Archive for the ‘Other Systems’ Category

Several character portraits circa 1888

April 3, 2012

A couple of pages from Harper’s new monthly magazine, Volume 76, Issues 451-456, 1888 which look like they’d make good character portraits for a Victorian-era game, or possibly even Spirit of the Century.

Fate Corps: Skills as Aspects as Qualities

October 17, 2011

Let’s start with skills.  What *is* a skill, or a Strands-of-Fate attribute?  What is Strength+2?

It’s basically an Aspect that’s always invoked, that you never have to pay for.  So why doesn’t it look like an Aspect?

Let’s consider a new thing: Qualities.  A Quality is a type of Aspect, or perhaps an Aspect is a type of Quality.  Unlike an Aspect, you don’t need to pay to invoke a Quality.  It’s always invoked, all the time, for free.  Also unlike Aspects, Qualities are often ranked.

So, what is Strength+2, really?

Maybe it’s Strength+2 (Ninja [+1], Way of the Tiger [+1]).  Or it could be Ninja+2, or (Weightlifter +3, Over the Hill -1.)

“Ninja”, here, is a Quality, and it adds +1 to this character’s Strength.  Perhaps it also adds +2 to his Endurance, and maybe even -1 to Empathy.

That whole thing about “Hey why am I only Ninja when I pay Fate Point for it?” goes away with this implementation.  You are Ninja all the time without paying for it.

This undermines the idea of Aspects as primary characterization, somewhat — and I think that’s a good thing.  If “Ninja” is really central to your character, then he should probably be Ninja all the time.

It’s already invoked (or, depending, compelled) all the time, so it’s not really valid to try to invoke it again for another +2.  You’re already Strength+2 by dint of being Ninja — try a different Aspect.

However, it’s entirely valid to invoke or compel Qualities *for effect*.  You want to spend a Fate Point to have a smoke bomb?  Dude, you are Ninja — of course you have a smoke bomb.  Spend the point and be good.

Similarly, compels for effect are also valid.  If you’re Paladin all the time, then off you go to save the princess from the evil necromancer.

It’s a fine way to implement things like races.  If you are a dwarf, then get the Dwarf+1 quality to your Endurance.  But take Dwarf-1 to your Comeliness.  If you also want to be particularly dwarfy, then sure, take a “Dwarf Among Dwarves” Aspect as well, if you like.  There’s also another way to do it which I’ll mention in a bit.

What else works like Qualities?  Consequences, that’s what.  Say someone breaks your arm.  That major consequence can be the Broken Arm -2 Quality.  You don’t get paid off with Fate points every time your opponents take advantage of your broken arm. You just get the -2.  Maybe to every roll, maybe not.

So say you’ve got a scene in a place where it’s really dark.  Sure, you could make that a Dark Aspect on the scene.  Everyone pay up if you’re hiding better because it’s Dark or stumbling over things.

Or you could make it a Quality.  Dark:1.  That’s a +1 to some skills and a -1 to others; you could enumerate them all by skill and trapping if you really wanted to, but you probably have better things to do.

So someone might want to hide in the Dark, but might want more than that +1 bonus.  How can they get it?  One way would be to Invoke For Effect — “Hey, it’s Dark in here, right?  I use my Perception to find some Shadowy Shadows to hide in, and Invoke for Effect.”  So that character is placing the Aspect “Shadowy Shadows” on the scene, and getting a free tag on it, for an additional +2.  Assuming they make that roll, of course — the GM could make it really easy (“Oh yeah, there’s shadows everywhere, no problem”) or really difficult (“It’s totally dark — every part seems just as  shadowy as every other part”) or anywhere in between.

So our old friend who is a Dwarf Among Dwarves would perhaps rather do things this way — just make ad-hoc invocations of his Dwarf Quality to put Dwarf Among Dwarves on himself, and then tag it.  The possibility of a skill roll is what makes this different and inferior to buying the Aspect outright.

So what’s the real difference here between Aspects and Qualities?  Should that dark room have the Dark Aspect, or the Dark Quality?

This gets into the philosophy behind what’s going on narratively with Fate Points. What’s the difference between the guy who is Strength+2 and the guy who has the Strong Aspect?

The difference, in my opinion, is free will.  It’s about choice.  The Strength+2 person is strong all the time — when they’re asleep, in the shower, etc.  The Strong person can choose to make an extra effort to lift that heavy thing.

