Last Friday, I ran my first game of Fate Condensed, the latest revision of the award-winning Fate Roleplaying Game. A week before, we had a Session 0 to establish campaign parameters, and this was our launch.
During our Session 0, we set up our campaign as a thinly-veiled re-skin of the world and setting in the manga Witch Hat Atelier, which I have neither read nor learned to pronounce. Yet. For either. I can’t tell you where everything forks from the core fiction, but that’s okay. In Fate, we take a shared idea and run with it and make it ours. That’s how collaborative fiction works.
In our shared world, it’s a high magic fantasy setting. Magic is omnipresent and obvious, but it is largely a tool and a toy for the rich. You won’t see utility items like magic frying pans that make the best eggs and bacon for every breakfast. You will see flying conveyances, maybe even full-scale airships, for the rich to cross great distances in hours that take someone with their wagon and goods days to go over.
That class division is due in large part to an organization called The Chantry. They’re an ivory tower, academic kind of cabal who keeps the secrets of how to perform and craft magic under lock and key. (Long story short, it’s four-elemental, Aristotelian magic conducted through drawn runes.) Only those chosen and approved (and licensed) are allowed to cast. Think of it like a very elite university, but with magic, and more than a little sinister. Adding to the sinister, they’re in league with the ruling family of Whitebridge, the seat of the kingdom, who is struggling to keep a hold of power on the edges of their borders as their reach has exceeded their grasp.
Cut to: Scirocco, a burgeoning agricultural town that sits in the valley between two mountains. This is where we begin the campaign. The city is wealthy and growing moreso by the season, as they grow both stables and valuable cash crops for the Whitebridge kingdom, by making use of the annual mudslides off the rainy side of the mountain range and settling on the drier ridges of the valley. It’s currently in peril as three powers are vying for control.
Whitebridge needs Scirocco because of the capital and crops it generates. A group of religious pilgrims to a nameless god keep a temple deep in the valley beyond Scirocco and wish to have the valley expunged of its commerce-minded interests, and return the valley to a natural and pristine place of worship. They’re not zealots or violent about it, but as their numbers grow, their ability to pull on political levers of power does, too. Last is the nomad warlord who occupies the plains and prairies beyond Scirocco Valley, and wants his ancestral lands returned to him. To that end, he’s working to blockade transport in and out of the town, but his warband isn’t big enough yet, operating more on a scale of highwaymen than a real siege force or blockade.
Enter our cast of competent, proactive, dramatic heroes.
(Pronunciation key provided by my players for my benefit.)
The daughter of the aristocratic Geulimja (best guess as a GM, and I haven’t been corrected yet: goo-lim-jah) family, and a licensed magician in her own right. After discovering she was something of a prodigy at magic crafting, she left home because it had fallen under the toxic shadow of her brother’s jealousy at her natural aptitude. She became a forgewright in Scirocco to work and live outside the shadow of her family name and her Chantry legacy. (She still likes to craft within the rules, though.)
Nil Bahaduri (baa-ha-doo-ree)
The combat butler and confidant to the Geulimja family, and serves as the personal bodyguard to Iuvenis. The Bahaduri family are party of a class of family who are sworn protectors of the Chantry families, trusted with their lives but not with the secrets of magic. Nil in particular is wearing a lot of hats, between keeping his mistress’ identity secret, his own identity as a Chantry agent a secret, and working under the suspicion that his brother broke the taboo on sharing how magic is generated with a one-night stand.
Nil’s brother and all around manwhore (player’s words, not mine). He’s fallen from grace as he prefers to ride his brother’s coattails and paychecks instead of fulfilling his responsibilities as a guardian. He’s become quite the dilettante and mastered most string instruments in his extreme amount of free time. Alastor and Nil are both adopted into the Bahaduri family, but Nil is the only one who’s an agent for the Chantry. He did, in fact, break the Chantry taboo to a paramour, but he has no idea, as he talks in his sleep.
Escher (ash-er) Strange
An almost-PhD in pyromantic thaumaturgical theory, and Chantry grad a few times over. He failed to defend his doctoral thesis about being able to destroy the world with just pyromancy, and has since “taken a sabbatical” and set out to prove his theories. One of his advisors, Fourchenault (best guess: for-shen-alt), decried his theory as too dangerous and tried to having Escher kicked from the Chantry and license revoked to prevent it from being tested even in a theoretical, academic setting. After discovering the Geulimja prodigy in Scirocco, he decided he had to meet her and see if her gift could contribute to his work.
A lottery winner turned adventurer, Faux has also taken on a false identity in her best effort to keep people who know her (and some who don’t) from asking for handouts. She carries a wicked scythe and a wicked temper, maybe out of defensiveness. She affects the airs of the noble and rich aristocracy, because who else has the luxury (and can afford the kit) to adventure across the world. It was during one of those early adventures when Escher saved her live by scorching a bandit gang who’d accosted her that she decided to follow him around and adore him for his skill and power. (He’s caved at least one to the fawning and taught her just the tiniest fundamentals of pyromancy.)
Screen captures from our are courtesy of the amazing platform built for playing Fate called Fari. If you play Fate, this should be one of the go-to tools for you. If you play any other system, it’s an amazing prep tool for your game, and it now supports modes of play other than Fate. Check them out.
Character portraits are courtesy of one of my players, who went above and beyond for the group.