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Fate Codex

Family Favors

By John Large

INTRODUCTION

One of the great things about Fate is the bronze rule (sometimes called the Fate fractal) almost anything within Fate  can be represented as a character with aspects, skills, and stunts, etc. Using the bronze rule, you can represent a diverse array of different NPCs and objects, ranging from space-craft to gigantic monster, without having to master additional complex rules systems; once you understand the core rules of Fate you’re good to go, saving time streamlining the process of planning your game. In many television shows, movies, and RPGs, the central characters have the support of a large family or other organization that provides them with back-up and occasional favors with the understanding that something may be required in return in the future. Organizations, whether they be families or mega-corps, can be a great source of plot and intrigue in an RPG, as well as provide support and aid to their members in good standing. Obviously, the bronze rule can be used to represent these organizations, but the bronze rule alone doesn’t tie these larger groups directly into the characters themselves.

This article shows how to create organizations using the familiar Fate rule structure, and how to make them have a more direct impact on your game and player characters. This will not only flesh out a group that exists in your campaign world, but will also give your heroes some extra options when it comes to tackling stubborn problems during an adventure.

How Central Should Organizations Be?

If you just want organizations and families as background flavor, simply having players mention them in one of their aspects works fine; these rules assume that you want organizations to take more of the spotlight in your game. Here are a few ways to feature organizations using this method:

Have all of the PCs be members of the same organization from the start. This ensures the importance of a single organization it can also tie together a group of disparate PCs, giving them a group goal and motivation to work together, along with a valuable support structure and hierarchy. Organizations can deliver orders, objectives, and goals to the PCs, keeping the plot moving without introducing an artificial framework every session.

Feature a number of conflicting and cooperating organizations. This approach involves slightly more work since you may have PCs belonging to different organizations, in addition to any NPC organizations that you create using these rules. However, the creation process is fairly quick and creates a ready-made source of plot for the GM. If you know that one  of the PCs is a member of the monster-hunting Colt Family and that  the Shandu Crime Syndicate is attempting to move in on their neighborhood, then you have a source of conflict and plot ready to go.

CREATING AN ORGANIZATION

First, decide what benefits membership offers and sketch out some of the important NPCs that are involved with your organization. As with all things in Fate, work together with your players to collaboratively build these elements, but don’t be afraid to push your players to be specific about the organization goals, strengths, and weaknesses.

As an example of how this process works, we’re going to take inspiration from a famous TV family of smart-talking, Impala-driving monster hunters. We’re creating a group for our game called the Colt Family. Each step of creating and organization is accompanied by a short example of a group fleshing out the Colt Family.

Create Organization Aspects

An organization starts with fewer aspects than a player-character or a named NPC; these are the short sentences that help define your organization in plain English terms that are easy to read and understand. These aspects are:

ORGANIZATION CONCEPT

It helps to have a clear idea of what the organization is like and how it appears in your game. The organization concept is a short sentence that sums up the overall theme of the group and the place that they occupy in your campaign.

Examples:

  • Monster-Hunting Family
  • Drug-Running Crime Syndicate
  • Weapon-Smuggling Mafia Family

DARK SECRET

Every business, family, or organization has some secret or flaw that it tries to hide, a vulnerability that can complicate life for its members. The secret is effectively the Trouble aspect of the organization; rogue members of the organization, a rival group, or perhaps an enemy that they have made.

Examples:

  • We’re Being Hunted by a Demon
  • The Police Are Getting Too Close
  • The New Mayor's Crackdown on Smuggling

ORGANIZATION GOAL

Most organizations are either founded with a goal in mind, such as making money or selling a product), or develop a goal as time goes on, as in the case of our monster-hunting family. The organization goal summarizes the main aims of the group in your game; not all members will slavishly follow this goal to the same degree, but having this written down from the start can help guide decisions on what sort of resources the organization has access to and how willing they are to help the PCs in various endeavors.

Examples:

  • Track Down the Creature
  • Over the Drug Trade in the City
  • We Need to Show the Mayor Who’s Boss

Creating Organization Faces

Create an NPC to represent each of the aspects you choose for your family or organization; for the Organization Concept, this will normally be the head of the family, whereas the Dark Secret might be a troublesome police office or customs official, someone who causes issues and complications for the organization. The NPC for the Organization Goal can be viewed as a standard member of the organization whether that be a mobster or a monster hunter.

