I need to talk about Sleepy Hollow.
I’d heard that this show was quite good, but I am classically late to any and all TV phenomena. I just tuned into it a few days ago, and it is a very fun show! It is a modern-day retelling of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” in which Ichabod Crane finds himself awoken in the present-day, where he must fight off supernatural foes with the aid of Lieutenant Abigail Mills. The show isn’t always at the high end of the truth and reason scale, but all I really ask of a show in those cases is that it entertain me when it stops making sense. If you can entertain me when I make major suspensions of disbelief, I’m all good.
The plots in this show are pretty clever and the cast is at once likable, believable, and intriguing. Most importantly, dear reader, this show makes a great starting point for a roleplaying game.
I think every RPG nerd spends time figuring out how to translate his favorite piece of media into a storytelling experience. Statting up protagonists is an activity as old as roleplaying itself. RPGs model some version of reality of fiction, so why wouldn’t you expose some of the fiction and reality you consume and live to some statting? Statting characters becomes simpler the more you do it, and the more experience you have in the system you are using to stat. The problem in my mind is how do you mimc the tropes and highlight the dramatic selling points of the show? That’s much trickier.
The problem for me comes in having to move from narrative to quantities and numbers. How can I make the narrative arcs of the shows fit numbers? Yes, I can develop systems and mechanics for this, but what if I want to just get something together really quickly? Let’s say I want to play Sleepy Hollow as an RPG in about 15 minutes?
You can stat up a character really quickly using approaches (which describe ways to do things, not just raw stats) and Aspects, which allow you to move from narrative to natural language, which is a much smoother transition. Once you have that, the main conceit of Fate with invocation of Aspects and Stunts is generally great tech. If you want to develop a more advanced ruleset, you can add the additional layer of tech and rules that Fate Core provides without missing anything.
Even better, you can get some genre/show-specific items for free with little effort. I decided that I wanted to highlight specific approaches and aspects of Sleepy Hollow, but instead of adding in a lot of new rules, I added different approaches. The approaches tell you a lot about the game you are playing, and act as world-building attributes. The fact that my Sleepy Hollow FAE approaches are Historical, Supernatural, Fighting, Investigative, Lawful, and Rebellious tells you an awful lot about what is happening on the show, doesn’t it?
In addition, the Aspects that you use give you a lot of information about the characters and the setting. You can use normal Aspects like High Concept and Trouble, but since Sleepy Hollow often spends a lot of time in the past, I also added a Flashback Aspect, which lets a character tell a story from their past as they invoke it.
All of these were easy to add, and I had the skeletons for this in about 15 minutes or so. Then I just started making characters, and we’re ready to play!
I’ve been thinking about doing this for awhile, and now that I’ve done it I would suggest that everyone familiarize themselves with this ruleset and use it to put it to use. If you want a fast way to tell your own versions of the stories you like to read or watch, I just don’t know if there are better systems in terms of ease of use and fidelity. Please try it out!
And while you’re at it, take a peek at my 10000% free, fan-friendly FAE adaption of Sleepy Hollow.