The Setting’s Big Issues
Table of Contents
Decide what threats and pressures inherent to the setting will spur the protagonists to action.
Every setting needs to have something going on that the characters care about, often a peril they want to fight or undermine. These are the setting’s issues.
You’ll come up with two issues as a group and write them down on index cards or a game creation worksheet (downloadable from Evil Hat). These issues are aspects and will be available to invoke or compel throughout the entirety of the game.
The issues should reflect the scale of your game and what the characters will face. They’re broad ideas; they don’t just affect your characters, but many people in the world. Issues take two forms:
- Current Issues: These are problems or threats that exist in the world already, possibly for a long time. Protagonists tackling these issues are trying to change the world, to make it a better place. Examples: a corrupt regime, organized crime, rampant poverty and disease, a generations-long war.
- Impending Issues: These are things that have begun to rear their ugly heads, and threaten to make the world worse if they come to pass or achieve a goal. Protagonists tackling these issues are trying to keep the world from slipping into chaos or destruction. Examples: an invasion from a neighboring country, the sudden rising of a zombie horde, the imposition of martial law.
Game and character creation involve making aspects.
The default number of issues in a Fate game is two: Either two current issues (for a story solely about trying to make the world a better place), two impending issues (for a story about striving to save people from threats), or one of each. The latter option is common in fiction: think about the stalwart heroes who work against some impending doom while already discontent with the world around them.
Changing the Number of Issues
Of course, you don’t have to use the default number of two issues if you don’t want to—one or three also works, but it will change the resulting game a bit. A game with one issue will revolve around just that issue—a quest to rid a city of evil, or to stop evil from happening. A game with three will show off a busy world, one where the characters’ resources are strained against multiple fronts. If you think you need to focus down or expand the scope of your game, talk it over with the group and start by tweaking the number of issues to best fit what you’re after.
The group thinks about the sort of problems they want to deal with in the world. Ryan immediately says “organized crime,” and they flesh that out a little. They come up with the idea of “The Scar Triad,” a group of thugs who are known for thievery, extortion, and other nasty things that the world could do without. This is clearly a current issue.
Lily wants the story to also be about something on the verge of happening, something Really Bad. They come up with an impending issue: a vile cult that seeks to summon something horrible into the world (which means they’re also saying that their setting includes horrible, Lovecraft-inspired things). Lenny calls it “The Doom that Is to Come,” and Ryan really likes this idea because it gives his bookish character a hook into things going on in the world.
- The Scar Triad
- The Doom that is To Come
Making the Issues into Aspects
As said earlier, issues are aspects. Turn the ideas you have into aspects that you could conceivably use at different times in the story (often as compels to the protagonists or as invocations for foes, but clever players will always find other uses for aspects). Write them down, and then if you need to add a little bit to remember the context or some details, write those down alongside the aspects.
Amanda writes down The Scar Triad and The Doom that Is to Come as two game aspects. She notes down next to The Scar Triad, “They’re into racketeering and other nasty stuff.” And with The Doom that Is to Come, “Led by the Cult of Tranquility.”
*The Scar Triad
They’re into racketeering and other nasty stuff.
*The Doom that Is to Come
Led by the Cult of Tranquility.
If you’re new to making aspects, hold off on this for now. You’ll get quite a bit of practice making aspects for your characters. Once you’re done with character creation, turn these issue ideas into aspects.
Changing Issues In Play
The Long Game section will talk about this in detail, but issues can change as the game progresses. Sometimes, the issue evolves into something new. Sometimes, the characters will successfully fight against it, and it’ll be gone. And sometimes, new issues will emerge. So the ones you make are just what you’re starting off with.
You can also use issues to flesh out smaller, but nonetheless important pieces of your setting. An important location (a major city or nation, or even a memorable local restaurant) or organization (a knightly order, a king’s court, or a corporation) can have impending and/or current issues as well.
It is recommended that you start by giving only one issue to each setting element, just to keep things from getting too bogged down, but you can always add more as the campaign progresses. Likewise, you don’t have to do this right now—if you find a setting element becoming more important later in the game, you can give it issues then.
The Cult of Tranquility keeps popping up in pre-game discussions, so the group decides that it also needs an issue. After some discussion, the group decides it’d be interesting if there was some tension in the cult’s ranks, and makes a current issue called “Two Conflicting Prophecies”—different branches of the cult have different ideas of what the doom is going to be.
The Cult of Tranquility
Issue—Two Conflicting Prophecies