Two-Phase Fate Combat Rounds

One of my fears while running a play-by-chat game of Fate is that things might slow to a crawl, or worse, a stop. Combat, in particular, could be the worst part.

A typical attacking turn in normal Fate goes like this. You say you want to attack a certain enemy. You choose your skill or approach and roll. I then choose how to defend and make my own roll. Each of us then decides whether to invoke any aspects or use relevant stunts. After seeing the other’s changes, we might decide to up the stakes several times until we’re both satisfied. Once the result is settled, I decide whether to take stress, a consequence, or just get taken out.

This is ONE person’s turn! That is probably fine if we’re sitting here talking, but imagine that every time you respond it takes a couple of hours for me to get back to you. I work 12 hour shifts and sleep a normal amount, so that’s fairly likely. The player who’s fifth in the turn order might not be able to act for several days at that rate. That’s just not acceptable to me.

Therefore, I’m taking a page from “cinematic initiative,” a concept that… I don’t remember where I read about it, actually. My bad. Anyway, the idea of cinematic initiative is that everyone decides their actions first, and then the GM resolves them in the order that makes the most sense or is most interesting. In this case, I wanted to expand it to get into the specifics of Fate rules.

In the Action phase, all the players declare what they want to do and make the rolls. They may make invokes at this stage, as I’m not worried about having to referee them. However, once this phase is over, invokes for actions are locked in. At the end, I reveal what enemies and NPC’s did and their rolls and invokes.

Then comes the Results phase. Nobody rolls to defend; instead their static skill or approach is considered. If a relevant one, usually Careful or Quick, is higher than the attack roll, then that player doesn’t need to do anything at all. A player can specify a different approach if they like, and this is also the time for defensive invokes. Otherwise, they’ll have to decide whether to take stress, consequences, or get taken out.

Once everyone has made a decision, I narrate everything in the most interesting order. If an enemy gets taken out before acting, their action is of course voided, and players may get their defensive Fate points refunded.

In total, this requires me to respond only twice per combat round unless someone has a question. Besides strategy discussion, players only have to respond twice as well, and the order doesn’t matter at all. There is a little bit of finesse lost this way, but I think the return in speed is definitely worth it.

I haven’t tested this just yet. If anyone has any suggestions or optimizations, let me know.


Getting the Gang Back Together

Long before roleplaying games entered my life, there was just roleplaying. In my middle school years, I spent a lot of time on the Nintendo Nsider forums, which had an RPing board at the time. (I’m aware this dates me a bit, but it’s important for context here.)

I tried quite a few threads, and most had their golden age for a time before fading away. However, near the end of a personal favorite of mine, I discovered other threads by more or less the same group. I was just tagging along in some of them, but by the time the RP boards were ultimately removed, we were all so committed that new forums appeared to replace it.

The life cycle of all the various forums is a long tale that I don’t really have time, space or memory to recount here. Players came and went over the years as we migrated sites, and there was a fair share of drama at times, but most of the core group stayed in touch for years afterward.

Looking back, those experiences are probably similar to the ones I wanted out of full RPG’s. I probably would have made the leap quickly if it weren’t for Dungeons & Dragons and its scary mathematics. It scared me off early in life, and I’m glad I gave RPG’s a second chance even if it was years later.

Which brings me all the way back around to those same folks from years ago. When I mentioned my interest in the chat, I was surprised at how many chimed in wanting to play. With some discussion, we ended up deciding on a series of short mini-campaigns in Fate Accelerated, each one decided through a series of pitches and votes. Some may be related, others not, and other variations of genre and length should come up too. I’ve set up a very short one to teach the basics, and we’re making characters this week to play by instant message. I can’t wait to get started!

Trainer Battles

This is probably the simplest, and among the most absurd, of the minigame systems I will ever create. It’s based on the Pokémon series, but when used in a tabletop RPG format it becomes rather strange.

First, the party must agree on one player character that will “lead” (not participate) for the battle. That player then chooses another character to start with, while the GM (using their own non-combatant leader) chooses a single enemy.

The two battle one on one, while the leaders tell them what moves to make. The player is free to ignore their friend’s advice – it’s really just a layer of roleplaying for this situation. When either fighter is knocked out or can’t continue, their leader should pick another one to continue. The enemy team should have the same number of enemies as participating players.

And that’s it, really. I can’t think of any in-world reason you would use this system; it’s more of a weird novelty that results from my Nintendo obsession.

Turf War – Splatoon Fate Hack (UNTESTED)

From time to time I have ideas for ways to tweak the rules of Fate Core or Fate Accelerated Edition, creating special systems for a certain type of game. One of the first ones I came up with was a way to simulate the game Splatoon. However, I haven’t tested it yet, so the following is straight out of my head.

This takes a bit of setup. Create a map with quite a few zones–my gut says maybe around 1.5 per combatant. Each zone should have a number between 1 and 5 representing its relative area (no halves or decimals). Next, have each player choose a weapon type from Splatoon and come up with an appropriate temporary stunt tied to it. This replaces the effects of any equipment system you might be using.