When it comes to scenes and things, I like to imagine a robot or giant insect or other thing with no free will or volition.  Is that robot having problems moving around that Dark room?  Then it’s probably the Dark Quality.  Or can the giant insect move around without problems, although a human could easily take advantage of the shadowy darkness?  Then that points towards the Dark Aspect.

It can also help build up difficulties.  Why is this wall +3 to climb?  Well, it’s Wall +3 (Tall+1, Slippery When Wet+3, Ivy-1).  That implies the mechanical effects of waiting around until it stops raining.

There could very easily be two characters in the same game, in the same party, and one has Ninja as a Quality and the other has Ninja as an Aspect.  That’s no problem at all.  Quality Ninja is Ninja all the time.  Aspect Ninja is only Ninja when he feels like it.  Qualities are truly the “this is what this character *is*” part of the game, while Aspects become “this is what the character *can be when he feels like it*” part.  It can even become a part of character ‘advancement’, if the character changes his Aspect to a Quality, or vice versa.

Assessing:  Unlike Aspects, Qualities are almost always self-evident.  You don’t need to roll to know that the wall is tall and wet, that that guy over there is a cop.  You might need a bit more finesse to know that a particular guy is Cop:+2 and not Cop:+1, but even that’s probably easier than noticing he has the Aspect: Behind On My Mortgage Payments.

Manoeuvring:  I’ve actually already covered this, although you may have missed it. If a character wants to give the room the Dark Quality, as opposed to just the Dark Aspect, can he do that?  How?  In fact, I’ve already told you how you establish new Qualities — it’s what attacks do, by establishing consequences.  Indeed, that is what distinguishes the ‘attack’ version of ‘I shove him off balance’ from  the ‘manoeuvre’ version.  If your character wants to add the Dark Quality to  the room, he makes an attack — perhaps against the lighting.  And, yes, this means  that, finally, you can literally attack the darkness.

Levels:  In some systems, the player characters are just flat-out better than the average person.  One way to do this is to give those characters a Quality like “Centurion:+1” that applies to every skill there is.  The average person might default to +0 on a skill, but the PCs default to +1.  Why?  Because Centurion, that’s why.

You could use this to level up the party.  After a while, everyone is Centurion:+2.  This does two things:  It increases all their skills by 1 (probably) and it  increases the minimum skill default by 1.  That’s a characteristic of level-based systems (like the various D&Ds) in contrast to skill-based systems (like the various GURPSs.)  In a level-based Fate game, you would know that 3rd-level characters have at least a +3 in every skill — Endurance, Wealth, etc.  That can make scaling some things a lot easier — you can determine, for example, that every 3rd-level character can survive a point-blank shotgun blast from a 1st-level enemy.  Without a level system, you generally don’t know that.

Qualities As Skills:  Consider this enemy:

Ninjas! — Ninja+2.

By which I mean: this guy has a +2 in the Ninja skill.

What the heck is in the Ninja skill?  I don’t know.  I mean, I *know*, just like you do, but it’s not written down anywhere.  I know what the trappings are associated with that skill.  Stabbing the characters with his sword, climb up walls, etc.  Trying to sell the characters life insurance, not so much.

Is that superior to listing out every enemies’ Strength, Fists, Melee Weapons, Athletics, etc etc etc skills?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  If you don’t know what the trappings of the Ninja skill are, you’re probably a lot better off with the extensive list.

Does this turn the game into Risus?  Yeah, sort of.

Is this the same as the Quality of Ninja+2?  It’s certainly very similar.

Of course, the Ninja skill and all the ‘usual’ skills are not mutually exclusive.  You could customize up this guy:  Ninja+2, Swords+1, Climbing-1.  That guy is +3 to hit you with a sword, +1 to climb up a tree.

Is that exactly the same as a 3rd-level Centurion?  It is looking pretty similar, isn’t it.

So, that’s Qualities.  Give them a try.

Ark II in the Land of the Lost

October 4, 2011

SleestakSo I wrote a little thing.  So little, in fact, that you might as well just read it; it’ll take less time than me trying to explain it.

Download Ark II in the Land of the Lost

PtAing Fringe Season 3: Episode 1, Olivia

March 30, 2011

In this series (hopefully) of posts, I’ll be using Primetime Adventures to analyze and dissect the various episodes of the third season of Fringe.  I’ll start with the pilot episode of season 3, “Olivia”.


Episode Analysis:

I think it may be most useful to our purposes to consider the first three scenes, which form the Prologue, as a single “scene” for PtA purposes.

