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I’ve been really hyped to run Game of Thrones with the FATE Core RPG. I’ve written thousands of words on emulating this dramatic saga!

So, of course, my awesome players … would rather play in Star Wars.

images-1I’ve run Star Wars for MANY years – off and on since the mid-90’s. Once the prequels made the story silly, I stopped.

I’ve played four editions of RPGs from two publishers, so I know what’s been done and can hopefully use my experience to craft my best version yet.

I think the key to this is to focus on storytelling of the original trilogy.

Character Creation

The Aspects that define Star Wars characters are categorized as Role, Conflict, Crisis, Debt and FavorThese are patterned after the main characters in A New Hope.

Role defines the character’s function in the story and serving as a snapshot of their portrayal. It follows the general framework: [Adjective], [Adjective] [Species and/or Job] from [Origin].

Luke Skywalker: Brash, Young Pilot from a Remote Desert World

Han Solo: Quick-on-the-Trigger, Cocky Core World Smuggler

Jar-Jar Binks: [not available for play]

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USDA ground Gungan

Conflict replaces the Trouble Aspect in standard FATE games. Trouble represents personal struggles or problematic relationships. Conflict defines a character’s core duality or principle opposition. This Aspect follows the general forms of either contradiction “I am X, but I’m also Y” or confrontation “I am X, so I fight Y”.

Chewbacca: Honorable Warrior life-debted to a Mischievous Scoundrel?

Princess Leia: We fight for Freedom, Tyranny is the Real Crime

These are a personal struggle and a problematic relationship, but notice each defines a character by contrast. Dramatic contrast is what puts the war in Star Wars. Great stories would come from scenarios calling for one side of the Aspect at the expense of the other. Examples:

  • Chewie must pose as slaver to rescue Han from the Corporate Sector Authority.
  • Leia must ally with an Imperial Admiral Pelleaon to fight the Yuuzhan Vong.

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Crisis, Debt, Favor are pretty close to the FATE Core Phase Trio in that it describes a shared background that links the characters.

The Owen & Beru Barbeque was Luke’s formative crisis, and in the course of the story he’s in Debted to Han for saving him and is gets Favored by Leia for rescuing her. Repaying him with a sisterly tongue kiss could be the source of a new Crisis.
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Skills

Not a lot of changes to skills have I made. Its mostly just renaming some for a more Star Warsy feel and in homage to the old d6 version:

Buy (Resources), Con (Deceive), Contact, Fight, Interface*, Investigate, Know (Lore), Mechanic*, Move (Athletics), Perceive (Notice & Empathy), Persuade (Rapport), Pilot (Drive), Ride, Survive*, Shoot, Sneak (Stealth), Strength (Physique), Threaten (Provoke), Will. (* for new skills I’ll explain after the paragraph space)

Interface is for using computer software to help reach a goal. There wouldn’t be a story unless somebody sliced data files to decrypt the Imperial desktop folder “Death Star Weaknesses“.

How did Han know to shove Luke inside a dead Tauntaun? He Overcame with his Survive skill. This skill would cover field medicine too. Survive is useful wherever civilization ain’t.

Mechanic skill represents the ability to resolve issues with machinery; i.e. building prissy droids from scratch , fixing over-sized 1970’s sci-fi gadgets and constructing armor. Handy, cause some armor isn’t that effective.

funny-Storm-Trooper-meme-Star-Wars

Consequences

Characters in this galaxy endure a lot of hardship – especially if they’re protagonists. However, they’re not harder than other sci-fi stars. Chewbacca versus Jayne Cobb, fair fight.

Instead of taking an Extreme Consequence, characters in my game will have 3 Mild, 2 Moderate and a Severe Consequence slots. These make them no tougher than standard FATE PCs but dramatically deeper (Consequences = Complications = Player emotion = Drama).

Speaking of drama, Mental Stress is renamed Emotional Stress. <— THAT’S pic is EMOTIONAL.

Vehicles

Applying the FATE Fractal, anything can be a character, including vehicles. So, how are vehicle s characters?

A Rebel in an X-Wing can blow up a TIE fighter, but that same Rebel with a Blaster rifle would only stain its paint job. A Jedi on a speeder bike can cover a hundred kilometers in an hour, but on foot a dozen or so km in a day. Vehicles are Extras that showcase how awesome characters are and enable them to do things they normally couldn’t!

speeder-bikes-speeder-bike-star-star-wars-motercycle-speeder-demotivational-poster-1275255530 The skills of their controlling character or characters are a vehicle’s skills. Yet, these machines have Aspects for unique details about the individual craft and Stunts for hardwired design features of their class; both can bolster character rolls.

  • Boba Fett’s Firespray transport Slave 1 has the Aspect  Linked Cannons Rain Blaster Torrents .
  • A-Wing fighters have the Stunt Small and Quick that grants +2 to Pilot Defend action  to avoid targeting locks and being tailed.

A consideration with vehicles is how much damage they can take before being rendered not useful to characters. All vehicles have a default 1 and a 2 Stress boxes, like PCs. Also, characters can sacrifice their own Stress in place of their vehicles Stress when on board.

They also get Consequences depending on their size and durability. These are general guidelines:

  • Speeder bike has 1 Mild.
  • Bigger Speeders and star fighters have 1 Mild and a 1 Moderate.
  • Giant speeders/walkers and light star transports (Millenium Falcon) have 1 Mild, 1 Moderate and 1 Severe.
  • Small capital ships would have extra Milds and/or Severes. Monolithic Super Star Destroyers might have 4 Milds, 3 Moderate, 2 Severe and 1 Extreme.

Characters can choose to take Consequences in place of the vehicle. Instead of the speeder taking Ruined Engine, it may be better for the engineer to take Frustrated because a Ruined Engine would be MORE frustrating.

funny-star-wars-1Roll Mechanic to Overcome Busted Mini-Van Aspect

The Force

The Force as an ally can greatly enhance a PC’s capabilities. If a character’s Role Aspect describes Force sensitivity, you know something like “I’m an Eff’in Jedi!“, then they have Permission to take Use the Force Stunt:

  • jedi-master-funny-picture-23466Once per Scene, the character can Create the Advantage Using the Force on their character with a free Invoke without rolling; although Will would be used to “re-create” the Advantage. The Invoke can be used to allow Will to make ranged Strength actions (telekinesis).

