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- Jul 2010
FATE-ish: Hybrid story/mechanics-based 3.x roleplaying! [PEACH, TL;DR Warning]
Hopefully I've done a decent job with this. I am open to feedback on this homebrew - keep in mind that I've tried to keep the writing tone a tad on the silly side intentionally.
This is presently the third draft version of FATE-ish. The previous two drafts were basically different only in writing style - the core ideas firmed up very quickly.
SpoilerFATE, for the uninitiated, is a role-playing system specifically built on the premise of being a non-simulationist, story-based role-playing system. While there are mechanical elements to it, the rules are designed so that characterization matters. Characters are defined by Aspects, elements of their personality that can do good things for them or bad things to them, more than character classes or acquired abilities. The idea is that this puts role-playing over roll-playing to a massive degree. In practice, how well this actually works will vary dependent on your table and your preferences, of course. Nonetheless, the idea's proven fairly popular, and FATE's home company Evil Hat Productions has shown FATE to be a system customizable to a variety of settings, including 1930s adventure serials and the Dresden Files novel series. Oh, and it's released under the OGL license.
FATE-ish is what happens when I decide I want to mix a few of FATE's core ideas into D&D 3.x, along with a couple of new ideas. The rules as presented here are semi-agnostic; they should work for 3.0, 3.5, Pathfinder, and Arcana Unearthed about equally well, and I don't think they would cause any trouble to run in other d20 variants... With one exception group.
Point-based d20 variants, such as the Anime d20 system (AKA Big Eyes, Small Mouth d20 or Silver Age Sentinels d20) or Hero d20 system (AKA Mutants and Masterminds or True20) don't fit as well with FATE-ish as written, because FATE-ish introduces a variant of point-buy concepting to class-based 3e derivatives. The ideas behind FATE-ish could definitely port to those systems, but as-is it doesn't quite fit - particularly with one of its more unusual concepts.
FATE-ish should require no more than basic knowledge of 3e out of anyone besides the DM. It should not require any knowledge of FATE.
Three things (that the author has noticed so far) are removed from FATE-ish:
- There are no Action Points - Fate Points fill the same role in a more refined fashion. (Feats or class features that cost action points to use cost an equal number of Fate Points instead. Anything that provides action points can only be used to pay the cost of such feats and features.)
- There are no cross-class skills - every skill is class, so that people can spread out beyond what is relevant to their class if it fulfills an Aspect. (This also simplifies things when you are making your class as part of character creation.)
- Level Adjustments are removed; instead, features that would justify a Level Adjustment are treated more like a class feature, costing points from your limited supply.
Character Creation (AKA "Starting Play")
In FATE-ish, Character creation is (mostly) play. Players do not come in with ready-made sheets according to pre-written allow/ban lists - or indeed, sheets at all. Instead, they and the DM join up and build the basics of the party together - considering not just party roles, but how character personalities might interact.
Creation is summarized in four phases - Planning, Aspecting, Pointing, and Crunch.
- Planning is where players get the basics together. Besides going through 3.5 sourcebooks for ideas for what you want your character to do, this is where the basic stuff about the game is discussed and the basics fussed out. Most importantly, a basic idea of party roles should exist by this point, along with a few GM-defined critical numbers.
- Aspecting is where character's personalities, pasts, and fundamental premises are figured out - ultimately ending with a series of phrases, known as Aspects, that provide the basics of characterization, but which are also the key to gaining and using Fate Points.
- Pointing is where players, essentially, build a custom class out of a selected chassis and a series of features. This is different from point-based creation in many systems thanks to the introduction of player adjudication of value.
- Crunch is where players build complete character sheets for their pointed-out class. Feat selection, skill point allocation, and all similar jazz goes here. (This is also the part when it's okay for everyone to break off and work on their own.)
SpoilerPlanning is really two phases: The DM planning, and the group planning.
The DM needs to figure out a number of basics as always, but most importantly, they need to determine two critical numbers.
