Setting The Stage — Writer Emergency Fate

Beginning at the start–a good place to be, no?

In my last post, I’ve decided to give FATE Core and Fate Accelerated a try to build a completely new and unique narrative.

And to do that, I’ll follow the instructions of just how to set this up as they are presented in the FATE Core book. But not only that: Thanks to the invention of the internet, you can actually read along with everything I’m going to do today and in later posts. Every headline for every step will be a link to a specific page found here:, which will allow you to read exactly what I’m seeing as I prepare my new story.



So. Let’s start.

Making The Setting Work In Fate

“Decide what the world that surrounds the protagonists is like.”

As I mentioned in my first post, I want the setting to be space sci-fi, dark and gritty, with a touch of cyberpunk. In short, I want to base it on the same setting I based this piece of loose, conceptional flash fiction The Drop. As a matter of fact, the idea behind this setting is over ten years old–back in Germany, when a friend and I wanted to build our own role-play game (as we did play a lot of Shadowrun and World Of Darkness at the time). One out of two major ideas was this sci-fi setting called “Terra Zero”, where the old earth is basically destroyed due to mankind’s greed, but before that, humanity has managed to travel into space and inhabit different planets. They have also build a space-station orbiting the old earth, which is called (guessed it already?) “Terra Zero”. We came up with a few alien races, some cultures and origins for them, and a bit of the politics surrounding the station. It was a bit of a Babylon 5 concept, but a lot darker with more grit. Now, I want to probably take out the bulk of those aliens (and might not have any at all at this point). The majority of the story will be on the station–but some arcs might lead us to the surface of the old earth and even to some of the new planets. There, everything will be run by mega-corporations–a large oppression to the common people, controlling everything in their daily lives (that would be one of the cyberpunk hooks). Human augmentation is a thing, so is the intergalactic matrix–a virtual reality to cope with the isolation of living in space or on planets in the outer sectors of the galaxy. Something like that. I want the technology to be futuristic, yet archaic within its own context. Heavy cables, sparks, steam, bulky, clunky, designed to be practical not pretty. Think the Alien movies, or the real world in the Matrix trilogy, not so much Star Trek or Star Wars.

The main theme will be desperation, isolation, horror and conspiracy. The usual. The station itself is a research and mining facility to both study what happened to the old earth, as well as extract as many resources left on it. On the old earth, some people are still living in tribal like societies, often disfigured through mutation caused by radiation and …other things.

A Game’s Scale

“Decide how epic or personal your story will be.”

The idea is to think about just what story we’re going to tell. Is it focused on the heroes lives directly, concerning issues that really only matter to them and their immediate surroundings? Or is it a galactic issues, involving many planets, ships, stations?

I love personal. I love personal even more when it seems as though the fate of the universe is at stake. Or these two issues somehow cross paths–often that taking care of your own issues might make things for the entirety of the world worse.

For Han Solo, it was just about him and his ship. He never wanted to blow up a Deathstar when he was hired to fly an old man and his young (most likely lover) friend around. I sort of want to pick up there. Make it personal. Real, fucking, personal. Throat-cutting, nerve-grinding sort of personal. Whether or not the heroes end up saving (or dooming) the galaxy is something to be seen. That said, Terra Zero (the station) will be the main location–which includes the space around it, and also the Old Earth spinning beneath it. Everything else we might see mentioned or eluded to, but stay away from–for now.

The Setting’s Big Issues

“Decide what threats and pressures inherent to the setting will spur the protagonists to action.”

This is where stuff gets juicy, because, not only do we establish some important facts about the narrative, we also begin to merge story and mechanics.

Issues are aspects–true facts but also elements of the game itself that can be used through the entirety of it. Which means, these issue aspects are our first real mechanic we’re going to introduce. If you want to know more about aspects and what they do, read up on them here.

Issues come in two flavours: Current and Impending. I have to (by default) define 2 total issues in any mix of those two types I want.

