Fate Core: Building Superheroes

My friend, John, over at Red Dice Diaries posted on Google + this morning about Mike Lindsey‘s more articulated version of my “aspects defining superpowers” concept. Now, a year later, I’m able to look at it with a fresh pair of eyes. And I have ideas!

In Mike’s concept, you basically define narratively what your powers can do, and that’s an established fact. However, it’s also a bit quirky because there’s nothing to limit players, nor is there the infinitely more interesting element of having something to look forward to during play as your character grows. This is a bit opposite from games like Atomic Robo, which have you define so many things mechanically that there’s not a lot of room for being loose and allowing aspects to define what you can do. But I believe there’s a middle ground to be found here.

I think ARRPG is excellent at giving you the tools you need to showcase what’s mechanically possible for your powers, just as excellent as Mike Lindsey’s method of fictionally representing established facts to justify doing things in a “superpowered way”.

Here’s how I would combine the two:

Start with Fate Core, using whatever skill/approach list you want, but borrow mechanical elements from ARRPG’s stunt and mega-stunt rules.

Then, assign something similar to ARRPG’s experience system, but with differences: at every significant milestone, you gain a slot of experience. This can be used during a future session of play to either create a new power fact (establishing a fact that defines a single thing you can do with a power), or add situational uses of a power (defining more things you can do with a power). The moment you spend the experience should be an action of some kind (because that’s when it’s fun for powers to manifest), and when you do, you gain a free invocation on an aspect related to your powers (you do have one of those, right?).

For instance, say you’re playing Clark Kent in the Smallville years, and you earned experience during the last play session. During this session, if you find yourself in an interesting situation where a new power manifestation would be interesting and fun, then you can spend the experience on the action (gaining the benefits of an invocation on his Orphaned Kryptonian aspect) _and_ either create a new power fact, or redefine a previous one for broader, or just different, scope.

As with Mike Lindsey’s method, and my examples elsewhere on this site, the power aspect you have to represent your powers uses your power facts as established facts about that aspect (that’s a complicated way of saying that having that aspect on your sheet justifies you to do the things in your power facts).

To mechanically represent these power facts, simply purchase stunts with your available stunt slots (or shuffle what stunts you’ve got at the appropriate milestone), but since aspects are always true, you are justified in using your skills (with no bonuses or alterations to the rules surrounding the chosen skill) to do the things in your power facts. Fictionally, Clark is justified by his power aspect to shoot heat vision using the Shoot skill, having the potential to attack a wall made of solid steel with Fight (and actually get to roll, where most everyone else at the table with human levels of strength would likely not even get the opportunity to roll, because impossible), etc.

However, and I’ve said this in previous posts on how to use aspects like this, Clark would not get any mechanical benefit from that aspect unless it was invoked, only the fictional permission. Mechanical advantage comes from skills and stunts.

A final word on using this method:

This method is great for characters who discover their powers in play. Simply start them off with a single experience and let them spend it during the first session to define a power usage (and let them spend any stunt slots they didn’t spend earlier). Then, at every significant milestone, their powers will grow. It makes for a great long game, as even characters with no powers, like Nightwing, will require at least a single major milestone to get everything they want to do that is beyond us mere mortals.

If you want to start out with heroes that have powers established, simply give them an appropriate number of “experience equivalents” that they can use to define powers, but that do not count as experiences (so they cannot spend them during play for invocations or discovering new powers). This is good for the one-shot game, where players have workable powers, will face a single threat, and then retire the characters.

Finally, if you try this, please let me know how it worked out.

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6 thoughts on “Fate Core: Building Superheroes

    1. We’re soliciting playtesting now. Details here: http://station53.blogspot.com/2015/02/four-color-fae-is-looking-for.html

      Ryan, I’m putting some thought into how fast power facts can be changed, along with an optional stunt for making that faster (for power mimics and the like) for GMs who feel that it needs balancing. I’ll hopefully have a final form for such rules by the time it ships, but thank you for bringing up the idea of advancement as a player goal!

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  1. Hi Ryan, with these changes, are stunts that involve allowing permission no longer needed? Looking at “having the potential to attack a wall made of solid steel with Fight” seems to have removed that need for stunts to actually define versus flavoring shoot like you’ve mentioned before that.

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    1. Sorry, HDTran, but my system never notified me to your comment. (I try to answer all comments.)

      In case your question is still relevant to your current gaming, this is a specific idea to give more mechanical nuance to Fate gaming. If I were to use Fate Core for superheroes, I would honestly go with the Iron Man justification approach from my other article (linked to at the top of this one).

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