Posts Tagged ‘fate core’
There are a couple things I’ve seen pop up again in the Fate community, which seems to pop up as new people discover Fate. People, you gotta understand two things about Fate:
To the people who say “It can do everything!” no, it can’t. Fate has a particular player dynamic and information economy that lends itself better to some types of play than others, much like how you can use a Leatherman multitool — which can cut things and screw in things and file things down — to bang a nail in, but that’s gonna take more effort and result in something less optimal than using a hammer.
Understand that when Leonard Balsera and I were sitting down to start the rewrite of Fate Core, we took this idea as a feature. We accepted that survival horror (where characters aren’t especially empowered), gritty combat (better executed by systems that give a damn about equipment), intense mysteries (where all the information creation is in the GM’s hands) are not strong suits in Fate. They can be done in Fate, so long as you also understand that Fate’s own sensibilities will twist them.
(Also, as a professional game designer, whenever I hear anyone say “this game can do anything/everything!” I hear “I don’t know what this game is about, and it does nothing especially well.” For of advice for those designing their own games: have a better answer or statement than that.)
To the people who say “Make it an aspect!” I wince every single time. To give a brief history lesson, Spirit of the Century had you go through five story phases of character creation, and come up with two aspects for each. Ten aspects was deemed too many — partly because GMs felt overwhelmed by the perceived (and incorrect) needs to keep all of them in mind for all players, and partly because creative fatigue meant that some of those aspects would either suck or just end up never getting used. The Dresden Files RPG introduced the high concept and trouble aspects, and pared down the five story phases to one aspect apiece. Still, seven was more or less slightly too many, so when we tinkered with Fate Core, we removed to story phases and brought the character aspects down to five.
That gave room for situation aspects (and to a lesser extent, game aspects) to shine. So when I see people say “oh, you want to do X? Just add an aspect!” I cannot do anything except see that as amateur aspect-spamming. This is especially true with people trying to model equipment.
Not everything needs to be an aspect. Some things are about narrative permission — you can’t shoot someone unless you have a gun. No aspect needed. Some things are just cool, like having (an example from a recent G+ post) a double-bladed weapon. And if something is really key to a character concept, then that’s a character aspect, stunt, or just something you note down when you make your character — not inherently an aspect in and of itself.
If something can be used or taken away and it is somehow different from most others of its kind, then maybe it’s a situation aspect — like the Fabled Double-sword of the Haleish or a cursed double-axe. Otherwise, you’re aspect spamming, and you’re breaking the information element of Fate’s economy.
Whenever you think “oh, this is another thing attached to a character, it could be an aspect!” stop, look at how that’s a high concept or other existing character aspect, or a stunt relating to privileged talent or extra (if it makes you better or different all the time, and not just on invocations), or decide if it’s just awesome color that you want to use to describe being interesting and badass. But don’t make it an additional aspect attached to a character except as a last resort. And maybe not even then. Your Fate games will be better for not aspect spamming.
Treat aspects, persistent and not, as their own economy. Having double-edged sword is as useful an aspect as I have arms – which unless having arms is unusual in your game world, isn’t worth taking up a precious slot of this actionable-information economy.
P.S. I realize we’re going to lose this war, but when you capitalize “Fate” as an acronym, it just looks ugly. We don’t do it anymore. Also, if you acronym-ize “Fate” in a third-party product, I’m going to assume that you’re either a joke or someone who isn’t a part of the Fate community trying to leech off of it.
 One of the struggles I had early with Achtung! Cthulhu’s Fate build was reconciling the pulpy nature of Fate’s player permissions with the horror elements of the Cthulhu Mythos. If not for A!C having a pulpy flair to it, that would be genuinely near-irreconcilable.
One thing I do when I’m running Fate, whether on the fly or planned in any capacity, is abstract the skills for NPCs in evocative ways, much like using skill modes form the Fate Toolkit. This is a simple idea, so a short post today.
For instance, instead of figuring out if some has Good Fight vs Fair Shoot vs Average Athletics and Notice, etc. — which is honestly a bit boring to me as a GM — I spice it up with something like:
- Good “Beating You Up”
- Fair “Eyes in the back of my head”
- Average “Crap With a Gun”
- Average “Not All That Smart”
Which I’d treat “Beating You Up” to cover most rolls in Fight — initiative, attack, defense, overcome, create, all that jazz. Eyes… is good for Notice, and so on. I call this “ad hoc” because I make them up and interpret them as needed, and like to use different names for different characters.
