When you make a skill roll, you’re taking one of four actions: overcome, create an advantage, attack, or defend.
There are four types of actions you can take in a game of Fate. When you make a skill roll, you have to decide which of these you’re going to try. The skill descriptions tell you which actions are appropriate for that skill and under which circumstances. Usually, the action you need to take will be pretty obvious from the skill description, your intent, and the situation in play, but sometimes you might have to talk it over with the group to find out which is the most appropriate.
The four actions are: overcome, create advantage, attack, and defend.
Use the overcome action to achieve assorted goals appropriate to your skill.
Every skill has a certain niche of miscellaneous endeavors that fall under its purview, certain situations where it’s an ideal choice. A character with Burglary tries to jimmy a window, a character with Empathy tries to calm the crowd, and a character with Crafts tries to fix the broken axle on his wagon after a desperate chase.
When your character’s in one of these situations and there’s something between her and her goals, you use the overcome action to deal with it. Look at it as the “catch-all” action for every skill—if it doesn’t fall into any other category, it’s probably an overcome action.
The opposition you have to beat might be active or passive, depending on the situation.
- When you fail an overcome action, you have two options. You can simply fail, which means you don’t attain your goal or get what you were after, or you can succeed at a serious cost.
- When you tie an overcome action, you attain your goal or get what you were after, but at a minor cost.
- When you succeed at an overcome action, you attain your goal without any cost.
- When you succeed with style at an overcome action, you get a boost in addition to attaining your goal.
You may occasionally run into situations where it seems appropriate to provide a different benefit or penalty for a given action result than the one listed. It’s okay to go back to the basic description of the four outcomes and sub in something that makes sense.
For example, on the overcome action it says you get a boost in addition to success when you succeed with style. But if that overcome roll is going to end the scene, or you can’t think of a good boost, You may choose to offer a story detail as an extra benefit instead.
Landon stalks around the siege tower of the Red Emperor’s fortress, trying to sabotage the ballistas. If he succeeds, the army who hired him has a much better chance in the field when they attack tomorrow morning.
Amanda says, “Okay, so you make it to the top of the tower, and you start working. But then, you hear footsteps echoing below you in the tower—sounds like the next guard patrol got here just a bit early.”
“Damn,” Lenny says. “Figures I’d get the one guard squad with real discipline. I need to disable these and get out—if they find me, General Ephon already told me he’d disavow my existence.”
Amanda shrugs a bit and says, “Work fast? You’re looking at passive opposition here—crunched for time, and dealing with intricate machinery bits, so I’ll call that Great (+4).”
Landon has the Crafts skill at Average (+1). Lenny grumbles and says, “Should have convinced Zird to do this.” He rolls, getting a +2, for a Good (+3) result. Not good enough.
Landon chips in a fate point and says, “Well, you know what I always say... Smashing Is Always an Option,” referring to one of his aspects. Amanda chuckles and nods, and with the invocation, he manages a Superb (+5). That’s enough to succeed, but not enough to succeed with style, so Landon accomplishes his objective at no cost.
He describes how he hastily dismantles the ballista, applying rather violent sabotage before diving for a hiding spot as the guards get closer...
Create an Advantage
Use the create an advantage action to make a situation aspect that gives you a benefit, or to claim a benefit from any aspect you have access to.
The create an advantage action covers a broad range of endeavors, unified around the theme of using your skills to take advantage (hence the name) of the environment or situation you’re in.
Sometimes, that means you’re doing something to actively change your circumstances (like throwing sand in an opponent’s eyes or setting something on fire), but it could also mean that you’re discovering new information that helps you (like learning the weakness of a monster through research), or taking advantage of something you’ve previously observed (like your opponent’s predisposition to a bad temper).
When you roll to create an advantage, you must specify whether you’re creating a new situation aspect or taking advantage of an aspect that’s already in place. If the former, are you attaching that situation aspect to a character or to the environment?
Opposition might be active or passive, depending on the circumstances. If your target is another character, their roll always counts as a defend action.
