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This work is based on the War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus SRD (found at http://www.faterpg.com/), a product of Evil Hat Productions, LLC, developed, authored, and edited by Sophie Lagace, Mike Olson, Karen Twelves, and Sean Nittner, and licensed for our use under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/).
This Open Content supplement presents rules first seen in War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus. They cover the following:
Advanced conflict rules designed to support (but not require) use of miniatures
Magic based on the blessings and curses of capricious gods
Wondrous artifacts from a lost civilization
Expanded adventure creation mechanics
Re-scaling a campaign that has been running for a while
Together they can be used to play a range of fantasy adventures, from old-school dungeon-delving with Fate rules to epics in the vein of the Odysseus's adventures.
These rules can be matched either with approaches as in War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus or Fate Accelerated, or with skills as in Fate Core or Atomic Robo RPG. Throughout the text, we provide examples based on both.
In a fight it can make a big difference whether you hold a sword, a two-handed battle axe, or a potato peeler, so we use some rules for equipment, particularly weapons and armor.
A stunt can reflect specialized, high-quality, or exotic equipment that your character has access to that gives them a frequent edge over other characters.
Your character starts with one equipment stunt, which works like a normal stunt but has a few additional options. If a piece of equipment is such an important part of your character, you may even want to name it.
Basic Effects: Equipment stunts can take a form similar to regular or innate stunts.
Because I have [describe item], I get +2 when I [pick one: attack, defend, create advantages, overcome] with [pick one: Fight, Shoot] when [describe a narrow circumstance].
Because I have [describe item], I can substitute my [pick one: Fight, Shoot] skill for [normally used skill] when I [pick one: attack, defend, create advantages, overcome] when [describe a narrow circumstance].
Stiletto: Because I hide a nasty stiletto in my boot-top, I get +2 to attacks with Fight when my opponent have their back to me.
Knight's Shield: Because I have my knight's shield, I get +2 to defend with Fight from opponents coming from my left.
Sword of Theseus: Because I wield the ancient sword of the hero Theseus, I can use Fight instead of Provoke to create an advantage by intimidating my opponents when they have a clear view of the brandished sword.
Because I have [describe item], I get +2 when I [pick one: Carefully, Cleverly, Flashily, Forcefully, Quickly, Sneakily] [pick one: attack, defend, create advantages, overcome] when [describe a narrow circumstance].
Two-Handed Battle Axe: Because my trusty two-handed battle axe has a mighty arc, I get a +2 when I Quickly attack from above (such as leaping off a building).
My Father's Helmet: Because I have my father's helmet, I get a +2 bonus when I Flashily create an advantage by yelling a short encouragement to my troops on the battlefield.
Round Buckler: Because I have a round buckler, I get a +2 when I Carefully defend when facing only one opponent.
Weapon Combinations: What if you are specifically trained with sword and shield, or are a master of the two-sword technique? Do you need to spend two stunts on the combination, one for each hand? Not necessarily. You could attach a stunt to the combination itself, using the same formula as above.
Florentine Style: Because I fight with sword and dagger, I get +2 when I successfully make a Fight attack against an opponent in single combat.
Sword and Shield: Because I have a sword and shield, I get +2 when I Carefully defend against damage coming from my off-side.
Lethal Damage: Lethal damage does not deal stress points—it goes directly to consequences (more on this in Advanced Conflict below.) If you want to have a weapon stunt that lets you do lethal damage instead of one of the basic effects, it must have the form of:
Because I have [weapon], once per session I deal lethal damage when I make a [pick one: Fight, Shoot] attack successfully.
Because I have [weapon], once per session I deal lethal damage when I make a [pick one: Careful, Clever, Flashy, Forceful, Quick, Sneaky] attack successfully.
See "Lethal Attacks" for more.
Damascus Steel Sword: Because my damascus blade holds a fine edge that can pierce armor, once per session I deal lethal damage when I make a Fight attack successfully.
Spiked Morningstar "Skullbreaker": Because my heavy morningstar crushes my foes' bones, once per session I deal lethal damage when I make a Forceful attack successfully.
Poisoned Dagger: Because I have a hollow dagger with a poison reservoir, once per session I deal lethal damage when I make a Sneaky attack successfully.
Zones and Ranged Weapons: An equipment stunt could also be used to affect opponents in other zones, or affect an entire zone with an attack.
Because I have [weapon with long reach or range] I can use [pick one: Fight, Shoot] to attack, create advantage, or overcome in [pick one: my zone and adjacent zones, up to three zones away but not in my zone].
Because I have [weapon with long reach or range] I can [pick one: Carefully, Cleverly, Flashily, Forcefully, Quickly, Sneakily] attack, create advantage, or overcome in [pick one: my zone and adjacent zones, up to three zones away but not in my zone].
Because I have [a weapon that affects multiple targets], once per session I can attack every opponent in [pick one: my zone, an adjacent zone].
See also "Zones and the Battlefield" for more info about zones.
Hallberd: Because I whirl my hallberd with flair, I can use Fight to attack, create advantages, or overcome in my zone or an adjacent zone.
Bow and Arrow: Because I have a bow and arrow, I can use Shoot to attack, create advantages, or overcome up to three zones away, but not in my zone.
Throwing Knives: Because I wield throwing knives, I can Quickly attack, create advantages, and overcome in my zone and adjacent zones.
Alchemical Bombs: Because I create volatile alchemical concoctions, once per session I can attack every opponent in my zone.
Heavy Shield: Because I have a heavy shield on my right arm, I get +2 to Forcefully push an opponent into an adjacent zone.
Equipment Stunts and Weight: Equipment stunts can also add weight in conflicts. See "Stunts and Weight" for more detail and examples.
Repair and Replacement: Damaged or lost stunt equipment can be repaired in play, or replaced as a stunt transfer as part of normal milestone advancement.
Some stunts can also affect weight. They typically take the form of:
When I use my [talent, advantage, equipment, or riding beast] in [pick as appropriate: social, mental, physical, etc.] conflict, my weight counts as 2 in [narrow circumstance].
Battledress Armor: Because I wear my battledress, my weight counts as 2 when defending against physical attacks.
Wolf Rider: When I ride my faithful dire wolf into battle, my weight counts as 2 in physical conflicts against opponents of individual weight 2 or less.
Princeling: Because I am a princeling by-blow of King Olaf, my weight counts as 2 in social conflicts involving Vikings.
Barbaric Yawp: When I sound my barbaric yawp, my weight counts as 2 in the first round of physical conflicts.
Big-Ass Axe: Because I am a Giant Creature of Destruction that wields a Big-Ass Axe, in physical conflicts my weight counts as 4 when I charge into melee. (Takes two stunt slots, i.e., two points of refresh. An appropriate stunt if playing a cave troll, for instance).
The GM and player can decide at the table if this type of stunt would go into their equipment slot or not, if applicable. Is your Big-Ass Axe considered your only weapon, or do you have that and a great spear?
Conflicts are used to resolve situations where characters are trying to harm one another, whether morally (hurting feelings), socially (demolishing reputations), physically (coming to blows), or through some other means. It could mean physical harm (a sword fight, a magic duel, a good old fashioned bar brawl), but it could also be mental harm (a shouting match, a tough interrogation, a debate between scholars).
Let's start with a quick overview of how advanced conflict unfolds, then we'll go into more detail showing you step-by-step how this plays out.
Conflicts: The 30-Second Version
Set the scene.
Determine turn order.
Optional: Roar phase.
Start the first exchange:
On your turn, take an action.
On other people's turns, defend against or respond to their actions as necessary.
At the end of everyone's turn, start a new exchange or end the conflict.
Establish what's going on, where everyone is, and what the environment is like. Who is the opposition? The GM should write a couple of situation aspects on sticky notes or index cards and place them on the table. Players can suggest situation aspects, too.
The GM also establishes zones, loosely defined areas that tell you where characters are. Rather than limiting—as many other games would—how far in measurement units you can get in one unit of time, or how far you can shoot, then applying penalties for local conditions like terrain or visibility, it skips the math and looks at local conditions to then establish how far you can move or shoot.
This method is also part and parcel of Fate's fractal nature, since it allows re-scaling; if you change the time unit, or the size of the map, or both, then naturally your zones are going to change too, while necessitating no change to the rules describing how things work.
Even in physical conflict, zones aren't measured in yards in the fiction or inches on a map—they're much more abstract than that. Roughly speaking, if another combatant is close enough that you could take a few steps and attack them with a hand-to-hand weapon, like a spear, axe, or dagger, you're both in the same zone. In non-physical conflicts a zone might represent areas of political influence, a clan supporting one of their own, the various gods' attention, or groups of people you can talk to.
You can visually represent zones using a number of different means, such as a series of connected squares drawn on a piece of paper, index cards arranged together on the table, elaborate 3-D terrain tiles, or anything in between. The only thing that really matters is that everyone has a clear idea of where the zones begin and end and how their spaces relate to one another.
Physical conflict: Raiders are attacking the characters in an old farm house. The kitchen is one zone, the bedroom another, the front porch another, and the yard a fourth. Anyone in the same zone can easily throw punches at each other. You can also carry the fight from one room into another.
That's all nice and well for a battlefield, but what about conflicts that don't involve coming to blows? How do you establish zones for a social conflict (for example, about who will become the new leader of a scout troop) or a mental one (for example, a debate between scholars of the Royal Academy of Sciences)?
The process is essentially the same, but the zones represent more abstract divisions of the metaphorical ground the opponents are fighting over.
Social conflict: Jusipio and Meloria, respectively members of the Architects' Guild and the Merchants' Guild, disagree about what to do with the limited supply of stones excavated from a quarry. Jusipio argues for a bridge across the river to ensure the new city's communications, while Meloria wants to build a new granary to protect the food reserves from barbarian incursions. The Architects' and Merchants' Guilds form two zones, the city council a third in between them.
Of course, zones aren't merely abstract space—they're the very terrain of the battlefield. To that end, every zone can have a zone aspect that tells you what's in it. Unlike character aspects, zone aspects shouldn't be particularly nuanced. The simpler and more straightforward, the better. No matter what the terrain in the zone is like, it's going to be useful in some situations and a hindrance in others. An aspect that clearly communicates that in one or two words is ideal.
Keep it intuitive and broad—and short enough that it can easily fit on an index card. There are two good reasons for this rule of thumb. One, the battlefield is likely going to contain several zones and therefore several aspects, and you don't want things to look cluttered and confusing for the players or yourself. Two, time spent crafting the perfect zone aspect is time not spent actually playing the game. Better a good zone aspect now than a great one in 90 seconds.
A zone might have Trees or a Steep Slope, or it might be a Kitchen or a Crumbling Stairway, or even a Waterfall or Bottomless Chasm. Every zone needs a zone aspect. That flat, featureless meadow over there? Why, that's an Open Field.
If a zone has more than one potentially interesting feature, either combine the two into one succinct aspect (like a Farmhouse On Fire) or pick the one that you think will be most entertaining or relevant to the scene and go with that (what feels more fun for this combat, a Narrow Passage or all those Rocks and Boulders in it?).
Normally it's the GM's job to assign zone aspects, but that doesn't mean they all have to be done in advance. If the PCs are in a starting position that prohibits them from seeing the entire battlefield—due to a closed door, outcropping of rock, heavy fog, or the like, feel free to leave them blank and fill them in as the PCs gain visibility to them.
Alternately, let the players define some of these aspects by exploring these zones. Handling zone aspects in this way gives the players more control over their situation and lends a little more unpredictability to the combat. This is a create an advantage action, typically using Clever or Careful, and can be done from another zone, provided the character in question can see into the unexplored zone. Generally speaking, you can't replace an existing zone aspect, unless the aspect itself is responsible for obscuring the zone in the first place. The difficulty for this task should be fairly low, such as Average (+1) or Fair (+2). If it makes sense that a zone aspect would make the task more difficult, increase it by +2 for every such aspect. Likewise, if the unexplored aspect is more than one zone away from the character, increase the difficulty by +2 for every zone that separates them.
Olivia the scout wants to know what's hiding in the Fog a couple zones over, so she takes time to Carefully peer into it and see what she can make out. The GM sets the difficulty at Average (+1), then bumps it up by +2 because of that Fog and another +2 for being two zones away. That doesn't sound so good to Olivia's player. Fortunately, she's able to move a zone closer, lowering the difficulty to Good (+3), and gets a result of Great (+4). Success! Since the scene takes place in a mountain pass, the player suggests that the zone actually contains a Fog-Shrouded Chasm, and the GM agrees. Someone's in for a surprise.
Each pre-defined zone aspect starts the scene with one free invocation. Aspects "discovered" by the players (that is, by creating an advantage) start with one or two free invocations, as usual.
GMs are encouraged to use common sense when determining whether an aspect would affect a particular creature or character. For example, flying creatures would be affected by Buffeting Winds but not by Icy Ground, and a swamp-dwelling creature would not mind Marshy Terrain but would be at a disadvantage on High Rocky Ground.
Deciding the size of a battlefield—how many zones it contains—can be a tricky business. Too many and you have wasted space, or combatants spread so far apart that their spatial relationships to one another have little meaning. Too few, and everyone's crammed together into a too-small space, without a variety of terrain types to make things fun and interesting.
Start by visualizing the scene in your mind's eye. What does the surrounding area look like? Is it all on a flat plain, or is there varying elevation? What's of interest nearby? If the answer comes back "Uh… I dunno." then put something interesting in and expand outward from there.
