This one might not make a whole lot of sense to some of you, unless you know/play the game in question. Just been thinking about gaming recently and while catching up on some of the D&D blogs I follow I got mugged by inspiration. Yeah, mugged is exactly how I’d put it. So I had ideas about this stuff and wanted to write them down somewhere I would remember and could access in the future. Since that’s actually the original purpose of this blog, I figured here would be a good place to do that. If you have no interest in tabletop RPGs you’ll want to skip this one. If you don’t know anything about the system, but want to know more, I’ll put links to the rules below the break. Of course this post is coming from the faaaar future, in fact I wrote this after I wrote the posts scheduled to come up later. Not that they have anything to do with each other. Just that I’ve got two pony fanfic review posts showing up this week already in the queue. As for why it’s going in sooner than later, I don’t like to schedule things more than a week or so out when it’s just mostly stream-of-consciousness output. Which this is.
Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE) Tweaks
Here is the link to the Fate Accelerated Edition System Reference Document (FAE SRD). Here is a link to the page that covers all the basics about Character Creation, which includes most of the basic info about Aspects and Stunts. Here is one that is the original rules for Advancement. It’s pretty quick reading in my opinion. The physical rulebook is only 50 or so digest-sized pages.
I like group initiative for combat. It’s simple, lets the party plan strategy, and adds tension to each round of combat. How FAE handles who goes when in combat (conflicts as it says in the book, since in Fate it doesn’t have to be physical combat) is a bit silly. Using who has the highest attribute/approaches would work for a D&D game where you have a 3-18 spread. Using it in a game that has a 0-3 spread is just silly. The chances of a tie are pretty much guaranteed. So for most games I run with FAE I’m probably going to just grab the initiative rule from old-school D&D. Each side rolls a d6, highest result wins. Re-roll ties. Everbody on that side goes, then everybody on the other side. New round, new roll.
Aspects for old-school fantasy games
Using FAE for old-school D&D games is something of a odd fit, but I think it could be fun. Tossing out the high death rate and focusing on the character building and exploration. Using consequences to punish bad decisions instead of outright death. For this type of game character creation should stick with the recommended three starting aspects. High Concept, Trouble, and one Misc. Then keep the remaining two free aspects as slots to stick things that relate to what happens during adventures. Magic items, curses/blessings, other changes that another system might have as abilities or treasure. This would also help magic items feel more mystical. Instead of simple mechanical bonuses that are so common in many fantasy RPGs, the important thing for each magic item would be to come up with a cool Aspect-worthy name and a general theme and power. Dungeons would be more free to affect PCs is a more permanent way. Can have the statue of a god in room 34 grant the ‘Blessed by Thor’ aspect, which could be both good and bad depending on what happens later in the dungeon. So I think leaving the extra two Aspect slots empty during character creation to be filled by events during play is a good idea.
One of the things I’ve run across when reading a lot about how Dungeons & Dragons was played back in the olden times (they had no internet then! How did people complain to strangers about minor annoyances?) was that many dungeon exploration games took place more or less in realtime. Take a weekly gaming session: The session was a day (or so) down in the dungeon and at the end of the session the party returned to town. Then the week between sessions was the party resting and refitting in town. Which explains why spell research takes weeks in the older versions of the game, and why healing rates were so low. It was expected that your character was only actively adventuring for a very small percentage of the time and the rest was spent resting in town, or creating spells, or doing research on that weird thing you found in the dungeon.
I’ve been thinking about how I could use FAE for fantasy dungeon-type adventures. The most obvious one is tie recovering from consequences to time spent in town. The other is use a modified preparation tactic like I used for a Shadowrun game I ran a while. The PCs took a week to prepare for a run against the target that session. Which I ran as giving each PC a single roll for some prep they did each day. Using mostly Overcome Obstacle and Create Advantage rolls (two of the four types of rolls you use in FAE, the other two being Defend and Attack). This worked out really well for something I came up with on the spur of the moment. Though I would tweak a few things for the next time. This could work very well for a fantasy game of the PCs doing R&R in a town. Each day a PC picks what they are focusing on that day. Research, resting/healing, gathering rumors, etc. Then makes a roll and the GM explains how it all turns out. Most times this should be a pretty simple and quick thing. Heck, this would be the perfect thing to do at the beginning of the session while people are arriving, once the GM is there. Players can do this one-on-one with the GM while people are settling in and getting ready to game. Just a quick ‘I am still researching that instant-death to goblins spell’ and a half-dozen rolls to see how things are progressing, the GM writes down the results and explains what the PC experiences, then moves on to the next player. For even quicker resolution it could be a single roll with a bonus for each consecutive day spent on the same task. For recovering from injuries/consequences you wouldn’t even need rolls.
