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Friday, 11 July 2014

Endless Seas Under Endless Skies

Ooh another Fate based game - Surprise!

I'm still experimenting with the types of game that I can run using Fate Core and it's near derivatives. In this case we're using Tianxia, which I did a mini review of in my last post.


Endless Seas Under Endless Skies is a fantasy genre sandbox game set in a large, widespread archipelago. The timeline for the world was developed by the players using the excellent Microscope. In our timeline we are just at the start of the Age of Discovery, some years after the assassination of the last Grand Magister.

There is little metal in this part of the world and virtually no industrialisation, which has a big impact on the kinds of technologies available. It also explains the prevalence of the unarmed martial arts.

Most societies are matrilineal, although not necessarily matriarchal. Magic, was banned in the distant past for an as yet undetermined reason and all knowledge of it has now passed from the world with the death of the Grand Magister. The only form of arcane knowledge that is tolerated is alchemy, and that by only some of the island dynasties.

Our heroes are Mushu, the reluctant male heir of a matriarchal clan (all other female heirs having passed away) and his female bodyguard Maylin.

So far we have played three sessions, of which only the first has been set in the present. The other two have been flashbacks to earlier points in the story. Despite having run games for years I've never really seriously tried running a flashback series. Having done it I would definitely recommend it as a technique for immersing players in the world of a sandbox game. Fate really supports this approach of defining important people, places and things on the fly with a few aspects and key skills. For instance, Mushu's master now has a long whispy moustache which marks him out as a master in his order and we also know that the Xangxi clan control three islands, and discovered a shellfish from which they can distill alchemical ink.

The first flashback was to a clash on the high seas with some opportunistic pirates that ended in the heroes capturing the pirate vessel as their own sank. So part of that was to jot down the name of the ship, it's captain and first mate and the name of the pirate captain and the pirate lord he served under.

Having defeated the pirates so roundly the pirate captain also picked up the aspect Humiliated by Maylin for his trouble.

The second flashback was to just before the heroes left their home island to visit the Anu temple where their adventure "began". This was a tour de force by the players who got really into character as they had some heavy one on one interaction with Mushu's mother Sheung. Sheung is an Iron Fist in an Iron Glove and had her guard captain beat him to a pulp for his disobedience and reluctance to shoulder his responsibilities as heir. All the while Maylin is desperately using her limited social skills to gain entry to the palace and defend her charge from his own mother's henchman.

Both of the players really leaned into their roles and came away with their honour intact, although bruised and battered in Mushu's case.

If this had been another group then someone would have been straight out for revenge or tried to attack Sheung, or made some other overt attempt to "win" in the situation that they found themselves in. So credit goes to the players for choosing to roll with the situation rather than fight it. Mushu chose to take a beating, to the point of near unconsciousness to prove to Sheung that he both could and would, to prove his honour. Maylin could have intervened on his behalf but chose to let him. Doing so, she gained face in front of Sheung and her retinue for talking her way into the palace and arguing Mushu's case but ultimately letting him take charge of his own destiny.

So in this scenario, each was forced to rely on their weaker skills. This showed the value of each other's skill sets and fate points were flying thick and fast as they leveraged their aspects in ways that they hadn't necessarily thought of when they created the characters.

The next session will bring us back to the present where Maylin tries to protect Mushu from his own libido and the possible advances of the beautiful widow Jie Feng.

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