Kickstarter – Site to Behold!


Only a short post this week, as we’re working hard on getting everything ready for day one of shooting for our Fate Accompli Kickstarter. Gotta make sure all the props are gathered, cue-cards are printed, and camera batteries are charged!

So, this week we unveil our newest piece of prototype art, designed by Tangent Artist Indy: TA-DAH!

Fate Accompli Banner

If you want to commission Indy for your own project, contact

Of course, we’d love YOUR advice on where to post it. Where can we post it? Know any affordable advertisement sites for gamers? Where do you recommend? Send us your links!



While thinking of a shameless way to write a blog about our company’s erasable notecards, which will soon be pre-sold on our kickstarter as “Fate Accompli” in July, I was reminded of one of my favorite playtests from GEN CON. We were playing our original FAE setting, “Dungeon Tours LTD,” which included the PCs creating a fake monster by stitching together random animals they had killed. The end result was a bear-boar-miscellaneous hybrid beast which they dubbed the Jeff. The name was all them, but I also asked them to draw the head of the dread Jeff.

the jeff

The Jeff. Fear it.

(Can’t remember the artist’s name, but if wants to come forth, I will be glad to credit him.)

In This Week’s Post: When I often introduce new players to FATE, I often tell them it’s a game of words. However, today we’re going to explore a new idea: using pictures! We’ll talk about the several ways you can use pictures along with or instead of words when creating your boosts and aspects, and in what ways they might enrich your game.

One of the first ways you can use pictures alongside descriptive sentences; this is a redundancy, and thus has no immediate change on the game play, but it does have a few psychological benefits.

a. Sense of Play – Unless you are a professional artist, you’ve probably spent done more drawing and coloring in one year of elementary than you have in every post-elementary year since then combined. It’s no surprise then that drawing makes you feel young, and reminds you of idyllic art classes from days long ago. It’s a small thing, but it puts people in the right mind set- they’re ready to fire up their imagination and play games of make believe (which is really what RPGs are.)

Toon Tested, Acme Approved

Toon Tested, Acme Approved

b. Genre Immersion – Depending on the setting, drawing also lets the players get in more in touch with the characters. “Dungeon Tours LTD,” as we mentioned above, is a game involving the PCs crafting objects. Likewise, any game which involves the PCs making something, like a cooking show contest or a creation god, the players are mirroring the creation of their characters, making the mental bond closure. Alternatively, drawing is also apt for any game setting typically associated with drawn visuals, such as a setting starring superheroes, anime characters, or loony cartoon characters.


As another option, you can have aspects represented by pictures, but with little or no words describing it. For example, you might have an aspect card with the written words “carving on wall,” but the only drawn indicators of what the glyph looks like.

I'm guessing Demon Cult, or Georgia O'Keeffe wannabes.

I’m guessing Demon Cult, or Georgia O’Keeffe wannabes.

Reason a. Mystery and Doubt – This is useful tool when a GM draws a clue for a group of players in a mystery setting. The image is intentionally vague, leaving players several hints, some of them contradictory. Like a Jackson Pollack painting, it might even be unclear which direction is up. Like a Rorschach test, the players might interpret it a hundred different ways. When asked to interpret an evil symbol, they might make wild theories about cults devoted to octopus gods, snakes, pasta monsters, or things you’d never have come up with. If one of their random ideas is better than the one you had, go ahead and change it! *

*Note: If a player is getting frustrated, don’t make the player depend solely on their own wits. Let them roll on their character’s skills (ex. Lore, Academics, Mythos); if successful, you can give the players hints about how the clue might resemble things the character has encountered before.

Reason B. Deliberate Misinterpretation – If a player is trying to create an aspect to reflect something that their character has made well, give them a chance to draw a picture to represent it in all of its glory (if they don’t fancy themselves an artist, imagination can take care of the rest.) However, if their character fails the roll, and creates something half-baked, you can use the player’s drawing to inspire how the malformed creation: this can be done by restricting them in some way, like forcing them to draw with their opposite hand or giving a only a few seconds to work. Thus, any mistakes they make might inspire the final aspect, like an illusionary double that’s basically a smiley face, or a summoned demon that has two arms but no legs.*

Of course that's a dog. Shut up.

Of course that’s a dog. Shut up.

*Laugh at vs. Laughing with- Adding art to aspects can also result in some comically bad drawings; however, you should always be careful about laughing at the art of others, especially people you don’t know very well. If in doubt, only laugh at art you made yourself.


Lastly, it’s possible to have a picture that is not just pretty, but also functional- this normally gets into the pictographic territory, as there is something numeric that is also conveyed in the image. Here are a few things you might convey:

a. Invokes – An easy thing to keep track visually is invokes,

With all the talk of Rorschach, we had to slip in some pretty flowers.

With all the talk of Rorschach, we had to slip in some pretty flowers.

particularly in that they seldom do over a large number. I would recommend one image for the aspect, and a separate image to represent the invokes (ex. Drawing a gun, and using invokes as bullets), or representing an aspect as a white flower with the invokes as dark flowers.

b. Stress – You could have each player draw stress as images (ex. hearts) and erase them as they take stress. Alternatively, you can have it the other way around, with a healthy character drawing stress gaining pictures to represent stress they suffer. (For a variant, see the “Hangman Stress” below).


