The Yoteden FU Hack, Part Two
This time we cover special abilities like Magic and Psionics. Presented below is an overview of what I will be using in my FU games. It will add some extra details to keep track of but the last time I checked folks that like playing wizards tend to like more fiddly bits anyway! (You know who you are!) It’s taken me about 6 months to get it all down in one piece and with a system that I feel works pretty well while still carrying the elegance of the FU system. Enjoy!
On Things FUsterious and Powerful
If a character is a mage, a priest, a psychic or a mutant with odd powers then this section is for them. If they want to toss fireballs, float mugs around a tavern, walk through walls, talk to animals, read minds, or transform themselves into an eagle then, hopefully, we’ll get it covered here. The original FU rules are light in this regard and so I’ve crafted this system together to give it a bit more structure. Here is a step by step guide.
First question to ask is this – what makes the character able to have special abilities? Are they a student of magic, a priest of an order? A shaman taught by his family? More importantly, what KIND of mage are they? What sort of shamanic work do they do? Are they a healer? A spirit talker? Does the mage have a focus in wind spells or fire spells? All characters have some focus to their studies and that should be noted. Whatever it is, this focus should be a part of the Role. More specifically it should be part of “What They Do.”
Doing something that revolves around this focus will give them the ability to use their spells if they are a Novice or get them a bonus to their die pool if they are Skilled or a Veteran. An ability outside of their focus will not. (See the Yoteden FU Hack, Part One for explanation of Role and the Experience Rank.)
Some Examples: A Novice with a focus of fire magic would not get any bonus but could throw the spell in the first place. A Skilled mage character would get +1 bonus die to anything involving fire. If that same character also wanted to use their Sleep spell on a pack of goblins they would not get their Focus bonus. Characters, in time, may have ranks in other foci and that is explained below under Part Three of the Hack – Experience and Learning.
The Ability/Spell List
Each character begins with a spell list in relation to their experience level. This list is separate from the list of descriptors, edges, etc of a normal character. (An example of a magic using character is at the end of the article.)
This list may certainly grow over time with character growth and the numbers below can be fiddled with by the GM. These spells can be anything that works with the character concept. A novice character is encouraged to list abilities and spells that work within their assigned focus. They may, however, take a spell or two which is not. This is up to the player. (See Below.) The initial list size may change based on the campaign being run. These guidelines were built for a fantasy game where magic was fairly present and workable. You may want to adjust as you see fit.
Novice 3 – 5
Skilled 5 – 7
Veteran 7 – 9
Spells Not in the Focus
A character might want to take a spell that does not fit into the initial focus. A fire mage might want to grab a wind spell. A healer may want Detect Magic. The first question to ask is does this make sense with the character concept as it currently stands? If so, great but there are a few other things to consider.
If you are a Novice character and you grab something out of your focus be prepared for the GM to not allow you a bonus die but you might actually be at a -1 to cast it. This represents a spell whose workings you are just not familiar with yet. This is completely open to GM interpretation. The chart below, broken down by Experience Level, gives you some idea of how you might want to work things.
Experience Level Spell w/in Focus Spell Not in Focus
Novice 0 -1
Skilled +1 0
Veteran +2 +1
Writing up an Ability
Spells or abilities should be named and given at least a sentence of explanation. It should describe the effects of the ability or spell as well as range or special requirements that must be met before the ability or spell is used. Any extra costs, duration, etc should also be noted. As an example, I’ve gone through some spells and abilities from other game books and included how I would write these up for use with this FU hack. These are at the end of this section.
Most spells and abilities will fall under a general category of use. That is, any Novice can use them. A few, however, will have a requirement based on the character’s level. If so a character may not know that spell or ability unless they have acquired that experience level. For instance, the Ray of Instant Death spell which allows a player to simply kill any living creature within 30 yards would have a Veteran requirement. It would also require an extensive period of in-character research time.
On The Cost of Powerful and FUsterious Abilities
For a game like FU I have found the more flexible or subjective something is the more it will actually work in gameplay. Magic and special abilities seem to hold this quality even more so. The main FU rules as well as a few hacks recommend using FU points to power the magical or special abilities. The issue with this is typically players have a small and limited pile of FU points. FU points are powerful and when put in comparison to needing, say, to cast Detect Magic or a Magic Dart spell that does only a small amount of damage, the cost seems a bit rough for the standard magic character. Using FU points for this in a world where magic was rare or difficult makes sense. It becomes problematic in a setting where magic and special abilities are a bit more common.
Therefore, I’ve added a new rule for this hack so characters may power magical or special abilities.
A character may elect to turn 1 FU point into 3 Energy Points (EPs).
Once transferred Energy Points remain as such and cannot be transformed back into FU points. They are simply kept as a separate record to be used later. It’s recommended that EPs are represented by coins, poker chips, or some form of physical token that can be kept on the table and which is different from any FU point token in use. A player could, of course, use hash marks on his character sheet but a physical token is easier to keep track of and, of course, to hand in to the GM upon use.
