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

    Planning for my first G+ game

    Okay, so a few friends of mine who I do LARP (Live-Action RolePlay) with and myself were chatting a while back about tabletop roleplaying and I was telling them about some of the games that i’m GMing at present; now most of them live a fair distance away and a couple of them were lamenting the lack of tabletop RPG action in their area, also, although we all meet up for weekends of LARP there’s not quite the same impetus to travel the length of the country in order to do a single night of tabletopping. Given that a few of us have been getting more into Google+ and Youtube recently (https://www.youtube.com/user/MrLARGEJO/) and i’ve seen numerous recording ‘actual-plays’ of people using G+ hangouts to play RP sessions over the net we talked about doing something similar; now life, as it often does, got in the way and we never really got to do anything about it as we were swept up in the chaos of the 2013 Lorien Trust LARP mainline seasion.
    Recently I decided that we really should make an attempt at actually pushing forward with a session, partly because i’m keen to experiment more with G+ hangout roleplaying and also because i’m interested in seeing what it’s like tabletopping with people whom i’ve only ever really done LARP or boardgames before (both of which are quite different); so I set up a facebook event and arranged a date (this Sunday evening), but then of course we were left with the question of what do we play?
    I have numerous RPGs on the shelves in my room but, given that this is the first TT experience for a couple of the players and that it was our first time at RPing over G+ I wanted something that was simple to pick up, kept the game very dramatic and allowed it to move along reasonably rapidly since we only have about four hours of gaming realistically since most of us have work the next day, I want to cram as much game into those four or so hours as possible. As usual when I want a good game to introduce new-comers to TT RPing i’ve turned to one of my favourite systems, Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE) along with a brilliant G+ Fate roller extension (http://www.diceboy.com/).
    One of the players is quite new to TT and wants some sort of easy to get into fantasy game because, although new to TT, the LARP that we do is fantasy based and he has experience of lots of fantasy films; this is fine, i’ve already done some consideration of how to adapt FAE to a D&D-esque setting (detailed in previous blog posts). For this game though, i’ve decided to keep things simple (anything not mentioned below is as it is in the core FAE book):
    Aspects: In addition to their High Concept and Trouble, players will also have a Race aspect (dwarf, orc, etc) that can be invoked (as normal) whenever they perform an action that fits with the concept of their race (i’ll be keeping it pretty simple and stereotypical for this game, orcs are brutish and violent, dwarves are rigid, stoic craftsmen, etc etc).
    Magic: In order to have magic a sorceror must have the Aspect ‘Sorceror’, they must also have a Stunt (or Stunts) that defines their type of magic; for example, a sorceror may have the Stunt ‘Fire magic’ and all of their spells will involved heat or fire in some way. Magic will use the normal action rules as described in FAE (attacking, defending, etc).
    Equipment: Unless taken as a Stunt equipment is assumed to be of insufficient quality to make any real difference to the dice rolls, if taken as a Stunt then it can add the normal +2 to an appropriate situation.
    Taking inspiration from the recent Dungeon World session that I ran, I intend to use the player character Aspects (and a brief Q&A with the players at the start after character gen) to create a rough map of the world and detail out the major threats/challenges, once we have this i’ll run with what i’ve got and see where it goes from there. Assuming all goes well with the technical side of things then the game will be recorded and uploaded to my Youtube Channel  when we’ve finished the session.

