Fate Skill Hack: Zero Tolerance


Last week I introduced idea of the Zero Sum skills (nutshell version: having all skills paired up, with a set total sum.) Sadly, I didn’t really get a chance to analyze them, and discuss when to use them.

Before that, a shameless plug:

I'm the tin dog...

I’m the tin dog…

Tangent Artists is going to (Re)Generation Who this weekend, the brand new Doctor Who convention not far from Baltimore, Md. Come check it out!

First, let us take a look at the existing Fate Skills and Approaches.

Number of Skills (Approaches) to pick from: 6
Skill Cap: 3
Pyramid Spread: one 3, two 2, two 1, one 0.
Total Skill points: 9
Average Skill Strength: 1.8
Number of skills at 1+: 5
Percentage of all possible skills with at least 1+: 83%
Percentage of all possible skills above average: 50%

Number of Skills to pick from: 18
Skill Cap: 4
Pyramid Spread: one 4, two 3, three 2, four 1, eight 0.
Total Skill points: 20
Average Skill Strength: 2
Number of skills at 1+: 10
Percentage of all possible skills with at least 1+: 55%*
Percentage of all possible skills above average: 16%

*Note from the Editor: In the Fate Codex ezine by Magpie Games, Ryan Macklin wrote an article advocating that 55% was the perfect skill percentage. I recommend you look it up: Fate Codex, Volume 1, Issue 2, under “Changing Skills: A Matter of Survival.”

And thus, we see, how the Fate Zero Sum stacks up.

FATE ZERO SUM: DOCTOR WHO HACK (The one from last week)
Number of Skills to pick from: 8
Skill Cap: 4
Pyramid Spread: one 4, two 3, two 2, two 1, one 0.
Total Skill points: 16
Average Skill Strength: 2
Number of skills at 1+: 7
Percentage of all possible skills with at least 1+: 87.5%
Percentage of all possible skills above average: 37.5%

Comparison to Fate Accelerated: As you can see, Fate Zero has a wider range of skills to choose from, but a higher percentage of skills at +1. Fate Zero caps at 4 instead of 3, meaning that there’s a greater difference between your top skill and the average mook’s skill rating.

Comparison to Fate Core: Zero Sum has a much skinnier pyramid- as such, you feel less like a “jack of all trades” and more of an expert in a specific field; characters still skilled, but less versatile. This also means that there is more variation in your dice rolls- you have as many skills as +3 as you have at +1, making +2 a mathematical average, but not the actual number you’ll be consistently adding.


Of course, that’s based entire on using the Doctor Who hack, with each skill pair equaling 4 and with 8 skills. Let’s play around and see what we get:

Prototype Skill names: Thought, Feeling, Intuition, Sensation
Number of Skills to pick from: 4
Skill Cap: 3
Pyramid Spread: one 3, one 2, one 1, one 0.
Total Skill points: 6
Average Skill Strength: 1.5
Number of skills at 1+: 3
Percentage of all possible skills with at least 1+: 75%
Percentage of all possible skills above average: 50%

Prototype Skill names: Too Many!
Number of Skills to pick from: 16
Skill Cap: 4
Pyramid Spread: Several Options:
a. two 4, three 3, six 2, three 1, two 0.
b. two 4, four 3, four 2, four 1, two 0.
c. three 4, four 3, five 2, four 1, three 0.
Total Skill points: 32
Average Skill Strength: 2
Number of skills at 1+: For each Pyramid Option
A & B. 14
c. 13
Percentage of all possible skills with at least 1+:
A & B. 87.5%
c. 81.25%
Percentage of all possible skills above average:
a. 31.25%
b. 37.5%
c. 43.75%

In the effort of pushing something to the breaking point (or past it), let’s see what happens with a zero sum with 16 skills, only this time each Skill Pair is set at 5, with a skill cap of 5!

Prototype Skill names: Too Many! Aaaaaargh!
Number of Skills to pick from: 16
Skill Cap: 5
Pyramid Spread: One five, three 4, four 3, four 2, three 1, one 0.
Total Skill points: 40
Average Skill Strength: 2.5
Number of skills at 1+: 15
Percentage of all possible skills with at least 1+: 93%
Percentage of all possible skills above average: 50%
This might seem a bit power-mad at first glance; compared to Fate Core default characters, you have 4x the number of 4+ skills. However, it’s not far from Atomic Robo, which can result in characters with two or three skills at 5+, and four or five skills at 4+. This might be ideal if you plan on using a Fate Ladder with a base of 10 or 12.

Also, things get more interesting if you add the possibility of negative numbers into the mix. Let’s see that last one, but with the sum of every pair still equaling 4.

Prototype Skill names: Too Many! Aaaaaargh!
Number of Skills to pick from: 16
Skill Cap: 5
Pyramid Spread: One five, three 4, three 3, two 2, three 1, three 0, one -1.
Total Skill points: 32 (33-1).
Average Skill Strength: 2
Number of skills at 1+: 12
Percentage of all possible skills with at least 1+: 75%
Percentage of all possible skills above average: 43%

Thus, we see how a few negatives can potentially stem the range of skills that your heroes are good at. Imagine the original Doctor Who hack with each pair adding up to 3 instead of 4; you would have PCs that have less power and more breadth (although, if you wanted that, you could just use the default FAE or FATE list.)

