FATE is flexible

27 Jun

Recently I wrote a little game using FATE. It’s on the games page, if you’re interested. One of the things I did with that game was provide a number of NPCs that pushed the boundaries of humanity, the kind of people Spider Jerusalem might meet walking down the street. My favorite is Arcelia, who is part of a group mind named Gorgo.

And it got me thinking, what about a setting thousands of years in the future? What about Star Trek, but without any war fought with Khan Singh, without any dangerous nanite incident? A Star Trek setting where they actually use every technology they have, rather than leave most things for humans to do.

First off, humans wouldn’t exist in such a setting. Look at the census information for any developed nation. Humans die more than they are born. We just don’t need them so much anymore. So what would the people be in such a setting? Let’s assume they would be starships, immortal, nanotech, biomechanical starships. Some would have the encoded personality of a former human, but most would just have been born or made the way they are. Shapechangers even, each one would look completely different. And they would be able to use replicator/transporter combo devices to create life as they need it, to investigate strange worlds.

Could we easily build a game with FATE that we could use to run adventures in such a world?

Lets try it. I’ll just type something up quickly because I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this.

To make a character:

  1. State 10 things about the character (aspects). Fore Example:
    1. Has your character pledged loyalty to any other character?
    2. What does your character see as the goal of its existence?
    3. Where did your character come from?
    4. Did your character have any bad experiences?
    5. Did your character live differently before?
    6. Is your character unusually small, big, slow, fast, fierce, peaceful, attractive, or off-putting when compared to other people like this character?
    7. Is this character a member of any particular group?
    8. Does your character have an enemy? A group of enemies?
    9. How does this character know one or more of the other characters?
    10. Does this character have any noteworthy assets?
    11. Has the character developed any technology that other people like this character usually lack?
  2. Pick 10 strengths for your character to have, from this list.
    1. Sub-c Flight
    2. FTL Flight
    3. Shields
    4. Weapons
    5. Tractor Beams
    6. Data Banks
    7. Sensors
    8. Creativity
    9. Amiability
    10. Duplicity
    11. Empathy
    12. Resolve
    13. Repair
    14. Intimidation
    15. Leadership
    16. Ingenuity
    17. Virtual Reality
    18. Tactics
    19. Stealth
    20. Shapechanging

Of those 10 strengths, 4 should be rated at level one, 3 at level two, 2 at level three, and 1 at level four. Anything that is not rated as a strength, your character can only do modestly. If Duplicity is not a strength, then your character is only able to lie as well as a human. If Shapechanging is not a strength, then your character is able to alter its form and the forms of its creations, but relatively slowly and unconvincingly. Level one means better than a human could ever be. Level two means as good as Earth’s greatest heroes (from comic books, stuff like Captain Marvel, Superman, Reed Richards). Level three means that in that realm of ability, you can go toe to toe with Galacticus. If your Empathy is level three you can understand how whole planets are thinking by watching the movements of the beings below. If your Amiability is three you can get a world to worship you as a god or their greatest celebrity in a couple of days. Level four ability represents godlike power.

For Example:

Character Name: Tao Photon

  • Was created to be a messenger.
  • Is very fast.
  • Was dismissed, but still friends with his creator Dai Huda.
  • Likes exploring planets.
  • Often creates a winged man to explore.
  • Easily bored.
  • Would rather avoid conflict than face it.
  • Easily distracted by pleasure.
  • Excellent heat shielding.
  • Eager to learn about others.

And his strengths are:

  1. Resolve
    Repair
    Stealth
    Shapechanging
  2. Shields
    Amiability
    Sensors
  3. Data Banks
    Sub-c Flight
  4. FTL Flight

OK, that seems to work. I kind of like that character.

I’m thinking that I don’t need a GM or a ladder for this game. Everyone can have a character, and just narrate what the character does. These are beings with godlike abilities. They make Amberites look wimpy. If your top three strengths are Tactics, Shields, and Weapons, you could bat Benedict away like a fly. If you say, “My character pulls up to the gas giant, builds a piezoelectric power station to harness the gravity of the planet and its moons, and use that to power replicator/teleporters that create a whole floating ecosystem in the atmosphere of the planet.” then your character just does it. The next day, it’s done. At the end of the week, you could have a whole civilization of humanoids living in the desiccated shells of gigantic pumpkins on pumpkin vines held aloft because the ripe pumpkins fill with hydrogen and keep the whole enormous vine in the sky. The people ride giant bats that sleep hanging from the sky-vines, and they eat pumpkin meat and giant roast beetles, and gather honey from house sized beehives.

