Campaign of the Month: December 2011
Dresden Files Dallas
After mulling over some of the items on this thread and my own systems observations… I’m using a recommendation found in the above discussion to rethink the Hunger mechanic for Dresden.
Fate Point Based Hunger
This system completely replaces the (+1) Refresh power Feeding Dependency, the Hunger Stress Track, Discipline checks, etc. This does not affect Blood Drinker or Emotional Vampire as they have different (but related) effects.
Conceptually, the character is assumed to be at a general state of equilibrium with its powers, hunger, and methods of feeding at all times. Everything is below the notice of the game mechanics by default (i.e. all handled in background/backstory/downtime/etc). However, if the creature draws too heavily on itself… bad things can happen as ‘Free Will’ starts to take a backseat to ‘the Hunger.’
The new controlling Power under which are grouped a series of additional powers is termed “Hunger” (-1 Refresh) (Note generally speaking, all NPCs and Monsters built with Feeding Dependency just shifted a point or two of Refresh)
In order to take Hunger, the character must have a Character Aspect that is relevant (a Trouble works, High Concept of “Vampire” does it also, etc.) – GMs can always compel this Aspect to represent troubles brought on by losing control, being found out, etc. etc. – however, unless Compelled, the creature is at “Equilibrium” with itself.
Template Characters that already have “Feeding Dependency” just swaps this one in (White Court Virgin, Red Court Infected, etc.). As a Template Character, most likely the Aspect requirement will already be taken care of via the High Concept.
- The character now has a mechanic similar to the way Sponsored Spellcasters can go into “Fate Point Debt” when they need to draw on extra “oomph”
- These spent Fate Points accumulate “Hunger Debt” representing drawing on your powers TOO heavily.
- To replenish Hunger Debt requires the character to inflict Consequences on victims. These Consequences have to be directly related to the creature’s High Concept/Aspects/etc. Each -2 worth of Consequences inflicted cancels 1 point of Hunger Debt.
- Basically, Emotion Vampires inflict social or mental Consequences, blood and flesh eaters inflict physical Consequences, etc. etc.
- Minor Consequence = 1
- Moderate Consequence = 2
- Severe Consequence = 3
- Extreme Consequence = 4 (remember this also causes an Aspect change)
- Death following all of the above = 1 more (11 total)
- In addition to the controlling player having the option of “feeding” to reduce the Hunger Debt, at any time during a story when a character carries a Hunger Debt, the GM can “Cash In” a point of Hunger Debt to represent a Compel that does not result in a Fate Point gain (after all, they already spent the bonus).
- Generally a reasonable amount of story time should be allowed to pass to let the creature try to buy off its Hunger Debt first before hitting it with Hunger Debt Compels.
- Depending on the nature of the recovered Hunger Debt, several creatures in the nearby area might be able to share (several Ghouls all eating the same mortal to share the 10 points).
The Beast is Always Hungry
The character always begins a brand new Story Arc with 1 point of Hunger Debt, this acts as a Compel and so the character gets a Fate Point for it. This only happens at the beginning of a brand new Story Arc (similar to getting Unspent Refresh as Fate Points or Compels to get your character into the story).
Basic Feeding Example
A blood vampire inflicts the Minor Consequence “Bite Marks on the Neck and Lightheaded” on a victim and cancels a single point of Hunger Debt.
More Complex Example
Thomas Raith inflicts upon Justine the Extreme Consequence “Wheelchair Bound Semi-Vegetable,” Severe Consequence “Coma,” Moderate Consequence “Nonresponsive,” and Minor Consequence “Barely Breathing” to clear out 10 points of Hunger Debt (which was incurred due to the events of Blood Rites). As an Extreme Consequence was inflicted, it causes the victim to have an Aspect Change… which because of story purposes becomes “Thomas’s White Haired True Love.”
Hopefully you can see by the above Thomas Raith example, this system actually models the books a bit better…
Further Items of Note
1 – Significance of the Victim
Note this system inflicts Consequences, not Stress points.
- Nameless Victims… don’t have Consequences to Accept so they must always be “Taken Out” in some way and the Consequences inflicted afterwards (once “Taken Out” the attacker can decide how many Consequences are being inflicted, them’s the breaks… else a Concession is required for the victim to decide those terms).
- Other put in other words, there ain’t no such thing as a voluntary Nameless Victim.
- Though there might be voluntary named Minor NPCs (lovers, etc.)
Wait… what about the Thomas (Toe-mas) Hair Dresser stuff?
- Special case Composure/Social/Mental Attacks to Take Out the victims via
- “Rapport” vs “Discipline” … completely trusts this man, fell asleep (Taken Out/Unconscious)
- “Empathy” vs “Endurance” …. turned into jelly via Hair-Orgasmic Scalp-Massage (Taken Out/Dazed)
- In both situations, Toe-mas is only inflicting a “Minor: Lost a few hours” Consequence representing that he’s only “sipping” instead of “drinking” (Moderate or above).
Feeding as a Consequential Action
For “Nameless NPCs” that get fed on, this is best performed as a Consequential Action (page 193) and the GM just assigns a number of Time Increments to pull it off (say up to an hour or more). Like any other Consequential Action, each two shifts the attacker “wins by” is a level of a Consequence (2 is Minor, 6 is Minor plus Moderate, 12 is Minor/Moderate/Severe, etc.).
