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Fate System Toolkit

Modifying the Setting: Making Big Changes

While Fate characters are always protagonists, sometimes the players decide they want to modify the setting itself, cleaning up the mean streets of a crime-ridden town or securing a military fortification against future attacks.

Discover the Problems Before You Solve Them

First, the players must gather the information they need to do the job. Perhaps the characters need to collect their existing experience—“Isn’t Bastion the main drug runner in town?”—or maybe they need to make new Contacts, Investigate, or Lore rolls to uncover old alliances and lost knowledge. Either way, the group should construct a series of setting aspects that represent the existing problem.

To clean up the streets, a group might list:

  • Local Drug Pushers
  • Midlevel Drug Mules
  • Drug Financiers
  • Corrupt Cops
  • Crime Kingpin, Marty O’Banner

Episode by Episode

For each setting aspect the group wants to reform, the group must roll against an appropriate difficulty for resolving that problem. For example, arresting all the Local Drug Pushers might require the characters to make a Resources roll to mobilize the existing police officers, or a Physique roll to actually capture the bad guys themselves. While the characters can invoke their own aspects, the GM can pay fate points to invoke the existing setting aspects—such as Corrupt Cops—complicating the players’ progress.

For each roll, use the outcome to drop the characters into the middle of a situation—like a TV episode—that reflects the results of the roll. On a losing roll, the Local Drug Pushers have gone to ground, and it’s going to take some digging to get them out. On a successful roll, the group has rounded up the bad guys, but needs to get them to start talking. Either way, if the characters manage to resolve the situation, flip the setting aspect to a positive, turning Local Drug Pushers into A Few Clean Streets.

Once they start to make progress, let the group freely invoke previously resolved setting aspects that apply, as the job might get easier when they work their way up the chain.

We Need a Montage!

If you’re less interested in playing out the day-to-day changes needed to reform a criminal justice system or fortify a castle, you can instead construct montages for your characters’ progress. Set a time limit—including a limited number of actions—that represent that time and resources the characters have available to resolve the situation before the story picks up in full.

For each roll, the characters attempt to resolve one of the discovered aspects using appropriate skills. Characters can work together, or they can split up to try to solve multiple problems. In this style of making big changes, narrate the group’s success like a movie montage, pausing only long enough at each roll to see the group succeed or fail to improve the situation.