Fate System Toolkit
Using Skills as Written
Table of Contents
The easiest thing to do in most cases is to simply tweak the skill list to reflect the needs of your specific game, and there are a few ways to approach that.
Adding or Removing Skills
Is making stuff not an important part of your game? Get rid of Craft. Do you want people to be able to maneuver in zero-G? Add a skill to do that. This is one of the easiest ways to hack the skill list because all you’re doing is going skill by skill and deciding what isn’t necessary and what needs to be added.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind here. First, if you subtract too many skills then the players might have access to too much of the skill list. If there’s too much overlap between PCs, you can wind up with PCs getting too little spotlight time. Conversely, if you add too many skills you might wind up with PCs who don’t have access to enough of the skill list, meaning they’re often missing a critical skill in a given situation. An easy fix is appropriately increasing or decreasing the number of skills each PC gets during character creation.
Consider that Fate Core has 18 skills. As a rule of thumb, the pyramid allows a character to really stand out in 3 of them and have rankings in 7 more, leaving 8 unaccounted for. It’s not a precise ratio, but it’s worth keeping in mind when deciding if you need to change the pyramid. See Structural Changes for more details.
Finally, keep in mind that changes to skills have repercussions on stress tracks and turn order.
Reskinning and Making Alterations
If all of the default skills work for you from a mechanical perspective, but some of them don’t quite work with the themes of your game, change a few details. Lore might become Academia or Knowledge, Drive becomes Ride or Pilot, and so on. Doing this might also alter what a given skill can do. For example, if you reskin Lore to become Arcana and then determine that it’s the skill for spellcasting, suddenly it makes sense for you to be able to attack or defend with it.
Expansion and Compression
One handy trick for altering the skill list is to look at the skills in terms of their sphere of activity and how important they are to your game. If a particular sphere is less important, then you can compress the skills within that sphere into a single skill—in a non-violent game, you might compress Shoot and Fight into a single fight skill. On the other hand, if a particular sphere is very important, you might want to split that skill into finer gradients. If martial arts are important to your game, you might want to expand Fight into multiple skills, perhaps Armed, Hard Styles, and Soft Styles. The advantage of this approach is that the general guidelines for the skills are still in effect—you’re just adjusting the level of focus.