Fate is the most famous of the Fudge successors. Most importantly, it uses Fate points with which players can influence the setting, get a bonus, or re-roll their dice.

2019-01-11 No Advancement

If I were to design a simple new RPG it would not have advancement. Much like Traveller. So how do you get an ever changing game experience? Different spells might be a way. But what I would like to do would be the adding of powerful named enemies. Nobody knows you at first, you have no friends, and no enemies. Later, you know more about the world, you have made friends, and you have made enemies.

Personally, I think that “inner changes” and growth as a person don’t need rule support, that just works as-is. I guess the reason I was thinking of this was a podcast episode by Ray Otus I just heard about Advanced Sellswords and Sorcery. The idea was to have some sort of “advancement” which meant being able to take more wounds (being able to have more negative tags/aspects before being taken out) and I thought to myself: but this just makes combat longer, that’s boring!

Have you ever played Traveller? It doesn’t have any meaningful advancement at all. The only thing that changes over time is that you might have more money, better equipment (including a starship, of course). I still think it has long term appeal.

Same with the basic idea Fate as I see it: you might shuffle the skill pyramid around, but you’re not going to actually get better in absolute terms. And that suits me fine. Even though it’s very different from the D&D family of games. At least, that’s how I remember it. On Mastodon, @hawkjohenson remembered some sort of advancement (adding more skill points to the skill pyramid), but we both didn’t check the books. :)

The Fate rules I read and used were Spirit of the Century, Diaspora (and that Mass Effect game based on Diaspora, not the other one), and some reading of Fate 2 way back when I revised my own Mesopotamian Fate variant (in German) – and I never noticed a way to grow the skill pyramid. I just reread my own Fate variant and it mentions switching skills in the pyramid and removing consequences and the like – but not getting more skill points.

What I am looking for is the promise of changing gameplay over time. Classic D&D achieves this in a way with spell levels. The game with and without fly spell is very different. Same with a host of other spells.

To take a very different example: I love how the gameplay of A Dark Room changes over time. So breaking away from that single axis of change (in the words of @halfjack) is central.

That is also why I don’t want to play a variant of D&D where characters get more and more hit-points and it’s all about the attrition, the slog, the grind, the endless back and forth. This happens if hit points are inflated, or special attacks like level drain and various save-or-die effects (poison, petrification) are removed from the mid-level game. If these are not in effect, then all you are left with is the slow back and forth of melee. Ideally, however, combat is over in two or three rounds when I run the game: at low levels, two or three hits should take people out; at higher levels, it’s spells, save-or-die and level drain and similar attacks that speed things up.

That’s also why I don’t want the armour class of the opponents to increase as the attack bonus of the characters increases. If you do that, nothing changes. I’m fine with fighters hitting every single round at higher levels. It’s supposed to feel different!

Changing gameplay is more important than more staying power, better chances to hit, or similar “advancement”.


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2015-07-01 Mass Effect RPG

Recently, Kirin Robinson started a discussion on G+ about the disqualification of the Mass Effect RPG from the ENnies. In another thread, I wrote some words about it...

Yesterday I learned that Trademark Law Does Not Require Companies To Tirelessly Censor the Internet. I didn’t know that. Bioware does have a choice. And in this case, as far as I remember it, Bioware still hasn’t contacted anybody, so it’s all happening between EN World, the Ennies, and the Don Mappin, the author.

Also, the PDF has a disclaimer at the very beginning:

What This Book Is Not

To be clear, this is not a licensed Mass Effect property. Mass Effect is the property of Bioware, a division of Electronic Arts. This is a work of fiction and done without their permission or involvement. No attempt to challenge their legal authority is intended in the publication of this material. Instead, it is our hope to expand the outreach of the Mass Effect property to another segment of games—role-players—who have long coveted a way to bring the events of Commander Shepard to life at their gaming tables. This product comes with one very important and unconditional stipulation:


As the sole property of Bioware/Electronic Arts, only they have the rights to benefit from the Mass Effect Universe. As such, this work is the result of countless unpaid hours and volunteer work to make it possible to bring to you. Why? Because we’re gamers too and we love Mass Effect just as much as you do!

I guess I'm mostly interested in outcomes. I really like the US constitution in this respect: “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries”. I want more useful stuff as fast as possible. Having the Mass Effect RPG out now, fan made, is great. It’s better for the gaming public.

What about the artists? The way I read the artist attribution page in the Mass Effect RPG, all those images were available on the Internet, on blogs of concept artists, on Deviant Art. So, without considering copyright law and just considering outcomes, these artists made things available for free, and now what they made is more available, for free. The author of the Mass Effect RPG doesn’t charge money for it. Presumably he’d share his gains with the artists in some way, if he were to make any money. But he isn’t, so he doesn’t. So, it’s still better for the gaming public, and it’s better for the artists, too. Yes, they had no voice, there was no negotiation, this doesn’t consider copyright. All I’m looking at is outcomes.

As far as I’m concerned, I’m with Don Mappin, here. I wish that copyright law was different. I wish that the fair use exception to copyright were clearer. As it is, it’s incredibly hard to tell whether something falls under the exception or not. That’s not good.

I'm not a lawyer, and I’m looking at the points one ought to consider:

  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Reading through the Wikipedia page and following along, as a layman might be expected to, I guess:

The use was not really educational – or can a game be educational? Maybe? It teaches you how to run a Mass Effect RPG using Fate rules? Does it help “fulfill the intention of copyright law to stimulate creativity for the enrichment of the general public”? It sure looks like it to me. To me, the process of turning the video game into a set of rules for Fate is transformative, not merely derivative.

Nothing in the nature of the game seems to warrant more or less protection than usual. It doesn’t rightfully belong to the public domain. All the artwork the author used had already been published, even if not intended for use in the game, so we don’t need to consider “the aspect of whether the copied work has been previously published”.

