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Fate Condensed

Optional Rules

These are a few optional or alternative rules you can decide to use in your game.

Conditions

Conditions are a substitute for consequences, and replace them entirely. Conditions serve two purposes: they take some of the pressure off of the players and GM to quickly figure out a correctly-worded aspect for an inflicted consequence, and they give you an opportunity to shape the nature of your game by pre-defining the ways lasting harm befalls characters.

The Fate Condensed version of conditions takes each consequence level and splits it into two conditions of half the value.

[1] Hurt (Mild) [1] Scared (Mild)
[2] Injured (Moderate) [2] Shaken (Moderate)
[3] Wounded (Severe) [3] Demoralized (Severe)

These correspond to physical and mental states—but just because you’ve taken a physical hit doesn’t mean you can’t also mark a mental condition, and vice-versa, so long as it makes sense. Attacks are traumatic!

Conditions are recovered just like consequences, based on their severity.

If you would gain an additional mild consequence, instead gain two more boxes on either Hurt or Scared, as appropriate.

Moving Conditions Further Apart

If you would prefer instead to keep physical and mental conditions separate, double the number of boxes on each. That said, there is a cutoff: if two boxes total are marked on either condition in a row, no more boxes may be marked on that row. So if you had one box (out of two) marked on Hurt and none on Scared, and then marked either the second Hurt box or first Scared box, you would no longer be able to mark any more boxes on that row.

If you would gain a mild consequence slot (from high Physique, Will, or a stunt), instead add two more boxes of Hurt or Scared as appropriate. These added boxes increase the cutoff threshold for that row, one for one.

Other Versions of Conditions

Several published Fate-based games use conditions instead of consequences. Feel free to adopt their implementation instead of this one if it better suits you. Each one achieves much the same purpose for the game: reducing pressure to figure out consequence aspects on the fly, and guiding the nature of the game by limiting the kinds of lasting harm characters can take.

Character Creation As You Play

If a player is comfortable making quick creative decisions in the moment, they may enjoy creating characters as they play rather than ahead of time. This mimics the way characters reveal themselves and develop in other media. It’s not for everyone, but for groups where the method clicks it can be a real crowd-pleaser.

With this method, characters start with only a name, high concept aspect, and highest skill—if that! As play progresses and they are called on to use an unrated skill, they can choose an empty slot and reveal their knowledge of it in the moment. Similarly, aspects and stunts can be filled in when the circumstances that call for them, right in the moment a fate point is spent or a bonus claimed.

Countdowns

A countdown adds urgency to an adversary or situation: deal with it now or things will get worse. Whether you’re talking about a ticking bomb, a ritual near completion, a bus teetering on the edge of a suspension bridge, or a soldier with a radio who’s about to call in reinforcements, countdowns force the PCs to act quickly or face a worse outcome.

Countdowns have three components: a countdown track, one or more triggers, and an outcome.

The countdown track looks a lot like a stress track: it’s a row of boxes that you mark from left to right. Every time you check off a box, the countdown gets closer to being over. The shorter the track, the faster their doom approaches.

A trigger is an event that marks a box on the countdown track. It can be as simple as “a minute/hour/day/exchange elapses” or as specific as “the villain takes a consequence or gets taken out.”

When you mark the last box, the countdown ends and the outcome happens, whatever it is.

GMs might wish to reveal the existence of a countdown track to players without telling them what it represents, at first, as a kind of foreshadowing and to turn up the feeling of tension in the story.

A countdown can have more than one trigger if you want; perhaps the countdown proceeds at a predictable pace until something happens that accelerates it. You could also give a different trigger to each box on the countdown track, if you want a specific series of events to set off the outcome.

Extreme Consequences

Extreme consequences introduce an optional fourth severity of consequence to your game: something that permanently, irrevocably changes a character.

Taking an extreme consequence reduces stress taken by 8. When taken, you must replace one of your character’s existing aspects (other than their high concept, which is off-limits) with an aspect that represents the profound change to the character resulting from the harm they’ve taken.

By default, there is no option to recover from an extreme consequence. It has become a part of the character now. At your next major milestone you may rename it to reflect how you’ve come to terms with it, but you can’t go back to the original aspect.

Between major milestones, a character may only use this option once.

Faster Contests

Some groups may feel contests involve too many attempts to create advantages per exchange. For those groups, try the following method: In each exchange of a contest, each participant may choose only one of these three options:

  • Make the overcome roll for their side (page XX).
  • Roll to create an advantage, but no teamwork bonus (page XX).
  • Provide their teamwork bonus to their side’s overcome roll or another’s attempt to create an advantage. Don’t roll.

Full Defense

Sometimes a player (or GM) may want their character to go all-in on using defend until their next turn, rather than taking an action on their turn. This is called full defense.

