Monday, December 22, 2014

A Change In Venue, A Change In Rules

Going into Friday I had a problem: one of my PCs couldn't make the game. Now, this normally wouldn't be a problem but we'd left off in a huge fight and that PC was a key part of the strength of the party when it came to combat and what was going on in the game. I needed a plan, and luckily for me I had an option available to me.

Using one of the NPCs present in the fight I zapped the PCs into a different realm, one that resided in the minds very similar to the realm of dreams in Rokugan. But how I did this, is what I wanted to talk about today.

We're Not In Kansas Anymore
The idea for this session was to communicate the strangeness of the world the players were in. They were no longer in a world of flesh and bone, but of soul and mind. The threat they faced was to their very psyche, and as such I needed not only a way to communicate how different this world was but a way to attack that which many systems do not expose.

To accomplish this I made FATE versions of each of the PCs. I kept these hidden until the right moment (though the observant likely knew what was coming anyhow.) Once the PCs were in this new realm I passed out their FATE sheets and a set of dice. They already had a stack of poker chips for their Void points, and that worked well enough to be FATE points for this session.

The Impact of System
FATE is an interesting system, but it is the differences between how it works and how L5R's system works that I found most interesting. The truncated skill system put a greater emphasis on where the character had a broad area of study and where they were weaker. Aspects further brought out strengths that L5R did not reveal - at least in mechanics - or further strengthened ones that were already there.

How It Ran
Some of my players were familiar with FATE already, and they hit the ground running a bit faster than others. The mantis, for instance, found that with his aspects the willfulness and pride of his character was a strength to be used to weather the storm of what was being inflicted upon him. Because of this, his character was able to remain relatively unharmed.

Another player however is new to roleplaying in general and to her the shift in system was jarring. This, I felt, was appropriate as her character is very much physical and not as spiritual as the other PCs. Where others tried to manipulate their situations with fate points and aspects, she more had to ride out the storm on her ability alone.

For others the shift in system brought their weaknesses and threats strength that otherwise may not have been able to reach them. For them the things that were attacking their soul suddenly found themselves given stats and skills with which to make their attacks, and a wound track to inflict pain upon.

The Overall Experience
I came into this session feeling very nervous. The change in system I thought could be overly shocking, and I wasn't sure how my players would respond to such a dark and mentally tortuous session as our last game before Christmas. Thankfully, my players are awesome and took it all in stride. They played their roles, and while some dark things were stirred we all managed to have a good time.

The experiment will continue into next week. The PCs still have to break out the player who was missing from session and there is more going on then just the attempt to attack their mind and spirits. Still, with the beginning having gone so well, and the change in system doing its job, I am hopeful that going forward will make for a fun experiment.


  1. I greatly enjoy doing stuff like that. I once played a game of Dread in our Shadowrun round (hooray for the Matrix), giving people a choice of characters a couple of days before, but telling them not much else. They still played their normal characters, but none of them could remember their identity and only knew of the Matrix character. It was a pretty intense session.

  2. What to do when players miss sessions is always a useful topic. Switching systems isn't a solution I'd heard before! :-p Sounds like it went reasonably well. I suspect there's a decent # of players that wouldn't take well to a surprise switch to a radically different system, even temporarily. Definitely like the out-of-the-box thinking though.