What sort of world would you like to play in this week? What role would you play in that world? The Fate Core System has no limitations regarding setting, it’s simple, plug-and-play mechanics allow you to play a noir-style private eye or a wily space corsair, so long as fits into the story your Game Master (GM) and fellow players wish to tell. Our group just finished a Fate two-shot set in the post-apocalyptic “Hundred Acre Wasteland”. All of us played as sentient toys forced to exist in a world where honey is a rare, valuable commodity being hoarded by a certain silly ol’ bear, the “Dire Pooh”. It was glorious.
As with all tabletop RPG’s, sharing an important past event with at least one other player character in the party can really help cement your character’s place and motivation within the cooperative story. In Fate, this element is baked into the core rules to ensure that player characters are immersed actors in their own story curated by the GM.
Fate Points & Refresh Rate:
Player characters normally start with two refresh as well as two Fate points. A character’s refresh correlates directly with how much punishment, in the form of consequences, they can take. Fate points are used as in-game currency, so to speak. A player may have a stunt that requires spending a Fate point to invoke, or they may choose to spend a Fate point to declare a story element as the GM sets the scene. A GM may reward Fate points to a player for playing their character well, or more commonly by invoking their character’s Trouble Aspect to further the story.
Fate at its core is a heavily story-focused system, lighter on the mechanical depth offered by some other popular RPG systems. Fate characters use two unique, player-made “Aspects” to define player characters: a “High Concept”, and “Trouble”. A character’s High Concept is normally a brief sentence or phrase that defines and motivates them. A character’s “Trouble” is normally a character flaw that the GM can invoke at any time to compel the story in one way or another.
For example, a character with a High Concept, “Intrepid archaeologist in search of lost artifacts” with a Trouble, “Fear of snakes” would work beautifully in a tomb-raiding type adventure, and might provide the GM with the inspiration to make the tomb in their story serpent themed. Alternatively, the GM might feel that “Fear of snakes” would be difficult to incorporate into the story, so they could suggest the archaeologist take the Trouble “It belongs in a museum!” in hopes of creating a bit of discord with the “Sleazy, for-profit grave robber” in the party.
There are eighteen “Skills” that reflect the actions that are normally taken to overcome obstacles and complete tasks throughout your story. Upon creation, each character is allotted ten total skills that apply anywhere from a plus one to a plus four modifier to your skill checks (called “Overcome Rolls” in Fate) with those particular skills. Our archaeologist will come away from creation with:
Four average skills that receive a plus one to all overcome rolls (Deceive, Physique, Stealth, and Investigate)
Three fair skills that receive a plus two to all overcome rolls (Fight, Shoot, and Athletics)
Two good skills that receive a plus three to all overcome rolls (Drive and Lore)
One great skill, that receives a plus four to all overcome rolls (Burglary)
At all other skills our character is considered “Mediocre”, so they get no bonus to overcome rolls using them.
Fate Dice: How do they work?
To play Fate, you will need a set of four six sided Fate dice with two faces bearing plus signs, two with minus signs, and two blank, “neutral” sides. To roll an overcome action, a player will roll all four Fate dice and calculate the roll, adding the result to the modifier their character has in that skill.
For example, our archaeologist is in a car chase and is attempting to keep his box truck from careening off of the side of a mountain while taking a sharp curve. He rolls his four Fate dice, against a Drive overcome of “Good (+3)” set by the GM. His results are two blanks (+0 to the roll), one plus sign (+1 to the roll) and one minus sign (-1 to the roll). Because all of the dice happen to equal zero, our character must rely on his Drive skill, which happens to be a “Good (+3)”, just enough for him to maintain his lane and keep his truck on course.
Stunts are a character’s special abilities, which allows them to “break the rules” so to speak, and specialize with a handful of situational, but often quite powerful actions called “Stunts.” Our archaeologist has three stunts created especially for him:
“Shoots first”- When invoked, this stunt will allow you to roll a Shoot overcome for initiative (rather than the usual Notice overcome), so long as he fires a shot from his revolver as his first attack of the combat.
“Where there’s a whip”- Invoke by spending a Fate point to create an advantage to any plausible overcome action.
“Tomb delver”- May use your Burglary skill to sense and avoid primitive traps and hazards.
Now that we’ve made our character, what do you need to play a game of Fate? One necessary component is a stack of index cards, to keep up with Fate’s situation aspects that often change from scene to scene. Next you’ll need a set of four Fate dice per player, which are available in the form of pencil Fate dice (yes, pencil Fate dice) and, if you want to get really serious about the Fate system, Norse Foundry also has delightfully weighty metal Fate dice, comprised of a zinc alloy. I also recommend grabbing a copy of the Fate Core System, it is a compact hardback published by Evil Hat Productions with much more complete set of rules than I am able to provide here. For those who wish to run a game but don’t have time to prepare, there are two, maybe even more fully written Fate modules complete with randomizable dungeons in the form of a different decks of card each, which will provide you with virtually limitless dungeon maps after you’ve played your group through all of the modules, which will take many sessions unto itself.
Now tell your story!
In what setting will your first game of Fate’s adventure unfurl? There are no limits here, so long as each person at the table has some touchstone to be able to place their character into that world. I hope this article piques your interest, prompting you to gather your party and set forth into an RPG system with nearly limitless storytelling potential. Happy questing!