Review - Fate Horror Toolkit
All you need to conduct Horror games on Fate!16 Jul 2018
Translated from the original published at https://www.dungeongeek21.com/bg/resenha-fate-horror-toolkit
One of the things that was Fate Achilles’ Heels is horror: Fate assumes that the PCs are proactive, competent and dramatic, things that are (in theory) the exact opposite on what happens with PCs on horror games. And Fate also provides mechanics to control and change characters’ fate, and because of all this Fate would not be a good system for any kind of horror game.
To deal with this, Evil Hat released recently Fate Horror Toolkit, part of the Toolkit series that also include by now System Toolkit and Adversary Toolkit. Into its 151 pages, it tries to provide tools and tips to deal with horror games in Fate, from all the sub-genres, from the oldy goldy Splatter horror like seen in Friday the 13th, to the Cosmic Horror from Cthulhu Mythos, to the Subtle and Feminine (?!) Horror like in Carrie to the Spooky Horror from Goonies and Scooby-Doo.
The eight chapters in the book are dedicated each for a kind of horror, all their tropes being detailed and analysed. However, the first chapter, Gazing Into the Abyss, is incredibly importante by dealing with a very important and delicate topic not only on Horror games, but in RPG at all: the game security, to the point they remember that Horror Doesn’t Excuse Being Horrible: horror games already deals with inseecurities and prejudices. Just look for some of the main horror tropes, as the fact that the first character to die is normally from a minority (black, asian, LGBT), and so on. Although the book provides tools and tips to deal with greatly sensitive situations IN GAME (like using Gaslighting against female PCs), this is not a carte blanche to be a misoginistic, prejudiced moron. The objective is to allow everyone to jointly create an horror story, but this is not an assholeness consent for the players or the GM.
That said, its reinforced the importance on set bondaries with a good Session 0 for setting creation, by defiined what can or can’t happens in the game. For this, it use tools like Veils, X-Card and Script Change, the latter ones with the basics shown in specific Appendices. It is also defined some basic principles on horror, as it Requires Player Investment, Is Transgressive, it splits the characters apart and take from them all the resources it can, and reveal on the suspense and uncertainess. Also is shown dsome considerations on how to use the tools provided at the book, and how to deal when the players are unconfortable on the things.
In the next seven chapters, the book digress on different horror subgenres and in the tools to be used with them. Each chapter also provides some references on films and books linked with the chapter topics and rules.
- Chapter 2: The Raveled Sleeve of Care - what to put into account when creating an horror game in Fate
- Chapter 3: Some Scars Are Invisible - Psychological traumas and issues that happens in horror and their impact into the mind
- Chapter 4: Who’s Who of the Damned - How to create monsters and menaces of all kinds, including bizarre mutations and evil organizations
- Chapter 5: We Are All Going to Die - how to create games where Doom is assured or can be avoided only with great costs and with a very small chance
- Chapter 6: The High Cost of Living - basically about survival horror
- Chapter 7: Horror Is the New Pink - how to deal with a more intimate and feminine (book’s definition, not mine) of horror, where the horror can be, in fact, on the acquiescence and accord of everyone around the PC;
- Chapter 8: Spooky Fun - how to create that funny spooky games like Scooby Doo, where horrors can be dealt by the PCs, even not that easy
Lots of new rules, details, principles and tips on how to manage Fate rules are provided on each chapter, things like:
- Heroic Sacrifices where the characters can “come back” as Ghosts or provides Legacy Aspects;
- Reconstructions, Flashbacks and Enhanced Compels that provides Communal Fate Points to be used later for support each other;
- Moral Dillemas to put the PCs on the corner with complicate situations and high stakes for their victories;
- Rules for Traumas and how the PCs will Cope with them;
- Visceral Horror rules, including rules for those that, by seeing so much bizarre things, blood and ripped and defiled bodies, became Hardened Hearts
- An incredible good fractal for Monsters, that use a lot the Dresden Files Accelerated rules for Conditions, and also using Purposes and Weaknesses as Aspects. The book also provide some pre-created horror staples, like Leeches, Slashes like Jason and Leatherface, Killer Swarms like The Birds, and The Created, stealing a page from Frankenstein’s book, remembering that “Knowledge is knowing that Frankenstein is the creator, not the monster. Wisdom is knowing that Frankenstein is the monster.”;
- A interesting system for bizarre mutations like in The Fly and Shadow Over Innsmouth, that can even be applicable for the Alien’s Chestbuster. There is also rules for independent body parts, that can be used even to emulate Wormtail’s Silver Hand at Harry Potter;
- The Other, a good fractal for creating creatures or organizations that are big antagonists against the players, like the creatures from They Live, or an oppresive system like in 1984 or Get out!, including their creation and managing them into an horror setting;
- Tools to deal with an Unavoidable Doom, be it an Asteroid that will hit Earth and mass extinct everything, be it an Cult that is working to bring back The Ancestral Evil That Sleeps In A City Below The Sea. For this one, they brought the Doom Clock, similar with the Countdown Clock used on Powered by The Apocalypse games like Magpie Games’ Urban Shadows. They also includes a Fifth Outcome for the Dice Roll: the Fail with Style, when the roll fails for 2 or more. You can’t Success with a Great Cost a Fail With Style, because this, in facr, is like give the opposition a Success with a Style.