In the course of their quest, Olivia, Rolf, and Deliah and some hired mercenaries need to deal with a hostile lizardmen encampment. The GM wants the scene to take place in a tactically interesting location, but other than knowing that she wants the PCs to have to take care of some guards, she isn't sure where to start. Fighting guards in a flat plain would be pretty dull, and she can't imagine the lizardmen would camp in such a vulnerable location anyway. Maybe they're in some badlands where they can post lookouts on natural pillars of rock—it's a cool visual. Even better would be access via a narrow ravine cutting through a low cliffside. So far the battlefield looks like this:
At the bottom of the cliff, our GM pictures a sparsely forested area with a clearing—so the lookouts can see intruders coming---but also a water feature of some kind, just to mix things up. A lake would be good. It's fun to throw people into, and it makes some sense with the ravine. And a waterfall flowing into it. Sure. You don't to be a professional geologist; we just want a battlefield with interesting features.
That seems like enough for some variety, with enough space that missile weapons will make a difference. Our GM imagines hidden lizardmen archers on the clifftops letting fly at the approaching PCs, a PC or two sniping back from cover of the trees, someone being pushed into the lake, or maybe even off the waterfall or a big jagged pillar…
Note that our GM hasn't assigned aspects to two zones. She figures the PCs can't see them from where they're starting (the Sparse Trees in the upper left), plus it'll be fun to define them during play.
Your turn order in a conflict is based on your approaches. In a physical conflict, compare your Quick approach to the other participants'—the one with the fastest reflexes goes first. In a mental conflict, compare your Careful approach—attention to detail will warn you of danger. Whoever has the highest approach goes first, and then everyone else goes in descending order.
Break ties in whatever manner makes sense, with the GM having the last word. For example, in an open fight, Forceful might break ties. In an ambush, it might be Sneaky. Of course, if the situation makes it clear who attacks first (such as an ambush, a ritual, or some sort of asymmetrical situation) then the situation should trump the approaches.
GMs, it's simplest if you pick your most advantageous NPC to determine your place in the turn order, and let all your NPCs go at that time. But if you have a good reason to determine turn order individually for all your NPCs, go right ahead.
The Roar phase is a fun option if you're using approaches (as in War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus or Fate Accelerated) and your setting lends itself to it. At the start of conflicts, combatants can psych themselves up, call out challenges to each other, cast rituals, jockey for position, etc.; this is called the Roar phase, when opponents can enter a transcendent state.
This state may occur through intense concentration and focus, through wildly uncontrolled (and usually violent) emotions, through fearless derring-do, or the like.
To Roar is to be a paragon of one chosen facet of oneself. To outside eyes, the studiously intense scholar would seem to have nothing in common with the literally-foaming-at-the-mouth barbarian warrior, but both are, in fact, roaring.
In Fate terms, Roar is an initial step of conflict during which anyone can create an advantage. With great reward, however, comes great risk, and roaring means not having access to the full range of your usual capabilities.
In one respect, creating a Roar aspect is like creating any other situational aspect—they're both just using an approach to create an advantage. But there are three major differences when it comes to actually bringing one of these aspect extras into being.
For one, when you roar and as long as you are in this state, you are limited to using the approach you used to create the Roar advantage, and the two connected approaches (see the diagram).
Olivia is entering a conflict with Lord Marcus Sidonius and Olivia's player wants her to roar with Careful, so she attempts to create the advantage Intensely Focused. Once she's roaring, she can use the free invoke from that aspect normally, but she's limited to the Careful, Sneaky, and Clever approaches.
Second, the base difficulty to create one of these Roar aspects is +2. The players and the GM take turns rolling for Roar aspects—that's right, the GM can create as many aspects as the players do. How many free invocations are generated for each aspect, however, depends on the roll results.
Finally, trying and failing to create a Roar aspect means success at a cost. The Roar aspect will be created, but along with it will come a related consequence for the GM to use against the PC. On a tie, the GM only gets a boost against the PC rather than a consequence. It's a tricky business, transcending the bounds of mortal consciousness and capability. With great ambition comes great risk, and the gods don't take kindly to hubris. Note that minor NPCs who can't take consequences thus can't create a Roar aspect at a cost; they simply fail altogether.
Olivia fails the roll to create the roar aspect Intensely Focused for her debate against Lord Marcus Sidonius. The GM decides that Olivia will gain the mild consequence Oblivious to her Surroundings. The GM gets one free invocation of that consequence.
Minor GM characters can roar with something they are skilled at, but lose the Roar aspect automatically if they have to use an ability they are bad at.
The NPC Lord Marcus Sidonius is skilled (+2) at appraising goods, negotiating contracts, and avoiding a straight answer, so he might roar by beating around the bush with a flowery opening speech to avoid getting to the point. He is bad (-2) at physical activity and admitting he's wrong, so he would automatically lose his roar aspect if he had to face evidence that he gave incorrect figures, or if Olivia managed to move around so that he is huffing and puffing to keep up with her pace.
Naturally, a Roar aspect can be compelled, either by the player who created it or by the GM. If the player compels it, it's worth a fate point, as usual. If the GM compels a character's Roar aspect, however, refusing a compel not only costs the player a fate point as usual, but also removes the Roar aspect from play. See "Losing a Roar Aspect" on the next page.
A Roar aspect lasts until you choose to use a non-adjacent approach or until the end of the scene, whichever comes first. Barring any interference, of course. If the GM offers you a fate point to keep on Raging just as you're about to calm things down, for example, accepting means you're stuck with it for a while. You can pretty much count on the GM using this to your disfavor one way or another. What happens when the Raging barbarian can't stop raging, even though the only combatants still standing are his allies? Excellent question. Hopefully someone will survive to answer it.
As noted earlier, refusing a compel on a Roar aspect not only costs a fate point, but immediately removes the Roar aspect from play. There are no half-measures with Roar—either you're roaring or you're not. And as soon as you're not, it's over.
Back to our earlier example, where Olivia was Intensely Focused. During their heated conversation, Olivia had started walking briskly to wear Sidonius down. Their walk has led them to a glade outside of town. Unfortunately for the both of them, one lone Orc has strayed from its pack to the same glade. If it notices them, more will soon follow. If Olivia wants to flee (Quick) or defend (Forceful), she will have to lose the Roar aspect. The GM offers a shiny fate point if Olivia will keep roaring, and Olivia's player accepts. She thinks she can Cleverly hide from the Orc… Let's hope she has not underestimated their keen sense of smell.
Roar isn't something to be entered into lightly. Roaring can mean risk and loss just as easily as power and glory.
Priests and others who bravely court the favor of the gods can create very special aspects through magic rituals during the Roar phase. See under "Battle Rituals".
Fate veterans may wonder why we have a Roar phase and its effects, if both sides can create an equal number of advantageous aspects. Here's why:
First, it's part of the setting for a lot of historical material that inspires fantasy, such as ritual calling-out and boasting in many societies from Western Europe to Western Africa to the Pacific Islands
Second, even when Roar aspects aren't used directly against each other, it adds to the fiction by shining a spotlight on each character in conflict and what they're about. These aspects are used in a variety of ways; the Roar phase doesn't guarantee a zero sum between GM and players because some of them are won by way of taking a consequence before the battle even starts.
Third, it lets you create lots of temporary aspects with free invocations you can stack later (see "Invoking for Effect") at the moment in combat when the enemy is not trying to hurt you yet, so you don't have to worry about defending.
Finally, it's the only way to create certain types of advantages, particularly battle rituals (see "Magic").
Next, each character takes a turn in order. On their turn, a character can take one of the four actions. Resolve the action to determine the outcome. The conflict is over when only one side has characters still in the fight.
Rolf has been challenged for leadership of his crew by First Mate Hans, in front of the assembled scurvy sailors of the good ship Fiero. This is a fairly dramatic point in the story and the GM decides to run it as a conflict. The two opponents will deal other stress through use of bombastic boasting, savage threats, well-crafted arguments, and base personal attacks. It's possible that they may come to blows, but what matters is convincing the crew to fall in behind one of them.
While various types of conflict in Fate—social, mental, physical, etc.—use the same basic rules,combat and warfare can play out as a special type of conflict, relying much more than others on visual elements. When a conflict escalates into the physical, it's often time to go to the maps and the minis.
In the following discussion, anyone in a fight is called a fighter. They don't literally have to be a career soldier or anything—it's just shorthand.
To keep track of things in a combat, every fighter is represented on the battlefield by a miniature or token of some kind. Miniatures are ideal, because they give the battlefield more color and visual interest. If they don't come pre-painted, they can be fun to paint, whether you're good at it or not. If you don't have any miniatures handy, distinctive markers such as cardstock standees or cardboard tokens will do the trick equally well. For nameless NPCs, you can even use coins of varying denominations. (Hey, they're nameless for a reason. Representing them with pennies is… apt.) As long as you can tell who's who, you're golden.
Why are miniatures so popular in roleplaying games and what do we use them for in physical conflict scenes?
Visualizing the action: Playing out scenes is visually exciting and focuses the attention of the players. Having a scaled-down model of the scene also helps the gamemaster define zones and the entire group stay on the same page as the events unfold.
Adjudicating movement and maneuvers: It helps to see what is going on in order to decide whether Ragnar can actually move past Salvia, or whether the sparse trees provides any cover against Goomba's ranged attack.
Suggesting actions and supporting tactical decisions: Just as the GM gets a better idea of what is possible, being able to see the action suggests to the players some of the cool actions their characters might take.
Weight represents how importance, influence, size, or numbers favor one side over the other.
Weight in Combat
Things like a fighter's facing and positioning within a zone don't really come into play—these rules don't care about that level of detail. Instead, it's the relative weight of combatants within a zone.
Add up the weights of all fighters on each side of a combat in a zone. If one side's total is greater than the other, that side outweighs the other side, or is "heavier." Unless a character has a specific stunt that would affect their weight, the general size of the character determines weight. Humans and most player character types normally have an individual weight of 1. Other creatures (monsters) can have different weights.
If the heavier side outweighs their opponents in the zone by at least two to one, they can replace any one of the dice they rolled with a [+].
If the heavier side attacker outweighs their target by at least four to one, they can replace two of the Fate dice results with [+].
It's a good idea to indicate weight advantage on the battle map using Fate dice, Campaign Coins' Fate Tokens, or Deck of Fate cards so you'll remember when it's time to roll dice.
Deliah is facing off against a couple of City guards; they outweigh her two to one, so the GM sets down a Fate Token to mark a [+] and rolls the dice for the guards' attack. She rolls [00-+], but replaces the [-] with a [+], for a final result of [00++]. On her turn, Deliah concentrates her attack on taking one guard out as fast as possible to gain a respite; by himself, the surviving guard no longer outweighs her and does not get the chance to change one die result to [+].
Alas for Deliah, the guard hangs on long enough for reinforcements to show up, and she now faces four more guards. They outweigh her at least four to one (five to one, really, but there's no additional bonus) so they now get to change results on two dice, thus changing a [0-+-] roll to [0+++]. Deliah is in trouble.
Weight comes into play whenever common sense dictates it would be relevant. Always include it when attacking or defending, but not necessarily when creating an advantage or overcoming. It depends entirely on context. Generally speaking, if the mere presence of allies in a zone would help accomplish something, it's reasonable to include the weight advantage.
Rolf wants to create an advantage against the horde of goblins he's fighting by toppling a ruined wall onto them. He and his allies outweigh the goblins in their zone, but in this case that's not really helping him since he's acting alone, so he'll roll as usual.
Later, channeling his ancestors of old, he attempts to create another advantage by intimidating the opposition with a savage battle cry. In this case, the GM rules that the presence of his allies around him makes Rolf's threats more credible, so he rolls the dice and can change one result to [+].
If the relative weights of two sides change during a round, adjust the dice accordingly on thenext roll after they've changed. In other words, who outweighs whom can change on a turn-by-turn basis, no matter how things started out.
Our three heroes, along with a mercenary pal of theirs, face off against four lizardmen in their zone. So far, their relative weights are equal, so everyone will roll normally on their attacks and defenses. Rolf acts first, and manages to take out two lizardmen fighters. Now the PCs outweigh the lizardmen two to one, so when the next player's turn comes around, they'll get the benefit of the [+] die on their roll.
Weight in Social Conflicts
In social conflicts---for example, a debate between two leaders for control of a Guild---weight represents the importance, influence, and authority of the opponents. Rank, reputation, credibility, and circumstances will factor into this, and unlike physical conflicts, sheer numbers may not carry the day.
When addressing the Royal Court:
The monarch has a weight of 8;
A high-ranking Houselord has a weight of 4;
The Houselord of a small Mercantile House has a weight of 2;
Commoners have a weight of 1, no matter how many of them are there.
In a scholarly debate:
A renowned academician might have a weight of 4.
A run-of-the mill professor might have a weight of 2;
A mere graduate student would have a weight of 1;
Commoners would have a weight of 0; it takes a swarm to add up to a weight of 1 and heckle enough to derail an argument.
Some creatures, like hornets or crows, are so small they have a weight of 0. They are too small to affect a creature of weight 1 or more unless there are a large number of them. Defeating an individual creature with weight 0 is handled using the overcome action instead of a conflict. So when creatures such as these attack en masse, they do so in a swarm.
