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RPM:Rules/Game Rules

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Fate is a game with many dials and preferences. This page will track ours.

Character-related Rules

Characters & Advancement

Rules that relate directly to creating or updating characters is on the Character Creation page.

Conflict-related Rules


We will be using Popcorn initiative, aka Elective Action Order, Balsera Initiative, etc. When a scene calls for an initiative order the most logical person goes first as determined by the GM. This is most often a player, though not always. After that character's (or group of opponents such as goblins or thugs) turn, that player then chooses who goes after them, either another player or an opponent. Everyone gets a turn before moving on to another round.

Further reading: http://www.deadlyfredly.com/2012/02/marvel/

Quick Conflicts

Sometimes a conflict is called for that either doesn't warrant the full scale of a conflict or one side has an edge over the other in such a way as to make the conflict quick. For these situations we will use Quick Conflicts.

The aggressor makes an Attack action with an attack skill, e.g. Fight, Shoot, Provoke, which sets the difficulty for the defending player. The defending player takes an Overcome action with an appropriate skill to defend (and yes, you may succeed at a cost). If the defending player fails they are taken out.

Source: Modified from the Physique rules in Romance is in the Air, p22.

Weapon and Armor Ratings

Several of the entries in this section refer to Weapon and Armor ratings. You can use them in grittier games as a blanket assumption rather than relegating them to extras, if it’s appropriate—getting hit by a weapon will damage you more, and having armor keeps that from happening.

A Weapon value adds to the shift value of a successful hit. So, if you have Weapon:2, it means that any hit is worth 2 more shifts than it would normally be. This counts for ties, so when you’re using a weapon, you inflict stress on a tie instead of getting a boost. That makes weapons very dangerous.

An Armor value reduces the shifts of a successful hit. So, Armor:2 makes any hit worth 2 less than usual. If you hit, but the target’s Armor reduces the shift value to 0 or below, you get a boost to use on your target but don’t do any harm.

It is recommended setting a scale for Weapon damage from 1 to 4, keeping in mind that on a tie, a Weapon:4 hit will take out four Average nameless NPCs. Then set your Armor ratings based on what you think you’d need to fully protect against the weapons on each level.

Source: Fate Core, Weapons and Armor Ratings.


When two entities enter into a conflict with one another and the narrative calls for it, the differences in their scale come into play. For every step that separates them, apply one or both of the following effects to the larger of the two:

  • +1 to the attack roll or +1 to the defense roll
  • Deal +2 shifts of harm on a successful attack or reduce incoming harm by 2

How to apply these effects depends on what makes sense in context.

If the Hatchet Gang (scale: Local) stages a daring raid against the Benevolent Association of Celestial Wanderers (scale: Regional), the Hatchet Gang will have a harder time of it, in terms of resources and personnel, against the better funded Association. It’s reasonable to give the Association a +1 bonus to its defensive Fighting roll.

Of course, if the conflict is between two entities of roughly equivalent size or scale, then none of these effects applies. They only come into play when the scale is unequal.

Source: Fate System Toolkit, Scale.


Compel Refusal

Buying out of a compel should create story, just as accepting and negotiation does. Refusing a compel could mean your character shows fortitude in the face of temptation, struggles with a dramatic choice, etc.

When you buy out of a compel with a Fate point, the act of spending that Fate point does one of two things: it either creates a situational aspect relating to the refusal (which has a free invoke), or it puts a free invoke on an existing aspect. That aspect naturally relates to a relevant story element. That way, you still get a die roll benefit from the fate point expenditure; you’re just pushed into a situation where you had to spend your fate point now rather than later.

If you’re buying out of a compel because the GM is presenting something uninteresting, talk about that instead. That falls under “negotiate.”

Source Revisiting Fate Compel Refusal by Ryan Macklin

Missing PC Aspects

Even the most regular of tabletop gaming groups has absences from time-to-time and there are many ways to handle it.

Personally as a GM, I generally just wave my hand and say, “Oh well, they missed out on this awesome adventure” and the players continue on as if that character hadn’t just mysteriously disappeared. And more often that not this is the easiest and preferred method to deal with it.

But what if that missing player character was central to the challenges for that night’s adventure? If the rogue has to stay at home with a sick kid, is it fair the rest of the party suffers poison arrows and pit traps while they explore the dungeon?

To help keep the game balanced, if a missing character is needed for the adventure in my Fate game I solve this by writing a Missing PC Aspect.

This aspect is then added to game aspects that all of the PCs have access to. This means that the players can use this aspect to help accomplish things that they rely on the missing PC for. Let’s see an example of this in action:

In the modern day wizarding campaign, Becca is a computer science major in addition to being a capable but angry pyrokinetic however the player has to stay home and tend to a sick kid on game night. Since the adventure the GM wrote calls for some serious hacking, the GM writes up Becca as a Missing PC Aspect. Becca is "Distracted by Boyfriend Problems" is written on an index card and put on the table.

Using this technique, the players can still depend on the character for help with challenges. For example:

James the alchemist attempts to bypass the mansion’s security system with a Computers roll but he comes up short on the roll getting a +1 against a +2 difficulty. His player chips in a Fate point and says “Becca pushes me out of the way roughly, saying ‘Let me do this!’”. Thus James succeeds on his Computers roll with a +3 to overcome the security system.

As a GM, my advice is to write up a Missing PC Aspect in a way that gives a reason that the PC isn’t as involved while also giving yourself a chance to compel it. For example:

Brick, the football team’s quarterback, is trying to sneak past the Guardgoyle and into the mansion’s garage to steal a getaway car. The GM holds up a Fate point saying, “Becca just got a text from her boyfriend saying ‘We need to talk...’ and she flies into a rage, lighting the bushes around the two of you on fire. Do you accept the compel?”

Source: Thoughts on Fate, by Randy Oest