Friday, January 28, 2011

Real life interferes -- filler post!

Many apologies, my good readers. Real life has interfered, and I have not been diligent enough to work up a backlog -- so we're going to have to postpone this post. For now, have some filler -- the history of the Blightbound we discussed last time.

The origin of the Blightbound – the walking dead – is the history of Blightshifting. Early in the City’s history, dead was dead, but many Crafters were dissatisfied with that. They felt there must be an opposite force to that which controls life, and so they reached for power in death and decay. Beyond life, they found a vasty void, with here and there the aimlessly floating spirits of the dead. The Crafters spoke to the dead – and, more importantly, found a way to bring the spirits back to the world and bind them into their earthly bodies. These spirits-in-bodies became known as ptoma, and gave these early Blightshifters a wealth of information on the afterlife.  However, they quickly found a problem: after being bound to a body for a short time – usually minutes or hours, weeks at the outside – the spirit would spontaneously return to the void, leaving the body lifeless again. No matter how they tried, the Blightshifters could not resurrect any spirit a second time.

Meanwhile, the noble houses recognized an opportunity, if only the spirits could be made to stay with their bodies more permanently, the City would have a ready source of disposable soldiers and slave labor. They encouraged the Blightshifters to find a more permanent solution. They did – and called it Blightbinding – but it came with certain unfortunate caveats: First, once bound to a body, a spirit would never return to the void, not even once their body was but dust; and second, once the spirit tried to tear itself away, the risen would find themselves in terrible pain – forever.

Upon learning the side-effects of their new technique, most of the Blightshifters were horrified – but due to pressure from the noble houses and the Monarch of Light, binding became a major industry. Over the next century, the City’s industrial backbone was the dead – who, of course, had no rights. Eventually, however, the Blightbound and their living supporters contrived a revolt against the system. The Bound threw off their chains and fled into the wilderness. At this time, the Monarch of Light decreed Binding too dangerous, and forbade it from the City under penalty of exile – thought Blightshifters still regularly bring back ptoma for short-term purposes – emergency soldiers or workers, to find a man’s murderer, etc.

Eventually, the tortured dead who fled the City formed themselves into a coalition of sorts, motivated solely by their hatred of the living – for, with no need for food or sleep, and with pain overshadowing any attempt at art or leisure, what else had they? Over the centuries, the Dead Tribes – as they came to be known – raided the outlying farms and town relentlessly, even going so far as to assault the City (resulting in the Dead-Blooded. After the attack, the City’s retaliation was brutal, decimating the Dead Tribes’ population and reducing most to spirits bound to a few bones or handfuls of dust. The Tribes learned several lessons: they could interbreed with the living, and they have used this information to supplement their ranks on occasion since then; that, for good or ill, their fallen would never truly leave; and to never again face the City directly. At the time of this writing, over half of the Dead Tribes date back to the origin of Blightshifting, another quarter were created since by rogue Blightshifters in the City or amongst the Tribes, and the last quarter are Dead-Blooded, the result of rape or the (very) occasional love affair between a Bound and a living person.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Addix

A tremendous, yellow-white pillar juts from the ground, reaching hundreds of feet above your head and arcing to meet a horizontal beam that stretches into the distance, supported by other, similar pillars. Slowly, it occurs to you that this strange structure is, in fact, a skeleton -- the last remains of a creature the size of a city. You gasp in awe and horror -- and are taken by surprise by the band of ravaging, raging zombies coming up from behind you...

Welcome to The Addix, home of the rage-filled undead raiders known as the Dead Tribes. The important features of the Addix are its inhabitants -- angry, vicious undead with no purpose but to cause pain to the living. The undead are known as the Blightbound (a constructed combination of the necromantic magic Blightshifting and the fact that the dead spirits are bound to their old bodies), and many are organized into said Dead Tribes.

