Saturday, November 4, 2017

Gorgon Archer - Fate Core - Character Advancement

Character Creation and the Gorgon Archer

Advancement in Fate Core is centered around Milestones. There are three kinds of Milestones: Minor Milestones, Significant Milestones, and Major Milestones. Whenever one of these milestones is achieved it allows the players increase or alter their character in different ways. In general, you get a Minor Milestone at the end of every session or make major progress on the current scenario; you get a Significant Milestone at the end of every scenario or make major progress on the story arc; Major Milestones are reserved for the end of a story arc or for those sessions that result in major upheavals to the world as it relates to the game. Major upheavals would be things like the defeat of a major recurring villain, the collapse of major institutions within the setting, a sudden increase of scope bringing the campaign from a local to a regional level, or anything else that causes a serious change to the face of the game world.

When a Minor Milestone occurs you have a choice between four different options. You only get to do one of these:
  • Switch the ranks between any two Skills
  • Change any single Stunt for another Stunt
  • Purchase a new Stunt provided you have enough Refresh (You can't go below 1 Refresh and 1 Stunt costs 1 Refresh)
  • Change any Character Aspect that is not your High Concept
When a Significant Milestone occurs you get to choose one of the benefits from the list of the Minor Milestone and you get to do both of the following:
  • Gain +1 Skill rank to learn a new Skill at average or increase a higher level skill. There are some caveats to this.
  • Change the name of any Severe Consequence in order to begin the recovery process. Yes, healing of the heaviest injuries in Fate only happen as you achieve milestones. You will basically be dealing with that injury, curse, emotional state, or legal issue for at least as long as the current scenario lasts.
When a Major Milestone occurs you gain the benefits of Minor Milestone and a Significant Milestone and you gain all of the following:
  • If you have an Extreme Consequence (in Core, this is an affliction so severe that it changes one of your five Character Aspects to reflect its crippling nature), you rename it to reflect that you've moved past its most debilitating effects. This allows you to take another Extreme Consequence if you need to at a later time.
  • Take an additional point of Refresh which allows you to immediately buy a new stunt or keep it in order to begin each session with more Fate Points.
  • Advance a Skill beyond the campaign's current Skill Cap if you are capable of doing so, thus increasing the Skill Cap.
  • Rename your character's high concept if you desire.
 Now, as to the matter of increasing skills. When you get to increase skills by 1 rank, you have to make sure that there an equal or greater number of skills at each lower rank than the number of skills you want to increase the skill to. To take some examples from the actual book:
This is a legal skill ladder, though for a game with a lower number of starting skills.

This is an illegal skill ladder because there are not enough +2 skills to support the +3 skills.
I am going to admit, the above bit is one of the things I don't like about how the game handles character creation and advancement. This, combined with the Minor Milestone ability to flip around any two skills just felt very weird and did not mesh with my understanding of how learning and skill acquisition worked in the real world.

That said, that impression formed early on before I figured out what this method was really trying to represent. Especially once you realize that Skills are not part of the central mechanic of Fate and that several types of Fate actually drop them entirely. Basically speaking, your capabilities and levels of ability are more appropriately handled by Aspects while the bonuses you get from Skill Ranks are more representative of your character's current focus of thought and mindset.

I am assuming eighteen sessions. This is more than the fourteen I gave Hero System, but does let me end on a second Major Milestone using the default suggested spacing of Milestones (you can ignore this pacing and just give it out as makes sense). As such, I am now going to look at the advancement track for the Fate Core version of the gorgon archer. This is going to involve a little bit of imagining the instances of each session.

Starting Stats


Session 1 - Minor Milestone
When the Gorgon failed a key Investigate check, she began to focus more on paying attention to surroundings at the cost of being ready to move quicker. Switch Investigate and Athletics. Investigate is now Fair and Athletics is now Average.

Session 2 - Minor Milestone
A severe storm causes the party's food supplies to wash away. The Gorgon spends a Refresh (bringing it down to to 2) to purchase a new Stunt which they build with the GM.

Survivalist: The character gains a +2 bonus to Overcome checks with Investigate when hunting or gathering for food in the Wild.