As a current issue, I think, I want to the station (Terra Zero) to slowly fall apart. Maybe the new earth government doesn’t care about it anymore. Maybe a civil unrest made them cut funding the the station. Maybe studying the old earth is just not worth it anymore, and the station has been slowly but surely forgotten. Whatever the cause, the station is falling apart. Corridors lose oxygen or artificially gravity. Basic functions fail or glitch. The entire station–a micro civilization squeezed into a tin can–can feel the pressure of the empty space slowly but surely suffocating them. Few shuttles arrive from the other systems, fewer yet leave for them. All they have left is to maintain what they can and risk daring missions to the surface of the old earth for supplies and resources. Maybe something with pirates and smugglers and all that good stuff.

Because this is Fate, I need to summarize that text in a short, narrative phrase that will stand for the aspect of that issue. Something along the lines of Failing Space Station (to be direct) or Lost In Space (to be more dramatic) or Terra Zero In Decline (to be a bit political-sounding). Maybe I go with a simple This Station Is Beyond Repair Aspect as the current issue. That’s nice, clean, simple.

Issue #2 should be impending. Why? Because with a falling apart space station, the heroes will have enough problems to deal with right away. Another current issues would make things too complicated, and that’s never a good thing. But something impending, something that has begun to rear its ugly head, that I can dig. So–where to go with this? Horror? Conspiracy? Bit of both? How about Hostile Takeover? While the crew of the station (more of a society I’d say, a few hundred? It’s a large station) is struggling to make ends meet, something is threatening to take over the station. Pirates? Aliens? Monsters? Viral Artificial Intelligence? Mutants from Old Earth? Hostile Takeover sounds perfect.

By the way, any element in the game can have issues attached to them, as well. A character’s only shuttle could have issues like Broken Power Circuit, or a space suit could have an issues like Oxygen Gauge Not Working. We can use this later to make some elements more important for the story, but right now, we stick to the two main story issues:

Current Issue: This Station Is Beyond Repair — Terra Zero is slowly breaking down, and no help from the outside is coming.

Impending Issue: Hostile Takeover — some unknown, hostile agency is threatening to take over the station.

Faces And Places

“Decide who the important people and locations are.”

If you read the example of that section, you’ll notice that we really don’t need to a lot of different, predefined places and people. Just one or two to establish a few things for the beginning of the story. Whatever I do come up with won’t have more details than a designation (or a name) and an aspect to make it fit into the setting.

One or two important locations that are part of the station would be a good start. Places that are visited often, or have significance otherwise. Terra Zero is a research and mining facility–an outpost with little to no contact outside Old Earth’s orbit. As such, the workers and scientist there might have their families living with them. Which would mean that there can be a large civilian sector–including shopping centres, artificial parks, and so on. Maybe it would even make sense to split the station into distinct districts. From command to military; from research to commerce to civilian. At least one of those should become a major focal point at least in the beginning. Add to that a local matrix–a virtual reality computer network. Places don’t require aspects, so I think this list is good enough for now.

I might also want to add one or two important figures the characters will interact with often enough to come up at this point. A smuggler, who’s running a junkyard sort of business, but somehow manages to keep not so legal hardware in circulation–both within and off the station–would make a good character to interact with. He would be useful as informant, to get gear, or to sell stuff to. Hugo West is the first name I randomly come up with. An old fart, or at least looks a lot older than he really is. He needs an aspect like Everything For A Price — an aspect that reflects his smuggler nature (and also that even his loyalty might be up for sale if the price is right…).

The Chief of Security on Terra Zero–an unlikely ally but a man with integrity–might add some spice. Cole Reynolds, Chief of Security. His aspect would be  Terra Wars Veteran, which adds both a bit of background to the setting and implies certain traits for the character.

Last but not least, there’s Veronica Wagner, the representative of the civilian district–a sort of mayor. Her aspect is I’m Not Here To Make Friends, a stance that might shine a light on her way of dealing with either (or both) politics and the people she represents.

Make Characters

“Each player makes a protagonist.”

Which will be the topic of the next post.

I hope you got a good sense of what the setting might be about. So far, we established two major issues for the story and a few locations and personalities that will play a role at least in the beginning of the story.

Next up, we will look into creating the characters–the actual protagonists of the story. During that process, I’m sure we will come up with more locations and personalties these heroes are involved with, and if it’s worth it, we’ll give them their own aspects, as well. Nothing that happened in this post is final, and until we start the actual story, we can change, add, delete until it all fits nicely.

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