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Fate Core

Building Stunts

Fate allow players to take stunts during character creation, or leave open the option to take stunts during play. There are a number of example stunts listed under each skill entry below. These are not a hard and fast list; rather, they’re there to show you how to create your own (though you can certainly lift directly from the book if you’d like to).

There is also a list of all the things that stunts can potentially do, to help you when you’re coming up with them for your game. When in doubt, look at the listed stunts for guidance, as well as those the example characters have.

Reinforcing Elements Unique to Your Game

GMs, if you have some particular set of abilities you want to reinforce as being important or unique to your game, you’re going to want to create a list of stunts that the players can reference during character creation. Usually, you’ll do this as part of creating extras; see the Extras section for more details.

Stuntmaker—A Tool for Stunt Inspiration

If you're having trouble coming up with a stunt, give the Stuntmaker a go. It will generate random stunts to inspire you! (Just be sure to vet them with the table before using them.)

Adding a New Action to a Skill

The most basic option for a stunt is to allow a skill to do something that it normally can’t do. It adds a new action onto the base skill in certain situations, for those with this stunt. This new action can be one that’s available to another skill (allowing one skill to swap for another under certain circumstances), or one that’s not available to any skill.

Here are some new action stunts:

  • Backstab. You can use Stealth to make physical attacks, provided your target isn’t already aware of your presence.
  • The Fight in the Dog. You can use Provoke to enter the kinds of contests that you’d normally need Physique for, whenever your ability to psych your opponent out with the force of your presence alone would be a factor.
  • You’re Never Safe. You can use Burglary to make mental attacks and create advantages against a target, by staging a heist in such a way as to shatter their confidence in their security.

Just because you have a stunt doesn’t mean you always have to use it when it becomes relevant. Using a stunt is always a choice, and you can opt not to use a stunt if you don’t think it would be appropriate or you just don’t want to.

For example, you could have a stunt that allows you to use Fight in place of Athletics when defending against arrows and other missile attacks. Whenever you’re attacked by an archer, you can choose to use Fight—or simply use Athletics as anyone else would. It’s entirely your choice.

Adding a Bonus to an Action

Another use for a stunt is to give a skill an automatic bonus under a particular, very narrow circumstance, effectively letting a character specialize in something. The circumstance should be narrower than what the normal action allows, and only apply to one particular action or pair of actions.

The usual bonus is +2 to the skill total. However, if you want, you can also express the bonus as two shifts of additional effect after the roll succeeds, if that makes more sense. Remember, higher shifts on a roll allow your action to be more effective in certain ways.

You can also use this to establish any effect worth two shifts as an additional benefit of succeeding at the skill roll. This might be Fair (+2) passive opposition, the equivalent of a 2-point hit, a mild consequence, or an advantage that takes Fair (+2) opposition to remove.

Here are some examples of adding a bonus to an action:

  • Arcane Expert. Gain a +2 bonus to create an advantage using Lore, whenever the situation has specifically to do with the supernatural or occult.
  • Lead in the Air. You really like emptying magazines. Any time you’re using a fully automatic weapon and you succeed at a Shoot attack, you automatically create a Fair (+2) opposition against movement in that zone until your next turn, because of all the lead in the air. (Normally, you’d need to take a separate action to set up this kind of interference, but with the stunt, it’s free.)
  • Child of the Court. Gain a +2 bonus to any attempt to overcome obstacles with Rapport when you’re at an aristocratic function, such as a royal ball.

Players, when you’re building stunts that give an action bonus, look out for situations that seem like they’d only come up rarely in play. Like, the Arcane Expert stunt above would be inappropriate if your game doesn’t deal with the supernatural a lot, and Child of the Court will be useless if your campaign doesn’t deal with the nobility on a fairly regular basis. If you don’t think you’ll use the stunt at least twice in most of your game sessions, change the condition associated with the bonus.

GMs, it’s on you to help the players make sure their stunts see use—look at the conditions they choose here as a “laundry list” of stuff that you want to trend toward in your sessions.