When I use this, I always name the skill, as I found that added a level of enjoyment when I was first introduced to this idea from Unknown Armies. I especially love doing this with monsters, like having a zombie horde with Fair “Devour the Living,” Average “Hit us all you want, wounds mean nothing,” and Good “The Living Cannot Hide.” Nothing quite like saying “I’m attacking with my ‘Devour the Living’ skill, what do you want to do?” to get action going.
And that’s why the idea works — not because it’s easier on the GM, but because it’s fun for the whole table.
Audience participation: Take one of the last NPCs you made for a Fate game. How would you stat up with colorful ad hoc skill modes?
You could also see this as action-based approaches rather than FAE’s color-based ones.
 Expect this treatment in Achtung! Cthulhu.
 I do more with monsters, like tweak stress, but that’s another topic.
This is an idea I’ve been kicking around for years, and solidified itself a bit in the shower. One of the things that is inherent to Fate conflicts is certainty — we know how many shifts we’re going to take once the attack and defense rolls come down, between and after invocations hit the table. This is something that many Fate fans love and some people who aren’t Fate fans see a problem, so it’s very much a feature/bug depending on your perspective.
But I’m always interested in uncertainty dials, so I keep wondering what happens when you decouple attack success and damage inflicted in Fate. Here’s one thought.
First, you turn stress from boxes into a pool akin to hit points. A small pool, maybe 10-ish points. When you attack and succeed, you do whatever damage the situation merits using polyhedral, like (as a totally out-of-my-ass example):
- Baseline: 1d3
- Particularly bruising: 1d3+1
- Dangerous: 1d6 (or 2d3, mathematically more interesting but rather ugly)
- Especially dangerous 1d6+2
(Maybe there are some 1d4 steps in there, depending on how granular a given dynamic needs. Hell, it’s almost ladder-able: Average danger vs Fair danger, etc.)
And whatever weapon you’re using versus whatever sense of protection the other person has merits these things. Maybe you’d have tags a la Dungeon World to better denote these things, I don’t know. This is a riff on the whole “a weapon is either lethal or not depending on narrative circumstance” that works better in Fate than saying “X type of weapon does Y damage.” Gotta respect that Fate isn’t a system of minutia. Hell, maybe something causes an attack that would normally be at one level to be harder. Narrative, baby.
Now, you keep the consequence system as ways of absorbing stress, and the rule of being taken out if damage goes past stress. So, really, none of the other conflict rules change. Just the stress component. (Which also means that a severe consequence can absorb an entire “dangerous” or most of an “especially dangerous” roll, when the results are at their highest.)
So, if the amount of stress you do is decoupled from the shifts of success you have, you can also mirror attacks in the same way that you do overcome and advantages: success or success with style. SWS maybe bumps up the lethality of it or grants an advantage — whatever works, but it’s in line with how SWS works elsewhere.
The reason this might work is that once you let an attack roll go, you don’t know how hard you’ll be hit. It adds some push-your-luck to the game, which sometimes I prefer. Which also means the decisions surrounding invoking to succeed on a defense (or, hell, on an attack)
I know there are Fate folks who will hate this because OMG POLYHEDRALS I FLED THAT NATION IN FEAR, but this came to mind so I wanted to note it down. Any thoughts that aren’t just immediate kneejerk rejections? :)
In the normal Fate character creation, you have the phase trio. It’s one of the elements that survived from Spirit of the Century all the way through Fate Core. (Yes, SotC had five, but we’re mainly talking about the adventure-guest-guest construction.)
Of course, in Core, we say that this isn’t the only phase trio setup you could do. (Fun fact: in one of our older ideas, we thought to have two in the character creation chapter, before sanity prevailed and we stuck to streamlining it and leaving hacks elsewhere.) And in truth, these days I throw out that schema entirely for something I call “adventure-boost-boost,” or “the boost trio.” This is a part of the Extra Secret Service demo skeleton for Fate I ran for Wil Wheaton, which I promised to write up at some point. Consider this part of that promise.
