Gritty FATE?

I was either going to review Airship Pirates or write something for Starblazer today but instead – as is typical – I find myself thinking on towards the next projects after the ones I am already working on.

One I’ve been ruminating on for a while is a crime/caper game called ‘Diamond Geezers’. I have been leaning towards a grittified selection of D6, if only because character templates are so quick and easy, but I do really like FATE as a go-to system. The only problem with FATE is that is it pretty much geared, as written, for heroic action, not for grit.

That said, there’s things about FATE that mean it could model differences and a higher granularity than the traditional go-to for realism, a percentile system. A 1-100 range allows for a lot of small, conditional, individual bonuses and penalties but rapidly becomes tedious. An adjective based system like FATE allows you to sidestep that somewhat by turning descriptions into adjectives.

EG: In a percentile game you might describe a rifle as having a base 20% chance to hit with a telescopic sight that adds 5% to hit at medium and longer ranges, loaded with armour piercing rounds etc etc. In FATE you wouldn’t need to worry about the statistics so much, rather the rifle would have the aspects ‘telescopic sight’ and ‘armour piercing’ that could be brought into play as and when they’re relevant.

There’s still more you’d need to do to make FATE grittier, deadlier, and here’s some off-the-cuff suggestions.

  • FATE points only provide +1 and only when an aspect is relevant.
  • Stress doesn’t heal from scene to scene but at a given healing rate (one per day?).
  • Consequences take much longer to heal. Say Minor 4 days, Major 2 weeks, Severe 6 weeks, extreme 1 season (and gain a permanent Minor injury).
  • Tighter skill definitions in expert areas. Less wiggle room for the player.

Why rip the guts out of FATE in such a way? Because in many other ways it’s such a great tool and a broad system. The capability to model societies, groups, neighbourhoods all makes it great for games with social and regional impact and influence. Games where characters are tied to a wider society and can have an impact. In many ways it easier to work with what’s already there, rather than to tack a new system onto another system.