So, I’ve thrown a bunch of numbers at you, but I still haven’t answered the BIG question:


An excellent question. Here are a few ways in which it might be useful:

Fast character creation: Because two skills are linked together, picking one automatically picks the value of the other. This means you could have players pick 16 skills in the time it takes to pick 8. If you want to use a very lose skill pyramid (ex. Can only have one skill at 4), this makes the skill process even faster, as players don’t have to constantly consult a chart- they can just go to town adding points where they want. I’m tempted to try this at a convention some time, and let players build their characters. Likewise, it lets you create a NPCs with the same strength as the players in no time, in case you need to pull a new character out of your hat.

Separate but Equal Philosophies: Even if you are not using the Zero-Sum angle, I would recommend building your skills in pairs- that way, you are guaranteed that all characters have as equal chance of being effective in a scene, even if they have completely different philosophy; not every conflict should be won by the most aggressive PCs. In Fate Core, Fight and Shoot are perfect opposites- one involves directly getting into the fray, the other deals with indirect combat. In a social conflict, Provoke can be used to deal mental stress, however it doesn’t have a non-aggressive opposite; personally, I would alter Rapport into “Evoke”, and add the ability to add mental “stress.” If evoke/rapport is used to take an opponent out of a conflict, it represents the target being convinced to agree with you, while any consequences might represent any feelings they have for you that might linger into later scenes.

A World Divided: If your campaign focuses on two opposing worlds, you could have each pair have one skill attached to each “side.” For example, a Star Wars campaign with each pair having a Light side and a Dark side; a setting in Revolutionary France, with each skill having a “common” skill and a “noble” skill.

I had originally planned to cover the Impossible to beat threats and how to scheme against them, but looks like we ran out of room. Next week: To Scheme the Impossible Scheme!



This week’s entry will cover roleplaying games in general, and end with a Doctor Who hack for Fate; but I want to start with a tangent:


Art by Monica Marier, used with her permission. Tangent Artists claims no right to Doctor Who, or any of the other billion BBC owned characters.


I love Magic the Gathering.  I don’t play all that much (it’s hard to find opponents when you’re a goofy, casual player and all of your friends are busy,) but I love the symmetry of the color pie.

Each faction has their own place in the chart, but the placement is not arbitrary. With any color, the two neighboring colors compliment it, and have some overlapping strengths. What’s more, the opposite colors have diametrically opposed abilities, and even better still, opposed philosophies.

I thought of this when I started working on Masters of Umdaar: I noticed that the different approaches, by accident or design (I’m betting the latter), had natural opposites. For example, the “Flashy” approach, all about drawing attention to yourself, is the exact opposite of the “Sneaky” approach. I don’t want to take any of the steam out of Umdaar when ii publishes, so I’ll leave the rest a surprise.

Instead, let’s see if we can find any in Fate Core. Here’s a few that jump out at me:

  • Athletics – your ability to move – is the opposite of Physique – the ability to resist being moved by others
  • Contacts – your knowledge of living people and your connections to them vs. Lore – your ability to find information on your own, from the present or past.
  • Deceive – the ability to cheat people and mimic real feelings –  vs. Empathy – the ability to emotionally help people and detect the real feelings of others.
  • Fight – to deal damage up close and personally through direct contact vs. Shoot – to deal damage indirectly without close contact.

Of course, some of the Fate Core skills don’t have an opposite- for this reason, I think a few skills could be added or tweaked, but we’ll get into that during another post.

Today, I’m going to use the idea of opposite skills to experiment with something else: ZERO SUM SKILLS.


Zero Sum Skills would work like this: imagine you all of your skills in your hacks are arranged into opposing skill pairs. For the first example, we’ll use Jung’s Four personality Types: Sensing vs. Intuition, and Feeling vs Thinking.

  • Sensing vs. Intuition – Jung defined these as two opposing ways to receive information and ideas.
  • Sensing individuals prefer using touch, taste, sight, smell, and the other concrete senses. They deal with outside stimuli, and live in the present.
  • Intuitive individuals gather stimuli from less tangible ways. This include through “sixth sense” premonitions about the future, or fanciful images of imagination and dream. Intuitive individuals respond mostly to internal stimuli, and often focus on the past or future.

Now, let’s turn those two into Skills, and build a character. This character has a limited number of points to spend between these two opposite skills; how about 4 points?

If the character is very intuitive, maybe a Psychic, you could add +4 points to Intuition, with Sense +0. Likewise, if the character is better at physical clues, such as a Detective, you could add +4 points to Sense, giving you an Intuition of 0.

4 3 2 1 0 1 2 3 4
Sense x x x x Intuition

However, you might not want a character that’s entirely one or the other: how about a Detective that’s deals with facts, but also knows that sometimes you have to trust your gut?

4 3 2 1 0 1 2 3 4
Sense X X X x Intuition


Thus, you get a Detective with Sense +3, and Intuition +1. Alternatively, you could have it be an even split, with +2 in each.

Now, to test this further, I needed a Fate skill list that wasn’t FAE, and was shorter than the Fate Core list. So, I decided to think of a new game setting that I could test it out with.

Now, I know what you’re thinking:


In honor of the debut (Re)Generation Who Convention in Rockville MD on March 27th, I’ve put together this hack:


You’ll use the following skills to create your character: you can make an original character, recreate your favorite companion, or even play as one of the incarnations of the Doctor (there’s lots of precedence for having several in one place.)

Look over the skills pairs below: you will pick one to be at 4, and the opposite skill at 0. You will pick two skills to be at +3, making those two opposite skills be +1. The last skill will be split evenly, giving you +2 in each.

Thus, the skill tree will look like this:

  • +4 – one
  • +3 – two
  • +2 – two
  • +1 – one
  • +0 – one

Here are our skill pairs, which we divided into Physical and Emotional (more details on the breakdown later.)


