Giving Movie and TV Scenes the Fate Treatment

Fate Core is a wonderful role playing game system. It’s flexible enough to be used in any genre as-is or with very minimal tweaks. Fate bills itself as rules light, in fairness it’s more like rules medium but forces the rules to take a back seat to whatever fiction your game runs on. There is a rules light version of Fate, called Fate Accelerated it’s intended as an easy introduction to Fate. Personally, I think of it as Fate: The Pickup Game edition.

Fate is descended from an earlier role playing game known as Fudge. It was basically an open source RPG developed entirely on the Internet in the early 90’s by a dedicated group of fans and later published by Grey Ghost Press. Fate’s major innovation over Fudge is the creation of the aspect. Aspects are basically bite-sized units of fiction and are not narrowly defined; in fact their wording is typically a bit on the elastic side intentionally. This gives the players and the GM flexibility to decide when they’re important and when they’re not. This change of mindset from rigidly defined rules to flexible consensus-driven game mechanics tends to throw new players for a loop.

To help new players more fully wrap their minds around Fate’s mechanics, I have decided to write up scenes from television and movies as a scene in Fate.

Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back in Fate Core

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for several decades, you’ve seen Star Wars. The iconic scene where Vader takes off Luke Skywalker’s arm with a stroke of his lightsaber and reveals Luke’s true parentage is classic.

There are, of course, several different ways to interpret the scene as Fate Core’s mechanics but the following seems reasonable:

Luke and Vader trade-off in lightsaber combat. At first, Vader is clearly pulling his punches and wants to test the boy but quickly ramps up the pressure. Luke knows he can’t beat Vader in a “fair fight” so he’s as evasive as possible to compensate for his relative lack of skill compared to Vader.

Vader attacks with Fight +3 + 000+ = +4 in the first exchange, parrying Luke’s attacks. Luke defends with Fight +2 + +-+0 = +3 and narrates this as a parry as well. Luke lost, but by less than one shift. Luke decides to take mild stress and narrates that means he’s been knocked down in momentary but dramatic fashion, but but quickly recovers.

Vader swings at Luke but misses by a wide margin. Fight +3 + 0-0- = +1 and Luke Defends with Athletics +2 + 000+ = +3.

Luke quickly becomes aware that Vader isn’t going to pull his punches for long. Luke is in deep trouble and he knows it. He decides to create an Advantage I’m Here to Stop Your Reign of Terror! and rolls well: Fight +3 0+0+ = 5. Luke invokes one of his aspects I’m a Jedi Like my Father for an additional +2 driving the total up to Epic +7. Vader defends with Fight +3 rolls +-+- and invokes his aspect Dark Lord of the Sith! +2 = 5. As a result, Luke wings Vader and he takes 2 physical stress. So, Vader checks off one physical stress checkbox.

Pissed, Vader makes a full attack (+2) forgoing all defense. Fight +3 + ++00 + Full Attack + 2 = +7 shifts. In order to avoid being taken out, Luke takes a Severe consequence My Arm! My [Expletive] Arm! and one shift of physical stress. Desperate, Luke creates a advantage with Athletics (+2) Putting Space Between Us as he works his way onto a ledge out of Vader’s reach.

Vader continues to press his advantage but switches to social combat alternating between Intimidate and Rapport his “Join me, I can complete your training” speech. Unfortunately for Vader, Luke won’t go for it. Rapport +1 + 0+0+ = 3. Luke defends with Will +2 + 0+++ = 5 and succeeds with style.

Vader takes a gamble and presses further with Rapport (+1) + +++0 he creates an advantage Luuuuke, I Am Your Father (+2) and uses his free invoke. Vader also invokes Luke’s high concept I Want to be a Jedi Like My Father (+2) against him for a total of +8 shifts. Luke takes 4 shifts of social stress and a moderate consequence I’m Nothing Like You!

At this point, Darth Vader has 1 physical stress and no consequences. Luke on the other hand has taken one physical stress, two social stress a mild and a severe consequence. He’s in real danger of being killed, or worse, turned to the Dark Side.

Luke takes the only real option left to him: he concedes and exits the scene by leaping into the abyss beneath him. Because Luke conceded but wasn’t taken out, he gets to dictate that he isn’t killed by the fall but is able to use the force to slow his decent and, eventually, wind up dangling on the outside of Cloud City with his friends nearby permitting him to be rescued.

Because the setting permits it, Luke later gets a bionic arm and takes a long bath in healing goo. Does he take a new aspect? Maybe. Given the context of the setting’s fiction, it’s up to the GM and the players.

I’m sure you can think of a few different ways to interpret the action, perhaps with more or less granularity. But, as written, it clearly shows the strength of Fate Core: it takes a back seat to the fiction and lets the story drive the game, not the mechanics. I’ll be writing up more scenes from TV and movies in the near future and give them similar treatment in either Fate Core or Fate Accelerated.