A long list of individual Force powers, need we do not. Every special ability we see in the saga can be emulated by a mix of Use the Force and individual Role Aspect Invocations. Stunts can be a mechanically “cheaper” way to use powers the character uses regularly.

Take getting a vision of the future for example. A player could:

  • Invoke Using the Force or any Force-related Aspect to declare that they have a vision, then roll Perceive to Create an Advantage based on it.
  • Use their Farseeing Stunt: Once per session, the player can ask the Gamemaster about the future and she must answer with a visual description of a scene that answers the question. Players don’t spend 2 refresh for ambiguous images! This revelation can become a Story Aspect.

This modeling of the Force is based off ideas by Ryan Danks. His write-up has plenty of great examples FATE Force Fun.

funny-luke-darkside-y-u-no-memeThe Darkside is always a threat to Force users. I’ve seen how several other RPGs handle the seduction, and I think I’ve figured a good method.

A Force using character that is played like a good guy, won’t go to the Darkside. A character that does Sith shit should rename their Aspects to reflect this. To redeem, start doing really good stuff on par with the evil you did.

A PC can start on the Darkside if its cool with the group. If their Role Aspect describes evil and Force use, they’re on the Darkside.

And … that’s it. There’s no need for a seduction mechanic. Playing a Super-Powered Sci-Fi Asshole Ronin can be way more fun than a celibate stoic space paladin – that’s the REAL seduction!

OK, I’m done – WAIT!

Lightsabers are Weapon:4 and very rare.

The Stunt A Jedi’s Weapon lets a character with a Jedi or Sith Role Aspect use Fight to Defend against Shoot attacks. If the Defend succeeds with style, they can deal 2 Stress to another character instead of getting a Boost if the weapon was a blaster. Bullets deflected will just stain your robes with ashes.

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Now, done we are. This is untested and any input would help make our game better. I’d do it for you.😀

Comment here or on the G+ FATE Community.

I started a FAE version of Mouse Guard covering character making, now lets move on to adopting other parts of this awarding-winning game.

Conditions

The damage system of Mouse Guard included descriptions of ailments that could affect the mouse’s stats. These are called Conditions and there are five: Hungry/Thirsty, Angry, Tired, Injured and Sick they sound a lot like FATE Consequences.

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Rand is Injured and Sick

FAE characters measure condition with three Stress boxes and three Consequences. These equate to 18 pts. of Stress absorption. Let’s map the five Conditions over these Stress slots and we get: two Stress boxes 1 [] 2[], Hungry absorbs 2, Angry absorbs 2, Tired absorbs 2, Injured absorbs 4 and Sick absorbs 4. That’s only 17 Stress, but … they’re only mice.

Recovering from Conditions is a lot easier than Consequences. However, they must be recovered in order: Hungry before Angry, Angry before Tired, etc. In other ways, they behave just like Consequences.

For the minor Conditions – Hungry, Angry, Tired – it only takes a Fair +2 Overcome Approach roll to clear these when in a mouse settlement. For example, a Fair +2 Resourceful will find you vittles to clear Hungry/Thirsty.

Other factors may influence these difficulties, of course. It’s harder to find food during Winter. It’s harder to get over your anger when you’re captured by the army of the Black Axe pretender.

For the major Conditions – Injured and Tired – a Create Advantage Approach roll is needed to find a healer in a mouse settlement. The Healer’s skill is equal to your roll, then they roll a Great +4 Overcome to clear the Condition. If the healer fails, the Condition is still cleared, BUT you’ve taken a permanent ailment. Change your Picture Aspect to reflect it.

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GM and Player Turns

The narrative reins get swapped across the table in the Mouse Guard RPG. Let’s emulate this in our game as well.

Sessions begin with the patrol party receiving a Mission from Gwendolyn, Matriarch of the Guard. The GM (Game Master as Gwendolyn Matriarch, GM as GM) lays out an assignment for them to undertake. Guard’s Mice trail blaze paths, deliver mail, hunt predators, solve other mouse territory problems and serve as ambassadors.

Each player composes a unique Goal Aspect that reflects what they want to achieve during the Mission. Each Goal should be different from all the others and reflect the character of the mouse you’re playing. Lieam’s Goal in the first issue Learn all I can from Saxon and Kenzie. Saxon’s Goal for the same issue Root Out and Dispatch Traitors!

After the mission is assigned and the PC’s leave Lockhaven, its the GM’s Turn. She arranges three to four Challenges, Contests or Conflicts in the patrol’s path. Each one deals with confronting the weather, animals, the wilderness or other mice.

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Keep’em varied and keep’em guessing. Guard’s Mice aren’t heroes because they wear cloaks and carry weapons, they’re heroes because they get beaten up for the greater good!

After these encounters, the patrol happens upon a settlement or relatively safe place. Now the Player’s Turn begins. Each player gets one scene to either Recover from a Condition or Make Progress in the Mission.

Either kind of scene allows one roll by the PC whose scene it is, but teammates can help them with teamwork. Players must spend a FATE pt. for an extra scene of either type, but may not have two of their scenes in a row. When all the scenes are done, back to the GM Turn!

After one GM Turn and one Player Turn, you could call the session over. This makes each session about comic book length.

Then again, you could be doing a graphic novel? Repeat turns until real life intervenes.

I have paid little attention to FATE Accelerated Edition (FAE).  I mostly saw it as being a version of FATE for Baby Role-playing gamers – those either brand new to the hobby or those with kids hoping to pass it along to the next generation. I’m neither, so FAE-get about it!

BUT, given that I play with people unfamiliar with the concept of story-centric games, FAE’s simplicity is an ideal introduction. Also, it shows an old dog like me new ideas, specifically in the form of Approaches.

Approaches describe how a character solves problems, unlike skills telling what they do to solve’em. I like this cause it enables stories where the characters are broadly skilled (everyone can pilot a ship, shoot a blaster or repair stuff) and are all doing the same general thing (fighting against the Empire). How individual characters solve problems makes them unique, which reinforces their role.

Besides Star Wars and other action flicks, a story where this kind of system is really helpful would be

Mouse Guard

MouseGuardMedieval rodent warriors defend their species against numerous natural threats and maintain order among mice.

