Wednesday, July 3, 2013

FATE Supp. Rules for Lost Civilizations

Here are some rules that I'm thinking about using in the fate campaign I'm currently running. Background info: the world is far-future super post apocalyptic with ruins of lost civilizations dotting the landscape. I wanted rules for collaboratively fleshing out these ruins and innumerable lost civilizations.

Ruins of Lost Civilizations

Exploring haunted ceremonial burial grounds. Spelunking in buried alien spacecraft. Stepping through strange portals to terrible worlds where nothing seems right. A fun part of many roleplaying games and settings is exploring ruins or worlds of those who came before, unearthing lost histories and finding buried secrets and treasures.

This system is build for the Prosperity Gulch campaign world, a steampunk far future setting where there are ruins of many failed civilizations dotting the frontier, but could be adapted to any setting where there are ruins from a variety of possible civilizations.

When to use this?

Characters in Prosperity Gulch can frequently come across ruins. They may be trekking across land and looking for shelter and supplies, they may be prospecting for artifacts of hidden eras, the campaign may even revolve around a town built on the mouth of such a ruin, people living in the hollowed out ruins of ancient buildings.

There is no ONE ancient civilization in the world of Prosperity Gulch; people have been around long enough that uncountable peoples have risen and died, civilizations lost under the earth. Every ruined city could be from a completely different ancient people, who lived life in a completely different way.

This system allows for the players and GM alike to participate in building the history of their version of this world, making the people and the world that shaped a particular ruin that they might be exploring. Whenever players are going to delve into an ancienty cave, city, find an ancient book or investigate a piece of ancient technology closely, it may be a good time to build a new Lost Civilization.

Step One: Determine Basic Technology Level

One of the first things to nail down about an ancient civilization is its level of technology. Did these people have writing? Plumbing? Energy weapons? Space travel? Does their technology appear to be more or less advanced than your PCs? Is it so advanced that it may as well be magic?

Talk amongst yourself, come up with a general idea of what the general technology level might be. Note that technology levels don’t have to be civilization-style tiers, nor do they have to conform to our history. Examples: Sailpunk, Space Opera, High Magic, Post-Scarcity. Once you have determined the technology level, make an aspect related to that. Examples, “Unstable Crystallize Matrices”, “Industrial Child Labor”, “Harnessed Rage of Demons”, “Trans-dimensional Trade Network”.

You may all choose to have the GM, in secret, roll 4 fate dice. For each + she determines one element of the technology that is uncharacteristically advanced, and for each - an oddly vestigial element that seems like a throwback. For example, a + might have computers in an ancient egyptian setting, while a - might have the elite space monks wielding swords rather than energy weapons.

Step Two: Determine Social Structure

This step can be skipped if you like a little more mystery in your game - or if it’s more of a one-off civilization.

All civilizations can be ordered in a variety of ways. They may be hive civilizations of insects or mole rats, differentiated with a hive mind. They might be rational anarchists, with a strict moral code upheld by each individual (and maybe programmed at birth). Monarchies, Oligarchies, Theocracies, Communes, Lottery-Presidencies, Tribal Rule of the Fittest -- different societies have different social structures.

As with the technology level, talk amongst yourselves about what it seems like the people who made this place might have been like. Note that this can be either just the social arrangement of the local ruin or the larger society that made it; for example if its a massive crashed ship of democratic rebels against an imperialist star-empire, you might choose “democratic republic”. Also note that you DO NOT NEED to flesh out the whole history of this people - just give a glimpse of society and let the rest fill itself in. Once you have decided on a general social unit, make up an aspect to describe it.  “Devotees of Fire in All its Forms”, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”, “An Eye for an Eye”.

Step Three: Dark Secret Aspect

By now everyone probably has a good idea in their own head of what the people who made this ruin might have been like. This idea, however, may be different from person to person. This is where individuals have a chance to put a stamp on the civilization -- and to surprise the other players.

At this stage, everyone writes down another aspect describing a suprising, and challenging feature of the culture -- techological, societal, or just generally descriptive. Ideally, it’s something that won’t become apparent until later.

Players should each decide on a possible aspect in secret, write it down on an index card, and hand it to the GM, face down. The GM then picks one, IN SECRET, that will be an aspect of the ruin or the civilization that created it. The GM may, at her discretion, reword the aspect to make it more aspect-y.

Optional Step: The Fall

If you want to, you can now as a group determine how the civilization ended. This is optional as you may want to reserve this as an open plot point. You may choose to discuss it openly as a group as with the technology and social structure, or you may want to treat it like the dark secret to preserve some mystery for everyone.

Last Step: The Name

Finally, if you have not already, agree on a name for your civilization. Make it something easy to remember and ideally easy to pronounce. It may be what the people called themselves, it may be what archaeologists call them, it may be just what your players decide to call them based on what they had for lunch that day.

With the civilization christened, go forth and explore! Players and GM’s alike, use these aspects to flesh out the setting as you go through it. These civilizations may become long running parts of the game -- or they may only be relevant for a session. Have fun with them.

Example Lost Civilizations

The Tower Builders

Technology Level - Egyptian+ (robots)
Social Structure - Council of Elders
Tech Aspect: Solar Powered Machinery
Social Aspect: Age Before Beauty
Secret Aspect: (Dire Consequences for Ignorance)
The Fall: (Dust Clouds Blotted out the Sun)

The Goatpath River People

Technology Level: Cyberpunk- (no written language)
Social Structure: Corporate Rule
Tech Aspect: Remote Neural Control
Social Aspect: We Can See Your Desires
Secret Aspect: (Tailored-Viral Advertising)

The Fall: (A I Uprising)

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