System for Tonight

So, my wife asked me what system I’d be using to run tonight’s game. My answer “probably a Fate mod.” Her reply, “Why would you mod Fate?” left me staring a little blankly because, as I eventually said “I’ve never NOT modded Fate. I’m not even sure there is such a thing as unmodded Fate in my mind.” And it’s true. Even the “purest” version of Fate, the 2.0 ruleset, is mostly just a book of options. 7 Magic systems, 3 combat models and rather than a skill list, a section on how to create skill lists. SOTC and Dresden are more specific builds, as are games like Diaspora and Starblazers, but when all is said and done, Fate remains an idea defined by its exceptions. And I’m ok with that.

So, a few thoughts on the exceptions for chargen tonight:


I’m going to take some of my ideas about tiering and use them to create a modified pyramid that has three levels: You’re good at this, You’re notably awesome at this, and you are truly world class at this. I’ll be doing either a 4:2:1 or 5:3:1 distribution of these, depending on how long the final skill list ends up being, but the real mechanical tweak I’m going to pull here is numerical: those tiers are going to be valued at +2, +4 and +6. Yes, that means the steps of the skill ladder will actually be broader than the results ladder, and will also go higher than is normally the case.

There are a few things I expect to come of this. First, the fact that it make an aspect invocation equal to a tier step is nice symmetry, but only directly important because of aspect tweaking (see below). More, it’s going to emphasize the importance of skill levels, but even more, it opens up an interesting option. It’s my expectation that it won’t be hard to pick up a +1 bonus, from tools, situation or the like, but even if there are multiple sources, that bonus will never go above +1 (though it may be possible to use extra bonuses to offset penalties). Being able to casually hand out that bonus as a reward is a nice tool, especially since doing so does not break the overall model.

Better yet, the underlying thinking is really this: the +1 bonus is easy to get by being interesting. Being clever or cool, or even using gadgets, is all interesting to me. My expectation is that my players will be interesting the vast majority of the time, and as such they will get this reward the vast majority of the time. The limitation keeps that bonus from being a “The most creative guy gets all the toys” that Exalted stunting allows, but it scales to work at all skill levels. The one qualifier is that It will probably be easier to get the bonus at low levels than at high ones. if you have a +2, then almost anything will help. If you have a +6, trivial junk isn’t as much of a help.[1]


Couple aspect changes. First, because this is a less heroic game, there’s going to be a restriction on aspect stacking and some tweaks in terminology. You utilize your aspects, finesse allies and location aspects and you exploit enemies aspects. On a given roll, you can utilize and finesse only once. You can exploit as many times as there are aspects to use.

This is a theme reinforcer. Discovering secrets (finding people’s aspects) is more powerful than leveraging your own advantages, which you are kind of presumed to to.

Additionally, each character may have one low-key super power, and I’m just going to reflect that with an aspect. With only 3 players, I can get away with that kind of subjective approach, allowing the invocation (sorry, Utilization) for effect to have deeper impacts than normal. Might also allow it a larger than +2 bonus when appropriate.


Combat’s going to be nasty. Nasty enough that I rarely expect it to last more than a round or two. Still pondering how to reflect that. One option is to use the -2/-4/-6 system with a zero length stress track. I think that’s going to be my fallback, but I’m not entirely sure that it quite gets me what I need. One option is a more brutal reduction set (-1/-3/-5) but I really need to think what I want fights to look like. Do I want brutal and lethal but action-ey (think Bourne) or do i want death to come from a snub nosed revolver in a dark alley (which would suggest an even more lethal system).

Still pondering this one.


Don’t actually anticipate using stunts. Again, with a 3 person game, interpretive aspect use covers all the reason’s I’d want stunts.

Obviously, I’m still sorting out the details, and will be until the last possible minute, but i figured I’d share a snapshot of where it stands in my brain this morning.

1 – This is totally a subjective, GM-driven kind of thing, and as such not really a fair rule per se, but I think the narrative sensibilities of it will be transparent enough.

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