Converting to Fate

Fate is a great system, but doesn’t come with a built-in setting to play. This is Fate’s biggest strength: it’s open to be used in any genre for almost any game. However, this “genericness” of Fate can also be a hinderance. With aspects, stunts, skills/approaches, stress tracks, and fate points, it can be daunting for those not familiar enough with how Fate works.

What to Convert?

This is the easiest question to answer: whatever you want! In this day and age, what with a wiki for everything, it’s easy to find an existing property to play in. The best place to start is with a property you and your group are familiar with: a book setting, a video game universe, or a popular TV show or movie franchise. A quick web search of “[property title] + wiki” will yield a plethora of results.

Wikipedia and Wikia are going to be the top hits. But some book settings might have their own “about this setting” on their home website.

While these places have a lot of good material, don’t get bogged down in the minutia. Fate is a very fast-paced, action-oriented game system. This means you don’t need to know exactly how many tons a certain spaceship weighs, or the exact range, in meters/feet/miles/etc of a specific weapon. Just know that it’s a big ship, and the main cannon can shoot anything it sees.

###Start Simple Don’t go overboard on your conversion notes. Is the game going to be about world-trotting archeologists? Just concentrate on the places of interest in the world. Is the game about space-fighter jocks? The fighter craft are important, but the home base or carrier isn’t.

Just because there is information doesn’t mean it’s necessary to convert.

###Grow as the PCs Grow That’s not to say that you shouldn’t care about these other things. As the PCs grow and visit other places and become interested in other things, you’re going to want to convert it. In the above example of space-fighter jocks, capital ships aren’t important off the bat, but later on when their mission is to take down a star cruiser it will be important!

A nice side effect of starting small is that you can work out the kinks on a smaller scale, so when the scale changes you already have a baseline to work from.

##How to Convert When converting something to Fate, always remember the golden rule: Decide what you’re trying to accomplish first, then consult the rules to help you do it.

What are you trying to accomplish? Always start there. A magic system? Rules for mecha? Magical girls? What do you want to accomplish. Once you have that down, it’s easier to figure out how to do it with the rules of the game.

A side note: If you’re trying to convert another game (video game or even another RPG property), remember to convert the setting and not the system. Sure, Shadowrun has physical damage and stun damage, but in Fate that’s all physical stress.

Figure out what’s most important in the setting, and design rules tweaks around that. Don’t get too complicated, however, and don’t just take what’s been done before. For example, the magic system in the Dresden Files RPG is atrocious, and isn’t in keeping with Fate Core’s simpler nature. Don’t use that, go easy.

###What Can I Use? Fate has, in my opinion, 4 major pillars of mechanics:

  • Aspects
  • Skills
  • Stunts
  • Stress Tracks

I’ll get into specifics of each in upcoming posts, but keep these four in mind when you’re trying to come up with new or modified rules. What you make will most likely be a modification of one of these four pillars.

###Simple is Best Fate is designed to be a fast-paced and exciting game, and the rules should follow suit. This means that when you’re coming up with new/modified rules, keep it simple! Like the above-mentioned magic system from DFRPG: it ground play to a halt when used. So don’t go overly complex.

Take the path of least resistance. If that means you just take an aspect and move on, that’s cool! If you want to add a new skill or two, simple! You can even combine two (or even three, if one is stunts) of the pillars: a new skill that uses a new stress track, with stunts to modify it.

A magic system might have three or four magic-y skills, a Mana stress track, and cool stunts. A hard scifi game might need a Fuel stress track for ships, since you can run out of reaction mass. In a post-apocalypse setting, you might need a Rations stress track to make sure you don’t run out of edible food and potable water.

Hanging a Lantern on It

Things that are important to the style of game you want to play should have new rules. Things that aren’t core to the experience don’t need them. For example, there are plenty of rules for Weapon/Armour rating. Do we need another?[1]

Use the tools at your disposal to shine a light on the cool things of your game, but be careful. As one of my favorite super villains once said, “…when everyone’s super, [evil Laugh] no-one will be.” If you spotlight too much it really bogs down your game with a lot of needless rules minutia. This isn’t GURPS or D&D. This. Is. Fate!

Wrap-Up

When converting things to Fate remember the following, and it’ll be hard to go wrong:

  • Keep it simple
  • Grow gradually, with the player characters
  • Follow the Golden Rule
  • Don’t go overboard
  • Highlight what’s important
  • Avoid “highlighting” everything

  1. Hint: the answer is "no, we don't."' But if you're a long-time reader you know my feelings on W/A rating.  ↩