Friday, November 10, 2017

Gorgon Archer - Strands of Fate - Character Creation Analysis

I have done a discussion of the differences between Fate Core and Strands of Fate in the past and I have linked that though it by now is far out of date with my current perspective on the two games. I have considered a couple of things about this because Strands of Fate character creation is the foundation of my own Divine Blood RPG though I have used a specific set of options and dropped some standard rules for that. In the end, I have decided to start with the basic Strands of Fate book rather than the options I prefer to customize it with out of my own design or via the Strands of Power sourcebook. I will then later do a gorgon archer with my own Divine Blood RPG which will also stand for one of the ways you can develop Strands into your own thing.

Strands of Fate uses the same basic game mechanics as Fate Core. It has Aspects and uses the FUDGE dice. That said, there are significant differences in character creation. The most obvious difference is that Strands of Fate has characters starting with far more Aspects than the five the Fate Core character starts with. Also, Strands has a few different types of Aspects. Most of these function the same as any other Aspect, but the different labels imply different sorts of scope. A Character Aspect is intended to be read more broadly than either a Specialty Aspect or a Power Aspect. 

The Aspect variety that does have some mechanical differences and which might appear in character creation is the Persistent Aspect, usually denoted with a (P). Persistent Aspects are so dominantly present that they often don't need a Fate Point to activate. This is counter to the general philosophy a lot of Fate players and GMs operate Aspects which is that "aspects are things that are true" and nothing can be more true than true, so why have this different kind of Aspect? I am not going to get more into this as it moves into game play matters, but will consider to have that a separate discussion later.

Moving out of a rehash of the earlier referenced post, which I may revisit later as well, I am going to break down the steps of character creation. One of the first steps is to consider at what power levels and tech level we want the campaign to be. 

In this case, I am going to go for the Power Level of Action Hero which comes with a Refresh of 7, 25 Ability Points, and 9 Advantage Points. Likewise I will go with a Tech Level 2. TL 1 ranges from the stone age to edging on to the bronze age. TL 2 is noted as the point at which metalworking becomes common and goes up to late medieval eras. TL 3 is the early to late Renaissance and includes the first firearms, printing presses, and internal combustion engines. The Tech Levels go up to TL 6 at which point your talking the level of The Doctor, Gina Diggers, or Washu. 

Following this there will typically be some more discussion as to elements that characters want to include in the world such as the nature of the campaign's setting. You'll want to discuss with the other players as to whether you are doing a serious or silly campaign, what the name of the country or region you're playing in, and so on. In this case, I'm imagining a setting similar to the normal fantasy world.

Once that is finished, you choose five Character Aspects. These are broad aspects that are meant to describe the general story arc facing the character in the same manner as the Aspects on a Fate Core character. To help as a guide for people new to Fate, Strands of Fate uses a default list called the "Aspect Alphabet" to help guide in Aspect creation. As with Fate Core, you only really need the Defining Aspect and Disadvantage to start and can fill in the others as play goes on.

The first Aspect is the "Defining Aspect" which is the same as the High Concept in other forms of Fate. Following that you have Ambition, which represents a goal the character has, Background, representing where they come from, Conviction, representing a belief they have, and Disadvantage, which is basically the same as Trouble but renamed to fit into the alphabet mnemonic. If you want a second Background rather than an Ambition, that's perfectly allowed. The Alphabet is totally optional. I just tend to find it very useful for guiding consideration.

Following the choice of Character Aspect, you assign your Ability Point. 2 is considered an average ability and at our power level of Action Hero, 4 is the maximum we can set a power to. There are 12 basic Abilities: four physical, four mental, and four social. Supernatural powers often require a player to take more Abilities referred to as an Affinity though often given a unique name such as "Conjuring" or "Blood Purity." For this character we're going to just name it "Gorgon". Ability Points can be saved and spent as you need to roll abilities. I generally do not max out Abilities because I rarely need to have a character who is amazingly awesome at everything a particular Ability is used for. When we get to Advantages I'll go more into this.

