Ierne: Celtic FATE

Happy Ireland day to all. It seems like the perfect day for me to finally talk about Ierne, don’t you think?

Ierne: Celtic FATE

For a few weeks now I have been writing these little vignettes set in a land called Ierne, each showing a small glimpse of ongoing events before moving on to the next tale. I have also been dropping vague statements about my plans for Ierne as well as some hints as to what I’ve had in mind right from the start. Astute readers as well as customers of my Bardic Lore products for Highmoon Games (and also anyone who read my last Ierne tale) may have figured out that Ierne has been showing up for a few years now; this is a world that has been brewing in my mind, in one form or another, for over a decade, and I think it’s time to move from brewing to serving (stretching the beer analogy to its limits there). So, let me tell you about Ierne…

Ierne is based on a mythic version of Ireland where all the legends (and some history as well) of the Emerald Isle have come together to create the most dramatic combination. The invasions have already occurred and the descendants of the Milesians are now the dominant race on the island. The Fomorians, the Fir Bolg and the Tuatha De Danann (the fable Sidhe) have all retreated to the edges, be they geographic or mystical, leaving the impetuous, enterprising and savage humans to their own devices. A hundred tiny kingdoms flourish all over the land, each with a king intent on conquering all around, while a nascent alliance seeks to install an Ard Righ, High King, for the first time in a generation. From the north the Fomorians stir, while from the west a race of seafaring raiders sail their longboats up and down the coast from their new city of Dyflin. It is a land of heroes, monsters and magic. A land of mighty warriors, some capable of calling on the power of chaos itself to warp their bodies in fits of rage. A land of poets skilled in tales and lore, capable of immortalizing a man with a verse or curse him to death with a word. A land where the reverence of nature will soon be tested by a cult to a newly-risen god.

I have loved Celtic myth since I first came across it years ago, and have always wanted to game in a Celtic-themed setting. AD&D had a Celtic sourcebook which I bought and memorized, but never got to take out for a spin. Throughout the years I have collected pretty much every Celtic roleplaying game I could get my hands on: D&D Celts Sourcebook, Celtic Age, Slaine, GURPS Celtic Myth, and even Celtic Legends, an English version of a French RPG. I’ve liked them all, mined them all for ideas, and used them as resource for my Bardic Lore Celtic-themed d20 products. But they all lacked in something, at least for me. None captured some of the things I felt were very essential to Celtic myth, treating it as just another setting for whatever fantasy RPG they targeted. This is of course all personal opinion, but hey, I’m writing here.

When I became familiar with the FATE System (via Spirit of the Century), I had an inkling that there was something there that could help me. It’s taken a couple of years but it finally coalesced well enough in my mind that I now know why FATE is the right system for the type of Celtic roleplaying experience I want, even if I now have to figure out how to properly express it.

In any case, here’s what I want to do with Ierne:

Ierne: Celtic FATE is to be my roleplaying game of Celtic Myth set in a mythic Ireland-like setting. It is to be a game of heroes, monsters and magic, where the powers of the word are as strong as those of the sword. I have some specific design goals I want to hit:

  • Must be a simple game – I will keep rules to the bare minimum, character stats to the essentials, and setting information to just what is needed to spur the imagination. I want this to be a thin book that does not intimidate anyone when picked up.
  • Must be an introductory game – I want this game to be appealing to non-gamers, in addition to starting gamers looking for their second or third game to try.
  • Must be Celtic – may seem an obvious thing, but I want to keep it very much in mind. I want the game to capture Celtic myth and dish it out in all aspects of play. The rules and setting must convey the myths of the Celts.

With that in mind, here are a few reasons why FATE is the system of choice for me:

  • Descriptiveness – The combination of Aspects and Skills all based around words/statements make FATE a very approachable game, far more than seeing a sheet full of numbers with + or – signs attached to them. The character sheet should bring to mind a story, not remind someone of a math test.
  • Aspects – Celtic myth abounds with tales of how words have power, something not easy to convey in number-based systems. Aspects, as a game mechanic based on words, fits this idea perfectly. Whether it’s a title or a curse, and especially when we talk of geasa, it can be handled by Aspects.
  • Abstractness – FATE adapts very well to abstract thought since it can be very narrative. Combat, for example, can be carried out in terms of zones of effect, which can scale from the individual to the regimental level just as easily.
  • Unified Mechanic – What is known as the FATE Fractal, this is the concept that, in FATE, anything and everything can be described/statted using the same mechanics: Aspects and Skills. Once a person understands these concepts, the rest of the rules are easy to understand as they follow the same pattern.
  • Open – FATE is an open system released under the Open Game License, which means I have access to an existing pool of previous design work from which to draw inspiration and building blocks. It also means that my game will be open for others to tinker with and build upon.