From this point, combat rules ensue, except that characters cannot take consequences and will be sent back to their team’s start zone when taken out. You might also want to limit players’ turn time to keep that quick feeling going. The match also ends after a certain number of exchanges, probably about 5.

The zones are the heart of the system. Each has a stress track equal to the size numbers established earlier, but you must keep track of which team deals the stress. You add stress to it for your team by creating an ink-related advantage. A zone inking action has a passive opposition of 1 by default. If the zone has stress from the opposing team, its opposition is equal to that stress amount. It is also increased by +2 if there is at least one enemy inside it. Stress is dealt to empty points first before cutting into what the enemy has dealt.

When in a zone that already has existing stress dealt by your team, you may invoke the zone for a bonus to any action equal to the amount of stress. This is a free invoke that does not disappear when used.

Once the time limit is up, if one side seems to have an overwhelming share of the battlefield, declare that side the winner. Otherwise, add up all zone stress claimed by each side at the end. If the results are within 3 points of each other, share where things stand, then make a roll that adjusts the lower score. After a dramatic pause, reveal the result, and the team that held the most total zone stress is the winner.

Once again, remember that I have never gotten to test this system. If you have ideas to make it quicker or require less bookkeeping, let me know. If you decide to try it, I would love to hear all about it!

Hexhunter Session 2 Log

From this point forward, these session logs will be short summaries. I wanted to show the process in detail until now, but that has just made me dread writing up any more of these posts. Not a good way to start!

We return to our hero with a visit from some aaracokra, who were ambushed while investigating the kobold cult. They thank Dane for his help, warn him about the kobolds, and depart for their home plane.

Dane is encouraged that he made a difference and sets out again. His father has calmed down and provides him with a standard issue sword, which I’m using to justify the switch to the two-action turns rule I mentioned in a previous post.

After wandering through the kobold lair some more, Dane finds a locked door and smashes it in, revealing two kobolds. The skirmish is a burst of speed on both sides, during which one gives Dane a major bite. He patches it up after fighting them off, then picks up the strange llama coin and proceeds to the next floor.

He sees a chained-up elf who has been singing a strange song. He introduces himself as Elias Kurt. Dane tries to break his chains but can’t, even after multiple tries. Giving up for now, he decides to explore more to find the key.

The kobold sorcerer and two minions are doing a ritual at the evil altar room. The evil runes make Dane’s first attacks fail as the kobolds strike back, but he calls on the divine guidance from last night and manages to destroy the runes. One kobold hits him extra hard, giving him a concussion, so he gives it everything he’s got and hits the sorcerer as hard as he can. The sorcerer falls and the others retreat.

He returns to the elf, his state preventing him from noticing that Elias escaped his bonds already. The elf gives him a shoulder and helps him back home, horribly injured, but triumphant in his own way.

At this point I did a little bookkeeping with the kingdom rules, calling the outpost and three nearby hexes cleared land. Quartzwood claimed them and set to work making farmlands there. Still, our hero will need a lot of time to recover now.

Hexhunter Session 1 Log

Note: The following is a log demonstrating how I played a session of the game. The more in-universe fiction friendly version may or may not appear in a future post.

The story begins as Dane, carrying only a torch, enters a lair he discovered southeast of town. Shortly after entering, he encounters a spike trap laid by the kobolds. Rolling his Careful approach, I get a result just under the trap’s difficulty, and he takes 1 point of physical stress.

Continuing on, he passes a fork and stumbles on a locked door. He knows nothing about picking a lock, so his attempt is hopeless. As he’s trying, the wandering kobolds catch up to him. For turn order, I roll their Sneaky approaches and his Careful, since they’re trying to surprise him, and Dane ends up right in the middle. At first, though, this doesn’t matter as all three try to roll attacks and just miss.

It’s time to complicate things. Maybe a prison guard overhears and joins the fray starting on the next turn? The dice confirm this. Dane realizes he’s outnumbered and has a Clever idea of whirling his torch to make them back off. I roll to create an advantage this way and come up short, so it’s time to use a Fate Point. I invoke Apprentice Spellweaver, thinking he might amplify the flames with a dash of magic. The kobolds continue to miss, making me wonder if I’ve lowered their stats too much. Using my advantage, Dane flees, and for the first time ever, I’m using Fate’s chase rules.

Basically, I make a line with seven points. If the chase reaches the left end, I get away, but if it hits the right side I’m caught. Since I just made a break for it I set it close to the right side – two spaces away, since I wouldn’t want to just get caught in the very first action. That still means it would be an uphill battle for me to lose them, though. For reference, that makes it position 5 of 7.

Dane uses Quick to get ahead on the track, and for the kobold turn I see if the trap will slow him down. It doesn’t. For the next turn, I decide to use the other use of a Fate Point: declaring a scene detail that’s to my advantage. I decide that in the commotion, the aarakocra prisoners escape. This doesn’t have an immediate effect, though, so the kobolds get a sling attack in. It doesn’t actually hit, but I do badly enough on my roll to have them catch up a bit. Next turn, Dane throws his torch on the ground to delay them a bit. However, they roll Quick to catch up and succeed with style, allowing them to jump up two places on the chase track.

