Fate of Cthulhu – FAe hack – rules

Having finished creating the various templates for the different professions in my FAE Cthulhu hack it was fairly easy to create some guidelines for accumulating stress when traumatic/insanity inducing effects are encountered and to note down some suggestions for derangements. The vast majority of rules can be used as per the Fate Accelerated rulebook.
My plan next is to write up some guidelines for creating a horror atmosphere using FATE (based on information from the toolkit) and jot down some possible FAE stats for the more prominent mythos entities.
The current version of the hack can be found here.

Fate of Cthulhu – FAE Cthulhu hack – Character generation

So I sat down last night with my trusty copy of Trail of Cthulhu (my preferred choice of the many, many different Cthulhu mythos flavoured games that I own) and decided that I was finally going to start banging down some of the ideas i’ve had floating around in my head for a FAE conversion/hack.

Why use FAE and not FATE core?

I’m running two games at the moment, my Rogue Trader game House of Black (run using FATE core rules) and my Secret of Specto Vale nWoD God Machine game (run using the Fate Accelerated rules); whilst I enjoy running both games, it has slowly dawned on me that there is a distinct difference in focus between the two games and, after some consideration, I believe it all boils down to how much attention the game pays to “stuff.”
By “stuff” I mean equipment and possessions specifically, in my Rogue Trader game i’ve fielded all manner of questions regarding equipment, weapons, space ships, etc that are possessed either by the individual player characters or by the Rogue Trader dynasty that they work for (the eponymous House of Black); however in my nWod God Machine game I think the only question I have been asked regarding possessions or items is whether or not someone can have an item on them to pick a lock. Obviously not all of this is to do with the different iterations of the system being used, they are certain items and objects that you are assumed to possess in a Rogue Trader game (a space ship for instance) and the setting focuses a lot more on things (unlike nWoD and some other games); however I do feel that the Fate Accelerated (FAE) system has encouraged the players to leave the equipment list checking in the background, they know what sort of stuff their player characters have access to and that I will usually allow them to have something if it appropriate. For example: Smokey Thomson is an old school criminal in the God Machine game, the player doesn’t have to ask if he has a gun or not or check his sheet, of course he had a gun; the players also seem a lot less concerned with the specific bonuses that their kit gives to them.
Another major advantage of the FAE system is that it is very easy to learn and pick up; I have only run two sessions of my God Machine game and all of the players have a very good grasp of the basic rules.
Fate of Cthulhu

I have always been a massive fan of H. P. Lovecraft’s writing and have read the majority of mythos material written by him, along with some of the later mythos themed writings, I also have a number of Lovecraftian RPGs and supplements such as Call of Cthulhu, Realms of Cthulhu and Trail of Cthulhu (to name but a few). Recently when we started up a one-off game night a friend of mine ran an investigative/horror based Hunter: the Vigil game that sprawled over the normal one session limit (in-fact we’re still playing it); it occurred to me that, although the story was good, I didn’t find the system particularly conducive to quickly creating a character and getting a decent one-off session of RP done. Wanted to address this and show how I would do it when the GMing duties eventually swung back my way I turned to the FATE system as my go-to roleplay system at the moment; i’ve already gone on loads about how I think that the FATE system places story over accurate rule mechanics in previous blog entries and so I won’t take up space doing it again, however, I thought back to how easy it had been to pick up FAE for my God Machine game and decided that this would be the game system for my horror one-off.
Having always been a big fan of the mythos, most horror games run by myself have a Cthulhu-esque flavour to them; not really wanting to create a complete Cthulhu FATE game from scratch though I turned to one of my favourite Cthulhu RPGs Trail of Cthulhu (you can see some of my thoughts on this game here) and began looking at it with a view to creating a FAE hack/version of the game.
Character generation & Occupations

