Deadland for FATE – Stunts and Skills

You know the drill. Lumping two sections together since neither of them is as finished or polished as they should be, but there’s enough here to get a firm foundation. More after the break.

Skills and Stunts are two of the three core FATE mechanics, Aspect being the other. For the most part Dresden’s got a lot to like (and borrow) for a Deadlands conversion, especially in how it handles magic and the supernatural. On the flip side, it’s missing a few key Western skills, and needs to have some trappings outright removed (anything dealing with computers or modern tech) and others diminished (Drive is worthless to anybody but a Mad Scientist or a very rich person).


For the most part, I think FATE can continue rolling without much change here. However, I’d replace some skills and add in a couple new ones.

Conviction and Discipline would continue functioning as the two primary magic skills; as written, they fit the bill for Blessed and Shaman respectively.

Engineering: The crafting and magic skill for Mad Scientists. For the most part, they would work off Ritual (Crafting) straight out of Dresden, but with more rules for generating and constructing gadgets.

Gamblin’: Dragged and dropped out of Spirit of the Century, and expanded a bit to include some Huckster card manipulation.

Gunfighting: Deadlands has several skills in specific for gun duels, namely Quickdraw and Fanning (as in, fanning a single-action pistol to fire faster). If someone had a character dead-set on being a gunfighter, I’d just clump them all together under this header and roll with that. If nobody is going for the “shootout at high noon” character, I don’t see a reason to bloat the skill list further.

Guts: Replaces Resolve and expands upon it; your ability to cope with the untold horrors of the Weird West, process the information, and continue to act without liquid fear entering your boots—much less seeing your mind snap, or gaining a phobia or something. It’s one of the most important Deadlands skills.

Occult: The magic skill for Hucksters; basically a renamed version of Mysteries/Lore combined with Hexslingin’ and Acadamia – Occult for Classic Deadlands. For the most part, it’d continue functioning as Lore. But for Hucksters, it’d be a kind of sub-skill from which their potency is derived—impacting base damage/duration of hexes, ability to counter-cast, etc.

Horse Ridin‘: Driving a buggy powered by the screams of the damned and riding a horse are two different things. Drive is a much less useful skill in Deadlands unless you have a Mad Scientist nearby, whereas Horse Ridin’ (or Ridin’, or Ride) is a requirement for any western character.

Overawe: Combine parts of Intimidate and Presence together, and you have Overawe: your ability to put the fear o’ God into something. Maybe it’s a stare, a threat, the sermonizing of a bible-thumping Blessed, or the feel of cold iron pressing against your back. Monsters will also have this, to represent their fearsome nature. I’d keep Presence as its own skill, for charisma and leadership, and possibly keep Intimidate as well, but Overawe would get some of the better parts from both.

Shootin’: Replaces Guns. Mostly for aesthetics. Archery could be rolled in here if you wanted to divide between melee/ranged, or left under Weapons if you want to divide between technological/primitive.

Tale-Tellin’: The Weird West exists in a state of fear. It’s up to the good folk to head on out into the dark places, vanquish evil, and return to tell about it. When the heroes return to a saloon and regale their tale to the common folk, retelling their deeds against the darkness in hushed whispers over stout beer and whiskey, it can lower the Fear Level (more later) of an area, calming things down and diminishing the power of whatever unholy monsters lurk in the darkness. Of course, failing a Tale-Tellin’ roll increases the Fear Level by makin’ everyone paranoid about nearby monsters, which will come back to bite the party in the ass. More important on a meta level.

Other than that, several could be renamed for aesthetics purposes: Burglary becomes Filchin’, Investigate becomes Scrutinize, etc.

Sample Stunts

Nominally, “Mortal” stunts only cost -1 Refresh each, while magical ones cost more. For the most part, I’d stick with that, but a few “tiered” stunts would have rising costs (three levels of Sand, for example). I’d give the Arcane Backgrounds costs of -3 Refresh, and crib the following thoughts (along with a bit more complexity, since these are pretty incomplete).