    Stealing from Athas

    One of the AD&D settings that I really liked was the Dark Sun setting, it gave me that feeling of my character struggling to survive on the magic blasted desert world of Athas, with bone weapons being the norm and metal being a preciously guarded resource; one of the other things I liked about it was that it was (as far as I am aware) one of the first AD&D campaign settings to incorporate psionics into it as part of the core world rather than as just an extra tagged on almost as an after-thought.
    I’ve been looking for an alternate ‘magic’ system for my nordic god-pocalypse campaign that differs from the standard Vancian magic system used in D&D/Pathfinder; this is not because I have any great dislike of vancian magic, I think it works fine with D&D, it’s not the best system in the world but it’s far from the worst, however I generally prefer a points based system and in my setting magic of all types failed when the gods died in the apocalypse. Psionics seems like a natural alternative to the standard D&D magic systems and I am avidly reading through Psionics Unleashed by Dreamscarred Press; in the Dark Sun campaign setting every player character had a randomly determined wild psionic talent, I want to emphasise that only the strong or those with an edge survived the god-pocalypse and that those races surviving the night of the burning stars were changed by the events of the apocalypse. Although I don’t fancy having random psionic talents for my character, I do like the idea of each PC having a random psionic talent and am considering giving each of the PCs the following feat at character gen for free:
    * * *
    Hidden Talent
    ( Expanded Psionics Handbook, p. 67) 
    Your mind wakes to a previously unrealized talent for psionics.
    This feat can only be taken at 1st level.
    Your latent power of psionics flares to life, conferring upon you the designation of a psionic character. As a psionic character, you gain a reserve of 2 power points, and you can take psionic feats, metapsionic feats, and psionic item creation feats. If you have or take a class that grants power points, the power points gained from Hidden Talent are added to your total power point reserve.
    When you take this feat, choose one 1st-level power from any psionic class list. You know this power (it becomes one of your powers known). You can manifest this power with the power points provided by this feat if you have a Charisma score of 11 or higher. If you have no psionic class levels, you are considered a 1st-level manifester when manifesting this power. If you have psionic class levels, you can manifest the power at the highest manifester level you have attained. (This is not a manifester level, and it does not add to any manifester levels gained by taking psionic classes.) If you have no psionic class levels, use Charisma to determine how powerful a power you can manifest and how hard those powers are to resist.
    Note: This is an expanded version of the Wild Talent feat, intended for use in high-psionics campaigns
    * * *
    My current idea is that, since I am planning to lift the non-psionic classes from Iron Heroes, I will mesh the token-pools acquired to power class abilities (see my review of Iron Heroes for details) in the Iron Heroes classes with the Psionic Point Pool from Psionics Unleashed; each class will have a single pool of tokens that they can use to both power class abilities and psionic powers.
    I can see a couple of parallels between the world of Athas and the campaign that I want to create, both settings have suffered an apocalyptic event which has ravished the land and made it harder to survive on the planet and psionics are more prevalent in Athas (and will be in my campaign) than traditional D&D/Pathfinder settings; I also intend to lift the idea of most weapons and armour being made from bone and other materials more easily located than metal, also metal items tend to cause people to lose body temperature far more quickly and thus would not be particularly common in my setting – given that most items will not be made of metal I will probably use normal equipment stats and then add a small bonus for metal items but say that it increases the cold damage from the environment by some amount.

    Ideas for a nordic world

    So continuing on with my theme of designing a post Ragnarok god-pocalypse world (a term that I may use in the game material I knock up for the players should the campaign get off the ground) i’ve started looking at the Norse creation mythos and diagrams of the nordic mythological cosmology.
    Creation Mythos
    A brief description of norse mythology can be found here:
    Since my idea is not going to be a strict duplication of norse mythology, I am going to select elements from it for inclusion in the game, thus far i’m looking at the following as possible aspects for incorporation:
    • Prior to the creation of the world there exists a void between the lands of Muspelheim (realm of fire) and Nifelheim (realm of ice).
    • The fire and ice meet, the ice melts forming Ymir the first of the giants.
    • Ymir reproduces asexually, his sweat forming the first race of giants.
    • As the frost continues to melt it reveals the cow Audhumbla who nourishes Ymir with her milk and licks the ice for nourishment.
    • Audhumblas licking of the ice uncovers the first of the Aesir gods.
    • The Aesir, lead by Odin slay Ymir and form the world from his corpse, the oceans are made of his blood, the soil from skin and muscles, vegetation from his hair, clouds from his brains and the sky from his skull.
    • Four dwarves at each cardinal point hold up the sky.
    • Dwarves originate at maggots in the body of Ymir.

