(Strange FATE/Kerberos Club) Adapting Strange FATE.

The Unshaven

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Come one, come all! I've been planning this for a while as an adjunct to a proper review of the FATE version of The Kerberos Club, together with the modification to the underlying FATE framework is uses that is being referred to as 'Strange FATE.'

In summary, I love this game and this system. It is my new go-to system for adapting settings/vibes-for-play like Girl Genius, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Kim Possible and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The review is going to unpack the how and the why in more detail; this thread is where I plan to noodle around with using the system to adapt settings/characters like the ones that have currently caught in my brain, along with discussing the hows, whys, pros and cons of doing so.

I seem to do most of my self-education of games and systems by using them to adapt things, including things that possibly the folks who built it never expected. The hope here is that it'll be interesting for other people, and that I might get feedback and suggestions for my Terrible Schemes. I'd also be delightedly interested to see what other people are doing along the same lines.

The core elements that need contextualising for people who haven't read Strange FATE are these:

1) You can build your own skills by combining Trappings, and there's a neat map of costs: the further apart trappings are the more expensive it is to move across the map, and some trappings cost more at a baseline. This means you can use the standard Burglary skill, which comes with the trappings of Examine, Security, and Information, letting you case places and break past security. Or you can modify it by adding the Climb, Hide and Skulk trappings, creating a more expensive but more comprehensive Cat Burglar skill - and without cluttering up the skill pyramid, so you can fit more in.

2) You can invest Refresh in raising the Power Tier of a Skill. This means that you compare your Power Tier with that of the opposition in an opposed roll, and for each level of difference you replace 1dF from your roll with 1d6. The lowest amount 1d6 can add to a roll is +1, and there are no negative numbers. This brings in one of the other benefits of condensing skills together by making fewer, broader skills: Raising the Power Tier of the Cat Burglar skill is more cost effective than raising the Power Tier of both Burglary and Stealth if they're separate skills.

There's obviously a lot more Actual Depth and Content in the system itself, but the theory is that this might help people familiar with FATE but new to Strange FATE get on the same page with what I'm playing around with here.

So, here we go.

I figured I'd start out with building some things for Avatar: The Last Airbender first, and work from there.

Be Warned: Spoilers to Follow.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Avatar: The Last Airbender.

How Close Is The System To The Source Material?

Very close indeed. The advancement system in Strange FATE is as cost-effective for adding a trapping to an existing skill as it is for improving at that skill. This does a great job of describing the way characters improve in the show, such as Katara being able to add Healing to what her existing Water Bending skill is capable of, or Aang being able to attack with Airbending when he initially can't.

This also provides scope for there to be broad, consistent trends within a particular form of Bending that everyone's going to have, but also plenty of flexible room for different characters to have individualised expressions of that skill that don't simply boil down to how powerful the skill is.

The other cool thing is that it's entirely possible to have characters whose Bending is as effective as a mundane skill, and thus who can be challenged by someone with a sword.

Strange FATE is a context where Kick Ass Normals can absolutely hold their own.

What Assumptions Need Tweaking?

Aang is likely to exist outside the normal rules of character gen found in The Kerberos Club and Strange FATE, but since there's only one of him and that's kinda the point, I think that would be something we can get away with.

I'm still thinking through the exact details of how he'd work - whether to give him an Avatar Bending skill which is flawed down to represent the element(s) he's learned at any given point, or get him to buy up Airbending, Waterbending, etc individually, for example.

My current theory is that the Avatar State is going to have a Bending skill of Godlike, which is the highest Power Tier. I'd also tweak it so that the Avatar State is rolling 4d6 against anyone, no matter how powerful they are, rather than comparing the power level and turning the difference into d6. My reasoning for this is that
Spoiler: Show
Firelord Ozai on the Day of the Comet is himself at Godlike power tier against damn near anyone else. When Aang gets into the Avatar State, Ozai runs for his goddamned life.


What this suggests is that there are circumstances where a deeper distinction in Power Tier is going to come up in adaptation, particularly when dealing with such an extreme difference as presented in Avatar. I don't think that creating new Power Tiers is necessary, which would have people rolling more and more d6 against mundane foes: my personal solution to the issue is to establish that there are people who are Just Stronger Regardless and work from there. (This is going to be Rare.)

