Showing Off: Musketeer Stunts in Fate Core

Some time ago I posted a swashbuckling mini-hack for Fate Core, to introduce a little more strategy and daring into how the game handles sword fighting.  This was in advance of joining a Musketeers game, which has been an excellent opportunity to playtest those ideas, within the confines of an already extremely fun campaign.

At the end of that post, I teased the possibility of developing stunt trees to plug into those rules, framed around the six Fight approaches.  My design goals for these stunt trees were to generate even more strategic options in combat, and to take advantage of one of Fate’s most neglected mechanics: zones.  In a setting where everyone is a sword fighter, the Fate Core default is for everyone to pile into the same zone and stay there, so they always have complete choice about which opponent to attack.  This is both a boring way to play, and a poor representation of the genre, in which leaps and dashes through precarious environments are as much part of fight scenes as quips and swordplay.

Below is the result of my efforts.  These are specifically Musketeer-themed, as you can tell from the names of each of the schools (one of them isn’t even a reference to Dumas’ source material, but instead to a character in our campaign).  However, my instinct is they could be adapted to other swashbuckling settings like high-seas adventure without too much complication.

RULES REVISION

First, a revision to the original swashbuckling rules.  In my first draft, I suggested that PCs could discover the strengths and weaknesses of NPCs in three ways: trial and error, a successful overcome action, or succeeding with style on an attack.  Upon further playtesting, I have removed the option for PCs to sacrifice their boosts on a succeed-with-style attack to discover their enemy’s strengths and weaknesses.  Not only is this an unattractive choice in play, but it only further privileges the attack action, which is hardly in need of further empowerment.

TIERS OF SCHOOLING

Any Musketeers can choose any of the stunts below that are marked as Swashbuckler stunts.

A Musketeer can only choose a Duellist stunt if he possesses a Swashbuckler stunt from the same school as the Duellist stunt.

A Musketeer can only choose a Blademaster stunt if he possesses a Duellist stunt from the same school as the Blademaster stunt.

SCHOOL D’ATHOS

Guard Stance (Swashbuckler stunt): +2 to defend with Fight when using a Careful approach.

Stay Grounded (Swashbuckler stunt): If an opponent attempts to create an advantage and you are providing active opposition with the Fight skill, they never gain more than one free invoke, even if they succeed with style.  In addition, if you attempt a Careful defence and your attacker succeeds with style, they are denied the opportunity for a boost.  They still inflict stress as normal.

At Arm’s Length (Swashbuckler stunt): When you Carefully attack an enemy, and subsequently use your free move that turn to move into a different zone, take a boost.

Wait For The Opening (Duellist stunt): +2 to attack with Fight when using a Careful approach.

Cover Your Weakness (Duellist stunt): When you suffer a physical consequence, your opponent does not gain a free invoke on that aspect.

Step, Lunge, Withdraw (Duellist stunt): You can use Fight to make a physical attacks against enemies one zone away.

Territory Control (Blademaster stunt): If an enemy enters your zone, and there were previously no enemies in that zone, spend a fate point to immediately inflict a 2-stress hit on that enemy.

Absorb Every Detail (Blademaster stunt): When your encounter an NPC with Fight bonuses and penalties, you may spend a Fate Point to learn all their bonuses and penalties.

Textbook Riposte (Blademaster stunt, costs two refresh): When you succeed with a Careful defence, spend a fate point to inflict an amount of stress on your attacker equal to the amount you succeeded by.

SCHOOL DE BRETAGNE

Knows Your Every Move (Swashbuckler stunt): +2 to defend with Fight when using a Clever approach.

Read You Like a Book (Swashbuckler stunt): When you successfully discover your opponent’s Fight bonuses/penalties with an overcome action, reveal ALL bonuses/penalties.  If you succeed with style, you also take a boost.

