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Some Questions From a New Fatemaster


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Hey! I've finally worked up the courage to run this game with a group of friends and I have a few questions about how to make the experience as smooth and fun for everyone as possible. We ran the "Bad Things Happen" adventure in the book, and I'm planning on running a few of the Penny Dreadfuls to get a feel for the game before I start making things up as I go. But one of my first questions:

1. I am pawing through "Til Death Do Us Part" which sounds like just an awesome introduction to the world of Malifaux (3 out of my 4 fated are brand new to the world), but one of the first things I notice is a sentence "...if fated want to repair her foot, they can make a TN12 stitching duel..." I'm curious what the best way to handle this is. What I mean is, am I just hoping one of them will be pawing through the skills pages and see "wait a minute! I bet we can fix that ankle!" or should I prompt them: "she mentions her ankle is broken, do one of you want to help her?" Similarly, I've seen a few times already in Bad Things Happen and the Penny Dreadfuls it reference "a TNx Scrutiny duel will show that they are trustworthy" or something, and I also wonder, do I deliver the line and then say "Does anybody want to make a Scurtiny check?" or should I more encourage my Fated to be on the lookout for things they find suspicious and encourage them to ask me to make scrutiny duels when they want?

2. On this same note, I was very happy when one of my Fated thought to try to help Sessa the Amazing stow his luggage. However, he failed the duel and declined to make it succeed. At this point, does it make sense to say "Well group, Player A failed, does anybody else want to try?" On the one hand, it would make sense to me that in real life, if person A fails to help, person B might have more luck, so I want to represent reality. But on the other hand, if I basically let them keep trying until they succeed, there's no stakes, no reason to be flipping. Thoughts on this?

3. One of my Fated refused to kill one of the marionettes. She decided to have another member of the party lasso it, they hogtied it, and are currently holding onto it to use in the future sometime. In the interest of making sure my Fated have fun, I allowed it to happen. But I'm not quite sure how to handle this sort of thing moving forward. Basically, how do you guys handle things when the fated go WAY off script? Is it simply a matter of rolling with the punches? "Yes and..."ing their decisions and figuring out how to alter the story you had planned as you go?

I know these are some pretty specific questions, but I think knowing some answers and strategies about these will allow me to extrapolate them to a lot more game situations going forward. Thanks for the help!

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Hey, congrats on starting the game, I hope you and your group have a ton of fun! The Penny Dreadfuls are great, especially if you're new to the setting, so definitely find a few you like to sprinkle into your campaign. As for your questions...

1. I like this adventure a lot, and yeah it definitely drives home the "everything is not as it seems" nature of Malifaux. If any of your Fated are trained in Stitching, like a doctor or necromancer (or even a tailor/hatmaker), then you can suggest it to them, perhaps with something like "looking at her ankle, you think you might be able to stitch it back together. Would you like to try?"

Scrutiny/Notice duels are a bit different, as I generally leave it up to the players to decide if they want to make one of those flips. I would remind them at the beginning of the session that those skills are available and what they do, but otherwise let them decide. That being said, if they are talking about "I don't know if we can trust her/them", or anything along those lines, certainly prompt them with "would you like to make a Scrutiny check?" or something like that.

2. Yes, this can be a tricky dilemma. What I generally do is give one other Fated a chance to intervene if they're standing close enough to the one that failed a check. To use your example, if another Fated happens to be standing next to Sessa, allow them to make their own flip. Alternately, you can require a different skill check from anyone who wants to help. If an Athletics check is used to lift the luggage, call for a Speed check to catch them before they fall, etc.

The only real problem with this system is social encounters or the aforementioned Scrutiny/Notice checks. Some people treat them as group checks, but I prefer to let my Fated each make their own check, then rely on their RP skills to avoid mixing player knowledge with character knowledge. If the players are not experienced RP'ers, remind them of this, just to be safe.

3. Well, now you have an opportunity to show that in Malifaux, "bad things happen". They are keeping a murderous doll with them. Eventually they might want to untie it, at which point it would most likely go for the eyes then run off. Also keep in mind that Collodi, the Master of Puppets, is wandering around, and might be really upset if it hears about the Fated's little "pet". Perhaps they come home to find a window smashed, and a group of puppets in the act of freeing the captive. Whether the puppets flee or attack, now the Fated have a psychotic construct with an army of creepy little dolls stalking them, out for revenge...

However, you might decide that the puppet can be "converted" to their side with some difficult Social checks, and now they have a minion. It's still a little murder puppet, though, so its interpretation of "scout ahead" might include "also murder that small child that won't leave you alone".

Let us know how your future games go!