- The campaign's Breadth - how many fractions of a Gestalt you want players to have effective access to.
- And the campaign's Depth - also known as starting level.
Breadth, more precisely, is how many points characters will have per level for advanced racial features, class features, etc. In general, a breadth of 5 will produce characters comparable to a single mid to high tier class in standard D&D, a Depth of 8 to 12 will compare to Gestalt play, and a Depth of 20 is recommended if you want to play the kind of game where a couple of ludicrously versatile characters just run over all kinds of stuff. (Some people might judge you. I just want in if you do that.) You can also have the breadth be more flexible; for example, you could say that the Breadth is 10 for first level and 5 for all future levels, granting players something comparable to starting at 1st level with a +1 Level Adjustment race.
Once the players are at the table, the group planning starts. The DM can save revealing the Breadth for later - the important things to handle during group planning are people figuring out who wants what party role, and the most basic ideas for everyone in an abstract sense. One important thing to note here: Don't say no to an idea without a characterization reason for it. Character race-class combinations that are weak can be shored up by making the features cheaper for that player, letting them take more features to make up for it, while overpowered combinations can be made more costly, requiring that the player remove or nerf features to make the concept balance out.
Ideally, the players will come out of this step with a few short phrases that provide the basic idea. These are not aspects and can be discarded once Aspecting is done.
Aspecting is largely player-centric, with the DM being a moderator and discussion guide. The goal of this step is basically to build up character's backstories, personalities, and quirks of their abilities.
A completed Aspect consists of a short, punchy descriptive phrase, plus maybe a few sentences of relevant expository text. Aspects bring characters both problems and opportunities. For any aspect that is going to be more positive than problematic, there should be an aspect that is more problematic than positive.
The list of aspects is variable and can be modified in number and style to fit the needs of a campaign. In general, each Aspect and it's expository text should be an answer to a question provided by the DM. Two example lists are provided in the nested spoilers; don't be afraid to make your own for your own game! The questions list is one of the best and easiest places to tweak FATE-ish to fit your game's needs.
Basic FATE-style List:
- High Concept: What is the character's essence? In many but not all D&D circumstances, this is their race and class, but described in spicier terms. (Examples: A dwarven could become "Dwarven Bar Brawler". Two different wizards could be the "Bookish Arcane Researcher" and "Hot-Shot Spell Slinger" - while the two mean the same thing mechanically, it represents two very different personalities.)
- Trouble: What is the thing that keeps getting in the character's way? Good troubles come up with high but not constant regularity. (Examples: "Severe Liquor Problem", "My Boss is quite possibly my lord's pet cat", "Why the hell do Angels keep attacking me?!?!?!", "Pyromaniac".)
- Upbringing: What resulted from the circumstances around your character's youth?
- War: A major war impacted the continent a few years ago. How did it affect your character? (In FATE's "Spirit of the Century", the War in question was World War I, just for an idea.)
- The Story: Your character had a past adventure which in another universe made for a good novel with them as the star. Tell everyone a bit about that noel and how the story within affected your character. This one's a little different in the exposition - you want a good title, and a backend that asks the 'question' of your character's adventure. The two, together, should lead to an Aspect. (EXAMPLE: In "War at First Bite", the young bard Rina Ortiz is bitten by the vampire Orluck as part of his wicked plan to take over her home city. Rina may be Undead and Loving It, but she certainly doesn't like being the minion of the evil vampire. How can she stop him before he uses her in his scheme?!
- The Help: Your character, while the star of their novel, also was a supporting character in another party member's novel - before, after, or possibly even during their own. How did your character help (or perhaps hinder) them, and what aspect resulted from it? (EXAMPLE: In Martin Maxwell's "Zombie Smashing Party Time", Martin had to deal with a very large invasion of very stupid undead monsters. The Graceful Singer, Rina Ortiz, happened to be working a tavern in town at the time, and happily helped Martin organize the townsfolk to outwit the army of zombies, keeping them away from their precious brains!
