Matters of Fate: Shortest skill list?

I’ve been thinking a fair bit about skill lists, Approaches and Professions in the Fate system, in preparing my Storm & Sail game (starting next weekend) I’ve decided to go with a Profession based system, but it has got me thinking about just how many skills are actually needed in a Fate game; if you love the current amount of skills that’s grand, I’ve no problems with that, but this post probably isn’t really aimed at you.

Recently my wife Hannah has been running a game using Aspect only fate, essentially the skill rating you add to your dice rolls comes from the number of aspects you have that are applicable.

For example: If you had “Best gunslinger in the county” and “Quick on the draw” as aspects and found yourself in a shoot-out then you could claim +2 as your skill level, one rank per applicable aspect.

This system seems to be working really well at the moment although it does involve a bit of adjudication as to what aspects are applicable in certain situations, and having players who aren’t going to attempt to manipulate the system to get the best rolls in any and all situations; very similar to some of the potential issues that Fate Accelerated can face depending on the level of player buy-in to the spirit of the system.

It also got me thinking about the World of Darkness series of games where attributes are organised into three categories, physical, mental and social, I started thinking about whether or not these three “stats” could be used to replace the existing skill list, and I believe that they could be. Those three labels cover pretty much all situations that I can think of, trying to be diplomatic with somone, roll social, trying to recall ancient lore, roll mental, fighting a pirate, roll physical.

Now I can hear some people complaining and saying that there wouldn’t be much variety using this system, however I think this is where the stunt system can more than adequately pick up that slack, you want to play a character who is more dexterous then brawny, then take a stunt or two that benefit you in those sort of situations, and vice-versa if you want to be the brutal but clumsy barbarian. Although it might be worth the GM being a being more lenient with the situations that stunts can apply to.

Streamlining the WOD: What I learned at UKGE 2015

In my previous post about streamlining the New World of Darkness I talked about condensing skills, this got a lot of interesting comments that make me think about the logistics of it a bit more and whether doing so would make the game too generic/less detailed; those of you who’ve been keeping up with my blogs and video posts will be aware that i’ve recently got back from the UK Games Expo, a large RPing convention that takes place over her in the United Kingdom. During the convention I played in two NWOD games games ran by Amy Williams, one was a mortals based game and the other Werewolf: the Forsaken; both games we very enjoyable and, by necessity due to the time-limits imposed by a convention slots, used a streamlined version of the NWOD rules.

I was absolutely blown away how the few minimal tweaks that Amy made actually made the dice-rolling/rules side of the game far quicker to play and, like any good GM, resolved to steal the ideas to use in my own home games.

So how did the method work?

Well keep in mind that we were playing pre-genned characters in a convention scenario, but basically there were a few things where dice-rolls are normally required that we were just allowed to do without recourse to a roll; the two main examples that jump out in my mind are entering the spirit world and changing shape in the Werewolf game.

I loved this because it not only reduced dice-rolling and sped up the game but it also meant you didn’t have that slightly deflated moment when you’re at a dramatic part of the game and you attempt to do something cool that is in the nature of your supernatural type only to be stymied by a poor dice-roll.

The other thing was that our gifts/supernatural powers were more loosely defined than they would be normally; basically if you had a group of powers that involved manipulating darkness, you’d simply say what you wanted to do and then make a dice-roll, success being based on your result.

One other aspect of the game that wasn’t really used in the tournament was the morallity mechanics, I’d like to keep these in the game somehow but will probably have to put more thought into how to streamline them (if necessary).

Using this method in Future

Okay, so below are my current thoughts for how i’m going to run a streamlined NWOD game:

  • Use existing character sheets with various attributes + skills.
  • Willpower expenditure adds 3 dice to a roll as normal.
  • Health works as normal.
  • Merit dots add to any roll where they are relevant and can be used (rather than the normal effects).
  • Supernatural powers: Players describe the effect they are attempting to achieve based on the purview of the power, they then make an attribute + skill + level of dots in the power roll to determine if they succeed.
  • Supernatural strength stats (blood potency, etc) can be added to rolls to resist the application of supernatural powers.
  • Werewolves can add reknown dots as extra dice to any appropriate rolls.
  • Changes or effects that are inherently part of a supernatural creatures make-up (as opposed to acquired by a power) do not require dice-rolls (ie. werewolves entering the spirit world, changing form).

I’m sure this will require some additional testing outside of a convention to make it work more in a campaign framework, but I think this is a great solid foundation to begin on for building a more streamlined WOD system.

