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.

Matters of Fate: Skills & Stunts

In this video we take a look at skills in Fate Core and how Stunts can be constructed and used.


You can also access the audio only version of the file here.

The Fate Core SRD can be accessed by clicking here.

Matters of Fate: Skills & Stunts

In this episode we take a look at skills and stunts in Fate Core.

Check out this episode!

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.

Jadepunk ready made stat blocks

For those of you who may not be aware, i’m a massive fan of the Fate system by Evil Hat Productions in particular Fate Accelerated Edition is the build of the game that is my go to game when wanting to run a quick one-shot or even just a game that players can jump into quickly and enjoy getting caught up in playing the characters they envision rather than getting snarled up in overly complex character creations processes and hundreds of pages of complex rules.
Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE for short) using six Approaches to define the stats of characters (instead of Skills as with Fate Core), choosing to define character less by what they know and what they do but more by how they do it, these Approaches are:
  • Careful
  • Clever
  • Flashy
  • Forceful
  • Quick
  • Sneaky

(If you want to know more about Fate Accelerated you can find details on the excellent SRD site here: http://fate-srd.com/fate-accelerated-fae-menu)

One of the things I love about FAE is that right at the start it gives you six example spreads of Approaches to create six archetypal characters:

  • The Brute:
    Forceful +3, Careful and Flashy +2, Sneaky and Quick +1, Clever +0
  • The All-Star:
    Quick +3, Forceful and Flashy +2, Clever and Careful +1, Sneaky +0
  • The Trickster:
    Clever +3, Sneaky and Flashy +2, Forceful and Quick +1, Careful +0
  • The Guardian:
    Careful +3, Forceful and Clever +2, Sneaky and Quick +1, Flashy +0
  • The Thief:
    Sneaky +3, Careful and Quick +2, Clever and Flashy +1, Forceful +0
  • The Swashbuckler:
    Flashy +3, Quick and Clever +2, Forceful and Sneaky +1, Careful +0

These samples spreads are a great time saving device if you are playing a quick pick up game or you just want to jump straight in, you pick the type of character you want to play, bang on some Aspects and Stunts and you’re good to go.

So you might be wondering why i’m banging on about Fate Accelerated when the title of the post mentions Jadepunk; well recently i’ve been running a Jadepunk game using Google Hangouts for a small group (you can see the actual plays here if you’re interested: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLMlEyLAkrE__EfHHAfYIIekLdh4qwJxOK) and it seems to be going quite well, we’re on our ninth session. For those of you who aren’t aware Jadepunk is a game by Re-Roll Productions that uses a slightly tweaked of the Fate rules to tell exciting stories that blend elements of Wuxia, the wild west and steampunk fantasy into a very compelling and exciting setting full of potential for great storytelling; Jadepunk uses a number of Professions rather than Approaches or Skills to define characters:

  • Aristocrat
  • Engineer
  • Explore
  • Fighter
  • Scholar
  • Scoundrel

However there’s one thing that isn’t in Jadepunk that i’d have liked to have seen, yep you guessed it, the example stats spreads that are found in Fate Accelerated Edition; you could argue that they’re not really necessary and (truth be told) I don’t think the game suffers massively from their absence, however they are a handy thing to have access to so i’ve come up with six archetypal character Profession spreads for you to use in your Jadepunk game:

  • The Honourable Warrior/Samurai:
    Aristocrat +2, Engineer +0, Explorer +1, Fighter +3, Scholar +2, Scoundrel +1
  • The Jadetech Engineer:
    Aristocrat +1, Engineer +3, Explorer +2, Fighter +0, Scholar +2, Scoundrel +1
  • The Idle Noble:
    Aristocrat +3, Engineer +0, Explorer +1, Fighter +1, Scholar +2, Scoundrel +2
  • The Sage:
    Aristocrat +2, Engineer +1, Explorer +2, Fighter +0, Scholar +3, Scoundrel +1
  • The Thief/Shadowy Assassin:
    Aristocrat +0, Engineer +1, Explorer +2, Fighter +2, Scholar +1, Scoundrel +3
  • The Pioneer/Explorer:
    Aristocrat +0, Engineer +1, Explorer +3, Fighter +2, Scholar +2, Scoundrel +1 

