Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Fantasy: Armor, Fate Points, and Consequences

Guy brings up a good point in his comments on my last post. In a nutshell, he expresses concern that requiring "Minions and those people who are less skilled at combat" to spend Fate Points to benefit from their armor might be unduly harsh. Which is a fair cop, I suppose, if armor weren't anything more than window-dressing for them.

As far as I'm concerned, those heavily armored knights could have the aspect "Elite Guard" or "Heavily Armored" -- it depends on what you want to emphasize. Obviously, the latter will be more limited, but my point is that, as per the SotC RAW, you'll be spending Fate Points on them either way. There's a double-standard in effect between PCs and nameless NPCs when it comes to armor, to the PCs' benefit. Minions are meant to go down in combat. If they run out of Fate Points and take a fatal blow as a consequence, that's just the ultimate expression of them -- no pun intended -- meeting their Fate. Named NPCs are another story, and can benefit from stunts and armor the same way PCs do.

(As I mentioned in the comments to my last post, I allot Fate Points for my adversaries on a per-scene rather than per-adversary basis. It's a good way to gauge how important a scene is to the story. Also, I like disconnecting the conflict from the NPCs as individuals; it feels like it puts the PCs front and center even more. And bookkeeping's a bit easier for me this way, too.)

For PCs, things are different. I'm leaning toward armor-as-skill, with a couple of other perks. One is getting an aspect out of it, which can be more useful than is immediately apparent. I can see a thief avoiding a number of anti-Stealth compels by the aspect "Supple Leather" on his Light armor, f'rinstance.

The other perk is additional consequences: one additional Minor for Medium, and one Minor and one Moderate for Heavy.

A quick breakdown of how consequences work without stress:
  • Normally you can only have one of each consequence, just like in SotC. Stunts and armor can alter this, but the baseline is one of each.
  • An attack that succeeds by 1-3 defaults to a Minor consequence, one that succeeds by 4-7 is a Moderate consequence, and 8+ is automatically a Severe consequence.
  • Minor consequences go away at the end of the scene (e.g., "Knocked the Wind Out of Me" or "Off-Balance" or "Enraged").
  • Moderate consequences require a skill roll of some kind to get rid of, usually between scenes, although what that skill is can vary depending on the nature of the consequence ("Mauled" could be healed with Physik, "Shattered Self-Esteem" might require Resolve, and "Rendered Speechless" could be mitigated with, say, Rapport). Could be the PC's player rolling the skill, or it could be another player -- depends on the situation. It's the GM's call if the consequence goes away entirely, or just drops a level to Minor for the next scene (after which, of course, it'd go away regardless).
  • A Severe consequence goes away by entering the fiction, usually at the end of a story arc. It twists or transforms one of the character's existing aspects somehow. "Sullied Reputation" might change a "Man About Town" into a "Man of Ill Repute." "Bleeding To Death" turns "A Soldier's Honor" into "The Horrors of War." "Paranoid" could make a "Cautious" character, well, "Paranoid" instead. No roll is required -- only a conference with the GM to sort out how the character's life will change as a result of suffering such intense trauma.
  • Minor consequences can be tagged for a +2, Moderate for +3, and Severe for +4.

(I don't believe any of this is original on my part -- it's pretty much cribbed whole-cloth from Colin Jessup.)

So now then. Some armor lets you take additional consequences. This may seem contrary to the breakneck goals of No-Stress, but No-Stress isn't about upping the danger quotient -- it's about making wounds more interesting than checking off a box or recording a number. The more consequences you can take, the more interesting combat will be for everyone concerned.

I have a story about playing in one of Colin's "Spirit of the Force" games at Gamex in which my blind Jedi swordsman (or... "lightsabersman," I guess) leaped headlong into the midst of dozens of battledroids, leaving his compatriots behind. One failed Weapons roll later, he ended up with a Minor consequence: "Overconfident." What I love about this is that it was appropriate, subtle, and expanded the character. It wasn't, say, "Blasted and Bruised" or any other sort of physical consequence, but instead a reflection of the character's mindset in situ that was bound to get him in trouble later, and/or be exploited by the enemy. Instead of trying to answer the question of "What were the consequences of failing that skill roll?" it instead answers "What is it about this character that had him getting in over his head as a consequence?"

So much better than "Limping."

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