Mantles in Modern Gods—Ideas on Using & Stealing Power

A couple of weeks ago inspiration hit for the creation of a one-shot Fate RPG adventure called Modern Gods. I’ve let the idea percolate a bit and now I’m ready to revisit it.

Approaches (not Skills) and God-like Power

For Modern Gods I want the god-like powers to be center stage. It should be like Michael Bay made an RPG as the players wield the mantles of the divine.

To keep that focus the game will use Fate Accelerated (FAE) Approaches instead of skills so that players don’t get bogged down wondering which skills to use (or which ones they don’t have). There are six approaches and by default you get one at Good (+3), two at Fair (+2), two at Average (+1), and one at Mediocre (+0).

However I want to tone down their effectiveness at solving issues in order to make Mantles (more later) center stage, so the game will grant players one at Fair (+2), three at Average (+1), and two at Mediocre (+0).

Enter Mantles

Mantles represent the power and portfolios of the gods. Each player will have an aspect that ties them to a specific Mantle. I do not yet have a definitive list of mantles, but my brainstormed list is: Love, Death, War, Nature, Spirit, Greed/Commerce, Knowledge, and Trickery. I’m on the fence about having elemental Mantles because I’m not certain they would feel godly.

When a player rolls they may add their Mantle rank to the approach, so long as they describe how it is helping. For instance, Cain decides that he needs to get into the building and he is going to use the Trickery Mantle to help him do it. “I am going to Carefully adjust the guards perceptions so that the door moves slowly forward, making them inch a few feet away from real the door. Then I’m going to walk along the building—inside the building to the guards—and go into the now unguarded door.”

Managing Mantles

So how much of a bonus does a Mantle grant? Mantles are fueled by the shards of the gods falling to earth and this is something that is in limited supply. When one players uses some there is less for the rest of the players.

This is the part of the game that I don’t think that I’ve properly wrapped my head around yet. I was brainstorming a bit on Twitter:

This inspired Rob Donoghue, co-founder of Evil Hat to post his thoughts on the subject. I love what he has written on his site and it has in turn inspired me. So here is what I think:

Each player has a stack of cards that has a number, from +1 to +4. During the start of a scene the players each bid for how much power they’d like for that scene. This could be done secretly or cooperatively, depending on the group, however all bids are passed to the GM facedown.

Each scene has an available power level which only the GM knows. (A good GM will might give out hints—the church thrums with power, the subway car feels vacant and lonely.) Some scenes may have a wealth of power, allowing players to all have +3. Other scenes may be low power and only allow a single player to have any potency.

The GM reviews the bids and compares the total against the power of the scene. If players are under that value, each gets a Mantle rank equal to their bid. If the players are over that value, then the power is distributed to the lowest bidders first. Players bids must be fully rewarded. So if a player bid for +3 and there is 2 ranks in the power pool, they do not get any ranks. Excess ranks go in the pool. (I’m not sure what happens on a tie.)

Pool of Power (and Stealing Power)

Once the ranks for Mantles are given out for a scene, any extra ranks go into the pool of power. (Better name for it to come.) Players may attempt to gather the energies of the pools into themselves with an Overcome roll with a difficulty equal to the ranks in the pool + 1. The difficulty increases by one if you already have Mantle ranks. If successful you may take as many ranks from the pool as you like (including all of them).

Each time that you use a Mantle its power is reduced by one, with that rank going back into the pool.

What do you do if you have no power and the pool is empty or doesn’t have as much power as you want? You steal it from the other players. This is an opposed roll, on which a either side may invoke a Mantle on the roll. If the attack wins the attacker gets the entire Mantle rank pool of the defending player. If the defender wins, the defender loses one rank which is given to the attacker. If a Mantle is used for attack or defense, those players each lose one rank which gets put into the pool.

Still A Rough Idea

This is the first time that I’ve worked on an RPG idea publicly and I welcome feedback. You can tweet me at @amazingrando.