Sep 132011

Here’s another idea banging around in my head about Fate that I’m not sure is ready for

So to generalize, in Apocalypse World, players roll 2d6 for various things, which the results usually reading like:

2-6: Failure (you don’t get what you’re after, and things may well get worse)
7-9: Mixed/minimal success (success with complications)
10+: Solid success (you get what you’re after pretty comprehensively)

I dig this idea of mixed success — of a gradient between success and failure — and I think it’s going to be one of those “hot technologies” in gaming over the next few years. Success with complications is “yes, but” in action. Yes, you crack the safe, but not as fast as you wanted — the guards will be here any second. Yes, you sneak over the wall and make your escape, but you were caught on camera. It’s good stuff.

This idea is translated over into Fate pretty easily. First, frame this idea in your head: the target difficulty for a skill roll is the roll necessary to get a mixed success.  The target is Fair; you roll Good; you succeed, but….

To really blow the target out of the water, to succeed comprehensively, you gotta get spin on your success. Spin is an idea that’s shown up in Spirit of the Century as well as a few other builds of Fate, and it’s simple short-hand for getting 3 or more shifts on your roll — beating the target difficulty by 3 or more.  (Why 3? An aspect bump can get you a +2. Spin is a way to recognize a win that wasn’t built simply by one invocation. It’s a good roll, a multi-invoke, high-rated skill, a combo of all that, that sort of thing.)

So to rate the above using shifts, we’d say:

<0: Failure
0-2: Mixed success
3+: Solid success

Now you’ve got some flavor going in a simple, quick roll — that gradient between failure and success that I was talking about earlier. And because “yes, but” can produce a decent amount of story fun, fitting it in the middle, where the results are usually more likely to fall all things being equal, you’re going to see that a lot.

Now let’s talk GUMSHOE (as seen in Esoterrorists, Trail of Cthulhu, etc).  One of the things in GUMSHOE is the idea that investigative abilities straight up can’t fail, because you never want to see an investigative path that prevents the story from moving forward. Now, that’s a principle that dovetails with a piece of advice we’ve given out in Fate before: if failure isn’t interesting, you shouldn’t roll. In essence, GUMSHOE is putting forward the idea that failure on investigative rolls is uninteresting.

I think investigation isn’t the only place where that concept has some traction, though: traversing terrain obstacles, for example (“climb over that wall, jump over that ravine”) also apply. Regardless, the point is that there are some situations that characters will encounter where they have skills that apply, but which aren’t particularly interesting to roll, because failing on them produces an outcome that’s unattractive for the story (fail to jump the ravine, you die; fail to crack the safe, the secret remains unavailable). So even if the player were to roll the dice on his skill, the result is no failure.

These sorts of no-fail rolls are where mixed success can come into the picture again. So let’s do this: ditch the “failure” tier on the result table, and slide the remaining ones into the gap. That leaves us with a new gap at 3+ that we need to fill, something beyond a solid success: an awesome success.

<0: Mixed success
0-2: Solid success
3+: Awesome success

If mixed success is “yes, but”, and solid success is simply “yes”, then an awesome success is “yes, and”, right? You could simply leave it at that and resolve the “yes, and” in the fiction if you like. “Yes, you leap over the chasm, AND you manage to do it while your sidekick clings screaming to your head.” But we know that Fate likes a good temporary aspect every once in a while, so consider the notion that an awesome success means you get to create a temporary aspect — like the result of a successful maneuver or declaration — to support how awesome you just were. “I leap over the chasm! That means I’ve got a Great Head Start. I’ll be tagging that one later…”

So that’s the core of the idea. Like it? Tweak it? Ditch it? Speak up.

Sep 022011

So, this is a weird idea for a side-project of mine that might not see the light of day (or it might!). I’d post it over on if I was more certain about it, but for now, this goes over here on my blog as a “hack”.

So, I’ve been noodling around the notion of wanting to do a Fate damage variant that felt both gritty and dangerous, but also ran pretty fast, and set aside the whole stress thing. Oddly, this left me looking at something that’s usually tied to a more hit-pointy system, the “damage roll” — but without hit points per se, and still taking into account the effect of a well performed (high margin of success) attack roll. I’ve kicked this one back and forth with Rob Donoghue a bit, and we each came down on a different side on the question of “how many dice to roll?” — Rob thinks keeping things limited to 4 dice is grand, while I was thinking, hey, big damage, more dice, awesome!

