Monday, February 20, 2017

Fate of Everfair

I ran 16 hours of programming at Con of the North: 8 hours of programming/2 events for the Saturday Night Space Opera theme track, and another 8 hours of programming/2 events for the Tékumel theme track.

Of the 16 hours, 12 were devoted to games of Fate. I'll write about the two playtests that I ran of the Fate of Tékumel RPG over on my Tékumel blog, but in this post I thought I'd provide a brief report on the Young Centurions game that kicked off the con for me.

As readers may know, Young Centurions is a prequel RPG to Spirit of the Century, and is powered by Fate Accelerated Edition. It's a pulp RPG featuring teens and set in the "'teens": the second decade of the 20th Century. In my opinion it's the best iteration of Fate published by Evil Hat so far, and a real gem of an RPG at $20 for a hardcover.

My game was called "Revenge on Mars". The location was a bit of a surprise to the players: I chose to set the game in Nisi Shawl's Everfair, a 2016 novel alternate history steampunk novel set in a democratic republic in the former Belgian Congo. As people may know, King Leopold's o-called Belgian Free State (i.e., the Belgian Congo) was one of the most brutal episodes of European colonialism in Africa, and what Nisi Shawl set to do in her novel is show that steampunk can directly oppose colonialism and racism, rather than ignore or celebrate it. A different world is (and always has been) possible.

Everfair was established by an alliance of African American missionaries and British Fabian Socialists. The Fabians were an odd bunch, believing that socialism could be achieved gradually, through participation in the democratic process and the development of a cooperative sector of the economy. They also believed in free love, which makes them strange bedfellows with the African American missionaries. There is also an African king who claims sovereignty over the region held by the state of Everfair, and the novel has complicated politics that play out over three wars (an anti-colonial war, WW I, and a civil war). The novel is a good read, and reminds me a great deal (for various reasons) of C.L.R. James' history of the Haitian Revolution, The Black Jacobins.

In my story, which was set during WW I, the enemies of Everfair have their own strange bedfellows. European colonialists forge an alliance with a survivor of the original tripod invasion of Earth from Mars. There's an irony here, since one of the most famous Fabian Socialists was none other than H.G. Wells, the author of War of the Worlds!

The players created Everfairian characters who fought to protect their democracy from the alliance of Martians and European colonialists! In the Spirit of the Century universe, the heroes are often called "Spirits" or Centurions: born on the first day of the new century, they possess special powers and abilities. Their adversaries are often people who were born on the last day of the previous century; these foes are called Shadows.

The players made really interesting characters, including:
  • An African witch who was the Spirit of Earth 
  • A child of African refugees from the Belgian Congo, and an autodidact adopted by missionaries; the Spirit of Knowledge
  • Panthor, an African jungle lord; Spirit of the Wild
  • A child of Scotts Fabian Socialists, an engineer, inventor, and tinkerer; Spirit of the Machine 
  • Mendelssohn, a German youth and airship pilot; the Spirit of Flight
Our young heroes routed their human and Martian adversaries in a furious set of battles in the air and on the land surrounding the mountain stronghold of the elders who led the government council of Everfair!  Their very annoying youthful adversary, Anthony Blair Scouter (Shadow of Colonialism) met a particularly ill end (hurled from the heroes airship; this was totally justified), but the Martian got away!

It was a fun game and the players thought Nisi Shawl's setting was refreshingly unique and intriguing!

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