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Fate Core

Stress & Consequences

Determine how much of a beating your character can take.

When Fate characters find themselves in harm’s way—a fairly common occurrence when you’re highly competent, proactive, and facing drama at every turn—they have two ways to stand their ground and stay on their feet: stress and consequences.

The Conflicts section of the Challenges, Contests, and Conflicts section fully explains what these mean and how they’re used. In brief, stress represents the ephemeral toll of participating in a conflict, whereas consequences are the lingering effects, and sometimes quite traumatic ones, of taking harm.

Stress Tracks

Every PC has two different stress tracks. The physical stress track deals with physical harm, and the mental stress track mitigates mental harm. The more boxes in a stress track, the more resilient the character is in that regard. By default, a character has two boxes in each stress track.

Consequence Slots

Every PC also has three consequence slots. One is mild, one is moderate, and the last one is severe. Unlike stress, these aren’t classified as either physical or mental—any of them can apply to any type of harm. As mentioned above, consequences are the injuries and traumas you can’t just shake off after the dust settles.

Adding Tracks and Slots

Certain skills and some stunts can add to these defaults. See the Skills and Stunts section for more on that. For the sake of quick reference, these are the skills in Hearts of Steel that alter stress and consequences:

Physique helps with physical stress, and Will helps with mental stress. Either skill grants one more stress box of the respective type (physical or mental) if rated at Average (+1) or Fair (+2), or two more stress boxes if rated at Good (+3) or higher. At Superb (+5) or higher, they also grant an additional mild consequence slot. Unlike the standard three, this consequence slot is specifically restricted to either physical harm (Physique) or mental harm (Will).

Note: if you’re playing in a setting with different skills, the skills that affect stress boxes and consequences may change. Take a note of those skill benefits when you’re making your character.

You can add stress tracks if the characters in your game suffer unique kinds of harm, such as wealth stress in a very political game. Changing the number of boxes will slow down and draw out conflicts, which may be more appropriate for high-octane, pulpy genres where characters are expected to take a lot of hits.

Landon has Good (+3) Physique, which nets him two more physical stress boxes. His Will, however, is only Average (+1), but that’s still good enough for one more mental stress box.

Cynere’s Physique is Fair (+2), so she gets a third physical stress box. But her mental stress track remains at two boxes, thanks to her Mediocre (+0) Will.

Zird the Arcane, being a rather bookish type, has Mediocre (+0) Physique, so he has only the default physical stress track of two boxes. His Fair (+2) Will, though, is good for one bonus mental stress box.

Because none of these characters has Physique or Will rated at Superb (+5) or above, each has the default number of consequences: one mild, one moderate, and one severe.