View Full Version : [DFRPG/Fate] House Rules Ideas

2019-06-02, 05:07 AM
Design Goals

I admittedly have only limited experience with the DFRPG and Fate beyond it. I also readily acknowledge that I'm not really in the "target audience" so to speak - I'm more in the "mechanically-minded optimizer" crowd. That all being said, I'm trying to improve my facility with more rules-light games, and I had some ideas.

Balance is actually my primary aim here. While Fate doesn't have the sort of game-shattering balance issues that, say, D&D and even my personal favorite system M&M have, there are some pretty obviously superior mechanical choices that don't really need to be that obviously mechanically superior. A secondary goal is making the game at least a little more robust - I'm not going to even try to graft on a full tactical engine or anything like that, but a few tweaks to make Aspects a bit more interactive and such. My hope is that these rules will be simple enough that they won't do more than nudge up the game's complexity, while providing comparatively big gains in overall balance and robustness. One can hope, anyway.

Of some note, while these rules are written specifically for the DFRPG, I do expect that many of them could be imported to other Fate games in general. The ones that I expect are most portable are Armor Trappings, the basics of Starting Gear, definitely Fate Debt and Rebalanced Maneuvers, and Stress Shifting, Supplemental Defense, and Weight of Numbers. I feel like there's also probably room for the kinda "minimum bonus" part of the Skill Points rule in higher-powered Fate games. The rest of them are more DFRPG specific.

Comments, critiques, and other thoughts welcome as always!

Character Creation

Armor Trappings: As an additional Trapping, Presence provides an Armor rating against social stress, and Conviction provides an Armor rating against mental stress (though this does not apply to the stress from spellcasting, since Conviction already plays a role in reducing that; it also doesn't apply against Backlash). This is Armor: 1 with a skill of 2-3, Armor: 2 with a skill of 4-5, and +1 Armor per two points of the skill above 4.

This is also part of the reason for tying Armor availability to Endurance (see below). The "resistance" skills kinda suck compared to the defense skills. The Stress Shifting rule below helps, but letting the resistance skills give you some armor makes them more solid investments that will be helping your defense throughout a conflict.

Rebalanced Refresh: For each point of unspent Refresh a character possesses, it also gains a bonus skill point.

For each two points of Refresh spent on Mortal Stunts or True Faith powers, you gain one additional Stunt or one additional Refresh worth of True Faith powers, respectively, to balance the fact that these are explicitly weaker than most supernatural powers.

Pure Mortals no longer get +2 Refresh - the above rules should be sufficient to balance out their reduced investment in powers.

If you have abilities with flaws (that is, mitigating factors that give back Refresh), and you invest more than the "optimal" amount of Refresh into them (for example, you have a flaw that gives +2 and you invest more than 3 Refresh worth of stunts and powers into it) then for each odd-numbered point beyond the optimal amount, you get a bonus Aspect that applies whenever you qualify for the powers. The Aspect must relate directly to the powerset - if you have a Catch, for example, the related Aspect should be things related to the defensive powers it's mitigating, while if you have an Item of Power they would be Aspects on the item itself, etc.

Nothing too big here. Weaker traits should cost less than stronger traits. Straightforward. I'm also kinda of the opinion that DFRPG (FATE in general really, from what I've seen) doesn't really give you enough starting Refresh in the first place, so this helps some with that.

The flaw Aspect thing is because it's kinda an obvious move to like take the flaw and then take exactly one point of refresh more in powers attached to it. I mean, that's still probably kinda optimal, but at least this way you get a little something extra for investing more, and I think the idea of like Objects of Power having their own Aspects, or having additional Aspects in your Beast Shape or whatever is kinda cool.

Skill Points: Increase the base Skill Point totals for all levels of power by 20. In addition, when playing at Up To Your Waist level, any skill without points invested into it is Average (+1) rather than Mediocre (+0). This becomes Fair (+2) at the Submerged level. Raising skills still costs the full Skill Point total, but these "base" skills can support columns (so for example, at Submerged level, it would still cost 3 SP to get a skill of +3, but it can be supported by skills that don't have any points in them, since those default to +2).

For my money, DFRPG doesn't offer anywhere close to enough skill points. There are twenty-five skills in the game, of which six are primary "defense" or "resistance" skills (meaning you need all of them to be able to actually defend yourself across a broad range of conflicts). Most characters would generally have any bonus at all in somewhere between 8 and 12 skills - not necessarily a good bonus, mind you. Any bonus at all.