If you’re using create an advantage to make a new aspect…
- When you fail, you either don’t create the aspect, or you create it but someone else gets the free invoke—whatever you end up doing works to someone else’s advantage instead. That could be your opponent in a conflict, or any character who could tangibly benefit to your detriment. You may have to reword the aspect to show that the other character benefits instead—work it out with the recipient in whichever way makes the most sense.
- When you tie, you get a boost instead of the situation aspect you were going for. This might mean you have to rename the aspect a bit to reflect its temporary nature (Rough Terrain becomes Rocks on the Path).
- When you succeed, you create a situation aspect with a free invocation.
- When you succeed with style, you get a situation aspect with two free invocations instead of one.
While deep in the Caverns of Yarzuruk, Cynere is in the unfortunate position of having to fight some animated temple golems.
The first couple of exchanges have not gone well, and she’s taken a couple of big hits already. Lily says, “Amanda, you said there was a lot of filigree and furnishings and stuff laying around, right?”
Amanda nods, and Lily asks, “Can I knock some of it over in order to trip these guys up a bit? I imagine if they’re big, clodhopping golems, they aren’t as agile as I am.”
She says, “Sounds fine to me. Sounds like you’re trying to create an advantage with Athletics. One of the golems gets to roll a defend action against you, just because it’s close enough to get in your way.”
Cynere has Athletics at Great (+4). Lily rolls and gets a +1, for a Superb (+5) result. The nearest golem rolls to defend and only gets a Fair (+2). Cynere succeeds with style! Lily places the aspect Cluttered Floor on the scene and notes that she can invoke that aspect twice for free.
Amanda describes the golems’ difficulty with their footing, and now Cynere’s got a little bit of an advantage in the coming exchange...
If you’re using create an advantage on an existing aspect…
- When you fail, you give a free invoke on that aspect to someone else instead. That could be your opponent in a conflict, or any character who could tangibly benefit to your detriment.
- When you tie or succeed, you place a free invocation on the aspect.
- When you succeed with style, you place two free invocations on the aspect.
Zird is approaching a local merchant he’s been hired to get close to (i.e. spy on) for the sultan of Wanir, in the famous bazaar of Wanir’s capital city.
Ryan says, “I’m going to use Rapport to create an advantage, get this guy to open up to me. I don’t know what I’m looking for in terms of an aspect—just some juicy observation I can use later or pass on to Cynere.” He has the Friendly Liar stunt, so he can do this without needing Deceive, despite the fact that he’s hiding his real intent.
Amanda says, “Works for me. He’s a merchant, so his Deceive’s pretty high. I’m going to say it’s passive opposition, though, because he’s not really suspicious of you. Try and beat a Great (+4).”
Ryan rolls. His Rapport skill is Good (+3), and he manages a +1 on the dice, for a tie.
Amanda looks at her notes, grins, and says, “Okay, here’s what you notice. This merchant is obviously a very social fellow, boisterously engaging other shop owners and potential customers as he makes his rounds. This geniality takes on more of a flirtatious, suggestive air any time he speaks to young men—he can’t seem to help that.”
She slides an index card with the aspect Sucker for a Pretty Man written on it, to indicate that the merchant’s aspect is now public. Ryan notes that he has a free invocation on that aspect.
“Pretty man, huh?” Ryan says. “Does he think I’m pretty?”
Amanda grins. “He certainly thinks you’re friendly…”
Ryan rolls his eyes. “The things I do for business...”
Use the attack action to harm someone in a conflict or take them out of a scene.
The attack action is the most straightforward of the four actions—when you want to hurt someone in a conflict, it’s an attack. An attack isn’t always physical in nature; some skills allow you to hurt someone mentally as well.
Most of the time, your target will actively oppose your attack. Passive opposition on an attack means you’ve caught your target unaware or otherwise unable to make a full effort to resist you, or the NPC isn’t important enough to bother with dice.
In addition, passive or not, the opposition always counts as a defend action so you can look at these two actions as being inexorably intertwined.
- When you fail at an attack, you don’t cause any harm to your target. (It also means that your target succeeded on the defend action, which could get you saddled with other effects.)