- The Other Help: Same question, but for another party member. The real point of this and the last one is to have some established links going within the party.
A Slightly Sillier List:
- What Do You Do?
- What Is Your Quest?
- What Is Your Favorite Thing?
- What is your story involving the weird modern art statue in the center of town?
- What is your quirk?
- What is your greatest flaw?
- You have a thing you can do that always surprises people. What is it?
One important thing to do during all of this, is talk about your ideas in detail.
Pointing (Or, feature selection)
Spoiler"Pointing" is the most complex part of character creation unique to FATE-ish as compared to normal d20 variants. Quite simply, it is where you construct your character's race and class.
Before starting, have everyone roll or set their base ability scores. No specific method is proscribed for FATE-ish, as long as the method is fair.
Also, the DM should remind everyone of the campaign's Breadth and Depth at this point. Unless they are using a variant calculation, players have a number of Feature Points equal to the Breadth times the Depth.
Then, have everyone select their race. Any race that everyone agrees balances with a typical core race is worth 0 points. Any race that is worse or better than a typical core race requires a Negotiation, where the group determines how many points a race or feature is worth for the player who wants it. We'll detail how that goes later. One thing to consider: If something has a Level Adjustment, look at what causes that adjustment. It may be easier to pull key racial features out and treat them as class features instead, negotiating them separately later. (Or maybe not. The Negotiations system is intentionally ad-hoc, and what works best for your group may differ from what works best for your neighbors.)
After selecting their race, everyone selects their Chassis - which basically is every element of a class except for class features and (if applicable) spellcasting/manifesting/other chart-requiring details. The list of Chassis will come below.
After the Chassis and race, players put points into Class Features. Each feature (or at least group of features) requires negotiations, which are separate for each player even if it is the same feature. Absolutely any feature from any sourcebook relevant to your system of choice - or can be easily ported - should be considered open. (There is no reason to say "that feature is banned"... However, you can advise "That feature's probably going to be pretty expensive.")
Once players have gone over their desired race, chassis, and features, and made sure they have not spent more points than they have (spending less is always an option - particularly if you want to save points for higher-level features!), they write down a final class progression for a number of levels at least equal to the campaign Depth, confirm the progressions with each other, and are Done.
Frankly, if you're reading this, you probably know all of what goes here. Putting all the numbers into place, picking feats, allocating skill points, and possibly some fleshing out and tuning of things.
If anyone wants to reconsider previous choices of Aspects, the group should chat out the change and its possible repurcussions some.
If anyone wants to change any class or racial features, a new Negotiation should occur for the new features.
Actual play of FATE-ish works similarly to standard d20 play in most ways. Really, just about all of them, other than that you are running a custom class. Almost every difference relates to Aspects or Fate Points, except when calculating a level gain.
Quite simply, DMs have several special resources available to them, and playes have one very wide special resource to them, in the form of Refreshes, Compels, Warnings, Bargains, Adjustments, and Invocations.
Refreshes are declared at the start of an adventure, or whenever the DM wants to. If a player has fewer Fate Points than half the campaign's depth (round up), then they set their Fate Point supply to half the campaign's depth (round up). A DM can also call a Refresh for a single player for one or another reason (they could represent a burst of energy, or simply be a quick award for going above and beyond the call of snack-bringing duty for the group).
Compels are declared whenever an Aspect could cause a character to do something that will cause them trouble. A player can declare one freely, at which point the DM determines if the Compel causes enough trouble to be worth handing the player a Fate Point (the more entertaining the result, the more likely the answer should be "yes")... Or the DM can offer the player a Fate Point, describing which Aspect is being compelled and how. If the DM offers the player a point, the player can either accept the point and have their character act accordingly, or reject the point at the cost of handing over a point from their stock, "resisting" the compel.