Rules: All PCs get a single stress track of six points, each absorbing one stress. There are no mild consequences. Stress is measured not in tally marks, but in body parts: head, torso, right leg, left leg, right arm, and left arm, similar to the kid’s game, Hangman. Whenever a pc takes a stress point, they draw

Stayin' alive, stayin' alive.

Stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive.

a body part onto their tracker. You can pick which part arbitrarily, but it is best done through the fiction- if you take damage from a rock falling on your head, it makes sense to fill out the head. If an opponent attacks you and succeeds with style, instead of gaining a boost, draw an indicator on the wounded body (ex. An arrow sticking out of a body), which counts as an invoke. While there is an invoke on a body part, treat it as an aspect that can be invoked. Ex. Quince the barbarian has an arrow sticking out of his arm. The vicious orc attacking him in combat could invoke the arrow, removing it (and making the aspect disappear.) Instead, he decides to spend a fate point to invoke the hurt arm, saving the free invoke for a future exchange.

When a character has the fully drawn body and suffers stress, they are removed from the combat.

Lower / Higher Stress – If six is too high, consider making the head and torso one piece, or giving the character a “V” as a pair of legs. For higher stress, find a finite number of other body parts to add on (ex. A tough dwarf drawing on a beard.)


This Sat & Sun, Tangent Artists will be at Tidewater Comic Convention in Virginia Beach! Drop by to buy a one-sided die, playtest a game, or just say hello! Say that you’re a proud Tangerine, and get a gift prize!



Last week, we gave out a slew of pre-made characters. This

You'll jump! You'll swoon!  You'll demand to see the manager!

You’ll jump! You’ll swoon! You’ll demand to see the manager!

week, we’re going to give you a full adventure to run. This one was inspired by the first Skeleton Crew comic we ever wrote (if you’re a player, no peeking, as there are spoilers!) I’ve used it at many conventions, it can generally be run in a little over 2 hours. Enjoy!


This is a Skeleton Crew RPG pickup game, designed for 2-6 players. The PCs start with 20 points of skill, with a cap of Great (+4). While some of the skills and aspects are provided for the players, Fate is a very much a “make it your own” kind of game, so we have left some parts blank. For filling in aspects, the GM will start the game by asking a few questions, to see about the character motivations and connections. Any open skills or aspects can be filled out before the game, after it starts, or even near the end. GMs are encouraged to let players switch out skills, even mid-game, and not to worry too much about the retroactive changes. Reminder: if they decide to gain more Physique or Will, it will give them extra Physical Stress or Mental Stress. Keep this in mind.


Read aloud: You’re New Manchester’s premier team of Monster Hunters and paranormal investigators. You have tangled with plenty of underworld criminals, and have made many enemies, but you’ve also recruited a handful of allies. One of them, known as the Nosy Shadow, just heard that the necromancer Deadringer is hitting the Schmitzonian Museum of Natural History tonight. You head there as fast as you can, hoping you can beat him there.

As you pull up to the Schmitzonian Mall, you recognize the building- it’s the one with the giant banners advertising their touring exhibit, “The Mummy of Amon-Khee-Sunkhel.”deadringer comical scared

As the crewmates pull in closer, they see the skinny Deadringer at a broken window, slipping himself through. He sees you coming up, curses to himself, “Oh, fudge me!” and climbs through awkwardly.


For a list of pre-made PCs, see last week’s blog post. If you want to reverse the gender of any of them, go ahead- Shelley can easily become “Sheldon” or “Percy”. It’s your game!


TEAM ASPECT – Your Team aspect is “Monster Hunters”

The GM should ask the players the following questions- these will help shape their aspects and relationships for the upcoming game. If the same player tries to answer more than one or two, make sure you allow other players a chance to answer some.

  • Best Mate – You (A) consider another character your best mate in the whole world- you have saved each other’s necks so often you’ve lost track. Character B – write an aspect describing your strong feelings towards A (love, trust, disgust, etc.)
  • Former Enemy – You (Character A) find yourself on a team with a former enemy (Character B.) Write your feelings towards this character. Do you trust ‘em? Character B: do you mistrust A back? Is there an ulterior motive behind your cooperation?
  • Superiority Complex – You (Character A) consider character B to be your biggest rival- according to you, B thinks he’s SOOO much better than you, and you’ll do anything to prove that you’re the best. Character B: Is A your rival too? Do you feel like A is better than you, and you likewise have to prove your worth? Do you actually feel superior, but don’t feel the need to prove it?
  • Love in the Air– You (Character A) are head over heels in love with character B. Character B: write an aspect showing your acceptance of this love, or your knowledge / lack of knowledge about it.
  • Ulterior Motive – You (Character A) secretly or overtly want something that only Character B can give. Does B know information about a secret treasure? Does B have an ancient artifact that you’re eager to pull from their dead fingers? Character B: Do you know of A’s objective, or do you only have vague hints?
  • Love Gone Sour – You (Character A) used to be in a romantic relationship with Character B, before it crumbled; OR, Character A had a relationship that was disrupted, thanks to Character B. Write your an aspect reflecting your interpretation of the events.
  • Like a Son / Daughter– Between you (Character A) and Character B, there is a paternal / maternal bond. Pick which is the father/mother figure, and which is the son/daughter figure (age might be a good indication.)