Feigned Retreat (Swashbuckler stunt): When you successfully overcome opposition to move one zone, move an enemy from your old zone into your new zone as well.  This movement cannot be resisted.  If you succeed with style, you can sacrifice your boost to move yourself and two enemies.

Astounding Strike (Duellist stunt): +2 to attack with Fight when using a Clever approach.

Mastermind (Duellist stunt): When you create an advantage with Fight (“Combat Strategy” or similar) and succeed with style, place three free invokes on that aspect instead of two.

Too Smart For That (Duellist stunt): You can use Fight to defend against any attempts to trick, distract or outwit you in a physical conflict.

Thinking Outside the Box (Blademaster stunt): When Cleverly attacking or defending with Fight, and invoking a situation aspect that was not created by you or your allies, you may take a +4 bonus instead of +2.

Planned For This (Blademaster stunt): Once per physical conflict, select an aspect in play and clear all free invokes from that aspect.

Battle-Winner (Blademaster stunt, costs two refresh): At any time in a conflict (even outside your own turn), you may point to a “Combat Strategy” situation aspect you created.  For every free invoke on that aspect, you may move a character one zone.  You cannot move the same character more than once, but you can move enemy characters, and this movement cannot be resisted.  This counts as a “free move for the turn” for purposes of stunt activation.  Any free invokes that remain after you’ve made all the moves you want are automatically removed.

SCHOOL D’ARAMIS

Dizzying Blows (Swashbuckler stunt): +2 to attack with Fight when using a Flashy approach.

No Slip Ups (Swashbuckler stunt): If an opponent attempts to create an advantage and you are providing active opposition with the Fight skill, they never gain more than one free invoke, even if they succeed with style.  In addition, if you attempt a Flashy attack and the defender succeeds with style, they are denied the opportunity for a boost.  You still don’t inflict any stress though.

Watch This! (Swashbuckler stunt): You can use Fight to create advantages when you show off your combat skills (“Centre of Attention” or similar).  If an ally in your zone is attacked, and the enemy would be able to attack your instead, you may spend a free invoke on this aspect to force them to attack you instead of the original target.

Dazzling Defence (Duellist stunt): +2 to defend with Fight when using a Flashy approach.

Shit-Eating Grin (Duellist stunt): When you suffer a mental consequence, your opponent does not gain a free invoke on that aspect.

Supremely Confident (Duellist stunt): You can use Fight to defend against attempts to intimidate you with the threat of physical force.

Untouchable (Blademaster stunt): So long as a situation aspect is in play that marks you as the “Centre of Attention” or similar, you may choose to prevent any enemies from attacking you.  You cannot use this stunt at the same time as Watch This!

Anyone Else? (Blademaster stunt): When you take out an enemy or mob of enemies, take a boost.

Dance With Me (Blademaster stunt, costs two refresh): Once during your turn, so long as a situation aspect is in play that marks you as the “Centre of Attention” or similar, you may choose an enemy in an adjacent zone, and move them into your zone.  This movement cannot be resisted.

SCHOOL DE ROCHEFORT

The Direct Approach (Swashbuckler stunt): +2 to attack with Fight when using a Forceful approach.

Knockback (Swashbuckler stunt): When you Forcefully attack and succeed with style, you may sacrifice your boost (but reduce stress inflicted by one as normal) to move your enemy one zone.  Your enemy cannot resist this movement.

Shoulder Bash (Swashbuckler stunt): When you move a zone and succeed with style to overcome opposition, you may sacrifice your boost to inflict a 2-stress hit on an enemy in the zone you moved from or to.

Brick Wall (Duellist stunt): +2 to defend with Fight when using a Forceful approach.

Stun Attack (Duellist stunt): When you make a Forceful attack on an enemy and inflict a consequence, you may sacrifice your free invoke on that aspect.  If you do so, your opponent cannot act until they succeed on an overcome action to recover their wits – the difficulty is Fair (+2) for mild consequences, Good (+3) for moderate consequences, and Great (+4) for severe consequences.