Warnings occur when the DM knows a character's Aspect is about to cause them trouble and it is not because of the character's immediate actions. They hand the player a Fate Point without necessarily saying anything. There is no resisting warnings. (A good example is that a Vampire Hunter With A Reputation would draw attention from Vampires whose territory he is approaching; the DM might pass the Hunter a point just before the Vampire sends some Spawn at the reputable hunter.)
Bargains occur when something bad is about to happen to a character and the DM wishes to offer an alternative. They offer a (usually but not always temporary) Aspect in return for negating the mechanical effects of that bad thing. The player then decides which way they will go. Usually, the DM shouldn't do this every time. (For example, if the party fighter is about to take enough damage to be Disabled, the DM might offer to negate that damage in return for the player taking a "Broken Shield Arm" aspect - this could be compelled for every near miss the player takes afterwards until they get the wound specifically treated after combat, but it sure beats dying. Another example could be a player getting to negate Intelligence damage from a Ray of Enfeeblement in return for the temporary aspect "Ditz" - their actual ability to cast spells and such comes out unharmed, but their common sense is temporarily set on fire, left screaming in pain in a corner.)
Adjustments occur whenever something occurs that suddenly changes one or more of a player's Aspects, or introduces a new one. The DM describes the effect, and the player quickly slips in new aspects that match, possibly but not necessarily replacing old ones. A Helm of Opposite Alignment would definitely cause an Adjustment, as would the introduction of most Acquired Templates, as two basic examples. Adjustments can be temporary.
Invocations are how Players use all the Fate Points they have been racking up. Quite simply, they let the player do cool (or at least cooler) things than they could do otherwise.
- Gain a +2 bonus to a single roll. This is pretty much the weakest option. This option cannot be used if you modify the roll with any other type of Invocation.
- Invoke an Aspect to reroll a roll you have made OR add +5 to that roll. This requires that the roll directly relate to the Aspect somehow. A player can invoke multiple aspects at once on one roll, but cannot invoke the same aspect twice on the same roll.
- Invoke someone else's Aspect against them to reroll one of your rolls, add +5 to one of your rolls, or add a -5 penalty to their roll. This type of Invocation can only occur when your action influences that character. You can invoke multiple aspects - both yours and theirs - on the same roll, but only once per Aspect.
- Make a declaration. The player lays down a fate point and declares something that adjusts the scene in a fashion that is advantageous. Examples could include their having a small item they need but don't have in their purchased inventory, or an adjustment to the environment that enables them to do something they couldn't do otherwise - like the cave roof having a hole that lets a sliver of sunlight in, providing a perfect place to bull rush a vampire into. This could even allow the character to take a dramatically appropriate action outside of their turn. When they do this, the DM may either take the point (thus accepting the declaration), return it (rejecting it), or ask for more points if the declaration is particularly powerful - this is the only exception to Invocations costing one point each. In general, if the declaration is boring or selfish, it should be rejected, while if it makes things cooler for everyone, it should be accepted. DMs should be more lenient if the declaration relates to an aspect in a clear fashion. For example, if you were searched by guards, you might later draw a weapon anyways using your “Always Armed” aspect, or have kept the guard's attention away from a cleverly-placed knife using your “Distracting Beauty” aspect.
- Use Feats or class features that normally cost Action Points. In general, this is often a slightly weaker way to use a Fate Point, but can be worth it.
APPENDIX I: Chassis
A "Chassis" is a class minus the features. Notice that Chassis are the only thing in FATE-ish that has a predefined cost - this is provided solely to provide a rough guideline.
If a player wants to run a chassis that is different from the example chassis, they simply write out the new Chassis and then Negotiate on the chassis' per-level value.
In a later version of this, I plan to actually table out the Chassis properly. For now, here's the quick versions of four sample Chassis:
BASELINE - Costs 0 points per level.
Base Attack Bonus: 3/4ths of class level.
Hit Die: d8.
Base Save Bonuses: Two good and one poor.
Skill Points Per Level: 6+INT Modifier
Proficiencies: Simple weapons plus one martial weapon; light armor.
