I’ve twice to DM a campaign set in Type-Moon universe (the creators of Fate/ franchise amongst other video games and visual novels), particularly the aforementioned Fate/x franchise.
If you’re not familiar with it, Fate/ franchise was launched with Fate/Stay Night, an erotic visual that told the story of Shirou Emiya, generic harem protagonist, as he stumbles into the war of seven magi and their servants, the souls of deceased heroes from history and mythology, over the Holy Grail.
I’ve tried to host a campaign twice in this world, but both attempts have failed particularly. How? I gave the players free reign without any attempt to railroad them to progress the story. The problem in this that my players had no idea what they wanted to do, used to more linear Dungeons & Dragons campaigns. If blame were to be placed anywhere, it would have to fall on myself for not putting the effort to find ways to give the players goals and ambitions without outright forcing their hand. However I didn’t write this post to cry over my past failures, but to share some of the ideas I had for it.
They are seven types of servants in every Holy Grail War (exceptions exist, but they are usually spin-offs, certain magi trying to cheat the system or Gilgamesh).
Sabers: Sabers are tanks with the highest amount of personal mana from the classes and are considered the “one class to rule them all” by most magi. Anyone whose wielded a sword is history or mythology can be summoned as a saber. For both campaigns, I had Hou Mulan as the saber class servant.
Lancers: Lancers rely on hit-and-run tactics, being able to survive any wound that doesn’t outright kills them and retreat to fight again. Like sabers, anyone who wielded a polearm can become a lancer. In the first campaign I had the Queen of Hearts (before you point she doesn’t count, they had servants that were the very embodiment of disease and another who was simply the personification of all nursery rhymes in general) and Tomoe Gozen in the second as the lancer.
Archer: Archers are supposed to be ranged fighters, but Heroic Spirit EMIYA and Gilgamesh have proven this isn’t a set in stone rule as long as they have a ranged weapon in their arsenal. Like Sabers and Lancers, archers are anyone whoever wielded a ranged weapon (you might see a pattern here). For the first campaign Archer was female/Black Beard (they made Arthur and Mordred into women so historical accuracy is not an issue) and White Tights in the second campaign.
Rider: Riders are amongst the fastest servants and can ride any animal (except dragons) and operate any vehicle. Anyone who is related to any important mount/vehicle can be rider (even if they aren’t the person rode/operated it- I’m looking at you Medusa). I chose Tomoe Gozen in the first and allowed one of my players to choose male/Black Beard in the second (otherwise I would have gone with Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf/”Grandma”).
Berserker: Berserkers are mindless fighting machines originally intended to make weaker heroes stand a chance against major heroes like King Arthur. However, when a strong hero like Heracles or Lancelot are summoned as Berserkers, they become nigh invincible. Anyone whose gone mad in life can become a Berserker. I chose Dr.Jackal/Mr.Hyde as the Berserker in the first campaign and allowed a player to choose the Scorpion King in the second (otherwise I would have gone with the Queen of Hearts, naturally)
Assassin: The fastest, but also the weakest of classes, assassins don’t fight other servants often, favoring targeting their masters instead (as magi are usually defenseless against heroic spirits). While originally only Hassan-I-Sabbah was supposed to be summoned as the Assassin class servant, the rules have broken enough that anyone notorious for killing people, such as Jack-the-Ripper, can be summoned as as an Assasin. In both versions I chose Marcilla “Carmilla” Karnstein as the assassin (in her full vampiric glory).
Caster: Casters are the magic users of the seven. Anyone who has any skill in magic can be a caster, though in the expanded universe, authors and poets can also be can summoned as Casters. I chose Sappho as the caster (though I planned on having Morgan Le Fe as a secret 8th servant).
Now the question may be, where is the yuri in this? Well in both versions, I had planned on Sappho and Carmilla falling in each other, resulting in a dangerous alliance that would result in a possible vampire apocalypse. I also planned on Mulan and Tomoe having a foe-yay rivalry that blossoms into a tragic friendship.
Each servant has their own special abilities and super abilities based on their legends called “Noble Phantasms”.
Saber (Hou Mulan)
To Protect My Father: Mulan can pass herself off as a man even while naked as long as she wants to (though anyone skilled in seeing through/despelling illusions can negate this ability).
Cunning Tactician: Because of Mulan’s craftiness and years of experience in the Chinese military, she possesses great insight in split-second tactical decisions and can strategize how to use any location to her advantage.
Lancer (Tomoe Gozen):
Peerless Warrior: Because of her status of a female samurai fighting amongst male samurai and her fabled beauty, she is nigh-invincible against anyone who would be attracted her on grounds of sexual orientation (straight men, lesbians, and bisexuals).