+20 skill points sounds like a lot, but here's my premise. For Feet In The Water, this gives you 40 points, enough for four columns. That's 16 of the 25 skills - more than half, sure, but this isn't saying you're really good at more than half of the skills. Again, this is for having any bonus at all. So say you have four columns. One of those can be for physical skills, one for mental, one for social, and one of them can be for whatever - more skills in the area you're best at, or a smattering of extraneous skills divided among them, whatever. You don't have to build this way, of course, but it makes it much more likely that every PC is going to have at least something to contribute in the three broad types of challenges. And that at the very least you can field something resembling a defense in all three.

While this does mean there's definitely going to be more overlap among PC skills...meh, a group of six PCs could each have all four peak skills unique and they'd still be missing one. There's still plenty of room for differentiation.

The reason for the minimum bonuses is...I mean, look at the Our World book. How many of those NPC write-ups have things like "most of their skills are X" or whatever? In real life, yeah, most people are mediocre at most things. But fictional characters tend to display at least a certain baseline minimal competence even in skills outside their field. This also keeps skills in a tighter grouping, and will work even if you scaled the pattern up further, with another +1 to the minimum skill every "even" power level and another +1 to the maximum every "odd" - the best skill in the group will still never be more than 3 or 4 above the lowest. And if you actually want your character to be worse at something than the Minimal Fictional Competence Baseline? Well, that's what Aspects are for!

This also makes it very easy to judge appropriate average targets for a group. Feet in the Water it's +2. Up To The Waist and Chest Deep it's +3. Submerged it's +4. If you scale things further, each two additional steps raises it by 1. A challenge of that difficulty will be tough for someone who hasn't invested in the skill, even for someone with a solid investment, and easy for someone with high investment. Lower by 2 for an easy task, raise by 2 for a hard task. Easy rule of thumb for calibrating challenges.

Starting Gear: Characters can begin play with (and be assumed to have reliable personal access to) weapons and armor at a value based on a certain skill. For weapons, a skill of 0-1 allows Weapon: 1. A skill of 2-3 allows Weapon: 2. A skill of 4-5 allows Weapon 3. Each two points of the skill above 4 increases the allowed Weapon value by 1.

For armor, a skill of 0-1 provides no armor. A skill of 2-3 provides Armor: 1. A skill of 4-5 provides Armor: 2. Each two points of the skill above 4 increases the allowed Armor value by 1.

You can use Weapons or Guns as the skill for providing weapons of the appropriate type.

You can use Endurance as the skill for providing physical armor. The base value is for a composite armor that will protect against any physical attack (although not magic or energy). You can limit it to protecting against only two of three broad types of physical attack (sharp-force, blunt-force, or ballistic) to raise the armor value by 1, or to only one type to raise the armor value by 2.

You may use Resources as the skill for any sort of weapon or physical armor.

If you spend an Enchanted Item or Focus slot to create a weapon or armor, you may use your Lore as the skill to determine its value if desired. Such armor also applies against magic and energy attacks, though not Backlash from spellcasting.

If you have an Item of Power that is a weapon or armor, you may use your highest skill to set its rating. Such armor also protects against magic and energy attacks, though not Backlash from spellcasting.

Characters can still use better gear that they acquire during their adventures, but they don't get reliable access to it - it will generally be lost, sold, worn down, or the like between adventures.

Weapon and Armor ratings are, uh, rather powerful? I feel like it...kinda makes sense for there to be some sort of investment required to obtain them? Maybe I'm crazy?


Fate Debt: When you invoke a permanent Aspect on the scene or an opponent, you may raise your Fate Debt rather than spending any Fate Points. Fate Debt begins at 0 and there is no limit to how high it can be raised. However, the GM may spend your Fate Debt rather than offering you Fate Points for accepting Compels. You may also use Fate Debt to pay for the invocation of Consequences. You may only pay for one invocation per action with Fate Debt, with one exception: if multiple Aspects build on or justify each other's contributions to your action (that is, they work together as a combination greater than the sum of its parts rather than each simply being an individual improvement) then they can all be invoked with Fate Debt. For example, if it's a Dark and Stormy Night and your opponent is Blind Without My Glasses, those two Aspects have synergy with each other - an action taking advantage of impaired vision could invoke both with Fate Debt.