  • Brains vs. Instinct
  • Scrap vs. Scamper


  • Evoke vs. Provoke
  • Purity vs. Deviousness

PHYSICAL SKILLS – Interaction with the physical world

Brains vs Instinct – Because you can’t have a Doctor Who setting without letting people show their braininess.

Brain – Includes: book-smarts; ability to research facts quickly; formulating plans; pulling from experience. Actions: overcome, create an advantage. Cannot be used to attack or defend (without stunts).
Pro-Brain Characters: The Doctor; Martha; The Great Intelligence; The Master
Time Lord 101
– The master gains to +2 Brain when creating an adventure related to knowing information about science or history.
Cyber-brain – Cybermen are beings of logic, not emotion. They can use Brains instead of Purity when defending against Mental attacks.

Instinct – Includes: reacting quickly to danger; acting without a plan; making knee jerk decisions; dumb luck. Actions: overcome, create an advantage. Cannot be used to attack or defend (without stunts).
Special Rules: Reflexes – Instinct can be used to defend against surprise attacks and traps. Generally, can only be used once per scene.
Special Rules: Initiative – When rolling for turn order in conflicts, add your Instinct to the roll.
Pro-Instinct Characters: Donna; Wilfred; Weeping Angels
Doctor Donna
– Once per session, Donna may use Instinct as Brain for all actions for the rest of the scene. However, after the scene, Donna immediately takes a Consequence.

Scrap vs. Scamper – Scrap vs. Scamper – With many settings, I wouldn’t put the opposite of “physical attacks” as “scamper,” but there are soooo many Doctor Who characters that aren’t fighters (sometimes not even MENTAL fighters) and who spend most of their episodes simply running away.

Scrap – ability to deal damage in a fight; the ability to defend against damage; the ability to destroy obstacles; the ability to bounce back when physically hurt. Actions: Overcome, Create an Advantage, Attack, Defend (physical).
Pro-Scrap Characters: Captain Jack; Soltari; Daleks
Ex-termi-nate – If a Dalek has one or more allied Daleks with it, it gains +2 Scrap when attacking, provided it loudly yells out “Ex-termi-nate” first.
Jack’s Dead Again – Captain Jack can never REALLY die. If Jack is killed, he is merely taken out of the scene. At the start of the next scene, roll 4dF and add his Scrap- if the result is 2 or more, he is returned from the dead, with all stress and physical consequences removed. If the roll is failed, he is still dead until the start of the next scene, when he can try again (don’t worry about dragging his body around, he’ll just magically show up.)

Scamper – athletic ability; dodging attacks and opponents; sneaking around; staying out of danger. Actions: Overcome, Create an Advantage, Defend (physical). Cannot be used to attack (without stunts).
Pro-Scamper Characters: Rose, Sarah Jane, Lady Christina de Souza
“Low” Priority – If Susan encounters an opponent and successfully uses Scamper to defend against a physical attack, she immediately gains an aspect with a free invoke regarding how the villains overlook her. She only receives this aspect once per scene, and only if she has allies in the same scene with her.

EMOTIONAL SKILLS– Interaction with the social and mental world

Evoke vs. Provoke – Evoke vs. Provoke – Fate Core includes the skill provoke, which allows characters to draw out the negative emotions of others. It only makes sense that there is an opposite skill (although, I think I’ll save that for a further discussion.)

Evoke – inspire positive feelings in others; make friends; seduce; draw attention to yourself; heal the mental consequences of others. Actions: overcome, create an advantage. In social conflicts, it may sometimes be used to “attack” (ex. when convincing someone to ally with you.) It cannot be used to defend.
Pro-Evoke Characters – Rory, Rose
I’m a Nurse – Rory can use Evoke to help heal the physical consequences of others as well as mental consequences.
Last Chance – Doctor – Once per scene, if lives are threatened, the Doctor can use Evoke as if it were Provoke to make a threat (mental attack) against hostile beings.

Provoke – bring out the negative emotions of others; conquering others through fear. Actions: overcome, create an advantage. It can also be used to attack, but this is often limited to social conflicts.
Pro-Provoke Characters – Amy, Daleks, Peri
Harbingers of Hate –
When Daleks successfully use Provoke and deal 2 or more stress, the first 2 stress must to taken by a Minor Consequence, if possible.

Purity vs. Deviousness –  I’m not 100% happy with the names on this one, but I think it works. (and again, stresses the importance of purity in Doctor Who.)

Purity – your resolve; your honesty, and ability to convince others in your sincerity; your ability to recognize when others are being honest with you others; your ability to keep your resolve and convictions when others try to influence you; your ability to collect yourself after being psychologically beaten. Actions: overcome, create an advantage, defend (against evoke, provoke, and deceive.) Cannot be used to attack.
Special Rules: anyone with Purity 4+ gains +1 stress box.
Pro-Purity Characters – Rose, Martha, Amy
I Believe in the the Doctor: If the Doctor is not present, Amy gains +2 Purity when defending against any mental attacks.
Pure Hearts Alike: When using Purity with create an advantage to when make new friends and forge bonds, add your Purity and also the Purity skill of the target to your roll.

