Last week, I started telling you guys tips for making more interesting Fate conflicts, specifically talking about using Aspects more and using your players for ideas. This week, I’m finishing the job.
Sic the Dogs on Them
You should start scenes with something largely detrimental for the PCs. This way, there’s something interesting and exciting right off the bat to keep your players in the game. Don’t do something that the characters won’t be able to do anything about, though. They simply need to be at a disadvantage. Besides being more fun, it’s also more realistic; an antagonist would always try to get an upper-hand for a confrontation.
Warning: you may not want to always make it difficult for the players unless they’re supposed to feel the “whole-world-is-against-them” feeling.
At first, a trap sounds like something that the characters won’t be able to do anything about. In a sense it is, but if you do it right, the players can still act.
The typical kind are your usual D&D-esque or Indiana Jones traps. Even people can fit into this category, such as a guy hiding around a corner, waiting for you to walk past before he strikes out at you. You should always allow an overcome rolls (or offer a compel to automatically fail it) to avoid these types, but they also shouldn’t kill the characters right out. Either make it weak enough that they’ll survive if they are hit, or make a way out once it’s sprung (or both).
With a little tweak, you can set up ‘traps’ that, in the world’s perspective, were never meant to be traps, too. For example, there is a conflict happening in a warehouse full of crates. Characters, good or bad can try to push crates from above down onto their enemies. If you add something like this to a conflict, I’d suggest having a bad guy try it early on so the players obviously know that it’s an available option if they want to try it themselves.
But you can always be more interesting with your traps. As an example, you could say that the PCs believe that a certain MacGuffin they’re looking to get away from the antagonist is hidden in a certain location. When the PCs arrive, they don’t find the MacGuffin; they find themselves surrounded by a small army of the antagonist’s henchmen. If you go with something like this, where the PCs are clearly outmatched with no way to win the fight, you need to provide a way out, whether right away or after they’re captured (don’t forget to give them Fate points if you capture them). When they have their way out, but they’re not seeing it as such, make sure they get the hint. Often players don’t pick up on subtle hints like that (as a player, I’ve seen my GM get frustrated by this). Sometimes you just need to be extremely overt and say “now’s your chance, guys”.
When looking at how you want to put the PCs at a disadvantage, figure out ways to compel their aspects in a way to do so. For example, my last game I ran started out with the four players guarding the emperor’s bedroom in a hotel. One of the PCs had a drinking problem, so he was down at the bar drinking while another PC was infatuated with a different one, so she had gone down to get him a drink simply because he had to clear his throat (yes, she was THAT enthralled).
That meant that the team was down by two people when the conflict started, and the other two weren’t able to jump in until about halfway through.
Know the Purpose of the Scene
This last piece of advice is one actually very important. In fact, the core rulebook makes this one of the first things brought up when designing a scene. You must know what you wish to accomplish in the scene. This does a couple of things for you. As the book says, knowing the purpose of a scene helps you to know when it should be over. This prevents those times when a scene drags on.
Knowing the purpose of the scene also helps you know what direction it’s likely to go, which helps you think about things to add to the scene to make it more interesting.
That’s it. That’s all I’ve got for you. Now go and have fun!