Fate System Toolkit
The Six Viziers
The Six Viziers system assumes a flavored system of magic, for each nominal Vizier has its own priorities and tendencies, but they do not manifest concretely as beings with opinions. By and large, magic has no intrinsic cost, though there are social elements to it. This is balanced by its relative rarity (though it’s freely open to PCs) and the fact that it’s potent, but not overly flexible. It’s also a strongly structured system, with magical effects strictly outlined by the thematic boundaries of each Vizier (expressed through skills).
The source of magic is the nominal Six Viziers. What exactly they are is an interesting question, and the answer to that could direct a campaign. In this setting, they’re the six constellations that serve the Empress, and they grant power to those with an affinity to them.
Mechanically, this system hangs largely off skills, as the expression of the magic is in the enhancement of those skills. There are other elements—aspects act as a gateway to power, and the magical effects themselves are stunt-like—but this is basically a model for enhanced skills.
The people of the Endless Steppe accept no dominion but that of the sky. Their people are scattered so far and wide that some wags say that this truth is the only thing they hold in common. And perhaps they are right—from the onion-domed towers of the River Cities to the Tent Nations of the Horselands to the walking towns of the southern jungles, the Folk of the Stars all direct their prayers and curses to those same stars.
Most often, these are directed to the Six Viziers, the constellations that dance around in the court of the Empress, whose place in the sky is always fixed. Each one holds divine responsibility, and each carries righteous petitions to the Empress.
While the constellations that make up the Viziers and their titles are generally agreed upon, there are many opinions beyond that point. They are named and represented differently from place to place. Depending where you are, the Giant might be depicted as a giant man crafted of stone, a maiden whose axe carries the fury of winter, or even an elephant. The tales of the Viziers—and even that name is contested in places—speak volumes about a people.
From time to time, someone is blessed by one of the Viziers, and carries its mark in the form of a pattern in the shape of the appropriate constellation. The nature of these blessings varies. For a family in Achinst, the firstborn daughter of a particular family is always born marked by the Giant. A western monastery is run by a chosen of the Soldier, and it is said that mantle passes to any who defeat him in combat. There are stories aplenty, and little real sense of the truth of it.
What is known is that each of the blessed gains power in accordance with the domain of the Vizier in question. The chosen usually seem to be well suited by temperament to the Vizier that chooses them, but it’s unclear whether that is a cause or effect of selection.
Don’t want to read it all and just want to wing it? Do the following:
- Replace the Drive skill with Ride.
- Reduce your Refresh by 1.
- Pick which Vizier you’re marked by (Eye, Giant, Shadow, Soldier, Steward, or Villager) and take the aspect Marked by [Vizier] (as in Marked by the Giant).
- Describe where the physical mark is on your character’s body.
- When you use a skill associated with that mark, your efforts are magical, more like deeds out of legend than mundane efforts. This does not translate into a bonus, but it just means a generally more awesome outcome, depending on the situation.
- Eye: Investigation, Lore, Notice
- Giant: Athletics, Physique, Will
- Shadow: Burglary, Deceive, Stealth
- Soldier: Fight, Ride, Shoot
- Steward: Provoke, Rapport, Resources
- Villager: Contacts, Crafts, Empathy
This assumes a fantasy leaning, though not necessarily the standard European one. As imagined, it is more in the spirit of Russia—all of it—than anything anchored in Europe.
In any case, this does require that the Drive skill be replaced with a Ride skill, which works much the same way, but with a different sort of vehicle.
If your character is marked by a Vizier, reduce your refresh by 1.
Characters marked by a Vizier need to have an aspect that reflects this, like Chosen of the Steward or Marked by the Villager. The exact naming of the aspect is up to the player, and if the player has a complicated relationship with the Vizier, this is a great way to account for it.
Exactly what the aspect means depends upon the mark, but all marks have a few things in common. First and foremost, the character gains a physical mark somewhere on their body, in the shape of the Vizier’s constellation. The exact form and location varies—it might be scars, birthmarks, a silvery tattoo, or virtually anything else—but the shape is fairly consistent. Cosmetic and temporary marks are also popular among the unmarked in some places, but a true bearer of a mark can recognize another genuine mark with a single glance.
The marked also always know where their constellation is, whether it’s daytime or even if it’s beyond the horizon. By itself, this is not much use for navigation, but combined with a little bit of knowledge, it can allow for an uncanny sense of direction.
There are also social elements of being marked, though those vary from place to place. Usually, it’s a good thing, but being marked by an unwelcome Vizier may carry some bad baggage along with it.
