Skills & Stunts
Table of Contents
A skill is a word that describes a broad family of competency at something—such as Athletics, Fight, or Deceive—which your character might have gained through innate talent, training, or years of trial and error. Skills are the basis for everything your character actually does in the game that involves challenge and chance (and dice).
Skills are rated on the adjective ladder. The higher the rating, the better your character is at the skill. Taken together, your list of skills gives you a picture of that character’s potential for action at a glance—what you’re best at, what you’re okay at, and what you’re not so good at.
We define skills in two ways in Fate—in terms of the game actions that you can do with them, and the context in which you can use them. There are only a handful of basic game actions, but the number of potential contexts is infinite.
The Basic Game Actions
We cover these in more detail in Actions and Outcomes, but here’s a quick reference so that you don’t have to flip all the way over there right now.
Overcome: True to its name, you tackle some kind of challenge, engaging task, or hindrance related to your skill.
Create an Advantage: Whether you’re discovering something that already exists about an opponent or creating a situation that helps you succeed, creating advantages allows you to discover and create aspects, and lets you get free invocations of them.
Attack: You try to harm someone in a conflict. That harm may be physical, mental, emotional, or social in nature.
Defend: You try to keep someone from harming you, getting past you, or creating an advantage to use against you.
Even though there are only four actions that all skills adhere to, the skill in question lends context to the action. For example, both Burglary and Crafts allow you to create an advantage, but only under very different contexts—Burglary allows you to do it when you’re casing a place you’re about to break into, and Crafts allows you to do it when you’re examining a piece of machinery. The different skills let you differentiate the PCs’ abilities from one another a bit, allowing each person to have a unique contribution to the game.
A stunt is a special trait your character has that changes the way a skill works for you. Stunts indicate some special, privileged way a character uses a skill that is unique to whoever has that stunt, which is a pretty common trope in a lot of settings—special or elite training, exceptional talents, the mark of destiny, genetic alteration, innate coolness, and a myriad of other reasons all explain why some people get more out of their skills than others do.
Unlike skills, which are about the sort of things anyone can do in your campaign, stunts are about individual characters. For that reason, the next several pages are about how to make your own stunts, but we’ll also have example stunts listed under each skill in the Default Skill List.
Having stunts in your game allows you to differentiate characters that have the same skills as one another.
Landon and Cynere both have a high Fight skill, but Cynere also has the Warmaster stunt, which makes her better at creating advantages with the skill. This differentiates the two characters a great deal—Cynere has a unique capability to analyze and understand her enemies’ weaknesses in a way Landon doesn’t.
One might imagine Cynere starting a fight by testing an enemy with moves and jabs, carefully assessing her opponent’s limits before moving in for a decisive strike, whereas Landon is happy to wade in and chop away.
You can also use this to set apart a certain set of abilities as belonging to a dedicated few, if that’s something your setting needs. For example, in a contemporary setting, you might feel that there shouldn’t be a base skill that allows just anyone to have medical training. (Unless, of course, it’s a game about doctors.) However, as a stunt for another, more general knowledge skill (like Lore), you can have one character be “the doctor” if that’s what the player wants.
Stunts and Refresh
Taking a new stunt beyond the first three reduces your character’s refresh rate by one.
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.)