Handling Absent Players in Fate

Handling Absent Players in Fate
We’ve just gone through the lean winter months of RPing running up to Christmas when family events and real-world commitments start to really make it hard to get a game going, even regular groups start to experience trouble (unless extremely commited) as plans have to be made and re-made in order to accomodate all the many various social events and other things that occur in the time surrounding Christmas; having had to reschedule a number of games recently due to this my thoughts have recently turned to how to handle absent players in my online Fate game.
I’ve recently been reading “Odyssey: The Complete Game Master’s Guide to Campaign Management” (a review can be found here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-350PrvUUA), and it contains some good advice for setting down the rules of the social contact between the GM and the players in a roleplay group; from that and my own ideas i’ve been able to start formulating some rules that I intend to adhere to in my game going forwards to help minimalise last minute disruptions/cancellations, i’ve noted them below and then gone into my reasoning in a little more detail.
  • Choose a more regular time for the game to take place.
  • Determine how many players are the minimum for the game to go ahead.
  • Come up with rules for how to handle the characters of missing players.

Choosing a more regular time for the game to take place
At the moment we tend to negotiate the date for the next session when we reach the end of the currently running one, initially this was because the players had trouble committing to a more regular time (due to altering work rotas, etc) and it was thought that through choosing it nearer the time it would minimise the amount of absences; this hasn’t really proven to be the case and I feel that not having a regular time causes players to feel less committed to the game or likely to be able to make plans around a session date, so it is my intent (at the beginning of next session) to discuss a regular day for the game with the players, if someone can’t make the odd one then hopefully the next couple of points should still allow the game to progress.
Determine how many players are the minimum for the game to go ahead
My current minimum of number of players for whom i’ll run the normal game is going to be 50% of the player party (in this case 2 players), should I have lower than this then, rather than abandoning the game, I will run a flashback/side-quest for the player that I do have, filling in some part of their character’s history and will then return to the ‘present day’ of the game when we have 50% or more players.
Come up with rules for how to handle the characters of missing players
My current plan is that the characters of any missing players will be available as an Aspect that can be used to aid the players who are present, for example, if Gunnar Kron’s player can’t make it then the group will gain “Gunnar Kron, haunted norse warrior” or something similar as an Aspect, although Gunnar would not take part in a combat or encounter normally, if a PC found themselves in a situation where Gunnar could conceivably help then they could spend a Fate Point and invoke Gunnar Kron like any other Aspect.
I’ve not yet decided what i’d do regarding potential compels on these Aspects.

Numenera style Fate Accelerated character generation

Just before this Christmas I spotted a copy of Monte Cook’s Numenera RPG in my FLGS (Spirit Games) and, having read some interesting reviews on the book (and being quite a fan of Monte Cook’s variant D20 supplements) thought i’d treat myself to a copy as an early Christmas present. The setting is an intriguing blend of science-fiction and fantasy sent in a future version of our own world, but many million years in advance of present day; the inhabitants of this world call it the ninth-world since eight great civilisations have risen and fallen back into the dust before the beginning of the game, each leaving their mark upon the game world. A large part of the game involves the inhabitants of the ninth-world digging in the ruins of the past, discovering oddments and technology that can help them survive in their own world.
So how does this relate to character generation in Fate?

I hope to do a full video review on Numenera for my Red Dice Diaries Youtube channel, I wasn’t massively sold on the rules system, but the background and the blending of sci-fi and fantasy (along with the theme of exploration and discovery) is a great one and extremely compelling.

One of the mechanics that I did like was that a short sentence is used as a character descriptor that takes this form: “I am adjective noun who verbs.”


For example, a suitable description might be “I am a tough warrior who carries a sword forged from dragons scales” or “I am wise shaman who speaks with the spirits of the dead.
In the Numenera rules the adjective helps to determine your character stats, the noun determines character class and the verb determines your characters focus (the various cool abilities that you can call on during the game).
It will come as no surprise to those who know me that, as soon as I starting reading this, my mind turned to how this could possibly be used in a Fate game; although I plan to give this more thought after the Christmas period, my current idea is that it could be used to aid character generation in a streamlined version of Fate.

