View Full Version : Ghost Lands (FATE setting)

2014-10-15, 10:07 PM
I don't have the time right now to really run any extra games, but that doesn't mean my brain stops thinking about settings or homebrew systems. Here is one of the former. Comments and criticisms are welcomed but not requested, I just wanted to share this in case someone found it interesting or wants to use it.

View on Google Docs Publisher (https://docs.google.com/document/d/113qcw1VPAoaLmxGFwryjwAxkBF_ZDREG542aFClUrnU/pub)

At the turn of the 1800s, the United States begins its acquisition of the western half of North America, slowly moving its border towards the west coast of the continent. In preparation for properly settling these lands, grants are offered to leading explorers, surveyors, and land is arranged for those brave, foolhardy, or desperate individuals wishing to get a new start in untamed lands.

When those explorers came back, they brought with them fantastical stories that gave the rest of the country pause in their western expansion. West of the great mountain chain that would eventually come to be known as the Ghost Peaks (real-world Rocky Mountains), were select locations where the spirits were manifest. Several of the explorers had come riding back with strange control over the spirits of the world; they knew the truth that spirits were everywhere, they just needed a little help sometimes.

Even manifest spirits were not enough to deter the settlers who wanted that new start. They avoided the places marked on explorers’ maps as dangerous and built towns, ranches, trading posts. After a couple years, however, it was apparent that the spirits were spreading. A scant couple of decades later, the spirits, for good or for ill, have filled everything west of the Ghost Peaks, where the expansion seems to have halted or at least slowed…

An unforeseen side effect of living west of the Ghost Peaks manifests in approximately one in two-hundred people. Those people, through means poorly understood, have the ability to call and compel the spirits in the world. With this gift or curse, they have the ability to conjure blazing fires and great windstorms, the ability to instill fear in men or motion to corpses, the ability to talk to beasts or change form, or even the ability to leave the physical world and become invisible.

These individuals were regarded with a mixture of fear and reverence. To the devout, they were either unfortunates needing to be saved, impure needing to be avoided, or heretics needing to be destroyed. To the workers, tillers, and ranchers, they were either a great help or a terrible threat. To the scientists they were an enigma. One thing was true for all of them, they dealt with spirits and occult power and they were, simply, spooky. For that simple fact, those individuals eventually came to be known as Spooks.

There are certain groups which hold the ghostlands, and Spooks in particular, as the greatest threat to human morality faced in recorded history. Typically, these complaints are religious in nature, the rallying cry being that Spooks are in league with any number of devils, unredeemable.
Spooks in the Ghost Lands generally have talents that fall into one of four broad categories. This does not mean that Spooks are limited only to powers within their talent, only that those abilities are easier for them (and many do in fact choose to work only within that talent, much like how a plumber by necessity learns rudimentary carpentry but still calls the carpenter to build his house). Listed with each type are one or more popular fiction cryptids, monsters, spirits, or other folklore critters that exemplify the nature of the Spook’s gift.
Burners are gifted in the manipulation of elemental spirits, allowing them to call fire and electricity, freeze, thaw, or boil water, and control the weather. Amongst Spooks, Burners are typically the most tolerated, as their gifts are the most useful to struggling communities. Burners draw on concepts from elemental spirits including the thunderbird, wendigo, naiad, and dryad.
Scarecrows are masters of animation and fear, raising the dead to shuffle and moan, bringing weapons to life on their own, and sending nightmares into the waking or sleeping mind. Of all the types of Spooks, the Scarecrows are the most feared and hated.The poltergeist is a shining example of a scarecrow spirit.
Howlers touch the strings of life and animals, able to change shape, heal, or enhance or borrow characteristics of the animal kingdom. Howlers are almost as well received as Burners in civilized society, because they can act as medics and promote fertility in livestock, but certain historical events cause normal people to be wary of Howlers. Werewolves, Sasquatch, and the Chupacabra are common relatives of Howler.
Enigmatic and mysterious, Empties can pass partially out of the physical world, becoming almost spirit-like themselves. Their most well-known abilities are invisibility and the inexplicable ability to always be right behind you in a shadowy corner when you least desire it. Empties also have the ability to travel “Below”, a poorly understood pitch dark space which allows them to quickly and relatively safely transport themselves and small groups of people or animals long distances. Empties are extremely popular with intelligence networks and smugglers, which means that the typical law-abiding citizen does not have any reason to tolerate them. When thinking of empties, think of the Grue or the Boogeyman.

