Fate of Falkenstein: Gadgets

Camera pocket-watch More on hacking Fate Core (Evil Hat Productions) to play Castle Falkenstein (R. Talsorian Games): Victorian gadgets!

Castle Falkenstein pp. 190-191 and 208-215 covered engines of war, gadgets, anachrotech, inventions, mad science, Engine Magick, and vehicles. In addition, the supplements Steam Age and The Lost Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci expanded considerably on this. These rules are actually quite simple and can be used without much change; however, they are not very “realistic.” Do we care? That depends on the group.

Simple Gadgets

Castle Falkenstein p. 209: Gadget constructionIf you want simple plug-and-play gadgets that have limited use in the story and are just the means to an end, you can get them off the rack, or just about, by using the rules from Castle Falkenstein p. 209: pick a common gadget container from the left-hand column, and pick one or more off-the-rack gadgets from the right-hand column to fill the available spaces; pay the required price.

If you want to be fancy about it—usually when a player character is making the gadget—have the maker test Tinkering to overcome a Fair [+2] difficulty; rushing the work raises the difficulty to Good [+1]. Succeeding at a cost means the gadget will have a special flaw. Succeeding with style means the gadget will have the aspect Fine Workmanship.


Doña Ana is planning to vist the nefarious COunt Vassili but suspects he will try to hold her prisoner. She goes into a specialized gadget shop, selects a brooch, and asks to have a lockpick set nserted in the secret compartment. The cost is 3c for the brooch, 2c for the lockpick set, and another 1c (20%) for the workmanship for a total of 6c, and will take a day to complete. Doña Ana is rather in a hurry since her train leaves tonight, so she pays a surcharge of 50% (3c) to have it made in half the time; she pays 9c (an Exchequer test) and the work will be done in half a day. Since this is a shop, the Host simply declares that the item will be of normal quality. Doña Ana now feels ready to vist Count Vassili in his lair…

Personal Gadgets

Items that are particularly useful, recurring, or important to the story, like personal gadgets and inventions, can be upgraded to personal gadgets, handled like in the Fate System Toolkit “Gadgets and Gear” pp. 154-155:

Equipment in Fate Core can be as simple as an aspect, like Magnetic Grapnel Gun, or a stunt, like “Magnetic Grapnel Gun: +2 to overcome with Athletics by climbing or swinging when there’s a metal anchor around.” But for a little more depth, you can combine those into a single extra as a personal gadget.

Functions and Flaws

Pewrsonal gadgets come with two aspects for free—a function aspect and a flaw aspect. The function tells you the gadget’s purpose, and the flaw tells you what’s wrong with it. You can think of its function as its high concept and its flaw as its trouble or a consequence that never goes away. These do not take up any of your character’s personal aspects; they are gear aspects.


Magnetic Grapnel Gun

Function: High-Powered Electromagnetic Swingline
Flaw: Still Working Out the Kinks


Give the gadget one or more stunts to reflect the reliable mechanical advantages it confers on its user. These stunts cost one refresh apiece.


Magnetic Grapnel Gun


Function: High-Powered Electromagnetic Swingline
Flaw: Still Working Out the Kinks


CLANG!: Spend a fate point to secure the magnetic grapnel to a metallic object in a dramatic way, grabbing a swiftly moving vehicle, a falling pulse rifle, or the wall on the other side of a yawning chasm in an oddly built space station.

Trick Shots: +2 to create an advantage with Shoot when you use the grapnel gun to swing around, disarm an opponent, or create a barrier.

Cost: 2 refresh

Additional Flaws

You can take additional flaws to reduce a gadget’s refresh cost, at a rate of one refresh per additional flaw. The minimum cost for a gadget with any stunts is 1 refresh, regardless of how many flaws it has.

It can’t be some pseudo-flaw, either, like Glitchy on the Ocean Floor. And if you do let something like that slip by, make sure the player knows they can expect to spend a surprising amount of time underwater. Deep, deep underwater.


An additional flaw for the Magnetic Grapnel Gun might be Heavy and Unwieldy.

pistol-ringBuilding Gadgets

If you want more substantive rules attached to the construction and improvement of new gadgets and inventions in play, you can use these optional ones, which are based on Spirit of the Century Chapter 7 “Gadget and Gizmos,” Sections 7.7 and 7.8:

Making Things

Building something from scratch is based off a difficulty equal to the cost of the item in question. It also requires appropriate tools, supplies and time. For example, building a pepperbox revolver from scratch is a Average difficulty, due to the gun’s Average cost (20c). It also requires appropriate tools, supplies and time. Tools and supplies are measured by the quality of the engineer’s workshop, which must be at least as high as the item quality (which is equal to the cost). To build our pepperbox revolver (Average cost and, thus, Average item quality), the character must have an Average or better workshop.

Building something is time-consuming, taking at least a day per level of item quality over Mediocre (minimum of one day), so it’s assumed that characters will only be building things that they can’t buy or acquire otherwise. More often, it’s assumed they will skip the time to build the base item, and instead start with something that already exists and then improve it.

