Fantastic Adventures in Tabletop Entertainment (Fudge Version)

Author: Robert Donoghue
Author: Fred Hicks
Copyright: This document is Open Game Content, as described in section 1(d) of the License. The license is found at the end of this document.
Editors:Fred Hicks, Lydia Leong
Typesetting:Nick Moffitt <nick@zork.net>


1   Introduction

Fate is a story-oriented roleplaying game system. Though it is a full-fledged standalone system, Fate can also be incorporated into a variety of popular roleplaying systems. In this book, we present a version of Fate that has been tailored to work with Fudge, an RPG by Steffan O'Sullivan. As such, we assume the reader is familiar with Fudge, and while everything necessary to play is included, you are strongly encouraged to acquire a copy of Fudge, either at your local game store, or for free online at http://fudgerpg.com/. Those interested in starting out immediately with Fudge may wish to check out Fudge in a Nutshell.

1.1   The Adjectives

The most important thing to understand about Fudge is how it describes things. Rather than assigning numerical values to elements like skills it uses adjectives, which are ranked as follows: Abysmal, Terrible, Poor, Mediocre, Average, Fair, Good, Great, Superb, Epic, and Legendary. Consider: a bodyguard might be a Good swordsman but have Mediocre social skills. He'll probably win a fight with an artist who's a Superb painter but a Poor swordsman. Almost anything can be described using this ladder: an empire may field a Superb army or a spaceship may be limping by with a Poor engine.

1.2   Rolling the Dice

To roll dice for Fate, pick your starting level (say, Good) and roll four six-sided dice. For each 1 or 2, move down one step, and for each 5 or 6 move up one. Let's say we rolled 2,3,5 and 5. Go down a step because of the 2, from Good to Fair, but then go up a step thanks to the first 5 (from Fair to Good) and again from the second 5 (from Good to Great) for a final outcome of Great.

Another way to look at the dice is as if they rolled either +1, 0 or -1. From that perspective, rolling 2,3,5,5 is the same as rolling -1,0,+1,+1, which is easier to deal with, since that just becomes Good + 1, which is Great.

Visualize it like this:

The Ladder
Value Descriptor
+6 Legendary
+5 Epic
+4 Superb
+3 Great
+2 Good
+1 Fair
0 Average
-1 Mediocre
-2 Poor
-3 Terrible
-4 Abysmal

There are special dice available for Fudge that have plus ⊞, minus ⊟ and blank □ faces to make rolling easier, and we use them to clarify examples. These dice can be purchased at many game stores, or online through Grey Ghost Press.

1.3   Success and Failure

When the dice are rolled, there is usually a target difficulty described according to the ladder. For instance, it might take a Good climbing effort to ascend a steep wall. To face this challenge, the player consults the appropriate skill, rolls the dice, and compares the outcome to the difficulty. If the outcome is equal to or higher than the difficulty, it's a success; if not, it's a failure. The difference between the difficulty and the outcome is called the margin of success (or failure), MoS or MoF respectively. It is often used to determine how well the character succeeded or how badly they failed.

When two characters are competing in a task, they both roll; the difference between the outcomes is the MoS for the winner and the MoF for the loser. A check made against a static target is a Test, while one made against another character is a Challenge. There are a couple of rules (see Tests and Challenges) for handling more complicated circumstances, but most of the time, this is really all there is to it.

2   Character Creation

Character creation is, ideally, very interactive, with the entire group creating characters in the presence of the GM. The methods below can be adapted to a less group-focused approach, but doing so loses many of benefits of the Fate approach. Character creation consists of a small number of simple steps.

  1. GM Overview.
  2. Consider the character.
  3. Describe each phase
  4. Select the Aspects for the phase
  5. Spend 4 Skill Ranks
  6. Assign Fate points.
  7. Select character goal.

2.1   GM Overview

Character generation should begin with the GM talking to the players about the game, in order to set appropriate expectations. The GM should address any rules considerations, such as how many phases there will be (see below). More importantly, she should make sure that everyone gets a clear idea of the theme and tone of the game. If all of the players want a game of courtly intrigue and the GM is planning to run a hack and slash adventure, this is a good time to find that out. Finally, the GM should give the players whatever background information they need to know.

2.2   Consider Characters

It's often helpful for players to get a sense of the sort of character they'd like to play. A lot of things can happen during the phases, so it's easiest to start with a simple idea, and build on it over the course of character generation. Once everyone has a concept, players should feel free to discuss them, unless the GM says otherwise. No player is obliged to participate in the discussion. In fact, no player is even obliged to have an idea at this point. However, doing so allows players to get a sense of what direction their fellow players want to take things, and it gives the GM a sense of what the group dynamic might look like.

2.3   Phases

Creation will have a number of phases set by the GM. Most games will use between five and eight, but it can really be any number. A phase is defined as a period of time wherein some events of note took place, but the specifics vary from game to game. A game of high school monster hunters might consider each school year a phase, while a game of immortal swordsmen might have a phase for every 50 years. Whatever the duration, the GM gives the players a sense of what was going on at the time, and the players figure out what their character was doing at the time.

2.4   Select Aspects

Players pick one or more aspects to represent important elements of the character that can tie into the events of the phase.

Aspects are used to describe any element of the character. Aspects include things like attributes (Strong, Weak, Agile, Charismatic, Tough, Fast, Slow), descriptors (Dutiful Charming, Alert, Dramatic), careers (Knight, Mercenary, Musketeer, Cutthroat) or even ties to the setting (Merry Man of Sherwood, Initiate of the Blue Wind, Fiodario Fencing Academy). Aspects may be good, bad or both but they should always reflect some important element of the character.

When an aspect is chosen the character gains one level of that aspect, noted as follows:

❏ Knight (Fair)

An aspect may be chosen again on a subsequent phase, in which case it goes up a level and is noted as:

❏ ❏ Knight (Good)

And then

❏ ❏ ❏ Knight (Great)

The GM sets the maximum number of levels that can be chosen in a given aspect, but a good rule of thumb is a third to a half of the total number of phases.

2.5   Skill Ranks

Skill ranks, as the name suggests, are spent primarily to purchase skills, but they can also be invested in resources.

2.5.1   Buying Skills

Skill ranks may be spent to buy new skills or to improve existing ones. Acquiring a new skill costs one skill rank, and sets the skill at Average. Spending a skill rank to improve a skill raises it one step per rank spent (from Fair to Good, for example, or Superb to Epic.). Skills will generally be selected from a skill list (see "Skill Lists".)

Once the aspects are chosen, the player then picks four skill ranks appropriate to the events of the phase. If the player had spent the phase training in an order of knights, then skills like swords, riding or heraldry would probably be appropriate, while skills like garrote or needlework would not (barring a very odd order of knighthood).

Skills are described according to the adjective ladder, and default to Mediocre. Spending one skill rank increases a skill to Average, spending a second increases it to Fair, spending another increases it to Good and so on. Players may spend those four skill ranks any way they like with only one limitation: there must always be one more skill in the next rank down. This means that a character must have two skills at Fair to have a skill at Good (and must have three skills at Average to have the two skills at Fair!). Because of how this looks, it is referred to as the skill pyramid. When the rules are observed, the pyramid is considered to be "balanced." The pyramid must be balanced at the end of every phase. This process is repeated for each phase.

2.5.2   Looking at the Pyramid

The pyramid can get confusing the first time you try to keep track of it. The good news is it's the hardest part of the system - once you're past that, the rest is easy.

It's often helpful to use tick marks to track progression through the phases, since it allows a visual representation of the pyramid.

Looking at the sample character later on (see Sample Creation) in the first phase, the character buys ranks in knife, Herb Lore, Healing, Alertness. This can be marked as:

Herb Lore:

Next phase, she buys ranks of Knife, Healing, Bluff and Pickpocket:

Knife:✓ ✔
Herb Lore:
Healing:✓ ✔

And next, Knife, Bluff, Alertness and Move Silently:

Knife:✓ ✓ ✔
Herb Lore:
Healing:✓ ✓
Alertness:✓ ✔
Bluff:✓ ✔
Move Silently:

And the marks show the problem. There are 3 ✓ ✓ and 3 ✓ - that's unbalanced. Instead of Bluff, she picks Hide instead, so:

Knife:✓ ✓ ✔
Herb Lore:
Healing:✓ ✓
Alertness:✓ ✔
Move Silently:

This system saves the trouble of assigning adjectives at each level. Instead, whenever you're finished, simply count up the marks, and assign a value as follows:

1 Average
2 Fair
3 Good
4 Great
5 Superb
6 Epic
7 Legendary

2.5.3   Why does Basketweaving help my Swordplay?

During character creation and, later, advancement (which is, in the end, the same as character creation in slow motion), you may find yourself wanting to bump a key skill up another level, but lacking the supporting pyramid structure to make that happen.

Of course, the thing to do at this point is to expand the base of the pyramid first, by adding other skills, in order to provide the structure to support the eventual higher skill.

This is all well and good as a mechanic for keeping skills from rising too fast, but you might be asking, "What's the justification?" Some of those skills you're adding at the lower levels might not seem like they'd have anything to do with the skill you're really trying to promote.

Part of the "in game" idea of what's going on here is that, with the troublesome "peak" skill in question, you've plateaued. Perhaps you've gotten about as good as you can get for a while, and it's time to branch out a bit, shake yourself up a little, and then come back refreshed with new perspectives.

Another possibility is that you are still improving in that skill, even if its listed rank isn't changing. Consider: the grain of the adjective ladder in Fate is pretty rough, with each rung of the ladder representing a significant step beyond the one prior to it. So while you may be improving, you're not improving so significantly that you've jumped up another level -- yet. The fact that you're picking up other skills along the way indicates that time is passing, which is the true support that's being lent to your peak skill.

That all said, in theory, your skill choices within a phase (be it a period of advancement leading up to a goal aspect, or a phase during character creation) are related to the aspect you're getting during that phase, so chances are the skills you're picking up are going to be a bit more related to your Swordplay than, say, Basketweaving.

Say the skill in question is Swordplay. There are any number of things you could pick up that clearly do support that skill. For example:

  • Metalworking (make your own)
  • Knowledge: Fencing Schools
  • Shield Use
  • Athletics
  • Alertness
  • Other weapon skills
  • A skill to represent an advanced maneuver that isn't covered by your Swordplay skill

And so on. Knowledge and profession skills are often great picks during these times, as they expand the realm of things your character knows about, while still tying into the peak skill you're pushing.

That said, if you're learning Swordplay under the Great Kenjutsu Master Hiroko, and he sends you down to the river to make baskets out of reeds every day as a part of your training in discipline and patience -- there's always justification to take Basketweaving.

2.6   Assign Fate Points

Fate points are points which may be spent by a player to grant a bonus to an action or to influence the game in some way. The GM gives each player a certain number of them at the game's start, usually equal to half the number of phases. See Fate Points for more details.

2.7   Select Character Goal

Finally, the player should pick what direction they want the character to go in next. This is expressed as a goal, which should be the next aspect the player would like for the character. It's possible that the player will not have an idea, and that's fine, but the goals help tell the GM the sorts of things the players are interested in. See Advancement for more information.

2.8   Sample Creation

2.8.1   GM Overview

The GM explains that the game is going to be a standard fantasy game with a slightly urban and low magic flavor, and that character generation will be five phases.

Think about and discuss the character

Deborah decides to make Sybil, who she thinks is going to be something of a trickster, but she hasn't got much more than that.

2.8.2   Phases

The phases break down as follows.

Phase 1

This phase covers a number of years, including Sybil's youth in the village of Simbul. She's raised by the village medicine woman, and she takes the aspect "Herbalist" and ranks in Knife, Healing, Herb Lore and Alertness.

❏ Herbalist:Fair
Herb Lore:

Phase 2

Sybil runs off with a gypsy troupe, and travels the realm. She takes the aspect "Gypsy" and ranks in Knife, Bluff, Pickpocket and Healing.

❏ Herbalist:Fair
❏ Gypsy:Fair
Knife:✓ ✔
Healing:✓ ✔
Herb Lore:

Phase 3

Sybil continues to spend time with the gypsies, acting as a healer. She takes another rank in the Gypsy aspect, and ranks in Knife, Bluff, Move Silently and Hide.

❏ Herbalist:Fair
❏ ❏ Gypsy:Good
Knife:✓ ✓ ✔
Healing:✓ ✓
Herb Lore:
Bluff:✓ ✔
Move Silently:

Phase 4

Leaving the troupe, she heads to the big city to pursue a career as a thief. She joins the guild and takes the aspect "Guild Thief" and learns the skills Pick Locks, Pickpocket, Bluff and Hide.

❏ Herbalist:Fair
❏ ❏ Gypsy:Good
❏ Guild Thief:Fair
Knife:✓ ✓ ✓
Healing:✓ ✓
Herb Lore:
Bluff:✓ ✓ ✔
Pickpocket:✓ ✔
Move Silently:
Hide:✓ ✔
Pick Locks:

Phase 5

As a result of a big haul that she fails to share with the guild, she ends up with the black mark on her, and a price on her head. She takes the aspect "Hunted" and buys ranks in Knife, Hide, Alertness and Streetwise.

❏ Herbalist:Fair
❏ ❏ Gypsy:Good
❏ Guild Thief:Fair
❏ Hunted:Fair
Knife:✓ ✓ ✓ ✔
Healing:✓ ✓
Herb Lore:
Alertness:✓ ✔
Bluff:✓ ✓ ✓
Pickpocket:✓ ✓
Move Silently:
Hide:✓ ✓ ✔
Pick Locks:

2.8.3   GM assigns fate points

The GM gives Sybil 3 fate points to start the game.

3   Playing the Game

3.1   Tests and Challenges

In Fate, when a character must overcome a particular obstacle, the dice start rolling. The GM needs to make a number of decisions regarding how this contest is going to be resolved and then make a check of some sort. The simplest and most common sort of check is the static test.

3.1.1   Static Tests

For a static test, the GM sets a fixed difficulty, then the player chooses an appropriate skill, rolls the dice, and compares the outcome to the difficulty (Setting Difficulties). For simple tasks, the player needs to meet or exceed the difficulty set by the GM.

While that is all that's needed in situations where all that matters is the success or failure of the action, sometimes the degree of success is very important. In those situations, the check is rolled in the same way as any other static test, but the GM looks at the difference between what the character rolled and what they needed. This difference is called the Margin of Success (if the character succeeded) or the Margin of Failure (if the character failed). Because a tie is a success, it is possible to have a margin of success of 0.

The simple rule of thumb is the larger the margin of success, the more significant the success. The exact effect varies from case to case, but to give a few examples:

Information Gathering
Each point of MoS gives one additional fact.
Physical Activities
Greater MoS means the act was done with greater speed or grace.
Social Actions
Greater MoS allows a longer lasting or deeper impression.

In general the MoS is broken down as follows:

MoS Degree Magnitude Duration
0 Minimal Negligible Instant
1 Competent Minor Momentary
2 Solid Moderate Scene
3 Significant Major Session
4 Perfection Overwhelming Long term

3.1.2   Static Challenges

While a test is a check which can be resolved in a single check, a challenge takes longer, usually requiring multiple rolls to ultimately achieve a specific (usually quite high) MoS. To accomplish this, successes are tracked on a challenge ladder, which looks something like this:

MoS Degree Ladder Notes
0 Minimal ❏ ❏  
1 Competent ❏ ❏  
2 Solid ❏ ❏  
3 Significant ❏ ❏  
4 Complete  

Each time the character makes a check, they mark off a box of the appropriate MoS. If all the boxes of a given level are marked off, they mark a box of the next level up. If those are all full, mark the next up and so on. In this manner, it is possible to accumulate enough small successes to complete a large project and achieve a MoS of 4 (or whatever is required).

3.1.3   Customizing Challenges

While this system can be used to carve a model gun out of soap, it can also be used to carve faces in Mount Rushmore. Obviously, the requirements for different challenges can vary significantly. A challenge is made up of five parts: Difficulty, Complexity, Fragility, Span and Recovery.

Difficulty is the target difficulty the player is rolling to beat. It's important to note that while this may be quite high, it does not have to be. Some tasks are not so much hard, as simply time-consuming.

Complexity is the number and distribution of the boxes in the ladder. By default, the ladder will look a lot like the sample (above); a very simple task may have fewer boxes, while a very complicated task may have many more. Boxes need not be evenly distributed; for instance, the steps could be a pyramid or an inverted pyramid. Uneven distribution of boxes can be especially apt when there are outcomes from the intervening steps. For example, the GM creates a challenge ladder for finding the rumors in a given city. She puts a lot of boxes at the Solid and significant level, and ties each one to a rumor the player's will hear when they check it off.

Fragility is a measure of how well the task handles failure. Not all tasks are fragile, but most at least have some sort of problem that arises from a MoF of 3 or 4. Most often, fragility means that the MoF can be used to remove successes. By default, a MoF removes a success from an equivalent MoS (if there are no successes at that level, keep going up the ladder until one is found). For more fragile challenges, a failure may remove the highest success, remove all successes, or even completely destroy the project being worked on. Alternately, the effects of fragility may not directly affect the success but instead have some sort of triggered effect.

Span measures how long the task takes in terms of how often a check may be made.

Recovery tracks how quickly the challenge recovers boxes. Span and recovery are often tracked together for convenience.

Word on the Street

The GM has a set of rumors for the streets of Alverado, and she builds them into a challenge. She sets the difficulty at Good, requiring the Streetwise or Contacting skills. She has 10 rumors, plus one secret, so she builds the ladder with a heavy concentration on solids and significant, so each one will be worth 1 rumor. She considers fragility - a failure is unlikely to disrupt the ladder - it's hardly going to take away information already gained. Instead, she decides on a special circumstance: On a MoF of 3 (which would be Poor result), the character will offend someone and get attacked by thugs. Lastly, she decides the span will be one day - this represents going out and spending a day beating the streets for news. However, news does get stale, so every week the player doesn't pursue this challenge, a box will become unchecked.