Looking through Trail of Cthulhu a bit part of the character generation process is picking an Occupation, this sets your starting skills and a few other bits and pieces, you then (with most occupations) get to add one of two additional skills and tweak some little bits. Since FAE doesn’t involve skills and I was determined to maintain the basic 6 Aspect approach of FAE (to make it easier on the players and myself) I decided that I would have each player pick a template for their character based on profession.
One example of this is shown below:
Archaeologist: A person who travels to strange and exotic places in search of the past.
Starting Stunts – Archaeology, Athletics, Evidence Collection, First Aid, History, Ancient Languages, Library Use, Riding.
“Well known in academic circles” – Once per session the character may gain access to the restricted area of a museum or library by using their academic credentials.
Starting Refresh – 1.
Instead of skills the template would define a number of Stunts where the character received a +2 bonus when dealing with a particular subject; also any other miscellaneous benefits could be represented by an additional Stunt (the “well known in academic circles” listed above for example).
Once this had been done the Starting Refresh for fate points of the character would be defined by their Occupation Template (those templates with less Stunts would leave the player with more refresh points remaining); this refresh could be spent to acquire additional Stunts or saved as per the rules in the FAE rulebook.
Overall I was pretty happy with the start i’d made on the character generation session and posted a draft on the FATE G+ community to get some feedback; my next aim is to produce a series of small/compact character sheets (one for each Occupation Template) so that the players just have to pick one, jot in a few details and they’re good to go, making character gen really speedy.
The initial draft section is available here, any constructive feedback is welcome (I am aware the Scientist Occupation is missing it’s Starting Refresh rate, it should be 3).

Space colonies

Settlements in Rogue Trader
Recently Conny Delshagen posted on the Google+ Traveller community about whether anyone had successfully used the World Tamer’s Handbook colonisation rules for Traveller: the New Era; although I don’t really play Traveller at the moment i’m always looking for science-fiction ideas that can be incorporated into my FATE-based WH40K Rogue Trader campaign ‘The House of Black’ which (as of the time of writing) is still running on a monthly basis. Reading the blurb associated with the World Tamer’s Handbook on RpgGeek.com it seemed to focus around star system generation and rules for colonisation; although i’m fairly happy with the Diaspora adapted rules for system generation that I have, setting up colonies and such like was not something that I had covered in much detail. I had previously looked briefly at the colony system presented in Fantasy Flight Games ‘Stars of Iniquity’ supplement but, whilst the system seemed very comprehesive, it was extremely detail orientated and (I believed) too complex to be a worthwhile addition to my RT game; I had switched to FATE to reduce the clunkiness of the rules, so adding in a massively detailed sub-system seemed counter productive.
It occurred to me that perhaps this would be a good place to use the Fate Fractal: for those not familiar with the Fate Fractal (or the Bronze Rule as it is also called in the FATE core rulebook) it states:
“In Fate, you can treat anything in the game world like it’s a character. Anything can have aspects, skills, stunts, stress tracks, and consequences if you need it to.”
I had already used the Fractal to a certain extent when defining my rules for space combat (see http://wh40krpg.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/testing-proposed-narrative-space-combat.html for my most recent post regarding narrative space combat) with the players ship treated as a character (having skills, aspects, stunts, stress tracks and consequences).
What sort of stats would a space colony have?
Taking a tip from my work on space ships I decided that colonies would have five Aspects in order to represent what the colony specialised in an potentially one or two Stunts, the colony would also receive 2 stress boxes and 3 consequences boxes (with the standard 2, 4 and 6 values) in the same way as a character (although additional Stunts could be taken to increase the number of stress boxes).
Some examples of Aspects might be:
  • Primitive
  • High-tech
  • Abundance of natural resources
  • Theocratic government
  • Wise sages

