A Baldur’s Gate Trilogy

“Baldur’s Gate is a city divided by walls…walls that cut the Gate into three distinct cities: The rich live atop the bluffs protected from the bourgeoisie clinging to the slopes by barriers that literally prevent the middle class from rising above their stations, and beyond the protection of the city’s walls its many outcasts live with no law but the daggers of thieves.” – from Murder in Baldur’s Gate.

 For your gaming pleasure – three scenarios that make up an epic story-arc revolving around the famed city of Baldur’s Gate. If you have ever wanted to run a swords & sorcery themed Fate game, now’s your chance. You’ll find the scenarios at the bottom of the Dungeon Master’s Guide. There’s more than an occasional nod to French literary classics like A Tale of Two Cities or even The Three Musketeers; not to mention Fritz Leiber’s Lankhmar stories – with their colourful characters and cut-throat thieves’ guilds.

You’ll find they’re compatible with all of your 5th edition books like the Player’s Handbook or the Sword Coast Adventurers Guide if you play D&D. In fact, you’ll find that the 5th ed. write-ups for spells and monsters are easy to emulate using the guide-lines on this blog or those found in the Freeport Companion.

Uluvathae! (fortune bring you joy – in elvish).

Reigning in Magic, Continued:

Someone pointed out that mages in Fate of the Forgotten Realms can still begin play unfairly overpowered – consider the following: a wizard with a Scholar rating of Great could start with four magical stunts (meaning, possibly: twelve signature spells), and four bonus character aspects in the form of available schools of magic.

That’s too much. Just rule that no Player-Character can begin play with access to more than two schools of magic. Also, if a player takes the Dabbler in Magic stunt, rule that they cannot take an extra magical stunt until a major milestone has been purchased (or awarded).

Finally if any spell proves particularly impactful – place a material cost on it’s use, owing to rare and/or expensive components: anything from 50-100 gold pieces is reasonable, or more depending on the status of Player-Characters in your campaign – a powerful spell or ritual could easily cost a thousand ‘dragons’ in addition to the mandatory fate point, “Sorry Mrelder, but powdered rubies and dried yuan-ti scales don’t come cheap – anywhere in the realms!”.

It’s never too late to retroactively apply these rulings – just have the player swap out one stunt for another using the guidelines above. The Dungeon Master’s Guide has been updated to include the rulings detailed here.

Finally, as an aside – consider stunt utility. Players want to use the stunts available to their characters. Try not to narrow the focus of a stunt too much, there should still be clear parameters set but if the conditions under which the stunt becomes available rarely happen then the stunt never gets used: compare the wording of the stunt Hardcore Parkour here (under Professions), to how it’s detailed in the Core System.

The Rules of the Game: Discussion & Clarification

The Fate – Core System rule-book is for the most part a really well written document, being both accessible and enjoyable to read; and while it’s true that the game itself is less ‘crunchy’ than other systems there are none the less some aspects of the rules that can puzzle the novice Games-Master.

The following post represents a summation of a series of dialogues taken from the Fate G+ community concerning just such situations and the queries they provoke. I’ve highlighted page references for ease of use.

Q: Mental attacks in a physical conflict? This can theoretically happen though it hasn’t been explored to my knowledge. The Provoke skill rules specify that the relationship between the combatants might decide whether this is appropriate or not.

Or a stunt may act as the equivalent to the Stinging Rebuke ability unique to bards in D&D, allowing them to make mental attacks in a physical conflict. Theoretically a PC with a strong presence should be able to cow opponents into submission. What do GMs think?

  • A: Yes. If the current narrative situation (including possibly but not necessarily stunts to make the justification persistent for the character) justify it, mental attacks are a good way to model this sort of thing.

  • A: IMO, stinging rebukes and cowing people falls more under the category of Create an Advantage in a physical conflict rather than Attack, especially since Attack can create lasting Consequences. Mental attacks in a social conflict, on the other hand, are very doable.