Swarms come in three basic sizes. A small swarm, the size of an average human, is weight 1. A big swarm, one about the size of a bear, is weight 2. A huge swarm, one as big as a troll, is weight 4.
If you want really huge swarms, the kind that can cover an entire farmstead, use several huge swarms. Five huge swarms are a lot more interesting and versatile in a fight than one gargantuan weight 20 swarm. Not only can five huge swarms spread out to five different zones, they can also work together to get a teamwork bonus. See "Characters and Creatures" for more about groups of adversaries.
"What if I want to use swarms of something larger, like wolves or hyenas?"
Sure, you can do that too. See "Groups of Minions" for more details.
While they outweigh their opponents, swarms can't be damaged by normal attacks that don't affect an entire zone, nor are they affected by opposed movement---there's just too many of them to try to make them go anywhere they don't want to go. Without a weapon such as an alchemical explosion, you have to invoke an aspect for effect to make your attack affect a wide area, like Boiling Oil or Flooded Room.
Olivia and Rolf have run into three big (weight 2) swarms of vampire bats spread out around the ancient ruins they were exploring. Right now the heroes are outweighed so their particular weapons are useless against the swarm. With all his might, Rolf knocks one of the giant pillars loose and uses the create an advantage action to add the aspect Wobbly Pillar. On her action Olivia invokes the aspect for effect and is able to attack one of the swarms by pushing the pillar and letting it crash down on the bats.
A fighter can move to an adjacent, uncontested zone during their turn as a free action. This is made more difficult if:
The zone the fighter is in or going into has an aspect that suggests an obstacle.
The fighter is attempting to move more than one zone.
Someone is blocking the fighter, by grabbing or otherwise trying to stop zone change.
If the first or second condition is met, the fighter will face passive opposition to moving into another zone. If the third condition is met, they'll face active opposition. Either way, it's an overcome action.
Note that because this is an overcome action, the fighter will at the very least always have the option of succeeding with a serious cost. This means that if they really want to get out of their current zone, they will always be able to do so---but the cost may be more than they're willing to bear.
Rolf is on a Narrow Mountain Path, facing ranged attacks from bandits throwing javelins from the Sparsely Wooded Slope above. Rolf really wants to move into this adjacent zone to engage the bandits in melee, and the bandits oppose him. Unfortunately, the GM rolls well for the bandits and they tie with Rolf. Rolf's player still has the option to have Rolf succeed at a minor cost rather than remain an easy target; he offers to give the bandits a boost on Rolf, Winded For A Moment, and the GM agrees.
Regardless of the opposition and the outcome, opposed movement costs the fighter their action for the turn.
Passive opposition means the fighter's struggling against the environment. If either the starting zone or destination zone has an aspect that suggests an obstacle to be overcome, the difficulty is Fair (+2). If both zones have such an aspect, the difficulty is Great (+4).
Olivia is pinned in an Icy open zone by enemy archery volleys from a nearby cliff. She wants to get out and under cover of the nearby Boulders, so it's a passive roll and her difficulty is Great (+4) for the two adverse aspects.
If the fighter is trying to move more than one zone, add +2 per additional zone to the difficulty. If these have adverse aspects, add +2 per adverse aspect as well.
Rolf wants to move out of the Avalanche! zone, through the Rockfall zone, and into the Tundra Plain zone. The difficulty will be +2 for the extra zone and +4 for the two adverse aspects, for a total of +6. Difficult, but then again, so is recovering from being buried under falling rock…
Active opposition means the fighter and their opponent(s) will make an opposed roll, with the opponent's total providing a difficulty for the fighter to overcome. Moreover, the opposition can invoke adverse terrain aspects, as appropriate, to increase the difficulty by +2 per invocation.
Deliah is struggling in melee with a bandit who tried to prevent her from moving out of the Gaping Cliff Edge zone and into the Mountain Path zone. It would be an opposed roll instead, and the GM can invoke the adverse aspect to add to the difficulty.
It's often important in combat to force your opponents to be where you want them to be---and to resist being moved where they want you to be.
We've included some examples below of how you can take advantage of the four basic actions to create specific maneuvers.
Most maneuvers allow your character to move to a more favorable location (e.g., adjacent zone with a useful aspect such as Higher Ground or Good Footing), or move an opponent to a less favorable location (adjacent zone with a troublesome aspect such as Avalanche! or where the opponent will be outweighed).
Maneuvers as Actions
Maneuvers as actions should be declared before rolling. The player should think about the specific flair they want to add, and choose the appropriate maneuver. If it's not on this list, the GM can assist in making up the maneuver on the fly. Here are some examples of maneuvers that can be performed with basic actions:
Push: When you and your opponent are in the same zone and you succeed in an opposed overcome action, you can push the opponent back one zone as your action. At your discretion, you can end in the same zone or choose to push only your opponent.
Pull: When you and your opponent are in the same zone and you succeed in an opposed overcome action, you can move and pull the opponent with you one zone as your action.
Charge: When you run into melee in an adjacent zone, you double your weight for one attack action. Additionally, if you succeed with style, you can force the opponent back one zone in a straight line at the end of your action (in addition to the attack). You both end in the same zone. However, if you fail in your attack, you give your opponent a free boost---that's in addition to taking one stress for failing the attack as normal; and also in addition to the boost they would normally gain if they defended with style.
Rolf shouts a mighty battle cry and runs into the fray in the adjacent Foredeck zone, attacking two pirate sailors. He doubles his weight thanks to the charge, so no one is outweighed. Alas for Rolf, the pirates defend with style, gaining not only a boost as normal but an additional boost for the failed charge.
Full Defense: When you create an advantage to improve your defenses against attacks this turn, you create a Full Defense aspect that you can invoke freely once for every attack made against you, but the advantage goes away once you take any other action.
Full Attack: When you fully commit to an attack while disregarding your own safety, you can make an attack lethal (see "Lethal Attacks"). To do this, you must describe what you are doing and overcome a Good (+2) difficulty using an appropriate approach; on a success, your next attack will be lethal. However, your give your opponent a boost that works in their favor when they attack you, such as Exposed. A risky trade-off for adding extra oomph to your attack.
Ntombi decides to use a Full Attack against the grizzly she unwittingly angered. She swings her double-bladed polearm in a dizzying spiral to briefly force the grizzly backward, then with a great cry suddenly lunges with one blade aimed at the beast's neck. She rolls an overcome action using her Flashy approach; on a success, Ntombi's next attack will cause lethal damage. However, the grizzly gains an In Range! boost for its next attack.
Maneuvers as Boosts
Maneuvers as boosts are determined after the roll. Sometimes you land a lucky blow or make a skillful shot. Instead of taking a boost for succeeding with style on an attack, you can instead perform one of these maneuvers. Again, think about what you want to achieve, and interpret accordingly.
Knockback: When you succeed with style at a melee attack with a heavy weapon (e.g., two-handed mace), you can knock the opponent back one zone at the end of your action. You and the opponent end the action in two different zones.
Disarm: When you succeed with style at a melee attack, you can force your opponent to drop their weapon or shield. This prevents the use of any equipment stunt associated with it until they succeed at an overcome roll (difficulty +2) to pick it up or pick up another handy piece of equipment.
Footwork: When you succeed with style in a melee attack, you can move automatically one zone, even if someone is opposing your movement.
Deliah is fighting a crocodile at the water's edge, where it has an advantage. Next to her is a rocky upland terrain zone. Deliah succeeds with style with her attack, so instead of a boost she can move one zone even though the rocky terrain would normally provide her opposition.
The astute reader will notice that maneuvers as boosts are examples of invoking aspects for effect. In this case the aspect is a boost so it goes away once it's used, and since it's used as soon as it's gained, we don't bother writing the boost down.
For a variety of reasons, some attacks are more deadly than others. They're less a matter of wearing your opponent down than of landing exceptional blows which can have an immediate and devastating effect on the defender. In game terms, we call these attacks lethal.
While an average attack can usually be mitigated by checking a stress box, lethal attacks go straight to the defender's consequences, bypassing their stress track entirely. This means that a successful lethal attack will always mean some sort of longer-lasting trauma for the defender---or, in the case of mere minions, who don't have consequences to begin with, instant defeat. (Probably by death. We don't call them "lethal attacks" for nothing.)
Making an Attack Lethal
Broadly speaking, there are five main ways to make an attack into a lethal attack.
Using certain maneuvers.
Having a relevant stunt.
Using an appropriate magic ritual.
Some deadly creatures have lethal attacks.
Creating such excellent attack conditions that the GM judges the attack to be lethal.
The Full Attack maneuver sets you up to deliver a lethal attack but makes you exposed as well. See the "Maneuvers" section for more detail.
Having A Stunt
Certain stunts with a special weapon or using a particular technique can give particular attacks the ability to cause lethal damage. Lethal damage is always a "once per session" stunt effect. See the "Equipment Stunts" section for more detail.
Using a Battle Ritual
Rituals essentially grant temporary stunts and some rituals, such as "Combat Fury," can grant the ability to cause lethal damage. Lethal damage is always a "once per conflict" effect. See the "Battle Rituals" section for more detail.
Some creatures are just naturally deadly! For example, creatures that are venomous (e.g., snakes, scorpions); creatures with particularly dangerous fangs or claws (e.g., leopards, alligators, sharks); creatures with supernatural attacks (e.g., vampires, werewolves, demons.)
Sometimes the players come up with a brilliant plan that leaves the enemy at a serious disadvantage. If they put serious (and successful) effort into creating conditions that would make their attack much more dangerous, the GM can decide to declare that an attack will do lethal damage.
The heroes know they are badly outnumbered by the goblin pack roaming the area, so they decide to create an ambush to even things out. The GM offers to treat this as a challenge. The heroes will have to create an advantage by locating a suitable ambush spot, create a second advantage by preparing the location, and overcome the goblins' wariness to bring them into the prepared trap. Deliah scouts out the perfect bottleneck in a narrow rocky pass; Rolf piles boulders above, ready to trigger an avalanche; and Olivia brews a fantastic-smelling stew that should attract goblins for leagues around. They prepared well and described their actions interestingly, so the GM declares that the ambush will indeed be lethal, both the direct damage caused by the avalanche and the heroes' first attack in battle.
Often such situations will be represented by lots of preparatory aspects and boosts, which will in turn convert into substantial bonuses. The GM should not give a deadly outcome in that situation---the bonuses will be damaging enough. But it may be useful in a situation where the GM knows the players will be able to do all that preparation, and just skip over it in favor of making the initial attacks lethal rather than stretching out an otherwise unimportant conflict.
Fickle Gods' Curses and Blessings: Design Notes
This is an expansion of "The Subtle Art", found in the Fate System Toolkit. It adds a little mechanical crunch by creating temporary stunts and aspects that can be invoked for effect. It is suitable for a fantasy setting where the gods are powerful, capricious beings who bicker among themselves and don't always show wisdom or restraint, such as the Greek pantheon.
If used with skills, you may want to define or re-define a skill associated with propitiating the gods and slinging their blessings and curses. Such a skill might be called Commune, Propitiate, or Petition. Alternately, you could use Will as the skill for magic.
If used with approaches, you only need to pick the appropriate one as usual at the time of praying.
The gods are fickle and dangerous—their benevolent attention is nearly as dangerous for devotees as their anger.
Think of people as pets, and the gods as their lackadaisical owners. There's not that much communication going on, and every once in a while the owners remember to put some food down, but all too frequently they completely misunderstand whether you wanted the litterbox cleaned, more water, or walkies. But pee on the carpet or ignore them for too long, and oh boy! It might be off to the pound with you. Or worse.
To represent this, the GM uses a method that looks similar to the character sheet's consequence boxes to track Divine Interest. It functions like a set of consequences for the entire group of heroes, recording how much attention they have attracted among the gods. Note that Divine Interest consequences cannot be used in conflicts between two player characters.
Attracting Divine Interest
Examples of things that would cause Divine Interest (i.e., add to the next lowest open Divine consequence) include:
Rolling [++++] or [----] on the dice. Even if a fate point is used to re-roll, the point will be incurred although the result of the action will be changed.
Obtaining a Miraculous (+9) or better result—a.k.a. succeeding catastrophically.
Obtaining an Abysmal (-4) or worse result—a.k.a. heroic calamity.
Performing a magic ritual.
Certain costs associated with magical stunts (see "Magic").
Doing something extravagant, extraordinary, eccentric, or otherwise distinguishing you from those around you, in place of taking a personal consequence.
When Rhea rolls a [----] on her roll to decipher an old grimoire containing useful nautical charts, her player invokes an aspect and spends one fate point to re-roll. She rolls a +1 instead so the failure is averted, but the GM still marks a Divine consequence for the group.
Pyrrhus has bitten off more than he can chew. When a group of rowdy pirates takes him up on his challenge to fight them all at once, one of them lands a terrible blow that would result in a severe consequence. Rather than take it himself, Pyrrhus' player opts to have the group gain a Divine consequence instead. Pyrrhus prays to Zeus for strength. And the god answers… with lightning bolts!
The GM tracks four Divine Interest consequences—two mild consequences, one moderate, and one severe—for the group of adventurers, each of which represents on-going attention from the gods; you can attract the attention of different gods this way, or get the same one more and more excited about your adventure. They're not watching you constantly, but occasionally they remember your existence and intervene in your favor or against it, depending on the relationship.
