Odds and Ends

Fate Doesn't Have A Damage System

(Yeah, Wil Hutton, you kinda prompted this, but it's been in my head for a bit).

Seriously, Fate doesn't have a damage system. I mean, read the books. Where does it say 'damage'? We've got Stress, we've got Consequences. But nothing that says Damage.

Which means we have two ways to interpret this. "No, really, they mean damage, they just didn't say it." Which would mean that Fred Hicks and Leonard Balsera are incompetent, and didn't use the proper term. I don't buy that for a second.

Which leads to the second interpretation. "They didn't use the word "damage", because there's no such thing as damage." Yeah, that sounds about right. I've found I've learned the most about Fate when I've stopped trying to interpret it and just take it at face value.

So what's Stress, if not damage? Well, at an abstract level it's a pacing mechanism. What that means more concretely is that it's a measure of how close you are to being taken out -and there's lots of reasons you might be Taken Out! And since Stress clears at the end of a Scene, it's pretty clear that it's not meant to represent actual physical damage in any way.

Well, what about Consequences, then?

Nope. Still not damage. I'm going back to "physics, not fiction" here. "Damage" is primarily a "physics" concept -what the actual physical effect something like an attack or a fall has on your body. Fate doesn't model that, and doesn't want to. It models fiction.

Now, what's interesting about fights or other conflicts in fiction is not the detailed description of exactly what the physical effects of a sword blow are. It's the impact that they have on the story on an ongoing basis. Whether it's Harry Dresden having a headache, or John McClane limping from his feet being hurt from glass, what fiction cares about is the impact that the fight has on the story. If an "injury" is purely internal, or in another way doesn't impact the story, it's irrelevant.

And that's what Consequences model. They model the continuing impact of the conflict and how it carries through the story.

And this is awesome. Because it opens up all sorts of options. There's only so many ways you can describe damage, but there's lots of possible consequences from a fight. Big sword hit? Sure, it can be a Gashed Leg. But... that's not very interesting. But if you assume that there's no damage model, then you can also dodge aside at the last moment and hit your head, giving you a Ringing Headache. You can barely parry it aside at the last moment, making you Fearful of Your Own Mortality. It can destroy a mystic artifact you're holding, leaving you Half In This World.

The Stress and Consequences model dictates the level of lasting impact an Attack has on a character. It's not a "damage" model, so it doesn't dictate the type. That's up to you, your table, and your game. Make it awesome.