You have been raised by the monks of the Flying Temple as Pilgrims, taught how to fly and sent out into the Many Worlds to help people with whatever problems are plaguing their lives. One day, however, you return to the Flying Temple to find it vanished, with only a dragon’s egg in its place! The Many Worlds still have problems, and the letters asking for the help of the teenage Pilgrims are still arriving, but there are no monks to give you advice. You can’t turn your backs on those in need, so what choices will you make? Will you hold to the tenets of non-violence that the monks taught you, or give into temptation to take the easy path and suffer the consequences? What is the connection between the newborn dragon and the Temple? What sort of adventure awaits you in Do: Fate of the Flying Temple?
Do: Fate of the Flying Temple is a game powered by Fate, more specifically Fate Accelerated Edition, and a standalone game that you don’t need a copy of any other book to play. The player characters are Pilgrims, raised by the monks of the Flying Temple in a world that’s part Avatar: The Last Airbender and part Super Mario Galaxy. Taught to fly between worlds, your Pilgrims have been tasked to answer letters from people across the Many Worlds who require help, and the monks have taught you to resolve these conflicts without resorting to violence. Now that the Flying Temple and its monks have vanished, the letters are coming to the mysterious dragon that has begun following you around. What is the connection between the dragon and the lost Temple? What problems will you face as the letters keep arriving? What will the dragon hatchling learn as it watches you?
I came across Do: Fate of the Flying Temple while wandering around PAX East 2017, and while you should never judge a book or RPG just by its cover, this one catches the eye. To get this bit out of the way, the small hardcover book is gorgeous. The art within the book is high quality and done by a variety of artists, featuring the game’s three sample characters in various situations. This is a book that just looks really pretty on your shelf, but once you crack it open and see what’s inside it becomes way more interesting than a pretty cover. The game is published by Evil Hat Productions, the creators of the Fate and Fate Accelerated Edition systems,and their Director of Marketing Carrie Harris was kind enough to get me in touch with the author of the game: Mark Diaz Truman!
In a Skype chat with Mark the first question I posed actually involved another game: Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple by Daniel Solis, published in 2011. FotFT first came out in 2016 after Evil Hat Kickstarted Fate Core, so I was pretty curious as to how the “Flying Templeverse” as Mark put it came to be in the first place, and how Mark came to be creating a sequel game. Mark explained that he met Daniel very early on in his efforts in creating games while attending GenCon with his partner Marissa Kelly as their first foray into the larger gaming community, a trip he described as “deciding to climb Mt. Everest the first time you leave your house”. Having been to GenCon only the once, I would have to agree with that assessment!
Anyway, Solis was part of a panel that Mark attended, and a group lunch later saw Daniel introducing Mark to his game Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple. Mark said he immediately fell in love with it, in large part because it was “a really beautifully diverse world, a little bit like if . . . Mario Galaxy met the most interesting Where the Wilds Things Are kid book you could possibly imagine.” While Mark played the game with Daniel and had a great time, however, he was struck by the fact that it wasn’t really a role-playing game. While PotFT features Pilgrims going out from the Flying Temple to solve problems, Mark said that it wasn’t about stepping into a role, but more telling a story (a class of game that has a few interesting members). “I really wanted to play a Pilgrim, I want to be a Pilgrim of the Flying Temple,” Mark said. So, when the Fate Core Kickstarter was ongoing, Mark actually got with Fred Hicks and Solis at a PAX East and pitched them the idea for Fate of the Flying Temple.
A large part of the pitch was that Mark wanted it to be a game that parents and kids could equally enjoy, “both generations at the table, playing games together, learning from each other,” and doing the “Avatar thing” where a group of ‘kids’ have to grow up fast and don’t get to be just children anymore. When I suggested that this meant the game was family friendly but could still be quite serious, Mark replied:
“Totally, right? And the decisions you make in the game matter. If you protect these people, or do this thing, then the world is going to respond in big ways.”
Mechanically speaking the game is very similar to most Fate Accelerated games: you have Aspects, Approaches, Stunts, that sort of thing (with the interesting twist that what would be your High and Trouble Aspects become your Banner and Avatar Aspects and inform your character’s name: Marked Ghost, Fleet Quill, Sneaky Tree, etc.) But non-violence is featured quite heavily throughout the book: the monks, perhaps unsurprisingly, taught the Pilgrims how to defend themselves but also taught that if a Pilgrim had to resort to violence that they had already failed. This is very different from the wide majority of other tabletop role-playing games, most of which at least have origins in the school of ‘kill thing, loot body, buy things with loot to get better at killing, repeat until godhood acquired’. I brought this up with Mark, and here’s what he had to say:
“One of the core actions in Fate is Attack. It’s right there on the character sheet. One of the four things you’re going to do in this game is Attack! And yet I’ve written a game in which I’ve told you, as explicitly as I can tell you, don’t ever push this button. Never push this button! And I think what I wanted to do with that was to give people the chance to really be challenged on the issue of non-violence . . . what I want people to realize is, if the game is telling you ‘don’t hit this button’ and yet I took all the time to leave the button still installed . . . that’s what the game’s about. The question of non-violence is the soul of the game. Which is to say I want you to confront your players, regularly, with things that violence might solve. I want you to dare them to turn to violence. Because the tragedy of non-violence is when we make it easy. I want you to give your players situations where violence seems like the right thing to do and then challenge them to live up to their values.”