So how would that work?


Well the player would start with the sentence and would pick one of the Fate Accelerated approaches as the adjective, the noun would be the high concept of the character and the verb would be a stunt.

For example: “I am a quick pirate who is captain of the ship, the Crimson Dagger.

The player would get a default skill roll of +0 for all approaches and a +2 for the approach chosen in their adjective, the noun would represent the high concept and could be invoked/compelled in a normal way; the verb would be a stunt using the normal Fate Accelerated rules for stunts (either a +2 bonus in specific circumstances or a 1/game rules exception).
For example: If I created a character with the sentence “I am a sneaky thief who is deadly when striking from the shadows.

This character would get +0 on all approaches besides sneaky (one which he would receive a +2), could invoke/have compelled the concept of thief as per the normal rules and would have a stunt that allowed them to gain a +2 when striking from the shadows.

This isn’t a 100% foolproof or completely defined method at present, but I certainly think that it has potential.

RPG dilemnas – Fate and Encouraging hesitant players

It occurred to me recently, following a character genning session that took an awful lot longer than I expected for a Fate Core game (so long in-fact that we had to reschedule the game for another evening), that a character creation system that seemed so streamlined and simple for myself may not be so for other; as a die-hard Fate fan I personally find the creation of Aspects and generating a character very simple and easy to do, because i’ve always got a fair few ideas for characters and the system allows me to create something that matches these ideas.
But what about people who perhaps don’t have such a lot of character ideas buzzing around in their head? This doesn’t make them any worse roleplayers by any means, however, whilst there has been some discussion about the fact that Fate adopts a certain approach towards a game and that it doesn’t suit all games equally (after all no one system is going to be perfect for all styles of game “out of the box” as it were), perhaps the default method of character generation isn’t necessarily suitable for all people.
I observed a few main “issues” during the character creation for a repeat of my Wild Blue one-off during character generation (I have put some suggestions for resolving this in blue underneath each point):
  • Some players had difficult thinking up suitable powers or working out how to frame them within the rules system.
    Greater familiarity with the rules would help here and perhaps creating a list of example powers would have given them a good starting point.
  • There was some trouble with thinking of reasonable ways to link the different characters together using the ‘three phase method’ listed in the Fate Core rulebook.
    Perhaps toning down the number of phases to just having a starting story/phase for each character and then allowing them to come up with their Aspects in a more freestyle manner; although doing this would then require a different method of linking the characters together.
  • Stunt creation caused some notable pauses as the players struggled slightly with deciding on what they wanted their stunts to do.
    The example stunts listed in the Fate Core book helped in this regard as did referring back to the characters core concept.
I think that in retrospect I would probably have been better to create some (either fully or partially complete) pre-gen characters that the players could choose from and perhaps tweak to make more to their liking since, whilst I think having a full session for character generation is all well and good for a longer running campaign, it seems a little OTT for a one-off. Hopefully coming up with some pre-gens in future would also make it a little easier on those people who struggle with getting over that initial imagination ‘hurdle’ when it comes to creating a character idea.

Rogue Trader Campaign Log – Session 19: Death & Rebirth?

