Fate Adversary Toolkit
The defining quality of enemies is that they can be attacked and taken out. By contrast, the defining quality of obstacles is that they cannot. Obstacles make scenes demonstrably more difficult on the PCs, but the PCs cannot simply fight them. Obstacles must be circumvented, endured, or rendered irrelevant.
While most obstacles are features of the environment, some might be characters that can’t be taken out using conventional methods. The dragon might be a boss, but it might just as easily be a hazard obstacle. The animate statue keeping you from getting to the evil wizard might be a threat, but it could also be a block or a distraction. It all depends on the adversary’s function in the scene, and how PCs must deal with it.
In general, obstacles don’t appear in every scene. They serve to accent enemies in the scene, to make them more threatening or memorable, but overuse of obstacles can be frustrating to the PCs, particularly those focused on combat. You canuse them to give less combative PCs something to do during a fight, though.
There are three types of obstacles: hazards, blocks, and distractions.
If an obstacle can attack the PCs, it’s a hazard. Fire jets, rolling boulders, or a sniper too far away to be dealt with directly—they’re all hazards. Every hazard has a name, a skill rating, and a Weapon rating of 1 to 4.
The hazard’s name is both a skill and an aspect; that is, the name defines what the hazard can do, and its skill rating defines how good it is at doing that, but the name can also be invoked or compelled like any aspect. Generally speaking, a hazard’s skill rating should be at least as high as the PCs’ highest skill rating, if not a little bit higher.
Here are some examples:
Great (+4) Machine-Gun Turret, Weapon:3; Fantastic (+6) Whirling Spike Apparatus, Weapon:2; Superb (+5) Distant Sniper, Weapon:4
A hazard acts in the initiative just like the PCs and their enemies do. If your rules require everyone to roll for initiative, hazards will roll with their rating.
On its turn each exchange, a hazard acts as implied by its name, and rolls with its rating. If it attacks and succeeds, add its Weapon rating to its shifts. Hazards can attack or create advantages; they can’t be attacked, and they don’t overcome obstacles.
If a player wants to overcome or create an advantage against a hazard, they’ll face passive opposition equal to the hazard’s rating.
Joan is near the window, and there’s a Distant Sniper out there, a hazard with a Superb (+5) rating and Weapon:4. At the beginning of the conflict, the sniper used its Superb (+5) rating to determine its initiative. Now that it has a chance to act, it attacks Joan, rolling an Epic (+6) result! That’s a tough attack to defend against, and if Joan can’t, the sniper’s Weapon:4 will deal a lot of stress to her.
Which Weapon Rating?
Which Weapon rating you choose depends on how lethal you want to make your hazard. A hazard with a very high skill rating and a very high Weapon rating will likely take out a PC or two. You could also make a hazard with a lower skill rating but a high Weapon rating, making for something that doesn’t hit often but hits hard when it does. Reversing that makes for a hazard that hits frequently but doesn’t do much damage—more of a nuisance than a hazard, but that might be what you want.
Hazards, like enemies, can attack the PCs, and they’re very simple to run, so you might be tempted to use them often. This isn’t necessarily a bad instinct, but keep this in mind: hazards can’t be attacked or taken out like enemies can. This might mean that the hazard stays in play for the entire scene, continually causing the PCs stress that they can’t mitigate effectively. There are a few ways you can offset this, should you wish to.
First, you could make a hazard situational. The Machine-Gun Turret will attack, but only when the PCs are in the hallway. The Lone Sniper will try to pick people off, but there’s a lot of cover that can confound her sight lines. Giving the PCs actions they can take to avoid being attacked by hazards can make for interesting, complex tactical scenes, particularly when the PCs must leavetheir safe spots in order to accomplish their goals. Difficult decisions can be a lot of fun.
Second, you could let the PCs overcome a hazard. Maybe they can shut off the Machine-Gun Turret by getting to the control panel. Perhaps that Whirling Spike Apparatuswill stop whirling if they jam a giant piece of metal in it. To disable a hazard, you must first take a risk, putting yourself (or someone else) in some kind of danger, and then roll an overcome action against passive opposition equal to the hazard’s rating. So, you have to run down the hallway guarded by the machine guns in order to get to the control panel you can use to shut them off, or you have to get dangerously close to the whirling spikes in order to jam the hunk of metal into the apparatus.
Third, you could let the PCs turn a hazard into an enemy under the right circumstances. This requires a risk, and often requires time or an overcome roll. Maybe the PCs just really want to blow up that Machine-Gun Turret, but the turret is behind a metal shield. Hacking a console to disable the shield—a console that’s in the hallway it’s firing on—could transform the machine gun from hazard into threat, letting the PCs attack it. If a PC is willing to run right at that Distant Sniper, spending an exchange and drawing her fire, he could actually attack her in single combat, as a hitter rather than a hazard. This is similar to simply disabling a hazard, but requires the PCs to take an extra step. It can be more exciting, but it takes more time and effort on the PCs’ part.
Where hazards exist to hurt the PCs, blocks prevent them from doing things they want to do. Blocks can cause stress, though they don’t always. The chief difference between blocks and hazards is that blocks don’t take actions, while hazards do. Blocks provide passive opposition in certain circumstances, and can threaten or cause harm if not heeded.