Once you have your Abilities assigned, or have decided to save spending them later, you move on to choose Specialty Aspects. Specialty Aspects denote relationships, talents, signature items and the like. They still function like any other Aspect, but are designed to be read a lot more narrowly. They are noted with a specific Ability in parentheses. This does not mean that the Aspect can only be used with that Ability but to give context for the intended direction and interpretation of the Aspect. The Aspect Alphabet continues here with "Extraordinary Skill", "Foe", "Gear", "Help", and "Inferior Skill." Once again, you can save these to fill in while playing a game.

With Specialty Aspects completed, you move on to buying Advantages. Advantages are where you start to build your characters special talents and skills as they provide bonuses to rolls in a limited situation. These are similar in function to Stunts, though there are different gradients of Advantage. Expert Advantages which mostly represent regular training or talent in a particular capability; Heroic Advantages which represent action-movie style talents that stretch reality; and Power Advantages which represent supernatural, supertech, or superhuman powers. Normally the Action Hero forbids the use of Power Advantages, but if you are in a setting that specifically features a superhuman touch, it is allowed. As we are in a fantasy setting with magic and non-human sentient species, we have access to Power Advantages. At Action Hero, the stated maximum points you can spend on an Advantage is 2, but this is because characters are normally unable to take Power Advantages. I will however, keep to that maximum limit. If there were mages or priests in the party, they'd likely have to discuss increasing that limit with the GM. As with anything else, you can save this to pick up in the course of play if you want.

Once you have Advantages, you move on to Equipment. Characters get five free pieces of gear, each related to one of their Aspects. These free pieces of gear are normally limited by the Resources ability of the character though the GM can always wave that if it seems reasonable, such as if you have an Aspect related to a car but can't afford one on your Resources. After you get your five free items you can continue to get more items by rolling your Resources in an attempt to purchase items with their cost as the difficulty. The first time you fail, you have to stop the equipment phase.

You also get a "Facility" which is a special area of yours which is used to provide bonuses to a specific activity.  The types of Facilities include Libraries, Laboratories, and Workshops and have a Rating equal to your Resource ability, representing your ability to stock this facility with materials. If you make the Facility especially specialized, you can increase that Rating by +1. For Example, having a general Workshop at Rating 2 versus having a Sword-Smithing Workshop at Rating 3.

Lastly, I am going to be using the default method of Stress Tracks here in this design rather than the version I do. Default Stress Tracks in Strands work more like regular hit points or, even more accurate, like wound levels in Legend of the Five Rings or most White Wolf/Onyx Path games. One point of Stress fills one block. When one row of blocks for a particular stress track is filled, you gain the appropriate consequence at that level and the points overflow into the next row. Some Advantages can stop the overflow or provide other benefits. I generally don't like the way this works as it tends to undercut the strengths of the Stress Track system, but that is, again, gameplay.

A last thing to note about character creation in Strands of Fate is that you can reduce your Refresh by 2 in order to gain 3 Advantage Points. You may also take the Experienced Heroic Advantage to gain 20 XP. That experience can be spent to gain Ability Points (1 Ability Point = 10 XP), more Character Aspects (1 Character Aspect = 10 XP, maximum of 7), or more Specialty Aspects (1 Specialty Aspect = 5 XP). You may also buy Advantage Points (1 Advantage Point = 10 XP) or increase Refresh (1 Refresh = 15 XP).

There are three typical strategies to take in initial character creation. One of these is to go Aspect heavy and keep a high Refresh to make use of your Aspects. This tends to make your performance tend to fluctuate as when it comes down to important moments you have a lot of Fate to draw on, but in many circumstances you might be more mediocre. I generally use this option for characters that have harder to understand or control abilities such as people who are just insanely lucky.

A more typical approach is to focus on Advantages and be highly specialized in a few abilities. This makes you exceptionally capable in a few key tasks while you will struggle in other places. In your particular specializations you often have Advantages that let you side-step the normal rules in amazing ways well-fitting with the genre of pulp or action heroes.

