Thursday, October 21, 2010

FATE Kerberos Club: Let's Make It Official

Sometime back, I mentioned that Arc Dream was interested in doing a FATE version of Benjamin Baugh's awesome Kerberos Club setting, and how equally awesome it'd be for me if I got to work on it. While it's still on Arc Dream's back burner, thanks to a constant and undeniable stream of Greg Stolze, I can finally say this: I got the gig.

(I actually got it back in May, but I didn't want to say anything without Shane Ivey's go-ahead. This made for some awkward exchanges with people when they asked if I'd gotten it. "I don't think I should say anything... which probably gives you your answer, I guess.")

I'm especially excited about this project in light of the fact that there isn't a "mainstream" FATE treatment of the supers genre on the market right now, which means that this will be the first! System-wise, I think it'll have the potential to set a standard for FATE supers in the same way that Legends of Anglerre has for FATE fantasy -- and obviously the setting itself is, as I said, already awesome, so that doesn't hurt, either. In my ideal scenario, we'll later break the mechanics out into their own generic FATE supers book (with a free online SRD!), but for now I'm more than happy to work on what I've been given.

Apart from The Kerberos Club, Ben Baugh is probably best known for Monsters and Other Childish Things and Don't Lose Your Mind, but a couple years back he was attached to a few SotC-based projects for Evil Hat, including New Horizons (social outcasts fightin' the good fight) and Shadow of the Century (SotC in the '80s), both of which sounded awesome but unfortunately never materialized. I look forward to picking his brain.

While I haven't gotten beyond playtesting mechanics yet, I can promise that my chief goal will be to leave Kerberos's fantastic setting completely intact and mold the mechanics around it. The alternative -- making little edits here and there to accommodate the change in systems -- is... distasteful to me.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Spirit of Greyhawk - Spells & Spellbooks

Writing Spells in the Caster's Spellbook
What might be the closest parallel for the writing of a spell in the World of Greyhawk?

  • Engineering?
  • Gadgeteering?
  • Academic Research?
  • Forgery?
  • Artistic Crafting?

There's valid reasons to consider all of the above. I was starting to get lost in the options, so I turned it around and considered the source material first...

Characteristics of Writing a Spell in the Greyhawk Realm
  • It doesn't always work--not every caster can know every spell. The wizard doesn't know until they attempt it.
  • Writing down a spell is basically copying an existing spell.
  • The wizard must have a skill level consistent with the level of the spell.
  • There's nothing saying that wizards are prevented from copying new spells into their spellbook while in dungeons.
  • For each spell written in the spellbook, certain material requirements are necessary, and the time required to write it down was equivalent to one day per spell level.

Categorizing Spell Books
Is a Spell Book a magic item?
Not in and of itself. A standard spell book is a mundane item. However the spells contained on the pages within can be used as one-shot scrolls. So the spells themselves are magical, but the spell book itself is not magical. A spell book might have improvements that imbue it with magical properties, but I don't consider it a requirement. Plus it's also more fun to leave it as a mundane item, with all the frailties of a mundane book.

Is a Spell Book a Gadget?
You could consider it a Personal Gadget for purposes of defining if it can be taken away, destroyed, etc. This then also implies that if the owner has an Aspect that names the Spell Book, it's more or less off-limits (game-wise).

This categorization is interesting for balance purposes, because a Wizard would need to devote a Stunt to his Spell Book (defining it as a Personal Gadget), and additionally it then becomes awfully tempting for a Wizard to want to devote an Aspect to making sure his "source" is basically off-limits, game-wise.

The other impact of making the spellbook a Personal Gadget "stunt" as written in SotC is that the stunt allows for one or two "improvements".

While there may be fertile ground here, I believe that in general a spellbook falls under essential "Tools of the Trade" for a Wizard to do his job. So making a requirement that a spellbook must be a "stunt" doesn't really work for me. This then puts a standard spellbook in the same category of a Thief having lock-picks (at least standard ones) as tools of the trade.

Translating Specifics about Intelligence & Spells
What to do about the Intelligence Stat?

In the source material, a lot of specifics about spells are tied to the Intelligence statistic. However in SotC, we don't have Intelligence as a skill. Should an "Intelligence skill" be added?

