Fates Worse Than Death Overview

“If there is knowledge, it lies in the fusion of the book and the street.” -Studs Terkel

Style- The setting is dark, desperate and fast-paced, but characters are encouraged to never forget the values they hold important. In the city, one’s worth is measured by being true to whatever values you hold dear: honor, altruism, friendship, family, personal growth, etc. The city is mostly lawless, and even though that makes it a dark and dangerous place, it also gives the people within it freedom to find what is important to them in life and seek it out. The sense of hope in the middle of the darkness is meant to heighten the tension of the game: as the name implies, characters have more than simply staying alive to worry about.

Background- In 2080, the island of Manhattan is now a large inner city, a ghetto where people go when they can not or will not live in a gated community, a corporate employee living center or an expensive private city. Large numbers of people among the city’s population are insane, retarded, criminals, homeless or extremists. Others are merely trying to do the best with the life that has been dealt to them.

Tech Level- In 2080, many amazing discoveries have been made: genetic engineering, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, limited nanotechnology, mental programming (forced restructuring of neural networks to create “computer programs” inside the human mind), psychic energy, etc. but these technologies have done little to improve the state of the world. Instead, they introduce a new horde of terrible possibilities: What if a serial killer could copy his own mind in to other people’s bodies? What if Virtual Reality companies could offer a world to live in that is wholly superior to ours? What if you could gain incredible power over the minds of others, but at the loss of your own sanity?

Power Structures- Corporations are sophisticated and influential, but their power is kept in check by a wary public and government. Gated Communities are self-sufficient economic units that use brain scans to screen people and drain away the most productive members of society. Those who can’t get in to corps or gated communities languish in inner cities, where the police and government have little power. The Drug Lords are a consolidated group of drug dealers seeking a monopoly on drugs. They are violent and always creating more addictive drugs. The street gangs, having lost their ability to sell drugs, have slowly turned towards more lofty goals and have become popular with a wider range of people. The gangs sometimes fight the Drug Lords and other forces of evil, but they are more often distracted by inter-gang warfare and internal struggles. The Black Market is a decentralized web of criminals and traders who can get anyone anything for the right price.

Dangers- The game has no set “enemy” to battle. Every individual and group has its own motivations and needs. It may be rare that characters will find themselves teaming up with a serial killer or fighting against charity workers, but it can happen if the right combinations of forces collide. Of the deaths that happen in the city, the majority are caused by gang warfare, riots, serial killers, plagues, animal attacks, murder during a mugging or burglary, murder by homeless “crazies” and deaths related to drug addiction.

Player Characters- Characters will fall in to one of three social classes: “Indies” are people with money, either inherited or earned. “Wells” are the largest social class of the city, surviving mostly on public assistance, a situation which gives them time to pursue other goals. Street People are homeless people, many of whom were born on the streets without birth certificates; most are trained from birth in their families’ skills of survival. Many characters will be gang members, though they need not have a violent or criminal nature. Some characters may be fiercely loyal to their gangs, others may see gang membership as something “forced on them” by the ever-present threat of the drug lords. Other characters are non-gang members, relying on wits, skill and luck (instead of the threat of gang-vengeance) to protect themselves from the drug lords and other criminals.

Character Creation- The character has a pool of points to buy attributes with and a pool of points to buy skills with. Characters must choose a Character Class which represents their current place in society. This character class sets the cost (per level) in skill points of skills in each skill category. Character class also sets available funds and may give access to special advantages, disadvantages and skills. Body modifications like implants, genetic engineering or plastic surgery are bought like any other equipment. Advantages and disadvantages are used to round out the character. Any type of character creation points (skills points, attribute points, money, points from advantages and disadvantages) can be traded for each other via a simple formulae.

Game Mechanics- All mechanics are based on a simple system: The sum of attribute + skill or other factor + 1d20 must be equal to or higher than the difficulty of the proposed action. Opposed rolls are made when two actions are in conflict with each other: each party tries to get more above their difficulty than the other party. Fighting is made up of opposed actions (moves) with different difficulties and effects. In combat, for each round each character gets one action to make against an enemy and one reaction if someone else does something to them.

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