As for the amount, I think that the material taken from the game itself is definitely not major. We’re talking some of the background material, the description of things in the game. But the games are about so much more. Characters, plots, levels, graphics. The material taken from artists is major, however. Basically the entire picture was used. I started making a little survey by searching for the first ten items on the artists credits page of the Mass Effect RPG:

  1. Huen, Benjamin. The Team. 2012. I don’t like wet socks. Cover. → available from BioWare store, official, copyright by BioWare, I assume
  2. ZingerNax. Mass Effect: Earth. 2013. deviantART. p. 1-2. → copyright by the author, inspired by but not an obvious derived work, it would seem to me
  3. 04NIloren. MASS EFFECT - SPECTRE WALLPAPER. 2012. Desktop Wallpapers 4 Me. p. 13. → looks like fan art to me
  4. Olejniczak, Patryk. Mass Effect 3 - Miranda, Mass Effect 3 - Jack, Mass Effect 3 - Zaeed Massani, Mass Effect 3 - Mordin Solus, Mass Effect 3 - Grunt, Mass Effect 3 Teaser Wallpaper, Mass Effect 3 Thane Krios, Mass Effect 3 - Kasumi Goto, Mass Effect 3 - Legion, Mass Effect 3 - Garrus. 2011. deviantART. p. 14-15, 28. → here’s a gallery, self-declared fan art (10 pieces!)
  5. devtardi. Thessia - Mass Effect 3. 2012. deviantART. p. 30. → I’m guessing fan art based on comments elsewhere (”All characters (c) by BioWare and Electronic Arts.”)
  6. rome123. Drell Assassin Infiltrator. 2012. deviantART. p. 39. → looks like official stuff because it says “model for me3 multiplayer”? But the copyright apparently does not belong to BioWare but to rome123 (or is that a limitation of deviantART?
  7. johntesh. Thane Krios 09. 2012. deviantART. p. 40. rome123. Krogan (Default). 2012. deviantART. p. 44. → self-declared as in-game screen capture
  8. DP-films. Urndot Wrex the Krogan Warlord. 2012. deviantART. p. 48. → self declared as fan art
  9. Hallucinogenmushroom. Geth Prime. 2012. deviantART. p. 53. → self declared as fan art
  10. Euderion. Fight for Rannoch. 2013. deviantART. p. 57. → self declared fan art

Looking at the numbers. Fan art: 15. BioWare: 3. Others: 1. Continuing the analysis of “amount”, I’d say that the amount of art-work taken from the Mass Effect series out of the copyrighted material by BioWare isn’t so big: 3 pieces out of a huge work. As for fan art: If they are not violating BioWare’s copyright because of the fair use exception, then another piece of fan art reusing them should not be violating BioWare’s copyright, either.

So, what is fan art? FAQ #572 has some information: “Original fan art are those works in which the submitting artist has done 100% of the work but the work itself depicts characters, scenes or other themes which were properly created by another creative person. […] Fan art may be copyright infringement and you may be forced to remove it by the copyright owner who may also choose to initiate other legal action.” I’m not sure that BioWare is interested in going after fan art in this respect. Therefore, my understanding of fair use and fan art leads me to suggest that we’re in the clear, here.

That leads us to the last point in the fair use examination, the effect upon the work’s value. Does BioWare and it’s Mass Effect based revenue suffer? Not at all, because they’re not selling a role-playing game. Now, if they were, perhaps they’d be justified under the law to go after the existing game. Now you have to argue that a company wanting to make money making a licensed game is being deterred from entering the market because the existing free fan-made game is so good, taking it down will produce a lot of bad blood. But from a customer’s perspective, that’s OK. We have copyright in order to promote the useful arts. If the useful arts are being promoted without copyright, then that’s even better. This is not an outcome to dislike, at all.

I’m still with Don Mappin.

I think we need to be careful, here. The copyright lobby is so strong, it keeps extending the copyright protection time window, it keeps bombarding us with annoying messages as we play a DVD or go to the movies. This is a war being waged about our hearts and minds. And they have all the money to run their campaigns and we have nothing except our will to share everything because we’re nice and willing to help our neighbors. That is why I don’t like people saying: “I hope that Don rebuilds and reposts the files, this time only including his work.” If we have a fair use exception to copyright, then this exception is our right. It’s a mess to figure out and and it’s hard to be sure, but if we assume that everything Don made falls under fair use, then he should not have to repost the files, and he should be free to include the works of others. That’s how we build on each others’ work. That’s how progress is made. We don’t create ex nihilo. Fair use is our right.

What about the ENies? I understand their decision. The entire thing was a hot potato. They had to make a decision, fast. And I’m guessing they don’t have legal defense funds and lawyers at their disposition. That’s how the scare tactic works. We’re afraid to exercise our right, the associations we build are afraid to exercise our right. How will we learn to claim what is ours except by pushing the boundaries and arguing for our rights?

Recommended reading: Free Culture (PDF).

Comments here or on Google+.


Comments on 2015-07-01 Mass Effect RPG

I’m copying some of my comments from that Google+ thread to this page.

Internationally: Since I live in Switzerland, I am very well aware of the different copyright exceptions in different jurisdictions. I wrote the blog post using US Fair Use because that seemed to me to be the most relevant: the Mass Effect RPG author is based in the US. Sure, BioWare is based in Canada, but it belongs to EA, which is based in the USA, so an international case would be harder to look into.

Fan Art is illegal. I am not so sure. Yes, 17 U.S.C. § 107 says “for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.” But then it continues: “In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include: …” and then it goes into the four points I discussed in the blog post. In these four points, no reference is made regarding the purpose of the derived work. My reading is that these are clear cut examples of transformative use. But when I look at some of the websites talking about it (googling for fair use purpose and clicking on the top links [1][2][3]), I see that this is an area of dispute. My conclusion is that this Fair Use is murky waters. But I don’t see the purpose of a murky piece of legislation if that means we’re never going to touch it. Thus, where as I understand the decision of th ENnies, I think copyright reform is important and talking about cases, and expressing how we would have liked to see them go are an important first step in this process.

– Alex Schroeder 2015-07-02 09:36 UTC

I believe you are making some incorrect assumptions. The Fan Art itself is also copyright - even though it might also at the same time violate someone elses copyright. All creative works are copyright by default unless the author has published them explicitly without copyright or with a limited copyright. Fair use in dealing with art rarely allows you to use someone elses image. The fact that the author is not making money from the publication isnt a defence. It can be part of a defence but it is not a defence in and of itself. You also say - we don’t need to consider “the aspect of whether the copied work has been previously published” - and then move on as though that statement is sufficient to remove it as having any bearing on the matter.