I envisioned that the High Concept Aspect would represent the dominant form of government on the colony and that the Trouble Aspect would represent some sort of challenge or impending danger the colony.
What benefits would players get from visiting a space colony?
In order to make it worthwhile instituting rules for space colonies (although these rules could also be used for space stations and other sorts of bases) it would be necessary to provide some story reason for the player characters to visit them; the most obvious reason for this is to purchase equipment or make repairs to ships/vehicles, etc.
Using the simple model above it would be simplicity itself to make the Aspects of the station affect what objects the PCs can get hold of, they would be able to invoke the colony’s Aspects as they would any other Aspect to improve Resources rolls along with any other actions as appropriate whilst on the space station; for example, if the players are getting a ship repaired at an orbital facility with the Aspect ‘Adeptus Mechanicus workshop’ then they could invoke this to get a +2 to the repair roll. However the reverse is also true that Aspects could be invoked against the players either by the GM or other players; for example if a character tries to get hold of a stub gun in a colony with the Aspect ‘Primitive’ then the GM could invoke this to apply a -2 penalty to their Resources roll.
Colony Maintenance
In any session where a particular colony is featured the GM should roll 4DF and note the resultant number (Aspects may be invoked on this roll as normal), if the result is a minus figure then the colony has suffered some sort of stress and the negative shift should be marked on the stress boxes/consequence tracker as usual (with any consequences reflecting the slow deterioration of the colony, for example: civil unrest).
If the result is a positive then the colony uses the positive shift to first recover from any stress or consequences it has sustained, if there is any positive shift left after this then add an additional stress box to the colony’s total to represent the colony growing.
Setting up a Colony
One of the great things about Rogue Trader is that the player characters are (unlike the majority of humans in the WH40K universe) powerful people with spaceships at their disposal and commanding vast resources; this means that feasibly the player characters may be instrumental in setting up new colonies and bases, any system that I was going to use would need to represent this possibility.
It is my current idea that, when initially set up a colony has only a single Aspect (which should reflect the colony’s initial challenges, no stunts, a single stress box and no consequences boxes); each session after a colony has set up until it has reached the standard beginning colony statistics it should make a maintenance roll (as detailed above), when the colony reaches a total of 2 stress boxes due to growth then it gains the consequence tracker and additional Aspects/Stunts as per a standard beginning colony.
These are just a few ideas at the moment and will no doubt see further development, however, i’d be interested in people’s thoughts/comments.

Cleaning metal armour

I’ve always shied away wearing metal armour at LRP (live-action roleplay) before, partly due to the often high costs associated with such equipment and also due to the fact that my one attempt to wear partial chainmail had resulted in a lot of back pain even with a large leather hero belt supporting much of the weight. However, recently I was lucky enough to be given two pieces of metal armour (shoulder pauldrons and a set of arm bracers) by a couple of friends; as anyone who knows me will tell you, I love free stuff and so determined to give metal armour another go- my excursions to the Outcast system proved an ideal run out for the metal armour.

The armour I was given was pretty rusty when I got it and I did not have time (or the knowledge how) to clean it prior to the event and so I wore it as it was; I had a great time during the event (as detailed in this post) and was able to cope with the weight of the metal armour (although I did end up going to bed early most nights due to fatigue). Whilst at the event I was able to ask a few people there who have experience of metal armour and caring for it (such as CJ Bateman) for any tips and advice they might give me about how I look after the armour.

The process below is based on what they told me and some additional research that I did into the subject.

This is what the armour looked like when I got it – note the rust on it.

Step 1: Removing the Rust

There were two main ways that I had found online to remove rust from metal without have to use specialised cleaning materials; the first was to use white wine vinegar and scouring pads, the second was to soak the plates in diet coke for a few days.

I decided to attempt the white wine vinegar method first; a quick trip to Morrison’s furnished me with the necessary vinegar and scouring pads and I set to work on the armour when I got back.

The vinegar had the effect of making the armour plates take on a slightly duller finish but this didn’t particularly bother me and it was possible to visibly see the rust being removed from the plate.

The armour after the surface rust had been removed with white wine vinegar.
Step 2: Removing any lingering vinegar or rust particles on the surface of the metal
I did this simply using some toilet tissue and gently dabbing at the surface of the armour plates.
Step 3: Polish the metal

In order to polish up the metal a little I purchased some Brasso wadding that I used in a circular motion to bring some shine back to the metal; although it hasn’t restored the former shine to the unrusted sections of metal I believe that this may have been due to some linger rust particles (despite my attempts to remove them), I plan to have another attempt at polishing the plates once it has had chance to dry.
Cleaned up pauldron when I started polishing.
Set of pauldrons, cleaned plates on the right and still rusty plates on the left.
Many thanks to all the people who offered me advice on how to clean and take care of metal armour, I also found the following website very useful:

