Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Why no FATE Actual Play?

Following on from my look at the Accelerated Edition, I've bought and (eventually) read through FATE Core. It's surprisingly dense, at least in terms of what I expected. I suppose being roughly A5-sized I mentally pegged it as a small book, whereas it's actually got about as much content in it as the average D&D rulebook. On top of that, this one is entirely 100% mechanics, which increases its relative density. There's no monsters, settings or spell lists in here that can be skimmed, only a great deal of system, all of which is important in trying to get your head round how this stuff works.

Lest that sound critical, I should say that although it wasn't a light read, I found it very interesting and rather well-presented. I might do a better overview of the book some other time, as it's now after 11pm and I should get to bed. Anyway, it was enticing enough that I'm considering trying to run it, which is about all a game can hope for.

Okay, strictly speaking a game could hope to fill me with wild and uncontrollable enthusiasm, but since I already have a large list of Games To Run, a gaming circle with highly incompatible timetables and too many hobbies, you'd have to be something pretty damn special.

And so I turn to my automatic port of call for wanting to run a game: Actual Play podcasts. Short of playing one, there's nothing like sitting in on someone else's game session to get a feel for at least one way a game might work. Ideally, several perspectives are nice. There's a huge difference between having read the rules for invoking mana burns, and feeling comfortable making on-the-fly rulings when your PCs decide to stick their hand in a dimensional vortex.

Could I find any? Like hell. Same as last time I tried. For all the attention it gets, there is an incomprehensible dearth of podcastery. I think I saw two Youtube channels referred to; now, with respect, while I am entirely on board with the notion of listening to a bunch of nerds I never met pretend to be talking mouse paladins when I am doing the dishes or running in the middle of nowhere during a blizzard through lack of basic common sense, few things are less compelling than the prospect of watching people play RPGs. And this is to say nothing of the fact that videos tie you to a screen, wasting valuable time rather than occupying my mind during boring activities. This is the exact opposite of what podcasts are for. The same thought confronts me whenever I encounter, say, review channels where someone talks into a camera for half an hour. Just... why?


ANYWAY. There were also references to a couple of FATE-based Dresden Files games, where "Actual Play" was understood to mean "talking about a game what we played previously, with observations", a genre I would generally summarise as "not Actual Play". This is the equivalent of offering World Cup Matches Live! and then screening Steven Gerrard reminiscing about the game for twenty minutes. The word "review" would seem eminently appropriate.

So, abject failure one again. It's looking increasingly like I need to run some FATE just so I can make my own podcast and stick it online for everyone else to listen to. Bizarre.


  1. Glad to know I'm not the only one turned off by video actual-plays (particularly Google Hangout recordings) and 30-minute video reviews. I did watch a bit of one video actual play that was kind of interesting, as it was done with everyone at one table and cross-cutting between multiple cameras, as well as the players wearing a bit of costume to help tell their characters apart (it was a cyberpunk game, so it was a matter of different jackets, mostly). At least that group was trying to make some use of the format, but yeah--the idea of sitting at my computer for an hour or three and watching other people game seems like a huge waste of time, especially compared to the aural alternative.

    I've been intrigued by FATE, but I'd love to hear some A-Ps of it as well--so get on with it! ;)

    1. I'm intrigued by the video podcast thing, partly because there are so many of them. Clearly, quite a few people think they're a good approach, but I don't understand why, and I'd quite like to. I do wonder if it's because things come with video cameras now, but surely they come with microphones as well? Or is it actually easier to record video than audio?

      I've seen a bit of video - Wizards did some with their 4E stuff from cons. It was okay, and they had people in costume, audience interaction that went to a big projector, a board with minis... but there still wasn't much that you wouldn't get from a simple audio feed, except maybe the sense of being at a con. And that's kind of a best-case scenario. I can get the sense of being sat round a table with four mates and a bowl of snacks pretty easily.

      Yeah, there's clearly just some appeal I'm missing out on, but then I'm really not much of a video person in general.

      Working on that FATE business... anything for a fellow librarian. Who apparently has a podcast. Okay, I should stop following links now before I end up with your dental records.

    2. I'm sure those dental records are somewhere online...

      I think you hit the nail on the head with the convenience factor. It'd be a lot easier for me to record a video review because, hey, the hardware is built in to my computer. My initial actual-plays were recorded with my iPhone, but, when it became obvious it was going to become a regular thing, I bought an actual microphone. And just today I bought a boom stand for the mic. So clearly it's a bit more, eh, hardware focused than just sitting down and hitting the "Broadcast" option when I fire up a Hangout.

    3. That makes a lot of sense. Especially with people often linking into tabletop games from out of town, and so on.

      I suppose it's pretty easy to progress from running games with or over the computer, to saving the video feed for your own interest, to distributing it. I record my D&D games to listen back later so I remember what happened, and for masochistic self-improvement, even though I don't podcast those.

      I kind of started at podcast and then moved into recording stuff for my own use, but you need kit for that, so you're only going to go that way if you're determined to podcast. Much easier to start using the camera you have, and only later decide to upload it.

    4. Just so you know, I'm about halfway through editing our FATE AP and hope to get it out once Internet Archive is allowing uploads again!

    5. The FATE AP is now edited, but Internet Archive is still refusing uploads and there's no news of a fix. I may just bung them on Google Drive as a temporary measure.

    6. FATE AP is now finally starting to post. Hope you're still interested!

    7. Definitely! I've got it open in a tab even now, and am hoping to listen to it this weekend. Thanks for posting it!