Damian 2015-07-02 12:34 UTC

I’ll definitely have to think about it some more. There are also a ton more counter arguments to my post on the G+ thread. What I need to understand is why fan art collecting other fan art should be considered different from the fan art it collects. I want to figure out what the exact arguments are both from a legal standpoint and from a moral standpoint. The first stumbling block as far as I am concerned is that an entire category called Fan Art exists on Deviant Art. Why is this allowed? If it is allowed, why isn’t Mass Effect RPG allowed? If it isn’t allowed, I still feel that it should be allowed. The current copyright situation doesn’t satisfy me. (Many of the counter arguments on G+ also deal with what is legal and what is not and I feel like I’m the only one talking about the kind of change I want to see.

AlexSchroeder 2015-07-02 13:15 UTC

I’m copying some more of my comments from that Google+ thread to this page.

Fair Use: 17 U.S.C. § 107 says “for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.” But then it continues: “In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include: …” and then it goes into the four points I discussed in the blog post. In these four points, no reference is made regarding the purpose of the derived work. My reading is that these are clear cut examples of transformative use. But when I look at some of the websites talking about it (googling for fair use purpose and clicking on the top links), I see that this is an area of dispute.

The EFF page mentioned above points out that time-shifting and search-engines also ended up benefiting from Fair Use. That’s why I think we’re not limited to the purposes listed in the opening of §107.

My conclusion is that this Fair Use is murky waters. But I don’t see the purpose of a murky piece of legislation if that means we’re never going to benefit from it. Thus, where as I understand the decision of the ENnies, I think copyright reform is important and talking about cases, and expressing how we would have liked to see them go are an important first step in this process.

I guess I’m arguing two different things. The first thing I’m arguing is that I don’t mind using someone else’s art without permission because I like the outcome, even if our current copyright doesn’t allow for it. The second thing I’m trying to argue is that the Fair Use exemption offers us an incremental way out: we can fight for a broader application of Fair Use until we’re getting the outcomes we want. This part is important: I know I’m not happy with copyright law as it stands. Where do we start the political process of change? We need to talk about what makes us unhappy, say what we would like to see instead. I have to start somewhere. So that is why I’m starting with the copyright limits.

Not the only solution: One counter argument I heard was that the laws are there “for a reason”. I argued that this doesn’t mean that the current solution is giving society the best outcome. The Mass Effect RPG explicitly said: UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES MAY THIS PRODUCT BE CHARGED FOR OR RENUMERATION EXCHANGE HANDS. IT MUST REMAIN FREE OF CHARGE. That doesn’t sound so bad. So yes, selling at cost via print on demand services is starting to blur the line, but I can imagine an alternative where the fan made free alternative is available to us. Maybe even free games could be available to us. Hopefully games that cost money would also be available to us, and hopefully for the authors of those paid for games and products and printed books and games would be much better than the free stuff. Just one possible alternative. And if not, well, then a free fan made product is still a better outcome than the current situation. And yes, perhaps a different solution could be made to work, with contracts to sign, and risks to take, but if the outcome is the same product but it costs a lot, then perhaps that’s a loss all around.

Valuing artists: In the comments of that G+ discussion, I was accused of believing “that artists/creatives are a lower class citizen”. Ugh! The discussion had been quite interesting until it took this nose dive. What had led up to this accusation? I was basically arguing that the state has no obligation to protect any particular business model. The other side was aguing that licensing revenues made up a significant section of their income. And then: “Of course, your coding job, like most, probably affords you a very lucrative 130-175% level of income greater than mine because technology always trumps production/art for salaries and standard of living. So you get to go on making stuff you love without any expense while I have to pick up some other trade to make ends meet all because you think everything creative should be free.” But here’s the thing. I work a 60% job because I don’t care too much about the code I write for money. I care about customers, about their problems, about solving those problems using new processes and using our software, of course. But it’s not an excitement I experience on a visceral level. It’s my job. All the stuff I write for love is Free Software.

I don’t think these anecdotes should matter when we’re talking about politics. Looking after our own best interest is understandable, but as a society we need to look at the larger picture. We need to keep negotiating our laws – and copyright is one of those areas where there is tension between authors and consumers. The pain of artists needs to be weighed against the pain of consumers. All the things that are wrong with copyright: DRM, loss of freedom, legal hassle whenever you want to do something derived on other works, whether it be remixes, quotes, improvements, fan art, some allowed by the fair use exception, some not, who can tell? The hassle of finding and negotiating with right holders, movies languishing without anybody restoring them, take down notices, DMCA style burden of proof for innocents, all of this! All of this we need to compare to artists and their shitty financial situation. The current system is like a lottery. If you are in the top ten, you win the lottery. Everybody else is living off scraps. Do we need to accept all the crap copyright gives us in order to uphold an unfair system? Is there really no other world possible? That is why I refuse to be swayed my the plight of artists. Our current copyright is a law fit for paper publishers in a mass media world, top down, controlled by the few. In a digital age, where anybody can produce, where copyright affects us all, what we have is not good enough. It doesn’t produce the outcomes I want. An where as I understand the plight of artists, copyright as we currently have it, is the wrong tool. I don’t feel the obligation to protect this job. I don’t feel the state is obligated to protect this job. Yes, it would be cool if there was a different solution. A way to make money doing the things we love. Writing free software. Being an artist. Current copyright is not the way I feel like supporting.

So, do I think artists are lower class citizens? Of course not! I am so much in favor of finding ways of people making a decent living no matter what they do, doing the things they love, I don’t know how anybody can conclude that I think of artists as lower class citizens. That is so wrong I don’t even know where to start.

I think capitalism treats the making of art as something other than the production of things to sell or the sale of services – and the net effect is that almost all artists are vastly underpaid. I just don’t think that copyright is the right tool to fix that problem. There are many people producing art for free, prices go down. Sometimes this leads to a situation where making art is no longer sustainable as a job.

