4e had its strengths, no doubt. This was one of them.So, here's an idea: I have specific design elements of a game I've written, which is intended to be focused on the PCs and their story, and thus other concerns are less central, like any kind of 'plots' and whatnot devised by the GM. As I'm a fairly old school guy I am not actually going crazy with this. As I've said before its an exploration of design ala the direction taken by D&D 4e and subsequently abandoned by WotC. So, what are specific design elements, and why do they exist and how do they relate to topics discussed here (because these are primary topics of interest for this kind of game design, IMHO)?
Very cool. Are they starting out at a high level?The premise of the game is heroic, legendary, and mythic adventures, so this is all about characters who are Big Damned Heroes, and they might even become legends that are remembered for centuries (greatest swordsman of the 3rd Age), or myths (greatest swordsman ever, slew the baddest monsters in the universe). I envisage this as almost entirely a Story Now kind of play.
I like everything about this, especially as it relates to heroic campaigns.So, player characters have traits which get them immediately wrapped up in things, strengths, weaknesses, goals, bonds (who they know, etc), and some degree of background, plus a calling and a species, and then possibly some build choices within their calling. Tags provide 'hooks' too, so the fact that something is an 'enchantment' can be leveraged somewhere by someone to make something interesting hinge on it. Otherwise, we're pretty much in D&D-like territory, albeit closer to 4e than other versions. The focus on these traits however is higher than things like ability scores, which are going to more inform approach.
Fate sounds really cool. It reminds me a little bit of Joss in the Gygax game Dangerous Journeys, at least the way we used it, which was specifically for narrative and mechanical purposes.So that's the next thing, approach, characters have knacks, not skills exactly, but problem solving tool sets which they use. Your character might have a knack for being deceptive, or athletic, or collecting obscure information, and that's going to govern their approach to tasks. This additionally reinforces characterization, the mechanics are there mostly to help you DRAW A PICTURE of what the character is.
You can invoke Fate, this means mentioning some attribute of your character, whether personality or otherwise, and downgrading your relation to Fate from positive to negative, and then altering or introducing some factor into the narrative related to the mentioned attribute (presumably this is favorable to at least the player's agenda, if not that of the character). You can alternatively allow the GM to do the altering, in which case your Fate moves from negative to positive. This is a bit like the 5e 'Inspiration' mechanic, but done right. The purpose is to basically give the player an option to pick up a bit of the GM's authority momentarily. While it probably isn't needed in a principled Story Game play, it won't hurt either. Fate can be reset at the start of each session, use it!
This sounds like a really cool mechanic/playstyle to promote the creativity of the player's options. I imagine you will get a lot of creative ideas since they won't be always bound with daily and encounter powers.In terms of actual play, given the orientation towards task-based action mechanics ala 4e, vs the kind of style used in a game like DW, there's a necessity to set the values of actions. That is, the players need to know how a given check they wish to invoke is advancing them towards a stated goal. So that works by the application of a couple of mechanisms. First players state goals, you could call this a 'quest' mechanism, probably a good name for it. These are resolved by challenges, which are pretty much (roughly speaking) like 4e SCs. If you succeed or fail in enough checks, then the results of the quest are decided. There are no checks outside of these challenges, flat out. If anything is at stake, then a challenge exists, and it resolves some sort of quest, though it could be pretty minor in some cases. Checks themselves are initiated by players stating actions, and the GM determining which knack (or maybe it is a tool or some knowledge) governs the check. Players can expend power points to increase the potency of the result, and they can also use practices to alter the governing element checked against if they want (so you could use a ritual to change a climb check into an arcana check to summon a mount so you can fly instead).
The point of the above is pretty simple, the players are always measuring the outcomes, not the GM. It is up to the GM to decide the NARRATIVE RESULT of a check, and of the outcome of a challenge, but the players are in charge of what they want to do, and of their intent, which they also state when they make a check. If they are succeeding on checks, they are pretty much deciding how the scene plays out, but then the GM gets to posit the next element of the challenge, so it should play as give and take.
This sounds like it already has talent in it.As you can see, there's not that much scope for prewritten stuff here. The GM could frame scenes in terms of what he wants to see happen, but even then a party of 5 players has Fate x 5 per session... I've also expressed guidelines about playing to see what happens, which really should be sufficient, but again, it never hurts to let the players reinforce that admonition...
So, design principles in service of a particular type of play. I make no claim to be talented at this, lol.
Good luck. Sounds like you all will have a blast.