More Examples of Extras
Here are some more pre-configured extras, at different levels of detail, to address some of the most common RPG tropes.
Weapon and Armor Ratings
Several of the entries in this section refer to Weapon and Armor ratings. You can use them in grittier games as a blanket assumption rather than relegating them to extras, if it’s appropriate—getting hit by a weapon will damage you more, and having armor keeps that from happening.
A Weapon value adds to the shift value of a successful hit. So, if you have Weapon:2, it means that any hit is worth 2 more shifts than it would normally be. This counts for ties, so when you’re using a weapon, you inflict stress on a tie instead of getting a boost. That makes weapons very dangerous.
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 shift value to 0 or below, you get a boost to use on your target but don’t do any harm.
It is recommended setting a scale for Weapon damage from 1 to 4, keeping in mind that on a tie, a Weapon:4 hit will take out four Average nameless NPCs. Then set your Armor ratings based on what you think you’d need to fully protect against the weapons on each level.
Amanda talks to the group about adding Weapon and Armor ratings. They agree, so now she’ll set up examples of weapons and their corresponding ratings. It’s a fantasy world, and fairly gritty, so she thinks about the “Weapon:4” guideline above and decides that any large, two-handed weapon (like a polearm or claymore-like sword) would spell doom for a nameless NPC group, even on a clumsy hit.
Extrapolating from there, she ends up with the following:
Weapon:1 corresponds to items like brass knuckles and small saps, or most improvised weapons. Armor:1 is padded clothes.
Weapon:2 corresponds to short blades or clubs, such as a dagger or a truncheon. Armor:2 is padding and mail.
Weapon:3 covers most swords, maces, and anything you use one-handed. Armor:3 is mail and plate.
Weapon:4 is reserved for large, two-handed melee weapons. Armor:4 is full-plate.
Zero-Sum Is Boring
Before you go crazy making weapons and armor charts for your campaign, you should stop and think about whether their inclusion is really going to make that much of a difference in your conflict scenes.
The reason this is said is because the first thing your players will want to do is eliminate the effectiveness of whatever their opponents have by armoring up. And unless you want your NPCs to get slaughtered, eventually you’re going to have to do the same. If everyone tends to be the equal of everyone else in terms of weapons and armor, you have a zero-sum game, and you might as well just go back to making everyone roll their default skills.
One way to handle this is to create a deliberate disparity between Weapon and Armor ratings, allowing one to go higher than the other. History is on your side here—most armor couldn’t completely protect against the weapons they went up against. Chain mail might keep a blade slash away, but it’s not going to do much about the blunt force trauma of a mace hit. Likewise, a set of plate might deflect a mace away, but a spear or a thrust sword that can slip between the plates ruins its day.
Another one is to make really good armor unusually scarce, the province of the extremely privileged, rich, or otherwise elite. So while it might be really easy to find a Weapon:3 sword, only the Royal Guard of Carmelion has the master blacksmiths necessary to make armor that’s its equal. Players might spend a lot of time trying to buy, cheat, conquer, or steal their way into such a set of armor, but at least you’ve squeezed some drama out of the attempt.
Just keep in mind that if you’re going to set armor and weapons up to be complete equals, you run the risk of wasted effort when their presence doesn’t actually matter.
Most game settings that have superpowers have the following in common: the purpose of a superpower is to make the stuff you do (your skills) more awesome, and the fact that everyone has superpowers is accepted as a conceit of the game.
That makes a build that’s appropriate for multiple settings really easy to do. No permissions, because everyone can have them (or maybe one “origin story” aspect). Take whatever power you want and make it into a stunt. If you need to go over the usual limits of a stunt to fully encompass the power, add one more point of refresh for every two shifts (or one added action, or one rule breakage) of effect you add. If you want multiple “levels” of a power, make the number of refresh you can spend on it variable.
Then give every PC a number of additional refresh to buy powers with.
Here are a bunch of powers! (This also works if you want a setting with magic where everyone knows a small selection of rigid spells, or very simple cybernetic enhancements.)
These are all taken from a game called Chrome City, home of Simon the Cyber-Ape. It’s basically four-color supers with a cyberpunk veneer thrown on it, and he comes from a society of intelligent, cybernetically enhanced apes who practice kung-fu.