Each Vizier is summarized below. Some of the information is self-explanatory, such as other names and ways in which the Vizier is represented. Other elements have rules impact.
Each mark has a virtue and a vice, and those are relevant to the use of the mark as an aspect. For example, the Giant’s virtue is Strength and its vice is Rage. The aspect Marked by the Giant can be used as if it was the aspect Strong or Rage.
Each mark also has three “domains”—these are the skills that are tied to this particular Vizier. They provide the framework for which blessings—aka Stunts—the Vizier provides. They don’t have any strict mechanical meaning beyond sketching the shape of the Vizier’s domain—and providing some guidance for games that use different skill lists.
The blessings themselves are self-contained rules elements. Characters choose two blessings from their Vizier. These do not cost any additional refresh, but remember that characters already spent 1 refresh to be chosen.
Also Called: The Auditor, The Inquisitor, The Sage, The Spy, or the Watcher.
Often Depicted As: A genderless robed figure, a male magistrate, a female wise woman, a female librarian, an owl, or an eye.
Domains: Investigation, Lore, and Notice.
The Eye observes and reports to the Empress. He sees all, and gives others the knowledge and insight they need to act appropriately. The Eye himself rarely acts directly. In some stories, it is because he is an agent of law—an investigator—who solves a mystery so that the appropriate authorities may act. In others, he is paralyzed by a desire to maintain his neutrality, or by knowledge of the potential harm of his own actions.
The Pieces of the Puzzle: When you take a few minutes to study a particular item and its position, you can reasonably reconstruct the chain of events that led to it being there. This reconstruction will be accurate, though it will not reveal any more than the necessary details. For example, it might reveal that it was carried by hand at some point, but not by whom.
The Vault of the Eye: You may look at a scene and recall it in perfect detail. In practice, this allows you to ask the GM questions about that memory long after the fact, and take your time performing Investigation rolls. This includes anything you might ask about if you were still in the same place and time, such as the contents of containers. If the answer to the question would require a skill roll—such as picking a lock to see a chest’s contents—you may try normally, as if you were still there.
You may keep more than one scene in memory, but the cost of doing so is one fate point per scene already memorized.
The Blessing of a Thousand Tongues: You may learn any language quickly. With tutelage, it takes only a day. With only the opportunity to read or listen, it takes a week. If the source material is especially sparse, it may take as long as a month.
The Eye Sees All Paths: You may not know everything, but you always know how to find out. When looking for a fairly specific piece of information, you may give the GM a fate point to be told the closest place you can go to find out, no matter how obscure or lost the information is. In short, you can never hit a wall when trying to find something out.
There are no guarantees of how easy it will be to get the knowledge, but that’s what adventure is for.
The Eye Gazes in All Directions: You are never surprised. Even if it’s only by a moment, you are always forewarned of the unexpected.
Stars Illuminate the Night: So long as there is the faintest amount of light, you can see as if it were a bright day. In the rare case of utter darkness, you can see as well as if you had a light source.
Also Called: The Earthshaker, The Laborer, The Pillar, The Titan.
Often Depicted As: A stone statue, a frost maiden, an ogre, an elephant, or an ox.
Domains: Athletics, Physique, and Will.
The Giant represents strong hands put to good effort, but also represents strength going unchecked. Most often this strength is physical, but it goes deeper than that. It is said that it is the Giant who sets the heavens in motion at the behest of the Empress. In tales, the Giant is often portrayed as well intentioned and powerful, but not always in control of the power in those great hands. He is often in a secondary role to another Vizier—often the Steward or the Eye—acting in the service of greater discernment.
By My Hand, Set the World in Motion: Through a combination of speed, dexterity, and uncanny timing, you always have a path forward. In a static environment, this means that you are capable of crazy parkour-like movement to get almost anywhere that could be physically accessed. In a more fluid environment you are impossible to pin down or fence in, as you’ll always find the gap.
Strides of the Giant: You run as fast as a horse, have a vertical jump equal to your own height, and can run for a day and night without stopping for rest—though you need to crash hard and eat a lot when you’re done.
Giant’s Appetite: You can eat anything without harm. Not just foodstuffs—if you can chew and swallow it, or drink it, you can safely consume it, and even gain sustenance from it. You may casually ignore poisons, decay, shards of glass, and similar inconveniences. As a bonus, flavors are very distinctive and memorable to you, which allows for disgusting tricks like comparing the taste of blood samples to see if they’re from the same source, as well as more useful tricks like identifying a familiar poison.