Deviousness – your impurity; your ability to lie, cheat, and obfuscate; your ability to know how devious minds think; your ability to manipulate others without their knowing it. Actions: overcome, create an advantage. In social conflicts, it may sometimes be used to “attack” (ex. when manipulating others in a debate.) It cannot be used to defend against attacks, but may be used to resist attempts to discern your true motives.
Special rules: Chameleon – “Deviousness” is a skill with chameleon-like quality. Whenever a character uses it to overcome, create an advantage, or attack, the defender will be told that the character is using Evoke, Provoke, or Purity. Even when disguised as “purity,” it cannot be used to defend against attacks, although it can be used to resist attempts to discern the character’s true nature and intentions (in which case, it shows to others as “Purity.”) After a character has succeeded against a chameleon-Devious action three times (succeed with style counts as 2), the sneaky character can still use the skill, but it appears Deviousness instead of as another skill. Once a character has seen through the disguise, they can also tell any trusted allies, who will likewise see through the camouflage.
Pro-Deviousness Characters – River Song; the Silence; Autons; the Master; Zygons
Escaped Again! – River can use Deviousness as Scamper when physically breaking out of any type of confinement.
Doppleganger – When Zygons use Deviousness with the chameleon ability, they not only mask their skill, but also their true identity, appearing to be whatever person they want. If someone sees through their “chameleon” skill use, they see through the disguise as well.

Here are a few sample PCs.

High Concept: Frenetic Last of the Timelords
Trouble: Must help the defenseless
Aspects: We Only Kill as a Last Resort
Been There, Done That, Occasionally Remember

Brain +4 / Instinct +0
Scrap +3 / Scamper +1
Evoke +3 / Provoke +1
Purity +2 / Deviousness +2

Sonic Screwdriver – so long as you have the screwdriver, you gain +2 to Brain when overcoming inanimate or mechanical obstacles in your way. It doesn’t do wood.
Timelord Tenacity – You have an additional minor consequence.

High Concept: Mysterious Time Traveler Criminal
Trouble: Bad Reputation
Aspects: I Don’t Play Nice
One Step Ahead

Brain +3 / Instinct +1
Scrap +3 / Scamper +1
Evoke +2 / Provoke +2
Purity +0 / Deviousness +4

Escaped Again! – River can use Deviousness as Scamper when physically breaking out of any type of confinement.
That’s Doctor Song – Doctor gains +2 Brain when knowing information about the species or history of the universe.

High Concept: Handsome Semi-Government Agent
Trouble: What’s YOUR Name?
Aspects: Very Experienced
Man on Top

Brain +2 / Instinct +2
Scrap +4 / Scamper +0
Evoke +3 / Provoke +1
Purity +1 / Deviousness +3

Jack’s Dead Again – Captain Jack can never REALLY die. If Jack is killed, he is merely taken out of the scene. At the start of the next scene, roll 4dF and add his Scrap- if the result is 2 or more, he is returned from the dead, with all stress and physical consequences removed. If the roll is failed, he is still dead until the start of the next scene, when he can try again (don’t worry about dragging his body around, he’ll just magically show up.)
Vortex Manipulator – once per session, you may use Deviousness instead of Scamper to avoid a threat. If successfully, are transported to a different location or/and a small jump in time, and may take one person with you.

High Concept: Sassy Temp
Trouble: Big Mouth
Aspects: Don’t Underestimate Me
Sucker for a Pretty Face

Brain +0 / Instinct +4
Scrap +2 / Scamper +2
Evoke +1 / Provoke +3
Purity +3 / Deviousness +1

Doctor Donna – Once per session, Donna may use Instinct as Brain for all actions for the rest of the scene. However, after the scene, Donna immediately takes a Consequence.
Bites Back – If Donna has been insulted or attacked with some type of Provoke, she gains +2 Provoke when attacking that opponent.

Clara Oswald
High Concept:  The Impossible Girl
Trouble: Controlling School teacher
Aspects: Actually Listens to the Plan

Brain +3 / Instinct +1
Scrap +1 / Scamper +3
Evoke +4 / Provoke +0
Purity +2 / Deviousness +2

Gift of Computers  – Gains +2 Brain when using create an advantage to hack or research through computers.
Parlay –During a physical conflict Clara can use Evoke with create an advantage to attempt to create a Parlay aspect.  If successful, the conflict temporarily becomes a mental conflict (ex. a debate), and no opponent may make any further physical attacks- they can only use Evoke, Provoke, or Deceive to deal mental attacks as they talk it out. This lasts until the conflict is won or conceded (by either side), until Clara is taken out of the conflict, or until one of Clara’s allies makes a physical attack, in which case, discard the Parlay aspect. Clara can only successfully create a Parlay once per session. (GM’s don’t forget you can compel a feisty PC into breaking the peace!)


One of the things that sets Doctor Who villains apart is that, for the most part, they so tough. There are very few “mooks” that are defeated en masse; rather, most threats are severe enough that the heroes spend almost 40 minutes running away from it. There are two ways to handle this:

1. Competent Villains – most of the average villains the heroes encounter will be at the same level as the PCs – this means one Dalek is an obstacle for a group of four heroes, but not insurmountable. A ship filled with hundreds daleks, however, is a reason to concede!  If the number of threats is small, like a lone monster, it is likely at a much higher level than the heroes.

2. Impossible Villains – Some threats, whether it is a single beast, or a cadre of Cybermen, are just invincible as they stand. They have normal stats and PCs can use their Scrap to weaken them and to slow their advance, but they do not suffer stress. That would take a while to explain, so I think I’ll save that for next week’s post.

However, it’s not a bad idea to throw a few small threats in there.


For these NPCS, either give them either +4 in only a two pairs, or give them a max of +2 points for each pair.