Simplifying space combat in my Rogue Trader hack

Having spent an awful lot of time recently working on my FAE NWOD hack i’ve been going to great lengths to keep the rules as simple as possible, capturing the feel and mood of the World of Darkness without bolting on loads of unnecessary additional rules and sub-systems that would slow the game down without really adding all that much to it; as well as the character generation session for my God Machine Chronicle FAE game this weekend i’ve also got another session of my Rogue Trader FATE game on Sunday (not to mention playing in a Pathfinder game that a friend is running on Saturday) and so i’ve been leafing through my hack rules in advance of the session.

The plan for the next game has always been to include a couple of space fights in them; since we changed to using the FATE rules we haven’t really gone in for any big space combats as we adjusted to using the new rules and it’s about time IMO that we test drive the hack rules for space combat. Originally the space combat rules in my hack were very much based on the Diaspora rules with a few tweaks and alterations by myself; the players have a number of build points which they use to purchase skills, aspects and stunts for their ship with each ship having multiple stress tracks and various other bits and pieces. Although I was quite pleased with it when I first finished writing up that part of the hack, looking at it now the rules really do seem a little bit over the top and more suited to a strategic wargame or miniatures game rather than a narrative-based RP game.

With that in mind I decided to dust off the rules and see if I could simplify them using some of the lessions that i’m current learning from Fate Accelerated Edition.

Ship Construction

The first step, I decided, was to throw out the notion of variable build points (based on vessel size) to create a ship and the use of multiple stress tracks. I decided that i’d give the ships some basic skills (the words in blue show the skills that players can use instead if they are crewing that section(if applicable)); the players can pick one at Great (+4), one at Good (+3), one at Fair (+2) and the remaining one at Average (+1).

  • Engine (drive(spacecraft)) – used to make maneuvres and initiative rolls
  • Hull (crafts(tech use)) – used in defence and affects stress tracker
  • Trade (resources) – used for trading and maintenance
  • Weapons (shooting)– used to make attack rolls
These skills would receive a set number of levels to be allocated between them (as character do when they are created), each ship (regardless of size) would receive a number of Stunts and Aspects; larger ships could be achieved by taking a higher Hull Skill, this would add additional boxes to the ships Hull Stress tracker in the same way as Physique does for characters.

Ships would have a refresh of three fate points, deducted by 1 for everyone stunt beyond the first that was taken, they would also receive 5 Aspects (as with normal FATE characters).

By default the ship would receive 2 stress boxes and 3 consequences boxes (with the standard 2, 4 and 6 values) in the same way as a character.

  • If the Hull skill is Average (+1) or Fair (+2) then one more stress box is added.
  • If the Hull skill is Good (+3) or higher then two more stress boxes are added.
  • At Superb (+5) or higher an additional mild consequence slot is added.

Stunts could be purchased in the same way as FAE or FATE allowing the characters to justify under what circumstances they would receive the bonus; one that I was going to give them was the following (since it has been established that the ship has this bit of tech).
Stunt – Teleportarium

Once per game as long as the ship is in the same system it may move up to 10 people to another place in the same system from the ship, or back onto the ship.

Another stunt that would like possesses by the flagship of Admiral Blacks fleet is:

Stunt – Large ship

This stunt adds an additional stress box to the ships character sheet.

Combat Zone Layout

I decide to use three zones for space combat (that I would represent on the table with index cards) with a single ’empty’ card represent the vast emptiness of space and the other two each containing something related to the systems aspects. For example: if the combat took place around Catan Prime then there might be an asteroid in one zone and a burning world.

These elements will be Aspects in their various zones and function as normal Aspects, for instance someone could spend one of their fate points to gain a +2 to a defensive hull roll because they are taking cover behind the asteroid.

Ships would only be able to fire/engage with enemy vessels in the same zone but would be able to move between zones freely on their turn as per the FATE rules, possibly with a roll if there was some sort of impediment to movement (like an asteroid belt or something similar).