Cost Increments

Price Amount
Terrible [-2] Under 1c
Poor [-1] Under 5c
Mediocre [+0] Under 20c
Average [+1] Under 50c
Fair [+2] Under 100c
Good [+3] Under 500c
Great [+4] Under 1000c
Excellent [+5] Under 10,000c
Extraordinary [+6] Under 100,000c
Epic [+7] Under 1,000,000c
Legendary [+8] Money is no object

Castle Falkenstein offers a price list for common items on p. 166, as well as a a list of common gadget components and their costs on p. 209.

Improving Things

Engineers can tinker to improve or change the workings of any device. There is an array of possible improvements, which include:

Additional Capability
The device can now do something else of roughly the same scope. An automobile might also be able to be a boat, for example, or a gun might be able to shoot a grappling hook. Alternately, it may be able to do something normal but do it exceptionally well (so that a technology works like it does in the movies rather than real life).
Alternate Usage
The device allows skills to be used differently. For example, a Hemato-Detector Device might allow an investigator to use Education rather than Perception to examine a crime scene for traces of blood.
Anachrotech [2]
The device can include a technological advance we already know about but which hasn’t happened yet. However, this is roughly limited to technologies that existed before the beginning of World War II.
Adds guns or blades to a device that would not normally have them, allowing its use with the Marksmanship or Fencing skill.
A device may be given armour, meaning that when the user spends one fate point, the device absorbs a single consequence; you don’t take the stress it would have absorbed, and you don’t fill the consequence slot.
Light Armour: Absorb a single mild consequence; you don’t take the stress it would have absorbed, and you don’t fill the consequence slot.
Medium Armour [2]: Absorb a single moderate consequence; you don’t take the stress it would have absorbed, and you don’t fill the consequence slot.
Heavy Armour [3]: 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.
The device has some manner of autopilot and is able to act independently in a very limited fashion.
Like independent, but the device is capable of basic reasoning, and can interpret simple commands.
Hair Trigger
This is mostly only applicable to explosives. A bomb with a hair trigger has no delay – it blows up as soon as it’s thrown. The bad news is that Hair Triggers can be a bit tricky, and there’s a chance of it blowing up in your hand. Failing the throw means that it explodes at the thrower’s feet! Also, if a character carrying a hair trigger device takes any physical stress or consequences, he must roll a die, and on a -, it explodes.
Something that’s not normally portable can now fit in a large set of luggage, while something merely large can now fit in a wristwatch.
The inverse of miniaturization: Sometimes you just need something to be BIG! This improvement is used to alter an item for circumstances when size will truly matter, such as a weapon that can’t possibly damage its intended mega-monster target without being very large, or a car that’s actually house-sized and able to transport a huge number of passengers.
The device gives a +1 bonus to any effort using it (usually only to one skill, if the device supports the use of multiple skills). This improvement may not be taken more than once per affected skill.
The device has 2 extra boxes of stress capacity over the default, which is usually 3. May be taken multiple times.
Special Effect [2]
A device may now operate on different principles, like a car that runs on water or a gun which can shoot ghosts. The game benefit of this will depend highly on the specifics.
A specific improvement, granting a +2 bonus to some fairly specific use for the thing. An automobile, for example, might get a +2 in a swamp or a +2 on the straightaway.

To improve an item (rather than create it from scratch), start with the base difficulty to create the device based on the item quality, as before.

Next, determine how many improvements you want to make. Each improvement increases the difficulty (and required workshop quality) by one except as noted in brackets. Each improvement takes approximately 8 hours to implement.

If the player is willing to increase total time to improve the item by one increment on the time table, he gains a +1 bonus to the roll; increasing it again results in a +2 bonus, and so forth. This bonus doesn’t reduce the requirements for the workshop, however; that’s still based on the quality of the item (and thus the difficulty target). The player may also reduce the time spent; if less total time is spent improving the item, each step faster on the time table imposes a -1 penalty to the roll.

Succeeding at a cost means the gadget will have a special flaw. Succeeding with style means the gadget will have the aspect Fine Workmanship.

Time Increments

A few moments
Half a minute
A minute
A few minutes
15 minutes
Half an hour
An hour
A few hours
An afternoon
A day
A few days
A week
A few weeks
A month
A few months
A season
Half a year
A year
A few years
A decade
A lifetime

Equipment that characters make can be expected to last for the duration of a single adventure, but is assumed to be lost, deconstructed, or otherwise removed from play between adventures.


Jasper, a Dwarf Inventor, undertakes the construction of an Instantaneous Facsimile Transmission Device that will allow him to send a photograph of the real Count Vassili from his location in Vienna to Doña Ana in Strasbourg via telegraph. This means giving a telegraph station an additional capability; he would also like to add miniaturization so that he can make it portable in a suitcase, because he foresees using this a few more times on his trip as he races to join his ally in Constantinople.

The base difficulty starts at Mediocre [+0] and Jasper wants to add two improvements to a normal telegraph emitter, raising the difficulty to Good [+2], and it will take two days. Jasper has Great [+4] Tinkering and a workshop to match; since time is of the essence, he decides to try to reduce the time require by two increments (from “a few days” to “an afternoon”) so the difficulty is raised to Great [+4]. Jasper makes an overcome test on Tinkering and draws a +3, a success with style! Not only does he have his portable Instantaneous Facsimile Transmission Device later the same day, it shows Fine Workmanship.

Photos: 1886 Victorian Lancaster Pocket Watch Camera from Watchismo; 19th century French pistol-ring from io9.


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