Focus:  This is purely a plot advancement scene.  Indeed, it doesn’t even really advance the plot per se as much as establish the plot; it’s an establishing scene.  This is what this episode will be about.  It almost literally has an “As you know, Bob” speech.

Agenda:  (“…should explain what the likely conflict is.”)  Secretary Bishop at his cronies are trying to implant a new personality into Olivia, who is trying to keep her current personality.

Location:  Technically the three scenes each have their own location, but it’s not too much of a stretch to consider them all taking place, more or less, at the Liberty Island Prison.

Cast:  Again, the cast varies slightly between the three scenes, but it’s substantially the same throughout the prologue.  In total, we have Olivia, Secretary Bishop, Brandon, Doctor Anderson, and various soldiers.

I think it might be useful to consider Secretary Bishop as the only ‘real’ character other than Olivia, although Brandon comes pretty close too.  The others — Doctor Anderson, the soldiers — are essentially just proxies or puppets of the Secretary.  It’s sort of an interesting technique — compare this use of proxies to Walter Bishop, who is generally doing things himself and getting his hands dirty.

So that might be a handy tip to keep in the PtA toolbox — a character can be “present” in a scene without personally being there, by using a proxy minor character.

Practically, it would also be sort of clever to let the players handle both their ‘real world’ character and their ‘alternate universe’ version.  They’re never on screen at the same time, so that wouldn’t be a problem.

Conflict:  First of all, this is a fairly nice example of conflict escalation.  The Secretary wants to imprint memories on Olivia, it isn’t working, so he escalates his actions.  Olivia wants to go home, but she hasn’t been able to, so she escalates her actions.

So we have the stakes:

Olivia:  Can I escape the prison?
Secretary Bishop:  Can I imprint new memories onto Olivia?

Olivia has a whole lot of screen presence, and the producer is not inclined to spend a lot of budget at this early point.  It’s a little strange that, according to PtA, both conflicts must be against the same difficulty.  Possibly there’s a bit of room for a hack here.

Anyway, we go to the cards, and both Olivia and Secretary Bishop win their stakes.  Olivia is narrated to have escaped the prison right away.

For the Secretary’s stakes, though… I think the narrator has decided to delay gratification, which I think is legal, if wildly-underutilized, by the PtA rules as written.  It’s an interesting technique; I’ll be keeping it in the back of my mind for future reference, to see if it comes up in other episodes.

And that about wraps up the Prologue.  Cut to commercial!

Act I:

The ‘main’ scene here is the one in the cab, with Olivia and Henry.  We occasionally cut away to different scenes, which PtA explicitly recommends.

Focus:  This is a character development scene.  It mostly involves the characters’ opinions of other characters.  But it’s intercut with a plot advancement scene, which is a pretty good way to do it.

Agenda:  Olivia jumps into Henry’s cab and tells him to drive.

Location:  This all happens inside the cab, which probably counts as a personal set for Henry.

Cast:  We’ve got Olivia again, and a new character, Henry the cab driver.  He’s not a major character in the series as a whole, but he’s the other main character in this particular episode.  Peter’s player has little to do this episode; maybe he’s running the character.

Conflict:  We’re treading pretty close to player-versus-player conflict here, but I think we can avoid it.

This was a bit of a tricky one to analyze, and I can imagine some PtA players wrecking the scene in a variety of ways.  I suspect the key here is to focus on The Issue, as usual.

Which means I should probably get around to The Issue, which I’ve been avoiding up until now, as I’m sure the astute reader will have noticed.  As I see it, the Issue for Olivia is this:  “Who am I?”

Specific to this episode, the Issue is expressed as:  “Am I the person that everyone thinks I am, which is the sane answer, or am I the person I believe I am, which seems totally insane?”

Interestingly enough, I think this idea of ‘the search for identity’ is also essentially the Issue for both Peter and Walter.  It might be something to try in a PtA game — give everyone in the series the same Issue, more or less,  and see how they each tackle it.

To bring us back to the scene, we have two people trying to form and exert their individual opinion on the matter:

Olivia:  I am She Who Must Be Obeyed; if you don’t do as I say, bad things will happen to you.
Henry:  That lady is crazy.  Crazy!  Isn’t she?

Some specific lines underscore this idea:

“What I need you to do right now is I need you to drive.”
“You’re not in any trouble, Henry… As long as you do exactly as I say.”
“If you alert anyone, Henry, I assure you trouble will find you.”
“Well, I’m not insane. I’m not who they say I am.”

