This is my second and last post on converting D&D (mostly D&D Next, but there’s a fair bit of edition-neutral stuff) to use Fate’s mechanics. Check out my last post about how to start adding Aspects into the game for a better storytelling experience. This conversion stacks on top of that one.
You’re still asking me why? I thought I’d covered that last time. Fate is a highly story-centered game that provides mechanics that really help bring storytelling out of your players, rather than gaming. The Aspect Conversion is the first big step in doing that, but this Skill Conversion is another big step that doubles the effectiveness of the Aspect Conversion by providing more chances to use Fate Points and generate more story elements.
So let’s take a look at the conversion, shall we?
The Skill Conversion
The basics of the skill conversion is redoing the language associated with skills and tying aspects into it. In Fate, there are 4 different possible actions that can be taken with skills: Attack, Defend, Create Advantage, and Overcome Obstacle. Attack and Defend are already covered in D&D (and only a limited few of Fate’s skills were capable of Attacking and Defending anyway), so we’ll look at Create Advantage and Overcome Obstacle. Every skill should have the ability to Create Advantages and Overcome Obstacles.
This is used to create an Aspect that is in your favor, either placed on the environment or another person/creature in the scene. This Aspect may even be an Obstacle that someone needs to Overcome. The biggest reason that you would want to use Create Advantage is because it gives you free Invokes (you don’t need to spend a Fate Point to invoke the Aspect)! If you want, you can actually just give yourself a free invoke of an Aspect that already exists, if you don’t want to come up with another Aspect and it works in the story context. What exactly happens when you roll dice will be gone over in more detail in the Four Outcomes section.
Overcoming an Obstacle is what skills are generally used for most of the time in games; they help you to pick a lock, or find a hidden door, etc. In this case, though, those locks and hidden doors are written into the game as Aspects – story elements that are always true as long as the Aspect exists and can be triggered for Invokes and Compels. Overcome Obstacle either removes an Aspect or it changes it. In both of these cases, it changes the Aspect: unlocking the the Locked Lock turns it into Unlocked Lock Aspect; finding the Hidden Door turns it into a Discovered Door or Hidden Door Found By __. As with Create Advantage, there are four outcomes that can happen when you roll an Overcome Obstacle roll, explained in the next section.
The Four Outcomes
There are four different outcomes that can come from rolling the dice to beat a DC, not just the two that you’re used to (fail and succeed). There are Fail, Tie, Succeed, and Critically Succeed (in Fate it’s called Succeed with Style, but I decided Critical Success was more in D&D’s style). The first three are self-explanatory as to when they come up, but you might not guess how you Critically Succeed (then again, you might; you’re pretty smart). To Critically Succeed, your roll must be successful and you must roll a natural 20. If you roll a natural 20 without having a successful outcome, it counts as a normal Success. These four outcomes have different effects on play, as you might imagine.
The general descriptions are as follows:
- Fail: You choose to either fail or succeed with a serious cost
- Tie: You succeed with a minor cost
- Succeed: You succeed (didn’t see that coming did you?)
- Critically Succeed: You succeed and get a little bonus
The serious cost should be roughly on par with the opposition getting a success on a roll. For a more detailed explanation about costs, check on the Fate SRD. The minor cost varies a little between Create Advantage and Overcome Obstacle; a minor cost associated with Overcome Obstacle is quite up in the air on what it could be, whereas when you tie with a Create Advantage action, you create a boost instead of your usual Aspect (explained in the next section). Succeeding simply has you accomplish what you want normally. Critically Success is again different between the two. When you Critically Succeed, Creating an Advantage gives you two free invokes of the Aspect, whereas Overcome Obstacle gives you your normal success, but you also gain a boost (again, discussed in the next section).
I’ve mentioned boosts twice now, but I haven’t explained what a boost is. Until now. As the Fate rules put it, a boost is a “super-transient kind of Aspect”. This means that it is designed to be temporary. When you create a boost, it lasts only until its free invoke is used or until it’s overcome. You should name the boost in a way that reflects its temporary nature.
I’ve already explained what free invokes are (a chance to invoke without spending the Fate Point), but there’s another really special feature that they have; they’re stackable. Normally, when you invoke an Aspect, you can’t invoke the same Aspect for the same action. With free invokes, though, this limit is not in place. They do not count against the number of times you can invoke the Aspect, so you can use all of your free invokes on an Aspect and still spend a Fate Point on that Aspect as well.
Actions and Aspects Already In D&D
It’s amazing how many ‘Aspects’ already exist in D&D. All of the Conditions can be easily used as Aspects. Most spell effects can be used as Aspects. Look everywhere in your game for Aspects that essentially already exist in the game.
Interestingly, D&D Next is working to put in some very Fate-like elements into the game with their interaction ruleset. NPCs have ideals, flaws, and bonds, which all work quite well as Aspects on those NPCs. They also make for a pretty good guidelines for your character Aspects as well.
I’m aware that I’m coming from a perspective of already having played Fate, so there may be parts that I haven’t explained well enough for you to understand, and I just don’t realize it. If that’s the case, go ahead and ask questions in the comments below and I’ll try to make modifications to clear things up.
My next article will be about using aspects of Dungeon World’s adventure design method to great effect in prep for Fate games.