Immediate example: Zombie Cinema is one of the lease crunchy games I’ve ever played and I had an absolute blast playing it. Although, with story heavy games like that the people you play with make a HUGE difference — moreso than with traditional games, I think.

    I’m hoping one of the things that comes out of writing this blog is not only being interesting to anyone reading, but also as a way to gain some insight into my gaming preferences.

    Well, that and tons of fame and fat stacks of cash? Blogging makes people rich all the time, right?… right?

    Why’s everyone laughing?

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