MoS Ladder Notes
0 Fair Difficulty
2 ❏ ❏ ❏ ❏ ❏ Gain Spurious Rumor
3 ❏ ❏ ❏ ❏ ❏ Gain Useful Rumor
4 Secret (Plot Hook)
Fragility:On a MoF of 3, the character gets attacked
Span:Check 1/day
Recovery:1 box per week

Challenges are most apt when they are required by the difficulty of the task rather than the sheer scope. They are generally designed to allow repeated effort to build up to a higher MoS, and thus an effect that could not normally be accomplished. However, they are not as useful for modeling tasks that are more about repetition and consistency, such as building a house. For such tasks, a series of Static Tests may be more apt, simply keeping a count of successes until a total is reached, possibly granting a bonus for a very high MoS on a given roll.

The problem with this method is that it can be staggeringly boring, especially if a lot of rolls are involved. The GM is strongly encouraged to make the span as long as can be reasonably justified to avoid massive die rolling extravaganzas.

3.2   Dynamic Checks

While Static checks are appropriate when the character has no direct opposition, many conflicts will be directly with another character. In those situations, both sides roll dice and compare outcomes.

3.2.1   Dynamic Tests

As with static checks, sometimes all the GM needs to resolve a situation is the outcome, but sometimes the margin of success or failure is important. In those situations, the player makes a dynamic test, and considers the result as follows:

MoS Degree Magnitude Duration
0 Minimal Negligible Instant
1 Competent Minor Momentary
2-4 Solid Moderate Scene
5-6 Significant Major Session
7+ Perfection Overwhelming Long term

Canny readers may notice that this table is very similar to the table for static tests, except that the numbers used to determine the MoS are different.

Why the Difference?

One interesting element of using Fudge dice is that because they are 0- centered, it doesn't matter whether the GM or the player is rolling the dice - it only matters how many dice are being rolled. When the player and GM roll four dice, they each generate an outcome from -4 to +4 This produces a total range from -8 to +8.

In practical terms, this means there's a much broader range of results if both sides are rolling dice. As the range is doubled, so is the MoS table. At least that's the theory. A perfect doubling would assign each step a 2 number value (0, 1-2, 3-4, 5-6 etc.). However, we've expanded the "Solid" range because in play test we found it was much more satisfying - a solid outcome is much more the midpoint of success, so making it more likely paid off nicely. In fact, in all honesty, we came up with the dynamic ladder first, and divided it in half for the static chart rather than the reverse.

Like many things, this is an issue of taste - GMs with a fondness for symmetry are welcome to change the steps to 1-2, 3-4 and so on, it won't break anything.

3.2.2   Dynamic Challenges

Dynamic challenges are very similar to static challenges. The same considerations that go into making a static challenge (Difficulty, Complexity, Fragility and Span see Customizing Challenges) are used to create a dynamic challenge. The only difference are the new numbers for measuring MoS.

The Chess Match (A Dynamic Challenge)

Two chess masters, Louis and Ferdinand, are in a tense match that will decide the fate of a nation due to a risky wager by the Queen.

The GM wants to crank up the tension for this, so decides that checkmating the other master is each character's goal. Thus, she writes down two identical challenge tracks for each character, representing the difficulty of overcoming their opponent, and the state of the opponent's board:

MoS Ladder Notes
0 ❏ ❏ ❏ ❏ ❏ ❏ ❏ ❏ Pawn Captured
1 ❏ ❏ ❏ ❏ Knights and Bishops (-1 to the next roll)
2-4 ❏ ❏ Rooks (-1 for rest of match)
5-6 Queen (-2 for rest of match)
7+ King (Checkmate)
Span:Each check constitutes a few minutes of play, spanning several moves.

Playing the Match

Each set of opposed skill checks does not represent a single pair of moves in the game, but rather each significant moment in the game, which may be comprised of multiple moves. Further, the GM rules that if the highest box checked off is a Moderate, the target is at -1 for the rest of the challenge; if Major, the target is at -2 for the rest of the challenge. A Minor loss should force a temporary shift in strategy, so that too gives a -1 --but only to the next roll by the victim.

The players begin to roll.

In the first exchange, Louis gets a moderate (MoS 2) success, which the GM narrates as having taken one of Ferdinand's rooks. It's a bad result for Ferdinand this early in the match, and he's at a -1 for the rest of the game. Ouch.

In the next exchange, Ferdinand beats Louis by all of 1, overcoming his early loss. The GM says Ferdinand has claimed one of Louis' knights, giving Louis a -1 to his next roll -- for the moment, Louis and Ferdinand will be on an equal footing.

Then, Ferdinand and Louis tie. The GM rules that they've traded pawns after some tense maneuvering, and checks off a box on the lowest rung for each of them.

Following this, Louis is no longer at a -1, while Ferdinand is. Louis ends up rolling extraordinarily well, while Ferdinand only hits the middle of his range -- Louis beats Ferdinand by 5, depriving him of his Queen, and knocking him down to a -2.

In the final exchange, Louis' luck and Ferdinand's penalties conspire to give Louis a MoS of 5 again -- but all Major boxes are filled up, and thus the result rolls into Overwhelming -- checkmate. Louis wins.

Dynamic challenges can be used to model almost any sort of contest, from a footrace to a debate to a fencing match (see Combat).

Dynamic challenges are also appropriate when the character is performing an action where a number of random factors can come into play. In those situations, even if there is no direct opposition the GM may still roll dice - in this case the check is considered dynamic.

3.3   In Summary

Any given check is going to be one of four types: static tests, static challenges, dynamic tests or dynamic challenges. Static checks involve only the player rolling, while both the player and GM roll for dynamic checks. Tests are resolved in a single check, while challenges are resolved over the course of several rolls.

  Static Dynamic
Test Only player rolls, only one roll. Player and GM roll, only one roll
Challenge Only Player rolls, multiple rolls Player and GM roll, multiple rolls.

3.4   Setting Difficulties

The following guidelines can be used for GMs looking to set difficulties for tasks. It's important to note that for many tasks, the difficulty is just the beginning. Most significant tasks will be challenges rather than tests, and will require multiple successes to accomplish their goal.

3.4.1   Assumptions About Difficulties

The baseline for these difficulties is based around the idea that a Superb skill represents the practical apex of human skill - transcending Superb is truly the stuff of epics and legends (funny, that). Not every game is going to hold that to be true, and if the ceiling moves up or down, move the difficulties up and down an equal amount

Negligible difficulty (Poor)

These are tasks that should not require a roll. These tasks are easily doable by anyone with the basic understanding of, and physical capability for, the task at hand. These should almost never require a roll.

Examples: Starting a car, turning on an appliance, climbing a ladder, getting into a swimming pool. reading the headlines, getting the punchline of a late-night monologue, popping microwave popcorn.

Simple Tasks (Mediocre)

This is the difficulty for most tasks that an ordinary person could encounter on a routine basis. They are the sorts of challenges that can be overcome without any real drama or struggle, provided the character is even faintly competent.

Examples: Driving a car in the rain, researching something with Google or an encyclopedia, writing a "Hello World" program, climbing a knotted rope, treating a first degree burn (such as a sunburn), juggling three balls, playing an instrument well enough not to scare the pets, catching a ball, writing a business letter, getting on a horse, jumping off a low diving board into water, cooking using a recipe, loading a gun, building a campfire.

Mundane Tasks (Average)

These are the sort of tasks that would challenge the average person, but are handled regularly by experts and professionals. Someone with basic skills might be able to perform this sort of task in a pinch, but not with any regularity.

Examples: Parallel parking with less than a foot of clearance, researching something obscure in a library, climbing a cracked stone wall, performing CPR, installing Linux, juggling four balls, playing an instrument in a marching band, rescuing a drowning swimmer in calm water, splinting a broken arm, digging a well, skinning an animal, sewing a dress, cooking from scratch.

Difficult Tasks (Fair)

These are tasks that are pretty much entirely out of the realm of a person with only basic training. These tasks are noteworthy enough that they are rarely approached without taking proper care to make preparations.

Examples: Performing simple surgery, rebuilding the engine of a car, climbing a cliff face, juggling knives, building a house, flying a small airplane.

Daunting Tasks (Good)

Even skilled professionals balk in the face of these tasks, and it's entirely possible for a person to go their whole life without ever facing a challenge of this scope. Capability with this sort of task is indicative of a great deal of training or natural talent (or both).

Examples: Flying a fighter jet, performing open-heart surgery, scaling the side of a building, cooking for a good restaurant, design an office building.

Staggering Tasks (Great)

Only the best of the best need apply - there are only a handful of people in the world at any given time who could do this sort of thing with any sort of consistency.

Examples: Multiple organ transplant, climbing Mount Everest, soloing for the NYC orchestra, developing an entirely new programming language, cooking for one of the world's finest restaurants or simply being Jackie Chan.

Nearly Impossible Tasks (Superb)

At this level, it is possible to start doing things that expand the very nature of the task at hand.

Examples - Researching a new branch of a science, composing a masterpiece.

Sample Difficulty Breakdown


Mediocre:Climb a ladder
Average:Climb a knotted rope
Fair:Scale a stone wall with handholds
Good:Scale a stone wall with finger holds
Great:Climb a cliff bare handed
Superb:Climb a cliff in the rain, bare handed


Mediocre:Bandage a cut
Average:Apply a tourniquet
Fair:Stitch a deep cut
Good:Surgically repair a serious stab wound
Great:Surgically repair a punctured lung
Superb:Surgically re-attach a severed limb


Mediocre:Start a campfire
Average:Build a shelter from the rain
Fair:Find potable water in the forest
Good:Finding potable water in the desert
Great:Live in the desert for a week with no supplies
Superb:Live among the wolves like one of the pack


Mediocre:Drive a car
Average:Drive a car in the rain
Fair:Drive a car in a blizzard
Good:Drive a car in a blizzard at high speed
Great:Race a car in the Indianapolis 500
Superb:Stunt driving in an action movie

4   Aspects

Aspects represent elements of the character that are not reflected by their skills, including things like the character's advantages, disadvantages, connections and even attributes.

The exact form that aspects take in a game depends on the taste of the players. At their simplest, they are a dramatic replacement for more traditional attributes like strength or intelligence. Used to their full advantage, they can represent the character's ties to the game world in a manner that bears directly on play.

4.1   Using Aspects

Aspects have a number of uses, most commonly to gain a reroll. After the character makes a roll that is germane to the aspect (such as a joust with the Knight aspect, or a sword fight with the Strong aspect), the player describes how the aspect helps their character out, checks off a box of the aspect and either:

  • Picks up all four dice and rerolls them all or
  • Chooses a single die and change its value to a ⊞.

As such, it only takes a single reroll to try to undo a terrible roll, but it may take many rerolls to try to get a really good roll. And that's fine - if the player's been explaining each element, this is probably a pretty dramatic roll.

When you reroll, you are stuck with the outcome of the new roll, unless you want to use another reroll.

Checking off and using an aspect in this way is referred to as a positive invocation.

4.1.1   How Potent Are Aspects?

The default assumption of the system is that aspects are rare and powerful. The ability to turn any die into a ⊞ is very potent and predictable. Some GMs may want to consider reducing the effect of a single aspect invocation, for flavor or balance reasons, or because a game has more aspects than usual (see Free Aspects).

There are a number of possibilities for this. In general, we suggest keeping #1 (pick up all four dice and reroll them all) but you can replace #2 (choose a single die and change its value to a ⊞) with one of the following:

  • Choose a single die showing ⊟ and change its value to ⊞. [1]
  • Choose a single die showing □ and change its value to ⊞.
  • Choose a single die and increase its value by one step (so ⊟ to □ or □ to ⊞)
  • Choose a single die and reroll it.
  • Nothing (only allow rerolling all dice.)
[1]This is a very popular option, especially for less cinematic games

4.2   Other Uses of Aspects

Aspects also provide a passive bonus that the GM needs to keep in mind. A Strong character is by definition stronger than one who lacks this aspect, and a Slow character just doesn't get around that quickly. In rare circumstances, it may be necessary to roll the aspect. Mechanically, this is no different than rolling a skill.

It is also possible to invoke an aspect for effect. In this case, the player uses the aspect for a related advantage that is not related to a test or challenge, such as checking off a box of "Rich" to get luxurious accommodations, or checking off a box for an organization for them to have a chapter in town. This is subject to the same sort of restrictions as spending Fate points for coincidental effects (How Much Power Should Players Have?).

The other common use of aspects is involuntary invocation. This is done by the GM when she thinks the character's aspects would be detrimental or at odds with the action he has taken. In those situations, the GM declares that she's invoking the aspect (it's not checked off) and the player has two options: act in accordance with the aspect and gain a number of Fate points equal to the aspect level or pay a number of Fate points equal to the aspect level to overcome the aspect.

4.3   Refreshing Aspects

Since aspects are a narrative convenience, they operate on a narrative timeline. As such, they become unchecked at appropriate breaks in the narrative, most commonly between game sessions. Unless the GM determines otherwise, aspects are unchecked at the beginning of every session.

4.3.1   How Often Should Aspects Refresh

The default assumption for the system is that aspects will be refreshed at the beginning of every session. However, that is definitely not the only option. Aspects could easily refresh:

  • At the end of every scene
  • Each day
  • When the PCs get a chance to rest
  • At any significant story point

Changing the refresh rate will have some impact on the flavor of the game, with more frequent refreshes being well suited to a more cinematic game, where the characters can consistently do remarkable things. Feel free to experiment with various options to see what suits your style best.

One issue to bear in mind is that the more aspects the characters have, the less need there is for regular refreshes. If the characters have many aspects, there's less need to make them refresh more often.

4.4   Tuning Aspects

Aspects are designed to allow a character to operate at their best when it matters. The more aspects a character has, the more often he will perform well. Naturally, this means that as the number, utility and frequency of use of aspects is altered, the characters will perform at his best more or less often.

There are a number of elements that change when one customizes aspects. There are three main indexes:

  1. How many aspects a character has.
  2. How potent aspects are.
  3. How frequently aspects refresh.

How these elements are set has a lot of impact on the game. There's no "correct" balance of these factors, so the rules presented should really be considered a default rather than canonical.

4.5   Fate Points

In addition to their role in deferring negative invocation of aspects, players may use Fate points in a number of other ways.

They may spend a Fate point to receive +1 on any roll. This may be spent before or after the roll, or even after any aspects have been invoked. Only one point may be spent in this fashion, unless it's countered (see below). This is the only possible way to increase the outcome of a roll to +5.

They may also spend a Fate point for minor narrative control of a situation. Common uses for this include finding a convenient item, knowing someone in a particular town, or showing up at just the right moment in another scene. Effectively, this expenditure allows the player to take the role of GM for a moment. The GM has full veto rights on any such expenditures, in which case the point is not spent.

More often than not, this sort of expenditure of Fate points is an attempt by the players to keep things moving. It's more fun to just assume you have the tool you need in your trunk than to have to drive back from the haunted house, hit a hardware store, and then drive back. As a GM, if the expenditure lets people continue to have fun without breaking anything, it should generally be allowed.

It's also important to consider how reasonable the player's request is. If it's really no stretch at all, spending a Fate point shouldn't even be necessary. Fate points are really for use in that narrow spectrum between completely logical and GM ruling.

Fate points may also be spent to cancel someone else's expenditure of a Fate point. If this happens, both Fate points are spent, but the person who spent the original point may spend another point to try again. This process can repeat as many times as people are willing to spend the points.

4.5.1   How Much Power Should Players Have?

Granting the players any degree of narrative control may seem like an odd idea to GMs who have not encountered the idea before. As such, exactly how far it goes is almost entirely based on the GM's comfort level. GMs are welcome to ignore this option entirely, but we strongly encourage GMs to at least give it a try. Even something so simple as allowing players to spend a Fate point to have the right item in their backpack can be very satisfying for everyone involved. As far as we're concerned, there's no limit on how far this power can extend. It's possible to give player broad narrative power with this mechanic, allowing them to use Fate points to create plots and NPCs and generally complicate stories. If that sounds like fun, give it a try - the only real limitation should be that it's done so everyone has more fun. If the players are spending Fate points and things are becoming less fun as a result, it's time to tone things down a notch.

4.5.2   Additional Uses of Fate Points

Fate points can be viewed as small "votes" you can cast to get the story to go your way, within certain guidelines. We've already talked about simply adding 1, and we've talked about using them to arrange minor circumstance. Here are a few other ideas that you may want to consider using in your game. Further, you may want to consider allowing someone to check off a box of an aspect to substitute for a Fate point expenditure in some or all of these cases.

  • You can spend one Fate point to take the camera for a monologue. You can't interact with anything else during this time period; you're making a speech. At the same time, since you're monologuing, you won't be interrupted. Keep it short and sweet, but have fun with it. This is television or cinema. And yes, villains can do this as well -- how else do you figure they can manage to make their exit threats without the heroes stepping on their lines? This effect generally only lasts for a few sentences. However, the rest of the room is required to be quiet while you do it.
  • You can spend two Fate points to give someone else a +1 to one of their rolls, even if they've spent a Fate point to give themselves a +1 already, providing that you can reasonably give them some sort of in-character assistance. You can't do this more than once for a particular given roll, though. If a friend of yours needs a +2, you'll be able to spend two to give them +1, and a third party will have to spend two to give them +1 as well!
  • In combat, you can spend one Fate point to switch positions with someone else, even if it isn't your turn, so long as it's reasonable you could quickly change positions, without having to roll against a skill for maneuvering (good for trading off opponents).
  • In combat, you can spend one Fate point to take a wound (a hit) instead of someone else, even if it isn't your turn, so long as it's reasonable you could interpose yourself, without having to roll against a skill for maneuvering.
  • A point may also be spent for a fortuitous arrival - if a character is going to arrive as some undetermined point, the player may spend a point for them to arrive at a particular moment.

4.5.3   Plot, Genre and Fate Points

Some of the uses suggested above are written with the notion that reinforcing teamwork and the feel of cinema is important. Other rules can (and should) be used to reinforce alternate genre-feel if desired.

But so far, we've only discussed spending. You may also want to think about what rewards you're giving out. Consider the possibility of writing on index cards certain key lines or actions that you're hoping the PCs might take, and then deal the cards out (either at random, or to specific folks). On these cards, note how many Fate points they'll get if they follow through with the action indicated on the card.