     

Jade-xalted: Character Generation – Aspects & Professions

Since this is a hack to allow Jadepunk to be used to run an Exalted style game, i’m not going to reprint masses of the rules from the Jadepunk book (also i’d like encourage people to purchase the game since it is an excellent RPG campaign), i’m only going to discuss the rules where my proposed hack differs from the Jadepunk rules.

Aspects

Characters in Jade-xalted have five Aspects:
  • Concept: A short sentence that sums up your character; if your character is an exalt then the concept must make some mention of what type of exaltation they carry (please note that if you are playing a terrestrial exalted/dragonblooded then some mention of their associated element should also be included).
    Example: Rough and tumble solar exalted soldier, sly and sneaky lunar exalted thief, proud but honourable terrestrial exalted noble (fire).
  • Background: Where did your charater come from and what experiences they have had in life.
    Example: I was born in the slums and had to fight for every opportunity I got, I was in and out of trouble during my youth for stealing and other petty crimes, I grew up on my father’s estate and received the finest schooling his military pay could afford.
  • Exaltation: Although dragonblooded generally exalt (if they are going to) during puberty, a celestial exaltation can come upon a person at any time; where were you when you became exalted, what did it feel like and how did it affect you?
    Example: I was cornered by imperial soldiers when I felt the light of the Unconquered Sun lend strength to my arm, I was trapped with no way to escape the noose when Luna’s grace allowed me to pull the shadows around myself, my family were proud when I received the grace of the Dragon during my seventeenth year.
  • Belief: How do your characters beliefs colour their lives, were they staunch adherents of the imperial creed or a bit more free-spirited?
    Example: I was always taught that the Solar Exalted were demons and that the Wyld Hunt kept us safe now i’m not so sure, my people always feared that creatures that lurked beyond the edge of the map and now i’m one of them, I was raised to believe that the Dragonblooded were the destined rulers of the world but I don’t know if i’m ready for that responsibility yet.
  • Trouble: Consider your preceding aspects, which of them cause you the most complications in your life, have you made any enemies since your exaltation?
    Example: The local authorities know my face it can only be a matter of time before the Wyld Hunt seek me out, since being exalted I find civilisation increasingly stifling and long for the wilderness, I had so many plans for myself but now they all must be set aside to advance the aims of my family.
Professions

As with Jadepunk, Jade-xalted uses professions instead of Fate Core’s skills to rate a character’s proficiency in a particular area; these professions are:
  • Warrior: Warriors come from all different backgrounds, but they all share a proficiency for violent action.
    • Overcome: Feats of strength and of combative skill.
    • Create advantages: Combat maneuvres and creating advantages in the heat of battle.
    • Attack: Making physical attacks at close quarters and range. 
    • Defend: Protecting oneself and others from physical damage.
  • Priest: Priests travel the world preaching the word of the gods, in their travels they come to know the hearts of men and learn about the world during their journey.
    • Overcome: Priests overcome obstacles through knowledge that they have acquired in their travels, they have to be adaptable and strong in their faith to survive.
    • Create advantages: Using their knowledge of the world to their advantage or rousing the faith of other men.
    • Attack: Spurring others to action through rousing speeches or engaging in a contest of faith with another.
    • Defend:  Defending those of the faith or using your knowledge of the world to help protect your flock in dangerous situations.
  • Sorceror: The sorceror creates engines of fantastic magitech as well as researching into matters of the arcane and occult.
    • Overcome: Building or repairing magitech, sorcery and researching occult secrets of the ancient past.
    • Create advantages: Scrying using magic, temporarily boosting the function of occult devices. 
    • Attack: Using more baroque items of magitech or sorcerous items, casting an offensive spell.
    • Defend: Unless a sorceror is controlling a magitech item that can shield them from damage or is casting a spell to shield them from harm they are unlikely to defend.
  • Assassin: Deception and stealth are an assassin’s main weapons along with other nefarious talents.
    • Overcome: Bluffing/lying, thievery, stealth & disguise. 
    • Create advantages: Creating distractions, cover stories or false impressions.
    • Attack: This profession isn’t used to attack directly, more likely to set up a more devastating attack.
    • Defend: Using misinformation and doublespeak to throw off investigations or disguise their true motives.
  • Diplomat: The diplomat is at home in polite society, always knowing the right words to say and the appropriate palms to grease.
    • Overcome: Influencing others to do what you want, bartering, gaining information.
    • Create advantages: Creating advantages to represent momentary emotional states. 
    • Attack: Only likely to be of use in social situations or perhaps in ritualised duels. 
    • Defend: Defending against attempts to ruin one’s standing or blacken their reputation.