The constant threat of spirits left few options for making permanent settlements. It seemed that the wandering ghosts were attracted to new human settlement, and there were not a lot of means available to the average person to deal with ghastly raiding parties. As such, many newly-created towns were quickly abandoned when ghosts decided to move in, leading to the countryside being dotted with so-called “ghost towns”--dangerous spirit riddled locations.

In response to this threat, the ever-adaptable men and women of the west began to live semi-nomadic lifestyles, building towns designed to break down quickly for flight in the face of spirit threats. This worked for a while at first, but it proved extremely difficult to gather any meaningful resources when your whole life was uprooted so frequently.

Then enterprising, benevolent, or arrogant Spooks offered a solution: they could use their powers, alone or in groups, to repel spirit attacks. This proved useful; towns only needed to hire enough Spooks to safely keep the spirit attacks at bay, and they could set up wherever they saw fit to gather resources.

Historically unpopular in the mostly Protestant United States, the Catholic Church nonetheless found themselves all too welcome in the Western front. In response to the widespread threat of spirits, the Catholic church was one of the first and certainly the most vigorous of groups to arrange for organized exorcism and protection prayers. At first, the United States’ citizens saw this as another threat to be faced. When it was demonstrated that these specially trained priests were capable of preventing spirit attacks in a town rather than repelling attacks as they happened, the citizens’ tunes changed though. Now, Clean Boys (named for the Priests’ ever-properly cleaned vestments and suits) are a crucial part of any sizable town, and a welcome part of any smaller part.

The Church’s efforts at conversion were not for nothing either, though not in the way they intended. Closer contact with the native tribes would eventually come to reveal that their spiritual leaders had known rites for time unknown to keep spirits at bay. Though the rites were less long-lived and smaller in scope than a weekly Sunday mass (Christian--and especially Catholic--theologians claim this is proof of the power of their God, natives claim that keeping the spirits so utterly locked out harms the good spirits as well as the bad, and the occasional academic has noted that frequency and number of participants are both greater in the Catholic exorcism traditions, if every individual attending church is counted as a participant), those towns in close contact with native tribes began to welcome them and offer goods in exchange for the protection of a Painted Man or Shaman.

Even some of the Spooks learned to like the Catholics, for the simple fact that amongst religious groups, few made as much effort to reach out to those individuals touched by ghastly power and welcome them back as members of the fold.

Spook paranoia was never as high as with the events of Ricken’s Folly. Shortly after the establishment of permanent settlements protected by Clean Boys, a Howler by the name of Jimmy Ricken was experimenting with the limits of Spook magic in what would eventually be southeastern Oregon. He was attempting to pass the ability to change form onto others without the abilities of a Spook.

His success was overshadowed only by the unexpected loopholes and costs that the greedy spirits inflicted on his test subjects. In attempting to grant non-Spooks the ability to change form, Ricken accidentally learned how a Spook can bestow a curse on someone: the curse needs an effect, and a drawback. With those two traits, the curse becomes an entity all its own, attempting to spread by whatever means available to it according to its nature.

Ricken’s accidental curse did grant those normal citizens he could pay to act as test subjects the ability to take the form of great wolves, with the drawback that those citizens had no control over when they transformed, developing an aversion to silver both in and out of form, and afflicted by uncontrollable rage while in wolf form. These werewolves, unlike traditional werewolves, did not change willingly through use of their own power, but against their control, but nonetheless, the name stuck.

Other strains of curse, both intentional and accidental, have cropped up from time to time, but the spreading of them has been limited by mercenary Spooks, except the original Ricken’s Werewolves, which quickly consumed an entire town before anyone was aware that such an act could operate within the protection of a Clean Boy. The town became known as Ricken’s Folly, a dangerous part of country for anyone to travel too close to.