My wife used to dance. There was very little money in gigs. There was regular money in giving classes. There was no money in all the choreographies she wrote. There was no copyright to help her. No revenue based on licenses. She gave it up when she got an interesting full-time well paying job. It would have been great if somebody like her could have made a decent living doing the stuff she loved to do. But we live in a capitalist society. Too much supply, not enough demand.

Barring an unconditional basic income solution, or a more limited support for artists by the state, I don’t see it happening. And so most of the musicians and dancers I know do it in their free time. Just as I write the code I love in my free time.

Reform is necessary: A summary of the current situation and its problems can be found in a recent Ars Technica article, The battle to reform 300-year-old copyright law for the digital age. This what I am talking about:

As is evident, the only “solution” that the Commission could imagine was one based around licensing. The idea that non-commercial user-generated content might not need a licence at all—that it could be covered by an exception as it is in the US under the “fair use” approach—never seemed to be an option. – Glyn Moody, Ars Technica

Too many of us cannot see beyond the current system. We need to imagine a different future and work towards it. We don’t need to strengthen copyright. Artists must be able to make a living and we need to find a way to allow that without DRM and the criminalization of all the little things we want to do. We need to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts” using different means.

– Alex Schroeder

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2015-04-06 Mass Effect

So, I had a little Easter Convention at our place this weekend. On Saturday we played Darkening Skies by Chris Sakkas, an unofficial chapter two for Lady Blackbird by John Harper. On Sunday we played the Mass Effect Fate RPG by Don Mappin et al. If you know nothing about Mass Effect, you might want to look at the Mass Effect page on Wikipedia.

We had decided upon Mass Effect on Saturday evening so I spent maybe an hour or two reading the rules. On Sunday morning, I spent an hour or two looking for adventure ideas online. Let all past and future sages praise the fabulous Mass Effect Wiki. I finally settled on the events described in Mass Effect: Revelation. I had one player who still wants to play the game and so I felt prequel stuff made good material.

The prep I did was this:

  • print enough empty character sheets; the character sheets available for download are form fillable which is great but I didn’t feel like I could create characters in what little time I had left – we were going to spend nearly two hours creating Fate characters including back story and common adventures, the complete package
  • print a copy of the one page reference guide for everybody; excellent call!
  • print two copies of the ranged weapon list for kicks
  • print the power cards: thirty something pages, ugh!
  • print a list of ten names for every species and gender using the Mass Effect Fantasy Name Generators
  • take notes based on my wiki reading on a graph

My notes:


As you can see, I didn’t get to the stats at the end. The PDF has templates for enemies at three different thread levels. Excellent! I had seen the templates for Blue Suns mercenaries, Human Ruffians and a Krogan Battlemaster, so I felt certain I could improvise whatever came my way.

If you read the wiki you’ll note that the story starts as two different threads, one following Saren to Juxhi, the other following Anderson to Elysium and both ending up at the Dah’tan manufacturing plant for a showdown with Skarr. I took notes the way I did because I wanted the players to have the choice to investigate any of the different paths. In the end, they discovered that the Turian thieves had handed over the stolen weapons to some human weapon dealers and decided not to follow the trail to Juxhi but spent some time finding their employers, the Blue Suns, and following that lead via a bar looking like Afterlife in Omega, where Aria runs the show, until they finally tracked down Edan Had’dah at the Dah’tan manufacturing plant. That’s when they learned that the Blue Suns were going to attack Sidon. They sent warning and evacuated the survivors a few days later. Then they went back to the local Blue Suns headquarter and tried to force them into an agreement. No more stealing from Turian freighters, as their mission demanded. A fight ensued, which the Blue Suns eventually conceded and all was resolved in the players favor. There were some hints of things to come, the Sovereign, the Geth, Protheans.

I was happy with the plot. At first I thought I’d need more maps or pictures, but in the end Fate isn’t a map based game and the video game may have a lot of map-oriented shooting but the story itself doesn’t really depend on maps. It’s just interesting locations and systems. This worked very well.

Character generation took a long time but one of my players had never played a Fate game before and she liked the character creation system. I had A6 index cards on which they wrote beginning, middle and end of three adventures, and that really worked.

I was unhappy with the fight. Should I have used just one heavy hitting boss and a ton of mooks? I used a “moderate threat” mercenary for every player (Guns +3) and a boss (Guns +5) and the players were all veterans (apex skill at +5), It took a long time for shields to go down. Luckily I remembered making concessions is part of the game and broke it off after the third mercenary went down. As I’ve said a few years ago, I don't like bennies (or Fate points). This cushions the entire experience and invalidates it, as far as I am concerned. When we talked about it after the game, we all agreed on the difference between heroic deeds and Hollywood action. It just isn’t a “sacrifice” if you have a enough Fate points to cushion the blow. Jörg then suggested the perhaps this would change over time. If we played a longer campaign, the aspects would grow in importance. Players would compel each other. We’d start taking an interested in those particular aspects and we’d want to see how characters grow and change. Perhaps!

Before starting the fight I also made sure people had the necessary shields, armor and weapons based on their abilities. In the rules, any of Resources, Leadership, Rapport, Contacts or Security allows you to buy, steal or borrow equipment. And so we made sure they all had the necessary equipment before going into the one and only fight of the session.

I have always liked the Diaspora rules. In 2010 I ran a short lived campaign where we moved from Traveller to Diaspora. Unfortunately I had missed the document Hacking Diaspora to Mass Effect. That would have been around 100 pages instead of around 250 pages. Perhaps that would have worked better? It would have been less crunchy, perhaps!


Comments on 2015-04-06 Mass Effect

Some interesting comments on Google+:

Jack Gulick says, it comes down to “if you want Fate to be a game about hard choices, force a lot of hard choices.” ... Don’t let your other-RPGs instincts to keep things “fair” and “possible” get in the way.”

Robert Hanz adds, One of the things that’s still a hard habit for me to break is the fact that good GMing in Fate would qualify as Being a Dick in most other games.

Sarah Newton has very pragmatic advice: My sweet spot for combat is 3-5 rounds. Giving the major NPC any kind of damage bonus makes him nasty - anything that can force a consequence on every hit by overloading the PCs stress tracks makes him very scary and something to avoid. You can then unbalance the PCs my using the minor NPCs mobs more for the attritional wearing down of stress, leaving them in a dilemma as to where to spend their fate points.