Extra: Energy Blast
Costs: 2 points of refresh
You can use Shoot to blast other people with energy, without needing a gun or other implement. You have free rein to decide what your blast is like, whether it’s some elemental force or just undefined bolts of light. (This doesn’t cost refresh, because you can already use Shoot for attacks.)
You get +2 when using your energy blasts to make attacks or create advantages, and they hit for Weapon:2. If your setting has mundane weapons, this power has a Weapon value that’s 2 higher than the strongest mundane weapons available.
Costs: 2–6 points of refresh
Your Fight attacks are Weapon:2, and nearly all “raw strength” applications of Physique are at +2. Every additional 2 points of refresh you spend adds a +2 to all bonuses.
Costs: 3 points of refresh
You always go first in a conflict exchange. If someone else in the conflict has Super-Speed, compare skills as normal.
You take a +2 on all defense rolls with Athletics, or in contests relying purely on speed.
Except for absolute barriers like solid walls, you ignore all situation aspects that impede movement, and can place yourself in any zone you want at the start of every conflict exchange, because you had enough time to get there.
Costs: 1–3 refresh
You have Armor:2 on any defense roll against physical damage. Each additional point of refresh adds 2 to that total.
Extra: X-Ray Vision
Costs: 2 refresh
You don’t roll Notice or Investigate actions if the object of your search is hidden behind an opaque object—just assume you automatically succeed.
This also helps you stay hidden, because you can see when people are looking for you and where they are. +2 to Stealth to avoid detection.
Powers & Scaling
As you can see, “balancing” powers in Fate is more a matter of art than science. There are some rough equivalencies you can rely on, like 1 fate point = 1 invoke-equivalent or 1 stunt-equivalent, but when you get into writing rules exceptions like the one for X-Ray Vision, there’s no hard or fast rule for what’s too powerful. Everything is relative to your tastes, and Fate is hard to break.
So don’t sweat it too much when you’re making these up—go with what sounds cool, and if you break something, just change it later. Players, don’t be jerks about this if one of your powers gets a little nerfed.
More precise guidance is in the Fate System Toolkit.
As with powers, gear usually enhances what your character does, so a stunt-based approach seems the most reasonable at first blush. (Spirit of the Century vets will remember the Personal Gadget stunt.)
However, gear can also have a lot of story value. An enchanted sword may have its own legend and personality, or a cursed heirloom might reflect the family that’s been forced to keep it for centuries. Use aspects to describe these, and remember that the aspects should provide opportunities for invocations and compels. If you want, you can give the invocations themselves some special flavor, giving them a one-time, stunt-like bonus.
An aspect on gear might also suggest the best situation in which to use it or delineate what makes it different from others of its kind (like a sniper rifle being ideally suited For Long-Range Work or a particular model that Never, Ever Jams).
It is recommended against going overboard with this and giving every single item your PC owns an aspect or stunt. This is a game about your character, not about his or her stuff. For the most part, you should assume that if your character has a particular skill, that includes the appropriate stuff to use that skill effectively. Reserve extras for items that have unique or personal value, something that you’re not going to be changing constantly through the course of the campaign.
Quick and Dirty Story-based Gear
If you don’t want to deal with extras, there’s a way to do gear that doesn’t require too much rigmarole: think of them as auto-created advantages that you bring into a scene. GMs, you already get to put stuff likeNarrow Alleys and Rough Terrain out there—you can also apply this to describe the situational advantages that characters get from gear.
So, if your PC has a full-auto rifle and is taking on someone with a pistol, add a Better Firepower aspect to your character with a free invoke at the start of a scene, just like you would if you’d created that advantage with a roll. That way, you can tune the benefits to narrative circumstances—if you’re fighting in a really narrow alley, your sword might be a poorer tool than your opponent’s knife, so they’d get a free invoke on a Poor Choice of Weapon aspect attached to you.
In those rare situations where you have the absolutely ideal tool for a job, the aspect you get might count as being “with style”, and come with two free invokes.
Extra: Demonbane, The Enchanted Sword
Permissions: Finding the sword during the game
The sword Demonbane has an aspect called Slayer of Demon-Kind. If you are the sword’s bearer, you can invoke this aspect when fighting or opposing demons. You may also be subject to a compel due to the sword’s enchantment; it continually pushes its bearers to destroy demons with total abandon, and may cause you to lose sight of other objectives, prevent you from escaping a demon’s notice, or other complications.