Another assumption is that Crafting has a default timeframe of A Day and requires a Workspace, whereas Crafting things with Bending is going to take A Round and require no workspace at all, beyond the materials required.

Assorted Noodlings.

So here we are. I'm going to put up some example Bending skills, all intended to be pitched towards the start of the series, before things start evolving. I might include notes on where that evolution might go. Certain characters arrive partway through the series, and their versions will be distinguished when they come up. (I won't be doing full character write-ups until later: at the moment I'm just figuring out skills and power tiers).

The logic I'm using here is that these skills cover both the ability to Bend elements, and skill at the martial-arts associated with them.

Airbending: (6 Skill Points)

Power Tier: Extraordinary (-1 Refresh)
{Logic here being that Aang is an impressive Airbender to start with, but improves. And while it gives him a definite edge in combat, it doesn't have him outclassing his opponents to the extent you'd get if his Airbending was in the Supernatural Tier at the start of the series}​
Trappings: Leap, Dodge, Move, Move + Unusual (Flight), Physical Force.
Complication: (-2) The Last Airbender
Snag: (-1) 'Physical Force' and 'Move + Unusual (Flight)' Trappings require use of Aang's Staff, as will Strike when he gets it.

Advancement: Fairly rapidly in the show we see the additional Trappings of Climb and Dexterity, then by Season 2 Strike and Parry are also added.

Notes: I'm thinking that in order to be a playable character, the Avatar State exists as an uncontrollable Transformation that replaces most of Aang's Aspects with big ass Convictions. That way, he's not getting a specific advantage from Phenomenal Cosmic Power most of the time, and so I could justify not making him pay for it on the same level playing field as other characters. I cannae do it, cap'n! Ah doon't have the Refresh!

Waterbending (1 Skill Points)

Power Tier: Mundane (0 Refresh)
{Katara at the start of the show is as capable with her Waterbending as someone who has just inherited a sword would be, and can be handily challenged by an opponent with mundane skills. Guess what's on the Advancement menu?}​
Trappings: Parry, Strike.
Snag: (-1) Only works where water or ice are available.

Advancement: This one is almost cheating, since at the start of the show it's Extremely Basic. My theory would be that Katara doesn't have a more than a skill of 1 in Waterbending to start with, meaning she can do it but she's not very well practiced.

Over season 1, the skill gets increased dramatically to around 4, and gets the Treatment (Physical) Trapping toward the end of Season 1 for when she starts using it to heal injuries. She also gets Move and Dodge, though I'd need to rewatch the show to get an angle on when.

As discussed here, an if-in-doubt Trapping for deciding whether Katara can pin people down with ice by using a Block would be 'Physical Force,' with a Snag of "Only used to Restrain, not Lift or Throw,' and she can buy off that Snag later on in order to do those things. Personally, I'd let her use the Waterbending skill to Block even without the Trapping, on the grounds that she starts freezing people at the point in the series she's good enough with the skill to successfully Block people from doing anything. On the other hand, having a mechanical component as an option is useful if people's player groups would rather be exacting.

The fight with Master Pakku is a great example of a difference in Power Tier at work: she can challenge him, but it's uphill work. It's up for debate whether she still has a Mundane skill by then and Pakku is Extraordinary, or whether she's upgraded to Extraordinary herself and Pakku is Supernatural. It could go either way, but my guess is the latter.

As the show progresses into Season 2 and 3, her Power Tier for Waterbending continues to rise, and it collects helpful extras like Spray, Zone, and Range. I think the Craft (Ice) Trapping would be a useful one to represent her ability to throw up bridges or structures made of ice, too...

Notes and Thoughts: I'm still tossing up whether the big power-boost Waterbenders get around the full moon would be represented by a one level boost to their Power Tier, or an Aspect to use in their favour. Mechanically, the Power Tier approach makes more sense from what we see in the show, but I'm not sure how to price it.

Firebending:

{Here we break it up some by character, since there's a detectable difference)

Zuko's Firebending: (6 Skill Points)
Power Tier: Mundane (0 Refresh)
{Zuko has a reasonable amount of points in Firebending, but doesn't directly outclass opponents with mundane skills at the start of Season 1.}​
Trappings: Strike, Parry, Shoot
Complication: (-2) Obsessed with Honour.

