Sunday, September 6, 2015

Fate Accelerated: The Apple Pie Party caucuses

I've played exactly one session of Fate, but since it's such a popular system, I wanted to try running a Fate Accelerated game. Here's a sketch of the scenario I put together -- the Apple Pie Party caucuses.

Eccentric billionaire doorknob magnate Lester O'Malley is fed up with the two-party system. He founded the Apple Pie Party to try to give some normal people who are not career politicians a chance at breaking the Democratic-Republican stranglehold on the presidency. He has promised to bankroll the presidential campaign of whichever candidate wins the Apple Pie Party's primaries, starting with the Iowa caucuses. But the big parties are nervous that the Apple Pie candidate could be a spoiler, and they'll do whatever it takes to stop them.

Players begin by writing down an unusual policy stance (such as "ban all corn and corn products," "blow up the moon," or "a pot in every chicken") on slips of paper. These are then shuffled and handed out, to give each player the germ of a character. Each character starts with four aspects:

  1. A high concept (usually a personality trait + job before running for president, such as "lecherous wizard," "clairvoyant steelworker," or "bankrupt tractor salesperson", though there were some wackier ones like "12 opossums in a human suit")
  2. A trouble (the scandal or skeleton in the closet that could bring down their campaign)
  3. Two policy positions -- the one you were randomly allocated, and one more you make up for yourself.
For this game, I did partial pregens, creating high concepts, two relevant stunts for each, and scores on approaches. (Stunts included things like an infinite campaign war chest, a bonus to actions done while riding a tractor, and a bonus when helping someone in the same Hogwarts house) Players filled in their policy positions as well as names and descriptions.

The game proceeds through four scenes. A poll is released at the end of each scene, indicating the candidates' relative standing as determined by the GM.:

  1. The Iowa State Fair, where the candidates are introduced to the public by O'Malley and do some campaigning while eating fried things on sticks.
  2. A televised debate. In the first round of the debate, each candidate answers a question from a viewer submitted via Twitter. In the second round, each candidate can challenge another candidate with a question.
  3. Tom Harkin's steak fry -- another chance for some open-ended campaigning. (For time reasons, we skipped this one.)
  4. The Iowa caucuses.

Overall, the game ran pretty well. The candidates united on the issue of destroying the moon, while arguing over who was secretly or not-so-secretly an animal in a human disguise. Their primary challenges were the NPC APP candidate Nimlock the Barbarian (campaigning on a platform of slaughtering all carbon-based life forms), and Des Moines Register lead political reporter Barbara Anderson, who was clearly in the bag for Ted Cruz. Two things need more work:

  • The polls. I just impressionistically adjusted candidates' standing based on whether I thought their actions were appealing to the public. If I run this again, I would want to come up with a clearer mechanism for gaining or losing votes, as well as rewards and penalties for candidates' standing in the polls.
  • The final vote at the caucuses. In this game, I assigned each candidate a rating between 2 and 4 depending on their final poll standing, then had them roll their dice and add the result to their rating. Thye could spend Fate points to re-roll. If I ran it again, I would want to flesh out the caucuses as a scene, with all of the arguing and re-allocating of votes that goes on at the real Democratic Party caucuses in Iowa. (The GOP caucuses are much more sedate and primary-like.)