As a generic rule-set, Strands of FATE is a fully functioning game system lacking only two ingredients: (1) a creative gaming group, and (2) a setting in which to play. I can’t help much with the former ingredient, that’s up to you, but I can assist with the latter.
Many of you out there who’ve picked up Strands of FATE (or any of the other FATE-based games) have already discovered how flexible, complete, and stream-lined the system is. Hopefully you’ve had a chance to see the system in action and thought to yourself that this may help you get the RPG experience you’re looking for (at least that’s what it did for my group!). So really there is just one thing remaining, either creating your own setting for SoF, or converting your favorite game and setting. For those of you looking to convert your favorite game, setting, or campaign to Strands of FATE, this article is for you.
My gaming group has already done a couple of conversions to FATE, and over the years I’ve converted several other settings and systems (Savage Worlds, Modern d20, and Cortex to name a few). With each of these projects, I’ve learned a lot about how to execute a good conversion. The most important thing I’ve discovered is that we GM’s tend to make conversion projects infinitely more complex then they need to be. Like my high school English teacher always said, “Unless your name starts with Shake and ends with Spear, keep it simple!” On that note, here’s my advice for pain-free conversions:
Define the “Feel” of the Source Material
Before undertaking a conversion, sit back and really think about what elements of the source material are the key components for the “feel” of the setting. Ask yourself what makes this setting exciting: is it genre, theme, scale, or the nature of the heroes or villains? What makes this setting conversion-worthy? Make a list of these elements.
For example: our list for a recent Eberron (D&D 4E) conversion looked something like this:
- Swashbuckling high adventure in a fantasy setting.
- Numerous power-brokers (governments, noble families, guilds, Dragonmarked houses, religions, secret societies, etc.) all
vying for increased power.
- “Interesting” heroes (more so than “powerful” ones) with a “pulp” feel. More Indiana Jones than Drizzt do’Urden. Larger-than-life maybe, but not epic “super-heroes”.
Take a good look at your finished list. If you notice that your list focuses on “hard” gaming elements, such as rules or mechanics, I’d suggest not doing the conversion. Maybe you need to tweak the source material a bit for the game you want, but in my experience you’ll only get frustrated trying to make all of the mechanics “fit” into a different rule-paradigm, so you’re probably better off just using the existing materials as written for your game.
However, if your list tends to focus on “soft” gaming elements, such as genre, theme, style, and other non-mechanical elements, then a FATE conversion may be exactly what your game needs.
Separate Rules from Setting
With a few exceptions, most rules don’t necessarily do anything to convey the feel of the setting, they simply provide a working framework for the game. As you look through your source material, note if there are any rules that specifically address elements that are important to experiencing the setting. These are usually genre-specific and fulfill a specific function within the context of the setting. Here are some examples:
- Call of Cthulhu: Rules for fear and insanity
- Star Wars: Dark side and light side Force powers
- Shadowrun: Hacking, AR, and VR.
If your source material has rules like these, take a look at how SoF handles the issue and go with it. Stands of FATE is an amazingly complete set of rules, and nearly anything you need can be found within. Other rules, such as for two-weapon fighting, reloading, or lockpicking, really don’t do anything for the setting so don’t worry about converting them. SoF has rules covering these things already so avoid the temptation to convert mechanical minutia just because it exists in the source material. It doesn’t add anything to your game, and just tends to overly “complexify” your FATE game.
Understand the FATE Paradigm and Embrace It Fully
I can’t stress this enough: let FATE work the way it is designed. Don’t try to make FATE fit your source material; make your source material fit FATE. This is the most critical element of a conversion, and once you understand it, the process will be pain-free and virtually effortless.
My current conversion project is the Warhammer 40K RPGs from Fantasy Flight Games (Black Crusade, Dark Heresy Deathwatch, and Rogue Trader). The setting is incredible, but the rules have a great deal more complexity than I want to deal with. The most important thing for me and my players is to truly capture the dark, bleak, hopeless feel of the 41st millennia.
When I first began the conversion I was quickly overwhelmed by all of the elements I “had” to convert. But after a while I realized that 90% of the rules were only relevant in context with other rules and didn’t really do anything to bring the setting to life. Once I had that realization, the conversion was a breeze. For each game, I selected one or two elements and then converted them. The rest is pretty much just “standard” Strands of FATE.
Hopefully this will help you on your path to that FATE game you really want to run. I’ve been extremely impressed at how well this system works and how easy conversions are. Just remember the most important thing: don’t over think it, it’s easier than you think.