Milestones vs Goals
This was one of the few things that bothered me about FAE. One of my personal desires in a RPG is character improvement. That a character grows and changes during play, and in reaction to the events of the game. To have two characters start out the same and when played by two different people become very different characters. For such a open-ended story-type game, Fate and FAE kind of drop the ball on this one. The milestones advancement is really just a reward for showing up. Sure, it is worded that the GM should make them happen when events in the game occur, but the only real guidelines are how often those events should happen. Plus it happens to the entire party at the same time. I like games that allow one character to advance/level-up before the others. Gives players something to work forward too, either to be first or to catch up to that other guy, and gives the reward that one PC gets to be more of a awesome guy with the above-average power level. So this is my little tweak to the FAE leveling system.
Instead of the full-party story milestones, switch the advancement to personal Goals. Minor, Significant, and Major Goals. Players decide what each of the three goals are and when they accomplish one they get the rewards under that Milestone. Minor Goals should be something that can reasonably accomplished in a single play session. Can be as simple as ‘Kill a enemy’ or ‘unlock a door’ or ‘get paid for the mission’. Significant Goals should be more complex. Things that extend over several sessions. Getting a specific piece of fancy equipment, earning the trust and loyalty of a powerful NPC, moving to a better place to live. Major Goals should be character-defining targets. Finding out who killed your parents, rescuing your missing brother, taking care of a major villain of the campaign.
Once a goal is accomplished the player picks a new one to fill in the slot. For minor goals, it might just be a repeat of the previous goal. For significant goals it should be another in-character PC goal of moderate complexity. For major goals, the new goal should probably unfold from how the previous one was wrapped up. Example: If the PC finds out who killed their parents, the next major goal might be to take down that person/group. To boil it down even further. Minor goals should be day-to-day adventuring stuff like getting enough money to replace the sword you broke that last adventure. Significant goals should be the bigger, but still typical stuff like getting training from a famous sword-fighter. Major goals should be the main driving force of the PC such as becoming the greatest sword-master in the world.
Actually, re-reading the rules from the rulebook I think a bit more alteration is needed. For the type of game I enjoy it’s taking the character you start with and seeing how it grows as you deal with how well the stats can deal with the adventures you find. The minor milestone of switching around the stats bothers me a bit. The player skill vs character skill thing. You shouldn’t be tweaking the stats of the character to do better. You should be thinking of creative ways to deal with situations with the stats you have.
Also want to find a good way to adding more consequences to a character as they get more powerful. I did like that customization in the Dresden Files game. Probably in Fate Core as well, but I haven’t looked at that very much since I like FAE so much. The primary reason for wanting to allow adding of Consequences is that I’m thinking about putting in a magic system that allows a spellcaster to take on Consequences to make spells more powerful.
Result, most of a new leveling system below. Replaces the milestone system in the FAE rulebook.
Significant Goals should be substantial, but not life-changing events. Getting a magic suit of armor. Surviving a entire 2-4 session length adventure. Getting paid enough money to retire to a comfortable (but not luxurious) life. Earning the trust of the king. That sort of thing. When accomplished, grants the following:
- +1 to any Approach
- (Optional) Rename a single miscellaneous Aspect (not High Concept or Trouble)
- (Optional) Choose a new Stunt, adjust Refresh if needed
- Pick new Significant Goal
Major Goal is a life-changing event. Finding out who killed your parents. Killing the local king and taking over his kingdom. Getting a world-famous magical artifact of immense power. That sort of thing. When accomplished, grants the following:
- +1 to Refresh
- (Optional) Choose a new Stunt, adjust Refresh if needed
- (Optional) Rename any one Aspect, even High Concept or Trouble
- Pick new Major Goal
When renaming aspects or adding new stunts, try to make sure the new addition to your character sheet makes sense given the events of the game. Discuss with the GM to make sure everyone is on the same page for the source and scope of new abilities. A well-crafted Goal will inherently suggest the new addition when it gets completed. Example: Significant Goal (Find or Buy a suit heavy plate mail armor) leads pretty clearly to the Stunt (Because I am heavily armored, I get a +2 to Forcefully Defend against melee Attacks).