The nice thing about this approach is that it can give players a sense of structure, without making it necessary that they take you up on the offer. In a lot of ways, it offers the possibility of a certain amount of scripting and plot structure without taking that to its oft-decried extreme of "railroading".

Further, it can be done in such a way as to encourage player-to-player interaction. A lot of games can be deeply enhanced by creating some subplots and interaction among the PCs. Consider these ideas:

Do something dangerous:
Even if it goes against your best instincts, do something dangerous --take on the main villain yourself, launch into a fight of five against one where you're the one, chase after a monster, and so on. Doing so gets you two Fate points.
Freak out:
Sometimes people are calm and collected in the face of adversity. When you play this card, this is not one of those times. You freak out--somewhat uselessly at that, running away, screaming, etc. Wigged. Doing so gets you two Fate points.
Don't take no for an answer:
If another PC refuses you, tells you to leave them alone, or otherwise denies a request, don't back down -- fight for what you want! Doing so gets you one Fate point.
Try to go off alone:
You need some time to yourself -- to brood, to cry, to rage, whatever the reason. Doing so gets you one Fate point.
Don't let anyone go off alone:
Go for strength in numbers. If someone's straying from the fold, take the time to bring them back in. Doing so gets you one Fate point.
Evoke a cliché:
In this (pulp, horror, superhero, space opera, cyberpunk, fantasy) story, there's plenty of room to do something that's classic to the genre. Do it, and get a Fate point.

4.6   Advancement

Each advancement period, the player may gain one skill rank, which can be spent or saved in accordance with the normal rules (i.e. the pyramid must be maintained). Four periods compose an arc and along with the fourth skill, the character gets a new aspect that reflects their experience and the skills they purchased.

Fate points may also be granted as non-advancement rewards. For a much more detailed treatment of advancement, see In-Game Advancement.

4.7   Aspect Options

Almost anything can be an aspect as long as it's an important part of the character's story.

4.7.1   Props as Aspects

One option for aspects is an item of some sort such as a magic sword, an occult library, a car or even a castle. These items are considered an intrinsic part of the character's story. Something like King Arthur's Excalibur would be appropriate as an aspect. Items which the character makes regular use of, but which are less central to their concept, are generally purchased with skill ranks (see Skill Ranks). A given item may be represented by both an aspect and a skill rank.

Mechanically, this means that in addition to the usual benefits for invoking an aspect, an item which is also an aspect will generally find its way back to the character's hands, even if it requires a conspiracy of coincidence. Causing the character to go without the item when they would reasonably have it qualifies as an involuntary invocation, thus granting the player Fate points.

While an item may be described in any way, it may be necessary to spend skill ranks to generate specific effects (see Props as Aspects). Otherwise, the description of the item simply determines the circumstances under which it grants a reroll. Item aspects can also usually be invoked for effect to be conveniently available.

4.7.2   People as Aspects

It is also possible to have other people as aspects. In this case, it's important to define the relationship between the character and the subject of the aspect. Family members, mentors, enemies, dependants, old war buddies, liege lords, servants, familiars and rivals are all perfectly good examples of characters as aspects. The important thing about all of these is that they form an important part of the character's story, and can be expected to appear with reasonable frequency.

The player is expected to work out with the GM what the nature of the relationship is so the GM can work the details of the NPC into her game. In general, the number of aspects reflects how close the bond is between the character and their aspect, while the actual game stats of the subject character are up to the GM. The exception to this is when the NPC is subservient to the character, such as a manservant or a familiar - in those cases, the player will help determine the characters stats through their investment of skill ranks, see Personal Extras.

Aspects may also be NPCs the GM has created, entirely new NPCs, or even other PCs!

4.7.3   Stylistic Aspects

While aspects are usually simple and descriptive, there is nothing to say they cannot be more colorful. Catch phrases, for example, make very interesting aspects, since they say a lot about the character, and are fun to invoke (imagine: "Go ahead, make my day" ❏ ❏). This works especially well for more cinematic genres where catch phrases are almost mandatory.

That only scratches the surface of the possibilities of this option. Passages from (real or imagined) scripture, rhyming couplets, lines from songs, or haiku are all possible options.

The one caveat is that there's a lot of implicit flavor in choosing this option, and it may not be a flavor that goes well with the rest of the game. Make sure to discuss any such aspects with the GM to make certain everyone has the same understanding of what these aspects mean.

4.7.4   The Value of Aspects

Here's a little secret - the real measure of how powerful an aspect is can be found in one simple thing - how interesting it is. Interesting aspects are going to come up more often, and are more likely to grant reroll and provide Fate points. Take an enemy for example - not only do you get Fate points for him showing up and messing things up, you also get to invoke the aspect when you're fighting him. It's a serious win.

Interesting aspects are also easier to invoke, because they tend to make more sense. If a character has been trained by an order of knights with a clearly defined dogma, he'll get rerolls for the appropriate skills, but he can also invoke the aspect when he's defending that dogma (or gain Fate points when he suffers for following it). Compare that to a merely generic Knight aspect and the advantage should become clear.

This also emphasizes a really key point. Aspects are not just what define the character; they are what are important to the character. If you take your Mom as an aspect, she may provide a direct route to invocation for skills that you learned from her, but you could also invoke her for darn near anything if you're fighting to protect or rescue her.

One last secret - there's nothing to keep PCs from taking each other as aspects. This is a win-win situation, since the whole game benefits from the stronger connections between the characters, and the player in question gets an aspect that's likely to see lots of use.

4.7.5   Negative Aspects

A character may have any number of aspects, and each aspect may have multiple levels. In general, this is expressed as follows:

❏ ❏ Strong 2 (Good)

This is how a player would denote that their character has 2 levels of the Strong aspect.

Now, it's worth noting that they can also look like this:

❏ ❏ ❏ Weak 3 (Great)

Obviously, this character is very weak, even though it is described as Great, a positive descriptor. This is an important example, illustrating that the level of the aspect is the magnitude of that aspect. As such, a character with Weak 3 is weaker than one with Weak 2.

That's not always a simple thing to get one's head around, especially for those with a long familiarity with Fudge - in that case the solution is simple. If you consider the attribute to be a negative one, treat the levels as a negative number. As such:

❏ ❏ ❏ Weak -3 (Terrible)

While this is an entirely valid approach, its use is ultimately a matter of taste.

4.7.6   Aspect Contests

On occasion, you may need to apply an aspect directly to play. This generally occurs under one of two circumstances - the character is involved in a contest purely within the domain of the aspect, or the character is engaging in an extended activity that calls upon multiple skills.

The obvious solution is to resolve these with dice, like any other contest, but the GM should make sure to apply common sense to these things. If one character is "Large ❏ ❏" and another is "Small ❏ ❏" and you want to know which is taller, it should be obvious without something as preposterous as a "height check" or the like.

It's worth noting that in contests between aspects, it's appropriate to use the aspects to grant rerolls (see Using Aspects).

4.7.7   Other Uses

Aspects may also be used to simplify extended actions. A character with a Ranger aspect may want to spend a few weeks hunting in the woods, getting the lay of the land, and looking for huffalump tracks. Rather than require multiple rolls for that, a simple roll on the Ranger aspect can sum up the outcome.

5   Extras

Extras are those elements of the character that require some representation outside the scope of skills and aspects. Some examples of the sort of extras which can be acquired include:

  • A flaming sword
  • A loyal lackey
  • A weakness in your arch-nemesis
  • Nightvision

5.1   Gaining Extras

Extras are purchased with skill ranks. Each phase, a character receives a number of ranks, usually four, but it can vary from game to game. These ranks are often referred to as "skill ranks" because their primary use is to purchase skills. In addition to skills, ranks may be spent on extras.

The sheer variety of potential extras makes it difficult to cover every single possibility, but the majority of extras fall into three main categories - Intrinsic, Personal and Shared. Intrinsic extras are permanent parts of the character, like nightvision. Personal extras are those things within the character's control, like equipment or servants. Shared extras are elements of the game environment, like resources and contacts.

5.2   Intrinsic Extras

This is the broadest, and hardest to quantify, type of extra. Often, characters may have certain "always on" effects. For example, in many settings, elves have supernaturally keen eyesight. When creating a character with abilities like this, it is, first and foremost, important to make sure that the GM and the player have the same understanding of what the ability is and how it will work. It's also very important to look at any such ability and decide if it would be better represented by an aspect.

The line between aspects and passive abilities is a fuzzy one - both strength and low-light vision are always on, so it may seem odd that one is an aspect and the other is not. The line is a fine one, and the logical distinction stems from the thinking behind aspects - the boxes do not represent how many times the ability can be used, rather, they represent how many times they will matter to the story. While Strength is useful when the player decides it is, something like low-light vision is important when the GM decides it is, specifically through the creation of scenarios where is it may come into play.

As such, passive effects should be considered to add the capacity to do something normally, i.e. at default skill level, which would not otherwise be possible. This may entail the addition of one or more new skills, depending on the nature of the new ability. If the extra allows a new way to do a normal activity, then no new skill may be required. On the other hand, if the extra allows an entirely new ability, a skill will usually be required to represent it.

Special skills may or may not interact with the pyramid like other skills will. In some cases, they may be tracked outside of the pyramid, or be their own pyramid. This will generally be decided on a case by case basis.

5.3   Special Skills and the Pyramid

This may seem like a trivial detail, but it has a great deal of impact on how powers interact with the rest of the game. Remember, each skill rank used for something outside the pyramid hurts the player's ability to raise skills; this is one of the implicit checks and balances in the system.

If there is a large suite of skills used to represent magical or similar capacity, they should be their own skill pyramid.

If the skills are independent, and there are not many of them, they should be part of the regular pyramid.

For lesser effects, if the extra allows something entirely inappropriate for a skill or aspect, the GM can decide it simply works, and that's that. However, anything this peculiar should definitely be the subject of serious GM scrutiny.

5.4   Personal Extras

Personal and shared extras are mechanically similar - one skill rank translates into one aspect in the target. The main distinction is simple. If something is within the character's domain (and thus, personal), the aspects the PC gives that thing are the only aspect it has. Things outside of the character's domain (shared) may have any number of aspects; the player is merely establishing what some of them are.

Most personal extras come in one of two flavors: equipment or servants.

Equipment is easily dealt with. Assign the item one or more aspects, and it will grant rerolls and occasional passive bonuses when the aspect is appropriate.

Servants is a catch-all phrase that includes things like bodyguards, familiars, friendly ghosts or any other NPC whose first priority is the character. Servants are constructed as characters who are generated using the number of phases equal to the number of skill ranks invested. This grants that number of aspects as well as appropriate skills (see Pyramid Shorthand). Some campaigns may grant more aspects; use the rules for giving aspects to PCs as a guideline.

It's important to note that the player cannot directly use any of the NPC's aspects - those only help the NPC. However, if the player has also bought the NPC as an aspect, the NPC's aspects provide a good guideline for the sort of benefits proved by the invocation of the NPC itself.

The stats of any such NPC must be approved by the GM, who should question any NPC with more than half the phases that the character has, and enthusiastically reject any NPCs with more phases than their patron character. The GM also has the option of statting up the NPC. If this happens, the player should get only a general sense of their capabilities, but the GM may construct the NPC as if every phase were a plot phase (Plot, Genre and Fate Points.)

5.4.1   Minions

Minions are a special kind of NPC servant that are best suited to villains, but may be occasionally useful. Minions are useful for representing large numbers of relatively unskilled servitors and cannon fodder. Minion ranks may only be purchased in conjunction with aspects like "Overlord". The total number of Minions is equal to the number of ranks spent on the minions, multiplied by the rating in the controlling aspect. This number represents how many minions (who are usually Average fighters, Mediocre everything else) are available in a given scene.

5.5   Shared Extras

Player-controlled shared extras usually come in two forms: contacts and resources.

Shared NPCs are defined a little differently than personal NPCs. Each skill rank spent translates into one aspect of the NPC in question. The first such aspect usually establishes the connection between the PC and the NPC. Subsequent ranks may be spent to strengthen that connection - busy and important NPCs may be favorably inclined towards the characters, but it may require extra ranks to be able to regularly make it onto their calendar - or to define some element about the NPC. The latter is potentially very powerful - it allows a player to decide during character creation that the current pope is corrupt or establish some other element of that NPC's story. The GM is free to limit the extent to which players may do this, but it's always wise to give these ideas due consideration.

One interesting way to spend these skill ranks is on enemies. If the PC has a particular enemy, it is entirely reasonable to spend a skill rank to give him a weakness, in the form of a negative aspect.

The relationship between a PC and NPC can be established simply by describing that NPC. But unless the PC purchases the NPC as an aspect, that relationship is potentially changeable. This is why the first rank should usually be spent on a connection.

Resources are somewhat simpler; the player simply selects an existing organization or location and gives it an aspect to represent a particular data point, like a connection to the character, a safehouse or some manner of debt. GMs may even offer up a stable of existing NPCs as "investment opportunities."

5.6   Handling Powerful Extras

It's possible to allow for items and abilities which are more powerful, but these should generally require the expenditure of more ranks. The GM should be most careful when dealing with powers which trump existing skills. An item that allows its user to fly can now outperform someone who has invested any number of ranks into things like climbing or jumping. Other abilities to watch out for include invisibility, telepathy, or the ability to render a foe completely helpless casually, such as sleep or paralysis. This is not to say the GM should disallow these capabilities altogether. Instead, the GM is encouraged to find ways to make the power cool, yet playable. As an example of GM options, look at a classic, the Cloak of Invisibility:

Cloak of Invisibility

The GM may simply give the cloak an invisibility aspect of its own, based on the ranks invested. Thus, if there player spends a skill rank on the item, it is described as "Cloak of Invisibility (❏ Invisible 1 (Fair))". It probably makes the user moderately transparent, or blends somewhat with the scenery - it requires a Fair perception check to spot the character. More ranks make the item more potent, so it's important to keep spending limits in mind.

Alternately, the player and GM may decide to come up with something a bit less generic. If the player wants a cloak that draws the shadows around him, the GM may let the cloak provide a +1 to concealment rolls in deep shadows. If the player wants it to be more potent, he works it out with the GM how exactly it functions, and the GM can set whatever cost in ranks he considers appropriate.

Last, the GM could consider the narrative limitation approach. This is only appropriate for items which have been ought as aspects. By this model, the item may be very potent - one skill rank could buy full invisibility or shapechanging or nearly anything else. However, to use the item, the player must check off an aspect box for the item. This is a bit of narrative sleight of hand designed to model certain literary conventions. Few fictional characters use magical items at their disposal with the kind of reckless abandon that PCs tend to. This option allows the inclusion of powerful items that suit the setting's tone, without them overrunning the game.

5.7   Extras and Aspects

Players who invest in extras that are central to their character are encouraged to consider purchasing the extra as an aspect. There's no obligation to do so, but the benefits are pronounced. Because aspects are tied to the character, they're harder to lose and when they're not available they pay out Fate points. In general, the more skill ranks invested in an extra, the better an idea it is to make it an aspect.

5.8   Extras and the Pyramid

The impact that extras have on the skill pyramid is potentially very strong. Each skill rank used on an extra is not simply one less skill level: it makes the construction of a pyramid that much more difficult. If extras are not considered part of the pyramid, characters who invest in extras are going to find themselves falling short of their companions with regard to skills. In theory, the additional flexibility and utility of extras offsets this. In practice, the balance between extras and the pyramid is a little more fine.

By default, non-skill extras, like props, allies and the like are not taken into account when building the Pyramid.

6   Character Creation Options

6.1   Aspects as Plot Hooks

Sometimes, the GM has certain goals during character generation. The GM may declare certain phases to have "plot" aspects. These phases will generally have events that the GM wants the PCs involved in, or which serve the campaign in some way. Common plot aspects include having everyone grow up in the same village, or having everyone end character creation in the same place.

Plot aspects may also be more general; for instance, the GM might want some or all of the PCs to have ties to a particular organization. They may even be used to enforce a theme; the GM might feel that all PCs need to buy certain aspects that reflect the tone of the setting.

The GM is entitled to declare plot aspects to be mandatory and leave it at that. However, if the GM takes too heavy a hand with that, the players are entitled to give her a wedgie and go play something they'd actually enjoy.

It's suggested that he GM take a more carrot than stick approach, and offer a reward for choosing a plot aspect. In general, plot aspects reward one more skill point than normal, but the GM is entitled to make the reward anything that she sees fit. This bonus skill rank is referred to as a plot bonus.

6.2   Free Aspects

While it is strongly suggested that characters gain no more than one aspect per phase, GMs may wish to allow extra aspects at the beginning and end of character generation. These aspects could be used to represent nationality, family, interests, or almost anything else. It's probably not a good idea to give more free aspects than there are phases, but up to that is perfectly reasonable.

6.3   Potential

In a game where the character creation phases are based on a strict timeline, it is possible that one character may be younger than the others, and thus have fewer phases. In that situation, the PC accumulates a point of potential during each phase they aren't around.

Potential may be spent during any phase that the player buys an aspect, effectively granting them another phase. This is treated like a normal phase - an aspect and skills are bought and the pyramid is balanced. The only limitation is that the new aspect should be tied to the first aspect bought during that phase in some way. Any amount of potential can be spent on any phase.

In some games, it may be appropriate to grant all characters a number of rounds of potential to be spent in some specific way, such as on plot aspects, or on intrinsic aspects, like attributes. GMs who consider statistics and intrinsics to be very important may wish to consider allowing all players to take a few levels of potential, with the understanding that it will be spent on attributes and attribute-like aspects, such as Strong, Nimble or Magical Talent. See Talented Novices for more on this idea.

6.3.1   Destiny

This is an optional rule designed to allow a player to create the lowly-farmboy-who-becomes-a-powerful-wizard sort of character, popular in fiction and film. During character creation, the player chooses the aspect "Destiny" and does not purchase any skill ranks with it. The nature of the destiny should be discussed with the GM to determine if it can be worked into the story (and if it's appropriate). It's even possible for the player to have an unknown destiny, in which case the GM determines the specifics.