A very well acclaimed role-playing game was written for this setting. Many of its concepts are present in FATE so I’ll translate some of the system into this FAE version.

Aspects

The Picture Aspect takes the place of the High Concept. It focuses on the image of the mouse since this is based on a graphic novel series. Their fur color is described to give a distinctive mental image, because being species racist, mice look a like.

The color of their cloak is the most telling part of the Aspect. When they’re inducted into the Guard, a mouse’s mentor gives them a cloak that matches the mentor’s appraisal of their character. Red for a hot temper, green for energetic or grey for mature wisdom. The cloak color and it’s meaning is the central part of the Guard Mouse’s Picture.

sadie     Patrol Mouse Sadie is a Brown fur whose Plum cloak symbolizes her Independent Nature

Belief is an aspect that expresses the mouse’s primary ethical stance. “Why do they do what they do?” is question that Belief answers. Consider this what the character wants to ultimately achieve with their service in the guard and how they represent the Guard to other mice. It says what principle they would die to uphold.

721447-picture_3Patrol Leader Kenzie’s Belief: It’s Not What you fight, its what you Fight For

Instinct is how your character immediately responds to surprise. It represents the mouse’s gut reaction rather than the reasoned philosophy that Belief represents. The reason for the cloak color can suggest the Instinct of a mouse. This aspect can take the place of Trouble in other FATE games as it can be a failing that contradicts their Belief.

art.david+petersen.saxonPatrol Guard Saxon’s Instinct: Trouble?! Draw my Sword!

Other Aspects could express relationships between teammates or the wisdom of the mouse’s mentor.

With their name, include their rank. Rank is important because it indicates the responsibilities and expectations the Mouse Guard has of the character.

These are the ranks lowest to highest: Tenderpaws are cloak-less rookies learning under another teammate; Guard mice are the workhorses of the force; Patrol Guard’s are trusted independent agents; Patrol Leaders command small teams of Guard mice in the field and Guard Captains are in charge of major functions of the organization, like li’l generals.

Approaches

The Mouse Guard game had skills that reflected character proficiencies like carpentry, knowledge-wises, even fucking beekeeping! We don’t concern our selves with these. We focus on the styles of the different main characters of the story.

Each Approach has a dice bonus just like a skill, but it applies to role-playing choices in solving story problems. Player characters start with one +3 Approach, two at +2, two at +1 and one at +0. How you rank the following Approaches tells how your mouse does things.

08_mices5_full[1]Bold characters rely on shock and awe. This represents very flashy and forceful action, like jumping into a snake’s mouth. This tactic relies heavily on surprise to stun enemies. The drawback is often in the vulnerability it leaves the mouse in.

The Tricky approach is about playing on expectations to misdirect. It’s both flashy and clever. Feigning a weakness to invite an expected response is hallmark of this style. However, once fooled is hard to fool again.

The most confident characters take the Direct approach, which is quick and forceful. Often the best orientation for addressing problems is forward and through. The opposition will be intimidated and back down or take arms against you. Either way, shit will get resolved immediately.

The Resourceful approach makes use of whatever is at hand to solve a problem. It’s quick and clever by using materials at hand (paw) to overcome obstacles and create unexpected advantages. Often Guard mice must be inventive when caught without the right gear.

Tasked with protecting mousekind, Guards mice are Brave in the face of threats. They would rather carefully confront danger and match force with force to defend others. This is an approach favored by leaders to both protect and inspire their teams.

 Characters that prefer a Studied tactic favor being careful and clever. Looking for the details of a situation and how to make use of them guides these types of character. It requires time and patience that may not be helpful when more bold action is required.keca

The older game had Traits that granted bonuses and suggested drawbacks based on unique characteristics of a mouse.

Short and Fearless are two Traits in the Mouse Guard RPG. As part of  an Aspect, they can be Invoked and Compelled. For example, Saxon’s Picture Aspect Short Brown mouse with Fearless Blood Red as his Cloak.On the other hand, a player could take the positive part of a Trait and make it a Stunt.

FAE’s version of Stunts are very simple to compose. Basically, you follow a format expressing why you get a bonus: Because I’m [Unique Trait], I get a +2 to [Approach-styled Action] when [Specific Situation].

Example, Kenzie has the Observant Trait:  Because I’m Observant, I get a +2 to Studiously discover advantages when I go last in an exchange.

A sample accelerated Mouse Guard player character:

Guard Mouse Lieam

Lieam[1]Picture: The Young Red-fur wears Unripened Green Of Course.

Belief: “No Task is too Big for a True Guard Mouse!”

Instinct: Help those in Need, No Matter What.

Relationship: “Must Show Kenzie and Saxon I’m Worthy.”

Refresh: 3

Approaches : Brave +3, Bold +2, Studied +2, Direct +1, Resourceful +1,  Tricky +0.

Stunts: Because he’s a Defender, Lieam gets a +2 to Bravely Attack when his friends are at great risk.

Because he’s Determined, Lieam gets a +2 to Boldly Overcome dangerous obstacles keeping him from his mission.

Gear: Broad blade, Green cloak, Big Furry Nuts.

Of the two historical Westeros settings I presented earlier,  my prospective players have chosen option one: FATE of the Dragon Throne. They want a continental, large scale campaign but don’t yet have many ideas on what issues to put in the setting. I’m going to start the ball rolling on detailing the big picture.

AEGON_IV

The basic set up is old King Aegon “The Unworthy” Targaryen was as bad at ruling as he was good at whoring. He gave Blackfyre – the sword of Dragon kings – to his favorite bastard Daemon, and gave only disdain to his lawful heir Daeron. Although his sister-wife was a pious as a nun, the king felt Daeron wasn’t his real son.

The social classes of Westeros are King as the highest, lords, nobility, commoners, oath breakers, bastards then the lowest – kin slayers. As a final fuck up, Aegon legitimized all his dozens of bastards on his death bed. The sons he had by noble women were called Great Bastards, and could now be considered full lords. Daemon, born of the king’s cousin Daena, is the grandson of two Targaryen kings!

