Tag Archives: Fate

Natural Approaches

Off to Metatopia tomorrow, so here’s a quick one for Fae and other approach based games.

When I use approaches, I may follow the rules as written for the mechanical effect (aspects, boosts, damage etc) but for the fiction, I do something else entirely.

First, I figure out how many approaches are relevant to the roll. It’s rare that they’re all relevant, but usually there’s at least 2 or 3 in play. Like, if the player wants to break someone out of jail, they probably want to be sneaky and careful (or maybe flashy and quick.

If they get a marginal success (0 or 1) then they succeed at whatever approach they took. Each additional step of 2 (so 0–1, 2–3, 4–5 etc) means than they succeeded in one more approach. So if the character rolls sneaky to bust out their friend and rolls a +1, then they succeed and are sneaky, but not careful, so they leave some evidence behind. if they roll a +3, then they’re sneaky AND careful, but it takes a while. if they roll a +4, then they’re sneaky, careful and quick.

I don’t necessarily articulate the mechanics of this because they’re a guideline. Instead, it all comes up in the fiction.

Note that when I do this, then the choice of approach matters insofar as a non-useful approach means your initial success is not going to help much. Let’s say I try to smash and grab my friend out, so I use forceful – even if I succeed with a 0 or 1, I’m not Sneaky OR Careful OR Quick so there are going to be consequences to this approach.

Effectively, it fills a similar niche to the *world 7–9 result, just on slightly more constrained lines.

Anyway, just a trick.

Random Damage in Fate

I have a hypothesis: People like rolling for damage. Not necessarily everyone, certainly, but for a certain category of player, there is something neat and appropriate that damage output is not merely varied by success, but also by means. They want the difference between a dagger and a rocket launcher that is no mere number, but rather something meaty and gamey, like a d4 vs 3d12.

I have no idea if there’s any real instinct for this, or if it’s just a behavior that’s been wired in by exposure to D&D, but for a lot of players (myself included) there is something compelling about damage with a degree of variability.

Now, it would be EASY to add this kind of damage to Fate. Multiply the stress pool times 5. Consequences ablate 10 points per tick. Damage is by weapon, tool or situation and is ranked in die tie, ascending as d1, d4, d6, d8, d10, d12 and d20[1]. The die sized rolled is based on the type of attack (bigger equaling more dangerous) and the number of dice rolled equals the margin of success.

Bam, done. Tweak the exact numbers to taste[2].

There is absolutely a kind of player who would DELIGHT in their pistol being d6, their rifle d8 and their grenade a d12. It would introduce all kinds of fun options (Stunt: Anything’s a weapon – if you hold it in your hands, your damage die can’t be smaller than a d6) and even other upgrades. Whose to say you can’t have a +1 sword which does d8+1 per margin of success. Lots you can do.

I admit, while I dig the sentiment, I’d balk at this. I think I’d hesitate to being in all the other dice. Not that I dislike them – I love them in other games – but I like the simplicity of the fate kit as it stands, and I would hate to bulk it up more than necessary.

If really pressed, I suppose I could add a d6 based damage system. Could simplify the previous damage system so it’s all d6’s, where weapons add extra dice (rather than flat modifiers). Easy peasy, but maybe a little dull.

If I were feeling fiddly, I’d do this: every weapon rolls a certain number of d6s (let’s say, 1–20). That is how many dice you roll for damage, and your margin of success is the number of dice you keep. This has a curiously limiting effect on the rocket launchers of the world – they’ll roll lots of dice, but unless it’s a solid hit, that only helps so much. Of course, from a cinematic perspective, that’s probably just about right.[3]

Of course, that still requires going outside the fate kit, if only a little.

The real temptation is to use Tally Dice. Tally dice are an idea born from the fact that fate dice are, effectively, d3s, but they’re hard to read that way unless you want to do some quick math (and slow rolling is bad rolling). It just involves looking at Fate dice a little bit differently, and if you do it, it becomes easy to read it as follows:tallydice

Some of you may have already seen the pattern, but this trick is this: don’t think of the lines as plusses and minuses, think of them as tally marks. A minus is one mark, a plus is two marks (think of it as an X), a blank is none. No math required, just a slightly different perspective.