In addition, invoking the sword’s aspect has another pair of special effects: it can banish any nameless NPC demon instantly, with no conflict or contest, and it can reveal the presence of a concealed demon under any circumstances.
Extra: Brace Jovannich’s Dueling Pistol
Permissions: Possessing the aspect The Legacy of Brace
Costs: One aspect slot (for the permission aspect) and one point of refresh
Brace Jovannich is the most feared, most respected gunfighter the world of Aedeann has ever known. His gun, known worldwide for the slaying and maiming of hundreds, is yours now. Only you know why you don’t just throw it in a canal and save yourself the trouble of its reputation.
Prepare for compels on that aspect when people recognize the gun and require proof that you’re worthy of it, vengeance for the wrongs it’s been a part of, or other kinds of unwanted attention. On the other hand, besides the obvious combat benefits, you can invoke the aspect when you’re using Brace’s fearsome reputation to your advantage.
The pistol gives you a +2 bonus to any Shoot attack made in a one-on-one duel. This is formal duels, not just singling someone out in a normal gunfight—you challenge or get challenged by someone, there are seconds, etc., etc. If you’re using Weapon values in your game, it also has a rating similar to other pistols.
Cybertech and Super-Skills
For the most part, you can run cyberwear a lot like our superpowers example above: “mega”-stunts with multiple refresh values based on how much cool stuff they do.
In some settings, though, there’s another role for cybertech that borders on the magical: it allows people to do things in cyberspace, creating a new context for action related to tech itself.
For that, you need a custom skill, describing the new arena for doing stuff and what happens in it.
Another potential use for custom skills is to set up really specific niches for characters in your game, so that you only have one person who gets called upon in a specific situation. Instead of having a Fight skill that everyone can take, for instance, you may have a Warrior skill, and only the Warrior PC gets it. Caper stories work well for this, because the niches are already defined in the fiction (the planner, the wheelman, the con artist). Just make sure everyone understands that in a setup like this, trying to act outside your niche will probably go really bad for you.
Permissions: Possession of an interface package (assumed if you take the skill)
Costs: Skill ranks
The Interface skill allows you interact with computers and teched-up objects in a way that most people can’t. You can get inside the machine’s head, talk to it like most people would chat to a friend, and fight it like you’re in a bar brawl. Of course, that means the machine can also do that stuff to you.
Overcome: Use Interface to fix a malfunctioning computer system, bypass security lockdowns and other obstacles by hacking your way through, force a piece of tech to trigger a programmed response, and keep a piece of tech from triggering a response.
Create an Advantage: Use Interface to learn about the properties of a particular piece of tech (i.e. learn its aspects), to diagnose malfunctions in a computer system, to plant fake signals or false information in a computer system, and to create disruptions.
Attack: Use Interface to break down a computer system directly.
Defend: Use Interface to defend against attacks from computer systems. Failed defense rolls will result in physical stress and consequences—a cyber-interface means your actual, physical brain is at stake.
Permissions: Choosing “The Media” archetype at character creation
Costs: Skill ranks and refresh, for associated stunts
Others can spread gossip and rumors, but you have your finger on the pulse of broadcast media. At your word, the events of the day become news, whether it’s on television, radio, or the Internet.
Overcome: Use Media to disseminate information to the public, with whatever spin you want to put on it. More obscure or local incidents will be harder to spread, and it’ll be harder to make your own spin prevalent if the story’s already been picked up by other outlets. Success means that generally, the public believes what you want them to believe about the incident, though named NPCs may have more complex opinions.
Create an Advantage: Use Media to place aspects on an event or an individual reflecting the reputation they gain from your stories.
Attack: If you have sufficient leverage to psychologically harm someone through a smear campaign and/or media bullying, use this for attacks.
Defend: Use Media to prevent damage to your own reputation or peace of mind from someone else using the Media skill.
Stunts: Want Ads. You may use Media for the same kind of Overcome rolls you’d use Contacts for, by summoning services you need through classifieds.
Mob Justice. You can incite people in public to physical violence with Media, and gain the use of two Average (+1) nameless NPCs for that scene, who will attack people at your direction.
In some games, it’s important to track how much wealth your character has—feudal lords in competition for power, CEOs using their money to strike at their foes, or even gamblers in Gangsterland. Fate is pretty handwavey with numbers in general, and we generally recommend against keeping precise track of how many gold pieces are in your character’s pocket.