Team Chemistry -The Chemistry aspect describes how the group members view each other. If you want, this can explain hint at a mutually shared past. Here’s a few examples:

  • Trusted: Band of Brothers / Old War Buddies
  • Familial:  Childhood Friends / Test Tube Experiment Siblings
  • Awkward: Thrown Together / Distant Co-workers / Amateurs & Old Pros
  • Competitive:  Confederacy of Rivals / Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend
  • Hostile: Every Man for Himself / If We Get Chased, I’m Tripping You

Note: For 2 hour games, this section can be skipped. If so, here’s a recommended pre-made Team:

Team Name: Skeleton Crew

Team Concept: Monster Hunters

Team Chemistry: Second Family – Love & Brotherly Hate

The following section contains spoilers of what’s ahead, and should be viewed by the GM Only – players, back off!

“Fright” Story Structure:

  • Act 1 – The Foyer / Vampanzees Attack!
  • Act 2 – The Hall of Sharp Pointy Objects / The Orb of Kao!
  • Act 3 – The (Empty) Mummy Exhibit
  • Act 4 – The Dinosaur Exhibit / Rex Awakens!

ACT 1 The Foyer

End Goal:

  • Story: Players are to dispatch or placate the vampanzees
  • OOC: Players are to become accustomed to rpgs (turns, skills, declaring actions,) and Fate system (combat, aspects, stunt & invokes). If possible, also introduce compels and consequences.

Players should enter the building after Deadringer- common ways include climbing in through the window (athletics) or breaking down the solid door (physique).

The first room is the main hall of the museum.

Once you get in, you see Deadringer at the other end of the hall, about to slip into the first exhibit.

I’m going to get the mummy. If you have a problem with that, you can talk about it to- my army of vampanzees!”

Deadringer pulls back his cloak an reveals a cluster (hardly an army), of vampanzees- namely, vampire chimps, complete with tiny fangs and short black capes.

vampan hate

At this point, players should brainstorm what the main hall is like. I recommend a large Woolly Mammoth model in the center of the room. Other ideas could include a gift shop, an info kiosk, fire extinguishers, lighting fixtures, etc.

Vampanzees – Mob
High Concept – Vampire Chimps
Aspects: Overly Curious; Bouncy Little Bastiches; Fight or Flight
Skills : Fair (+1) rating in Athletics.
Stunt: Clamber – If a Vampanzee is in a mob of 2 or more Vampanzees, it can make Attacks with Athletics. (If NOT in a Mob, it will generally join another mob or run away!)
Stress: No shift boxes— one shift of harm is enough to take them out.
(Note: The number of vampanzees are handled like mobs- each one is weak as heck, but add up to a threat if not divided. There are is a mob of 3 per character.)

Alternatively: Have only 2 vampanzees (which will be weak,) but invoke their aspects a lot- this will demonstrate the players how invoking works. 

Initiate Combat – Roll for Notice (Reminder: Zomboy & Caomh have stunts that give them order bonuses).

Determine the objectives & stakes: Vampanzees, for their part, want to scratch you, drink your blood, and maybe eat a few fingers, until they’d grow bored with your bodies.

Phase 0: I recommend you institute Phase 0, especially with a new group. One the first exchange, characters are not allowed to make Attacks- instead, they can only Create Advantages or Overcome.

Possible Compels to consider: Vampanzees are very curious. Weston has trouble with Light. Amon-anda might has trouble is the Vamps act in a particularly nasty way.

Once the vampanzees are cleared, players can follow Deadringer down the hall.

ACT 2 – The Hall of Sharp Pointy Things

End Goals:

  • IC: Characters reach the end of the hall, which is best achieved by disabling the Orb of Kao.
  • OOC: Characters have experience with a non-combat obstacle, and test out a Challenge.

(Note: In a Short, 2 Hour session, this section is less necessary to the plot- the number of successes can be reduced as time dictates.)

As you leave the main hall, you get a closer look at the exhibit Deadringer escaped through: “The Hall of Sharp Pointy Objects.” It seems a poorly thought out exhibit, with display items ranging from historical, like ancestral knives and spears, to mundane and random, like bent pipes and jagged rocks. Really, someone should be fired for this.

At the end of the hall, you see Deadringer place a large black crystal ball on the floor. He rushes out the door, and the orb starts emitting a thick smoke. The smoke seems to coalesce into spectral hands, which start reaching out and feeling the objects around them. There is also a high-pitched melody emitting from the orb, like the lullaby from a music box.

Any attempts to approach the orb will result in the hands grabbing random sharp objects and throwing them in the character’s direction. I recommend one free “jump back” into the safety of the doorway, giving the characters time to plan their approach.

Orb of Kao – Challenge

High Concept: Crystal Music Box of Doom

Experts will recognize the sphere as the Orb of Kao, a soul catcher from Ancient Egypt (they’re pretty rare, which makes the fact that Deadringer found one a little surprising.) It protects itself with ghost hands, and plays a haunting melody that hypnotizes anyone close enough to hear it.
Aspects: Egyptian automated sentry; Souls trapped inside; Made of hard glass

Challenge parts:
1. Dodge the Attacks- Recommended Difficulty – 2. Recommended Skills: Athletics
2. Avoid the Siren’s Call – Recommended Difficulty – 4. Recommended Skills: Will
3. Crush the Sphere – Recommended Difficulty – 6. Recommended Skills: Physique.

Taking Turns: Each challenge should be tackled by one character at a time.

