Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Swashbuckling: Salons D'Escrimer

Fencing schools -- the swashbuckling equivalent of magic, in a way. FATE being what it is, simply adding a bunch of bonuses isn't really the best route. Small bonuses make a big difference, and the last thing I want is a game of mechanical oneupmanship driven by escalating bonuses for no good reason. So I'm stealing a page from the Leonard Balsera playbook and doing a sort of roll-and-keep thing (roll XdF and keep the best 4dF). This increases the odds of getting a +4 on the dice without actually pushing past that threshold. I tried this out with an NPC in "Spirit of the Fist," and it worked fine. (That's "fine" as in "sometimes I still got a crappy roll, despite rolling 6dF and keeping the best 4dF.)

The simplest thing to do here is to treat each fencing school as a package of benefits -- say, three -- that's accessed through a stunt. I'm thinking there would be a number of these to choose from, organized in tiers that are unlocked by your Weapons skill. I concede that this is double-dipping a bit with Weapons, since it determines both how good you are in a fight and how versatile you can be, but c'mon, it's a swashbuckling game. That said, depending on the school a different skill could be used to determine just what you have access to. I'm thinking here of something like Academics or even Mysteries.

What fencing schools can do:
  • +1-3dF (keep best four dice) with Weapons, Fists, or Guns for attacks, defenses, or specific type of weapon
  • +1 in broad circumstances only with a particular skill that doesn't directly deal stress -- e.g., +1 Athletics to cover ground, +1 Intimidation in combat
  • +2 to maneuver with a skill
  • Use a different skill when rolling initiative
  • Some other skill substitution in combat with non-stress-dealing skills
  • One secondary skill can only complement and never restrict Weapons, Fists, or Guns
  • No penalty to Weapons et al. when using a particular skill as part of a supplementary action
  • +1dF when you have Advantage
  • +1dF when you don't have Advantage
  • Withstand an additional Minor consequence (this would be a very high-tier benefit)

What fencing schools can't do:
  • Grant flat, blanket bonuses to Weapons, Fists, or Guns
  • Grant flat bonuses to stress dealt on a successful attack
  • Grant flat reductions to stress when successfully attacked
  • Skill substitution that lets you use something other than Weapons et al. to deal stress
Notice I'm including Guns in there. That's just the completist in me, really, but there ought to be room for it; they aren't "The Three Rapierists," after all.

For example:
Salon de Montcharles: A school whose techniques revolve around understanding the opponent's mind and intimidating him into submission.

Novice Techniques
(Prerequisite: Average Weapons)
    • +1dF Weapons with rapiers
    • +1 Empathy in combat
    • +1 Intimidation in combat when you don't have Advantage
Intermediate Techniques (Prerequisite: Fair Weapons)
    • Use Empathy instead of Alertness for initiative
    • +2dF Weapons with defenses
    • +1 Resolve when you have Advantage
Master Techniques (Prerequisite: Good Weapons)
    • +1dF Weapons with attacks
    • +1dF Weapons with defenses
    • +2 Intimidation with maneuvers
    • When you take a physical consequence, you may choose to take a mental consequence of equal severity instead

When you take the stunt for a particular fencing school, you pick three of its techniques from any available tier. The idea here is that I'd stat out a number of schools -- a dozen or more -- for players to pick from. That shouldn't prevent players from coming up with their own, but having pre-established schools would be an important bit of setting, I'd think. Techniques that grant bonus dice stack with each other, but techniques that grant flat bonuses don't: Use the highest applicable bonus. To take an example from the above, if you have +1 to Intimidation in combat and +2 to maneuver with Intimidation, using Intimidation in combat as part of a maneuver will only net you a +2 bonus. Keep in mind the rules of Advantage here. Normally, getting a +1 to Empathy in combat wouldn't be an especially big deal, but when a good Deceit roll can give you the ability to inflict consequences, having a decent Empathy suddenly becomes more important.

I'm not exactly sure how I'd handle other stunts (or their equivalent) here, but it'd be great if I could get away with limiting bonuses to Weapons solely to aspect invokes and tags. Oh, and the other thing I'd do is limit aspect invokes to once per scene, to encourage more maneuvers and the creation of new aspects.
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