Fate of Falkenstein: Amazing Vehicles and Infernal Weapons

Dragon and airships, from Castle Falkenstein (Willam Eaken, 1994)More on hacking Fate Core (Evil Hat Productions) to play Castle Falkenstein (R. Talsorian Games) (see previous posts). In what is possibly the last item to convert, I’m musing about how to translate vehicles.

Amazing Vehicles and Infernal Weapons

If you want to use the rules from Castle Falkenstein pp. 190-191 and 208-215, the main change to make is to replace the damage system. In CF, the damage caused by infernal weapons and the number of “wound” points equipment receives is based on size and on building materials, as shown in the tables found on p. 191 of Castle Falkenstein.

Instead, I suggest using the advice sketched under the “Extras” section in Fate Core and under “Subsystems” in the Fate System Toolkit. In short, it means applying the Fate Fractal to these contraptions and treating them like characters by giving them aspects, skills, stunts, and even consequences.

Castle Falkenstein p. 210Here I’m going to leave things sketchy because, to be honest, I’m not interested in writing a series of rules for how many aspects vehicles should have based on size, or how many consequences they should be able to take based on construction materials. In truth, this is all irrelevant; what matters is how important the vehicle or weapon is important to the story—or even how important a particular characteristic of the vehicle or weapon is to the story. For example, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea features numerous ships, even war vessels, but it really doesn’t matter how big they are; what matters is that they are sunk by the Nautilus.

Castle Falkenstein p. 211When you think in these terms, there is no point in trying to anticipate everything that will be created in a game with lists and tables. As an alternative, I offer you the following rules of thumb:

  • Assign two to five aspects to vehicles and infernal weapons that are important to the story, starting with a High Concept and a Trouble. The Castle Falkenstein pp. 210-215 vehicle and weapons creation rules are well-suited to suggesting some aspects.
  • An oft-used vehicle with story value that can act independently might be assigned appropriate skills such as Motoring or Helmsmanship, Marksmanship, Stealth, or Perception.
  • If there is going to be combat with other vehicle or weapons in the same general class size, give one or more consequence slots. I recommend using the advice in the Toolkit: an average vehicle—3 or fewer aspects—can take one mild consequence; an exceptional vehicle—4 or 5 aspects—can take one mild and one moderate consequence; and a vehicle with an aspect like Rugged or Military Grade may be able to take one severe consequence.
  • If the vehicle is going to be the player characters’ mobile base or one of their important advantages, for example if the heroes are going to be ruling the skies on their own airship and fighting Robur the Conqueror and his air pirates, the skill ranks, stunts, refresh, and aspect slots can be invested by invested by several characters.

Size as described in Castle Falkenstein can be ranked on the Fate ladder. The numerical modifier may not be used depending on the way the vehicle is treated in the story, but at least it provides a relative comparison between different vehicles.

  • Tiny = Poor [-1]
  • Small = Mediocre [+0]
  • Medium = Average [+1]
  • Large = Fair [+2]
  • Huge = Good [+3]
  • Immense = Great [+4]
  • Gigantic = Excellent [+5]
  • Titanic = Extraordinary [+6]


The group wants to play the crew and passengers of an airship from the Free State of Orleans. The airship is going to be important to the story and PCs so she gets a good deal of attention.

The private merchant airship Nuage d’Or is the pride and joy of her captain, Jean-Michel du Pont-de-la-Vierge. She’s one of about 30-40 merchant class ships built by the North during the American Civil War. Some of them were captured by the South and after the war a few were bought by folks in the South. Number 24 of the series, the Pride of Akron, was confiscated when her owner neglected to pay certain “taxes, fees, and considerations” (read “bribes”). Jean-Michel paid what was necessary and renamed her Nuage d’Or.

After purchasing her, Jean-Michel brought a few modifications to the Nuage d’Or: three Gatling guns (one forward starboard, one forward port, one aft centre), and light armouring overall (including some on the external gasbag envelope). “Light armouring” would normally stop smaller calibre bullets, probably Gatling gun bullets as well, but definitely not an artillery shell. The armouring is concealed and the guns are kept very low profile.

A modification added a bit later was to section off part of the cargo area into rooms which could serve as either smaller, securable cargo areas or else as very modest passenger quarters. The Nuage also has more winches and secondary mooring points then would be found on most merchant ships; since she frequently goes to primitive areas where there are no mooring towers, Jean-Michel has had to tie off onto whatever’s in the area. This includes: trees, large trees, very large trees, cliff faces, a sunken riverboat, houses, large boulders and combinations of the above. Passengers and light cargo can be lowered in a basket or, for the truly adventurous, a harness rig where a person can slide down an inclined rope (very much like what you see in an Army obstacle course). It can be done solo, in which case the traveller had best be aiming for loose sand or something to cushion their landing, or else someone on the Nuage can control the descent by paying out a line attached to the harness. For something to really write home about it can be done between two airships at several thousand feet. Not recommended for the faint of heart…

The Nuage d’Or is sketched using the method for Amazing Vehicles in Castle Falkenstein, p. 210:

  • Function: A hydrogen-filled airship with the ability of controlled flight that can be used to explore distant regions safely and swiftly.
  • Looks: Metallized fabric stretched over thin metal and wooden ribs; hissing steam vents and huffing pistons; ornate gilded scrollwork and glossy hand-rubbed paint; lots of shiny brass knobs and fittings; large brass dials and gauges.
  • Powered by: Boiler powering a Steam Engine.
  • Controlled by: A complex arrangement of Levers, Cables and a Captain’s Wheel.
  • Moves with: Shiny Propellors on Intricate Shafts.
  • Armed with: Three Gatling guns (one forward starboard, one forward port, one aft center.)
  • Size: Large (crew of 21), a.k.a. Fair [+2].

Based on this thumbnail and the background description, the GM and players agree on the following stats:

The Nuage d’Or

Permissions: None; understood as part of the game’s premise.

Costs: Skill ranks, refresh, and aspect slots, invested by several characters.

Aspects: High Concept: Private Orleanese Merchant Airship; Trouble: Her Previous Owner Wants Her Back; other aspects: Gatlings Guns; and Extra Compartments and Passenger Quarters.

Skills: Good [+3] Flight (equivalent to Helmsmanship); Fair [+2] Marksmanship.

Stunts: Park on a Dime. The Nuage d’Or gives +2 to Flight or Helmsmanship tests to access and moor in difficult locations.

Stress: Two minor consequences (thanks to the armouring), one moderate consequence.

Finally, if you want more detailed rules for large vehicle combat, I recommend you read Rob Wieland’s rules for mech armour in “CAMELOT Trigger,” one of the settings offered in Fate Worlds Vol. 2: Worlds in Shadow (Evil Hat Productions).

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