FATE character creation for Vortex

Here are the rules for Player Character creation in Gene D.’s “Vortex” space opera , using Fantastic Adventures in Tabletop Entertainment (FATE) 3rd Ed., Starblazer Adventures (SBA), Mindjammer , and Bulldogs .

Character name: I know that many of you like to come up with this last; there are also lots of good random name generators online .

Species: This falls into a few broad categories:

  • “Normal” humans
  • “Near-humans:” cyborgs, genetically modified humans , mutants, people with psionic abilities
  • “Synths” (synthetic humanoids): " Uplifted " (bioengineered) animals, artificial intelligences/androids/robots, xenoids (alien robots)
  • Aliens/extraterrestrials: See my earlier posts on available species, including Gustrall, Nethians, Olvar, Ru’ulok, Trinoids, and more

Homeworld: This is related to species; for most humans, it’s Earth/Terra/Sol 3 . For many Synths, it’s Mars and beyond.


  • High concept: If you had to describe your character in one sentence or phrase, what would it be? Examples include “space pirate,” “interplanetary cop,” “alien biologist,” and “telepathic journalist.”
  • Foibles: What personality quirks, flaws, or distinguishing characteristics do you have? Is he/she/it curious, punny, or stubborn? Remember that in FATE, Aspects should both help and hinder characters at different times.
  • Starting out: What is your character’s family background, education/training, or other origin? For example: “academy reject,” “healthy specimen,” or “experimental.”
  • Sidetracked: What unexpected event affected your character or put him/her/it on the path to being an adventurer?
  • Guest star: Usually, your fellow players decide this. It can be someone from your past, a rival, or even a fellow party member.
  • Motivation: What is your character’s outlook, goals, or ethics ? “To rule the world,” “To protect the innocent,” and “To get rich” are examples.
  • Adventuring: This and subsequent aspects reflect your character’s experiences . While former crew members of the Blackbird and Appomattox should have this, newer characters shouldn’t.

We’re starting more or less at the standard power level, with a total of 24 skill points, arranged in a pyramid. Each level costs the same number of points as its bonus, so a Good skill at +3 costs 3 points, and a Fair skill at +2 costs 2 points. Each tier of the pyramid should have fewer skills than the one below it:

  • 1 skill at +4 (Great, 4 points; should still be unique to the party)
  • 2 skills at +3 (Good, 6 points total)
  • 4 skills at +2 (Fair, 8 points)
  • 6 skills at +1 (Average, 6 points; the older characters may have 7)

Your apex skill at +4 should be unique to the party. You can expect to earn a skill point every few sessions. Choose from the following:

  • Academics (knowledge) — includes archaeology, languages, research
  • Alertness (perception) — mostly passive, see Investigation
  • Art (craft/knowledge) — by medium
  • Athletics (physical) — acrobatics, agility, sports
  • Burglary (subterfuge) — includes some security countermeasures
  • Contacting (social) — includes culture/tech
  • Deceit (social) — similar to D20 Bluff
  • Drive (mundane) — surface vehicles
  • Empathy (social/perception) — similar to D20 sense motive
  • Endurance (physical) — stamina
  • Engineering (craft; at Tech Level) — includes Starship Engineering/propulsion, demolitions (with stunt), general repair (mechanic)
  • Fists (unarmed combat) — includes Brawling, close combat, Micro-G combat
  • Gambling (mundane)
  • Genurgy (knowledge) — psionic body modification, from Mindjammer
  • Guns (combat) — includes energy weapons, slug throwers
  • Intimidation (social) — interrogation
  • Investigation (perception) — more active, see Alertness
  • Leadership (social) — includes bureaucracy, oratory, tactics
  • Might (physical) — strength
  • Mysteries (knowledge) — includes psionics and some alien technology
  • Pilot (mundane) — for aircraft
  • Psionics (knowledge) — see Mindjammer and Bulldogs
  • Rapport (social) — Charm
  • Resolve (social) — similar to D20 willpower
  • Resources (mundane) — wealth, includes assets, brokerage
  • Science (knowledge) — includes computers, medicine, to specialize
  • Sleight of Hand (subterfuge) — includes picking pockets
  • Starship Gunnery (combat) — including missiles
  • Starship Pilot (mundane) — includes navigation (space)/astrogation
  • Ship Systems (craft) — includes communications, scanning, life support, electronic countermeasures; grants ships an extra stunt/gear
  • Stealth (subterfuge)
  • Survival (mundane) — includes Animal Handler, EVA, Medic; by terrain type
  • Technopsi (craft) — limited mental communication with machines, requires jack, from Mindjammer
  • Weapons (combat) — includes hand-to-hand