    Below is a diagram showing the nine worlds of the nordic cosmology:
    I’ve started jotting down a few ideas for how the worlds/elements may look in my campaign world after the apocalypse:
    • Asgard: Following the deaths the gods their golden halls and their dwellings crashed to earth in a night known as the ‘night of burning stars.’
    • Midgard: The main setting of the game, following the apocalypse Midgard is reduced to a frozen wasteland where only the strongest survive against the predation of the Jotun and the Fenrir.
    • Jotunheim: When the final winter was unleashed in the aftermath of the apocalypse, Niflheim surged forward, engulfing Jotunheim and bringing winter in it’s wake.
    • Svartalheim: The land of dark elves, a realm of tunnels and darkness lies below the ground, hidden from the eyes of most, unwary travellers occasional find hidden entrances – few return.
    • Hel: With the demise of the Goddess of Death, her realm ceased to exist, meaning that the spirits of the dead have nowhere to go after their death and often return to haunt the living.
    • Muspelheim: Exists beneath the realm of Svartalheim, providing some heat to the centre of the world; it is rumoured that the following the aftermath of the apocalypse the last dwarves retreating into such deep realms and were not seen again.
    • Yggdrasil: The scorched and shattered trunks of the world tree lies in the centre of the world, small twinkling fragments of Asgard that did not fall orbit around the unobtainable upper reaches, forming the only stars in the night sky.
    • Rainbow Bridge/Bifrost: Destroyed at Ragnarok, the Bifrost shattered and fell to earth as tiny scattered glittering shards, these shards contain dim flickerings of godly magic and are jealously horded/guarded by those who possess them.
    • Midgard Serpent: Slain in the apocalypse the giant skeleton of the Midgard Serpent can be seen poking through the soil in various places of the earth, the bones are often scavenged to make equipment or dwellings.

