Tuesday, February 5, 2013

My Kind of Stunts

I do not take a terribly mechanistic approach to stunts. It’s a taste thing, but by and large I want stunts to be big, sweeping things which say something big and meaningful about the character, not just to serve as a fine gradation between two characters.  With this in mind, I’m going to post up some stunts I’ve written up for another game (an Amber Game)  because they illustrate something important - these stunts were literally created for specific characters to support a specific theme that the player had chose (mechanically called an “Affinity”). 

Technically, this is for a Tempo game, but Tempo and Fate stunts are basically interchangeable, so feel free to think of them as Fate stunts.  That said, there's something important to note about most of these stunts. Let's see if it stands out. 

First, there’s Cassidy, who’s affinity is “Broken Things”

Because Friend's Help
When alone in a scene, Cassidy may spend a Fate point to declare she is getting help from a friend.  That friend has a skill of her choice equal to Cassidy's lore skill, and can help her out in any way reasonable.  The first time a friend is used, they are named, and they accrue one point.  Each subsequent time they are used, they gain another point.  After a friend has accrued enough points to equal Cassidy's scholar bonus (+9) they can no longer be called on, though a new friend may be available with a similar skill. What happens to them is an interesting question

Cassidy can spend a fate point for a flashback of any time within the past 24 hours, wherein she can be doing anything that she could have done, even if she wouldn't have the knowledge to do it at the time - she is just that prepared.

The Missing Piece
If Cassidy has a substantial piece of something, she can find the rest of it, given time and attention.

Through The Cracks
Cassidy can always find a way out.  Keeping her prisoner is a delay at best.

The Shattering
Cassidy never does more damage than she intends.  She can wield a sledgehammer with the precision of a scalpel.  In addition to more or less guaranteeing that she always has all the tools she needs, it allows her to make impossibly precise called shots without penalty.

Cassidy can keep any piece of magic or technology working as long as no one notices.

What is Lovely Cannot Stay
Cassidy spend a fate point to use a broken thing as if it were fully functional provided she has at least a recognizable piece of it.  She may only do this once per thing, and if she does, then she will never be able to fix it (though someone else might). “Thing” in this case is very broadly defined. It applies to objects, certainly, but also to ideas and large scopes.  From the Coliseum, she could give the last order to the Roman Empire, if she saw fit.

State is a State of MInd
If Cassidy spends a fate point and breaks something, she may destroy it utterly, save for piece small enough to carry. So long as there are no witnesses, she may restore the broken thing from its piece. 

Next is Fion, whose affinity is Treachery

The Price of Service
- Fion is a useful ally.  If his offer of service is accepted by someone, he grants them a new aspect (Fion's Service) which they can tap as a normal aspect, but which Fion can also spend fate points through, even when he's not present, representing the long term impacts of his actions.  However, If Fion ever chooses to betray that aspect, he can remove it and more or less declare a consequence.

Ear for Secrets
- In conversation with an NPC, Fion's player can hand the GM a fate point and ask what one thing this person is trying NOT to talk about.  if there's no answer, he gets the fate point back. Otherwise, the GM tells him.

It Takes One to Know One
- Fiona can spot a spy or a snitch with superhuman acuity.  It takes Fion approximately five minutes of conversation with someone to see if they serve a master other than the obvious one. This ability doesn't tell him  who the actual master is, though there may be hints.

Ok, so there they are.  Notice a trend?

These are, by and large, almost entirely system agnostic.  With one or two exceptions, they don't hook into any mechanics in particular (except spending a fate point, which is a pretty portable idea).  This is a result of the kind of thinking that constructs them - I don't think in terms of mechanics, but rather, I think in terms of play.  Specifically, I think about how I would imagine doing this cool thing, then have the stunt reflect that.  If that description doesn't suffice (as in the case of The Price of Service), *that's* when I turn my thoughts to mechanics. 

I also tend skip to the end.  I used to build stunts in trees and stacks with the idea that you could buil dup to cool things, but I've grown tired of that. Instead, I just zoom in on the question fo what a player is REALLY trying to do when they buy three stealth stunts, and try to provide the answer to that.

This approach has some downsides.  It takes exactly zero considerations for balance, but that's not a real problem.  What *is* a problem is that there's so much taste involved in this approach that you risk missing the tone you should be going for.  That is, the success of this model depends on being in tune with what your players like.  This is the reason that it's harder to put this approach in published material and it is to simply implement it at the table. Or, at least that's my usual thought.

I'm less certain of the truth of that these days.  Certainly, such a product would automatically narrow its own audience, but there is a case that ANY mechanical decision can do that too.  And going largely systemless does offer opportunities that other approaches don't have.