Which lead me to bring up a question on Twitter and G+ last night — how many Fudge dice are too many at the table? Is a mechanic that asks folks to roll as many as 6, 8, or even 12 Fudge dice onerous?  The answers are mixed, which means I don’t really end up any more resolved on the split with Rob than before. Some folks are low-supply and have players who’d absolutely hate needing more dice. Many others have plenty and would be happy to see a reason to use more of them at the table.

So here’s an exploration of the idea, and a look at both ways (limit-4 and limit-12) to implement it. Apologies if this all comes off as fragmentary. It’s a work in progress.

Fred’s Damage Idea (High Cap)

Anyway: damage. This stuff can work in a psychic/magic sense too, but I’m talking physical for the moment. I like the idea of getting grittier and rougher, and having the concept of a “damage roll” show up on the field.

Weaponry can be rated in terms of the dice of damage that get rolled on a hit (this is a 3 die knife). An additional die gets rolled for each shift the hitter spends (basically margin of success = that many additional dice).

Damage comes in three classes: Bruising, Wounding, Killing. All three can kill or deeply screw up someone, it’s just harder. Various kinds of factors — intent, chosen weapon, magic, yadda — may change what class of damage is rolled. (So we might have a 3 wounding die [3W] knife, or a 1 killing die [1K] gun.)

Here’s where the multiple dF’s come into play within that. Depending on the class of damage that a die is rolling, it will be interpreted differently:

  • Bruising: Count each [-] that comes up as a hit (“count the negatives”)
  • Wounding: Count each [-] or [+] as a hit (“count the marks”)
  • Killing: Count each die thrown as a hit (“count the dice”)

Some protections will slide the class down — a kevlar vest might turn killing dice bullets into wounding or bruising dice. Others may limit the number of dice thrown. Still noodling there, though I lean towards the former (with the proviso that nothing gets shoved below bruising), because I like the idea that armor or whatever might limit the chances of severe damage, but it’s less likely to eliminate it. Folks wearing bulletproof vests can still get bruised when the bullet hits home, and armor always has its weaker areas.

Regardless, you count up the number of “hits” up to a maximum of 4. The number of hits scored determine what sort of disadvantage is inflicted. This might have a consequence-like “manifests as an aspect” thing, or we might be setting that concept aside here (which might have the interesting effect of making aspects placed by maneuvers more unusual and noteworthy, perhaps?).

Here, “disadvantage” might mean you face a -1 to a category of actions (injured leg means physical activities are impaired), but I’m thinking it certainly means that if you get hit again, your opponent gets another die (so there is a death spiral effect here) to add to the damage die rating.

The “hits” table would look something like this:

  • 0 hit – It’s still a hit, but there’s no mechanical disadvantage; narratively, though, you were forced to counter the blow in some way, which may change your options on the field. “He’s backed you away from the exit, so that’s off the table now” Whiff!
  • 1 hit – Momentary disadvantage (dirt in the eye; reeling; whatever; slips away after it affects at least one roll — that -1 as you try to run away, or that +1 to damage dice when the dude hits you again) Unhh!
  • 2 hit – Significant disadvantage (hangs around for the whole fight; you have to take a specific action afterwards to shake it off) Ow!
  • 3 hit – Long-term disadvantage (you need to do X things to recover from this — days of rest, therapy, whatever — over a period of time; X = total number of dice thrown including non-hits; At this level, the target has the option to set aside a long-term disadvantage for a KO-style removed from action, though it likely comes with a Significant disadvantage in the following scene.) Arrrgh!
  • 4 hit – Removed from the action (Bruising: KO; Wounding: Crippled; Killing: Crippled or Dead; includes long term disadvantage with doubled duration) …! *thud*

So getting hit sucks, and fast. There are no guarantees of protection here — PCs could go down fast if they choose the wrong fight and armament — and the class of damage getting rolled determines the scope of how the problems that arise might be described. “Removed from action” via bruising isn’t quite so bad as by wounding or crippling.