With the threats of the Ghost Lands countryside, most towns are small and sometimes ephemeral in order to protect themselves. However, a central location is the expected norm of modern society, a place where ideas can be exchanged, goods can be traded, and order maintained. The Ghost Lands does not fail in this expectation: there is one town relatively near the border which is sizable and considered to be, if not a hub, then a gateway to the rest of the Ghost Lands. This town is named Spiral, and is named for a great mountain torn into the shape of a great whorling spire by angry spirits finding themselves trapped behind the mountains. In Spiral, the Couriers keep their central office, whereby anyone brave enough to travel the Ghost Lands can find work carrying letters or small goods. In Spiral, there are professionals for almost any job, mercenaries to hire, and travellers looking to settle in the Ghost Lands.

Just the other side of the mountains, the railroad comes to a final stop, unable to build further west because of the difficulty of protecting such a large portion of land. If Spiral is the gateway into the Ghost Lands, Last Stop is the lock and key to the gate. Everything that goes through Spiral goes through Last Stop first, and everything that comes back travels down the rail line from Last Stop.

FATE standard skill list, but replace Drive with Ride
Add the skill “Spookiness”, or an equivalently used skill to govern the ability of Spooks to use their magic. Spookiness can not be used unless the character is a Spook (see below), but it CAN be used by Spooks at a rating of Mediocre (+0), even if they do not have ranks in it. Special: Average(+1) or Fair(+2) add a special Mild Consequence slot. Good(+3) or Great(+4) add a special Moderate Consequence slot in addition to the Mild for Average or Fair. These slots can be used for either physical or mental consequences, so long as they are caused by spirits or magic.
The following is a standard Stunt, required to play an effective Clean Boy or Painted man, but usable by anyone with a good amount of faith: Faithful Exorcism: select either Will or Lore. You may use this skill to attack and defend against spirits, and to counter or defend against Spooks’ magical attacks. Defending against magic with shield of faith works like defending using Spook magic, detailed below (under Actions (Casting Magic)), using their Will or Lore instead of Spookiness.

Playing a Spook:

Reduce refresh by 1.
Choose one of the four types of spooks, and take an Aspect (this can be your Prime Aspect, Trouble, or one of your normal Aspects) which explains what your specialization is. This could be as simple as “Travelling Howler” or as strange as “Dental Necromancer”, so long as it is clear which specialization you have.
Your specialization itself cannot be invoked to cast magic related to it, but any other social, interpersonal, or historical traits it grants can be invoked (a Howler could invoke the fact that they are a Howler for a bonus to Lore checks to identify different strains of Werewolves, but not to get a bonus to change their form). For this reason, it is recommended that at least one other character trait is included in the Aspect.
(Optional) Purchase ranks in the Spookiness skill (or whatever your group named this skill).

The Spookiness skill is used to interact with spirits and cast or defend against magic.

Overcome: You can attempt to dispel ongoing spells, tame attacking spirits, or a variety of other actions. For using magic, do not use this action (see Actions (casting magic) below)

Create an Advantage: Use as normal, for affecting others’ magic or existing spirits.

Attack: You can directly attack spirits using your Spook abilities, but you cannot attack non-spirits.

Defend: You can defend against magic or against spirit attacks using Spookiness, by pitting your will and abilities against the other’s.

When casting magic, all Spooks are at +1 within their speciality, and at -1 when casting outside their speciality.
Follow the following steps:

Determine the power of the spell on the Ladder.
A spirit is summoned with the power of the spell, which then attempts to passively Attack the caster. Defend with Spookiness, including your bonus or penalty as mentioned above.
Fail: Take a mental hit equal to the number of shifts the spirit earned on the attack.
Tie: The spell is cast (see below), but the Spirit is released into the wild.
Create a spirit in the world, which has a single skill equal to its power (appropriate to the spell cast), and a single Stress track which is two boxes long, plus additional boxes based on its power (gained in the same fashion as physical stress for Physique or mental stress for Will).
Spirits created do not have consequences, can attack using their power (in lieu of a typical skill) in a way appropriate to their type, and can also defend using their power (in lieu of a typical skill). Spirits come in many varieties, but are always appropriate to the spell being cast.
Success: The spell is cast (see below) with no additional effects.
Success with Style: The spell is cast (see below), and the spirit receives a +2 to its casting roll.
If the spell is cast, the spirit then makes its own check using its power (in lieu of a typical skill). Treat this as an Overcome, Create an Advantage, or Attack normally.