Now, here’s the fun thing – since it’s got an average result of 1, it can be seamlessly inserted into vanilla fate if you want. Simply roll a number of tally dice (dT) equal to the margin of success. On average, the outcome will be the same, but there’s a bit more swinginess. For example, if I beat a goblin by 2, I roll 2dT and roll -+, for 3 damage!. Of course, it does not get you the other part of damage systems (reflection off weapon size), but it would not take a lot to combine this idea with the previous one and come up with swords that are more dangerous than daggers.

If that’s your thing.

  1. Yes, it’s a bad numerical jump, but this is the preposterous die. Cannonballs, falling buildings, death rays and so on.  ↩
  2. Ok, tiny bit of math. You can’t get true equivalency with this system because the lack of equivalency is the point. What you can do is decide what “average” damage looks like (probably a d6 or a d8), take the average roll of that and figure that’s about one “box” of stress. I’d also round it up a little (which I did to get 5x) because a little more durability is a better outcome than too much fragility.  ↩
  3. If you invert the model (so weapons have a fixed number of kept dice, and the number of d6’s rolled is based on the margin of success) then that gets a little bit weirder to predict. I’m not sure I’d mess with it.  ↩

Advantage, Disadvantage, and Fate

I’ve been talking a lot about how much I like 5e’s advantage and disadvantage (adv/dis) rules[1] for how smoothly they flow from the fiction. It seems like a state that you can describe verbally or in text, and they simply have it reflected in the mechanics. It does not hurt that the die mechanic is nicely elegant, but it could just as easily be a +/–2 (the default modifier for winging it in past editions of D&D) or +/–1d6 or some other mechanic. That is, in fact, the point – the concept is clear but broad, so there is no mechanically correct answer, so the concept can be applied across multiple mechanics.

Thus, for example, the idea is easily translated to Dungeon World, replacing the +1/–1 forward rule. To echo the 5e mechanic, add an extra die to the roll if you’re at an advantage, and drop the lowest. If you’re at a disadvantage, do the same, but drop the highest. The math is a little bit different than +1/–1 (more like +/–1.5) but it feels pretty good.

The idea is a little bit tricker when you move to systems that produce less linear results. Consider, for example, the storyteller/storytelling system from White Wolf, or any similar. There’s no real idea of a “negative” success, so adding dice to the roll for extra effects would just be weird, and adding them for a bonus would be pretty normal. You could just say that adv/dis is +/–3 dice, and that would probably work ok, but you also might look elsewhere in the system. For example, since success is on a 7+ on a d10, perhaps adv/dis changes that to a 6 or 8 respectively[2]. That’s pretty potent, but it has the advantage of still producing results within the original curve, which is a heretofor unstated design goal.

Cortex solved this problem (under a different name) by effectively making adv/dis d4/d8. If you add a d8 to a roll, it’s pretty likely to bring up your total. if you roll a d4, it’s unlikely to improve the roll at all, and it’s likely to roll a 1 (a bad thing).

It’s interesting to me to be able to carry this concept across systems (for reasons which may merit their own post) so, of course, I wonder how this may be applied to Fate.

There’s an instinct to head straight to the Aspects system, since it seems spiritually similar, but that sits wrong with me. The least interesting part of aspects, to my mind, is their bonus or penalty, and the fact that it stacks is already a complicating enough factor to my mind. However, if one really wanted, they could stop right here and just say that the situation causing advantage or disadvantage is reflected as an aspect, and that would work just fine.

But I like the adv/dis terminology, and I’m happy messing with the guts of Fate, so I think I’ll mess with this a little.

Now, back in the day (pre-SOTC), the aspect bonus worked a little bit differently than it does today. Rather than a flat +2, it was “reroll or flip one die to a +”, and that had a number of interesting implications. The first time you used an aspect it was probably going to change a – to a + (thus the +2) but after that, you were going to hit diminishing returns very quickly as you ran out of -’s and had to flip blanks (for a +1) and you’d cap out at ++++, no matter how many aspects you had.

