Posts Tagged ‘Magic’

“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:

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.


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!

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?


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.

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.


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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Mavion stopped his task for a moment to touch his left cheek where the bullet passed through his upper jaw. Even he couldn’t have dodged the shot, but he reacted fast enough to choose it’s destination. There was enough blood, David assumed, to believe he was killed. Still, he was disgusted by the arrogance shown in not making sure he was a down target. Now and then he still got nose bleeds and the hearing in his left ear went out, yet he lived.

Sevie didn’t die, physically. The attack was a brutal warning to her father from a rival corp, Durflan Mining. Mr. Ordonez received 75% of his deposit back from Achilles Shield. It was a bit more than the standard  payout for the service package he bought. It would’ve been less had the girl died.  Funeral expenses would’ve been less than the life-long physical rehabilitation and counseling she would now need. These arbitrary numbers were the price of Sevie’s rape.

*   *   *

When able, Mavion visited her where she convalesced, but didn’t find the same young women he knew. The natural beauty forming was replaced by a cosmetic caricature of prettiness meant to conceal the damage. The eyes that held great wonder and reflection now gazed hollowly, even the real eye that remained was as cold as the new false one. Sevonia’s manner was measured and formal, her warmth extinguished. She thanked him for his efforts, but underlying the polite tone was a hurt dread only a once friend would hear.

In the hardest way she had learned the world was not safe regardless of guards, privilege nor the money that bought both. It was a place of predators stalking within murky uncertainty. The innocent were not beneficiaries of justice. She was just a corp-family asset to be plundered, “daughter” was a mere classification. Heroes could not protect her, as they didn’t exist beyond the commercial fictions. David Mavion was not, nor ever was, her hero. This realization numbed her heart, as much as it broke his.

Brought back to present, the lonely man at the table finished assembling the device and finalized the ceremonial by loading the tungsten razors into their cartridge. Magnetically propelled, this ammunition was silent and produced minimal recoil. Additionally, they would NEVER cause jams. It was what he had needed for the last job of his career.

*    *    *

Mavion entered the Durflan Mining offices, where Charles Gerbel operated. The reasons for his extortion of Ordonez didn’t matter. The look on Sevonia’s warped face was all David needed. He bought a hacker to circumvent their security and cripple their facilities to allow his infiltration. The half dozen agents that he couldn’t avoid would nurse broken bones and concussions to allow him to reach his target, and as punishment for being mercenary evil-enabling garbage – like David had been.

The doors to Gerbel’s lavishly appointed office suite opened suddenly and  unexpected given the enforced security lock-down the building was undergoing. Mavion glided in to find two guards between himself and the executive that ordered the assault. They started but obviously thought he was one of their people here to report on the situation. The one on his left was the one from the ambush. He was the one that shot David and taught Sevie a brutal lesson. Mavion stood quietly meeting his eyes until the man’s horrific recognition spread over his pinched features a moment later. He calmly reiterated his previous challenge to the assassin, “Come on.”

The man sharply barked, “INTRUDER!” as he lowered and drew his weapon. Mavion waited until the weapon was pointed directly at him before raising his sliver gun in response and deftly pivoting his body to the right. Before he even heard the pistol’s report, he could feel the shot zip past his head in a parallel path to the one that felled him last time. His own weapon released a high toned hum as two magnetically-propelled ionized razors sliced through his attacker’s head.

The second guard managed two rushed shots at where David had been a second ago. The hum of the sliver gun belatedly announced where Mavion rolled to his left. A razor tore through his wrist and a second ripped his shoulder’s muscle and bone. He dropped his weapon with a shrill shocked gasp as his arm fell slack both bleeding and electrocuted. After three swift strides, Mavion  closed and blurred a pistol whip across his jaw to bring on much welcomed unconsciousness.

Gerbel crouched behind his desk slamming frantically on the alert button that was disabled like the rest of the building’s com-network.  David strode up to the desk as the executive shouted impotently, “Who are you? What do you want with me?”

David answered with all the steadiness of professional detachment, “Sevonia Michala Ordonez.”

Gerbel furrowed in confusion, “Who? Who the hell is that?”

Mavion’s then damaged left cheek twitched in what may have been a smirk or frown. “Daughter of Ricardo Ordonez, chairmen …”

“She was spared!” the man objected desperately, before realizing all pretense of innocence had just fled with that admission. Angered by his own folly, he indignantly pressed on. “A warning was sent! Ordonez complied! He threatened our interests, and we responded! Such IS business!”

David lowered his head wearily and released a shuddering sigh driven by his own anger and shame. That infected woman, Sevie and many others were just pawns in this “business” that was conducted amongst these monied monoliths. Nathaniel, Shime and of course himself were just the agents of this unchecked avarice. He was no different than the one that shot him and hurt Sevie: an instrument of death formed from a once human shell.