When declaring full defense, you must be clear about the focus of your efforts. By default, you are defending yourself (from attacks and efforts to create advantages on you), but you may wish to specify someone you’re protecting, or a defense against a particular group of aggressors, or a particular effort or outcome you wish to oppose.

While on full defense you get a +2 to all defend rolls relevant to your declared focus.

If nothing comes of it and you haven’t rolled to defend at all by the time your next turn comes around, you gain a boost (page XX) as you’ve gotten the opportunity to prepare for your next action. This offsets “losing a turn” because you focused your efforts on defending against something that didn’t happen at all.

Scale

Scale is an optional subsystem that you can use to represent supernatural beings which operate on a level beyond the general range of capabilities of most characters in your game. Usually you don’t need to worry about the impact of scale within your game. There may be times, however, where it’s desirable to present the characters with a threat bigger than they typically face—or an opportunity for the characters to punch outside their usual weight class.

As an example—you may wish to change the list to something more suitable to your setting—we’ll present you with five potential levels of scale: Mundane, Supernatural, Otherworldly, Legendary, and Godlike.

  • Mundane represents characters without access to supernatural power or technologies that would boost them beyond the capabilities of humans.
  • Supernatural represents characters who do have access to supernatural powers or technologies reaching beyond human capacity but who are still effectively human at the core.
  • Otherworldly represents unusual or unique characters whose powers set them apart from the normal concerns of humanity.
  • Legendary represents powerful spirits, entities, and alien beings to whom humanity is more of a curiosity than a threat.
  • Godlike represents the universe’s mightiest forces: archangels, gods, faerie queens, living planets, and so on.

When applying scale to two opposing forces or individuals, compare the sides’ levels and determine who is higher, and by how many levels. They get one of the following benefits on any rolled action against their lesser:

  • +1 per level of difference to their action before the roll
  • +2 per level of difference to the result after the roll, _if_ the roll succeeds
  • 1 additional free invoke per level of difference to the results of a successful create advantage action

Frequent and rigid application of scale rules may put player characters at a distinct disadvantage. Compensate by generously affording those players opportunities to subvert scale disadvantage in clever ways. Viable options include researching a target for weaknesses, changing the venue to one where scale doesn’t apply, or altering goals so that their opponent cannot leverage their scale advantage.

Aspects and Scale

Active situation aspects sometimes represent a supernatural effect. In these cases, the GM may determine that invoking the aspect grants the additional benefit of its scale. Furthermore, a supernaturally created aspect can justify scale on some actions even without an invoke, such as in the case of a veil or high-tech camouflage suit; you need not invoke Veiled to gain Supernatural scale when sneaking about.

Does Scale Apply When Supernaturally Creating an Advantage?

If you are creating an advantage and there is no opposition, rather than rolling you simply gain the aspect with one free invoke. That aspect grants scale as previously described.

If you are creating the advantage on someone else to their detriment, such as casting Entangled by Animated Vines on your foe, you may gain scale on your effort to create the advantage.

If you are creating an advantage via supernatural means and an opposing party can directly impede the effort via physical or supernatural interference, your scale may apply against their defend roll.

Otherwise, you create the advantage without scale, but later use of that aspect grants scale when appropriate.

Other Kinds of Aspects

We’ve covered the standard aspect types on page XX. These additional types are optional, but may add value to your game. To some extent these are variants on character aspects (if you expand your notion of what counts as a character) and situation aspects (if you change your notion of how long those last).

Organization aspects: Sometimes you might be dealing with a whole organization that operates under a certain set of principles. Consider giving the organization aspects which any member of it can access as if it were their own.

Scenario aspects: Sometimes a particular plot might introduce a new “trope” that shows up time and again in the storyline. Consider defining this as an aspect which is available to all characters in the story until that part of the story concludes.

Setting aspects: Like a scenario aspect, the setting of your campaign itself may have recurring themes. Unlike a scenario aspect, these aspects don’t go away.

Ways to Break the Rules for Big Bads

Between combining skills and creating advantages for teamwork (page XX), a group of PCs can really overwhelm a single opponent. This is fine if you want to respect the advantage of numbers, but not great if you want to present a “big bad” that’s the equal of the whole group.

But remember, for monsters and other big threats it’s acceptable to break the rules (page XX)—so do so by looking at ways to counteract the group’s usual advantage of numbers, while still giving them a chance. Here are a few suggestions for ways you might do that. You can use one or more of these in combination for especially difficult or terrifying final bosses.

Challenge or Contest Immunity

Both of these methods are about drawing out the final confrontation by running the group through a clock-is-ticking-down activity before they can actually go after the big bad directly.

With challenge immunity, your big bad cannot be affected directly (mentally, physically, or both) until the group beats a challenge (e.g., dismantling the source of its power, figuring out what its weakness is, etc). The big bad, meanwhile, can act freely and may attack them during their efforts, oppose their overcome or create advantage efforts with its defend rolls, assail their free invokes with its own overcomes, or prepare for their eventual breakthrough by creating advantages of its own.