Robert Hanz also has a separate post where he goes into the problems a traditional gamer might have when they begin playing Fate. I felt that the middle in particular did some excellent bridge building. He argues that you should make it hard for the players and not hold back because the worst case is not a total party kill. It’s just a different kind of story that will emerge. He says when I see questions like “how do I make sure a fight is challenging, without having the players lose”, my answer is “who cares?” Make it tough. Let them buy their way out of it and carry those consequences. Or let them lose, and let the story go that way.

Now I’m searching the forum for Robert Hanz’s series Fate Core Thought of the Day, e.g. Fiction First, Fiction-Rules Interaction, and Nonsensical Results.

– Alex Schroeder 2015-04-06

Follow up discussion here, at the bottom of the page.

– Alex Schroeder 2015-04-08 06:34 UTC

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2014-12-08 FATE for classic D&D players

Today I posted a comment to a question by Andy Bartlett on Google+ trying to give a concise explanation of Fate for old school D&D players.

“From a classic D&D perspective, skills are just that. Aspects are what grant you a reroll or a +2 if you already rolled well. You need to spend a fate point to do that, and to gain them, you need to get your character into trouble after a while (the ideal number of free fate points varies with number of players and hours per session). Stunts are even more extra stuff you can do with your skills. What’s not D&D about it is 1. Rerolls for fate points and 2. You can make changes mechanically relevant without the GM having to think too much using aspects (creating them, taking advantage of them). If you like a deadly D&D game, this is a bad fit because players will be rerolling a lot. The trade off which you need to appreciate is players enjoying the adding of aspects, the tagging of aspects (of the scene, the location, maneuvers, each other) and the getting into trouble in order to get more fate points.”

Wow, the conversation just kept on flowing. Remember my this older post of mine explaining why I don't like Bennies. Also, if you have never played Fate before, I strongly recommend you start with a different version of Fate. Right now I only know of some German variants. My own Mesopotamian rules are just six pages! A bit of googling led me to this shorter version of the rules. Back in the days I felt that Diaspora was the best variant. These days I’m not sure. Perhaps Fate Core? Check out the Fate Core download section. It’s much too long, but perhaps less confusing compared to Spirit of the Century. I got started with Spirit of the Century, so it’s not impossible, but I remember being totally confused after a first reading!

Diaspora is serious, but the rules are well explained. I would definitely use Spirit of the Century for a family game! I remember running my first Fate game, a 3h one shot, that ended with the characters discovering the Imperial AT AT Walker in possession of the Nazis. You know the famous image

As for offering complications: I usually made this very personal. The party succeeds in freeing the prisoner, no problem. I’m not going to intervene and complicate a success. But if Princess Mei is challenged by one of the sleazy guards who notices her and says “Hey sveet hart, luking foar som kompany!?” I’m definitely aiming for an aspect on the character sheet that says I hate those foreigners! And if the player doesn’t react as I expect them to react, I’ll hold up a token and say “This token here says you can’t pass this fist of opportunity. Take it and fight!” And then the table pauses as the player looks at the token, looks at their stack, considers their options…

As for declarations: I guess it depends on what the game is about. Using the example of a broken ballista on a ship being chased by pirates: Is the game about “resource management” and being ill equipped and on the run from pirates? In that case, I might declare that we’re going to do a race to a safe haven using opposed Sailing checks and the first party to reach five successes wins. If the players win, the safe haven is reached. If the pirates win, it’s going to be mano-a-mano on deck and there’s more of them than there’s of you! Now the players know that they need to have five successes and hopefully they are already low on FATE points. I’d argue that I want to see all the player characters make a test and when it comes to the character with low Sailing but high Fighting skill, the player might say: “I’m going to use the ballista instead and use my Fighting skill to tear a large hole into their sail!” Hm… this is not what we agreed to do, but OK – “The ballista is broken. Gimme a FATE point and you’ll find the necessary equipment to fix it. If you make it, any player character will be able to make a Fighting check instead of a Sailing check.”

Also, I’m laughing at myself, telling people how I run Fate games, even though I don’t like it anymore! Haha. :)

One of things that turned me off in the long run must have been the issue I already mentioned, Fate points resulting in rerolls, cheapening the rolls. Another thing was that no matter what happened, it all came down to the same old rolls, the same old aspects. If you’re going to run for a few sessions, I’d make the following recommendations (without having tested them myself):

  1. let players change skills and aspects after every session (important if your sessions are short and an adventure takes multiple sessions)
  2. think of some mini-games to change conflict structures (Diaspora has mini-games and they are well explained)
  3. know when to skill rolling and use your old-school DM instincts :)


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2014-06-03 Tiribazos

Indie Spielabend in ein paar Stunden – was soll ich leiten? Eigentlich würden mich Ryuutama reizen, aber da ist die richtige Anleitung noch nicht draussen. Tenra Bansho Zero wäre auch cool, aber die Bücher sind so dick und ich habe so wenig davon gelesen. Ein klarer Fall von Spielleitermimimimimimimi! Dabei habe ich doch extra hierfür mein Games on Demand Menü vorbereitet, an dem ich mich orientieren will. Die Idee war, dass mir damit die Auswahl einfacher fällt und ich mir durch die Einschränkung auch eine Art von Systemgewandtheit aneigne und nicht jedes mal wieder bei Null beginne. Also… Ein Lady Blackbird Hack mit einem anderen Szenario? Ich merke schon meine Konzentrationsschwäche: Ich würde ja soooo gerne etwas neues spielen. Oder ich packe mein Geist Mesopotamiens aus, also Fate. Vielleicht kann ich das Spiel ja cool machen, obwohl ich selber kein grosser Bennies Fan bin. Hm. Nun bräuchte ich nur noch ein Mesopotamisches Szenario. Oder ein Hellenistisches, um bei der Katabasis von Craula Besh zu bleiben.

Einfach zufällige Seiten in Die Karthager, Die klassische Welt, Der Peloponnesische Krieg, Hellenika oder Die schönsten Sagen des klassischen Altertums aufschlagen?