High concept – cyborg rodent
Aspect: small and slippery

Brain +1 / Instinct +3
Scrap +1 / Scamper +3
Evoke +0 / Provoke +0
Purity +0 / Deviousness +0

Basic – Cybermats are pretty basic, and cannot execute plans more complex than surveillance, attacks, or basic sabotage. They are, however, immune to all mental attacks, as they have no minds to sway.
Element of Surprise – If a cybermat has a stealth-related boost or aspect on itself, it may use Scamper instead of Scrap to deal attacks, which can only be defended against with Instincts. After the attack is done and any invokes have been used, the cybermat is exposed; destroy the “stealthy” aspect or boost.

Soltaran Scout
High concept – short bio-engineered warrior alien
Aspect: stronger than they look
Warrior code
Achilles’s heel (or neck)

Brain +2 / Instinct +0
Scrap +2 / Scamper +0
Evoke +0 / Provoke +2
Purity +1 / Deviousness +1

Weapons malfunction – Soltarans receive +2 Scrap when defending against conventional human gunfire.
Scout ahead – If Soltaran scouts successfully use Brains to create an advantage in regards to assessing their military opponents and surveying battlefields, they gain an extra free invoke.


High concept – machine-clad alien invaders
Aspect: Removed of so-called “weak” emotions
The Dalek race must prevail

Art by Monica Marier, used with her permission. Nope, still don't own this character.

Art by Monica Marier, used with her permission. Nope, still don’t own this character.

Brain +3 / Instinct +1
Scrap +4 / Scamper +0
Evoke +0 / Provoke +4
Purity +3 / Deviousness +1

Ex-termi-nate – If a Dalek has one or more allied Daleks with it, it gains +2 Scrap when attacking, provided it loudly yells out “Ex-termi-nate” first.
Messengers of Hate – The first time a Dalek successfully uses Provoke to mentally attack and deals 2 or more stress to the defender, the first 2 stress must be absorbed as a Minor consequence, if one is available. The consequence gains a free invoke as normal.

I think that’s enough for a start- next week, we’ll break down when to use Zero Sum skills, and more on the “Impossible Villain.”




For this week’s entry, I was going to just go through my toy box and make a bestiary entry based on that one monster. However, I realized that my toy box includes a massive amount of plastic skeletons that I have not had the pleasure of using yet. They’re vaguely Egyptian themed and sand-colored, and that reminded me of Frank Turfler Jr.’s Stuff for Storytellers and Game Masters Patreon, Patreon, which just released an Egyptian tomb tile set. (I bought into it myself to get a set, and wasn’t disappointed!) Thus, this week, we give you a mummy-tastic supernatural comedy one-shot adventure!

Waiter? Can you top me off? (Offering_vessel_of_Pepi_I.jpg - credits see below)

Waiter? Can you top me off? (Offering_vessel_of_Pepi_I.jpg – credits see below)



Rules: This setting uses our own mod of Fate Core, named Skeleton Crew. However, I’ve included side-by-side swaps for using Fate Core. Likewise, it shouldn’t be too hard to convert to FAE or your personal hack.

Characters: This adventure does not include Player Characters- it’s assumed that you can make your own, or just drop this adventure into your current campaign. We recommend at least one character that is good in a combat (fight, shoot) and/or physical tasks (athletics, physique). We also recommend at least one character that is good at gathering clues (translators and archaeologists are ideal). If your group does not contain one of the above, it might be a good idea to add an NPC bodyguard or a professor that they can control. If you need some, there are plenty of pre-made characters in the Skeleton Crew RPG rulebook, and there’s still time to sign up for the free open Beta test (just send us a note.) Simple NPC enemies are provided, but feel free to alter them as you see fit.

Humor: This is a comedic adventure, although it might not show it at first. Humor typically works in one of two different forms: Short Form and Long Form. Short form has the humorous premise established pretty earlier, and revisits it constantly. (Example: like telling a string of light-bulb jokes.) Long form jokes build to the comedy slowly, so the joke is not obvious until near the end. An impatient audience may lose interested before the payoff, but sometimes the anticipation sweetens the final, comical reveal (Ex. the knock knock – banana joke. http://jokes.cc.com/funny-food-jokes/panmgr/knock–knock—-banana) This adventure is a Long Form joke – we advise all GMs to read the adventure before starting, so they have an idea of what the payoff is- however, do not give too many hints, as you don’t want them to get the full nature of the adventure until at least halfway through.


FLUFF: A team of archaeologists in Cairo were investigating a newly discovered catacomb. On the midnight of March 1, the skeletons and mummies they were studying sprang to life and attacked, driving the archaeologists off. No one has been able to enter it since, although those brave enough to get within earshot swear that they hear the din of combat. Are they training for combat, to take on the mortal world? Your mission: investigate the threat and secure the tomb.

(Relocating: If you don’t feel like trekking your team to Egypt, you could move the site: maybe it takes place in a History museum, or in the secret tunnels beneath the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas.)

Waiter? Can you top me off? (Offering_vessel_of_Pepi_I.jpg - credits see below)

Waiter? Can you top me off? (Offering_vessel_of_Pepi_I.jpg – credits see below)


Maybe people in ancient times didn't have any arms. Look at the Venus De Milo.  (Haute_Egypte_Sculpture_au_crépuscule - see credits below)

Maybe people in ancient times didn’t have any arms. Look at the Venus De Milo.
(Haute_Egypte_Sculpture_au_crépuscule – see credits below)

What’s Really Going On: GMs, go ahead at the “What’s Really Going On” down at the bottom of the document. It will put the rest of this mystery in context.


As you approach the main entrance hall, the murmur of battle becomes a roar. In the entrance hall, there stand over a dozen skeletal warriors, fighting viciously amongst themselves. They seemed to be divided into two factions: half are bedecked in red and turquoise, half in black and green.

