More on hacking Fate Core (Evil Hat Productions) to play Castle Falkenstein (R. Talsorian Games): gear, weapons, and armour or lack thereof.
As I discussed a couple of days ago, I’m not enthusiastic about just assigning damage point values to weapons. While it’s a fitting approach for a number of games—David Goodwin gave us an overview of a D&D-type approach yesterday—I don’t think it fits with the spirit of the fiction of Castle Falkenstein, regardless of whether it fits with the feel of the system in CF.
The key, of course, is to go back to Fate’s Golden Rule:
Decide what you’re trying to accomplish first, then consult the rules to help you do it.
The meaning of weapon rules in New Europa is very different from what David used yesterday for his discussion, for example. They’re not about the players’ shopping experience (to use a simile from Robin’s Laws of Good Gamemastering), nor realism, nor even much about tactical play.
What are the reasons to differentiate weapons in the Falkensteinian world? As we might expect, they’re all about supporting the fiction.
- To provide the appropriate sense of danger whether threatened by a reciprocator pistol, a hatpin, or a sabre.
- To differentiate character concepts in action: the duellist from the suffragette from the anarchist, for example.
- To provide a sense of the disparity between the very large and the very small which marks the setting, from ancient Dragon Lords to gallant pixies and from weapons of mass warfare to single duels.
- To provide variety in the Grave Perils faced by the heroes.
Because of this, I want weapons to make a difference, but it must be swashbuckling and exciting. The best match I found was in the Fate System Toolkit‘s “Armor and Weapon Aspects” section; here is my adaptation to Fate of Falkenstein.
Equipment, Weapons, and Armour
Basic gear in Fate of Falkenstein is implied by your hero’s skills and aspects: having the Marksmanship skill makes it reasonable that you’d own some firearms, and having the Dashing Hussar aspect implies that you have a sabre and a pistol.
Sometimes you want something that is more influential on the story. Key equipment can be represented by character aspects of their own, such as My Father’s Sword. Or perhaps you want to indicate your character’s preparedness: I Always Bring a Backup Weapon. It doesn’t have to be just about weapons either: maybe your hero the Calculating Engineer places great stock in My Well-Thumbed Copy of Lady Ada’s Theorems and Practices of Calculation, or your Secret Agent may have Well-Disguised Gadgets.
Regardless of whether they are character aspects or equipment picked up in a shop or from an incapacitated opponent, and therefore gear or scene aspects, items that have story power can be invoked and compelled. Character aspects always return to you in one form or another (even if it’s after being temporarily lost, or a replacement for something destroyed in play); while gear (or scene) aspects can be taken away permanently as a compel whenever it’s dramatically appropriate.
Weapons are divided into harm categories (see table below). When you successfully attack with a weapon, you may make a special invocation with it. It costs a fate point as usual, but provides neither a +2 nor a reroll. Instead, you can force your opponent to take a consequence instead of stress (again, see the table). If you succeed with style, move the consequence up by one level of severity—minor to moderate, moderate to severe, severe to either taken out or an extreme consequence (defender’s choice). If the appropriate consequence slot is already in use, move the new consequence up by one level of severity.
This special invocation also acts a little bit like a compel. When you invoke a weapon aspect in this way, you offer the fate point to your target. If he takes the fate point, you deal the consequence. He can refuse the fate point and pay you one of his own to not take the consequence, but then he takes the stress he would have taken normally anyway. I like this because it makes the difference between weapon types one of dramatic quality, not numbers.
|Harm Rank||Typical Attacks||Special Invocation|
|A||Small hatpins, needles, darts, stumbles, most animal bites, blows, clubs, life preservers.||None|
|B||Daggers, large hatpins, knives, bayonets, arrows, falls>10 ft, large bites, EXC/EXT blows, trampled.||For one fate point, force your opponent to take a mild consequence instead of stress.|
|C||Small swords, small pistols, shotgun pellet, large arrows, fire, acid, electric shock, falls>20 ft, being hit by automotive.||For one fate point, force your opponent to take a moderate consequence instead of stress.|
|D||Heavy swords, sabres, light rifles, light gauge shotguns at close range, heavy pistols, spears, PR/AV Dragon breath, very large bites, reciprocators, falls>35 ft, crash damage.||For one fate point, force your opponent to take a severe consequence instead of stress.|
|E||Heavy rifles, heavy gauge shotguns at close range, GD/GR Dragon breath, falls>50 ft||For one fate point, force your opponent to be taken out or take an extreme consequence instead of stress (their choice).|
|F||Artillery, shrapnel, bombs, being crushed, falls>100 ft, EXC/EXT Dragon breath.||Force your opponent to be taken out or take an extreme consequence instead of stress (their choice) without needing to spend a fate point.|
The harm ranks in this table are those used in Comme Il Faut, pp. 78-81, matched to the aspect-based option from the Fate System Toolkit.
Armour works in a similar way. However, there is little in terms of functional armour in New Europa, as described in Castle Falkenstein p. 187. Comme Il Faut expands choices a little so we”ll use this for our table:
|Harm Rank||Typical Armour||Special Invocation|
|Light||Leather, wood, small Dragon’s scales||For one fate point, absorb a single mild consequence; you don’t take the stress it would have absorbed, and you don’t fill the consequence slot.|
|Medium||Chain, light plate, early silk-based ballistic cloth, medium Dragon’s scales.||For one fate point, absorb a single moderate consequence; you don’t take the stress it would have absorbed, and you don’t fill the consequence slot.|
|Heavy||Iron plate, cuirassier’s breastplate, large Dragon’s scales.||For one fate point, absorb a single severe consequence, or two mild or moderate consequences in any combination; you don’t take the stress it would have absorbed, and you don’t fill the consequence slot.|
You can use your armour to absorb consequences beyond these limits, but if you do so, the armour aspect immediately changes to represent the fact that it’s broken and no longer able to absorb attacks. You’ll have to get it repaired, which might cost you and might take anywhere from a few hours to a few days depending on the armour and the place you take it.
Note also that most types of armour, and particularly plate, are heavy and cumbersome, meaning they can be invoked by opponents to interfere with some of your actions, for a fate point as normal.
Image by William Eaken, 1994 from Castle Falkenstein (R. Talsorian Games). Used without permission, no copyright challenge intended.