Space Jerks: Some Thoughts on My First Successful Fate Game

It has been a long while since I’ve gamed properly, and it’s been even longer since I GM’d. Saturday night, I broke this streak with considerable trepidation with a game of Fate Core. The last time I ran a Fate game, it didn’t go so well. The players and I were very new to the mechanics, we struggled to create Aspects and stunts, and the mechanics were very strange.

Fortunately, I’m pleased to report that this session went extremely well. I’ll give you a session summary and then give some thoughts on the Fate system after.

THE SETTING:
Space Jerks is the unofficial title. It’s a science fiction setting based around the year 2400. Technology and space exploration has advanced, but not to the point of Star Wars. It’s closer to Firefly, with space colonization restricted to the Solar System. Aliens exist, as do cybernetic augmentations, and some animals are genetically modified to be “awakened,” giving them sentience.

The Colonial Federation is the ruling authority over all humanity, but it’s a not very effective. Unlike in Firefly or Star Wars, the Federation is not evil, it’s just meddlesome and bureaucratic.

THE CHARACTERS:
The current cast is four strong. TOBIAS ZEMKE is an ex-Federation samurai cop. He has a pink streak in his hair and a giant katana. ESTHER PRAXIS is a green Martian and low-level psychic. AHRC, the Automated Human Resources Coordinator, is a sociopathic robot. PARTHENON is a giant cybernetic ape with an arm-turned-laser cannon. He’s formerly a military asset.

THE PLOT:
The players arrive at THE BOOTY, a cantina on Callisto (which is now named “Kardashios” since the Kardashians purchased it a long time ago). They are awaiting a mission from GRIZZLE, an awakened grizzly bear. While there, they attract the attentions of an assassin, VERQUON FELDERS, who happens to have a rare DB-2700 laser pistol. They end up getting into a verbal altercation with him, where he is ultimately chased off by an untimely attack of Mercurian public lice (the players made that up, not me).

Afterward, ESTHER takes the laser pistol and GRIZZLE shows up to give them their mission. Turns out there’s a cult called the KIMMITES who have taken up residence in an abandoned mall on Kardashios, and they are worshiping a Kim Kardashibot. The players have been hired by the KHLOETTES, who insist that Khloe Kardashian is way more fabulous than Kim, so they want to overwrite the Kim Kardashibot with Khloe’s personality.

To make a long story short, the players erased the Kim Kardashibot’s personality and replaced it with Khloe’s, but the now-Khloe Kardashibot still looks like Kim, so she has a fused personality of Khlim Kardashibot.

As the players returned to their ship, they encountered a gang from THE BOOTY who were very interested in that rare, military-grade DB-2700 laser pistol…and the session ended because it was like 12:30 AM.

SYSTEM THOUGHTS:
I rather like the Fate Core system because of its simplicity. (FAE, however, is a little too simple for my taste.) As someone who is marginally neurotic, rules heavy systems with lots of tracking leave me mentally fatigued. Fate, on the other hand, is light enough that I can pretty much relax and let things go.

In particular, the dice system makes difficulties easy. Because Fate has a strong bell curve with its probabilities, I have a good idea on how to rate the difficulty. This includes when I’m statting up the opposition.

In addition to this, Fate encourages the players to take an active hand in gameplay. The “Mercurian crabs” was made up by Ryan, playing AHRC. Specifically, he said, “I want to scan him [Verquon] and see if he has any STDs.” My response: “I don’t know. Do you think it’s likely he would have STDs?” And Ryan said yes, so I said, “let’s go with it,” and then Verquon was sent to the bathroom itching and dropped his laser pistol.

Basically, I let the players do a lot of the GMing work for me. I like that. It’s not specific to Fate Core, mind you, but Fate really encourages players to do so.

The main trouble main difficulty I have with the Fate is how much of an abstract toolkit it is. There were a few times when I had trouble deciding on how to adjudicate certain actions. Was it a one-and-done Overcome roll, or was it a Challenge or a Contest? Was it better represented by Creating An Advantage? That was tricky for me, and I suspect it’s something that will come more easily with time.

MECHANICAL TIDBITS:
I made up a few custom stunts for the game, and they seem to be working fairly well.

Bad Cop: You can roll your Fighting skill in place of Provoke when you’re trying to intimidate someone–as long as you get a little rough with him.

Visions: You may roll your Empathy in place of Notice to detect ambushes and those sneaking up on you.

Psionics: You may roll Empathy to make a telepathic attack against someone, either creating an advantage like “Sudden Headache” or attacking him outright. However, this ability cannot inflict lasting harm, and you must be in physical contact with your opponent.

Biometric Scanner: By scanning biometric signs like perspiration, heartrate, and so forth, AHRC can read emotions and moods. When doing so, he rolls Notice in place of Empathy to Create Advantage.

Ape Strength: You can use Physique to make attacks against others, as long as you are using your body to do so.