I confess, I like this mechanic better in general – it rewards aspect use without rewarding huge aspect stacks. However, our SOTC playtesting largely determined that die flipping was a little bit too fiddly for most players. This made me sad – I like dice flipping – but sometimes you need to toss out a mechanic you like based on feedback.

I don’t mention this because I’m looking to revive that mechanic, but because it’s the general space my head is in, trying to get a bump within the curve of the dice rather than outside it. With that in mind, the first options that occour to me are:

  1. Add a die, only count it if it’s + or –
  2. Add an extra die, remove one (high or low)
  3. Remove a die (high or low)

I instinctively want to discard #1, since it introduces the possibility of a +5 or –5, and it also required keeping track of which die is the extra die. I might be willing to track die colors if there was a specific mechanic to hang off it, but for this, it seems frivolous.

2 and 3 both appeal. Adding in an extra die is a little bit weird in a Fate context, since it violates the usual “4 dice per player” rule, so that’s a strike against. However, the action of adding a die is a bit of fun physical engagement, and allows it to be tossed in after the fact. Those might be a wash. In contrast. #3 is super easy to implement because you can just read it from the dice, but that’s also not terribly engaging (especially when it doesn’t actually impact the roll). So, when in doubt, let’s do some math.

# Default Bonus Die Drop Worst
–4 1.24% 0.40% 0.00%
–3 4.94% 2.04% 1.23%
–3 12.35% 6.19% 4.94%
–1 19.75% 12.27% 12.33%
0 23.44% 18.96% 20.95%
1 19.76% 22.64% 27.18%
2 12.34% 20.59% 22.25%
3 4.95% 12.36% 9.86%
4 1.24% 4.54% 1.25%


Looking at those numbers, I admit I’m leaning towards “drop worst”. The fact that +4 is no more likely (really, identically likely, but I suspect there’s a rounding error at work) is a plus, though in all honestly, that is a fine point that gets steamrolled by aspect invocation (a fact I will give some consideration to later). Given the impact of aspects, the somewhat smoother curve of “add a die, drop worst” might make more sense.

For the moment, I break the tie in favor of “drop worst” because it requires no extra dice, but I’ll be chewing on it for a little bit.

  1. : if you’re unfamiliar. in 5e you usually roll a d20 to do things. If you’re at an advantage, you roll 2d20, and read the better one. if you’re at a disadvantage, you roll 2d20 and read the lesser one.  ↩
  2. This same trick won’t work as well for success counting with smaller dice. In a well tuned game like Burning Wheel, that shift may simply be too big.  ↩

Nouns and Verbs

Got the TouchI occasionally remark, with no real explanation, that Fate is a game of nouns and Dungeon World is a game of verbs. This is probably a little flip of me, so I figured I’d take a minute to explain it a little more fully.

To understand this, understand that I see that the big sentiment that Fate and Dungeon World share is a spirit of emulation. That is, they strive to capture a certain sort of fictional ideal, not by simply reproducing it, but by reproducing the structures that enable it. That structure raises the very interesting question of what fiction is made of, and this is where the difference emerges.

Fate is predicated on the idea that the smallest practical element of fiction is descriptive of character or situation. The brave knight. The locked room. The haunted duchess. The action and interaction of these make for fiction. Notably, Fate is not terribly unique in this, and games like Heroquest and Risus use similar units of fiction.

Dungeon World is predicated on the idea that key elements are the actions that define things. The clash of blades. The race over rough terrain. The duel of wits. It is these actions which reveal and transform the other elements of the fiction. This is, I think, a focus which is fairly unique to the *World games.

