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 Adventurer’s 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).

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

For the Bards!

Stinging Rebuke (Aristocrat):  Your quick wit and sharp tongue, not to mention your general demeanour allow you to attack causing mental stress in situations that would normally preclude this action, e.g. where language barriers exist or amidst the chaos of the battlefield.

This stunt costs a fate point to use and lasts for one whole scene or conflict.


 

There you go, a Christmas present of sorts for the rogues out there. On a similar note, for Dungeon Masters looking to turn up the heat on mages it is worth remodelling this stunt in order to outfit monsters and foes who specialise in haranguing magic-users on the battlefield, e.g. a pack of goblins with the Magehunter stunt.

Wearing down a mage’s mental stress track can be an especially nasty tactic considering that many sorcerers and mystics depend on it as a resource when casting spells. In fact, as mentioned previously it’s worth looking at ways to present mental stress to players as part of the toils of adventuring in order to reign in magical powers. Accepting stress is a valid interpretation of a minor cost. For more examples of how mental stress can come about as a by-product of adventuring see the rules on Insanity in the Freeport Companion.

Counterspells

A further clarification on the rules described in the Magic & Damage section:

‘You may launch a counterspell, providing active opposition to any spell being cast that you are aware of regardless of the cost demanded by that specific magical effect.’

If a stunt gives you permission to employ a counterspell you are simply providing active opposition to an action that creates a magical effect where normally no active opposition would feature. As stated, the mage attempting to cast the spell will be forced to roll dice, actively opposed by a player or Dungeon Master even if he wasn’t using the create an advantage action. So, for example, if a mage is attempting a summoning spell that costs a fate point he will be forced to roll dice aswell if opposed by a mage with the ability to counterspell.

The DM should provide exceptions for certain magical effects where sensible, for example when magical items like scrolls and wands are in use. In the case of magic missiles and the like the counterspell should allow the target mage to make a defend action with his spellcasting profession rather than Acrobat.

This of course isn’t the only case where a mage may be faced with active opposition. For example a pack of frenzied Gnolls who have chosen to gang up on a priest might create the aspect Gnolls Breathing Down My Neck!, which the priest would have to overcome before casting any spell. The DM may rule in this case that removing the aspect will be actively opposed by the Gnolls.

Spellcraft – Converting D&D’s classic spells to Fate

Globe of Invulnerability:

You may cast the following spell once per scenario. An immobile, faintly shimmering magical sphere surrounds you and as many as three others, excluding any magical spells or effects that do not cost at least one fate point to cast. So, for example magic that affects one or more zones in any exchange must make special exception for those sheltered within the Globe of Invulnerability, including the Anti-Magic Field spell. The globe may be dismissed by a hostile mage, as per the rules in the Magic & Damage section but it will automatically cost a Fate point to attempt this. Additionally, the globe carries the aspect Fading Fast.

The material component is a small, spherical gem of some value that shatters upon the spell’s expiration.

*

You have just read a conversion of the classic Lesser Globe of Invulnerability spell from the freely available Dungeons & Dragons System Reference Document. This is a stock spell that would have been a go-to for any forward thinking mage with a copy of the Player’s Handbook. However like many of D&D’s classic spells, the finer details necessitate the use of special rules. The key feature of this spell is it’s ability to preclude the effects of low-level spells on the area contained within the globe. Specifically the spells precluded are 4th level and lower.

Now, since the rules of FotFR (and probably most Fate games of this ilk, including the Freeport Companion), don’t feature exhaustive spell lists segmented according to level we have to rework the key features of this spell. We do want to capture the spirit of the original spell so let’s consider the intent behind the magic – the globe excludes the effects of all magics of limited potency. In order to replicate this approach we can decide that in FotFR these low-level magical effects will be considered to be any that do not cost at least one fate point to invoke.

Similarly, many spells in the Player’s Handbook specify a duration that is tied to the caster’s level. There being no equivalent to this mechanic in Fate we simply attach an aspect to the spell’s effect – Fading Fast. An experienced mage will likely have a big pool of fate points to draw from, enabling him to keep the spell ‘up’ for longer.

The key thing to bear in mind here is that there is no need to be too technical. Like the example above, if there is a vulnerability inherent to the spell such as a time limit then the simplest way to represent this is with an aspect. The players may need to create an advantage to learn of this aspect although as DM you could rule that any PC mage with some schooling in the Art will be aware of this aspect anyway.

In Fate of the Forgotten Realms each signature spell is accessed through a stunt describing a particular brand of mage. These stunts are known as Mage Archetypes. Like the branching effects detailed in the Skills & Stunts section of the Fate core system, each stunt will branch into a series of signature spells (often hand-picked by the player), reflecting the theme of the archetype.  There are many examples in the ‘Dungeon Master’s Guide’ accessible on this site but players and DMs are encouraged to create their own Archetypes, possibly reassigning signature spells from this site or incorporating new spells. Owing to the protective nature of the Globe of Invulnerability it would seem that the Guardian stunt would be a natural home for this spell.

So, what can I defend with…?

When developing the rules for this hack I didn’t really clarify what professions could be used for the defend action and specifically, in what context. Apologies. Some of the uses may have seemed obvious, e.g. using Acrobat to defend against Marksman but other situations may have left players and DMs puzzled.

By default Warrior is used to perform attack actions with melee weapons. It does not normally permit defend actions, this is the preserve of the Acrobat profession which governs manoeuvrability. Warrior rates proficiency with armour, an extra which in turn grants free invocations on defend actions (so there is a tangible benefit to the defend action under this profession).

If the PC is an experienced or well-trained fighter he can always select the Man-At-Ams stunt which allows her to use the Warrior profession to make defend actions against melee attacks. See the Professions section in the Dungeon Master’s Guide for the full description.

Just as with the skills described in the core rules, some of the professions allow you to defend against attempts to harm your mind or damage your resolve. Mystic would typically be employed to defend against attempts to charm (Aristocrat), deceive or provoke (Rogue). Or, if the action is calling for active opposition you might find your character employing Aristocrat to defend against Aristocrat in a negotiation over a business matter. Equally it might be a case of using Rogue versus Rogue where two characters are bluffing each other in a card game.

Reigning in Magic

Some of the feedback I’ve been getting suggests that Dungeon Masters are not totally comfortable with the number of signature spells that come bundled with a magic-user stunt, deeming them overly generous. That’s fine and probably a fair assessment.

A simple remedy is to suggest that each mage stunt allows the player to have access to three spells at first with the option of adding extra spells to that list becoming available at minor milestones, provided they find material or training that would explain their new-found accomplishment. If a player wants the complete roster to go with that stunt he can always take it twice, e.g. Conjurer X 2 or pick up the Dabbler in Magic stunt. Either way, the system is still more playable than what’s described in the Freeport Companion.

It is of course not too late to have players edit their stunt lists and conform to the suggestions above if you’re a couple of sessions into your campaign. Fate is very forgiving when it comes to tweaking and rewriting stuff in the early stages.