None May Bind The Giant: If you are restrained or shackled, you may break those bonds, so long as they are natural or manufactured. No door or lock may withstand more than a single blow from you. Barriers with no opening take longer, but you are effectively an entire sapping team with nothing more than fists and feet and anything else you can bring to bear.
The Mind Is the Greatest Mountain: So far as social skills are concerned, you do not exist. You cannot be swayed, befriended, intimidated, or otherwise moved. Your speech reveals nothing about you or the veracity of your words. For purposes of the Villager’s ability, your Deceive score is higher than the Villager’s Empathy.
Never Broken: You gain a -8 physical consequence which recovers in the same way a -2 consequence does.
Also Called: The Assassin, the Spy, the Taker, the Thief, the Trickster.
Often Depicted As: A cloaked figure of either gender, the night wind, a humanoid shadow, a snake, a rat, or a raven.
Domains: Burglary, Deceive, and Stealth.
Depending on the time and place, the Shadow is either a roguish trickster or an ominous threat, and both views have some truth to them. The hidden hand of the Empress, the Shadow encompasses needful things best left unspoken. The place for such things is always uncertain, and unwelcome until the day they are needed, when their welcome is deep indeed.
The Accounting of Small Things: Once you have successfully stolen something small enough to fit in a pocket, it is gone until you choose to reveal it again. No amount of searching—or even stripping—will reveal the purloined item. You may only have one such item at a time hidden in this fashion.
The Supplication of Locks: You need only whisper your name into a lock to attempt to pick it, as if using a full set of tools. If successful, the attempt takes only a moment. If unsuccessful, you may try again the old-fashioned way.
Corroboration of Coincidence: Fate favors your lies with minor coincidences and circumstantial evidence that seem to lend them credence. You may apply a boost to the scene before you roll Deceive, so long as you can describe how it helps you look more honest. If successful, the boost turns into an aspect on the scene.
The Name Is a Mask to the World: Any time after you hear someone’s name from their own lips, you may duplicate their face, voice, and manner until the sun has risen twice. You may never mimic the same person twice.
Even those who don’t fully understand the nature of the Shadow understand that giving a stranger your name is a gesture of trust. How careful people are about this varies from culture to culture, but it is usually at least a consideration.
Only the Wind Will See Me Go: At the cost of a fate point, you may exit a scene, passing from sight.
Stealing Words from the Wind: You make no noise you do not wish to be heard. Not only does this allow you to move in absolute silence, but you can also use it selectively, such as speaking so only one person can hear you.
Also Called: The Horseman, the Sword, the Warlord.
Often Depicted As: A culturally appropriate warrior of either gender, a weapon, a lion, or a tiger.
Domains: Fight, Ride, and Shoot.
The Soldier serves through violence and war, with virtues of steel. The Soldier values cunning, bravery, and loyalty, but is perhaps a bit too easily led. Heroic stories of the Soldier tell of battles fought and won, but other stories put him on the other side from heroes for no reason other than blind adherence to an order.
Army on the Edge of My Blade: You take no penalty—and grant no bonus—for being outnumbered, no matter how preposterous the numbers.
Spears of Green Wood: You may train a body of troops—unnamed characters in a group of up to approximately 100—for a week and increase their Fight Skill by +1. You can repeat this multiple times, improving any given unit to a maximum of your Fight -2.
Only the Wind Beneath Us: So long as you maintain a good clip, any steed you ride may ride across water as if it were solid land, and may even ride across open air for a few hundred yards—after which the descent is akin to riding down a gentle slope.
We Ride as One: You fight and act on horseback without penalty, and nothing can knock you off. Any time you would take a physical consequence, you can opt for the horse to take it instead—the horse having a similar consequence track to your character.
To the Horizon: Anything you can see is effectively one zone from you when you shoot.
To the Stars: Any missile fired into the air can land any place you know or near anyone you can name. Messages and small items can be delivered in this fashion. This cannot be used to launch an attack directly, but if fired with ill intent, it is entirely possible to kill a horse or unnamed NPC nearby.
Also Called: Grandfather or Grandmother.
Often Depicted As: A wise elder of either gender, a mastiff, or a snake.
Domains: Provoke, Rapport, and Resources.
The Steward is the ear that everyone speaks to and the voice that everyone listens to. While the Empress may rule the stars, the Steward is the one who makes things go on a daily basis. In stories, he’s an advisor or leader more often than a hero, though at times the Steward falls into the role of the wise traveller, teaching the community he visits lessons they should have already known.