These NPCs do not have to be generated entirely, as with PCs but they should at least be given a name and a High Concept to describe them; if they prove to be more major figures in your campaign, then you can easily add stats to them later. More general members of the family can be created using the rules for Nameless NPCs or even the Mook rules from Fate Accelerated. The aspects chosen for the organization should give you a pretty good idea of the things your NPC will be skilled and unskilled at.

We want the Colt Family to be a roving gang of demon hunters, driven by a great loss in their family; they have members spread out across the countryside who use various confidence tricks to make money and secure supplies while engaging in their main activity of hunting down monsters.

For our Organization Concept we go for Driven Monster Hunting Family; the family has made many enemies during the course of its activities, mostly the creatures that they hunt and their servants, so we pick Hunted by Demons for the Dark Secret. We decide that the family patriarch will be the NPC that we define for the Organization Concept, naming him Robert Colt. We give him the High Concept That Monster Took My Wife…

The obvious choice for an NPC connected with the Dark Secret is the demon who actually killed Robert Colt’s wife and helped albeit unwittingly launch the family on their demon hunting crusade. Giving the demon an actual name at this point would reduce some of the mystery, so we simply call it the Red-Eyed Demon and give it the High Concept of Dark Murders with a Purpose, implying that there is more to the demon than simply random murders.

Since the Organization Concept pretty much covers wiping out monsters, we’ve got to do a little work to flesh out the Organization Goal; instead we think a little about what originally propelled the family onto their monster-hunting path. We decide that the family patriarch’s wife was slain by a particular demon and that his family has taken up the crusade to prevent the same terrible ordeal happening to other families. We choose Protect our Home and the People from Demons as an aspect.

For this aspect, we create a member of the family, naming him Terrence Colt, and give him the High Concept Member of the Colt Family before creating some basic mook stats for him; he gets a +2 when dealing with monster hunting, conning people, or digging up lore, and a -2  at anything involving background checks or the legal system. Knowing what a baseline member of an organization looks like will help you to define areas where the player characters differ from this or are exceptional; it also means that if your players call in a favor to get some back-up, then you have stats for them ready made.

Choose Organization Skills

Each organization has a pool of skills related to its main business interests. For example, our monster-hunting family might have caches of equipment buried across the country, accessible to any member who needs gear. Taking some levels of Resources to represent this would be appropriate, as would a few levels of Contacts to represent folks in the community who support their work.

Choose three skills from the standard list to represent the skill pool possessed by the family; one of the skills should be rated at +2 and the others at +1 each. When a PC successfully calls on skilled aid from a member of the organization, they can add this bonus to their own skill check to represent the assistance that they are receiving.

The members of the family use various confidence schemes and scams to make ends meet, allowing them to follow their true calling. They’ve learned a lot about monsters, though so we set Lore at +2, Investigate at +1, and Burglary at +1, giving members of the family a chance to call on their fellows for assistance with investigating monsters and their weaknesses or engaging in more larcenous pursuits.

Create an Organization Favor Track

The favor track works like the consequences slot on the main character sheet, save that the number of boxes is dependent on the size and reach of the organization; a very small organization might have one box, a medium-sized organization four, and a countrywide organization eight. This is used to keep track of how many favors the PCs have called in from this organization. We’ll cover how to use this track a bit later in the article.

JOINING AN ORGANIZATION

In order to claim the benefits of being in an organization using these rules, PCs must make mention of their membership in one of their aspects.

Player characters may also seek to join an organization after play has begun, although organizations will certainly only extend a membership invitation to those who have proven their worthiness and have passed tests of loyalty. Assuming that a PC has been accepted into the ranks of an organization, then they should change one of their character’s aspects to reflect their membership; this can be done normally as per the rules for milestones.

For example:

  • Black Sheep of the Colt Family
  • Rising Star in the Shandu Crime Syndicate
  • Made Man of the Malvolo Family

USING ORGANIZATIONS IN PLAY

Now that you’ve got your Organization or Family fleshed out, it’s time to integrate it into your game.

Organization Aspects

One of the chief benefits of belonging to an organization using these rules is that the player can call on the aspects of the organization as though they were their own.