The character may have multiple levels of the destiny aspect (called a Grand Destiny). This aspect can be used like any other aspect, specifically towards rolls that advance that destiny. At the end of any session where the character has not achieved their destiny (see below), they receive one Fate point.

The player and GM should come to an agreement regarding the sort of things that allow a destiny to come to pass. In general, destinies are not casually achieved, so the GM is perfectly entitled to veto a destiny that is likely to be achieved within a handful of sessions.

Achieving Destiny

There are two possible ways for a destiny to be realized, and the destiny aspect to be "cashed in" for other aspects.

The first is dramatic - the PC is in a scene where the destiny is coming to a head. They may be facing down the killer of their father, or discovering the ancient ruins that prove they're not a crackpot. The player informs the GM that they're achieving their destiny, and if the GM agrees it's appropriate (and the GM may not - she may know, for example, that the arch nemesis is really an imposter), it begins. The player is given 5 Fate points, which may be used only for this scene, any left over are discarded. The scene plays out however it goes, and at the end of that session, the player reduces their destiny by one level, and purchases an aspect that reflects the experience. With that aspect, they may buy 5 ranks of skills, just as if it was a plot aspect - which it effectively was (see Aspects as Plot Hooks). It should be noted, a Grand Destiny requires several of these scenes to achieve.

The second option is narrative. At the end of an arc, when players achieve a new aspect, the player and the GM can sit down and discuss how the arc affected the destiny. Depending on the agreement, any number of levels of destiny may be turned into aspects, and reward 5 skill ranks per, as above.

It is also possible that the character may turn away from their destiny. This will generally occur when the player decides they are no longer interested in that direction for the character, or they are tired of waiting. This can be done during any advancement period, and allows those levels of destiny to be spent as aspects and skills. In this situation, the aspect only awards the usual 4 skill levels.

6.4   Structured Creation

The default assumption behind character creation is that things are pretty much wide open. Players are free to pick any aspects that they want and make any kind of story they want. The GM may provide a guiding hand in the form of plot hooks and the like, but overall, anything goes.

While this can work very well, it's not something that's going to work for every type of game. Sometimes, a little more structure is desired, whether to simulate career paths, environment or some particular development mechanic. The key to any of these is having well structured aspect and skill lists.

Most structured approaches are based around the simple idea of a limited list of aspects or skills, which expands as aspects are taken.

It's assumed in these models that characters are still free to choose aspects like Strong or Cowardly, since intrinsics are easy to justify in almost any context. The GM is the ultimate authority on what aspects are available, and would be well served to provide a list to players in advance, if only to give them a starting point.

6.4.1   Geographic Structure

This method requires that the GM have a list of a few important locations in the setting, and a list of the aspects and skills that can be gained in that location. During each phase, players declare their location, and choose aspects from the appropriate list. The exact nature of the places depends on the game: they could be towns, countries or even planets or dimensions. Depending upon how the geography is laid out, the GM may also put constraints upon how freely a character can move between phases. The GM might allow only moving between adjacent locations from phase to phase, or create a special "traveling" location where the character must spend a phase before moving on.

6.4.2   Pursuit Structure

The pursuit structure works in a manner very similar to the geographic one, except it replaces the character's physical location with the characters current pursuit. Descriptors in this case tend to be very general: Rural, Wilderness, Underworld, Military and so on, but the GM may have very specific pursuits available. This can be a great model for a conspiratorial or faction based game - time spent working with a certain faction opens up aspects that might not otherwise be available.

Changing pursuits depends upon the logic of the setting. It's very difficult to go from a Wilderness pursuit directly to High Society without at least an intervening Urban pursuit. However, the specific requirements will ultimately depend on the GM and the description of the events of the phase. Some pursuits, like secret societies, may even have special requirements, like certain skill levels or a certain number of phases spent in a particular pursuit.

6.4.3   Career Structure

Career Structures take some of the concepts in the pursuit structure and folds them into the aspects themselves. The idea is that there are a certain number of careers available at the outset, and as those careers are pursued, new careers open up. Thus, if the Squire aspect is available at the outset, the Knight aspect might become available to any character who has taken 2 levels of Squire.

The progression need not be that simple either. If there are a variety of careers available, some careers may require a combination of other careers. As an example, it may require a certain number of levels of the aspect Knight and a certain number of levels of the aspect Priest to make the aspect Knight Templar available.

This method can work very well when you have aspects which open up new skills or abilities. Some examples that might be useful can be found in Magic and Supernormal Powers.

6.5   Talented Novices

The phased creation system is designed to create characters with well-developed histories. For some games, that's not the goal - many games begin with characters who are effectively nobodies, with their story waiting to be told. For a game like that, the best solution is to make 1 phase characters, but grant them as much potential as one considers appropriate. It's not unreasonable for the GM to require that a certain amount of the potential be spent on intrinsic elements of the character, such as Strong or Stoic.

The GM may even grant a number of "freebie" aspects, which do not grant the character any skills, if she wishes to grant the characters a certain amount of advantage while still keeping them reasonably inexperienced.

6.6   Windows of Opportunity

The one drawback to all of these structured systems is that they are a little predictable. They do not allow for the possibility of the drunken swordmaster having retired to the isolated village, or the corrupt clerk more interested in his criminal profits than his legitimate bureaucratic pursuits. To simulate the odd turns of fate that seem to follow heroes of fiction around, the GM may allow players to include one or more "windows of opportunity" in structured creation. They can use this opportunity to take an aspect that they should not otherwise be able to, provided they can come up with a good explanation. The exact number of windows of opportunity available is the GM's decision, based on how strongly tied to structure she wishes creation to be. If the GM wishes, every phase could be a potential window of opportunity, provided the player has an interesting enough story.

7   GM's Toolbox

GMing can be a lot of work. It can be rewarding, fun, even invigorating, but it takes a lot to get from one end of a game session to the other, while maintaining one's imperturbable cool. The system shouldn't make that any harder, so here, we provide a collection of things that a GM's going to want to know, but that the players don't need to. Remember that any section of these rules can be removed if it doesn't suit your group; that's doubly true of this chapter. The goal is to prevent headaches, not cause them.

7.1   Aspects and NPCs

Aspects allow a GM to represent NPCs in a sort of shorthand. A GM may (and should, for most minor characters) simply assign aspects, and use those for all rolls. Thus, a caravan guard might be represented simply as:

  • Mercenary 2 (Good)
  • Perceptive 1 (Fair)
  • Horseman 1 (Fair)

In general, these aspects do not allow rerolls. It is suggested that the GM construct the aspects in a pyramid, much like what is done with skills, but that is more of a guideline than a hard and fast rule, especially for NPCs with few aspects. The GM should also be aware that NPCs designed this way will probably have more effective skill levels than a character constructed from a similar number of aspects. This is somewhat offset by the absence of aspect invocations, but the discrepancy can become noticeable in high aspect (ten or more) characters, so it's best to limit this tactic to less important NPCs.

7.2   Difficult Skills

While it is assumed that most skills default to Mediocre, that is not necessarily the case. Certain rare or esoteric skills may begin with a lower default, such as Poor, Terrible or even Abysmal (which is practically the same as "none"). These skills are bought up like any other skill, except that it may take several ranks to get them up to Average. The good news is, until those skills reach Average, they are not counted for purposes of balancing the pyramid.

7.3   In-Game Advancement

The key element to advancement is the character's goal. This is the aspect the character is looking to pursue next, such as Master Thief or Officer.

When it comes to the point in the story where it is appropriate to distribute advancement, the character gains a single skill rank. This skill rank should be spent on a skill appropriate to the goal.

These skill ranks should be distributed over the course of a game arc, with the goal of awarding the fourth skill rank when the arc concludes. When that fourth rank is achieved, the character achieves their goal, and may add the aspect to their character sheet. The player now selects the character's next goal.

It is important that the GM work the goals into the story arc so that the conclusion is satisfactory for everyone involved. If that is not feasible, the player and GM should sit down and discuss how to make the goal work, and if it's not workable the player should be allowed to pick a different goal. The player should not be penalized in situations like that.

Exactly how long an arc should be and how few and far between advancement sessions should be is a matter of taste, and should be suited to the specifics of the game in question. In general, err on the side of caution - characters may move from fighting killer midgets to demon princes over the course of some games, but it's a phenomenon rarely seen in literature.

The pyramid needs only to be balanced when the character chooses a new goal - it may get unbalanced by the single skill point advancements. The GM should help the player keep track of this. Players should be spending skill levels in such a way that balancing the pyramid will be possible by the time a new goal is chosen. That said, if the character reaches their goal and the pyramid is unbalanced, the situation needs to be rectified. Ideally the GM and player can come to some agreement, either modifying some skill levels or laying out exactly what the next few skill purchases will be. The first time this happens, it is very important to try to work with the player, and not penalize them.

Of course, if the pattern repeats to the point of abuse, penalties become more appropriate - specifically, the GM is now responsible for spending the player's advancement skill ranks on whatever she sees fit, until the pyramid is rebalanced.

7.4   Off Screen Advancement

Advancement can also occur during downtime. If the GM determines that an extended period of time should occur between story arcs, it may be appropriate to allow an advancement phase to occur. This is treated just like a normal phase in character generation. The character may choose to buy their goal aspect during this phase - if so they should pick a new goal. There is nothing that mandates this during downtime - it's just a nice option.

7.5   Fate Points as Rewards

If advancement is slower than players are comfortable with, a good compromise is to award Fate points in lieu of more traditional advancement. The exact pace they are awarded at is up to the GM, but even a single Fate point per session (beyond those gained with aspects) can be a significant award.

7.6   Alternate Advancement

If the players are not comfortable with coming up with character goals, the GM may choose to simply award skill advancement, and let players choose the aspect when they have accumulated enough skills to earn it.

7.7   Changing Aspects

Over the course of play, a character's aspect may become inapplicable. The villain they've sworn vengeance against is dead, or the quest they set themselves to is completed. During an advancement event, the character may change that aspect to something different, which reflects the experience the character went through in resolving the previous aspect. For example: If that character's father is an aspect, and his father is killed, "Vengeful" might be an appropriate replacement. Replacement aspects should be discussed with and agreed upon by the GM.

7.8   Lost Extras

If an extra is lost or destroyed, it does not have the kind of plot protection that aspects have. If the player can restore it in play, then all is well, but if a character reaches a goal and are still missing an extra, they may re-spend those skill ranks on other extras, or recover lost extras through whatever explanation the GM can think of.

7.9   Skill Column

The pyramid structure results in more low level skills, with Greats and Superbs being areas where the character truly excels. However, the model does not work for every genre - some games call for more highly skilled characters.

Games like that are better served following a columnar pattern, where you must have as many skills in the rank below to support the skill you like. As such, to have one Superb skill, the character needs only have one Great skill, one Good skill, one Fair skill and one Average skill. Obviously this results in fewer total skills, but with more high level skills. This is not as egregious as it initially appears: since the column must be checked each phase, it's impossible to build directly up to too high a spike without widening the base.

7.10   Aspect Caps

It is generally assumed that there is no hard cap on the number of ranks a character may have in any particular aspect. However, the GM is entitled to place caps on how high an aspect can be bought, either in a general sense (e.g. no aspects over 3) or on case-by-case basis (if you buy one more aspect in the Church, they'll make you pope, which is great for you, but not so much for the game). As with all things, common sense and good judgment are the watchwords. For those desperate for a hard and fast rule, try this: no more than half of a character's aspect ranks may be in a single aspect or no aspect may be higher than the character's highest skill.

8   Combat

The first thing to determine in a given combat is its pace. This is a choice that is best determined by the dictates of circumstance and the tastes of the players involved. It's reasonable to decide that one pace or another is an appropriate default for a game, but there's no harm in occasionally running a fight at a different pace, if appropriate. The three paces available are Scene Based, Exchange Based and Turn Based.

In a scene based combat, each participant makes only a single roll, and the overall outcome is determined by the overall result. Exchange based combats are composed of multiple rolls, each representing an exchange of blows or maneuvers. A turn based combat breaks things down to the finest grain possible, with each roll representing a single attack or defense.

All three paces operate on a similar mechanical principle - two rolls are compared, and the victor's margin of success is used to determine an outcome according to the table below.

Combat Outcomes
MOS Ladder Effect
0   Scratched - A negligible result. A near miss, or a hit which fails to have any real impact.
+1 ❏ ❏ Clipped - A noticeable result. A hit or maneuver that provides a momentary advantage to the attacker, such as knocking a blade out of line or knocking his opponent back a step. In general, getting clipped applies a -1 penalty to the next action.
+2 - +4 ❏ ❏ Hurt - A palpable result. A hit or maneuver that grants a persistent advantage, such as a shallow cut or a disarm. Getting hurt usually applies a -1 penalty to all actions for the duration of the scene.
+5 - +6 ❏ ❏ Injured - A significant result. A hit or maneuver with impact that carries on beyond the immediate scene - a serious injury being the most obvious example. Injuries apply a -1 penalty per box to most actions until the injury is healed.
+7 and up X Taken Out - A decisive result. A hit or maneuver that ends the fight right there, either from a knockout or perhaps passing out from injuries. It's worth noting that this is not automatic death - that is left to out-of-combat decision.

It might not be immediately obvious, but the above is just a highly detailed chart for a dynamic challenge (see Dynamic Challenges).

8.1   Scene Based Fights

Scene based fights are, mechanically, the easiest fights to run. However, they can be very challenging to make interesting. As such, the two situations when it is best to use a scene-level pace are:

  • When players want to play out fights in a primarily narrative manner, and just want to get the mechanics out of the way.
  • The fight is tangential to the game, and is best resolved quickly, such as fights involving only one player which leave everyone else twiddling their thumbs.

At the beginning of the scene, everyone involved states their goals and how they're going to go about them, and the GM states the opposition's goals and methods in general terms. Then everyone rolls and rerolls as normal. Ideally, the GM should be able to eyeball the results and work with the narratives to figure out how things went.

That sort of improvisation, while useful, is not always an option, and for those looking for guidelines, there are a couple of possibilities. The simplest is to look at the total numerical difference between the outcomes of each side, and determine the overall outcome based on the difference between those figures - the Combat Outcomes table provides useful guidelines in that regard.

For a slightly more complicated resolution, consider pairing off the sides, either by player choice or based on the narrative, and resolve the larger fight as multiple sub-fights, using the same guidelines above.

However it's resolved, the fight should end in a way that allows things to move onto the next scene. It was assumed that if there was a safe way to retry the effort, it's done as part of the scene. As such, continually re-attacking a fortified position in hopes of getting lucky is not an option.

8.1.1   Injuries and Penalties

The combat outcome table is a good yardstick for the sort of consequences a fight can have. However, the more minor outcomes (clipped and hurt) have less bearing, as they don't tend to extend beyond the scope of the scene. As such, treat those outcomes as follows:

Close thing. No advantage or disadvantage
Minor Inconvenience. The character isn't badly hurt, but they look like they've been in a fight, and may have suffered minor wear and tear on gear, items or reputation.
Major Inconvenience. As Clipped, but it's something that could be a real problem unless it's dealt with - a damaged weapon or saddle, for example. Alternately, it can be an injury that's too small to provide a blanket penalty, but which could cause a problem under specific circumstances (running, using the left hand, etc.). This generally creates a -1 penalty that the GM can apply in appropriate situations.
Injured or Taken Out
These are resolved normally, see Injuries and Advantages.

8.2   Exchange Based Fights

The exchange pace is considered the default for Fate. It's well suited to striking a balance between drama and tactics, and allows tension to grow over the course of an extended fight. While it has many of the earmarks of traditional combat systems, it still falls strongly on the narrative end of the spectrum.

An exchange begins with all involved parties declaring their intended actions. These actions should only be things that take a few moments to perform, such as attacking someone, or jumping onto a rope and swinging to safety. Those involved roll their dice and compare them against whoever they are acting in opposition to (or against a GM-determined difficulty, if there are no opponent). Those individual exchanges are resolved against the Combat Outcomes table. If the fight is still going on, a new exchange begins.

GMs are encouraged to play a little fast and loose with things; the above is only a guideline. There's nothing wrong with handling individual exchanges one at a time; the important thing is to keep the overall flow of things moving and not let anyone get bored.

8.2.1   Injuries and Penalties

A clipped result means taking a -1 to the next exchange, while a hurt, injured or taken out result mean the character is, well, hurt, injured or taken out (see Injuries and Advantages).

Example of an exchange based fight

(Note: This fight uses the rules from Other Combat Modifiers) Cyrus and Finn have settled in for a pint when the three guards they got past burst in, swords drawn. Cyrus jumps from his seat, drawing his sword to defend himself, and Finn dives under the table. The guards split, two (A & B) going after Cyrus and one (C) chasing Finn.

Cyrus rolls his swords skill and gets a Great result, guard A gets a Fair and guard B gets an Average. Normally, this would allow him to damage one of them, but he was getting his sword out and defending himself, so he is simply successful. Finn is not so lucky - he only rolls a Fair tumbling result, while guard C rolls a Good. That's a clipped result, and puts Finn at a -1 on his next roll. The GM rules that the guard pulled the table aside one handed, and Finn is now exposed.

The next exchange begins, with Cyrus mixing it up with his opponents, who are getting a +1 to their rolls for outnumbering him. Finn is in a tough spot, and decides he's going to try to kick the guard and knock him away and buy himself some time. The guards simply continue attacking.

Cyrus gets a Good, guard A also gets a Good, and guard B gets a Great - the Good is just a scratch, but the Great is a clipped result, so Cyrus is going to be at -1 next round - combined with the guard's +1, that's not very good for him. The GM describes that the guards have managed to move into flanking position.

Meanwhile, guard C rolls a Fair, and Finn rolls a Great, modified to a Good with the penalty. That would be enough for Finn's kick to clip the guy, but he wants to really knock the guy back, which the GM has determined requires a Hurt result. As such, he spends a fate point to bring his roll back to Great. That's a Hurt outcome, and Finn opts to knock him across the room and out of the fight for the next exchange or two rather than inflict the level of Hurt.

