Last time we talked a bit about supporting characters. Today we are going to look at a specific support character I have used in a number of genres: the tinkerer. I love this type of character that can make things that other people can use because of the versatility. A good tinkerer should have a trick for every occasion.
What Is a Tinkerer?
Now depending on your genre, the Tinkerer may be called a number of different things. In a medieval fantasy setting, this might be an artificer, enchanter, or even an alchemist. Modern day tinkerers would be mechanics, mad scientists, and Macgyvers. In a future science fiction setting, they may look more like an engineer, nanobot-mancer, or technopath.
The job of the tinkerer is to create something that other people can use. A wizard scribes a scroll or crafts a wand. An inventor creates a rocket pack or grappling hook. A lab tech engineers a cybernetic arm or temporary force field. People take their inventions and put them to good use, hopefully for the benefit of the rest of the party.
In Fate Core, these characters tend to have high Crafts and Resources, two skills that normally do not see a lot of use in games. Which, to be honest, is one of the reasons I love playing a character.
Making an Effective Tinkerer
Many games let characters make things in the background: weapons, scrolls, custom rims, or baubles to sell for money. A tinkerer, as envisioned for the character type we are discussing, makes a LOT of things per session rather than investing a lot of time and XP into a single powerful item. More often than not, these items are temporary to balance out the tinkerer’s class with other character abilities.
To make an effective Tinkerer, you want to start with two options for each basic type of scenario your game covers. In Fate Core, for example, you will want six total options: 2 combat, 2 social, and 2 exploration. Make sure all of the 4 basic actions are covered, if you can. And make sure you have a good skill option (Fight, Rapport, Lore) that lets you do something if making something is not appropriate.
As your character grows, fill in any gaps that emerge naturally. “I wish I could have done this” or “I really need to learn to make something that helps if we ever do that again” are good thoughts that should push you to develop your tinkerer character. Naturally you also want to push your character’s creations to be more powerful to deal with the growing power of the dangers your group will likely face.
And do not forget that your character can use their creations just like anyone else. Keep some explosives for when combat gets heavy. Make yourself a nice suit with a bow tie if you are a charming socializer. Make sure you have a personal portable cloaking device to escape in case of an emergency. Or a multipurpose item to just give you an edge with whatever.
If you are going to keep most of your inventions for yourself, then consider making Tinkering your backup plan rather than your primary one. If you are going to be a fighter, boost your Fight before you boost your ability to make the swords light on fire. Make inventions that will protect you, heal you, and get you out of trouble.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s look at some specific stunts that talk about some abilities.
Tinkering Stunt Tree
Tinkering is the art of enhancing nonliving items to greater abilities. Whether through steam-powered inventions, technopathy jury-rigs, or a little enchantment magic, tinkerers can still make it bigger, faster, stronger, cleaner, shinier, etc.
The stunts that follow are my own design, intended originally for a magic school one-shot and later re-flavored for a steampunk game. They are set in a Stunt Tree (Why stunt tree)to help a power progression. The higher level ones may seem a bit overpowered until you realize you have to spend 4 refresh just to unlock the ability to purchase them. Some stunts are magic based, while others are mechanical-based. Many are unspecified. Feel free to adapt as your game flavor requires.
Novice Tinkering – You can use your Crafts to Create an Advantage with any tinkering stunt you have learned. The difficulty for someone to remove your enhancement is equal to your Crafts skill. These enhancements last until they are destroyed or at most until the end of the scene.
Student of Tinkering (replaces Novice Tinkering) – You can use your Crafts to Create an Advantage with any tinkering stunt you have learned. You may Defend an attempt to remove an enhancement with your Crafts skill, even if you are not present. These enhancements last until they are destroyed or a number of scenes equal to your Crafts skill.
Advanced Tinkering (replaces Student of Tinkering) – You can use your Crafts to Create an Advantage with any enhancement spell you have learned. The difficulty for someone to remove your enhancements is equal to 2x your Crafts skill. These enhancements last until they are destroyed.
Master Tinkering (replaces Advanced Tinkering) – You can use your Crafts to Create an Advantage with any enhancement spell you have learned. The difficulty for someone to remove your enhancements is equal to 3x your Crafts skill. These enhancements last until the enchanted items are destroyed.
Sparkling Sword (requires Novice+ Tinkering) – You may create a Sparkling <insert item name> enhancement aspect on any object that can be used as a melee weapon. Anyone using this item for a Fight check can inflict physical damage on spirit-like beings that the object would normally pass through.
