‘Henchmen’ Campaign – System: Fate Accelerated by Evil Hat Productions
In a fantasy world with strange races, magical powers and a hierarchy of heroes and villains, we are Henchmen – soldiers for hire and underlings to an evil Lord.
Thoughts on the Henchmen campaign, and the Fate Accelerated system.
If you have read this far into the Henchmen campaign, thank you! This post is meant to be a conclusion to the campaign and will cover my general thoughts on how well I felt the campaign worked, things I would have done differently, as well as my thoughts on the Fate Accelerated system.
Too much story
The first thing I felt with this campaign was that I had over-planned the story. Because of my decision to use the Three Game Plot for this campaign, I wanted to have a specific story to tell. I definitely fell into the trap of over-preparing or over-scripting the events of the campaign, as you’ll see in the following points.
The Toadlord / Being Henchmen
During campaign creation, the group came up with the idea that we would be ‘barely competent henchmen’ who would be forced to flit between masters due to our incompetence. Looking back, this is an incredibly difficult thing to make happen in an RPG. I tried to incorporate that into my story, which required significant railroading on my part. My plan amounted to ‘Kill the boss, force them to find a new master’ which meant they had very little chance to get invested in working for one specific boss. As a result, they didn’t care about any of the ‘Villain’ NPCs at all. For some reason, I didn’t realise that this would be a problem when the final battle was basically a mission to rescue people they didn’t care about.
Part of my original plan was that the Toadlord would be killed before the players eyes, making them want revenge. During gameplay, the players decided to escape before the enemy arrived, taking the Toadlord with them. I was a little inflexible at the time, and decided to pull a deus ex machina and say that the Toadlord had been lost in the underground river during the escape. This was not fair on my players, especially not on the individual who rolled and failed on the action to keep hold of the Toadlord.
Later I realised that I should have let the Toadlord stay with the players, giving them a doddering old shroom muncher to protect and take care of. It could have resulted in some interesting roleplay opportunities, and in hindsight it would be the main thing I would have changed in the story.
My original plot involved Elon being the one who had sold out the Toadlord to the Golden Shield. My plan was that his complicity would be revealed in the final battle, resulting in a big WTF moment for the players. Unfortunately some of my players instantly disliked Elon, and made it their goal to rob, kill and abduct him (as well as constantly getting his name wrong.) I was annoyed that my main NPC was being targeted, but it was a mistake to try and include a betrayal plotline into an already jam-packed plot.
As I hinted at the end of Gameplay 3 – Session 3, I did have a plan for what would happen if the King’s ritual was completed. A trio of avenging angelic beings collectively known as The Destroyer would have been summoned down from heaven to lay waste to the ‘evil’ of the world (starting with our players). I considered having my players fight The Destroyer but since our final game session was just one long battle and the evening was running late, I decided not to force the event. That being said, the final battle was well-played by the players and it would haven taken another deus ex machina to get the blood into the ritual pool to summon The Destroyer, which would have been unfair to the players and bad GMing on my part.
Characters are powerful
Going into this game, I didn’t realise exactly how powerful these characters would be. FAE is a simplified version of FATE, but using Approaches rather than skills meant people could justify almost anything with their best Approach. I forcefully attack. I forcefully argue, etc. As a GM, I could have been stricter on which approach was used, but since we were all learning I didn’t want to crack the whip.
It didn’t take me long to realise how weak mooks are. Even my 2-hit box mooks were taken out with a single stab. The only option for a more powerful enemy is a full strength Character-style enemy, but the rules caution against using too many of them. My only 1-on-1 battle between a character and a full-strength NPC was over in 3 rounds. Maybe I went too easy on my player, but I felt like it was impossible to hurt the players in any significant way. I believe I only inflicted one consequence in the entire campaign.
I also didn’t make a big deal of taxing player Fate Points. As a result, everyone had plenty, didn’t worry about earning more, and could tap their aspects as often as they wanted without worrying about it. It felt like everyone had too many Fate Points, but I came to realise that it was actually my fault because I wasn’t compelling them enough, or forcing them to spend. This is something I’ll endeavour to do more of in our next game.
Other Aspects / Creating Advantage
This point is linked with the Fate Point economy that I mentioned above. The players almost never needed to Create Advantage in order to succeed, and they never tapped a location aspect to benefit them. I was probably too lazy in defining location aspects, and I can see that they add opportunities for roleplaying that otherwise don’t exist. As above, I found that the sheer number of player aspects and Fate Points available meant that my players rarely had to rely on Advantages or location aspects for bonuses. Perhaps I needed to increase the difficulty of obstacles.
Other than those points, I found FAE to be a fun and fairly light system, which my players picked up in one session, and had totally wrapped their heads around by session 3. It worked well for this campaign and I will use it again.
Thanks to all my players, and to you for reading through rambling collection of thoughts. If you’d like to see more, come back and check out our new campaign – League of Extraordinary Cartoon Characters.