Fate System Toolkit
Character Generation Options
The character generation system in Fate Core presents a particular style of character creation, one that presents a lot of freedom but also provides structure and guides the players into creating a coherent group of individuals. Maybe you want something a little less open-ended, or something a little more guided.
Professions and Races
Anyone who’s played fantasy RPGs is at least passingly familiar with these ideas. For those who aren’t sure what we mean, a profession is a broad group of skills and abilities that follows from a particular character concept, often linked to what you do in the world. A race describes what you are—where you come from, who your people are, and where your natural talents lie.
THE WORD “RACE”
The term “race” is both inaccurate and problematic in this context. We’re not describing a race as modern people use the word; what we’re describing is more akin to a species. When you’re making a race in Fate, what you’re really doing is making rules for a type of being other than human, not a nationality or ethnicity.
So why do we use the word ‘race’? It’s familiar in the context of a role-playing game. People know what it means because of numerous games that have come before, and it imparts an immediate understanding of what we’re talking about. Is it the best word? No. But we don’t have a better word with the same level of history within the hobby, so we’re using it here, with the understanding that it’s a problematic term.
In Fate, a profession is represented as a collection of skills arranged in the pyramid, with specific values. Some slots are left open, some are defined. When you pick a profession, you get the pyramid provided. Fill in any blanks with whatever you want. A profession also includes a few aspects; pick at least one of these, or create new ones based on the theme represented by the aspects provided. Don’t take more than two aspects from your profession. Finally, a profession has a list of stunts available. These are profession-exclusive stunts; if you’re a member of a profession, you can take its stunts. If you’re not a member of the profession, those stunts are off-limits.
A race in Fate provides a number of aspects; choose at least one but not more than two. Just as with your profession, you can make your own if you want to. Your race also gives you a racial skill in a few different flavors. (See example below.) Slot your racial skill into whichever empty slot on the pyramid appeals to you and pick the flavor that most appeals to you; it’ll tell you how you can use your racial skill. You can take additional flavors of your racial skill as if they were stunts.
Hardened Mercenary, Knight of the Realm, Master at Arms, Stout Defender, War Veteran
- Great (+4): Fight
- Good (+3): Athletics or Physique, one other
- Fair (+2): Shoot or Provoke, two others
- Average (+1): Any four skills
Armiger: Whenever you take a mild physical consequence, you can choose to instead destroy your armor or your shield, provided you're using the appropriate item. Once your armor or shield is destroyed, you'll have to get it repaired or get a new one.
Bend Bars, Lift Gates: You may spend a fate point to automatically overcome a Physique obstacle, even if you've already rolled for it, provided you're trying to accomplish something through brute strength.
Bounty Board: Whenever you enter a settlement, you can look for work. After an hour or so, you find a job that either pays well but is dangerous or is not too dangerous but doesn't pay that well. If you spend a fate point, it both pays well and is not too dangerous.
Defend the Weak: When someone is attacked physically while within your zone, you can spend a fate point to redirect that attack to yourself. You may defend against that attack at +1.
Acquisition Specialist, Cunning Swindler, Guild Thief, Knife in the Dark, Second-Story Man/Woman.
- Great (+4): Deceive or Stealth
- Good (+3): Athletics or Provoke, one other
- Fair (+2): Fight or Shoot, two others
- Average (+1): Any four skills
Backstab: When you can surprise an enemy or attack from a place of hiding, you can attack with Stealth. If you succeed, you create a boost. If you succeed with style, you get to invoke that boost for free twice.
Cover: You have a cover identity you can assume. Describe your cover identity, choose a high concept and a trouble aspect for your cover identity, and choose an apex skill for your cover identity. You can assume that identity with enough preparation and the expenditure of a fate point. While you’re in that identity, its high concept and trouble replace yours and you can use Deceive in place of its apex skill. You lose these benefits as soon as your cover is blown, and you may have to spend some time creating a new cover identity.