Creating a Rules Exception

Finally, a stunt can allow a skill to make a single exception, in a narrow circumstance, for any other game rule that doesn’t precisely fit into the category of an action. The Challenges, Contests, and Conflicts section is full of different little rules about the circumstances under which a skill can be used and what happens when you use them. Stunts can break those, allowing your character to stretch the boundaries of the possible.

The only limit to this is that a stunt can’t change any of the basic rules for aspects in terms of invoking, compelling, and the fate point economy. Those always remain the same.

Here are some stunts that create rules exceptions:

  • Ritualist. Use Lore in place of another skill during a challenge, allowing you to use Lore twice in the same challenge.
  • Hogtie. When you use Crafts to create a Hogtied (or similar) advantage on someone, you can always actively oppose any overcome rolls to escape the hogtie (also using Crafts), even if you’re not there. (Normally, if you weren’t there, the escaping character would roll against passive opposition, making it a lot easier to escape.)
  • Riposte. If you succeed with style on a Fight defense, you can choose to inflict a 2-shift hit rather than take a boost.

Balancing Stunt Utility

If you look at most of the example stunts, you’ll notice that the circumstances under which you can use them are pretty narrow compared to the base skills they modify. That’s the sweet spot you want to shoot for with your own stunts—you want them to be limited enough in scope that it feels special when you use them, but not so narrow that you never see them come up after you take them.

If the stunt effectively takes over all of the skill’s base actions, it’s not limited enough. You don’t want a stunt replacing the skill it modifies.

The two main ways to limit a stunt are by keeping its effects to a specific action or pair of actions (only creating an advantage or only attack and defend rolls), or by limiting the situations in which you can use it (only when you’re among nobles, only when it deals with the supernatural, and so on).

For the best results, use both—have the stunt restricted to a specific action, which can only be used in a very specific in-game situation. If you’re worried about the situation being too narrow, back up and think of the ways the skill might be used in play. If you can see the stunt being relevant to one of those uses, you’re probably on the right track. If you can’t, you may need to adjust the stunt a little to make sure it’ll come up.

You can also restrict a stunt by only allowing it to be used once in a certain period of game time, such as once per conflict, once per scene, or once per session.

Fate Point-Powered Stunts

Another way to restrict how often a stunt comes into play is to have it cost a fate point to use. This is a good option if the desired stunt effect is very powerful, or there doesn’t seem to be a good way for you to change the wording of the stunt to make it come up less often in play.

Our best advice for determining what really powerful means is that it either goes beyond the specified limits given above (so, if it adds a new action to a skill and a bonus), or significantly affects conflicts. Specifically, almost any stunt that allows you to do extra stress in a conflict should cost a fate point to use.

Lenny’s considering a stunt for Landon called “My Blade Strikes True.” He wants it to add two shifts to any successful Fight attack when he wields his personal, custom-forged family sword.

Amanda thinks it over. It fulfills all the criteria for limitations, but there’s one problem—neither Amanda nor Lenny can envision very many situations where Landon wouldn’t be using his heirloom sword. So he’d basically be able to use that stunt every time he attacked someone, which would replace the normal use of the Fight skill. She decides that’s too much, and asks him to modify the stunt.

Lenny thinks about it, and says, “Well, how about if it lets me do that whenever I’m fighting a member of a rival family with my heirloom sword?”

Amanda asks, “Were we going to establish rival families to the Darkwoods in this game? I thought the point was for you guys to travel all over the place and get a bit lost in the world.”

Lenny agrees that it probably wouldn’t come up often enough, and thinks some more.

Then it comes to him. “How about this—what if, when someone uses their 2-point stress box to absorb one of my Fight attacks with the sword, I can make them use their mild consequence instead?”

Amanda likes this, because it’ll come up in nearly every conflict Landon gets into, but it won’t be something he can take advantage of every exchange. She asks for a further restriction of one use per conflict, and they call it done.

On Landon’s sheet, Lenny writes:

  • My Blade Strikes True. Once per conflict, you can force the opponent to use a mild consequence instead of a 2-point stress box on a successful Fight attack with your heirloom sword.

