I often plan campaigns pretty thoroughly, but I’m in the middle of planning another quick-draw game. I’m really enjoying the idea of an evening’s game being something casual to prepare—even when it’s a whole new system, or a whole new world. My game is neither, though it’s not out of a source book either. There are several interesting elements that you might appreciate—that might be handy to steal for your own game.

Setting: Dystopian 80s

I’m cribbing my setting from some books by Crawford Kilian that stuck with me. One of the interesting elements, particularly for me, was how foreign America felt by the end of the 20th century in his world. When I was older and looked back, I realized that a lot of it came about because he was projecting forward from the 1970s—which I was too young to experience as an adult. So the images of gas lines and rationing, and stories of stagflation that feel like mere words to me were the basis of his extrapolation. Once I got my head around that (which, if you can enjoy steampunk’s extrapolations of tech and Victorian mores isn’t that hard to do), I appreciated the setting more. Seeing how the 80s turned out does make the book seem dated… so I decided to pile misfortune on the 80s until it “bent” into a similar shape.

  • December 27, 1979: Tajbeg Presidential Palace in Afganistan overthrown; Soviets commit 100,000 troops to securing Kabul and Afghan cities.
  • March, 1980: Anderson ekes out narrow victories in Massachusetts and Vermont, setting the stage for his 3rd party success.
  • September 1980: Regan’s covert dealings with Iran revealed by FBI whistle blower; Carter’s mishandling of the affair damages perceptions of his competence.
  • September 1980: Iraq invades Iran; with widespread and increasing chemical weapon use as the invasion bogs down.
  • January 1981: John B. Anderson sworn in as the 40th president. Initiates Soviet grain embargo, proposes 50 cent fuel tax, but congress balks. Gridlock sets in.
  • March 1981: The first “flik-readers” are introduced in Japan. Some people are able to “flik” dozens of pages per minute with perfect recall. Later improvements increase the “learning rate” and shrink the equipment.
  • August 1981: Organização dos Estados Americanos (OAS) agrees to relocate its headquarters to Caracas, Venezuela after extensive bugging and wiretapping of diplomats comes to light. Thirty two states sign a compact promising tighter cooperation throughout Latin America and establish a multinational peacekeeping force independent of the US.
  • June 1982: King Fahd succeeds King Khalid to Saudi throne.
  • December 1982: Mujahideen liberate Charikar; Chechen rebels seize a school in Beslan. 334 hostages are killed, including 180 children.
  • January 1983: Soviets decapitate Saudi Arabia in lightning strike, including tactical nuclear strikes and EMP disruption that keeps their F15s grounded. Spetsnaz capture Riyadh, execute two hundred members of Saudi Royal Family in four days. Brezhnev vows to annihilate anti-Soviet terrorists.
  • February 1983: Al Ghawar oil fields continue to burn out of control. Fire fighters sickening from smoke and radioactive fallout exposure.
  • March 1983: Famine strikes Ethiopia; energy crisis inhibits fertilizer production, threatening famine throughout Africa, and South Asia.
  • March 1983: Soviet forces withdraw from Saudi Arabia under fierce international pressure, leaving behind devastation.
  • June 1983: Petrol hits £4/liter in London; black market Petrol circulates at up to 180 rems.
  • August 1983: Saudi civil war intensifies; the Eastern Province secedes, open warfare in the streets of the triplet cities.
  • September 1983: Riots engulf Atlanta; national guard called out throughout the deep south. The riots were initially sparked by reports that gasoline in black neighborhood stations averaged triple the radioactive load of gas stations in white neighborhoods.

Acknowledging my Prejudices

I like changing the President for alternate histories; it helps clearly break assumptions and expected reactions. If I’d kept Carter or Reagan, there would be a greater track record to align the American actions and reactions. When a new President does something stupid, it’s because he did something stupid (often for plot reasons). I don’t have to defend my actions, or feel that I’m misrepresenting Carter or Reagan, because I don’t understand how they’d really act…

My inspiration’s dystopian future was marked by energy shortages, population pressures, isolation and high handedness of “the elite”. Many natural forces were pushing in that direction in the 1970s; I tweaked history in my timeline above to provide additional actions amplifying the fall into dystopia. Some events were borrowed from the future; for example, the Beslan massacre is from 2004. I took the opportunity to tie it to the Afghan war; adding Saudi funding gave me a “logical” reason to devastate the world’s fuel supplies.

Custom Skill List

An excellent sidebar on page 96 of the Fate Core book encouraged me to reinforce the setting with a custom skill list. I’m interested in seeing how the updated list works in play and sets expectations. I do think that the new skill names alone will reinforce the feeling of the setting–what do you think?

Academ* (Lore): Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Political Science, Anthropology, English Literature, Surgeon, Engineer, Law [*: Requires a specialty]
Access (“Company” Resources): Cool gear, clearance, office politics, managerial rapport, paperwork
Athletics (Athletics): Run, dodge, spin, leap, climb.
Close Combat (Fight): Sword or knife use, throwing a punch, aikido flipping a mugger, snap kicks
Cram (-): Flik reading, deep skill imprinting, your brain as “RAM”
Deceive (Deceive): Lying, misdirecting people, maintain a disguise
Drive/Pilot (Drive): Weaving through traffic, flying a helicopter, leaping off ramps, landing a 747
Empathy (Empathy): Notice mood changes, spot deception, read emotional states, treat mental stress
Espionage (Investigate): Search a room or book, analyze a crime scene, examine records, eavesdrop
Mechanics (Crafts): Working with machinery, electronics, circuit design, VCR or rice rocket repair
Network (Contacts): Who you know, who they know, check up on people socially, rumor control
Physique (Physique): Strength, endurance, busting down doors, tipping a police car
Resources (Resources): Cash, investments, stock market portfolio, real estate
Sense (Notice): Spotting concealed weapons, danger sense, keen hearing
Shoot (Shoot): Gun handling, sniper shots, quick draw, clear jams
Social Engineer (Provoke+Rapport): Manipulate, enrage, charm, convince, threaten, inspire– alter other people’s moods
Stealth (Stealth): Leave no trace, move unseen and unheard
Tradecraft (Burglary): Pick locks, break encryption, hack security systems, spoof cameras
Will (Will): Solve puzzles, decipher code, resist interrogation, playing chess

While The Cat’s Away

While many gamers are off enjoying Gen Con, I’m looking forward to a fun weekend of gaming at home. What are your weekend plans?