Conflict- The skeletons are too busy in their scuffle to talk, and will drag anyone close enough into the fray. Have the players recommend situation aspects for the chamber, and then start the conflict.

There are two or four mobs of Skeletons, each with 3 skeletons in it.
Skeletons are puppets of dried bone, controlled by a necromantic magic from the outside.

Skeleton Aspects

  • Undead—Skeletons are undead, and as such, might have weaknesses to holy magic, silver, and other magical purities
  • No Pain
  • Rattling Bones.
  • Fanatical
  • Infighting!


  • Autonomous Parts—It is possible for a skeleton’s body part to keep moving, even after it has been severed from the rest of the body.
Physique +1 and Fight +1 (per skeleton)
Stress: One stress box per skeleton

Conflict Special Rules: The two sides are fighting each other, but don’t openly have them roll to attack each other. Instead, at the end of any exchange after all players and NPCS have taken their turn, roll one fate die for each side: on a -, that side has one of the mobs reduced by 1 skeleton / stress, as the other skeletons take out one of their number. If you roll a +, ADD on stress / skeleton to that mob, as a previously stunned fighter rejoins the fray. Remember, the skeleton mobs also have the aspect “Infighting,” which can be invoked or compelled against a mob, to demonstrate the other side getting in the way.

Once the scuffle is over, the majority of the remaining skeletons don’t get up, having been returned to death or unconscious.

Any Investigation of them yields:

Physical Clues – They appear to be some form of militias, wielding cheap weapons like clubs and chains. The fighters have some cheap ornaments of bronze and clay, implying lower class.

Interrogation: If interrogating, see scene 2 for ideas about what they reveal.

SCENE 2 – The Locked Room

The next room is a dead end. Colorful murals decorate the walls, including two strong figures facing each other; the first, a female warrior, wears green & black; the male figure wears red & turquoise. Each carries a chalice. (Thorough Investigation yields: each figure is also holding an orb in their other hand.)

Very quickly, the group will realize that there is no obvious way through. There might be some sort of secret door… (spoiler: there is.)

Gathering clues: members can gather clues any number of ways, including:

  • Decipher the hieroglyphics on the walls
  • Communing with the dead
  • Interrogating any defeated fighters (assuming they speak Egyptian, have a high tech translator device, or are very good with reading body language).

When the players attempt to investigate (overcome rolls), they receive the following info:

Info A. Historical investigation – info about why everyone’s there, and what’s at stack. Depending on how well or poorly they decipher the reading, give them the Bad, Okay, or Good translation.

BAD TRANSLATIONS – Surface war fighters stork two. Victor eyeball control group cup of no death and army big-number [lost word] big-number.

OKAY TRANSLATION –There are two types of heroes must face fighters against each other . Victor have a cup of immortality and control the hordes 500 [lost word]

GOOD TRANSLATION – There are two champion fighters shall face off against each other. The victor shall possess the Chalice of Immortality, and control 500 legions [damaged word] 5000 years.

Info B. There is a secret door on one of the three walls.

Info C. Opening the Door – After they’ve slogged through the backstory info, they can find the info regarding the door. The inscription reads:

To open the door, one must speak the password.”

The password, of course, is Egyptian for “the password.” (If you’re interrogating someone, insert “Who’s on first?” routine here.) However, if the players struggle with this, you can also accept other passwords. Examples: “open sesame”; “swordfish”, “mellon,”etc. If players are STILL stumped, you can have them “discover” further hieroglyphics giving hints like, “the password is the password,” and “No, really, it’s password. Say password. Say it.”

Once they get through the door, they should arrive at:

SCENE 3. The Gates –

The next room is an antechamber of sorts, leading through a gate. On the other side appears to be a much larger chamber, perhaps an arena. Skeletons are lining up to get to the other side. [Inspection reveals: they are each holding crumbled papyrus papers.]

At the gate’s entrance are two MASSIVE figures: they are stone Sphinxes that have been animated through potent magic. They stand watch over the gateway, only allowing those with the papyrus papers to go through. If the players are to go through, they will have to get past the Sphinxes.

Getting past: It’s up to you and the players how they are to get past. If they attempt to get physical and fight or shove their way, we recommend you have the sphinxes beat them up for an exchange or two- after their butts are handed to them, quickly offer the chance for the players to concede, rather than be taken out. Players will have much better luck trying to bluff or talk their way through (mental conflict), try to steal tickets of their own (challenge), or try to slip past them (contest.)


Sphinx Aspects:

  • Stone-cold
  • No one gate-crashes ME!
  • Riddles? Better be a good one
  • Just doing my job


  • Physique +8, Fight +8
  • Will +4, Athletics +4
  • Empathy +3, Notice +3

Physical: O O O O O
Mental: O O O


  • Shrug—May Use Physique to defend against any type of physical attack.
  • Nerves of Steel – Sphinx are immune to any Intimidation (Provoke) attempts from monsters trying to scare them with their appearance. In order to scare the sphinxes, you’d need some type of leverage.

If they can get past them in some way…

SCENE 4. The Arena –

Any groups that make it to the next area find themselves in a massive underground arena. Hundreds of skeletal forms sit in the stands, howling and cheering. In the middle stand half a dozen combatants, waiting patiently for the games to begin.