CHAAAAARGE! (Duellist stunt): You may use Fight to make overcome actions to move more than one zone in a turn.

Wild Rage (Blademaster stunt): Once per scene, you can choose to make your next Forceful attack with a bonus equal to the value of your highest consequence (+2 for mild, +4 for moderate, +6 for severe). If you do, the consequence is stepped up by one level – mild becomes moderate, moderate becomes severe, severe becomes taken out.

Chaos Reigns (Bladesmaster stunt): If you successfully overcome and remove a situation aspect, and have moved a zone in that same turn, automatically create a situation aspect with free invoke to represent the repercussions of your destruction.

Bull Rush (Blademaster stunt, costs two refresh): When you make a successful overcome action to move two zones in one turn, inflict a 4-stress hit on an enemy in one of the three zones you moved between.  Alternatively, you may inflict 2-stress hits on two different enemies, so long as they were each one was in one of the three zones you moved between.

SCHOOL D’ARTAGNAN

Out of Nowhere (Swashbuckler stunt): +2 to attack with Fight when using a Quick approach.

Go With The Flow (Swashbuckler stunt): If you succeed with style on a Quick attack in the same turn you move a zone, you may sacrifice your boost (but reduce stress inflicted by one as normal) to gain a situation aspect with free invoke (“Momentum”, or similar).  In addition, if you are required to make an overcome action to move zones and succeed with style, you generate a situation aspect with free invoke instead of a boost.

Leap Back (Swashbuckler stunt): When you Quickly defend and succeed with style, you may sacrifice your boost to move to an adjacent zone.  Your movement cannot be opposed.

Can’t Catch Me (Duellist stunt): +2 to defend with Fight when using a Quick approach.

Swift Attack (Duellist stunt): When you Quickly attack with Fight and succeed with style, you may sacrifice your boost (but reduce stress inflicted by one as normal) to inflict a second 2-stress hit.  This can be against the original target, or any other enemy in your zone.

Combat Reflexes (Duellist stunt): You may use Fight to determine your initiative order in a physical conflict.

Just That Fast (Bladesmaster stunt): You may move two zones a turn for free instead of one.  You still need to make an overcome action though if your movement between those zones is opposed, and cannot move more than two zones in a turn.

Burst of Speed (Bladesmaster stunt): Once per turn, so long as there is a situation aspect in play to represent your Momentum, you may spend a free invoke on that aspect to move one zone.  This movement cannot be opposed.  You cannot use this stunt if you have already moved two or more zones in the past turn.  If you use this move just as an enemy was about to attack you, and you can no longer be targeted, your enemy can choose a different action instead.

Unstoppable (Bladesmaster stunt, costs two refresh): If a situation aspect is in play to represent your Momentum, then you may place an additional free invoke on that aspect whenever you move a zone, up to a maximum of once per turn.

SCHOOL D’WINTER

Wily Defences (Swashbuckler stunt): +2 to defend with Fight when using a Sneaky approach.

Flexible Fighter (Swashbuckler stunt): Making a Sneaky attack does not lock you into a Sneaky defence for the rest of your turn.  You may use whatever approaches you like to defend until your next attack action.

Parting Gift (Swashbuckler stunt): When an enemy leaves a zone you are in, spend a fate point to inflict a 2-stress hit on them.

Cheap Shot (Duellist stunt): +2 to attack with Fight when using a Sneaky approach.

Find Their Weakness (Duellist stunt): When you discover an opponent’s character aspects or consequences and succeed with style, place three free invokes on those aspects instead of two.

Patient Hunter (Duellist stunt): You may use Fight to create an advantage when you conceal your true position before ambushing an opponent.

Make It Hurt (Bladesmaster stunt): When you make a Sneaky attack and invoke an opponent’s consequence, gain a +4 bonus instead of a +2.

Can’t Run From Your Shadow (Bladesmaster stunt): Once per turn, when an enemy leaves your zone, you may spend a fate point to make a free move to the zone they moved to.