So, I'm not sure.  I might be considering sharing more stuff from my table to see if it is more useful to the world at large than I've usually considered.


  1. Interesting that I picked the Fion stunt that had a mechanical hook in it. :)

  2. Why does Cassidy have three times more powers and a lot stronger too?

    1. Fion had some other ones too (players got to pick 1 from the list) but the GM wrote those, so I didn't include them as illustration.

      Power is an interesting question - Cassidy's are more overly magical because the character was spiked in Lore and Mysticism and had a mad scientist vibe whereas Fion is more of a political creature, so some fo the apparent "power" is more of a reflection fo their wheelhouses.

      That said, the *actual* power is pretty comparable in the context of the game. Traditionally the ability to do flashy magical things is more powerful, but when the social element of a game is prominent (or even central, as it often the case in Amber the way we play it) then the flash of magic carries less weight.

      That said, My fellow players read this, so they can weigh in, but I don't think there's any sense of power imbalance at the table.

    2. Fion can show up anywhere in the Kingdom and get people to do what he says, with far more efficacy than nearly any other sibling around. That people don't like him or -- long term -- trust him is really beside the point. If someone needed to rally an army or reveal a hidden but well positioned ally at a moment's notice, Fion's probably the one to do it.

      Also worth pointing out -- each of the players has selected only one of these stunts. Right now, we're just looking at the above as the list of options.

    3. I also wouldn't discount the range of stunts Fion has as lesser than Cassidy's by comparison. Cassidy can *do* many things, but Fion -- if fully kitted out with these options -- can step into nearly any situation and know things about it, very very rapidly. That makes Cassidy powerful tactically, but Fion very powerful strategically. And strategic play is how Fion approaches the great game.

  3. I play Robin in the game.

    As a player, I'd put the set of stunts for Fion and Cassidy on par with each other. Fion can leverage whole political groups and alliances, and has done, quite to Karm's dismay; Cassidy is heavy on the magic and the lore, and most of her siblings Do Not Get It (which is just as well; if they did, I think they'd be somewhat alarmed). In context of the game, where Fion is standing in as Oberon and Dad Surrogate, it comes out as equivalent. He just took subtle control of Karm, for example, whom he betrayed in the last war. Cassidy is a walking time bomb of mad scientist, but I think all the characters are trying to pretend they've got her under control.

    Fion's player remarked that he sees Fion as a Brand type in the future - having grown up his own set of Elders. I worry what he is going to do with Cassidy - keep her in a lab that constantly rotates through shadow?

  4. As Cassidy's player, I worry more that someone's going to figure out that "Mad Sciency Things" are one of the five items on Cassidy's List.

  5. Wow! They're great! This is the kink of stuff that I wanted when I bought Spirit of Century. The Exalted-like stunt chapter was the biggest letdown of the book for me; and one of the reasons why I still prefer Fate 2.0 use of Extras/Stunts. I'm anxious for Fate Core to change this assumption.

  6. Nice list of stunts, I didn't see stunts in fate core as such powerful moves. I may have to reread that whole part.

    About Cassidy, a lot of her stunts have to be made while alone. If it is indeed a social settings, this might not happen that often.

    Oh and by the way, Fion means ***hole in French.

    1. A) I did nto know that

      B) I dont' think the GM or Fred did Either


  7. Interesting. I've spent a while learning that, with Fate games, one can say one is doing anything, but that means zilch mechanically unless one can point to the mechanic and say, "And I'm using this mechanic, which means I get a +2" or whatever. But, these stunts are not made with that in mind, are they?

    How do you shift from the "back it up with mechanics" to the more free flowing style without losing the advantages of the former? (I know the main disadvantage -- a sort of disconnect as one says, "But if I tossed a net on him, why is this only a +2 bonus, and only if I pay a fate point after the first round?")

    1. That is probably meat for a whole post in its own right regarding the nature of an aspect, why and when they're used and what they mean. The necessity of strict, mechanistic interpretation of Aspects is one of the things that makes the game publishable - as soon as part of the rules steps out of that space but still interacts with it, things break, so you need to make sure that all interactions share a common language, or that there's no interaction.

      Stunts like these tend to be removed from the regular flow of resolution, which largely means they resolve the question by cheating and just going around it. There are limits to this approach, but you can get pretty far with it.

  8. Robin's player here: well, the siblings do tend to end up down in Cassidy's lab, via either the screaming of the projects or to brainstorm or to offer to help clean up. We bring the social to the mad scientist, who is really quite polite, so long as you don't mind the volume.

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  10. Meant to respond to one of Fred's posts, but screwed it up. XD

    Still, this is great stuff to see!


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