Crown of Menace: You are too terrifying to be attacked. Until you make a physical attack in a scene, characters with a Will lower than Good (+3) simply cannot attack you. Those with sufficient Will to attack still flinch on their first attack, though, automatically missing.
Walking with Storms: The mood of a town—or similar-sized locale—is what you want it to be.
All Things in Their Place: You always know the power dynamic in the room, and you may insert yourself within it anywhere you desire. Use this with caution—while it impacts how people interact with you, it does not equate to actual authority, and placing yourself too highly—especially over people not used to being anything but top dog—can inspire an unpleasant response.
The Truth of Who You Are: Every two minutes of conversation you have with someone reveals one of their aspects. However, for every two aspects you learn, you reveal one of your own to that person and anyone listening. Round down, so the first one you learn is free.
Rivers of Gold: Money is just a detail to you. Stripped naked and cast on a desert island, and you’ll be living in luxury in short order. Cast into prison, and you’ll be bribing guards in no time. No situation will restrict your access to your Resources skill.
War of Papers: You can take action against organizations through indirect measures. Effectively you can fight on the level of any organization smaller than a nation without the need to recruit allies or have any organization of your own. Yes, this means you can effectively “kill” a city, or even an army, given enough time.
Also Called: The Peon or the Citizen.
Often Depicted As: A farmer, a milkmaid, a rower, a hammer, a plow, a mule, or a monkey.
Domains: Contacts, Crafts, and Empathy.
While the Steward is a wise leader, the Villager represents the wisdom and virtues of common citizens. His stories are those of the seeming fool who ends up triumphing in the end through simple, common values. His is the strength of the community.
The Bonds of Man Stretch to the Horizon: There is no place where you do not know someone, including places you have never been before. You will find a friend wherever you go.
The Strength of One Becomes the Strength of Many: Once you begin a contacting effort, it becomes self-sustaining, as people you talk to talk to other people, who talk to others in turn. In effect, you will always get an answer; it is only a matter of time.
The Conjunction of Form: You may combine materials in impossible ways, giving one the attribute of another. You may make paper with the strength of steel, or steel with the weight of paper. Doing so requires the two aspects—one for the material, one for the additional attribute—to be invoked simultaneously on the Crafts roll to create the finished product.
The Tools Are Lesser than the Hand: You can produce master-craftsman-level work with the crudest of tools. With a proper workshop, you can create impossibly amazing devices in the finest da Vinci style.
Architecture of the Heart: Reading a room is a triviality to you. Even more, you can spot the emotional lynchpins in a room and easily understand how actions would impact the mood. If you roll Empathy to read a room—difficulty Mediocre (+0)—count how many shifts you accrue. Over the course of the scene, you may ask the GM to tell you how people would react to any hypothetical scenario. You can do this a number of times equal to the number of shifts generated.
The Inner Eye Sees Inner Truth: Without rolling, you can tell if another character is lying so long as the target’s Deceive is equal to or lower than your Empathy. In the case of high Deceive, you will know that you cannot tell, but will never receive a “false positive.”
If a character succeeds in some great service in the ethos of the Vizier—no small thing, such a task could be the hub of an entire campaign—she may take a second aspect tied to the Vizier. She loses another refresh, and may choose two more blessings.
As a baseline, this is a fairly mythic model of powers. Those marked by the Viziers are heroes of legend, but there are several options for how to alter this for other effects.
The easiest way to power down these blessings is to make them require the expenditure of a fate point. If you want to increase their power, remove the refresh cost, and simply allow players to take more blessings—or possibly even carry more than one mark.
Six is a fairly arbitrary number of Viziers. The same skill-based blessings/stunts could be redistributed according to other schema. Perhaps, for example, there are eighteen major Arcana equivalents, each tied to one skill—characters bound to their Arcana might have the blessings for that skill. On the other hand, the Viziers could be discarded entirely, allowing players to simply pick a number of blessings.
If the Viziers are actually active, thoughtful forces, the entire tone of the game changes. Not only will the Viziers be interacting more directly with their chosen, they’ll be engaged in their own internal politics. Active Viziers can be a potent driver of play.
Perhaps there are other Viziers out there—secret constellations with powers and knowledge unknown to the world at large. Perhaps they are hidden enemies or lost allies. Or perhaps they are both.
The Viziers as presented are mostly positive forces, with their negative elements serving largely as a natural consequence of their strengths. But perhaps each Vizier is paired with a dark reflection, one who embraces the darker nature and only has some redeeming characteristics as an extension of that nature. These Dark Viziers may have their own agendas and champions, and best of all, there’s no guarantee that those bearing the mark are even aware of any difference.