Sunday, April 28, 2013

FATE-ing Dawning Star

So one of the projects I've been working on lately is a new version of Dawning Star using the new FATE Core rules. In the grand scheme of things, this is not that difficult as FATE is a pretty modular system, but there are a few specific subsystems that I want to bring over from the original, d20 version of Dawning Star that don't map directly. Most of these are FATE extras in some capacity, but I want to tinker a bit more to make them more involved and to keep the number of aspects each character has from exploding. As I learned from Spirit of the Century (awesome game it is), too many aspects can be really really hard to keep track of.

For those not familiar with Dawning Star it's a firm tech pulp sci-fi setting where characters do lots of poking around in alien ruins, meeting strange species, and fighting ancient evils. You can find some samples and such on


First off, I think some additions and changes to the base skills list is in order, given the focus of the game. First off I think changing Crafts to be focused on low tech craftsmanship (bows, wooden structures, etc) would be a good idea. Someone who is a great velin spear maker should not be good at fixing spaceships. I would then add an Engineering skill to cover building and repairing more high tech stuff. Plus a large variety of stunts for focusing on different types of tech.

Drive works great for the myriad of ground vehicles available, but mounts are also a big thing so we'll also need a Ride skill that functions much the same. On top of that we'll need Pilot for spaceships and aircraft. I'm tempted to make another skill called Helmsman or something for capital ships, but I think Pilot will work. Systems is another new skill that is needed for controlling the various non-movement focused systems on a ship, like life support, sensors, etc. Using Shoot for spacebased weapons feels odd, so adding Gunnery to the list. This does mean a space character is going to have a lot of skills that are very space focused, thus may add some skills slots to the starting total.

Given the exploration themes of the game I think a Navigation skill for the game will be necessary along with a Survival skill. Survival could be used for some basic direction finding tasks, but Navigation is necessary for plotting water routes, slingshot courses to take advantage of gravity wells, etc.

Computers are a big part of the setting and have a skill for them makes sense. This skill could conceivably be an attack skill for hacking people's systems, but that seems like an unnecessary complication. Thus far Dawning Star has been more about people doing stuff in the real world.

I think psionics is going to need a skill of it's own as well with some special rules regarding how you learn it (for those not familiar with Dawning Star psionics are the ability to perceive a parallel information dense layer of reality called Red Truth where you can look at a table and see all the information about it, such as size, weight, who touched it last, if you are able to sort through it all). But a Red Truth skill is probably a good idea, especially since the potential for other truths are out there.
So the end result skill list, including the normal Fate Core skills, are:
  • Athletics – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Burglary – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Computers – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Contacts – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Crafts – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Deceive – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Drive – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Empathy – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Engineering – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Fight – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Attack/Defend
  • Gunnery – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Attack/Defend
  • Investigate – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Lore – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Navigation – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Notice – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Physique – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Pilot – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Provoke – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Attack/Defend
  • Rapport – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Red Truth – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Attack/Defend
  • Ride – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Resources – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Shoot – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Attack/Defend
  • Stealth – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Survival – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Systems – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend
  • Will – Overcome/Create an Advantage/Defend


Obvious we'll need a ton of custom stunts for flying spacecraft, dealing with alien tech, surviving in different environments, etc. While players can obviously make up their own, I want to provide a good list of several score stunts to get the ideas rolling.


Here's the first toughie, and it ties into difficulties with weapons, armor, and psionics since these are all extras by FATE Core. Because of that I think I'll hit that next time after I've had more time to turn it over in my head.   


  1. 29(I read the next post on this subject) skills seems like a lot for Fate Core. Are you going to alter the skill pyramid to compensate? As it stands, the current pyramid in Fate Core gives you ten skills in your pyramid, this leaves the character with 19 skills they do not have at above average. This could leave a group with big holes in there makeup and not realize it until they hit it in play. you could move to a +5 peak on the pyramid, which would give you 15 skills as a character, leaving 14 skills at +0. I really like Dawning Star and Fate Core and I would love to see this implemented, I looking forward to seeing how this goes in the future.

  2. That does seem like a lot of skills to me. Keep in mind that in Fate, skills don't stand on their own, they exist in a context. Skill choices in fate core are mostly about fleshing out your character archetypes. Your aspects and background are going to establish the archetype, your skills are going to determine how good you are at doing things as that archetype.

    So consider how the skill relates to archetypes. For each skill, consider whether there is a place in the game for a character with that as their peak? Is there a compelling story for Ride-guy or Low-tech Crafts-guy? If not, then maybe those can be put together with other things. Maybe low tech craft, riding animals and survival could all go together for a Primitive Skills - Survival-guy.

    Having a high Lore doesn't mean you know everything. Having a high Shoot doesn't mean you can shoot any weapon. Aspects and character background provides narrative permission to use skills in some way. You may be a master crafts person on a low tech world, but that doesn't give you narrative permission to fix the star drive or reprogram the ships nav computer. If you try something outside of what seems narratively plausible, I'll either compel an appropriate aspect or set the difficulty much higher.