Wednesday, December 04, 2013

SuperFAE: An Approach For Super-Heroes With Fate Accelerated

This post is more along the lines of my getting some game design ideas out of my head, mostly before I forget them, and less about putting out something finished and playable. I like super-heroes, and I like the simplicity and freeform nature of Fate Accelerated. I like the idea of a more freeform approach to doing super-heroes in comics, because I think that it can be a better fit for the source material in a lot of places. I plan (hopefully) on fleshing this idea out more, but for now I want to get what has been turning over in my brain out of it.

Basic changes to characters:
1. Characters can have up to four (4) stunts for free.
2. Characters start with a Refresh of four (4).
3. Characters have an additional Origin Aspect.

These two changes should already make your SuperFAE characters feel more "powerful." Depending even on the power level of the characters in your game (Avengers-type characters versus Challengers of the Unknown-type characters, for example) you may want to increase the starting Refresh to five or six. This will help out if you want character's like Marvel's Thor in your game.

The existing High Concept and Trouble aspects help you to define who your character is, and where they are coming from. This doesn't change with a SuperFAE character. With these three aspects, you can give your character depth and personality beyond just a set of statistics. Think in terms of the Marvel approach to creating and utilizing a character. In that approach who the character is has as much of an impact on their story as the powers that they have. A Spider-Man-like character could be built like this:

High Concept: Troubles With His Luck
Origin: Bitten By A Radioactive Spider
Trouble: With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility!

Really, you can't make a FAE-based Spider-Man without utilizing the great Stan Lee line, "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility!" It is just too important to the character to not use. Could it be the character's High Concept? Sure. It could also work well in that slot, but putting it as the character's Trouble means that it becomes something that will definitely be bringing hardship to the character. Peter has a big date with an attractive lady for the first time? The Vulture is robbing a jewelry store right up the street. Which one of these will he choose?

Some would say that the High Concept is weighed more towards the negative, and that is intentional. The "Marvel Method" does play up the soap opera "aspects" of comics, and that means that bad things are going to happen. "Troubles With His Luck" can help out the character, it just means that it might do it in a way that may not always be the happiest of choices. That is pretty consistent with a lot of the happenings in Spider-Man's life.

Not everyone may want to play up the "hard luck" angle on their heroes, and that is a valid approach as well. I would lean on a more Marvelous approach only because I think that it would make for a better story. More "heroic" aspects for a SuperFAE character could be "Quirky Physics Professor," "Eagle-Eyed New York City Cop," "Crusading Defense Attorney" or "Driven Test Pilot." "Marvelous" High Concepts could be "Surgeon With Damaged Hands," "Driven To Stop Crime," "Reborn For A Greater Fate."

The important thing is that the three "main" aspects work together to create a cohesive character with a bit of depth. Look over characters from the Big Two comic companies and see how you could tease these three aspects out of their writeups. Check out DC's Who's Who or Marvel's Marvel Universe Handbooks to get to know characters, and figure out how they could tick in a FAE writeup.


These are approaches that can be used as an alternative to the approaches in the core Fate Accelerated rules. Fans of the original Marvel role-playing game will recognize them. Most of them are fairly straightforward in their applications.

The available rankings for approaches under this alternative would be: one at Great (+4), two at Good (+3), One at Fair (+2), Two at Average (+1) and One at Mediocre (+0). If you prefer to use the standard approaches, then choose One at Great (+4), One at Good (+3), Two at Fair (+1), One at Average (+1) and One at Mediocre (+0). Because of the typically higher power level of comic book super-heroes, having a bit of a bump to the rankings of approaches will help.

Powers in SuperFAE are fairly freeform, as is the nature of Fate Accelerated.

Rather than a lengthy list of powers, it is up to the aspects of the character, the creativity of the player and the adjudication of the GM to determine what characters can do. Obviously, this method won't suit everyone, but who wants that? Fate Core has a section that talks about "rulings, not rules" guiding play, and this should be taken to heart when dealing with powers for characters.

Using a power works like any other action in the FAE rules. The GM may want to charge a Fate point for effects that are particularly power, but this is not required. The GM is allowed to veto any attempted power that does not fit with the description of the character, however it might be better to suggest an alternative that does better fit the character. The Origin aspect of the character should inform what is possible.

Attack powers can often be built around the Fighting approach. Mental/Psionic abilities can be Reason or Psyche-based. Enhanced senses should be Intuition powers. Endurance protects against physical attacks and Strength is for the great feats of strength that a character can try to pull off.

If a power is something that will be used often by the character, you might want to consider building a Power Stunt for them instead. A Power Stunt is like a signature power, or common use of a power, written up in the form of a stunt, that the character is likely to perform more often, and with greater capability. A Power Stunt will also always cost a Fate point to "activate." This means that as long as the character has Fate points, a Power Stunt can be performed. A Power Stunt can also be an exception to the rules, possible for that character.

Some example Power Stunts:

Because of my Mutant Nature, when I use my eye beams to Attack someone, I get a +2 to my Fighting.

Because of my Highly Evolved Brain, I can get a +2 to my Psyche when I Create Advantages in the perceptions of others.

Because I am The Woman Without Fear, I get a +2 to my Psyche when Defending.

Because I am The Strongest There Is, I can use my Strength to Attack instead of Fighting.

Power Stunts basically have three parts to them: mentioning a relevant aspect of the character, giving a +2 bonus and saying which type of action this stunt covers. Power Stunts are purchased for a character with their (up to) four free stunts, along with any other stunts that they might have.

There is more to come, I will add a couple of sample characters to this post, and maybe tighten up a few of the rules things, and I get a chance to dedicated a bit more headspace to this.