Ronin Round Table: Fate in Freeport

By Jack Norris

Hello all, Jack here. I wanted to talk to you a bit about one of our recent products I’ve been looking over recently. It’s not one I worked on, but rather one I picked up and have been reading and enjoying myself both as gamer and designer. It’s the Fate Freeport Companion, and it’s pretty darned spiffy. I’ve been looking at a lot at Fate products while writing, designing, and currently Kickstarting my own kung fu/wu xia game using the Fate system, Tianxia (oh hey look, a link to my game, how did that get there?). I’ve seen some really great products using the FATE system but I wanted to take some time and give shout out to this one especially. Okay, now that introductions and my shameless plug are out of the way, let’s talk about FATE and Freeport.

The Fate Core System was created by Evil Hat Productions and recently successfully Kickstarted as an evolution of earlier products such as Spirit of the Century and their Dresden Files RPG. As a stretch goal for their Fate Core Kickstarter, the company agreed to do a Fate version of Green Ronin’s popular d20 setting, Freeport. As most of you probably know, Freeport is a high seas adventure setting where pirates meet Lovecraftian style horrors, cults, and other terrors. It’s a place where an Errol Flynn-like swashbuckler can fight a giant undead fish or a dwarven pirate can battle a cult of serpent men bent on resurrecting their dark gods. In other words, it’s pretty darned awesome.

So the Fate Freeport Companion takes all the action, daring, madness, and terror of Freeport and gets it rolling using the Fate Core system. So what does that mean? Well, let me tell you. Fate system veterans Brian Engard and Clark Valentine didn’t just take the very fine and fun Fate Core rules and adapt stats, change some stunts, and call it a day. Nope, much like many who delve deeply into the dark corners of Freeport, they went a little crazy. The result is a Fate Core based game that’s also the closest thing to "Fate plus Old School D&D& I’ve seen to date, and I mean that as the sincerest of compliments. Because there’s lot to love about both Fate and D&D/d20, and this book does a great job showing that off.

Regular Fate Skills give way to those modeled after the classic D&D/d20 statistics of Strength, Dexterity, etc… Character backgrounds are flexible and dealt with effectively with a mix of Aspects (which serve to cover race, class, and other concepts) and Stunts (which are sort of like Feats, race, and class abilities rolled into one). It’s a surprisingly innovative and effective idea that has shades of Evil Hat’s own Fate Accelerated System, which also uses the Fate Core rules but strips down the list of twenty or so Skills into just six Approaches. Fate Freeport Companion might use Strength instead of Forceful and Intelligence instead of Clever, but the basic idea is the same here. Using this adapted framework the book dives headlong into Freeport, providing pages of NPCs, monster stats, rules on madness, magic, and corruption, and much more. There’s even an included adventure!

Now of course nothing is everything to everyone and what this book isn’t is twofold. First, it’s not everything and anything you’d ever want to know about Freeport. Quite simply there’s too much there to cover in any one book. However, this book works well alongside Green Ronin’s various system-agnostic Freeport books like Pirate’s Guide to Freeport or Cults of Freeport. Also, by working to bring d20 style terms and ideas and Fate mechanics together, Engard and Valentine have made it very easy to adapt existing d20 Freeport material and Green Ronin’s future Pathfinder Freeport products to the version of Fate presented in this book.

Which leads me to the second thing the book isn’t; it’s not vanilla out of the box Fate either. The mechanics are the same, but Skills especially are far different from the norm; though fans of the Fate Accelerated variant I mentioned above should find them very familiar. The whole thing’s been tweaked and modded and adapted to fit Freeport and give a serious and respectful nod to the setting’s roots as a d20 product. It’s not going to look wholly familiar to your average Fate or d20 player, but it also won’t look completely alien either.

Which is actually really cool. Not only because Fate Core as a system shines when you take its basics and adapt, twist, and stretch it to fit a new genre, setting, or idea (Hey, kinda like d20 was not too long ago!), but also because finding an innovative and fun "middle ground" in design is something that’s not only fantastic, but it’s kind of Green Ronin’s "thing." From the d20 based but distinctly not class or level based heroics of Mutants & Masterminds to the old school D&D meets modern narrative stunts of Dragon Age, all Green Ronin’s games take tried and true concepts, mechanics, and ideas and mix them with new concepts and ideas to make something really cool that will hopefully appeal to a new and wider audience. For me at least? The Fate Freeport Companion is just such a product. I recommend checking it out. Well, unless you hate pirates, eldritch horrors, swashbuckling, romance, action, and fun…