Friday, 10 June 2011

Planescape: The Planning - FATE

So, last time I talked about Risus. This time, it's FATE's turn to shine.

FATE is a highly narrative-based RPG, using a system of Aspects, Skills, and Stunts. It also uses Fate Points (like Savage Worlds' Bennies, not so much like WFRP's Fate Points).

Aspects are surprisingly similar to Risus Cliches done serious - an Aspect is a defining character trait, which can give you a bonus or penalty in a situation (referred to as Invoking or Tagging an Aspect). They can be descriptors, quotes, whatever you want - so long as they cover enough ground to be useful.

So, say you have the Aspect "Ladies Man". In a social situation, you can spend a Fate Point to Invoke it to get a bonus to any charm/seduction roll against women. Or you can use it to create an old flame from your backstory. Or anything you and the GM agree on, really.

The problem is, the GM can offer you a Fate Point if you let him use it against you - Compelling. So, during an important recon mission, he can Compel "Ladies Man" to say that you were too busy checking out the blonde in the tight jeans to see the important thing happening. Or to make a jilted ex appear at just the wrong moment.

You can even Invoke environmental aspects - spend a Fate Point and say "The room is dark, too dark for the thug to aim properly" or "It way too hot to concentrate". Good GMs have a couple of these aspects worked up, waiting for the players to find them and take advantage. Again, they might Compel these to work against you - whatever makes for the better story.

You can even toss down a Fate Point to make a statement about the gameworld - a Declaration. For example, if you are being pursued by armed guards, and you've lost your weapon, you can pop a Fate Point and declare you've ran past a handy weapons rack, with something useable in. If the GM agrees, your declaration is now fact - congrats, you just expanded the gameworld. If not, well - you still get your Fate Point back.

It's nice, flavourful, and can be used to drive a story from either side. Some people might not be comfortable with this level of control in the hands of the players, but it's fun, trust me!

Skills are simple - general things like Archery, Fighting, Stealth - ranked on a "ladder", from -4 to +6. This number is added to (or subtracted from) your roll.

Rolls are made using four Fudge Dice - six-sided, with two "+" sides, two "-" sides, and two "blank" sides. + counts as 1, - counts as -1, blank as 0. Add these up with your skill rank and see if you managed to get a positive result (the higher the result, the more successful it is). You can spend a Fate Point to turn one of these into a "+".

Stunts are simply special actions/bonuses linked with Skills, each doing something different (so, characters with Social skills can take Stunts to ensure they make the best first impression, Fighting skills can grant specific combat tricks, or can be used to represent magical ability or superpowers, etc.) - they can best be summed up as more flexible versions of Feats from D&D. These also use Fate Points.

Simple, right? Well, no - it can be a bit confusing. Once you get used to it, though, it's fairly natural. You also need to buy special dice (though a normal d6 can sub in a pinch, with 1,2 being "-", 3,4 being "0" and 5,6 being "+"). The system also gives a lot of the narrative control over to the player - something some groups may not be that keen on. While meaning that the DM has a lot less work to do, and the players will generally need to think about the ways they can drive the story, it does make for a very "seat of the pants" game to run, and can lead to players blocking themselves off from the possible plots the DM has in mind. Good communication between all parties is an absolute must!

Out of the two, I'm leaning more to Risus for my Planescape game - it's a lot more flexible, and fun than FATE - but it also lends itself much better to comedy than serious stuff, so FATE will always be a contender. It allows for the player's choice of personality and background to really have an effect on the gameworld through mechanics, rather than the DM's fiddling, which is great in Planescape - after all, belief shapes the Planes, and what better way to model that than by allowing the players to define it themselves?

Here's the SRD (System Reference Document) for FATE, and here's  the version I'd be using - potatocubed's FATEscape, specifically designed to run D&D with FATE. Quality stuff, I have found.

And a few sample Aspects, to get me started:

  • Veteran of The Blood War
  • Righteous Paladin of Bahamut
  • Tout of The Cage
  • Dirty as a Hive Ward Trader
  • A Stare That Could Cow a Balor
  • "Here's the dark of it..."
  • Barmy as a Spire God
  • Cold as Cryonax's Heart (Or insert ruder body parts for less polite bashers)
  • Voice as Sweet as a Celestian Bell
  • Face Like a Slaad's Backside
  • Heritage of Two Worlds (for half-breed characters - could also be done as Best of Both, Worst of Both, whatever). For Genasi, some of their titles (like Wind Dukes for Air, Stone Princes for Earth, Lanterns of The Mists for Steam) would make good, flavourful Aspects. Other Planetouched could find some nice appellations (like Touched With Madness for Chaonds/Limbo-Touched). For less appreciated Planetouched, like Tieflings, Bastard of Acheron, for example, would play up a lot of the problems and angst one might face. (I do love me some angst...)
Put them together, and poof - a sample character!

1 Over 3, Rogue Modron Psion

Rogue Mechanusian Modron
Categorising Sensate
"I find that to be highly illogical"

1 Over 3 used to be your bog-standard Monodrone, performing small tasks on Mechanus with no great joy (though no sadness or regret either). During a minor planar incursion (a handful of combatants in the Blood War finding their way onto one of The Cogs), 1 Over 3 realised there was much, much more to the Multiverse than he once thought, and the idea of experiencing it first-hand intrigued him. So he left Mechanus, and found his way into Sigil. His ideas regarding experience drew him into the Civic Festhall, meeting place of the Sensates. He became one of them, experiencing the universe as much as he possibly could - but his Lawful heritage makes him compulsively record these experiences, whether through Sense Stones, memory-storing magic, or just plain paper and quill. It also leads him to be confused about the other Sensate's self-destructive atterns of experience - life is there to be seen, felt, tasted - why focus on one sensation, to the detriment of others or even the chance to experience others in the future.

For those senses he doesn't possess, or those experiences he simply cannot have, he has decided to train in the arts of psionics, to gain other senses or to "borrow" the sense of others to further his knowledge. He is currently seeking out others to travel with, to work his way around the Planes to find more experiences, and hopefully find a way to recreate the lost feeling of blissful ignorance he had back on Mechanus.

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