Here are three things I want to combine:

Here are three things I want to combine:

Here are three things I want to combine:

1) A community on the edge of extinction in a cruel and strange world.

2) Sweet adventures focused on exploring “dungeons” of some ilk.

3) Dystopian science-fantasy somewhere in the space of Perdido Street Station, Numenera, and The Book Of The New Sun.

I want to open with something like The Quiet Year or Apocalypse World (esp. the Hardholder playbook). Then I want to use the needs of the community and the characters to drive the party into horrible dungeons in desperate search of lost treasures. And I want to do all of this using Fate Accelerated.

So! Anybody tried something like this? Suggestions for how to dovetail at the weird boundaries between those ideas?

[I’ma cross-post to Fate Core, w/ apologies to those of you who closely follow both.]

8 thoughts on “Here are three things I want to combine:”

  1. (For this community I’m primarily interested in the intersection between “community at the edge of extinction” and “dungeon crawl”. How do you motivate that kind of adventure from that starting point?)

  2. For ten generations, the descendants of a crashed interstellar habitat ship have eked out an existence on their harsh new home. But the energy-to-matter systems are failing. The shield is crumbling. And there are many things outside the boundary trying to get in.

    The strange energies of this planet, likely the cause of the crash, produce unpredictable effects. Rapid mutations, fusion of tech and flesh, and strange awakened consciousness within some of the artificial systems. Exploration parties rarely return, and those that do are changed. Some even claim to possess…abilities…of a sort.

    Yet beyond the safe boundaries of the ship, those few returning explorers report ancient cities, abandoned roadways, and possibly evidence of other fallen exploration ships. There is much that is unknown.

    The tenth generation has grown up in the chaos of this collapse. The old order of the original star farers is gone; the knowledge that was once handed down is now trapped behind the blank terminal screens. What little remains has been handed down in oral tradition. What need for writing materials, with readily available computer terminals, right?


    When I introduce players to a new world like that, I give them a narrative summary, setting up some basic ideas, giving them a premise, and outlining some of the inherent conflicts. Sometimes I give hints about various political factions, competing guilds, external conflicts, race relations, etc. I think it’s important to have a generalized view, with a few solid points, but then sit down with the players and discuss how they think the setting would motivate them. What opportunities for exploration/heroism/personal gain/whatever are available, how can they manipulate that, what would they like to see happen, how do they want to advance as characters?

    At least that’s what’s seemed to work best for me. Giving a narrative basis, but open enough that they can fill in the blanks in their minds, and then play a role in shaping the world and the campaign together.

  3. In no particular order:

    1) If you want to focus in any way on the stress and danger inherent in dungeon crawling, don’t use Fate. I’m a fan of Fate, but the system assumes a high degree of competence in its PCs and the mechanics give players a lot of direct control over outcomes and make outright failure pretty difficult. It’s not the right system for Darkest Dungeon. Maybe try something like No Country for Old Kobolds, or Torchbearer? OTOH, if you want the PCs to be cinematically heroic, FAE is a great fit.

    2) One potential hiccup: a game focused on dungeon crawling will by its nature need a lot of dungeon real estate to crawl around in. Typically this would mean a lot of dungeons scattered across the map, but then your nearly extinct community needs enough resources to support cross country expeditions. I guess when you’re defining your shortages in Quiet Year, make sure they’re not things like food and water so your crawlers can have enough provisions to make it to the dungeon. Alternatively, you could set it up like Torchlight, where there’s only one dungeon but it’s ridiculously deep and right beneath the city.

    3) One thought would be that instead of or in addition to addressing immediate needs, the dungeon crawls are in search of components to complete some big project that the community needs to survive. I actually like the idea that the PCs are fairly ordinary people who go into dungeons after the “real heroes” have mostly cleared them out; the leftover monsters are still absolutely a threat to them, and the cheap, ‘useless’ relics that the heroes left behind (minor magic items, in DnD terms) are uniquely useful to the PCs’ community.

    Edit: even if you don’t like that last one, I’m totally using it. Think I’ll call it ‘Secondhand Dungeons.’ 😀

  4. If you want the needs of the community and the characters to drive the PC’s into dungeon crawls, then…

    1) the players (not just the PC’s) need to care about the community, feel connected to it, feel responsible for it. All sorts of ways to do this, including but not limited to:

    a) Player authorship, via free form discussion, rules mediation (e.g. Microscope or Quiet Year)

    b) Loaded GM questions

    c) Ties and bonds to local NPCs, baked into character creation

    d) Mechanically, by tying PC effectiveness and play options to the fortunes of the community

    e) In play, by making the NPC locals real and playing up their relationships with PCs

    f) Procedurally in play, with some sort of “town turn” like you get in Mouse Guard

    g) other ways, I’m sure

    2) Make sure the town has vulnerabilities, shortages, fault lines, needs. Pick from lists, ask the players, whatever. All sorts of ways to generate these.

    3) Have a procedural way to generate stress and/or opportunity on the community (like AW’s Hardholder or Hocus start-of-session moves)

    4) Have some sort of Savvyhead Workspace rules to prompt “how do we accomplish xyz?” conversations and build “quests”

    4) Develop fictional justification for Why Dungeons:

    a) what are they?

    b) why are they all around?

    c) what resources do they hold?

    d) what dangers do they hold?

    #Stonetop is pretty largely designed along these lines.

  5. James Etheridge I don’t quite like #3 _as is_, but the core idea is really quite evocative. I’m thinking maybe I’ll steal it halfway: The dungeons are more dangerous than the surface, but resources are abundant. Consequently, people go down there and bring things back. But they also go down there and die. And especially they go down there and stay. And fight to protect what they have. I’m … loving it.

  6. Old posts are old. 🙂 I’ve run adventures in a postapocalyptic setting that had dungeon crawls – these were abandonded or dead vaults, cities, prisons, any kind of base that might now be occupied by mutants, bandits, secret corporate operations and ancient security systems. The heists in civilized areas were also dungeon crawls with all that they contain, just flavoured differently, really. Add a bit of motorized desert piracy and you’ve got a pretty fun setting. I need to get back to that some day

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