Stunt Families

If you want to get detailed about a particular kind of training or talent, you can create a stunt family for it. This is a group of stunts that are related to and chain off of each other somehow.

This allows you to create things like fighting styles or elite schools in your setting and represents the benefits of belonging to them. It also helps you get specific about what types of specialized competencies are available, if you want to give your game a sense of having distinct “character classes”—so there might be an “Ace Pilot” or a “Cat Burglar” family of stunts.

Creating a stunt family is easy. You make one stunt that serves as a prerequisite for all the others in the family, qualifying you to take further stunts up the chain. Then, you need to create a handful of stunts that are all related somehow to the prerequisite, either stacking the effects or branching out into another set of effects.

Stacking Effects

Perhaps the simplest way of handling a related stunt is just making the original stunt more effective in the same situation:

  • If the stunt added an action, narrow it further and give the new action a bonus. Follow the same rules for adding a bonus—the circumstances in which it applies should be narrower than that of the base action.
  • If the stunt gave a bonus to an action, give an additional +2 bonus to the same action or add an additional two-shift effect to that action.
  • If the stunt made a rules exception, make it even more of an exception. (This might be difficult depending on what the original exception is. Don’t worry, you have other options.)

Keep in mind that the upgraded stunt effectively replaces the original. You can look at it as a single super-stunt that costs two slots (and two refresh) for the price of being more powerful than other stunts.

Here are some stunts that stack:

  • Advanced Warmaster. (requires Warmaster.) When you’re fighting anyone who is armed with a sword, you get a further +2 bonus to creating an advantage using Warmaster.
  • Scion of the Court. (requires Child of the Court.) When you overcome an obstacle with Child of the Court, you may additionally create a situation aspect that describes how the general attitude turns in your favor. If anyone wants to try and get rid of this aspect, they must overcome Fair (+2) opposition.
  • Advanced Ritualist. (requires Ritualist.) You gain a +2 bonus when you use Lore in place of another skill during a challenge. This allows you to use Lore twice in the same challenge.

Branching Effects

When you branch, you create a new stunt that relates to the original in terms of theme or subject matter, but provides a wholly new effect. If you look at stacking effects as expanding a stunt or skill vertically, you can look at branching effects as expanding them laterally.

If your original stunt added an action to a skill, a branching stunt might add a different action to that skill, or it might provide a bonus to a different action the skill already has, or create a rules exception, etc. The mechanical effect isn’t connected to the prerequisite stunt at all, but provides a complementary bit of awesome.

This allows you to provide a few different paths to being awesome that follow from a single stunt. You can use this to highlight different elements of a certain skill and help characters who are highly ranked in the same skill differentiate from each other by following different stunt families.

As an example of how this works, let’s take a look at the Deceive skill. If you look at the skill description, there are several avenues that might be enhanced with stunts: lying, sleight of hand and misdirection, disguise, creating cover stories, or social conflict.

So let’s make our first stunt something like this:

  • Fast Talk. You get a +2 to overcome obstacles with Deceive, provided you don’t have to talk to the person you’re trying to deceive for more than a few sentences before blowing past them.

Here are some potential options for branching off of that stunt:

  • Quick Disguise. (requires Fast Talk.) You’re able to put together a convincing disguise in a heartbeat, using items from your surroundings. You can roll Deceive to create a disguise without any time to prepare, in nearly any situation.
  • Instant Cover. (requires Fast Talk.) You can whip up a cover story like no one’s business, even if you haven’t made an effort to establish it beforehand. Any time you overcome an obstacle in public using Deceive, automatically add a situation aspect representing your cover story, and stick a free invocation on it.
  • Hey, What’s That? (requires Fast Talk.) Gain a +2 bonus whenever you’re using Deceive to momentarily distract someone, as long as part of the distraction involves saying something.

Every one of those stunts thematically relates to very quick, spontaneous uses of Deceive, but they each have a different flavor of awesome.