Current Affairs of State

DAERON_IIThe year is 194 after Aegon’s Landing and King Daeron Targaryen has spent the first ten years of his reign repairing the damage of his debauched father. He’s encouraged trade with foreign nations to reduce the debts owed to lords across the Narrow Sea. There’s no time for tourneys and festivals as business takes priority over ceremony. The only familiarity most have with the king is his face on gold coins. New taxes make these a rare sight.

Issue: Its said “Distracted Daeron cares for Coin over Kingdom”

Face: Maekar Targaryen, Prince of Summerhall, 4th son of Daeron. Aspects: The Dragon must be Respected and I’m the Warrior Father Should Be.

The 20 year old prince travels the north and west lands representing the busy king and ensuring his newer laws are understood and obeyed. Maekar resents this posting as beneath him but was told he must learn diplomacy that doesn’t rely on his mace.

The King’s Hand, Riverland Lord Ambrose Butterwell, tries to buy the people’s loyalty for cheap. He’s announced numerous new holidays as an accuse for drunken festivals where his merchant allies make coin. Traveling Septon priests have been bribed to preach pro-Daeron sermons and report popular opinion. Lords critical of the Throne are ruled against in disputes and the other party is indebted for the injustice in their favor.

Issue: The Greedy Hand Sells Lies and Buys Loyalty.

Face: Ambrose “Milkblood” Butterwell, Lord of Whitewalls, Hand of the King. Aspects: True Power is a Hefty Purse and A Man who Pleases has Only Allies.

561px-House_Targaryen_crest

House Targaryen

 

Threats on the Horizon

Daemon_Blackfyre

Older lords shun Ser Daemon Blackfyre as a vain bastard. To make up for his soiled heritage, he holds himself to the utmost standards of nobility. The knight fights with amazing martial skill, many view the handsome and deadly Daemon as the resurrection of Aegon the Conqueror. He never speaks against his crowned half-brother, whom Blackfyre feels sorry for, and wishes his grace let him wed princess Daenerys – Daeron’s sister. Daemon’s noble kinsmen whisper dissent for him.

Threat: Beautiful Blackfyre rules Hearts and Tempts them to Treason

Face: Ser Aegor “Bittersteel” Rivers, Great Bastard of Aegon. Aspects: Cheated by Bastard Birth and Revenge Burns in my Dragon’s Blood.

Rivers is close to his half-brother Daemon and has his trust. Blackfyre is noble but naive, so cynical Aegor takes a protective role over him. As king, Daemon would allow Bittersteel to achieve the power he deserves, so he works to promote the youth and undermine faith in King Daeron.

If Princess Rhaenyra had won her war, she would have been the first ruling Targaryen Queen. Daena “The Defiant”, her grand daughter, would have ruled in turn. Daemon Blackfyre is her only child and her chance to set the royal line the way it should’ve been. Trained in tactics and an experienced player of the game, she controls House Velaryon – her mother’s family. The lady uses their naval power to smuggle and raid riches to secretly fund House Blackfyre. The trade King Daeron fosters is feeding his rivals, and not even Daemon or Bittersteel know it.

tumblr_m85vazBOlC1qlll6ko1_500[1]Threat: The Forgotten Queen Secretly rules the Narrow Sea

Face: Daena Targaryen, Former Queen of Baelor, King of the Seven Kingdoms. Aspects: A Woman’s Will is her Strength and My Beloved Son is the True Dragon.

425px-House_Blackfyre_crest

House Blackfyre

“Cool, I got these Aspects figured out. My character has the Aspect Undefeated Knight of the Black Thorn – so I can spend one of these Faith points to Invoke that to win every battle I’m in, right?”

NO, for two reasons.

1. winning every battle is boring and the point of my role-playing games is to make fun stories.

2. There’s no such thing as Faith points unless you’re playing Priest: The Secret Keeping.

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FATE points are used to create fun when Aspects are Invoked “I’m probably the best swordsmen in Westeros!”, or when Compelled “I MUST keep the secret that the king is my bastard nephew/son!” A lot of their fun comes from Aspects aiding or suggesting Actions, which give players the Power to create Tension.

In FATE Core, narrative Power is measured on the most basic level in Skill bonuses. Zero bonus is considered the untrained Mediocre talent anyone could muster. Which skills a player leaves Mediocre tells us the Actions characters are likely to perform.

Maester Luwin of Winterfell might have Impress skill at +0 because emotional appeals aren’t part of his Portrayal. The old man counsels out of reason, knowledge and sensitivity (Consider, Lore, Console).  He doesn’t drop-it-like-it’s-hot Grand Maester Pycelle style!

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Another measure of Power in FATE are Stunts. I think of them as locking the +2 power of a FATE point into an Action in certain situations the character often finds himself in.  In FATE Core, PC start with 3 Refresh and 3 Stunts.

I’ll call these by the more elegant term Signatures because they’re unique powers individual characters possess. I’ll start my PCs with 6 Refresh and make them on the fly.

For this reason, Signatures usually involve a character’s top rated Skills. Under specific conditions these special abilities bonus a skill, allow one skill to be used in place of another or allow a skill to break the rules.

Jon Snow’s top skills are Fight, Will and Aware. He might have these Signatures:

Jon-Snow-jon-snow-31041300-1333-750Bonus: Spinning Parry – Once per scene when Jon successfully uses Fight to defend against a Fight attack, he imparts the one-use boost Aspect Foe Unbalanced. If his defense succeeds with style, it’s a regular scene Aspect with a two free Invokes.

Switch skill: Impressive Conviction – When Jon is speaking with warriors whom have seen him win a physical conflict, he may use Will in place of Impress or Intimidate.

Break rule: Wild and Wary  – If Ghost the dire wolf is in a scene with Jon, once per session he will point out something to Snow that he would’ve had to roll Aware or Search to find on his own.

There’s no rule against having a Signature with a weaker level skill however:

You Know Nothing, Jon Snow – Once per scene, after loosing a Mental Contest against a woman, Jon gains the Relationship Aspect Naive, but Cute with a free Invoke.

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A player may also choose to use a chain of Signatures to give lots of power to one skill. This can be demonstrated with characters like Syrio Forel, First Sword to the Sea Lord of Braavos:

The Target is Small – When dueling against those wearing armor, if Syrio is not wearing armor he gets +2 to his defense against them.