  • Blessed: These guys are all ready to rock out with the True Faith batch of Stunts.
  • Harrowed: Combine the Living Dead and a tweaked Demonic Copilot and you have Harrowed. I’d throw on at least one Harrowed power (-1 Refresh each) to boost them up.
  • Mad Scientists: Ritual (Craftmaking), limited just to making mechanical gadgets and technological wonders. For an additional [-1] Refresh, they can start with one of the cool bits of mad science listed in the books (Gatling pistol, steam wagon, bullet-proof vest, rocket pack, Tombstone Epitaph ghost-viewing camera, etc.).

Don’t Get ‘Em Riled! [Fists or Melee]

You don’t like people when you’re angry. When fighting mad, you’re like a cornered wolverine, clawin’ and snarlin’ at everything. After taking a Consequence, or from relevant roleplaying, your furor provides you with a +2 bonus to Fists or Melee checks—whichever one you purchased this Stunt for—until the end of the scene.

Friends In High Places [Contactin’]

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. And you know quite a lot of folks. Your character has a number of friends who occasionally can help him out. The value of the friend(s) is dependent on how powerful they are, and how often they show up. A Texas Ranger who shows up with the cavalry every other game or so would be worth 3, or perhaps 1 if he’s alone. A Tombstone Epitaph journalist who bails your character out of jail most of the time might be worth 2. It’s all something you’d have to work out with the GM.

Gift o’ Gab [Rapport]

Requires Linguist.

In the Weird West, it helps to know whether those Cheyenne up on the hill want to trade with you or gut you. You’ve fine-tuned your ability to pick up spoken languages to ease them cultural boundaries. After A Few Minutes of conversation, you receive a +1 bonus to social skill checks when conversing in that language until the end of the scene.

Luck ‘o the Irish [Gamblin’]

Requires two other Gamblin’ Stunts.

Some folks just have innate luck: no matter the situation, they manage to squeak by. These characters can draw an extra Fate Chip at the beginning of a session, the only stipulation being these Chips can’t be used as Bounty Points.

Nerves of Steel [Guts]

Some people just don’t know when to back down. Take you, for instance. Any time you fail a Guts check, you may instead choose to stand your ground rather than vamoose it. Your boots may still fill with liquid fear, you may still pass out, and any other penalties apply, but you’re just too ornery (or afraid of bein’ branded yeller) to move.

Rebel Yell [Overawe]

Requires the character to come from the Confederate States of America.

The blood-curdling Rebel Yell has been used against the Yankees for some years, with a potent effect. And while the guns are silent now, a good ole’ war cry might be just the thing to unnerve your adversaries and bolster your allies. When you make a Rebel Yell, all targets in the same Zone as you must roll against your Overawe. Failure gives them the immediate Minor (-2) Consequence “Shaken.”

Sand [Guts] [-1/-3/-5 Refresh]

Sand, grit. You’d think heroes of the Weird West never bathe. Well, most don’t, but the sand we’re talkin’ about is the kind of hombre who keeps his cool even when his boots are full of his own blood. The cowgirl who can punch the Grim Reaper in the face and then ask him to dance. Each level of Sand gives you an extra +1 to Grit, and a +1 to any rolls to resist being stunned in combat.

Tough As Nails [Endurance]

Some people pass out after a mere scratch, others eat bullets for breakfast. Lucky for you, you fall into the second group: not much slows you down. You gain +2 to your Wind stress track.

“The Stare” [Overawe]

There’s a look in your eye that makes others nervous. When those eyes lock on someone, they know trouble’s approaching, and when that steely gaze starts twitching… someone’s heading for Boot Hill right soon. You get a +1 to Overawe checks, so long as the intended victim is in eye contact with you—that is, isn’t blind or lookin’ away—and is in the same Zone as you are.

Veteran o’ the Weird West [-0 Refresh]

You’ve seen a lot, done a lot, and been around a lot, amigo, and you’ve acquired a knack for surviving. Despite fate’s best intentions, you’re a true veteran of this weird west, and know how to handle yourself better. In game terms, this gives you whopping 15 additional character points to start with. This power comes with a price, hombre: the GM gets to assign you another Disadvantage, either by drawing out of the Marshal’s Guide or picking something just as sinister.

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