At least in the high-cap version, “removed from action” could be pushed up to a higher number, thanks to the ‘X’ factor at 3+. So you could just go 0, 1, 2, 3, 6 on the above, if you like, depending on how comfortable you are with how easily folks might be sent out of the fight.

But lethal weapons and such don’t need a lot of dice of baseline damage to be scary fast; they’re probably 2K or 3K weapons. The K(illing) is where that gets particularly scary, because each die represents a 100% chance of producing a hit. Someone gets 2 shifts on his attack roll with a 2K weapon, and he’s making 4 hits (2 dice from the weapon, 2 from the shifts), and likely deadly ones at that.

Area effect stuff would buy into the notion of “it’s about not being there when it happens”. Will tend to mandate X dice of effect to whoever’s in the zone. BIG effects will step down in damage class for each zone away you get from the zones targeted. When something (an explosive) lands near you, you need to a) notice it, b) take cover. Successfully taking cover will step down the damage class, too (and better to be Bruised by concussive force and falling debris than Killed by it, eh?).

Low Cap

So this is where Rob started talking about the idea of limiting the number of damage dice thrown to 4 dice. I get it! There’s something elegant about the idea being that whenever you throw dice, you’ll throw at most 4 of them.

For me, this would imply that as the damage number on an attack increases (say, you swing with 2 bruising brass knuckles, and you get 4 shifts, for a 6 bruising attack — but if you’re throwing at most 4 dice, what does that mean?) then you have the chance of some or all of your dice transitioning into the next higher damage class. This is pretty easy to work out, in fact. Each bruising die generates 1/3 hit on average, each wounding die generates 2/3 hit on average, and each killing die generates a hit. So you could say that 12 bruising dice equals 6 wounding dice equals 4 killing dice. That said, I’d prefer to fudge that math a little in the interests of making each break-point happen 4 apart. The transition of narrative context from bruising to wounding to killing has some weight beyond the strict dice behaviors, after all.

So with that in mind, I’d make things work like so:

  • 1B
  • 2B
  • 3B
  • 4B
  • 5B = 3B+1W
  • 6B = 2B+2W
  • 7B = 1B+3W
  • 8B = 4W
  • 9B = 5W = 3W+1K
  • 10B = 6W = 2W+2K
  • 11B = 7W = 1W+3K
  • 12B = 8W = 4K

So as we can see, our expert brass knuckle user (knucklist?) is going to roll 2 bruising dice (counting minuses as hits) and 2 wounding dice (counting non-blanks as hits). Since part of his attack has a wounding component, he’s hitting hard and nasty enough that the effects created should be described in the wounding context — not inappropriate for someone swinging hard metal at the end of his fists.

This method would require that folks keep separate which dice are being rolled of which type — but that’s as simple as a little bit of table separation, or two separate colors, and a left hand/right hand throwing method. The only real downside here, I think, is the chance that this table won’t internalize quickly for people (even though it does for me) and they would have to do a little bit of lookup whenever the damage tally added up to more than 4 dice of whatever the starting damage class was.

Feb 032011

This is a bit of a companion piece to Hack: Use Your Grid-Maps With Fate. Symmetry.

So, you like Fate‘s idea of zones, and you’re not a fan of the one-inch-square map gig, but you’re playing 4e, and you definitely want to see a map get some action, just not one with all of that regimentation and orderly geometry. How to mix 4e play with Fate’s zones? This is a very brisk exploration of my initial thoughts about that.

Your Map

First off, let’s adopt our earlier idea that roughly 5-6 squares equals a zone. When eyeballing a combat space and drawing up your zone-ified maps, something to keep in mind. But really, you can stick with your developed-in-Fate instincts for drawing our your maps, too.


Anyone who could do a 5 square movement can move one zone; anyone who can do a 10-square movement can move two; etc. This is your guiding principle. You’ll need to think long and hard about what this does for characters who can only move 4 squares (I say let ’em anyway), or have a base move more like 7 squares. Maybe you divide by 4 instead of 5, and round generously for the ones that come out at x.75; clearly someone built for a base 7 move is looking to get some extra pizazz from that.

“Running” is simply doubling the number of zones you can move normally (usually going from 1 to 2).

