Fate System Toolkit
In a game that largely revolves around personal activity, vehicles occupy a strange space. They extend the character’s capabilities like tools or weapons, but they’re external to the character, in the manner of allies and resources. It’s a space that is easily overlooked, but which can be utterly essential, depending on the priorities of the player or campaign.
In describing vehicles, this section generally assumes cars and trucks, but many of these ideas are easily extrapolated to horses, chariots, spaceships and beyond.
In many games, vehicles are merely incidental to play. That is, they come up when the situation demands, but otherwise aren’t given a lot of thought. In this case, vehicles are frequently just an enabler for using the Drive skill. When the bad guys are getting away in a car, and you hop in a car to pursue, it’s all about the skills from there.
If there’s ever a need to differentiate vehicles in this context, it should most often take the form of aspects. A vehicle will usually have between one and three aspects, the specifics of which depend very much on your table’s interest in cars. Aspects like Big, Fast, Off-Road, or Clunker are totally valid, as are Hemi, Canted Wheels or Five-Speed, Fuel-Injected.
For most games this is enough, but in a game where driving is critical, there’s a good chance that vehicles may end up being more or less disposable.
A personal vehicle is most likely to be represented by an aspect, but details beyond that depend a lot on your game. A more down-to-earth game may simply have a signature vehicle, like a detective’s sports car, but some games might be better suited to gadget-festooned supercars.
The basic rules for vehicles need be no more complicated than the incidental vehicles rules, and for more complicated vehicles, extras start becoming appropriate.
An item represented by an aspect cannot usually be destroyed, yet despite this, it can stretch credulity to have a vehicle prove entirely immune to damage. As a rule of thumb, allow a personal vehicle to be damaged normally, but say that the damage was repaired without difficulty between sessions.
Unless, of course, the player wants to work with the damage. Having a car in need of repair is a great scene frame and occasional motivator—perhaps it requires a particular part. If a player opts to treat the car as damaged, then the first time in a session they expressly touch on the necessary repairs—such as having a conversation while working on the engine—that is effectively a compel, and grants the player a FP.
An idea that sees frequent use in fiction and gaming is that of a common vehicle, usually some sort of ship, van, car, or the like that serves as group transportation and often as a mobile base of operations.
An easy way to do this is to make the vehicle in question an aspect for everyone in the group—or at least everyone tied to the vehicle. Doing so makes a strong statement about the centrality of the vehicle to the game.
It’s also possible to take a more nuanced approach, and have each character take an aspect that reflects their relationship with the vehicle—a spaceship’s captain and her engineer may have very different perspectives on the nature of their ship.
Whatever the case, a group vehicle can have aspects like an incidental vehicle, but there’s a lot more leeway in terms of what exactly those aspects should be. Each player aspect related to the vehicle allows that player to assign an aspect to the vehicle. This allows for differing levels of investment built organically from player interest.
Quick and Dirty Vehicle Rules
The quick and dirty hierarchy of speed goes as follows:
When a chase involves a speed mismatch, the faster driver gets a number of free invocations of vehicle aspects equal to the difference between the tiers. This can be mitigated by circumstances—feet and bikes can outpace a car in a traffic jam, and a car might help you catch up with a plane before it’s airborne—but it should be enough to cover edge cases.
Stealing a Car
Attempting to steal or otherwise acquire a car should be treated as an overcome action, with the appropriate skill—usually either Burglary or Resources—against a difficulty based on the situation, taking into account both security level and range of options. Upon success, the aspects created are the aspects of the stolen vehicle. This assumes the character is just taking what they can get—trying to steal a specific car will be an overcome roll against the specifics of that situation.
Car customization is an application of the Crafts skill that requires a shop and appropriate tools. Baseline difficulty of the overcome roll is 0, +2 for each aspect on the vehicle. With a success, an aspect can be added to the vehicle, or if it’s feasible, removed. The maximum number of aspects a vehicle may have is 5.
Vehicles don’t have stress, but can take consequences—usually to turn a failed Drive roll into a success using the Extra Effort optional rule. An average vehicle—3 or fewer aspects—can take one mild consequence. An exceptional vehicle—4 or 5 aspects—can take one mild and one moderate consequence. A vehicle with an aspect like Rugged or Military Grade may be able to take one severe consequence.
Car Thief: When stealing a car, use Drive in lieu of Burglary.