Fate of Falkenstein: Weapons

Illustration from Castle Falkenstein by William C. EakenMore on hacking Fate Core (Evil Hat Productions) to play Castle Falkenstein (R. Talsorian Games) (see the last three posts for more). I’m musing about how to translate weapons and harm.

How It Worked Before

In the original Castle Falkenstein book, weapons did a certain number of damage points which were automatically dealt on a success. There were three ranks of success:

  • Partial success, when the attack action result was equal to or greater than the defense action result;
  • Full success, when the attack result was equal to or greater than half again the defense result; and
  • High success, when the attack result was equal to or greater than twice the defense result.

Armour was described as rarely used, providing at most one point of protection and restricting movement.

Then in the excellent supplement Comme Il Faut (essentially the player’s guide to Castle Falkenstein), an alternate harm system was offered. Different types of attacks were assigned a harm rank, which was cross-referenced with the ability rank, range, or feat difficulty and, optionally, the hit location, to determine the narrative result (wounded, incapacitated, etc.)

A new option provided light, medium and heavy armour ratings which would stop all hits up to a certain harm rank (B, C, and D respectively), but for anyone but dragons or people inside vehicles, armour remained pretty much non-existent for most player characters.

The charm of this approach, however, is that it provided a us with a table that neatly groups weapons according to a ladder and compares to the damage value from the original system, thereby providing possibilities for use in Fate:

Harm Rank Typical Attacks Partial Full High
A Small hatpins, needles, darts, stumbles, most animal bites, blows, clubs, life preservers. 1 2 3
B Daggers, large hatpins, knives, bayonets, arrows, falls>10 ft, large bites, EXC/EXT blows, trampled. 2 3 4
C Small swords, small pistols, large arrows, fire, acid, electric shock, falls>20 ft, being hit by automotive. 3 4 5
D Heavy swords, light rifles, heavy pistols, spears, PR/AV Dragon breath, very large bites, reciprocators, falls>35 ft, crash damage. 4 5 7
E Heavy rifles, shotguns, GD/GR Dragon breath, falls>50 ft 7 8 9
F Artillery, shrapnel, bombs, being crushed, falls>100 ft, EXC/EXT Dragon breath. 8 9 10

How Should It Work in Fate?

Castle Falkenstein was intended to be swashbuckling and dramatic, which is a perfect match for Fate Core; but I’m not sure it can be done in the same way here. Yes, we could assign damage point values to weapons like the option discussed in Fate Core, pp. 277-278, but in Fate this would give a much deadlier result, especially without armour to counter the damage.

The harm ranks from Comme Il Faut suggest use of the Fate ladder, but their description is also non-linear. We could skip a couple of rungs on the ladder and establish a correspondence like this:

Harm Rank Fate Rank
A Average [+1]
B Fair [+2]
C Good [+3]
D Great [+4]
E Fantastic [+6]
F Legendary [+8]

But I’m really wondering whether this will help or hinder, whether it’s too lethal, and whether it’s an unnecessary complication added merely because it was there 20 years ago. For one thing, the harm rank table from Comme Il Faut describes action results, not just intrinsic values. It could certainly serve as a useful guideline for creating a new weapon damage table, and I can see why we wouldn’t expect damage landed by a hatpin, a pepperbox revolver, and a sabre to look the same. But we could also handle that through consequences, couldn’t we?

What do you think, how would you choose to handle damage in your own “Fate of Falkenstein” game?

Image by William Eaken, 1994 from Castle Falkenstein (R. Talsorian Games). Used without permission, no copyright challenge intended.

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5 thoughts on “Fate of Falkenstein: Weapons

  1. I’d be inclined to deviate from Castle Falkenstein and go a more SotC route here. Average weapons do no extra shifts and gadgets can add it as a build option.

  2. My thoughts:

    I wrote up an elaborate way to look at it, and then compared it to just using Fudge style ODF/DDF (Stress inflicted = die-roll-shifts + ODF – DDF), and it was mathematically the same. It was just more wordy, and therefore would just be an extra set of things to keep track of. So, my recommendation is:

    0) Give Light Armor a +1 Armor Value, and let it absorb a Boost. For the time period, this is basically Heavy Cloth and Leather.

    1) Give Medium Armor a +2 Armor Value and let it absorb a Boost, and a Minor Consequence. For the time period, probably Leather and a Metal Breastplate (and expensive), or being in a lightly armored carriage.

    2) Give Heavy Armor a +3 Armor Value and let it absorb a Boost, a Minor Consequence, and a Major Consequence. For the time period, probably medium-ish vehicle armor (the most you’d have on a carriage, but lighter than what you could do to a fully armored train compartment). Or, maybe being in a lightly armored carriage + wearing medium armor.

    3) Just give Weapons numeric values implied by the above chart (A gets a +1, B gets a +2, F gets a +8). Though, I personally prefer to have A at +0 not +1 (fists should be +0, IMO). But the difference is negligible.

    4) Stress Inflicted = Shifts + Weapon Value – Armor Value.

    5) After step 4, you can further reduce the stress inflicted by degrading the armor value by the same amount. (short term benefit with a long term cost).

    6) After step 5, you can chose to have the Armor absorb the boost or consequences.

    7) If Armor has absorbed ALL of its capacity for boosts and consequences, AND been reduced to +0 value (through absorbing stress), THEN it is wrecked and useless. It is beyond repair.

    8) If it has absorbed _some_ stress and/or _some_ boosts/consequences, then it merely needs some repairs to get back to its full value. Though, any ornamental/ceremonial value it might have had (bright shiny luster, fine etching decoration, etc.) is probably permanently lost, without some significant craftsmanship.

    1. Thank you for the comprehensive reply. It’s very much what my first idea was, but I’m still wrestling with the fact that, except for Dragons in their base form and people riding around in vehicles, no one has armour in New Europa. So swords and pistols would be very lethal, and duels deadly–which is true for many takes on a steampunk Victorian era, but doesn’t feel true to Castle Falkenstein.

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