Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Strands of Fate Character Creation

A quick summary of character creation in Strands of Fate with a focus on Divine Blood.
The basic steps of character creation Strands of Fate are as follows:

  • Create a Concept
  • Choose five Character Aspects
  • Assign Ability Points
  • Choose five Specialty Aspects
  • Spend Advantage Points
  • Choose starting equipment

Choose a Concept

As with all other games, this is the first point of character creation. Consider the chosen campaign and the themes set by the players and GM. Consider some questions related to the setting. For Divine Blood, some example ones would follow:

    • Does the campaign involve the supernatural world?
    • Does the campaign involve one of the world's active wars?
    • Does the campaign involve espionage?
    • Is your character psychic, non-human both?
    • Is your character a Demon or God?
    • Is your character an incidental immortal somehow?
    • Does your character know how to pilot Uprights? How?
    • Is your character a complete civilian? (they could still have supernatural powers)
    • Was your character's life happy so far?
    • What special skills does your character have?
     I could go on.  There is no end to the number of questions that could be asked to help you come up with an idea.  However, you might want to stick to just coming up with a quick image or idea.

    Choose Five Character Aspects

    Character Aspects are the main story seeds of your character.  They portray the central themes that you want your character to face as they develop their storyline and it is here that the GM will mostly look for ideas when developing the broad strokes of your character's story arch.

    These five Aspects can be anything you want, but to make it easier to focus Strands of Fate uses something called the "Aspect Alphabet" to give suggestions for a good selection of Aspects and it is suggested to use the Alphabet if you have new players or you are new to running Fate games since it gives you a general assurance that each character will have some similar Aspects for you to make a story over.

    The first Character Aspect is called the Defining Aspect and is pretty much the same thing as the High Concept discussed in Fate Core and Dresden Files RPG.  Following that, the Aspect Alphabet begins giving the list of suggested Aspects as follows:

    • Defining Aspect - The central concept of your character such as "Conspiracy Obsessed Reporter" or "Badass Veteran Super Soldier"
    • Ambition Aspect - This represents your characters current goal in life such as "Prove to the World that the Supernatural Exists" or "Become a World Class Chef".
    • Background Aspect -This represents your character's past.  It can be recent past such as "Officer Raised from the Ranks", further back such as "Adopted for Publicity Purposes" or relate to your family history such as "Family History of Psychics"
    • Conviction Aspect - This represents a strongly held belief of your character.  It could be something like "Enthusiasm is the Key" or else "Evil must be faced."
    • Disadvantage Aspect - This represents something that frequently gives your character trouble in their life. It could represent an ailment such as "Withered Left Side", an emotional quirk such as "Naive and Reckless", or relate to circumstances that pursue you such as "Attracts the Wrong Attention."
    The Aspect Alphabet is a tool and guide.  The GM can request that all characters follow it, and it will produce some decent expectations, but it is not a hard and fast rule.  Also, if a player can't think of a Background, but has an idea for two Disadvantages, that should be fine.  Or perhaps two Backgrounds instead of a Conviction.

    Some Advantages add an extra Character Aspect and it is possible to purchase some using experience points.  Each character has a maximum of seven Character Aspects.

    Assign Ability Points

    Depending on the Power Level of a campaign, you will have up to 30 points to distribute between your Abilities.

    Abilities replace the Skills used in Fate Core and Dresden and represent your characters basic capabilities.

    Strands of Fate has no official listing of comparing the ranks to levels of ability as with the ladder in Fate Core, I rate the ranks as follows:

    • -1 Crippled
    • 0 Weak
    • 1 Poor
    • 2 Average
    • 3 Good
    • 4 Amazing
    • 5 Legendary
    • 6 Superhuman
    Most Divine Blood campaigns will set the Campaign Maximum at 4.  For one thing, even among elite Gods and Demons a 5 is exceedingly rare and a 6 is almost unique.

    In general, the game expects that most of a character's standard stats will be ranked at 2 with a couple of 3s. This feels counter to many RPGs where people expect to put high or even maximum ranks in the Abilities related to what your character is good at, but in Strands of Fate most training will come from your Advantages and Aspects

    Put it this way.  If your character is a competent acrobat, pickpocket, sniper, pistoleer, tightrope walker, traceur (parkour expert) AND martial artist...then an Agility of 4 makes sense.

    However, if your character is just a sniper, then a 2 in Agility supplemented by Advantages and Aspects can easily get you to a +5 or higher before spending Fate Points or performing maneuvers.

    Standard Strands of Fate games have 12 Abilities.