To use skills, you roll 5 Fudge dice or 2d6-7. Either way, this generates a result ranging from +5 to -5, with higher being better. Difficulties range from +1 to +12, so each skill point or small bonus goes a long way!

You can tag an applicable Aspect for a +2 bonus. Note that I can also compel an aspect to encourage role-playing in a certain direction. Or, you can spend a Fate point (see more below) for a +2 bonus or to reroll.

In addition, you can use a skill to “assess” or creatively determine an aspect of a scene, location, or opponent. For example, by spending an action and using Empathy, a scout might be able to figure out one Aspect of a creature, granting a +2 bonus to his companion’s next action. Or, that scout could use Investigation, Science: Biology, or Survival to declare that a creature behaves in a certain way.

Stunts and Fate points
As previously mentioned, SBA and other FATE-based games — such as the “hard-SF” Diaspora , urban supernatural Dresden Files , and steampunk superheroic Kerberos Club — offer numerous examples. Stunts can reflect nonhuman or psionic abilities, advanced skills, or special equipment.

Player Characters start with a total of 8 Fate points, from which you deduct your permanent Stunts. I recommend starting with 4 Stunts, leaving four Fate points to spend per session. You’re “refreshed” back to a certain level between sessions or after significant “game time” passes.

Remember that you can earn additional points with compels or as rewards for following your Aspects when it’s not obvious or convenient. Some, but not all, powers require Fate points for use. As previously noted, the SBA core book is large and not especially well-organized, but it does have most of the examples we’ll need.

Stress and consequences
One thing my team table doesn’t list is injuries. In general, combat works as an opposed skill roll. Whoever surpasses the defense wins, and the damage/stress is based on how much they surpass the difficulty plus the weapon damage bonus.

Armor can absorb stress, like Damage Resistance in D20 games. The damage is assessed against a ladder of 5 Health and Composure stress levels each — only one box is marked off at a time — although I’m considering a more lethal system more closely resembling Hit Points.

Once stress levels are filled up, or at the player’s choice, the victim takes consequences. Consequences reflect more lasting wounds, and they range from Mild (-2) to Moderate (-4), Severe (-6), and Extreme (-8). Extreme consequences will incapacitate a character for a long time and leave him or her with a permanent aspect such as a scar.

As with stunts/powers, I recommend looking at multiple FATE and SF sourcebooks for gear. We’ll be using SBA as our baseline and borrow as needed from Mindjammer , Bulldogs , Diaspora , and Limitless Horizons and other FATE references. Remember that the Tech Level in " Vortex " is somewhat lower than in other science fiction universes.

Since money is abstracted through Resources, assume that you have basic clothing, access to food and shelter, and tools for your profession. Ship-related skills stack with ship attributes. As a group, you don’t yet have an interstellar-capable vessel.

One of the best features of FATE is that once you get the hang of using aspects, Fate points, and stunts — and skills are already similar to those in GURPS , D20 , and other systems — those rules scale up to ships, organizations, and strongholds.

You should expect to earn a skill point every few sessions, and an aspect or stunt at the conclusion of a specific mission or storyline. Between sessions, you can redefine an aspect, move around two skills, or alter a single stunt. Additional Refresh, or Fate points, are awarded at the end of major story arcs.

FATE character creation for Vortex

Vortex GeneD5