“I’m gonna need you to Show Me. You know I can’t put this cab into drive without your I.D.”
“Why are you wearing a hospital gown? Are you sick?”
“Nice ink [tattoo]. What’s it mean?”

This can be a bit tricky because many other RPGs treat “Player X tries to change Player Y’s mind” as a direct, opposed conflict.  The trick here with PtA is to make sure each player has his own, unique opinion that he’s trying to impose.

Olivia is trying to convince Henry… of what?  That’s she’s sane?  Not really.  I mean, she does claim she’s not insane, but that’s not most of what she says.  Most of what she says involves threatening Henry.  Indeed, it’s hardly detrimental to her threats if Henry believes she’s crazy.

Henry is trying to convince Olivia… of what?  That he doesn’t need to do what she says?  He offers up only the most feeble resistance.  Most of what he says involves trying to convince himself, and incidentally Olivia, that she’s crazy.

If we consider the matrix of success and failure, we can see that all the outcomes are potentially interesting.

The actual outcome is that Olivia succeeds (again) while Henry fails.  Olivia probably lost narration here, though, because she succeeds in getting to the opera house only to find it encased in amber.  Man, that narrator is a jerk.

Also note the use of one of Olivia’s Edges — “Photographic Memory.”  Not easy to work that into a threat; nice work by the player.

The intercut scene involves the other characters getting their search for Olivia underway.  The Focus, as mentioned earlier, is plot advancement.  The Agenda is essentially “hey gang let’s start looking for Olivia.”  Most of the action happens in a hospital, which is one of those sets that keeps showing up in the series.

The cast consists of Colonel Broyles, Secretary Bishop, Agent Francis, Lincoln Lee, and an extra named Melissa.

There really isn’t any conflict here.  Nothing good comes from “My stakes are whether Lincoln Lee stays in bed for the rest of the episode.”

It’s a bit of foreshadowing, a bit of plot advancement; an interstitial scene.  It probably could have been cut without any ill effects.

Act II:

This contains a couple of scenes that are probably best viewed as continuations of the scenes of Act I.

The intercut scene of “we’re looking for Olivia” continues on into the first part of this Act.  Again, stakes like “do we find out where Olivia is?” probably don’t work very well.

The main scene, in the taxi, carries on to its logical conclusion.

Act III:

Now we’re cooking with some real new scenes.  The main scene here is at the gas station; it technically starts just a little earlier, with Lincoln’s appearance.

The Focus here is essentially character development.  You can tell it’s not plot advancement because the state of the plot — “Olivia’s on the run; the rest of Fringe is trying to find her” — doesn’t change between the start of the scene and the end.

The Agenda is Lincoln confronting Olivia.  For the cast, we have Olivia, Lincoln Lee, Henry, and Agent Francis.  Well, sort of Agent Francis.  He’s got two whole lines in this scene:  “Liv!” and “Hey!”  So he hardly counts.

Conflict:  For a short scene, this has quite a bit going on.  We’ve got three players who all have their own stakes.

Lincoln, like Henry before him, is trying to convince Olivia that she’s crazy and needs to come in.

Henry, having decided in an earlier scene that Olivia isn’t crazy, has yet to really help her of his own free will.  His stakes here are:  Do I voluntarily help Olivia escape?

For Olivia, it’s tempting to make her stakes something like “Do I escape or not?”  But there’s good dramatic and gameplay reasons not to do that.  If she’s simply captured again, we’re more or less back at where we started at the beginning of this episode.  And if she succeeds in escaping but fails to win narration, there’s a pretty good chance that jerk narrator would make her shoot Lincoln in the head.  It’s what I’d do as narrator.

Taking another look at Olivia’s Issue, we can see her stakes here are:  “Am I a cold-blooded killer?”

Again, it’s worth thinking about all the various combinations of success and failure.  Maybe Olivia shoots Lincoln, and that’s what convinces her that she’s gone insane.  Maybe Lincoln talks Olivia into coming in, but Henry decides to drive off with her anyways, convinced she’s more sane than the people chasing her.  Maybe there’s a gunfight and Henry runs for the hills.

The really interesting thing here is that Olivia’s player decides to use one of her alternate-universe-version’s Edges — Olympic Sharpshooter.  That’s a great way to mechanically give some weight to the false memories taking hold.  I bet she got some sweet fanmail for that.

The cards come out and Olivia wins, Henry wins, and Lincoln loses.  And Agent Francis gets to yell a bit.