Cyrus knows he's got a pile of pain coming his way and hoping Finn will cover his back. Finn obliges and takes advantage of the opportunity to pull out a knife and throw it at the back of one of the guards on Cyrus.

Cyrus rolls a Good. It's modified down to a Fair from the clipped result. A & B roll a Good and a Fair respectively. They get a +1 outnumbering bonus beyond that, raising things to a Great and a Fair. Cyrus checks off a box of his Brawler aspect for a reroll. He turns one of his ⊟ dice into a ⊞ and manages to bump up to a Great. He spends a Fate point for a Superb, and hurts one of the guards - he chooses guard A because his back is to Finn. Finn throws the knife at guard A, and the GM gives Finn a +1 on his roll because the guard is not expecting it. Finn rolls spectacularly, and gets an Epic result, which his +1 bonus brings up to Legendary. The knife is now sticking out of Guard A's back, he is now injured and hurt, and thus at a -2 to all actions.

Cyrus smiles the smile of the psychotic as Finn throws another knife. The Guard who was knocked back is dragging himself to his feet this round. The injured guard can't safely disengage, so he and his buddy concentrate on Cyrus. Cyrus fights fully defensive this time, gaining a +1 to his roll. He gets a Fair, which the bonus raises to a Good. A&B get an Average and a Good. Both gain a +1 bonus for outnumbering Cyrus, but A also takes a -2 penalty (-1 for being injured, -1 for being hurt), so their final results are a Mediocre for guard A and a Great for guard B. Cyrus is clipped by the Great. Finn rolls a Great, but checks off a level of Underhanded to get a reroll, and pushes it to Superb. Guard A isn't outnumbering Finn, so he doesn't get to count the +1, and his Mediocre drops to a Poor. Superb vs. Poor is a MoS of 6, so Finn spends a fate point to bring his roll up to an Epic (and a MoS of 7), and the guard is taken out.

The fight continues, but at least it's fair now...

8.3   Turn Based Fights

Turn based fights work similarly, except they require a lot more die rolling. Initiative is determined by rolling alertness, with ties broken by tactics skill, then the combat skill being used. Characters act in the order of initiative, each taking an action. The actor rolls dice to attack, and if they beat the defender's roll to defense, damage is dealt according to the combat outcome table. The only real difference is that clipped results affect the next attack roll, and have no effect on defense rolls. Obviously, since it has the most rolls, this method can burn through aspects very quickly.

This is generally not the recommended combat system for Fate, but there are many players who swear by it, so it's included for completeness.

8.3.1   Injuries and Advantages

The core of the wound system can be summarized with the following chart.

Wound Track
MoS Result Track Effect
0 scratched   None
1 Clipped ❏ ❏ -1 to next action
2-4 Hurt ❏ ❏ -1 to actions for the scene
5-6 Injured ❏ ❏ Persistent -1 per box checked
7+ Taken Out X Unconscious or Disabled

Using the chart is simple: when the character suffers a particular result, mark off a box of the appropriate type. If there are no boxes of that type left, mark off a box of the next category down the chart. So if all three hurt boxes are marked off and a character takes another hurt result, mark off an injured result. Of course, this means if both injured boxes are full, the character goes directly to being taken out.

Clipped results generally result in a -1 to the next roll in the combat, but have little lasting effect beyond that. Clipped can be described as a very minor injury, but is better suited to some sort of momentary advantage. Practically speaking, there is rarely any need to actually mark off clipped boxes, since they go away so quickly. Multiple clipped results do not increase the penalty beyond -1, though they could conceivably spill up to a hurt result.

Hurt results generally put the character at a -1 to all actions for the duration of the scene. Generally, problems that qualify as Hurt may be bad, but can be taken care of with a bit of downtime - a small cut over the eyes, for example. As such, Hurt is the general yardstick for problems which can be remedied by action, such as a disarm or cutting someone's belt. If any hurt boxes are checked, the character is at a -1 to combat actions until the issue is resolved (generally the end of the scene).

Injured results generally mean the character has been hurt, and hurt badly. Characters take a -1 to actions for each injury. This -1 to all actions extends beyond the scene, and continues until the wound heals. How long a wound takes to heal depends greatly on the severity of the wound and the resources available. Assume it takes 2 weeks of rest or 3 weeks of light activity to heal a wound, with one day removed per MOS above Average of an applied healing skill.

Taken Out is not killed. Killing usually should occur after the fight, be it by cutting throats or by leaving opponents to die. Characters tend to be sufficiently willing to kill themselves through their own enthusiasm that there's no need to help it along with a bad throw of the dice.

In general, use common sense when applying the wound penalty to rolls. If someone is bedridden with injuries, and people are bringing him books, there isn't at any penalties to read, converse or listen. The penalty comes in when the character would have to move.

8.3.2   The Power of Clipped

If there is one thing to take away from the combat system, it is this - All of the results emphasize the end effect, not how it's achieved. What does that mean? It means that someone could have every box on their wound track filled in, and not have a scratch on them. Clips, Hurts and even injuries are just as often the result of a momentary advantage or disadvantage, the psychological upper hand, a physical impediment, embarrassment or nearly anything else that reduces effectiveness. Bearing that in mind, and combining it with the rules for challenges (see Tests and Challenges) means that the combat system is easily extended into other conflict, like debate.

8.3.3   Changing Wound Boxes

While the wound boxes as presented are the default for the system, there's no reason that they cannot be changed to make combats more or less brutal.

8.3.4   The Death Spiral

One effect of wounds overflowing into the next category is that over the course of a long fight, small injuries may accumulate to the point of becoming lethal. It also means that the more injured you are, the less well you'll be fighting and the more likely you are to be injured some more. The impact of these compound penalties is called "the death spiral" and while some players like the effect it has, others are very uncomfortable with it. In the latter case, the issue is easily addressed by adding more wound boxes, or simply removing overflow entirely.

8.3.5   Non-Lethal Damage

In certain circumstances, characters may deal or be dealt non-lethal damage, such as from fists or padded weapons. This has no impact on things during combat, but any injured results delivered in this fashion heal much faster, anywhere from at the end of the scene to within a day or two, depending on their nature.

8.3.6   Long Term Injuries

Exactly how long an injured box stays filled depends on how the injury was inflicted and the general tone of the game. An injured outcome from fisticuffs may fade quickly, but one from an assassin's dagger may linger for some time. In a gritty game, that injury may trouble the character for weeks or months, while in a more cinematic game, it can be quickly shaken off.

By default, assume an injury from a dangerous source (like a weapon, fire, falling or poison) takes one week to recover from. This may be reduced by making a medicine (or similar skill) check against a difficulty of Fair, and reducing the duration by 1 day per MoS. This is a cinematic assumption: more realistic games may extend that time two, three or even four times.

8.4   Combat Options

The exact rules for weapons and armor tend to be a matter of taste, so we have included a number of possible options. While we have broken these down into three categories (dramatic, simple and advanced), mixing and matching is encouraged. There's no reason one could not use dramatic weapons with advanced armor, for example.

8.4.1   Dramatic Weapons and Armor


This is the default for Fate

Weapons are not judged in terms of highly specific statistics, but in terms of the advantage they provide in combat. The rule is simple: superior weaponry provides a +1 bonus. As such, two combatants facing each other, one with a mace and the other with a sword, are on roughly equal footing, so no penalties are applied. Situation also plays into this - if one combatant has a sword and one has a knife, and there's lots of room to maneuver, the one with the sword gains a +1 advantage. If they have the same fight in a cramped sewer tunnel with little room to swing the sword, the dagger gains a +1.

Armor operates on a similar principle - superior armor grants a +1. In most circumstances, superior armor is easy to determine just by looking. The only exception is when armor becomes a true detriment, in such as underwater or in quicksand, in which case the lighter armor is superior. (Simply being in an open area is not enough to invoke "superior mobility".)

The dramatic system works on a very simple principle: modifiers are only necessary to represent an advantage, not every specific detail of a fight. The assumption is that if two opponents are fairly matched, with roughly equivalent position, equipment and plans, the matter is settled purely by skill. However, if a character uses better equipment and smarter tactics, they will have an advantage over their opponent, and that's what modifier are there to reflect. Guidelines for what sort of things provide modifiers can be found in Other Combat Modifiers.

8.4.2   Simple Weapons and Armor

This approach introduces a finer degree of granularity to weapons and armor. Both have ratings, generally ranging from 0 to 4. After a successful attack (one which produces a Scratch result or better), add the weapon's rating, then subtract the armor's rating, and consult the Combat Outcome table for a result.

For melee weapons, the weapon's rating equates to the penalty to carry it concealed. For armor, the rating translates into a penalty for activities requiring full mobility.

Simple Weapons
0 Unarmed
1 Knife, Small Club, Martial Arts Strikes, Holdout Firearm
2 Sword, Mace, Club, Pistol
3 2-handed Sword, Polearm, Rifle
4 Ludicrously oversized 2-handed weapons, Heavy Firearm
Simple Armor
0 None
1 Leather, Studded Leather
2 Chainmail, Ringmail
3 Partial Plate, Light Plate, Scale
4 A Wood Stove

These numbers are really just guidelines. A particularly deadly (or "realistic") game might have much larger numbers.

8.4.3   Advanced Weapons and Armor


A somewhat more sophisticated model for armor breaks it down into general categories (roughly equivalent to the ratings of simple armor).

Armor Types
Outcome Armor Type
0 1 2 3 4
Scratched 0 0 0 0-1 0-1
Clipped 1 1-2 1-2 2-3 2-4
Hurt 2-4 3-4 3-5 4-5 5
Injured 5-6 5-6 6 6 6
Taken Out 7+ 7+ 7+ 7+ 7+

If someone wants to represent something beyond AT4:

Special Armor Types
Outcome Armor Type
4 5 6 7 8
Scratched 0-1 0-1 0-2 0-2 0-2
Clipped 2-4 2-4 3-5 3-6 3-6
Hurt 5 5-6 6-7 7-8 7-9
Injured 6 7 8 9 10
Taken Out 7+ 8+ 9+ 10+ 11+

Armor's protection is generally limited to preventing wounds. As such, it does not change the difficulty of maneuvers. When fighting someone in plate mail, it is easier to disarm them, a hurt outcome equivalent (AL 0, 2-4) than it is to actually hurt them (AT 3, 4-5).


It is possible to have an even finer grain of difference between weapons by assigning specific attributes to them. For example:

Armor Piercing (AP)
Armor Piercing weapons reduce armor rating by 2, but are -1 to use. Extremely potent armor piercing weapons (APx2) reduce armor rating by 4, but suffer a -2 penalty.
Flexible (Flex)
Flexible weapons grant a +1 to maneuvers like disarms, but provide a -1 penalty in any fight where both parties have reasonable mobility.
Vicious (Vcs)
Vicious weapons are designed to rip and tear flesh, and increase their damage by 1 points. However, any armor greater than 0 is considered 2 levels higher against the attack. Vcsx2 weapons increase damage by 2 but improves existing armor by 4.
Locking (Lock)
Weapon locks to the user's gauntlet (or is part of it). As such, the weapon cannot be disarmed, but it also takes a -1 penalty to any maneuvers requiring finesse.

8.4.4   Other Combat Modifiers

A number of other elements can affect the direction of a fight, including:

Superior Position

This is something of a catch-all to cover situational modifiers. Possible reasons for receiving this modifier include:

  • Elevated position
  • Cover
  • Fighting from horseback

In general, these situations shouldn't provide more than a +1 bonus, save in the most egregious of circumstances.

+1 bonus for outnumbering your opponent.
+1 bonus for getting in a position where your opponent's back is exposed. Cumulative with Outnumbered.
+1 bonus for completely surrounding your opponent. This is cumulative with outnumbered and flanked - since it's hard to surround someone without outnumbering and flanking them, this generally means a +3 bonus total.

8.4.5   The Drop

If a character is not expecting an attack and has no reason to be on the defensive, the character's skill is considered to be Mediocre or equal to their Alertness, whichever is higher.

8.4.6   Multiple Opponents

When fighting multiple opponents, a character still only makes one roll. All members of the attacking group who beat the character inflict damage as normal. If the character beats all members of the attacking group, he may select one opponent (usually the one who rolled worst) and inflict damage on them.

8.4.7   Defense

If a character is unarmed, or does not wish to attack, many physical skills (especially Tumbling or Acrobatics) can be used in lieu of their combat rolls. If the defender wins the exchange, no matter how much they win by, it's treated as a scratch, though the GM may allow some defensive maneuvers, if in keeping with the skill - leaping out of the way of a sword blow is in keeping with leaping off a balcony.

If a character is using their combat skill and wishes to fight defensively, they may add +1 to their skill, but if they win the round, they inflict no damage. They may use this roll to perform maneuvers, such as getting away from their opponent, but may not perform maneuvers which affect their opponent.

Fighting defensively must be declared before dice are rolled.

Default Combat Modifiers
Situation Modifier
Superior Weapons [2] +1
Superior Armor +1
Superior Position +1
Superior Numbers +1
Flanking Opponent +1
Surrounding Opponent +1
[2]See Simple Weapons and Armor and Advanced Weapons and Armor for alternate arms and armor rules.

9   Magic and Supernormal Powers

There are few things less satisfying than a truly generic magic system. Magic adds color, flavor and texture to any fantasy setting, and if those elements are generic, the impact on the setting is obvious. Because Fate is designed to be plugged into a setting and reflect its specifics, a generic system would hardly be appropriate. Instead, we've included a variety of sample systems to give a sense of some possible approaches. Any one of them is usable, but they are ultimately more useful as guidelines towards the sort of customization that will help bring out the specific feel of a setting.

In general, magic systems are based off the initial purchase of one or more magical aspects, which then open up special skills or extras that can be purchased. Purchasing more magical aspect levels may open up additional new skills and extras.

9.1   Level Based Magic

The Great Library

In the world of Ald, magic is a structured, academic affair, and there is no greater center of magical learning than the Great Library. It is said that every spell ever written is somewhere in its miles and miles of bookshelves.

Characters looking to be mages must purchase a Magical Talent aspect. After that aspect is bought, the player may purchase a Cast Cantrips skill, as well as the aspect Magical Initiation. A character may potentially purchase up to 9 circles of Magical Initiation, and with each level a new Circle spellcasting skill (such as "First Circle Spellcasting") is available.

Mages must prepare their spells at the beginning of the day by studying them from spellbooks. The number of spells in a given Circle which the mage can have prepared is equal to the number of skill ranks invested in the skill (equal to the skill value +1). Once cast, spells are no longer available until prepared again.

By default, spells do not require a skill roll to cast. However, the skill roll may be called for to target a spell, or to cast it under particularly trying circumstances.

9.1.1   Ideas for adapting

This system assumes that there is a pre-existing spell list, broken into 10 levels from 0-9, and that a high degree of character advancement (enough to accumulate 10 aspects) is appropriate. If perchance no such system is available, it can easily be adapted to other level-based systems simply by changing the number of levels, usually reducing them. If an even larger list of spells is desired, simply increase the number of spell levels in a Circle. For instance, in a system with 20 spell levels, each Circle (and thus aspect level) might represent 5 spell levels; the skill level in that Circle would determine how many spells in that Circle could be cast each day.

9.2   Combinative Magic

The Brass Compass

The world is balanced perfectly between the four points: Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Hedge witches may claim some power over one element or another, but true mages know that power comes from the balance of the four, and the danger that comes of imbalance.

There are 4 magical aspects and 4 magical skills in this system. The Aspects are Initiate of Fire, Initiate of Earth, Initiate of Air and Initiate of Water, each representing a tie to the respective elemental force. To be a mage requires only one level of one of these aspects, but such a mage will have access to a far more limited range of power than a more well-rounded practitioner of magic would.

The four magical skills (and their uses) are:

Evocation is the preferred skill for combat, and is used for quick, usually forceful, expressions of power. For more sustained effects, summoning and mastery are usually more appropriate, but what it lacks in duration and finesse, it makes up in speed and power. Evocation is the favored skill of Fire Mages.
The skill for bringing amounts of an element into existence and roughly shaping it (mastery is more useful for that, and the two skills are highly complementary). It is also useful for summoning creatures of the elements, but mastery is required to bind them. Summoning is favored by Earth Mages.
Mastery is the ability to shape and control existing elements. It is arguably the most potent of the skills of magic, but it is also entirely dependant on the presence of material with which to work. Mastery is favored by Air Mages, who are rarely without a source of their element.
Beyond removing elemental matter, this is also the skill best suited to protection. While Mastery may allow a mage who takes his time to protect himself, only dispelling is fast enough to be usable in combat, and against evocations. Water mages favor this skill and its propensity to wear away any resistance with time.

Spellcasting is started by determining what element and skill is involved. Usually this is obvious, but in some cases more than one element may apply. In those situations, the GM may either allow a partial effect (such as destroying just the water in mud) or may rule that the mage must use their weakest aspect or skill. It is worth noting, living beings are considered to be a perfectly balanced combination of elements (Earth for form, Water for blood, Air for breath and Fire for life), so are very hard to target directly with any magics.

The next issue to determine is one of scope - how much of an element is summoned, shaped or dispelled, or how much force is deployed in an attack. The maximum scope is determined by the aspect level of the appropriate element. Scope is best judged roughly by the amount of material worked with, which breaks down according to the table below.

After element and scope have been determined, the character rolls the appropriate skill against the difficulty listed in the table. If appropriate, that difficulty is also the number a target must roll against to resist an effect.

Elemental Magic
Rank Scope [3] Difficulty
-- Spark Average
1 Finger Fair
2 Fist Good
3 Body Great
4 Horse Superb
5 House Epic
6 Castle Legendary
[3]Dispelling generally works as one level higher scope against summoned material. As such, 2 ranks of Fire magic could dispel a fist sized natural fire, or a body-sized magical one.

The character may not generate an effect with a scope greater than their appropriate aspect level.

It is also possible for a mage to summon elementals. These are simple creatures defined by a single aspect - Elemental (of the appropriate type). The level of that aspect is equal to the rank required to summon one and sets its difficulty. Thus, a tiny fire elemental (Fire Elemental 1) is a difficulty of Fair.