EP must be declared and used up front and before the actual roll for the spell. If the spell fails, THE EP IS STILL SPENT! This, then, is the chaotic nature of magic and things powerful and FUsterious! Once cast, if successful, the effect of the spell/ability takes place.
The GM should decide when characters may make the FU point conversion. Will the players be able to do so at any point in time during the game session? Perhaps they may only convert FU to EP at the beginning or ending of a game session? It could also be handled within the setting. Perhaps magic works with the solar cycle and characters may only convert FU to EP at high noon and at midnight? Once converted that is all the EP they have until the next chance to convert. Perhaps characters need to meditate and study for a set number of in-game hours to be able to get the chance at converting points? Of course, for a more fluid environment, a GM may allow characters to perform the conversion at any point in the game!
If a character knows a particular spell they may attempt it, for free, if it is being used in a general low-level way. If that ability or spell is being used in any other way or to have an effect upon or damage another character, NPC or enemy then the player will have to spend a EP point in order to attempt the spell or ability. More than one EP may be spent to overpower a spell or to effect multiple targets.
It is recommended that no more than 3 EP may be spent in this way on one ability/spell use.
Example of EP Use and Cost:
A lone wizard character is facing three oncoming goblins and he wants to cast Magic Darts. His choices of EP use break down as follows.
- He could cast a handful of low power darts at the goblins in an attempt to have them gain the Distracted or Intimidated Condition but do no actual damage. If the GM allows it, this could easily be cast for free or, at the most, 1 EP.
- He could cast a single dart at one of the goblins in an attempt to injure the monster or slow it down. This would be the standard use and would cost only 1 EP.
- He could try and cast three Magic Darts with the intention of injuring each of the goblins. This could cost between 2 or 3 EP.
- He could attempt to cast one very powerful Magic Dart in an attempt to take down one of the goblins with one shot. This would easily cost at least 2 EP and probably even 3 EP.
Using Powerful and FUsterious Abilities
All that is needed to use a spell or ability is to announce the intent, spend the appropriate EP and roll as normal with the FU rules. They should add in any bonuses they get from their Role and/or any other descriptors or conditions. The GM should modify this with any negative conditions such as Range, In-Combat, Distracted or Exhausted.
Follow the rules for successful or non-successful rolls. A roll of “Yes and…” might generate extra effects or bonus damage. A botched roll of “No and…” might land them in serious trouble with the need to spend extra EP or, worse, mental or magical conditions as the energy is not handled as well.
Magical and Fusterious After-Effects
A GM may want to think about what sort of Conditions a character might acquire if they cast too many spells or who exhaust their pool of EP. They might also want to think about things that could happen if they botch too many spell rolls within a given time. Do they acquire Mental or Physical Conditions? Perhaps they acquire a mental disorder? This can depend greatly on the type of magic and the type of game world the GM wants to run. To put it another way, repercussions of a magical landscape such as a Cthulhu horror world can be much different from the magical spheres of a game set with High Fantasy. Of course, depending on the GM and the gameworld, they might be the same. Regardless, it should be worked out in advance.
Example Spells and Abilities
Below is a small list of spells and psychic abilities I’ve pulled from other fantasy games in order to give some examples. They are in no particular order and to be used as examples only. A GM should work with the players to create spells that make sense within the game setting. A GM should not have to make a huge list before gameplay of every spell in the game world. Instead, create a small list to use as examples and let the players build what they want. Then, the GM can add to that list over time and with gameplay. Of course, if you’re feeling the burn and want to make up a whole slew of spells I’m not going to stop you. I’ll just ask you to share!
This causes a single target to gain the negative Condition: Scared which will last for the remainder of the scene or until the GM decides otherwise. This may be used freely to make a target nervous or jittery or an EP may be used to truly frighten one target. Typical range for this could be considered around 10 – 20 feet.
Caster shoots out 1 – 3 small darts of potent magical energy from his hand. These can cause damage in the form of burns and trauma. Best at 10 yards but outward range of 20 to 30 yards. One EP to cast one or two darts at a target. More EP can be used for more damage or multiple targets.
The caster summons a ball of fire that can be tossed at an opponent. Caster may build the fireball by declaring as much and being in a position to do so without distraction. Fireball damage and effects go upwards as more EP is placed into it, up to 3. Overall damage of the Fireball is based on EP and skill of the caster. A 3 EP fireball will be much more explosive and damaging than a 3 EP cast by a novice. Average range is 10 yards but can go further based on skill of caster.
Ray of Exhaustion
Must be Skilled. Caster emits a ray that upon striking a target will give the target the Exhausted Condition. If placed on a target already exhausted it could easily cause unconsciousness. Range is between 10 and 30 yards. Cost is 1 EP.
Caster may cause one or more targets to fall into a magical sleep. Targets may be awakened by a loud noise, rough physical contact or injury. Range is 20 yards. Initial cost is 1 EP. NOTE – This spell may not be used for free.
Caster casts and if successful can know the location of any magical tools, weapons, books or doorways. Typical area of effect is a 10′ circle with the caster in the center. This area will move with the caster. Duration of the spell is typically one scene and no more than 5 to 10 minutes. Cannot be used for free. 1 EP may be used to cast. More may be used to enhance sensitivity, range or duration.
