Fate System Toolkit

Skill Modes

A skill mode is a bundle of several skills that represents a broad area of competence. Modes are great for speeding up character creation even more than Fate Core already does. Instead of picking and rating 10 individual skills, players pick and rate three modes, and the skills come along for the ride.

Take a look at your game’s skill list and think about archetypes you’d like to see in your setting. For each of these archetypes, choose five or six relevant skills. Each of these skill groups is a mode. It’s okay if some skills show up in more than one mode, but if any are so common that they’re in nearly every mode, be aware that it’s going to lead to a certain sameness between characters.

Ideally, you want between four and eight modes—enough for variety, but few enough that picking three is still fast.

Ben is planning a classic fantasy game of dungeon-delving, treasure-grabbing, and the occasional dragon-slaying. This game’s skills are Athletics, Burglary, Contacts, Deceit, Empathy, Intimidation, Melee, Missile, Physique, Rapport, Stealth, Survival, and Will. Based on that list, he comes up with four modes:

Battle Talk Thievery Woodcraft
Athletics Contacts Athletics Athletics
Intimidation Deceit Burglary Lore
Melee Empathy Deceit Notice
Missile Rapport Notice Stealth
Physique Will Stealth Survival

Ben notices that Athletics shows up in three of the four, but it’s such a broadly applicable skill that he can’t imagine any of those modes doing without it, either. Besides, the tomb-robber PCs are going to need it.


The usual Fate Core skill pyramid doesn’t apply to skills in modes. Instead, each player picks three modes and rates them—one at Good (+3), one at Fair (+2), and one at Average (+1)—and the mode’s rating becomes the default rating for all of its skills. Skills at this rating are trained. Skills one step above their mode’s level are focused, and skills two steps above are specialized.

One of Ben’s players, Will, wants to play a thief-type, so he picks Good (+3) Thievery. This means Athletics, Burglary, Deceit, Notice, and Stealth all start out trained, with a rating of Good (+3).

Reinforced Skills

If two or three of a character’s modes contain the same skill, it’s reinforced. When this happens, write it down under its highest-rated mode, but not under any other. No skill should appear more than once on a character sheet.

If a skill is reinforced once—meaning it’s shared by two modes—improve it from trained to focused. If it’s reinforced twice—shared by all three modes—improve it from trained to specialized.

In addition to his Good (+3) Thievery, Will’s also picked Fair (+2) Talk and Average (+1) Battle. Both Battle and Thievery have Athletics, so it goes from trained to focused—from Good (+3) to Great (+4) under Thievery. Likewise, Talk and Thievery share Deceit, so that skill’s also focused under Thievery. So far, Will’s modes look like this:

  Good (+3)Thievery Fair (+2) Talk Average (+1) Battle
+4 Athletics, Deceit    
+3 Burglary, Notice, Stealth    
+2   Contacts, Empathy, Rapport, Will  
+1     Intimidation, Melee, Missile, Physique

Improving Skills

After that, each player has 7 points to further improve skills.

Improvement Cost
Focus a trained skill 1
Specialize a focused skill 2
Specialize a trained skill 3


No skill can ever be improved beyond specialized.


Will wants to be especially sneaky, so he spends 3 points to specialize Stealth, from Good (+3) to Superb (+5). He’d also like to be capable in combat, so he spends another 3 to specialize Melee as well, from Average (+1) to Good (+3). With his last point, he focuses Contacts, from Fair (+2) to Good (+3), so he can be a little better connected.

  Good (+3) Thievery Fair (+2) Talk Average (+1) Battle
+5 Stealth    
+4 Athletics, Deceit    
+3 Burglary, Notice Contacts Melee
+2   Empathy, Rapport, Will  
+1     Intimidation, Missile, Physique

Modes with Extras

Some modes offer access to extras—either because it contains a skill extra, or because it unlocks an aspect extra. For each such extra associated with a mode, the mode has one fewer skill than normal. For example, if standard modes in your game have five skills, a mode with a skill extra would have only four. Aspect extras are in addition to the usual number of aspects for your game.

Ben adds four modes to his list: Arcana and The Gods, for two different kinds of magic, and Dwarf and Elf, for…dwarves and elves. The first two have two extras each—a skill and an aspect, both related to magic—and the second two only have one—an aspect.

Arcana The Gods Dwarf Elf
Lore Favor Intimidation Athletics
Magic Lore Lore Lore
Will Will Melee Missile
Skill Extra Skill Extra Physique Notice
Aspect Extra Aspect Extra Aspect Extra Aspect Extra