Mal schauen, was sich da ergibt:

  • Glaukos und Diomedes stellen sich vor und schliessen Freundschaft. Hm.
  • Athen und Sparta im Konflikt, Gesandschaft beim Perser Tiribazos, Geld des Grosskönigs, Konon, Teleutias… nicht schlecht
  • Flucht und Verurteilung des Alkibiades. Krieg in Sizilien. Versklavung von Dörfern. Hm.
  • Römischer Sold, Militärkasse, Sonderprämien… Nein.
  • Karthager in Sardinien, Organisation… Nein.

OK, es scheint, dass ich mich in die Tiribazos Geschichte einlesen werde, um daraus ein Abenteuer zu machen.


Diese Karte spiegelt den Stand am Vorabend des Krieges. Wir befinden uns allerdings im Jahre 392 v. Chr.

Ich verstehe die paar Seiten in der Xenophons Hellenika IV 8, 7–17 so:


Der Grosskönig Artaxerxes hat zwei Satrapen in Hellas: Pharnabazos unterstützt die Athener unter Konon gegen Sparta. Er ist im Moment nicht da. Tiribazos ist Satrap von Ionien und vertritt den Grosskönig im Moment. Das Treffen findet in Sardeis, der Residenz des Satrapen von Ionien, statt. Diese Fussnote hatte ich allerdings bei den Vorbereitungen übersehen und liess das Treffen in Korinthos stattfinden. Egal.

Als Sparta erfährt, dass Konon an Pharnabazos Sieg um Sieg erringt und dass der Grosskönig die Mauern von Athen wieder aufbauen lässt, wollen sie bei Tiribazos vorsprechen, auf dass dieser die Unterstützung der Athener unterlasse oder die Lakedaimonier gar gegen die Athener unterstütze. Antalkidas übernimmt diese Gesandtschaft. Weil kurz davor Herippidas erwähnt wurde, der eine Flotte der Lakedaimonier befehligt, habe ich ihn zur Nummer zwei der Gegner gemacht.

Als Athen von dieser Gesandtschaft erfährt, kommt Konon mit den Athenern Hermogenes, Dion, Kallisthenes und Kallimedon ebenfalls nach Sardeis, um einen Abfallen des Grosskönigs zu verhindern. Gesandte der befreundeten Städte von Argos und Korinthos kommen ebenfalls.

Das Spiel beginnt mit der Ankunft der Athener in Sardeis.


  • Begegnung mit Herippidas am Hafen. Wird der Spartaner provoziert oder angegriffen? Wird der Gesandte Antalkidas belästigt?
  • Ein Treffen mit den Verbündeten Gesandten aus Korinthos und Argos? Falls ja, müsste man noch ein paar Namen bereit halten, zum Beispiel Pasimelos, Proainos und Alkimenes.
  • Ein Treffen beim Baal Tempel im Quartier der Phönizier Diese sind Händler, welche grösstenteils unter der Herrschaft der Perser stehen. Hier könnte man Spartaner belauschen, welche von Tiribazos zwar nicht öffentlich unterstützt werden, denen aber Geld für den Aufbau einer grösseren Flotte versprochen wird. Im Gegenzug wollen sie dem Grosskönig die griechischen Städte in Kleinasien überlassen und nur die Unabhängigkeit der Inseln erhalten wissen. (Also dürfen sie auch den Athenern nicht in die Hände fallen.)
  • Eine Audienz im Palast des Tiribazos, wo die Athener sich weigern, auf die Vorschläge der Spartaner einzugehen, weil sie Angst haben, die Inseln Lemnos, Imbros und Skyros zu verlieren. Auch die Argeier weigern sich, weil sie Angst haben, Korinthos zu verlieren.
  • Im letzten Moment lässt Tiribazos den Konon gefangen nehmen und behauptet, dieser habe das Vertrauen des Grosskönigs missbraucht. Athen wolle den Friedensvertrag nicht unterzeichnen, erobere Inseln wieder zurück, sei ein Kriegstreiber, und so weiter. Dass dies mit Hilfe eines anderen Satrapen (Pharnabazos) geschehen war, interessiert ihn nicht.
  • Falls die Schiffe noch nicht gesunken sind, gibt es sicher eine Gelegenheit, dass eine der Parteien den Athenern nach segelt, und diese zu versenken versucht.
  • Falls die Athener herausgefunden haben, dass die Spartaner noch eine Menge Geld erhalten haben, könnte man auch den Spartanern nachsegeln, um das Silber zu klauen.


Weil wir nur drei Stunden Zeit hatten, wollte ich die Charaktere schon vorbereiten.


Feldherr, brütender Fatalist, grosser Redner, goldgierig, unermüdlich

4: Rhetorik, 3: Schild, Entschlosenheit; 2: Speer, Akrobatik, Kurzschwert; 1: Speerwurf, Athletik, Ringen, Handeln

Begabung: Rhetorik auch unter widrigsten Umständen; Ersatzfähikeit für andere: Rhetorik 3; Kästchen: Gesundheit +1

Gesundheit: ☐☐☐☐ Fassung: ☐☐☐☐ Vermögen: ☐☐


Hoplit, jähzornig, Töpfer, Nachkomme des Herakles, gesellig

4: Speer; 3: Schild, Athletik; 2: Muse, Speerwurf, Schild; 1: Akrobatik, Handeln, Mittel, Ringen

Bonusfertigkeit für andere: Schild +1; Zählerfertigkeit: Athletik statt Entschlossenheit; Kästchen: Gesundheit +1

Gesundheit: ☐☐☐☐☐ Fassung: ☐☐☐☐ Vermögen: ☐☐☐


Kapitän, zögerlich, berechnender Halunke, weit gereist, Zorn der Athena

4: Steuermann; 3: Bogen, Handeln; 2: Schild, Speer, Rhetorik; 1: Schiffsbau, Mittel, Mystik, Schleichen

Gegenstand: Trireme “Zorn der Athena”; Begabung: Handeln mit Feinden; Ersatzfähigkeit: Steuermann für Mystik 3 oder mit Schicksalspunkt für Mystik 4

