The Fate Boost Trio
In the normal Fate character creation, you have the phase trio. It’s one of the elements that survived from Spirit of the Century all the way through Fate Core. (Yes, SotC had five, but we’re mainly talking about the adventure-guest-guest construction.)
Of course, in Core, we say that this isn’t the only phase trio setup you could do. (Fun fact: in one of our older ideas, we thought to have two in the character creation chapter, before sanity prevailed and we stuck to streamlining it and leaving hacks elsewhere.) And in truth, these days I throw out that schema entirely for something I call “adventure-boost-boost,” or “the boost trio.” This is a part of the Extra Secret Service demo skeleton for Fate I ran for Wil Wheaton, which I promised to write up at some point. Consider this part of that promise.
I take inspiration from the original phase, but when I’m running a very quick game, no one writes anything down on paper. So I instead ask some leading questions and it’s all done verbally:
- Remember that mission in Kansas? Where you almost turned into a scorpion-god? How’d you get out of that?
- So, ninjas, am I right? How’d you deal with the famed Ninjas of Portland? (Note: the Oregon and Maine branches hate each other to death.)
- What happened on your last mission? [Give a minute to talk.] Right, and that’s when the vampire king arrived, apparently for no reason. How the hell are you alive today?
Then I ask: “So, [other character] totally helped you out of a jam. How?” And that response, which I encourage collaboration on, becomes an aspect on the other character, not the one answering. But said other player gets to interpret and form the aspect has she wishes.
Example: I ask Fred “how the hell did Rob’s character help you out when the Statue of Liberty stormed Jersey? Rob’s character has the high concept “By-the-book hardass,” and Fred says “By the book, huh? Well, I think given that we’re the Extra Secret Service, there’s something in said book that covers this. So he immediately goes into action and deploys Contingency 134.52.8c.” Rob laughs, and adds “There is ALWAYS a contingency plan” as the aspect for this phase.
For this bit, once we’ve gone around and established how awesome people are, I like to change up the second boost to be more about character dynamics (unless someone seems to be less awesome than the rest of the group). I like questions like:
- So, you and [other character] were in a love triangle. What was the other man/woman/other like? And how did that blow up in your faces?
- [Other character] ended up complicating the hell out of your last mission. How, and how did they make it up to you? (This is, by the way, some advanced shit, because you need to read the people to feel that you can ask a “describe how someone else isn’t awesome” beat without souring that person.)
- You saw [other character] get savaged by a werewolf and an hour or so later, they didn’t have a scratch? (Hey, [other player], is that cool?) You saw something else along with that — what?
The more awkward the construction here, the harder it can be to make an aspect, so sometimes this second boost technique doesn’t quite work without some more discussion than I’d like.
That’s how I like to do things today, because it starts the game off by people boosting others, not about people talking about how individually awesome or interesting they are.