1-3 Characters: You may have one character attempt all three challenges (as they run the gauntlet), or may have characters tag in. You may also consider lowering the difficulty of the later challenges by one or two points.

4+ Characters: We encourage each challenge be tackled by a different character, as they divert one part of the orb’s defenses, letting the next character tag in. If having over 6+ characters, considering raising the difficulty of the lower level challenges by one or two points, or consider adding a fourth challenge.

Extra characters: Any character that is not tackling a challenge may do ONE following:

> Make one attempt to use create an advantage to create an aspect.

> May use the teamwork rule to add +1 to any skill rolls, provided they are at least Average (+1)in it.

Special Rules:
Black Smoke – Any attempts to attack the orb from the Hall entrance without first doing challenges 1 & 2 will be blocked by thick smoke, but a shooter may assist with other attacks (by adding +1 through teamwork or by creating aspects), or may shoot it if that character or other have already beaten challenges 1 & 2 (ex. a character getting close enough to shoot it at close range, or throw it out of the fog)

Outside the box: If players want to attempt to get the orb some other way, go for it- just write up a 2-4 part challenge for them to overcome. One group used a hypnotized Vampanzee to run the gauntlet, after using illusion powers to convince it that the orb was a banana.

Failure: If a character fails to overcome challenge one or two, don’t forget that they can succeed at a cost- this might mean they stumble through a challenge, but have some negative boosts, aspects or consequences to hinder them the next challenge or scene.

Victory: If the orb is destroyed or overcome, the characters can safely go to the next room. There is also a “broken orb” aspect which the players can exploit.

Act 3 – The (Empty) Mummy Exhibit

End Goals:

  • IC: Players realize that the mummy remains undisturbed, and that Deadringer is casting something in the next hall.
  • OOC: Nothing major. If players want to prep themselves, allow each player a chance to prep once.

You run into the exhibit of Amon-Khee-Sunkhel, and find it- strangely quiet. At first glance, it appears that nothing is disturbed.

When the players get tired of searching, lead them to the next room. Any magic users may wish to pilfer the exhibit for talismans of mild power. Characters can also steal prop weapons or search for ancient weapons.

Act 4 – The Dinosaur Exhibit / Rex Awakens!

End Goals:

  • IC: Defeat or subdue Deadringer and the Skelesaurus.
  • OOC: Players become familiar with Consequences, and fighting a character with multiple stress boxes. Against the T-Rex, players will hopefully see that stacking up Advantages is a good strategy for muscling through its tough hide.

You follow the (trail of magic / smell / maniacal giggling) to the next exhibit. It’s marked: “Mesozoic Marvels: In the Time of the Dinosaurs!” As soon as you come in, you can feel the crackle of ozone in the air. In the corners of the room are four mismatched candles, with hastily squiggled chalk circles. In the rear of the chamber, Deadringer has sprayed a chalk circle around the massive Stegosaurus skeleton.

Aha! So, you know, I was going to resurrect the mummy, and then I saw the dinosaur exhibit, and then I thought, ‘That’d be a great idea,’ and then I was like, ‘I don’t know… it’s late, Deadringer, and you always make bad decisions when it’s late,’ and- well, to make a long story short, taste my Skelesaurus!”

dinosaur feast kill

Cue a Conflict.

Stakes: Deadringer- if he succeeds, he & the dinosaur break into the night to wreak havoc on New Manchester.

Once more, ask the players what’s in the room, and Roll for turn order.

Phase 0 –If you’re doing another phase 0 (no attacks), during Deadringer’s phase 0, he does the following:

Deadringer raises his Doom Bell and starts to cackle maniacally. “You think that stegi’s the only dinosaur I’ve prepared? Face the terror of my fleet-feeted- my fleet flooted –Oh, to heck with it. Arise Velociraptors!”

From the room arise half a dozen velociraptors, each a staggering… two feet tall.

Oh, Poo, they look bigger in the movie.”

The raptors run around the floor, nibbling on everything and getting underfoot. At the moment, they’re directed at you, but given time, they’ll likely get in EVERYONE’S way.

The raptors are an Aspect that cause an obstacle when moving from zone to zone (recommend Difficulty 2). Deadringer has a free invoke on the raptors, but any player can invoke it. Once a player has overcome the raptors, they won’t bother that player again for the rest of the scene. Players may also attempt to dispel or whoop the raptors completely (recommend Difficulty 4).

Skelesaurus Dinosaur – NPC
High Concept: Terrifying Undead Skeletal Stegasaurus
Aspects: Massive spiked tail; Don’t make it mad; Vegan at heart.

+5 Physique & Fight (With 5+ players, make it +6)
+4 Intimidate, Wilderness
+3 Will, Notice

Stand & Take It – Skelesaurus can use Physique to defend against Shooting attacks
Monster – Skele gains +3 from Invokes instead of +2.

Deadringer – NPC
High Concept: Skinny little Necromancer
Aspects: Derives Power from the Doombell; Kind of a Weenie; Vengeful

+5 Shooting (Death Magic)
+4 Athletics, Mythos
+3 Sixth Sense, Deceit, Notice, Intimidate, Will

Necromaniac: As long as he has his Doombell, Deadringer can create advantages themed on blood, spirits, bones, shadow, or anything else. These summoned forms can be invoked to help him as normal.
Slippery Devil – Deadringer gets +2 to Athletics when using Overcome to avoid being pinned down or held.