Advancement: Zuko definitely picks up the Environment (Arctic) trapping by the end of Season 1, and the Spray, Range, and eventually Zone extras are going to be the way to go.

Azula's Firebending: (8 Skill Points)
Power Tier: Supernatural (-2 Refresh)
{Azula's blue fire always seemed nastier than that of other Firebenders, and here's a simple way to represent how. My reasoning here is that Azula turns up at the start of Season 2 and outclasses people, and we can assume the PCs upgraded themselves to Extraordinary at or by the end of Season 1. As such, she's further ahead of them, despite their improvement. Also, a decidedly low-refresh character...}​
Trappings: Strike, Parry, Shoot
Extras: Range, Spray
Complication: (-2) Perfectionist sociopath.

Advancement: My guess is that Azula focuses on increases to the skill itself, its Power Tier, and extras like Spray. She does wind up with the Move and Dodge trappings later on in the show, too.

Notes: I'm thinking it'd be simplest for Azula's lightning to be a separate skill from Firebending itself, so that they can improve or not at different rates. I'd use the same logic with Bloodbending and Metalbending when we get to them.

Earthbending: (11-12 Skill Points)

{I'm going to break this one up again. We see plenty of examples of Your Average Earthbending before Toph arrives to blow everyone away.}​

Power Tier: Mundane (-0 Refresh)
{Characters like Haru don't outclass opponents with mundane skills, ergo Earthbending starts mundane like everything else.}​
Trappings: Strike, Parry, Shoot, Physical Force.
{Even minor Earthbenders can shift masses of stone and earth with effort, so Physical Force seems fair.}​
Snag: (-1) Only works where earth and/or stone are available. (This might go up to a -2, since absence of dirt/rock screws over Earthbenders more often than absence of water screws over Waterbenders in the show.)

Toph's Earthbending: (13-14 Skill Points)
Power Tier: Supernatural (-2 Refresh)
{Toph and Azula arrive at the same time, and for pretty much the same reasons I'd argue she's ahead of the curve. Of course, both Toph and Azula are more functionally focused/limited than the other characters, too... I always liked the argument that Toph and Azula are played by the same person, if we imagine the show as a lengthy RPG campaign: they get introduced at a similar time, are both more MinMaxed than the other characters, and are played as low Refresh characters...}
Trappings: Strike, Parry, Shoot, Physical Force, Craft + Unusual (Rough Structures Made of Stone),
Extras: Range
Snag: (-1 or -2) Only works where earth and/or stone are available.

Advancement: Toph's Power Tier increases as the show goes on, and she definitely picks up Move, Leap and Dodge as Trappings.