Crippling Strike (Bladesmaster stunt, costs two refresh): When you successfully inflict stress with a Sneaky attack, you may prevent the target of your attack from leaving your zone in their next turn.

ADVANCED TINKERING

It may be that a Musketeer wishes to reskin one of the below stunts to work in exactly the same way but for a different Fighting Approach.  For example, a Musketeer might want to take the Flexible Fighter stunt from the School D’Winter, but have it work for Quick attacks instead of Sneaky attacks.  A stunt reskinned in this way counts as being chosen from the School that corresponds to the new approach; however, it also counts as being one tier higher when determining if the Musketeer in entitled to select that stunt.  So a Quick reskin of Flexible Fighter, which is usually a Swashbuckling stunt in the School D’Winter, would count as a Duellist stunt in the School D’Artagnan, and therefore would only be available to a Musketeer who already possessed a Swashbuckling stunt from the School D’Artagnan.

If a Musketeer wishes to reskin a Blademaster stunt, then he can only select it if he already possesses a Blademaster stunt from the School whose approach he is reskinning the new stunt to.

Reskinned stunts don’t count when determining if a Musketeer meets the selection criteria for choosing a stunt at the next tier up.  So a reskinned Flexible Fighter stunt wouldn’t count as a Duellist stunt when working out if a Musketeer is qualified to choose a Blademaster stunt from that school; you’d have to choose a Duellist stunt specifically created for that school first.

STILL TO COME

All of the stunts above are designed to be used by PCs.  Some of them might be usable by NPCs too, but most are not applicable – for example, NPCs don’t use approaches when attacking or defending.  The next step on this journey is to create stunts more explicitly designed to be used by NPCs in a swashbuckling Fate game.  Watch this space.

2 thoughts on “Showing Off: Musketeer Stunts in Fate Core

  1. First of all, I am sad at lack of Porthos stunts, particularly since many of these are so obviously Porthos stunts (Watch This! and Chaos Reigns being the most obvious).

    The second thing is that this really hammers home the need for zones to be very small in a swashbuckling game. I would suggest they need to be so small that there are limits imposed on the number of people in any zone, and also it’s possible to attack adjacent zones with no penalty. Here I’m thinking of the standard fight on the table. The table is a zone, as are the areas on either side. You can fight someone standing with you on the table, but also there might be a fight between someone on the table and someone next to it. Or a fight on a single staircase could take place over several zones. You might need to allow stunts for moving more than two zones though…

    Also, the base stunts for all schools that give +2 to attack and defend when using specific approaches are too powerful. It was only last session that Louis said he wouldn’t allow such stunts unless they were qualified to only be applicable in certain situations. I can see that they might be allowed if further up the tree, but you’ve always got one as a Swashbuckling stunt and therefore always available.

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  2. I would have had a School of Porthos, but Aramis and Porthos both chose the same peak approach, and Aramis seemed the one most likely to found a School to me.

    Interesting thought regarding the size of zones. I actually don’t agree, because zones in Fate are deliberately designed to be abstract – you can have a huge room with one small table be a single zone, but if two swordsmen are having a fight in that zone, then OF COURSE it will happen on the table. Not sure what the game would look like if you took a more defined, tactical (realistic?) approach to the zone mechanic. You’d certainly be changing a lot of the zones I’ve outlined above.

    I disagree that the +2s are overpowered, and I disagreed with Louis, which is why there’s probably a good chance that Louis won’t be using these stunts in the Musketeers game (which is fair enough, it’s his game). To me, four restrictions on use (specific skill, specific action, specific approach, specific circumstance) is one step too far – I’m not sure Denis has ever used his in the campaign so far, but I could be wrong. So long as it’s limited to a specific approach, I don’t see the problem. There are plenty of enemies out there who will punish you mercilessly if you’re foolish enough to use that approach against them.

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