Engagement: Opportunity, Flanking, Pushes, Pulls, Slides, Shifts

So, attacks of opportunity and all the elements of shifting or forced movement. Interesting, tricky things when your space is more abstractly defined. To preserve that element, I’d do something like the following.

You can use a move action to engage a target occupying the same zone as you. This places the “engaged” condition on the target, and the target places the “engaged” condition on you as well. (I’m calling & framing this as a condition; maybe there’s a better way?)


  • If the target makes a ranged or area attack, it triggers an attack of opportunity by the character that engaged him.
  • If the target moves out of its current zone, it triggers an attack of opportunity by the character that engaged him. This condition is then cleared.
  • If two or more characters have engaged a target, the target provides combat advantage to those characters.
  • The target may use a move action to clear one instance of the engaged condition.
  • If the character that has engaged the target no longer possesses the reciprocal condition, this condition clears.

Targets may shift or be pushed/pulled/slid into or out of engagement within their current zone, essentially converting every 2 or 3 squares (2.5) of effect into one instance of the engaged condition either created or shed. If the target’s movement is 5 squares or more — in other words, a zone — then that principle may not apply, with all engaged conditions simply dropping as the character leaves the zone. (That said, I could see someone with, say, a 8-square push effect pushing a target into the next zone, and then into an engaged position with one of the characters in that zone with the remaining 3 squares of effect.)

Maybe there’s a more elegant way to do this, by introducing the idea of block actions, by playing with the idea of borders, etc, but I’m not swiftly seeing the path to that. If you do, pipe up. I think the bookkeeping part of it could be elided simply by using your figures/markers on the map and grouping them close to each other when “engaged”. Visually simpler than writing down “Engaged by X” each time it happens.

Range, Close Effects, Area Effects, Wall Effects

Ranges usually divide up into increments of 5, so turning that into zones of range is pretty easy.

Bursts and Blasts are interesting, but not too hard to work out a good equivalence for. If something affects an area that’s up to 5×5 (so, up to blast 5 or up to burst 2), that’s a zone, 6×6 on up is 2, etc.

Small-sized close blast (1) and burst (2 or 3) effects might warrant some kind of sub-selection of targets — say, all targets currently engaged by/engaging the character.

Walls are almost nonsensical in this setup, but I might say that you can hit one target within a zone for every 2 or 3 squares (2.5) of wall, and you can extend the effect into another zone for a similar cost (so a wall of length 10 could hit two targets in one zone, cross into a neighboring zone, and hit one more).

Dec 062010

So, vehicles. They exist in Gamma World, but they’re poorly supported. Here’s a very rough sketch of how I might handle them in mine, if it came up:

– Vehicles have hit points (a given) and sometimes a resistance to physical damage. Size the hitpoints about how you might a monster of a level on par with the PCs current level. Resistances should be minor, and might convey onto the occupants (but not stack). Occupants of vehicles will in general have basic cover. A “bloodied” vehicle will need minor repairs after the encounter in order to function again. A vehicle reduced to zero hit points will immediately cease functioning and, if in motion at the time, crash. It may be totaled (reduced to negative bloodied value) or it may simply need major repairs to function again.

– Vehicles have a size, similar in intention and implementation to monster sizes, but might be narrower than they are wide. Size should refer to its longest dimension, so a 3-square-long (15′) vehicle would be Huge, etc.

– Vehicles act as mobile platforms that one or more creatures can occupy. They’re treated as difficult terrain in terms of moving onto them from the surrounding area, but movement inside in general should be treated as unimpeded (unless there are a lot of obstacles — seats, cargo, etc).

– Vehicles have a speed.

– One time this speed is considered “cruising”; two times this speed is “racing”.

– For a minor action on part of the driver, Speed can be temporarily boosted by a successful skill roll (Mechanics?) against a moderate target, adding two squares to the base speed of the vehicle for that round. Failing this roll reduces the base speed by two squares. (The increase/reduction reverses if the driver is trying to wrestle with the controls of an out-of-control speeding vehicle.)