Oberlieutenant Jurgen Borsch wakes in the medical bay having been unconsious for a number of days following injuries sustained during a battle against a chaos sorceror in the ruins of a fighter craft on the moons of Strive; the med-techs have struggled with the severe and sorcerous nature of the injuries but finally, with a little help from the Emperor Oberlieutenant Jurgen Borsch pulls through and regains consciousness. Hearing the red-alert klaxxons sounding through the corridors of the Venerus Oberlieutenant Jurgen Borsch hauls himself unceremoniously to his (still shakey) feet and totters out of the medical bay, dismissing the med-techs who attempt to persuade him to go back to bed he staggers towards the ships fighter bay.
Meanwhile Admiral Fortunus Black had decided that they need to join Enginseer Prime Pak on the moon below them, a battle rages there following the descent of an armada of escape-pods and small craft planetside, fallout from a decisive battle between the fleet of Rogue Trader Admiral Fortunus Black and the traitor forces lead by the renegade Adeptus Astartes Lorgar Khan; bidding goodbye to his wife Lady Decusis-Black and leaving her in command of the great ship Venerus the Admiral dons his regalia and begins striding towards the shuttle-bays. On his way Admiral Fortunus Black meets the slightly pale figure of Oberlieutenant Jurgen Borsch who is climbing into his fighter jumpsuit; relieved to see that Borsch has recovered the Admiral explains that they defeated the chaos sorceror although he escaped and that they are still in a state of red-alert following the battle with Lorgar Khan’s forces. Admiral Fortunus Black tells Borsch that although they won, the cost of the battle was severed with the Venerus and Rod Hant being the only surviving vessels, Enginseer Prime Pak is planetside attempting to gather survivors from the fleet and the Admiral intends to help him; unsure of what dangers may lurk down on the moon of Strive the Admiral tells Oberlieutenant Jurgen Borsch to ensure that himself and the rest of the Void Kraken fighter squad are ready to fly if he needs them.
Admiral Fortunus Black’s shuttle lands near the last known position of Enginseer Prime Pak and he sees that the Enginseer has been gathering the sruvivors to him and attempting to build make-shift fortifications, cannibalising what small vessels and weapons they have to make something more permanent. Admiral Fortunus Black is happy to see that his cousin Polaris Black (ex-Captain of the now destroyed Lunatic Pandora) has survived, but sudden signal on their voxx frequency interrupts any further re-union; flying in the lower atmosphere alongside the other Void Krakens Oberlieutenant Jurgen Borsch informs Admiral Fortunus Black that his long-range scanners are detecting weapons fire around the central stone building in the largest native settlement.
“Multiple traitor astartes closing on building, am picking up signs that Chief Baldur and a dozen or so other natives are trapped inside” – Oberlieutenant Jurgen Borsch
“Buy us time to get there” – Admiral Fortunus Black
As Admiral Fortunus Black and Enginseer Prime Pak race towards the building in a commandeered vehicle they are just in time to witness a devastating strafing run by the Void Krakens that slays all of the traitor Astartes closing on the stone building, although the triumph is short lived as they see flashes of gunfire inside the building and recognise the sound of bolter fire.
“Damn it! Looks as though some had already got inside!” – Admiral Fortunus Black
As they enter the ground floor of the building, the heavy thudding of bolter fire can be heard coming directly from the floor above them, Enginseer Prime Pak and his men pour weapons fire into the ceiling causing it to collapse and unceremoniously dump the traitor marine onto the ground floor, before he has chance to rise the Admiral plants a boot on his chest and drives a power sword through one of the eyes of the traitor, who spasms for a few moments then lies still.
Returning from a re-arming run to the Venerus (where the lieutenant requested promethium bombs be fitted to the fighters) Oberlieutenant Jurgen Borsch and his squadron are circling back round for another run when they see a number of angry looking natives wielding primitive weapons running towards the building; unsure of whose side these natives are on they elect to abort the attack run for now. From inside the building Enginseer Prime Pak spots the primitives and recognises some of their primitive chanting as belonging to one of the Slaktin worshipping tribes that allied itself with Lorgar, ordering his men to follow suit Enginseer Prime Pak opens fire on the approaching primitives and, seeing this, Oberlieutenant Jurgen Borsch releases his promethium bomb, engulfing the natives in a napalm-like flame that swiftly burns them to death.
“Find me the sorceror!” – Admiral Fortunus Black
Using the fighter squadron as a relay, Admiral Fortunus Black contacts the Venerus and has their Navigator York Benetec use his psychic powers to search for the presence of the sorceror, York Benetec confirms that the sorceror is present in the building; nodding grimly, Admiral Fortunus Black has Enginseer Prime Pak patch him through to the voxx-unit built into the cybernetics they fitted to Chief Baldur and gives a warning for him to get out of the building before contacting the Void Krakens and given another order.
“Destroy that building!” – Admiral Fortunus Black