Tough as Nails (requires Novice+ Tinkering) – You may create a Tough <insert item name> enhancement aspect on any object smaller than you, giving it a physical stress reduction of 1. Objects with this enhancement will change color to a slightly darker shade.
Be Our Guest (requires Novice+ Tinkering) – You may create a Singing <insert item name> enhancement aspect on any object made of wood or metal. The object is able to sing any songs you set it for and can even dance slightly when it does so.
Masterwork Spoon (requires Novice+ Tinkering) – You may create a Masterwork <insert item name> tool that can be used with one hand. This advantage gets an extra free invoke when you make it, and the tool appears to be new and polished even after it is used.
Magic Carpet Ride (requires Student+ Tinkering) – You may create a Flying <insert item name> enhancement aspect on any object that more than one person could normally sit on or in. While riding this item, you may use your Drive skill for any Attack, Defend, or Overcome actions that would be appropriate for you or any other passenger. Objects with this enhancement are restless when still.
The Perfect Outfit (requires Student+ Tinkering) – You may create a Gorgeous <insert item name> enhancement aspect on any item of clothing. Anyone wearing this fashionable item of clothing gets +1 to all social skill checks for as long as the enhancement lasts. The maximum benefit of wearing multiple items with this enhancement is equal to your Resources.
Polly’s Juice Potion (requires Student+ Tinkering) – You may create a Potion of <insert person’s name>, allowing anyone that drinks it to transform into another person. The potion grants its drinker a bonus to Deceit rolls equal to your Empathy while they are in this form. Potion colors vary by target person.
Cloak of Shadows (requires Student+ Tinkering) – You may create a Shadowy <insert item name> enhancement aspect on any item of clothing that is normally used to cover a person’s head, such as a cloak or a hood. Dark mist obscures the wearer of this clothing, giving them a +1 bonus to Stealth and Burglary checks. When not worn, a faint black mist seems to evaporate from the enchanted clothing.
Nayru’s Love (requires Advanced+ Tinkering) – You may create an <insert item name> of invulnerability enhancement aspect on any object that has a person’s picture. When that person would be taken out of a scene from an Attack, they can instead allow the object to be destroyed. The Attack is treated as being a 0, ignoring all modifiers. The face will change subtly to match the target’s mood.
Ring of Invisibility (requires Advanced+ Tinkering) – You may create a <insert item name> of Invisibility enhancement aspect on any small object that can be worn and taken off with ease. Any time that object is worn, its wearer is Invisible and gets a x2 Stealth check bonus.
Din’s Fiery Focus (requires Advanced+ Tinkering) – You may create a <insert item name> of Passion enhancement aspect on any object that is considered beautiful. Anyone touching the item can use it to Attack every enemy target in their zone with a base skill of your Resources + 5. The object is destroyed after one use.
Faerore’s Wind (requires Advanced+ Tinkering) – You may create a <insert item name> of the Wind enhancement aspect on any object that weighs less than a pound. Anyone touching such an object can teleport 1 zone as a free action, or use an action to teleport a number of zones equal to your Athletics. If you put the enchanted item to your ear, you can hear a merry whispered laughter.
Soul Forging (requires Master Tinkering) – You may fuse the soul of an individual into any object, making it an Intelligent <insert item name> as its main aspect. The soul being used must be inactive (such as inside a soul gem) or just taken out of the scene since your last turn. Souls can roll Will against your Crafting check to resist. Once forged into an item, a soul can only interact with someone touching the object it is a part of.
Spell Pearl (requires Master Tinkering) – You may create a <insert item name> of <insert spell name> enhancement aspect on any object that can fit into a pocket. You may enchant the item with any spell you have permanently learned. Anyone else can activate the object, casting the spell with their own stats even if they are not able to normally cast magic. The object turns to dust after one use.
Two Go In, One Comes out (requires Master Tinkering) – As a single action, you may enchant an object with 2 different enhancements at the same time. You must roll separately for each enhancement, and failing either one destroys the object being enchanted.
Make A New Friend (requires Master Tinkering) – You may craft a golem creature 1 foot in height for every point of spin on your Crafts check. The golem has two skills equal to your Resources + Will in rank.
Even if you don’t take any special stunts, there are a lot of ways to use skills like Crafts and Resources to have a lot of fun in a game. What is most important is that you play the character you want to play and have a good time.
And everyone else likes playing with you, because that is also important.
Let us know what you think of the tinkerer, if any of the stunts don’t make sense, or you have your own stories you want to share!