For Spirit of Greyhawk, I'm currently taking a "minimal change" approach and saying that I don't see a need to add one within the current framework. We can assume a baseline average intelligence with modifications up or down as being possible within the existing game mechanic: lower intelligence could be simulated by taking a negative aspect, and higher intelligences could be addressed by the use of Stunts (see below).

Caster's Chance to Be Able to Cast a Particular Spell
In the PHB, a stat of 10-12 Intelligence (considered "average") results in about a 45% chance of knowing a spell. Increased intelligence increases the chance of being able to know/cast a particular spell.

If we make the base assumption that people (Wizards specifically) are possessed of at least average intellect, this means that the base roll to know a spell is Mediocre (+0) or 50% chance to know a spell or not.

Fate points and Aspects can impact this positively or negatively as per normal.

In other words if someone has an aspect of "Pyromancer", then it could be tagged to improve the chance to learn a fire-related spell. Alternatively it could be compelled to make a cold or ice-spell less likely to be useable by that character.

If the roll fails, then that spell will never be available to the caster (barring some retroactive modification).

Minimum / Maximum Number of Spells per Level
Wizards in the Greyhawk realm assume that they have a minimum/maximum range for the number of spells for each level of spells that they are capable of casting. In other words, this indirectly establishes how much could be effectively stored within a spell book. The source material states that this min/max range is a function of a caster's Intelligence stat. How could this be determined when Intelligence isn't a skill?

Looking at the table in the PHB, we can simplify it by looking at it as a formula:

  • The minimum number of spells is determined as half of the source material's Intelligence stat.
  • Maximum number of spells per level can be determined as the minimum number of spells per level, plus half that score again (rounding down).

Example: For an INT stat of 10 in the source material, the Minimum spells per level would be 5 (10 / 2 = 5). The Maximum spells per level would be 7 (5 + (rounded down 5 / 2 or "2") = 7)

But once again, how to determine these values in absence of an Intelligence stat / skill?

I plan to address it with the assumption that a character starts with an average degree of intelligence and then can choose to modify it with Aspects or Stunts.

Start from average, which was the INT 10-12 range. This gives the min/max of 5/7.

Each progressive Intelligence Stunt (see below) will be worth an extra number of spells added to the Minimum amount of spells.

I'm going to choose to not address reducing the min/max range for the situation of "dumb" wizards.
  • 1st Intelligence stunt is worth +2 to the minimum number of spells per level
  • 2nd Intelligence stunt is worth another +2 to the minimum
  • 3rd Intelligence stunt is worth another +1 to the minimum

Intelligence Stunts
While it's possible that there might other uses of this later on, for right now, these stunts are for the Magic Skill.

While these stunts have more functionality contained within than other stunts, I feel that because they are so specific to Magic-related situations, it may even out.

Stunt "Fantastic Intelligence"
  • Adds +2 to the Minimum Number of Spells per Level.
  • Allows the ability learn 7th Level of Spells
  • Adds a +1 to the roll to be able to understand a spell.

Stunt "Epic Intelligence"
Prerequisite: "Fantastic Intelligence"
  • Adds another +2 to the Minimum Number of Spells per Level.
  • Allows the ability learn 8th Level of Spells
  • Adds another +1 to the roll to be able to understand a spell.

Stunt "Legendary Intelligence"
Prerequisite: "Epic Intelligence"
  • Adds +1 to the Minimum Number of Spells per Level.
  • Allows the ability learn 9th Level of Spells
  • Adds a +1 to the roll to be able to understand a spell.

Example: Wizard starts with "average" intelligence has a minimum spells per level of 5, a maximum spells per level of 7. The wizard is currently capable of learning 6th level spells or less. The Wizard's ability to understand any particular spell is a base difficulty of +0 (Mediocre).

However if the player selects the "Fantastic Intelligence" and "Epic Intelligence" stunts, the Wizard would then have the following:

  • Minimum Spells per level: 5 + 2 +2 = 9
  • Maximum Spells per level: Minimum Spells per level + (Minimum Spells per level / 2, rounded down), or 9 + (9/2, rounded down or 4) = 13
This doesn't scale up exactly with the source material in the PHB, but I'm willing to live with it for now.

The wizard's maximum spell level (not skill level) is 8th level.

The wizard also has a +2 that can be used when rolling to determine if a particular spell can be used by that wizard (assuming an available spell slot).