As they run from the building themselves, hearing the screaming of the approaching fighter craft, Enginseer Prime Pak spots the body of the fallen traitor Astartes and feels a twinge of human longing that he had long thought purged from his body as he spots the large power fist attached to one of the marines arms. Admiral Fortunus Black throws himself behind cover as missiles streak overhead towards the building, he looks around to find that Enginseer Prime Pak is no longer with him. At the very last minute the techpriest hurls himself behind cover, being caught in the last flash of the explosion, several of his metallic components buckled by heat and his flesh blackened, however, he grins at the power-fist gripped in his hands.
Walking back over to the ruins of the building they spot what appears to be some sort of energy globe protecting a small area and, inside it, the chaos sorceror who is injured but appears ot have survived using his unholy sorery to conjure some sort of force-field; as they approach the sorcerors energy gives out and the field collapses, sneering Admiral Fortunus Black responds by pouring fire into the body of the sorceror, as Enginseer Prime Pak joins him the sorceror finally collapses dead, his foul gods apparently deserting him. Admiral Fortunus Black can’t help but wonder though whether Lorgar was actually in the building and whether they’ve seen the last of the traitor marine.
As Oberlieutenant Jurgen Borsch and the Void Kraken fighter squadron are mopping up the remanants of the hostile forces, Admiral Fortunus Black has the Venerus perform a surface scan to look for the Thunderhawk gunship that the sorceror was last seen boarding; it is swiftly located secreted behind a nearby forest, Admiral Fortunus Black quickly rounds up a group of men to investigate and voxxes Oberlieutenant Jurgen Borsch to investigate from the air. Oberlieutenant Jurgen Borsch attempts to swoop in on the position of the Thunderhawk unseen but is unsuccessful and the guns of the craft begin to open fire although the fighters do not sustain any damage. Using this distaction Admiral Fortunus Black, Enginseer Prime Pak and their soldiers have approached the Thunderhawk’s position, but are horrified to see that, fore-warned by the presence of enemy fighters it has begun to take off; acting instinctively they both grab hold of landing struts and are lifted into the air.
The Thunderhawk flies upwards, obviously planning to enter low orbit, whilst Enginseer Prime Pak tries frantically to interface with the machine spirit of the craft and open the door, but several security measures send painful electrical impulses surging through his synapses; in a last desperate attempt as the air begins to thin Admiral Fortunus Black slices the locks from the door with his power sword and they climb onboard to be met by weapons fire from two guards in the cargo bay. Returning fire with their own weapons Admiral Fortunus Black and Enginseer Prime Pak make short work of the guards and hurl their bodies unceremoniously out of the open Thunderhawk door.
Outside the Void Krakens have been attempting to crowd the Thunderhawk and force it to land, but the traitor craft attempts to ram them instead; following the training maneuvres that they had practiced Oberlieutenant Jurgen Borsch and his squad jink around it an are unharmed. Onboard the Thunderhawk, Enginseer Prime Pak has managed to interface with the machine spirit and opens the door to the cockpit, snarling curses at them the traitor marine pilot hits an eject button and the cockpit window flies off as his seat jet boosts the vile renegade Astartes into the air. There is a brief cavalcade of fire and small pieces of armour rain down as the Void Kraken lock their weapons on the ejecting marine and destroy him utterley.
Now interfaced with the machine spirit Enginseer Prime Pak is able to effect a landing but the landing struts are severely damaged in the process; Admiral Fortunus Black voxxes for a shuttle to take him back to the Venerus, promising to send more tech-adepts down to assist Enginseer Prime Pak salvaging the Thunderhawk. As he leaves the Admiral receives a signal from Polaris telling him that they have met up with Baldur (who survived the explosion due to his bionic imnplants) and that, with the help of the other survivors and the fighter squadrons from the Venerus they are driving back the enemy; Polaris explains that Baldur has asked Admiral Fortunus Black to give his people sanctuary on the Venerus, the Admiral appears to ponder the matter for a minute then agrees before breaking communication.
A few hours later back on the Venerus, Enginseer Prime Pak unveils the damaged recording device entrusted to him by Baldur, he has repaired it so that it should play the full message; as they activate it a shakey projection of a large Astartes with pronounced canines bearing the iconography of the Space Wolves chapter reveals that he was the only surviving marine on a ship carrying Astartes geneseed through this sector when they were attacked and forced to set down on the large moon. Injured beyond human endurance and slowly dying the marine left the surviving thralls and what little technology he could on the moon, hoping that some day they would return to the bosom of the Imperium; knowing that he could not allow the geneseed to fall into enemy hands he climbed aboard his ship and set it on auto-pilot for the systems sun.
“So that was what Lorgar meant by rebirth, the ship must still be out there somewhere.” – Admiral Fortunus Black

