Saturday, August 27, 2011

[Kerberos] Power Tiers

If you followed the development of the FATE supers hack on this blog that eventually found its way into The Kerberos Club (FATE Edition) (hereinafter KFC, for "Kerberos FATE Conversion"), you'll already be familiar with much of how Strange FATE, the version of FATE used in KFC, came to be. However, if you're new to the blog, perhaps because you recently purchased KFC and found your way here somehow, or if you just want more information on what makes Strange FATE different from its esteemed predecessors, this series of posts (crossposted with the Arc Dream site) should be highly informative.

I'm going to start with one of the system's most dramatic additions to the FATE Toolbox: Power Tiers.

In brief, Power Tiers are a way to make super-strong, super-fast, or super-whatever characters in FATE without resorting to super-big numbers. Generally speaking, skill bonuses above +6 or +7 don't sit right with me. Part of what I don't like is that it means the dice matter less and less, but part of it's also because all we really care about with skill bonuses is the margin between yours and mine. I mean, Fair (+2) vs. Good (+3) is really no different than Epic (+7) vs. Legendary (+8) -- they're both one point apart, so all that matters is that one guy's skill rating is one higher than the other guy's, but they're still adding +7 and +8 to their rolls. The upshot is that they end up with big numbers when small numbers would do equally well.

I don't like that.

Personally, I cap the skill pyramid (or tower, or whatever) at Great (+4). I like the symmetry there with four Fudge Dice, which also top out at +4.

So what Power Tiers do is let you keep skill ratings low while still accounting for wildly different levels of ability. There are five Tiers in total, from Mundane on up to Godlike. Mundane Tier skills are just regular FATE -- characters in Spirit of the Century or Legends of Anglerre all have Mundane Tier skills, by this method. It's the realm of real-world human effort. Every Tier higher than Mundane means a proportionately higher increase in effectiveness over what ordinary humans can do.

Note that I said "effectiveness" there, and not "ability." Mundane Tier skills can cover abilities that ordinary humans don't have, like flight or telepathy laser-beam eyes. It just means that your Mundane Tier flight won't let you travel any faster than a human could run (although it will let you fly over obstacles). Likewise, Mundane Tier telepathy will get you the same level of information as a simple Empathy roll (although you probably won't have to engage in conversation to get it). If those laser beams you're shooting from your eyes are a Mundane Tier attack, they're no more dangerous than a fist or a sword or a gun (which is to say they're still pretty dangerous in FATE terms). We're talking degrees of effectiveness.

When two characters face each other using skills in different Power Tiers, the one with the higher-Tier skill replaces one Fudge Die with 1d6 for each degree of difference. The one with the lower-Tier skill always rolls 4dF.

So if I'm using a Mundane Tier skill against your Extraordinary Tier skill (that's one degree of difference), I'll roll 4dF and you'll roll 3dF+1d6. If you're two Tiers higher than me, you'll roll 2dF+2d6, and I'll still roll 4dF. And yes, if you're using a Godlike Tier skill against me, and I'm still using a Mundane Tier skill, you'll roll 4d6 and I'll roll -- as always -- 4dF. But if both our skills are in the same Tier, whether that's Mundane or Extraordinary or Godlike, we'll both roll 4dF, like normal. We're on even footing, whether we're smashing faces or smashing mountains.

A difference of a single Tier is definitely going to favor whoever's on top, but it's hardly a guarantee. The range of dice results changes from -4 to +4 to -2 to +9 -- a big leap on the high end, certainly, but a less likely result than +4 on 4dF. Besides, if I had a nickel for every time I've seen someone roll -2 on 3dF+1d6, I could buy a sandwich (and not a little one, either). Once you're two or more Tiers higher than your opponent, though, it's almost always a blowout. As it should be, if you ask me.

The "almost" is key, though. Even if my skill is Mundane and yours is Godlike, there's still a chance I'll roll +4 and you'll roll +4. Not much of one, but it's there. I like that.

Back when the beginnings of the Power Tier idea first started coming to me, it was basically a binary system. Is your Tier higher than your opponent's? Then you win. You're only rolling dice to add something to the narrative. The Hulk will always be stronger than Captain America, Cap will always be stronger than Mockingbird, and Mockingbird will always be stronger than Jarvis. Boom, done. But, as was pointed out and soon became obvious, there's the matter of what came to be known as Iron Man's Resolve, or the Defense Dilemma. Should Iron Man really always lose a mental battle against a psychic opponent? Is that fun? The answer to both questions was "No."

The concept, though, was sound. I'd already been using a die-replacement mechanic in other genre hacks, but powered by a second player resource pool (variously called Chi, Will, Elan, etc., according to the genre), so it was a relatively short leap to adapt it.

