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Fate System Toolkit

Zones

Using zone maps during conflicts breaks up the physical space of a fight, giving characters with high Athletics and Physique scores the opportunity to dominate the battlefield. Here are a few ideas to make zones an exciting part of your game:

Moving Through Zones

In games with quite a few zones, you may want to allow characters to sacrifice their turn in order to move a number of zones equal to their Athletics or to remove a number of physical obstacles equal to their Physique. Fast and strong characters want to be fast and strong, but rolling dice isn’t always the best way to represent that in Fate.

Tight Zones Can Create Drama

While zones divide up big areas like parking lots and stadiums—showing how difficult it is to run across a football field quickly—they can also be used to divide up small areas in interesting ways. For example, a fight on a ship might take place in tight quarters that require allies to cross several zones in order to offer support to a friend in trouble. By forcing players to choose between spending actions on moving or offering help from afar, zones can make ordinary conflicts dramatic.

Dangerous Zone Aspects

Zones can also create drama by restricting movement and providing threats the characters have to overcome. For example, a zone on a battlefield might have the aspect Taking Heavy Fire, requiring characters to make an Athletics roll to avoid taking damage as they run through the firefight. Some zones might also disappear after a specified number of turns. Collapsing bridges, sinking ships, and closing doors all push characters to move quickly as the battlefield shifts around them and give the players a chance to force NPCs into those zones to contend with the threats as well.

Mental or Social Zones

Not all conflicts happen in the physical world; Fate characters are often drawn into social or mental conflicts that can be mapped out in interesting ways. For example, a psychic surgeon may find her way through a patient’s dreamscape blocked by situation aspects that must be overcome though a series of Investigation and Empathy rolls. The zones could detail the obstacles that are keeping the patient from accessing old memories, traces of trauma and abuse that the PCs must punch through before they help the patient overcome his or her past. Similarly, a GM might detail several different social groups in a high school, indicating which groups the PCs have to impress before they can gain access to the more popular students. In essence, these mental and social zones serve to constrain the players, directing them toward conflicts by limiting their movement.