The next scene here isn’t a PtA ‘scene’ at all — it’s that belated narration of Secretary Bishop’s success, way way back from the Prologue.  Pretty neat, eh.

Act IV:

Again, essentially two scenes here.  The first, Mixing Memories, is back in Henry’s personal set, the cab.

The focus is still character development; cast is still Olivia and Henry.  Henry really doesn’t have any stakes here; he’s pretty much done with wrestling with his decisions this episode.

Olivia’s stakes here are “Do I think of somewhere to go that’s safe from my pursuers?”  The producer still has a fat wad of budget to spend, and it’s time for him to start burning it.  Olivia’s still got a trick up her sleeve, though — she brings in a Connection from her alternate-universe-version.  Which continues to be a pretty slick manouever and is still probably worth some sweet fanmail.

These stakes are a little subtle; they’re basically determining whether the place she goes, wherever it may be, will have Fringe agents all over it.  It’s not simply an issue of “Do I decide to hide in a gutter, or in Secretary Bishop’s garden shed?”

She fails the draw pretty badly, and happily heads off to her mom’s house — or, at least, her alternate-version-mom’s house.

The intercut scene here is basically driven by the main scene — the usual gang chasing her is allowed, by the stakes of the main scene, to figure out that the mom’s house is the place to go.  And poor old Frank, dead for many an episode, gets to make an appearance.

One last little bit of narration sneaks into the end of the main scene.  Henry finally gets a chance to explain how and why he tagged his Connection: Jasmine, My Wife way back when he was trying to decide if Olivia was crazy or not:

“You know, a few years ago, I was in a bad way. Couldn’t pull myself out. Inside, I knew I was somebody else. There’s only one person who believed that… Jasmine. She saw the man I knew I was. But she was the only one.”

That’s a nice bit of long-delayed justification for bringing a Connection into a conflict which, at the time, might have seemed pretty sketchy.  But Henry’s player set it up fair-and-square, by mentioning the picture of his family in his cab quite early on.  For another example, see the very early mention of alternate-Olivia’s gold medal in marksmanship, which came up as an Edge quite a bit later on in the episode.

The lesson here:  figure out some way to bring your Connections and Edges into the narrative of a scene, even if it’s obliquely.  They may well come in handy.  And the other lesson:  trust your fellow players if they draw a card for a Connection or an Edge that might not seem justified at the time.  They probably know what they’re doing.  They’ll explain it eventually.

Act V:

There’s one last ‘real’ scene here, and a few small wrapping-up plot sccenes.

The main scene is at mom’s house.  The Focus is character advancement.  The Agenda is, much like previous scenes, “Marilyn the mom tries to convince Olivia she’s really the alternate version.”

Olivia has one last chance to win her “I’m not the alternate-universe version of me!” stakes.  But the deck is stacked against her, especially with the Edge and Connection that she’s brought in.  Technically I don’t think there’s any way for a Producer to use an Edge or Connection “against” a character, but it might not be a bad house rule.

It’s still not a foregone conclusion; if Olivia wins her stakes somehow, it might mean that she’s managed to hold onto the truth but can fake it well enough to fool everyone else.

But she doesn’t win.  She loses, and her assimilation is complete.  Her little chat with Agent Francis later on is essentially a bit more narration from this scene.

A few notes about the remaining plot-wrapping-up scenes:

“Liberty Island – Memory Implant”:  finally, *finally*, the narrator who won Secretary Bishop’s stakes way way way back in the Prologue gets to finish his narration.  His patience adds a nice touch.

“Fringe Division – Pressing for Details”:  This is both a bit of plot-wrapup for this episode, and some foreshadowing for conflict yet-to-come in future episodes.  It certainly works fine as a “Next time on Fringe…” teaser.

“Congressional Building – Personal Testimony”:  I’m not really sure why this scene is here.  Maybe Peter is contractually-obligated to appear in every episode.  Anyway, nothing to see here.

“Congressional Grounds – Budding Romance”:  This is pretty much pure foreshadowing.


So… that’s the episode analysis.  As a bit of trivia, the episode had 257 lines of dialogue; here’s how they broke down:

Olivia: 80 lines, or 31 percent.
Henry:  42
Lincoln: 19
Agent Francis: 18
Broyles: 17.

This analysis was 2600 words long; thanks for reading.  Next time on PTAing Fringe, I’ll be looking at episode 302: The Box.  Stay tuned!