The Dead Tribes originated in the first paragraph of the unfinished short story that started this whole City of Lives universe. I needed an origin for the "Dead-Blooded" who had undead heritage in their past -- and, sparkly vampires notwithstanding, I couldn't see people willingly mating with a corpse, so I invented "an army of ghouls, specters, and the run-of-the-mill dead" who had swept through the City and raped a significant portion of its populace. Later on, I gave these raiders the name "the Dead Tribes" -- and later still, I needed an origin for these tribes for my playtesters, as well as a generic term for the undead... hence Blightbound. Finally, they needed a place to live, so I stole a name and concept from an old, abandoned (and poorly-thought-out) fantasy campaign of mine based around lost technology mistaken for magic. This was the Addix -- a city-sized skeleton that provides infrastructure for a settlement beneath its arching spine. So... with the (extra-universal) origins of the Addix revealed, let's settle in for an ARTT treatment:

Archetype: If anyone in the shades-of-gray world of The City of Lives can be said to be pure, unadulterated evil, it is the Dead Tribes, and their home reflects that. Like Mordor, the Shadowlands, or All-World, the Addix is a blasted wasteland, showing the evil of its inhabitants in its very environment. In this case, it has a perfectly reasonable in-universe explanation: Being undead, the populace of the Addix have no need for food and have serious rage issues, resulting in their killing almost every plant and animal they can reach.

Real-Life Inspiration: The physical environs of the Addix have no particular inspiration in real life, but the Dead Tribes themselves definitely take their inspiration from terror groups such as Al-Qaeda or the IRA. They are based on exactly one thing: anger, and taking it out on others, and like terrorists, they hold this obsession over and above anything else. As every terror group, the Dead Tribes have a target they want to destroy -- in this case, the City of Lives -- but they take it a step further than most terrorists, in that the Dead Tribes' eventual goal is global extinction. As you will see in the Theme section below, the Dead Tribes envy the living, and want to take away what separates them (that being life, of course) -- and also want revenge on the necromancers who originally made them, but have expanded that desire for vengeance to apply to anyone alive. As such, they are organized like a terrorist army or cult, with the "compound" of the Addix as their whole world except when they venture out to cause mayhem.

Theme: One of the strongest and clearest themes The City of Lives, the Dead Tribes and the Addix are about people who have been hurt and who, instead of moving past the pain or turning it into altruism, choose to hurt others. It is about uncontrolled rage, obsession, and envy. You see, in creating the Blightbound's origin, I decided to make CoL's undead not mindless walking skeletons or ravening zombies, but the spirits of the dead, torn from their eternal rest and forced back into their rotting meat-suits, which causes them eternal physical and psychic pain. [My reason for this decision escapes me, except perhaps to justify their raiding nature I had already established, and to avoid stereotype (though, of course, this is not an entirely original idea: see Fire Sea and Buffy the Vampire Slayer's angst upon being resurrected for takes on this theme)]. Now, there are three ways to deal with pain and a loss of control: angst, acceptance, or anger. Unfortunately for the rest of the Realm of Lives, the Dead Tribes chose the latter.

Twist: The biggest twist for such a place of evil is that... well, it's not. Not pure evil, anyway. Like everything in The City of Lives, there are shades of gray, with no such thing as "pure" good or evil. The Addix is filled with Blightbound who want nothing more than to extend their suffering, try to ameliorate their pain by inflicting it on others... but there are also a few undead and Dead-Blooded who have learned to deal with their tragedy, committing themselves to "living" good lives. Unencumbered by the need for food, sleep, or aging, these few enlightened souls can achieve remarkable things in the realms of art, science, magic, and philosophy -- or simply enjoy the company of others and the world around them. Though a rarity, these individuals are gems almost unparalleled.

Next time, we head back to the City... and straight past it, to take a look at the swampy Vulgar Morass that blocks travel to the southwest of the City. See you there!

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Mountains of Mourning

At the edge of the world, a mountain range looms. So high it scratches the sky (so they say), so inhospitable even the most powerful magics will not protect you (so they say), so long it cannot be crossed in a thousand lifetimes (so they say). These are The Mountains of Mourning, the northern edge of the livable region of The Realm of Lives.

Archetype: Mountain ranges have two purposes in fiction: hazardous routes to interfere with a journey or truly impassable barriers. Consider the mountain range "The Misty Mountains" in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings -- it stands between the heroes and their destination, and they must travel with great difficulty through the mountains, exposing themselves to danger (and goblins). Then there are the impassable mountains -- common in video games as a way to justify limited map sizes (the Might & Magic series I played in my youth comes to mind). The Mountains of Mourning are designed more as the latter -- like the Wilderwoods, they are meant to be so difficult and dangerous to cross that nobody will bother, acting as the border to my campaign world.