Not Today – Once per scene, Syrio can spend a FATE point to add his Aware skill bonus to his Fight defense result if unarmored. If he defends with style, Forel gains the scene Aspect Awe-struck Enemies with a free invoke instead of a boost. Requires: The Target is Small Signature.

True Seeing, True Swordplay – Once per session, Syrio Forel can spend a FATE point in a sword fight to attack with Aware against his foe’s Conceal. With success, the foe takes a Moderate Physical Consequence. Success with style means they take a Severe. Requires the Not Today Signature.

syrio-forel-respect

A source of power outside of a character is called an Extra in FATE. Unlike Skills and Signatures, these can be bought, earned, stolen or taken away. The name Extra makes me think of a shirtless King’s Landing urchin trying to sell fruit from his dirty hands – so we’ll use the term Asset.

Common Game of Thrones Assets include weapons and armor. Most role-playing game systems have chapters devoted to detailing everything from fingernail files to spacesuits. Luckily, I’m not trying to simulate Westeros. What matters here is what’s significant to the story.

Ser Gregor Clegane cut off a horse’s head with his great sword. Could he have used a great axe? Yeah, that’s believable. What about a pair of Shae’s panties? NO, that’s fucking NUTS! 1. Shae don’t wear panties! 2. There’s gotta be some in-story reason why he can do that, OR I’m canceling HBO!

Gregor-Clegane-house-lannister-29389114-894-720HBO : Horse-Bane On steroids

Assets are like Aspects, they let you do certain things related to their purpose or give you a +2 to a skill. But, I don’t think a player should have to use a FATE point to use them every time. So, unlike Aspects, an Asset EITHER allows a skill to be used OR raises a relevant skill +2. Re-rolls? Never!

Example: Qotho, Bloodrider to Kharl Drogo, is gonna go kill that lamb witch before she does worse evil shit to his dying friend. Suddenly, he’s interrupted by Jorah, the old Andal warrior, challenging him? Moon and stars! He should’ve just gone to Vaes Dothrak Community College!

300px-Jorah_Fights_QuothoThe two cross blades. Qotho with his arahk. Jorah with his longsword. They can Fight without swords, so these Assets aren’t allowing the skill, but would give +2 to a combat skill. Who gets a bonus? Neither, there’s no clear advantage to either weapon. Why do extra unfun math?

The Dothraki uses his Leaping Charge Signature, which lets him use Muscle to Create Advantage versus the target’s Agility. Further, the horse lord decides to use an Asset. Jorah’s “steel dress” makes him less agile, so Qotho uses it to his advantage in this case.  The Muscle roll is 3 +2 from the armor, for a 5. Mormont’s Agility roll is 1 and he’s bowled over! Even though he gets to his feet quick, there’s now a Rattled Aspect on him with two free Invokes.

The knight devises a way to make use of his own armor. Jorah is going to trap the arahk between his breastplate and spaulder! He uses Fight to Create Advantage with a +2 from armor versus Qotho’s Fight. They get 6 versus 4. The Dothraki uses the free Invoke from Rattled to tie, but Mormont still has Arahk Trapped as a Boost.

JorahQothos tries to Overcome his trapped weapon with Strength versus Jorah’s Strength. He gets -1, then  Invokes Rattled for a re-roll to get 6. Mormont gets a 5, BUT the arahk is curved so it’s hooked around his arm – that’s 7! The Bloodrider is no longer more worried about Drogo.

Ser Jorah attacks a disarmed Qothos. He rolls Fight with a +2, cause he can still use his sword which is now an advantage, and he uses Arahk Trapped for another +2 to get 11. The horse lord can’t use Fight to parry so rolls his Agility to dodge for a 2.

If he had more back story, Qotho could have been a PC with several Consequences to reduce the damage gap. He didn’t, so …

tumblr_m1pyp3qPVl1r95o4qclick to see “Sword for Dinner”

Extraordinary Abilities are another Asset. FATE Core balances having these powers by requiring Permission (justification for having the power) and Cost (character resources that must be sacrificed to use the power). Both these terms are ABSOLUTELY PERFECT! What weirdness does Westeros hold?

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Visions of the Future are mainly plot foreshadowing. Daeneyrs has visions about the dragon eggs coming to life. The Permission & Cost is an Aspect that reflects Targaryen’s having future visions: Sharpened Wisdom Aspect – A Dragon’s Dreams Come True. Players can Invoke to get hints of what’s coming. The Gamemaster can Compel that to offer possible futures that require a narrative price, like your husband, unborn son and a sorceress.

Jojen Reed can be handled the same way with the Aspect Afflicted Green Seer of the Old Way. Invoke to convince Summer not to rip your throat out. Seizures is caused by Compel.

For a Signature, Daenerys’ player  can choose: Fire cannot Kill a Dragon and be immune to heat at the cost of 2 Refresh FATE Points.

Being a skin-changing Warg, is a bit more involved. Permission can be simple Aspect justification. No, it doesn’t require paralysis. Orel the wildling might have SkinChanger blood Runs in my Tribe.

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Cost seems to be a skill because it creates a whole new kind of Action. Skinchange skill takes up a slot and can strengthen over time like any other skill, we see Bran Stark developing it.

How do we determine Overcome difficulty for the skill? Well, Bran can jump into Summer before he even has the skill at Average, so this looks like a relationship thing. If you’ve raised an animal from near birth, difficulty is Average. Knowing the animal for years is Fair; a few months is Great;  a day is Epic +7 difficulty. To jump into people would require a Signature and the Overcome difficulty will be raised by the target’s Will bonus.

1016600_534752073248463_1984713052_nIn physical Conflicts, a Warg must roll Skinchange to Overcome the number of Stress shifts an animal suffers to stay connected. If they don’t, Emotional Stress is suffered equal to the animal’s physical stress and they’re ejected. The animal runs off. If the creature dies while connected, the Warg will take an Emotional Consequence one level less than the last one the animal took because they actually glimpse death.

From the books (no spoilers), the longer you’re in the animal, the more it’s nature influences you when you’re back in your body. This may be a minor or serious cost of failure and may result from prolonged connection. There’s mention in the books of skin addicts starving to death cause they prefer the animal body.