Session 3 - Significant Milestone
The character changes a consequence of "Mangled" with "Soothed Wounds" to represent that a healer has treated their injuries and it has started to recovery.
Gains a +1 skill rank and currently the only option is to add a new Average skill. They decide to take Burglary to Average.

Session 4 - Minor Milestone
As they have moved into a city, she has noted that her current trouble seems to be less common an issue than the fact that she's a gorgon and the townsfolk currently hate her. So she decides to change her Trouble to "Monster in their Eyes".

Session 5 - Minor Milestone
The archer has had some issues with both Stealth not being as easy for her and the fact that its becoming more important to know which people are trustworthy and which aren't, the Gorgon has shifted her focus from Stealth to paying attention to body language and wording. Empathy and Stealth switch. Stealth is now Average while Empathy is now Great. She is still very skilled at Stealth as noted by her Aspect "Shadow in the Trees" but note that specifically refers to Stealth in the forest and she's currently not in the forest. Out of her comfort zone, her normal tricks work against her.

Session 6 - Significant Milestone
Having gained some skill at how to be stealthy in a city, she decides to change her Aspect "Shadow in the Trees" to the more broadly applicable "Stealthy as a Shadow". She also increases Stealth by 1 rank so that it is now Fair.

Session 7 - Minor Milestone
Her recent attempts to use Provoke to get people to leave her alone have gone...poorly, she decides to drop it to +0 and replace it with Rapport and she hopes that trying to calm people down rather than intimidating them might make her life easier.

Session 8 - Minor Milestone
In an attempt to gain recognition and modeling an old story she has heard, the archer sneaks into and wins a royal archery contest by a wide margin. After several sessions proving her exceptional skill with the bow, she decides to upgrade her "A Marksman's Eye" to the Aspect "Truly a Master Archer" representing her polishing her talent into true skill and mastery.

Session 9 - Major Milestone
At the conclusion of last session, things exploded and this session turned into a major resolution as the gorgon and her comrades all took part in preventing a coup by an impatient and ambitious second born prince. The archer changes her High Concept from "Outcast Gorgon Huntress" into "The Gorgon Knight-Archer of Morithren" (yes, I just made that up as I typed it) representing the fact that she is now a famous hero of the land. Her Refresh goes up by 1 back to 3. She gains a +1 skill rank and increases Stealth to +3 as she has become progressively better at learning to be stealthy in a wider variety of environments. Finally, she decides to change her aspect "Clever Woodcraft" to "Ranger of Royal Trust" to represent both her new social status in combination with her pre-existing woodcraft skills.

Session 10 - Minor Milestone
Now that she is officially a knight and has a lot of Aspects that help her deal with the initial reaction people have to seeing a gorgon, she decides to change her Trouble from "Monster in their Eyes" to "All Eyes on Her" to represent the combination of curiosity and the watchful eyes waiting for her to slip and prove she's a monster.

Session 11 - Minor Milestone
As they have become better trusted and have mostly identified who can be trusted and who can't she decides to switch her Great Empathy with her Good Stealth. Stealth, after a long while, is back to being Great, and Empathy is now Good as she's relaxed her guard a bit.

Session 12 - Significant Milestone
Feeling a bit more relaxed, some of the acerbic manner starts leaking out again and she uses her +1 skill rank to put Provoke back up to Average.

Session 13 - Minor Milestone
Suddenly, the downsides of her elevation to knighthood are starting to make themselves known. As such, she decides to change her trouble to "Responsibilities of Rank" and hope that since those issues are turning up more often, it will generate more Fate Points than "All Eyes on Her" which hasn't turned up very often and thus has become a bit boring.

Session 14 - Minor Milestone
Having spent some time with the priests and mages at developing her gorgon stare, she spends a Refresh (back down to 2) and picks up a new stunt. Up until now she hasn't been using her gorgon powers all that often because the GM has been making her roll Lore when using the power.

Gorgon's Eyes - You are able to use Will instead of Lore to Create an Advantage when trying to use your gorgon's gaze to temporarily turn an opponent to stone or force them to avert their eyes.