The chase isn’t going anywhere, and I figure I’m probably outside by now, so Dane decides to turn and face his pursuers. A trait of kobolds is that they have a disadvantage when trying to see in direct sunlight. I treat this as an aspect, Blinded, that starts with a free use on all three assailants, and we’re back to combat rules again. To start with, Dane Forcefully punches one, invoking that advantage to cause 2 points of physical stress.

Two of the kobolds miss their attacks while another is maneuvering so he’s not blinded by the sun – an overcome action that gets rid of the aspect on it. When I try to finish off my target, I bungle the roll and fail with style, causing Dane to trip and fall – a temporary disadvantage. The one that unblinded itself earlier invokes this to attack for 2 stress against him. I’m now out of stress boxes and will have to take consequences from here.

Dane’s next punch knocks out the one he weakened earlier, leaving only two. However, a thrown rock leaves Dane hurting with a mild consequence – Bloodied. The other one tries to capitalize on that aspect and ties Dane’s defense, giving it a temporary boost against him. Trying a different tactic, Dane Cleverly decides to climb up on top of the entrance to the lair, and succeeds with style, getting two free invokes on a Higher Ground aspect. One of those is used to cancel out the boost when a kobold tries to use it to throw another rock, and it misses this time. So does the other one.

Time to end this. Dane jumps off the entrance and slams into the one that’s still blinded, using both its disadvantage and his own advantage to increase the power and defeat it in one shot. The last one being alone, I figure it might flee, and the dice confirm it. The confrontation is over, and it hasn’t gone well for Dane. It’s time for him to head home.

Since it’s a trip of two hexes, I roll to see if he runs into anything on the way back. “Yes, but…” Well, it must not be anything worth stopping for. Maybe he sees some deer and rabbits or something on the open plain. (Frankly I’m not so creative in that department.) Eventually, though, he makes it back to West Quartzwood. After dropping his stuff off at home, he visits his parents to tell them he’s okay.

I basically manage NPC’s by thinking of the most likely reaction and asking the dice if that’s so. Is the mother mad that Dane went on a dangerous quest? Yes, very much so. Is the father more sympathetic since he’s a fighter himself? Definitely not. Maybe he thinks Dane isn’t ready, and is foolish to charge in alone. He tries to Carefully explain that he’s an adult and that what’s done is done, but the roll flops. Feeling that he can’t win in this situation, Dane gets upset and storms out.

Instead, he turns to his teacher, the witch. She assures him that, with a little more practice and properly armed, he could have won the day. Dane grumbles that he could barely beat kobolds, which are known as rather weak foes. She treats his mild consequence and he thanks her, but isn’t really reassured.

In the end, Dane heads to the local shrine and spends the rest of the evening praying for divine guidance. Unbeknownst to him, it works, giving him an advantage with one free invoke for the future. After that, though, he heads home for the night.

Before ending the session, there’s just one thing left to resolve. When I looked into aarakocra again, I realized they’re a fair bit stronger than kobolds, meaning they could have easily fought their way out. I guess that three would have escaped. The dice give me a result of +1 – okay, four escaped. They probably wanted to fly around and stretch their wings for a while, but from the sky they would have easily seen Dane heading back to town…

To be continued…

The Kobold Outpost

I find it’s easiest to get into a new character if I start with a bit of adventure, so I needed a little mini-dungeon to explore. As before, I started from a DM Muse generator to create it – at least, the first floor. Here’s what I started with.

Okay, the passages wind a lot, so in my notes I just have boxes for each room connected by short lines that show the branches and locked doors. Based on the text, it seems kobolds are the dominant species here (I learned that boggles aren’t particularly intelligent).

Looking into kobolds a little bit, I found that they’re very fond of traps. I don’t know if this generator includes traps but I added a few: one near the entrance, another in the passage beyond room 1, and one by the door to room 4. I then rolled from the Crafts score given in the Fate Core stats to find the trap difficulty. The second trap actually ended up with a negative value; I decided that it would be so obvious to anyone that came through, that they might find a way to use it against the kobolds.

I’ll be honest – I didn’t generate the second floor until I had already played through part of the first. I wanted it to be the final floor but forgot to turn off the stairs leading downward. I did read that kobolds always make an emergency exit tunnel, though, so that’ll be it.

Honestly, the only interesting thing here is rooms 1 and 3. That said, 3 is really interesting. I think it needs to be the stage for a boss fight. The only monster specified is a very weak one, but that gives me room to come up with something fitting for the evil altar room. Probably some kind of kobold sorcerer and a minion or two?

This is a pretty small area, but I prefer it that way. Spending session after session in a single dungeon kind of makes it hard to make progress on the hex map, and I intend this first campaign to be relatively short. This concludes the prep work, so next time you’ll get to see how it went playing this dungeon.