    • Physical
      • Agility - Defense against melee and slow projectiles. Physical stealth. Controlling the body. Ranged attacks.
      • Endurance - Resisting disease, fatigue and strength. Adds to Physical Stress.
      • Perception - Initiative. Defense against fast projectiles. Maneuvers to learn Aspects or aim. 
      •  Strength - Melee attack. Adds to Physical Stress. Moving other objects.
    • Mental 
      • Craft - Building or Breaking things. Creativity. Sabotage, engineering, art, poetry, etc.
      • Knowledge - Memory and information you have learned already in life.
      • Reasoning - Logic and ability to work out a puzzle. Adds to Mental Stress.
      • Willpower - Resist seduction, bribery and intimidation and psychic mental attacks. Adds to Mental Stress.
    • Social
      • Deception - Blending in, lying, trickery, mischief. Defending against attempts to learn Aspects about you.
      • Empathy - Reading people to learn Aspects, defend against lies and trickery.
      • Persuasion - Force of personality. Used for intimidation, seduction, some fast-talking. Performances. Adds to Social Stress
      • Resources - Money and other resources. Purchasing things and bribing people. Adds to Social Stress.
    If a campaign features powers of one sort or another, then there are also Affinity Abilities representing skills with different power sources. In Divine Blood, there are 3 Psychic Abilities to represent the types of powers in the game.

    Unless you're psychic, you'll likely have 0 in all your Psychic Abilities.  Which still makes it possible to perform some of the basic maneuvers that any sentient is capable of unconsciously, but makes it rather difficult to do so without straining one's self.

    Note, there are uses for someone without any powers to have higher than 0 Psychic Abilities, but it isn't common to get high ranks in these Abilities without picking up some sort of power, usually one of the trained ones.

    • Psychic
      • Manipulative - Control of the physical world around you. Telekinesis, energy control or generation, healing other people, transforming other people. Many shaping rituals.
      • Metabolic - Control of one's own body. Shapeshifting, super-strength, super-agility, self-healing. Many channeling techniques.
      • Sensitive - Mental abilities and non-physical senses. Death-seers, telepaths, magicians, magi, oracles, prophets, object readers. Many shaping rituals.
    The highest Psychic Ability a character has is added to an Ability determined by species to figure out the Life-Force Stress which has a different name based on species as well.  However, this is a rule only in Divine Blood.
    • Demons add Agility to their highest Psychic Ability to determine their Vitae.
    • Gods add Empathy to their highest Psychic Ability to determine their Mana.
    • Humans add Knowledge to their highest Psychic Ability to determine their Chi.

    Choose Five Specialty Aspects

    The Abilities already diverge from the normal Fate game by replacing the Skill Pyramid. This is another difference from standard Fate.

    Fate Core characters have five Aspects.  Dresden Files RPG characters have seven Aspects.  So the fact that Strands of Fate characters have a minimum of 10 Aspects can seem a bit daunting.  Even the seven Aspects in Dresden can be a bit much to handle in a game with many players.

    It should be noted that Specialty Aspects are not meant to be used as broadly as Character Aspects or the Aspects in Fate Core. They are deliberately narrow in focus and supposed to more represent situational complications or capabilities.

    To guide a player in creating Aspects, the Aspect Alphabet from the second step continues here.

    • Exceptional Skill Aspect - This could be special training such as "Master Class Swordswoman (Agility)", a special talent such as "Honeyed Tongue (Persuasion)" or even minor psychic abilities such as "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger (Metabolic)."
    • Foe Aspect - A force that works against you.  Perhaps you "Don't get along with dogs (Persuasion)" or maybe the "IRA Wants Me Dead (Persuasion)".  You might just find that "Bureaucrats are nothing but a Headache (Persuasion)".  It might even be "The Everpresent Danger of Inanimate Objects" (Agility)
    • Gear Aspect - A special item or items, place, vehicle or source of money.  This can mean that you are "Armed to the Teeth (Resources)" or have "An Allowance Higher than Most Salaries (Resources)", or it could be a specific item such as an "Omnipresent Roll of Cloth (Resources)"
    • Help Aspect - Contrary to the Foe Aspect, this would be a source of aid and help for your character. It could represent an organization they're part of such as "City Police Department (Persuasion)", a type of being "Ghosts friendlier than you'd think (Persuasion)", or it could be a specific person such as "Mao Semezou is my Mother (Persuasion)".
    • Inferior Skill Aspect - This is something you are horrible at.  Perhaps you "Sing Like a Cat (Craft)", "Fumble words in conversation (Persuasion)", have a "Horrible Poker Face (Deception)" or maybe a phobia such as "Crowds make me nervous (Willpower)"
    As with Character Aspects, the Alphabet is a suggestion, not a rule.

    You might notice that each of the examples I use in the descriptions above have an Ability in parentheses next to them. This is placed there to represent the intent of the Aspect. It does not directly limit how an Aspect can be used.  To show what I mean let's look at four versions of the Aspect "Master Class Swordswoman":