    Ideas for a D&D/Pathfinder game

    As my Rogue Trader game progresses and I do the odd bit of work on my D&D FAE hack here and there (in between making Youtube videos for my channel – http://www.youtube.com/user/MrLARGEJO), my thoughts turn to what sort of campaign and game system I might like to run next; for the last few months it’s been the Lorien Trust LARP mainline season (the time when they run their big 4 events) and i’ve pretty much been concentrating on that and running the odd tabletop session, now that the mainline season has finished i’ve got a bit more time to think about potential future games (also to write up my last Rogue Trader session).
    I’m reading a couple of fantasy books at the moment and, inspired by a lot of youtube videos that I have been watching, have been leafing through my old D&D books; i’m also playing in an interesting Pathfinder game run by my friend John Miles which has us exploring a strange other world via a fantasy equivalent of the stargate, the idea of character from one D&D world exploring other planes of existence has always been one that i’ve enjoyed since the original AD&D Planescape setting and so i’m quite enjoying playing the bespectacled scholar who is on his first trip out of the library (despite his age) and is overwhelmed by the potential wealth of information in this strange magic-rich world. All of these factors have got me thinking that it’s been a long while since I actually ran any fantasy/D&D-esque style games, I tend to go for grim contemporary settings like the nWoD or, more recently, darker sci-fi settings such as Shadowrun and Rogue Trader.
    D&D with a twist
    When running D&D/Pathfinder or any other similar games I generally try to put a little bit of an interesting spin on it, this is mostly because myself and my regular group of players have played in numerous D&D games over the years and the standard Greyhawk or Forgotten Realms game can seem a little stale after a while; not to say that we don’t still enjoy breaking out the Forgotten Realms books on occasion, certainly I have a fondness for Faerun as do a number of my players, we’ve also played numerous Eberron D&D games (and I know John is a big fan of that setting). Possibly my favourite D&D setting that i’ve ran sticks in my mind not so much for the setting but because it introduced elements of time travel into it; being aware that time travel games can create all sorts of problems it was done via a plot device to restrict temporal travel.
    Although a lot of details in the setting faded from my memory I do remember that in the past of the setting at some point an evil sorceror had attempted to summon an army of undead to overwhelm the globe and had narrowly been prevented from doing so; the player party (although they had lost a couple of characters including the halfling Pip Ratcatched and the Paladin Delembrandt by then due to various incidents) were sent back in time to this point where, due to their interference the ritual to summon the dead army was interrupted at a crucial point, causing the energies to run wild and tearing a large portal open to the plane of undeath. When the player characters made it back to the present time they found that this portal had allowed legions of undead to storm onto the prime material plane and the future now choked under the oppresive regime of a vampire monarchy lead by none other than the Vampire Lord Delembrandt, a darker version of their old friend who had fallen to the undead hordes and had been raised as a vampire, becoming a fearsome Blackguard; one of the other players was also able to “resurrect” the fallen Pip Ratchcatcher but playing a much grimmer, vampire hunting alternate future version of the character. The game was a bit of a mess (mainly due to my own youthful lack of planning and foresight) and we never really got to finish it, but I certainly found it enjoyable and the players seemed to quite enjoy it.
    So what to do now?
    I’ve been knocking around the idea of doing a setting with a Nordic flavour for a while, even going so far as to by the D&D book Frostburn because I find the idea of a world encased largely in ice a very cool visual and it would allow me to pull on a lot real-world mythological resources and forteana; in the Nordic myths the gods are set against the background of an apocalyptic Ragnarok that will result in the deaths of most deities and this idea has been visited a few times in various RPG settings. I was reading about the Midnight setting (which i’ve only played briefly), a setting that basically retread the same ground as Lord of the Rings but at a point where the Dark Lord has effectively won the day and subdjugated most of the known world, the players taking on the roles of resistance fighters trying to overthrow the evil regime; it struck me that this ‘after the bomb’ style might be what i’m looking for in a D&D setting.
    I’m sure this has been also address in a number of RPGs as well, however, it’s not something that i’m aware my regular group has particularly played before.
    So i’ve started jotting down a few thoughts and ideas about what i’d do in this setting, i’ve jotted them below:
    – Before the world was a land of fire and ice.
    – Gods pushed back the ice giants to the northern and southernmost parts of the world.
    – Gods pushed the fire giants down to the centre of the world and imprisoned them there, providing heat that their new creation might live.
    – Deities used to exist.
    Signs of Ragnarok:
    – It sates itself on the life-blood of fated men.
    – Paints red the powers homes with crimson gore.
    – Black become the suns beams.
    – A wind age, a wolf age.
    – The world tree shudders.
    – The Jotun come from the east.
    – Loki breaks free of his imprisonment.
    – The fiery inhabitants of Muspelheim come forth.
    – Surtr advances from the south.
    – The gods go to war.
    – Odin is swallowed whole fighting Fenrir.
    – Freyr fights Surtr and loses.
    – Jormungandr is met in combat by Thor, he defeats it but only takes 9 steps before collapsing.
    – The sun becomes black while the earth sinks into the sea, the stars vanish, steam rises, and flames touch the heavens.
    – An apocalyptic event occurred that resulted in the deaths of the deities.
    – Their bodies fell to earth from the heavens where they because some sort of features (possibly statues that have a minor magical effect around them).
    – Divine magic ceased functioning.
    – No longer in fear of the Gods, the ice giants moved across the world once again, bringing the cold and snow with them.
    – Many peoples perished in the climate changes but some societies were able to survive, albeit reduced to a primitive state.
    – Low magic game (possibly using the Iron Heroes alternate players handbook).
    – Main focus of the game would be survival at first, followed by discovering the history of the world, then possibly having the player characters push back the ice and rise to replace the old dead gods.
    Obviously i’ll be intending to do some more research on this and formalising some of these ideas before actually running it ad a game, but this is my starting off point.
    Any thoughts/comments gratefully received.

    Upgrading one of my main NPCs


    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.

    So how did the Bloodletter work in my Rogue Trader game?