NPCs do not have Fate Debts, but the GM may do a similar thing by raising the Fate Point total of the impacted PC (or lowering its Fate Debt, if it's positive!) rather than spending an NPC's Fate Points.

When Fate Points refresh, Fate Debt is also reduced by the PC's refresh rate (to a minimum of 0).

By this point, nobody should be surprised when I say I don't think DFRPG/Fate gives you enough of a certain resource. But there's more to it than that.

Aspect invocation is pretty key to the whole Fate experience, as I understand it. But Fate Points are a valuable resource. This makes more tactical invocations easier to use. The key here is that only certain Aspects are usable with Fate Debt - you can't use it to invoke your personal Aspects, or temporary Aspects you've placed. You have to learn about and use the scene and your opponents to use it. It gives more incentive to interact with the Aspects in the game world rather than the tried-and-true ones you've created yourself. This also means that situational factors will actually be factors more often, rather than being ignored because the bonus isn't worth the cost right this moment.

Even more important, to pay for big bonuses with Fate Debt, you need combos. This gives a concrete reward for employing clever strategies and learning about all the Aspects you can.

Letting it also work for Consequences makes them a bit more, well, consequential.

Rebalanced Maneuvers: Aspects created by Maneuvers have a rating just like skills. The difficulty to create an Aspect is equal to its rating minus 1. So to create a Great (+4) Aspect you need to make a check against Good (+3) difficulty. The difficulty is generally static; no opposing check is rolled unless someone is opposing the action itself, in which case they can defend normally. However, if opposition increases the difficulty, your Aspect's rating ends up at whatever the final difficulty is + 1 - if you're aiming for a Fair (+2) Aspect but face (and beat) Superb (+5) difficulty, you end up with a Fantastic (+6) Aspect.

Aspects with ratings may only be invoked to improve rolls and difficulties where the bonus is equal to or less than the rating. This is counting any bonuses from stunts and other Aspect invocations! For example, if you are making a Good (+3) attack you could invoke a Good (+3) Aspect to get a +2 bonus. But once you did that you couldn't improve it again unless you had a Superb (+5) or better Aspect to invoke. Aspects without ratings can always be invoked where applicable, but must be invoked before any Aspects with ratings. Permanent Aspects generally don't have ratings, but the GM may assign ratings to scene Aspects and such to make them only useful up to a point (and there's no reason you couldn't give ratings to permanent character Aspects, although it'd be a bit odd). Removing the Aspect likewise has a difficulty equal to its rating minus 1.

For each two shifts you score beyond the first, the Aspect gets one additional free tag.

This adds a tiny amount of complexity to get rid of some kinda glaring issues. Normally, it's kinda strictly better to try to pull off some static maneuver than any sort of opposed one, because there's no benefit for more difficult maneuvers. Now, the difficulty ties into how easily the maneuver can be used. This also makes stacking maneuvers much harder - you can't have the entire team trivially pump the group's highest skill into the stratosphere - to get really big bonuses, you need really good rolls, since each bonus increases the minimum Aspect rating required to boost the action further. And if you do roll high you get more tags, adding a bit more tactical depth - do you want a Superb Aspect that can boost already high rolls even higher, or a Good Aspect that can make adequate rolls strong, but works twice before you have to spend more Fate Points.

Stress Shifting: When you fill a stress box, if it is not absorbing the maximum amount of stress it can, you may clear lesser stress boxes on the same track that add up to the remainder. For example, if you have three physical stress boxes with the first two filled, and take two points of stress, you can fill the third one. Since you're only using two points of its three point capacity, you can also clear your first stress box.

To make it harder to nickel-and-dime someone to death. This does also help dramatically with wizard output as long as they're not going too big - I'm pretty sure I've seen Harry cast more than four spells in a scene without serious problem. :smalltongue:

Supplemental Defense: You may attempt to defend against an action that doesn't target you as a Supplemental action; you take a -1 penalty on your next turn's main action and roll a defensive check as if you were the action's target. If your defense fails, but still comes up higher than the base difficulty, you may take the effects of the action upon yourself instead of letting them affect the original target, assuming you would be a valid target and it makes sense with how you provided the defense. You may do this multiple times in the same round, but the penalties from previous attempts also apply to the later attempts, and you must be rolling at at least +1 to make the attempt.

...I feel like Fate already kinda allows or at least doesn't necessarily exclude opposing actions that don't directly target you, but I don't know that there are coherent rules for it.

