So one of the good things about my day job is I sit about three feet from Samhaine, and we talk about a lot of game stuff other than the game we actually are working on. As was pointed out by Samhaine at work today and Jacob Poss in a comment on the previous post, the changes I wanted to make means there are lots of skills in FATE Dawning Star. It looks like it was possible to make a character who is just “spaceship guy” who is useless the rest of the time, but since Pilot, Gunnery, and and Navigation would be useful in atmospheric vehicles and such it's not strictly true, but that guy is still not that useful while crawling through alien ruins.
So there are several options to deal with this issue that I am considering.
1) The simplest is increasing the number of skills available. I was thinking of doing something like a 1/3/5/7 pyramid, that way each character still has one thing that they are the best at and at least some skill in a little more than half the skills. This is probably what I'll end up doing as it's easiest, but is sort of a brute-force option.
2) I could cut skills from my list; does it matter if a character who is good at piloting a spaceship is also good at driving a car or riding a horse? I think for Dawning Star it does as drastically different tech levels, and types of tech, are a major facet of the setting. The game has cultures that have tech levels from effectively iron age all the way to artificial black holes as weapons, and the limitations of a character to operate within his tech level has been part of the setting. In the old d20 Future rules each race had a Tech Level Familiarity, which was what level of technology that race was comfortable with. When using a more advanced tech level characters suffered a penalty. I could mimic this with a series of stunts where each race starts with one or more stunts that let them use tech of a given level without penalty. The levels would probably be numbered something like:
- 1: Primitive Tech. Can use Drive to operate horses and wagons, Shooting to operate bows, etc.
- 2: Median Tech: Can use Drive to operate cars and aircraft, Shooting to operate projectile firearms, etc.
- 3: Advanced Tech: Can use Drive to operate spacecraft, Shooting to operate laser rifles, etc.
- 4: Very Advanced Tech: Can use Drive to operate more advanced ships, Shooting to operate plasma weapons, etc.
- 5: Quantum Tech: Can use Drive to operate wormhole driven spaceships, Shooting to use artificial singularity weapons, etc.
This means Pilot, Ride, and Drive could be recombined into just Drive, Crafts and Engineering into just Crafts. Gunnery could conceivably be cut and just rely on Shooting, Systems removed and just rely on Computers (which may not be a bad idea regardless), which would get me down to twenty four skills.
3) I could do a special skill associated with each species that covers the use of that species specific tech and cultural specialties. So a character with high Velin skill could use it to ride, survive on Eos, shoot bows, etc, while Elgie could use it for fixing things, haggling, climbing, etc. So to to operate a human spaceship you would need a high Human skill. Problem with this is vagueness what each skill can do, complexity to how these skills overlap with the other skills, and it doesn't decrease the number of skills. it actually it increases the total number, but most characters would only have one species skill (though that is an interesting character option, someone who learns another species' skill). This does model the idea of different species/cultures have different technology levels, and learning ancient tech of dead civilizations could be represented by being its own skill, but it still feels weird overall.
4) Each species would have a few skills at Average currently, so I could expand that idea, thus making each race stand out more but also making each species more cookie cutter. Instead of adding a 1/2/3 to the player seleced skills, put them on the race, though this would be odd if players could then place their discretionary skill ranks however they wanted since they could then be starting with a 7 in their skills. Capping things at 5 could help with that. This is my backup option currently.
Species Part 2
In addition to talking about skills, Samhaine and I talked about species today. In the last post I said I wanted to avoid putting aspects on species, and then in one of the examples I did exactly that. Consistency, hobgoblins, you know the drill.
As much as I want to avoid it, really aspects are the best way to handle certain aspects of the Dawning Star species. The big examples are the tyran saurians, who are ten foot tall samurai lizards, and the haimedians, who are plant people. Both of these have all sorts of situations I can never predict with stunts where their natures of their species may be useful, thus aspects suit them well. But how to do that? I've had two ideas:
1) Change the character creation process so one or both of the aspects that come from interacting with another character's history is replaced with a species aspect. These must be selected from a list, or constructed using words from a list, so all members of a given species will have somewhat similar aspects. This would be an interesting way to create a feeling of species abilities, but also could be annoying since the player's imagination is not being allowed to run wild.
2) Part of what makes aspects cool is our interpretation of them, which is really interpretation of language. We can get an idea of what sorts of compels and such a aspect should engender because we know what the words that make it up mean. For example, we could see the aspect Retired Marine Sniper Who Drinks to Forget used to compel the drinking of alcohol or as a bonus to shoot people since the words that make it up indicate that sort of stuff. The species names in Dawning Star are basically made up words; they mean whatever the writeup in the book says. So what if each member of a species has a species aspect that is the species name, and for each race there is a list of suggested situations it can be helpful, compels it can lead to. So if you had Velin as an aspect, you could use it to help in riding animals, hunting, fighting vaasi, survival on Eos, etc, while it could be use for compels to fight vaasi at ridiculous odds, to defend Eos from environmental damage, etc.
This can also be accomplished by the original idea of including the species name in the High Concept aspect of the character and explaining how that part of the aspect can be used/compelled. It does make that aspect super useful, and it does bring up the question of what humans are good at. Initially Dawning Star inherited the d20 idea that humans were the adaptable generalists that you get in descendants of D&D, but that doesn't need to be the case currently. I'm thinking that maybe humans are the stubborn cunning species; the sneaky bastards you never count out or write off as they will come back twice as hard. This doesn't really conflict with any of the other species so far, but not sure if it feels like a good measure of humanity.
And hopefully sometime soon we'll actually get to the stuff I started talking about Dawning Star in the hopes of figuring out: how to scale a punch and a portable singularity gun in one damage scale in a system with as little granularity in wounding as FATE Core.