When you want a character resource to be finite like wealth is, a good option is to use a custom stress track to represent the exhaustion of that resource. You’re creating a new context for conflict when you do this, allowing the new stress track to be attacked and harmed like mental and physical stress.
You can also use something like this to model honor or reputation in a setting where that matters, like feudal Japan.
Extra: Resources, Revisited
Permissions: None, anyone can take the skill
Costs: Skill ranks
At creation, all characters get a special mild (A 20-spot From a Friend), moderate (Payday Loan), and severe (They Want To Break My Kneecaps) consequence that they can take in wealth-related conflicts.
Add the following actions to the Resources skill:
Attack: You can make financial moves to destroy someone else’s resources or force them to overspend to deal with you, and thus inflict wealth stress and consequences. If you take someone out this way, it means some kind of permanent shift in their finances for the worse.
Defend: Use Resources to maintain your status in the face of attempts to destroy your capital.
As an interesting advancement option, you might consider allowing permanent downgrades of the Resources skill as a tradeoff for upgrading certain extras, if that extra is something money can buy.
Vehicles, Locations, and Organizations
These are all lumped together in one category because if you want them to be important, their impact is usually significant enough to justify giving them their own character sheet.
It doesn’t always have to be that complicated, especially if you’re going for something more subtle—for example, if you want to tie up some cool stunts into a vehicle and use the superpower or special gear rules above, that’s perfectly valid. This is for when you want a vehicle to be a real personality and cornerstone of your game, as iconic as the Enterprise or the Millennium Falcon.
If you assign an extra its own skills, you’re suggesting that the extra has the capability to act independently of you, and you need to justify why that is. Depending on the extra, you may also need to recontextualize what the skills mean or make up a new list more appropriate for the ways in which the extra acts.
In this game, the characters are given a handful of extra refresh, skill ranks, and aspect slots to invest into sailing ships. The group decided to invest collectively in one awesome ship.
Extra: The Galerider
Permissions: None; understood as part of the game’s conceit
Costs: Skill ranks, refresh, and aspect slots, invested by several characters
Aspects: Fastest Ship in the Fleet, Hidden Cargo Compartments, Lord Tamarin Wants To Sink Her
Skills: (representing the ship’s crew; PCs can use their own skills if higher)
Good (+3) Notice
Fair (+2) Shoot, Sail (equivalent to Drive)
Stunts: Pour On The Speed. The Galerider gives +2 on any Sail rolls to win a contest of speed.
Boobytrapped: For a fate point, any PC can have Weapon:2 on an attack or add 2 to the Weapon value of any Fight attack that happens on board, by triggering any of the nasty traps scattered across the deck and interiors as part of their action.
This is for a game where every PC is the ruler of a separate nation state on a fantasy world, and the action deals a lot with international politics. The PCs get to build a separate character sheet for their nation state.
Extra: The Plenary of Ghiraul
Permissions: None; assumed as part of the game’s premise
Costs: A special pool of aspects, skill ranks, and stunts
This small nation-state is known for its vast spy network and laws which protect the rich and powerful, usually at the expense of the peasantry. You rule it; congrats. When acting against other nations, use the skills here rather than the ones on your character sheet. In this case, your skills represent the efforts of your spies, nobles, artisans, and armies, respectively.
Aspects: We’re Watching You; The Rich Eat the Poor; Sharp Minds, Dull Blades
Skills: Great (+4) Investigate
Good (+3) Resources
Fair (+2) Crafts
Average (+1) Fight
Stunts: Counter-Intelligence. The Plenary can use Investigate to defend against other nations’ attempts to learn its aspects. Succeeding with style on this defense allows the Plenary to feed the nation an aspect that contains false information instead.
When you’re making a magic system, the preliminary discussion is extremely important, because you need to establish some firm expectations for what is and isn’t possible, and how far-reaching the effects can be. No two fantasy worlds in popular media have similar properties for their magic, and often, defining the arcane also defines a vital facet of how the world operates. Therefore, these examples are pretty detailed, using the full range of character elements.