Criminal Underbelly: Whenever you enter a settlement for the first time, you can spend a fate point to declare that the local criminals know you. Choose one of the following: they have a lead on a promising job, they’ll give you and your companions free room and board for a few weeks, or they’ll help you with something right now but you might owe them afterward.
Not a Threat: Choose Deceive or Stealth when you take this stunt. When you create an advantage with that skill to make yourself as non-threatening or unobtrusive as possible, enemies will find other targets for as long as that aspect exists. As soon as you successfully attack someone, the aspect goes away.
The Experience of Centuries, “I Know These Woods.”, The Long Game, Magic in the Blood, Perfection in Everything.
Racial Skill (Elf)
You may use the Elf skill to recognize useful flora and fauna, know your way through the woods, or notice hidden dangers. In addition, pick one of the following flavors; you may pick more at the cost of one stunt or refresh each.
Elven High Magic: You can use Elf to cast spells relating to nature or growth, even if you have no other magical ability.
Perfection in Battle: Choose Shoot or Fight. When you’re using the traditional armaments of your people, you can use Elf instead of the chosen skill.
Blood and Glory, Everyone Fears the Horde, “Pain Is for the Weak.”, The Spirits Guide Me, Warrior of the Seven Clans.
Racial Skill (Orc)
You may use Orc to resist pain, call upon the spirits for aid, or perform feats of brute strength. In addition, pick one of the following flavors; you can pick more at the cost of one stunt or refresh each.
Blood Rage: When you use Orc to create an advantage representing an overpowering battle-fury, you get an extra invocation on that aspect if you succeed or succeed with style.
Thick Skin: You may use Orc instead of Physique to determine your physical stress and consequences, and you get one additional minor physical consequence.
The Origin Story
The origin story is a method to kick-start character creation through play, using vignettes that target each player. Before playing through an origin story, a character needs two things: a high concept and an apex skill. Most players will have at least a general idea of who they want to be, but they may be fuzzy on the details. The high concept and the apex skill define a character in the broadest possible terms, providing a starting point for an origin story vignette.
When you play through an origin story with a player, it’s just like playing the normal game except that you’re playing with an eye toward defining who that character is. Start in medias res—when you start with action, you give the player opportunities to make choices about their character.
A character starts her origin story with one fate point.
Choosing New Skills
During the origin story, call for a lot of skill rolls. Spotlight the character’s apex skill to some extent, but also call for other skill rolls. Whenever the player must make a skill roll and doesn’t want to roll at Mediocre (+0), she can assign that skill to one of her empty slots. Once assigned, it’s part of the character.
Choosing New Aspects
Throw the player into a variety of different situations, pit her against a variety of different difficulties. When the player runs into trouble, when she needs a +2 or a reroll for example, suggest an aspect to her. If she takes you up on your suggestion or comes up with her own aspect, let her invoke it once for free and give her a fate point!
Choosing New Stunts
You can offer the player new stunts the same way you offer her new aspects—offer her something that might get her out of a tight spot, or allow her to do something she needs to do. Just like in Fate Core, the character gets three free stunts and may take additional stunts by reducing refresh—unless you changed these dials, of course. If it’s a stunt with a limited number of uses or that costs a fate point, let her use it once for free.
Involving the Other Players
Playing a character’s origin story is a communal activity! Other players can jump in to play NPCs—you can suggest they do this, too, if you need someone to play a particular character. They can even jump in with their own characters, whether or not they’ve gone through their own origin story yet.
Other players can also suggest aspects, but only if those aspects define a relationship with their own characters. If the two players define a relationship during an origin story, they both get an aspect and a fate point—which the other player can use in his own origin story!
Ending an Origin Story
Follow an origin story to its logical conclusion, but try not to let it last longer than fifteen or twenty minutes before you move on to the next origin story. The idea is to play through an origin story for each player at the table during a single session.