It’s no secret that I am a lifelong fan of role playing and strategy games. I grew up with hit-classics such as Baldur’s Gate and Final Fantasy, and feel most in tune to genres that invoke cleverness and critical thinking and reward the consumer for it. It did not take me too long to get into tabletop role-playing games for their systems and intuitive rule sets; as well as MMORPGs for the collaborative aspect and the opportunity to write interesting stories between characters in a set world.
One of the few games I have played, however, that blended both the tabletop RPG rule sets with the connectivity of MMORPGs, was Dungeons and Dragons Online.
It was fun to play for a little while, but the game for me unfortunately grew stale. Coupled because my friends were moving on from the game, I did eventually decide to move onto other MMORPGs, while I sought opportunities to play face-to-face games to scratch my tabletop itch.
I missed having both within the same game, though. MMOs these days have settled for more grounded and proven gameplay loops and systems that are more accessible to the wider gaming audience, and it is probably better that they have.
Sure, there are other games that can scratch the itch for a video game / tabletop RPG aesthetic. Divinity: Original Sin 1 and 2 are both fantastic RPGs that allow me to play co-op with my wife and friends, and Pillars of Eternity is a great homage to Baldur’s Gate… But for an MMO role-player, it wasn’t enough for me not to devote some of my free time to creating dice-systems that can be used within games like World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XIV.
I was searching for inspiration for systems that promoted uninterrupted roleplay with the inclusion of a die-system when I stumbled upon a tabletop RPG called “FATE: Core”. Originally published by Fred Hicks and Rob Donoghue in 2003, FATE: Core was a system derived from Fudge, which also uses the signature six-sided die with +’s, -’s, and blank sides to create the Dice Ladder (a scale of results ranging from -4 to +4).
What made FATE: Core stand out to me compared to other tabletop RPG systems was its emphasis on collaborative storytelling and roleplay. It has no set traits, skills, attributes, etcetera, offering instead a highly customizable framework that can fit into any setting or genre. It also offers different niche sub-systems designed to allow players to influence the story themselves (in the rulebook, they comprise Aspects, Invoking, and FATE points).
I took one look at the framework FATE: Core offered, however, and knew I could also use parts of its toolkit for an MMO-RP friendly system(s).
Collaborative storytelling and roleplaying in an MMO environment can be incredibly fun, but is heavily reliant on a mutual understanding and trust between the players to follow a set of underlying principles to ensure the writing of scenes is fun and non-dramatic.
We can go over those underlying principles another time, but for this post, I wanted to focus on writing Combat. People have a multitude of ways they resolve conflicts in Combat writing and RP, but in guilds and Free Companies, conflict resolution in combat scenes is done through an in-house system.
Some of these systems can be as simple as rolling dice once to determine an outcome; others often involve a complex compendium of rules more reminiscent of Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder. These are all very viable alternatives to conflict resolution if you culture a compatible group. But in most cases, I run into one of two problems:
- The system is too complex and really slows down the actual writing and roleplaying, or,
- The system offers too much flexibility to be abused or is too random.
For the casual MMO-RPer or gamer, who doesn’t have too much experience in tabletop RPGs or combat scenes to have a compatible flow with the group, finding a sweet middle ground between simplicity and structure becomes essential to ensure the writing of a scene remains fun, interesting, and collaborative.
This is what FATE: Core’s framework provides to me. While I do not use FATE: Core in its base-form, I use different parts of the system to create a homebrew toolkit for my groups in MMOs. Here is just one example of a system that was made for my Free Company in Final Fantasy XIV (called… Simple Dice):
Need something simple and quick? Maybe you're roleplaying or doing an event with people outside of the Network, or perhaps trying to find the easiest dice to use for collaboration? This may be worth a try!
Actions & Dice Rolls depend on how good someone is in said action or skill, based on the following ladder:
Average: Roll Once
Great: Roll Twice
Fantastic: Roll Thrice
Based on a Pass/Fail system. If you roll higher than a 10, you succeed!
DM Optional: Your "Success" threshold may vary depending on the mob or challenge, but these should remain incremental variations. A Success threshold should never be more than 13.
Support & Hinder
You can buff one ally if you're Average at Support, two allies if you're Great, and three if you're Fantastic. Buffing an ally grants them an additional die to roll that they can use when they wish. Rolling a 5+ grants means your Support succeeds!
Some Support (like Shielding or Healing) do not grant additional Dice; but will provide the ally with a buffer to Consequence/Stress when applicable (Free Luck/HP)
Hindering works the same way, except when you succeed, your target(s) loses a die they can roll. Hinderance Duration is set at DM's discretion/by how high the roll is. For Hindering, a roll of 10+ succeeds.
Certain Hindrances, depending on what you're attempting to do, can also negate an enemy's access to entire Actions if applicable. Per DM discretion.
Implicit Ladder Adjustment
The number of dice the player rolls and their skill-level /ability to perform an Action is subject to Player interpretation. If you're able to justify the number of dice you're rolling, go for it! Max dice you can roll without Buffs / Supports is 3.
This is an honor system. We opt for this to avoid the hassle of character sheets. Please consider external influences that could hamper your character as much as you would consider their inherent skills.
Set by the DM. This is the required number of successes, or dice total, needed to overcome a challenge (I.E. need three successes total to overcome challenge, or need to roll a 14 to succeed). These can be team challenges or set for an individual.
Stress & Consequences
Players will have a set number of "Stress" determined by the DM (optional). These are essentially your Luck or Hit Points. When you run out of Stress, you take on a Consequence (I.E. take on a Wound, or take damage to their Reputation, etc). Stress Points are reset after a player takes on a Consequence. How much pain/consequences can a character take before they're out of a fight/ situation depends on the player.
Support & Hinder Stacking
You have the option as well, if you lack multiple potential targets, to Stack multiple Supports/Hindrances on a Single Target as well.
Successes accumulate! If you would be Great at a certain action and succeed both rolls, that equates to two successes (I.E. two damage as opposed to one; two tick marks for a challenge as opposed to one, etc.)
Players have an option to forgo a traditional action to gain a Reaction until their next turn. The player calls what they're holding their action for - and if what they're holding for comes to pass, they can Trigger their Action and Attack, Support/Hinderance, or even Contest their Target's Roll when appropriate.
DM Optional Rule. If you would like to swap between Free-Form RP and Simple Dice in a snap - just call out Critical Moments (parts in an event where you want to see dice rolls, I.E. during a Challenge or during certain points in Combat)
Note: Some party members can be in Critical Moments where others wouldn't be. Such as if the party is split and one group gets in trouble.
You have the option to Push Fate. Pushing Fate allows you to suggest an outcome to a certain moment in RP as a player, in exchange for a consequence or outcome in the DM's favor later. Rolls optional. Haggling takes place over Tells.
Team Fights & Large Scale Battles
Another DM Optional Rule. If we're looking at Scenes where larger battles are about to take place, consider using Team Initiative instead (the party rolls and you take the party average as initiative). Instead of multiple mobs, treat the entire enemy party as a "Boss" (instead of considering the guards of a fortress as individual units, give the "Fortress Defense" a stat block)
Works for In Combat and Out of Combat Challenges.
I have to admit, this is just one system out of many I made using FATE: Core’s framework and Hack Toolkit. If not for the Core game itself, I would highly recommend FATE: Core just for the ideas that they offer.
You can find their Systems Reference Document (SRD) here for FATE: Core, Accel, and Condensed to explore some of Evil Hat Productions’ tabletop RPG. If you like their content, be sure to visit their main store-front. They have some fantastic products!
I swear this is not a paid advertisement. I really do just like their system.
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