Lucas the Magic Cop is a PC in the Fate game Ancestral Affairs, inspired by Hong Kong gunplay movies, where the characters are a special supernatural crimes task force operating in the fictional city of San Jian, California. In the setting, you have to channel magical power from ancestral, semi-divine spirits. Powers are specific and portfolio-based, so a spirit of water will confer different benefits than a spirit of luck. Also, people have karmic stress tracks, reflecting the resilience of their soul.
Extra: Lucas’s Arts
Permissions: None, anyone can commune with a spirit for power
Costs: Aspect slots, skill ranks, stress/consequences
At creation, characters get an extra three slots for aspects that they can assign to describe their relationship with an ancestor spirit. The aspect should include context, so something like Sujan Has It In For Me or Dammar and I Share Respect is appropriate.
To use ancestral powers, you must take a new skill called Commune.
This is the skill for becoming one with and manipulating the energy of ancestral spirits.
Overcome: Use Commune to negate the energy of unformed, minor spirits (read: unnamed NPCs) or to impose your will on an ancestral spirit with whom you are not currently bound. Failing one of these rolls is likely to cause you karmic stress or consequences.
Create an Advantage: Use Commune to stack free invokes on your spirit aspects, or to retune the spiritual energy in an area to your favor.
Attack: Use Commune to temporarily dispel hostile spirits and demons. (Note: You cannot attack humans or other corporeal entities directly with this action.)
Defend: Use Commune to defend against hostile supernatural influences. Failing to defend from these attacks deals karmic stress. (Note: You cannot defend against supernaturally enhanced attacks from humans or other corporeal entities directly with this action.)
Special: Commune adds stress and consequence slots to your karmic stress track, using the same rules for Physique and Will. Consequences from a karmic attack literally retune the universe around your character, so things like Poor Luck or Surrounded by Sadness are good candidates.
Each of the ancestral spirits also gets a writeup, which describes their portfolio, general philosophy, and the benefits they can confer. You gain these benefits by expending a free invoke gained with the Commune skill (as in, only the Commune skill), or by spending two of your fate points. One benefit should always allow you to simply say that something happens in the story without a roll.
Sujan, the Spirit of Warding
Portfolio: Defense and protection
Philosophy: All life is worth guarding and preserving, even in the face of great adversity
- You may prevent any mundane calamity of fate once per scene—avert that car accident, stop someone just short of going over the cliff, or put someone just out of the reach of that explosion. There is no roll for this; it just happens. You can’t use this to retcon an action, only change its outcome.
- You can raise a Great (+4) shield of energy to protect you and anyone you name. This can stack with any other active opposition you or your chosen target can bring forth. As soon as someone bypasses the opposition, your shield goes away and you must re-establish it. (Yes, you can stack your free invokes for this and make titanic shields. Presumably, there are other spirits whose powers can rip your shield down.)
Here’s a build for a fantasy game with rigid schools of magic.
Extra: Schools of Power
Permissions: One aspect that names which order you belong to
Costs: Aspect slot (for the permission), skill ranks (kind of), refresh
Your aspect allows you to take membership in one of several arcane orders. Those orders have a mini-sheet of their own, with aspects, skills, and stunts. Having a membership in an order lets you “adopt” part of the order’s character sheet as your own.
You can only belong to one order at a time, and leaving an order to join another is practically unheard of (read: interesting option for PCs to pursue over the course of a campaign).
The Black League
Aspects: Deception Is The Only Truth, The Dead Heed Us, Kill Your Betters Before They Kill You
Skills: Great (+4) Learn
Good (+3) Create
Fair (+2) Destroy
Average (+1) Change
Stunts: Necromancy. +2 to any use of the Black League’s skills to affect corpses.
Keeping Secrets. Once per scene, you may reroll any Deceive skill roll and keep the best result.
Shadow Play. When using the Create skill, add an additional free invoke to any situation aspects you make involving darkness.
The magical skills are Create, Destroy, Learn, and Change. Each order prioritizes them from Great to Average. Use the lower of the order’s skill rank or your Lore skill rank when you’re performing magical actions.
You get one free stunt from among those possessed by your order, and you can get more by spending refresh. You can invoke or be compelled by the order’s aspects as though they were your own.
You call on your magical skills when something makes the use of your mundane skills impossible. For example, if you can no longer interrogate a suspect because the torture has killed him, you’d make an overcome roll with Learn to discover what you need to know through magic. If someone is suffering a deep, dark depression that no normal care can address, create an advantage with Change to alter their mood.