Thursday, March 3, 2011

FATE for LARPs

(This is really more of a thought experiment than a proposal or tested game system, however, if you find that any of it is useful you are welcome to include it as Open Game Content.)

Differences between Tabletop & LARPs

  • Tabletop RPGs tends to have more cooperation between players -- the competition is more typically the players against the scenario described by the game master, the the game master adjudicating. LARPs tend to have more competition between the players -- cooperation may exist between players in teams, but often there are "traitors" so cooperation is riskier. The game master(s) still create the scenario, but due to the typical player/game master ratio, they are less able to adjudicate all competition. This requires more player/player adjudication.
  • LARPs are "stand up" and typically are more immersive (i.e. the players are doing more what their characters are doing, rather then saying what their characters are doing). This makes rolling dice and many other random mechanics more difficult.
  • LARPs are sometimes campaign-oriented like tabletop, but due to the requirements of getting a lot of players together are more often a one-off single scenario (i.e. run once at a convention or gathering) then is typical for tabletop. On the west coast, other then some Vampire campaigns, almost all LARPing is recent years have been single scenarios.
  • Secrets in LARPs are more complicated. Typically secrets in a tabletop are all held by the game master, and otherwise are mostly open among the players. In LARPs secrets tend to be more held by the players, secrets are often the currency in a LARP scenario ("I tell you a secret if you'll tell me one"), and the game masters may not know who currently knows what secret.
  • It is much more difficult in a LARP for the players to decide difficulty of risky actions on the fly. For instance in FATE tabletop, the GM typically sets the difficulty, the dice are rolled, then any skill bonuses, free-taggable aspects, and fate points are decided if allowed by the game master. Only then is outcome the risky action is decided. In LARPs, the GM is often not present, the players are more personally involved in their own character goals rather then scenario objectives, and thus risky actions are harder to adjudicate.

Aspects

Aspects in FATE for LARPs are mostly the same as aspects in tabletop, however, some aspects have some additional attributes.

Typically each character will have typically 3 public aspects — these are typically an archetype, background and/or some visible character description. These public aspects are either written down and shared with all players in a character roster, or are displayed along with the character name on a name tag. Like aspects in FATE, they can be invoked by the player for +1 to a skill challenge.

In addition to the public aspects, each character will typically have 2 secret aspects. If discovered (by using certain skills) they can be known by others, but largely are only invokable by the player.

Keys

In addition to public/private, base/specialty attributes, aspects may also have keys. A key is a unique element of the aspect that if it occurs, earns the player a fate point. These are the equivalent of compelling an aspect in FATE, however, are more specific so that it does not require GM adjudication.

Example: SotC has an archetype aspect "Gentleman Criminal", whose key might be "KEY: Gain a fate point if you successfully steal something from someone without being caught or entering into any combat." Someone with the aspect "Defender of the Defenceless" might have the "Key: Gain a fate point if you defend someone in danger who cannot save themselves."

Typically fate points rewarded for keys come from the game master(s), but players can compel a key by giving a player one of their fate points.

Skills

There are only five base skills in FATE for LARPs, and a fifth optional background/genre specific skill. Every risk or skill challenge uses one of these skills. Any additional abilities will use specialty aspects that add to the base skill.

The skills are:
  • Vigor - the character's physical strength and reserves of health. The equivalent in tabletop FATE of the skills athletics, close combat, endurance, might, and strength.
  • Instinct - the character's agility, dexterity, instinctive abilities, and reserves of reflexes. The equivalent in tabletop FATE of the skills of alertness, burglary, craftsmanship, driving, gambling, pilot, perception, sleight of hand, stealth, and weapon combat.
  • Reason - the character's intelligence and reserves of mental power. The equivalent in tabletop FATE of the skills of academics, discipline, engineering, investigation, resolve, lore, scholarship, survival, and willpower.
  • Social - the character's social aptitude and reserves of social capital. The equivalent in tabletop FATE of the skills of assets, contacts, conviction, composure, deceit, empathy, intimidation, leadership, presence, performance, persuasion, rapport, resources, wealth.
  • Power - the characters background or genre specific magical, psychic, or superhero skills and reserves of that power. The equivalent in tabletop FATE of mysteries or sanity.

Ladder & Skill Levels

The FATE difficulty ladder is halved in size. Every other rating is removed, with Average being moved to +2. This makes it:

Description | Rating
--------------------
Epic        | +5
Superb      | +4
Good        | +3
Average     | +2
Poor        | +1
Abysmal     | +0

Different backgrounds and genre games will often have a different set of skill levels, but by default, all characters have one skill that is Good (+3), three that are Average (+2), and one that is Poor (+1). They may increase any one single skill +1 if they decrease another -1. They could reduce their Poor (+1) to Abysmal (+0) and increase their Good (+3) to Superb (+4), or make their skills all Average (+2).

