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Christopher Stilson
Works at ALS Environmental
Attended University of Alberta
Lives in Edmonton, Alberta
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Christopher Stilson

Settings, Worlds, Rules  - 
 
Superpower Janken
Or, Why Cypher Was the Strongest New Mutant

One thing I find very strange is how every implementation of Fate superheroes I've yet seen relies heavily on the stunt mechanics rather than the advantage action.  It's almost as if gamers are hard-wired to think that superpowers need to be balanced against each other.  I'm not sure where this idea comes from, because it can't have come from the comics.

Consider the original New Mutants.  I think it goes without saying that in terms of what your average D&D player would consider 'powerful,' Cypher's ability (basically, superhuman pattern analysis which in practice allows him to easily understand anything that you could conceivably express as a form of language) doesn't even register on the radar.  However, in actual play, it was not only the single most universally useful ability of the entire team, but led to a large chunk of the comic being mostly about him, to the point that they had to kill him off to stop him from eventually being able to psychoanalyze Galactus into giving up the planet-eating business.  And yet, if I were going to create Cypher in, say, Mutants & Masterminds, I would basically be giving him a single, low-cost power and dropping every single one of his other points into skills or a variable array that would lie fallow 95% of the time because I'd only need them for very specific corner cases.  Likewise, in Fate, all he really needs is a single aspect.

Which brings me to the way that superpowers actually tend to work in comics.  When you analyze it, all superhero combat consists of three phases: the "Bashing and Monologuing" phase (in which power use is largely cosmetic and the only real damage is collateral), the "Gotcha" phase (in which the protagonist figures out how to use their own power to interact with the environment in a new way to shut down the opponent; basically one or more advantage actions), and the "Beatdown" phase (in which the protagonist drops all their free invokes on the opponent and leaves them twitching and temporarily powerless).  These phases are completely independent of the relative power levels of the combatant and are only changed up for special event issues.

So, bearing all that in mind, here's how I would implement superheroes in Fate:

- Your superpower(s) must be represented by one or more of your aspects.  Anything that you can do with that power without exerting yourself doesn't require any special rules (for instance, Cyclops could blast down a reasonably sturdy door with no effort as a simple overcome action).  If you need to push your limits or use your power in a peripheral way, make an advantage roll.
- Instead of just 'success with style,' implement raises (every 3 over the difficulty is an extra free invoke, with no upper limit).
- Do away with the attack action, stress, and consequences.  Instead of stress/consequences, characters have a threshold an attacker must meet or beat with actions made with intent to KO (with the caveat that the character can always take at least one more action before being KO'd, which they can use to try to overcome the KO: for instance, if Wolverine gets hit by Archangel's Lethal Wings Coated in Neurotoxin, he could take a turn to overcome the toxin because his Healing Factor lets him do stuff like that: opponents can use raises on the advantage to increase the difficulty).  Once you're KO'd, you can't act in the encounter, but if someone else nullifies the condition that KO'd you, you can come back.
- Against powerful opponents, break the fight down into phases as indicated above, each with their own threshold and victory conditions: in the "Bashing and Monologuing" phase, the PCs attempt to beat the initial threshold and figure out the bad guy's weakness; once they do, move on to the "Gotcha" phase, when they set up advantages while the enemy opposes (or possibly they're working against time as the enemy is charging up their doomsday attack); when all the advantages are in place, unleash the "Beatdown" as the party triggers all of their invokes to implement some sort of Finishing Move (or moves, if they want multiple shots at taking the foe down).  If the finishing move doesn't have enough raises to shut down the bad guy's attempt to avoid the KO, the PCs still 'win' the encounter but not the scenario (the bad guy pulls a ninja escape/one-winged-angel/was a Doombot all along and they have to do it all over again later in the game with a different set of circumstances and a different weakness to identify).

This system turns superheroic combat into basically a complex form of rock-paper-scissors, creating and overcoming advantages, and since the raw power of any given ability has no bearing on the underlying mechanical effects (only on the applicability of the power to the situation, which is much more a matter of the environmental variables and the player's ingenuity) there's no need to try to balance powers against each other by making them cost stunt slots.
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Christopher Stilson

Samples, Examples & Actual Play  - 
 
Amethyst playtest report 1: in which we discover that the ability to summon condors and giant octopi makes chase scenes irrelevant.