Gesundheit: ☐☐ Fassung: ☐☐ Vermögen: ☐☐☐


Geschichtsschreiber, liebt seine Frau, Honigzunge, schnell wie der Blitz, Kindermörder

4: Rhetorik; 3: Kurzschwert, Schleichen; 2: Akrobatik, Überleben, Mystik; 1: Muse, Entschlossenheit, Reiten, Alchemie

Ersatzfertigkeit: Rhetorik für Muse 3 oder mit Schicksalspunkt für Muse 4; Kästchen: Gesundheit +1 Gegenstand: Kurzschwert des Baal namens “Kindermörder”

Gesundheit: ☐☐☐ Fassung: ☐☐☐ Vermögen: ☐☐


Tiribazos: Rhetorik 4, Schwert 3, Akrobatik 3 ☐☐☐

Antalkidas: Speer 4, Schild 3, ☐☐☐

Herippidas: Speer 3, Schild 2, ☐☐☐

Spartanischer Hoplit: Speer 2, Schild 2, ☐☐

Berater: Rhetorik 3, ☐☐

Tänzer, Flötenspieler: Verführung 2, ☐☐

Priester des Baals: Mystik 4, Dolch 2, ☐☐


(Zum Bearbeiten des Diagrams haben ich yUML verwendet: http://yuml.me/edit/4f99e715)




Comments on 2014-06-03 Tiribazos

Cool, ich bin gespannt wie es läuft, hoffe du schreibst dazu noch was.

Craulabesh 2014-06-03 13:44 UTC

Das war’s leider schon! Am Spielabend hatte ich, wie gesagt, die Aktion nach Korinthos verlegt. Spieler kommen an, beleidigen den Kapitän der Spartaner, so dass dieser mit dem Speer nach einem Charakter wirft, der Gesandte der Spartaner taucht auf, man trennt sich, die Gruppe geht zum König, die Spartaner treffen inzwischen den Perser im Baal Tempel. Am Königshof überzeugen sie den König, die Spartaner heute Abend nicht zu empfangen. Dann schleichen sich zwei in den Baal Tempel und erfahren von Tiribazos’ Geld für die Spartaner. Tiribazos und Spartaner trennen sich, die Charaktere ebenfalls. Spartaner hängen Charakter ab, Tiribazos nicht. So erfährt der letzte Charakter davon, dass Tiribazos den Korinthern ebenfalls Geld für ihre Mauern gibt. Charaktere versammeln sich und beraten. Sie stacheln den König dazu auf, die Spartaner verhaften zu wollen und nutzen den erneuten Radau, um ihr Schiff startklar zu machen und die Spartaner im Hafen zu rammen. Die Spartaner verlassen das sinkende Schiff und es kommt zu einem langen Kampf an der Pier, den die Spartaner verlieren. Am Ende schauen wir noch, ob die Gruppe den Silbertransport der Perser abfangen können und erfahren nach ein paar Würfen, dass sie nur einen Drittel des Silberschatzes bergen können. Der Rest versinkt in den Fluten... Alles in allem ganz unterhaltsam, wirkte aber nie besonders gefährlich für die Gruppe, so dass mir das Element der Gefahr fehlte, obwohl wir mit deutlich erschwerten Bedingungen spielten (drei statt zehn Fate-Punkten, drei statt vier oder fünf Spieler, fünf statt zehn Aspekte).

Oder, wie ich das früher mal formuliert habe: I don’t like Bennies, oder: “Ich werde lieber von einem harten Spielleiter gefällt als von einem gnädigen Spielleiter gerettet!” (Spielervorlieben).

Das nächste mal lese ich mir auch das Kapitel Social Combat aus den Diaspora Regeln nochmal durch. So spontan ist der Konflikt mit einem einzigen Wurf sofort entschieden gewesen, weil ich mich an die Details nicht mehr so genau erinnern konnte.

AlexSchroeder 2014-06-03 14:32 UTC

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2013-10-29 How To Run Fate

Recently, Andy McQuoid asked on Google+ for suggestions running a Diaspora campaign with a colossal derelict ship to explore—and that ship is actively trying to kill the characters. He also said, “ I am also unsure if I present the whole ship as one big Social Combat scene, or to break it down into the component areas, i.e., bridge, engineering, medical etc. and run scenes in there. If this was a Traveller game I would draw up the plans of the ship and have the characters proceed room by room. However, I think Diaspora offers a better, story based way of doing this that would be much more satisfying to do, and I want to showcase some of the great things in the minigame toolkit that Diaspora offers.”

I was reminded of my Solar System game and my post on how to prep for it. I wrote the following in response.

I would treat it as an old-school megadungeon and therefore structure game along missions. The session begins and log files show a certain percentage of extra heat radiation. There must be an unknown energy source in the ship. Outer hull sensors report increased infrared around the 1.7km line...

Prepare a sheet of paper with ideas. List NPCs (machines, programs, robots), rooms and the challenges they pose (stuff to reconnect, overcome, evade), tidbits you want to reveal, decisions that need to be made, consequences you’d like to see, and so on.

Make special note of mini-games you want to run. I’d suggest none on the first or two session but then one or two for every three hour session you play. This can be a social conflict, a platoon combat, a larger combat with a lot of zones, etc. Prepare those little maps and rules before-hand in order to make it a smooth experience.

The game itself is the structured along the challenges, players looking at their skills and deciding how to go about it, resolving the skill checks, invoking aspects, enforcing consequences, revealing interesting parts of the background and leads to new missions for future sessions.

I also recommend following the Designing an Adventure section of The Shadow of Yesterday.

Every now and then, I’d make sure to add adventures outside the ship. Visiting a system. Contacting other ships, etc. But it all follows the general outline above.


Comments on 2013-10-29 How To Run Fate

Fate discussion: being the sniper by Brad Murray: use a clock, agree on consequences for failing to prep in time. Resolve skill tests and note any success with cost in order to resolve them as you make your escape. Let the accumulated cost determine the next scene.