Caster summons magical energy around her that protects her from physical attacks. Can protect against other forms of damage such as heat or cold. She can now take the Condition of Armored. Skilled and Veteran casters may increase this by 2 to 3 EP and get extra dice accordingly. 2 EP = +2 Armored dice, etc. Duration = length of scene and/or no longer than 10 to 15 minutes.
Summon Magical Creature
At Novice level a caster may attempt to summon a small creature to his aid. If successful a creature will arrive to aid and defend her. Examples would include a will-o-wisp, a small fey, etc. The creature will attack an opponent but will not do other things to put itself at risk or that will lead purposefully to it’s death. Cost of the initial casting = 1 EP. Duration of summoning is roughly 4 hours. A caster may maintain this, keeping the creature close to them, for an expenditure of 1 EP. At higher levels a caster may summon a larger and more powerful creature. Note, this would NOT be the spell to summon something like a dragon or an elemental. This would be something seperate and in the Veteran level of spells.
Protection Against Fire
Caster is protected against all natural fire and excessive heat for duration of the spell. Cost is 1 EP for a duration of approximately one scene or 5 minutes. Spell may be continued for another 1 EP.
Caster may remove one Condition based on injury from target. Med. range is 6 feet, max range is 10 feet. For 1 EP a caster may remove a Level One Condition. For 2 EP, a caster may remove a Level 2, etc. Two successive castings at the cost of 1 EP will NOT remove a Level 2 Condition. The EP must be declared up front.
Requirement: Skilled and Up. Cost: 1 EP. Several small daggers thrown in the air by the caster begin to spin and encircle him in a close protective circle. They will move with the caster and deal wounds to anyone that tries to penetrate them. Duration length is for the scene and no more than 5 minutes. Caster may expend one additional EP to continue Blade Wall. Blade Wall gives the caster the Condition of Protected which will work against any close combat attacks and most ranged attacks.
For cost of 1 EP, the psychic may discern if they are being lied to over the course of one conversation. With more skill and more expenditure of EP the psychic may perform this feat over an entire group or room.
Must be Skilled. Cost of 1 EP. This is a blast of mental or psychic energy. If successful the target will have the Condition of Stunned and be unable to react quickly or efficiently to any stimuli for a duration of no more than 2 minutes of game time. Range is 30 yards.
Must be Skilled. Cost of 2 EP. Target gains the Condition of “Blasted” which means they are hovering near unconsciousness as well as unable to process much else besides the pain and confusion of what has just happened to them. For a Cost of 3 EP a target can be put into unconsciousness automatically or possibly even made comatose.
Must be Skilled. Cost of 2 EP. Target is taken over by the psychic if successful. Target may be controlled and told what to do except for an action that might place the target in danger. Control lasts for 15 minutes of in-game time. Ability may be maintained for the cost of 1 EP per 5 minutes.
An example of a character with magical ability.
Xerses’ Aunt was an administrator in the city’s library. After his parents were killed during a goblin raid in the last Goblin War, he was sent to live with her at the age of 7. Bringing him up, she eventually brought him into the city to work with her in the library. There he worked, studied and began to take an interest in the magical arts.
Finding a book left behind by a scholar entitled “To Speak With The Wind” he began to take an interest in Wind magic. From there he began to teach himself until he learned the most rudimentary of spells. His Aunt took notice of his ability and called upon a friend to teach him further. With a small amount of knowledge, Xerses is ready to step out of the library and out onto the path of magical knowledge.
Role = Human, Novice Wind Mage
Descriptor: Quick Thinker
Descriptor: Likes the knives
Background = Worker in the City Library
Edge: Fast like a cat
Edge: Pair of Knives, “Ice” and “Slice” (+1 Max Bonus with use)
Flaw: Anger Issues
Fu Points – 2
Spells (4 to start)
- Lift Object – 1 EP – Can lift a small object no more than 5 lbs and cause it to move or float slowly on it’s own. Object must be within 30 feet of caster. Spending more EP can raise the poundage of an object or the speed of the object but not both.
- Blast of Air – 2 EP – Can knock opponent off balance within 10 feet of caster. 3 EP – Chance of complete knockdown.
- Wind Devil -2 EP – Summons a whirling blast of dusty air that circles and moves around the caster. Can cause the Condition of Distracted or Blinded if successful.
- Breath Knock – 2 EP – Literally steals the air out of a target’s lung for a brief second. Target must be within 20 feet. If successful, target acquires the Conditions of “Suffocating” and “Panicked” for one round or more. Target will have a hard time focusing on anything else but getting fresh air in their lungs for the next round or more.
As you may have noticed, this system would most likely work with superpowers as well. It would most likely require some tweaking with the amount of EP being spent. Who knows, if someone else doesn’t do it, maybe I will eventually?
I hope this helps or at least gives you some ideas on how to work your own FU hack. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.
Questions on how your character can get more spells, psionics, etc. will be discussed Part Three of the hack which is aptly titled, “Learning More Fu!” I’m working out some final wording of rules and phrases but I hope to have it up here by the weekend.