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Mod It, Change It, Twist, Adapt It


This is the start of a series of posts about hacking game systems and adapting one system to fit the setting of another. There’s some lead-up to the meat in this one, so I hope you’ll bear with me.

Think about your favorite setting. Think about what you love about it, what makes it special, what makes you want to go back session after session.

Now think about your favorite game system. Think about how the mechanics work, how it engages your gamer brain, what makes you go back to it session after session.

Are the two linked? If so, that’s fantastic. I think a lot of gamers are in this situation. What happens if they’re not, though? If you’ve played games for almost any length of time, you’ve probably run into this. Whether it’s a setting you love paired with a system you don’t dig, or a system you want to use above all others, it’s a fairly common thing in games to want to rework things to your tastes.

For me, it’s Fate. From the first time I played Fate, it spoke to me. Specifically, Aspects and how they interact with the economy of Fate Points going around the table. I love how those little bits of narrative reality feed into the mechanics, how because you’re Touched by the Dead God of Alternate Realities it helps you in some situations, but gets in your way in others.

Recently, I started up a new game of Deadlands Reloaded with one of my gaming groups. I was determined to run Savage Worlds as it was written, and to enjoy the game as it’s presented in the books. Savage Worlds was the first non-D&D system that I had played or run outside of a convention. I loved how deadly it was, how the dice exploding could make even a lowly d4 dangerous, and how the Wild Die meant you always had a chance. I also love the Deadlands setting, love its alternate history, and its attention to detail.

FateCoreBookCover DeadlandsCover

As I began to run this Deadlands game, it immediately became clear to me how used to running Fate I was. More than that, how much more I liked running Fate. I know this is a me problem, not a problem with Savage Worlds. It’s a good system, but it’s not quite what I want when I’m running a game.

So we’re changing that. I’ve talked to my group, and we’re going to change over to Fate, but keep playing the Deadlands campaign setting we started in Savage Worlds. We started converting the characters already, and we’ll finish the process soon.

Start With The Core Conversion

The first thing we looked at was Aspects. Aspects are the heart of Fate, and are probably the most necessary points of conversion. Everything else, skills, powers, attributes, etc, those map a lot more easily. Aspects, though, those say who a character is, how they do what they do, any why. It can be hard to come up with them, even after sessions of play, because they need you to be able to describe important things about your character in a few words.

We spent most of our last session just working on that. We’d had about 4-5 sessions of play prior to that, and it’s not that my players don’t know their characters. It’s more that Aspects and Fate both ask you to think about your character in ways that Savage Worlds doesn’t as much. We’re looking at their characters’ actions, their Edges and Hindrances, and combining that with who the players envision their characters to be. It’s a lot of work, but I’m confident we’ll get there.

Once we get Aspects out of the way, we’ll move on to other, more mechanical bits. The whole time, I’m going to be thinking about a variety of things that I want to see happen in the conversion. In fact, those things are more than just concerns for conversion: I’ll also be writing about them here. Putting voice to them will help me keep them firmly in mind when I’m gaming with my group, and it’s my hope that these articles with help illuminate some of the things about conversion that folks don’t always consider.

What Comes Next?

Things that I’m keeping in mind and covering in later articles:

Any conversion has multiple fail points, but the reason to undertake a conversion is to get the feel you want. Fate is designed for capable heroes who usually succeed. Deadlands is an action-horror game using a system that tends to like to see characters bleed. It’s going to take some heavy lifting to keep that feel using Fate, but I’m excited to give it a try. The journey will prove to be an interesting one.

What settings have you converted to use a different rules system? Where do you start when you want a slightly different feel than the game provides?

12 Comments (Open | Close)

12 Comments To "Mod It, Change It, Twist, Adapt It"

#1 Comment By Scott Martin On May 3, 2016 @ 9:56 am

I used to mod everything, particularly back in high school. (Protip: If you use Elric skills in AD&D, everyone can take the thief’s role!) Then I went through a purist phase–I really wanted to play the game the way the designer intended at least once through before modifying it.

I’m still more in the “play it untouched” space, but spend some time deciding what elements of expanded systems I want to bring into a campaign. For example, I play many Fate campaigns “straight”… but Darkstar uses different damage tracks and has cool fighters that use ship-approaches, and a slightly different skill list. Similarly, in my “farewell to 3.5” campaign, I allowed a broad range of sources–dragon magazine, all of the WotC hardcovers, etc. While other times, I try to hold the line to meat and potatoes, “let’s not play the emo races this time, okay?” gaming.

#2 Comment By bridiculous On May 3, 2016 @ 10:00 am

I’d suggest dropping Fate’s stress mechanic out the window, so that every conflict has (both narrative and mechanical) consequences. It makes the combat quicker, but I’ve never had a problem with that since I don’t feel that’s Fate’s strong point anyway. In practice, I drop the default two stress boxes, but leave ones gained by bonuses or stunts, so that tough characters can shine.

#3 Comment By John Arcadian On May 3, 2016 @ 10:22 am

Hmm. That’s an interesting idea. The stress system in Fate never really felt in-line with crunchy style combats, at least in a sense of making combat feel robust.

#4 Comment By Tracy Barnett On May 3, 2016 @ 11:15 am

That is a good idea, for sure. I’ll have to think about how that might work. I know that for a game like Demon Hunters (which uses Faith Corps, a numeric dice drift of Fate) all Consequences is something that didn’t really work well for me. I think the first mechanical test will include stress boxes, and we’ll go from there.

#5 Comment By Kingslayer On May 4, 2016 @ 12:07 pm

I love Warhammer 40k and am always trying to build narrative campaigns, but I hate the amount of money and time I have to spend building an army.

I also love Savage Worlds and it’s fairly simple mass combat rules.

I’ve been trying (unsuccessfully, but mainly because of lack of time) to merge the systems in a way that still has the Warhammer feel but also has Savage roleplaying.

#6 Comment By Tracy Barnett On May 5, 2016 @ 9:28 am

There’s an Actual Play podcast over at Gamer’s Haven that’s a 10 ep series of WH 40k using Savage Worlds. Good stuff. [5]

#7 Comment By Kingslayer On May 5, 2016 @ 1:02 pm

AWESOME I’ll check it out. Thanks!!

#8 Comment By SmokestackJones On May 4, 2016 @ 3:21 pm

FATE over Savage Worlds? BLASPHEMY!!

Nah, go ahead. Mix away. I just won’t see you at my SW table. Maybe you’ll see me at your FATE table sometime…


#9 Comment By thisboyiscrazy On May 4, 2016 @ 7:45 pm

I replaced 5E inspiration with a system like fate cores economy of points based on flaws, traits, bonds, ideals and aspects of the environment.

Works great and lends it self well to narrative combats.

#10 Comment By Tracy Barnett On May 5, 2016 @ 9:29 am

I’ve wanted to do that exact thing but haven’t had the chance. Glad to hear it works!

#11 Comment By John Arcadian On May 5, 2016 @ 10:21 am

I’d love to see what that system looks like as well. I’m running a 5e game right now, and while I like inspiration, I like more robust narrative altering systems like fate has.

#12 Comment By thisboyiscrazy On May 5, 2016 @ 10:29 am

It’s mostly from this:


Under “Option 1: Angry‚Äôs Awesome Inspiration System”

#13 Pingback By Sporadic Saturday Sweetness: 2016-05-13 | Ravenous Role Playing On May 13, 2016 @ 11:48 pm

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