– Alex Schroeder 2018-06-07 08:57 UTC

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2013-07-11 Der Geist Mesopotamiens, überarbeitet


Vor zwei Jahren hatte ich mal meine Fate Variante Der Geist Mesopotamiens vorgestellt. In der Zwischenzeit ist Fate Core erschienen, und ich habe mir die Sache mal angeschaut. Ein paar Dinge sind mir sofort positiv aufgefallen:

  • Fertigkeitenpyramide endet bei +4
  • Anzahl Aspekte auf fünf reduziert
  • Anzahl Schicksalspunkte auf drei reduziert

Ein paar interessante Vereinfachungen im Detail – mir gefällt’s! Wenn das Teil nur nicht über dreihundert Seiten lang wäre. Aber das kennen wir ja schon. Deswegen habe ich mein PDF einfach überarbeitet. Meine Fate Variante ist immer noch nur 4½ Seiten lang.

Und ich habe die Dokumente auf GitHub gestellt.

Was mir noch fehlt ist eine Proberunde. :)


Comments on 2013-07-11 Der Geist Mesopotamiens, überarbeitet

Super Serie zum Thema Hellenismus im Rollenspiel: Teil 1, Teil 2, Teil 3, Teil 4

AlexSchroeder 2013-07-17 15:08 UTC

Kartenmaterial? Vielleicht aus dem Atlas Antiquus von Karl Spruner von Merz. In der David Rumsey Map Collection können die Karten wunderschön vergrössert werden. Im Internet Archive habe ich Atlas Antiquus: Taschen Atlas der Alten Welt von Dr. Alb. van Kampen gefunden. Dazu der Kommentar: “High Quality Scans of the Maps. You can find the index to the book on Google Books but they never seem to take the trouble to scan maps properly. This is the first of a series of historical atlases which I hope to upload in high quality scans for all to use since Google Books and others do such a poor job when it comes to maps.” Das PDF ist 300MB gross. Ich habe ein paar der Karten im JPEG-2000 Format ausgewählt und in ein eigenes Verzeichnis gelegt.

Wer Herodot, Thukydides und so weiter lesen will, kann sich die Tafeln zu den Kriegen im Atlas Antiquus von Emil Reich mal anschauen.

AlexSchroeder 2013-07-18 07:04 UTC

Craulabesh hat nochmal einen super Artikel zum Thema Magie und Hellenismus geschrieben.

AlexSchroeder 2014-03-05 12:06 UTC

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2012-12-12 Remember Kaylash

All these Diaspora posts have me thinking back to my campaign, Kaylash. The link goes to my old Diaspora campaign wiki in German. 2009–2010, I ran a Mongoose Traveller game which was later switched to Diaspora using a randomly generated Traveller subsector (map).

FATE zone map example and a (German) session report: Flucht von Veesso.


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2011-02-08 Der Geist Mesopotamiens – ein kurzes, deutsches Fate

Fate! Für unsere Montagsrunde brauchte ich eine Adaption von Spirit of the Century und Diaspora für eine hellenistisch-babylonische Kampagne. Insbesondere war mir wichtig, von den bestehenden Büchern weg zu kommen. Das Spirit of the Century Regelbuch ist mir viel zu lang. Die Beschreibungen der Skills sind langweilig, die Stunts verwirrend, Gadgets kompliziert, Spielleitertipps unnötig, Hintergrund sowieso anders. Und von Diaspora brauche ich weder Cluster Generation noch Platoon Combat, und Social Combat wollte ich einfach live zeigen. Die Ladder für Schwierigkeiten, Zeit, und all die anderen zehntausend Dinge brauche ich auch nicht. Und bei den Skills brauchte ich natürlich einen Ersatz für Schusswaffen. Und ausserdem habe ich gerne deutsche Namen für die Dinge wenn wir am Abend sowieso auf Deutsch spielen. Irgendwie mag ich es nicht, wenn wir Deutsch spielen aber alle Talente und Ausrüstungsgegenstände Englisch sind.

Egal, die Kurzregeln stehen! Wiki Seite: Der Geist Mesopotamiens auf dem Campaign Wiki, oder das ganze auch als PDF.

Heute war Feuertaufe! Der erste Spieler ist schon mit einem Charakter nach den Spirit of the Century Regeln mit fünf Stunts gekommen und hat wegen Begleittier und Gadget sich je +1 im Kampf gegeben. Ich hatte keine Lust auf eine grosse Diskussion aber das nächste Mal will ich wie bei Diaspora einfach mit have a thing ohne Bonus spielen. Ansonsten hat die Kurzfassung sehr gut geklappt und die richtigen Bücher wurden kein einziges Mal aufgeklappt. Damit hat sich eigentlich gezeigt, dass eigene Kurzfassungen der Regeln mit eingebauten Hausregeln auch wirklich schnell zusammengestellt sind.

Nur die NeoOffice Bastelei war mühsam. :)

Update: Die neue Version wurde mit LaTeX erstellt!

Update: Die neue Version ist nun auf GitHub.


Comments on 2011-02-08 Der Geist Mesopotamiens – ein kurzes, deutsches Fate

Diskussion hier oder im FATE und Fudge Forum auf Tanelorn. Guter Punkt aus der dortigen Diskussion: Ein durchgehendes Beispiel wäre gut. Ich habe mal auf dem Wiki mit einem Beispiel angefangen; es fehlt nur noch der Kampf.

Oder auf dem Richtig Rollenspielen! Forum.

AlexSchroeder 2011-02-08 11:32 UTC

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2010-10-03 Fate Notes Compared

I just listened to 2d6 Feet in a Random Direction episode 55 with Ryan Macklin and Brian Isikoff talking about the GM side of the EndGame Iron GM competition. What I really liked about this show was hearing two GMs comparing notes on two similar FATE games. Choices to implement, timed aspects, character creation, what they did to get players talking, how they handled having no time to prep at all, how they handled the themes they were given which they did not like, and many things besides. It was real, hands-on, useful information, with context, commentary. Simply inspirational and awesome.

Does anybody know of similar hands-on GM oriented episodes? There are a lot of broad, theoretical advice shows. But this episode was about the nitty-gritty details of running a game delivered in a conversational style. I’d like to listen to one or two similar shows.


Comments on 2010-10-03 Fate Notes Compared

Glad you found the episode useful and enjoyable - as always, thanks for listening!

Brian 2010-10-03 20:09 UTC

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