Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Weapons and Armor, part 1

I wanted to share what I've been most recently working on--integrating the gameworld's emphasis upon weapons and armor into the Fate Core ruleset. Here are my guidelines for success:

  • Provide the game with a feel that weapons, armor and upgrades "matter".
  • It has to be scalable.
  • It can’t slow down the pace too much. Fate Core tends to play at a faster pace, relative to the source material.
  • Weapons and Armor can’t totally overshadow character skills. Skills still have to matter. This is more of a personal goal and more consistent with the tenets of Fate Core, rather than an expectation from the source material.
  • It has to be able to handle magical weapons / armor, without having to bolt on extra mechanics on top of what was already being implemented for weapons / armor. Additionally it also has to play well with other "stacking" bonuses (Strength, etc.)

Here's some ideas I tried, and why I didn't use them. Note that this isn't a criticism or rejection of these ideas, but perhaps my experiences might help some readers with their own efforts.

Idea One: Weapons and Armor have their Own Polyhedral Dice

I had a thought that you could define the benefit of weapons and armor as the value of polyhedral dice (d2, d3, d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, d20, etc) and use those combinations to represent the damage increase / decrease of those items.


  • The polyhedral dice gave a nice emotional connection to the source material. I really-really liked this concept.
  • The dice could be thrown at the same time as the Fate dice and were easy to distinguish from the actual Fate dice roll. So, you only needed one roll of the dice to handle IF an action was a success or not, as well as the DEGREE of the success/failure. This was in keeping with Fate Core’s own dice-rolling and didn’t slow down the pace.


  • The progression scales up too fast. At Fate Core's degree of granularity, the difference between a d4 and d6 is too dramatic, due to the scale of a "+1" bonus being very different between Fate Core and the source material. For example, the source material's weapons table has 9 different ranges of damage: from 1-3 and 1-10. In order to fit in with Fate Core's scale, you need something closer to DFRPG's 4 levels of damage/protection.
  • As a knock-on effect, putting too much value on the weapons reduces the value of a character's Skills. When you start to factor in the various ranges of damage from Monsters, it gets even harder to keep Skills as the most important factor in success.
  • Factoring in magical benefits and other bonuses stressed the scaling even further.

Idea Two: Tri-Color Dice

There's been a few versions of this idea--a "+" result for one color of Fate die would result in an additional +1 benefit (let's call this the blue dice), and a "(blank)" or "+" result for another color would result in an additional +1 benefit (let's call this the red dice).


  • It's in the Fate Core Toolkit. Fate fans could easily accept the change.
  • It was also considered that there could be certain weapons that possessed color types that gave different effect (white could be considering "bashing" damage, blue could be for absorbing / dealing "slashing" damage, red could be for absorbing / dealing "Piercing" damage). This gave a tactical consideration to weapons and armor selection that I liked.
  • The three colors and the context of the die result allowed for a feel of different gradations that doesn’t scale up too fast.


  • In playtesting, this concept felt like it needed too much overhead for players to keep track of the various dice "configurations", which slows down play too much for my taste. A player with only one character would need to keep track of two dice configurations: one dice configuration for the defensive/armor setup, and one for the offensive/weapon setup. This gets even worse for the DM, needing two configurations for each monster!
  • There's a finite number of tri-color dice combinations--specifically, there are 14 combinations of the progression from 4 white Fate dice up to all 4 red Fate dice. When you start having to factor in the various monster-damage combinations, this finite amount is tough to manage with respect to weapons/monster damage. Because there are a finite number of Armor Classes (21), this could scale okay for armor. However there's a LOT of different dice combinations used to describe weapons damage, especially once you factor in monsters' damage dice. This could also prove tricky when trying to provide conversion guidelines for adventure modules, etc.
  • Bonuses that stack (Stunts, Skills, Enchantments) stressed that finite number of dice combinations even further. Additionally, if the colors represented a tactical distinction, then the bonuses just watered that down.
  • Last and perhaps only a nit-pick of mine: describing the tri-color dice combinations required creating a Fate dice number/color shorthand, which seemed to be more confusion than I wanted. The best I ever did was come up with something that looked like this: 2dF(W)1dF(B)1dF(R).

The current version of Weapons / Armor modifiers did use something from this idea. The next post, Weapons and Armor, part 2 covers all this.

(The screen-caps were taken on the dice-rolling app Pip)

Friday, August 22, 2014


Hello and thanks for clicking your way here!

What Is "Spirit of Greyhawk"?

Spirit of Greyhawk (SoG) is an implementation of Evil Hat's Fate Core, with the idea that the rules try to reflect "the way things worked" in the gameworld of Greyhawk, circa the late 70's and early 80's.

For example, if a player came to a session of SoG with the past experience that, in the world of Greyhawk, trolls take extra damage from fire, hitting a troll in SoG with a torch would have the expected effect.

The goal is to make a set of rules that takes advantage of all the positives that Fate Core allows, but still gives players the sense that they have been adventuring in the world of Greyhawk.

So the point of the ruleset is to invoke the "spirit" of Greyhawk. Which also makes the working title a no-brainer. This project was started at a time when Evil Hat's Spirit of the Century was the state-of-the-art Fate ruleset. Which should also give Fate-o-philes a sense of the pace at which I've been working.

What Makes Spirit of Greyhawk Different?

Spirit of Greyhawk is about trying to recreate the "play experience" of what it was like to play in the world of Greyhawk. The conceit of SoG is that the rules in the source material were written to describe the way things work in the world of Greyhawk.

Think of the basic translation process as working like this:

Take the source material's rules and turn that into a series of assumptions about how something works in the gameworld. From those assumptions, apply Fate Core rules to portray assumptions using the "Fate fractal" to expand where necessary.

Hopefully, this would provide RPG players of a certain age (like me) the opportunity to play Fate in a world that is already somewhat familar.

When I actually get an all-too-rare opportunity to spend a few hours with friends at the table-top, I don't want to spend that time having to learn a new version of rules for a world I've already put a lot of work into understanding. I love Fate Core, I love old-school Greyhawk. Simple enough. Though that's not the same as saying "easy enough"...

So, What's the Goal?

I don't consider myself a game designer, so much as a game master in need of a ruleset that helps me tell the stories I want to tell, the way I want to tell them. The actual goal (more than a hope) is to get to a compiled ruleset and that it would be something worth sharing with people who are looking for something similar.

The blog's goal is be a workspace to test ideas, noodle around theories, gather opinions, and in general be a reason to push myself to keep progressing towards that goal of a compiled ruleset.

Roll Credits!

I'll start with a very sincere debt of gratitude to Mike Olson, who has been gracious enough to let the Spirit of Greyhawk project "crash on the sofa" of his blog the last few years. He was also kind enough to encourage me to put this project into its own blog.

To Jeff Bradley, who has been a tireless sounding board for Spirit of Greyhawk playtests. Your unflagging positive energy (and inspired roleplay) has been a great resource--not sure I'd be posting today without your support. Here's a mug of ale to Rysc and Muntz--the Laurel and Hardy of SoG--long may they annoy each other!

To Bill Burdick: my partner in crime since the second grade. Discovering Steve Jackson's Melee and Wizard Microgames truly was the beginning of the end for us.

And a tip of the hat to Nick Daly, for reminding me that people still read those original SoG posts that appeared on Mike O's Spirit of the Blank blog.

And of course the whole project is really a love letter to the work and endless imaginations of E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.