The Many Faces of FATE

July 27, 2010

There’s an excellent thread on RPGnet summarizing the differences between some popular FATE implementations; it’s the sort of information I need on an infrequent basis, so I’m reproducing most of it here.  The original thread is worth reading, though.

Differences between SotC, Starblazer, The Dresden Files, Strands of Fate, and Diaspora

Core Design Concept

  • SotC (Spirit of the Century): Turn of the century pulp action! The father of FATE 3.0.
  • SBA (Starblazer Adventures): Sci-Fi themed pulp action. Heavily influenced by SotC, but features a few design tweaks.
  • DF (The Dresden Files): Based off the popular Dresden Files series of novels. Focuses on modern day urban fantasy/horror. Evolution of FATE as originally published in SotC, but with a grittier tone.
  • SoF (Strands of Fate): A generic toolkit for using FATE to run games of any power level or genre. Features a heavy revision of FATE 3.0 to make it more accessible and versatile.
  • Diaspora: “Hard” sci-fi themed action. More condensed and focussed version of FATE leaning toward more “realistic” action vs. the “over the top” action of SotC.

Fate Point Refresh

  • SotC: Fate Points Refresh Rate is 10.
  • SBA: Fate Points Refresh Rate is equal to 10 minus the number of Stunts a character has. This Refresh Rate can be increased as part of character improvement.
  • DF: Fate Points Refresh Rate is equal to its Max Refresh minus the number of Stunts and Powers the character has bought. The Max Refresh can be 6, 7, 8 or 10, depending on the power scale the game will be running.
  • SoF: Fate Points Refresh Rate is determined by the Campaign Power Level. The more powerful the characters, the higher the Refresh.
  • Diaspora: Fate Points Refresh Rate is 5 for PCs, 5 for Ships.


  • SotC: Only one box of stress if marked off at a time, the particular stress box is determined by Effect of the attack roll, e.g. if Effect is 3 the third box is marked off. If that box is already marked off the next box up is marked off.
  • SBA: A number of boxes of stress equal to the Effect of the attack roll (plus any weapon damage modifier) are marked off, e.g. if Effect is 3 (and there is no weapon damage modifier) three stress boxes are marked off.
  • DF: Damage is treated exactly like SotC, with the difference that DF has three different stress track, Physical, Mental and Social, while SotC (and SBA) have Health and Composure. Also, their stress tracks have a base length of 2 boxes, while SotC (and SBA) have a base length of 5 boxes.
  • SoF: Strands offers three different methods of tracking stress. The rest of the book is agnostic towards which method is used.
    • Method #1 (Default) – You have a set of stress boxes associated with each Consequence. Once that set is filled you suffer the associated Consequence and further stress begins accumulating on the next worse stress track.
    • Method #2 (Thresholds) – No stress boxes. If you take an amount of stress equal to or greater than your threshold, you suffer a Consequence.
    • Method #3 (Single Set) – Very similar to SBA’s stress system.
  • Diaspora: Three stress tracks – Health, Composure, Wealth. Each track defaults to 3 boxes if the PC lacks the relevant skill. Damage may be reduced, before application to stress tracks, by taking Consequences. Stress is marked from the box corresponding to the shifts gained, and goes down. If the highest box to be hit is already filled, fill the next higher box, and all boxes below. There are mini-games relating to social combat, mass combat, and ship to ship combat that modify this system.


  • SotC: Stunts range from single sentence descriptions to entire sub-systems in complexity. You gain a fixed number at character creation.
  • SBA: Pretty much the same as SotC.
  • DF: Stunts are divided between those available to “vanilla mortals” and the powers used by the supernatural. You spend Refresh to buy Stunts.
  • SoF: Characters gain a number of Advantages based on the campaign power level. They are broken down into three tiers, Expert, Heroic and Powers.
  • Diaspora: Players begin with three stunts. There are four broad stunt categories, with a semi-freeform stunt construction within each category


  • SotC: Consequences are Mild, Moderate and Severe. The first Consequence taken is always Mild, the second always Moderate, the third always Severe.
  • SBA: Consequences are Minor, Major, Severe & Extreme. The type of Consequence taken is chosen by the player, and may vary depending upon how much Stress needs to be replaced with the consequence. A Minor consequence negates 2 stress, Major 4 stress, Severe 6 stress and Extreme negates 8 stress. Any Stress that is not negated completely is marked off on the Stress track. A character can only normally take 3 consequences before being taken out.
  • DF: Consequences are treated like in SBA, except that Extreme Consequences have special status and cannot be taken lightly, they change one the character Aspects to reflect the trauma and they are not easily “healed”.
  • SoF: All three stress systems use Minor, Major, Severe, Extreme, Defeated
  • Diaspora: Mild Consequences reduce shifts by 1, Moderate by 2, and Severe by 4. Players may only ever (without a stunt) have three Consequences, and only one of each kind – regardless of what track the Consequence is on.