Mark went on to explain that, in practice, this means a FotFT GM does a lot of the same things any other GM does: put people in danger, send in the bad guys with swords, etc, but then challenges the players to find a way that doesn’t involve punching people into submission. And if the players do just get sucked into a slugging match? Then it’s the GM’s job to show that there are consequences.
The dragon that the players find in their first adventure grants each Pilgrim a Dragon Aspect, something that the players either established about the dragon or something the dragon learned from them (Wingless Flying Serpent, Learning to Talk, Keeper of Powerful Winds, etc). As letters arrive and the Pilgrims answer them, the dragon gains additional Aspects on its own, representing the lessons the young creature is learning from the Pilgrims (this is a common source of the consequences mentioned above). The letters in question can address all sorts of problems: traditions, love, politics, families, investigations, gods, warfare, the environment. Both the examples provided in the book and the advice for GMs leans towards most letters involving more than one facet, so the lessons the dragon might be learning can be quite varied depending on what the Pilgrims do. But when the dragon has a total of 10 Aspects the creature once again goes into an egg; whether it becomes a new Flying Temple, remakes the universe, or something completely different, the game is now in it’s final phase and will soon end!
I’ve never really seen another game using a universal system like Fate Accelerated that essentially had a timer that deliberately limited how long the game could go on for, so I asked Mark why he decided to go with that model.
“The first bit of this is that [the Pilgrims] are kids, right, and they have to grow up eventually. And there’s a point at which you’ve played 15, 20, 30 sessions . . . and it’s like the Simpsons, you’ve been 12 for 25 years. So the cool thing about young adult fiction, for me, is that it exists in this particular moment in a young person’s life where they’re on the cusp of becoming an adult.”
Emphasizing this important stage in the life of a Pilgrim, Mark explained that with many Fate games we know what the ending is, pointing out as an example that the audience of Avatar: The Last Airbender knows, more or less, that Aang will end up defeating the bad guys at the end. It’s thus the journey that matters the most, and limiting the game lets the group playing it experience the entire journey without things going stale. Mark also mentioned that he encourages GMs and players for Do: Fate of the Flying Temple to end the game earlier if their journey has come to an end, citing the common issue that many role-playing campaigns never actually reach an ending. While some other games (we discussed Apocalypse World, Masks, and others as examples) avoid this problem by throwing you right into the action and don’t worry about an ending because you have plenty to worry about in the now, FotFT has a beginning, a middle, and an end. This also helps the game to make the Pilgrims’ decisions matter; rather than just trying to do the best they can and hope the world eventually reaches the point where they want it to be by the next generation, Mark explained, the Pilgrims have to weigh every choice they make in terms of what kind of world they’ll create as a result. Mark actually referenced his work as a community organizer and some of the culture in his native New Mexico, with the pueblos talking about the ‘seventh generation’, with the Pilgrims of your game determining what sort of world future Pilgrims will live in.
If a standard game of Do: Fate of the Flying Temple ends when the dragon has 10 Aspects, though, and it starts with one Aspect from every player character, it seems pretty obvious that the more players you have the faster the game which actually end. The book provides three sample characters, and Mark recommends that the sweet spot for the game is about 3-4 players, with more or less than that starting to either give the game too little to work with or too much for it to sustain for long. That will make it perfect for some groups, not so much for others.
Oh, and why a dragon?
“It needs to be something magical, but also potentially dangerous, but also adorable!”
Final words from Mark for someone who is contemplating playing the game but hasn’t made the final leap?
“What I would say overall is what Fate of the Flying Temple tries to do is give you a really rich world to try out Fate in, and I spent a lot of time trying to make Fate as clear as I could through the book. So my hope is that people who are brand new to role-playing can pick up and start playing with it and start working with it, but the people who have been role-playing for a long time will really appreciate its elegance and its focus. My hope is to make games that inspire people to confront both exciting adventure and deep philosophical thinking about what it means to be a hero. It’s easy to jump into, but it’s worth playing again and again and again.”
You can buy Do: Fate of the Flying Temple at DriveThruRPG or via Evil Hat’s own site, which also has some free downloads available. The PDF clocks in at $10, while the hardcover book is priced at $20. You can find Mark @trumonz, and he is currently a part of Magpie Games. Thanks to him for taking the time to chat, and for Carrie for getting us in touch!
Looking for a Fate Accelerated Edition game that stands on its own? Interested in a ‘windpunk’ setting of Many Worlds, each one more diverse and stranger than the last, filled with strange magics, odd technology, and people in need? Want a family friendly game that can be both fun for all ages and yet at times deeply challenging for everyone who plays it? Then give Do: Fate of the Flying Temple a look!
Dear Pilgrims of the Flying Temple,
We need your help . . .