Odds and Ends

Just Do It

(this will likely be a two-parter, with the other part delivered when the sun's up.)

One of the things I see a lot in Fate, both online and with people I play with IRL, is questions like "Does Fate Core have rules for "

And, ultimately, I think that's the wrong question. The right question is "Can I make a character like in Fate Core?" And the answer, nine times out of ten, is "Sure can! Without using anything outside of the core rules, even!"

Crazy, right? I mean, there's no rules for cybernetics, so how could I make a character with a cybernetic arm?

Real simple. You just have to unlearn some stuff. Start by asking "what does the cybernetic arm mean?" Well, in fiction it probably means you're strong. In some fiction it means that your connection to humanity is lessening. Depending on the setting, it might also mean that people react poorly to you. The arm could malfunction, requiring repairs.

Now, I'm a traditional gamer by background. I started with Moldvay Basic D&D, and GURPS was my system of choice for a long time. I don't want to say I've played every system ever, but I played a ton of them in the 80s. I've had a chance to play in some seriously old-school campaigns -as in, run by the father of my friend, and dating back to probably 80 or earlier and being adult-run and adult-played the whole time.

I ain't saying this to win the geek wang competition, as I know there's people reading this who have way bigger geek-peeners than me. My point here is that through all of that time, my reaction to the problem of the cybernetic arm is based on figuring out what it does, how it hurts me, balancing it with some kind of character build resource cost, etc. I mean, I get this line of thinking, and I understand the urge to add this kind of stuff to Fate. It was sure my first instinct.

But it's not needed, though it took me a long time to figure that out. Here's how you build a guy with a cybernetic arm that makes him strong in Fate: Give him a Physique skill (you could probably make a case for Athletics) of 4.

Give him an appropriate aspect representing his cybernetic arm.

That's it. You're done. Have a beer, take the rest of the day off. Seriously. You're done. No, I'm not kidding.

But how can this be? Well, you want him to be strong, so give him the appropriate skill -Just do it.

You want the arm to malfunction, so make the aspect and it can be compelled. Just do it.

You want the arm to make him super-extra strong on occasion -so invoke the aspect when needed. Most of the time, the bonus won't matter anyway, so not much difference there -and realistically, having his cybernetic arm make everything awesome would get a little one-note. Just do it.

You want the arm to cause him to have problems relating with people invoke the arm aspect against him when in social conflicts, and also consider compelling when appropriate. Just do it.

So with two things, we've done a total implementation of a cybernetic arm that's well balanced within Fate, and does everything we really want it to do in terms of actual play.

If you want to go a bit further, you could add in a stunt allowing extra damage, similar to the already-existing stunt in the game. But I think it would work pretty well without it.

And this works for almost everything.

Want illusion magic? Decide what you want, make up an appropriate skill that does just that, and have the character have an "Illusionist" aspect to grant access to the skill. Bam, done. Just do it.

And we can go on and on with the examples. And I'll be honest -there's some cases where you really do need to go a bit deeper into Extras-Land to make things work. And sometimes it just adds a bit more flavor. If you're remaking Dresden Files, you may want to consider a bit more in the ways of stunts. In some cases, there will be bits that are core to the fiction that don't really model well without some modification -I think that Camelot Trigger is a pretty prime example of that.

But really, the Fate Core system gives you not just a toolkit, but a fully functioning 3d printer (thanks for the metaphor, Jack Gulick, even if I'm using it slightly different than your original intention).

I think there's some primary reasons I see people wanting to add in more "toolkit" like stuff to Fate.

  1. That's how it's done, damnit! And I'll admit, that's how I initially approached the system. "Where's the rules for ?" Something different has to require more paragraphs, right?

  2. Permission. The idea of Just do it is a bit wild to people, especially those used to running games like the ones I've talked about above, where you really can't do anything unless there's a rule for it.

  3. Balance. Hey, if we just let people make up their stuff, it won't be balanced, right? I mean, what if they just make an aspect called Awesome At Everything? And my answer to that is pretty simple -just be mature. If you can't figure that out at the table, Fate may not be a great game for you. But also, let's be honest -are those complex character building games really balanced? Can you tell me that all 150-point GURPS characters are equally effective? I played that game for YEARS, and I will tell you emphatically that they're not. So if the complexity isn't buying us balance, why should we keep the complexity in the name of balance?

  4. People like Legos. They just do. Lots of people enjoy the character creation minigame, and trying to put the pieces and parts together in new and interesting ways, and don't really do so well when just told "well, what do you want it to be?" This is probably the biggest "real" issue with moving away from a toolkit approach, IMHO.

  5. Some people want to use the Lego/toolkit approach to get bigger numbers and that's the topic of the second half of this, if I get around to writing it.