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Fate Adversary Toolkit

Types of Adversaries

As we talk about adversaries in this book, keep in mind the Fate Fractal: everything is a character. An adversary is not necessarily a person, monster, or other kind of creature you can punch. Rather, it’s a thing that exists to hinder, challenge, or oppose the players.

There are three main types of adversaries: enemies, obstacles, and constraints.

Enemies

Enemies are the goons, super-villains, giant robots, and hyper-intelligent ape warriors. This is the enemy’s defining characteristic: it can be fought directly, even if only under certain circumstances. Enemies have many of the same statistics as the PCs do: they have skills, they have at least one aspect, and the more important enemies have stunts, too. They can take stress, and some can take consequences.

There are four types of enemies: threats, hitters, bosses, and fillers.

  • Threats exist to soak up hits. They look big and dangerous, they get in the PCs’ faces, and they absorb both stress and attention. Threats have large stress tracks, and can usually absorb at least a mild consequence. Their skills tend to be defensive, and their stunts usually let them grab the PCs’ attention and hold it.
  • Hitters deal damage. They can’t take much punishment, but they hit really hard. Their peak skill is usually Fight, Shoot, or a setting-specific equivalent. Their stress tracks are small, and they can rarely absorb consequences. Their stunts focus on hurting the PCs.
  • Bosses are the lynchpins of an organization. You’ll typically include one or two at most in a conflict, and they’re often powerful. They have multiple high skills, can always absorb at least a mild consequence, and always have stunts. Their stunts’ uses depend on their purpose in the fight. Some might be built to deal damage, others to avoid attention.
  • Fillers are everyone else. These are paper people, enemies who exist as color, fragile minions who let the PCs look cool while taking them down. They never have consequences and rarely have a stress track with more than two boxes. They can act and be taken down as groups, don’t have stunts, and typically are good at only one thing.

Obstacles

Unlike enemies, obstacles can’t be attacked directly. Instead, they must be avoided, circumvented, or simply dealt with. They always have skills and aspects, and never have stunts, stress, or consequences. Obstacles can’t be punched into submission; they have to be endured or avoided.

There are three types of enemies: hazards, blocks, and distractions.

  • Hazards hurt the players or threaten to do so—fire jets, spinning fan blades, or bombs that might explode at any second. A hazard has a skill and an aspect that define its purpose.
  • Blocks get in the PCs’ way. They can do damage, but mostly they deny access. A steel door with a complex keypad, a sophisticated AI counter-hacking measure, a magical force field: all of these are blocks. A block has a skill and an aspect that define its purpose.
  • Distractions exist to make the PCs think about what they need to accomplish in a scene. Distractions give them a difficult choice: the villain is getting away, but there’s a bus full of innocent civilians about to go off the cliff! Distractions don’t always have stats. When they do, it’s typically just an aspect and passive opposition to roll against. Distractions are more about narrative challenge than mechanical challenge.

Constraints

While enemies and obstacles are distinct types of adversaries, constraints are modifiers of enemies and obstacles. By adding a constraint to an enemy or an obstacle, you’ll make it harder to deal with.

There are three types of constraints: countdowns, limitations, and resistances.

  • Countdowns create urgency. The bomb will blow in thirty seconds! The stagecoach will go off the cliff in two exchanges! The ritual will finish in one hour! You decide what unit of time you’ll use to create that urgency, but countdowns typically work in days, hours, minutes, or exchanges. The important thing is that there must be a consequence for the clock striking zero. It could be the arrival of more enemies or obstacles, someone’s death or transformation, or some sort of dramatic change to the status quo, making a new aspect.
  • Limitations prevent the PCs from taking certain actions. It’s not an out-and-out restriction, though; a PC should always be free to take the limited action if she wants to deal with the consequences of doing so. Maybe the PCs are fighting in a nuclear reactor, and firing off gunshots could be disastrous. Maybe the monster is actually a PC’s brother, transformed. Maybe the villain has a dead-man switch. Again, it’s all about consequence: if you engage in this action, this will happen.
  • Resistances make other adversaries hard to handle in a particular way. The dragon’s scales are impervious to mortal weaponry. The mob boss is protected by dirty cops. The bomb is so complex that disarming it using conventional means will almost certainly detonate it. Resistances force the PCs to vary their tactics, to come up with a Plan B. A really good resistance fuels the bulk of the session: because the dragon’s scales are immune to mortal weaponry, we must go on a quest to find the one sword that will hurt it.