Importantly, they’re both right, and they offer no contradiction. Rather, they’re simultaneously distinct, rather like the whole light being a wave and a particle thing. And equally importantly, this is not a pure thing- Fate has plenty of support for actions and DW has plenty of support for people and things. But that difference in approach informs many of the difference between the systems.[1]

I like this comparison because I feel it gives me greater insight into the way moves do and should work. At their most ideal, moves are the things which – if you were watching this movie – you would know that character was going to do. The ranger is going to track a dude. The Fighter is going to wield her badass weapon. In short, you can design for *World by imagining the ideal outcome, and designing back from there. That’s powerful[2].

But it has also highlighted a faultline for me. The discussion of Discern Realities touched on the edges of this, but I think I’ve got a better grasp on it now. See, in the ideal, a move in a *Worldgame is a moment. It’s that thing, and it’s going down. The game is built to deliver that moment, and the move is an expression of that.

But not every moment is a moment. There’s a lot of interstitial stuff along the way, and a lot of stuff that the character does is interesting and play driving, but is not definitive. Not in the same way. And that creates a bit of a disconnect. it is the difference between fighting a few thugs in the alley and the bloodied last stand against the evil warlord. The situation plays into it, but at it’s heart, it’s that moment when a little voice chimes up “Now’s my time to shine!”, your theme music starts playing, and it’s on.

But, mechanically, there is no difference between that moment (move) and any other. Which is a shame.

The hilarious thing (to me) is that Fate has the same problem. Aspects are always true, but sometimes you want them to be big T True, a huge, defining element of the character, something to which all other things bend. You can play it that way, of course, but the mechanics don’t differentiate.

Mind you, I’m not here to offer a solution. I’ve been wrestling with this one in Fate for as long as the game has existed[3] so it’s somewhat comforting to be coming at it from a different angle. Perhaps I can even find something in between. I use the word casually, but I think perhaps there may be something in the idea of a moment. In the abstract, it is a fiction beat which reveals essential character (noun) through action (verb), so perhaps the solution exists when both are brought to bear at once.

Something I’ll be thinking about, certainly.

  1. Another core difference is that there is no true “vanilla” *World game. Even Apocalypse World is emulating a very specific vision. Fate is designed with that backplane, which is expressed through specific builds. it might be theoretically possible to articulate the “Generic” *World system, but I doubt it would be practically worth it.  ↩
  2. It is also why both games are such genre chameleons. Just as Fate’s aspect allow you to make the characters that should exist in a given genre, Moves allow you to design for the actions and activities which define the genre. If you do a highlander game, then you build from the essential action of chopping off a dude’s head.  ↩
  3. Literally. The iconic example of this was Finndo’s “Duty” aspect in the very first Fate game. It was big T True and then some.  ↩

Two Column Fate

Two-column Fae (or Fate) is a term I mention from time to time and other people have used it in their hacks, but I was thinking of a particular thing to be done with it today, and it occurred to me that i have no explanation of the foundations of those idea, so this is where I’m going to lay that out.

Two Column Fate basically uses two lists of skills, approaches or similar. When it comes time to make a roll, the character takes one from column A and one from Column B, totals them up and makes the roll[1]. Structurally, this is very similar to a classic “Stat + Skill” model, and it could be used for that, but the real utility of this model is to handle much more interesting cases.

There are a few mechanical benefits to this – notably it can bring the intuitive simplicity of Fae in line with the numbers you see in Fate. But the biggest virtue of this system is that it allows for the two columns to have drastically different origins (both thematically and mechanically) which allows for a wide range of interesting mechanical effects.

Consider a few examples –

Fae Leverage
Approach Crime
Careful Hitter
Clever Hacker
Flashy Grifter
Forceful Thief
Quick Mastermind
Style Passion
Force Loyalty
Wits Love
Resolve Hospitality
Grace Honor
Fate: Pick Two
Action Necessity
Mind Quality
Money Speed
Muscle Efficiency

The other thing that excites me about this is that you can treat the columns as  interchangeable elements. If you want to run a mech game, you can swap out one of the columns for the mech stats column when you’re in your mech. Different character classes might use a different second column. One column might be fixed, and the other on change over the course of play. It’s a huge avenue of responsive rules and customization[2].

So, putting a pin in it, so I can save the explanation in future conversations.

