Dawning Star Actual Play: Racism and Red Truth.
Sean Nittner was kind enough to run one of our Gen Con games at the last minute. As a member of Evil Hat Productions, Sean is an expert in Fate. However, he didn’t know anything about Dawning Star. The “Freight with Peril” scenario included pre-generated characters. The EDF Special Forces squad included a velin along with the human members. Sean had no idea what a velin was. The players didn’t either. For the record, the velin are an indigenous species of Eos with an uncanny, even suspicious resemblance to humans that look like this:
Here’s how Sean described him: “a pseudo-indigenous insect like alien”. Uh, no. Here’s the thing: It was the kind of mistake that highlights the strengths of both Dawning Star as a setting and Fate as a system.
As to the former, the existence of hundreds of different sentient xenomorphs is an important theme in the game. It serves the backstory by reinforcing the impact of the Star Confederation genetic seeding program. It also offers an opportunity for some dramatic play. Particularly with the arrival of the new evacuation ship, all of the different species living together in cramped environs with difficult challenges creates tension along the lines of something like District 9. In the hands of experienced gamers, exploring these weighty themes can be satisfying. (Not such a great idea in a con game, as Sean deftly noted.)
As to the latter, Fate’s flexibility allows–even encourages–these sorts of gaps to be filled on the fly. “Freight with Peril” also included a mysterious alien artifact that pulsed with Red Truth. Invariably, one of the players would ask what it did, to which I got to respond: “You tell me.” In one game, it was a home entertainment system that read and projected the users’ emotional states to the others. In another, it was a sophisticated GPS system. This comfort with player authorship is one of Fate’s great strengths.
You can read Sean’s actual play report here. (Thanks again, Sean!)