Notes: Personally, I'd consider running Toph's Earthsense as a separate skill. If you'd want to bundle it into her Earthbending, you'd want to give it the Notice, Examine, Information and Initiative (Physical) as trappings. This would make it (more) expensive, but also a Fearsome Beast of a skill. Metalbending is definitely a separate skill, so undoubtedly a decent chunk of her Advancement would be going in that direction.

~~~~~~~~~

So, that's not a bad start. I'm honestly impressed at how well and how elegantly this is all working, so far.

I'm intrigued that the different Bending techniques wind up having such a big variation in Skill Point prices, so that's something I'm paying attention to. The 'map' of Trappings is a great idea, and quite clear to follow. It does mean that more directly flexible skills are detectably more expensive, though I'm not necessarily seeing that as a bad thing.

I'd be tempted to have a play around to see if Earthbenders really have that big an advantage over Firebenders in practice, and if not I'd consider knocking down the price to a shared cap. It's possible I might use Waterbenders as a baseline, since they seem terrifyingly affordable in comparison to other things, and I can't imagine how to make them more expensive without making them More Powerful.

If I were running such a game and experiments didn't show cautionary signs of Cheese, I'd consider averaging out the cost of Bending so that all kinds of Bending cost the same amount. This would, of course, require that one form isn't actually more powerful, so currently it's conjecture.

What do people think at the moment?

- The Unshaven.
 
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craggle

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Looking good so far. Would the likes of Ty Lee, Mai, and (later series) Sokka be getting Extraordinary tier fighting styles?
 

devlin1

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If I were running such a game and experiments didn't show cautionary signs of Cheese, I'd consider averaging out the cost of Bending so that all kinds of Bending cost the same amount. This would, of course, require that one form isn't actually more powerful, so currently it's conjecture.
I can see averaging out the costs for all bending skills and just saying, "All right, players, spend 10 points and pick your element." (This probably only works if your players aren't especially interested in sorting out all the details themselves and just want to play some Avatar already.)

What do people think at the moment?
I think this is pretty awesome. It warms my cold, black heart to see this kind of system-hackery. Thanks for doing it, and for the kind words about Strange FATE! I'm glad you're enjoying it.
 
#4
This is pretty awesome. I don't have a lot of Avatar knowledge or FATE knowledge outside the Evil Hat style, but Strange FATE/Kerberos Club looks better and better if it's expandable like this.
 

The Unshaven

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Looking good so far. Would the likes of Ty Lee, Mai, and (later series) Sokka be getting Extraordinary tier fighting styles?
Absolutely, and they're on The List. I'm looking forward to them...

I can see averaging out the costs for all bending skills and just saying, "All right, players, spend 10 points and pick your element." (This probably only works if your players aren't especially interested in sorting out all the details themselves and just want to play some Avatar already.)
Pretty much, yeah. As noted, I'd want to do some experimentation to reduce the Crouching Laziness, Hidden Cheese problem, but otherwise it seems faster to set up a comparable baseline and then let people do some futzing for personalisation.

I think this is pretty awesome. It warms my cold, black heart to see this kind of system-hackery. Thanks for doing it, and for the kind words about Strange FATE! I'm glad you're enjoying it.
Excellent! I'm glad it's useful. I have a review in the works, too, but ran out of time yesterday. Weirdly enough, this kind of hackery is how I find myself learning systems, even if I apply it to running The Game Itself as much as I do to running hacks.

This is pretty awesome. I don't have a lot of Avatar knowledge or FATE knowledge outside the Evil Hat style, but Strange FATE/Kerberos Club looks better and better if it's expandable like this.
Glad you like it! I'm deeply impressed with the system, and I haven't found any points of adaptation where it breaks yet.

- The Unshaven.
 

The Unshaven

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By popular demand, Bad Ass Normal techniques!

Ty Lee's Particular Brand of Fu (17 Skill Points)
Power Tier: Supernatural (-2 Refresh)
{Much as with Azula, Ty Lee - and when I get to her later, Mei - outclass the PCs in one on one combat when they're introduced at the start of Season 2. My logic is that the PCs have improved their main skill to Extraordinary by the end of Season 1 or around then, so for Ozai's Angels to be ahead of them Supernatural is the right ballpark.}​
Trappings: Strike, Parry, Dexterity, Skulk, Hide, Move, Leap, Climb, Dodge, Treatment: Physical + Unusual (Nerve Strikes and Chi Blocking)
Complication: (-2) Azula.

Advancement: I have to admit that I'm not sure about Advancement in Ty Lee's case. She doesn't exhibit the same amount of New Inclusions To Existing Skills as other characters, and the arc of the show has the PCs catching up with her and Mei, while Azula continues to progress ahead of them... Certainly interested in suggestions, though. EDIT: Just realised that the Spray or Zone extras wouldn't be out-of-character for this kind of skill, and would further entrench Ty Lee as terrifying. I guess it's up for debate whether she starts with Spray and works up to Zone, or whether they're both on the Advancement list. She takes out an entire band of Earthbenders in one round in The Drill, but if they were using mook rules then she wouldn't need Spray to pull that off... Essentially, there is room for her to move, the question is how you would want to run her, and/or how you'd interpret her development across the series. The system is certainly flexible enough to go in several directions and have it work for all of them.