Each profession is rated with a bonus, choose one at Good (+3), two at Fair (+2) and two at Average (+1).

Star Trek Hack: Skill list

Okay, the first thing I want to look at in my attempt to create a Star Trek hack is the skill list; in Fate Core the skill list is at the centre of the game, it is your skills that affect your stress boxes (the amount of damage that you can take in combat) and determine how likely (or unlikely) you are to succeed at a task.
This is the default Fate Core skill list:

  • Athletics
  • Burglary
  • Contacts
  • Crafts
  • Deceive
  • Drive
  • Empathy
  • Fight
  • Investigate
  • Lore
  • Notice
  • Physique
  • Provoke
  • Rapport
  • Resources
  • Shoot
  • Stealth
  • Will
When I asked Simon (who i’m writing the hack for) how specific he wanted the skill list to be in the trek hack his response was:

Vehicles will be done I think best by general type Star ship, Shuttle, Aircraft, Ground vehicle & I would use an edge to reflect greater skill in a particular vehicle of a given type.


With this in mind i’ve looked at how I can add a few skills onto the list to make it more appropriate for a science-fiction setting without adding too many additional skills; this has mainly come down to splitting some skills like drive, shoot and lore into specific skills.
Then it occurred to me that it would probably be easier (rather than starting from scratch) to look for an existing science-fiction skill list online and then trim it down/expand it to meet the needs of the trek hack; with this in mind I turned to the Disapora SRD skill list (which I had already used as a basis for my 40K hack some time ago).
  • Athletics – physical agility.
  • Brawling (combat) – bare fist fighting.
  • Deceive – convincing people that a lie is the truth.
  • Intimidation
  • Investigate – examining clues and searching for solutions to problems.
  • Notice – spotting things, general alertness.
  • Profession: <choice> – choose a profession to use for this skill; some appropriate professions are listed below:
    • Command officer
    • Communications officer
    • Engineering officer
    • Pilot
    • Science officer
  • Rapport – relating to others socially.
  • Stamina – how tough the character is (affects physical stress track).
  • Stealth – sneaking, thievery, etc
  • Survival – surviving in the wilderness, roughing it.
  • Vehicle – driving (non-space) vehicles.
  • Weaponry (guns) – knowledge of how to use and maintain weaponry of the appropriate type.
  • Weaponry (melee) – knowledge of how to use and maintain weaponry of the appropriate type.
  • Will – how strong of will the character is (affects the mental stress track).

How complex is Fate Core character generation?

This blog post could have alternatively been titled “how long does it take an 11 year old to generate a character in Fate Core?”

Following the recent running of my skytrain scenario (details here) for my face-to-face group, one of the members of the group expressed their dissatisfaction with the 3 stages character generation system for determining character Aspects.
What is the 3 stage character generation?

For those who aren’t aware, in Fate you have 5 Aspects, these are little story tags (“best gunslinger in the west”, “MI5 superspy”, or whatever) that you can invoke (call upon by spending a fate point) to either get a +2 bonus on a dice roll or a complete re-roll, they can also be invoked against you by the storyteller, they essentially offer you a fate point to accept a narrative complication based on the Aspect, for example: “Since you’re known as the best gunslinger in the west a young up and coming gunslinger wants to make a name for himself by taking you down and calls you out in the town square.”