Real-Life Inspiration: The physical inspiration is, I suppose, the mountain ranges in Washington and Alaska states, which I've been in (mostly driving through) many a time. Evergreens. Snow. Amazing vistas. More importantly, though, the remote, inaccessible spots in the Andes, the Himalayas, and such, are the model for the Mountains. Scaling the biggest peak (which is, of yet, nameless) should be just as monumental a task as climbing Mt. Everest.

Theme: Mountains are the classic spot for secrets and remote locations: Shangri-La, Shamballa, Nanda Parbat. So as well as being impassable, the Mountains of Mourning are filled with mysteries. A remote monastery or research institute (or both -- the Practical Theosophers may have a presence here); a military outpost from an invading crossRealm army; and local mythology holds that the demigod Prometheus is imprisoned in a cavern deep beneath the mountains. Secrets secrets secrets.

Twist: You know that absurd legend that the ancient demigod Prometheus, progenitor of the Promethean bloodline and son of The Light, is chained up in a cavern? He actually is! Okay, maybe that's not much of a twist for a fantasy campaign, in most of which all myths are true... but it is a hell of a campaign goal: Free the god-man who is either Jesus or Satan (depending on who you ask), and throw the entire world off-balance. I can see the splatbook now -- Prometheus Unbound... or is that title already taken?


The Worlds’ Cross
Description: Cross-Realm portal in which Prometheus is bound.
Theme/Threat (depending on your point of view): The Light’s rebellious son Prometheus is imprisoned here.
Aspect: A Prison That’s Also a Gateway
Prometheus – Angry But Good-Hearted Demigod
The Eagle – Prometheus’s Sadistic Gaoler
Niontian Outpost
Description: Small outpost of Niontians pondering invasion.
Threat: Niontians – lying, living shadows – scout force.
Aspect; Deceit Is a Way of Life For Them
Face: Vertex-of-Pain – Niontian Captain Intrigued by the “Truth-Tellers"
On our roundabout trip through the wildlands of the Realm of Lives, we will come back through The Addix, where angry undead raiders plot the City's destruction...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Wilderwoods

You tread carefully along the narrow forest path, watching the mysterious shadows between the trees with mistrustful eyes. Something in the distance howls, the the howl breaks off into a squeal of pain... Welcome to The Wilderwoods. Last time we ventured out of the City for our first foray into the Realm of Lives and examined the safety and security of the Julian Plains. Now we head further, into the dark and mysterious forest that borders the Plains to the east. Known as the Wilderwoods, the forest marks the edge of the known Realm in that direction -- and it's filled with big nasties and adventures. Let's take a look.

Archetype: The big dark scary woods: The woods from Little Red Riding Hood, Mirkwood from The Hobbit, Sherwood Forest from Robin Hood. Dark, dangerous and unexplored -- filled with wild animals, both real and mythical. Perhaps bandits lurk in its depths, and they're more Mongol Hordes than Robin Hood. You never know what you're going to get in a forest like this -- hunting monsters, searching abandoned military outposts, encountering a rogue Crafter in a magical tower.

Real-Life Inspiration: Well, as a lifelong townie, I'm not terribly familiar with any forests in my own history. On the other hand, the evergreen forests of the Pacific Northwest have been on the periphery of my vision my whole life (not to mention in every TV show I watch that's filmed in Vancouver -- the immense number of evergreen forests on Stargate SG-1's alien worlds comes to mind). So in my head, the Wilderwoods are mostly filled with pine and fir, with bears, moose, and cougars over tigers or crocodiles. Which, of course, reminds me of a question to answer at some point: what is the biome of the Realm of Lives like? Should it be like the Pacific Northwest, North American environment I'm familiar with? Should I rejigger it so that it more closely resembles the classic English countryside Tolkien made famous? Somewhere further afield, like Iran or Australia? Or does nobody care, and should I just jam together a fun, if environmentally impossible mish-mash of ecological characteristics? Sound off in the comments!

Theme: The Wilderwoods is, from a game standpoint, an adventure mill. It's a mysterious area filled with nasty critters. It's deliberately vague in terms of geography and inhabitants, so almost anything can happen there. In a more literary, thematic, sense, the Wilderwoods represents the wild unknown. The mysterious, shadowy, "here there be monsters" part of the map. The Wilderwoods should never be a safe haven for the PCs, but a place for adventure and terror.

