Game Mechanics

Fred Hicks on The Core of Fate Core, and Leonard Balsera following up with Part II.

Star Wars is fairly over-the-top and is a good match to the Spirit of the Century setting, but I’m going to be making a few tweaks, and using a lot of refinements from The Dresden Files RPG.

Aspects

(DFRPG)

Fate eschews excessively detailed mechanics by simply using aspects to describe anything that matters. Aspects are defining traits, which can apply to anything, and you use them with fate points. You can only use an aspect once in each roll or action. If you have the Fate points to spend, you can pile on multiple bonuses as long as you can find relevant aspects to invoke and tag. With a fate point, you can:

There are a number of ways of introducing aspects into the game:

(This has been described as the Grand Unified Theory of Maneuvers.)

When an aspect has been introduced, it effectively has a floating fate point attached to it, which anyone can use in a free tag. This means that a noncombat character can be very effective in combat if they can assess or declare the weaknesses of their opponents, or perform noncombat maneuvers that create helpful aspects for their comrades. Once a new aspect has been tagged, it can be compelled with fate points normally. If a maneuver has extra shifts, they may make the aspect “sticky” (requiring another maneuver to get rid of it), or two shifts may convert to an extra free tag. (Idea from Ryan Macklin.)

At the start of each session, if your total of fate points is lower than your refresh, you will be topped up to that amount; if you ended the previous session with more points than you have refresh, you keep the points. In-game events can also trigger a refresh (e.g.: spending a couple of weeks of down time, such as a journey in hyperspace). You can have as many stunts (DFRPG) as you have points of refresh, and you get as many points of refresh as you have aspects. At turning points in the game, you’ll get new aspects and corresponding opportunities for new stunts.

Conversion Notes

Time Increments
Instant
A few moments
½ minute
A minute
A few minutes
¼ hour
½ hour
An hour
A few hours
An afternoon
A day
A few days
A week
A few weeks
A month
A few months
½ year
A year
A few years
A decade
A generation
A human lifetime
Several human lifetimes

It’s useful to have terms laid out for the different aspects of the ladder:

Value Ability Scarcity d20 Difficulty DC Scale Amount Cost
–3 Abysmal Omnipresent (Automatic) (–10) Fine (pocket, pouch) A trace ¤2
–2 Terrible Ubiquitous (Trivial) (–5) Diminutive (bag) A fragment ¤10
–1 Poor Abundant Very Easy 0 Tiny (crate) A chunk ¤50
0 Mediocre Ordinary Easy 5 Human (barrel) One ¤250
+1 Average Common Average 10 Small (swoopbike, cargo pallet) A few ¤500
+2 Fair Uncommon Tough 15 Compact (landspeeder) Several ¤1,000
+3 Good Unusual Challenging 20 Medium (starfighter, cargo module) A bunch ¤5,000
+4 Great Rare Formidable 25 Large (light freighter) A dozen ¤10,000
+5 Superb Obscure Heroic 30 Huge (passenger ship) A score ¤100,000
+6 Fantastic Exotic Superheroic 35 Immense (frigate) ¤1,000,000
+7 Epic Unheard-of Nearly impossible 40 Gigantic (destroyer) A gross ¤10,000,000
+8 Legendary Nonesuch (Absurd) (45) Gargantuan (cruiser) ¤100,000,000
+9 (Incredible) Colossal (battleship) ¤1,000,000,000

Average difficulty is something that anyone with basic training in a skill can do. Fair and Good are the provinces of journeymen, professionals, and people with considerable raw talent. Great and Superb are for master craftsmen, seasoned veterans, and people combining raw talent and training. Fantastic and Epic are the provinces of rare geniuses in the full flower of their talent, or extended works from teams of talented people.

For storytelling purposes, I’m trying to avoid detailed bookkeeping and providing some decent mechanics for approximate size and number. Generally, really large amounts of anything are going to be grouped in boxes, pallets, cargo containers, etc., so it’s unnecessary to worry about ranges more extreme than, say cargo modules on a superfreighter. The approximation system is for convenience only and should not be considered for min/maxing.

One square is 1.5m (SECR p146). The general scale for damage conversion is:

d20 DamageWeapon Rating
1d3, 1d4Weapon:0
1d6Weapon:1
2d4, 1d8, 1d10Weapon:2
3d4, 2d6, 1d12Weapon:3
4d4, 2d8, 3d6, 5d4, 2d10Weapon:4
6d4, 4d6, 3d8, 2d12, 7d4, 5d6, 3d10Weapon:5
8d4, 9d4, 3d12, 6d6, 10d4, 5d8, 4d10Weapon:6
7d6, 11d4, 12d4, 8d6, 6d8, 4d12, 5d10Weapon:7
9d6, 7d8, 5d12, 10d6, 6d10Weapon:8

These details are not perfectly reflected in the actual Damage Rating table because I want there to be a game-mechanical incentive for thugs to use brass knuckles instead of bare fists. Damage Rating is more of a funds matching for shifts on a roll: a nick from a greatsword does no more damage than a nick from a dagger, but a good hit from a greatsword inflicts a lot more damage. You need skill to do a lot of damage, but even Fair skill with a Fair weapon against Mediocre defense and no armor is getting 4 shifts.