    As regular readers of the blog may know, my Rogue Trader FATE game recently featured a Bloodletter daemon of Khorne (the blog entry where I discuss statting this bad boy is available here for anyone who is interested); so, now that the weekend has finished and the week has settled in like an unwelcome lump of concrete and I reflect on the game session, how did the Bloodletter work?
    Overall I think it worked quite well, given that this is the first real hand to hand combat that I have run in the game since switching to FATE it ran quickly and relatively smoothly being resolved in a few minutes rather than the hours that combat can take with some systems; you don’t really get the same level of ‘crunch’ that you get with more detailed systems (although I have instituted weapon rules (as defined in my Rogue Trader hack) in my game) but i’ll quite happily sacrifice crunch for a game that doesn’t become needlessly bogged down in the minutiae of combat. There were, however, a couple of minor issues that cropped up with the Bloodletter that I think are worth bearing in mind for future combats and that I thought i’d share in this blog post.
    • More Stress levels required
    The initial three stress levels that I apportioned for the Bloodletter were nowhere near enough and would have resulted in the daemon being overcome in the very first round (without getting to land a blow); I think this is because of the increased ‘damage’ caused by the players weapons. During the game I had to add another three stress levels onto the antagonists total in order to make it any sort of challenge.
    Another thing that I have started doing with these NPCs (mainly because they do not have any consequence boxes that can be used to soak stress) is ignoring the rule (for NPCs only) that only a single stress box can be used to soak damage; i’m not sure whether or not this was supposed to apply to nameless NPCs but originally I had been using that rule. I’m considering now making each stress box worth a single stress level and increase the amount of boxes possessed by each NPC, this would make it far easier during a combat to just tick off a number of boxes equal to the damage taken.
    • Opponents being overwhelmed by odds

    Although the mob rules work really well and are great for representing the mobs of soldiers, tech-priests, fighter pilots and other generic ships crew that the players in my game (rightfully) tend to tool about with, it does create a situation where any single antagonist is liable to be overwhelmed by mobs of nameless NPCs (lead by a much more capable player character) in short order. Part of the reason for this is that i’ve been having mobs directly add their teamwork bonus to the players score and thus it can result in some quite high final tallies (even on a mediocre to poor roll); this wasn’t really a problem in the Bloodletter encounter since it was just a single opponent against a whole ship of crew.
    In future I think that i’ll adopt a couple of tactics in order to lessen the impact of mobs:
    • Using terrain to restrict their use: If only a certain number of people can assist a roll then the bonuses are limited.
    • Having area effects or psychological effects that affect nameless NPC mobs but that the PCs are proof against: Some sort of ‘fear’ effect may be appropriate for creatures like daemons, perhaps some sort of test being required to initiate an attack or even just a stunt that means for the first round of a combat nameless NPCs cannot attack.
    • Having mobs roll seperately rather than adding their bonus to a player character: This would result in two reasonable rolls rather than one really high roll.

    D&D/Pathfinder style FATE hack – Races and Skills

    Following on from my last blog post about a D&D style hack for the FAE system (http://wh40krpg.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/d-style-fate-hack-could-classes-be-used.html) where I pondered the idea of using class style descriptors as Approaches for a D&D-esque FAE game this post addresses my thoughts on character races (although species would be a more accurate term) and skills in the game.
    This post builds on the idea that the six Approaches would be something along the lines of:
    1. Warrior – rolled for attacking or defending from attack using physical means, taking care of armour, working out battle-tactics, recognising ambushes and initiative order in combat.
    2. Rogue – sleight of hand, stealing things, breaking and entering, deception and also shmoozing and general social actions.
    3. Spellcaster – casting spells (obviously), working out what spells other people were casting, crafting magic items, examining magic items, feats of prestigitation, etc.
    4. Priest – interacting with church/holy order members, researching/recalling information about gods and their followers, making blessings, etc.
    5. Ranger – covers wilderness survival and skills.