Clamor of Armies (Ares, Mars, Tyr)
Hair Turning Leaf-Green (Artemis, Diana)
Persistent Localized Thunderstorm (Zeus, Jupiter, Tlaloc)
River Running Backwards (Tethys, Chalchiuhtlicue)
Chiming Bells Whenever Someone Is Lying (Hera, Thoth, Bragi)
Singing Rocks (Ourea, Tepeyollotl)
Rain of Blood (Ares, Mars)
Swarms of Locusts (Demeter, Ceres, Isis, Xipe-Totec)
Turn Wine Into Water (Dionysus, Bacchus)
Visions of Death (Hel, Hades, Pluto, Mictecacihuatl)
Attracts Monster Hordes (Loki, Tlaltecuhtli)
Belch Lightning (Thor, Zeus, Jupiter)
Fireblast (Apollo, Xiuhtecuhtli)
Shipwreck (Poseidon, Neptune)
Withering Crops (Demeter, Ceres, Sif, Centeotl)
Recovery: Mild Divine Interest consequences are easily cleared; a minor milestone will allow one mild consequence to be cleared. But a moderate one will last at least two sessions and until a significant milestone, at which point it can be reduced to mild.
Severe Divine Interest consequences stick with the heroes and change them: the gods' attention is now firmly on you. They will keep continuously watching you and they will use you as their pawn, champion, martyr, or prize in their schemes and struggles. Sure, they will forget about you for long stretches of time, but the gods' divine gaze is now firmly fixed. A severe Divine Interest consequence will last at least through one significant milestone and until the next major milestone.
A while ago, the heroes took the severe consequence Displeased Hera by failing to serve her diligently enough. When the GM declares a major milestone, the group decides to change the consequence to Atoning to Hera and decide to make some amends, perhaps go on a quest to appease her. The consequence is reduced to moderate.
Being Taken out by Divine Interest: When you've already filled all four of the Divine Interest consequence slots for the group without a chance to clear them, and get one more such consequence, you are taken out just like with regular stress. At the end of the session, you will have a Divine milestone. Clear all Divine Interest consequences and discuss a new group aspect, which can be invoked and compelled as usual. This should be an aspect the entire group, players and GM, agrees will make sense and be fun in the campaign.
Pawn of ___: When the god needs a cut-up for some reason, you end up being at hand. You find yourself in some cockamamie situation you are spectacularly not suited to because the god needs a marker of some sort.
Marked by ___: When there is nothing more interesting going on, the god checks on you, causing alarm and repercussions. You may develop a reputation for being bad luck.
Embroiled in Divine Plots: After one god showed interest, others also paid attention. You're like the ball in this game, and the winner will probably spike you before forgetting about you and going out to celebrate.
If you gain mostly favorable attention by doing something the gods think is neat, they will appear to you with a message—probably accidentally setting the place on fire or causing other collateral damage in the process. They may be trying to impress their benevolence upon you, and generally trying to help you, but are in fact being as useful as you are when you help ants build their little ant hill.
If you manage to anger, disappoint, or vex the gods, they will send you the occasional lightning bolt strike, put dangerous and ridiculous obstacles in your path, cause storms, floods, or earthquakes to follow you, or turn you into a talking ox. The only thing that will provide any respite is the gods' gaze turning to someone else.
Being taken out by Divine Interest consequences can be the signal for a major milestone and possibly even a re-scaling of the campaign. The heroes are now embroiled in world-spanning shenanigans. In that case, combine the effects of both the major and Divine milestones.
The Many Gods: It is perfectly possible to attract the Divine Interest of more than one deity, which may in turn result in many different group aspects.
After many adventures, the heroes managed to attract the Wrath of Ares, the Benevolence of Athena, and probably the attention of a few other deities as well…
The gods are powerful beings who can grant a worshipper's petition through blessings and curses. Easily bored, they often turn an eye to their most unpredictable creations, the mortal beings who populate this world, wage war, and constantly invent clever new ways of getting in trouble. The gods like to intervene in mortals' affairs to guide, reward or punish, but the force they use is not necessarily commensurate with their supplicants' requests.
Mortals can take the risk of begging the gods for these blessings and curses, knowing that the thunderbolt meant for an enemy may land close enough to singe the petitioner as well. Praying too earnestly can be dangerous; then again, ignoring the gods, neglecting to make the proper obeisances, can attract divine anger and retribution…
Magic is in many ways more trickery and taking credit for fortuitous success than actual arcane workings; after all, no one wants the gods to get too close. Priests mostly pretend to perform rituals without actually attracting attention from the gods, whose appearance is dangerous even to their devotees.
So why do magic-users risk it? One: it works. Sort of. Sometimes. In battle it can make all the difference. Two: the gods get very, very touchy when you neglect them, and they react badly. Then it's not ambiguous, two-edged, or risky at all: it's all bad.
Priests' objectives, then, are to minimize the amount of actual god involvement in mortals' affairs while maximizing the satisfaction of their flocks and patrons. They try to do just enough actual magic and no more, covering the rest with a mix of sooth-saying, show-boating, quackery, and blind luck.
Magic: The 30-Second Version
1. Take an
appropriate aspect at character creation.
2. Choose a ritual and perform the required chanting, dancing, and so forth.
3. Make an appropriate approach roll to overcome against the target of the ritual.
4. The GM marks a Divine Interest consequence.
5. Cast the ritual:
General ritual: Use to create a temporary stunt on a target individual or item;
Battle ritual: Use during Roar phase to create an aspect appropriate to a curse or blessing on the target group.
Not everyone can perform magic rituals; you need an aspect that grants permission such as Oracle of Apollo, Freyja-Blessed Seidhr, High Priest of Jupiter, or Self-Trained Hedge Priest of Demeter.
Some rituals have similar working in all versions of Agaptan magic, although their trappings will be vastly different from one faction to the next and even one school to the next. In addition, each has its own exclusive rituals.
Notes for rituals can be literal pieces of writing, but they can also be recorded as complex series of knots in a string, glyphs carved in stone, etc. It's difficult for a priest to decipher rituals from another school, and painstakingly difficult to even guess at another faction's rituals.
Rituals' primary effect is to allow a blessing or curse to be placed on a target—the person, place, or thing it's being cast on. Sometimes a ritual will also have a subject—the person, place, group, or thing which will be the focus of the ritual's effect on the target.
A Rage ritual to make Julius angry at Lilia would be cast on Julius (the target) and focused on Lilia (the subject).
In order to cast a ritual, the priest must use one or more actions to overcome the target difficulty. With a success, the ritual creates a temporary stunt (see the list below). Rituals that produce good luck or beneficial effects for the target can either give a +2 bonus in narrow circumstances for one scene, or give a one-time special effect before dissipating. Rituals that produce bad luck or negative effects for the target produce a one-time special effect lasting up to one scene, then dissipate.
Assuming a single target—a person, or a thing perhaps as large as a hut—enough time to chant or mumble the sacred words, and the appropriate ritual trappings, the roll is made against a difficulty of Average (+1). So long as the character succeeds, then the target gains the blessing or curse—see below for details—for the scene or until it is no longer dramatically appropriate, whichever comes first. Further modifications follow:
Base difficulty (self, object, or other person within contact range) Average (+1)
Object, area, or person is in sight but not touch range Add +1
Target person not present, but a powerful symbolic tie to them is present (their blood, a treasured possession) Add +2
Target person not present, but is known and named, or is a known location Add +3
Target is as big as a ship or small building Add +1
Target is as big as a large building or arena Add +2
Target is as big as a small town Add +3
Unforeseen difficulties (performing the ritual in a rush, while underwater, at spear point) Add +1 to +3 (GM's discretion)
Praying to a god you have angered (having unfavorable Divine Interest consequences or aspects) Add +2
Unwilling target Add +1
Larger targets require much more time, the efforts of several priests, and luck.
Some rituals have a subject, such as a ritual that makes your lord mad at his daughter. The absence of that subject similarly impacts the difficulty: +0 if present, +3 if you only have a name, as above. The one qualifier is that if the subject can be made to accept some token of the ritual—a potion, a trinket—then they are effectively "present." Such tokens must be used within a short time, typically three days.
Success with style on a ritual generates a boost as normal.
No target can be the focus of more than one ritual at a time. The newest ritual replaces the existing one.
Some blessings and curses have their own additional modifiers.
High difficulties can be beaten by having multiple priests working together and by treating the ritual as a challenge (see "Challenges".) Create as many steps as you need, assigning static difficulties; the sum of these difficulties must be equal to or greater than the ritual difficulty you calculated.
Coronos, priest of Ares, is performing a ritual to bless his brother Vettias with good luck; however Vettias is halfway across Achaea, doesn't want Coronos's help (or any attention from Ares for that matter), and Coronos has recently displeased Ares by fleeing from battle. He has the Divine consequence Coward in Ares' Eyes. The difficulty to cast the spell therefore is +1 (starting), +1 (unwilling target), +3 (Coronos has no link to Vettias), +2 (Ares is displeased), for a total of Epic (+7). Vettias won't go into combat for another day, and Coronos has two assistant priests nearby to help him out. They cast the ritual together and break the difficult ritual into three smaller challenges.
Using Skills: First, one of them prays to Ares to forgive Coronos, a Fair (+2) difficulty using the skill Propitiate, then another focuses the ritual on Vettias at a Fair (+2) difficulty, and finally Coronos forces his no-good stubborn brother to accept the blessing at a Good (+3) difficulty.
Using Approaches: First, one of them Flashily prays to Ares to forgive Coronos, a Fair (+2) difficulty, then another Carefully focuses the ritual on Vettias at a Fair (+2) difficulty, and finally Coronos Forcefully forces his no-good stubborn brother to accept the blessing at a Good (+3) difficulty.
Casting a ritual incurs a Divine Interest consequence. The priest can eliminate this cost—in other words, avoid Divine Interest—by performing the ritual as a challenge instead of a single overcome action: one roll to avoid the god's attention, one roll to cast the ritual, and one roll to make it look coincidental.
Coronos is at it again! He's trying to perform another difficult ritual but this time he's all alone, and terrified of incurring more of Ares' wrath by praying to a different god, Zeus. The ritual's difficulty is Superb (+5) but Coronos is going to try it anyway. First he avoids the gods' attention with a roll using Stealth (in a skill-based game) or Sneaky (in an approach-based game). Since the gods are often forgetful and currently distracted by a war, the GM sets the difficulty at only Average (+1). Then Coronos casts the ritual itself, hoping nobody around him notices, using Propitiate (skill) or Quick (approach) at the Superb (+5) difficulty. Finally, he pretends he had nothing to do with the storms gathering overhead. Ares may have not been paying attention, but his fellow Athenians sure are wary of him, so the GM sets that at a Good (+3) difficulty for Deceit (skill) or Sneaky (approach). If he succeeds at all three, the ritual is cast without anyone being the wiser and he doesn't gain a Divine consequence. Phew!
Why Risk It?
Why would your priest character bother to cast a ritual and thus get a Divine Interest consequence for the group to worry about?
Because this allows you to create effects that would not be possible otherwise, like a Sudden Gust of Wind created by using (Bad) Luck on enemy archers, harmlessly dispersing a volley of arrows.
Because if you are very Careful and don't mind anonymity, you can cast without attracting attention to yourself.
Because attracting a god's attention can get you a boon!
Because sometimes it's do or die.
Because it's fun! Divine Interest is part of the flavor of the world of Agaptus, and if your characters are going to be heroes---even reluctant ones---then sooner or later they will attract Divine Interest. Embrace the risk!
You Can Always Cheat…
Some do it all the time. Your character tells onlookers that you are casting a ritual, you chant some nonsense, and do nothing. But if you really want them to believe you, consider using Deceit (skill) or Flashy (approach) to overcome an obstacle, and put on a good show. If you are getting paid to cast the ritual, you pocket the money and go to the nearest tavern to have a drink. Naturally, you can only use this trick so many times before your deception catches up with you. Perhaps your customers become angry, or perhaps the gods are starting to notice anyway…
Magic rituals typically influence luck in small ways or push and pull on the target's emotions.
Annoyance: The target rubs people the wrong way. If the ritual has a subject, then this particular subject is more easily annoyed by the target of the ritual. Creates temporary stunts like:
Grating Voice: As a one-time effect lasting one scene, the target's voice is so irritating that those they speak to can hardly remember the actual words.
Looks Like This Jerk I Used to Know: As a one-time effect lasting one scene, the target creates a bad impression on someone they just met.
Sounds Fishy to Me: As a one-time effect lasting one scene, the target is refused the assistance they asked for.
Charisma: While related to love, this turns it on its head by improving the target's general presence and demeanor. It's sometimes a subject of ridicule—specifically, ridiculing those who would need such a ritual---but it sees a lot of quiet use. Creates temporary stunts like:
Great Hair: For one scene, the target gets +2 to Flashily create an advantage when good looks would matter.
Isn't That the Famous Guy?: As a one-time effect lasting one scene, the target is treated like a Very Important Person by those they meet.
Charming Wit: For one scene, that target gets +2 to overcome social opposition with Rapport when they have a chance to impart a witty comment to their audience.
Clarity: Popular among those who fancy themselves cutting-edge scholars, for some this ritual is their cup of coffee, sharpening their thoughts and senses and allowing them to study all night. It's also a popular "counter-ritual," used to remove curses. Creates temporary stunts like:
Ready for a Long Night of Study!: For one scene, the target gets +2 to Carefully create advantages based on detail and research.