Session 15 - Significant Milestone
A dark follower of the corrupted god of storms and slaughter called a bolt of divine wrath to strike the gorgon. In order to stay in the fight, the gorgon took an Extreme Consequence and her "Truly a Master Archer" Aspect was lost and replaced with "Struck by a Dark God". She can't change this with the benefit of the Minor Milestone, that Aspect is locked until a Major Milestone is reached.  

For her advancement, she uses the bonus Skill Rank to increase Rapport to +2. She is also going to switch the "Slippery Target" stunt to "Demagogue" after rising from where the priest's strike failed to kill her and giving a rousing speech to the forces of the keep. She is falling away from Stealth and trying instead to be seen and act as a symbol of defiance against all odds.

Session 16 - Minor Milestone
Still under siege by the hordes of the corrupt storm god Torth, and still suffering from grave injuries, she has decided her stealth is not as useful just at the moment, so instead she switches Rapport and Stealth. Rapport is now Great and Stealth is now Fair.

Session 17 - Minor Milestone
Things are coming to a head. The rest of the players are pushing to gather reinforcements and secret magics while the gorgon archer continues to hold together this keep at the border of the kingdom and stand in for the now dead lord of the region buying time for the rest of the party to quest and hoping they'll reach her in time to prevent the fall of the keep. As part of this, she increases her Will to Good by switching it with Notice. This is a bit dangerous, but she feels she needs to be able to resist the mental stress being thrown at her alongside the physical stress. This also improves the ability of her Gorgon's Eye stunt.

Session 18 - Major Milestone
With the siege successfully broken, the archer is able to change her Extreme Consequence Aspect from "Struck by a Dark God" into "The Arrow Forged in Lightning" representing that she has gotten past the worst of it and that the electrocution scars might now serve as a mark of her heroism. This also shows that she's returned to performing her customary feats of master archery. In fact, such a grandiose name means that her skills may now have increased to beyond those of a master into those of a legend.

Other than that, she uses the +1 to increase Shoot up to Great, which is funny that it's taken so long to get the Archer's shoot score at the highest skill tier. I would try to increase a skill to 5 but I can't because if I had tried to increase Rapport to 5 I'd have no 4s and that would be an illegal character. As to her High Concept, I decide to upgrade her from Knight-Archer to Lady in the idea that she is given the rulership of this keep after taking over the defense of it since the prior lord left no heirs and she successfully defended it I also refer to it as "Gorgon Pass" on the idea that whatever it was originally called, it's now known as that because of her. Note that she doesn't exactly have an Aspect specifically saying she is a gorgon now, however, as the current High Aspect builds on her earlier accomplishments the GM and players understand it to include that concept. Also note that she still has the Gorgon's Eyes stunt, which has some amount of reference to that.

Her Refresh also goes back up to 3 and since the Major Milestone allows her to immediately spend that on a stunt above the benefit gained from Minor Milestone, she decides to pick up the Popular stunt, bringing her Refresh back down to 2. For the Minor Milestone benefit, I switch Burglary +1 with Contacts +0 as the advancements implied by her Aspect changes indicate that she now has subordinates and learning how best to manage those would be better than some middling skill at burglary.

Gorgon Archer

High Concept: Lady of the Gorgon's Pass
Trouble: Responsibilities of Rank
Other Aspects: The Arrow Forged in Lightning; Ranger of Royal Trust; Stealthy as a Shadow

Rapport +4, Shoot +4
Will +3, Empathy +3
Investigate +2, Notice +2, Physique +2, Stealth +2
Fight +1, Athletics +1, Contact +1, Provoke +1

Demagogue - +2 to Rapport when giving an inspiring speech in front of a crowd. (If there are named NPCs or PCs in the crowd, you can target all of them with one roll rather than splitting up your successes)

Uncanny Accuracy - Once per conflict, stack an additional free invoke on an advantage you've created to represent the time you've taken to line up the shot. (Examples: In my Sights or Taking Aim)

Danger Sense - You have an almost preternatural capacity for detecting danger. Your Notice skill works unimpeded by conditions like total concealment, darkness, or other sensory impairments in situations where someone intends to harm you. 

