Some Thoughts on Playing Fate Core in Glorantha
When I wrote Legends of Anglerre, one of my playtest worlds was Glorantha, one of my all-time favourite fantasy settings. With the new Fate Core, Glorantha becomes even more viable as a venue for Fate-based adventure. Both Glorantha and Fate Core are running Kickstarters at the moment – the awesome Guide to Glorantha Kickstarter here and the Fate Core Kickstarter here – so I thought I’d blog about how you can use one to play the other.
You don’t tackle a subject as big as “Glorantha using Fate Core” in a single post – it’s more properly the topic of an entire book. But, to kick off the discussion, I thought I’d offer a few thoughts about what IMHO is the biggest issue when adapting any rules system to Glorantha – what to do about the magic. I’ll start by talking about my favourite Gloranthan gaming environment (and I know I’m not alone in this 😉 ): Sartar, Dragon Pass, and Pavis – home of the Theist Orlanthi and the occupation by their nefarious foes, the Lunar Empire.
Theism focusses on Runes. Happily, Fate Core can handle that exquisitely, and very simply. Here’s how: when you create your character (let’s say he’s an Orlanthi), select which Runes he’s going to have an affinity with. You could select up to 3 Runes, but as a beginning Fate Core character only gets 10 skills in total, I’m going to choose just two for my character – Air / Storm and Movement.
Now, depending on how I view my character, I can take these two Runes at anything up to Great (+4) in power. But what can I do with them? Well, Fate Core gives you the four actions you can do with skills: Overcome, Create Advantage, Attack, and Defend. Perhaps not all Runes are going to be equally useful for all four actions, but in our notional Fate of Glorantha supplement, we’d have a chapter on the Runes, giving their core uses. So, the Air / Storm rune would let you manipulate the powers of Orlanth (say) to summon winds, blast foes, blow away arrows, and so on.
In Glorantha, not everyone gets the same access to a god’s powers. In fact, it’s mostly determined by a character’s standing with the god – whether he or she is a lay member, initiate, devotee / rune lord / rune priest, or even hero. HeroQuest and RuneQuest treat these divisions slightly differently; in our notional Fate of Glorantha, we’d have to decide which vision of Gloranthan reality we’d go with. For now, let’s muse about the HeroQuest view of things.
HeroQuest says non-initiates can only use runes to enhance things they can do naturally anyhow. You can use the Movement rune to make yourself run faster, but perhaps not fly – that’s something for initiates to do. In Fate Core terms, that sounds very much like the Create Advantage action – or perhaps even a teamwork action, if you want to help someone else.
That means we can start with a limited use for Runes in Fate of Glorantha – perhaps restricted just to creating advantages, which you then exploit with a different skill (players of HeroQuest may notice this feels a little like an “augment”). Then, we can “switch on” additional uses – magical abilities – using the Stunt rules. So, we could have a stunt called “Initiate”; when you take that, you can now use your Runes to do overtly magical things – Run Like The Wind, Fly, etc (in HeroQuest’s view of Gloranthan reality, this might equate to “using Runes directly”).
Now this is where we have to make some decisions about “Gloranthan reality” – so help me out here, if you have suggestions. Here’s what we could do with stunts:
- Each “cult hierarchy” stunt you take could “switch on” one additional skill action for every Rune you know. So, you could use your “Initiate” stunt to switch on the “Overcome” action for your Air / Storm and Movement Runes, allowing you to make miraculous sprint actions (flying through the air), force open doors and summon rains, etc. Or, if you were of a more martial bent (let’s say you were an Initiate of Orlanth Adventurous), you could instead switch on the “Attack” action for your runes, allowing you to smash into your foes at high speed, fling lightning bolts, and so on. Then, when you take your next “cult hierarchy” stunt (let’s call this one “Rune Lord”), then you can switch on another action, and so on. By the time you get to the top of the hierarchy (Devotee?), then you have all the available four actions switched on for all your rune skills.
- Another way of using “cult hierarchy” stunts would be to have each one switch on one Rune in its entirety. So, your “Initiate” stunt could unlock all four actions for just one of your Runes – let’s say Movement. You could then make Overcome, Create Advantage, Attack and Defense actions for the Movement rune, but you’d still be limited to Create Advantage actions with your other Runes (in this case, Air / Storm), until you took the next cult hierarchy stunt.
You have to make a decision how you slice and dice the underlying Gloranthan reality. At the moment, I’m kind of preferring the second option above – it gives Initiates quite considerable power in a limited area, then broadens it as they advance up the cult hierarchy.
I’ll stop there for today. There are obviously so many things to look at when using Fate Core for Glorantha, even “just” for theism. For example, Feats look like they may make very cool Extras, or even just Aspects; allied spirits, etc, would be cool skill-based Extras, as would cults.
There is indeed a whole supplement (or several) possible for playing Glorantha using Fate Core. But for now – let me know what you think of this first rough treatment of Orlanthi-style theism using the new Fate Core rules. How would you do it? Also, if there’s anything you’d like me to post about next, let me know!