Fate System Toolkit
What if you want to play a squad of characters who are conscripted to storm the beaches at Normandy on D-Day? Can you use Fate to play a squad of space marines?
Yes, sir. Yes, you can.
These rules, like everything in Fate, are flexible enough to work with a variety of skins, accommodating modern military units, World War II squads, high fantasy armies, and futuristic bug-hunting mechs.
First, create characters normally (see Fate Core, page 30). While you’re writing up your characters, name your squad and describe the role it plays in the greater force. Is it a ragtag bunch of ex-felon soldiers? Or a highly trained force of well-equipped professionals?
Whatever you decide, turn the description into two aspects, a squad concept for your squad, and a squad trouble that always seems to plague your unit. Any player in the unit can invoke these aspects and be compelled by them.
Lara, Antonio, and Michelle decide that their squad is a bootstrapped group of survivors who are fighting back after alien forces nearly destroyed New Orleans. After creating individual characters, they name their squad the Ninth Ward Defenders, giving it the squad concept Dogs of War to represent their scrappy resilience and the squad trouble In Over Our Head to show that the aliens are dominant.
Unlike individual skills, squad skills can be used to reshape the whole battlefield. For example, your soldier might lead a charge against the enemy’s line or call in reinforcements to soften hardened defenses.
After creating the unit aspects, give your unit:
- One Fair (+2) squad skill
- Two Average (+1) squad skills
- One Squad Stunt
If you want to emphasize the squad over the individual characters, reduce your characters’ starting stunts and refreshes from three to two, and cap your skills at Good (+3) instead of Great (+4).
The Operations skill measures your unit’s ability to work together on the battlefield, eliminating enemy units and securing key strategic positions.
O Overcome: Operations allows you to overcome obstacles as a unit, such as when you lay down cover fire to reach a wounded soldier safely or work together to climb over a wall.
C Create an Advantage: When you create an advantage with Operations, your unit is setting traps (Ambush!) or charging directly at the barricades (Panicked Grunts).
A Attack: Operations allows your squad to launch coordinated attacks against targets and should be rolled instead of an individual character’s Fight or Shoot whenever the squad acts as a unit.
D Defend: Operations is rolled for defense when your unit attempts to retreat from the larger combat zone or otherwise avoid an enemy attack as a group.
Operations Sample Stunts
Hard to Pin Down: Take a +2 on any Overcome roll made to retreat from a combat zone.
Blitzkrieg: Your squad is fast, light, and deadly. Take +2 on all Operation rolls in which your attack focuses on catching the enemy off-guard.
The Equipment skill represents the resources your squad has available to pursue its objectives.
O Overcome: Like the Resources skill, Equipment can be used to get the squad through a situation that requires some additional gear. The squad might call in some trucks to carry them over rough terrain or even call in a bombing run.
C Create an Advantage: Your squad might use Equipment to get some high-powered weaponry for a particular mission (Flamethrowers!) or to procure resources that are crucial for navigation (Topographical Maps).
A D Attack / Defend: Equipment isn’t used to attack or defend.
Equipment Sample Stunts
Hi-Tech Gear: You can use Equipment instead of Operations in any situation where raw technological superiority would win the day.
Well-Stocked: You gain a +2 on all Equipment rolls made to create an advantage when you are accessing your preexisting supplies.
O Overcome: Recon isn’t used often to overcome obstacles, but it can be used, like Notice, to give the squad a chance to head off ambushes or traps.
C Create Advantage: Your squad can use Recon during a battle to pierce the fog of war, gathering information beyond your immediate location.
A D Attack / Defend: Recon isn’t used to attack or defend.
Recon Sample Stunts
Codebreakers: On a successful Recon roll to create an advantage while monitoring enemy communications, you can discover or create one additional aspect (though this doesn’t give you an extra free invocation).
Counterprogramming: You can use Recon instead of Operations to set a trap when you use the enemy’s communications system against them.
Rolling Squad Skills
In order to make a squad skill roll or use a squad stunt, one player must decide to give up his personal action to rally the group. The nature of rallying will depend on the situation—military units typically follow orders—but generally the player will need the support of most of the other player characters.
If he’s successful in directing the squad, the difficulty of the task drops by 1 for each additional squadmate who sacrifices their next action to the new goal, as the group turns all its attention to accomplishing the goal. In addition to reducing the difficulty, the success or failure of the roll is carried across the whole unit, as the squad’s skills have the potential to reshape the battlefield and win the day—or cause the squad to suffer together. As such, stress inflicted on the squad as a whole is inflicted on each squadmate equally.
Rather than make a roll to try to breach an alien barrier by herself, Lara decides to rally the Ninth Ward Defenders to knock it down together. The difficulty of accomplishing the task falls from Fantastic (+6) to Great (+4). If she succeeds, the whole unit will get the benefit of breaching the enemy barrier without having to roll a second time. If she fails, the whole unit will suffer stress from the alien counterattack.
To run a great squad combat, use Operations rolls to move directly to the heart of the action. Rather than start at the beginning of the fight—when the conflicts are boring—get the squad to develop a plan of attack and roll Operations as an Overcome with a difficulty appropriate to the target to see how things turn out.
If they are successful, the players should narrate one good outcome for every shift above the target. If they fail, the GM will narrate one negative outcome for every shift below the target. Either way, jump straight to the exciting action. Repeat when things start to drag in the middle of the fight.
After breaching the alien barrier, Lara is pretty sure that her PC can get close enough to the alien queen to kill her before the rest of the aliens regroup. She rallies the Ninth Ward Defenders to charge the enemy line, rolling their Fair (+2) Operations against a difficulty of Great (+4) set by her GM. She gets a +2 on her roll, but invokes the Dogs of War to get another +2 for a total of Fantastic (+6). For her first shift, she narrates that they charge the line successfully, and for her second, she states that her character gets close enough to kill the queen.