Weight of Numbers: In combat, numbers are a powerful force multiplier. But in many conflicts, especially social ones, they aren't. Peer pressure is a thing, sure, but it's not literally three times harder to resist three people telling you to do something than one.

In a non-combat conflict, characters are grouped into teams. Each team uses the highest defensive bonus among all members for defense, and uses the best resistance stat to determine stress boxes. Team members may each take consequences normally, but the team as a whole still has one consequence slot of each size available; the team closes off the relevant slot each time a member takes a consequence (bonus consequences from high skills don't count against the team's slots).

All characters involved may still act normally. However, the effects of attacks are delayed until the end of each round. Only the highest-value attack of each round actually applies. All other attacks are retroactively converted to maneuvers.

I've always found "social combat" to be a kinda silly idea. This is definitely one of the bigger reasons why.

I'm not doing concrete rules for it, but I'd also strongly advise abstracting large numbers of goons and such down to a few somewhat-more-powerful characters even during physical fights. In addition to making fights way easier to run, weight of numbers is brokenly powerful in Fate. The Rebalanced Maneuvers rule fixes one of the worst abuses and the Shifting Stress rule helps, but still.


Simple Spells: A spellcaster with Evocation can use it for appropriate actions without having to cast full-scale spells. For example, a wizard can launch a bolt of fire at an enemy as a basically normal attack, or something. This uses the normal skill that would be involved - a wizard shooting a magical attack would use Guns, for example. The skill is complemented by the spellcaster's Conviction. However, if the action fails by more than one point per two points of the spellcaster's Discipline, the spellcaster receives either one point of Backlash or two points of Fallout per point of failure in excess.

Although the Stress Shifting rule helps with wizard output, I feel like it's kinda lame that you can't just fluff basic actions as magic without going through the whole spellcasting rigmarole. This lets an evoker use magic to do things a bit better than it normally could, at the cost of making them a bit riskier. The Fallout is doubled since the action is failing anyway at this point. It also makes different spellcasters somewhat more mechanically distinct - Harry with his solid Guns skill can be tossing around basic fire attacks all day, while say Molly might have some degree of Stealth to represent her being able to throw together basic veils in an instant.

Spell Actions: Given the costs, limits, and risks involved in spellcasting, actions performed as full-fledged spells are somewhat stronger than mundane actions.

Attack: This is already how it is; spell attacks work like regular attacks but get a Weapon value equal to their shifts of power and have some additional flexibility with regards to like area attacks and such. They're per normal.

Block: Entirely revised. At base, a spell Block works like a normal Block; your Discipline roll determines the Block strength (you still make a new roll each round, but only the first roll determines spell failure and such). The advantage from magic is that the Block lasts longer and can absorb more punishment than a regular Block. The Block has its own stress track, with one box per shift of power. Each round the Block remains fully fills its lowest unused stress box unless the caster spends its action maintaining it. Any attacks that get past the Block deal stress to the Block rather than the target, but the Block may only fill one stress box per attack - any stress in excess gets through. If the Block runs out of stress boxes, it is immediately removed. Blocks against actions other than attacks work like normal Blocks, just longer lasting. This ability to absorb stress functionally replaces the option to create Blocks as armor. Spell Blocks cannot be used to absorb stress from spellcasting or Backlash.

You can convert a spell Block into a different effect following the normal rules for doing so.

Maneuver: At base, a spell Maneuver works essentially like a normal (rebalanced) Maneuver; its rating is equal to its shifts of power + 1, and it gets an extra tag per two shifts of success. However, when the caster of a spell Maneuver invokes or tags it to improve an action, it can choose to swap the skill being used entirely with the Maneuver's rating, rather than merely getting +2 on the roll, as long as the action it takes is one that the Aspect can be directly used to perform. For example, if you create a Crushing Tendril Mass you could use it to bludgeon foes in place of your Fists skill, or grapple them in place of your Might skill. However, to use a thaumaturgic Maneuver in this way requires repeating whatever ritual was originally used to produce it.

Move: At base, a spell movement works essentially like normal movement; you can move one zone per shift of power. Spell movement gives you supernatural movement modes, though; you can ignore all borders whose rating your Discipline roll beats, assuming the spell offsers a reasonable justification for ignoring them.

I mean, I feel like this was kinda already meant to be how the magic system worked but it...kinda fell apart some outside of attacks? Anyway, this should ensure spells are worth the costs and make magic a touch more flexible.