Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Characters and Levels

Spirit of Greyhawk's character generation process is probably as much about "conversion" as it is about "generation". Or at least you need to be considering the viewpoint that players will likely be looking at their SoG character with a thought about how it looks from the perspective of the source material. By way of a running start, here's a summary of "starting characters" in Fate Core and Spirit of the Century...

Fate Core Starting Character Summary

Skill Pyramid: 1 x (+4), 2 x (+3), 3 x (+2), 4 x (+1)
Stress Track (Base): OOO in each track
Aspects: 1 High Concept + 1 Trouble + 3 Additional Aspects
Fate Point / Refresh: 3
Stunts: 3 free stunts, extra stunts cost Refresh

Spirit of the Century Starting Character Summary

Skill Pyramid: 1 x (+5), 2 x (+4), 3 x (+3), 4 x (+2), 5 x (+1)
Stress Track (Base): OOOOO in each track
Aspects: 5 phases x 2 aspects = 10 aspects total
Fate Point / Refresh: 5
Stunts: 5

...From that information and a bit of fiddling with the dials, I generally consider Fate Core starting characters to be the equivalent of 8th level, relative to the source material. Spirit of the Century starting characters would the equivalent of 10th level.

So given those two points of reference, I ventured off on that heading to make the following character "levels" for Spirit of Greyhawk. SoG uses a guild-based naming convention--I like the concept that the game's feel reinforces a cultural assumption for the game world that education is generally a function of a feudal-ish guild structure, and that a character class is a guide into the sum total of that character's skills. Plus, the source material's class titles implied a pretty similar assumption.

Spirit of Greyhawk - Character "Levels"

"Apprentice" (0 Level--in case anyone wants to try it)

Skill Pyramid: All at +0
Stress Track (Base): (none), one hit takes out character (barring Consequences)
Aspects: 1 Race/Alignment Aspect
Fate Point / Refresh: 0 Stunts: 0

"Craftsman" (2nd Level)

(This would be closest to the source material starting character)
Skill Pyramid: 1 x (+1)
Stress Track (Base): O in each track
Aspects: 1 Class Aspect + 1 Race/Alignment Aspect
Fate Point / Refresh: 1
Stunts: 1

"Journeyman" (4th Level)

Skill Pyramid: 1 x (+2), 2 x (+1)
Stress Track (Base): OO
Aspects: 1 Class Aspect + 1 Race/Alignment Aspect + 1 Additional Phase Aspect
Fate Point / Refresh: 2
Stunts: 2

NOTE: The "Additional Phase Aspect" is similar to a character creation phase, because the character has now begun journeying.)

"Experienced Journeyman" (6th Level--I haven't researched a better title yet)

Skill Pyramid: 1 x (+3), 2 x (+2), 3 x (+1)
Stress Track (Base): OOO
Aspects: 1 Class Aspect + 1 Race/Alignment Aspect + 2 Additional Phase Aspects
Fate Point / Refresh: 3
Stunts: 3

"Master" (8th Level)

Skill Pyramid: 1 x (+4), 2 x (+3), 3 x (+2), 4 x (+1)
Stress Track (Base): OOOO
Aspects: 1 Class Aspect + 1 Race/Alignment Aspect + 3 Additional Phase Aspects
Fate Point / Refresh: 4
Stunts: 4

"Guild Master" (10th Level)

Skill Pyramid: 1 x (+5), 2 x (+4), 3 x (+3), 4 x (+2), 5 x (+1)
Stress Track (Base): OOOOO
Aspects: 1 Class Aspect + 1 Race/Alignment Aspect + 4 Additional Phase Aspects
Fate Point / Refresh: 5
Stunts: 5

Reinforcing the Character Class Mechanic

To further support the source material's assumption of character classes, and working again from the assumption that education in the game world is largely a result of a guild system, Spirit of Greyhawk has a rule mechanic that separates the skills for all classes into three categories...

  • Skills that a particular class can elect to have in their skill list. A Thief can choose the Missile skill, just not as an Apex skill.
  • Skills that a particular class can elect as their Apex skill. For example, the Wizard class is the only class that can elect Wizardry as an Apex Skill.
  • Skills that are not available for a particular class. A Fighter cannot elect the Wizardry skill.

