Being Immortal in Fate (Diaspora)

Tim challenges me.

First, he never lets me coast during our games: not as a GM, certainly, but neither as – more simply – a roleplayer. I consider that a good thing.

Second, he challenges me on my choices. I’m not saying he busts my balls over every single thing I do in a game, but he makes sure that I know why I’m doing something — that there’s a reason for it that goes beyond “well, it’s X kind of game, so we should do X.”

But Third, he never lets me coast when it comes to the system — whatever system we’re running. What that means is that, if something is theoretically possible in the game, he will grab that ‘theoretically’ possible thing and wrangle it by the throat, dragging it from Theory into Practice.

Case in point: Diaspora. Let me point out a few things Tim did with his guy that might/would be, in another system or another time, “game breaking”.  Tim’s concept was basically:

  • I’m the Benevolent Dictator for Life of an entire star system. (Except that I bailed and left a twin in my place.)
  • The solar system I control is the source of life-extending food. Which I created. And kept the good stuff for myself.
  • Because of this super-SUPER-food and my own experiments on myself, I am (so far) effectively immortal and can heal from just about any injury.

He’s not being a dick about it : that’s just his character concept, and if I look at it and say “I don’t think that’s possible”, he’ll work with me.

Not that I said that.

  • Dude, you left a stranger that looks just like you in charge of a whole system of rich, bored, nigh-immortals? THANK YOU.
  • I like super-food. I like trying to figure out how one fruity oaty bar can feed someone for a year, and how that would be remotely profitable for anyone.
  • And… well, I had this idea about the whole regen thing. It’s kinda neat.

Here’s the deal with with regeneration; there’s really two things it’s likely to do. One is A Game Thing, and one is A Story Thing.

  • Game Thing: You recover from wounds a hell of a lot faster than the rules allow, presumably for some game-point cost roughly equal to having internal body armor that would have stopped about the same amount of damage. That’s easy to do: you just get the “internalized gear: armor” stunt and describe it as you healing really fast. Which is fine. It’s not super-interesting to me; it’s just a thing. Whatever. (Tim: you SHOULD note that if what we came up with as a solution is unsatisfying or too non-crunchy, we can do this.)
  • Story Thing: You take horrific damage that should kill another person, but it doesn’t kill you.

The thing is, people worry a lot about how to make Crazy Regeneration (TM) work as a Game Thing, but most of the time what the player wants is the Story Thing — they want a story in which their guy takes horrific damage that should kill them… and it doesn’t.

The story-point of this kind of ability is the hurt they undergo, you know?  Wolverine isn’t about his per-second-healing-rate — he’s about Surviving Shit That Should Kill You (physical and otherwise); no one would give a shit about Corwin of Amber if it weren’t for the fact that he got his eyes burned out of his head with hot pokers and kept going.

I mean… no one builds a guy with regen and then gives them agility so high they never gets hit. Where’s the fun in that?

So I listened to Tim to see what he was talking about, when he was talking about this ability.

And? He was talking about the cool scenes that would come from it.

He was talking about the story.

Right, so this is how you deal with that.

  1. Make sure he can get hit a lot.  Tim built a stunt called “better living through science” that lets him determine the size of his “stress” bar (or whatever it’s called, I don’t have the book with me) from his Science skill, not Stamina. Boom. He suddenly got a very roomy stress bar for taking physical damage.
  2. Make sure he’s got an Aspect that reflects this regen/durability. Why? Just to give the whole concept weight.
  3. Finally: Remember what damage to this guy means.

Here’s the thing: in FATE, damage to the stress bar of a character is temporary stuff: it goes away with a few seconds’ rest at the end of the fight. Ditto Minor Consequences. Moderate Consequences take maybe a good night’s rest to shake off. Serious consequences take a fair bit longer.

On a normal guy, then, stress bar damage and minor consequences are things like little cuts, scrapes, bruises… stuff like that. Moderate might be a wrenched shoulder or a light weapon graze that draws blood. Serious is a solid hit. Blood everywhere, or a totally broken limb.

On Tim’s guy, quite simply, damage to his stress bar is described in play as something roughly similar to a normal guy’s Serious hit. That’s where damage-of-note STARTS with him — anything less is too inconsequential to mention.  From that starting point, we then ramp to the point where his “Takes awhile to shake off” injuries are things like “I chopped off my arm to escape” — because on this guy, that’s not a permanent problem.

Put more succintly: a stress-hit on a normal guy is a bruise; on Tim’s guy, I blow a hole through his leg. Increase from those starting points in parallel.

That’s it. With that tweak, we get what we’re looking for: a guy who shakes off in minutes what it would take other people months to heal from, which was the whole point.

And when he invokes that “practically immortal” aspect to give himself a bonus? That means I know that he’s solving the problem by (mis)using his body in some particularly damaging way.

Ouch. Should be fun.


  1. Yeah, it’s a simple solution that rocks. One of the more conceptually satisfying ways to deal with a story mechanic we’ve come across….

  2. Yeah, being unkillable (is, thus far, immortal) is rarely pleasant for the folks involved if the writer/GM puts their mind to it. Tim, I would also stay a long ways away from oceans, pits full of wet concrete, volcanoes, and Sarlacci. Relatives who might decide that you are best placed in your pre-arranged burial crypt (the one with no inside handles) are probably also a risk. Also, vampires and cannibals or other people-eating sentients who might like a never-ending source of food.

    I’ve always figured if I got that sort of talent, I’d be too terrified of what might happen to get much enjoyment out of it.

    If I were immortal

  3. Hey I forgot — I’m not in the game, so the GM can steal my ideas outright.

    Oops … sorry, Tim.

  4. Excellent! Not just a nice little rules-tweak, but also a fine demonstration of how to think in the FATE idiom.

  5. Yes, the concept of something bad – say something from the ‘know nothing of it’ planet of Lear, were to get a hold of the super food, or someone (including my PC) inventing a way to power ships from the superfood and unbalancing the entire cluster’s economy, etc. remains.

    I definitely consider my PC’s decision to leave his world with a clone behind as sign a major fault-line in his psyche…one that could lead to an escalating tornado of bad decisions.

  6. Only thing I can think of to explain a foodbar you only need to eat once a year is this:

    It keeps growing after you eat it.

    Like, it adheres to the stomach lining and grows at a rate just a bit under what your body can process: in about a solor year, it’s used up. Bar size is specifically dictated to you by a physician, based on stomach acidity, body mass, et cetera.

    Crime bosses and pirates will sometimes kill a guy who’s been caught skimming off the top by feeding them four or five Trin-bars and tying them up somewhere they’ll be found in a few days. Greed kills.

    That’s a kind of fecundity that I could easily see getting out of control.

    …it’s also the kind of behavior your guy’s body exhibits. HMMMMM.

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