Tuesday, April 30, 2013

FATE-ing Dawning Star - Species

First off, forgot in my last post I'm going to be breaking up Lore into three skills:
  • Knowledge: Generally knowing stuff like history, literature, etc. More of the humanities.
  • Medicine: Knowing how to heal people.
  • Science: Knowing how the universe works.

Like many science fiction settings, Dawning Star has a number of human-like and completely non-human alien species available as player characters. In the d20 setting these were primarily humanoid species that were some common science fiction tropes (a vaguely reptilian species, a vaguely insect species, a silicon based species, some androids, etc). There are in setting reasons for these species looking so humanoid and it all links together, but still, it feels a bit forced now. Early in the process of working on Dawning Star we talked about having more out there species, but we figured players would have a bit of a barrier playing intelligent floating squid species that communicate through flatulence. But now that we've got a setting of humanoid species that it's easy for people to identify with, I'm putting the weird back in.

Quick review for folks not familiar with Dawning Star: the core setting is a habitable planet named Eos that is colonized by one evacuation generation ship launched from Earth shortly before Earth is rendered uninhabitable by an asteroid impact. The ship, the Dawning Star, was part of an evacuation fleet of twenty ships, but they were dispersed across the galaxy by a alien wormhole device on the edge of the solar system. The Dawning Star ends up in a stellar system brimming with life, alien relics, ruins, sleeping evils, etc. The core setting on Eos is very humanocentric with one alien species, the velin (who look human like for very specific reasons), also present on Eos. Other species are present on other planets, but due to paranoia, lack of fuel, lack of common language, etc have not made contact with the humans on Eos who are busy trying to get their bearings on this new planet.

As part of the setting update for Dawning Star we're moving the time line forward five years and adding a big wild card to the setting in the form of a massive alien ship entering the system. Built by the most ancient civilization in the setting, this gateship the Utyi has become an ark for dozens of alien species threatened by the main villains of the setting, the vaasi. Among these refugees are the crew of another human evacuation ship, the Evergreen, that is now bolted to the Utyi and acts as it's bridge after the original bridge was destroyed in battle. So fifty years after colonizing Eos, just after they got enough farms running to feed everyone and all the colonists on the Dawning Star out of cryo, suddenly several million more hungry mouths show up on the door step of the Dawning Star Republic. And some of those mouths breathe methane and eat silicate proteins.

With the ranks of the alien hordes on the Utyi, I want to take Dawning Star from Star Trek level aliens (lots of obvious human-like species, weird foreheads, etc) to more Star Wars/Futurama territory where now there are dozens of alien species each with their own cultures, needs, beliefs, etc, all trying to live on one planet that cannot feed everyone. Originally Dawning Star was very Firefly/Indiana Jones with an undercurrent of Babylon 5 in the metaplot, and with the addition of the unwashed alien masses washing up on Eos I'm hoping to inject some District 9 to the mix.

So what does that mean for species mechanically?

species in FATE Core are best done as extras from what I've seen, and my personal preference is to create them with a minimum of adding aspects to a character. Having played Spirit of the Century, too many aspects can be a major problem and the base five of FATE Core seems like a good number; I don't want to get on a slippery slope of adding a bunch of aspects for every type of extra in the setting since by the end there will be weapons, armor, alien relics, spaceships, etc.

This leaves primarily skills and stunts to mechanically represent different species. Currently I'm thinking something like the following for the mechanical representation of a species:
  • The species must be noted in the High Concept of the character.
  • Each species gets 2 stunts and 2 skills at Average. Additional skill points spent on racial skills are added to this.
  • Some species may have additional stunts or skills, but offset those by taking penalties to other skills primarily negative aspects (though want to avoid this where possible)

These would be soft guidelines. So thus far the species I've worked up using these guidelines:

  • 1 Additional Fate chip per session
  • Start with Average Physique and Will

  • Holy Warrior: Gain +2 to attacks made against vaasi with traditional velin weapons
  • Vaasi Sense: You can use Awareness to detect vaasi with an opposition equal to the number of zones away the vaasi is. If successful the velin knows the distance and direction to the vaasi.
  • Start with Average Survival, Will, and Physique
  • Start with Poor Engineering and Computers

Tyran Saurian (large reptilian warrior caste)
  • Thick Hide: 1 armor against unarmed attacks
  • Teeth and Claws: Never count as unarmed due to natural weapons
  • Start with Average Physique and Fighting
  • An aspect relating to the large size (9+ feet tall) of the character

Haimedians (Plant People)
  • Carbon Dioxide Breather: Does not need to eat or breathe like most species.
  • Living Tech: Gain +2 when using biological technology to overcome an obstacle.
  • Start with Average Science and Medicine.

In addition each species would have a set of species specific stunts.


  1. Considering that most people usually think of medicine as a subset of science, and it seems like you're using Science to refer to a lot of the higher cosmic stuff, would it make sense to call Science something like Physics? Or is that needless hair-splitting?

    1. Yeah, I was splitting hairs late last nigh thinking about exactly this problem. It got late enough that I said screw it and published it.

      I was considering breaking them into Life Sciences and Physical Sciences as that seemed more logical, but I'm worried that sounds uninteresting. Medicine as a skill sounds more interesting than Life Sciences.

      Physics instead of Science is an option, but it also needs to include chemistry. astronomy, etc. Not sure Physics is inclusive enough.

    2. I really like your idea about Life Science vs Physical Science.

      Broadening Medical to Life Science allows it to include other fun stuff like investigating new life forms, creating advantages based on knowledge of alien species, etc.

      Of course, Physical Science is always cool in a SF context to investigate structures, planetary systems, and create advantages all over creation.