After Dark: A Stranger Things inspired setting

So, I recently finished watching Stranger Things on Netflix. The Show is amazing. I can’t gush enough at how much I loved that first season. After it ended however, I got to thinking about being a kid. I grew up in a neighborhood called The Bronx, in New York City. If I nailed down a time that I could really consider the crux of my childhood, I would say that it was the early 90s. I wanted my own version of “Stranger Things”. One that matched up to what I saw growing up. I’ve been tinkering with Fate and running a few games so, I thought “Why don’t I make a generic sort of setting that can be ‘skinned’ for a particular time and place?”

So, I’ve embarked on a side project. I want to create the After Dark setting for Fate. In it, you will play children who come face to face with the horrible, fantastic and just plain weird. I’ve been kicking around the fundamental dials that I want to set up and figuring out how I want to do this.

Axioms of the setting

The setting is built on Fate Accelerated. The reason for this is that we aren’t really so concerned with what a character “knows” as much as how they deal with problems. The thinking goes that most children don’t actually “know” all that much about the world. For narrative and theme purposes, the children in this setting are perfectly normal kids dealing with perfectly normal situations. In most situations, they will be unable to outrun a similarly athletic adult and they will be unable to outfight a suitably skilled adult fighter.

Approaches: How do you solve problems?

Tough – Roughly analogous to the Forceful approach. A tough character can intimidate people, get rough when they have to and are even stronger than their contemporaries. Tough characters are also foolhardy and tend to not like changing their mind.

Sneak – This is just like Sneaky. Sneaky characters might know how to steal small items, they’re really good at the hide part of hide and seek and they have learned to move quietly. Sneaky characters like to avoid direct confrontation and prefer to watch and hide.

Fast – I suppose that the best one would obviously be Quickly. Fast characters was to get things done as soon as possible. They aren’t interested in properly fixing things when a bit of tape could suffice and they may not score as high as a smart character but will certainly finish the test first. Fast characters tend to think of time as a resource and refuse to waste it.

Cool – Maybe this one is like Flashy. Cool characters are good with grownups and other kids. They just seem to understand how things work in the world and know how to pull the social strings that make things happen. Cool characters also tend to value self control. They know what is real and what isn’t.

Weird – Weird corresponds a bit to clever. Weird characters are kids that love to explore the things in the world that don’t “fit” neatly. They explore around the edges of what is normal and come back with all manner of strange information. A weird character may know urban legends or collect bugs. Weird characters don’t really “fit” the world and because of that, they have difficulty dealing with people. They are better able to accept things as they are.

Smart – This seems to lend itself nicely to careful. Smart characters are good at remembering information and applying it. A smart character is going to perform well at most of the tests in school. They may also be able to figure things out given less information. Smart characters will often find it difficult to reconcile the supposedly true information that they learn from books and in school with their own experiences.

Aspects: What children are made of

Core Concept – All fate characters should start with some sort of core concept. Here, the core concept should include or otherwise make reference to the fact that this is a child. “My dad is a high-power lawyer” is an interesting choice because it tells us certain things about the character’s family, “Lonely daughter of a high-power lawyer” might be better because it tells us about the character’s relationship with her family and self. “Poor kid from the South Bronx” says quite a bit about the character. We know their financial status and have an idea of what neighborhoods the character is familiar with.

Trouble – The trouble concept is an answer to a simple question: What causes problems for your character? Remember that these are children when creating the trouble. “My parents won’t let me make friends” is a good one because it creates a problem between the characters desires and the limitations (for whatever reason) created by the character’s caretakers. “I have a crush on Rebecca White” could work well because it creates links to the world. Lastly, “I can’t let myself fall asleep!”  seems like a very good one because it is a hook, acts as a crutch and can cause problems at almost any time.

Talisman – A talisman is a thing that protects the character. Whatever the thing is, the child believes in it so much that it actually can help them. The best talismans are unique to the character in some way. At first glance, this seems like a sort of gear-based aspect and it can be. “My signed Louisville slugger” works as a talisman that ticks all the boxes. “My mom’s old rosary” works very well. On the other hand, “The spirit of my Grandpa” works really nicely too. These aspect would obviously work in different ways and mean different things. The baseball bat lends itself nicely to offensive actions, this is a character that fights back. The rosary connects to the character’s family and beliefs. This seems like it would be more useful to create advantages. The spirit of the Grandpa could be used in the game to provide mysterious advice, protect the grandchild or whatever else.

Connections – This is an aspect that tells us about the character’s relationship to their family and any important connections they may have. If the character does not have a family, as an orphan or living in a group home, this aspect may be made to represent that or close connections to other kids or adults in the child’s life. “My big brother looks out for me” is nice and tells us about the character. “I miss my mom” works nicely as well as, “I can take care of myself”.

Dream – Children dream of becoming something special when they grow up. That dream gives them strength and knowledge. The child can lean on that dream like any other important aspect of themselves. Common dreams include things like, “I want to be a superhero” or more realistically, “I want to be a scientist”. Some kids have wild and interesting dreams that refuse to be reigned in like, “I’m a lost princess”. These dreams are just as real to the child as anything else.

The stresses of youth

After Dark uses three stress tracks. The common physical stress track that entails overall physical health and well being. Cuts and bruises result in hits to the stress track that eventually result in consequences like “Painful booboo” or “my ribs hurt”. Mental stress is going to come into play whenever a character encounters something scary or horrible. Fear and horror make attacks on a child’s mind that result in hits that eventually become “I should keep the lights on” or “I see faces in the dark”.

The last stress track is commonly referred to as a Social stress track although it may be helpful to call it Standing. For kids going to school, standing is extremely important. It is also incredibly fragile and can be affected by all sorts of things. Social attacks are often more subtle than direct physical or mental attacks. Social attacks are rumors, innuendo and other mechanations that change other kid’s opinions.

Next time: an example of social conflict!

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