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Fate System Toolkit

Weapons and Armor Alternatives

By default, Fate abstracts weapons and armor—along with all gear—into flavor. Having a gun allows you to attack someone with Shoot, but doesn’t do anything more. If you want weapons and armor to matter more, Extras in Fate Core presents rules for Weapon and Armor ratings. If those aren’t to your liking either, here are a few more alternatives.

Damage Floors and Ceilings

In Fate Core, weapons are dangerous if you use the rules in the Extras chapter. A relatively unskilled swordswoman who gets a lucky hit with a two-hander can cleave a man in twain without trying too hard, and that can be scary. It lends itself to a gritty, lethal game, and if that’s not your cup of tea, you might want weapon and armor ratings that provide less lethality but still matter.

When you use these rules, Weapon ratings still start at 1 and go up, but they can go up a bit further (say to 5 or 6, for the most lethal of weapons). Instead of simply adding a weapon’s rating to the shifts you generate on a hit, though, a Weapon rating provides a minimum number of shifts of stress you can score with that weapon. For example, a longsword with Weapon: 3 does 3 shifts of stress if you tie, or if you roll 1, 2, or 3 shifts on your attack. Even for a grazing hit, you’ll still always deal at least 3 shifts of stress. If you roll shifts beyond that, you simply deal that much stress and ignore the Weapon rating.

Armor ratings do the opposite; they tell you what the maximum number of shifts of stress you’ll take from an attack is. Armor ratings start at 4 (for light armor) and go down to 1 (for the heaviest plate or most advanced powered tactical armor). The exception to this is when the attacker succeeds with style—if this happens, ignore the Armor rating. The attacker does full damage when she succeeds with style.

Armor ratings trump Weapon ratings. This means that someone with Weapon 5 attacking someone with Armor 3 will still only deal 3 stress at most, unless they succeed with style.

Armor and Weapon Aspects

In Gear Aspects we told you that you could model important gear as aspects. This works for most gear, but some people may still want a little more when it comes to weapons and armor. This rules mod is meant to be layered on top of that system, though there’s no reason you couldn’t use it on its own—it would just mean that only weapons and armor are aspects, and other gear isn’t.

Weapons are divided into light, standard, and heavy. A light weapon could be a small knife or truncheon, a standard weapon is something like a sword or pistol, and a heavy weapon might be a shotgun, sniper rifle, or massive two-handed sword.

When you successfully attack with a weapon, you may make a special invocation with it. It costs a fate point as usual, but provides neither a +2 nor a reroll. Instead, you can force your opponent to take a consequence instead of stress. With a light weapon, you may force someone to take a mild consequence. A standard weapon forces a moderate consequence, and a heavy weapon forces a severe consequence. If you succeed with style, move the consequence up by one level of severity—minor to moderate, moderate to severe, severe to either taken out or an extreme consequence (victim’s defender’s choice). If the appropriate consequence slot is already in use, move the new consequence up by one level of severity.

This special invocation also acts a little bit like a compel. When you invoke a weapon aspect in this way, you offer the fate point to your target. If he takes the fate point, you deal the consequence. He can refuse the fate point and pay you one of his own to not take the consequence, but then he takes the stress he would have taken normally anyway.

Armor aspects are similarly divided into light, medium, and heavy, and also allow for special invocations. You can invoke light armor to absorb a single mild consequence; you don’t take the stress it would have absorbed, and you don’t fill the consequence slot. Medium armor can absorb a moderate consequence. Heavy armor can absorb a severe consequence, or two mild or moderate consequences in any combination. You can use your armor to absorb consequences beyond these limits, but if you do so, the armor aspect immediately changes to represent the fact that it’s broken and no longer able to absorb attacks. You’ll have to get it repaired, which might cost you and might take anywhere from a few hours to a few days depending on the armor and the place you take it.

Red and Blue Dice

If you have at least three colors of Fate dice and want something that isn’t quite so predictable for your weapons and armor, you can use Red and Blue dice in place of Weapon and Armor ratings. We’re using “Red” and “Blue” here for convenience—you can use any two colors of dice you want, as long as they don’t get used for anything else.

Red is for weapons: The more Red your weapon has, the bigger and/or deadlier it is. A Red:1 weapon could be a dagger, a goblin’s claws, or a very low-caliber pistol, while a Red:4 weapon could be a greatsword, a dragon’s bite, or a close-range blast from a combat shotgun.

When you attack, for every point of Red your weapon has, replace one of your usual Fate dice with a Red Fate die. If your attack outcome is a tie or better, each of your Red dice that comes up + increases the hit by +1 shift of harm.

Blue is for armor: The more Blue armor your armor has, the more protective it is. Light armor, like cured leather or tough hide, is Blue:1. Heavy armor, like a mail hauberk or plate armor, is Blue:2 or 3.

When you defend, for every point of Blue your armor has, replace one of your usual Fate dice with a Blue Fate die. If your defend outcome is a failure or a tie, each of your Blue dice that comes up a + absorbs 1 shift of harm.

Because you’re always rolling four Fate dice, the maximum number of Red or Blue dice you can have on a roll is four.

To mix things up even more, you can give defensive weapons Blue, like a quarterstaff or main gauche, and “offensive” armor Red, like plate armor with big nasty spikes or an electrostatic force field. You could also have stunts that let you swap Blue dice for Red when you defend—for example, a fencing master with a killer riposte, or a magical flaming shield.