An announcer proclaims (in something that you can hopefully translate,) that the contest is about to begin. The winner of the contest will receive the Chalice of Immortality. The announcer also calls into the crowd to ask if there are in the audience brave enough to join in. (Hopefully, the players will willingly jump in; if not, it’s a great time to compel some aspect, ex. Having an angry PC get taunted by a combatant into jumping in; having a clumsy player slip over the railing into the ring.) Once you have a PC involved, ask if any other PCs want to jump in too.

The officiators divide the contestants into their own separate areas, and then hand them what they are competing with: BALLS & CUPS!! That’s right, the old children’s toy, involving getting the ball on the string to go into the cup.

This contest is held like a Contest between the pc against the skeletal contestants. The first side to catch the ball three times (3 victories) wins! The NPC contestants will not initiate any dirty tactics, but if anyone attempts to sabotage them, they will respond in kind.


Treat all skeleton contestants as one opposing force.

Skeleton Aspects

  • Undead—Skeletons are undead, and as such, might have weaknesses to holy magic, silver, and other magical purities
  • Infighting!


  • Autonomous Parts—It is possible for a skeleton’s body part to keep moving, even after it has been severed from the rest of the body.
FAIR (+2)
Athletics +2

Physique +1 and Fight +1

Consequence : One minor consequence box

If the players win, they move on to the next round! If they fail, they must either be removed from the field (but keep them close, if they want to crash the main event), or force them to give up something valuable to bribe the judges.


Afterwards, the players learn that the contest they just joined was the semi-finals. The finals will now start, between your players and the champions: two massive mummies. The first is Isit-Senaktemyet, clad in red and turquoise; and second is Neferfret, clad in Green and Black. The referees also roll out the Chalice of Immortality (which looks suspiciously like the Stanley Cup). If the players are eliminated, it might be good to repeat the part how the holder of the cup will gain control of 500 hundred legions.

For the final round, the ball-and-cup match has become full-contact! The champions wield giant ball-and-cup flails, with spiked metal balls. Technically, the rules are thrown out for this match, but the referees are a bit biased against the players, and can be compelled to get in the player’s way.

If life equals magic, than mummies are corpses with their internal life force preserved inside them by mystical rites. While some occur naturally, the greatest mummies are princes and princesses interred by dozens of powerful sorcerers, in the hopes they will rise again.

Mummy Aspects:

  • Undead—Mummies are undead, and as such, might have weaknesses to holy magic, silver, and other magical purities
  • Tougher than Jerky
  • Fire BAAAD!
  • Cup & Ball of Death (of Death)* – see stunts


  • Thick Skin—May Use Physique to defend against Shoot Attacks (except for fire or heat-based shots.)
  • Touch of Death (Good +3 only)—If the Mummy deals 2 or more Stress on an Attack, the defender must take a Minor Consequence, if it is not taken already.
  • Cup & Ball of Death – While the mummies are armed with the Cup and Ball of Death, they have Fight +5- if they can be disarmed, it’s lowered to Fight +3.
Physique +5, Fight +5* (see stunts)

Athletics +3;

Sixth Sense (Notice) +2, Intimidate (Provoke) +2,

Mythos (Lore) +1, Will +1

Three stress boxes—a three shift hit is enough to take them out.
Consequences: Minor and Moderate Consequence each

Conflict Special Rules: Play to the crowd – While the whole “catch the cup in the ball” part is basically forgotten at this point, any character who still possesses a ball-and-cup may attempt, as their turn, to use create an advantage to catch the ball- if successful, it which drives the crowd WILD, resulting in a morale-based aspect. The first time this is used, the difficulty is only +2, but the difficulty increases each consecutive time by +1 (as the ball catches have to be increasingly fancy to catch the crowd’s favor.)


The last person standing receives the Chalice of Immortality-if several PCs still remain standing, have them decide amongst themselves who deserves it (by fighting or playing ball-and-cup if need be.) The winner is given the cup, with the entire stadium cheering. They will be a bit disappointed to learn that the gift of “immortality” is a figurative one- they will get their name engraved on the chalice and on the arena wall, and will thus “live forever” (except, not really.) Also, the 500 legions will follow the champion, should they still be around in 5000 years, when the skeletons next wake up. Even as that information is given to them, the skeletons of the area start falling back asleep, waiting until the next contest.

As a consolation price, the winner does get five skeleton fans, who stay conscious through sheer will power. These five will follow the new champion around, doing odd favors around the house, and carrying their equipment on adventures. The PC gains an aspect or stunt to reflect their new minions.


What’s really going on: The skeletons and mummies have resurrected for a sports competition. The sport: ball and cup (the toy where you catch the ball in the cup.) Ball and cup might not have been an actual Egyptian game, but it’s still plenty old, so who cares? In this adventure, it’s as big as the Super Bowl or the World Cup, complete with diehard fans and football hooligans in the front room. (If this seems ridiculous, Rome actually had riots in the streets due to the fans of rival charioteers.) Tease this to the players without revealing it.

Join us next week- in honor of (Re)Generation Who convention, I’ll try a stab at something inspired by Doctor Who!


Offering_vessel_of_Pepi_I.jpg- by Hans Ollermann – from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Offering_vessel_of_Pepi_I.jpg – This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. The licensor neither endorses me or its use.

Haute_Egypte_Sculpture_au_crépuscule – by Kikuyu3 – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Haute_Egypte_Sculpture_au_cr%C3%A9puscule.jpg – This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. The licensor neither endorses me or its use.

Fate NPCs – Chimera Little Closer


After a month detailing Kickstarter set-ups, it’s time to get back to the fun stuff. This week: Chimera-mobs, a new format for Fate NPCS.