...So while it's conceivable from a narrative perspective that a fighter COULD have the Wizardry skill, it would require the character to multi-class / split-class to gain access to skills that wouldn't be otherwise available via a single class. Additionally (and this probably doesn't even need to be said), the distinction between classes also provides a more natural backdrop in the game world for why characters of different classes would band together into adventuring parties: to gain access to skills that would improve chances of survival.

Low-Level Non-Fighters and Combat Emphasis

There is a natural tendency for players with low-level characters in the non-Fighter classes to want to select the Melee or Missile skill as early as possible, to improve their chances of surviving combat. However, this can result in the majority of successful (i.e., surviving) low-level Thief and Wizard characters to be less distinguishable from the Fighter characters or Clerics. SoG tries to encourage non-fighter characters in two ways:

  • The Skills by Class table (shown in post "Character Statistics and Skills") requires a non-fighter character to pick an apex skill that is NOT Melee or Missile.
  • Similar to the source material, give all starting character classes a truly "free" stunt: Weapon Specialization. This means that the character will pick a weapon from the Weapons Table and when the character is fighting with that weapon (and only with that type of weapon), they receive a +1 bonus.

Given the larger benefit of a +1 in the Fate Core game mechanic, hopefully this gives a player a comfort level that the non-fighter character is not being unduly penalized when it comes to combat.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Weapons and Armor, part 2

Continuing on from Part 1...

Idea Three: Add More Fate Dice

The idea of having weapons and armor be a constant benefit (+1 to +4) and leave the variability to skill differential and 4dF (luck), didn't really have a desireable feel in relation to the source material. So there was the idea that you could just add more Fate dice, based upon the weapon or armor you were carrying. The better the weapon or armor, the more dice you added.


  • You only need more FATE dice, and that's it. The fact that it also supports sales of FATE Dice is just a happy coincidence.
  • Conceptually, it's a relatively easy adjustment to understand.
  • Stackable bonuses are easier to factor in.


  • Would still require multiple dice configurations (see last article), though keeping track of a number of dice is easier than working with multiple dice color combinations.
  • Scaling - Again, scales too fast for the different weapon / armor versions.
  • Devalues character skills, especially once you start factoring in stackable bonuses.

So, with all that out of the way, here's what SoG is currently using...

Current Iteration: Spirit of Greyhawk Weapons and Armor

  • Roll the usual 4dF for Hit / Defend actions, using Skills/Stunts as per normal. That determines the success/failure of the attack, any extra degree of success are extra shifts of stress.
  • If the attack is successful, any damage from the weapon (i.e., beyond the shifts generated by the margin of success) is determined by rolling a particular number of Fate dice assigned to that Weapon. Any extra shifts from the weapon are added to the shifts from the margin of success in the prior step and the net stress is assigned to the defender.
  • If the defender has any armor, roll the Fate dice assigned to that armor.
  • For the Weapons and Armor dice, any "+" result counts as a +1 for either a Weapon’s damage or an Armor’s protection.

The value of the armor’s protection is then subtracted from the total damage--anything not yet absorbed by the armor is counted against the stress track.


Melee Skill (+2)
Athletics Skill (+1)
Weapon: Battle Axe (Weapon dF: 3)
Armor: Chain Mail (Armor dF: 5)

Melee Skill (+1)
Athletics Skill (+3)
Weapon: Dagger (Weapon dF: 1)
Armor: Padded Armor (Armor dF: 2)

The Thief stabs at the Fighter first (let's just say he's faster). Fate Dice are rolled as normal...

Fighter's dice are White, Thief's dice are Green
  • Attack (Thief): Skill (Melee, +1) + Dice (4dF, result: +1) = +2
  • Defense (Fighter): Skill (Athletics, +1) + Dice (4dF, result: -1) = 0
  • Result: +2 - (+0) = Attack succeeds, +2 shifts damage.

Weapon / Armor dice are now rolled...

Fighter's dice are White, Thief's dice are Green
  • Thief's Weapon Damage: Weapon (Dagger 1d, +0 result) = +0 damage
  • Fighter's Armor Defense: Armor (Chain Mail 5d, +2 result) = +2 defense
  • Result: Attack Shifts (+2) + Weapon Damage (+0) - Armor Defense (+2) = 2+0-2 = 0 physical stress to the Fighter

The Fighter hacks at the Thief. Fate Dice are rolled as normal...

