Thursday, April 17, 2014

Fate Accompli

Note: Last update from my phone, I promise.  It's Bernard harrowing experience and I'll be going back and editing these posts when I get back home.

Narrative Based Timing

We've covered how to integrate Aspects into your Numenera game, and how Fate's character creation can improve  a Champions game.  Now let's look at how narrative based timing can enhance the experience when playing 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons.

What I mean when I say narrative based timing is Fate's system for tracking damage on character.  In Fate when a character suffers a significant injury it will be marked on their character sheet as a temporary aspect, called a consequence.  Most character can be effected by 3 consequences before they are overcome, a minor, moderate and severe wound.

These wounds don't heal like you see in most games, with hit points recovering in hours or days.  They instead remain for a given duration at the table.  A minor consequence will fade at the end of the next scene, moderate consequences last until the end of the next session and severe will be with you until the end of the next senerio.  That's no nearly all there is to the consequence system in Fate and I recommend you look at the game to learn more.

This system of tracking has a couple of interesting effects on a game.  When used for wounds it makes combat feel like a more real threat.  Characters in 4e need only wait a few hours to fully recover from anything and so quickly groups can fall into the one fight a day pattern in which so long as they don't die they are never at less than full resources.

There are ways that you can deal with this like putting time pressure on the characters but do that to much and it will begin to feel contrived.  This system however will remind the players that their characters are in real physical danger and will make them seem more badass for it.  

To use this sort of system I you game the first thing to decoded is what the would threshold will be.  With 4th Editon the easiest places would seem to be when a character reaches their bloodied value and when they drop below 0 HP.   I personally would also include when the character dies, allowing them to take a severe wound to stabilize, thus avoiding the need to resurrect. This last is sort of a olive branch to the players, you fights will have more long term consequences but you are now harder to kill.

When a character reaches one of these thresholds assign them a minor, moderate or severe injury and some penalty appropriate to the damage.  You can do this either with a table (the iCrit app has a lot of options for minor and moderate wounds) or you can just come up with them on the fly.  

For a minor wound the penalty should be mild, a -1 to movement or AC, a -2 to a single skill, or even a visible scar which could interfere with social encounters.  Moderate wounds can be more severe but still should not be crippling.  Halving movement, removing the ability to critically hit, a -2 to BaB or the inability to speak all seem like appropriate penalties.  Severe wounds of course should much more serious but shouldn't render the character unplayable.   Making the character slowed, preventing them from getting above their bloodied value or making whole sets of skills impossible all would carry the weight of their injury.

For the timing on these injuries I would keep them them similar to fate.  Sometimes defining a scene can be difficult in D&D but as a rule of thumb having it last until the end of the next encounter in which it was relevant will work.  The end of the next session of course is self explanatory, and the end of the next story should be approximately the duration of an adventure module or level if your game is more free form.  

In most 4e games magical healing is fairly common place and so of course has to come into play here.  Since the point of these injuries is to create a lasting effect you shouldn't allow them to be eliminated entirely by a Cure Light Wound or Inspiring Word.  I would allow a healer to reduce the duration of these injuries by one level of severity if they use enough powers heal the character 4 healing surges, thus reducing the penalty and duration.  The healing surges would have no other effect (although I would still allow and bonus healing the character provides to apply to HP) and I would only allow this once per injury.  Even if a Cleric can grow back your hand it's not going to be 100% right away.

Try this idea out in your game and see how it effects how your PCs approach combat, and how much more important their Leader becomes if they have one.

So that's it for breaking down Fate (for now), I hope that you found it illuminating.  Later this week I'll share with you a falafel recipe I'm trying out this weekend.  Talk to you then.

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