The third approach is to focus on getting high Abilities. This tends to be very powerful but, in my experience, rather boring to play. Having a 4 in Knowledge, for example, means getting a +4 bonus on every thing that one would use the Knowledge Ability for. This makes you a true Renaissance Expert who can quote every tome or book written on the majority of subject matter. A 4 in Agility makes you a master at sniping, lockpicking, juggling, acrobatics, and anything else that uses Agility. (Oddly this doesn't include Stealth, which is a Deception roll normally.) However, while your character will tend to be generally competent, they will be less flavorful than others and might often seem to be capable of less amazing feats since you won't have as many Aspects or Advantages to let you sidestep the rules as described earlier. This is more the character of the super-competent rival to a typical lead character than the lead themselves.

Gorgon Archer

Defining Aspect: Cynical Gorgon Huntress
Ambition Aspect: Find My Place
Background Aspect: A Rumor of the Forest
Conviction Aspect: Trust is Dangerous to Give
Disadvantage Aspect: Child of a Monster

Abilities (25 pts)
Physical: Agility 2, Endurance 2, Perception 3, Strength 1 (8)
Mental: Craft 3, Knowledge 1, Reasoning 2, Willpower 3 (8)
Social: Deception 2, Empathy 2, Persuasion 2, Resources 1 (8)
Affinity: Gorgon: 1 (1)

Extraordinary Skill: A Marksman's Eye (Perception)
Foe: The "Civilized" Folk (Persuasion)
Gear: A Hunter's Bow (Resources)
Help: Woodsmen and Druids (Persuasion)
Inferior Skill: Low Patience for Conversation (Willpower)

Expert Advantages (3 pts)
Hunter of the Wild - You gain a +2 bonus on rolls to set ambushes or lay traps in the wilderness.
Survivalist - You gain a +2 bonus on rolls to find food or water in the wilderness.
Scary - You gain a +2 bonus on Persuasion rolls to scare people. 
Soft Style - You gain a +1 bonus to Defense rolls against Melee attacks.

Heroic Advantages (4 pts)
Weapon Expertise - You gain a +2 bonus to attacks with bows.
Shadow in the Wilds - You may spend a Fate Point to make a scene or zone Aspect related to natural concealment or cover Persistent for you only for the rest of the scene.
Slippery Combatant - If you generate spin on a defense against a melee attack, you may immediately instantly move to an adjacent zone as a free action. (Though you may still have to roll to deal with obstacles preventing entry - Thryth)

Power Advantages (2 pts)
Binding: Petrifying Gaze, Attack with Gorgon, Defend with Willpower, Escape with Willpower, (2 pt)

Refresh: 5 (Reduced from 7, +3 Ability Points)

Gear: Shortbow (Range 1, Weapon Rating 3, Slow Firing, Large) - A Hunter's Bow
Leather Armor (Armor Rating 1, Stress OOO) - A Rumor of the Forest
Venom Milking Jars - Cynical Gorgon Huntress
Woodsman's Gear - Woodsmen and Druids
Hooded Cloak - Child of a Monster

Facility: Huntress's Lodge - Specialized Workshop Rating 2

Physical Stress: Health = Endurance + Strength
OOO Minor Consequence
OOO Moderate Consequence
OOO Severe Consequence (P)
OOO Extreme Consequence (P)
OOO Defeated Consequence (P)

Mental Stress: Mind = Reasoning + Willpower
OOOOO Minor Consequence
OOOOO Moderate Consequence
OOOOO Severe Consequence (P)
OOOOO Extreme Consequence (P)
OOOOO Defeated Consequence (P)

Social Stress: Reputation = Persuasion + Resources
OOO Minor Consequence
OOO Moderate Consequence
OOO Severe Consequence (P)
OOO Extreme Consequence (P)
OOO Defeated Consequence (P)

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