Skeleton Crew: Don’t Hate the Playtester, Hate the Game


sc open beta events

The Open Beta for the Skeleton Crew Playtest ends in a little over a month. (It’s not to late too squeeze a few more into the playtest, if you know any who might be interested. Share the documents with your friends, or better still, give them the link to our website, so they can join in the test themselves.)

If you find yourself at one of the following cons, give us advanced notice, and we would gladly arrange time to run a game:

  • Ravencon – Richmond, VA – April 24-26
  • Tidewater Comiccon – Virginia Beach, VA – May 17-18
  • Awesomecon – Rockville, MD – May 29th-31st
  • DC Capcon – Washington DC- June 19-21
  • We can even see if we can arrange an over-the-interwebs game!

This week, we’ve posted all of our pre-made character sheets. While creating a character can be one of most enjoyable parts of an rpg, we know that it can make one-shot games hard to arrange. To help you out with your games, we’re sharing our pre-made sheets with you–if you want to run a one-shot game, just print them off, and you’re good to go!

Below Average: If you open the sheets, you’ll notice that the nearly all of the Average (+1) skills are left blank. That’s intentional! We’ve found that giving players that extra little space gives the players more flexibility and creative input. When I run these games at conventions, I laminate the character sheets, and have players write them in with dry-erase markers. (Speaking of dry erase, you DID see our kickstarter for Fate Accompli launching in July, right?)

Enjoy the following ready-to-run characters!

SC Character sheet Abby Normal– Librarian

SC Fate Character Sheet Amonanda- Mummy Sorceress

SC Fate Character Sheet Bulldawg – Gangsta Werewolf

SC Fate Character Sheet Caomh Culain – Wight Berserker

SC Fate Character Sheet – Doc Turnell – Mad Scientist

SC Fate Character Sheet – Peekaboo – Small Medium

SC Fate Character Sheet – Shelley Turnell – Frankensteinian Construct

SC Fate Character Sheet – Weston Peese – Vampire

SC Fate Character Sheet – Zomboy – Teen Zombie

SC Fate Character Sheet- Blank

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.–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 – 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 – – 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?

Ecognomics – America’s Next Top Business Models


Last week, we crunched some numbers for different Kickstarter payoff models. To recap it slightly, if you were to pay your creators $2100, you would need the following number of sales:

PDF Model – To pay artists, need to reach goal of $2600, which would take 260 sales of $10 pdfs.

Book Model – To reach goal of $2600, need to sell 65 books at $40 each. However, to pay the artists $2100, you would need to sell 116 books (making your “real” Kickstarter goal about $4640.)

An accurate representation of our financial planning sessions.

An accurate representation of our financial planning sessions.

There are a few other business models to consider, though. One of which I heard of through Evil Hat’s Fred Hicks: the stockpile system.


It works like this: the sale price for a paper book is exactly double the cost. Now, in a PERFECT world, the “cost” of the includes the payment for the artists and writers, but considering how high the prices are for on-demand printing, for this demonstration “cost” will solely equal printing and shipping. We’ll assume for the sake of calculations that our staff is patient enough to wait for the payoff later.

Looking back at the printing price break, the books become much cheaper when you order 100 of more. So, let’s assume the goal of the kickstarter is to purchase 100 books from the printers. An individual book costs 15, including S&H to us, but we have to apply the 10% for taxes, and 10% for kickstarter’s take, so let’s divide $15.00 by .8, which comes to $18.87. That means we sell the book on kickstarter for double that, $37.50 (and assume any additional S&H to far off locations is added on by the backer.) We set the goal at 100 times the cost, or $1,887. (Compared to last model’s goal of $2600, that’s pretty modest).

Now, let’s imagine you reach the goal exactly: all it takes is 50 sales. Here’s the breakdown:

Revenue: $ 1887. Cost of 100 books: $1500. Taxes & KS’s take: $337.40. Immediate Profit: $0.

That’s right, the immediate payoff to the kickstarter is 0 profit. However, what the creator DOES receive 50 books that have been completely paid for (and the intangible benefit of having 50 books in the hands of hopefully happy customers, who will potentially buy more of your products and spread word of mouth). This means you can do whatever they want with these 50 books. You can sell that conventions or an online store, and keep every penny. They can drop them at the local game store, which might give the creator 50% of the profit.

So, let’s see what you get if you sell those 50 books:

Sale Cost (each) Total Profit Profit to Goal Ratio: Minus Artist Cost ($2100)
$20 (Consignment) $1,000.00 52.00% -$1,100.00
$35.00 $1,750.00 92.00% -$350.00
$40.00 $2,000.00 105.00% -$100.00

You’ll note, of course, that even at $40.00, you’re still short the estimated $2100.00 to pay the creators. Easy enough to factor in: if the sale of 50 books yields $2000.00, how many books do we need to plan for to make $2100?

50     x _X_

2000  2100

x = 52.5 post kickstarter book sales. We means we have to change our kickstarter goal to pay for 105 books. We could recalculate from scratch based on 105 books, but to save time, let’s cross multiply again. (Confession: Most math I learned in high school has been generally useless in my day-to-day life. However, when my elementary & middle school teaches always repeated, “you’re going to need this,” they were right.)

