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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.

Changing the Skill List

As mentioned on page XX skill lists are the first thing to consider tinkering with when making your own Fate game. Our default skill setup presents a list of 19 skills arranged in a pyramid of 10. That list is also structured around a traditional notion of capabilities in various fields of action, in essence addressing the question “what can you do?” Other skill lists aren’t necessarily the same length, arranged the same way, or addressing the same question. With that said, here are some short skill lists to consider, borrow, and modify.

  • Actions: Endure, Fight, Know, Move, Notice, Pilot, Sneak, Speak, Tinker.
  • Approaches: Careful, Clever, Flashy, Forceful, Quick, Sneaky.
  • Aptitudes: Athletics, Combat, Leadership, Scholarship, Subterfuge.
  • Attributes: Strength, Dexterity, Toughness, Intelligence, Charm.
  • Relationships: Leading, Partnering, Supporting, Solo.
  • Roles: Driver, Hitter, Hacker, Gearhead, Grifter, Thief, Mastermind.
  • Themes: Air, Fire, Metal, Mind, Stone, Void, Water, Wind, Wood.
  • Values: Duty, Glory, Justice, Love, Power, Safety, Truth, Vengeance.

If you want a longer list, try starting with the default list, adding, combining, and removing skills from it as needed until you land on what you’re after. You could instead blend together two or more lists from the above in some form.

Advancement: The smaller the number of skills in your list vs. the default, the less frequent you’ll want skill point awards from advancement. Perhaps allow them only during “power ups” (page XX), or restrict them another way.

Alternatives to the pyramid:

  • Diamond: A broad middle (about a third of them) that tapers towards the top and bottom of the range, e.g., 1 at +0, 2 at +1, 3 at +2, 2 at +3, 1 at +4.
  • Column: A roughly equal number of skills rated at each tier. If your list is short enough, this might be a line, one skill per tier.
  • Free + Cap: Give players enough skill points to make a pyramid (or other shape), but don’t mandate it. They can buy whatever, staying under the cap.

Coverage: Make sure to consider how many skills you expect to be rated out of the total. The default list has ratings in 53% (10 of 19). The higher the percentage, the more overlap players might have. Preserve niche protection.

Combination: You may want to have two lists, with players adding together one from each to make their roll. The main thing to keep in mind is keeping the potential totals inside the zero-to-cap range. You might have ratings from +0 to +2 on each list, or -1 to +1 on one and +1 to +3 on the other, etc.

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 breakthrough 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 breakthroughs, 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.

Obstacles

The defining quality of enemies is that they can be attacked and taken out. By contrast, the defining quality of obstacles is that they can’t. 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.

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 can use them to give less combative PCs something to do during a fight, though.

There are three kinds of obstacles: hazards, blocks, and distractions.

Hazards

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 (page XX) 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. 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 a hazard that hits frequently but doesn’t do much damage.

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 hits with a tie or better, 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 skill rating.

Blocks

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 differences between blocks and hazards is that blocks don’t take actions and are more difficult to remove. 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.

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 a set difficulty. If the block can’t cause harm, it simply prevents the PC from taking the action they wanted to. If it can cause harm and the PC fails to overcome the block, the PC takes a hit equal to the amount by which they missed the target.

Characters may 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).

Finally, some blocks can be used as cover or as armor. This is situational—for some blocks, it simply won’t make sense. You probably can’t hide behind a Vat of Acid, but a Chain Link Fence _is_ effective protection against a baseball bat, probably preventing the attack altogether.

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 adds an Armor rating equal to half the block’s skill rating (rounded down, minimum 1).

Use blocks sparingly. Blocks make it harder for PCs to take certain actions—so they can be frustrating if you overuse them—but they can also lead the players to think creatively. They may see an opportunity to turn blocks to their advantage. If they figure out how, let them!

Sometimes players will just want to remove blocks outright. To do so, make an overcome roll against a set difficulty equal to the block’s rating plus two.

Distractions

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, including repercussions for successfully dealing with the distraction.
  • A distraction’s opposition is its passive opposition against PCs rolling to deal with it. Not every distraction needs to provide opposition.

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.

Examples of Obstacles

Hazards

  • Great (+4) Machine-Gun Turret, Weapon:3
  • Superb (+5) Distant Sniper, Weapon:4

Blocks

  • Fair (+2) Chain Link Fence, Great (+4) difficulty to remove
  • Good (+3) Vat of Acid, Weapon:4, Superb (+5) difficulty to remove

Distractions

  • Bus Full of Civilians—Choice: Will the bus plunge off the bridge? Opposition: Good (+3) Repercussion (leave them): All of the civilians on the bus die. Repercussion (save them): The villain gets away!
  • The Glittering Gem—Choice: Can you take the gem from the pedestal? Repercussion (leave the gem): You don’t get the (priceless) gem. Repercussion (take the gem): You activate the traps in the temple.

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 may grant scale to some actions when invoked. It may also provide scale even without an invoke, such as in the case of a magical 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 roll to create the advantage without scale (likely against a set difficulty), but later use of that aspect grants scale when appropriate.

Time Shifts

When determining how long it takes characters to do something, you may want to use a more systematic approach to decide the impacts of success, failure, and “at a cost” options. How much longer or faster? Let the shifts decide, using these guidelines.

First, decide how long the task takes with a simple success. Use an approximate quantity plus a unit of time: “a few days,” “half a minute,” “several weeks,” and so on. Approximate quantities for use include: half, about one, a few, or several of a given unit of time.

Then look at how many shifts the roll exceeds or misses the target by. Each shift is worth one quantity-step from wherever your starting point is.

So if your starting point is “a few hours,” then one shift faster jumps the quantity down to “about one hour,” two shifts down to “half an hour.” Going faster than “half” drops the unit down to the next smaller (hours to minutes, etc) and quantity up to “several”, so three shifts faster would be “several minutes.”

In the case of slower, it’s the same process in the opposite direction: one shift slower is “several hours,” two is “half a day,” three is “about one day.”

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.

Ways to Handle Multiple Targets

Inevitably, someone at your table will want to affect multiple targets at once. If it’s allowed, here are some methods you can use.

If you wish to be selective about your targets, you may split your effort. Roll your skill, and if the resulting total is positive, you can split that total up however you like among the targets, who each get to defend against the effort you assigned to them. You must assign at least one point of effort to a target, or you didn’t target them at all.

Sophie faces a trio of goons and wants to strike at all three in a flurry of thrusts with her rapier. Thanks to an invoke and a good roll, her Fight roll comes in at Epic (+7). She assigns a Good (+3) attack to the one that looks the most veteran, and Fair (+2) to each of the other two, for a total of seven. They each then roll to defend.

In some special circumstances, as with an explosion or similar, you may make a zone attack against everyone in one zone, friend and foe alike. Here, you don't split your effort; every target must defend against your total roll. The circumstances and method must be right for doing this; often the GM will require you to invoke an aspect or use a stunt to gain permission.

If you wish to create an advantage affecting a whole zone or group, target the scene instead: place a single aspect on the zone or the scene itself rather than placing separate aspects on each of the targets. This has the added advantage of reducing overall book-keeping. If someone insists on creating a separate aspect on each target, they should be constrained to the effort splitting method.

With any of these methods, all of the targets should occupy the same zone. The GM may allow the occasional exception due to method and circumstance.

Only one action type should be used—such as attacking several targets in one blow, solving two problems at once with overcome, or swaying the minds of a few key NPCs with create an advantage. A GM might allow two different action types under special circumstances, but those actions should make sense for the skill used by both.

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.