Another set of ideas for weapons

Actions

In combat, actions generally occur in about three seconds; out of combat, time is more fluid.

Note that extra shifts past a base difficulty create a margin of success that can be applied in different ways:

Special actions:

Combat

Weapons and armor have more significance than in Spirit of the Century. Instead of having Fists covering unarmed combat and Weapons covering armed combat and thrown weapons, a single Melee skill covers all hand-to-hand combat (and thrown weapons with the right proficiency).

Weapons have a Damage Rating and armor has an Armor Rating; if you make a successful attack, for every shift you achieve, you may add another shift up to the weapon’s Damage Rating. Then subtract the Armor Rating from this; if your shifts are still positive, you inflict physical stress at the appropriate level. An unarmed attack does damage based purely on its shifts, so an attack roll that is precisely matched by defense does no damage; if an armed attack achieves 0 shifts against an unarmored opponent, it still inflicts 1 stress. Some weapons (usually heavy weapons or out-scale ones like starfighter or capital ship guns being used on people) are so potent that they also have a Damage Bonus, which adds to your damage shifts when you hit, or a Damage Multiplier, which may double or triple the matching of their Damage Rating).

There are also stunts that affect this: the Lethal Weapon stunt adds 1 to your unarmed damage rating; the Fists of Death stunt adds another 1, and Force powers like Force Blow add as well. You may also take the Heavy Hitter stunt if your Might is at least 3, or a Weapon Finesse stunt if your Athletics is at least 3.

Weapon Damage Rating
Unarmed, sling stone Weapon:0
Small melee weapons: blackjack, brass knuckles, combat gloves, knife
hold-out slugthrower, shortbow arrow
Weapon:1
One-handed melee weapons: club, baton, vibroknife, sword, axe, mace
Two-handed middle-grip weapons: quarterstaff, doubleblade, bayonet
Slugthrower pistol, hold-out blaster
Longbow arrow, crossbow bolt
Weapon:2
Two-handed melee weapons and polearms: tetsubo, greatsword, halberd, spear
One-handed vibroweapons: vibroblade, vibrosword, vibrodoubleblade, vibrobayonet
Heavy slugthrower pistols, slugthrower rifles and automatic weapons
Blaster pistol, ion pistol
Stun baton, stun pike
Sith-steel sword or doubleblade
Weapon:3
Two-handed vibroweapons and polearms: vibroaxe, vibrogreatsword
Sith-steel greatsword
Heavy blaster pistols, blaster rifle, ion rifle, blaster carbine, Light repeating blaster
Flamethrower, lightsaber
Weapon:4
Vehicular impact, heavy repeating blaster, Wookiee bowcaster Weapon:5

In combat, it is possible to get inside a being’s guard, making it hard for them to take full advantage of their weapon. This can be done as a maneuver: the defender is penalized by the weapon’s length, at –1 for a billy club, shortsword, quarterstaff or doubleblade; –2 for a longsword or tetsubo; –3 for a greatsword or polearm. Once you are inside their guard, the weapon’s effective damage rating is halved (round down), and you can get a free tag on Inside Their Guard or In Your Face on their next action if they don’t make a maneuver to cancel that. (Though they can also tag that for a head-butt...) Weapons with greater reach have a corresponding advantage when defending against weapons with lesser reach, and, depending on the combat map, may be able to reach across zones.

Anyone can wear unencumbering armor, which is presumed to include some form of hood or light helmet to provide cranial protection. Heavier armor imposes a penalty on sleight of hand, stealth, and many uses of athletics (dodging attacks, all gymnastics stunts, jumping, and climbing including the Human Spider stunt) of –1, –2, or –3 for light, medium, or heavy armor respectively; this penalty is negated if you take the Armor Proficiency stunt and have enough Might for the armor.

Armor Armor rating
Street clothes Armor:0
Unencumbering armor; spacesuit Armor:1
Light armor Armor:2
Medium armor Armor:3
Heavy armor Armor:4
Powered armor; Sith-steel plate armor Armor:5

Under the standard rules, it’s rather difficult to be a sniper. Sniping requires setup: you roll a Guns maneuver to build up tags on a target, like in my sights, sitting duck, and head shot. Before rolling the attack, specify that these tags are being used for damage, not accuracy; they do not add to your roll to hit, but they do count when calculating damage (including the funds matching from a high-powered weapon). Unlike normal combat, where shifts do not increase the level of consequences, consequences worsen by one level for every two shifts past the amount needed to trigger mild consequences.

A character can burn through ammunition while laying down suppressive fire. Figure out details for this once I have clip sizes determined. This creates a suppressive fire aspect for the zone, which can be tagged normally; your Guns roll when creating suppressive fire is the number of free tags available for your allies to dodge enemy fire or hit enemies who emerge from cover. Autofire can also be used to make an area effect attack on a 2m×2m area, or as a free tag (full-auto!) to shoot at a single person. (Burst fire gives a +1 to hit, full-auto +2.) This is tentative; look at other full-auto rules.