Sharp As a Tack: For one scene, the target gets +2 to Forcefully overcome obstacles that would dull their wits, like fatigue or too much kogg.
Can't Fool Me: For one scene, the target gets +2 to defend against social or verbal attacks based on Deceive.
Clumsiness: You know those days where you dropped a glass, spilled your kogg in your lap, and ripped your shirt on a latch? This makes for that kind of day. Creates temporary stunts like:
All Thumbs: As a one-time effect lasting one scene, anyone picking up the target object acts unusually clumsy and awkward.
I Never Even Saw It: As a one-time effect, the target collides while in motion (walking, running, riding, etc.) with someone or something they had not noticed.
It Could Happen to Anyone: As a one-time effect, the target missteps, or drops an object they were holding.
Confusion: People tend to misunderstand the target if it's a person, or get easily lost if it's a place. Creates temporary stunts like:
It's That Accent: As a one-time effect lasting one scene, the target has difficulty getting understood, and everyone misinterprets their speech.
Was It Left or Right?: As a one-time effect lasting one scene, people reaching the target location become disoriented and tend to retrace their steps or take the wrong path.
What Was the Middle Part Again?: As a one-time effect lasting one scene, the target forgets or jumbles the instructions they received and commits a rookie mistake.
Health: The magical equivalent of your mom's chicken soup. Creates temporary stunts like:
Feeling Better Now: As a one-time effect, the target can immediately clear a mild health-related consequence (injury or illness). For a +2 difficulty, the target can immediately downgrade a moderate consequence to mild; for a +4 difficulty, the target can downgrade one severe consequence to moderate. Only one target can be affected per scene, and consequences can only be improved once per session this way.
Top Form: As a one-time effect lasting one scene, the target gets an extra mild consequence slot. If the extra mild consequence scene is not used in the scene, it vanishes at the end of the scene. If the target takes two mild consequences in the scene, they both last until the end of the next scene.
Strong as an Ox: For one scene, the target gets +2 to Physique when overcoming obstacles that require feats of strength.
Love: One of the better-known but also most contentious rituals, especially when used with a subject. Without a subject, it simply makes the target more friendly towards the world, but with a subject, it inclines the target toward the subject. A lot of people view this as skeezy at best. It's a touchy topic, and a number of priests get around this by deliberately casting dud rituals. Creates temporary stunts like:
Be Still, My Heart!: As a one-time effect lasting one scene, the target is distracted with interest for the subject, eager to make a good impression on them.
Hey, Check This Out!: For one scene, the subject gets +2 to Flashily create advantages by befriending, charming, or flattering the target.
What A Wonderful Day!: As a one-time effect lasting one scene, the target is as cheerful and well-disposed as circumstances allow. If in an adverse situation (pursued by hungry wolves, chained at the oars of a war galley, etc.), the target keeps up their spirits and see the silver lining to every cloud.
Luck: This is the most common ritual in circulation, and it can take the form of good or bad luck. Creates temporary stunts like:
This Is My Day: For one scene, the target gets +2 to Quickly overcoming dangerous obstacles.
I Should Have Stayed in Bed: As a one-time effect lasting one scene, the target is the victim of a mishap such as mistaken identity, lost purse, stolen cart, mud splash, etc.
Wow, Really?: As a one-time effect lasting one scene, the target benefits from a happy coincidence such as finding a long-lost item, being favorably noticed by their superior, or getting the best seat in the theater.
Obscurity: The target is easily overlooked—by the subject, if appropriate. Whether this is a blessing or a curse depends a lot on your perspective. Creates temporary stunts like:
Not Worth Paying Attention To: For one scene, the target gets +2 to Sneakily create advantages based on remaining in the background.
This Has Been There Forever: As a one-time effect lasting one scene, the target item is overlooked by passers-by.
Ho-Hum: For one scene, the target gets +2 to Deceive when defending against attempts to discover their true identity.
Prosperity: Another popular blessing, financial things fall the target's way. It's rare that this turns into a large windfall, but it can show up as a loan extension or free drinks. Creates temporary stunts like:
Next One's On Me: As a one-time effect, someone buys the target a meal or a drink.
It Must Have Been in the Lining of My Pocket: As a one-time effect, the target finds a small, useful object in a pocket, usually a coin.
Ride That Streak: For one scene, the target gets +2 to Cleverly overcome while gambling. Naturally, anyone caught casting this sort of ritual will be run out of town with extreme prejudice…
Rage: Small things annoy the target more than usual, as if they'd woken up on the wrong side of the bed. If the ritual has a subject, then the target of the ritual is more easily enraged by that subject. Creates temporary stunts like:
I Swear, If They Ask One More Time…: As a one-time effect lasting one scene, the target snaps at the next person who talks to them or approaches them. This does not mean the target will place themselves in danger—a merchant won't attack an armed warrior, but she may be short-tempered and unhelpful.
Raw Nerves: For one scene, you or an ally get +2 to Provoke when create an advantage by goading the target into anger.
I'm Not Gonna Take It Anymore: As a one-time effect lasting one scene, the target gets angry whenever a particular topic comes up.
Safety: Keeps the target or area safer than it would be. Creates temporary stunts like:
Not Worth Attacking: For one scene, the target gets +2 to Deceive when defending against search attempts.
Nothing Going On Here: As a one-time effect lasting one scene, the target location attracts no attention unless and until someone does something noteworthy, like screaming for help, having a fight, etc.
Snug As a Bug in a Rug: For one scene, the target gets +2 to Sneakily create an advantage by hiding.
Augury: A peek into the near-future. Creates temporary stunts like:
I Saw This Coming: As a one-time effect, the target can choose to completely avoid the effects of one attack instead of rolling defense.
I Had a Hunch: As a one-time effect, the target can claim to have made any preparation for the scene such as bringing an object, speaking to a contact, prepared a meal, etc., if they could reasonably have done so by knowing in advance this situation was coming.
Two Steps Ahead of You: For one scene, the target gets +2 to Quickly overcome obstacles and challenges that are also based on speed.
A band of soldiers are pounding on the door of the abandoned farm house where our heroes are spending the night. Gudrun the Witch asks her daughter Siggi to hide in the root cellar while she goes out to check the source of ominous noises. Before she leaves, she casts a Safety ritual, invoking Frigg's protection.
The target (Siggi) is present (+0), normal size (+0), there is no specific subject because Gudrun doesn't know who the threat is, so the difficulty would normally be Average (+1). However, time is of the essence so Gudrun wants to shorten the ritual; the GM says this will increase the difficulty to Fair (+2) and require the use of the Quick approach.
Gudrun's player agrees and rolls for Gudrun's ritual, to Quickly create an advantage; the dice roll [0+00] and Gudrun's Quick approach is +2, for a total of +3 (Good), which beats the difficulty. Gudrun's ritual gives Siggi the stunt Nothing Going On Here.
The GM notes a mild Divine Interest consequence for casting a ritual; the roll and result did not generate additional points.
A particular type of ritual, called battle rituals, are used to affect the priest's entire side of the conflict before the actual conflict begins. They work differently from general ritual: instead of creating temporary stunts, the priest uses the battle ritual to create magical situation aspects with free invocations. Battle rituals' effects typically last until the end of the conflict scene.
Battle rituals have a fixed difficulty of Fair (+2) to cast.
Optional: If you are using the Roar Phase rules, battle rituals are used only during the Roar phase and call on the power of its transcendent state. After the Roar phase, priests can still cast general rituals that provide temporary stunts for individual targets, but the time for roaring is passed.
Combat Fury: The priest intercedes to the unit's god, asking to lend special strength and savagery in combat. Very similar to the Rage ritual below, but fine-tuned for the battlefield. Creates advantages like Divine Savagery, Divine Wrath, or Divine Strength. By spending a fate point or using a free invocation and invoking for effect, the targets of the ritual can also make one attack lethal (see "Lethal Attacks").
Troop Movement: A priest may ask the unit's god for assistance in moving them across the battlefield. Hopefully the god will move them in the intended direction. Creates advantages like Pushed by a Divine Wind, A Burst of Speed, or Right Where They Should Be. By spending a fate point or using a free invocation and invoking for effect, the targets can also move an extra zone for free.
O God Avoid Us, Seek Out Those We Fight: This battle ritual is similar to the (Bad) Luck ritual above, but placing a temporary mild Divine Interest consequence on the enemy for the scene. Weapons miss, the sun glints off the enemy's armor, etc. Creates advantages like Zeus Disapproves, How Could This Have Missed?, or Nope, Not Today. By spending a fate point or using a free invocation and invoking for effect, force the next consequence that would result from an attack to be taken as a Divine Interest consequence.
Our God Will Smite Them All!: War priests use this ritual to whip troops into a frenzy for the scene. Creates advantages like Smite, SMITE!, Our Blows Land True, or All At Once!. By spending a fate point or using a free invocation and invoking for effect, the targets can also take one additional mild consequence before being taken out (useable only once per conflict per target). After the conflict, the extra mild consequence remains until cleared normally.
We Are Legion!: Battle priests use this ritual to bolster the focus and discipline of units for the scene, helping them through the often complex battlefield maneuvers required by commanders. Creates advantages like Soldiers, Advance!, Form Up the Ranks!, or To Me, Brothers!. By spending a fate point or using a free invocation and invoking for effect, the targets can also ignore adverse terrain aspects for all zones they move through this turn. In other words, these aspects cannot be invoked against them to oppose movement.
Chaka the shaman, in preparation for the upcoming battle, casts the ritual "Troop Movement" on his scout unit to help them make it through the dense forest and flank the enemy. Chaka's player rolls [+0+-] plus his Will (+2) versus the difficulty of Fair (+2), for a total of +1 (Average) and a success. The scouts can now use the aspect Stalking on Leopards' Feet with one free invocation. The group also gets one Divine Interest consequence for the use of magic.
Using approaches and the Roar phase:
During the Roar phase, Sven casts the ritual "Our God Will Smite Them All!" on the crew of the Skyhammer to get them ready to fight in the upcoming boarding action against the Fiero. The difficulty is Fair (+2).
Sven yells to the sky and sea for aid and the group agrees that sounds like the Flashy (+3) approach. Sven's player rolls an amazing [++++], for a total of +5 (Superb) and succeeds with style.
Sven is now roaring with the aspect Smite, SMITE! and is limited to using the Forceful, Flashy, and Clever approaches to maintain the ritual during the conflict.
The crew of the Skyhammer rejoice and can use the Smite, SMITE! aspect normally or invoke it for effect to gain an extra mild consequence for the fight.
The gods take notice of course. The group gets one Divine Interest consequence for Sven casting the ritual and a second for the natural [++++] that was rolled. It could be Tyr excited by the battle, but the GM thinks it will be more fun for Loki to take notice!
Our Ancient ruins are to fantasy worlds what abandoned Roman roads, bridges, temples, and aqueducts would have been to inhabitants of the British Isles circa 900 A.D. They also borrow flavors from ancient marvels of architecture from around the world like the ones left by the Mayans, Inca, Zhou Chinese, Ancient Egyptians, Khmer, etc., and from fiction like legendary Atlantis, Mu, Shambhala, and so forth.
They are forgotten, made nearly invisible by their ubiquity; everywhere in Sentia one sees ruins, and entire villages and cities are built among these. In addition, the incipient ice age has driven the land's inhabitants to live underground more and more often; what better place than the catacombs, vaults, and half-buried palaces of the Ancients, with their unmatched masonry?
Is it Magic?
These marvels are not magic, except in the sense of Arthur C. Clarke's Third Law ("Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."); they come from advanced but forgotten knowledge. Based on real-world knowledge developed millennia ago but either forgotten or never applied to practical uses, we could picture advances in:
mining and metallurgy
navigation, including instruments like the compass, backstaff, astrolabe, quadrants, sextant, tide tables
astronomy, including instruments like ephemerids, simple telescopes, and armillary spheres
medicine and anatomy
textiles and dyes
paints and lacquers
physics and chemistry
masonry, stone-cutting, and mosaic
glass-blowing, ceramics, glazes
And probably many more; mysterious, poorly understood knowledge. No magic need be involved.
Ancient wonders work primarily as plot drivers, influencing the story: MacGuffins, deus ex machina, objects of quests, and the chance for sweeping changes in the balance of power if some of those secrets are unlocked.
Most of the time, this can be represented entirely by using aspects. A few practical devices may provide a stunt, and if durability or damage absorption is an issue, the device may get a stress track. In order to decide how an Ancient wonder works, we need to answer a few questions:
1. How complex is the item's function? The more complex, the more mechanical details may be needed; for example, an astrolabe is going to need more detailed definition than a sword.
2. How general is the players' understanding of the item, and how much do they agree? If it's likely that everyone at the table will clearly understand and agree, you need little in the way of mechanical details, but if it's unfamiliar to at least some of the players, you may need more mechanical detail. For example, ephemerids and maps are about equally complex items, but the map is much better understood by most people, so it may not need more than an aspect, while the ephemerids might deserve a stunt.
3. How versatile will the item be in the story? If the item is going to be used to do many different things, it potentially requires more definition. For example, a manuscript on medicinal properties of plants may be used more often than one on creating rare colors of ceramic glaze.
