Controlling FATE: An Intro to FATE CORE

I have been tasked with a quest by our benevolent administrators – that quest is to help introduce different tabletop RPGs to the Critters Community. I could think of no better game to start with than Fate Core. Fate Core is a super fun “rules light to rules medium” game, which Critters both new to the hobby, and those who have been playing for a long time, might find interesting – and the reason I picked it is because it’s the polar opposite of our beloved Dungeons & Dragons.

Imagine a game where all you need to play is four six sided dice and an index card. Imagine a game where creating your backstory has more than just cool things to explore during the campaign with your group, but it also has huge mechanical implications. There is a game out there that accomplishes this and more, and it is called Fate Core.

Fate Core uses a system based entirely around what they call aspects: short sentences that describe your character. For example, I might have the aspect “five tailed magic fox” or “doctor of what exactly?”. A character gets five of these: a high concept, which is a broad description of the character, a trouble or a flaw about your character, and three others you decide on during character creation. These aspects can then be invoked during play to either give yourself a bonus to your die roll or completely re roll your dice. Let’s say, I have the aspect “fearless fighter” and my character is locked in battle with an enemy – the monster tries to scare my character and I roll to resist, but roll poorly. I then have two options: 1) I can allow the monster to succeed or, 2) I can invoke my aspect and reroll my dice for a possible success. And aspects don’t just apply to your character. Everything can have aspects – a spooky mansion might have the aspect “weakened floorboards”, which may be applied as a particularly heavy character walks over them (creating a brand new obstacle for the group to handle).

Unknown-1Fate Core uses its own custom dice: six-sided die with two plus sides, two negative sides, and two blank sides called Fudge Dice. Success is determined by a roll of the four dice, adding the pluses, subtracting the negatives, and putting the blanks aside. If I roll 2 pluses, a negative, and the rest blanks, my overall roll is a +1. Regular six sided dice work for this with 1-2 being a negative, 3-4 being blank, and 5-6 being a positive. A character’s skill is added to the roll and is compared to either a passive DC or an active roll, depending on the situation.

“That all sounds pretty good but what about my character’s special powers and gear?”, I hear you asking in the comments. Well Fate Core has you covered with their system of stunts and extras. A stunt is a unique ability your character has, whether it be a magic spell, or move they can perform. For example, my “fearless fighter” might have the stunt whirlwind strike! The core book gives in depth rules for creating and balancing your own stunts, but mine might be that I can “attack everyone within arm’s reach but take a penalty to all defensive rolls until my next turn”. This system allows players to build fantastic special powers that take the place of class abilities. Gear works very differently in Fate Core. The game assumes that if you have the sword skill, then your character owns a mundane blade. However, if you wish to have a special sword you have a specific pool of skill points, stunts, and aspects, to draw from in order to build special gear – each weapon is truly unique and customized for the individual character.

Those distinctions between Fate Core and D&D alone are huge, but, by far, the biggest variance is how characters advance and change. There are no levels or experience points in Fate. Instead, characters level up whenever they complete what’s known as a milestone. Three tiers of milestones exist: minor, significant, and major. These are determined by the character’s personal story, as well as the campaign story. Find a clue to the identity of your father’s killer? That may be a minor. Slay a dragon? That’s probably significant (unless dragons are mundane in your campaign world). Milestones provide the opportunity to gain new skill points, change or add onto stunts, or even re-write your characters aspects. This system allows characters to advance as quickly or as slowly as the GM and players see fit. This system also keeps things in balance, as significant milestone usually involve the entire group – even if it’s the end of a character,s story arc, the GM may award major milestones to the other characters for helping their companion through such a tough challenge.

The big question on my mind is whether or not Fate would appeal to Critters, and I think it would for a number of reasons: The intuitive rule set and easy mechanics don’t put too much of a burden on the storytelling. The open nature of the character generation process allows for literally limitless possibilities (the cover of the book has a cyborg gorilla martial artist standing next to a flame throwing professor). Fate is also setting neutral, meaning that it can be played in any setting from high fantasy, to far out sci-fi. The only thing that could be an issue may be the abundance of choice – certain players may become overwhelmed with the number of possibilities and not be able to make any decisions. These players might find it beneficial to have some limitations placed on their choices, to make organizing their thoughts easier. That being said, Fate Core is a fantastic game, and one I wholeheartedly recommend to any group.

Well Critters, that’s all I have for you this time. I hope you guys found this to be informative and interesting. Please leave any feedback, positive or negative (this is my first article ever, so I hope it wasn’t awful), in the comments below. If you have any other ideas for games I should cover in the future, don’t hesitate to leave it in the comments or tweet me @shane_barbosa. Until next time dear readers, happy gaming!


Controlling FATE: An Intro to FATE CORE — 3 Comments

  1. It sounds like Fate would be a good game for players interested in a more narrative approach (rather than rules-lawyers). Speaking personally, it sounds like a lot of fun. Thanks for the overview!

    • It is a fantasticly narrative game, a group of really creative players would go nuts with the game. I’m glad you liked the article!

  2. I ran a game of the Dresden Files RPG for a while, which is based on the Fate Core. Some people may prefer something like that (there are other games based on Fate Core), due to some increased structure vs. the baseline Fate Core while still retaining a lot of the open flexibility. For instance, one player in my group wanted to add the parkour stunt, so we just had a quick conversation on how it would work and then he had it. Another wanted to borrow a feature from a sci-fi show; again, a quick discussion about how it would work (he really did want to overpower the thing) and he had it. As a GM, I had a lot more fun with players going off in directions I never expected or planned for.

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