Sunday, 5 January 2014

Fortune Cookie Fate

Greetings everyone! I hope you had an excellent set of holidays, no matter what you celebrate! I was so busy I didn't have time to post anything for the last month of 2013, but I have been writing when I've had the chance, primarily what's in this post. My 2013 Retrospective will have to wait!

A few Fridays ago, I had the excellent fortune of meeting up with my illustrious gaming group after a long hiatus, and run for them a one-shot using Fate Accelerated Edition (also my first time actually running FAE) with my own additional mechanic I had been brewing in my mind for sometime: Fortune Cookie Fate. But first...

A little on background...

This homebrew mechanic arose more than a year ago and is based around this concept: was there a way to use the printed paper slips you get from fortune cookies in roleplaying games? My first thoughts were to try and create a set of universal rules for a variety of systems. The majority of fortune cookies (that I've "researched") have a series (usually six) of "lucky numbers" on the fortune strip ranging from 1 to 49.

Originally I considered that a player may "cash" in their fortune, using one of the numbers as a result in lieu a rolled result. This concept proved overwhelming or underwhelming depending on the system being used:

  • in d20-based systems the listed "lucky numbers" might be not high enough or way too high (higher than what you could naturally roll). 
  • in d% percentile systems where you need to "roll under" your target, the 1-49 range that is given is quite beneficial, but with six "lucky numbers" to choose from, you have a very high chance of overwhelming success.
  • in the d10 pool "roll & keep" system used in Legend of the Five Rings, a the higher range result can have you succeed at Heroic (TN 40) tasks (given the majority of fortunes I've seen have at least one "lucky number" 40 or higher) but never something Impossible (TN 60)...

You get the idea. The concept is a little too unbalanced I think to be viable; and some systems are totally incompatible with this. But I do present this option for consideration for use: 
When using a system in which the given "lucky number" range (1-49) is viable, or something similar; instead of dice, each player gets a fortune strip. They can use any of the "lucky numbers" on their strip only once out of the series (again usually six). This means sooner or later, they'll have to make sub-par selections for their results on a given task. Once everyone's "lucky numbers" are all used up, they either get another fortune (if there are any to be had) or the session/game ends. Geared towards one shot games.

Fate-une Cookies

I digressed a bit. On to the main course!

As I previously mentioned before, a great deal of time had passed before fortune smiled upon me by granting me the time off on during the regularly scheduled meet up. I missed gaming with my group very much, and after seeing who could attend I decided to plan a one-shot game using the quick and simple FAE system set a setting of my own design (more on that below).

I specifically choose FAE for a few reasons, not just because we're all used to how Fate works from years of playing Dresden Files, but because it seemed perfectly suited to adapt my ideas and concepts, for most of all my houserule, which is essentially this:

During refresh, each player is given a fortune cookie, and the written phrase inside is treated like a Boost aspect that sticks to the character (referred to as a Fortune aspect), and may be invoked for free by them if it applies to the scene. Once invoked the Fortune aspect (along with the fortune strip) go away, but the player gets a new random fortune at the end of the scene. Unspent Fortune aspects go away at the end of the session.

The way Stunts are built also means one can easily take a fortune they like and make it more permanent by basing a Stunt around it rather than a single free invocation. The example "Tough times never last but tough people do" could be treated as: '+2 when you Forcefully Defend or Overcome when being presented with physical harm or a challenge'; or 'Once per session, at the cost of a fate point, you can reduce the severity of a moderate consequence to a mild consequence or erase a mild consequence altogether.'

Interesting Times

Since fortune cookies, although commonly equated with Chinese cuisine; aren't actually endemic to Chinese culture in origin but to Japan; are mostly consumed by western culture, I used that as the basis for the setting I devised; a setting of cultural mash-ups called:

Benevolent Zodiac Delivery Force

Synopsis: The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers but with animals from the Chinese Zodiac.

For High Concepts, I stipulated they must contain a Wu Xing element and a Animal of the Chinese Zodiac. I also requested that at least one Aspect or Stunt based upon a piece of Gear (magic weapon, special tool, sacred object), and one based upon a special ability (fighting style, finishing move, superpower).

The inspirations for the remainder of ones Aspects, Approaches, and Stunts were easily drawn from the Wu Xing element and their Zodiac animal, or from variety of the following inspirations:
  • Tokusatsu & Kaiju: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (Super Sentai), The Super Inframan, Invasion of the Astro-Monster, Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy
  • Anime & Cartoon fighting teams: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, Samurai Pizza Cats
  • Wuxia films: Kung Fu Panda, Of Cooks and Kung Fu, Drunken Master
  • Games: Ninja Burger, Fortune Cookies and Nuclear War
Our group consisted of a Fire Horse wielding a burning fan, a Water Monkey complete with magic staff, a Metal Tiger with a pair of bagh nakha, and their Metal Snake leader, wearer of a magic scarf that could turn into a snake! Below is a mockup of BZDF character I created:

Final Thoughts

Whilst I was working on writing out this post I asked a couple of my players what their thoughts were upon the whole concept; here's a couple of their observations that should give some further insight to how BZDF and Fortune Aspects can be used:
"I think, that if I wanted to play a very deep, serious game, that I would want the detail that comes with the full game, not the Accelerated. The Accelerated, on the other hand, is perfect for what we call a 'beer-and-pretzels' game - a quick, fun romp that doesn't get into hugely detailed characters, but depends on everyone understanding a common archetype.
This is what we did with the Benevolent Zodiac Delivery Force. Heck, I didn't even really have a NAME that made sense. I just grabbed something silly (Icelandic? Why not?!) and ran with it. Monkey didn't even HAVE a name. He was just 'Monkey'."

Right on the money, Breccia. If I wanted to branch out BZDF over multiple-sessions with greater character depth, you could import it and/or the Fortune Aspects fully into Fate Core. But right now at its heart BZDF itself is mostly geared toward one-shot pickup games, as well as convention play, as one of my astute players related:
"I think it is great for a pick-up game. I also think it screams for use at gaming cons. Have the PCs pick 3 stunts/aspects from the jar of fortunes, then make up 2 of their own to flesh out their character and make it their own." 

Couldn't have said it better myself, Nathaniel! If I get the chance, I'm seriously considering running BZDF or something similar with Fortune aspects at GottaCon 2014 come the end of February.

Leave a comment! I want to hear what YOU think about my houserule!

May Fortune Smile Upon You! ;{١