4. How prominently will the item feature in the story? If an item is to be prominent and frequently used—not merely seen, like the ruins of a temple, but used for some story purpose with mechanical effects—then the GM may want to define it more precisely, for example by creating a stress track and perhaps giving the item a minor consequence to absorb damage.
Here are some guidelines for GMs:
Usability: Most of the Ancient technology will get very little actual use in play.
Scale:Most of it is represented by large-scale buildings and ruins: public buildings, bridges, aqueducts, sewers, public baths, roads, lighthouses, ports, monuments, and temples.
Mystery: So much knowledge is missing that the primary purpose of any artifact discovered is probably unclear; the GM should probably give it a few mystery stats, such as unassigned aspects and/or stunts, even a stress track that gets marked off at unexpected times.
Function: Most of the time, the primary purpose should be something practical or logical which you can imagine in the real world, not "boots of flying" and "belts of ogre strength." But the features which are first discovered may in fact be secondary or by-products, just like you can have a whistle on a key chain or a clock readout and a camera on your telephone.
The best way to work through this is to work through a few examples. First, let's look at the most common Ancient wonder, the ruins of some large building or public works. They can generally be handled by aspects, some of which may be obvious and others that the players may have to work to discover.
Example 1: An Ancient lighthouse.
If the site is still in fairly good shape, it may be easy to discover the high concept aspect Ancient Lighthouse, or the aspect can even be known already without the need to create an advantage to discover it.
However, the GM may add one to three less obvious aspects if the site is important to the adventure. For example, it might have Hidden Crypt Deep Below if you want a scene or even a whole adventure about poking in the depths beneath the lighthouse, or Line Up the Two Fires to Navigate Through the Reefs if the lighthouse is a navigation clue to help the heroes reach their destination, or Secret of the Undying Flame if this is really about the liquid fuel which the Ancients had devised to keep the beacon lit.
Note that these additional aspects could also be flaws, but they should be intrinsic to the Ancient location or device. In Example 1, Dangerous Vermin or Dripping Flammable Liquid could exist, but they would be more scene aspects than item aspects. The next time your heroes visit the site, you might emphasize something different. See "Creating Adventures" for more on scene aspects.
Don't stack too many aspects, though; use the minimum you need to get the story moving. First, too many aspects may leave the scene a confused mess, and dilute the importance of any single aspect. Second, you can always come back some other time, in some other story, and use different aspects for the same location to emphasize what is of interest in the current adventure. Finally, if you don't define more than you strictly need to, you are left free to pounce on any great ideas the players may come up with and use that instead in your next scenario!
Let's look at a second example, something that is still a building but where the original function is versatile and harder to guess at.
Example 2: The ruins of an Ancient apothecary shop.
When you open the scene, you may have this listed as a Small Half-Collapsed Building and let the players do a bit of snooping—perhaps treated as a challenge—before they can discover the aspect Half-Collapsed Apothecary Shop. Note that we've now replaced or redefined what was a scene aspect. Now, every time they return, the PCs will find the Half-Collapsed Apothecary Shop, at least until they manage to demolish it further…
The players may want to get some practical use out of a location like this, so if this is meant to be a chance for them to reduce some consequences they have taken previously, you could assign it the stunt:
Ancient Apothecary Shop: Because this is an Ancient apothecary shop, heroes get +2 to a recovery check when fighting off the effects of an illness (recovering from a consequence.)
You may want to limit such a location's use if you don't want to see it become the convenience store open all night which they keep visiting to fix problems. One way to do this is to assign narrower circumstances for use, such as a specific illness or type of illness. Another is to assign a number of uses after which, the supplies or equipment are exhausted. Once is a perfectly valid number!
Here is an example of public works where the original function might seem very difficult to understand at first. Its function is specialized but potentially very important to the setting.
Example 3: The ruins of a canal and lock system.
Depending on how damaged it is, it may not contain water when the heroes first see it; or it might be iced over if it's located in the north or the adventure takes place at some time other than the short summer months. At each end is a body of water, at different elevations.
The high concept to discover would be Canal and Lock System. If the PCs succeed in restoring it to a working state and the climate conditions allow it, a stunt would become available:
Ancient Canal and Lock System: Because this is an Ancient lock system, once per session (or twice a day, or other reasonable time increment that the GM wants) it allows a ship to move between Water Body A and Water Body B.
However, the importance of such a site is not just about moving a ship where you couldn't before; it's about acquiring that knowledge and using it in other locations.
What about something portable, specialized, and arcane?
Example 4: Ancient compass.
This device might be very damaged; if of the wet type, it would probably have dried up and requires refilling with water or clear alcohol and resealing; if of the dry type, the needle might need re-mounting and the moving parts cleaning and waxing.
Understanding, refurbishing, and using the device can be handled as a challenge, perhaps over a long period. Even after the compass is in working order again, its usefulness for navigation might not be obvious.
The high concept could be simply called Compass, or A Device That Always Points in the Same Direction. Understanding its usefulness would make a stunt available:
Ancient Compass: Because this device always points north, heroes get +2 to Carefully overcome obstacles when orienting their course.
Now let's look at something portable, versatile, and fairly complex but relatively easy to figure out.
Example 5: Ancient multi-tool.
Did you know the Romans had invented multi-tools? It's true!
If the tool is in good shape, it becomes fairly easy to guess at the purpose of a few of the attachments; if it's very damaged and partly disintegrated due to rust, it may be much more difficult.
The primary aspect will be something like Folding Multi-Tool. Once a hero figures out how to make the various parts move, some potential stunts may come to mind; but now we're looking at many different stunts that apply in many different circumstances.
Instead of trying to list them, it may make more sense to just grant a number of free invocations of the high concept aspect, say one or two per session. It can of course be invoked as normal at the cost of a fate point. For flavor, it might be renamed to something like I Have the Tool for That!.
Because it might be a coveted item that sees a lot of use, the GM might also want to give it a stress track, say one or two boxes, and even a minor consequence to represent some of the tools getting warped or broken.
1. Give the Wondrous Creation a High Concept representing its purpose or nature, and a Flaw representing its dangers or weaknesses.
2. If it will be important enough to feature significantly in more than one scene, give it one or two other aspects such as a descriptive aspect, or a secret representing hidden characteristics. If the heroes discover the secret in play, rephrase it as a known aspect.
3. If it is still able to perform its function, or restored to a working state, give it a stunt—something that will give a bonus to those using it or allow a special effect once a day.
4. If you want to limit the use of such stunt, give it a number of uses and check one off after every use. When all the use boxes are checked off, the stunt stops working for good.
5. If the Wondrous Creation is a coveted item that sees a lot of use, the GM might also want to give it a stress track, say one or two boxes, and even a minor consequence to represent some of its parts getting warped or broken.
This section expands on the advice provided in Chapter 9 of Fate Core using a method for writing scenarios called Fractal Adventures, which relies heavily on the Bronze Rule of Fate. It was created by author Ryan M. Danks, and a more detailed discussion of the method can be found on his website, starting with Fate Core: Adventure Fractal http://ryanmdanks.com/?p=476 .
A scenario or adventure is one short story arc, the sort of thing you might see wrapped up in one or two sessions of an adventure television show, even if it's a smaller part of a bigger story. Usually you can wrap up a scenario in one to three game sessions, assuming you play for three or four hours at a time. But what is a scenario, and how do you build one?
Creating A Scenario: The 30-Second Version
1. Pick a Goal and High Concept Aspect
2. Find Problems
3. Pick a Trouble Aspect
4. Scene List: Ask Story Questions
5. Pick Adventure Aspects and Approaches
6. Establish the Opposition
7. Set the First Scene
Once you get the hang of it, writing an adventure should take about twenty minutes, assuming you already know what the story will be about.
First, you need a goal; this is the problem(s) the story will center around. What is it the PCs want? Create an aspect to represent the goal; you can call it the adventure's high concept.
Once you know the goal, decide whether or not the PCs will obtain their goal---"maybe" is a sufficient answer here, relying on the PCs to determine success or failure on their own. It isn't always necessary that they succeed; failure leads to more adventures.
Scenarios are centered around a problem which the heroes will try to solve, encountering twists and turns as they move towards resolution.
A scenario needs two things: An adversary with a goal and a reason the PCs can't ignore it.
Adversary with a goal: You've probably figured this out already. The campaign's main opposition, or one of his allies, is probably your adversary.
Something the PCs can't ignore: Now you have to give the PCs a reason to care. Make sure the adversary's goal is up in the PCs' faces, where they need to do something about it or bad things will happen to them, or to people or things they value.
And that's how your "problem" is born.
Here's the best tool to make sure the PCs can't ignore the hook: go fishing from their character sheets for problems they want to interact with, and from the campaign aspects for problems which they are bribed to tackle.
Problems and Character Aspects
Look at the characters' aspects and see if anything can make a nice juicy core problem for an adventure. When you're trying to get a problem from a character aspect, try fitting it into this sentence:
You have [aspect], which implies that [fact about that character or the world]. Because of that, it would be probably be a big problem if [describe a situation].
The second blank is what makes this a little harder than an event compel---you have to think about all the different potential implications of an aspect (and this may be a list of things, by the way). Here are some questions to help with that.
Who might have a problem with the character because of this aspect?
Does the aspect point to a potential threat to that character?
Does the aspect describe a connection or relationship that could cause trouble for the character?
Does the aspect speak to a backstory element that could come back to haunt the character?
Does the aspect describe something or someone important to the character that you can threaten?
As long as whatever you put in the third blank makes a nice story problem, you're good to go.
Ulf Long-Teeth has The Good Ship Blaggard, which implies that he inherited his ship from somewhere. Because of that, it would be a problem for him if he was challenged for command.
Iva the Stubborn is Searching for Her Banished Lover, which implies that her lover has enemies at home. Because of this, it would be a problem for her if she needed help from one of his enemies to find her lover's whereabouts.
Rustica Bibulus is a Connoisseur of Atronian Folklore, which implies that such folklore may contain elements of truth that have been overlooked by scholars. Because of this, it would be a problem for her if the pursuit of an obscure legend brought her face to snout with a mythical monster.
Problems and Game Aspects
Problems you get from a game's current and impending issues will be a little wider in scope than character-driven problems, affecting all your PCs and possibly a significant number of NPCs as well. The game aspects include the ones you chose in your campaign creation process, any scenario or adventure aspects, and perhaps some lingering aspects from a previous adventure.
Attach one or two aspects to the adventure you're designing; you can use the aspects suggested with every story seed in this book such as the ones attached to location descriptions, or come up with ones that are tailored for your group. As an incentive for players to get involved, you can allow one free invoke per adventure, or even one per game session for multi-session scenarios; alternately, you can use it as a compel on the PCs, offering them fate points for going along with the problem.
When you're trying to get a problem from a game aspect, try fitting it into this sentence:
Because [aspect] is an issue, it implies [fact about the character or the world]. Therefore, [describe a situation] would probably create a big problem for the heroes.
What threats does the issue present to the PCs?
Who are the driving forces behind the issue, and what messed up thing might they be willing to do to advance their agenda?
Who else cares about dealing with the issue, and how might their "solution" be bad for the PCs?
What's a good next step for resolving the issue, and what makes accomplishing that step hard?
Because the Lost Island of Konaré is an issue, it implies that the location is both hard to find and dangerous. Therefore, having to retrieve a map from Kuld-infested territory would probably create a big problem for the heroes.
Because Secrets of the Ice is an issue, it implies that the information is valuable, coveted, and protected. Therefore, reaching an elderly scholar and protecting him before rivals capture him would probably create a big problem for the heroes.
Because The Seal of Prolyus is an issue, it implies that the organization has gathered temporal power. Therefore, an alliance of the organization with a powerful Merchant House would probably create a big problem for the heroes.
Problems and Aspect Pairs
You can also create problems from the relationship between two aspects instead of relying on just one. That lets you keep things personal, but broaden the scope of your problem to impact multiple characters, or thread a particular PC's story into the story of the game.
There are two main forms of aspect pairing: connecting two character aspects, and connecting a character aspect to an issue. They look like this:
Two Character Aspects:
Because [character] has [aspect] and [another character] has [aspect], it implies that [fact about the characters or the world]. Therefore, [describe a situation] would probably be a big problem for the heroes.
Do the two aspects put those characters at odds or suggest a point of tension between them?
Is there a particular kind of problem or trouble that both would be likely to get into because of the aspects?
Does one character have a relationship or a connection that could become problematic for the other?
Do the aspects point to backstory elements that can intersect in the present?
Is there a way for one PC's fortune to become another's misfortune, because of the aspects?
Because Ulf has Family Trumps Everything. Almost. and Iva has Single Mother With A Fawn, it implies that Ulf is loyal to his family but also understands family loyalty in others. Therefore, siblings of Ulf hired to kidnap Iva's fawn to blackmail her would probably be a big problem for heroes.
Because Rustica has Overachieving Elvorix Scholar and Ulf has Out to Make A Name for Himself!, it implies that they are both ambitious and competitive. Therefore, finding the clues to a treasure trove of Ancient artifacts, which Rustica wants to remain secret to all but the Academy, and which Ulf wants to describe in heroic tales of his mighty deeds, would probably be a big problem for the heroes.
Because Iva has Sponsored by the Stone-Seekers and Rustica has Owes Valius Nummus a Favor, it implies that their patrons have their own agendas. Therefore, Iva and Rustica both promising to bring back the same Ancient artifact, the Mask of Kuldarus, to their respective sponsors would probably be a big problem for the heroes.
