Tag Archives: skills

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).

Trail of Cthulhu and Investigations in FATE

Those of you who have read more of this blog may have seen the IC write-ups of a Hunter: the Vigil game that I have been playing in recently (the write-ups of the two previous sessions are posted here and here); this game is being run by a friend of mine using the nWoD Hunter: the Vigil rules. In the game we are playing members of a supernatural serial-killer investigation unit composed of psychics known as VASCU; our party consists of a grizzled ex-cop whose party disappeared in a strange case that was swept under the carpet (this is my character), a bureau agent who squandered his family fortune seeking to find his father whom he believes kidnapped by cultists, a technical whizzkid and a wheelchair bound agent who was seriously injured pursuing a case.
The game was originally part of a proposed ‘one-off wednesday’ idea where, every other wednesday, a group of us would get together in the evening and run a one-off game (my thoughts on one-off games can be viewed in this blog post); so far we’ve had Judge Dredd (by Mongoose Publishing), a homebrew tron-esque game where we played ourselves in a strange future where a fantasy realm had intruded on our reality, a Star Trek based game and the Hunter game. The Hunter game is the first of our ‘one-offs’ that has been heavily investigation based (my Judge Dredd game touched on these themes but the investigating part of the game was fairly simple and fast paced); as a result, although it has been very entertaining to play, the game has already run into a second session and we are scheduled to play a third. Although the GM freely admits that he is more used to running campaigns that one-shot sessions and that this may have contributed to the length of the game, I started to wonder whether this was the only factor or whether there was something in the nature of investigative games that lead to them taking a great deal more time?
One of the more interesting investigation based games that I have read recently is Trail of Cthulhu by Kenneth Hite (a game I intend to review on my blog in the near future) and based on the GUMSHOE system by Robin D Laws (who also wrote the fast-paced and bizarrely wide-ranging hong-kong action movie game Feng-Shui, another of my favourites). One of the things I love about ToC is that it makes no qualms about it’s adaption of the popular Call of Cthulhu game to a different rules system and the designers obviously have a great deal of respect for the source material (both mythos fiction and previous RP materials). The introduction to ToC discusses what I consider to be one of the perennial problems with the investigative game; what might seem an obvious solution to the GM may seem baroque and incomprehensible to the players since they lack the GMs privileged knowledge about the backstory and have to find everything out the hard way, not only that, but in some systems a failed search or investigation roll on the dice can lead to you missing a vital clue and thus taking a lot longer to solve a mystery (assuming that you can solve it at all).

Now you might say that a good GM can always fudge things so that the players come across a clue or that something happens to advance the plot; however if this is not done subtly and with finesse then it can lead to the players feeling railroaded as though, no matter what they do, the mystery solution will reveal itself, IMO once the perception of risk or failure has disappeared completely from a game then a lot of players lose their impetus and drive.

So how does FATE fit into all this?

A valid question that you might be asking yourself by now; I feel that there are a number of mechanics and ideas that could be ported from Trail of Cthulhu across to either FATE core or Fate Accelerate Edition (FAE), some of these and my own ideas are listed below.
Occupations

In ToC the character all have occupations that help determine their skills and equipment; these could be ported across to FATE as either Aspects/High Concepts or (if a more complete overhaul including skills was desired) they could be used as templates to determine what sort of skills and stunts a starting character has.
For example: The Antiquarian occupation in ToC has the following skills – Architecture, Art History, Bargain, History, Languages, Law, Library Use, and any one Investigative ability. They also have a special ability where once per session they can discover a book that contains a clue to the current investigation or some relevant investigation.
This skill list could easily by imported, the Antiquarian label taken as a High Concept and the special ability changed into a Stunt.
Drives

Drives are a character’s main motivation in Trail of Cthulhu and include concepts such as Adventure, Antiquarianism, Arrogance, Artistic Sensitivity, Bad Luck and Curiosity (amongst others); these could also be ported across as Aspects into a FATE based game.
Skills/Abilities

Skills (or Abilities as they are known in ToC) are a lot more specific that they are in FATE, and are split into Investigative and General abilities; Investigative abilities are those that allow you to find information and clues, progressing towards solving the mystery and include such skills as Archaeology, Library Use and Occult, whereas General Abilities are your more generic RPG skills such as Athletics, Firearms and First Aid.
In ToC, possessing an appropriate Investigative Ability automatically allows you to detect an associated clue; for instance if their is a clue in a museum of antiquity or a ruin that possession of the Archaeology skill would automatically allow you to detect it’s presence. The game handily gives you simple descriptions of what the skill allows you to detect, in this case:

  • Tell how long something has been buried and date of its construction.
  • Identify artifacts by culture and usage.
  • Distinguish real artifacts from fakes.
  • Navigate inside ruins and catacombs, including finding secret doors and hidden construction.
  • Describe the customs of ancient or historical cultures.
  • Spot well-disguised graves and underground hiding places.

Gathering Clues

The game posits a simple and yet refreshing method of locating clues and progressing through a mystery/investigation plotline.