  • A: I’m just applying the ruling behind the Provoke skill in the core rules: “Your relationship with the target and the circumstances you’re in figure a great deal into whether or not you can use this action.” When it comes to interpreting mental stress, there are many options – it can, for example represent the PC’s feelings, not just sanity. Is he embarrassed after that public dressing down? Loss of face, hurt feelings etc. can all represent levels of stress.

Q: Any examples of players employing decision or event-based compels? Compelling NPC or scene aspects to create the same kinds of twists that GMs are actively encouraged to make. There’s nothing (sic), in the rule-book describing this.

  • A: I’ve had a player say something like “what? I don’t think a Corporate Spy would do that, I think he’d do THIS!” and toss a Fate point at the person.

  • A: And players always have the option of declaring a story detail upon spending a fate point which is hinged on available aspects. While not specified in the book I’m assuming that when a GM buys off a compel that fate point is coming from his NPC pool in that scene?

  • A: Yes, also the GM shouldn’t buy-off valid compels. That’s no fun.

  • A: In Running the Game, p212 GMs are encouraged to “remind the players that they can compel your NPC’s aspects.” This is the only reference I’ve found to the actions described above. Essential reading for GMs. Compare this to the Declare a Story Detail rule which implies that the player must use a relevant character aspect (p80).

Q: So, as GM I can treat Nameless NPCs as obstacles if I deem them unimportant enough. Even if the PCs fail their overcome roll I can say they succeed but with a cost. However, realistically there’s a limit to how often I want to do this.

What if the PCs fail to overcome this obstacle? Where do I go next, does the situation develop into a normal conflict? Do I force further overcome actions on PCs as a follow-up? Any experiences of this?

  • A: What does the story dictate? Maybe if they fail to overcome, they get captured. Or they learn some interesting piece of information. I always try to remember fail forward.

  • A: What happens when they fail an Attack roll? That’s all this Overcome is representing. Let the nameless NPCs fight back (either with attacks or CaAs), and make the PCs try to Overcome them again. But remember, they can always “succeed at a cost”, so there’s really no chance of failure. It’s just a matter of negotiating the cost. A couple of mild consequences (there for only the next scene since they’re mild), could easily do the trick. Or create an Alarm Has Been Raised! aspect and give yourself a couple free invocations of it for the next scene.

  • A: Great suggestions! I had already mentioned the option of allowing PCs to succeed at a cost but obviously you don’t want to overdo that option. Justin Hall: “…they get captured”, I’d be inclined to compel that outcome but yes, it could materialise because PCs had failed to overcome that ‘obstacle’.

  • A: Sometimes, “fail” is not a choice the GM can accept… It brings the adventure to a screeching halt. In that case, the negotiation for acceptable cost is key.
    The GM taking a situation aspect and free invocation (or two) thereof almost always gets accepted, at least at my table. It’s my go-to “something went wrong” cost if nothing else is obviously available.

  • A: “Recall that Fate really doesn’t have failure”
    Yeah, I’m gonna disagree with that. Sometimes you fail. Sometimes the bad guys get away, or they kidnap the target, or they get the idol, or whatever. Fate has plenty of failure, and removing that cheapens the game in my opinion.
    What Fate doesn’t have is a situation where “failure” is mandatory. So in cases where the flat failure is uninteresting, you are absolutely free to interpret it in a different way. But sometimes “you fail” is the interesting choice.

  • A: I’m not drawing an example from any hypothetical scenario. I’m just examining the usefulness of the rule. It gets two short paragraphs in Running The Game p.217. The intent seems to be encouraging players to deal with nameless NPCs with one roll, rather than going to conflict rules. It does mention challenges.
    I agree that failure should be an option, I don’t think that PCs should be allowed to succeed at a cost indefinitely, e.g. a dungeon stocked with puny kobolds – threats should still provide a threat, even if they’re being treated in game as obstacles. So I was just interested in getting feedback and inspiration for how to deal with complications arising from this approach as it’s an idea that perhaps deserves to be play-tested a bit more. Thanks.

Bedlam in Baldur’s Gate

I’ve posted a conversion of sorts for the Fury in Freeport scenario found towards the end of the Freeport Companion for those Dungeon Masters keen on running it using the rules on this blog. You can find it under the Dungeon Master’s Guide at the top of the screen.

