Opposing Forces, Powered by Fate

 

OF-cover1-smallOpposing Forces is a 192-page RPG sourcebook for Fate Core. The first 48 pages details tactical rules and gives advice for running scenes of physical, social, and mental conflict. The remaining pages detail 135 pre-generated characters and archetypes for the Core system, addressing the three archetypal genres of sci-fi, fantasy, and modern settings.

The advice and rules are designed to enable a more precise understanding of the system in order to provide players with a meaningful challenge and balanced experience. The pre-generated characters are meant to provide the Game Master with easily accessible NPCs, story hooks, and more efficient prep time.

The book itself is divided into four parts. Part one is the technical stuff where I address the rules as a function of the game. I share my observations and break down the math behind the Fate Core system. I discuss the use of Fate Points as a tactical tool, and explain how the tactical system in Fate materially differs from traditionally crunchy tactical sims. Finally, I provide several pages of Aspects and Stunts alongside a few words of explanation.

320px-FudgediceParts two, three, and four consist of the characters and archetypes built ready for use in any Fate Core conflict. The characters are divided into the sci-fi, fantasy, and urban genres, and further subdivided into physical, mental, and social opponents. Characters appear at different challenge levels ranging from three kinds of nameless NPCs to fully realized characters ready to be dropped into an existing campaign.

The good folks at Evil Hat gave us some very helpful guidelines to construct NPCs for our games, but precious few examples. And nothing ready to go. My basic idea here is that GMs can flip to the archetype they need, jot a note, tweak an attribute if necessary, and be ready to run a conflict at the drop of an (Evil) hat. Here’s what it looks like:

Armored Trooper Entry

Why make a tactical manual for Fate?

Because power gamers get a bad rap.

We’re the subject of running jokes within RPG circles. Movies cast us as the bad guys. Podcasts spend hours teaching thousands of devoted fans how to game “the right way”.

But the truth is…

Gothcolor smallIf we don’t name our characters it’s because we want to be our characters. We min-max stats so that we can do awesome stuff in the game that no one could do in real life. We take it hard when we fail to save the damsel-in-distress, because we weren’t a good enough hero.

The truth is that we place a high priority on learning the rules of the game so that we can make the game the best experience possible. It means that we recognize a right and wrong way to put the pieces of this tactical puzzle together, and it also means that we are the only ones who know how the game works on a mathematical and tactical level.

The Fate system took all that away from us.

All of a sudden, having a backstory mattered to the game. Our old reliable stats of STR, DEX, and CON were no more. The playing field between Kender, Orcs, Elves, and Humans inexplicably leveled out. Star Marines, Power Armor, and Monstrous Nightmares succumbed to a stat block that relied on descriptions rather than numbers.

All of a sudden, the ability to schmooz, to wine and dine, and to have social graces mattered mathematically to the outcome of the game. And all of a sudden we were losing.

It’s time to take our games back!

Fate Core affords us a unique opportunity to power game in ways never before possible. All of a sudden we can haul suspects into an interrogation room and psychologically beat the stuffing out of them. Our old reliable Power Blast can do so much than a mere 3d6 damage. The descriptive stat block allows us to affect the game in materially improbable ways.

All of a sudden we can do so much more than simply win the tactical combat scenario. Now we can win against the game itself.

We just have to understand the darn thing.

Opposing Forces breaks down the math behind the Fate system and lays bare the structure of the game. I discuss in-depth the system’s approach to skills, how the Stress Track differs from Hit Points, and why the real power of the game lies in Aspects and Stunts. I explain how Fate Points can be a devastating game changer, and strategic use of your own Consequences. I lay out how conflict occurs along physical, mental, social, and emotional lines, and why each of these areas can turn into a nail-biting climactic moment.

Power gamers will finally get a good grip on how the game is meant to be played, and how to get the most out of their characters. I don’t neglect the other gamers (story gamers???), they get advice on putting some teeth in their own characters, elevating them from reactive plot points to the driving force behind the gaming experience.

And then it gets better.

Thug color smallFor me, the flavor and challenge of a game has always been bound up in the bestiary of foes unique to a given setting or scenario. Derring-do, after all, needs memorable villains upon which to be done. This is every bit as true for the romantic comedy as it is for sword and sorcery. Fate Core very helpfully provides us with guidelines on how to create our own villains. This has led to page after page of notes on bad guys and monsters. My notebook is full, and it’s time to share.

The second part of the book will provide a ready-made bestiary of foes for a variety of staple settings. My current notes include opponents for: high-fantasy worlds such as Middle-Earth, Dungeons & Dragons, or Warhammer; low-fantasy worlds such as Hyboria (Conan), Narnia, or Cthulhu; and space-fantasy such as Star Wars or Star Trek. But there’s room to grow.

I feel that a complete bestiary for Fate Core not only includes opponents wielding chain-sword and battle-axe, but also villains armed with the due process of law, tender-hearted sympathy, or smarmy salesmanship. The system is geared to provide the same level of tactical play on the mental, emotional, and social battlefields as it does for physical combat. We just have to adjust our thinking about game play and tap into some opponents that are geared to meet us on that turf.

I can finally play an angst-ridden vampire with a soul without feeling silly. I can get into being a fake-psychic detective without having to pull clues, evidence, and deduction out of my … imagination. I can woo the heart of the shallow prom queen while not realizing I’m actually attracted to the girl next door. I can do all of these things and feel like I’m making measurable progress because the mechanics of the game back me up.

A hero is only as good as his villain. What kind of forces oppose yours?

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