Notes: My logic here is that Treatment: Physical + Unusual is there to distinguish Ty Lee from the garden variety ninja, and covers the medical knowledge and skill required to nerve-strike and chi-block her opponents. As per this thread here, at a system level what Ty Lee does is declare a Block on a character doing anything, or possibly focused on the Bending. She then rolls 2dF+2d6+[Whatever she puts in the skill] against folks with mundane skills (ie, non-PCs) and they don't get to Bend or possibly do anything at all unless they beat her roll. And, if you're trying to stop her with a mundane skill? You're not going to beat her Block unless something spectacular and PC-like happens.

I'm impressed with this, since it's elegant and fits nicely. It's also a useful guide for when the characters in the show catch up skill-wise, such as where Sokka is capable of holding her off, but not in getting away from her. ("It's like we're dancing!")

Likewise, being Taken Out or Conceding is likely to involve some level of Paralysis. Her fight with Sokka in The Chase involved him getting a series of Consequences involving the phrase LIMBS, LIKE NOODLES!

So there we go. It's a big, scary-ass skill, but it combines everything that Ty Lee does offensively into one fiendish bundle. If she catches you, she's likely to be able to switch you off. And when she's rolling 2dF+2d6+[Whatever she puts in the skill] for Leap, Move and Dodge... she's likely to catch you.

- The Unshaven.
 
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The Unshaven

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Mei's Sharp and Pointy Things, Plus Getting Them Wherever She Wants. (21 Skill Points)
Power Tier: Supernatural (-2 Refresh)
{Same logic as Ty Lee: I'm thinking the PCs have their main skills at Extraordinary for Season 2, and Mei outclasses them one on one, ergo Supernatural is the way to go.}​
Trappings: Shoot, Notice, Strike, Parry, Move, Dodge, Leap.
Extras: Range.
Complications: (-2) Zuko and Azula.

Advancement: Much as with Ty Lee, Spray would be an obvious one.

Notes: I'm intrigued that Ty Lee's super ninjery frighteningness is detectably less expensive than Mei's more direct knife/dart throwing. Hmm. Again, I'd think about adjusting that if it Didn't Actually Matter.

The fun thing here is that Mei's skills actually explain what happens in the show: she can Block people from doing anything using the same mechanic as Ty Lee, and justify it by pinning people to things with her darts and knives. Being Taken Out could well equal 'now irrelevant by getting pinned down.'

- The Unshaven.
 

The Unshaven

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Ok, I'm confused. In Strange Fate you just pile every trapping you want to be good at into one skill?
There are a bunch of Standard Skills which you can just use. Unique Skills are where you create your own skill by combining Trappings. These can be quite broad, but don't have to, such as taking Burglary and making it into Cat Burglary.

The reason that Unique Skills are a good idea is that increasing the Power Tier of a skill costs Refresh, so it's sensible to create one or two broader skills with Power Tier enhancement than it would be to try to do everything. Unique Skills are more expensive than standard, but there's a guideline in the book that if you want to be really good at what would be three other skills, it's mechanically sensible to glom them together.

Another way I could build Mei and Ty Lee is to seperate their ability to damage from their ability to move around, but I've been conceptualising both elements as part of their Postgraduate Fire Nation training they received as Ozai's Angels.

Does that make sense?

- The Unshaven.
 

TheMouse

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Ok, I'm confused. In Strange Fate you just pile every trapping you want to be good at into one skill?
Sort of, but sort of not.

You have three options: normal skills, unique skills, and strange skills.

Normal skills are, well, normal skills. There's a list. They have trappings. Oh, glorious day.

Unique skills are things you could do with a normal skill, but made specifically for that character. For example, you could take a skill called Oxford Professor of Archeology that reflects not only your archeo skills, but also things like your income, the people you know, and the students you can foist work onto.

Strange skills are things like super powers. You can build them as narrow or broad as you like, but everything has to make sense and fit the justification for the power.

The latter two categories of skill are built using trappings, and strange skills are also built using special things that let you break rules in specified ways. Either way, you have to buy up the trappings with skill points before you even get the chance to spend skill points on a skill rating. So if a skill costs, say, 11 points for the trappings and such, and you spend those 11 points, you don't even have a rating in it yet; you have to buy that on top of the trappings.

So to some degree, you're going to be sort of jamming the stuff you want to be good at into one skill. On the other hand, once that list hits a certain length it starts to get prohibitively expensive. it also starts to get expensive if the trappings are far apart on the chart that you use to determine the cost, because you have to pay point to jump between trappings on the chart.

So, sort of. But only sort of.
 
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