In fact, a player may invoke the aspects of their family without paying a fate point. However, each time they do, they accrue a favor owed to the family, and the character’s name should be written in one of the favor track boxes. When all of the favor track boxes are full, no additional favors may be called upon from the family until some of the existing ones have been paid off.

The Colt family has Protect our Home and the People from Demons as their Organization Goal; if our PC, Simon Colt, is confronted by a demonic creature threatening his neighbors, then he could either pay a fate point to invoke the organization aspect as though it were one of his own or he could choose to save his fate points and instead accrue a favor to the family.

Information and Clues

Alternatively, when a player needs information in a hurry, they can choose to accrue a favor in order to be put in touch with someone who has the appropriate information by a member of their organization. The exact nature of the clue is up to the GM, but generally you should allow a player to do this if the information is at all relevant to the group’s Organization Concept.

If the PCs are members of the Colt Family and are trying to dig up some information on the nesting habits of a particularly vile supernatural creature, then one of them could accrue a favor in order to get some info from another family member who has faced the creature or something like it before.

However, if the PCs were looking for information on the inner-workings of the police department or city hall, then being a member of the family would not be much use; they would have to investigate this matter personally, perhaps attempting to bribe a corrupt official or leaning on other contacts outside the organization in order to obtain this information.

Skilled Aid

Occasionally, even Fate characters have to call on the assistance of people with higher levels of ability. Being a member of an organization grants a PC access to other NPCs with variable skill pools; this is represented by the three skills chosen for the organization. If a PC wishes assistance from a member of their organization, then they may accrue a favor in order to have someone assist them, as long as it’s feasible that another member of the organization could turn up and help them.

When gaining skilled help the PC should name the NPC helping them and define their area of expertise; they may then add the relevant organization skill rating to their roll in addition to their own skill.

Our member of the Colt Family is attempting to commit a burglary, breaking into the house of a person he believes serves the creature they are hunting; unsure whether his burglary skill of +1 will be enough, he contacts his cousin Terrence and arranges for them to meet up. The Colt Family has a burglary skill of +1, meaning that when Terrence arrives, the player adds an additional +1 for his burglary attempt, but he will owe the family some assistance in return in the future.

General Assistance

Players can normally spend fate points to declare fictional details. For example, they might spend a fate point to say there is a barrel of oil in a warehouse or that there is a single horse in the tavern barn; player characters who are members of a family or organization can owe a favor in order to do similar things with their organization, either receiving minor aid or filling in additional setting details.

Minor aid is something like crashing on a cousin’s couch for the evening or borrowing a small amount of money, basically anything that doesn’t put the family out or cause it significant expenditure.

To add additional setting details, the player accrues a favor and then narrates how the organization has either members or resources in the area that favor them in some way; for example, our member of the Colt Family needs to get his car fixed and accrues a favor to say that the mechanic knows his family and occasionally helps them out because they once helped his daughter who was possessed by an angry spirit.

When doing this the player should at least name the NPC or the resource and describe why being a member of the organization makes them available to them; final refusal of these elements rests with the GM, who may choose to either suggest alterations or disallow the adding of details if they seem entirely inappropriate.

Paying Off Favors

There are two ways that favors can be paid off:

  • If the GM issues a compel related to the family’s aspects and the player character has a favor box with their name on it, then the favor is paid off and their name removed from the track. The player may not pay a fate point to avoid the compel as per the normal rules, since they have already received the benefits when they accepted the favor earlier in the game.
  • The PC can self-compel using one of the organization’s aspect most likely the Dark Secret; assuming the GM approves the compel, then the player may choose to have one of their favors paid off instead of taking a fate point.

CONFLICT BETWEEN ORGANIZATIONS

If you wish to represent conflict between organizations and families in a more direct manner, then you can give your organizations stress boxes and consequences like any other character. Attacks that would directly harm the family can be represented by them taking consequences in the same manner as a character would. When an organization is taken out of action, it means that it has fractured to such an extent that it is no longer capable of functioning in a cohesive manner.

In conclusion, using the rules in this article will help you create organizations that can be directly involved in your game without taking agency away from your players. These groups form a backdrop for your game, allowing the PCs access to additional resources but at the cost of further potential story complications down the line.