Tuesday, January 29, 2013

White Picket Witches: Thoughts on Face-Offs

Initially, I had planned to publish a post about stunts to go along with Organ Work and/or Brain Work, but since I feel pretty powered out after gm'ing a skype Vampire: The Requiem game and agonizing about the right pledge level for the FATE Core Kickstarter, I am going to write about Face-Offs in White Picket Witches. Mostly random thoughts, but I want to get them out of my system.

What I like about Face-Offs is the fluidity they bring to conflicts. Usually, a conflict is either mental or physical, seldom switching in between (even though, these were the best conflicts I've seen). Face-Offs automatically put you into a state where you can alter between conflict types. There is only one stress track, and the long example in the preview does a pretty good job of showing how the conflict shifts from verbal, to physical, back to verbal.

What gives me pause, though, in FATE Core I get three nifty mechanics for emulating different kinds of opposition: challenges, contests and conflicts. All three basically fall by the wayside in favor of the Face-Off. That serves to give the setting a strong focus, but also strips away some of the new and cool rules. I wonder if that was really necessary.

Next thing, Face-Offs happen in a very narrow environment, basically only at or inside a Place of Power. At least in the rules as written that gives the impression of narrow focus and also seems to get rid off the anything but Overcome actions outside of a Face-Off. Not sure, if Create Advantage could still be useful, maybe yes. Still, it feels as if most of the action will be limited to the Places of Power, because they seem to be the only locations where it is possible to inflict stress and take someone out.

Also Face-Offs change the results of a concession and a taken-out result. Instead of simply determining what happens to the defeated party, the Face-Off grants an intent apect. Something the victor takes away from the Face-Off. An aspect that can be used until it is replaced by another intent aspect. Also, the victor gets one free invoke. A concession on the other hand, doesn't earn the loser any FATE points. Instead he is able to change one word of the intent aspect, thus subverting its meaning. Haven't played the game yet, I can see why it is desirable to get an intent aspect instead of determining what happens to the loser, because an aspect is a soft mechanic that can be used in subsequent scenes and Face-Offs, and doesn't force the loser out of the game. But somehow this feels a bit too soft. Both a taken-out result and a concession have to make sense in the context of the story, so this wouldn't be an issue with most groups. Also, conceding a conflict and getting FATE points for the consequences suffered can be a very nice and valid tactic in FATE Core. This is removed from the picture by the Face-Off mechanic.

There is also one other concern: with the intent aspect it seems initially rather difficult to permanently get rid of someone. Except maybe by gaining an intent aspect like "I shot the Sheriff, but didn't kill his deputy."

The other cool stuff in White Picket Witches are the determining of initiative (basically, the GM compels a player to start the Face-Off), that the Place of Power gets its own move and thus introduces a wild card into any conflict and the way Flashbacks are used (to hinder another player, but offering a FATE point as compensation). This is brilliant.

I see myself using the following tweaks to a Face-Off: base it more firmly on the conflict mechanics from Core, but keep the single stress track and the Places of Power as the only places that can have a Face-Off happen. The intent aspect is a nice idea, but I will probably grant the player who concedes a Face-Off a FATE point for each consequence suffered (but not the FATE point for conceding a conflict - that's replaced with the mechanic for changing the intent aspect). Also, I will keep challenges around. Contests and conflicts not so much, but the challenge mechanic could be useful.

Important Disclaimer: So far this is a theoretical discussion, not based on actually playing White Picket Witches. This will most likely change on the Saturday to come.


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