    The term ‘race’ in D&D tends to actually refer to a different species (ie. orcs, dwarves, elves) all that generally seem not to share a common ancestry, but never-the-less the term race has been widely used in RPGs since the early days. In this hack I would make the characters race a specific Aspect that can be invoked or compelled under specific circumstances.
    Some examples using the most common D&D races are listed below:
    • Dwarves – hardy and skill craftsmen with a very traditional outlook.
      • May be invoked when: Calling upon the wisdom of ancient traditions, craft rolls related to stone or metal work, fighting with a hammer, finding your way underground, perception rolls in darkness, appraising gems, stone or metal work.
      • May be compelled when: New innovations or technology are at odds with traditions, faced by their ancient greenskin enemies, when the distrust between dwarves and elves bubbles to the surface, when a dwarves appreciation for precious stones may turn into greed.
    • Elves – graceful and beautiful creatures at peace with the natural world and with magic singing in their blood.
      • May be invoked when: Using magic, moving unseen or finding sustenance/tracking in the wilderness, social interactions with people awed by the elves beauty, using a bow, perception rolls in dimly lit conditions.
      • May be compelled when: Vanity causes them to dismiss the opinions and thoughts of ‘lesser’ races, when the distrust between elves and dwarves threatens to bubble to the surface.
    • Orcs – strong and stubborn creatures raised in a brutal martial tradition.
      • May be invoked when: Assessing the strength/value of armour and weapons, facing down another in a one-on-one combat, perception tests in the dark, tests of raw strength.
      • May be compelled when: An orcs bloodlust overcomes their reason, they are shunned by ‘civilised’ races.
    • Halflings – Clever and capable opportunists with a mischievous streak.
      • May be invoked when: Small size allows them to slip from an opponents grasps, looking harmless allows them to evade notice, tests of manual dexterity.
      • May be compelled when: A halfling cannot resist the urge to cause mischief, a halflings small stature and lower strength causes them problems.
    At the moment I would having the following Aspects on the D&D-style hack character sheet.

    • High Concept
    • Trouble
    • Race
    • +additional general Aspects
    I think the beauty of having the race as an Aspect (and one of my favourite parts of the FAE/FATE system) is that it is tremendously simple (requiring no real modification of stats), uses the existing mechanics of the game and all the players and GM have to remember is what compels and invokes can be used against racial Aspects; the Aspect Race also encourages the constant using and flowing of FATE points that is at the heart of the system.

    This is something I hashed out in my Cthulhu-FAE hack, instead of bringing in a big list of appropriate skills (which is essentially trying to turn FAE into FATE core, something i’m keen to avoid since I love FAE’s simplicity) skill groups can be represented by suggesting Stunts that provide bonuses in applicable situations.
    Looking at the AD&D 2nd edition Weapon and Non-weapon Proficiency model, a few suggestions are made below:
    Weapon proficiencies
    • Master of the [insert name of weapon]: The player receives a +2 bonus to rolls made using the [weapon] (for example: A ‘Master of the Sword’ attacking with a short sword would gain the +2).
    • Shield Mastery: The player receives a +2 to their defence rolls when using a shield.
    Non-weapon proficiencies
    • Escape Artist: +2 when escaping bonds.
    • Herbalist: +2 to rolls to analyse/use herbs.
    • Professional Lock-pick: +2 to pick locks.

    As you can see i’ve not yet put up any rules concerning weapons or armour, my current thought is to leave them nebulous so that they don’t needlessly complicate the system; anyone may have appropriate equipment but only gain a benefit if they have an appropriate Stunt or Aspect.
    Likewise with Non-weapon Proficiency Stunts, pretty much any skill from D&D3.5 could be turned into a Stunt just by it granting a +2 in the appropriate field of study or endeavour.