- Rules for Scars and more permanent damages, like amputations and so, that can be used together with the transformation rules.
- A big framework for setting up a Survival Horror game, specially in the Zombie Apocalypse way, where there’s no Stress and recover Consequences is not that easy: you need to scavenge some Consummables and use them to do this (and other) action. Also, each character can use some NPCs as “cannon fodder”, and is suggested to make them invest some time on them. There’s also rules for building Havens and how the Horrors Outside can tackle it down;
- Another Framework for settings involving a more intimate and feminine horror, where the horroes are not only about the character growing mad over and over, but also on them being treated in a so hurtful acquiesced way by their tormentors (Gaslight, someone), and also deal with the abuse theme, including the sexual one, remembering that Alien is an horror film all about rape;
- And a last framework for Spooky Horror, that funny horror we see at Scooby-Doo, or a more intense, albeit light, horror, like what is saw in things like Goonies or Stranger Things, including a new set of Skills/Approaches for kids/teenagers put into their School Report, and rules for Courage and how it grows and develops into the groups as they start to understand the presented Menace;
First of all, a disclaimer: I’m not an horror fan, quite the contrary, either as a player or as a GM. However, even putting this into accord, Fate Horror Toolkit surpresed me positively, because the tools he brought are not onlu useful for horror games, but for those games where some horror and suspense can be a good idea.
In 151 pages, it brings a great package full of ideas and principles that allows the GM to work everything needed on horror games or games where horror can be a good spice. Rules like Reconstructions and Flashbacks and Doom Clock can be used no only at an horror game, but in other styles. For example: Reconstructions and Flashbacks can obviously works into a CSI or Criminal Minds-like investigation game. Doom Clock can be useful to emulate disaster movies like Armageddon and Deep Impact and so on.
And about Horror, the Toolkit brings lots and lots of tools that can be very useful for those who wants to GM horror games at Fate. And also he brings lots of important principles and considerations on how to deal with Horror in Fate, including the idea of slowly eliminating all the resources and competences of them, split them and use this to bring horror for the game. This doesn’t go against what Fate suggests, quite the contrary: it’s not you that is not competent, but the Horrors are so fricking powerful that, in front of them, you are as capable as a microbe.
It achieves it’s objective to provide tools and tips so the GM can conduct games on satisfying and safe ways! This is a very important question: horror is a genre that normally pushes the boundaries on our imagination and psyche. By providing fundamental tools to ensure those boundaries are not trespassed in dangerous ways for players, the Toolkit shows himself as a very mature sourcebook.
You can use it to play all kind of horro subgenres, from the spooky fun, Scooby-Doo like, to games with lovecraftian-level horrors without problems, as all the tools, tips, principles and ideas can be used by the GM to adapt the game for theirneeds, including and removing rules as needed, as the Toolkit covers all kinds of subgenres and tropes in horror.
The Horror Toolkit is in fact a extremely well developed, mature and interesting sourcebook for anyone that GMs Fate: I can say this one, because at first I had the nose turned up at it, as for me Horror is an X-Card, a thing that I don’t like at all. However, the tools it provides can be used on all kind of games, not only on horror.
If we can say a “negative” point on Horror Toolkit, it is in the name itself: you can’t take this as something ready to use, although some of the presented frameworks are more or less ready to be used on some kind of horror games, as in The Other, the Spooky Fun or the one in Horror is the new Pink. Horror Toolkit, as its siblings on the Toolkit series, provides tools: it’s up for the GM to use the ones he thinks are more useful and interesting. This demands, on one side, a good sense of tact and flexibility from the GM, although the tools are very well described and that a GM that have even a small knowledge on horror tropes, even not being acquianted with them (like myself), can use them easily. By the other side, as all the rules and tips are not so couples on the specific styles, each of the (MANY) tools provided can be attached or detacched as needed in the game easily. This is important as some tools, like those related on mutations, scars, impregnarions and so on, can shock the players excessively and so shoud be supressed or greatly reduced on use.
To finish, Fate Horror Toolkit is, for me, a 9/10 product: it is not a “ready for use” product and is not designed for this, being tools that the GM can use to bring to the game a more dark, sinister feeling for the game. But they will demand a great work and care from the GM, as their abuse, even more because the caveats on the horror genre, can result on very serious problems either in and out game.
DISCLAIMER: I’ve received a review copy of Fate Horrot Toolkit by Evil. This review express my own opinions and only my own, and they can be not accurate.