A couple of months ago I talked about the secret origins of The Kerberos Club, Benjamin Baugh’s 2009 Ennie Award-nominated setting of superheroic action in Victorian London, and how we adapted it from Wild Talents to Savage Worlds. I loved the Savage Worlds edition, but the Fate edition of The Kerberos Club really grabbed gamers’ imaginations.
The Fate crowd was already primed for pulpy action from Evil Hat’s Spirit of the Century. They even already had an adventurous group to tie adventures together in Spirit’s Century Club. The Kerberos Club brought the action back to the middle and late 1800s and placed it in the British Empire. In Victorian London, the greatest empire of the colonial era was at the zenith from which it would soon tumble in conflicts with the other colonial empires. And of course, that fall would usher in the Twentieth Century, the era of Spirit of the Century. The Kerberos Club and Spirit of the Century weren’t created together but they drew from similar creative wells.
Supernatural and Superhuman
One key difference is that The Kerberos Club features an explicitly superheroic world. It begins its superheroism a hundred years before the traditional dawn of comic book superheroes. It’s about superheroes through the lens of the penny dreadful, but they are certainly superheroes and supervillains, with over-the-top powers beyond those of the pulp adventurers that inspired Spirit of the Century. The Shadow may know what evil lurks in the hearts of men, but Lucas Moreland, the Great Detective, can read everything else in their minds — and fellow Kerberan “Stony Joe” Smithson can take a warehouse apart with his bare hands if there’s anything left to find.
The amazing powers featured in The Kerberos Club required a new approach to character abilities in Fate, and that’s where Mike Olson’s “Strange Fate” rules came to save the day. Strange Fate put two new wrinkles on Fate: Power Tiers and Customized Skills.
Power Tiers allow you to replace a Fate die in an action (with its results of –1, 0, or +1) with one or more ordinary six-sided dice. Having a Power Tier in a task means far greater impact on the course of the story. At the same time, basing them on a die roll keeps a degree of randomness, which makes for more interesting play than simply taking a huge, static value in a skill.
Strange Fate’s Custom Skills rewrite Fate’s skills, stunts, and powers from the ground up using one core system. “Shooting” and “Horseback Riding” can be skills in Strange Fate just like they might be in any Fate game, but so can “Heat Vision” and “Invulnerable Flesh.” The Custom Skills rules allow you to define any ability by looking at all the ways it affects the story. Custom Skills with far-ranging effects are more expensive to gain in character creation. The most superhuman of them may be restricted to certain kinds of characters—those touched by the supernatural “Strangeness” that affects the world of the Kerberos Club.
The Lady’s Sword
You can see Power Tiers and Custom Skills at work in the abilities of Lady Constance Davies, from the Kerberos Club (Fate Edition) Quickstart Guide. Lady Constance is supremely gifted and bears an ancient magical sword that can cut through any armor that the industrialized world can forge.
Constance has an Arms skill at +4, the “Great” level, but she also has the Extraordinary power tier in Arms. Instead of rolling 4dF+4 with her Arms skill, for a range of 0 to 8 with an average of 4, she rolls 3dF+1d6+4, for a range of 2 to 13 with an average of 7 or 8. And when she wields the Sword of the King of Oss, it adds still another Power Tier to her Arms skill, bringing it to Superhuman. That makes her roll 2dF+2d6+4: a range of 4 to 18 with an average of 11. When Lady Constance unsheathes her sword, it has profound effects on the adventure.
Bundle of Fate
Until September 19, 2013, you can get The Kerberos Club (Fate Edition) along with Spirit of the Century and a collection of amazing Fate games in the Bundle of Holding. That lets you pay what you want for these incredible games, which is a truly superhuman gift for any gamer. One might almost call it Strange.
Resources for The Kerberos Club (Fate Edition)
- Custom Skill Generator
- Designer notes: Conviction Aspects
- Designer notes: The Skill Trapping Diagram
- Designer notes: Power Tiers
- Sample character: Ariel Prideaux
- Character Sheet With Fillable Forms
- The Kerberos Club (FATE Edition) Quickstart Guide
- The Kerberos Club: FATE Reference Sheet
Reviews of The Kerberos Club (Fate Edition)
- Game Geeks video review
- “A Bit of History” review at RPG.net
- RPGGeek review: The Affair of the Seven Dials
- RPGNow.com reviews
- Diehard GameFAN review by Lowell Francis
- RPG.net review by Kevin Veale
- Actual Play at JonCon 2013 (More here.)
- RPG.net: Opinions on The Kerberos Club (FATE Edition)
- RPG.net: FATE + Kerberos Club = WIN