To bind an elemental, the character must first summon it (roll summoning skill vs. difficulty) then bind it (mastery vs. difficulty). A Mage may only have one elemental bound at a time. It's worth noting that elementals are fairly obvious and have no real means to hide themselves. An elemental may be dispelled with a successful Dispel against their difficulty, using either their element or the opposed one (Fire v. Water, Earth v. Air).

9.2.1   Ideas for adapting

Long winded as it may be, the underlying principle is simple - a set of aspects and a set of skills, with aspects determining power and skills denoting, well, skill. What exactly the aspects and skills are is almost irrelevant. Elements were used in this example because they're a classic motif, but a solid magical system could be built off any logical (or mythical) combination. Imagine similar systems where the aspects are the Seven Deadly Sins, the Muses, the seasons, the phases of the moon, a different set of elements or anything else that strikes one's fancy.

9.3   Improvisational Magic

The Door to Shadow

The gates have opened, and evil walks upon the earth in ways it has not for centuries. Around the corner and just out of the corner of your eye, it lurks, growing in power. Our only hope are those unlikely few, the mad, the destined and the unlucky, who have seen this threat for what it is and are fighting to stop it.

This is a simple, narrative system for playing a somewhat fast and loose game where magic is important, but it is not necessarily central. Mage characters need to purchase a Magical Talent aspect and a spellcasting skill. It is possible that those go under other names, such as Wicca or Thaumaturge with their Old Magick and Thaumaturgy skills. Generally speaking, this is just for color, but it may have some game effect (see below). The spellcasting skill (in whatever form it takes) can be bought without an appropriate aspect, but trying to use it to cast spells is exceptionally dangerous (see Feedback, below).

To cast a spell, simply determine its difficulty and make a spellcasting roll to meet or exceed the difficulty level, then mark off a level of the aspect. As such, yes, the aspect limits the number of spells that can be cast per day, and as such, it's dangerous to burn it for a reroll - as such, having another aspect to represent magical education, like Occult Studies or Ancient Lore can be quite useful, and what often allows a more experienced mage defeat a more powerful one.

Difficulty defaults to Average (0), and is increased or decreased by the effects of the spell as follows.

Spell Scope
The spell's scope encompasses Difficulty
Nothing +0
The Caster +1
A room +2
A building +3
A town +4
A state +5
Spell Target
The spell targets Difficulty
No One +0
1 Person +1
Small Group +2
Neighborhood +3
Town +4
Spell Severity
The spell is Difficulty
Irritating or Inconvenient +1
Damaging +2
Incapacitating +3
Fully transformative +4
Mind Altering +2 [4]
Instantly Lethal Impossible
[4]over and above other modifiers - mind control is effectively incapacitating and affects the mind.
Spell Casting Time
The Casting takes Difficulty
A few moments [5] +1
A few minutes +0
A few Hours -1
A few Days -2
[5]i.e: in combat
Spell Components
The spell's components are Difficulty
Not required +1
Easily acquirable, and portable +0
Very inconvenient or hard to acquire -1
Very inconvenient and hard to acquire -2
Spell Duration
The spell lasts Difficulty
An instant [6] +0
A few seconds +1
A few minutes +2
A few Hours +3
A few days +4
A few Months +5
A few Years +6
Forever +7
[6]generally long enough for a combat attack.

Also, optionally for those with a more dramatic bent:

Dramatic Effect of Spell
The spell affects the story by Difficulty
Advancing the plot -1
Doing something someone could do with a mundane skill +1
Doing something that someone in the party could do mundanely +1 [7]
Jumping over a large amount of plot +2 or more
Bypassing an entire story +4 or more
[7]in addition to mundane penalty

And lastly, one unique modifier:

Inconvenient Timing
-1 Difficulty or more. Inconvenient timing is mostly just useful for villains, as it represents spells that can only occur under certain circumstances ("when the stars are right"). This generally gives a plot reason why a villain can be casting a world-destroying spell, but still be at a level that the PCs can manage.

9.3.1   Research

It is also possible to spend some time researching a spell in advance, either preparing it (which requires a magical toolkit of sorts, depending on the type of magic - a big cauldron for example) or researching it (which requires an occult library). In either case, a research roll is made against the difficulty of the spell, and if successful, subtract 1 from the difficulty of the spell. The GM may award additional bonuses for extreme degrees of success.

Researched spells are generally not re-usable. Duplicating an already researched spell requires another research roll.

9.3.2   Feedback

Magic is dangerous stuff. The number of aspects the character has represents the amount they can safely handle, but sometimes a caster needs to push himself a little farther. If all of the caster's Magical Talent aspects are checked off, and he still wishes to cast a spell, determine difficulty and roll skill as normal. If the spell is successful with at least a MOS of 1, all is well. However, if the spell fails, or succeeds exactly, the powers the character is working with get out of their control. This is treated as an attack on the character with a severity equal to the difficulty of the spell plus the degree by which the character failed (0, if the spell succeeds). The character rolls to defend against this attack with their aspect level. Characters without a Magic Talent aspect default to Mediocre on this roll.

9.3.3   Ideas for adapting

As written, this system is functional but bland. Fortunately, it takes only a little tweaking to give it some flavor. It's possible to give the various magical schools some mechanical impact. Generally, it's best to makes this a +1 to skill in certain circumstances and -1 in other circumstances. Try to make the circumstances roughly equal. For example, the Alchemists of Bin-Assam practice a magical tradition rich in potions, smokes and exotic ingredients. The receive a +1 bonus to skill when casting a spell with required components. However, they are given to ornate, overly complicated rituals, and take a -1 penalty to skill when trying to cast spells more quickly than over the course over a few hours.

Modifiers that reflect the "rules of magic" also add a lot to the flavor of a setting. Perhaps spells receive a bonus when you know the target's true name, or have a symbolic link to the target, such as a voodoo doll. Perhaps spells are more powerful at dawn or dusk. Some rules don't even need rules: something like "curses return threefold" is better played out than left to a mechanic.

9.4   Stunt Based Magic

The Great Lighthouse

In the city of Ald, the Great Lighthouse has held off attackers of every stripe for generations. At its peak rests and unquenchable flame, which adepts can direct to strike anything out to the horizon. Great as that power is, it only touches the surface of the potential of this mystical flame. Initiates who immerse themselves in it and survive become adepts, carrying a small amount of fire within them, and may use it to fuel their sorceries.

This fire magic is represented by two things: a spellcasting skill, called "Pyromancy", and a number of "stunts". By using the skill, the mage may start fires without kindling or tools, and even produce small fires (Fair=matchlight, Superb=a large torch) from their body without fuel, though this requires too much concentration to be useful in combat (without a stunt). They may control fires (Fair=Torch, Superb = Bonfire) in showy ways, changing colors and sculpting shapes. They may passively use their skill as a defense against fire and heat. More powerful effects require using a stunt.

9.4.1   Stunts

Characters spend skill points for "Stunts". Performing a stunt allows the character to do something more dramatic with the skill. Each stunt bought gives the character a circle next to the skill, which refreshes in the same manner as aspects, and which can be checked off to perform a stunt. Thus, an experienced Fire Mage, with 3 stunts might express it as:

Pyromancy: Good (❍ ❍ ❍)

This would cost 6 skill ranks total: 3 to bring the skill to Good, and one for each stunt.

The first skill rank must be purchased in conjunction with the "Pyromancer" aspect.

To use a stunt, simply describe the desired action and check off a circle. Here are some guidelines that may help give a sense of what stunts can do:

  • A stunt should never last any longer than a scene.
  • A stunt generally translates into a single effect: A bolt of fire, a wall of flame, lighting something on fire. More sophisticated effects require multiple stunts.
  • A stunt can allow magic to be used as a combat skill. This is limited by the effect: A bolt of fire might work for only a single attack, but a protective wall could last a scene.
  • Spells which affect multiple targets take a -1 penalty to the roll for each target beyond the first.
  • Spells which simulate weapons are fine, but they are bound by the general limitations of the weapons - i.e. creating a perpetual flame bolt that is held in the hand and using it as a sword is fine, but creating a 50 foot bolt claiming its a sword isn't really feasible.
  • The addition of magic to a fight can grant a situational advantage (i.e. a +1 bonus).

Stunts are refreshed after a full nights rest or meditation in the presence of a (torch sized or larger) fire. A desperate Fire Mage may also immerse his hands (or other parts) and suffer bad burns (automatically suffering an "injured" result) to refresh his stunts.

Sample Pyromancy Stunts

Bolt of Flame
An old favorite, this blast of flame shoots from the caster's hand or eyes with the intent of incinerating the target. Used at range, this attack grants no bonus for superior armor, and if the target is wearing flammable clothes of metal armor, that qualifies as inferior armor for calculating bonuses. Range is usually line of sight, and the exact appearance of the bolt is shaped by the fancy of the caster.
Wall of Flame
Another classic, a wall of flame bursts into existence, either around the caster, or somewhere nearby. Passing through the wall subjects the target to an attack from the caster's skill as if they had been hit by a bolt of flame. It's possible to surround a target in a wall of fire with an attack that generates a hurt result, and it's possible to directly target something with the wall (light it under their feet) with a injured result.
Brave The Inferno
Ignore damage from any single fire for as long as it lasts and as long as the character is exposed to it. This allows ignoring a single attack, walking around in a burning house, or passing through a wall of fire unharmed.

Other Stunts

  • Shape a ladder out of a bonfire and climb it to a nearby window
  • Increase the intensity of a forge to the point where it can melt magical metal
  • Set something very large on fire
  • Make a fire very hard to extinguish
  • Study a fire and find out what it's burning
  • Read a book by burning it

What Fire Magic Cannot Do

  • Boil someone's insides
  • Burn something non-flammable (though it can surround it in flame)
  • Summon fire creatures or otherwise give life to fire
  • Scry or teleport through fires
  • Find information from cold ashes


Pyromancy does have certain limitations. A Fire Magi who is submerged in water (or other liquid) cannot perform any fire magic until the next full moon. Significant partial submersion (even a bad enough rainstorm) is enough, so Fire Magi are very careful around water which has created a legend that it is somewhat more baneful to them than it genuinely is. This has also inspired some peculiar bathing habits. In the south, sand and oil are more common than water anyway, so there is no problem, but in the midlands it's definitely an issue. Interestingly, snow and ice are not considered water (unless they melt), a loophole that the small number of northern Fire Magi take advantage of, though the idea of a "snow bath" is disconcerting to those of a less hardy nature.

9.4.2   Ideas for Adapting

Stunts are really designed to serve as a middle ground between handwaving magical effects and rigid bookkeeping of capabilities. Coming up with additional magic systems is as easy as deciding on the incidental effects, deciding what the stunts are capable of, and determining if there's a geas or other limitations.

The exact definition of what a stunt is depends strongly on the campaign. While it is possible that it may represent a concrete limit, that is not necessary. Like aspects, they are more of a narrative limitation, and because of that, GMs looking to blur the line of how often magic can be used are encouraged to allow appropriate aspect boxes to be used in lieu of stunt boxes. Of course, in games where wizards are expected to have a fixed number of spells per day (or some other cycle), no further explanation is really necessary.

9.5   Interpretive Magic

Sorcery on a Budget

Sometimes magic just isn't easy. Whether because of the overwhelming disbelief of the vast swell of humanity, or some natural protection that keeps the world from accepting the supernatural. Whatever the case, necessity has made magic both subtle and rare.

The single most important component of any spell is how blatant it is. Blatancy is mostly a measure of how flashy or obvious the working of power is - it's a measure of how wrong whatever is being done appears to any bystanders. This puts very practical limits on anything done with magic - more often than not, if a task can be done mundanely, it's much easier to do so. This is why most wizards carry guns.

When using magic, players are encouraged to describe effects in terms of how they would appear in the movie version of their story. Now, this method depends on the player wanting to describe things interestingly - if players are more interested in describing things as flatly as possible in an attempt to drive down difficulties, the GM should do two things - raise the difficulties to an appropriate level, and consider using a different magic system.

Magic using characters should have some sort of aspect to describe their type of magic. This can be as general as "Wizard" or as specific as "Mystical Master of Cheese". These give a general guideline as to the types of magic the character can perform, and the GM is perfectly entitled to grant bonuses when she feels a magical effect is particularly in keeping with the aspect, or nix one that seems to have nothing to do with it (unless, of course, there's a really good explanation). The level of this aspect represents the character's "special effects budget" for magic (to wit, the most powerful spell effect they can manage). The character also has a spellcasting skill, which they roll when casting and attempt to meet or exceed the difficulty level for the "budget."

Magical Budget
Asp. Difficulty Description
1 Fair A set of bongos and interpretive dance
2 Good Public access - a couple of guys with a camcorder
3 Great Cable television production
4 Superb Television "Mini-Series Event"
5 Epic Blockbuster Movie
6 Legendary F/X extravaganza

Some budgetary notes:

  • The more area or targets a spell affects, the more camera angles required, and in turn, the more budget.
  • Remember, the target is part of the audience. As such, spells that quietly and invisibly choke someone or stop their heart won't work, because they won't notice them. You need to invest some in making them feel it. As such, the very least directly damaging spells require a minimum of a cable TV budget. Indirect damage (like burning someone by catching their house on fire) is a different beast entirely.

A character can temporarily boost their budget by checking off aspects. Each aspect checked off in this fashion raises the maximum budget for the next magical effect by one.

9.5.1   Ideas for adapting

Right off the bat, GMs may require that magical aspects be a little more specific, with the idea that a real wizard will have aspects in things like Evocation, Thaumaturgy or Summonings. However you think magic should work, toss it in there.

This is an odd system in that it is probably entirely unappealing to a large segment of gamers. It depends on a lot of trust between the players and GM and requires a lot of interpretation on the GM's part. If it doesn't work for you, don't worry about it. However, if this seems like your cup of tea, the possibilities for interpretation are probably already suggesting themselves.

9.6   Minor Powers

Skin Dance

When the Weasel first talked to me I was so drunk that I just took it all at face value. Apparently, I agreed to some serious mojo-binding stuff, and in return I would get the Weasel's power. I guess I must have agreed, because I woke up that morning up inside my left pants leg.

In preparation for a threat only hinted at, the lords of the beasts have approached worthy humans and offered them the gift of skinchanging - the ability to turn into their patron creature. Despite the questionable value of some of these blessings, these skinchangers are prepared to use the little power at their disposal to defend mankind...as soon as they figure out what they're defending it against.

Skinchangers buy an aspect in the appropriate animal, and gain the ability to transform into that animal. It's difficult for a human to adapt to the workings of the animal physiology, so it is necessary for them to buy ranks in a skill called (animal) mobility (weasel mobility or what have you). This is a difficult skill to master, so it defaults to Poor (see Difficult Skills). This skill is the general baseline for activity in the creature's form. If the creature can fly, things are doubly difficult, and default to terrible.

Many creatures have special abilities. Some are intrinsic- a weasel is small and a fish breathes underwater, and there's no need to reflect those with skills or aspects. Others have abilities better reflected with aspects - a bloodhound's keen senses or a ferret's speed. These aren't mandatory, but if the player wishes to take advantage of the animal's abilities, buying the appropriate aspects is a good idea. Some abilities are very specific to the creature, such as a skunk's spray. In those cases, the character should buy a skill to reflect that ability. That skill defaults to the same level as the mobility skill did, and can never be higher than the mobility skill.

Some animals are also better suited to combat than others. Any skinchanger can use their mobility skill to dodge, but those gifted with natural weapons should buy a combat skill to use them. This skill has the same starting default as mobility, and can never be bought higher than the current mobility score.

Lastly, any form capable of fine manipulation should buy a manipulation skill to represent it. As with other skills, it defaults to the same level mobility does and cannot be bought any higher than the current mobility skill level. This skill is appropriate for simians, but may also be appropriate for some small mammals and birds.

Characters should not have more than one animal form. If they do, the skills for one form do not translate to the other form, unless the forms are very similar, like a squirrel and a chipmunk.

9.6.1   Ideas for adapting

The underlying model here is simple - an aspect that introduces a minor power can work just fine if it also requires at least one skill to use the ability. If the aspect is particularly useful, then it should require more skills. With that idea in mind, it's easy to model any sort of knack or gimmick, from ESP to Breath Control. This is also the idea behind a number of magic systems. This is a good model to simulate a genre with limited powers, like some urban fantasy or pulp.

10   Utilities

10.1   Sample Aspects


The character's rage simmers just below the surface, awaiting opportunity to burst.

A player might invoke this aspect to:
Vent his frustration, usually through explosive action towards whatever he's mad at.
The GM might invoke this to:
Cause the character to lose his temper at an inappropriate moment. Interfere with any action that requires calm.

The character is an academic, well versed in all manner of obscure lore. His knowledge, unfortunately, is almost entirely from books, and theory is not always the same as practice.

A player might invoke this aspect to:
Dig up an obscure fact or other bit of knowledge at the right. Research like a fiend.
The GM might invoke this to:
Cause problems when the character is faced with the need to apply his knowledge under the stress of "Real World" conditions.

The character is a firm believer in the better part of valor, either out of meekness, deep self interest, or some other motivator.

A player might invoke this aspect to:
Run, hide, or otherwise get away from something dangerous.
The GM might invoke this to:
Inspire the character to flee when he really needs to stand his ground.
Curse of Toads

When the character tells a lie, a live toad pops out of his mouth.

A player might invoke this aspect to:
Gross someone out, or convince someone who knows of the curse that he is honest.
The GM might invoke this to:
Complicate things when lies would be more convenient.

The character owes a duty to some one or thing which should come out of creation. Alternately, the character may simply take all of his responsibilities very seriously.

A player might invoke this aspect to:
Perform an action which directly upholds the duty.
The GM might invoke this to:
Present a player a choice between upholding his duty or doing something more practical. Raise an issue of responsibility at an inconvenient moment.

The character is smart, simple as that.

A player might invoke this aspect to:
Know useful things, or find them out if they aren't known.
The GM might invoke this to:
Unless there are monsters that specifically like eating big brains, there's not much the GM can do with this.

The character is very thorough in his approach to almost everything.

