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Modal Stunts

I’ve talked before about the different hooks a game system has to attach mechanical effects to. Specifically, I’ve listed the many available hooks in Fate Core.

Stunts are the most efficient way to leverage mechanical hooks in Fate Core. They can trigger off any number of factors and apply effects to just as many. As I thought about how to make stunts more interesting, I began to imagine stunts that had more than one effect, depending on what hooks were available.

I call the result modal stunts. Modal stunts trigger off of one or more game states (the hooks) and have varying results based on which (or how many) hooks are in play. This makes modal stunts more complicated than the default stunts given in Fate Core, but it also makes them potentially much more interesting to players who enjoy a lot of mechanical crunch.

The simplest type of modal stunt has one effect when a game state is true and another when it is false. Consider a Fate Core game about werewolves who can maintain their bestial forms for a variable but not unlimited amount of time. In this game, to transform from human to lycanthrope form, you take a create an advantage action to apply free invokes to an aspect that denotes your werewolf condition (called your lycanthrope aspect). While you have these free invokes, you are considered to be in lycanthrope form.

In such a game, you might have stunts that trigger off of your being in lycanthrope form by checking to see if you have free invokes on your lycanthrope aspect. Such stunts may give a flat bonus while you are in this form, in which case the bonus may be larger than a normal stunt if its use is just as limited. But a more sophisticated stunt in such a game could trigger with a different effect depending on whether you are or aren’t in lycanthrope form. Consider this example:

Rage of the Moon: When you assume your lycanthrope form, your mind is briefly overcome by a burning anger that fuels your attacks. Even in your human form, this fury lurks in the back of your mind, lending you an aura of menace.
  • While you have free invokes remaining on your lycanthrope aspect, you have Weapon: 2 with physical attacks using your natural weapons.
  • While you have no free invokes on your lycanthrope aspect, you get +2 to attacks made with Provoke to intimidate non-lycanthropes.
Another possible type of modal stunt has a scaling effect based on how many hooks are true. This works best with hooks that occur in multiples and that come and go as play progresses. The best example of this kind of hook is consequences. A character may have multiple consequences during an adventure, but each one sits at its own degree of severity. A modal stunt could give a bigger bonus as a character takes more and higher consequences, or it might have different yet complementary effects. Consider the following:

Share Pain: Your own pain and injury acts as a conduit to the pain of others. The greater your injuries, the more control you have over this ability. If you have an unrecovered physical consequence, you gain the following effects (if you have multiple unrecovered consequences, the effects are cumulative):
  • Mild: You can detect pain and injury in others within the same zone. You automatically identify physical consequences in anyone whose pain you can sense.
  • Moderate: Whenever a character in your zone suffers a physical consequence, you can make a free Will roll against Fair (+2) opposition to create an advantage on that consequence.
  • Severe: You can spend a fate point to roll Will as active opposition against any physical action by another character in the same zone with a physical consequence.
As you can see, by tying stunts into more hooks, you open up more dimensions of effect and allow for complex mechanical and narrative interactions. Not everyone wants greater complexity in their gaming. Modal stunts may not be right for all. But I look forward to experimenting with them in the future.

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