 Jaqen H’Gar, a Faceless man, has Deceive at a supernatural level. Since it’s an enhancement of a skill, this would be a special kind of Signature: I am No One – You assume the look and mannerisms of someone else. Any Deceive or Conceal roll is +4 to keep up the illusion. Cost is 3 Refresh points. All that super killing is just normal skills used expertly.

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Finally, Magic Rituals are best represented by Challenges, a chain of different skill rolls that contribute to a greater effect. Permission would be an Aspect like Sultry Red Priestess of Asshai (Magical MILF would also fit, but not the right style).

As the rolls involved are for regular skills used in a new way, the Cost would be a Signature with a variable Refresh cost 1-4 pts. Every extra Refresh point spent on the Signature beyond the first grants one Ritual Aspect that can be Invoked during the Ritual Challenge. Each gives one free Invoke and should share a theme based on the magic’s source. These also suggest the actions required for the ritual.

Game-of-Thrones_105443Signature: Empowered Servant of R’Hllor’s Light – You may undertake sacred rituals to evoke the Lord’s favor. His blessings are Born of Light and Shadow, Nourished with Blood’s Life and Fill the Night with Terrors. Cost 4 Refresh points.

The character performing the ritual first decides on an intended effect. Effects are measured in shifts like with any other skill. The Ritual Challenge is made up of Overcome difficulties that together equal the shifts of the effect. Rituals follow three phases: gathering power (ingredients), conjuration (incubation) and evoking (triggering). Any failure is a success at a serious cost, which will be reflected final effect.

Example: At the command of King Stannis, Melissandre is going to evoke the Lord of Light’s power to kill the pretender king Renly Baratheon. Anyone with a knife could kill Renly, but she wants to do it with stealth and at a distance with magic.

Renly has an Aware of 2. His highest physical stress box is 2. He has a Mild, Moderate, Severe and Extreme Consequence, which together avoid 20 stress. So, the overall intended effect of Taking Out Renly’s character requires 24 shifts.

file_185605_0_Game_of_Thrones_Renly_Baratheon24 at BEST.

The Challenge is best split up in Scenes so it doesn’t drag on and other players can do their thing.

Scene 1 Gathering power. The priestess needs some of Renly’s blood. Remember Nourished with Blood’s Life. Failing that some royal semen of the same bloodline will do. What! Stannis is his brother?! How lucky! Stannis has a Will of +4. Convincing him will be a Contest in itself.

She Creates Advantages I’ll Give you a Son, Your Wife is Sickly, Check out this Red Bush; then rolls Impress & Deceive versus Stannis’s Will over three rounds. She wins the Contest easy and gets the Baratheon brew, plus a map of Dorne imprinted across her ass. Defeating Stannis’s Will +4 three times counts as 12 difficulty she’s Overcome. 12 to go.

stannismelisandreScene 2 Conjuration. Melissandre is growing a shadow within her over the next week. She must roll Will+4 versus 4 difficulty to shape the cold formless malice swirling in her womb. The priestess fails with a 0. The 4 difficulty counts towards reducing the last 12 shifts, but there will be a serious cost. 8 left.

Scene 3 Evoking, aka the Birth. This will require an exertion of her Endure+2 versus three checks. Two Fair +2 and one Great+4. Her dice rolls here are bad and she must use all the Ritual Aspects to make it through. Born of Light and Shadow gets Invoked cause she’s in a cave with a single lantern. Nourished with Blood’s Life applies because of Stannis’ “donation”. Fill the Night with Terrors can give a needed +2 because she’s literally birthing a terror into the night.

Game-Of-Thrones-Smoke-Baby-1335165344The shadow pulls itself out and goes on it’s dark mission. There’s still the serious cost of the Conjuration failure though. The Gamemaster decides with her player that it will reach Renly and kill him, but Brienne and Catelyn Stark will see it and know Dark Magic killed a King. Also, Ser Davos is Certain the Red Lady is Evil.

Two complicating story Aspects equal a serious cost. If they had 4 serious costs, it would’ve torn her open and killed Davos then gone through Renly’s camp horrifically killing anyone with an R name. This would mark Stannis as a demon-worshiper. No serious costs and it would have smothered Renly in his sleep with no witnesses or sign of dark arts.

OR, she could have just spent a Faith point to invoke Magical MILF if this was Priestess: The Secret Keeping!

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“So, I’m playing Eddard Stark of Winterfell. He cares about justice and all that shit so he’s Lawful Good.”

Would he lie that Joffrey is the true king – selling out the memory of his best friend – to save his innocent daughter?

“Hmm … that depends. After she’s dead, could I get a Revenge feat to boost his damage bonus when fighting Lannisters to avenge her? I’ll call it For Sansa!

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In lots of role-playing games, role is a package of skills and character is just the color of the box these skills come in. FATE Core focuses on character first, skills are simply the tools they use.

Step one of Character Creation is actually Setting Creation cause it gives context. Someone could truthfully say Game of Thrones is medieval political intrigue with a few fantasy notes. They could also call Star Wars a coming-of-age sci-fi faerie tale – but these are the descriptions of an uncreative nerf-herder.

nerf-herder<witty reply>

Descriptions make a world, threats make a story and Aspects express Descriptive Threats. Remember how Aspects work? They’re so important I bold AND italics them!

What details define the character of Westeros? What disturbing issues are at the core of the saga? Everyone playing brainstorms and discusses these answers until agreed upon by the group. Once listed, combine the descriptions with the threats, shorten them and give them a punch:

  • Competing Families bonded by Lies, Gold and Sex,
  • The Cuckold King is as Lusty as he is Stupid,
  • The Dragon’s Children struggle in the Savage East,
  • Cold Horrors stalk the Forgotten North,
  • Winter is Coming … With Death for All.

THAT sounds like a Song of Fire and Ice! Compel any of those and you have a novel-length adventure scenario, or just a scene:

“Your new husband is a from the Savage East, and it is your wedding night. This goes wrong when …

Daenerys-and-Drogo-daenerys-and-drogo-29371643-1280-720“… OUCH! Take an extra FATE point.”

Now the players decide what kind of characters they want to create in a world like this.

FATE Core players characters (PCs) have five starting Aspects that dramatically flesh out what’s unique and important about them. These are categorized as High Concept, Trouble and the three of the Phase Trio (one to describe your coming of age and two to define relations with other PCs). I want to customize these for the feel of GoT as I explain them.