With contest immunity, the group must win a contest to be able to directly attack the big bad—and the big bad gets to attack them while they’re trying. If the big bad wins the contest, it gets to pull off its scheme and get away unscathed.

Expendable Minion Armor

Surrounding yourself with minions is one way to try to balance a big bad’s side against the PCs, but it only goes so far if the players can just decide to go after the big bad directly and ignore those pesky minions for a while.

But with expendable minion armor in play, a big bad may always succeed at a cost on its defend rolls against attacks by forcing a minion into the path of the attack. That minion doesn’t roll to defend, they just take the hit that would have landed on the big bad otherwise. This forces the PCs to chew through the big bad’s army before the final confrontation.

And remember, minions don’t have to be literal minions. For example, you might write up one or more “shield generators”, each one with a stress track and perhaps a skill for creating defensive advantages for the shielded big bad!

Reveal True Form

Okay, the group has thrown everything they’ve got at the big bad, and—awesome!—they just took him out. There’s just one problem: that just frees him from his cage of flesh to reveal his true form!

With reveal true form, your big bad isn’t just one character, it’s at least two characters which must be beaten sequentially, each one revealing new capabilities and stunts, higher skill ratings, fresh stress and consequence tracks, and even new “rule breaks.”

If you want to gentle this a bit, carry the consequences the big bad has already taken forward between forms, dismissing the mild ones and downgrading the moderate and severe ones by one step each.

Scale Things Up

You could scale things up to let your big bad operate at a higher scale than the PCs, using the scale option from page XX. You could do this even if scale isn’t normally in play in your campaign—these rules need only apply when a big bad takes the field!

Solo Bonus

Players may enjoy a teamwork bonus, sure—but why not give your big bad a complementary solo bonus when they’re the only one facing the heroes?

There are a few ways you could implement a solo bonus. You could use more than one of these, but be careful when combining them as they’ll add up fast.

  • The big bad gets a bonus to skill rolls that’s equal to the group’s maximum potential teamwork bonus (page XX) — the number of PCs acting against the big bad minus one (so a +2 vs a group of 3, etc). This bonus can’t do better than double the big bad’s affected skill, though, just as with PCs (or maybe you’ll break _that_rule too).
  • The big bad may reduce the stress of successful attacks by the number of opposing PCs divided by two, rounded up. If you’re worried this will make the fight run too long, then hits reduced this way can’t be reduced below 1.
  • The big bad has amplified invokes: when making a paid invoke of an aspect, their bonus is equal to the number of PCs they face. No such luck with free invokes, but this makes every fate point spent utterly terrifying.
  • The big bad may suppress invokes: when facing two or more foes, the opposition’s invokes only provide a +1 bonus, or allow rerolls only, when used directly against the big bad. Optionally, the big bad might also remove the PCs’ ability to stack free invokes.

The Threat is a Map (or a Hive of Characters)

In Fate, anything can be a character, so why not a map? When the threat is a map, your big bad has zones (page XX) which must be navigated to achieve victory.

As you detail your big bad map, each zone might have its own skills, aspects, and stress capacity. Some zones might contain simple challenges that must be overcome in order to move deeper into the creature. Each zone may take an action as a separate character against PCs occupying that zone, or in the case of a zone representing a limb or similar, may be able to attack adjacent zones as well. If a zone is taken out by one of the PC’s attacks, it may be bypassed and no longer gets to take actions of its own, but the overall big bad isn’t defeated until the heroes can reach its heart and kill it true.

This method works particularly well if your big bad is a truly gigantic monster, but need not be limited to that situation. You can use the idea of treating the threat as a collection of interconnected characters, without requiring that the PCs actually enter or navigate the big bad as a literal map. Used this way, you’ve got a hybrid between a map and expendable minion armor (page XX)—a hive of characters, after a fashion. Some parts of the big bad must be defeated before the players can hit where it is truly vulnerable, and those parts get to take their own actions in the exchange.

Whether you fully engage the map idea or simply build the big bad as a hive, you’re sure to end up with a more dynamic fight where the big bad acts more frequently, and the players must figure out a plan of attack that eliminates the threat piece by piece before they can finally put it down.

Weapon and Armor Ratings

Want to tap into a little bit of that combat equipment vibe other games have? Consider weapon and armor ratings. In short, getting hit by a weapon will damage you more, and having armor keeps that from happening. (You could model this with stunts, but using stunt slots might not feel right to you.)

A weapon value adds to the shift value of a successful hit. If you have Weapon:2, it means that any hit inflicts 2 more shifts than normal. This counts for ties; you inflict stress on a tie instead of getting a boost.

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 attack’s shifts to 0 or below, you get a boost to use on your target but don’t do any harm.

Choose your range of ratings carefully. Keep an eye on how likely they make a consequence (or worse) on a tie. We recommend a range of 0 to 4 at most.