First Look: The Kerberos Club FATE Edition

Cover Arc Dream Publishing’s The Kerberos Club has been released three times over the last few years. It’s first version used the ORE system, the second version used Savage Worlds and last but not least the most recent release uses Evil Hat’s highly popular FATE system. What all games have in common is an alternate history/steampunk/victorian superheroes setting. The “Strangeness” has touched the Victorian Era, even Queen Victoria has been changed by it. The Kerberos Club, which the players are members of, is a Gentleman’s Club open to all races, creeds, classes, and *gasp* even to both sexes. Its members have been touched by the Strangeness as well, but use their abilities to defend the Empire against all enemies foreign and domestic.

The 374-paged book not only contains the Kerberos Club setting, but also all the rules actually needed to play the game. What I like a lot about this game is that it allows you to play in three eras. During the early Victorian century, things are already touched by the Strange, but still pretty close to what you can read in history books. In the middle era things start to get more fantastic. While early era games are still almost historical with a hint of the supernatural, middle era games resemble a street-level superhero setting. In the late era you get a full-blown Victorian superhero setting with everything from airships to dinosaur cavalry. So the GM can basically pick between three power levels for his campaign.

Explaining all the details of the FATE system would probably be beyond the scope of this post. I guess most of you are probably at least fleetingly familiar with at least one of the FATE games. What sets Kerberos Club’s version of FATE apart are the following:

The Kerberos Club a) Skills in the game are measured on two axes. There’s the skill rank like in all other FATE games and the Power Tier. All skills start out in the Mundane Tier but they can later be increased to the Extraordinary, Superhuman, Ascendant and Godlike Tiers. When characters of two different Tiers compete with each other, the player who uses a Skill in a higher Tier replaces one of his Fudge dice with a six-sided die for each Tier of difference. That’s in my opinion a pretty easy and elegant way to simulate super powered abilities in a FATE game.

b) Instead of dozens of Stunts, Kerberos Club uses six “Gifts” that basically serve the same purpose. They can be bought during character creation and character advancement and allow to bend the rules a bit. The Gifts are Companion, Equipment, Impact, Signature Aspect, Skilled and Theme. Veterans of the FATE system will quickly notice that the Gifts are actually a neat way for the player to design his own stunts instead of picking them from a huge list. For example the Equipment Gift grants the character an important or special piece of equipment that has one or more improvements like adding a +1 bonus to a certain skill or it allows the wielder to use one skill in place of another in certain circumstances.

Dr. Archibald Monroe aka The Incredible Speaking Ape! c) Collateral consequences are additional consequences player characters can use to avoid any kind of Stress. But unlike personal consequences they don’t need to be directly connected to what caused the Stress in the first place and they affect the player character’s environment, the Kerberos Club, maybe even the whole Empire itself. Collateral consequences are another narrative device the players can use to affect the world around them.

I have to admit I haven’t delved too deep into Kerberos Club, yet, but it looks like it could be for the Victorian Superhero genre what Starblazer Adventures was for Space Opera. Even if you don’t intend to use the Kerberos Club background you get enough material that you can use in any game set into the era. It also introduces a few new and very intriguing elements to the FATE system.

This first look is based on the PDF version of the game which I got on DriveThruRPG. It sets you back $24. There’s also a free Quick-Start Guide which contains an introduction to the setting, four sample characters and a taste of the FATE system.