Twist: Well, for once, here's a dark and mysterious forest that's not secretly populated by elves and fairies, so that's new... seriously, I got nothin'. The Wilderwoods are dark and mysterious. They represent the edge of the world -- and also the edge of my interest. The City of Lives is about the titular City, and about the other Realms the characters can explore. While I like the places I've built up around the City, they are not where my design goals fall -- this is not really a dungeoneering or frontiersman campaign -- so I don't have all that much in my head to fill the mysterious void of the Wilderwoods with. And maybe that's okay. The whole point of them is to be mysterious, after all, ready to be populated with whatever the GM needs that day...


The Greensman’s Garden 
Description: On the edge of the woods, a perfectly-maintained garden sits, maintained by a mysterious... Rural? Demigod?
Theme: A forest guardian keeps his garden safe.
Aspect: A Demigod of Dubious Divinity Dwells Here
Face: The Greensman – Eccentric Rural or God of the Wild?

The Greensman  
Character Concept Aspect: ’Umble ’Elper of the Wilderness
Bloodline: Rural Turned God – Or The Other Way ’Round
Youth: Follows the Seeding Manual to the Letter – Maybe He Wrote It?
First Adventure: Oi Must Protect Me Garden
Free-Form 1: Very Gullible and None Too Bright
Free-Form 2: Moi Friends Morris

The Crashers’ Camp 
Description: Home of the Crashers, a Kipman/Rural band of barbarian raiders
Threat: Home of paranoid, angry marauders
Aspect: They Can Be Fun When They're Not Murdering You
Face: Skarch – Kipman Barbarian Leader Working on His Anger Issues

Next time we'll venture to the very edge of the known Realm of Lives (at least to the East) in the Mountains of Mourning. See you there.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Newbie's Primer -- and The Julian Plains

Welcome back. We've spent the last few posts on mechanics with the Universal Conflict System, but this blog is mostly about setting, so now we're going to head back to the City of Lives. I imagine we have a lot of newbies here, after Mike Olson and Johnn Four's kind words on their blogs. Hence, before we jump back into the campaign world of The City of Lives, I'll give a brief rundown of the setting as we've explored so far:
  • The world is a cross-dimensional high fantasy setting centered around the devious political maneuvering and class warfare of the titular City of Lives.
  • The City is at a pre-industrial revolution, vaguely 18th-century level of technology -- but most of its industry is based around its particular form of magic known as Crafting.
  • Though creatures from many, many world (known as Realms) inhabit the City, it is dominated by ten Bloodlines. Each of these Bloodlines are essentially human, but have heritage from a variety of sources, from animals to magical clones to the undead.
  • The City of Lives is at the center of a crossroad of realities, but, more mundanely, also sits at the confluence of two rivers, on the fertile Julian Plains.
Our first extended series from Sylvennis to The Lost District was on the City's districts. This time, we're going to head outside the city into the Realm of Lives and its wilderness. The key landmarks we're going to look at and ARTT out include:
  • The Julian Plains
  • Bavingdon
  • Mestloath
  • Perstoke
  • The Wilderwoods
  • The Addix
  • The Vulgar Morass
  • The Mountains of Mourning
  • The Heliotrope Cliffs
Let's begin with the most important piece of support for the City: the agricultural community that is the Julian Plains. This is where the City gets its food and trade goods, the support of the massive entity that is the City.

Archetype: The small farming communities beset by bandits and marauding monsters is a staple of the fantasy genre, and this is where the Julian Plains fit in. A place for PCs to call home, a safe place but also a place of constant adventure. Tristram, the ShireWest Harbor -- these are the inspirations for the locales of the Julian Plains.

Real-Life Inspiration: The Julian Plains are, in my mind, based heavily on the rolling hills of the Palouse (eastern Washington state), where I grew up. You may know the image -- it was the default desktop background image for Windows XP. Wheat and barley cover low hills, with the occasional sheep, horse, or cattle ranch dotting the landscape. The populace is made up of simple farmers, uninterested in higher education, complex art, or politics.

Theme: Both practically and thematically, the Julian Plains are the support structure for the City. The City relies on grain and meat from the Plains in order to survive. The Plains provide the City with necessities both directly and indirectly, as the City trades the Plains' goods to other Realms. The Julian Plains also rely on the City  -- for protection and government, [more here]. Like every infrastructure, literal and metaphorical, the Plains are solid, dependable, and unremarkable. They have no need for fancy art or complicated magic -- but without the Plains, the City would be unable to have these things.