    Mob rules and player controlled NPCs

    Mark Knights blog post mentioned the GM Tips G+ community discussed who controls NPCs and hirelings associated with the PCs; according to Mark the Ultimate Campaign book for Pathfinder suggests that hirelings/associates with a less than helpful attitude should be controlled by the GM. This started me thinking about the way I normally represent allied NPCs and some recent changes I have made using the FATE mob rules in my Rogue Trader FATE game.
    In my own games I have always been of the opinion that background characters and other NPCs who are not strictly antagonistic to the player characters should be controlled by a player since they generally stay in the background so as not to overshadow the PCs (who are the games main heroes/characters, after all), generally helping or hindering in certain situations depending on what they represent. In FATE core and FAE it is pretty easy to create an NPC using the cut-down rules for mooks and NPCs in both books and hand an index card with the details written on it to the player so that they can run the NPC as an adjunct to their own character; however, I do make it clear in my games that, at any point, I can re-take control of the NPC or their actions as required by the plot or should the NPC take a more antagonistic stance towards the player party. This generally seems to work pretty well, it lets the player feel that they are contributing towards the actions of the NPCs, frees me up from rolling the dice for allied-NPCs and still allows me the option of assuming narrative control over them should it become necessary for the good of the story (although I generally limit my input to occasionally portraying the allied-NPCs during conversations unless it is something important or the NPC is separated from their associated player character and I wish to keep the outcome secret).
    Handling lots of allied-NPCs
    One of the things (IMO) that makes Rogue Trader stand out from a lot of the other WH40K RPGs put out by Fantasy Flight Games (aside from perhaps Only War) is the sheer amount of NPCs that the characters have available working for them; it is true than in Only War the players along with allied-NPCs represent an Imperial Guard regiment, however, in Rogue Trader the player party owns a large space going vessel with hundreds of thousands of crew members, guards, pilots, engineers, etc. This can occasionally prove problematic in a game when the players insist on taking an armed party of guards with them whenever they go on a mission off-ship (or something similar); as a GM I don’t want to disallow this because it makes sense when viewed in an IC context, why on earth would you only take a handful of people when you have trained warriors at your disposal? That’s just dumb and a licence to get yourself killed.
    Previously i’ve handled these situations (especially those involving combay) mainly through GM fiat, and have basically had the PCs fight some opponents and have had the guards (or whatever) mop up numerous additional mooks (without really using dice rolls or anything; recently however I have been reading up on the mob rules of the FATE core rules (page 216 in the FATE core rulebook for anyone interested), a system for ‘clumping’ together similar NPCs and treating them as a single entity. 
    The rules for mobs basically say that you roll one set of dice for a mob, they may use teamwork to increase their skill rolls and that any stress inflicted that goes beyond that needed to take out a single member of a mob, rolls over to the next mob member.
    For example: If I have a mob of 5 mooks with Fight skill +1 and no stress boxes attacking the player characters, then I would take their basic Fighting skill level of +1 and increase it by 1 for each member beyond the first that was helping, for a total Fighting skill of +5. If the mob was attacked back then, because the members have no stress boxes, each level of stress would kill a single mob member (also lowered their skill).
    This is a great way of representing groups of NPCs such as the nameless guards that Rogue Traders take about with them; dice rolling duties for the allied-mob can be turned over to one of the players who is commanding the mob, or often I will turn the dice rolling over to a player whose character is not directly involved in the current scene since it gets them more involved in the attack on an OOC level. I tried this for the first time during my last session when the now deceased Chief Confessor Cornelius rounded up a mutinous, pipe-wielding mob of nine people onboard the spaceship Venerus and headed to the quarters being used by the alien (Eldar) ambassador Da’Duith Iath intent on meting out some mob justice on the unfortunate alien. During the first round of combat the Eldar was barely able to fend off the +9 attack bonus of the howling mob, and only then by taking a hefty stress hit and a severe consequence; the alien in turn dispatched six of the mob, but had taken such a lot of damage that he was easy prey for the remnants of the mob (backed up by the Confessor) and was torn to shreds.
    For me this combat worked just the way I wanted it to, the Eldar, although skilled and would have no doubt made short work of a single opponent, was unable to prevail against the sheer mass of the mob bearing down on him; mechanically the combat was quick, easy to adjudicate from a GM standpoint, and it took into account the followers that had been gathered by the Confessor, his actions in rounding up the mob making a major difference to the scene. It’s certainly a rules system that i’ll be using in future to represent guard parties, fighter wings, etc and highly recommend it – I may even be adapting it for my space rules and representing opposing fleets as ‘mobs’ of spaceships.

    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.

    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 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 (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.