So I started my Fate game set in Hyperborea last night, and I asked my players what they would like to see in their adventures. It turns out they would like to see a lot of the same things that are in a lot of adventures that are designed without player input. If it ain’t broke…
I only have two players for the game at the moment but we may be able to pull in a third eventually, which feels like a good number for a Fate game. When I asked my two players what sort of things they would like to see as part of the plot, they both said pretty quickly that they want the main bad guy to be an evil wizard. They immediately followed this suggestion with the idea that he should be insane, and it would be great if he had a tower at the edge of the world (Hyperborea is flat, and the oceans rush over the sides at the edges of the world). So if you think that the “insane wizard with a tower at the edge of the world” idea is played out and dumb and that nobody would be interested in such an adventure, you might be wrong.
Another suggestion that I liked was that “magic, especially magic items, should feel like they are magical.” This may seem like an odd or unnecessary thing to say (aren’t magical items by definition magical?), but it really isn’t. This is really an indictment of the +1 sword and its ilk. This player wants magic items to feel a bit more unique, special, and well, magical. This doesn’t mean they have to have awesome powers, they just can’t be boring. I have no problem with the suggestion that magical things should have some personality. In fact, I almost asked the player for another suggestion instead of letting him waste his contribution on something that I was already 100% on board with. I let it stand though, because the underlying implication of this suggestion is that the player wanted such things to feature prominently in the story. Instead of being an abstraction I agreed with it became something that now has to be integrated into the plot.
After magic, my other player had an interesting suggestion as well. He thought it would be “fun” if there were some sort of secret society, “you know like the mafia or free masons” who were “out to kill them.” This player may have brain damage, but it’s still interesting to hear something like this promoted by a player. I think that sometimes we as game masters assume that players aren’t going to suggest that we do more things that put them in harm’s way or make their lives more difficult or dangerous, but this is a false assumption. A player can sit down and imagine that he is the king of the world and lives in a palace full of gold without your help. That’s called daydreaming. People play games to be challenged. That’s really the whole point, more so than the acquisition of wealth, isn’t it? The adversity is what makes acquiring all that wealth fun.
It was also agreed upon by the players that they would like to hear more about these fish-men that were mentioned in the excerpt from the gazetteer that I read before we got started. Secret societies and fish men you say?