I found the discussion on hacking very interesting, especially the part about discovering what a game or setting is about when you try to hack it.
I think this is partly because many of the games that inspire the desire to hack in me lean more towards the trad side, and trad games tend to be more about what the characters can do rather than why they’re doing it or how what they do connect to the themes of the game. With newer/more indie/story leaning games (I don’t know what term is most fitting here), the themes are usually more explicitly expressed through the character stats or moves or other core mechanisms so when you try to port a trad setting over to a non-trad game you have to dig into those parts and try to figure out what the game needs to be about.
I’ve been wrestling with this when I’ve tried to make a Cortex Plus (now Prime) version of Changeling: the Lost. How do you express the struggle between the human side and the fae side of the characters? Should that be the main focus, or is it a more general responsibility vs. freedom theme? How much do you go into the trauma survivor aspect?
With a trad game you can mostly ignore that and let the individual table decide where they want to put the emphasis, but in a non-trad game the themes are expected to be expressed through the player facing part of the game in a way that makes them unavoidable.
Maybe that’s what makes something like Fading Suns hard to hack? I don’t have any experience with it myself so I may be way off base here, but if there’s no clearly expressed central theme it becomes hard to shift the setting over to a non-trad game because the non-trad game expects to work around a theme, or at least a clearly defined core activity?
I dunno, maybe this is obvious or irrelevant, but it’s something that popped up while I was listening to the episode.
I think you’re right on the money here. I’ve heard it described as Warhammer Fantasy in Space or the Thirty Years War in Space. That suggests a kind of adventuring company approach, but i’m not sure that works given all the other world and culture set up. But your point reminded me that I may have to start really stripping things away. Part of the problem is that I’ve only played FS a little and while the setting grabbed me, the system didn’t so I kind of bounced off. That means I don’t have a sense of what bits I actually like from the expected play.
It was easier with our PbtA hack of Changeling the Lost (and I’m curious about your Cortex version of CtL). In that case I’d played a lot of it and I could focus in on what we actually did and enjoyed at the table, and cut or truncated the rest.
I’ve had a look at your PtA version of CtL and I’m intrigued to try it, but there’s only so much time and my GM:ing energy has been low for a while.
My Cortex version hasn’t fully crystallized, but I’ve mainly been looking at the balance between the characters’ fae side and their human side. The thing I’d like to explore is that using your magical abilities to solve your mundane problems should push you towards bedlam (because you’re losing touch with ordinary life) and using mundane methods to solve your fae problems should similarly push you towards banality. I’ve also looked at taking on obligations in the freehold or changeling society in general as a method for rectifying imbalances between your two halves but that’s more vague so far.
That kind of stripping away is key in the development of any game, I think. I mostly have experience from the card driven storytelling game I’ve been working on for a few years, where I’ve mostly been removing things from what I originally came up with. A lot of rules that seemed absolutely necessary has turned out not to be important to the core experience, but cutting things is painful.