Saturday, March 22, 2014

Fate Follows Physics

The title of this post is more or less a funny. It got the Kzinti smiling - but how about you? Yes, today we have a little transverse take on the axiom: "Fate follows fiction".

It occurred to me after GMing my Ringworld Reloaded scenario at Con of the North that if you're running hard SF, you'd better know something about physics. Fate game rules don't simulate it, but if the GM doesn't understand how physics works, it really can break player (and GM) immersion in a hard SF game. Having one or two players who know a little bit of physics can help.

Rachel Kronick's account of the scenario (linked above) briefly mentions the party's "long approach" to the Ringworld. That was because the players discovered an alien starship docked with the Ringworld, as well as a mystery satellite that was orbiting close to the Ringworld's sun, well inside the ring. They knew they weren't alone, and were curious and suspicious. (Really suspicious: they suspected the satellite was some kind of nova bomb.)

The players began a delicate game of cat-and-mouse with drones, attempting to scout out the alien ship and the satellite without being observed themselves. That slowed things down a bit.

But all the players were "in the zone", and immersed in what they were doing.  They were having fun with the game.

Of course, I could have elided all of that if the players had just wanted to decide things through a few skill rolls and declarations. But the players seemed to enjoy working out the physics. They even discovered a decimal placement error in the otherwise superlative players data handout that came with Chaosium's original boxed set.

In this case, Fate followed physics. It was their choice.

People had fun.


  1. Interesting. I don't know whether it's good or bad to have player's that will find a math error in a publication.

    1. Generally, I'd say "bad" if that's their only focus. :) In this case, it was something of a relief to me, quite frankly. Because in my prep before the game, I had suspected there was that one error in the players' handout. So having them reach the same conclusion actually made me feel more competent.

      Interestingly, the handout (really, a sort of "data readout" that PCs can use in-game) raises an interesting question. The handout is almost entirely specifications and measurements of the Ringworld in conventional 80s simulationist terms. It could be very interesting to create a Fate-based handout that describes the same object in terms of aspects. Granted something like that could probably fit on an index card if you wanted to keep it very simple. But it would be of immeasurably more use to the players over the long term as a source of Invokes and Compels. I may take a stab at that in the near future.