This post about spells in FATE got me thinking about FATE/Nobilis mashups. I couldn’t decide which way to go so I decided I’d do them both.
Nobilis to FATE
A lot of this seems straightfoward: bonds become aspects, and you can tag them when doing nettle rites against the person. Gifts translate into either stunts or aspects, depending on how much mechanical bite they have. The real question here is how to fill in the FATE skill pyramid.
To my mind, the “point” of skills in FATE is that they’re methods by which characters can resolve problems or interact with situations. They’re supposed to be specific enough to allow for one to two dozen of them, but broad enough to be used during most adventures. I guess the main place to start would be to try to split up the four basic aspects (Aspect, Domain, Realm, Spirit) into smaller bits. Aspect you can mostly divide into Strength, Speed, Precision, Perception, and Deduction. Domain, I guess, gets divided into Divination, Preservation, Creation, Destruction, Change — I don’t think FATE really admits for some skills being more expensive than others, so probably you distinguish between them by having higher base difficulties for Creation than for Divination, or for major things than for minor. I’m inclined to make Realm a single skill in FATE and let you use it in place of any other skill when you’re in your Realm. Spirit, well, that’s always weird. Probably split it into a Resistance skill and a Rituals skill. That’s almost enough there, except for social skills. I’d almost be inclined to leave those out — they seem in a way too fundamental to Nobilis gameplay to be left to die rolls — but if you want you could bring in Charm, Intimidation, and Resolve and it wouldn’t hurt much. Oh, yeah, and you have to pick a domain but that’s almost tangential to the rules — you write it on your character sheet and then your various Creation, Divination, etc skills only apply to that.
I think you’re about good to go there. I’m not sure what this would feel like in practice — part of the Nobilis thing is that a lot of problems are really easy to solve and the main difficulties are 1) identifying what the problem actually is and then 2) picking the best solution. When you switch to FATE and add dice rolling you lose some of that surety, and when you break the broader skills down you lose some flexibility. There’s also the issue of whether you want to try to simulate the Nobilis anti-death-spiral damage system or not*.
*I originally suggested you could just reverse the effect of consequences and say that a minor consequence removes 6 damage, a medium removes 4, etc, but some discussion convinced me I was wrong. The way the Nobilis damage system as written works is basically you have a big wound, a medium wound, and a small wound, and you’re immune to smaller wounds than the biggest one you have left. So once you get hit with a grenade, then you can be shot with a gun, and once you’re shot with a gun you can be hit with a sword — but until you’re hit with a grenade you take no damage from a sword. So the FATE equivalent is probably to say that your minor consequence is worth -6 shifts, but that the consequence isn’t actually applied until there are shifts remaining after it’s applied. So hits from 0-6 shifts get swallowed by the minor consequence with no effect. Once you get a bigger hit, then you have the medium consequence, which soaks things from 0-4, etc. Or another variant would be to say that as long as you haven’t taken your minor consequence, your wound boxes are worth 6 shifts each (in this case you probably wouldn’t use the -2/-4/-6 rule at all).
On the plus side, you get a little more ability to distinguish characters mechanically by something other than Domain, and you get aspects, which are always good in any system (in Nobilis-FATE, notably, you could use your bonds to help you on certain skill checks — though that might risk the wrath of Lord Entropy).
Also, I am reminded that a while back, I did a FUDGE hack (I hadn’t heard of FATE yet) for a nobilis-like gift system which might be interesting to look at in this context.
FATE to Nobilis
This one is a little hairier. The main thing to making it work is deciding what the attributes stand for. Aspect is presumably your, uh, general badassery, and Domain your badassery in the specific area of your “thing”, whatever that is. Realm is probably how badass you are on your home turf (in FATE-Nobilis I would be inclined to let people define what their home turf is, like “the streets of San Miguel” or “the Emperor’s circle” or “libraries”, and not worry about the group sharing it). Then there’s Spirit. Spirit serves several functions in Nobilis so it’s hard to decide what to roll up in there — it covers toughness, magical aptitude, and so on. Maybe it’s just “how much of a badass the universe thinks you are” and have it cover respect you get from people, ability to roll with the punches, etc, and not worry about the magic side of things (if you want to be a magician, take Magic (or Demonic Pact or whatever) as your thing and raise your Domain). I’m not sure if Divination/Preservation/Creation/Destruction/Change works for the kinds of domain miracles you can do, or if that needs to be replaced by something else.
Like, take my standard example, Conan. Conan obviously has high everything, but his thing is Barbarian, so say he wants to use that. He uses it to sense stuff a lot of the time with barbarian instincts, to move with barbarian quickness, to totally kill dudes with barbarian strength, to woo women with barbarian good looks — while you could map these to divination and change and destruction and preservation it’s kind of inexact and, more importantly, none seem obviously harder than the others. So, yeah, I’m not sure what to do here.
The easy way is to treat Domain miracles like Aspect miracles, and essentially say it’s just a GM call how hard they are to do (though I guess you’d say “how hard to do for a barbarian” vs “how hard to do for a person” for Aspect miracles). This has a couple problems, though. The minor one is that, ideally, players can create their character without talking to the GM to price stuff, and you need to know miracle difficulty to price gifts based on them. The larger one is that this system is already unbalanced in favor of Aspect (since the characters will almost always be in ‘mundane’ situations that can be solved with ‘normal’, albeit high-powered, Aspect abilities), and this just makes it worse — presumably any “barbarian” Domain miracle can be done with a slightly higher-level Aspect miracle.
So the other way is to try to break down what’s covered by Aspect and Domain and shuffle it around a bit. Like, maybe Aspect gets retuned to only cover “power” things, and Domain covers “skill” things — so all the Conan examples above might be “power” Aspect miracles, and he’d only use his Domain miracles for stuff like “outwit this enemy commander” or “remember where you last saw this demon-priest’s symbol”. (But Conan is kind of at one extreme in terms of the power/skill dichotomy of his actions: somewhere in the middle you might have a noble duelist or a thief or a wizard, and at the other edge you might have a master-manipulator type.) We could also try to rework the specific kinds of Domain miracles. Like, Divination miracles are about getting information, so say uses of your domain to get information are the easiest difficulty. Next is Preservation, which is about “keeping stuff the same” and “defending”, so you could use that when defending, hiding, blocking, resisting, etc (I’m not sure how much of this would overlap with Spirit). Creation is about creating stuff, presumably to give you an edge but not as a direct attack, so this might cover manipulation and maneuvering. Destruction is presumably about damage and direct assault. And Change has always been a catchall, so it’s for things not covered by previous stages. It’s still a GM call whether things are minor or major but hopefully this would help codify a bit.
If you buy how attributes work, then gifts can use the same rules as normal. Bonds do too (though you’re not magically attuned to them any more, but still, it has some effect when someone attacks your buddies — basically like tagging an aspect of yours against you). I’m not sure if you’d want to modify the rules for creating the Realm and the Imperator (call them your Patron now) or just ignore them. And that mostly wraps things up for this conversion.
This one is definitely rougher than going the other way, but it feels like it might be interesting to play. In particular, I like the home-turf thing and the idea of a “general badassitude” stat, even if I’m not quite sure how it interacts with more specialized abilities.
So, yeah, that’s how I’d do the conversions. I’m not sure either is superior to the original, but they both feel like they’d be worth playing to see what they’re like, so I think it’s a win.