    • Master Class Swordswoman (Agility)  
      • The Agility tag means that this represents a swordswoman whose style is flamboyant and based on energetic motion such as a swashbuckling style.
      • The Aspect can still be used for Attack even though that is a Strength based roll, representing a flourish and feint or some other agile display.
      • This Aspect won't work if the player wants to suddenly just force their opponent off their feet with a burst of pure strength.  That's outside the intent of their Aspect.  They can still attempt the maneuver, but they can't use the Aspect to help it.
    • Master Class Swordswoman (Strength)
      •  The Strength tag represents that this is a swordswoman who use direct force and raw strength such as if they use a knightly style of combat.
      • The Aspect can be used for Defense even though that is an Agility based roll, representing firm and solid parries rather than dodging.
      • The Aspect won't work if the player wants to spend a Fate point on Defense to cause two enemies to accidentally attack each other.  That's more of a Reasoning or Agility type stunt. 
    •  Master Class Swordswoman (Reasoning)
      • The Reasoning tag means that this represents a swordswoman who primarily concerns herself with tactics rather than physical actions.
      • This still works for Attack and Defense by explaining that the swordswoman fights in ways to trick her opponents into an opening on attack or controls her own motions and placements to keep herself in positions that are hard to attack.
      • If the character wants to perform a flip over to the back of the opponent, in order to set up a maneuver for the next round's attack, this Aspect doesn't help. He can still make an Agility roll to attempt the maneuver however.
    •   Master Class Swordswoman (Knowledge)
      • The Knowledge tag means that this represents a swordswoman who has an encyclopedic knowledge of fighting styles and tactics.
      • This works for Attack and Defense by explaining that the character recognizes the style being used against her and knows how to counter it.  It also works if she is repeating a tactic she's seen used before or has herself successfully used in the past.
      • Maneuvers involving brute strength or tactical innovation are outside the intent of this Aspect, however. When she tries out something new that she's never seen, read about or attempted, that's not going to be helped by this Aspect.
     Again, it is better to think of Specialty Aspects as if they were extra Advantages or complications that occasionally generate Fate Points.  In terms of Fate Core, you could look at them as if they were very broadly applicable Stunts.

    Some Advantages can make Specialty Aspects "Persistent" other Advantages also just give Persistent Aspects.   A Persistent Aspect is different from a normal Aspect in two ways:

    • Persistent Aspects can be used to get a +2 bonus or a reroll without spending a Fate Point.  
      • Using them to generate a story effect still costs a Fate Point.
    • Persistent Aspects do not provide you with a Fate Point if they are used to give a -2 or force a reroll.
      • Story effects turned against the character based on this Aspect still provide Fate Points.
    Characters can gain more Specialty Aspects from some Advantages and also by spending experience points.  One character can have a maximum of 10 Specialty Aspects.

    Spend Advantage Points

    Depending on the Power Level of the campaign, you can have anywhere from 1 to 50 Advantage Points.  In Divine Blood, the lowest Power Level gives 3 Power Points and the highest gives 40.

    Advantage Points can be spent in a number of ways:

    •  Expert Advantages representing professional training cost 1 Advantage Point
      • Every character gets 3 Expert Advantages for free regardless.
    • Heroic Advantages representing special skills on the level of an action movie cost 2 Advantage Points.
    • Power Advantages representing extreme levels of skill or psychic abilities cost anywhere from 1 to 10 Advantage Points, sometimes more if you take a lot of modifiers.
      • It is suggested that a GM sets a maximum number of points that can be placed in the same power at the beginning of the game.
      • Every Power has a Power Aspect that defines the source or special effect of that power.  This Aspect is even more narrowly defined than a Specialty Aspect.
    • 10 Experience Points can be gained for 1 Advantage Point
      • 5 Experience gets you an additional Specialty Aspect.
      • 10 Experience gets you an additional Character Aspect.
      • 15 Experience increases your Refresh by 1.
      • 10 Experience can increase an Ability by 1.
    Refresh and Advantage Points

    In some campaigns, Refresh is the number of Fate Points you start each game session with.

    • You have a Refresh of 4 and end the day with 1 Fate Point.  Next session you will be back to 4.
    • You have a Refresh of 4 and end the day with 7 Fate Points. Next session you will be back to 4.

    In other campaigns, Refresh is the minimum number of Fate Points you start each session with.

    • You have a Refresh of 4 and end the day with 1 Fate Point. Next session you will be back to 4.
    • You have a Refresh of 4 and end the day with 7 Fate Points. Next session you will still have 7 Fate Points.
    In other cases, the GM may decide that you don't get a Refresh at the start of the session because you ended on a cliff hanger last time and haven't had time to recover yet.  Or you might get a Refresh in the middle of the session because the GM declares that the previous storyline has ended and you're now starting a new one.

    In character creation, you can trade out Refresh in exchange for Advantage Points.

    • You can reduce your Refresh by 2 in order to gain 3 Advantage Points.
    • You cannot have less than 1 Refresh.

    Starting Equipment

    Every character starts with five pieces of equipment with a cost equal to their Resources or lower.  Each of these five pieces of equipment must be connected to one of their Aspects:

    A character who is "An Artist in White Magic (Sensitive)" might start with a simple rune bracelet that enhances some of their spellcasting.  While someone "Armed to the Teeth (Resources)" might start with a custom heavy pistol.

    The GM might make an exception on the Resource limit if they actually have an Aspect naming a particular item such as "My Sweet Ride, the Shelby Cobra (Resources)" providing a sports car.

    Once the free pieces of equipment are chosen, the character may attempt to purchase more equipment.  They can make as many Resource rolls as they want in purchasing items, but if they fail a roll at any given time, then they have to stop rolling.  They can use Advantages or spend Fate Points on these rolls, but that would mean starting the first session with fewer Fate Points than normal.

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