  1. Fae2 is technically a two column hack, except that the two columns have the same content.  ↩
  2. The idea that struck me was inspired by demonology type magic. You could totally use a summoned demon as your second column, so that you use its bonuses when you act through the demon. That’s pretty standard. But where it can be fun is to make the demon’s list all nasty verbs, like Destroy, Corrupt, Reek and so on. Even if you don’t use it for evil, it just kind of LEANS that way.  ↩

Half Baked at Dreamation

Since I’m watching a game at Dreamation, I’ll take the opportunity to share some half-formed ideas.

I am pondering what happens with a smaller dice set in Fate. Specifically, I am pondering reducing the roll to 2df, with the dice having specific meanings – one die will be the character and how well he performs and the other will be the world, the way the situation goes. The dice will be different colors, of course, so their influence on the narrative will be quite obvious.

This thinking came out of some thoughts about taking Fate diceless, something that’s pretty easy to do if you are already comfortable with diceless play, but which introduces some challenges if you don’t. The smaller dice spread moves some of the priority back to skills/approaches and aspects, but there’s also a bit of a shift in what the dice mean in this regard.

See, I am intrigued by the idea of the dice being separated from the ladder. That is, a –2 on the dice could mean things went pretty badly but the outcome is still based on the core value comparison. There are some problems with this – flat diceless resolution produces a bit too much predictability when using the Fate spread, and that can be pretty unsatisfying. This could be addressed by allowing aspects to be applied to resolution OR the roll as two separate things, but that is probably a bit too fiddly.

I’m also pondering another random thought too – what happens if you move Fate resolution downstream, and make aspects situation changers? That is, in a conflicted roll, suppose that no aspects are applied before the roll, and the roll stands in fiction, but does not yet have any consequence except in description – no stress is inflicted, no aspects are created, but the flow of action is considered to still be in flux. When I use an aspect, that is me taking an action that corresponds with the aspect (parrying, diving out of the way, counterattacking and so on). When both sides are done invoking aspects, then that’s the end of the conflict, resolved according to the final array of outcomes.

There’s an immediate problem with this in that it breaks down in multi-character scenes, but I think that’s addressable. In a duel situation, my fear would be that it would be too predictable, so I’d be inclined to make it all rerolls instead of bonuses, but that might be too fiddly.

I feel like there’s a space of play that both of these ideas touch upon, and I don’t yet have a firm grip on it, but this is how I circle in on these things.

Secrets and Blessings

So Randy made a fascinating comment on twitter about Gods stealing power form each other in FAE. From what I infer, he’s using a trick I like for magic in FAE, adding an extra approach (“Mantle”) which can be used to make people more super[1]. I’m going to call them blessings, just so I don’t steal Randy’s very cool term (and so I don’t presume on what he’s doing) but the idea is pretty straightforward.

The idea of power theft is super cool, but it lead to my thinking about a slightly tangential issue, that of secrecy and prominence. That is, what if there’s a limited pool of power, and its effectiveness diminishes as it gets spread around.

So, for example, the STRENGTH OF HERCULES might be available to anyone who invokes a particular ancient ritual. For the first person who does it, it’s a +3 extra approach (blessing). But if a second person does it, then now they both have it, but only at +2. A third person? +1’s all around. And as soon as a 4th person[2] does it, then the power is too thinly distributed to help much.

What I really like about this mechanic is that it makes power a huge driver of play in the setting. Powers are now secrets with genuine value. If you have one, you want to protect it. If you don’t have one, then you want to find them. And between is a balancing act of power vs. secrecy (and assassination of anyone who knows your secret).

This can get tweaked farther with other rules, especially surrounding how you get and lose these blessings. Ideally, you want to keep some key vulnerability in play when you have a blessing, like a totem or geas which means there is always some risk to your power beyond keeping your lips sealed.

This would work very well for a modern game, since this idea really goes hand in hand with secret wars and conspiracies. There might be powers and supernatural stuff, but its very nature makes it tenuous and difficult to prove substantially.