A player might invoke this aspect to:
Get a bonus to any task where he has the time and resources to do a thorough job, "discover" that he packed just the right tool.
The GM might invoke this to:
Interfere with the character being spontaneous.

A curved blade carved from the purest Moonstone, this sword has been passed down through generations of heroes. In the hands of the unworthy, its edge is dull and its balance shoddy, but in the hands of a true (or potential) hero, it strikes sharp and true.

A player might invoke this aspect to:
Swordfight, or have the sword conveniently available.
The GM might invoke this to:
Steal the sword. Require some ritual to renew the sword's magic.
Panasta Dados

Panasta Dados is the Master of Thieves of the city of Alverado, and at some point he took the character under his wing and taught him some of what he knows.

A player might invoke this aspect to:
Perform a thiefly task, "Here's a trick Old Pan taught me." Get some information about Alverado, get information directly from Panasta.
The GM might invoke this to:
Have Pan call in a favor. Have Pan's enemies try to strike at him through the character.

The character is a member of the priesthood, and is expected to support the appropriate dogma, as well as accept whatever duties, responsibilities and powers come with the position.

A player might invoke this aspect to:
Give a stirring sermon. Resist the powers antithetical to his faith. Attempt to use the resources of his church.
The GM might invoke this to:
Deliver inconvenient orders from a superior. Present temptations that contradict the Priest's Dogma. Raise the ire of opposed religions.
Self Destructive

For whatever reason, the character seeks his own destruction, though he is unwilling to take direct action to do something about it. Instead, he throws himself wholeheartedly into dangerous situations in the hopes that this time will be his last.

A player might invoke this aspect to:
Do something stupid and dangerous.
The GM might invoke this to:
Keep a character from doing the safe, reasonable thing.

The character's family estate, it is a place of rest and refuge from the troubles of the world.

A player might invoke this aspect to:
Draw upon the resources of the house.
The GM might invoke this to:
Threaten the house.

The character has a knack for betrayal. He's the one who shows up on the movie screen and everyone watching knows that he's the one who's going to whisper lies in the king's ear and try to seduce the naive princess. Betrayal comes easily to the character, and while he may be steadfast and true in the end, it would be so easy not to be.

A player might invoke this aspect to:
Lie, spy or generally connive.
The GM might invoke this to:
Incite suspicious reactions from NPCs, especially when the character is telling the truth. Offer opportunities to stab comrades in the back.

The character is the survivor of many battles, and the experience has shaped him. This is appropriate for a seasoned campaigner who has seen many battles (in contrast to Veteran of Gishal Falls, below).

A player might invoke this aspect to:
Keep his wits about him in a fight. Assess a tactical situation. Pitch camp in unfriendly country.
The GM might invoke this to:
Invoke flashbacks. Introduce old rivals from the other side of the battlefield.
Veteran of Gishal Falls

The Battle of Gishal Falls was fought over the course of 4 months in the swampy, disease-infested valley below the falls. Both the Nadulians and the Asts consider the battle a defeat, and the casualty rates on both sides were obscene.

A player might invoke this aspect to:
As Veteran, but also to resist disease or carry on activities in a swamp.
The GM might invoke this to:
As Veteran, but the GM now knows who the opposing side was, and what people think of the battle. Some may consider the character a reminder of the Army's embarrassment, or resent them for surviving while a loved one did not.

10.2   More Aspects

Amnesia:The character has a hole in his memory of some size. The good and ill of this are somewhat subject to GM whim.
Banjo:The Demon Horse. He's fast, tough and smart, but he also eats meat. Especially rabbits.
Barbarian:Raised in the wilds, this character may be good at hunting and fighting, but lacking in social graces.
Courtier:Experienced with the ebb and flow of courtly intrigue, this is useful for dealing with those intrigues, but less useful for convincing an angry mob that you're really one of them.
Delusional:The character has some firmly held delusion. This tends to be useful on those occasions the delusion is useful (think Don Quixote), but otherwise problematic.
Fae:Touched - The character knows something of the ways of Faerie, but this comes with some drawbacks, such as an aversion to Iron, the necessity of an invitation to enter a home, or just the attention of faeries.
Famous:The character is well known, which is useful for dealing with people who like him, but less useful when trying to avoid attention.
Holy:The character's convictions run so deep as to be a beacon in the darkness. This beacon may provide illumination, but it also is likely to draw attention.
Fop:A cultured gentleman can turn to excess. While Fops are usually skilled in social arts, they are also prone to a variety of vices, and have a most unwholesome reputation.
Gambler:Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, but very rarely know when not to play the game.
Hunted:Someone (or something) is after the character. Useful for evading or confronting pursuers, but with obvious drawbacks
Irish:Useful for drinking, brawling and spinning yarns, less good for stopping drinking and keeping your temper.
Kind:Kindness is a virtue treasured by healers and those who bring succor, but it is ill-suited to many of life's cruelties.
Large:Useful when being big and strong comes in handy, but less useful when trying to do things like hide (or buy clothes that fit).
Ninja:Can you ever really have enough ninjas?
Rich:Outside of the events of play, the character has significant wealth, which is useful in many ways. Sadly, what he has, so many others want...
Rival:The character has a rival who he wants to defeat in some fashion. While this aspect may help with the rivalry, the rival himself is likely to cause problems.
Strong:Break things!
Vengeful:The character's been wronged, and seeks to make it right. This is useful for pursuing that revenge, but such focus can often turn into tunnel vision.
Weapon Master:The character kicks ass with weapons. People who kick ass this much tend to draw attention from others out to prove how much they kick ass.

10.3   Skill Lists

There is no one skill list that can apply to all games. The nature of the game should shape the skill list to reflect what sorts of activities are important in the game. Skills are measures of how characters distinguish themselves. The idea of "party balance" hinges on the idea that each member of the group contributes something unique to the whole. The idea was originally couched in purely tactical terms, but it's more broadly applicable. If each character in a given group has a particular area in which they excel, everyone is given an opportunity to take the spotlight from time to time. Naturally, there is also the question of genre - a computer programming skill will be out of place in a game of sword and sorcery.

When creating a skill list, it's important to keep two key elements in mind: there must be enough skills to allow each character an arena to excel in, and skills must be more finely defined in areas that will be important to the game. In the absence of a defined skill list, it's often useful to look at skills in terms of a few broad categories, and whether you want the skills in those categories defined in a broad, general or specific fashion.

10.3.1   Skill Categories

The most general categories of skills are Academic, Artistic, Athletic, Combat, Criminal, Magical, Perception, Professional, Social, Survival, which break down as follows.

Academic Skills

Academic skills are generally oriented towards knowledge, research and learning.

Broad:Languages, Lore, Research, Teaching
General:Area Knowledge, Computers, History, Linguistics, Literacy, Mathematics, Science
Specific:Specific academic skills tend to be refinements of the general skills: History becomes French History, American History and so on. Science becomes Chemistry, Physics and anything else appropriate. At this point, the advanced sciences are very similar to the roles of magical skills. They reinforce the specifics of the genre. In a science fiction game, for example, stardrive engineering might be a very important skill. Often, a game will have a specific selection of specific skills in conjunction with a more general list.

Language and Linguistics

The issue of languages is often a tricky one. The role of language is near and dear to many people's hearts, and there are a number of ways they can be treated.

When using broad skills, the Languages skill measures what languages the player knows: each rank over mediocre equates to one language when play begins. When using general skills, Languages are split into Linguistics (spoken languages) and literacy (written languages). Languages are learned in the same fashion as with the broad skill.

In Broad and General cases, languages are fairly binary: either they're known or not. A poor grasp of a language may be played out, or considered a temporary hindrance, but is mostly in the realm of GM interpretation.

Under specific skills, each language or language family is its own skill. Skill level measures the character's fluency: Average means a heavy accent, Fair is faintly detectable, and Good and better is flawless. At the GM's discretion, the character may be forced to used the lower of a character's language and social skill when attempting to use social skills in another language.

Artistic Skills

Artistic Skills cover the gamut of artistic expression.

Broad:Art, Performance,
General:Acting, Dance, Painting, Play Instruments, Sculpture, Singing
Specific:Each type of art form (Opera, Sketching, Specific musical instruments and so on) is its own skill.

Athletic Skills

Athletic skills cover the general range of physical activities.

Broad:Athletics, Endurance
General:Acrobatics, Climbing, Endurance, Jumping, Running, Swimming
Specific:Acrobatics, Climbing, Contortions, Disease Resistance, Distance Running, Drug Tolerance, Endurance, Running Jump, Sprinting Standing Jump, Tumbling

Combat Skills

Combat Skills are the meat and drink of most games, so they get a somewhat richer treatment than many other skills. Broad combat skills are simple enough: Melee, Ranged and Unarmed. Specific skills are simply one skill per weapon type (Sword, Bow, Longsword and so on). Broad skills are where there are a few more options.

Broad:Melee, Missile, Unarmed
General:See below for three possible options.
Specific:Dagger, Flail, Heavy Crossbow, Light Crossbow, Longbow, Longspear, Longsword, Mace, Rapier, Sabre, Shortbow, Shortspear, Shortsword, Shuriken, Staff, Throwing Dagger

Obviously, this list could extend pretty much indefinitely. Thankfully, it can generally be limited by the culture of the area the game occurs in.

General Combat Skill options

Any of these three options can work as broad combat skills. No one option is really better than any of the others, and the decision should hinge upon whichever approach the GM considers most thematically appropriate.

Option 1: Weapon Category Combat Skills

This list treats the category a weapon falls into as a general skill. In many ways this is potentially the most comprehensive list.

Bows:Bows, Crossbows
Brawling:Improvised weapons
One Handed Edged:Swords, Knives, Axes
One Handed Blunt:Maces, Clubs
Polearm:Halberd, Spetum, Staff
Shield:Facility with a shield - grants an additional +1 if used as skill for an all out defense
Thrown:Knife, Shuriken
Two Handed:Two-Handed Sword, Greataxe
Unarmed Combat:Boxing, Wrestling, Martial arts
Option 2: Style Based Combat Skills

This list is based off fighting styles, with the reasoning that a sword and shield fighter is not much different from a mace and shield fighter, practically speaking.

Archery:Bows and crossbows
Fencing:Fighting with light blades, knives, possibly cloaks and canes
Haft Weapon:Any weapon with a long haft, such as a spear, staff or polearm.
Improvisational:Fighting with whatever happens to be on hand.
Mounted:Fighting from horseback.
Single Weapon:Fighting with a weapon in one hand and nothing in particular in the other.
Thrown:Throwing things.
Two Handed:Non-hafted weapons large and heavy enough to require two hands.
Two Weapon:A Weapon in each hand. Other than looking cool, the main advantage of this style is the difficulty in disarming it.
Unarmed:Fighting unarmed, be it bare knuckle brawling or some manner of martial art.
Weapon and Shield:A one handed weapon in one hand, a shield in the other.

As an example, under this model, a character with archery at Good would be Good with any bow or crossbow he picked up.

Option 3: Thematic Combat Skills

This list is divided along more stylistic lines, with each skill representing a group of weapons of combat styles joined by their thematic elements rather than any real tactical similarity.

Archer:Bows and daggers
Brawler:Improvised weapons and unarmed attacks.
Cavalry:Mounted use of swords and bows.
Cutthroat:Knives, saps, garrotes.
Duelist:Use of fencing weapons
Footman:Use of swords, shields and polearms
Knight:Mounted lances and swords, as well as swords afoot.
Martial Artist:Unarmed attacks and weapons like staves or oddly curved blades.
Pirate:Cutlasses and belaying pins.
Ranger:Bows and swords.

There are many more possibilities for skills, but they should be tied to the world in some fashion - for example one school of duelists may have a different skillset than another.

Criminal Skills

Criminal skills are exactly what they sound like, skills related to crime.

Broad:Larceny, Stealth
General:Fence, Forgery, Hide, Lockpicking, Pickpocket, Sneak, Streetwise
Specific:Once again, the specific skills take the general skills and render them appropriate to a particular area or area of expertise. Skills would include things like Streetwise (New York) or Safecracking, Electronic Security Systems, Counterfeiting Money and so on.

Magical Skills

Magical skills are probably the most genre dependent skills of them all. Some games will have none at all, some may have only one, and some many have many. Ultimately, what skills are needed for the magic system is determined by the magic rules being used.

Perception Skills

Perception skills are important in almost any game, with the distinction being what it is important to notice in the game.

Broad:Awareness, Observation
General:Awareness, Search, Sense Motive, Spot
Specific:Awareness, Danger Sense, Detect Lie, Direction Sense, Investigate, Listen, Locate Hidden, Read Person, Spot, Surveillance

Levels of Perception

The main difference between many perception skills is a matter of when they're applicable. At the broad level, Observation is used to spot things the character is looking for, and Awareness is for things that he's not looking for, like surprises, or things he might happen to notice in a room. The general category breaks that down further. Awareness fills the same role, but Observation has been split into Search and Spot. Spot is used for quick checks, when the character is trying to take in details at a moment's notice. Search is used when the character takes the time to look for something. The specific breakdown is similar, but many specialized tasks (like finding things that have been hidden) have their own skill.

Professional Skills

Professional is a catch-all category, which includes most domestic, craft and professional skills, as well as most day to day skills.

Broad:Craft, Healing, Riding
General:Clerk, Cooking, Driving, First Aid, Medicine, Smithing, Riding, Rope Use, Stonecutting, Woodcrafting
Specific:Accounting, Administration, Appraise, Baking, Blacksmithing, Bureacracy, Carpentry, Driver Wagon, Grilling, Haggling, Plumbing, Ride Camel, Ride Horse, Silversmithing

Obviously, there are an almost infinite number of specific professional skills. Thankfully, there's rarely any need to figure out what they all are.

Social Skills

Social skills govern human (and non-human) interaction.

Broad:Deceive, Impress
General:Bluff, Contacting, Charm, Intimidate, Lie, Seduce
Specific:Bluff, Contacting (by group), Charm, Diplomacy, Deceive, Etiquette, Gossip, Intimidate, Public Speaking, Leadership, Unobtrusive, Seduce

Survival Skills

Survival skills are generally outdoors skills, though there are a few exceptions.

General:Herbalism, Hunting, Survival, Tracking
Specific:Herbalism (by region), Find Tracks, Forage, Read Tracks, Scrounge, Shadowing, Trapping, Survival (By terrain: Desert Survival, Arctic Survival etc.)

10.3.2   Putting Together the Skill List

If a game revolves around courtly intrigue and deceit, it's appropriate to have a wide array of social skills, and perhaps only a small set of combat or craft skills. Similarly, a game with a lot of combat should have a decent range of combat skills to chose from.

10.3.3   A Sample List

Planning for a fantasy game, Lydia considers what kind of skill list to put together. She's looking to have a gritty, urban sort of game. Looking over the various categories:

Academic skills aren't going to be terribly important with a few exceptions, so she opts for the broad selection with a few specific additions.

Academic Skills:Know (The City), Know (Court), Know (Underworld), Lore, Research, Teaching

Artistic skills are also not critical, but since the city has its share of artists, and some of the players may be interested in that, she opts for a general list.

Artistic Skills:Acting, Dance, Painting, Play Instruments, Sculpture, Singing

She anticipates a lot of running about on rooftops, but it's not so important that it requires a specific list, so she opts for general athletic skills.

Athletic Skills:Acrobatics, Climbing, Endurance, Jumping, Running, Swimming

Combat will play a fairly major role in the game, but she has no desire to keep track of the minutiae of a specific system, so she wants a general option. Since she likes the general style of the thematic groupings, so she opts for:

Combat Skills:Brawler, Cutthroat, Duelist, Footman, Knight, Pirate

Maybe others, if someone has a particular concept.

Criminal skills are also central enough to merit the general list, but not so critical to require specifics.

Criminal Skills:Fence, Forgery, Hide, Lockpicking, Pickpocket, Sneak, Streetwise

Magic has already been decided, as Lydia has opted to use Pyromancy (see Stunt Based Magic) so there's only one skill:

Magic Skills:Pyromancy

Perception skills are actually going to be critical, so Lydia opts for the specific list. However, she doesn't like Locate Hidden or Surveillance, so knocks them off the list.

Perception Skills:Alertness, Danger Sense, Detect Lie, Direction Sense, Investigate, Read Person, Spot

Professional skills aren't going to matter that much, so she goes for the Broad list. However, she likes the rope use skill for various grappling hooks and piracy activities, and sailing is going to be common so she adds them to the list.

Professional Skills:Craft, Healing, Riding, Rope Use, Sailing

Social Skills are going to be similarly important, so she opts for the specific list.

Social Skills:Bluff, Charm, Gossip, Intimidate, Lie, Public Speaking, Leadership, Unobtrusive, Seduce

Survival skills just aren't going to matter much in an urban game. However, the scrounge skill is a great street urchin skill, so she tosses that in.

Survival Skills:Scrounge, Survival

10.4   Pyramid Shorthand

Sometimes you need a detailed character on the fly and don't want to mess with the headache of tracking the pyramid. In those situations, the following guidelines may come in handy. These examples represent pyramids optimized to get high skill levels as quickly as possible.

Pyramid Shorthand
Phases Skills
1 2 Average, 1 Fair
2 4 Average, 2 Fair
3 5 Average, 2 Fair, 1 Good
4 4 Average, 3 Fair, 2 Good
5 4 Average, 3 Fair, 2 Good, 1 Great
6 6 Average, 4 Fair, 2 Good, 1 Great
7 7 Average, 4 Fair, 3 Good, 1 Great
8 7 Average, 4 Fair, 3 Good, 2 Great
9 6 Average, 4 Fair, 3 Good, 2 Great, 1 Superb
10 8 Average, 5 Fair, 3 Good, 2 Great, 1 Superb
11 7 Average, 6 Fair, 4 Good, 2 Great, 1 Superb
12 7 Average, 6 Fair, 4 Good, 3 Great, 1 Superb
13 8 Average, 5 Fair, 4 Good, 3 Great, 2 Superb
14 7 Average, 6 Fair, 5 Good, 3 Great, 2 Superb
15 8 Average, 6 Fair, 4 Good, 3 Great, 2 Superb, 1 Epic

11   Alternate Dice Methods

11.1   Fate D6

Six-sided dice(d6) have a lot of advantages for gaming. They're easy to read, easy to count, stackable and, most importantly, when there's a need, they can be rummaged from a couple of old board games. They also can be used very easily - there's no need to explain what these funny plastic shapes are, or what them mean. Most people are already pretty comfortable with the idea of rolling a few dice and adding them together.