Using FATE Core rules

As i’ve said in previous posts one of my players was missing from the last session and another unfortunately couldn’t stay for the whole session and so I didn’t spend time converting over the character of the missing player (also it was one that I wanted to take a little more thought over); determined to get a bit of a head start on copying across neater versions of the character sheets I had a quick skim through the FATE Core preview pdf, and liked the look of the cut down skill list and simplified character sheets. I wondered whether it would be possible for me to write up the characters using the FATE Core system’s simplified character sheet and still maintain the essence of the characters.

A few thoughts that occurred to me were…

  • Aspects
Characters start off with less aspects than the FATE variants I had previously read (5 in total), one of these is flagged as the character’s high concept (normally a descriptive term encapsulated the essence of the character) and the other is flagged as their trouble (something that makes their life challenging). This didn’t seem too much of a problem since I had struggled coming up with the larger amounts of aspects for some of the characters and it was easy enough to amalgamate some of them into a single aspect.
For example: the character York Benetec now had the aspects – Navigator (high concept), Mutant (trouble), Touched by the Warp, Jaded and Hulking Size.

  • Skills
FATE core includes 18 or so very generic skills as a base level that the GM can build on or expand in order to add individual flavour to their game, however, I think the skills are sufficiently generic that they can be used for a lot of different things, some of my thoughts on particular skills are written below.
    • Crafts: A catch-all making/repair skill that I will use in my game to replace engineering and repair skills, the type of crafting will be determined by the character’s high concept.
    • Drive: This will be used for driving/piloting all types of vehicles, players can take stunts or aspects to represent any advanced skill with particular types of vehicle.
    • Lore: I am planning to use this for knowledge rolls in my game, any specialised fields of knowledge being represented by stunts or aspects.
    • Will: This skill is going to be used (in addition to it’s normal uses) to represent psychic strength (for those who have psychic stunts).
One thing I did notice which seemed like a bit of an ommission was the lack of a ‘medicine’ skill, this is important for my game given that the priest Confessor Cornelius is quite skilled in patching up his team-mates; i’ve not yet decided what to do about this, whether to add a seperate skill or just make it a subset of the craft skill – currentlty I am leaning in favour of making it a seperate skill.

  • Stunts
In this version of the rules characters begin with a single stunt for free, and any additional ones that they take (up to a max of 3) subtract 1 from their refresh rate of fate points (so a character with 2 stunts has 2 fate points and a character with 3 stunts has only a single fate point).
Below are the stunts that I came up with for my characters…
    • York Benetec (Navigator)
      • Psychic: Substitute Will skill for another skill by expending 1 fate pt (this also allows skill rolls to occur at range); if the player doesn’t want to spend a fate point they may still perform the action but it takes 3 times as long.
      • Navigator: May navigate a ship through the warp using his Will skill to determine time taken for the journey.
    • Enginseer Prime Pak (Techpriest)
      • Mechandrite arm: Player may spend 1 fate point to use craft skill instead of any other skill in a test, if the player doesn’t wish to spend a fate pt then they can still do the action but it takes twice as long.
      • Servo-skull: Allows the player to perform actions using the craft skill (as per the mechandrite arm stunt) but at range.
    • Lord Captain Black (Rogue Trader)
      • Ship: Lunatic Pandora (Cruiser)
    • Confessor Cornelius
      • Inspire the Faithful: Allies may use Rapport skill in combat (the max level is 3 unless Cornelius spends a fate point).
  • Equipment
For the moment I have stuck with my hacked version of weapons/armour, halving the modifiers from the weapons and armour and using them as the FATE harm, penetration and armour levels.
This yields me results such…
    • Plasma Pistols: H 3 PEN 3 Energy weapon (ranged)
    • Power Sword: H 2 PEN 2 Energy weapon (melee)
    • Neural Whip: H 1 PEN 0 Energy weapon (melee)
    • Body Armour: 3 AP
At the moment the only sticking point are the personal force fields possessed by certain characters that disperse kinetic energy into light energy, whilst I was initially tempted just to have the force fields add armour points the light refracting/blinded capabilities of the force fields have played an important roll in the game thus far and it seems a shame not to do anything more with them, obviously these items will require some more thought.