Anyway, just a random idea, but I figured I’d throw it out there.

  1. Easiest way to use these extra approaches is to make theme supplemental – let you roll approach + blessing for extra potent outcomes. Alternately, they provide a neat avenue for extra rules if you roll them on their own, allowing you to do otherwise impossible things. For example, a “Whirlwind power/approach” might be rolled to do things like fly or push things over.  ↩

  2. Exact numbers could vary. 1 person gets +3, up to 3 get +2, Up to 10 get +1 might work, for example. The numbers you use change the story a bit, which also means it might vary form blessing to blessing, with the most powerful blessings thinning out the fastest in some cases. Hell, you could build a whole campaign around the 6 vampires who have DRACULA’S BLESSING at +2 each all looking to kill each other off.  ↩

Hook and Chain Aspects

Two FATE terms I’ve used in conversation recently, which I should write down somewhere.

Chain Aspects – Aspects which, when used, turn into another aspect. Super useful for certain types of powers or any situation where there is a setup component rather than jumping right to the end.

Hook Aspects – These aren’t aspects at all, at least in a sense. A hook aspect is a blank aspect slot on a character sheet, and it’s filled in at the beginning of the session. Depending on the game, there might be existing hooks written into the adventure for players to pick up, or it might just be what the character wants today. These are especially useful for pickup play since they make the question of why a character is hooked into an adventure a shared one rather than a pure GM responsibility.

FAE: Lords of Intrigue

So, here’s another FAE hack that I’m calling “Lords of Intrigue”. This is a bit of a stunt, and if you spot the gimmick, then it will be pretty obvious, but if you don’t, fear not, I’ll explain at the end[1].

Another FAE hack. This one does not have a cunning name yet. The Fate Freeport Companion can be a bit of a help in this one.


Rather than the usual approaches, characters have the following 5 Approaches:

  • Arcane which covers the magic of wizards, but also scholarly understanding of the world.
  • Commercial Trade and business, as well as most day to, non-adventurey interaction. Commerce’s penumbra is quite broad, and if there is no other applicable approach, then Commerce is probably correct.
  • Pious Covers matter religious and clerical, but also matters of the heart. Swaying or understanding emotions fall under the auspices of piety, as does endurance.
  • Sneaky covers matters covert, from stealth to theft, and also speed and agility.
  • Violent as the name suggests, covers fighting (including sneaky fighting). it also encompasses strength.

These are not fairly distributed approaches. The simple reality is that Arcane and Pious are less useful than the other three. This is intentional – Arcane & Pious are the gateway to magical abilities, which broaden them significantly.

Players distribute the following array of bonuses: +3, +2, +2. +1, +0 among the 5 approaches. They also select aspects as normal – the Freeport guidelines may be useful in this regard as the expectation is that aspects will be along lines familiar to any D&D player.

Stunts are allocated based on approaches. You may take 2 stunts from under your +3 approach and 1 from one of your +2 approaches.

For Pious and Arcane stunts, look to Freeport (or some other magic system of your choice).

Violent and Sneaky stunts are (hopefully) fairly self explanatory.

Commercial stunts work a bit differently – each stunt represents a resource. The resource may either be something permanent (like an ally, a holding or a title) in which case the character gains a bonus aspect to reflect that. Alternately, it may simply take the form of liquid assets, and may be tapped for a +2 once per session any time money may lubricate matters (and like money, this bonus can stack).


The expectation is that characters are agents of a mysterious patron in a fantasy city. They will have some descriptive goal, like, say “Eliminate the Undead Coven” but they will also have a mechanical element of challenge to them.