Each player gets 10 fate tokens at the beginning of a session. And whenever two of the (crap we really need a name for these beings; how about…) Raqi’im are attacking one another they each get 4 stress boxes, plus the value of a relevant skill.

When two of the Raqi’im are in conflict with each other, if the two players controlling them can think of a reason one should win over the other (it would make sense for the story, one of them has an exploitable weakness listed as an aspect, one of them has an advantage listed as an aspect), the one who would win, can give a fate point to the loser and just win. The loser can start a bidding war, by offering one more than was offered. And the one who would have won can take the higher bid or match it to stay the winner.

If they don’t want to decide the conflict with fate points, they can dice off, by each of them rolling a d4 and adding it to their characters’ most useful strength. If you are opposed to rolling d4s (because they are such a crazy shape) you could roll dayakattai sticks or spin a dreidel or something ( נ N 1, ג G 2, ה H 3, ש Sh 4).

Whenever two characters are trying to harm or otherwise change each other, they must dice off. One attacks and the other defends. And then the other attacks and the first defends. You can always use your attack as a setup instead, which will give you a +2 on your next attack, or on an ally’s next attack as long as your next attack is against this foe. If the attacker wins, the defender checks off that stress box or a higher one. If those boxes are already checked off, the defender takes a Concession. Concessions in this game should be absolutely brutal. Like if Tao Photon created a winged man to explore a planet, and the infamous space pirate Sangre Cancer attacks the winged man and gets a concession, the winged man should lose an arm or something. A concession always also counts as a successful setup, so whoever attacks this character next gets a +2. If a Raqi’i has an aspect that would help it attack, the player controlling that Raqi’i can give a fate point to the player controlling the defender and get a +2. The defender can do likewise if his Raqi’i has a helpful aspect. If they agree that one of the opponents has a situational advantage, the one benefiting can get a +2 each round that he is willing to trade a fate point.

A Raqi’i (or one of its creations) can take three concessions without being totally compromised and losing a battle (or battle of will or battle of wits, etc). Whenever a character is in a scene in which that character is not attacked, that character recovers from one concession. So if your character is utterly destroyed, it can recover from a backup in the next scene, but the restored character would still be really weak or messed up or something.

Players are expected to have more than one character, or even for one of a player’s characters to create another character right in the middle of the game, and either for the player who created the character to use it, or for that player to give the new character to another player.

Fate points belong to the player, not the characters. Each player starts each session with 10 fate points, no matter how many characters he controls throughout the session.

Characters in this game don’t advance, because they’re already so ridiculously powerful, but after each session each character can swap the values of two of your strengths (swap zero with one, swap three with four, etc), or you can change one of the character’s aspects.

These characters are already so obscenely powerful, and the player is able to use whichever strength he can justify through story-telling, so they don’t get stunts. They wouldn’t really serve a useful purpose in this game.

Obviously Raqi’im cannot die but they can change so much through their experiences that they would not even recognize their older self, and that is a type of death, in a way. An identity death, I suppose.

After tinkering with that for a bit, it really seems like it would work. 10 might be too many fate points to start each session with, especially since they are zero sum (just move between players, never go out of play), but I’d have to try the game with one or more other people before I can be sure if I should lower or raise that amount.

What I tried to do was to create the weirdest, most alien characters I could, characters that need not be vaguely human and could create exploratory bodies to walk around on planets, characters of such power that no role playing game could regulate their adventures. And what I found out was that FATE still works in a sense. One could argue that the game has changed so much that it really isn’t FATE anymore, but in my mind, it does still resemble FATE. You still have aspects, fate points and a skill pyramid.

If anyone wants to try this game, feel free to skype me. If you live in Georgia, maybe we can even try this, or another game in person.

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