Mavion’s senses peripherally caught Gerbel reaching for something in a desk drawer as the man blathered on. “In these sort of large scale dealings, my friend, the naive fool should have know a certain amount of collateral dam …”

A protractedly long whine from the sliver gun cut off the executive with the finality only a torrent of tungsten could grant. Mavion turned his back to the blood splattered desk and reloaded before exiting the suite.

*    *    *

David sat with his newly cleaned, assembled and loaded Ares Viper pistol cradled in his hands. Its precise metallic lines mirrored his own mind more than anything in this life he now lead. He was still a protector, but now only to those his outdated honor deemed worthy. Down here, at the bottom of society, there were some that wanted to make a change to the world. They ran in the shadows of corporate law, which itself had little regard for their hardships and injustices.  As a fugitive, there was no better place for him. Still living by the gun, but now only he decided where it was aimed and why the high whine would sound.

They say that in these times there was no right or wrong. They were wrong. Right was whatever it took to allow the mind to accept rest without regret. This was a luxury no salary, benefit package nor stock share could buy. It was, however, one David Mavion with his filthy apartment and dingy third hand clothing could finally afford.

It was time to cash in. Without a glance, he flicked the bottle cap and hit the room’s power panel. The yellowed light above ceased its harsh glare.

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Lion Spirit lager swooshed around the base of it’s dark bottle as though the bitter musky flavor could be improved by the humid air of the disheveled apartment.

It wasn’t some hundred year old chardonnay composed like liquid aromatic art in the 1960’s from breeds of real grapes aged in barrels of actual oak.

David knew it was an alcoholic byproduct made in the process to synthesize some industrial solvent or machine fuel that was deemed dilute enough for consumption. The brew was combined with taste enhancing chemicals, food dyes and effervescence agents then bottled and labeled as Lion Spirit. Marginal production was the corp-term for selling garbage as though its what was intended, and the means that fed, clothed and sheltered most.

David took a swig of the liquid and leaned back from the small table with a sigh. Under his caramel tan skin, his lean muscle relaxed over the sharp ribs of his thin torso as he dangled his head back, heavy with a bush black curls. The piss-colored light above flowed over vaguely semetic narrow features, stubble dusted thin lips, a lightly scarred left cheek bone and lit his weary amber eyes.

They took in the small dim living space strewn tornado-style with discarded paper Taiwanese food containers and color-faded clothing of mostly dark or gray earth-tones. Colors spoke gang affiliation around here, and David Mavion was for hire. A neat and clean-cut professional would stand out like a diamond amongst turds in the slums. The apathy of the lazy or imbalance of a madman would be judgements made about this hovel that would serve as further camouflage. Why make a search easier for any agent that broke in while he was away?

The sauce-stained table held a small 3” by 6” metal box of precision brushes and fine ceramic tools in slots next to an array of electronic and mechanical components, themselves arranged in orderly fashion by function and in relation to each other. A shiny stack of half-inch long triangular tungsten razors sat next to a hollow cartridge to the right of the congregation.

Compared to everything else in sight, one would think ancient mystics left these as some cryptic message. Not so. These pieces and their organization were the true evidence of who Mavion actually was. The weekly ceremonial these artifacts featured in were his anchor against the dark fetid tides of his chaotic life.

David sat up, took a silk cloth from the box and gave it a spray of cleanser. He began to wipe down the handle assembly and let his mind wander.

*    *    *

Francis and Abigail Mavion turned their military experience into an A-rated security contractor corporation called Achilles Shield. Mother’s inheritance and high class contacts sold Dad’s expertise and personnel to give their three children a protected upbringing. As the youngest, David was privileged to be beneath their notice yet availed of actual literature – instead of the standardized specialist vocational curriculum and reinforcing entertainment content.

Stories of heroes filled his imagination with dreams of the kind of man he would be. Good empowered ordinary men to win out against circumstance and insurmountable evil. He’d later learn those tales were as exaggerated, or plain false, as their legendary times were removed from the world outside his gated community. The protection he received, and being the only boy in the family, made him special. Yet, something else revealed itself in his early adolescence.

Twenty years before he was born, The Awakening returned, or some say added, actual Magic to the world. Symbol regained extra-personal power and science lost its understanding of every facet of reality. It was a natural force the corporations couldn’t control, so fear and demonize.

David learned Mother had a brother that turned into a troll in the Goblinization outbreak, whom was then disowned. This was why he hid his burgeoning talent, although it was more blessing than curse.

Hyper-Synaptic Reactivity gave David blindingly quick reflexes that preserved the accuracy of an action taken with meticulous patience. If he drew a highly-detailed picture of a turtle while concentrating, the boy could draw it the same way fifteen more times in a fraction of the time it first took. The same was true with dance steps, dart throwing or any other coordinated exercise.

The peaceful, safe life his parents envisioned for their youngest was no more, as this gift gave him too much utility to the company. The youngest Mavion received the best and most varied combat training Achilles Shield Security could afford. David would get the chance to be a hero, but not like those he’d read of.

To be continued …

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