Twist: The seemingly idyllic Plains have got to hide a secret -- but what kind? Perhaps an underground revolution is slowly coming to boil as some of the Rural peasants wonder what they really get out of their association with the City, and want to gain their independence. Revolutionaries have always turned their farming implements into weapons of war -- and since the farmers on the Plains use magic to control animals and plants directly... well, I'm scared.


Wells Ranch
Description: A small homestead outside of Bavingdon, constantly attacked by bandits.
Theme: Stability threatened by chaotic forces 
Aspect: Peaceful Plantation Beset By Bandits 
Face: Plenton Wells -- Desperate and Paranoid Cowboy Protecting His Property

Brintall Dam
Description: A dam blocking off a small tributary of the River Actetas. It creates Brintall Lake.
Threat: Local Crasher raiders are targeting the dam for destruction, threatening the nearby farms.
Aspect: You'll Need More Than a Finger to Plug This Dike
Face(s): Brakk -- Kipman Raider Itching To Cause Some Chaos
               Orton -- Rural community Leader With His Head in the Sand

Passel Mill
Description: A small mill that provides grain to the local community.
Threat: The owner smuggles herbal drugs to the City 
Aspect: Simple Beauty Hides A Filthy Underside
Face: Dowen -- Miller With a Terrible Secret

All right. Come back next time to take a look at the dark, mysterious Wilderwoods...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Fate Universal Conflict System -- Part 4

As we discussed last time, we’re now discussing some examples of different Conflicts the Universal Conflict System can put together. Let’s get to it:

Access: The one artifact that can defeat evil warlord Ximu is held inside a magically protected vault. The party’s resident lockpick tries his hand, assisted by the mage. The zones of the vault door have tons of large (5-9) border value zones representing locks, and the opponents are magical warning systems the mage has to destroy or trap before they reach the alarm system. If the mage fails, the rest of the party will have to engage in a Physical conflict with the guards while the lockpick finishes.
Applicable Skills: Attack: Burglary, Engineering, [Magic]. Block: Burglary, Engineering. Maneuver: Engineering, Sleight of Hand, [Magic]. Move: Burglary, Engineering

Physical: Evil warlord Ximu has sent a band of bandits against the PCs. they are on a forest path, with zone Aspects like “Shadowy Leaves” (Cover), “Protruding Roots” (Unsteady Position), and “Thick Foliage” (Border 2/2). The PCs can win by causing enough Stress to incapacitate or kill all the bandits, or by getting to the nearby river.
Applicable Skills: Attack: Fists, Might, Weapons. Block: Athletics, Fists. Maneuver: Might, Science [Medical Attention trapping], Survival. Move: Athletics, Survival.

Repair: Ximu’s dark wizards infected one of the PCs’ allies with a mystical cancer. The area is the ally’s cardiovascular system, with zones like “Plaque-Encrusted Artery” (border value 3/3), “White Cell Production” (Superior Position), and “Fast-Moving Vein” (Pushing 2). The opponents are semi-sentient cancer cells, and will be attacking parts of the ally instead of the surgeon directly. The PCs’ goal is to destroy all the cancer cells or trap them in a cyst for easy removal, by using Block actions to build up a single zone’s border value to 8. While this conflict is very much centered on the doctor character, the other PCs can help by performing research, casting counterspells, -- or perhaps the mage can even shrink them down a la Fantastic Voyage so they can help directly.
Applicable Skills: Attack: Science [Medical Attention trapping], [Magic]. Block: Science [Medical Attention trapping] [Magic]. Maneuver: Science, Sleight of Hand, [Magic]. Move: Science [Medical Attention trapping], [Magic].

Research: On the streets of the city, the PCs have to find out where Ximu is likely to hide. The area is the array of back alleys that make up the city’s criminal underground, with zone like “Marku’s Bar” (Hazard [rowdy customers]), “Con Alley” (Unsteady Position [con men]), and “Thieves’ Guild” (border value 3/3). The PCs’ goal is to pick up four “pieces of intel,” each gained by a Contacting skill check in a different zone, before the unfriendly locals Intimidate them away.
Applicable Skills: Attack: Contacting, Investigation. Block: Contacting, Resolve. Maneuver: Contacting, Intimidation, Investigation. Move: Contacting, Investigation.

