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"How about tomorrow?"

A GM's nightmare. A group that has a planning horizon of twelve hours (sometimes even "how about right now?"). A group in want of a Fate game.

And a group that isn't into the whole Fate game creation process.


This isn't the first time this has happened to me, and I'm often caught off guard by the short time I have to prepare. It's usually not "tomorrow" specifically, but campaigns often start within the span of three days. Often, this throws me off guard. The groups I'm usually with also typically aren't a fan of pregenerated games, but have liked some of the games I've made when given time in the past.

Currently, the way I see it, if the group is together for six hours, 1.5-2hrs of that is dedicated to character creation, and about 1 hour for eating. That leaves roughly three hours of actual campaign time to fill in.

I'm usually given some guidelines from players on what they'd like, but they're also usually pretty lax.

Consequently, my question is pretty simple. What's the minimum amount of information I need to prepare in order to run a successful first session of Fate Core? After the first session, I can have more leisurely preparations for future sessions. However, the first session needs to be done on short notice.

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You start with a pithy campaign concept pitch ("Con artists in a Star Wars 'verse").

Then the players make trimmed-down PCs: a High Concept, a Trouble, and two or three skills with ranks assigned. Everything else can be filled in on the fly during play as it's needed/wanted. As they make their characters, the players should decide what small goal they share ("Hire a ship to flee the planet" or "Find a ripe mark").

Look at your players' concepts and troubles and their goal. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Where will they start out trying to achieve their goal?
  • What Troubles or setting elements are going to make it hard to achieve that goal?

Create a couple setting aspects for the immediate location where the action starts (Lawless cantina on the wrong side of town, No robots allowed). Start the session with a compel to introduce a problem, and play to see what happens next. Use compels to push the drama, and keep the focus on the PCs' goal.

Worldbuilding emerges naturally from these compels, and from the players' creative use of skills like Contacts and Lore to create advantages by connecting their PCs to the world (you should encourage them to do this, and to fill in their aspect slots accordingly). By the time they achieve their goal, this process should have created further involvement with the world that you can use to keep the story going.

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  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Perfect answer, I want to stress out that character generation in Fate is supposed to be part of the gaming session, and can (should?) be done on-the-fly during the game. This helps the players to learn quickly and the GM to develop the world around them without previous planning. For example: a failed (badly failed) contacts roll suggested me (the GM) that the players' merchant friend has disappeared misteriously some days ago... why? Investigation ensued (while I didn't even know they had a merchant friend, or who kidnapped him, nor why... YET!) \$\endgroup\$ – STT LCU Jul 28 '15 at 7:39

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