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Wow, those are some great answers. Thank you for taking the time to respond! I especially love all the ideas about how to handle the marionette. I think that's my biggest anxiety/worry is the Fated doing something I'm totally not expecting, but taking a minute to brainstorm and come up with consequences (good and/or bad!) seems like it will lead to some fun future adventures. Will be hard to weave some of that in with the already written Penny Dreadfuls, but I'm sure there will be time in self led sessions or just in between scenes, etc. Thanks again!

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Here's another question for the more experienced Fatemasters out there, regarding Ongoing Challenges:

I really like this concept in the game, so I want to make sure it's something that my Fated find interesting and fun as well. When we did the Ongoing Challenge in "Bad Things Happen", by the time I had read the allowed skills to the Fated, I realized a couple things. 

First of all, at least two of my Fated had no training in the skills listed. Which brings me to a general question about skills in this game. Are you allowed to make "untrained checks"? I suppose even if a Fated has no ranks in Athletics, it would still make sense that they would be able to attempt shoveling coal with their unathletic body :P But does this apply to all skills? Can an untrained Musician still try a Music check if they want? Additionally, my fated were asking things like "Um, can I use Wilderness to apply my knowledge of fire-making to this boiler?" To which I found a way to say no, because I think that's kind of the spirit of Ongoing Challenges (Here's the skills, how do you contribute?), but I want to make sure I'm handling that right.

Also, how do you make sure things like Ongoing Challenges stay interesting? What I mean is, our Bad Things Happen Ongoing Challenge kind of turned into, "ok, my turn again? I guess I make another Athletics Challenge to shovel more coal. Ok, I succeed." Obviously, a series of "make check, succeed or fail, next" is pretty boring, so yeah, I guess I'm just curious how you keep Ongoing Challenges from becoming that series of flips. Granted, we had spent so long on the combat that people were tired and wanting to wrap up, so it could be that we were just tired, but with so many Ongoing Challenges coming up in my next Penny Dreadful, I do want to make sure each one is fun. Thanks!!!

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Fated can always test untrained using whatever controlling atribute is used; in some cases, all Fated maybe required to participate in ongoing challenges, while in other cases it may be optional.

Allowing players to use Skills not listed as part of the ongoing challenge is up to you as Fatemaster; if they can really explain a good reason, I usually allow it.

Keeping Ongoing Challenges interesting and engaging can be a problem, so you have to really play up the narrative; if a couple of failed tests put the challenge in question, make it sound really bad.

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Good stuff. A lot of that makes sense, and what I was thinking. "Stick to the listed skills unless a compelling reason can be explained." Seems like a fine line to walk with Ongoing Challenges. If participation becomes optional, I'd hate for it to become "Hey, Jimmy has +6 to Athletics, let's just have him do the whole thing!"... Not fun. But yeah, between narrating reasons that everybody has to participate (Plus I think making sure time is a factor...) it sounds like there are definitely ways to keep the stakes high, the story fun, and keeping it from becoming just a flip-fest.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Had a couple more questions come up from my game last night.

- Basically, how do actions and abilities with an AP cost work in narrative time? Specifically, these situations came up and I wasn't quite sure how to handle them in the moment. The "Assist" action costs 1 AP, adds ranks to a buddy's check. In dramatic time, there's obviously a tradeoff here: I sacrifice one of my actions to make your action more likely. Cool, makes sense. But in narrative time, is Assist allowed? My hunch would be yes, but it seems strange to me that in effect that essentially would turn into "my notice checks are basically always at +2 because Ted is always Assisting me" or whatever. 

Similarly, how do spells, and specifically immuto work in Narrative time? For example, if a Fated wanted to cast "Interrogate," ok, easy enough. But when they then add an immuto that increases the AP to lower the target number.... well there's not really much of a cost there. I assume that's not the intention, but what keeps a Fated from just saying "OK, in narrative time, I will always be using the 'increase AP' immuto"

Thanks in advance!

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I only allow Assists in Narrative time if both characters are actively using their skills; i.e., there is nothing else they can do.  In some cases, I disallow Assists, for instance, if one character is playing a card game, no one would allow a bystander to give them hints in the game. Similarly, if only one character is in position to Notice a detail, no Assist is allowed. Mostly, you want your players to feel there is a mechanical benefit to working together, so give them a benefit when they think cooperatively.


Only by using the Oxford Method can a caster extend his casting time past a single turn with the Increase AP immuto. Even in Narrative time, I enforce these restrictions, for the most part. I would actually allow a character who uses the Oxford Method to 'exploit' the Increase AP mechanic in Narrative Time if it served my campaign; because the Guild is always on the lookout for such mages, using thier spells in some cases very dangerous.  Interrogate Magia could be gamebreaking, but honestly, a mage who really dedicates themselves to such a single purpose kind of makes sense.

As Fatemaster, you will either have to impose some restrictions on using Increase AP in Narrative Time, or find a creative way to dissuade your players from kidnapping everyone they see for extened interrogation sessions. 

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