Zootopia’s “Skunk Butt Rug” Scene in Fate & Cortex

I’ve missed a few posts, between being busy with work, chugging along with Cortex Tribe 8, and also working on my Cortex confab entry (which I’ll likely be talking about in my next post).

On RPG.Net there’s been a discussion about “scene editing” metacurrency, and the scene in Zootopia where Hopps and Nick are taken to Mr. Bigg was brought up. The example was predicated on the PCs already having lost a conflict and had the outcome of “getting iced”, but a Fate Point was spent to create the setting detail that Hopps had rescued Mr. Bigg’s daughter the previous day and that gets them out of the outcome. It bugged me from an implementation perspective (metacurrency should never invalidate rolls). Later on the thread turned to concessions, conflicts, etc. and I started thinking about how either Fate or Cortex would actually handle this with Fru Fru being a factor in the outcome, as opposed to a mulligan.

My first impression is that this shouldn’t be framed as a conflict (in Fate terms). It’s clearly a contest, and one where there’s clearly a turning point that the stakes change.

Fate Contest Example

First Exchange

  • The GM decides that Hopps and Nick only need to score three victories total between them. Hopps, Nick and Mr. Big make their rolls. Nick’s roll is higher than Mr. Biggs, so he scores a victory, but Hopps’ roll is lower.
  • The GM then offers Nick’s player a compel: a “skunk butt rug” that he sold Mr. Big, who was not pleased at all. Nick accepts it, and Mr. Big scores a victory as a result.

Second Exchange

  • Mr. Big wins this roll, as Hopps’ attempt to use her authority and Nick’s roll to try to defuse the situation both fail. The GM now has two victories.
  • Mr Big orders the polar bears to ice Hopps and Nick. This is purely for dramatic purposes and doesn’t mean that being iced is the outcome; nobody has won the contest yet.

Third Exchange

  • The most likely event is Hopps and the GM rolling a tie, and the GM introducing Fru Fru, Mr. Biggs’ daughter, as a twist. Hopps uses this to her advantage, spending a Fate Point to invoke Fru Fru – narrating that she was one of the rodents she saved the day before – to score a success with style on the contest roll and get the final two victories needed.

This is a fairly classic Fate one-two punch invoking an aspect to get a better result, as well as how a compel can change the course of a scene. The original suggestion, that Hopps spends a Fate Point to create a “setting detail” that somehow involves Fru Fru, doesn’t track with the action in the scene or even what Fate Points are used for.

Cortex Example

In Cortex, things are a little trickier. It’s still a contest (because that’s what most Cortex conflicts are), it’s just there’s no preset number of victories required – we’re going to roll until one side wins or gives up. The only real tweak to standard Cortex contests are that the higher of Nick’s or Hopps’ rolls are used – but any hitches, on either roll, can create complications.

First Exchange

  • Hopps and Nick both assemble their pools and roll to set the initial difficulty. Nick chooses – perhaps not wisely – to roll d4 for one of his distinctions to gain a plot point. Nick rolls two hitches; the GM gives Nick another plot point, and introduces a d8 complication Not Going Their Way. The GM rolls and beats their difficulty.

Second Exchange

  • Hopps and Nick both roll again to try to beat Mr. Biggs’ difficulty. Nick’s roll wins, but both he and Hopps roll hitches. The GM hands them each a plot point and steps up Not Going Their Way to d12. The polar bears pick them up in preparation for icing them.

At this point, one possibility is that the GM looks at Nick’s roll and, even with the d12 complication in play, decides to give in. The players and GM decide on Fru Fru entering the scene, the PCs are saved, and they get Mr. Bigg’s help. Another one is that if callbacks are being used, Hopps uses the callback to her saving the rodents from the rolling donut to justify introducing Fru Fru as an asset without spending a plot point, and also spends her newly minted plot point from her hitch to create a relationship with Fru Fru. That gives her two extra d6s for her roll, and she is able to roll high enough to beat Mr. Biggs’ roll. The GM chooses to roll again and fails, ending the contest.

Of course, in both examples there might be stunts, SFX, talents, etc. in play that allow the PCs to bring about the same conclusion as in the movie. Either way, it pretty solidly demonstrates how Fru Fru’s introduction to the scene fits right into either Fate or Cortex’s core game play, and isn’t the result of metacurrency undoing or invalidating a bad result.

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