Apart from completely owning my encounter, this went pretty smoothly considering the players were Fate novices. My worries that vocations were so broadly defined that everyone would default to their +3 proved groundless, as players found occasion to use their lower-ranked ones without my prompting. The card mechanics seem to be working fairly well too, although rather than using low cards strategically as I'd anticipated (dumping them into succeed-at-cost actions) they instead assigned themselves flavorful failures, willingly wasting actions to use up their negatives. Not what I expected, but not unwelcome :)

Not a lot of combat this session, largely due to the aforementioned summons, but next week should make up for that. 
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Yeah, a two year old's impatience trumps exciting encounters. :-)
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Christopher Stilson

Settings, Worlds, Rules  - 
 
Any Amethyst playtesters had a chance to play yet?

The playtest comments don't come directly to me, so I don't know, and unfortunately my own playtest sessions have been delayed by sick-toddler-related issues, so if anyone would like to share some impressions, it would be most valuable to me.
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Christopher Stilson

Settings, Worlds, Rules  - 
 
For those who backed the Amethyst kickstarter, the playtest packet is available now - check your inboxes for the link and the address to send feedback to.

To start, I'm particularly interested in feedback about character durability - this was originally a D&D campaign setting and I would like for D&D-style adventures to remain a viable option alongside other play styles, but at the same time I'm trying to emphasize that Canam is a dangerous and deadly place.  While I believe I've struck a satisfactory balance, I won't know for sure until it sees some action :)
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Making every effort to learn Fate so I can give some meaningful input other then "I love it so far!".
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Here's a more formal writeup of my "I am definitely not revising this any further" D&D hack.

And by "I am definitely not revising this any further" I mean that I might write up some 'unearthed arcana' with my own personal extras, but the essential principles of the hack aren't changing.

Unless I think of something better.
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Arlo Evans's profile photoGustavo Campanelli's profile photoJay Estrada's profile photoTerry Willitts's profile photo
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+Christopher Stilson 
The dice system seems heavily weighted towards failure.
You have a 45% chance of failing outright (mitigated by a 5% that your opponent will tie, giving you actually a adjusted chance of 42.75%)
Then, you have a 50% chance to use your bonuses. Assuming the challenges scale with player ability, then you can still count on failing 40% of the time you "succeed", if you have specialized and got the whole +6 (+4 stat and +2 proficiency) rather than play a distributed character (now the adjusted average is 62.75% failure.)
FATE is, ultimately, a narrative driven, rules light game. IMHO, it is almost the opposite of AD&D 2nd edition (and it is the opposite of RIFTS, or any other Palladium System for that matter.)
That being said, if you want a D&D-esque FATE, you should look at the Fate Freeport Companion, as it seems to be a very good attempt at FATE in D&D clothing.
+Terry Willitts 
Do you mean something like Google+ Hangouts with the FATE Roller  https://plus.google.com/hangouts/_?gid=840171111972?  Or were you thinking more along the lines of a VTT that can handle fate, like http://roll20.net? :^)
Another site, https://www.obsidianportal.com can also help as it allows for dynamic character sheets, or even just campaign wiki.  Game-on!
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Have them in circles
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Christopher Stilson

Settings, Worlds, Rules  - 
 
A sample of a project I'm working on in my spare time, which may or may not become an actual book at some point...
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Christopher Stilson

Settings, Worlds, Rules  - 
 
Compels as Plot Grease
Or, Why I Don't Like 'Declare a Story Detail'

tl;dr: Me no likey spend fate points to use aspects I pick.  Rather GM bribe me to not use it this once.

There are two reasons why I've been using the FAE SRD to build every hack I make.  The main one is that I think skills are awkward compared to approaches/traits/freeform backgrounds, but a big second is that FAE doesn't have the 'declare a story detail' invocation feature.  To me, this facet seems to step heavily on the 'aspects are always true' principle in a big way, and defeat the purpose of choosing certain aspects.  If I chose the aspect Fluent In Over Six Million Forms of Communication, it's because I want to be able to speak the argot of the local teddy bear tribe, not because I want the option of spending a fate point to be able to do it.  I have declared at the time I picked that aspect that I really want being able to translate any language the GM throws at me to be part of my character focus: charging me for that privilege is a form of denying my agency.

It therefore occurs to me that such a situation should only cost a point if the table at large thinks that the aspect is only marginally applicable (or is fully applicable, but the circumstances are so wildly coincidental that it challenges suspension of disbelief), or if the GM has weighty plot reasons for not wanting them to be able to do it.  In either case, it should be phrased not as an aspect invocation, but as a sort of compel ("Normally you would be able to do this, but under these specific circumstances you can't because it happens not to be one of the over six million forms of communication you're fluent in."), and should come with the usual carrot of a compel.  If the person still wants it that badly, they can spend the fate point to refuse the compel as normal.

