“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.
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!
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:
Bonus: 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.
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.
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!
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!
The 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.
Qothos 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 …
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?
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.
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.
In 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.
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.
Signature: 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.
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.
Scene 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.
The 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!