Stress and Consequences

Fred Hicks on Stress, Consequences, and the Fractal.

All characters have stress tracks that measure the accumulation of wear and tear. Each stress track is a set of boxes— four in this version of the game— that get marked off during conflicts. The stress tracks are:

Each time you take stress at a given level, mark off that box on your stress track; if that box is already full, mark off the next higher one. If you don’t have a box to fill, you are taken out of the action and no longer able to function; when you are taken out, your opponent gets to decide how you lose the conflict. This has the following limitations:

Any time you take stress, you may lower its level by converting it to consequences. Consequences are a temporary aspect that take time to remove:

A character can normally only carry three consequences at a time, though some stunts can provide additional ones. The Evil Hat wiki has examples of consequences. They can also be used to represent extraordinary effort, used as a bonus on any roll.

Type Minor (2) Moderate (4) Severe (6) Extreme (8) Taken Out
Physical Winded; Bruised; Scraped; Woozy; Just a Scratch!; Minor Blaster Burn; Out of Ammo Fatigued; Twisted Ankle; Mild Sprain; Drunk; Bleeding; Only a Flesh Wound!; Winged By a Bullet; Blaster Burn Exhausted; Severe Sprain; Broken Bones; Compound Fracture; Bleeding to Death; Took a Bullet; Blaster Crater Missing Limb; Damaged Organ Rendered helpless, unconscious, or dead.
Mental Spooked; Shaken; Stumped; Perplexed; Tired; Give Me a Minute Foul Mood; Off Your Game; Shaken Confidence; Confused; Weary; I’m Taking the Rest of the Day Off Paranoid; Lost My Way; Nervous Breakdown; I Need a Vacation; [Mistaken Belief] Shell Shock; [Delusion]; [Phobia]; [Addiction] Complete mental exhaustion; unconsciousness.
Social Bad First Impression; Slip of the Tongue; Angry; Embarrassed; Flustered; Fascinated; Bamboozled; Crestfallen Mortified; Minor Indiscretion; Off Your Game; Furious; Duped; Saddened Laughingstock; Major Indiscretion; Hell-Bent On Revenge; Sullied Reputation; Hornswoggled; Depressed Branded a Traitor; Brainwashed Cultist Utterly humiliated; spilled your guts; fainted.
Wealth No Liquid Assets; On Austerity Measures Working Off My Debt to _______; Had to Mortgage My House Took a Hit Liquidating My Reserves; Debt Payable in Cash or Blood; Had to Mortgage My Body Enslaved; Price On My Head Lost your fortune, requiring loot to reinvest.

Electroshock weapons (shock gloves, blasters with a stun setting) do physical stress, but tend to lead to consequences like Stunned (mild), Electrical Burn (moderate), Fibrillating (severe), and Nerve Damage (extreme). Sonics in stun mode (disrupting nerve function) inflict physical stress, and lead to consequences like Disoriented (mild), Numb Limb (moderate), Burst Blood Vessel (severe), Nerve Damage (extreme). Sonics in concussion mode inflict physical stress and concussion damage, like Dazed (mild), Burst Eardrums (moderate), Ruptured Organ (severe), Brain Hemorrhage (extreme).

If you have no clear boxes to accept more stress, you are taken out of the action and no longer able to function; when you are taken out, your opponent gets to decide how you lose the conflict. This has the following limitations:

If you’re worried that the next hit is going to take you out, you can offer a concession instead. This is a form of being taken out, but usually offered as story-level surrender terms between player and GM; within the game, it happens as part of the flow of the story. The victor may choose to accept or reject the terms of surrender— and there can be brief negotiation— but rejecting them means it’s going to be a very vicious fight. Concession is a good way to avoid taking heavy consequences; a character has to be very committed to be ready to take moderate or severe consequences for their cause. Owing major, life-risking favors can be an effective concession on wealth stress; for mere purchasing, I didn’t buy it is a reasonable concession.

Advancement

Spirit of the Century is designed to be used for a steady state. This campaign is structured for long-term advancement, and there should be many, many more stunts than anyone will ever be able to afford.

Various schemes:

So, properties I want in advancement:

Keep track of all the Fate points you spend each evening; putting counters into a bowl is good. At the end of the night, this number is summed, divided by the number of players, divided by 3, and rounded up; everyone gets that many experience points.

You can spend experience points to increase any skill you used or trained during the session. The cost of bringing up a skill from n–1 to n is n XP.

You can have as many stunts as you have aspects. If you wish to leave a stunt unassigned, you can have an extra Fate point at the start of the evening.

Between gaming sessions, you can:

Between stories, you can:

At certain major turning points, you will get a new aspect and new stunt slot.

You get new Force powers when:

Any time the game master changes the rules, your character gets a free re-spec.

Good Ideas I May Use

Diaspora has an interesting rule of scope: in a single roll, you can only use an aspect from a given level of scope. Levels in this game would be:

This is in addition to any free-taggable aspects that have become available.