To Stunt, or not to Stunt?

There is one significant design issue I’m wrestling with at the moment, namely should the game use stunts or not?

Stunts allow players to individualise their core abilities. You can add additional feats and powers beyond the normal scope of the skills. And you can use them to specialise. The downside is stunts add an extra level of complexity which goes against the grain of the lightweight FATE implementation I’m trying to write.

I’m thinking along the lines of the model adopted by Awesome Adventures, which makes aspects do slightly more work. Invoking aspects can modify the scope of skills, rather than just give a bonus to the die roll. You do lose a bit of crunch; if for example, your character is a highly-skilled martial artist, using stunts you might define a series of moves as stunts at character creation time, each with a precisely defined effect. Without stunts you just take something like “Grand master of Kandar-Fu” as an aspect, and then spend FATE points in-game to define what cool moves a Grand Master can do actually during play. For a PBeM-type game where six months’ of message gaming might be equivalent to a night’s play in a tabletop environment, I’m thinking that may well be the way to go.

Some FATE systems, such as the best-selling Dresden Files RPG have a powers system that relies very heavily on stunts. While the Kalyr setting is psionics-heavy, I’m using a skill-based system for powers. So a high-powered psi would need to devote a big chunk of the skill pyramid to those skills. The issue here is balancing psionics and normals. Perhaps supernormal skills still should cost refresh?

Eliminating stunts may end up having a knock-on effect on skills. I think this needs playtesting in chargen; are there any valid character concepts that really need stunts and can’t be modelled with just skills and aspects?

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3 Responses to To Stunt, or not to Stunt?

  1. Bruce Baugh says:

    I tend to favor generally – and for this specific case – keeping stunts to the broad general categories of enhancing result or effort some way. Don’t overload the espers with a whole lot of extra detail, I’d say.

  2. Sean says:

    For a light or less complex implementation, I would avoid stunts. Though they definitely can have utility. Psi being one place that a player/GM could do a lot of different things with stunts. I personally don’t find them necessary, but can find them useful. I wouldn’t use it in this framework, but it could certainly fit.

  3. Chuk says:

    Tough call. I like the idea of psi using refresh though.

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