Fateful Encounter: Monster Design and the Fate Fractal

Design for Stockings & Steam has begun in earnest, monsters are being written up as interesting ways to challenge players and my mind is flooded with horrors and monstrosities.

And yet, it was the simplest of creatures that posed me my first big hurdle. The city of Victoria is modelled after London in the gaslight eras of Dickens and Conan Doyle, and it seemed fitting that it would be perfect to put a steampunk twist on the traditional fantasy creature the Larger Than Normal Rat. You cannot throw a +1 flaming longsword without hitting a rat the size of a housecat in fantasy fiction.

Because London has a history of malodorous disease, especially the bubonic plague, these rats will be carriers of something horrible that’ll plague the working classes. The Shiver Sickness, which can wrack the body with spasms and confine you to leather straps and a firm bed. But how to handle this? Find out after the jump.

I had toyed in the past, when messing around with my Fatefinder ideas, of having disease be a conferred aspect, or even a consequence. This would work well enough, and fit into the current Create Advantage action framework of Fate Core, but I felt it was lacking. Disease needed a bit of crunch behind it rather than pure narrative fluff.

Enter the Fate Fractal. Why not stat up the Shiver Sickness as a character? It would have an aspect, a strength which would double as its skill rank, and a stress track to chart the victim’s path to recovery. Cures and healing magics could then deal stress directly to diseases, rather than removing consequences and aspects that represented the disease.

An elegant solution to a problem I never even knew I had, and it can be built out of the existing Fate framework without having to jerry-rig too much rules scaffolding on top. Keep the crunch lite and the let the narrative do the rest! This could even be used to adapt traditional D&D/PF conditions, such as Mummy Rot or Firegut.

Below I’ve presented the Plague Rat and the Shiver Sickness, showing my work. Hopefully I can keep the rest of the bestiary to the same quality and format. Next time I’ll be talking about the character archetypes you can expect in Stockings & Steam.

Note: Doom is used to calculate the pool of fate points the GM has during encounters with the monster. I’m still working on it, so don’t mind if the maths seems off.

 

Plague Rats

Everything is bigger in Victoria City, even the rats. These mange-ridden, disease-wracked festering piles of fur and teeth inhabit the sewers and forgotten chambers of the Undercity in their millions. Their bite is the bane of countless commoners, spreading the Shiver Sickness and Heyon knows what else with their rotting fangs.

Never truly alone, an attacked plague rat is the harbinger of countless more, and instead of defeating the swarm you simply drive the survivors into a hasty retreat back to whatever dark holes they emerged from.

Aspects

Diseased Rodents | Vermin

Skills

  • Fair (+2): Athletics, Stealth
  • Average (+1): Fighting, Perception, Physique

Advantages

  • Infectious (Shiver Sickness) [1]: When attacking with style, can spend stress equal to target’s Physique to infect with the Shiver Sickness disease. (see below)
  • Extra Small [0]: Two less physical stress boxes. +2 when being small is good, -2 when being small is bad.
  • Natural Weapons [1]: Unarmed attacks are Weapon:1.

Doom: 2

Stress

Physical OO

 

Disease: Shiver Sickness

The Shivers is an ailment that often infects commoners who work closely with waste or in the Undercity, and is spread via the bites of Plague Rats. In most it is a mild inconvenience, a couple of days feeling colder than normal before it burns out. In those weak of body it causes incessant shivering and a feeling of unnatural cold, as though their blood was slowly freezing, and can be fatal.

Average (+1) Disease

Aspects: Ice in the Veins

Effect: At the start of each session the Shiver Sickness makes a +1 attack against the infected’s Physique defence. Failure deals 1 stress to the Shiver Sickness. Success means the infected gets a physical consequence because they suffer cold shivers throughout the session. If the infected does not have any empty consequence slots to take this consequence, they are Taken Out for that session by the severity of their condition.

Stress OO

 

Today’s Lesson: Never use a word when a book will do.

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