Speciality Aspects

In addition to the base 5 aspects, there are 5 specialty aspects, which are aspects that always free-taggable by the player that can only be used conjunction with a skill challenge to give +1. Specialty aspects are typically private, but once used may be public. They may never have Keys, thus are not compellable.

Risks & Challenges

Risks are player vs. the environment, Challenges are player vs player. They are adjudicated the same way, however, in risks the player chooses another player to resolve the risk, and that player may not use personal skills, aspects, or fate to affect the outcome of the risk.

There are three phases of a challenge round, the declaration, the throw, and the resolution.

In a declaration, the active (aka attacking) player declares certain facts first, followed by the passive (aka defensive) player. Then additional declarations are each made in turn.
  • First the active player declares what base skill is being using used, the passive player declares the defensive skill.
  • Next the active player declares what the attacking skill level is, the passive player declares the defensive skill level.
  • Next the attacking player can free-tag any single specialty aspect for +1, and the defensive player may do the same.
  • Finally, the attacking player can pay a fate point to tag an aspect for +1, or pay a fate point to tag an aspect of the defensive player for -1. Additional aspects can be tagged, one at a time, if they do not violate scope.
The if the difference between the final declared skill levels is 2 or greater, the player with the higher total wins automatically without any throw, and the player go straight to resolution phase.

If the difference between the final declared skills is 0 or 1, before the throw, either player (including the player with the higher final declared skill level) may concede, go straight to resolution and loose the challenge, but gain one Fate point. Players may not concede if the skill difference is 2 or greater.

If the difference of the skills is 0, both players throw Rock/Paper/Scissors to determine the outcome, and resolve any ties by throwing Rock/Paper/Scissors again until one wins. If the difference of the skills is 1, the higher skill player wins ties.

After the throw, but before resolution, either player may pay one fate point to active an aspect to rethrow. The aspect may not be an aspect that was used in the declaration phase. The final declared skill levels remain the same, but the player throw again. Each player may rethrow once, however, can continue to pay fate points to rethrow multiple times, as long as the aspect has not have been used before, and both players must agree that the aspect is relevant.

In resolution the winner player declares the narrative. The loosing player declares damage to stress or a consequence. If a concession was made, the losing player gains a Fate point.

The defensive player from this round can now declare a new challenge, where they are now the attacker, or they can withdraw and may not be challenged until some time has passed. The attacker from the previous round may not choose to withdraw.

Stress & Consequences

These are done the same way as in tabletop FATE, except that different backgrounds and genres may have different number of stress tracks. All games have a stress track based off of Vigor (i.e works just like endurance skill), but some may have stress tracks off of Reason (works like the resolve skill), Social (works like the Assets skill in Diaspora), and even possibly a stress track associated with Instinct or Power.

Each stress track can take a minor, a major and a severe consequence. There are no extreme consequences.

Optionally there are no stress tracks, only consequences.

Observations & Questions

  • The initial number of aspects (5 basic and 5 specialty) seems about right. However, I expect that any play testing will show that FATE for LARPS needs more or less aspects.
  • I think having at least 3 of the five basic aspects be public also makes sense. But it could be any 3 of all 10 initial aspects.
  • I think Keys from Shadows of Yesterday/Solar System are important substitute for compels — it makes rewarding disadvantages with FATE points far more concrete when a GM is not as involved. I'm not as confident if there is still a place for ordinary compels in this system, but I've included them.
  • I like the way that Vigor, Instinct, Reason, Social & Power divide up and simplify all the skills for LARPing. Combined with specialty aspects that are free-taggable, it should be easy to convert any existing FATE scenario to a LARP form.
  • I in particular like separating physical into Vigor and Instinct, as having a single skill for all physical seemed to overpower reason and social skills and speciality aspects.
  • I found it useful to collapse the difficulty ladder. It has roughly the same names as FATE, but I think works better for LARPs.
  • Basically anything that is a +2 bonus in FATE is a +1 in FATE for LARPs.
  • I like the declaration/throw/resolution phases, and how fate points are used differently before the throw (for a +1) or after a throw (for a reroll).
  • I like the +1 skill after declaration means that you win all ties in Rock/Paper/Scissors. This is not an original idea (the LARP system I use most uses it), but it seems to work particularly well here.
  • I like that +2 means automatically win. This would be the equivalent of +4 in FATE. LARPs need fewer, not more challenges.
  • For superhero combat, it might be useful to adopt some ideas from Blood & Tears, the LARP version of Houses of the Blooded. In particular, the concept of wagers as short-term FATE points.
  • There is no shifts or spin here, as those require GM adjudication. Not sure if they are needed or not.
  • I somewhat arbitrarily decided that after an attack, the defender has the option of withdrawing or becoming the attacker (and maybe even using a very different skill). I think this makes sense for LARP play where , but suspect that it will require a lot of special cases.
  • I don't really have movement, maneuvers, environmental aspects, and declarations figured out in Fate for LARPs.
  • I'm open to ideas, and an evening of playtest.