100   x 105

$1887     X

Which results in a goal $1982.00. Thus, we were able to take a kickstarter for under $2000, and turn it into $2100.00, while still giving Kickstarter Inc. and the IRS their share.

PROS of this Business Model:

  • You have much more control over the product prices.
  • You have a much wider span of time to sell the product, rather than depending on a narrow window.
  • Instead of profits, you could potentially extend any gains towards more books, extending it infinitely- using the profits from the first 100 books to buy the next 100, which buy the next 100, etc.
  • Potentially gives you a low KS goal, with a high percentage pay-off (compared to last week’s models).


  • If you can’t make the additional post-kickstarter sales, you don’t get any money. It’s a gamble.
  • Payment Timeline – The cost, as this small level, doesn’t pay for the creators at first, which means they must wait for sales to pay them (and if I was an artist, *I* wouldn’t let someone pay me based on sales.) The only alternative is the project head pays the artists out of pocket and (hopefully) gets reimbursed for it later.
  • Reach – A Kickstarter is a great way to spread the word about a product, which will hopefully stay in people’s minds later. However, once the kickstarter’s over, you now have to fight to retain interest and to get people to buy your physical book. This means they have to buy through your website (which may need advertising to get people there), through a convention booth (which costs money), or through a 3rd party store (which will take at least 50% of the cover price.) Even the best game books in the world peak in sales after a few years.
  • Sustainability – In a perfect world, you could have each 100 pay for the next 100, on to infinity. In the real world though, there is a finite number of people who are willing or able to purchase your product. Any business model that is based on endless growth is unsustainable (e.g. Ponzi schemes, the Roman Empire).
  • Bookkeeping – Even if your artist IS willing to work for a share of the sales, this leads to some heavy bookkeeping. Our convention booth, for examples, sells lots of different products, which means you’d have to meticulous of how many of each book you sell and make sure that money doesn’t get mixed into the other company funds.
  • Tax-Timeline – If you earn $1887.00 money in one year (let’s say, 2015) and invest all of that money into the printers in 2015, you’re looking at relatively low taxes- you earned little-to-no profit, as it was offset by costs. However, if you wait until 2016 to pay the printer, your 2015 company income is not offset, so you’re paying a lot more. I don’t know exactly HOW much more, which is another flaw in doing this model- you might need someone who knows current business tax law for your state.


The last model I’ll discuss has supposedly been around for a while, but to give credit where it’s due, I first saw it used by the Silent Legions Kickstarter. This is how it works:

This kickstarter requires your product to be available on a website that prints its own products. Most of these print stores let the creator sell the product at a higher price (ex. $40 for a book), but allow the creator to purchase it themselves for the cost (i.e. for their own resale.) A popular example of this is DriveThruRPG and it’s sister sites (DriveThruComics, DriveThruCards, etc.)

The “Print-it-Yourself” model works exactly like the PDF model, except that if gives the backer access to the same “at cost” rate as the creator. Here’s the version as Kevin Crawford phrased it:

Pledge $20 or more

GRIMOIRE COLLECTOR: Get immediate access to the beta PDF and get the full PDF when it is released. Get an at-cost code for ordering your choice of the softcover or hardcover POD print edition of the book from DriveThruRPG, which should come to about $11 for the hardcover and $6 for the softcover, plus shipping. In addition, you’ll get your name added to the list of special Kickstarter supporters in the PDF and printed book.

Pros of this system:

  • Buyers have the option of buying physical books (sometimes in hard or soft bound)!
  • There are 0 printing costs to the kickstarter host.
  • You can sell the pdf at one tier, and the “book” at a higher tier. (Mr. Crawford set his “pdf only” level at $10.)
  • You’re effectively selling a $26-$31 book under a $20 price tag, without decreasing your profit. Psychologically, it’s easy to sell (which is why items are labeled as $1.99 instead of $2.00).
  • The book cost isn’t included in kickstarter goal cost, which inflates the 10% you have to pay without increasing the profit.
  • Some companies, like DriveThru, use local printers, allowing them to keep costs to the backers the same in many different continents.


  • You are dependent on the limitations of the Print Store. For example, I’ve heard DriveThru’s color pages aren’t very high quality at this time. (Note: not from personal experience.)
  • Some people find it inconvenient (and they are not necessarily wrong.)
  • The printing cost of the individual books are potentially higher, due to the fact that you’re not printing in bulk.
  • The at-cost promo code would technically allow a backer to buy any number of your products at cost, rather than one. This means it kind of relies on the honor system, but as long as someone is not reselling them without our permission, I don’t really mind.


Having crunched all of the numbers, I suspect that our first kickstarter, the Fate Accompli is going to fit into the Stockpile system- the art is relatively light, so it’s not like we need to shell out thousands for art and editors. The goal is to print at least 100 sets from a local printer- which means the first 50 sets off-set the costs of buying the next 50 sets. If people end up ordering more than 50, then we’ll likely take what’s left over from the cost as income to us *yay!*

With the next kickstarter, we’ll likely use the Print-it-Yourself model, as the extra art and editing raises the cost to the point that adding it in physical printing is just not viable. This every stretch goal gives 100% of the revenue towards the goal.

Next week – Stretch Goals!

Ecognomics of a Kickstarter


Later this year, our group hopes to launch a grand kickstarter for

the Skeleton Crew PRG. We’ve got high hopes. We’ve got big dreams. We want to do it just right; so much so that we’re launching a second kickstarter before it, just to test the waters. I’ve read all of the blogs, heard the panels.