And it's been working great. Even if they're already familiar with FATE, nearly all the players in the games I run at conventions have been new to Strange FATE, and nobody's had a real problem picking it up. It's been called "crazily intuitive" by one of them, which seems like a pretty solid endorsement. From a player-satisfaction perspective, I love seeing the gleam in a player's eye when they realize they get to swap out a Fudge Die or two for some sweet, sweet d6s. The power of Power Tiers!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

[Kerberos] Errata

Hey, so here's a thing I never wanted to have to write on the Internet.

There's a good chunk of errata for The Kerberos Club: FATE Edition. Like... a good chunk. It's almost all small calculation errors that change the cost of Unique or Strange skills as statted up in the book -- sometimes by a point or two, sometimes by five points or more. So we're working on getting a complete list together. The PDF will be updated. The second printing will have the corrections.

For those of you who bought the book at GenCon, Shane's in the midst of working something out so you can get the second printing at a discount.

Honestly, like, 90% of the corrections are just crossing out a skill's cost and writing in a new number. That's it. So that's something of a consolation. An even bigger consolation is that the errata don't interfere with the actual gameplay at all. The problem isn't in the rules -- it's in the examples. Somehow a bunch of calculation errors (by me) made it through the whole proofreading process (and me) and ended up in the book. But no joke, fixing them is as easy as going from this:

Wolf Form (15)

to this:

Wolf Form (14)

This whole thing is extremely embarrassing to me for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that I normally pride myself on catching this stuff. I'm not really sure what went wrong. But you have my apologies, those of you who paid good money for the book (especially a hard copy). We'll make it right.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

[Kerberos] Now Available!

A number of readers have written to me about The Kerberos Club: FATE Edition, and both of them have asked me, "When will I be able to buy The Kerberos Club: FATE Edition?"

Well, good news, friends: It's available now as a print-and-PDF bundle from Arc Dream or as an all-by-itself PDF from RPGNow. For the price indicated on those websites, you get Benjamin Baugh's complete and completely awesome ENnie-winning Kerberos Club setting, plus a complete FATE ruleset suitable for playing a Kerberos Club game or whatever else you can think of to do with it, plus it's a FATE book that's under 400 pages.

To quote a three-year-old Tim and Eric commercial, "It's a perfect three-disc set!" Except, like, without discs. Or the number three.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

[Kerberos] FATE Kerberos... on MTV Geek?

Yeah, it's just a fairly brief mention in an interview with Shane Ivey and Benjamin Baugh about Arc Dream, but they do have a shot of the cover, which I think means I can say I've been mentioned -- sort of -- on MTV Geek.

First we covered their newest release. Making its premiere at GenCon, The Kerberos Club: FATE edition is just that. Originally designed to be used with Greg Stolze's One Roll Engine (ORE), The Kerberos Club has seen two additional versions – one for Savage Worlds and the most recent of which is FATE. FATE is a dynamic narrative system that uses evocative catch phrases called Aspects that players “tag” during play to generate dramatic story twists and otherwise bring the awesome. This is the same base system used in Evil Hat's award-winning Dresden Files RPG and Spirit of the Century.

MTV, if you'd let me know in advance, I would've made time in my busy con schedule to make myself available for an interview! Ah well. Maybe next year.

Or tomorrow. I'm available tomorrow.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

[Kerberos] GenCon Kerberos Kraziness

In the immortal words of Morgan Ellis, "So!"

It's been a good GenCon for FATE Kerberos, I must say. The two games I ran were good and great, respectively, and when my GM was a no-show on Friday, I got to play in a scenario run by Andy Blanchard, which was cool -- I don't get to actually play FATE Kerberos all that often, and I got to play my favorite character of the ones we made together, so bonus.

Meanwhile, over on, TheMouse and Killer GM have stepped up to answer questions about (and explain) the system in my necessary absence. They've been doing a great job, but even better is that they've been  doing that job at all. It's just really gratifying to see someone else breaking FATE Kerberos down, explaining the quirks of Strange FATE, and clearing up any confusion. Thanks guys!

Plus, the Arc Dream booth had a big banner-like poster of The Kerberos Club: FATE Edition cover. I've never had my name on a poster before, so that was pretty cool.

However, I am exhausted, but I guess that's the way of these things. Absolutely worth it.

Monday, August 1, 2011

[Kerberos] KFC Quickstart

Another neat little tidbit on the Kerberos front: A free FATE Kerberos quickstart will (should) be available at GenCon, so come by the Arc Dream booth and get one, if you're going to be there. If you're not going to be there, it'll be available online in the usual places. The quickstart includes an expurgated timeline of Victoria's Century, four cool Kerberan PCs (whom I'd never seen prior to this past weekend), and some helpful notes to explain some of the special rules variants that make FATE Kerberos tick. If you're eager to get a glimpse of what The Kerberos Club: FATE Edition has to offer, this is a good opportunity.

EDIT: And now I'm perusing the finished PDF of the quickstart, and it looks great. Shane made a form-fillable PDF character sheet, too, which is sweet. I've never seen FATE Kerberos characters look so... official.