So there you have it, my plans and some of my thought regarding Ierne: Celtic FATE. I hope you are excited and that you’ll come along for this ride.

I am not setting any kind of time table at the moment, it is important to say. Between university classes and the work I am also doing on another game (see Rebuilding Vampire), there’s only so much time I have. Ierne will be ready when it is ready. That said, I intend to continue writing little vignettes set in Ierne, revealing bits of the world to both you and myself. Along the way I’ll also write about game design thoughts and issues as well.

You can follow along all Ierne development by checking the “Ierne” tag.

Many thanks to Mick Bradley for the triskele artwork featured above.

Join me, and let us together explore Ierne: Celtic FATE.


  1. Okay, you’ve just turned an otherwise melancholy, excessively uninteresting and uncreative week into something with a spark of hope.

    More later, if I can muster it. But in any case, SLÁINTE, you marvelous green-blooded bastard!


  2. Huzzah! I’ve never been able to do Celtic myth justice, but I’m confident you will; I bet you’ll really make it sing with FATE. One request: a pronunciation guild may help folks feel more comfortable with Celtic names.
    .-= JJ´s last blog… Road of trials =-.


  3. My first Fate 2.0 implementation was Celtic-themed with a bunch of ideas torn from GURPS Celtic Myth. I’ll be curious to see what you come up with.

    My version played with the significance of the the number 3 in Celtic mythos. There were unique effects associated with rolling 3 of a kinds: —, +++ and [][][]. Fun, easy to figure the percentages and intuitive for beginners.

    May the road rise to meet you on this project.


  4. Really sounds fun and interesting. Let me know if/when you’re interested in playtesters and such.


  5. Salutions from the once-called Hy-Breasail!

    I just can’t wait to see this spark of green celtic hope growing! It sounds like the narrative system i’ve been waiting (and trying to come up with) for the last 10 or so years!

    Congratulations for this little spark of magic! I hope you manage to finish it somehow, for I really want to bring it into play with my groups!

    I is there any help needed, let me know.

    Daniel Duende,
    from Brazil.


  6. great Idea.
    Hope it will come soon.
    When ready I will try to adapt to Italian Alps celtic Mith and folklore.

    maybe in Celtic Mith it will be a good idea to use something similar to high concept aspects fron DFRPG. An aspect that most of all characterize the pC.



  7. @nemomeme
    Thanks for the good wishes.
    I probably won’t be tapping too much into the 3 motif as it is more tied to Christian Ireland (which is a whole ‘nother myth era) than the pre-Christian one. That said, one of the thematic elements I’m looking to insert is the approach of the Christian-equivalent movement, so it might show up there.


  8. @Vonpaulus
    Yeah, I’m going for Ireland as it presents a nice, compact playing space, but the idea is to be able to simulate most Celtic myth. As a descendant of Spanish Galicians (from whence the Milesians also came), I’m interested in being able to explore the Celtic tales of the continent as well.

    As for High Concept Aspects, I have them in mind. I don’t know what route I will take just yet, as the one problem I see with High Concepts is that you need to define them, and that *could* be a bit intimidating to non-gamers, but I’m keeping them in my FATE toolbox.



  9. Daniel M. Perez :
    I probably won’t be tapping too much into the 3 motif as it is more tied to Christian Ireland (which is a whole ‘nother myth era) than the pre-Christian one.

    Dude …

    The three-fold goddess Brigid; the threefold goddess Morrigu; the three elements of Earth, Sea, and Sky; the Three Artifacts of the Tuatha; The three Bardic strains; The Three Bardic curses; and about 33 other things in Pagan Celtic mythology that come in threes.

    Patrick would’ve had a lot more trouble with his shamrock analogy if the Irish were not already heavily steeped in Three-ology.

    Sez me.

    But then again, I admit that most of that stuff was probably filtered through Catholic monks before I got to it. So you make a valid point.

    I’m gonna play it, shout about it, sing about it, make all kinds of artsy fiddly bits for it, and dance around a bonfire naked with just the book in my hand in any case, so do carry on. 🙂


  10. @Mick Bradley
    Ok, so I spoke a bit too soon, but I also did say that it was mostly related to Christian Ireland, not completely. 😉

    That said, I do think, based on my non-PhD reading and knowledge, that a lot of the 3 references were enhanced once the stories were set down by Christian monks in subsequent centuries. I’ve no doubt there was something there to begin with, but those kinds of really recurring parallels are literary constructions, not naturally-occurring events.

    Thanks for that image, btw. 😉


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