Fate Point Economy
Table of Contents
For the most part, the use of aspects revolves around fate points. You indicate your supply of fate points by using tokens, such as poker chips, glass beads, or other markers.
Ideally, you want a consistent ebb and flow of fate points going on throughout your sessions. Players spend them in order to be awesome in a crucial moment, and they get them back when their lives get dramatic and complicated. So if your fate points are flowing the way they’re supposed to, you’ll end up with these cycles of triumphs and setbacks that make for a fun and interesting story.
Here’s how that works.
Each player gets a number of fate points to start each session off with. That total is called the refresh rate. The refresh for a default, starting character is three fate points, but you can opt to spend up to two of your refresh to buy additional stunts.
You get additional refresh as your character achieves a major milestone (which is discussed in The Long Game), which you can spend on getting more stunts or keep in order to increase your starting fate point total. You can never have less than one refresh at any time.
You might end a session of play with more fate points than your actual refresh. If that happens, you don’t lose the additional points when you start the next session, but you don’t gain any either. At the start of a new scenario, you reset your fate points to your refresh rate no matter what.
Stunts and Refresh
- Three Stunts = Refresh of 3
- Four Stunts = Refresh of 2
- Five Stunts = Refresh of 1
Spending Fate Points
You spend fate points in any of the following ways:
- Invoke an Aspect: Invoking an aspect costs you one fate point, unless the invocation is free.
- Power a Stunt: Some stunts are very potent, and as such, cost a fate point in order to activate.
- Refuse a Compel: Once a compel is proposed, you can pay a fate point to avoid the complication associated with it.
- Declare a Story Detail: To add something to the narrative based on one of your aspects, spend a fate point.
Earning Fate Points
You earn fate points in any of the following ways:
- Accept a Compel: You get a fate point when you agree to the complication associated with a compel. As said above, this may sometimes happen retroactively if the circumstances warrant.
- Have Your Aspects Invoked Against You: If someone pays a fate point to invoke an aspect attached to your character, you gain their fate point at the end of the scene. This includes advantages created on your character, as well as consequences.
- Concede in a Conflict: You receive one fate point for conceding in a conflict, as well as an additional fate point for each consequence that you’ve received in that conflict. (This isn’t the same as being taken out in a conflict, by the way.)
The GM and Fate Points
GMs, you also get to use fate points, but the rules are a little bit different than the rules for players.
When you award players fate points for compels or concession, they come out of an unlimited pool you have for doing so—you don’t have to worry about running out of fate points to award, and you always get to compel for free.
The NPCs under your control are not so lucky. They have a limited pool of fate points you get to use on their behalf. Whenever a scene starts, you get one fate point for every PC in that scene. You can use these points on behalf of any NPC you want, but you can get more in that scene if they take a compel, like PCs do.
You reset to your default total, one per PC, at the beginning of every scene.
There are two exceptions:
- You accepted a compel that effectively ended the last scene or starts the next one. If that happens, take an extra fate point in the next scene.
- You conceded a conflict to the PCs in the previous scene. If that happens, take the fate points you’d normally get for the concession into the next scene and add them to the default total.
If the immediate next scene doesn’t present a significant interaction with NPCs, you can save these extra points until the next scene that does.
Amanda is running a climactic conflict, where the PCs are battling a nemesis they’ve been trying to subdue for several scenarios now. Here are the characters in the scene:
- Barathar, Smuggler Queen of the Sindral Reach, a main NPC
- Og the Strong, one of her chief enforcers, a supporting NPC
- Teran the Swift, an old nemesis of the PCs hired to do Barathar’s bidding, a supporting NPC
- Two nameless NPC sergeants
- Zird the Arcane
Her total fate point pool for this scene is 3 fate points—one each for Landon, Cynere, and Zird. If Zird had been elsewhere (say, doing some arcane research), Amanda would’ve gotten two fate points, one for Landon and one for Cynere.
Late in the conflict, Barathar is forced to concede so she can get away with her skin intact. She has taken two consequences in the conflict, meaning that she gets three fate points for conceding. Those three fate points carry over to the next scene.
GM Fate Point Gain Clarifications
Lenny Balsera has commented with two clarifications:
GM Fate Points for Concessions
The original text tells the GM to "take the fate points you’d normally get for the concession into the next scene", but what exactly does that mean? Unlike regular players, the GM can have multiple NPCs, and some of them might even be on different sides of a conflict.
If the GM concedes on behalf of an NPC under her control, she gets a fate point for each consequence that NPC took during the scene. In addition to that, if she concedes on behalf of all her NPCs as a way of ending the scene, she gets one more fate point. The GM receives these fate points at the end of the scene.
Example: Amanda is running a major setpiece battle in her campaign, against a band of major NPCs who have been impersonating Landon, Zird, and Cynere and staining their good names all over the kingdoms: Og the Brute, Jirana the Mystic, and Iorva the Rapier Queen.
The PCs hit Og real, real hard in the first couple rounds of the conflict, inflicting two consequences, and prompting Amanda to concede on his behalf so he doesn't get killed in the fight.
Things go worse for Iorva, who takes three consequences, but not before inflicting some of her own.
Jirana has no consequences as of yet, but Amanda sees which way the wind is blowing, and concedes the conflict, suggesting that the heroes force them into a retreat and Iorva teleports them away with her magic. The players really want to clear their names, and they suggest that should be part of the victory, so Amanda modifies the outcome to have them capture Og, who will confess everything to local authorities.
Og took two consequences and Iorva took three, so when Amanda concedes the scene, she takes six fate points into her pool—one for each consequence sustained by her NPCs, and one for ending the scene.
GM Fate Points for Hostile Invokes
Lenny has stated that he always intended for hostile invokes on NPCs to grant fate points to the GM for the next scene, and he requested clarification of this point in Dresden Files Accelerated to make this official.