  1. Get your Investigator into a scene where relevant information can be gathered.
  2. Have the right ability to discover the clue.
  3. Tell the Keeper that you’re using it.
Assuming that this occurs then the GM will provide you with any clue that corresponds to your query. In each scene the GM designates a core clue that is required before the players can move on to the next scene (although their may be additional supplementary clues for the players to discover).
Gathering Additional Information

One of the most interesting ideas about the game in my mind is that players can ‘spend’ points based on their Investigative Abilities to gain additional information about the clues; this information is never required to progress in the game but provides extra flavour to the game.

Both the use of Investigative Abilities to automatically locate clues and the spending of ‘points’ to gain additional information regarding the clues are both concepts that I think would be easily convertable to the FATE system; clues can easily be given out related to the skills possessed by players (possibly excpanding the list to include more detailed investigative abilities as per To) and either an additional pool of investigation point can be added or the existing fate points can be used to gain additional info in a FATE based ToC-style game.
I’m planning to try a ToC style FATE game once it rolls round to my turn to GM in our ‘one-off Wednesdays’ again, i’ll post how it goes.

Professions in FATE?

A comment from Marcus Morrisey in response to my previous post about specialised skills started me thinking about professions and how they could be used in FATE or FAE.

I’m currently playing in a short Hunter: the Vigil nWoD that features Professional Training as a merit (and this has been adopted into the core nWoD rules as of the God Machine Chronicles revised rules being published); in nWoD Professional Training is a 1 to 5 point merit that you purchase at character creation, each dot gives you certain benefits related to the profession, including:
  • Appropriate contacts & allies.
  • Experience point breaks on skills related to the profession.
  • Additional specialist skills.
I think that the profession merit could be utilised in FATE and FAE in a number of different ways; a few of them are suggested below; please note these are only suggestions and there are no doubt umpteen more ways that Professions could feature.
Professions as Aspects

This is the most obvious way of using a profession and i’m sure that many characters in FATE and FAE already have High Concepts and/or other Aspects that feature their professions, allowing you to invoke them when appropriate and gain either a +2 bonus or re-roll something when the roll is applicable to your profession.
Professions are reflected this way currently in both the Rogue Trader and God Machine games that I am running.

Professions as Approaches/Skills

Professions could also be represented by a Skill or Approach and could be given a rating/level like any other Skill or Approach; whilst I think this would be fine for FAE (since most of the approaches are quite broad) i’m not sure how well it would work for FATE core and it may lead to a situation where a player is constantly just rolling the same score since they utilise the Profession Skill/Approach for everything.

Professions as Stunts

Professions could also be represented as a Stunt, perhaps adding +1 to rolls and challenges that fall within the purview of the profession; this is a fairly broad scope for a Stunt, however, if each player was allowed to take a Profession Stunt then I don’t see that it would be particularly unbalancing.


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.

Using FATE Core Rules 31-03-13

Overview

The 31st March session was my first Rogue Trader system (using the FATEcore rules) to have all of the players present; following a discussion on one of the G+ RPG communities that I am signed up for, I used my laptops webcam to record the audio from the session, this has (as well as being great fun to listen to) helped a lot with filling in some of the gaps in my written notes. A write-up of the actual session events will go up on the blog in the next few days, but I thought it worth putting up a post about how the FATE rules worked within the game.

Overall the rules seemed to work really well, there was an initial few minutes with me explaining the basics of the rules and handing out character sheets to people – for the sake of jumping into the game quickly, I had translated the players characters from the Rogue Trader rules to FATEcore myself with the proviso that the players could tweak them as they saw fit (with my approval) after they’d seen how the translated characters played under the new rules set. For the first session with the full player complement I wanted to ease the players into the new rules so it was kept fairly combat-lite and had plenty of opportunity for the players to make basic skill tests, become familiar with fate points and get used to how aspects work.

Aspects & Fate Points

Most of the players seemed to have no problems getting to grips with this and were soon spending fate points with merry abandon to utilise their aspects, the discussion about tagged aspects onto scenes and gaining fate points for having plot-complications arise connected with aspects was a little longer, after a short while though the players got the hang of it and were soon suggesting complications to earn fate points (two of which lead to the new wife of Captain Black taking a strong dislike to the socially crude Navigator York Benetec and to the final session encounter with the Eldar guardians of Caliban IV).

Skill rolls

This seemed to go fine, the game using words to represent different levels of skill seemed in particular to be enjoyed.

Stunts

Generally worked very well, with the player of the Navigator making use of his psychic stunt (allowing him to substitute in his Will score in certain tests) at various points to increase his chances of success, as yet the Enginseer has not really made use of his stunt (that works in a similar way).

Additional

One other aspect of the game that worked far better than I could have hoped was the use of the time scale taken from Diaspora to determine travel times through the warp (as discussed here), this particularly highlighted problems with having a fleet (albeit a small fleet of two vessels in this case) travel in convoy through the warp. Our player character Navigator York Benetec was at one point able (due to his high skill and good roll) to cut the travel time of the ship he was on down to three hours, however the NPC Navigator with a slightly lower skill was only able to cut their trip down to three months creating some interesting interpersonal RP whilst the players discussed what they were going to do as the second ship caught up to them.

Next session

Next session i’m planning to start bringing in the combat rules to introduce players to those, and also to start exploring the advancement system listed in the FATEcore rules.

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.