I am still shaking like a newb.

So, this is not a blog from a kickstarter veteran, saying how they got all-the-moneys. Rather, this is the step-by-step brainstorm, so you can see the planning process for yourself… specially, in how to avert Ecognomics.

What are Ecognomics?

Some of you might be old enough to remember the South Park episode with the Underpants Gnomes. If you’ve never seen the episode, the pivotal scene with them plays out as follows…The underpants gnomes, after amassing a large amount of stolen underpants, present their cunning business plan:

Phase 1. Collect underpants

Phase 2. ???

Phase 3. Profit

It’s a silly bit, but I’ve heard that economists and business theorists have actually latched on to it in serious lectures. Personally, I call it “The Underpants Plan,” or Ecognomics.

Who is Guilty of using Ecognomics?A lot of independent artists and creators, sadly. I’ve been on a lot of web comic panels, in which someone in the audience asks, “How do you make money?” The knee-jerk reaction from artists is to laugh, but that could be out of nervousness.

The problem is many creators think that there’s a direct correlation between Product and Profit. They have Phase 1 and Phase 3, but they fail to consider part two. Of course, at least those artists have gone ahead to think about Phase 1: a Product. I remember before the Dot-com bubble burst, some people thought you could launch a website, slap a Paypal donation button on it, and they’d be showered in money.

With Kickstarter, the same pitfalls occur. There are people who think that all they need is a product, launch a kickstarter, and you’ll have a profit. (Again, some don’t even think too hard about the product.)So, I don’t have all three phases planned out, but I’ll walk you through my ponderings.

PHASE 1 – COLLECT UNDERPANTS (Figuratively Speaking)

The first part is to clarify what the product you are selling is. With us, we’re relatively confident about this: it’s an rpg book, using the Fate Core rule system. The setting is based on our webcomic series, Skeleton Crew. Of course, there are still a few things to figure out.

Labels – This issue is mostly resolved, but it wasn’t when we started the project: we had to clearly define the genre of the setting in order to best promote it. We originally called it “Comedy / Horror,” but that didn’t seem to go over well. While there are definitely a few horror elements in the comic, and optional rules for running scary adventures, my cowriters convinced me that the “horror” tag wasn’t accurate. We’re now promoting the rpg as “Supernatural Comedy.”

Stand Alone or Supplement – Shortly into the RPG’s production, we settled on using Evil Hat’s Fate system- it wasn’t too crunchy, we (a bunch of writers) loved the story-telling basis, and the creators were generous to offer it to the Open Gaming License, making it free to use. To add icing to the cake, the Fate Core kickstarter practically exploded.

hipster elves

<hipster moment> Yeah, you heard me- we liked Fate BEFORE it was cool </hipster moment>.While I’ve seen a few kickstarters that offer to add other systems on as a stretch goal, we have decided NOT to make SC for any other system at this time (except a possible FAE side version). If your book can be so easy ported from one system to another, then how much attention did you really pay to that system?The question becomes whether to make it as a “supplement” or as a stand-alone. It’s a fat book already, roughly 350 pages. To make it a “stand-alone” book would require adding additional 100-200 pages, greatly raising the print cost. It would make it more accessible to newcomers, but most of our target audience is experienced gamers who already own the Fate Core rulebook anyway. We’re polling playtesters for their opinion. Speaking of which…

> Playtesters & edits– The last steps are to playtest the stuffing out of it, and edit the feedback into a cohesive book. Easy, right? *nervous cough*

That’s it for the Underpants. On to…

PHASE 2 – ??????

If this were a REAL economics plan, I suspect the middle area is for revenue. For non-business folks like me, that’s “money made before factoring cost.” In regards to kickstarter, it also means, “having a variety of backer levels and add-ons, providing each backer an opportunity to spend exactly the amount of money they are willing to part with.” If the only levels are cheap, you risk losing potential profit. If the only levels are expensive, you risk it all. I’m leaving the ???? in, as it also covers all sorts of other pre- & mid- Kickstarter factors. Like most brainstorms, and keeping with the ‘YES AND’ spirit, the “????” section shall include any ideas, no matter how ridiculous. This is the “yes, we can!” section… (save the “no, we can’t. Really.” for the “Profit” section.) I’ll start with our thoughts for the kickstarter levels.Backer Levels – The first thing to consider for the kickstarter is the basic backer levels. These are the Core levels, ignoring other “throw in one more thing!” Here are the very basic, platonic levels:

  • Impulse Buy
  • Electronic Version
  • Paper Version
  • Special Edition
  • More Money Than God Version

Impulse Buy – Costs a very small amount, which is very good for people who are unsure of the product, broke, or are generous relatives who want to help but could care less about the product. For our version, I think we’re going to take a lesson from Tianxia’s fantastic kickstarter, and give anyone who pledges a small amount ($1-2) gets a copy of the rough draft Beta rulebook pdf. It’s a great way to lure impulse buyers, costs us nothing, and gives the backer a product immediately after they pledge (rather than having to wait for months until the product is finished before the backer receives anything.)