CASTER - Provides 2 additional points per level.
Base Attack Bonus: 1/2 of class level.
Hit Die: d4.
Base Save Bonuses: One good and two poor.
Skill Points Per Level: 6+INT Modifier
Proficiencies: Simple weapons; no armor.
FIGHTER - Costs 2 points per level
Base Attack Bonus: Equal to class level.
Hit Die: d12.
Base Save Bonuses: Two good and one poor.
Skill Points Per Level: 6+INT Modifier
Proficiencies: Simple weapons plus all martial weapons; light, medium, and heavy armor, plus shields.
UBER - Costs 3 points per level
Base Attack Bonus: Equal to class level.
Hit Die: d12.
Base Save Bonuses: All good.
Skill Points Per Level: 8+INT Modifier
Proficiencies: Simple weapons plus all martial and exotic weapons; light, medium, and heavy armor, plus shields.
If dealing with racial hit dice, compare them to the chassis listed above (after bumping the skill points to 6+INT, if they're not at or above that) and then Negotiate their per-die value. Type advantages (such as immunities) may require a Negotiation - treat them separately from the type-based pseudochassis.
APPENDIX II: Negotiations
SpoilerNegotiations are the most important part of character creation, and are the biggest mechanical reason players make characters as a group. Quite simply, a Negotiation is where the players and DM discuss out the value of a class feature for a specific player character. Ultimately, this runs in four steps:
1) The feature is presented.
2) The entire group (INCLUDING the presenting player) discuss how many points they think that feature is worth (including, if the feature has a progression, how much it is worth at each point of progression).
3) Optionally, the player chooses to enhance or weaken the feature in some way.
4) Repeat from Step 2 until there is a final agreement to what the feature does and does not include, and how many points it is worth.
The rest of this section consists of metrics and aids for discussion; the most important rule, however, is this: 5 points per level should be enough to represent a mid to upper tier class, including their chassis and all of their features. Lower tier classes should be worth less, giving their players room to add additional features. What this means for your party may vary.
Important things to consider in judging a feature's value is how important it is to the character's build, how capable they are at min-maxing with the feature and others they have taken, and how the feature relates to their Aspects - less relevant features should cost more.
In a pinch, the DM has final say - though they shouldn't use this too often, reserving it as a tool to break prolonged discussions. (A good solution is to take it to a vote, then have the DM trust their gut based off of the vote.)
Rolling related features together into one mass negotiation is a valid option - as is rolling all the features of a class at a specific level into one score, if you just want to get things done. Most importantly, consider that certain levels are effectively better than others for certain classes - Wizard casting may be worth 6 points at levels where they gain a new spell level and 5 at levels where they do not. Also, watch for hidden progressions - such as familiars and Psicrystals.
Features unique to prestige classes are fair game to Negotiate on - just put them at a higher value if the player wants them before they'd be able to get them in normal play, unless you're sure they're safe at the level they are being asked for at. In fact, that's a general rule - if a player wants a feature at a lower level than what they would normally be able to get the feature at, it should cost more unless people agree it's safe at that level.
All negotiation results should be logged - preferably by the DM - and may be referred to in all later negotiations. That said, the group should not simply say that a feature is worth a number of points for one player just because they said it was worth that much for another.
Note that the group and DM all need to watch to make sure the end results for all members of the group are decently equitable when put together. If you've collectively done a good job, everyone should be able to fill a few different roles and no one person should usually outshine the others. (Of course, everyone having their own moments of maximum awesomeness is part of the fun of the game, so keep that in mind too!)
Last edited by NekoIncardine; 2012-11-10 at 03:37 PM.
- Join Date
- Jul 2010
Re: FATE-ish: Hybrid story/mechanics-based 3.x roleplaying! [PEACH, TL;DR Warning]
RESERVED IN CASE I NEED TO ADD ADDITIONAL CONTENT FOR SOME REASON
(Feel free to post responses after this post. If I end up needing more than two I'll start a wiki or something.)