Dinotopia for Fate, part 2

Last time I came at you with some Fate rules for Dinotopia, I took the broad approach to making characters. This time I’m drilling down on something that’s very important for all characters and a little different from other Fate games: species. Characters’ species in Dinotopia likely affects nearly every facet of the character. Mechanically, it comes up in two ways: the character’s skill array and their species aspect.


There are four different sizes for species, three of which require modifications to the standard array of skills.


  • Small Characters are those dinosaur species smaller than humans, including small carnivores like velociraptors or microraptors. Most small species seen in Dinotopia, however, are not sentient characters so this can also be a “pet” or “companion” character. Small characters start with an Average Stealth Skill and a Poor Athletics Skill.
  • Medium Characters are human-sized and they include many familiar species from the Dinotopia books: protoceratops, oviraptor, pachycephalosaurus, deinonychus, and so on. It also includes all the human characters (obviously). There are no Skill modifications for Medium characters.
  • Large Characters are the very big dinosaur species such as triceratops, stegosaurus, and most hadrosaurs. They are hard laborers and strong companions out in the wilderness. Large characters start with an Average Athletics Skill and a Poor Stealth Skill.
  • Gigantic Characters are huge dinosaurs that tower above the other species and the townships of Dinotopia. Brachiosaurus and other huge sauropods are in this category as well as large carnivores like tyrannosaurus. Gigantic characters have Average Athletics and Physique Skills and they have poor Stealth and Notice Skills.


These starting skill values mean that the modifiers are added to whatever they assign the skill according to the skill columns during Character Creation. For instance, if a player gives a Large character a Fair (+2) rating in Athletics then the final rating is Good (+3) because of the character’s size.

Using Species Aspects

Species aspects work like any other aspect in Fate. You can invoke them and compel them (see Fate Core System rulebook p. 68-75) when the situation arises. As described earlier, a species aspect has both the species name and the adjective. It’s assumed that you can handle the adjective part on your own but you might need help with the species part. Some suggested invokes and compels are given below but this is certainly not an exhaustive list. It’s just to get you thinking, other opportunities can and will come up during gameplay.


Large, armored dinosaurs with defensive spikes and often clubbed tails.


  • Invokes: Barreling through obstacles, absorbing physical attacks, smashing with your club tail.
  • Compels: Breaking things with your size, getting wedged someplace narrow, catching your spikes on something.



Large frilled dinosaurs, usually with horns for defense.


  • Invokes: Charging through things, congregating with other ceratopsians, pulling heavy things.
  • Compels: Anxiety of being alone, getting horns or frill caught on things, defensive nature.
Arthur Denison and Bix - Dinotopia
Image © James Gurney



Large, grazing dinosaurs that travel in herds and use long-distance calls to communicate.


  • Invokes: Swimming or wading, calling out over a distance, singing or performing, traveling together.
  • Compels: Being too loud, getting distracted by dangers, needing a swim.



The small, strange newcomers to the island who are often much more trouble than they seem.

  • Invokes: Fine manipulation with hands, speaking human languages, thinking innovatively.
  • Compels: Using spaces meant for dinosaurs, being too small or too easily injured, having dull senses.

Marine Reptiles

Large predators living in the sea, from mosasaurs to plesiosaurs. They aren’t dinosaurs but they certainly aren’t fish.

  • Invokes: Swimming, hunting, navigating, and generally anything else underwater.
  • Compels: Struggling on the land, misunderstanding dinosaur and human languages, nervous from spending too much time at the surface.


Hard-headed and territorial dinosaurs.


  • Invokes: Ramming things with your head, intimidating others, pushing heavy things.
  • Compels: Quick-tempered, not liking to work in groups, trying delicate work.


Pleistocene Mammals

The large, hardy mammals that evolved during the last Ice Age, mostly living in the snowy Forbidden Mountains.

  • Invokes: Dealing with cold weather, navigating mountainous areas, finding food.
  • Compels: Suffering through hot weather, misunderstanding dinosaur speech, stomachache from lowland greens.
Dinotopia - Forbidden Mountains
Image © James Gurney


Leather-winged creatures like dinosaurs but able to soar through the air.


  • Invokes: Impressive flying, getting a high-up view, chasing or escaping other flying things.
  • Compels: Walking for long distances, misunderstanding dinosaur or human speech, nervous reactions while perched.



Large, herbivorous dinosaurs with plates on their back and often spiked tails for defense.


  • Invokes: Defending yourself, carrying heavy loads, pushing through heavy brush.
  • Compels: Getting your plates or spikes snagged on things, trying to resist fresh food, lashing out when frightened.



Long-necked dinosaurs grazing on treetops with truly massive bodies.


  • Invokes: Carrying heavy loads, reaching impressive heights, seeing far distances.
  • Compels: Being unable to enter small areas, missing things low to the ground, nerves from staying in one place for too long.



Fast predator dinosaurs, usually carnivorous.


  • Invokes: Running quickly, attacking other creatures, moving silently, staying hidden.
  • Compels: Cravings for meat, aggressive instincts, damaging things with sharp claws.
Dinotopia - Streets of Chandara
Image © James Gurney

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