Companions’ Stress

  • SotC: Companions don’t have a Stress track; they can only provide an additional Consequence for the attached character.
  • SBA: Companions have a Stress track equal to their Quality +1, e.g. a Fair (+2) Companion has 3 stress boxes. They still provide an additional Consequence for the attached character as well.
  • DF: DF has no Companion/Extras rules. Every foe is a potential character-killer here.
  • SoF: Strands does not have Companion rules. There are four different tiers of NPCs that is determined by their importance in the campaign. Also, groups of extras can be handled as a single “Unit” for faster play.
  • Diaspora: Diaspora lacks Companion rules.

Companions’ Skills

  • SotC: By default Companions have no Skills. A ‘Skilled’ advance provides one skill at the companion’s quality, two skills at quality -1, or three skills at quality -2. Subsequent advances allow another layer of that pyramid to be selected.
  • SBA: By default Companions have a Skill “column” with one skill at their Quality, one skill at Quality-1, one skill at Quality -2 etc, down to Average. A ‘Skilled’ advance provides an additional column, but with a peak rating of one less, e.g. a Good (+3) Companion’s first Skilled advance would provide an extra Fair(+2) skill and an extra Average (+1), for a total of one Good (+3), two Fair (+2) and two Average (+1); a further Skilled advance would provide only a single Average (+1) skill.
  • DF: —
  • SoF: —
  • Diaspora: —


  • SotC: Weapons do not provide a damage bonus.
  • SBA: Weapons provide a bonus to the amount of Stress inflicted by a successful attack.
  • DF: Similar to SBA, but a bit less granular.
  • SoF: Weapons provide a bonus to stress inflicted. Optionally, they may also provide their own Aspects.
  • Diaspora: Weapons have Harm and Penetration values – Harm is a bonus to offensive rolls, Penetration is a penalty to armor Defensive value. They also have Stunts and Aspects


  • SotC: Only really mentioned under Gadgets and Gizmos, they impede a roll-up on an already checked stress box (or something like it).
  • SBA: Armors can sustract an amount of shifts of damage equal to its value after a succesful attack, before the wearer has to absorb stress. Armor and shields can take additional stress by accepting one or more Consequences, depending on the type of armor/shield.
  • DF: Similar to SBA, but less granular. Armors have unlimited uses barring narrative events saying otherwise.
  • SoF: Two options. Armor may either provide a simple bonus to your defense roll or you may divert stress to an armor stress track.
  • Diaspora: Armor automatically reduces the attacker’s roll by its Defensive value minus the Weapon’s penetration. Armor also has Stunts and Aspects.

Squee Matel, Machine Friend

July 6, 2010


Great: Engineering
Good: Blasters, Socializing, Resources, Science, Vehicles
Fair: Alertness, Bureaucracy, Deceit, Rapport, Stealth
Average: Academics, Athletics, Endurance, Exotics, Might, Resolve

Permanent Aspects and Stunts:

Raised by Droids: use Engineering as a social skill with droids and other smart machines; can speak Binary (R2D2ese.)

Steel Grip:  Right hand is cybernetic, with built-in hidden blaster pistol.

I Rebuilt Your Mother:  +2 to Contacting, but only droids

Been Around the Sector:  Suffers no penalties to Vehicles for unfamiliar technology

It’s just a Sensor Error:  Personal spacecraft named Sensor Error; also treat as Great Engineering Lab.

(A character for a sci-fi Spirit of the Century game.)

Lifepathing Diaspora: A System hack

April 29, 2010

Synopsis: One of the primary inspirations for Diaspora is Traveller, which features a detailed “lifepath” character generation system. Out of the box, however, Diaspora offers little support for this type of character generation. This hack suggests a number of processes that can be used to generate lifepaths for character generation, as well as an extensive example.

Download version 0.1 of the Lifepathing Diaspora document here.

You might also be interested in take a look at the Occultation hack.

Gamma World for 4e D&D

January 26, 2010

This just in: apparently there’s a new version of Gamma World in the works, based on the D&D 4e chassis.