- When you tie an attack, you don’t cause any harm, but you gain a boost.
- When you succeed on an attack, you inflict a hit on your target equal to the number of shifts you got. That forces the target to try and “buy off” the value of your hit by taking stress or consequences; if that’s not possible, your target gets taken out of the conflict.
- When you succeed with style on an attack, it works like a normal success, but you also have the option to reduce the value of your hit by one to gain a boost as well.
Cynere is locked in combat with Drisban, one of the famed Scarlet Twenty, the elite guard of Antharus. In her inimitable fashion, Cynere attempts to slice him open with her flashing blade.
Cynere’s Fight skill is at Good (+3). Drisban defends with his Fight at Great (+4). Lily rolls and gets a +2, for a Superb (+5) attack.
Amanda rolls for Drisban and gets a –1, bringing his total to Good (+3). Lily wins by two, inflicting a 2-shift hit.
But she decides that isn’t good enough. “I’m also invoking Infamous Girl With Sword,” she says, “because for heaven’s sake, this is what I do, and I’m not letting this punk off easy.”
Lily chips in her fate point, making her final result Epic (+7). She gets 4 shifts and succeeds with style, cutting into him with a flourish. She chooses to inflict a 4-shift hit, but she could also have inflicted a 3-shift hit and taken a boost, if she’d wanted to.
Now Drisban needs to use stress or consequences to stay in the fight!
Use the defend action to avoid an attack or prevent someone from creating an advantage against you.
Whenever someone attacks you in a conflict or tries to create an advantage on you, you always get a chance to defend. As with attacks, this isn’t always about avoiding physical sources of danger—some of the skills allow you to defend against attempts to harm your mind or damage your resolve.
Because you roll to defend as a reaction, your opposition is almost always active. If you’re rolling a defend action against passive opposition, it’s because the environment is hostile to you somehow (like a blazing fire), or the attacking NPC isn’t important enough for the GM to bother with dice.
- When you fail at a defense, you suffer the consequences of whatever you were trying to prevent. You might take a hit or have an advantage created on you.
- When you tie a defense, you grant your opponent a boost.
- When you succeed at a defense, you successfully avoid the attack or the attempt to gain an advantage on you.
- When you succeed with style at a defense, it works like a normal success, but you also gain a boost as you turn the tables momentarily.
Can I Defend Against Overcome Actions?
Technically, no. The defend action is there to stop you from taking stress, consequences, or situation aspects—basically, to protect you against all the bad stuff represented with mechanics.
But! You can roll active opposition if you’re in the way of any action, as per the guidelines. So if someone’s doing an overcome action that might fail because you’re in the way, you should speak up and say, “Hey, I’m in the way!” and roll to oppose it. You don’t get any extra benefits like the defend action gives you, but you also don’t have to worry about the aforementioned bad stuff if you lose.
No Stacked Effects!
You’ll notice that the defend action has outcomes that mirror some of the outcomes in attack and create an advantage. For example, it says that when you tie a defense, you grant your opponent a boost. Under attack, it says that when you tie, you receive a boost.
That doesn’t mean the attacker gets two boosts—it’s the same result, just from two different points of view. It was written that way so that the results were consistent when you looked up the rule, regardless of what action you took.
Zird the Arcane is arguing a magical thesis before the council of the Collegia Arcana. But one of the adjutants on the council, an old rival named Vokus Skortch, has it in for Zird. He wants not only to see Zird fail, but to damage Zird’s self-confidence by forcing him to misstep and doubt himself. The group agrees that they know each other well enough that Skortch could affect him this way, so the conflict is on.
As Zird finishes his opening argument, Amanda describes how Skortch uses Provoke as an attack, poking holes in Zird’s theories and forcing him to reevaluate. Skortch has a Provoke of Good (+3).
Zird defends with Will, which he has at Fair (+2). Amanda rolls for Skortch and gets a +1, for a total of Great (+4). Ryan rolls for Zird and gets a +2, tying at Great (+4). Zird doesn’t have to deal with taking a hit, but he does grant Skortch a boost, which Amanda decides to call Momentarily Tripped Up.