Friday, March 07, 2008

The Fate of roleplaying

I'm a sucker for deck plans.

For a while now I've been eyeing the Future Armada set of deck plans. I got one for free as part of a promo a few months ago, and it was beautiful. When the GM's day sale happened on RPGnow I couldn't pass up getting the rest of the series.

I enjoy just looking at them, but I really want to use some of them in a game. The question is which game? The answer, for me, is Fate.

Fate is the system that Spirit of the Century runs on. I want to run a space opera game using some of the Future Armada deck plans. SotC is a pulp adventure game. Space opera is more or less pulp adventure with a sci-fi theme, so SotC should be a good fit.

I can just swap out the Mysteries skill for Computer Use and then pretty much wing the rest. Some stunts need tweaking, but that can be done as they come up in play if necessary.

It didn't take me long to stat up a character described in one of the Future Armada products. A solo scout with an idealistic streak. While I was doing this I happened across a link to Spirit of the Far Future, an adaptation of the Fate system to Traveller. Now, Traveller is too gritty for the kind of game I wanted to run, and so is SotFF, but the latter is full of really good ideas on how to tweak Fate. One of the best is the way they simplify stunts.

Stunts are the one thing about SotC that I have problems with. I like the concept well enough. You take stunts to allow you to bend the rules in a specific way. The problem is in the execution. They're like feats in d20 in that each has its own set of special rules. The result is that a quarter of the SotC book is basically a catalog of stunts. What SotFF does is to look at what most of those stunts actually do, and then group them into a small number of generic stunts rather than a large number of specific stunts tied to individual skills. The result compresses the ninety pages of stunts in SotC into two pages of generic stunts with a further two pages of specific examples. Of course, some stunts are lost along the way, but those are mostly the more fantastic pulpy stunts. Stunts that I'm not sure will fit in my campaign anyways.

Another idea I really liked was the addition of a Wealth track to the standard Health and Composure tracks. When a character does badly on a resource check, they might or might not get what they were looking for, but in either case their Wealth takes a hit. If the players need to buy off a hit with a complication then the GM can tag that complication. So if a player takes "owes a loan shark money" as a temporary complication due to a hit to their Wealth, then the GM can tag that at some point in the adventure to have some thugs show up to collect.

There are a lot of other little tweaks to make the system either more deadly or to give it more of a Traveller feel. A lot of these don't really fit my game concept, but really help to show how the Fate system works.

As an extra bonus, SotFF has some interesting ideas on adapting deck plans to the range system used in Fate, which ties it all back into what got me started on this road in the first place!

So now I've got three options: go with a barely modified SotC, go with SotFF, or use ideas from both SotC and SotFF to create a more space opera oriented system. If I proceed further with this project, then I'll talk about which option I choose, and how I go about using it.

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