2 – Scale

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Scale

Not let’s talk scale: How much of a setting do your characters want to interact with or affect – from hyperlocal to world spanning empires? Who will be affected by the character’s actions – your family or your home planet? How much of the wider world do the characters want to interact with – just their coworkers or an entire multiverse? What will the characters be – rogue AI’s, standard fantasy adventurers, multiverse-spanning empires? Below I will detail a set of dials to play with for scale.

Note: Also, keep in mind that your game can start with one scale and then grow or shrink as is needed for your story and it may change from arc to arc. Scale is something that players will not have to deal with again, but the GM will have use of this during the Storytelling and Campaign Planning Guide.

The 3 Notes to Tune the Scale of Your Campaign

Below are three dials you can work with help you get a handle on the scale of your game. Each can go from very small to super large with the right amount of creativity.

Character Entity (CE)Who or what will the players play? What effective entities will the players represent? A single adventurer, a hive mind, an AI, a ghost, a squad of soldiers, an organization, a nation state, a galactic empire, a godling? Knowing this will give you an start to understand what scale of opponents and challenges you will have to come up with.
Interaction Area (IA)Over what population and geographic area will most of their interactions take place? Will they only interact with those inside a single conference room or with the multifarious species throughout the galaxy? Knowing this will help you get a feel for good places for scenes and locations.
Sphere of Influence (SoI)Over what population and geographic area will most of the player’s interactions affect? Are they trying to save the world or just themselves? Knowing this can help give you a window into methods of building tension or raising the stakes. You can let them know from time to time who or what will be lost if they fail to keep everyone on the edge of their seats.

You may also want some numbers to give you some perspective on scale for each one. To condense the numbers you may see that this table is not linear and is most likely represents exponential values. Please keep in mind that there is exactly no precision assumed with the numbers in the chart. They are provided just for a reference for scope.

levelapproximate scaleapproximate number
1personal1
2small group – squad level<10
3group – small local organization, swarmtens
4village – large state-wide organization, small citythousands
5city – smaller geographical area like a forest100+ thousands
6county – larger geographical area like a mountain rangemillions
7state – large multinational organization20+ millions
8nation  – interplanetary organization200+ millions
9planetary or interplanetary – galactic organizationbillions+
10Galactic, interstellar, or multiversetrillions+

As an example: for a standard mid-level fantasy campaign where the PC’s are trying to save the Vale from the dragon and its minions:

  • Character Entities are set on the Personal level (1) with the players playing individual people – dwarven fighters, elven wizards, etc.
  • Interaction Area is set to County (6) to represent the Vale since they will be traveling all around the Vale
  • Sphere of Influence is set to County (6) as well to represent the Vale that they wish to save from the dragon

A ‘Question’ of Scale

You can try to get a handle on the scale of your campaign by completing the following question Mad Lib style:

By adventuring in the (interaction area) will the (character entity) be able to save the (sphere of influence)?

For the focus of some campaigns, you may need to change the verbs a bit for it to make sense. In this step, you will want to keep things general, because we are looking at your campaign through a large lens or painting it with a very broad brush. We want just a high overview at this point.

Examples

  • By adventuring in the (vale) will the (humanoid adventurers) be able to save the (vale)?
  • By adventuring in the (forest) will the (squads of elven infantry) be able to save the (sacred elven site)?
  • By adventuring in the (Galaxy) will the (Lycerian Imperium) be able to save the (Lycerian Imperium)?

Get a Little More Out of This Step

If you want to get even more mileage from this process you can adjust it for a more flexible conversation which can help to even more specifically define your campaign’s scale and its scope and even get into the main arc and antagonist.

By (performing actions) in the (interaction area) will the (character entities) be able to (desired result) the (sphere of influence) from (the antagonist)?

  • Performing Actions: What sort of things will the characters be doing in order to achieve their goals: hacking, counter-espionage, hunting, creative works, hunting, adventuring? This should be more general than specific, so as to not limit your options or your creative process.
  • Desired Result: What is the desired end goal: save the world, stop the bad guys, survive, defeat the other salad chefs, defend your empire against other empires? Again, keep this general.
  • Antagonist: who or what is the primary driver for conflict and for the characters to act against

Examples

  • By (planning their revenge) in the (office building) will the (accountants) be able to (save) (themselves) from the (marketing jocks)?
  • By (stalking) in the (vault mainframe) will the (matrix AI’s) be able to (successfully defend) the (Terran Resistance) from the (robotic incursion)?
  • By (working missions) in (worn-torn WW II Europe) will the (elite allied squad) be able to (save) the (free world) from the (Axis’ supernatural works and forces)?
  • By (hunting for clues and combatting terrors) in (their hometown) will the (investigators of the supernatural) be able to (save) the (free world) from (supernatural horrors)?
  • By (engaging in political and social combat) in (a locked room) will the (diplomatic representatives) be able to (prevent war) against (their empire) from the (other empires through their diplomatic representatives)?

Fatesville Gaming Group

The group wasn’t looking to do anything too out of the ordinary for their first time trying Fate – like Birthright (where they can play nations), or Council of Wyrms (where they can play dragons), so they chose to stick to a standard scale for their fantasy based game. Their scale question ended up as follows:

By (adventuring) in the (vale) will the (humanoid adventurers) be able to (save) the (vale) from the (dragon and its minions)?


By the time they ended their scale discussion, Dan, who was usually hungry, had already ordered pizzas for everyone. George, not even asking how much the bill was, casually threw in his usual 20 as Dan was gathering the money to pay for the food. Sarah was looking intently at the Create an Advantage action in the Fate core book and was imagining ways to use it.