Possibly the worlds simplist Fate magic system?

I think there has been possibly more discussion about magic systems in Fate than anything else so i’m not going to go into a massive study of it or detailed system creation in this post, an internet search will reveal no shortage of inspiration for people in that regard.
So why the post then?

Well, inspired by the “Avatar: the Last Airbender” fate game that my wife ran recently, the excellent “Spirit of Steam & Sorcery” web expansion by Tom Miskey (available here – http://evilhat.wikidot.com/sos-s) plus some other games i’ve played in recently I decided (as an exercise) to see if I could come up with a very simple magic system that would be ready to use and could be used with either Fate Core or Fate Accelerated.
So here it is…

In order to use magic the character must devote one of his Aspects to it mentioning that they are both a spellcaster along with one word that defines their magic style.

Examples: wizard of fire, druid of the earth, sorceror of death.

It also allows them to justify certain actions within the game fiction because of their powers.
For example:
  • The wizard of fire could justify an attack by shooting a fireball from his hands.
  • The druid of the earth could justify adding bonuses to perception by sensing vibrations through the earth.
  • The sorceror of death could add the bonus to recruit a minion, representing them summoning a spirit.
Spellcasters must then also spend 1 refresh on the stunt Spellcaster.

The Spellcaster stunt allows the player character to add a +2 bonus to their dice rolls (in addition to any other bonuses from Stunts/invoking Aspects, etc) whenever using sorcery (that can be described appropriately according to their style) in order to accomplish a task.

    Anything else…?

    This system doesn’t posit the addition of a magic skill (in Fate Core) it assumes that the players will use the appropriate Skill/Approach and that their effort is re-inforced by magic; however a magic skill would be easy enough to add if desired.
    Edit: Christopher Ruthenbeck on G+ was kind enough to point out some errors in the initial post and these have now been amended, he also had issues with the spellcaster Stunt being too powerful given that it allows a +2 bonus for a larger range of actions that is normally permitted. I can see his point, a large part of this system is based on the “Avatar: the Last Airbender” style game we ran where pretty much everyone had some form of magical power so it wasn’t an issue.

    That can said I can see a couple of easy solutions:

    1. Restrict the actions that the spellcasting stunt can perform or split it into a number of Stunts with narrower purviews.
    2. Increase the refresh cost of the Spellcaster Stunt.
    Edit: Paul Kießhauer has revealed a far simpler system for magic in Fate that you can look at here – https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/100662698267895582168/112230078537377625576/posts/WkXBEgMcMnA