Fate of Falkenstein: Hack and Slash

Marianne, by William EakenMore 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.

  1. To provide the appropriate sense of danger whether threatened by a reciprocator pistol, a hatpin, or a sabre.
  2. To differentiate character concepts in action: the duellist from the suffragette from the anarchist, for example.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

9 thoughts on “Fate of Falkenstein: Hack and Slash

  1. The thing that I’ve been thinking about with this damage system is:

    If you were to mix it with the standard “bonus stress” model of weapons, you get something sort of like Rolemaster/etc. where you can have some weapons (say blunt ones) that emphasize stress, while others (edged/pointed ones) emphasize consequences. This is comparable to the way RM/SM/HARP/CS/MERP have blunt weapons where the progression from low hits to hard hits goes up with concussion hits (like hit points) faster, but the critical hits ratings grow slowly. Edged weapons are sort of the opposite: as the attack roll goes up in severity, the concussion hits grow slowly, but the critical hits grow more quickly.

    I’m sort of thinking (for my OSR-ish fantasy game) having an option where each weapon is given 2 ratings: Bonus-Stress and Consequences. Blunt weapons will have better stress ratings but lower consequence ratings, while sharp weapons will have low stress ratings, but higher consequence ratings.

    For armor, padded&pliable armors will have higher stress absorption but poor consequence absorption, but hard armors (like plate) will have better consequence absorption but lower stress absorption.

    1. I encourage you to experiment an report. However, you have just named a collection of games that go for a very different style, very unlike Castle Falkenstein, so not likely to show up here. In fact, not likely to show up in any game I ever run, as I am not a fan. Except maybe MERP purely for giggles, because I still have my Noldor Elf character sheet from back in 1984.

      1. Oh, yeah, definitely NOT Castle Falkenstein material. I wasn’t trying to imply that, just saying where this particular idea had taken me, for my own project.

  2. Had a thought occur to me just now.

    When you pay a FP to inflict the Consequence, who gets that FP? (the GM’s pool? that character (PC or NPC) who takes the Consequence?)

    And, when? (immediately, like a compel? or at the end of the scene, like a hostile invoke?)

    1. As usual, if you’re compelling an NPC, the FP goes to the GM and if you’re compelling a PC, the FP goes to that character’s player. IIRC, hostile invokes are now compels. I would give the FP immediately, as normal — the FP changing hands is what seals the deal on a compel.

      1. “hostile invokes are now compels”

        Did they change that in the last few weeks? I recall is being said several times since FC came out, and some a few times recently, that hostile invokes deliver the FP at the end of the scene.

      2. You know, I’m not the most assiduous at following forums, so you may be right. Can you point me to these discussions? Here is how I understand and use invoke-and-compel:

        (1) If the aspect is yours and the effect something beneficial to you, it’s an invocation. You pay the FP.

        (2) If the aspect is yours and the effect is negative, it’s a compel. You get the FP. If you triggered the negative effect yourself in order to get the FP, it’s a self-compel, and it has to hose you well and good.

        (3) If the aspect is someone else’s and you’re using it to your benefit against them, it’s a compel and you pay them the FP.

        (4) If the aspect is environmental/temporary/scene/etc. and you use it so it’s beneficial to you (e.g., you’re “Hidden in the Mist”), it’s an invoke and you pay the FP.

        (5) If the aspect is environmental/temporary/scene/etc. and you use it so it’s detrimental to someone else (e.g., they’re “On Fire!”), it’s a compel and you pay the FP to whoever controls that character.

      3. a) Fate Core, page 69:

        If the aspect you invoke is on someone else’s character sheet, including situation aspects attached to them, you give them the fate point you spent. They don’t actually get to use it until after the end of the scene, though.

        (that clearly says invoke, and not compel — ie: you’re gaining a +2 due to their aspect (which would be an invoke), as opposed to suggesting/making/negotiating an absolute declaration due to their aspect (which would be a compel))

        b) Fate Core, page 81:

        (gives the 3 ways you can receive FP)

        * Accept a Compel: You get a fate point when you agree to the complication associated with a compel. As we said above, this may sometimes happen retroactively if the circumstances warrant.

        * Have Your Aspects Invoked Against You: If someone pays a fate point to invoke an aspect attached to your character, you gain their fate point at the end of the scene. This includes advantages created on your character, as well as consequences.

        (my words from here)

        Page 81 clearly makes a distinction between a Compel, and having your aspect invoked against you (which appears to have the colloquial name “Hostile Invoke”, but RAW never calls it that directly). And, it clearly differentiates _when_ you get the FP, as well. With a Compel, you get the fp “when you agree,” and with a hostile invoke, you get it the fp “at the end of the scene.”

        For example, George is a spy that has an aspect “Ladies Man”. When he wants to seduce a female NPC, to get her vulnerable to his charms so she’ll spill some secret, he pays an FP to invoke his “Ladies Man” aspect, and gets a +2 to his roll.

        Later, Dave wants to expose George as the cad that he is, and expose him before their peers. So, in a social contest where they’re exchanging barbs with each other in front of the peers … Dave reveals a few George’s more seemly conquests, and spends and FP to invoke George’s “Ladies Man” aspect. Dave’s invoking it to get a +2 to Dave’s roll. Dave’s player set the FP aside to be given to George’s player at the end of the scene.

        In digging through the mailing list, I found that it wasn’t Fred nor Leonard that chimed in on this clarification about when FP are paid (but Fred will often chime in to correct something that’s wrong, so there is some value to “Fred didn’t correct what I’m about to quote”, but not perfect value). It was Jonathan Lang (not one of the evil hat devs, but a bit of a veteran) —

        “Per page 81, there’s a distinction between earning a Fate Point from a Compel (which you get immediately) and earning a Fate Point from having [your] Aspect Invoked against you (which you get at the end of the scene). Invoking an Aspect against someone is not the same as Compelling an Aspect against someone.”

        So, RAW has a Hostile Invoke (though it doesn’t directly call it that, that’s a colloquialism I’ve seen used in discussions in the list, and I’m pretty sure on the Google+ community) as a defined concept and it’s an invoke, not a compel. It generates a +2 for the invoker, not an absolute directive of behavior for the target / owner of the aspect.

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