Fate Space Toolkit

Life in Space

Life in Space

Fate is a narration-intensive game, and enjoyable play relies much on offering interesting and compelling challenges as well as plausible and dramatic consequences, of which space has plenty. To paraphrase Raymond Chandler: when in doubt, send in the laws of physics—radiation, acceleration forces, or explosive decompression. In a high-plausibility game, the characters might also have to worry about microgravity, so that the weight of a massive world becomes a bracing relief.


For most high-plausibility games as well as medium-plausibility near-future games, spaceship crews and passengers will need to be shielded from radiation exposure. Sources of radiation can include the following:

  • Solar flares and similar activity
  • Intense planetary radiation belts caused by powerful magnetospheres, like Jupiter’s
  • Oncoming cosmic particles that strike a rapidly moving ship
  • Any radiation caused by the ship’s own drives or power plant

Ships without powerful electromagnetic or gravitic shielding are almost certain to have radiation shelters into which passengers and crew can retreat if the ships are designed to operate in space for any extended period of time.

Direct exposure to radiation can be treated as an attack, defended against with Physique. Severe exposure can be debilitating, with effects such as skin burns, internal bleeding, and organ damage. Getting to shelter before receiving a lethal or debilitating radiation dose can be a roll with Athletics, Spacehand, or other appropriate crew skill, against a difficulty based on the severity of the storm and the distance to the shelter, which will probably be located at the core or center of the ship, behind layers of shielding.

Low-level radiation hazards can be treated as challenges, in which the characters must note dangerous dosimeter readings and radiation monitor levels (Notice), identify the precise source of the hazard (Investigate or Science), and address the problem (Engineering to create shielding or a patch, Science to provide medical treatment, etc.).

Radiation poisoning might be treated with “regular treatments in hyper sleep,” “nanobot radiation sweepers,” “pre-jump injections,” and so forth.

Exposure to Vacuum

A spaceship hull might lose its integrity—becoming holed or suffering a hull breach—due to hostile fire, impact with one or more micrometeoroids, or structural weakness. Detecting and patching a slow leak is a challenge involving Notice and Engineering; rapid or explosive decompression could require Athletics to dodge spontaneous projectiles and Engineering to patch or otherwise remedy the defect. Sealing up one’s spacesuit in time with Engineering may prevent serious internal injuries. Injury from collisions with unsecured objects or bodies is another potential danger.

The loss of integrity to a spacecraft’s hull can result in unplanned, uncontrolled decompression as the ship’s air rushes or bleeds out into the vacuum. A rapid decrease in air pressure can cause lung damage or other pressure trauma (“barotrauma”) to the intestines, inner ear, and other internal cavities as well as decompression sickness, caused by dissolved gases forming bubbles inside the body. A pressure drop to vacuum can also swell the body to about twice its normal volume, unless it’s protected by a pressure suit. Note that holding one’s breath during an episode of rapid decompression is a big mistake, as it could cause a lung to rupture.

However, the most serious danger is lack of oxygen (“hypoxia”) causing loss of consciousness in about ten seconds and death after about a minute. Being tossed out an airlock without a spacesuit can have this effect.


In the absence of artificial gravity or other super-science, a spacecraft’s crew and passengers feel its acceleration as a force pushing them back against the direction of travel. This acceleration can be measured in gees or “gravities.” A steady one-gee acceleration is indistinguishable from the force of gravity at Earth’s surface. Rapid or erratic acceleration at high gees produces g-forces that put stress on a human body, causing temporary vision loss (partial or complete), loss of consciousness, permanent blindness, and even death. Passengers and crew may need to be strapped down or otherwise secured in “acceleration couches” or need to wear pressure suits that force blood back into the extremities.

More advanced gravity-affecting “inertial dampeners” or similar technologies may obviate the need for other forms of acceleration protection, but such tech is low plausibility. More plausible are acceleration tanks filled with some sort of oxygenated foam that surrounds the body and penetrates internal cavities.

To withstand high acceleration, a character must defend with Physique against a difficulty determined by the severity or suddenness of the acceleration, which can be established by the result of a Pilot roll or the ship engines’ relevant skill, whether Thrust, Drives, or Delta-vee. An astronaut’s or test pilot’s high-gee training can be represented as a Physique stunt. In general, protective technologies will account for normal acceleration; only call for rolls if complications emerge from other actions or as part of a challenge.


Microgravity produces long-term effects such as muscle atrophy and bone-density loss. Such effects can be mitigated by a program of strenuous exercise, weight belts, and/or magnetic or high-traction shoes. Maintaining the appropriate regimen requires an Athletics roll against a difficulty determined by the duration of the space journey, with a few weeks being Average (+1). A tie causes a mild consequence, while failure causes a moderate or severe consequence related to bodily weakness.

Some spaceships provide artificial gravity by rotating around a long axis to produce a Coriolis force. This force also affects the apparent trajectories of ballistic objects, so that they seem to curve rather than travel in a straight line. This increases the difficulty of attacking with thrown weapons and projectiles, to the tune of an extra step of difficulty per zone of distance to the target; an Athletics or Shoot stunt can be used to offset the difficulty increase from the Coriolis force.