Electronic Version – A digital version- in this case, a pdf of the finished product. Fortunately, Tangent Artists is lucky enough to have a publishing miracle-worker on team, so the layout can be done in house. A pdf is beautiful thing, in regards to profit, but more on that in Phase 3. At the moment, the goal is to have a B&W book with lots of art. For a creepy setting like ours, B&W is perfect, in that it helps capture the mood, and easier on the artists. We plan to have original art by one or two artists, supplemented by art from the webcomic itself. This would likely be in B&W, although, if we’re pulling images from the webcomic, we COULD make the pdf B,W & red.

Paper Version – A physical version of the book printed and mailed. Unless we hit ALL DA STRETCH GOALS, it seems unlikely that the supplemental material will be in print form.

Special Edition – This would be supplemental material tied in directly to the product itself. Some brainstormed ideas:

Art – Prints of the art itself. (May not do this, as shipping art without creasing it is a pain). Maybe the cover art for the book?

Comics – We’re hoping to do a big compilation book of our first few issues of the Skeleton Crew Comic, in a volume called the Necronomnibus. Likely in B&W, to save cost. Luckily, this one doesn’t require much in the ways of creating a new product, which is nice, and it printing in bulk is much cheaper than individually.

-Gaming Extras – If our Kickstarter for Fate Accompli, dry-erasable Fate cards, is successful, then these would be a great add-on.

-Artsy Odds-and-Ends – Any other art-related material, such as keychains, postcards, etc. As I am not an artist, I won’t insist on these, nor will we make these a priority if there’s not demand for it.

However, I remember one kickstarter panelist, who shared a great nugget. He advised against writing new novels as stretch goals to an rpg book. This was his litmus:

– if the supplement is stand-alone (i.e. doesn’t require / build on the base kickstarter), and requires work as much work to finish as the base kickstarter, why doesn’t it have a kickstarter of it’s own?Thus, adding a stand-alone novel is way too much energy to invest on something that doesn’t add to the product. (Of course, if you wrote the novel already, that might be a different matter.)
-Rules Supplements – This is where I have even BIGGER plans and schemes. Here are some wild ideas. These would expand the current rules for new locations and subgenres. Some of the ideas we’re batting around include:

– Guest Authors – Getting outside authors to write additional material for the setting. If we can get well known authors, to draw in more backers, all the better. And while we’re dreaming the impossible dream, we even hope to PAY our staff and guest authors. This would definitely beat the old system of having writers work for free, for credit, or for reassurances that their loved ones will be returned safely (mwah ha ha).
-Adventures – One-shot adventures for players. I’ve definitely a few that I’ve run before that would be great, including Fright at the Museum and the Revenge of Blackstache.

– New Locations – A fairy-focused setting, set in the West Coast, written by our very own Rachael. Several working titles, including “Triskelion.” We’re also considering: a Road Trip Campaign book (WIP title: Highway to Hell, Globe-rotters), with scatterings of monsters from all over the USA or the world; also, a setting focusing on beings from Japanese and Chinese myths.

-New Sourcebooks – A Lovecraft book (because, as we all know, if you want a kickstarter to succeed, throw in an Old One)… the working title is “The Madness of the Color on the Doorstep of the Dark”; a sci-fi 1950s B-movie book “It Came From Science!”; a source book on ancient religions, demigods, demons, cambions, nephilim and angels; a setting in the land of Cockaigne.

-New Twists – Several ideas: Paranormal Investigators – A procedural, monster-of-the-week setting, a la X-Files & Nightstalker. Would likely use a system similar to Atomic Robo’s “Brainstorm” mechanic, assuming our version wasn’t TOO similar (Robo isn’t in Open License); a rule-set for familiars and lesser demons, with a Pokemon-esque “snatch-em all” rule set; Giant, city-smashing monsters (because: giant monsters).

-Rule Adaptations – Attempts to incorporate existing rules from other Fate Core games into SC, assuming we are not violating or infringing on any rights. These might include: Skill modes; super powers / super stunts; Fate Accelerated version.

– Supplemental Info – Languages – A guide to the many real (and fictional) ancient languages, from Rongorongo, to Atlantean, to Epoch. Might have rules, but possibly rules agnostic.

– Characters – Extra mortal states and professions that didn’t fit in our (already bulging) rulebook. We might release it by itself, or might save some of the characters to drop in with supplements that fit the theme.

-Campaign Books – Fate doesn’t really lend itself really well for pre-made campaigns, but I would enjoy an expanded setting based on the Lost Continent of Lemuria.

More Money Than God Version – Generally, these are levels that most people can’t afford, but would be fun anyway. And since we’re not throwing out any ideas here:

– Personal Touch – I, Dave Joria, will official skype / drive / fly / paraglide to your living room or game store to run a game for you.

– Commission Normal – Our artists will draw every member of your party.

– Commission – Published! – Our artists will base one of the character designs in the finished book off of one of the pre-constructed characters off of YOU.

-Comic Star – We will write and draw a 4-page comic based on your skeleton crew characters.

– City of Dreams – I will create a brand new city location just for you and your party.

– Sup it Up – I will design an entire supplement for YOU- rules, characters, monsters, settings, plot points, you name it, we make it.

– We’re Really Reaching Here – I will dress as a zombie and do a happy little dance just for YOU!

– Unholy Rites – I will build a dark shrine to your honor, and sacrifice a goat, chicken or watermelon to you, while chanting in an Eldritch tongue (and film it.)

That’s all of the odd-ball ideas I have for the moment. Next year, I’ll be crunching Phase: Profit!