I take inspiration from the original phase, but when I’m running a very quick game, no one writes anything down on paper. So I instead ask some leading questions and it’s all done verbally:
- Remember that mission in Kansas? Where you almost turned into a scorpion-god? How’d you get out of that?
- So, ninjas, am I right? How’d you deal with the famed Ninjas of Portland? (Note: the Oregon and Maine branches hate each other to death.)
- What happened on your last mission? [Give a minute to talk.] Right, and that’s when the vampire king arrived, apparently for no reason. How the hell are you alive today?
Then I ask: “So, [other character] totally helped you out of a jam. How?” And that response, which I encourage collaboration on, becomes an aspect on the other character, not the one answering. But said other player gets to interpret and form the aspect has she wishes.
Example: I ask Fred “how the hell did Rob’s character help you out when the Statue of Liberty stormed Jersey? Rob’s character has the high concept “By-the-book hardass,” and Fred says “By the book, huh? Well, I think given that we’re the Extra Secret Service, there’s something in said book that covers this. So he immediately goes into action and deploys Contingency 134.52.8c.” Rob laughs, and adds “There is ALWAYS a contingency plan” as the aspect for this phase.
For this bit, once we’ve gone around and established how awesome people are, I like to change up the second boost to be more about character dynamics (unless someone seems to be less awesome than the rest of the group). I like questions like:
- So, you and [other character] were in a love triangle. What was the other man/woman/other like? And how did that blow up in your faces?
- [Other character] ended up complicating the hell out of your last mission. How, and how did they make it up to you? (This is, by the way, some advanced shit, because you need to read the people to feel that you can ask a “describe how someone else isn’t awesome” beat without souring that person.)
- You saw [other character] get savaged by a werewolf and an hour or so later, they didn’t have a scratch? (Hey, [other player], is that cool?) You saw something else along with that — what?
The more awkward the construction here, the harder it can be to make an aspect, so sometimes this second boost technique doesn’t quite work without some more discussion than I’d like.
That’s how I like to do things today, because it starts the game off by people boosting others, not about people talking about how individually awesome or interesting they are.
Back when Leonard Balsera & I were working on Fate Core, he had this idea for changing the nature of how stress boxes worked. You see the end result today in the value of stress boxes, but at the time I was incredulous — wondering if he was making a change for change’s sake.
Granted, he was able to sell me on it, but it was only over this past weekend that I saw the true value of valued stress boxes.
I was playtesting Achtung! Cthulhu’s Fate build, and I built a mob of undead (like you do). It seemed like they were tougher than normal people, sure, but it’s in numbers where they’re particularly frightening. I didn’t just want to add a Dresden-style armor rating to them, because as much as I’m down with Weapon ratings, I’m not a fan of Armor — that slows the game down. (I accept Armor in certain situations to model fiction, but see it mechanically as not the first resort.)
Originally, for their stress boxes, I had a series of boxes:
[ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]
As individuals, like you would for mobs. On a lark, though, after writing down “Armor:1″, I scratched it out and instead changed it to a series of individual stress tracks to:
     
It’s a small change, but the results were super interesting. Suddenly, they could take a hit — just one hit — but unless you succeeded with style, you weren’t one-shotting a zombie. The next hit would, of course, take it out.
Suddenly they were a bit scarier — yes, it was likely they were going to be re-killed by the PCs, but that was going to take effort, and thus either fate points or additional actions were going to be required. Either way, a win.
This came from an accident, originally writing the mob as having a series of 1-stress boxes. Pretty good accident, I think.
From here, you can really fuck with what each stress rating means. Maybe you have a stunt that increases all of your stress ratings by 1, so you have:
   instead of
  . What does that mean? It doesn’t increase the number of hits you can take — a 1-stress hit will still tick off the 2 box just as much as a 2-stress one would. But it means you can take bigger hits.
Furthermore, you could simulate the benefits of armor by saying that if you’re wearing something like kevlar, that conveys a 1-stress box that doesn’t refresh, for the purposes of whatever it would normally stop. And that stress box can be used in addition to a character’s normal stress boxes.
Quite a few interesting things you can do with stress boxes, once you start playing with the numbers and decoupling them from being directly on characters. (Not all of them are game-functional, but maybe still worth experimentation.)