Goblin Magic: a FATE Core magic system hack

So, I like Fate Core quite a bit thus far. I like the Magic System Toolkit as well, but of course, the magic systems it proposes are never going to be EXACTLY what I want, because that’s the nature of reality, isn’t it?

So, uh, I made my own. As a part of… well. Not as a part of a larger project at the moment, because my plate has stuff on it. But as a Thing to Do in the event that I’m able to get a proper Fate Core game together, one which has a setting very well defined in my head, and which features, among other things, goblins and spaceships, and lich kings, and orcs. But right now, goblins, and their creation: 

Goblin Magic

Goblins are close cousins to the orcs; anthropologists suggest that they shared a reptilian ancestor some 3.5 million years ago. But while the latter group took over the plains and became the dominant predator of the grasslands, goblins remained close to their ancestral caves, where food was scarce, and scraped by through pluck and desperation. Goblins are natural scavengers, and though they no longer practice midnight raids of human towns, they are the biggest traders in scavenged goods in the Æther Sea: ship salvage and repair is dominated by the goblins, as is the trade of information between people, governments, and every level in between. Perhaps the ultimate expression of this is the Shadow Fleet: hundreds of junked and hastily repaired ships, manned by thousands of goblins flitting in and out of Royal space, absorbing information and rumors. To what end, nobody knows, or is willing to say.

Their foraging spirit lives on in their magic, which exhibits the same pragmatism and craftiness as the goblins themselves are known to. Goblin magic as all about the adaptive re-use of what already exists–moving attributes between objects, rather than creating anything new. Goblins who are truly skilled in magic are shamans, and just as likely to dedicate their craft to healing those in need as to excel at thievery and assassination.

Goblin Magic: The 30-Second Version

  • Requirement: Be a goblin.
  • Take the “Magic User” stunt.
  • Buy the Magic skill.
  • Use the Magic skill to Create an Advantage by removing an aspect from one item, character, or scene and adding it to another; a success with style allows both objects to retain the advantage. The effect lasts for as long as the character can focus on it.

Characters who wish to be shamans must do the following:

  • Be a goblin. Only goblins are able to feel the utility of objects in the necessary fashion to manipulate the fabric of reality around themselves.
  • Take the “Magic User” stunt.
  • Optionally, purchase the “Magic” skill. A magic-user who is untrained in magic is still able to cast, though they gain none of the additional benefits of having purchased the Magic skill.

This system adds one new skill: Magic. Its general description follows.

Magic is a poorly-understood force, despite what the elves would have you believe. It might be a force permeating the universe, or it might be the power of a sentient mind made manifest, or it might be the invisible strings of fate between all things, which can be tugged by those with the know-how; most cultures see it differently, and nobody has a claim to “the Right Answer” about magic. Still, just because the force isn’t understood doesn’t mean it can’t be USED. This skill covers a character’s understanding of magic, their ability to recognize its use and predict its effects; rather like Lore for purely arcane ends. Additionally, if a character is a magic-user, this skill will determine their efficacy.

Overcome: For most, magic rarely overcomes obstacles directly. The primary use of the Magic skill, in that case, is to recognize the effects of magic in the area and understand how a spell, object, or other magical artifact might operate. In this case it works rather like Investigation or Lore, depending on the specific application.

Create an Advantage: Much like Lore, Magic is used to Create an Advantage by revealing information about spells and other magical effects. It is fairly flexible, used to provide story details and potential aspects, if you’re able to take the time to research the spell in question.

Attack: Most people cannot use magic to attack.

Defend: Magic is rarely used to defend; its only common use as a defense is to recognize an illusory attack as such before it can deal mental stress.

Special: Characters who are trained in Magic at +1 or better are able to read spells and operate magic items.

Goblin magic-users gain an additional use for Create an Advantage.

A goblin shaman my use their Magic skill to add an aspect to an object, individual, or even scene, provided that the aspect comes from somewhere nearby (in game terms, the two objects much be within one zone of each other and the magic-user). It its most basic, this can be used to move aspects between objects; given a sword with the aspect “Wickedly sharp” and a dagger with no such aspect, a goblin who makes a successful Magic roll will come away with a “Wickedly sharp” dagger and a sword which is comparatively dull.

Other uses for this technique may be somewhat more esoteric; a timepiece with the aspect “Unerringly accurate” may be used, for instance, to bestow unerring accuracy on a pistol or crossbow. Yes, even though the nature of that accuracy is different, the essence of “Accuracy” remains.

If there is no item with the desired aspect, the shaman may use his Magic skill to create the aspect in one item while creating an inverse (and therefore easily compelled) aspect in another item: in the example above, the dagger may become “Wickedly sharp” while the sword gains the aspect “Dulled, chipped, and worn.”

A goblin who ties on an attempt may trade the aspects but only as a boost. A goblin who succeeds with style is able to leave the original aspect or remove an aspect temporarily without placing it somewhere new (if desired), or, if creating an aspect, not create the inverse version.

The nature of all things is to return to the status quo, so this exchange of aspects is not permanent: the shaman must keep it in mind at all times. The objects return to normal if he or she attempts to Create an Advantage in the same way again, falls unconscious, takes a consequence due to mental stress, or if either of the involved objects are moved more than a zone away from one another or the goblin.

As a guideline for difficulties: start at Good, and increase by one one for each of the following:

  • The giving object is living or moving (with the exception of the caster).
  • The receiving object is living or moving (with the exception of the caster).
  • The goblin cannot physically touch both objects.
  • The goblin cannot physically touch either object.
  • The traded aspect requires some creative interpretation (such as the “Accuracy” example above).

Increase by two for each of the following:

  • The traded aspect is magical in nature.
  • The receiving object is a zone or scene.
  • The giving object is a zone or scene.
  • The aspect is not pre-existing (e.i.: it must be created, along with an inverse aspect).
  • The aspect is especially broad or far-reaching.

Possible esoteric uses

Healing: Goblin shamans are able to use their power to promote well-being in themselves and others; Consequences may be temporarily transferred (however, if a character takes another consequence in that slot, when their original consequence returns it will be bumped up to the next highest slot, potentially fatally). Less dangerously, any character who can come up with a memory that is, say, “Soothing” or “Makes me feel good” can have than aspect transferred to an injury to promote healing, as if the injury were receiving good medical care. Transferring aspects in this way is tricky, and can only be done with the patient’s own memories–they will be inaccessible until the shaman releases the spell, though they will return as normal.

Stealth: While a goblin cannot easily become invisible, it is rather simple to find an area with a “Shadowy” or “Hard to notice” aspect which he can place upon himself for short-term use.

Alchemy: The qualities of any potions and herbs can be manipulated as if they were aspects (albeit magical ones), allowing for crafty applications of tinctures or poisons. Note that once a potion’s aspect is used, even if it’s attached to something else at the time, it disappears.

Repair: While something like “Functional” is too broad an aspect to transfer whole cloth, goblins can use their magic to alter the functionality of equipment; the artificial gravity rig takes the aspect “Weak and Spotty” in order to give the oxygen scrubbers the aspect “Operating at peak efficiency“.

Oh man, that was, like, twice as long as I intended it to be. Still, it feels good to have it out of my head.


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