– For a move action on the part of the driver, the driver can:
+ Increase the current speed from “stopped” to “cruising”
+ Increase the current speed from “cruising” to “racing”
+ Decrease the current speed from “cruising” to “stopped”
+ Decrease the current speed from “racing” to “cruising”
+ Turn the vehicle up to 90 degrees. (45 degrees — going from a perpendicular to diagonal direction or vice-versa — is also possible)
+ Make a (Mechanics?) roll to turn the vehicle more than 90 degrees. This is Moderate if the vehicle is currently cruising, Hard if the vehicle is currently racing.
+ Make a (Mechanics?) roll to take the vehicle from racing to stopped or vice-versa. Moderate difficulty.
+ If either roll is failed when attempted, the vehicle gains the Out Of Control condition (see below).

– Vehicles move a number of squares equal to their current speed at the end of the driver’s turn (or, if there’s no driver, at the end of the round).

– Crashes should be rated as doing damage as is level-appropriate for a low medium or high limited damage expression, with low/medium/high determined based on speed. Occupants that are not restrained will be pushed from the vehicle in a random (1d8 determines) direction equal to half the vehicle’s speed immediately prior to the crash. The vehicle takes damage from the crash as well.

OUT OF CONTROL (Condition)
– The vehicle can’t go slower than cruising
– All driver actions require a (Mechanics?) roll to succeed. Actions which would already require a roll are made at -2.
– If the driver makes a (Mechanics?) roll to control the vehicle, roll a d20. On a 10 or better, the vehicle loses the Out of Control condition.
– If the driver fails a (Mechanics?) roll to control the vehicle, roll 1d6:
1: The vehicle turns 45 degrees to the left
2: The vehicle turns 90 degrees to the left
3: The vehicle turns 45 degrees to the right
4: The vehicle turns 90 degrees to the right
5: The vehicle speed increases to racing if it isn’t already. If it is, the vehicle crashes.
6: The vehicle crashes.

Nov 132010

So, I love our semi-abstract method of zone maps in Fate, but playing and running (far more run than play) 4e has left me a little bit bitten by the maps-and-minis bug. There are times when I’d like to see Fate happen with  a little more of a rooted, concrete, tactical map-reality.

So that’s been banging around in my head. How to do it?  Pretty easily.

Two rules, up front, then I’ll explain:

  • One zone = 5 squares.
  • Single target = Add 2 more squares.

That’s all it takes. These proceed from the notion that each character stands at the center of a 5 square by 5 square “zone”.

The second rule comes from what that implies: any square within two squares of the character’s position is within that 5×5 zone.

Combine them and you get these effects:

  • If you’re going to move one zone, move up to 5 squares on the map.
  • If you’re going to move more than one zone (e.g., sprint), multiply that by 5 squares and that’s how far you can move.
  • If you’re making a melee attack, you can attack a character within 2 squares of your position.
  • If you’re using a weapon that lets you attack someone in an adjacent zone, you can attack a character up to 7 squares away. (Think about it: the next zone over has a center that’s 5 squares away from yours. Anything within 2 squares of that zone’s center is within that zone, so “one zone away” is anywhere between 3 and 7 squares away from you. Therefore, the range in squares of a single-target weapon with a range of one zone is 7 squares. Two zones is 12, three zones is 17, etc.)
  • If you’re using an attack that “affects all targets in a zone”, then take its range (say, 2 zones), multiply by 5 (so, 10 squares), and that’s how far you can place the center of the 5×5 square effect. (You don’t get the +2 squares for placing the center because the 5×5 square would reach beyond the maximum single target range.)

Once you’ve got something like this going you can start looking at appropriating some of 4e’s map movement notions into stunts, introducing pushes and pulls and attack-of-opportunity rules and whatnot if you really want to get hackin’. At the least, you could add a “zero-zone move” to the vocabulary — since “the same zone” is within 2 squares of your current position, you could introduce a rule that allows the character to move up to 2 squares without taking the -1 penalty for a supplemental move action.

But even without that, the hack lets you make use of all those maps you’ve got stacked up for your maps-and-minis gaming, which for me and that map bug that done bit me is potentially really nice.

I’m also intrigued by the notion that this means the dividing lines between zones are more flexible and are relative to each character in this model. Each character is at the center of his or her own 5sq x 5sq zone, so the dividing lines for that guy who’s three squares away from me don’t fall in the same places.

If anyone gets a chance to try this out at home, let me know how it goes. 🙂