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Fate System Toolkit

Monsters

The rules for NPCs in the Fate Core book are great for creating people—other humans whose goals put them into conflict with the PCs—but as the GM, you might also want to include a few monsters in your game. With these tools, you can create monsters that are inhuman and tricky, challenging players to find clever approaches when dealing with monstrous antagonists.

Instinct Aspects

To create interesting monsters, start by laying out some of the core drives that spur the monsters to action. What makes them take risks and chances? What do they care enough about to get in fights with the players about? It’s likely they have inhuman drives—desires that ordinary humans would probably never have.

Take your initial thoughts and condense them down into an instinct aspect. Monster characters can use their instinct aspect as normal, but they may add +3 to their roll instead of +2 when they invoke it. Monsters are often singularly driven to obtain their goals, and the players will have to work to overcome these foes.

Rey is running a game of urban horror. When he writes up a set of zombies, he gives them the instinct aspect Hungry for Brains. Anytime that he invokes their aspect, they get a +3 to their roll.

Monster Abilities

Monsters are distinct from other NPCs because their abilities tend to challenge the rules and disrupt the normal flow of conflicts. Many monsters are entire fight scenes waiting to happen, as the players have to figure out how to defeat an enemy that is changing up the rules on them.

Some examples of interesting monster abilities:

  • Hard to Kill: Monsters can survive much more damage than other characters, either because of longer stress tracks—like Frankenstein’s monster—or because they can regenerate quickly—like the Hydra.
  • Immune to Damage: Monsters are often immune to all damage save one type—such as vulnerability to silver—or until a specific condition has been met—such as destroying a specific magic item.
  • Prone to Change: Monsters tend to transform themselves—like vampires who turn into bats to flee—or the environment—such as summoning additional minions in the middle of a fight.

While it’s easy to see how these traits could be turned into stunts, they are often too powerful to be activated without spending a fate point. However, if you add such a cost, the players can grind down an enemy like the Hydra, waiting for you to run out of fate points. In addition to making your monsters weak, such costs make conflicts a drag. Who wants to play until the GM runs out of fate points?

Rather than add a cost, you can instead add a weakness to a monster in order to be able to activate a stunt without paying the fate point cost. If you add a lesser weakness, you must still pay a fate point at the start of the scene in which the monster uses the power, but if you add a greater weakness, you don’t have to pay any fate points at all to use the stunt.

When the PCs discover and use a lesser weakness, the monster can still use the stunt, but must now pay each time that it uses the stunt. If the PCs discover and use a greater weakness, however, the monster loses the stunt completely.

Rey decides to create a demon named Masabra. He gives Masabra a stunt that makes the demon immune to physical stress at the cost of a fate point. Rey wants Masabra to be extremely dangerous, so he gives him a greater weakness of blessed weapons, allowing Masabra to use the stunt without paying a fate point cost. If the PCs ever acquire blessed weapons, Masabra would lose access to this stunt when he faced them.

Multiple Zone Monsters

For very large monsters (VLM), you can go even further by treating the monster itself as a map with several zones. In order to defeat such a monster, the characters need to defeat each zone independently, while navigating the obstacles between the zones. By statting up the monster in pieces, you can split up the PCs and give the monster a number of extra actions—one per zone—to convey the size of the foe and keep the conflict interesting.

The Elder Dragon of Ormulto is a VLM in Rey’s game. He’s so large that he has four separate zones: his two claws, his head, and his tail. When the players try to keep him from destroying an apartment building, they will need to deal enough stress to his head to bring him down. However, if they don’t do anything about his claws or tail, he will quickly rain destruction down upon the people the heroes are trying to protect. They will have to split up among the zones to keep him in check.

In addition to the size of VLMs, you can also create stunts that help to convey the theme and style of the monster. Many of these involve transformations, stunts that fundamentally alter the monster or change the nature of the fight, changes that are familiar to players who have previously fought video game boss monsters. As with smaller monsters, you can tie these stunts to weaknesses if you’d like to be able to activate them for free.

In order to mark the importance of the intermediary steps needed to defeat a gigantic monster—such as destroying a part of it or closing a portal from which it draws strength—VLMs gain an additional transformation stunt tied to their partial defeat.

Since his claws and tail are much weaker than his head, the Elder Dragon of Ormulto has a transformation stunt tied to the destruction of those zones on the map called Breath of Fire. If the PCs destroy one of his appendages, the Dragon activates the stunt to deal two stress to each character on the map, regardless of zone, and adds the situational aspect (Name) Is On Fire! where (Name) is an important building or person near the fight.

Many of the rules here can also be used to add interesting features to nonhuman characters that aren’t antagonists in the story. You could give the player’s familiar a stunt with a weakness that human NPCs could attempt to discover, or map out a spirit guardian the players summon across multiple zones.