The Background

When creating NPCs for the Skeleton Crew Bestiary, I quickly ran into the following problem:

In order for an opponent to be a competent threat in a combat situation, it needed to have a few key skills. In my Skeleton Crew setting, these generally equaled:

  • Fight (to Defend against fight)
  • Agility (to Defend against shoot and fight)
  • Will (to defend against mental attacks)

Notice nearly makes the list- it’s not as essential, but too many NPCS without Notice basically means the players always go first. This becomes a problem in the following ways:

  • Relying just on the above is fine with a few NPC teams, but after a while, it becomes redundant.
  • Having NPCs with none of the above results in NPCs that are glass cannons at best and worthless at worst
  • Adding skills on to the above results in very complex NPCs with way too many skills at the same level (Jacks of all Trades), or tiered, mega-stunt enemies that are too much of a threat.

So, I started wondering: how do you create a villain that provides a variety of different flavors, but is not a super-strong “big boss?”

My proposal: Chimera-mobs!

How it Works

A chimera-mob is essentially an NPC character or mob that is stronger than the average mob, but weaker than a full NPC villain. It enters the scene like a lion, but once you get past the first layer, it becomes increasingly easy to defeat.

First off, decide how many “parts” are in your chimera-mob. For this first example, we’ll start with a three-sectioned beast (that just happens to be an actual Greek Chimera.)


High Concept Multi-headed Monster of Myth
Aspects: Wild Animal; Foul-temper, Fouler Breaths; Hates Pegasi, Alicorns, & My Little Ponies

Lion Head – Fanged & Savage Snake Head – Quick & Alert Goat Head– Stubborn & Fire Breathing
Fight +5
Physique +4
Notice +5
Acrobatics +4
Shoot +5
Will +4
Stress: O O Stress: O O Stress: O O
Stunts: None
Consequences: Minor (2)

How the three parts work:

Skills: When the Chimera first appears, it counts as having all skills as max level (+5 or +4). Likewise, when any part of the Chimera is attacked or targeted by actions, it counts as having all available skills; for example, when Shooting at a healthy Lion Head, it still counts as having Acrobatics +4 (which it borrows from the Snake Head.)

Dealing Stress: If a PC deals stress to a chimera-mob, it is up to the GM to decide which part receives the stress. You can base on the narrative (ex. The PC goes directly for the lion head; A PC is attacking from behind, which would bring him closest to the Snake-Head-tail), or based on the defending skill (ex. A mental attack would blocked with Will, thus any stress would be dealt to the Goat Head.) Either way, if a part is dealt more stress than it has stress boxes, that Part is Knocked Out. If you deal enough stress to take out a Part and still have extra stress, it is NOT carried over onto the next part, unless your attack succeeded with style. (Note: we recommend each of the Stress boxes above equals 1 stress, just to make bookkeeping a little easier.)

Knocked Out: Once a part is Knocked Out, it has all of it’s Skills reduced to a mere +1. If it has any stunts, it cannot use them. Once all parts are knocked out, the chimera-mob is taken out.

Actions: By default, each chimera-mob can only take one Action each exchange. However, if a part has taken an action, a GM can pay a Fate Point to have a different part take an action this turn.


We’re going to give you a second example. This time, let’s see it with a mob of different individuals forming a chimera-mob. This one will be split a little wider.


When the evil liche Sarcophoguy needs a small crack team of combatants for a task, he summons forth the Zomb Squad. These elite zombies have lost their personalities and memories in the haze of undeath, but parts of their inborn talent linger on, making them a versatile opponent.

Figures courtesy of Twilight Creation's awesome "Humans!!!" game.

Figures courtesy of Twilight Creation’s awesome “Humans!!!” game.

High Concept: Zombie Professional Team

Aspects: Mostly Mindless; On a Mission; Rotting Shells

Rocker Cheerleader Surgeon Miner Mid-Level Manager
+4 Fight

+3 Provoke

+4 Acrobatics

+3 Rapport

+4 Lore

+3 Stealth

+4 Physique

+3 Craft

+4 Will

+3 Notice

Stress: O Stress: O Stress: O Stress: O Stress: O
Stunts: Rock Never Dies! – If the Rocker is Knocked out, your Fight becomes +2 instead of +1. Stunts: Ra-Raaahh! If successful uses Rapport to create an advantage to distract an opponent, it is applied to all PCs in the zone. Stunts: Reanimate – Once per scene, at the end of his turn, the Surgeon may pay one Fate Point to wake up a Knocked Out part and remove all stress on that part. Stunts: Pickaxe – +2 when using Physique to overcome physical obstacles. Stunts: On Task – Once per scene, may use Will instead of any other skill if it relates to their objective (ex. Will as Burglary if they’re sent to steal an object.)
Consequences: Minor (2)

When do I use a Chimera-mob?

As you can tell, it’s a chimera-mob can be as very simple, or amazingly complex (the Zomb Squat, for example, has five stunts!) However, they can provide a single threat that is a threat to most every teammate without feeling like a beefed-up supervillain.

Zones & Spacing

When throwing a Chimera-mob at a group, it works best to set the fight in a small area. In a narrow corridor, it’s easy to see how you can aim at Surgeon zombie, only to have the acrobatic Cheerleader-zombie leapfrog off of your head, making you miss your shot. In a much wider area filled with many zones, it’s a little harder to justify in the narrative how the Rocker can simultaneously be attacking a player on one side of a football field and defending for the Miner against a punch 100 yards down the field. As you might surmise, chimera-mobs also work well for GMs that run map-less campaigns.

So, tell us what YOU think! Have some Chimeras of your own?