You use tokens to represent how many fate points you have at any given time during play. Fate points are one of your most important resources in Fate—they’re a measure of how much influence you have to make the story go in your character’s favor.
You can spend fate points to invoke an aspect, to declare a story detail, or to activate certain powerful stunts.
You earn fate points by accepting a compel on one of your aspects.
A word of warning: don’t use edible things as tokens, especially if the food hasn’t arrived yet.
Invoking an Aspect
Whenever you’re making a skill roll, and you’re in a situation where an aspect might be able to help you, you can spend a fate point to invoke it in order to change the dice result. This allows you to either reroll the dice or add +2 to your roll, whichever is more helpful. (Typically, +2 is a good choice if you rolled –2 or higher, but sometimes you want to risk a reroll to get that +4.) You do this after you’ve rolled the dice—if you aren’t happy with your total.
You also have to explain or justify how the aspect is helpful in order to get the bonus—sometimes it’ll be self-evident, and sometimes it might require some creative narrating.
You can spend more than one fate point on a single roll, gaining another reroll or an additional +2, as long as each point you spend invokes a different aspect.
Cynere is trying to covertly goad a merchant into describing the security features of his personal vault by posing as a visiting dignitary. The merchant is giving her passive opposition at Good (+3), and her Deceive skill is Fair (+2).
Lily rolls. She breaks even, getting a 0. That leaves her result at Fair, not enough to get the information she wants.
She looks at her character sheet, then to Amanda, and says, “You know, long years of being Tempted by Shiny Things has taught me a thing or two about what’s in a treasure hoard and what’s not. I’m going to impress this merchant by talking about the rarest, most prized elements of his collection.”
Amanda grins and nods. Lily hands over a fate point to invoke the aspect, and gets to add +2 to her standing roll. This brings her result to a Great (+4), which exceeds the opposition. The duly impressed merchant starts to brag about his vault, and Cynere listens intently....
Declaring a Story Detail
Sometimes, you want to add a detail that works to your character’s advantage in a scene. For example, you might use this to narrate a convenient coincidence, like retroactively having the right supplies for a certain job (“Of course I brought that along!”), showing up at a dramatically appropriate moment, or suggesting that you and the NPC you just met have mutual clients in common.
To do this, you’ll spend a fate point. You should try to justify your story details by relating them to your aspects. GMs, you have the right to veto any suggestions that seem out of scope or ask the player to revise them, especially if the rest of the group isn’t buying into it.
Zird the Arcane gets captured with his friends by some tribesfolk from the Sagroth Wilds. The three heroes are unceremoniously dumped before the chieftain, and Amanda describes the chieftain addressing them in a strange, guttural tongue.
Ryan looks at his sheet and says, “Hey, I have If I Haven’t Been There, I’ve Read About It on my sheet. Can I declare that I’ve studied this language at some point, so we can communicate?”
Amanda thinks that’s perfectly reasonable to assume. Ryan tosses over a fate point and describes Zird answering in the chieftain’s own speech, which turns all eyes in the village (including those of his friends) on him in a moment of surprise.
Ryan has Zird look at his friends and say, “Books. They’re good for you.”
Sometimes (in fact, probably often), you’ll find yourself in a situation where an aspect complicates your character’s life and creates unexpected drama. When that happens, the GM will suggest a potential complication that might arise. This is called a compel.
Sometimes, a compel means your character automatically fails at some goal, or your character’s choices are restricted, or simply that unintended consequences cloud whatever your character does. You might negotiate back and forth on the details a little, to arrive at what would be most appropriate and dramatic in the moment.
Once you’ve agreed to accept the complication, you get a fate point for your troubles. If you want, you can pay a fate point to prevent the complication from happening, but it is not recommended that you do that very often—you’ll probably need that fate point later, and getting compelled brings drama (and hence, fun) into your game’s story.
Players, you’re going to call for a compel when you want there to be a complication in a decision you’ve just made, if it’s related to one of your aspects. GMs, you’re going to call for a compel when you make the world respond to the characters in a complicated or dramatic way.
Anyone at the table is free to suggest when a compel might be appropriate for any character (including their own). GMs, you have the final word on whether or not a compel is valid. And speak up if you see that a compel happened naturally as a result of play, but no fate points were awarded.
Landon has the aspect The Manners of a Goat. He is attending the annual Grand Ball in Ictherya with his friends, courtesy of the royal court.
Amanda tells the players, “As you’re milling about, a sharply dressed young lady catches Landon sticking out of the crowd. She observes him for a while, then goes to engage him in conversation, obviously intrigued by how different he looks among all the stuffy nobles.” She turns to Lenny. “What do you do?”
Lenny says, “Uh... well, I guess I’ll ask her to dance and play along, see what I can find out about her.”
Amanda holds up a fate point and says, “And is that going to go wrong, given Landon’s excellent command of courtly etiquette?”
Lenny chuckles and replies, “Yeah, I presume Landon will offend her pretty quickly, and that’ll get complicated. I’ll take the fate point.”
Amanda and Lenny play a bit to figure out just how Landon puts his foot in his mouth, and then Amanda describes some of the royal guard showing up. One of them says, “You might want to watch how you speak to the High Duchess of Ictherya, outlander.”
Lenny shakes his head. Amanda grins the grin of the devil.