At least, according to Amazon.

This is shaping up to be a good year.

Occultation: A System/Setting Hack for Diaspora

October 30, 2009

Synopsis: By the Diaspora rules-as-written, “Slipstream points (slipknots) are located at a distance roughly 5 AU (astronomical units) above and below the barycenter, which is the point around which all bodies in the system revolve.” This hack suggests that the slipknots are in the plane of the ecliptic. As such, they are occasionally disrupted by the passage of Jupiter-like (Jovian) bodies orbiting at roughly 5 AU; this event is called occultation.

Download version 0.1 of the Occultation document here.

You might also be interested in take a look at the Lifepathing hack.

Spirit of the Century: Compels and Agendas

April 27, 2009

The following are some house-rules about compels, scenes, and agendas.  I haven’t had the chance to playtest them out; if you do try them, please let me know how well they work.

House-Rule 1:  You don’t just get to be important in any scene you like.  Sure, you might be there, standing around in a corner somewhere, but by default you don’t get to do anything useful.  This doesn’t confer any sort of immunity, however — innocent bystanders get shot just like anyone else.

House-Rule 2:  The way you get to do something useful in a scene is by being Compelled.  The specific Aspect that is Compelled is, in effect, your Agenda — why the character is involved in the scene.  You get a Fate Point for this Compel, of course.

House-Rule 3:  If you want to be involved in a scene but can’t or won’t pick an Aspect to Compel, you can take a Minor Consequence, and then Compel that.  Assuming your enemies don’t give you a Consequence first.

House-Rule 4:  Since you’re very likely to want to Invoke your Agenda during the scene, you get one free Invocation with no Fate Point cost.


I’ve been a big believer in starting scenes with Compels, and this is a more extreme extension of that.

The underlying problem I’m trying to fix with this is characters who just kinda wander around scenes without any clear motivation or agenda.  By Compelling themselves in, they know why they’re in there and what they want, and so does everyone else.

Although this is the main thrust of these house-rules, I think there are also some useful secondary effects that may arise.

Consequences have a tendency to be pretty weak as far as Aspects go.  “Twisted Ankle” is… well, weak.  “That Bastard Shot Me!” is nice and strong, and exactly the sort of thing I expect people to use for Compelling themselves in.

It encourages teamwork Aspects — things like “Always There For My Friends” and “All For One, One For All.”  Of course, characters with those Agendas need to actually be in there helping their friends.

The last rule seems like a good idea — otherwise you get a fate point for the Compel, spend it back when you Invoke, and after all the chip shuffling nothing much has changed.  It seems like a good idea to further encourage characters to pursue their Agenda, and this seems like a decent way to do it.

It may come to pass that in a particular scene, no one can or will Compel themselves into it.  This is a great signal to the GM that they’re just not interested in the scene, so everyone can just skip over it.

I think it’s also a good hint to the GM about when he’s playing his cards too close to his chest.  If someone can’t get involved because he doesn’t know the shopkeeper is secretly a Nazi, then the pressure is on the GM to get that fact established sooner rather than later.


Example 1:  Nazi Shootout

Scene Setup:  The characters are casually hanging out in their favourite zeppelin hangar when suddenly Nazis burst in and start shooting up the joint.

Biff McClung Compels his own “Nazis! I Hate Those Guys!” Aspect to enter the fray, guns ablazing.

Timmy Dootz Compels “I Wanna Be Like Biff When I Grow Up” to tag right along.

Madama Lechiffre decides to take the Minor Mental Consequence: Fainting Spells, Compels it, and passes out so that she can pull some of her quasi-magical stunts.

Big John remains in the background until a Nazi mook hits him with the Minor Physical Consequence “That Bastard Shot Me!” at which point he goes totally berserk.

Example 2:  Library Research

Having escaped the Nazis who turned out to be zombies full of tentacle spiders, the gang decides they need to read up on these eldritch horrors.

Doc Sausag has all sorts of researchy sorts of Aspects; he goes with “Insatiable Thirst For Knowledge” and digs into it.

Madame Lechiffre is at it again; she’s still carrying around the Moderate Mental Consequence “Such Things Should Not Be”, so Compels that to again enter some sort of trance.

Lord Orangutan isn’t really the reading sort, so he could easily sit this scene out.  On the other hand, he could take a Minor Mental Consequence such as “Lord Orangutan Grows Impatient!” and Compel it to, say, leap from stack to stack and haul down reams of books from the topmost shelves.