Character Aspect and Game Aspect
Because you have [aspect] and [aspect] is an issue, it implies that [fact about the character or the world]. Therefore, [describe a situation] would probably be a big problem for you.
Does the issue suggest a threat to any of the PC's relationships?
Is the next step to dealing with the issue something that impacts a particular character personally because of their aspects?
Does someone connected to the issue have a particular reason to target the PC because of an aspect?
Because Rustica has The Collected Notes of Peony the Elder and The Seal of Prolyus is an issue, it implies that the manuscript might be worth much to the secret organization. Therefore, the Seal of Prolyus trying to steal the notes from Rustica would probably be a big problem for her.
Because Ulf has The Good Ship Blagaard and Lost Island of Konaré is an issue, it implies that Ulf will face some challenges when he sails his ship in search of the lost island. Therefore, theBlagaard becoming trapped in a Bermuda Triangle-like area of sea would probably be a big problem for him.
Because Iva has I Can See Further Than You Ever Have and Secrets of the Ice is an issue, it implies that Iva will be interested in the long-term effects of the Great Catastrophe on the ice. Therefore, choosing between pursuing the mission the heroes undertook or dropping it to pursue new information about the cause of the new ice age would probably be a big problem for her.
You can also browse the story seeds in this book and see if any of them generate ideas for connections with your character aspects, issues, and campaign aspects.
How will you make it inevitable that the PCs will act toward that goal? To keep tension as you move from scene to scene, create a trouble aspect. This should represent the danger or death that's overhanging in the adventure; again, if there's no chance of physical, psychological, or professional death at all times, there is no tension, which means a boring game. The trouble is what happens if the PCs ignore the adventure, and also what will step in from time to time and remind them why what they are doing matters.
Kim picks a few ideas from her list and lays the bare bones out in detail as a Fractal Adventure:
The Mask of Betrayal: Aspects
Goal: The Mask of Kuldarus
The PCs must locate and retrieve this item to prevent it from falling in the wrong hands.
Trouble Overhanging: The Seal of Prolyus Is On the Trail!
The wrong hands, or at least some wrong hands…
Reinforcing the Themes
If you want the adventure's aspects to strongly color the action, make them known to the players and allow the players to invoke these adventure aspects like any other.
Once you have your goal, work backwards to create the scene list---scenes are where players get to play; without them, you have no game. This is where you need to create a list of story questions.
How do you flesh out the situation which you created with the problems? You start by asking lots of story questions as yes/no questions, in the general format of:
"Can/Will [character] accomplish [goal]?"
You don't have to follow that phrasing exactly, and you can embellish on the basic question format in a number of ways. The first question you will ask for a given adventure, but probably the last you will answer, is:
"Can the heroes resolve the adventure problem?"
All the other story questions will be the dotted line, the stepping stones leading to this one. Each can explore a specific facet of the problem, including who, what, where, when, why, and how.
The Mask of Betrayal: Problem and Story Questions
Because Iva is Sponsored by the Stone-Seekers and Rustica Owes Valius Nummus a Favor, it implies that their patrons have their own agendas. Therefore, Iva and Rustica both agreeing to find the same Ancient artifact, the Mask of Kuldarus, and bring it back to their respective sponsors would probably be a big problem for them.
Some questions immediately pop to mind because they are implied in the choice of aspects used to create the problem: Will Iva get the mask for the Stone-Seekers? or Will Rustica repay Valius Nummus? These are the questions we will be answering by the end of the scenario.
In order to get there, we have to answer some other questions. We're reasonably confident that both Iva and Rustica will be interested in finding the mask, but Will Rustica agree to bring the mask back to Valius Nummus? If the answer is "no" right at the start, then Valius Nummus might decide to force the issue through some other means---persuasion, blackmail, threats---or he might try to locate the artifact himself, or hire a rival team.
Will Iva and Rustica share with the group the requests their respective sponsors have made? Perhaps one or both will choose to keep it a secret. And if they share the information, Can the PCs come to an agreement on what to do with the mask? This might take the whole adventure to resolve, or they might immediately decide that one faction has better title to the prize.
Do the heroes know where to find the mask? If not, then that's probably a chunk of the adventure right there, finding out the artifact's whereabouts. This is a good place in the adventure to use Rustica's scholarly abilities, Iva's arcane connections, and Ulf's mundane ones.
Can they get there? Sometimes getting there is half the fun. Or all the fun. The players have shown interest for lost islands and sea adventures, and this will hook Ulf into the scenario, so Kim decides that there must be a sea voyage to a dangerous location protected by teeth-like reef formations and treacherous breakers.
Is there a reason why neither the Stone-Seekers nor Valius Nummus have already obtained the artifact? There must be great difficulties in recovering the mask, otherwise it wouldn't be an adventure. Difficulty of access, dangers, guardians, even magical protection shield the mysterious artifact.
Is there a reason to search for the mask now? If the group prefers to limit the amount of investigation in a given scenario, then perhaps a manuscript has just been discovered that talks about the location of the mask; that way, the problem is reduced to obtaining the manuscript and deciphering it. If on the other hand the players love investigation but tend to dissolve into analysis paralysis, perhaps the clock is driven by the fact that a rival team---say, Laetitia Bibulus and the Seal of Prolyus---is already on its way to retrieve the mask and put it to ill use.
Do the PCs know what the mask's properties are? There is ample room for secrets and surprises. What does the thing do? Under what circumstances?
Is Valius Nummus friend or traitor? To what ends does he wish to acquire the mask?
Pro Tip: Multiple Solutions
When you're asking your story questions that will lead to scene ideas, try to think of several different ways of completing a segment and several different paths to get the end questions, the ones that are wrapped up in the problem. One way to do this is to ask, How would a player or a group complete this if:
They want to investigate their way through?
They want to fight their way through?
They want to negotiate their way through?
They want to sneak their way through?
Jot down your answers for later use. As a rule of thumb, if you can't think of at least two or three ways to get the job done, then your scenes or adventure may be too narrow.
Assembling the List
What steps will the players need to take to achieve their goal? To bring a killer to justice, they might first have to discover his whereabouts, which requires discovering who he is, which may require questioning witnesses and following clues, which requires investigating the crime scene, which requires being alerted to the crime.
Read that backwards and you have your scene list: hear about the crime, investigate the scene, talk to witnesses and follow clues, discover the killer's identity, discover his whereabouts, take him down.
While reading this list, you might decide to increase the tension somewhere in the middle. Maybe a witness turns up dead, or a fight ensues between a masked killer and the PCs as they arrive just before a witness is murdered. This is logical, as the killer would want to throw off the investigation.
You can mark some scenes as core and others as optional; you can also jot down notes when some scenes need to be played in a specific order. Witness interviews and clue investigation can probably be played out in any order, for example, but the last few scenes may need to happen sequentially. If you know you will be limited by time when you run your game, you can concentrate on the core scenes and watch the clock to decide whether to lead into one of the optional scenes, such as the murder of a witness.
Kim uses her story questions to create a list of possible scenes:
The Mask of Betrayal: Scenes
The Theft: Valius Nummus' shop has been burglarized and the Teran manuscript stolen. Attributed to Tera Bibulus, the manuscript may contain clues to the location of the Mask of Kuldarus. Valius asks Rustica for help retrieving both manuscript and mask.
Recovering the Manuscript: Discovering the identity of the thieves and getting the manuscript back. Since the thieves used violence, there is probably going to be a physical confrontation.
The Stone-Seekers' Interest: The Stone-Seekers approach Iva and offer help in finding the Mask of Kuldarus, but ask her to bring it back to them, not Valius Nummus.
Researching the Mask: The PCs---most likely Rustica---will probably want to do a little background research into the history, location, and nature of the mask.
Race for the Prize: The PCs learn that another group is already on its way to recover the mask from its resting place. Set sail!
Nautical Adventures: Good time to encounter the rough climate of the World of Agaptus, pirates, sea monsters, and a fight against the rival team. This can become several scenes, depending on how much fun the players are having.
The Forbidden Temple: The PCs reach the location of the mask, brave its defenses, and face the competition for possession of the artifact.
Who Gets the Mask?: Valius Nummus wants it, as do the Stone-Seekers and the Seal of Prolyus, and perhaps a secret cult dedicated to protecting or using the mask. Some of these factions may be covert allies.
No plan survives contact with the PCs. If the scenes don't unfold in that particular order, that's perfectly normal. The PCs will manage to skip a scene through ingenuity, or make a scene irrelevant, or create a new scene by following some tangent they came up with. Go with it! You can always bring them back on track, or modify a previous scene on the fly to create the new scene.
In fact, it makes your life easier to plan on scenes that can be shuffled, combined, or removed so you can adjust them to fit the rhythm at which your game is unfolding.
Now you can come up with your adventure aspects. Write two for each scene: one for the location/setting, and one for the obstacle the PCs will face. You can write more, but include at least these two. If the PCs will face no obstacle, then there is no tension. The scene will be boring and you need to delete it from your list. Even searching an abandoned war camp for information is an obstacle, Hidden Clues.
Kim thinks about who stole Valius Nummus' manuscript and how hard it should be to track them. She wants to bring in some physical confrontation early on and also point to the waterfront so Isaac, whose character Ulf is not directly tied to the Mask of Kuldarus, will not be left out.
Recovering the Manuscript: Discovering the identity of the thieves and getting the manuscript back. Since the thieves used violence, there is probably going to be a physical confrontation.
Obstacle Aspect: Cheap Hired Brutes
Environmental Aspect: Dark Alleys Near the Waterfront
Adventures use the following stats, which you can think of as its "skills" or "approaches":
Combat: This governs NPCs attacking, defending, and creating advantages using combative maneuvers.
Exploration: This sets the difficulty of (or opposes) PC attempts to interact with or move through the environment, whether that opposition comes from an NPC or another obstacle in the setting. This covers movement, investigating clues, discovering details, determining NPC initiative, allowing something to remain hidden from the PCs, etc.
Interaction: This is rolled to have the NPCs interact with the PCs.
Lore: Governs how difficult it is to know some relevant information that comes up in the adventure.
To set the adventure's stat ratings, set one of them at the same level as the PC's highest approach rating +1 (called Hard difficulty), then choose two to be at the same level as the PC's highest approach rating -1 (called Average difficulty) and one to be -3 lower (called Easy difficulty).
For instance, if the PCs' highest approach score is Good (+3), then you'd have a set-up of +4, +2, +2, +0. If you have an experienced group of PCs that have raised their approaches to Great (+4), then you would have a spread of
+5, +3, +3, +1.
Choose the scores so that they highlight the important aspects you have in mind for the adventure. Do you want this adventure to be a tough fight with low social interaction? Have Combat be your Hard approach and Interaction be Easy. Do you want a game of intrigue with next to no fighting? Use Lore or Interaction as your Hard approaches and Combat as your Easy approach.
This is what you'll be rolling for every NPC or setting element that comes into play against the PCs.
The campaign is just beginning and the PCs' top approach score is Good (+3), so Kim assigns +4, +2, +2, and +0 to the adventure approaches. She doesn't want to make it too difficult to find the mask, so she sets Exploration at Mediocre (+0), and she wants a lot of the questions left at the end to revolve around motives and factions, so she sets Interaction at Great (+4). Combat and Lore will thus be at Fair (+2).
Divine Interest: Bear in mind that in order to beat a Hard adventure approach of +5, your group of heroes will have to roll high enough to routinely risk "catastrophic success," a roll of +9 or higher, which incurs Divine Interest. When you, the GM, select the Hard approach, you're essentially deciding what, in this adventure, most risks attracting the attention of the gods.
Conversely, when selecting the Easy adventure approach, you're nudging the flow of the story by offering a place where the adventurers will have an easier time succeeding.
Characters and Creatures
The GM gets to play all the non-players characters or NPCs, be they support, allies, contacts, etc. But some of the most important will be those who present opposition for the PCs. You don't need to fill in a character sheet for every one of them; jot down only what matters. We have two main types of characters to track in the opposition: recurring adversaries and minions.
Adversaries: When you make an adversary, you can choose to stat them out exactly like the PCs, with approaches, aspects, stress, and consequences. You should do this for important or recurring adversaries who are intended to give the PCs some real difficulties, but you shouldn't need more than one or two of these in a given scenario.
Laetitia Bibulus ix Gailus and her ally Captain Volo Troll-Axe will definitely be recurring adversaries, so Kim thinks she will write fairly complete character sheets for them.
Minions: Other opponents are minions---unnamed soldiers, monsters, or brutes that are there to make the PCs' day a little more difficult, but they're designed to be more or less easily swept aside, especially by powerful PCs. Here's how you create their stats:
1. Make a list of what this minion is skilled at. They get a Fair (+2) to all rolls dealing with these things.
2. Make a list of what this minion is bad at. They get a Terrible (−2) to all rolls dealing with these things.
3. Everything else gets a Mediocre (+0).
4. Minions use the Fractal Adventure's approaches (Combat, Exploration, Interaction, and Lore) as modified by their abilities.
5. Give the minion an aspect or two to reinforce what they're good and bad at, or if they have a particular strength or vulnerability. It's okay if a minion's aspects are really simple.