Social: The PCs have infiltrated a party thrown at Lord Ximu’s castle, trying to find out where he’s gone into hiding. The area is the party’s conversational space, with zones like “Talking About Local Sports Team” (border value 0/2), “Local Gossip” (Unsteady Position), and “Lord Ximu” (Hazard, border value 5/0). The PCs’ goal is to move through the party to “Lord Ximu’s Location,” while the enemies try to inflict Social stress and get the PCs ejected from the party.
Applicable Skills: Attack: Deceit, Empathy, Rapport. Block: Deceit, Empathy, Resolve. Maneuver: Art, Contacting, Resources. Move: Deceit, Rapport.

Vehicle: The PCs have to deliver the artifact to a friendly mage. They load it into a carriage, only to find they’re being pursued by riders on horseback. The area and zones will vary throughout the conflict, as they will be defined relative to the racing carriage and horses, not absolutely -- however, they will encounter an overturned cart (Hazard), a muddy patch (Unsteady Position), and low-hanging trees (Cover), among others. The PCs’ goal is either to outpace the riders by 6 zones, or cause all the riders to fall by either attacking them or luring them through dangerous zones.
Applicable Skills: Attack: Drive, Survival [Riding trapping] Block: Drive, Survival [Riding trapping]. Maneuver: Fists, Weapons. Move: Drive, Survival [Riding trapping].

And now that I’ve covered all the facets of the Universal Conflict System (so far), I’d like to address a comment I got on my first post: @snej comments: “The idea of a 'combat' system for things like lock picking or sabotage is interesting, but what I've read in reviews of cyberpunk game systems is that this sort of mechanic leaves all but one player twiddling their thumbs waiting for something to do while the hacker is at work.”

@snej has brought up a very good point: there is a real danger that, in specialized conflicts, one character will do all the work while the others sit around doing nothing. However, it’s my opinion that this danger exists already, with an unspoken solution that isn’t really in everyone’s best interest: specifically, physical combat. It’s an unstated assumption that every roleplaying campaign will feature fights, and plenty of them, and so every PC needs to be able to handle themselves in a sword/gun/fistfight. While this makes sense in many campaign, in others it ends up forced, and the con artist or mechanic faces the choice of putting valuable Skill slots towards combat Skills, or running and hiding -- essentially sitting on the sidelines while one combat monster PC cuts a swath of destruction through the enemy. By providing rules for conflict of every kind, I hope that GMsslingers do in a physical combat.

Of course, I predict most campaigns will stay focused around fights and fighters, with one or two PCs at most being thieves, socialites, etc. And in that case, one (generally) should just reduce a potential conflict to a single (or couple) skill roll.

Alternatively, an enterprising GM can run two types of conflict at once -- for example, one or two hackers running through a short access conflict while the rest of the party protects them from enemies in the real world. I myself have run dual conflicts like this -- with mixed success. In one example, I mixed together two conflict types (access and social) as the PCs interrogated and hacked simultaneously a cybernetic prisoner. This didn’t work terribly well, but I blame that more on my inexperience with my system, making the conflict spaces too abstract and not making it clear how the two pieces interacted. In another example, one PC had to conduct a research conflict while the others defended the library from incursion. This worked quite well, and gave the character with Academics as his peak Skill a time to shine. The only difficulty was balancing the two conflicts, ensuring one didn’t end long before the other.

Next time, we will head back into the game world of The City of Lives and head out of the titular City, which we’ve explored in-depth, and out into The Julian Plains!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Fate Universal Conflict System -- Part 3

We return to the Fate Universal Conflict System -- which, now that I look at it, has the initials FUCS and should probably be changed -- as we cover Skills and Example Conflicts. Every Fate character has skills, but not every skill is appropriate for every conflict situation. You can use Fists to hurt someone in a physical conflict, but to embarrass them, you’d be better off with Rapport. A complete list follows (however, note that all the categories are fuzzy, and certain situations might allow for just about any Skill to be used, particularly for Maneuvers):

[A note: for the purposes of this article, I will use the Spirit of the Century Skill List -- because SotC is, so far as I know, the only Fate product with an SRD, and it’s the one I started with. Any particular Fate system will have a slightly different Skill List, which may add or subtract Skills from the following categories. Of particular note are the various magical systems in use in Dresden Files and Legends of Anglerre, which might go all over the place, depending on the spell].