When playing Fate with D6 rules, a lot of elements remain the same. The ladder is still in place, but it now has new values assigned to it. Rather than rolling four Fudge dice and adding the value of the adjective, just roll the number of six-sided dice associated with the adjective.

Fate D6
8d Legendary
7d Epic
6d Superb
5d Great
4d Good
3d Fair
2d Average
1d Mediocre
2 [8] Poor
1 [8] Terrible
0 [9] Abysmal
[8](1, 2) Poor and terrible scores are the same as if the player had rolled 1 die and it had come up showing a 1 or a 2. However, the die is considered to be "on the table", so aspects can be used to change the die. Any bonus or penalty dice start out at this value.
[9]An abysmal score means there is no chance of success at all. The GM may allow the player to spend an aspect to put a die on the table (which will be treated as if it had rolled a 1), which then allows it to be treated as a terrible skill (above).

11.1.1   Static Difficulties

Difficulties are measured in steps of 5, with the goal being to roll a total that matches or exceeds the difficulty target number (TN). Difficulty descriptions may be found in Setting Difficulties

Difficulty Target Numbers
1 Negligible difficulty
5 Simple tasks
10 Challenging tasks
15 Difficult Tasks
20 Daunting Tasks
25 Staggering Tasks
30 Revolutionary tasks

11.1.2   Dynamic Tasks

The difficulty of a dynamic task will almost always be the total of the opponents die roll.

11.1.3   Modifiers

It's easy to add bonuses and penalties to d6 rolls, and there are numerous ways to do it. For Fate, bonuses and penalties are applied as "Bonus Dice" and "Penalty Dice"; for instance, a "+1" modifier becomes one bonus die, while a "-1" modifier becomes one penalty die. Bonus dice are added to the total number of dice rolled, but do not change the number of dice counted. This means that if a player is rolling 3 dice, and gets two bonus dice, they would roll 5 dice, but only count the best 3. Penalty dice work the same way, except the player must count the worst dice. Bonus dice and penalty dice cancel out, so a player should never be rolling both at once.

Modifiers can be applied for a number of reasons. Low quality tools or a lack of tools might add a penalty die (or dice) while having high quality tools may grant a bonus. Similarly, doing a task quickly might cause a penalty, while taking the time to be careful might grant a bonus. Distractions might be penalties, while extra resources on hand may provide bonuses.

11.1.4   D6 Aspects

Aspects are maybe used in Fated6 to do one of 2 things:

  1. Turn a single d6 into a 5


  2. Reroll all dice

It's important to note that all dice are considered to be on the table for purposes of bonuses and penalties. Thus, if a character with an Average skill rolls with a penalty die rolls 2,2,4, he can check off an aspect to turn the 2 into a 5 to make the result 2,4,5, but he will still need to chose the two worst dice (the 3 and 4). Mind you, in this case, invoking the aspect has changed a result of 4 into a 6, enough to make a difference in many circumstances.

11.1.5   D6 Fate Points

In addition to the dramatic uses of fate points, the mechanical benefit is to add 1 more die to a roll. While auctions are an option, no more than 1 fate die can apply to any single roll.

12   Constructing Organizations with Fate

Organizations are built in much the same way that characters are, with both aspects and skills, albeit from somewhat different lists. While it is possible to build organizations in a phased manner, unless multiple organizations are being created at the same time (such as for a conspiracy game, see below) there is little real reason to do so. GMs are encouraged to make use of the pyramid cheat sheet.

Organizations should be built on the model of 1 aspect per 4 skills, though "freebie" aspects may be appropriate.

12.1   Organization Aspects

As with characters, aspects reflect the nature of the organization. It should be possible for someone to read the list of aspects and get a sense of the nature of the organization. As such, organization's aspects should usually encompass the scope and nature of the organization.

The scope of the organization can encompass a number of elements, like the size of the membership or how far-reaching the organization may be. Scope is not synonymous with influence, that's covered by skills, but it is complementary. Scope is rarely measured precisely, but as a rule of thumb it correlates with how many areas of influence (see the influence skill, below) the organization extends to on a roughly 1/1 basis. Scope also sets the default difficulty for many internal activities, especially of an administrative nature. If cope is not clearly implicit in the aspect, assume it to be equal to the highest ranking aspect.

Other aspects should give insight into the nature of the organization, and are things like Sub-Genius, Criminal or Mercantile. These aspects should give a sense of the sort of activities the organization pursues, or what manner of philosophy it follows.

These are not the only aspects an organization may have, but they are the most common. Other aspect may reinforce skills ("Conspiracy" or "Rich") or may be something else entirely.

12.2   Organization Skills

Skills measure those things the organization can do, such as exercising influence or drawing upon resources. While there are only a few skill types that an organization may take, they are much like knowledge skills in that they may be taken multiple times to specify the area of use (So an organization might have Influence: England and Influence: France).

Organization skills have very specific uses, and as such cannot be freely substituted for each other. As such, if an organization has a great deal of influence, and wants to use that influence to secure resources, that should be represented by a resources skill (or can default to mediocre).

In general, organizations are bound to the same rules regarding the skill pyramid that characters are, though the GM may grant exceptions for special cases.

The usual skills for organizations are as follows:

Control (Region)
This represents how much overt control the organization holds over a given area, usually in the form of institutionalized rule.
Sway (Region)
Sway represents non-institutional power over a given area, be it due to respect, fear or any other appropriate motivator. Like control, sway is obvious, and it does much which control does. However, it is less effective than true control, and as such it is at a -1 to all actions.
Influence (Region)
This represents how much secret sway the organization has. Practically speaking, this works in the same way sway does (albeit at -2 from control), but unlike sway (which is obvious) there is no obvious tie back to the organization.
Information (Region)
This skill represents knowledge of current events in appropriate areas, and is most appropriate for organizations with decent intelligence and espionage arms.
Arms (type)
Many organizations have access to a number of rough and ready individuals willing to do (or prevent) harm on command. Because these rules are for organizations (rather than nations), the main differentiation is one of quality. A given arms score represents one military aspect of an organization, so if an organization has more than one military arm, more than one skill is appropriate.
Resources (type)
The type is usually money, but sometimes an organization has a great deal of some other sort of resource, like a trade commodity or a particular type of service.
This measures how unified the organization is with higher unity meaning less internal strife. High Unity organizations tend to be more stable.
The larger an organization is, the more of its resources it needs to commit to keeping itself in order, and this skill measures how effectively that's done.
The other side of the coin is communication, which is a measure of how effectively a message may be communicated within the organization. For a small organization, this skill may be entirely irrelevant, but for a large organization, it can be critical. This skill is also highly complementary to high information skills.

12.2.1   Special Skills

Many organizations will have at least one special skill which represents something peculiar which that organization does which others may not. These special skills could be almost anything, depending on the nature of the setting and the organization, but some of the more common types include:

The organization has access to some manner of arcane arts, be it the blessings of the priests or ties to ancient secrets. This generally means the organization has access to spellcasters of some stripe or another, and the skill represents their quality and type. Much like arms, if the organization has access to multiple types, multiple skills are appropriate.
The ability to quietly make people dead. Naturally, this is illegal pretty much everywhere, and had best be accompanied a great deal of secrecy.
This is a measure of how hard it is to find things out about the organization and (at higher levels) whether or not the organization exists at all. Whether this secrecy is an intentional conspiracy or merely the result of extreme obscurity can be determined at creation.
The opposite of secrecy, this is the public face of an organization insofar as it may deviate from the reality. Most organizations have an implicit reputation based upon their aspects and activities, but it is possible to put on a "false face", represented by this skill.
The organization has access to a large body of knowledge of some sort (as with arms: multiple lores mean multiple skills), and it's generally implicit that this is knowledge that may be hard to come by under other circumstances.

12.3   Holdings

It is also possible for an organization to spend skill points on holdings, such as safe houses or strongholds. The rules for these are similar to the rules for items, with each skill ranks translating into some sort of quality for the holding. Possible qualities include:

The holding is protected in some way.
The holding is difficult to find.
The holding is far from civilization.
The holding is impressive to behold
The holding is extensive
The holding is magical in some way. This may be useful (it's a node of power) or decorative (it floats over a volcano's caldera). In general, if the magic provides some additional benefit (like defensibility), other qualities should be purchased

Creating an Organization

The Church of Saint Agnes (CSA) is a small militant order within the Quintarian church, dedicated to a warrior-priestess who martyred herself to protect a cloister of monks. CSA followers generally make themselves available to Quintarian priests traveling to dangerous destinations.

The CSA is a very minor sect, so they're being built with only 3 aspects. Because they're a sect of a larger church with no real influence of their own, scope aspects don't seem appropriate. Instead, 2 aspects of "Quintarian" represent their tie to the mother church, while a single aspect of "Militant" reflects their flavor.

A quick look at the aspect cheat sheet says that's 5 Averages, 2 Fairs and a Good. Because the pyramid only technically needs 3 Averages, that means 2 ranks could be put into holdings without breaking the pyramid. With that in mind:

The Good obviously goes into Arms to represent the Templars of the church.

They're fairly well organized and well funded (it's a popular charity for soldiers) so Administration and Resources (Money) are Fair.

At Average are Sway: Beve, Communication, and the special Skill "Charity", which represents the good works (and subsequent good will received) the church pursues.

The two remaining ranks are spent on chapterhouses in the Cities of Beve and Anas, with Beve being their main house (Thus the Sway).

The final write up looks like:

Quintarian:❏ ❏
Arms (Templars):Good
Resources (Money):Fair
Sway (Beve):Average
Chapterhouse (Beve):❏ (Fortified)
Chapterhouse (Anas):❏ (Fortified)

12.4   Using Organizations

Once play has begun, there are several benefits to having stats for organizations. It provides a good baseline for what various organizations may know and what their interests are. It also provides an excellent shorthand for dealing with NPCs from that organization. If the Knights of Anton have Arms (Knights) at Good, then Joe Nameless Knight can probably be considered to have a "Good" in appropriate military skills.

Additionally, it provides a nicely abstracted way for organizations to come into conflict with one another and to resolve it with a minimum of headache. How likely are Walsingham's spies (Information (France): Good) to find out about John Ballard's Jesuit Conspiracy (Secrecy: Fair) to assassinate the queen? Easily determined!

For games which use an "off season", organization statistics can also be used to represent and resolve longer term conflicts. Organizations may even have their own wound track for GMs wishing to concentrate on this element.

12.5   The Conspiracy Game

One interesting option for using this system is as a preamble to another game. Allow each player to construct an organization in a phased fashion, and allow the interactions of the organizations and the choices of the players establish some of the backdrop of the setting. The play of this is simple enough, but a few complications can spice it up:

  1. Disallow player from making subsequent characters with membership in the organization they created.
  2. At the end of each phase, have each player secretly write the name of the organizations closest ally or greatest enemy among the group. The GM looks at these secretly, and whenever there is a match up (including enemy to ally!) add an aspect to each organization called "Connection to <name>". This means the two groups compliment each other well, but are also vulnerable to each other. After all, in a conspiracy game, what is an ally except an enemy who has not yet shown his stripes?

12.6   Sample Organizations

12.6.1   The Amazing Vinka's Traveling Circus

The circus is one of the most popular shows in the kingdom, but it also has a secret. A mysterious patron provides the circus with much of its resources, and in return uses it as a personal group of spies an infiltrators throughout the kingdom.

The Circus is a 4 Phase organization.

Traveling Circus:❏ ❏
Reputation (Circus):Fair
Resources (Patron):Fair
Arms (Roustabouts):Average
The Circus has 2 special skills, Espionage and Entertain. Espionage works as a targeted Information skill - they can act as if they have an information skill at that level wherever they are physically located. Entertain represents how well they (as a whole) put on a show.

12.6.2   The Star Rangers

The Star Rangers are the law enforcement arm of the Galactic Empire. Their Blue spacesuits and blasto-pistols are recognized throughout the Galaxy and feared by all those who would do wrong! Of course, they are also consistently under funded, outnumbered and outgunned, but all the same, the Rangers always get their man!

The Rangers are an 8 phase organization, and the Galactic empire consists of 5 main regions: The Core, The Rim, The Corporate Zone, Wildspace and the Starbelt.

Galactic Law Enforcement:❏ ❏ ❏ ❏ ❏
"Always Get Their Man":❏ ❏
Arms (Rangers):Great
Information (Core):Good
Information (Corporate):Good
Information (Starbelt):Good
Resources (Ships):Fair
Information (Rim):Fair
Control (Rim):Average
Sway (Core):Average
Sway (Starbelt):Average
Resources (Money):Average
Information (Wildspace):Average
Carrier Group Roland:❏ ❏ (Mobile, Fortified)
The rangers have no fixed base, operating instead out of this mobile force, allowing them to deploy to the 6 corners of the galaxy when the need arises.

13   Open Game License


The following text is the property of Wizards of the Coast, Inc. and is Copyright 2000 Wizards of the Coast, Inc ("Wizards"). All Rights Reserved.

  1. Definitions: (a)"Contributors" means the copyright and/or trademark owners who have contributed Open Game Content; (b)"Derivative Material" means copyrighted material including derivative works and translations (including into other computer languages), potation, modification, correction, addition, extension, upgrade, improvement, compilation, abridgment or other form in which an existing work may be recast, transformed or adapted; (c) "Distribute" means to reproduce, license, rent, lease, sell, broadcast, publicly display, transmit or otherwise distribute; (d)"Open Game Content" means the game mechanic and includes the methods, procedures, processes and routines to the extent such content does not embody the Product Identity and is an enhancement over the prior art and any additional content clearly identified as Open Game Content by the Contributor, and means any work covered by this License, including translations and derivative works under copyright law, but specifically excludes Product Identity. (e) "Product Identity" means product and product line names, logos and identifying marks including trade dress; artifacts; creatures characters; stories, storylines, plots, thematic elements, dialogue, incidents, language, artwork, symbols, designs, depictions, likenesses, formats, poses, concepts, themes and graphic, photographic and other visual or audio representations; names and descriptions of characters, spells, enchantments, personalities, teams, personas, likenesses and special abilities; places, locations, environments, creatures, equipment, magical or supernatural abilities or effects, logos, symbols, or graphic designs; and any other trademark or registered trademark clearly identified as Product identity by the owner of the Product Identity, and which specifically excludes the Open Game Content; (f) "Trademark" means the logos, names, mark, sign, motto, designs that are used by a Contributor to identify itself or its products or the associated products contributed to the Open Game License by the Contributor (g) "Use", "Used" or "Using" means to use, Distribute, copy, edit, format, modify, translate and otherwise create Derivative Material of Open Game Content. (h) "You" or "Your" means the licensee in terms of this agreement.
  2. The License: This License applies to any Open Game Content that contains a notice indicating that the Open Game Content may only be Used under and in terms of this License. You must affix such a notice to any Open Game Content that you Use. No terms may be added to or subtracted from this License except as described by the License itself. No other terms or conditions may be applied to any Open Game Content distributed using this License.
  3. Offer and Acceptance: By Using the Open Game Content You indicate Your acceptance of the terms of this License.
  4. Grant and Consideration: In consideration for agreeing to use this License, the Contributors grant You a perpetual, worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive license with the exact terms of this License to Use, the Open Game Content.
  5. Representation of Authority to Contribute: If You are contributing original material as Open Game Content, You represent that Your Contributions are Your original creation and/or You have sufficient rights to grant the rights conveyed by this License.
  6. Notice of License Copyright: You must update the COPYRIGHT NOTICE portion of this License to include the exact text of the COPYRIGHT NOTICE of any Open Game Content You are copying, modifying or distributing, and You must add the title, the copyright date, and the copyright holder's name to the COPYRIGHT NOTICE of any original Open Game Content you Distribute.
  7. Use of Product Identity: You agree not to Use any Product Identity, including as an indication as to compatibility, except as expressly licensed in another, independent Agreement with the owner of each element of that Product Identity. You agree not to indicate compatibility or co-adaptability with any Trademark or Registered Trademark in conjunction with a work containing Open Game Content except as expressly licensed in another, independent Agreement with the owner of such Trademark or Registered Trademark. The use of any Product Identity in Open Game Content does not constitute a challenge to the ownership of that Product Identity. The owner of any Product Identity used in Open Game Content shall retain all rights, title and interest in and to that Product Identity.
  8. Identification: If you distribute Open Game Content You must clearly indicate which portions of the work that you are distributing are Open Game Content.
  9. Updating the License: Wizards or its designated Agents may publish updated versions of this License. You may use any authorized version of this License to copy, modify and distribute any Open Game Content originally distributed under any version of this License.
  10. Copy of this License: You MUST include a copy of this License with every copy of the Open Game Content You Distribute.
  11. Use of Contributor Credits: You may not market or advertise the Open Game Content using the name of any Contributor unless You have written permission from the Contributor to do so.
  12. Inability to Comply: If it is impossible for You to comply with any of the terms of this License with respect to some or all of the Open Game Content due to statute, judicial order, or governmental regulation then You may not Use any Open Game Material so affected.
  13. Termination: This License will terminate automatically if You fail to comply with all terms herein and fail to cure such breach within 30 days of becoming aware of the breach. All sublicenses shall survive the termination of this License.
  14. Reformation: If any provision of this License is held to be unenforceable, such provision shall be reformed only to the extent necessary to make it enforceable.

Open Game License v 1.0 Copyright 2000, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.

Fudge System 1995 version copyright 1992-1995 by Steffan O'Sullivan, copyright 2005 by Grey Ghost Press, Inc.; Author Steffan O'Sullivan.

FATE (Fantastic Adventures in Tabletop Entertainment) copyright 2003 by Evil Hat Productions; Authors Robert Donoghue and Fred Hicks