If you accept the complication then you receive a fate point and the scene plays out as any other scene in the game, if you don’t except it then not only do you not get a fate point but you actually have to pay one to avoid it. Aspects are a great way of building a narrative around a character and of steering plot towards what you (as a player) find interesting, since, as a storyteller if one of my players has “best gunslinger in the west” then I know they’re interested in high-action gunfights and it’s in my best interest to include some in the game.

Okay, but what about the 3 stage creation?

Well in the game one of your Aspects is called your high concept and in a summarisation of your core concept whilst the second is your Trouble, the main source of complication in your live; in Fate Core it suggests that you determine the other three using this 3 stage creation. Essentially, in stage one you come up with a first adventure or scenario involving your character and jot down what occurred in that adventure and then pick an Aspect related to it; in the next stage you pass the notes on your adventure to the player sitting on your left (and in return receive the adventure notes from the person sitting on your right) and come up with an idea of how you had a guest spot in their adventure and pick an Aspect based on that. This repeats for stage three, the idea being to build up a web of connections between player characters before the game even starts.
I like to liken this process to superhero films, with the actual session being the Avengers film, where all the heroes come together and the three stages being the solo-hero films (with odd guest spots from other heroes) that came before.
So what does this have to do with an 11 year old generating a character?

I have to admit to being taken by surprise when one of my players expressed dissatisfaction with the 3 stage process (a part of the character generation that I had always thought to be fairly straight-forward and useful to avoid that often stilted ‘meeting up’ scene in RPGs), since i’ve used it in a number of Fate Core games and it’s never been a problem. Of course, this part of character generation, is easily jettisoned, characters can simply invent their Aspects with no real harm to the game; however, my more pro-active player also seemed a little taken aback by the idea that the character generation was in any way difficult (having being unable to make the character generation session, but still managing to create his character in about fifteen minutes at the start of the session).
He proposed an experiment, his 11 year old son had recently expressed an interest in roleplaying, so he bought the lad over and both him and myself went through creating a couple of characters using the Fate Core system. Wanting to stick to something that the boy was familiar with (since he’s never really done any RP before), we created military characters in a Call of Duty style. Timing the character generation we took half an hour to create the two characters using the 3 stage method, and this included time to explain a few things about Aspects, Stunts and Skill. Granted the characters we ended up with (a ghost-like stealth operative who had been sequestered for this mission after successfully blowing up an enemy submarine and a mercenary pilot who had been bounced from the regular army following an incident with collateral damage) weren’t the most nuanced characters, nor were they the most detailed, however they were both perfectly playable and already had links and a reason for working together.
Think about it, I believe that the Fate system in general seems to work better for people who think more about the story/narrative of a game (although granted it isn’t a great fit for every type of setting, since no game can do everything perfectly) whereas those who prefer to jump into the stats of a character and then fit a background of this seem to not enjoy it so much. That is just my own experience though; when I next run Fate Core, if it’s a one-off then i’m going to have pre-generated characters created (with some limited customisation options) and if it’s a campaign I may adopt something similar to how background and character connections work in Dungeon World to help determine Aspects.

Upgrading one of my main NPCs


PLEASE DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU ARE ONE OF MY PLAYERS

Some lively discussion was generated by my recent blog post about how one of my NPCs was statted for my last Rogue Trader FATE game, there was some great advice given on G+ and Blogger by (amongst others) Julius Müller, Tim Noyce, Robert Hanz and John Miles; looking back over the character cards that i’d prepared, in light of this information one of the NPCs that I had tagged as a main NPC didn’t really seem to have the stats to back that up so i’ve made a few tweaks and amendments.

Thought i’d post a copy of the card, as currently stands, he to see what people think; any constructive comments welcome.