Access ConflictPhysical ConflictRepair ConflictResearch Conflict
Attack SkillsBurglary, Engineering, MightFists, Guns, Might, WeaponsEngineering, Science [Medical Attention trapping]Academics, Art, Contacting, Investi-
Block SkillsBurglary, Engineering, EnduranceAthletics, FistsEngineering, Science [Medical Attention trapping]Academics, Art, Contacting. Science
Maneuver SkillsEngineering, Sleight of Hand, MightEngineering, Might, Science [Medical Attention trapping], Sleight of Hand, Stealth, SurvivalAcademics, Burglary, Empathy, Science, Resources, Sleight of Hand, SurvivalArt, Contacting, Engineering, Science [Medical Attention trapping]
Move SkillsBurglary, EngineeringAthletics, Stealth, Survival [Riding trapping]Engineering, Science [Medical Attention trapping], ResourcesAcademics, Contacting, Investigation

Social ConflictVehicle Conflict
Attack SkillsDeceit, Empathy, Intimidation, RapportDrive, Pilot, Survival [Riding trapping]
Block SkillsDeceit, Empathy, ResolveAlertness, Athletics, Drive, Pilot, Survival [Riding trapping]
Maneuver SkillsAcademics, Art, Contacting, Leadership, Resources, ScienceEngineering, Fists, Guns, Sleight of Hand, Weapons
Move SkillsDeceit, RapportDrive, Pilot, Survival [Riding trapping]

Once you know what Skills might come into play, it’s time to actually run the conflict. Below is a basic layout of all possible actions. Note that a lot won’t make sense unless you’re familiar with the Fate rules as laid out in SotC or another system. But don’t worry, we’re backing away from the heavy mechanics for a while after this!

  • Roll initiative: Each character in the conflict rolls Alertness (for Access, Physical, Repair, and Vehicle conflicts) or Empathy (for Research and Social conflicts). Record scores, and characters act in order of their initiative score.
Possible Actions:
  • Attack: Attacker uses one of the Attack Skills to deal Stress damage to a defender. Resisted with Block Skills.
    • Player declares a target character.
    • Player rolls an Attack Skill, modified by range. Reduce shifts by one for each zone between the attacker and defender (Certain Skills -- Fists being the prime example, others being GM fiat -- have an effective Range of 0 and may only be used to Attack within the same zone).
    • If the attacker has shifts, the defender’s Stress Track (Health or Composure) is marked at the box indicated (one shift marks the first box, two shifts marks the second, and so on). A Weapon’s Accuracy and Damage values may affect the Stress damage.
    • Hits may be mitigated by Consequences.
    • If the attacker fails their roll by three or more (gets three or more negative shifts), the defender gets Spin.
  • Maneuver: Player uses one of the Maneuver Skills to perform an action or place a taggable Aspect on an opponent or Zone. Resisted with Block Skills.
    • Player declares a target character.
    • Player rolls a Maneuver Skill, modified by range. Reduce shifts by one for each zone between the attacker and defender (Certain Skills -- Might being the prime example, others being GM fiat -- have an effective Range of 0 and may only be used to Maneuver within the same zone).
    • If any positive shifts are generated, the player may add an Aspect to the target zone or character, and that Aspect may be free-tagged once in the course of the scene.
  • Move Other: Player uses one of the Attack Skills to move a defender a number of Zones equal to the attacker’s shifts of success. Resisted with Block Skills and Borders.
    • Player declares a target character.
    • Player rolls an Attack Skill, modified by range. Reduce shifts by one for each zone between the attacker and defender (Certain Skills -- Might being the prime example, others being GM fiat -- have an effective Range of 0 and may only be used to Move Other from within the same zone).
    • If the attacker has shifts, they may move the defender that many zones.
    • If the attacker fails their roll by three or more (gets three or more negative shifts), the defender gets Spin.
  • Move Self: Player uses one of the Move Skills to move self a number of Zones equal to your shifts of success. Usually not resisted, but the player must expend shifts on any Borders.
    Whew. Enough heavy mechanics for today. Next time, we’ll wrap up our Universal Conflict System with some Examples and Discussion.