I have this odd relationship with Fate Core. The premise excites me, but I’ve never been able to really make it sing as a player or as a GM. Oddly, my best Fate Core experience occurred recently when I ran a one-shot Eclipse Phase scenario using Fate Core rules by way of the Transhumanity’s Fate conversion guide.
I love Eclipse Phase. More than any other game, it has made me think about what it is to be human. I’m not all that interested in transhumanism as a philosophy, and I suspect that the body and brain are inseparable. But that’s beside the point. Eclipse Phase is a deftly drawn future environment full of possibility and peril, weird rabbit holes the are deep enough to build an entire campaign around, and socio-political oddities that make you stop and think. Because of this, it can be a difficult game to run – I’ve had entire sessions devolve into philosophical discussions about topics like whether you’re really you when your ego is retrieved from a backup.
Eclipse Phase has been called crunchy, but the d100 mechanics are straightforward. It’s the bookkeeping associated with morphs that complicates matters more than anything. A few years ago I got so annoyed by it that I created a custom dual-morph character sheet in an attempt to make switching morphs easier. This is one reason I’m looking forward to the upcoming second edition of Eclipse Phase – much of the rewrite is aimed at reducing bookkeeping.
Meanwhile, Transhumanity’s Fate is already here. I wanted to run it for a couple of friends, one of whom had been a player in my first Eclipse Phase campaign, the other one of my first gaming buddies from high school and college, who hadn’t ventured far from traditional games. Since it’s difficult enough for me to make it to my regularly-scheduled Friday games, and because I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, I opted to run this as a one-shot experiment.
In the interest of time, I created two characters and a simple premise: These relatively untested Firewall operatives would be called upon to investigate odd transmissions coming from an abandoned facility on an asteroid near the L4 Legrange Point between the Earth and Luna. I decided that TITAN technology had been activated, that space pirates were already investigating, and that there would be some salvageable tech on the facility for the PCs to use. That’s pretty much all the prep I did.
John, the childhood friend with no prior knowledge of Fate Core, took to it like a cat finding a warm pillow. Due to liberal compels and invocations, his mechanically-inclined character kept finding reasons to stay and fiddle with things he found in the habitat. Forrest’s more focused archaeologist pursued leads relentlessly, again with the help of plenty of invocations and compels. We went nuts with Aspects, and about an hour in, I realized that in the past I had been treating them as mechanical modifiers, rather than as story propellant. With Aspects pushing play, we got into a flow I had never previously experienced with Fate Core.
The one-off lasted about four hours. Forrest’s character unravelled a horrid TITAN abomination, John’s character destroyed it, and they were able to escape before the dread pirates arrived. The whole thing played out like an episode of Transhuman Outer Limits, and we all enjoyed it. Because this was Fate Core I was able to get by on light prep and improvisation; had we been using standard EP rules I would have had to do more work up front, even if I were reusing existing scenario materials.
It also struck me that because we were using the Fate Core mechanics, the story flowed less from the players’ tactical decisions and more from the interaction between character personality and situation. In other words, that mechanical focus on character personality made the adventure feel more like a TV show or movie than a game.
Because this was a one-shot, I didn’t delve into the minutiae of how well Transhumanity’s Fate maps the original system onto a Fate Core foundation. I couldn’t tell you whether the book’s treatment of morphs holds up in campaign play, for example. But as an Eclipse Phase GM I will say that it made prep easier and allowed me to relax and stay in the flow of events. If you’re a Fate Core veteran looking for a tremendously detailed and mind-mending setting, you owe it to yourself to check out Transhumanity’s Fate. If you’re already an Eclipse Phase fan and are willing to delve into the mysteries of Fate Core, TF is a low-risk option.