Fighter's dice are White, Thief's dice are Green
  • Attack (Fighter): Skill (Melee, +2) + Dice (4dF, result: +2) = +4
  • Defense (Thief): Skill (Athletics, +3) + Dice (4dF, result: -2) = +1
  • Result: +4 - (+1) = Attack succeeds, +3 shifts damage.

Weapon / Armor dice are rolled...

Fighter's dice are White, Thief's dice are Green
  • Fighter's Weapon Damage: Weapon (Battle Axe 3dF, +1 result) = +1 damage
  • Thief Armor Defense: Armor (Padded Armor 2dF, +1 result) = +1 defense
  • Result: Attack Shifts (+3) + Weapon Damage (+1) - Armor Defense (+1) = 3+1-1 = 3 physical stress to the Thief

Rules about Bonuses

Weapons with an enchantment that improves the chance to hit can use that extra die during the first roll, using the "die face of '+' counts as +1" result, before rolling damage. So any extra shift(s) from the weapon would count towards both success and damage (similar to the source material). An extra die color would probably help here.

Bonuses that are "damage only" would be rolled during the weapon damage, as normal.

Stunt-related bonuses (eg., Weapon Specialization) that improve chances to hit would also be treated similar to enchantments. But now stunts can be broke out by improvements to hit and / or improvements to damage.

Design Points

Consistent with the source material, the general approach is that mundane (unenchanted) melee weapons don't make it easier to hit an opponent--it makes the damage count MORE when you hit them. This means it's the player's skill with the weapon that is the most important--and I like that.

Though armor in SoG follows the basic premise of the source material in that it makes it harder to hit an opponent (by an offset to the attacker's shifts), it would be more accurate to say that armor in SoG makes an attack less likely to damage to its wearer.

The scalability of the weapon / armor benefit being limited to only the "+" die result appears to allow a nice degree of granularity without overwhelming the Fate Core scale. Given a cumulative probability of around 50%, I believe it takes 11 dice before the weapon / armor benefit would average a result better than a +4.

Of course it's possible a mundane weapon could score big time (i.e., the halberd above rolls all 4 Fate dice at "+"), but that chance appears pretty small. About a 1.2% chance, if I’m reading it right. However as any observer of gambling stats knows, the POSSIBILITY that a really good roll could result is where the excitement is at.

So with the design approach settled (for the moment), the next step was to actually translate Weapon damage ranges and the Armor classes from the source material.

Translating Armor

Translating armor was the easier place to start, because there are a finite range of possibilities: from unarmored to the best possible (epic, deity-level) protection, there are only 21 values. Starting from the idea in Fate Core that a +4 armor benefit was really serious personal armor, and then fiddling with the dials a bit to take into account things like "shields should count for an improvement in armor benefit" and the like, I arrived at a maximum mundane (non-enchanted) armor benefit of 7 dice.

Statistically speaking, 7 Fate dice (counting the "+" as +1), translates to a 74% cumulative probability of getting at least a +2 benefit.

Overall, armor values have gone from 21 possible levels of protection (10 to -10 in the source material) down to 14 levels (in SoG). Which means going from unarmored (+0 dice), to a conversion maximum (i.e., best possible armor class, god-like level) of +13 dice.

Translating Weapons

The translation of weapons and damage bonuses was more of a balancing act than a straight translation. The balance was more about adding enough granularity into mundane weapon damage to make things interesting (like making sure halberds and 2-handed swords could still be scary), but still leave enough room open at the higher end of the scale for things like dragon fire and so forth.

The source material’s weapons table originally had 9 variations of dice to determine the damage ranges of all the weapons on that table. In keeping with FC’s low-resolution approach, SoG mundane weapons has 5 variations.

Thinking ahead to monsters and some of the unusual damage ranges you can find in other related materials, I may try to put together some guidelines based upon a Fate dice recommendation based upon a source material listing for min damage value and max damage value.

So here’s some sample values (in addition to those listed above) for those who want to just start rolling for those "+"...


  • Shields are good for an extra 1 die to the benefit of the armor being worn.
  • Leather armor (2 dF)
  • Chain Mail (5 dF)
  • Plate Mail (6 dF)


  • Dagger (1 dF)
  • Morningstar (3 dF)
  • Quarterstaff (2 dF) (aspect: 2-handed weapon, can be improvised)
  • Bastard Sword (3 dF) (aspect: can use 2-handed)

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