6. Minions have zero, one, or two boxes in their stress track, depending on how tough you imagine them to be.
7. Minions can't take consequences. If they run out of stress boxes (or don't have any), the next hit takes them down.
8. Give the minion a weight 0 if they are smaller than a Sentian, 1 if they are Sentian-sized, 2 if they are bigger than a Sentian, 4 if they are the size of a small building, and more if they are even bigger! Note: This weight represents their physical size. If they have a particularly impressive intellect or social skills you can mark their weight in other arenas as well. See the "Weight" section for more details.
Since Volo Troll-Axe is captain of the Skyhammer, he must have a crew, but we don't need much detail on any of them; they are rank-and-file minions.
Weight: 1 (Sentian-sized)
Vidaar Sailor; We Are Skyhammers!
Skilled (+2) at: Sailing, fighting with boarding axes, climbing in the rigging.
Bad (-2) at: Planning, social situations.
Astute gamers will have noticed that using "skilled at" and "bad at" are roughly the equivalent of giving minions a few stunts and flaws.
Groups of Minions (a.k.a. Mobs): If you have a lot of low-level opponents facing the PCs, you can make your job easier by treating them as a group---or maybe a few groups. Instead of tracking a dozen individual opponents, you track three groups of four minions each. Each of these groups acts like a single character and has a set of stats just like a single minion would:
1. Choose a couple of things they're skilled at. You might designate "ganging up" as one of the things the group is good at.
2. Choose a couple of things they're not so good at.
3. Give them an aspect.
4. Give them the same stress an individual would have plus one stress box for every two individuals in the group.
5. Give the group a weight by adding up the weight of the individuals. This shouldn't go above 8. If it does, split them up into smaller groups.
When several crew members are acting together against the PCs, Kim will treat them as a group of rank-and-file minions. For example, a press gang might look like this:
Press Gang of the Skyhammer
Weight: 6 (6 crew members that are Sentian-sized)
Press Gang; Vidaar Sailors; We Are Skyhammers!
Skilled (+2) at: Finding derelict shore parties, fighting with belaying pins, pressing civilians into service, ganging up.
Bad (-2) at: Standing up to organized groups, fighting when outnumbered.
oooo (6 crew members)
A mob of minions can use its weight to surround or split the the group of PCs. When it makes sense, the GM can treat a mob as a single unit---instead of rolling dice individually for each of three Vidaar brutes, just roll once for the whole mob.
Mobs typically have two to four stress boxes. When a mob takes enough stress to reduce it to a single minion, try to have that orphaned minion join up with another mob in the scene, if it makes sense. (If it doesn't, just have them flee. Minions are good at that.)
Swarms: Remember swarms? We talked about them on page 225. Swarms are groups of creatures which individually have a weight of 0, meaning they're too small to be a serious threat to the average character (annoying, yes; a threat, no). But when they swarm, they can increase their weight: a small swarm, the size of an average Sentian, is weight 1; a big swarm, one about the size of an Ur-Kuld, is weight 2; and a huge swarm, one as big as a Marhn, is weight 4.
Well, that's not the only thing they can increase: they can also increase their capacity to take harm. Small swarms typically have no stress boxes (meaning they are taken out by the first point of harm), big swarms have one stress box, and huge swarms have two or three.
Adding Opposition to the Adventure
Go through the list of obstacle aspects you assigned to each scene, and turn them into adversaries, minions, or at least adventure stunts (for example, for a violent storm).
In this adventure, Kim knows she wants Laetitia Bibulus and Captain Volo Troll-Axe as antagonists during the race to get the mask.
She has also listed as "live" opponents the cheap hired brutes who are Skilled (+2) at ganging up, scaring innocent people, and Bad (-2) at thinking ahead, fighting when outnumbered; and a tentacled sea monster who is Skilled (+2) at grabbing people off ships, sinking small boats, and Bad (-2) at everything else. The tentacle monster has a weight of 4 and the special monster stunt It's Everywhere: No penalty for up to three attacks per turn.
There is also a school of nasty carnivorous little fish that can attack anyone who falls overboard at sea; Kim treats them as a medium swarm, giving them a weight of 2 and one stress box. She decides they are Skilled (+2) at swimming and biting and Bad (-2) at avoiding attacks from above.
Finally, she wants the environment of the Forbidden Temple and its surroundings to be very hostile, so she stats it like an antagonist and she gives it the stunt Skilled (+2) at creating physical danger advantages using Exploration and Hiding its Secrets and Bad (-2) at avoiding attention from explorers.
When another character is opposing a PC, their rolls provide the opposition in a conflict, contest, or challenge. But if there's no active opposition, you have to decide how hard the task is.
Fixed difficulties: Some difficulties are already pre-defined: roaring, casting a ritual, moving multiple zones, etc. For those challenges, use the difficulties already assigned.
Adventure Approaches: If the adventure approach is applicable, use that. The heroes are exploring an island looking for an entrance to the secret temple? Use the Exploration approach for the difficulty. Trying to convince the angry spear-toting locals that they mean no harm? Use the Interaction approach.
If neither of those is applicable, here are some guidelines for making up difficulties on the fly:
Low difficulties are best when you want to give the PCs a chance to show off and be awesome. Difficulties near their approach ratings are best when you want to provide tension but not overwhelm them. High difficulties are best when you want to emphasize how dire or unusual the circumstances are and make them pull out all the stops.
Rules of Thumb: If the task isn't very tough at all, give it a Mediocre (+0)---or just tell the player they succeed without a roll.
If you can think of at least one reason why the task is tough, pick Fair (+2).
If the task is extremely difficult, pick Great (+4).
If the task is impossibly difficult, go as high as you think makes sense. The PC will need to drop some fate points and get lots of help to succeed, but that's fine.
In tense situations, any obstacle's difficulty can be set at two higher than the Approach used to overcome, so it is likely to need an Invoke.
Approaches and Difficulties: Sometimes being Careful makes things a lot easier; sometimes it just takes too long. The GM may wish to adjust the target number up or down by 1 or 2 depending on whether you choose a fitting or a problematic approach.
For example, there should be different difficulties, costs, and repercussions depending on whether the PCs decide to Forcefully break down a door, Sneakily pick the lock, or Cleverly come up with a legitimate excuse to be let in.
You've got the problem, the scenes, and the opposition. All you need now is to open with a strong scene that will make the players want to jump in and act. You want to create a strong opening situation that ties to the problem, and some good antagonist characters with agendas. The players' interactions with these will create the fiction.
Pick a book from your shelf of favorites that has a really good opening, say within the first ten pages, and ask yourself why you think it was strong. Usually, a scene that gets your attention swiftly has some intriguing setting, some questions that pique the reader's curiosity and are left open, and some sort of action scene or exciting event.
Now adapt these concepts to your adventure as needed. Look at your story questions and pick one which you think will get the players' attention immediately. If you don't see one in the list, it's time to ask more questions! Whatever question you ask in the opening must make the players want to answer.
Note that you don't actually have to start at the beginning. Sometimes it's good to open with a short prologue, a flashback, even a flash forward that will be followed by "Ten days earlier…" in the next scene. All of these are good, but you have to articulate them clearly so the players can understand what you are doing.
Finally, remember that the game is about characters who are proactive, competent, and dramatic. Even if you start with a scene that puts the PCs on the defensive, don't describe them as being belittled or disempowered.
The Mask of Betrayal: Opening Scene
Kim really wants for Rustica to take this seriously, and she wants the favor owed to Valius Nummus to be more than a business obligation. She's also not sure how much investigation her players are up for tonight, so she decides she will set things up so she can feed them useful information as needed if they don't feel like researching the history of the Mask of Kuldarus, by creating a manuscript that sheds light on the artifact.
She opens with Rustica making a routine visit to the establishment of Valius Nummus, purveyor of books, scrolls, fine writing implements, rare texts, and occasional antiques---and finding the merchant amidst the wreckage of his shop, getting his bleeding head bandaged. As a conversation with him will rapidly reveal, Valius' shop was broken into and ransacked during the wee hours of the night.
After shooing away his assistants, Valius confidentially tells Rustica that a manuscript he had recently acquired has been stolen. He tells her he was studying the badly damaged manuscript in the hope of learning the location of the Mask of Kuldarus. Clearly, someone learned of his studies and wants to reach the mask first. Valius asks Rustica to help him retrieve the manuscript and find the mask. This is a compel of Rustica's Owes Valius Nummus a Favoraspect.
That's it! You have your completed adventure, ready to share with your players. Don't forget to roll with their punches, and keep things fluid. Like most good outlines, this one is subject to change at a moment's notice. Don't force the issue of your perfectly devised plans. If the PCs get off-track, find a way to get them back to their goal---the adventure's trouble aspect, the reason it was inevitable or imperative that they pursue the goal, is a good motivator to get them back on track. But if they are merely pursuing the goal in a way you had not expected, let them!
Getting Better At It
Once you grasp how it works, the Fractal Adventure method is quick and straightforward to use when creating scenarios. The unified view makes it easy for the GM to react quickly since there is no sheaf of notes to thumb through, and having the adventure statted like a character makes the GM more like another player at the game table, less like the CEO of the gaming group.
Ultimately, if you are comfortable improvising in response to your players' ideas, all you really need in an adventure is a strong opening situation that ties to one of your issues, and some good antagonist characters with agendas. The players' interactions with these will create the fiction; the entire group will create scenes on the fly.
You have plenty of breathing room before the player characters start pushing the default limits through milestones. Still, if you play a continuing campaign for long enough, you'll end up with PCs that are vastly more powerful than when they started. A rule of thumb for this might be when all the PCs have either:
Doubled the total of their approach bonuses, from +9 (+3 +2 +2 +1 +1 +0 = +9) to +18.
Raised three or more of their approach bonuses to Superb (+5).
When this happens, it's time to think about what you need to do to maintain the group's interest, keep everyone challenged and engaged, and give the heroes a suitably epic story. Here are some ideas for gamemasters:
Retire the Campaign in Style: Maybe the campaign has reached its natural end, story-wise, and all you need to do is give the heroes a graceful exit, then play something new. If you decide that is the proper course, it remains for you to give your campaign a fitting ending, one that will provide a satisfying conclusion.
Look at the campaign aspects—they may have evolved in play—and the current PC aspects; think about the overarching plots and how they have developed; talk to your players. Use this to extrapolate what would be a fitting final scenario or story arc for the heroes, perhaps resolving some of the dramatic hooks embodied by their high concept and flaw aspects, giving them with a well-earned retirement—or even a heroic death.
Scale Forward—Take It Into the Future: Ice ages aren't known for their blinding speed or short duration, relatively speaking. You can move forward by years, decades, even centuries to show the impact of the heroes' actions on the world of Agaptus and the War of Ashes.
Even if somehow the heroes have managed to find a way to stop or reverse the climate effects, the world will continue to change in dramatic ways; perhaps the heroes retired after a job well done, only to be called to serve the greater good again; or they went deep into hiding after making too many enemies, but the consequences of their actions finally catch up with them.
This is a good time to adjust the cap on approach bonuses, refresh rate, number of stress boxes, and so forth, not only for PCs but also for the opposition. It's not just a matter of increasing the numbers either; re-scaling the campaign means changing the scope of the issues and adversaries.
Scale Wide—Play Factions: Perhaps instead of playing single characters, your group needs to start thinking in terms of power factions in Agaptus: noble houses, armies, religious orders, secret organizations, etc.
Thanks to the Bronze Rule, you can move to playing entire factions, either as extras for your characters or as the characters themselves.
As a result, challenges, contests, and conflicts will be on a whole new scale, but here is the happy news: it doesn't change how they are resolved. We'll still use the same actions, aspects, stunts, stress tracks, and consequences we've been using all along.
After a lot of play and advancement, Kim's PCs have grown so much that it's time to rescale; the group discusses options and decides that it would be fun to move on to world-spanning plots. Each player gets to create a faction or detail one already created in play, negotiated with the GM to provide some balance.
Sharlene's character Rustica has become involved with a Scholar House in play, House Kalamus; this makes a fine faction.
Ian decides he wants to create a pirate---ahem, "freebooter"---league operating among the western islands with Ulf as its leader, and calls it "The Brotherhood of the Claw."
Ben, who plays Iva, would like to control the Virian Order; Kim says that's a bit much since she has plans for the Order, but suggests that he control the Stone-Seekers, which Ben agrees to.
Note that the original PCs don't have to be the official leaders of these factions, merely aligned with them. Another charm of this approach is that you can re-scale again later by picking umbrella organizations operating at yet a higher level.
For more ideas on creating and playing such wide-ranging entities, refer to Mark Diaz Truman's supplement "Factions," which can be downloaded free from evilhat.com.
Scale Down—Play the Little People: You can choose to scale down instead by playing the PCs' allies and supporters that have been created in the story. In this case, you're essentially creating them as your new player characters, and the former PCs are now high-powered allies that only appear occasionally. This option is very easy to use because the only thing you have to do is fill in new character sheets!
If Kim's group opted to scale down, Sharlene could play Rustica's research assistant, Ian could play one of Ulf's former sailors, and Ben could play Iva's fawn Kuri, grown up to an adventurous adolescent.
Scale Up—Play Gods: If you want to go big, you can always move on to play the deities of your setting. Like the faction option, this means moving challenges, contests, and conflicts to a new world-spanning scope, but one look at real-world mythologies will reassure you that divine plots can also be petty, silly, and absurd!