While considering which RPG to use for chapter two, I narrowed it down to three choices: Swords Without Master, Powered by the Apocalypse and Fate. So I’ve been reading City of Mist because it seems to be a good blend of the latter two.
City of Mist effectively ditches the idea of a playbook and uses theme books to generate four Fate like Aspects. Then each Aspect gets four Lady Blackbird like tags (three positive power tags and one negative weakness). When you make a move, you add relevant tags (optional limits suggested are three or use grit mode) to generate power. Then it’s roll + power. Done. City of Mist gets rid of hit points, which I tend to shy away from. Instead, a successful attack inflicts a negative tag equal to your power. Once a tag has reached max intensity, the situation is done. Easy. I also like how City of Mist handles humanity vs. power.
The character’s four themes determine how human you are. You can begin play with up to three Mythos tags (what gives you your power) and the opposite number of Logos tags (what makes you human). Then the GM or player pits one against the other, seeing if the character moves toward being human or mythic. And that’s the thing. When you replace your final Logos theme with a fourth Mythos, your character becomes an avatar of that Mythos. Utterly inhuman and driven to achieve what the Mythos desires. The opposite is true as well, replace your final Mythos theme with a fourth Logos, and you’re a Sleeper and return to being blissfully unaware of the real world around you. In either case, someone, something, or some event can bring you back to a semblance of your former self. Yes, semblance. You see, the suggestion is to choose a different replacement theme for two reasons: one, why would you want to go back to where you were, knowing that’s what made you who your became? Two, having embodied your Mythos or forgotten it completely, something must have changed inside.
I like it. It should fit chapter two nicely. However, something else clicked in my head. If City of Mist is Powered by the Apocalypse meets Fate meets Lady Blackbird, then Fate and the Apocalypse World Engine are the same thing. For a while, I’ve been reading that you can play Fate with 2d6 - 7 to get a net zero result and not mess with the bell curve too much. If you don’t subtract 7, you have the average dice result for, say, Dungeon World. Another thread mentioned using 0 to +2 in Fate to replicate 7-9 results from Apocalypse World, since, again, it mostly leaves the bell curve intact. So you’re basically just deciding if you’d rather roll four Fate dice or 2d6 and adjusting bonuses in steps of +1 for games Powered by the Apocalypse or +2 for Fate. That’s really it.
John Rogers (screenwriter for Leverage and The Librarians) wrote: "Ability check/proficiency screams Fate accelerated/stunts vibe. A lot of cross pollination here. #DnD5e reads most like Fate Freeport"
And it’s true. Per the 5th edition Dungeon Master’s Guide, you can use the optional rule to do away with skills and replace them with simple ability checks (Approaches), and proficiency bonus is a Stunt. Add in Ideals, Bonds, Flaws and Inspiration, and you have Aspects plus a Fate Point resource. Someone else, I believe it was Mike Mearls, mentioned that it’s how a character does something and not what a character is doing. This in response to not being forced to use Charisma for an Intimidate check. Consider an ogre wrapping an iron bar around your neck might be scarier than it grunting incomprehensibly at you.
Anyway, yeah: Fate is Apocalypse World is 5E, but… diceless?
So, here’s something I want to try (still might, even solo): John Wick discusses No Dice. Basically, the concept of “Say yes or roll the dice” just becomes “Say yes unless the fiction says otherwise.” But, you can still game it through the use of Fate Points or Inspiration.
Per above, Fate and Apocalypse World are the same thing but on a different scale: 0 or 7. As a GM, if a player makes a move, they’re rolling 0 or 7 (or taking 10) plus any relevant bonus. As well, take a close look at the Dungeon World SRD where it says 6- means trouble. Not failure. Trouble. And if you look at the Fate SRD, the “fail” result for half the moves give you the opportunity to succeed at a serious cost. So what happens if you just let every character succeed with a basic roll, and gain Fate Points by choosing to fail at a move on their own?
Say, a fighter is walking down the hallway and steps into a pit trap. Defy Danger! 7, well, that’s a soft move on my part, but I’ll take your armor’s free clumsy tag and bump it down to 6-. If you have no Fate Points, I could do damage to you, but that’s no fun. I’ll choose “Use up their resources” and narrate how your armor protects you from the spikes on the way down quite well but rips your backpack open, spilling its contents all over the floor. Good news, you’re unencumbered. Bad news, you don’t have a container for loot.
So the thief decides to scrabble down and hammer in pitons to help the fighter out of the pit, right? DEX +2, the thief is rolling a 9. What could possibly go wrong while the fighter is disrobing to climb the ropes and the thief is busy repacking all the loot? “Reveal an unwelcome truth.”
Hey, wizard? Your fighter is downstairs with the thief and there’s heavy breathing and shuffling feet coming around the corner…
But what about the power gamer that chooses to fail innocuous rolls? Let’s find out:
Fighter chooses to fail to discern realities in a tavern. What could go wrong? A hard move, that’s what. As I’m about to narrate the outcome of the hard move, another player (because we all know it’ll happen) says, “Wait! I want to see if I notice anything!”
You could be a hard nose about it and say, “Let me resolve the move first,” but that’s not going to provide any meaningful event, so, borrowing from Magic, you create a stack. The fighter’s result is resolving, but the thief interrupts. The thief is rolling 7, 8 + WIS, unless the thief plays a Fate Point (which they probably will, if they chose to interrupt). Alright, thief, you get three questions from discern realities, and you resolve them. However, they’re two separate events, right?
So thief resolves first and notices a jealous fellow guild member staring daggers at the party. Cool. The thief found something. Then fighter resolves next and fails to notice the barmaid slipping sleeping powder into the party’s beer to take their valuables later that night. Two events, two checks. And there’s no reason you can’t link the two together and have the angry thief pay the barmaid to slip them the poison. Instant side quest, and the party just gave you two NPCs plus used (most likely) the valuable Fate Point.
So why not say yes all the time but ask the players what they’re willing to pay?
And I’m still not much closer to choosing between Fate or The Veil but, knowing me, I’ll just mash them together with City of Mist because, really, they’re all the same game.