The first Aspect is the High Concept, its a bite sized summary of who the character is. What immediately makes them unique? When they first meet Arya, what’s the first thing she’ll rudely ask about? I love the idea but don’t like the term “High Concept” for this game. Any piece of art has a high concept.

I think of this central defining Aspect as a kind of “Character Portrait”, but it’s more than what they look like – its also their actions. I prefer the term Portrayal cause its the action of displaying who a character is.

To determine Ned Stark’s Portrayal, lets look at how he relates to the setting.

Competing Families bonded by Lies, Gold and Sex,

  • His own family is pretty nice and his vassals respect him. He’s got a bastard son his wife hates but Ned cares for Jon like his legit kids. Even Theon is well treated, and he’s an enemies son.

The Cuckold King is as Lusty as Stupid

  • Eddard is a Stark😉 contrast to Robert Baratheon. Disciplined, serious and faithful.

The Dragon’s Blood struggle in the Savage East

  • He’s glad the Mad King is dead – Aerys murdered his father and brother – but the dishonorable means bothers him. The killing of innocent Targaryen children disgusts and saddens this lord.

Cold Horrors stalk the Forgotten North,

  • Ned has respect for Knights Watch, especially cause Wildlings raid his lands. He wants to take Benjen’s warnings seriously but there’s other priorities at hand.

Winter is Coming … With Death

  • “Winter is Coming” reminds the lord that preparing for the worst is what’s most important. There’s no room for pettiness and conniving. The cold doesn’t care how rich you are.

Lets shave down each of these five observations to their core points:

  • Kind & just
  • Serious
  • Honorable
  • Priorities
  • Grounded

Let’s mix these into a statement that captures the Truth of Ned: A Grounded and Good Man of Honor Who’s Serious enough to Know what’s Important.

Accurate but a bit long. Let’s cut out the redundant: An Honorable Lord who’s Grounded and Focused.

Tight, but kind of dry. Its impersonal too, more like an outsiders point of view. To capture the character we should get into his voice. Show who Ned is, don’t tell who he is. Take out saying “serious” and “focused” – instead, focus on making it serious:

EddardStarkPortrayal: “An Honorable lord Must Focus on what’s Right.”

This Aspect can be Invoked to help Impress upon his grieving wife that he MUST leave to protect King Robert as his Hand.

It allows a single FATE point to declare a new story detail like Tywin Lannister must Answer for the Mountain’s Atrocities.

The Portrayal can be compelled to have him choose to warn the Queen of Robert’s wrath to save her children.

Speaking of which, the next character Aspect is Trouble. FATE Trouble can be external or internal, but in GoT it should be something internal because its more dramatic. I prefer the more active alternative, Struggle.

This is a deep personal issue they seemingly can’t separate themselves from. The Portrayal gives us a foundation to launch from. A Struggle can come from a problem the character has because of their Portrayal. What are the ramifications of An Honorable lord Must Focus on what’s Right?

What the fuck is “right”? Ned is the lord of the entire north. He’s gotta reign in these Viking farmers. Sometimes he has to cut off heads, personally.

He’s a father to six kids: a pretty boy, a depressed bastard, a slow-witted prom queen, a tomboy assassin, a wall-crawling peeping tom and the pirate foster kid.

In his off time, he’s a caring husband trying to make up for the sullen dark-haired oopsie he had 17 years ago.

Oh! I forgot Rickon – like everybody else does. There you go!

eddard-ned-stark-1024Struggle: A Lord’s Duties Neglect Family

That fits. Just ask Bran, once he wakes up from a coma without a Dad. Ask Sansa when he betroths her to Prince Bitchy Sadist, first of his name.

Now that we have the core duality of the character represented, FATE moves to the Phase Trio of Aspects. One describes your coming of age and two define relations with other PCs.

I want to stick to the general framework of the Phase Trio but spice it up for GoT. Because the sword is such a symbol of the genre, we’ll make the character’s origin story emulate the forging of a sword. I’ll collectively call these three the Forging.

First is the Family Formed. It represents the substance that a character comes from based on his family, or lack thereof. Eddard is a Stark who have the blood of the First Men, worship the Old gods of the north and are hard and vigilant. Aspect: Hard as Ice & Steely like a Dire Wolf . (Don’t feel the need to use metallic metaphors, I’m a hacky writer)

Tyrion’s Aspect for this phase might be The Lowest Lannister is Still a Lannister.

Come at Me, You’re Dead would fit Bronn’s mysteriously awful childhood – he did kill a woman at 12!

Next is the Tempering Hardship. This comes from a tragedy that happened early in the characters life.

Ned’s father and brother were burned to death when they demanded his abducted sister (who later died) be returned by the Mad King. Yeah … that’s a tragedy. It led to him joining Robert’s Rebellion.

Stark and Baratheon were long time friends but this was the darkest point in young Eddard’s life. Aspect: Killing Corruption saves the Innocent.

Mix up ideas with another player to determine a hardship you went through. If your group has an odd number then bring in another player too. This is also when your characters bonded. Maybe the PCs helped each other through it. The other players involved draw their own Aspect from this shared experience.

Robert’s player chooses Love Died with Lyanna.

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The last phase is the Sharpened Wisdom. This is a piece of insight that guides the character. If Portrayal is what they present themselves to be, this Wisdom is how they approach problems.

Being from the distant north, Ned is a kind of a wild card. Unlike the vain lords of the south, he isn’t proud or flashy. His player explains this to another player he hasn’t collaborated with before to derive the final Aspect. The other PC could have given him this idea, as Ned could have demonstrated another lesson to them.

Jaime Lannister’s player looks over Ned’s character sheet and decides he could use just a little guile – which Jamie showed when he killed the king he swore to defend. He suggests Stark choose the Aspect: Never let’em Know What You can Do.

Even though he ended the Mad King’s reign , and saved the people of King’s Landing from being burned alive, Jaime is a villain and Eddard is a hero of the realm?! He learns from this hypocrisy. Lannister’s Sharpened Wisdom is Reputation makes the Best Armor.