Multi-Arms Mastery: Due to her skills with several different types of weapons, she can wield any weapon she reconizes, allowing her to wield weapons other than polearms. This noble phantasm is no where never the level of absurdity as Lancelot’s ability to wield ANYTHING he believes he perceives he can.
Archer (White Tights)
Winter Phantom: While in snowy terrain, archer is practically undetectedable, leaving behind no foot prints in snow.
Crimson Star: Archer has the ability to mark her enemies with a red star that she can hit with perfect accuracy at any distance, proving fatal when the star is located on/over vital organs (between the eyes, on the chest over the heart, etc.)
Rider (Red Riding Hood & Grandma/Big Bad Wolf)
“My Grandma, what Big Eyes you have” & “The Better to See you, my Dear”: Enhances “Grandma”‘s vision, allowing her to see in the dark.
“My Grandma, what Big Ears you have” & “The Better to Hear you, my Dear”: Enhances “Grandma”‘s hearing, allowing to hearing the softest of noises from far away.
“My Grandma, what Big Teeth you have” & “The Better to Eat you with”: Releases “Grandma”‘s disguise and transforms her into the Big Bad Wolf, acting as Red’s mount and primary weapon.
Berserker (Queen of Hearts)
Mad as a Hatter: As a resident of Wonderland, the Queen of Hearts is unquestionably insane, but retains her sentience.
OFF WITH HER HEAD!: Summons the playing cards soldiers to kill anything that angers her (in short anything unlucky enough to cross her path).
Child of the Night: As a vampire, she possesses all the abilities she had in the novel with the same name.
Vampiric Glamor: Due to vampires being highly sexualized in modern day media, she possesses the ability to seduce anyone who would be attracted to her in terms of sexual orientation (straight men, lesbians and bisexuals).
Self-sufficient: Because of Carmilla’s unsatible hunger and the sexual conotations of vampirism, Carmilla doesn’t require a master to remain in the world as long as she has a lover. This is not a Noble Phantasm as much as a part of her personality and vampirism.
Slave of Passion: Sappho, renown for her homoerotic poetry can manipulate the minds of people who are sexually attracted to members of their own sex. As a person who believes in freedom, she despises this ability and refuses to use it unless forced by her master.
Power of Love: Due to the belief many of her poems are autobiographical, she can empower any person she wishes by having intercourse with them. The empowerment received this way wears off after a few hours.
Self-sufficient: Like Carmilla, Sappho can easily replenish her mana (especially with “Power of Love”) and doesn’t require a master to remain in the world as long as she has a lover. This not a Noble Phantasm as much as a part of her personality.
“True” Caster (Morgana):
Master Enchantress: Her skill in weaving enchantments are second to none, allowing her to create spells that are nearly impossible to break.
Homunculus Crafter: As the mother of Mordred (a Homunculus clone of “Arthur” who is technically still the woman-queens biological “son”), Morgana can create homonculus clones of any person she can acquire the “genetic material” of.
The seven magi participating in the Holy Grail War are known as masters. While players take up a certain number of slots are taken up by the players, but because I was never could get seven players, I had to fill in the open slots with NPC Masters.
Rin Tohsaka: The daughter of Tokiomi Tohsaka, she is the active head of the family after father died.
Sakura Matou: The daughter of Tokiomi Tohsaka who was adopted into the abusive Matou family. She is Matou’s heiress. She is the master of Archer. She is the master of Assassin.
Illyasviel “Illya” Emiya: The former Homunculus of the Einzbern family who was designed to pass away a year after the fifth Holy Grail war. To defy her family, she created a new body and transfered her soul into it, adopting the surname of her biological father. While not originally a master (in this Grail War), she would be the master of Rider.
Miyu Edelfelt: A girl adopted by the Edelfelt family. While not the heir to the family, she is acting as the family’s master in place of the Edelfelt’s heiress. While not originally a master, she would be the master of Berserker.
Teddy the “Bearserker”: A spineless young man who is inexplicably popular with women. He serves a shady organization called “Knights of the Round Table”. Works park time as a mascot character at a theme park. He is rarely seen outside the bear costume he wears for work. He is the master of Lancer.
Yumi Majo: A young girl who knows nothing about magic who wound being involved in the Holy Grail War. She is the master of Saber (and is much disappointed to learn Mulan’s real gender).
Bathilda and Brunhild von Einzbern: Homunculi created for the new Grail War, they are clones of servants from the previous two grail wars; Bathilda after Altria Pendragon (King Arthur) and Brunhild after Heracles. Bathilda acts as a guardian and secondary master while Brunhild is the primary master of Caster.