Survivalist: The character gains a +2 bonus to Overcome checks with Investigate when hunting or gathering for food in the Wild.

Gorgon's Eyes - You are able to use Will instead of Lore to Create an Advantage when trying to use your gorgon's gaze to temporarily turn an opponent to stone or force them to avert their eyes. 

Popular - If you're in an area where your popular and well-liked, you can use your Rapport in place of your Contacts. You may be able to establish your popularity by spending a Fate Point or by prior justification.

Physical Stress OOO 
Mental Stress OOOO

Refresh: 2

Further Notes

As you can see, there is still some level of vertical advancement in that you slowly gain a larger pool of skill points and a larger pool of Refresh or stunts. Also, the way many of the Aspects changed represented her growing skills. This would be reflected in a number of ways in game. For example, something I'd experiment with to duplicate her increasing skill is, without stating anything, is to manipulate zone sizes. This is a trick for doing horror in Fate too, to increase the feeling of danger and desperation, you make very small zones so that ranged penalties are more severe at shorter distances and higher Athletics checks are needed to cross space. In this case, once she got to "A True Master Archer" I'd look at the zone map and count two zones away before I decide that she takes any penalty. 

I might also lower the difficulty of "trick shots" for example, hitting a bullseye at the start of the campaign might require a roll of 4 or higher. With a Good Shoot skill, this is difficult but far from impossible, especially if she takes a moment to aim. However, I might reduce the target for the exact same shot to 3 once she goes to "A True Master Archer". Of course, combat would still be an attack roll versus a defense roll, but those trick shots against non-character targets would get easier. Also, there might be some tricks I wouldn't allow her to easily pull at the lower levels. For example, with "A Marksman's Eye" hitting a moving target at a distance would be fine, but trying to specifically hit the leg would add some bonuses to the defense or penalties to her. At a "Truly A Master Archer" I would feel that shot was fine. Meanwhile "The Arrow Forged in Lightning" might even allow for some mystical archery.

To be honest, when I've played, I hadn't taken advantage of shifting around the skills or changing the Aspects. I wasn't used to that sort of character development and it didn't make sense to me. I only started figuring it out when I was pretty much GMing and using a different brand of Fate with a more comfortable for me character creation. I'd like to play again with my new perspective on the game, but I'm not feeling that I'll likely get to do that.

The benefits of this system are that it allows the player to tinker and adjust their characters in response to the developments within the game. Vertical advancement can be gained by changing the wording of your aspects, or you might end up switching around whole elements of the character and go from a curmudgeonly outcast and end up being an inspiring nouveau nobility ruling over a small castle. There is a lot of flexibility.

The GM throws things at the characters, often as a result of failed die rolls. In response the players start to adjust their characters to deal with what they are now being faced with. As one trouble stops being a regular issue, it is replaced with one that is frequently getting in your way already. You try an action and fail, so you adjust your set up so that you have an easier time next attempt. Skills you have stopped using as much are allowed to dwindle as you focus on other avenues.

The downside of this is, as I have already stated, due to the fact that it is such a wide divergence in the way you expect advancement to work. The average gamer who has played games like Shadowrun, D&D, Hero System, Mutants and Masterminds, or most other extremely fun and popular games will look at those pluses and assume that that represents skill levels and will assume that the Aspects are the extra add-ons rather than the Skills. It can also feel very slow in some ways though, as indicated above, a Fate Campaign can move far more rapidly in terms of some kind of character development than in others.

As a side note, the above example ramps up really, really fast. It is far more likely that shifts in Aspects will be significantly less severe as the events of the story just won't justify suddenly leaping into being a night. For example, the group might have started with inspecting some sort of monster threat as their first Story Arc rather than a coup by a traitor prince, resulting in High Concept change from "Outcast Gorgon Huntress" to "Heroic Gorgon Huntress" changing only a single word. There is also no necessity to use any of the options. You are perfectly allowed to go through any Milestone without changing Aspects and only accumulating +1s to Refresh and Skills, maybe occasionally buying a new Stunt. But the system works much better when you make use of changing around Aspects.

Character Creation and the Gorgon Archer

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