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We have the Aspects that define a player character. By considering the character’s place in the setting, and relation to other important characters, we come up with something way richer than Lawful Good:

Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell, Warden of the North, Hand of the King

  • Portrayal: An Honorable lord Must Focus on what’s Right.
  • Struggle: A Lord’s Duties Neglect Family
  • Family Formed: Hard as Ice & Steely like a Dire Wolf
  • Tempering Hardship: Killing Corruption saves the Innocent
  • Sharpened Wisdom: Never let’em Know What You can Do

Now that we know who we’re playing, we know what skills to give him. Some Fighting, tons of Disapproval, good Discipline, NO Aware at all; and yes, you can take the Rage feat For Sansa! but Robb will have to inherit it.

“So, Jon Snow is a level 4 Fighter and 3rd level Bastard?”

Doesn’t matter! In FATE Core characters are mechanically defined by their Skills and Talents (Talents/Stunts to be discussed later). Much more importantly, they’re defined by their Aspects.

Aspects are true descriptive phrases that can give power to the character’s actions, suggest complications to reaching their goals and enable players to add more detail to the story. They do this whenever a player chooses to spend or accept a FATE point – which is a unit of player currency used to activate Aspects that describe the setting, objects and characters in the story.

“How the hell does this weird story-fate shit work?”

Like this:

Tyrion Lannister is imprisoned in a Sky Cell under Lady Arryn’s keep. He wants to overcome Mord the Jailer’s suspicion and get a message to the lady. His player (Ron) gets a 1 result with his Impress skill versus the 3 Mord (Gamemaster character) got to defend with his Discipline skill. That’s a FAIL!

tyrion_and_mordBUT, there’s an Aspect in the setting which says A Lannister Always Pays his Debts. Everyone has heard of this Aspect – its almost their house motto! Ron explains to the Gamemaster as Tyrion explains to Mord: “I am a Lannister and A Lannister Always Pays his Debts, SO if you deliver my message I will OWE you GOLD!”

Ron pays the Gamemaster a FATE point to use or Invoke this relevant Lannister Aspect. The GM accepts the point since the Aspect can reasonably help in this case. Now, Ron can either re-roll or add +2 to his effort to Impress – he chooses to add 2 to the original 1 result.

Tyrion-Mord-tyrion-lannister-22920725-500-255The 3 Impress now ties Mord’s 3 Discipline. When you’re trying to overcome something and tie, you overcome with a minor cost. Mord will deliver Lannister’s message, but Tyrion will have to give Mord his purse and be broke for a little while.

The Gamemaster could Invoke another relevant Aspect to raise Mord’s defense. Anyone can invoke any relevant Aspect once per roll. Maybe the Jailer has a belief Aspect that Prisoners Always Lie! He doesn’t, and beating Tyrion would just block this interesting turn of events. The dwarf wants to CONFESS?!

That’s how Aspects when Invoked give power to a character’s actions, BUT they can also complicate a character’s life when used against them or Compelled:

Tyrion is to have a Trial by Combat to prove his innocence against the accusation that he plotted to kill Brandon Stark. Ser Egan of the Vale will fight for his Lady Arryn but doesn’t want dwarf blood on his shin guards. Lannister needs a champion now!

800px-Tyrion_on_trialThe Gamemaster turns to Kobe, the player who is playing Bronn the Sellsword. “Kobe, Bronn has the Aspect Have Gold, Will Kill, which implies you’d decide to fight for the dwarf. This will go wrong when you become known as a Lannister Lap-dog?” The GM offers Kobe a FATE point to Compel Bronn to accept this.

Kobe could buy off the Compel by not taking the FATE point and giving the GM one of his own. He feels Bronn would rather watch the imp fight the knight. Maybe they’ll be fair and have Tyrion fight a couple of hungry dogs instead?

The gods have smiled on the little lord though. Kobe spent all of Bronn’s FATE points fighting Hill tribesman on the road to the Vale.

Kobe must accept the Compel and take the FATE point to have Bronn fight for Tyrion and take a side in the upcoming war, which complicates his life by cutting potential clientele in half at least! Then again, helping the dwarf could start him on the road to riches.

BronnFEEYou see now how Aspects can create interesting plot twists and earn you more FATE points to empower characters later. Since they’re true statements, Aspects can also allow you to add details to the story – possibly new Aspects.

Tyrion and Bronn are ambushed and surrounded by Hill tribesmen. Usually Lannister would throw money at a problem like this, but their leader Shagger ain’t interested in gold – proving their barbarity. On the bright side, the dwarf gave his purse to Mord so he doesn’t have any.

514420-episode_08_14_superRon, playing Tyrion, offers up a FATE point. “Tyrion has the Aspect A Lannister of Casterly Rock the Richest House in Westeros, which implies that he has access to the greatest smiths in the realm. So, he would have beautiful jewelry – like a gold lion’s head ring worth more than everything this tribe owns. I want to add this as an Aspect.”

Ron could’ve rolled Wealth to Create an Advantage to make the new Aspect, but he gave his money away. The GM accepts the FATE point and a new Aspect Beautiful Lion Ring is created with one free Invoke. Basically, Ron transferred the power of his FATE point into a piece of the story.

Tyrion-and-the-Hill-Tribes-500x261Next, Ron sets up a deal: “Tyrion offers to give the Hillsmen REAL steel so they can conquer the Vale of Arryn.

” I’m spending the free Invoke of Beautiful Lion Ring to let me roll Wealth even though I’m broke right now. It proves the quality of Lannister smiths and our riches.”

The GM and the other players agree.

“Sweet! I’ll roll Wealth to Create Advantage … I got a 5! Know what – I’ll spend another FATE point to Invoke A Lannister Always Pays his Debts to further assure them. Now, I’ve got a 7!”

Shagger has a Discipline of 1 (barbarians – you know), SIX less than the 7 Wealth. Ron succeeds with style – TWICE!

The dangerous scene Aspect Surrounded by Hills Tribe Killers is changed to Hills Tribe Killers Fight for the Half Man on Credit – and he has THREE free Invokes with this Aspect!

Tyrion-and-hill-tribes-house-lannister-29623879-1920-1080This is way that Aspects are used in FATE Core, my favorite table-top RPG.

Does this make sense? Remind you of other cool RPGs? Share.

BTW, there were some season 1 spoilers in this.