2 – What about Power Atrophy for Non-Feeding
The system above already includes a mechanic to “cash out” Hunger Debt by using them as ‘free’ Compels, however, since Hunger should be a bad thing there’s also another option for running a “high balance” of Hunger Debt.
Any time a character with a Hunger Debt balance uses a power “attached” to it… feel free to assign Fragile scene Aspects at the rate of 1 per game session per three points of Hunger Debt.
- So a character with 7 Hunger Debt can count on the GM just randomly hitting him with 2 Declarations that are “not in his favor” during the upcoming game sessions until he does something about his Hunger Debt.
- This is especially appropriate when fighting others of the character’s type (Thomas fighting Lara, etc.)
I hesitate to add this section for fear of being misconstrued that I’m saying Fae are “Evil People Eaters” … However, After carefully reading Butcher’s vision of Fae, comparing it to some generally common themes, and evaluating it against the Fate System…
I posit that with the reforging of the Hunger mechanic, we can actually model observed Fae behavior in the books with system and have it in the game! In the White Wolf Games Changeling: the Dreaming game (and it’s clear Jim Butcher has some background in White Wolf just by his world design choices) the Fae in that game consumed and used Glamour. It was both their name for their Magic as well as the name they used for the energy they took from mortality.
The Seelie and Unseelie Courts feed on the intangible energy of human existence itself. However, the method of feeding is completely different from the more direct and observable methods of Ghouls (or any flesh eaters), Red Court, Black Court, and even White Court.
The fundamental difference in regards to feeding is that the Seelie Court (generally) does not feed via Physical Consequences… whereas the Unseelie Court couldn’t care less how they sate their Hunger. However, nearly always, the effect perceived by mortality… is that the Fae are capricious, beyond understanding, and/or cruel.
- That a Ghoul feeds on human flesh or what a Vampire does is pretty easy to see… that a Fae is actually feeding off some artist in a loft’s insomnia as he creates his “Masterpiece” … that’s a lot harder to see.
- Summer Knight, Maeve “You said you’d die to play that well, poor creature.” – Inflicted the full battery of Consequences and killed the mortal trumpet player, worth 10-11 replenished Hunger.
- Similarly, all the other prisoner musicians in that scene were suffering Consequences like “Terrified” or “Exhausted” and the other assembled Fae “ate that up” as they danced
- Drug Addict, Rapist, Murderer Lloyd Slate (Winter Knight) – drugs inflict Mental/Social/Composure … Rape is Physical as well as Composure … you get the idea.
- Lea enjoys chasing Harry down and messing with his mind – Physical Consequences (Winded from Running) and/or Mental/Social/Composure consequences (so, so many options to choose from)
- From the historical legends – Parents raising a Changeling baby … every time the Fae Child causes the parents to worry, be afraid, scream, shout, suffer, or even start to go insane … the Changeling baby “feeds.” In some of the legends, the nearly adult Fae kills the parents as the last act before leaving the nest.
- Inflicting the Mental/Social/Composure consequences as part of the creative process like
- “Moderate: Obsessed with my art and forgetting to sleep… this week.”
- “Minor: I’m Totally Drunk as I write”
- … or more potent ones like “Extreme: I cut off my ear for you” … and the new Aspect “One Eared Painter” – like he wasn’t Faestruck (Starry Night, Sunflowers? Wheatfield with Crows? C’mon…)
- Love… summer’s drug… can cause all sorts of Mental/Social/Composure Consequences during the course of its run (from lovers spats, to blissful memories, or the angst created by a love affair) to the actual physical act of lovemaking itself (Physical Minor: Sleepy Now…) or even the stormy ups and downs of parenthood (Moderate Mental “Too Many Sleepless Nights” or Minor “We’re Broke Now From Buying Everything for the Nursery”).
- Summer isn’t beyond being cruel to mortals in their quest to experience mortality’s ups and downs – “Severe: Depression Brought on by Miscarriage”
- Of course… ACTUAL Drugs (Minor: I need a bag of Doritos…) and Madness (Severe: Multiple Personality Disorder, Manic/Depressive Disorder) are certainly included in Summer’s list of tools
I think I get the point across. Fae behavior actually becomes … well.. we can model it now with system and still add to the story. To me, that’s a win.
The Pizza Corollary
- With the Low Fae, foods and cultural icons of great significance to a huge number of people carry a “base level” of energy beneath our need to model with game rules. Pizza and Pixies is a great example… nearly everyone in America loves Pizza…. thus the very concept of Pizza carries with it, in every bite, the love/desire/appeal of the Pizza phenomena itself as a form of human existence energy that they consume like a drug.
- Sushi, Thai Food, Chinese Buffets, Ramen on a college campus, whatever the current Fad Diet, all these would also likewise carry that same base level “buzz” of human energy. Other countries would likewise have different foods for the same buzz (England and Vindaloo perhaps, Ireland and Guinness, etc.) … However, thematically, all will be inferior to Pizza. Pizza is king. Long live the ’Za Lord.
Changeling? Scion? Hunger?
I would say Changelings and Scions don’t have to take this (but can if they wish). However, any Scions that have “Marked by Power” should probably swap that out with Hunger when they make “The Choice” to become a full Fae (and certainly by the time they’re very high Refresh).
Fae that do not take the Hunger Power and/or associate any powers with it are still weak enough or close enough to Mortality to feed on ambient mortal energy as just part of living in the world (see Pizza Corollary above).