That challenge will be rated in five different ways: Priests, Mages, Warriors, Thieves and Resources (and, yes, they correspond with the approaches), which are referred to as opposition. So, for example our undead coven quest might have a rating of 2 priests, 2 warriors and 1 Thief. That might be expressed as

Eliminate the Undead Coven

Those values are used by the GM to create a story for that quest as well as to set some mechanical thresholds. Each opposition represents one aspect (usually, but not always a person) and a +1 to the baseline difficulty. So, in our example, matters of religion and violence have a default difficulty of 2, and sneaky stuff has a +1, and it might have the following aspects:

Brother Malvolio, the mad street prophet (P)
The Secret Chapel in the Sewers (P)
Rotting Soldiers (W)
The Grave Cannot Hold Us (W)
Shadow Hunters (T)

I don’t know about you, but once I’ve laid out those aspects, I’ve got most of what I need to make this a mission.

The City

The problem is, of course, that these things never go in a straight line. I have all the elements in place for the adventure, but I don’t want to just point the players at it. How do I handle the investigation element?

The city gives me what I need, or more specifically, the locations in the city do. City Locations are treated similarly to quests, though rather than having a opposition, they merely have occupants, which are rated in the same fashion. For example, an arena where gladiators duel might have two Warrior occupants, and be noted as

Triumphant Field

As with quests, those turn into two fighting related aspects, such as:

Olivia One Eye, Gladiator Trainer (W)
Always More Hopefuls (W)

When players go an engage one of these places, then you connect two aspects of the same type to give the players a clue. For example: a conversatiosn with Olivia (W) might reveal that she saw a Gladiator get killed and get up again (The grave cannot Hold us) and she can tell the players where to find out more.

This may not be enough to crack open the case immediately, but it should be enough to get things started. If the players then engage some other aspects (perhaps some P and T) then they should be able to put together a full picture. As a rule of thumb, if the players visit places with enough occupant aspects to total up to the opposition aspects, then they should have enough to bring matters to a head.

In this case, for example, suppose the players visited

The Smiling Tiger Tavern(TT)


The House of the Sun(P)

Then they should be pretty close – maybe close enough that good skill rolls and clever play might get them there. If not, then

The Cathedral(P)

Should push things over the top. There is no obligation to make players go through all the hoops, rather, as they go through more hoops, you should be making things more and more obvious.

Also bear in mind that players will hit occasional dead ends. If they had cone to The Magical Academy(W) or The Grand Bazaar(RRRR) then it might have been a fun scene[2]but it would not get them any closer to the Undead coven.

Anyway, this is still rough around the edges, but I think it’s a fun start.

  1. This is basically written with the idea of using a copy of Lords of Waterdeep (A fantastic boardgame, also available on iOS) as a game generator. I think most people who have played it immediately realized it that almost any game of it could be used as the backbone for a cool urban campaign. This is still pretty rough – I haven’t figured in the Intrigue cards, and I still want to figure out how to use the Lords and the Factions (though my instinct is to use the factions as an excuse to rip off 13th Age Icons.  ↩
    Screenshot 2013-12-16 21.50.25

  2. And maybe useful for a different quest, if players are pursing more than one quest at a time.  ↩

What’s a FAE Adventure?

A couple of resources that came up in conversations on twitter

These are three different methods to create a compelling and engaging adventure with little prep and – importantly – without having a pre-written adventure on hand. I love this kind of stuff, and I think it’s directly and practically useful at the table.

It’s also on my mind because I’ve been thinking a bit about what a published adventure for a FAE game would look like. To understand why this is such an interesting challenge, consider converting any classic D&D module or module series[1] to FAE. It reduces the bulk of the dungeon rooms drastically and pulls out the blatant GM forces, laying bare the bones of the actual adventure. Some hold up, others do not.

Now, there’s a case to be made that a good FAE adventure could be little more than the expression of one of those templates I listed above. I think that could work, certainly. It’s all that’s needed in the strictest sense. But I feel like that’s missing something. There were elements of fiction to classic adventures which made them compelling – often more compelling than the actual adventure component itself was. But I have not yet put my finger on how to express that without just effectively handing the GM a short story.

Which might not be a terrible solution. But I’ll noodle around until I think of something else.

  1. My personal go to is the Slave Lords series, It’s premise is actually really cool and gameable, but between the requirements of dungeons and the fact that it’s designed for tournament play, it really falls apart when you unplug the D&D.  ↩