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[SotC] A Closer Look at Weapons

System: Spirit of the Century (www.evilhat.com/?spirit)
Hack Type: Genre (gritty), Revised Mechanics

So, some folks like a greater disparity between weapons and tools in a conflict other than a taggable aspect. I say okay, and make this:


More Detailed Weapons for SotC

Much of the benefit you get from weapons in a conflict is situational - you're in the right position, you're using the weapon in ideal circumstances, etc. Some of it is also inherent to the weapon - you have a .45 ACP, I have a .22, etc. The ideal is to be able to deal flexibly with both.

Hence, in this system, weapons are given a rating from 1-X (where X is probably 6 or so at most) that represents a maximum threshold for how useful they can be in a combat situation. This rating should be taken to represent the best possible circumstances in which to use the weapon on top of its raw power. When you use the weapon in combat, you roll an additional number of Fudge dice equal to its rating on top of your normal 4dF roll, and take the best four dice as your result.

So, suppose your broadsword is rated at 3. In ideal circumstances, you'd roll 7dF and take the best four. This means you're more likely to have results in the +2 to +4 end than someone rolling just the default.

What if the circumstances aren't ideal, and what does that mean? Then you'd simply remove bonus dice or eliminate their use altogether, depending. And it means whatever you think it means, because a.) this is Fate and hence supports fiddly interpretation room on some level and b.) no two people have the same concept of the effectiveness of weapons in a fight. 

So, you might say that if you're in an enclosed space, you only get 1 bonus die from your broadsword because those things usually need something like four feet of clearance on all sides to use properly. Or you might say that knives don't get their bonus dice unless you're close enough to grapple. Or whatever. GM has the final say, or whatever your group does to resolve such matters. Armor would either remove bonus dice or add their bonus dice to a defense roll, depending on which you think is easier to manage.

And that's it. Everything else works the same. Here's why I think this approach is cool:

* You get the benefit of both dramatic and concrete bonuses - a battleaxe might get up to 4 dice, whereas a dagger might never get more than 2 even in ideal circumstances, representing the sheer mass of the battleaxe. But you can also have fun with situational or dramatic bonuses to your heart's content.

* Big weapons in ideal circumstances means lots of dice hitting the table, and yet because you're taking the best 4 dice, it does not require evil maths any greater than the system already calls for. So you get the tactile fun without the hassle.

* It accomplishes the goal of making the person with the best comparative weapon or circumstance win fights faster, and retains concrete effectiveness in the realm of firearms, because the bonus dice for your gun would not apply to your Athletics roll for defense. So it preserves a certain "guns are damn dangerous" component of more gritty genres.

* Using bonus dice instead of a numerical bonus circumvents some granularity issues with the Fudge/Fate ladder, while still providing a clear advantage.

* It doesn't require screwing with the default stress w/ consequences layout to achieve any of the abovementioned results. 


If you want an example set, let's say brass knuckles and saps are rated 1, knives and small clubs at 2, most one-handed melee weapons at 3, polearms and two-handers at 4. For guns, let's say really small calibers (.22, .25 ACP) are a 1, small pistol calibers (.38, 9mm) are at 2, large pistol calibers (.45 ACP, .357) are a 3, and shot-shell is a 4. If you want, you can say that being fired from an SMG gives you +1 and a rifle gives you +2, so that MP-5 might be rated at 3 and that .30-30 Winchester might be rated at 5.

Obviously, this can also translate to stuff other than weapons, to provide a mechanic for handling the benefits of gear in other conflicts. You'll have to decide locally how to handle choosing between this mechanic and temporary aspects, but at least you're not lacking in options.


Your weapon bonuses operate very much like bonus dice from The Shadow of Yesterday, which borrowed a few ideas from Fate. I love circular cross-pollenation. :)
"I like the idea; however, the only worry I'd have is that the concept of bonus and penalty dice are really useful, in general, and to have them in FATE only for weapons strikes me as a bit hacky."

On a blog enthusiastically devoted to game hacks, that's what I'd call a feature, rather than a bug. :)I mean, while I am one of the SotC co-authors, the stuff here is very far from "official", very much on purpose.

That said, I did mention in my last paragraph that you can expand the concept to work for other gear in other conflicts as well, if you want a more global mechanic for advantages. I think that if you're going to do that, it needs to stop at covering "tool-based bonuses", because otherwise you're dancing in the same realm as temporary aspects. But that's just my bias... nothing stops you from deciding that you prefer concrete bonus dice to the more "fiddly" nature of temp aspects, and using them instead. Heaven knows, there are plenty of other things to spend fate points on.

"I assume that armour would then provide penalty dice to reduce the effectiveness of the bonus dice conferred by weapons?"

Yes. This is also stated above in the post, just before the paragraph with "Here's why I think this approach is cool" in it.
So, you'll get no argument from me. I'm a long time lover of bonus dice, though I'm always a little leery of their integration with Fudge dice. In theory, they just add +.33333 but it always feels like they're more potent than that. That said, they always seem to meet with some resistance, for reasons I've never fully grokked, outside of the pre-exisiting shortage of fudge dice.

Anyway, I think they rub of this is not in the specifics, but in the leap that bonus and penalty dice would represent.
(THough notably, the Fate D6 rules I use make extensive use of bonus/penalty dice)


A large number of bonus dice will have the effect of really collapsing the bell curve. For example, a shotgun with 4 bonus dice will roll a +3 or +4 result more than 50% of the time. So guns are very reliable in the damage they do (under ideal conditions). Seems like a good feature to me.


Played SotC with Jonathan,Bonny,Justin and Will. Had a great time playing my Creole Jazz Band Leader/ex-WWI Ace.

Ya'll did great with this game. Keep it up.

Dan Hash

December 2010

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