Streamlining the WOD: Condensing attributes & skills

One of the things I talked about in my previous post was desire to condense the attributes and skills system of the WOD down to a more manageable form; whilst thinking about this i’ve been looking at the Fate Core skill list:

  • Athletics
  • Burglary
  • Contacts
  • Crafts
  • Deceive
  • Drive
  • Empathy
  • Fight
  • Investigate
  • Lore
  • Notice
  • Physique
  • Provoke
  • Rapport
  • Resources
  • Shoot
  • Stealth
  • Will

I think that this is a very neat list that covers an awful lot of the stuff that people commonly do in RPGs and it’s designed to work well in a number of different settings but i’m not sure if i’ll use it as is for my WOD conversion since I want to keep the feel of the game rather than write a Fate hack.

WOD has always had that whole attributes + skills thing going for it and I want to condense down the attributes as well; I considered using the Power, Finesse and Resistance groupings from NWOD, but to my mind they aren’t particularly evocative of what attributes they cover so i’ve decided to fall back on a more simple grouping cribbed from the old Minds Eye Theatre live-action WOD games:

  1. Physical
  2. Mental
  3. Social

Because I want it to be obvious which skills generally go with what attributes i’m planning to group the skills under their respective attributes (something that NWOD actually does already) – I want there to be a roughly equal number of skills for each attribute.

Below is the list of skills from Vampire: the Requiem along with my notes and alteratons:

Physical skills

  • Athletics – the skill can be kept as is.
  • Brawl – this will be amalgamated into a single fighting skill.
  • Drive – this skill can be kept as is.
  • Firearms – this will be amalgamated into a single fighting skill.
  • Larceny – this skill can be kept as is.
  • Stealth – the areas this covers can be covered by Larceny.
  • Survival – not keen on keeping this skill but unsure what to replace it with.
  • Weaponry – this will be amalgamated into a single fighting skill.

Mental skills

  • Academics – this skill can be kept as is and can cover a wide range of areas, representing more book-learned knowledge.
  • Crafts – this skill can be kept as is, representing more hands-on knowledge; I may look at renaming it, I think this would neatly cover the previous survival skill as well.
  • Computer – this skill can be got rid of and what it covers folded into academics.
  • Investigation – this skill can be kept as is.
  • Medicine – the skill can also be folded into academics.
  • Occult – the occult is an important part of the WOD so i’ll keep this.
  • Politics – the skill can also be folded into academics.
  • Science – the skill can also be folded into academics.

Social skills

  • Animal Ken – I will get rid of this, perhaps it can be covered by backgrounds or folded into the new crafts ability.
  • Empathy – I might keep this since it represents acquiring knowledge about people based on understanding them, rather than actual interaction.
  • Expression – I plan to get rid of this.
  • Intimidation – I want to keep this since, along with socialise it represent the two opposite ends of socialising.
  • Persuasion – I plan to get rid of this.
  • Socialise – I want to keep this as is.
  • Streetwise – I plan to get rid of this.
  • Subterfuge – I plan to get rid of this.

So our finished skill list (after tweaking) looks like this:

Physical skills

  • Athletics
  • Drive
  • Fighting
  • Larceny

Mental skills

  • Academic Learning
  • Hearth Wisdom (renamed crafts)
  • Investigation
  • Occult Knowledge

Social skills

  • Empathy
  • Intimidation
  • Socialise

The list is looking pretty good for a work in progress with almost all the skills that we would need; I may take a leaf out of Fate‘s book and attempt to convert some of the things that had previously been covered as background (resources, haven, etc) into skills that can be rolled rather than static ratings that give you a flat bonus, but i’ll cover that in future posts.

For now i’m pretty happy with the cut-down list, any comments are of course welcome.

FATE core specialised skills

I discussed one method of dealing with specialised skills in my Warhammer 40K FATE hack here :
However, as FATE core encourages the GM to have the players take a more active role in determining the outcome and progress of the story, I also like to discuss the various permutations of the rules with my group before implementing them; last session we discussed how certain skills (such as craft, drive and lore) could be made more specialised without unduly complicating the rules system.

Eventually we hit on the idea that someone would still have their generic skill level (set at whatever level as determined by character generation) in lore, drive or craft and that people without would roll at Mediocre (+0) level as per the normal rules, but that each person with this skill would choose their particular speciality and note it in brackets after the main skills.

For example:
  • Drive (aircraft)
  • Drive (space vehicles)
  • Lore (Imperial Religion)
  • Lore (The Warp)

The speciality functions like an Aspect tacked on to that skill and can be invoked in the normal manner by spending a fate point; this effectively gives the character a small bonus in their area of expertise but only if they’re willing to spend a fate point.
The addition of an extra Aspect tied to a skill doesn’t unduly complicate the rules and my players seemed to find them easier to come up with since the skill already gives some ideas of what to take; it is also an idea that can be used to add some additional flavour to the basic skills list without introducing a shedload more skills or making the rules unnecessarily complex.
For example: Instead of introducing a Medicine Skill in my game there is the Craft (Medicine) ability that functions as per normal Craft skill but allows the expenditure of a fate point to Invoke the Medicine Aspect whenever appropriate.