Fate Points are a narrative device that enable players to bring creative input to bear in the game, beyond merely describing their own actions and throwing the dice. With Fate Points, players can alter the game world in some way so as to benefit their characters. Fate Points are intended to offer players the chance to add to the story of their characters, adapting the events around them or the circumstances that befall them so as to improve the game and give it a more ‘Conanesque’ feel.
At the start of his career, a player has three Fate Points. These Fate Points are extremely precious, since they can save a character’s life. You can achieve this by opting to be ‘left for dead’ rather than killed outright.
Fate Points have three other uses as well; but saving your life is definitely the most crucial, so it is recommended that you always keep one or two Fate Points reserved for that purpose alone. Of course, the angle might be perfect for a Mighty Blow (see below) instead, even if that leaves one desperately short of Fate Points; that is a decision the player must make. Magical resurrection is so scarce as to be almost unattainable in Conan the Roleplaying Game, though a character who has a major task left unfulfilled or a loved one to protect from imminent peril has a chance of making a brief return as a ghost. Despite this, it is usually best to simply not die. Some significant Non-Player Characters may also have Fate Points, at the Games Master’s discretion.
Using Fate Points
There are seven standard uses for Fate Points: Left for Dead, Mighty Blow, Parry or Dodge, Reroll, Resist Terror, Repentance and Destiny. The Games Master may allow other uses, so check with him before play.
Left for Dead: In Conan the Roleplaying Game, characters become unconscious when reduced to –1 hit points and die when reduced to –10 or fewer hit points. However, when a character’s hit points reach –10 or less by any means, he may spend one Fate Point to avoid being killed outright. He is instead ‘left for dead.’
A character who is Left for Dead appears dead upon casual examination, though he still has a chance of recovering, particularly if attended quickly by a character with the Heal skill (see page 105). If he is healed of at least one point of damage within one hour of being Left for Dead, either with the Heal skill or by sorcerous or other means, he is considered to be stable and at –9 hit points. If he is not healed, he must make a Fortitude saving throw (DC 20) after one hour. If successful, he stabilises himself and is at –9 hit points. If he fails, he is finally and irrevocably dead, whether he has any Fate Points left or not.
A character who dies through Constitution loss may also save himself by using Left for Dead; in such a case, the effect that was damaging his Constitution stops when he has a Constitution score of one point.
Left for Dead cannot be used against effects that leave no possibility whatsoever of the character surviving, such as draw forth the heart.
Mighty Blow: Rather than rolling the damage dice on any successful hit or damaging magical attack, a player can elect to declare a Mighty Blow at the cost of one Fate Point. A Mighty Blow always deals the maximum possible damage. This includes any bonus damage, such as that rolled for sneak attacks. A primitive or standard quality melee weapon always shatters irreparably when used to deliver a Mighty Blow. Even an Akbitanan weapon used to deliver a Mighty Blow has a 50% chance of snapping in two, though if it does, it is usually be possible to use the broken blade as an improvised weapon. It will not be completely destroyed.
Parry or Dodge: A player may spend a Fate Point to parry or dodge normally for one round, even in circumstances where he would normally be unable to dodge or parry (such as when blinded or taken by surprise). The player gets a +5 luck bonus to his Parry or Dodge score for the round in question.
Reroll: A player can reroll one failed attack roll, skill check or saving throw that he just made. The Fate Point must be spent immediately after rolling the dice, and the player is bound by the result of the second roll – he cannot reroll again by any means.
Resist Terror: A player can spend a Fate Point to ignore the Terror of the Unknown.
Repentance: A player can spend one or more Fate Points to leave behind his old, evil life and make an effort to start afresh. Each Fate Point spent in this way removes one point of Corruption.
Destiny: A player can at any time spend one or more Fate Points, with the agreement of the Games Master, to alter the world in some minor way. Essentially, this allows the player to have some input into the story, over and above the actions of his character. This change must be one that is plausible, minor and not overwhelmingly beneficial to the Player Characters. It may well assist them to accomplish their goals but they must still accomplish those goals by their own strength and wits, not simply by spending Fate Points!
For example, a character captured by the law and imprisoned might spend a Fate Point to have a chance at escape, such as a comrade or slave-girl smuggling him a dagger or a guard becoming drunk on duty, or the discovery of a loose chunk of granite with which to smash open his ankle-chain. He may not, however, have his escape handed to him on a plate, such as by a sorcerer magically putting all the guards to sleep and bursting his door open.
Another option for this use of a Fate Point is to alter a character in some minor way by revealing a new facet of his past. This might include knowing a language that he did not know before, which proves useful in his current situation or having a contact in the area from his previous dealings in the region.
One good use of Destiny is when the players are at a dead end in an adventure. Perhaps they have missed some crucial clue or failed to puzzle out where to go next. A single Fate Point in this case is usually enough for the Games Master to offer some kind of in-game hint. Preferably, this will not be so blatant as to have a friendly Non-Player Character give the Player Characters the answer outright but, instead, might be something more along the lines of the background information often given out in Conan stories. For example, a lotus-dream could reveal a vision of the past history of creatures and places crucial to the plot; or an ancient scroll could be uncovered that, with a Linguistics check and a bit of logic, could provide a hint as to where to look next.
The Games Master will be more likely to accept proposed uses of Destiny which could plausibly relate to a character’s own future destiny, as reflected by his goals. For example, in the story_ Black Colossus_, Conan is offered the position of commander of a nation’s armies and given a fine suit of plate armour as an indication of his position. Everyone around observes a regal quality about him which they had not seen before. This is a deliberate foreshadowing of his destiny to one day be King of Aquilonia. Had Conan’s player always made it clear that his ambition was to one day be king, the Games Master might allow him to be made commander for just one Fate Point, since it would allow that very foreshadowing.
Gaining More Fate Points
When a player spends a Fate Point, it is gone forever. It does not recover with time, nor does the player automatically gain new Fate Points as he advances in level.
Fate Points may be regained by Foreshadowing. To Foreshadow, a player lists up to three situations on his character sheet. These can be anything from* my character_ slays one of his hated foes* to* my character is knocked unconscious and taken prisoner* to* my character gets into a _humorously compromising situation with a beautiful maiden* to* my character finds strength through his faith in Mitra.* If the situation comes up in the course of an adventure, the player gains one Fate Point. Players can only gain one Fate Point per situation and they should change their Foreshadowed situations after each adventure. (Foreshadowed situations are basically a way for players to tell the Games Master what they would like to see in the game.) An adventure generally lasts for two to four game sessions.
For example, imagine that the events of The Tower of the Elephant comprised Conan’s first adventure as a Player Character. Conan’s player might have Foreshadowed these events:
- Being mocked for being a barbarian (to show that the new character is a barbarian)
- Being attacked from behind (showing the Games Master that he wants combat and nasty tricks)
- Making a new ally (to ensure that the party gets together)
Conan would have picked up one Fate Point when he was mocked in the inn, another when he agreed to help the thief Taurus steal the gemstone and a third when he was attacked by spiders in the tower. He would not have gotten a fourth Fate Point when he allied himself with the demon Yag-Kosha, as he had already picked up the Fate Point for ‘making a new ally’ by allying himself with Taurus.
Alternatively, each time a character accomplishes a major goal, either personally or as part of an adventuring party, he gains from one or two Fate Points, always at the discretion of the Games Master. Usually this occurs only at the successful conclusion of an adventure. An entirely unsuccessful adventure tends to mean that players do not gain any Fate Points.