Phrasing a compel this way can also be a useful tool for other sorts of situations.  For example, you want the PCs to have to escape from prison but don't want them going into the next scene with consequences: you could offer them a compel to concede ("Normally you could fight this guy, but under these circumstances you can't because he's The Best Swordsman in the Realm and he'd almost certainly kill you if you resist arrest").  Offering the compel reveals your intent for the plot without breaking immersion and gives the players something in exchange for accepting blatant railroading.
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Christopher Stilson

Settings, Worlds, Rules  - 
 
Continuing my trend of doing things that Fate players think are heretical, I am currently working on a system that includes moves that immediately take out an opponent regardless of how much stress or consequences they have left.

There are, of course, caveats:  First, the move has triggering conditions that must be met in order (but not necessarily consecutively) before it can be used, at least one of those triggering conditions has to be fulfilled by the target (usually involving taking damage yourself), and at least one of them must involve a success with style: if you don't meet the conditions, it's just a normal attack.  Second, the move can only be used once per fight, even if you screwed it up.  Third, the moves are designed to be used against enemies that are immune to being taken out by normal attacks.
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+Christopher Stilson I think it's a great idea. Now we can have something that functions as a pacing mechanic like in a voltron episode. You could use the conditions from the fate toolkit and change them into a check list so instead of them being consequences the enemy takes they're power ups you get to move onto the next stage of the fight. If you do the same thing for the bad guy but don't tell the players what his steps are now you can use the fate rules and turn it into a race to see who can get to their final attack first.
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Christopher Stilson

Fate in Crowdfunding  - 
 
Just a heads-up to anyone interested in Amethyst, I just finished the playtest packet, and it should be ready for the KS backers shortly.

A word of warning ahead of time - it uses the Deck of Fate as its default resolution method (although options for using regular/tarot cards instead are provided, and in a pinch you CAN use dice, but we really want to get as much testing with Deck players as possible, so if you don't have at least one, please give serious consideration to obtaining one).
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That's the one. 
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Ok... this is absolutely my last D&D hack. It occurred to me that the biggest defining elements of D&D are: it uses a d20, it has six ability scores, and pretty much every other rule has grown organically from that basis. Therefore, the hack is as follows:

The classic six ability scores = rated skills. You can do anything with any ability as long as you can justify it.

For dice, roll a d20. On a roll of 1-9, you fail (or tie, if the other person failed too). On a 10-20, add your ability score and compare - if you got higher, you succeed, otherwise you tie. If you roll a 20, you SWS.  If you're trying something that you realistically ought to be good at given your aspects, you get +1 (good) or +2 (really good). If you're trying something you shouldn't have training in, you don't add your ability.

Anything else, the player decides how it works and makes up whatever it takes to make it so with the available tools, even if someone else with the same character type has a different idea. Any non-character situations become table rules.

And that's it. Go play. 
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I don't think the bell curve is an essential element of Fate.  The way I have it mapped out at the moment is intended to mimic the way that I always used to treat die rolls back in 2nd edition, when I didn't understand the rules and just figured that any roll of 15 or higher was probably a success, any roll lower than 10 was probably a failure, and anything in between was iffy.

Plus, this method generates a lot more ties than normal, which I think is good for D&D because it makes for a lot more fleeting advantages.
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People
Have them in circles
68 people
Cassandra de Kanter's profile photo
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Work
Occupation
Renaissance Man
Employment
  • ALS Environmental
    IT Systems Support, 2011 - present
    Telling people to turn it off and then turn it on again.
  • Actor, 2013
Places
Map of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has lived
Currently
Edmonton, Alberta
Previously
Olympia, Washington - Loretto, Pennsylvania
Story
Tagline
I spend most of my time pretending to be other people.
Introduction
Christopher is a delusional freak who would rather retreat into the realms of the imagination than put up with the prosaity of the real world.  Consequently he invests the majority of his time in books, television, video games, roleplaying games, and acting.
Bragging rights
Proud but frazzled parent of Rory; Master of Arts; once wrote a movie script
Education
  • University of Alberta
    Drama, 2010 - 2012
    I don't know, I never understood it.
  • The Evergreen State College
    Absolutely General Knowledge, 2001 - 2003
    Eclectic collection of arts and languages.
  • Concordia University College of Alberta
    Drama, 2005 - 2010
    Puttering around in the English program until such time as a drama major became available or until they forced me to graduate.
Basic Information
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Other names
Chris, Peregrin