Fate, Star Wars, and Marvel Superheroes

I jump around a lot when it comes RPG mechanics. There’s almost always something new catching my eye or a new, unexplored angle to tweak my interest. One of my favorite things is to hear something about another person’s game that gets me excited to try new things.

Lately, I’ve been distracted by Fate. Fate is a FUDGE derivative and it is most recognizably used in Evil Hat products such as Spirit of the Century and The Dresden Files RPG. I’ve had my eye on Fate/FUDGE for a while but it took SotC to get inspired to learn it. I finally picked up the game at PAX East 2011.

What is Fate?

For those that don’t know, Fate is a fairly light, narrative driven system. A character is divided into two things, skills and aspects. Skills do pretty much what you would expect: with a die roll, modifiers, and a target DC. Aspects, however, are what defines who a character is and how they relate to the world around them and are simply short, descriptive phrases. A limited pool of Fate points may be spent to invoke relevant aspects to affect game play. Likewise, that pool is replenished when the GM (or indeed, your fellow players!) invoke that aspect against you.

Star Wars

My first thought while reading through the SotC book was that this would make a great system for a Star Wars game. Maybe I am influenced by the pulp-era flavor of the book (as the original trilogy is), but I’ve immediately set about how I might structure a one-shot. I’ve had a story idea on the back burners for a while with clear characters in mind, so I moved ahead with the pre-gens.

Character creation in Fate is generally a group effort. There are several phases during which the characters are built, layer by layer, and players are encouraged to build a shared history in later phases. But if I do get a chance to run a one-shot, I’ll probably have to do everything in 3-4 hours. I’ve decided to ‘stat’ several iconic Star Wars characters and split their aspects and skills into two categories; profession and background. Each are written on 3×5 cards and dealt at random to players, who combine the skills and aspects they receive to form their own character.

I figure that this will assist in replay value and also lend some immediately recognisable elements to each character for player’s to riff off of. I’m about 1/3 done with the character cards and then it’s off to block out the plot (which is giving me fits at the moment).

Marvel

As it would happen, I just had lunch with a woman whom I graduated high school with. We were never friends before, but we reconnected through Facebook and we decided to catch up and see where life has led us. As children, I wouldn’t have expected to get the time of day from her and my interests aren’t as celebrated in the late 80’s-early 90’s as they are now. It’s a measure of gee-dom’s increased acceptance to find out that not only is she a Marvel _Comics_ fan from old, but she is interested in playing an RPG session where she can be one of the X-Men! (rather than making her own mutant) I immediately thought of Fate.

Let me back up for a second and admit that I actually own an unused (and, I’m told, much reviled) edition of a Marvel RPG. Back in the late 90’s I purchased the Marvel Superheroes Adventure Game, which was published by TSR and uses the SAGA game rules (Not related to WotC’s Saga edition of the Star Wars RPG). The game manual is a blast to read and it comes with a useful roster of Marvel heroes and villains, pre-made. It should be a snap to convert for Fate! Also, the game mechanics used a deck of cards (included) as the randomizing element for checks. The cards may many useful features…

Each card features a different hero or villain. There is also and event and a calling listed on the card for each hero. If the GM wanted to inject a little randomness into the action, he or she could flip a card to announce a guest appearance or introduce a new event into the action. In the case of an event, heroes with the corresponding calling would be forced to respond or face a penalty (which works sorta like Fate aspects).

Each card also features an aura, which had a few uses in-game. The aura is positive, negative, or neutral which is exactly like how FUDGE dice work on checks. It seems to me that this deck is not only a great visual reference and DM aid, but it can also be used in place of FUDGE dice for checks or be used to add random modifiers to checks in a scene.

All in all, I’m pretty excited to potentially have a use for this old game, even if I’m using it for other purposes in a new one.

When I get to putting this together, I’ll probably rip a plot out of my comic book collection. I’m actually reading through my old Marvel comics already because of the recent movies. I did, in fact, read the wedding issue for Jean Grey and Scott Summers this morning. how’s that for timing?

Additional Reading

The fine fellows at Evil Hat have created a blog to discuss Fate Core, which is a project to produce a core rulebook for Fate developers and home enthusiasts who want to get the guts of the system without a setting. The discussion there gets into the guts of Fate and how it works. I think that its offers a unique glimpse into the design of game mechanics. Definitely worth your time to poke through if you like tinkering with RPG systems.

The Fate Core blog also has a post listing a lot of derivative projects that are out there. I would like to add one to that list: @Rolling20s has a personal project, Sand & Steam, where is creating a RPG setting for both Pathfinder, Savage World, and Fate rules.

Likewise, @VanityGames has used the concept of Fate points in her D&D game in a recent blog post.

Marvel.com maintains an excellent wiki regarding their characters:  I used it when I statted out the Fantastic Four using D20 Modern rules.

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~ by Hunter Rose on September 23, 2011.

2 Responses to “Fate, Star Wars, and Marvel Superheroes”

  1. I’m a fan of the FATE system, for sure. I’m pretty sure squeezing FATE points into my game is my way of trying to ease my players towards playing FATE entire;y.

    Spirit of the Century is where I got started too–probably the easiest way to digest the FATE ruleset.

    • I have a few thoughts about separating system from setting, but in the case of D&D I think the two are one-in-the-same for many people (hence, edition wars). If you move further to Fate, I hope you post about it!

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