Friday, 3 October 2014

Skeleton rulesets: FATEalike

I'm currently trying to burn through some of my drafts folder, which has been hovering around the 50 posts mark for months now. So if posts seem not to go anywhere or seem even more incomplete than usual, that's one reason.

Chatting with Arthur after our playtest FATE Core game, we came up with the idea of a much more stripped down version. One of the problems I found was in adjusting to the system, because of the way subsystems are interreliant: I found it quite difficult to get my head around any one component of the mechanics until I'd read all of them, which meant things only started to click about halfway through the book. You can't really understand Aspects until you know how skills, stunts, conflicts and the Fate Point economy work, and vice versa. This isn't just in terms of exact mechanics, but also working out their role in the game on a more conceptual level.

One idea that came up was that this was partly down to the system's abstraction: a lot of the time, rather than mechanics acting on narrative, mechanics seem to be acting on other mechanics. Fate Points or skill rolls allow you to invoke Aspects, which grant a bonus to another roll, which in turn either interacts with the damage subsystem or creates another aspect. Players have to decide what mechanically they are trying to achieve as well as the narrative actions they're taking.

We felt that this was a bit heavy for what we'd looked into FATE for, which was essential a short, fast and lively game. Something more intuitive seemed called for. During the walk back into town, we drafted out a very rough system that is a skeletal version of FATE Core for very quick light play.

  • Aspects define things about your character that are important, and reinforce them mechanically.
  • Invocation of an Aspect is generally non-mechanical; it is a narrative override.
  • There are no Stunts.

Most of the time, you narrate what you're doing. The GM decides (or more likely, you negotiate) what a success will achieve (damage? defend? create an Aspect?) and what Skill should be rolled. You roll 4 Fudge dice plus Skill.

Characters define a High Concept, which is not an Aspect. They then pick six character Aspects, of which about three should be generally beneficial and about three generally cause complications. This offers opportunity for spending and earning Fate Points. If any offer obvious hooks for use in both directions, great! Aspects should also be relatively narrow so as not to apply constantly.

Non-character Aspects can be created with a Skill roll as normal. The GM determines the target number.

When you invoke an Aspect, you state a reasonable narrative result of that Aspect and pay a Fate Point to its owner. You may be required to make a roll before you can invoke the Aspect, as the GM determines. Aspects are important and can achieve notable things, including outcomes that normally require a roll. If you invoke your own Aspect, you pay the GM.

  • Surprised by a gang of rustlers in the saloon, Surly Mike's Punch First, Ask Questions Later Aspect is invoked, and he knocks out the first rustler before he can even draw.
  • Because the barn is Full of Smoke and Flame, a player declares the villain's exit is blocked and he has to look for another way out.
  • In a vicious argument over the Dempson case, LawyerBot 399-D's Geniality Circuits make it hard to give as good as it gets. The resulting -2 penalty means Carlson Smuglie-Ffrench delivers some burning put-downs and takes the lead on the case.

This, plus the difficulty table and general skill descriptions from FATE Core, seems brisk enough to fill that niche I was looking for.

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