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).

7 thoughts on “Fate of Cthulhu – FAE Cthulhu hack – Character generation”

  1. I think that part of the issue with things in the rogue trader game is that it didn’t start as Fate or FAE it started as an entirely different system. You have chopped and changed the system to try and fit the bits of rogue trader in but I don’t think it’s ever going to be a perfect fit.

  2. I only followed the link you dropped in G+ because of the awesome Cthulhu picture and I'm glad I did. You've done some great work here and I look forward to reading more! Well done!

  3. @ John Miles: I don't think it's really an issue of the Rogue Trader game not beginning as FATE, since IMO the rules are of secondary importance to the stories/plots in any RPG – but I think that systems designed to be more clunky are perhaps less of a decent fit for FATE. If I was creating my Rogue Trader hack again then I would probably design it from the ground up using FATE as a starting rather than trying to convert bits over.

    @ Ed Gibbs: Glad you enjoyed it Ed 🙂

  4. This bit here: “'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." Struck me as sounding like a collectible card game rule, rather than a roleplaying game. And I have no idea what Refresh – 1 means.

    But if you and your players enjoy the game, then more power to you! Personally, I've never had a problem with the regular old Call of Cthulhu RPG.


    1. The "once per session" Stunt is based around the creation of Stunts in Fate Accelerated that either grant a player +2 to a roll on a specialised field or allow them to do something cool/rule breaking once per session; whilst personally I wouldn't disallow a player from attempting to gain access to restricted areas using rolls, the Stunt allows them to do it automatically once.

      Refresh 1 is the minimum number of fate points a character would start the session with.

  5. @ John. Sorry I think you misunderstood what I meant, we had been playing the game already there where expectations of what each character could/should do that where based on a different rules set so when the changeover happened we as players had different expectations that I don’t think the fate rules really cover. If it had been a rogue trader game run from the first session as fate these expectations wouldn’t have been there.

    1. Oh I see, you may be right – unfortunately the Rogue Trader game was run very much from a hindsight position; having never run a game with the FFG rules before I wasn't in a position to know how much I was going to dislike them (nor would I have wanted to make my mind up without at least giving them a go).

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