Like hazards, blocks have a name and a skill rating, and the name is both a skill and an aspect. Unlike hazards, a block’s skill rating shouldn’t be much higher than one step above the PCs’ highest skill rating; otherwise, things can get frustrating quickly. A block can have a Weapon rating as high as 4, but it doesn’t need to have one. Here are some examples:
Fair (+2) Chain Link Fence; Good (+3) Vat of Acid, Weapon:4; Great (+4) Animate Statue, Weapon:1
Blocks only come into play under specific circumstances. A Vat of Acid only matters when someone tries to cross it or gets thrown into it. A Chain Link Fence only affects someone who tries to get past it. The Animate Statue only prevents entry into a specific room.
Blocks don’t attack and don’t have a turn in the initiative order. Instead, whenever a block would interfere with someone’s action, they’ll have to roll against the block’s rating as passive opposition. If the block can’t cause harm, like if it’s a Chain Link Fence, it simply prevents the PC from taking the action they wanted to. If it can cause harm—like if it’s a Vat of Acid—and the PC fails to overcome the block, the PC takes a hit as if the block attacked the PC, and the PC failed to defend by the same margin by which it failed to overcome the block.
Also, characters can try to force someone into a block as an attack. If you do this, you’ll roll to attack as normal, but add a Weapon rating equal to half the block’s Weapon rating (rounded down, minimum 1). So, anyone trying to cross the Vat of Acidwould need to beat Good (+3) opposition. If someone tried to force you into the acid, they’d attack you with Physique and, if they succeeded, add Weapon:2.
Finally, some blocks can be used as cover or as armor. This is situational—for some blocks, it simply won’t make sense. You can’t hide behind a Vat of Acid, and a Chain Link Fence won’t stop a bullet. But that Chain Link Fence is effective protection against a baseball bat, probably preventing the attack altogether. And if the evil wizard is hiding behind the Animate Statue, it might soak up some damage.
When someone’s using a block as cover, decide whether it mitigates or negates the attack. If it negates it, the attack simply isn’t possible. If it mitigates it, the defender gets an Armor rating equal to half the block’s skill rating (rounded down, minimum 1). So, if the evil wizard used the Animate Statue as cover, he’d get Armor:2.
Blocks make it harder for PCs to take certain actions, so they can be frustrating if you overuse them. But they can also force the PCs to think creatively, or even to figure out how to use the blocks to their advantage.
Use blocks sparingly; in many cases, you’ll want to use a threat or two instead. That said, sometimes a block is exactly what you want, and they’re pretty simple to use. If your players are getting frustrated with a particular block, you can give them the option to disable it somehow.
To disable a block, removing it from the scene, you must take a risk, putting yourself (or someone else) in danger, and make an overcome roll. The overcome roll is against passive opposition rated two steps higher than the block’s rating.
Hailey wants to remove the threat of falling into the Good (+3) Vat of Acid, so she decides to try to drop the vat’s lid down on it. “You’re going to have scramble over the vat to get to the lid,” says the GM. “Give me a Superb (+5) Athletics roll. If you fail, you’re going to fall in.” Josh is facing down a Great (+4) Animate Statue, an enemy he can’t seem to damage but that has no problem attacking him. He needs to get rid of it. He knows that etching a rune in the statue’s forehead might disable it, but to do that he needs to get pretty close. “Okay,” says the GM. “Give me a Fantastic (+6) Fight roll to get close enough to etch the rune without getting clobbered.”
Where hazards attack the PCs directly and blocks prevent them from taking certain actions, distractions force the PCs to figure out their priorities. Of the obstacles, distractions are often the least mechanically defined. They also don’t necessarily make the scene mechanically harder. Rather, they present the PCs with difficult decisions.
Here are the distraction’s parts:
- A distraction’s name is a brief, punchy representation of what it is. It can be an aspect, if you need or want it to be.
- A distraction’s choice is a simple question that codifies the decision it gives to the PCs.
- A distraction’s repercussion is what happens to the PCs if they don’t deal with the distraction. Some distractions might have multiple repercussions.
- A distraction’s opposition is its passive opposition against PCs rolling to deal with it. Not every distraction needs to provide opposition.
Here are some examples:
Choice: Do you deal with the enemies attacking you, or do you stop the ritual?
Repercussion: The cultists complete the ritual and summon the vile demon.
Bus Full of Civilians
Opposition: Good (+3)
Choice: Will the bus plunge off the bridge?
Repercussion (leave them): All of the civilians on the bus die.
Repercussion (save them): The villain gets away!
The Glittering Gem
Choice: Will you take the gem from the pedestal?
Repercussion (leave the gem): You don’t get the gem, which is incredibly valuable.
Repercussion (take the gem): You activate the traps in the temple.
Distractions are a great way to put more pressure on a scene. If you’re afraid the PCs will deal handily with a fight you’ve got in store, adding a distraction or two can force them to decide whether it’s more important to trounce the bad guys or deal with the distractions.
Dealing with a distraction should always have a clear benefit or, failing that, not dealing with a distraction should always have a clear consequence. That said, you don’t have to let them know about any negative outcomes of dealing with the distraction.