As you might imagine the scenario is a natural fit when transplanted to the famed port-city of Baldur’s Gate. There are some minor exceptions, notably the fact that goblinkin and the like do not stroll openly around the Gate and the presence of hard-nosed mercenary company, the Flaming Fist mean the city is a little less raucous than Freeport. Other than that though, the adventure fits like a glove and we’ve provided lots of pointers and expanded notes to give DMs plenty of options when running the game, not to mention added read-aloud text to help bring the story to life.

If you like what you see you might want to pick up Murder in Baldur’s Gate for the excellent setting book. Failing that, Volo’s Guide to the Sword Coast comes highly recommended.  Get them at dmsguild.com

Improving Spells with Milestones

Be sensible when awarding milestones to players, particularly those who may access powerful stunts. Force players to be economical, particularly when looking to expand their magical capabilities.

In the case of significant milestones that would normally permit a player to increase a profession’s rating by a point you could also allow that player to improve an existing magical stunt, either adding a new signature spell available to that archetype or improving a spell. So, for example a spell that would normally only be usable once per scenario becomes available once per session and so on. Be careful when allowing players to increase shifts of damage attributed to spells and respect game balance.

Of course a major milestone will grant a player a bonus fate point which can be immediately spent on a new stunt, which might allow that player to complete the roster of signature spells available to them or indeed add a new mage archetype providing they have an aspect that justifies it. Just what amount of gold is necessary to buy these milestones will be determined by the Dungeon Master and campaigns can vary from one group to another. It’s also worth making temporary fate points available which may be bought during play – these points vanish from the refresh pool as soon as they are spent.

The Monk

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Let’s try to recreate the monk class from the Dungeons & Dragons game by developing some appropriate stunts. As you might expect many of these stunts build on the Acrobat profession. Other attributes of the monk might be expanded with character aspects, high-lighting the use of ki (or inner energy), mastery of the elements and of course devotion to martial arts. You may also wish to add a magical stunt – see the drop-down menu under the Dungeon Master’s Guide.

For more on the monks of Faerûn see the following pages:

http://forgottenrealms.wikia.com/wiki/Monk

http://forgottenrealms.wikia.com/wiki/Special:Search?search=monasteries&fulltext=Search

Sample stunts are as follows:

Crouching Tiger – Once per exchange, you may ignore initiative ranking and choose to initiate an attack whenever a creature declares that it will attempt to physically harm you, though you may only respond to that particular threat.

N.B. You must declare use of this stunt prior to any dice being rolled.

Deflect Missiles (Acrobat) – At the cost of a fate point you may choose to defend any or all non-magical missile attacks in your current zone as one defend action, enjoying a +2 bonus. You must declare your intention before any dice are rolled and your subsequent action provides passive opposition for the remainder of the exchange.

Flurry of Blows (Warrior) – Your fists count as a medium weapon and deal 1 bonus shift of bludgeoning damage on a successful attack.

Hidden Dragon (Warrior) – When you successfully make an unarmed attack with Warrior, you may reduce the stress dealt by 1 to gain a boost even if you did not succeed with style. However, that boost only rewards you with a re-roll not a +2 (requires Flurry of Blows).

Martial Artist (Acrobat) – Provided you are wielding a finesse weapon you may make attack actions using the Acrobat profession (requires Peaceful Warrior).

Peaceful Warrior (Acrobat) – Provided you are not wearing any armour or shield you enjoy two free boosts per session which may be invoked on any Defend action.

Step Of The Wind (Acrobat) – You gain a +2 whenever you attempt to vault objects or leap to any higher level available.

Walking On Water (Acrobat) – You move unimpeded across one zone featuring water provided you are not also attempting anything more complex than a free action.

New Additions

New studies have been compiled and added to the Monstrous Manual for those Dungeon Masters among you of a particularly sadistic nature. Interested in observing adventurers dying in the most grotesque and spectacular of fashions? Well then, look no further than the flesh-devouring ghoul, the otherworldly air elemental and the legendary aratha, or “killer beetle”. Adventurers beware!