Raquel wants to use her Burner powers to call a bolt of lightning to strike her opponent. Her Spookiness is Fair (+2), and she is at +1 because lightning falls under the Burner specialization. Additionally, Raquel has a Stunt which grants her a +2 to using weather magic when outside under open sky the current conflict in a prairie meets this requirement). She decides to call a spell of power Great (+4). She rolls and gets ++--, for a total result of Superb (+5). The spell then rolls using Great (+4), and gets +++-, for a result of Fantastic (+6). Her opponent would probably defend using Athletics (to dodge the attack), Spookiness (if they are a Spook), or the Faithful Exorcist Stunt, if they have it.

Delilah Tululah Priscillah O’Malley is one of the best crack-shots in the Ghost Lands, so it is fortunate that her Spook specialization is as an Empty. She decides to sneak up on a bandit leader in his tent at night, using the Empty’s ability to go Below to transport herself into a dark space in the camp. Her Spookiness is Good (+3), and she receives a +1 because going Below is within the Empty specialization. The Storyteller determines that due to how well lit the bandit camp is (to protect against this very thing), the Overcome rating of the task is Great (+4). O’Malley decides to summon a spell with a power of Great (+4), and rolls +==-, for a total result of Great (+4). The spirit is successfully summoned and casts the spell, rolling a ++=- for a total result of Superb (+5), but once she arrives on the other end, the spirit is not properly released, creating a spirit of power 4 in the scene of the Bandit camp. The Storyteller then would decided on an appropriate skill for the spirit to have, and the spirit would be controlled as an NPC until actions had resolved to drive it off or subdue it.

Defending with Magic: To defend with magic, a Spook must use the Create an Advantage action with Spookiness against the power of the defense they want to create. Instead of the normal Aspect, the Spook can instead choose to generate a defense equal to a power they choose before casting the magic. If they succeed, they can use that defense instead of the normal skill, but each time they do so, the power is reduced by 1. If they do this, they can at any time consume the remaining power as though it was a Boost. If they would only receive a Boost when attempting to do this, it operates as a normal Boost.Dr. Blackstone, DDS is not a robust man, but he is an extremely powerful Scarecrow. He decides to create a physical barrier of animated, reinforced, whirling teeth to protect him against knives and gunfire. His Spookiness is Great (+4), and he receives a +1 because animation of teeth falls under the Scarecrow specialization. He decides to cast a spell with a power of Superb (+5), and attempt to create a barrier of power Superb (+5). He rolls defense against the spirit’s attack, and gets ++=-, for a total result of Fantastic (+6). This Succeeds, so the spell casts using Superb and gets +===, for again a total result of Fantastic. Since that also succeeded, Dr. Blackstone can now use his new Whirling Teeth (+5) to defend instead of his pitiful Athletics. The next time he is attacked, he does so, and regardless of the result, his Whirling Teeth are dropped to +4. Eventually, after they drop to the same as his Athletics score, he uses the remainder as a Boost, consuming the Whirling Teeth spell. (he could do this at any time, including when he is defending with Whirling Teeth).

Steel Mirror
2014-10-15, 10:20 PM
Looks super cool! It's a pity this isn't a game pitch, if I read this over in the recruiting forum I would be bashing down the door trying to get an application up. :smallbiggrin:

2014-10-22, 03:52 PM
Looks super cool! It's a pity this isn't a game pitch, if I read this over in the recruiting forum I would be bashing down the door trying to get an application up. :smallbiggrin:

Well no setting homebrewer has ever been disappointed with this response, I think. Thanks!

If the application did exist, what sort of character would you cook up?