The following is a guest FateRPG.com post from Fate Core community member Richard Bellingham. Richard caught our attention early on during the Fate Core kickstarter for his efforts to understand how blocking and obstacles work in Fate Core. We asked him to write up his notes to give y’all another perspective on the concepts involved. What follows is the result! (He’s from across the way, so he spells “maneuver” “manoeuvre”, but we’re sure you’ll find it in your heart to forgive him for that. Or us. Depending.)
The terms “block” and “border” may be gone from Fate Core, but as concepts they’re alive and well in the new edition of Fate. In fact, they’re more exciting and more streamlined than before.
This will be a “quick sketch” post, rather than a deep discussion of the matter, making some assumptions that folks reading it have already read Fate Core (via the Kickstarter or, later on, after its release) and are wondering where blocks and borders went.
Where did they go, anyway? Create Advantage is where.
Let’s suppose I’m a pyromancer, facing off against a ice-slinger and his buddies, and that me and my foe both are using a quick magic system involving a skill roll.
I’ve got the drop on them, but I know they could overrun me, and I have someone with me I’m looking to protect, so I’ve got to think fast. A wall of fire feels like something that would do the trick, and they’re not close enough to me to interfere, so I go for an easy, quick, Create Advantage roll with my magic. I make the roll, an easy success.
Bam! Now there’s a Wall of Fire aspect on the situation, and I’ve got a free invoke on it besides (or two, if I succeed with style—I’ve got a good shot at that, so let’s say I did). I’m dropping the wall on the zone I’m in, since I’ve got escape in mind and I’m hoping it’ll interfere with my aggressors.
Iceguy slings a face full of ice shards at my friend-in-need, figuring if he can take him down, an escape is kinda moot.
Here’s the block moment: I previously established that Wall of Fire aspect, right? And it’s reasonable to say that the Wall would interfere with such an attack on my friend. There are a couple options I have here.
The presence of the aspect that I created provides justification for me to roll a defense against that attack. (EDIT: A change of procedure follows. Original post incorrectly suggested the original target could roll as well in such a case.) When I make that decision, I’m essentially stepping into the way of the attack myself. I’ll be rolling my magic instead of my friend rolling his defense, and if I win that roll, the attack doesn’t land (and if I don’t, it hits me; maybe I narrate that as some kind of magic backlash if so). I’m also positioned to make use of one of those free invokes on Wall of Fire if I want to improve my defense roll.
My second option, if I don’t want to get in the way of the attack myself, is that I can at least use those free invokes to improve my friend’s defense roll, since I can invoke an aspect to increase the opposition/difficulty faced by a foe.
Either way, let’s say the Wall does the job, and those shards vanish in a few puffs of steam. I tell my friend to hoof it, and square off in the interests of buying some time before I follow after. (Let’s also say I did get in the way, and rolled well enough, so I don’t have to burn my free invokes yet.)
My friend burns his action on a sprint to get the heck out of dodge, and thankfully there’s nothing that’s been established to interfere with his escape route.
Then my opponent’s goon-friends get to go. They come at me, but I’ve established there’s a Wall of Fire on this zone, standing between me and my frosty foes.
Here’s the border moment: First off, the GM can look at that Wall of Fire and say “normally it’s no difficulty to move over to Fred, but there’s a Wall of Fire there, so you’ll have to roll to close with him” and then set a difficulty for anyone to cross over that thing. It’ll probably be a modest one (perhaps just Average) unless I step in there and make it a bigger deal.
I can, of course: those free invokes will let me increase the difficulty of anything reasonably affected by the aspect, +2 apiece. I could take that Average traversal difficulty up to Superb if I’m willing to cash in both free invokes (assuming both haven’t been used already) as they approach. (The GM might rightly insist I have to increase the difficulty separately for each goon’s attempt, but I check and she’s treating both goons as a single character for ease and speed.)
It would also be reasonable to say that I can do some more blocking here; that Wall of Fire gives me justification to Defend against their Overcome rolls to move towards me.
Whatever the case, it turns out I don’t need to spend more than one of those free invokes to foul up their approach, tho; they’re not heavy on the Athletics. Good news, because I’m about to bolt, and this keeps everyone else still on the far side of the Wall.
My turn, and I hightail it to the door, trying to catch up with my friend. That’s my action, and I’m out of the warehouse.
Those guys are still set to go after me, and so long as we’re still in the same situation/circumstances, the Wall of Fire will persist. But without me present, it won’t have quite as much teeth. I can’t reasonably defend against anything they want to do against it, because I’m no longer there. But it’ll still provide passive difficulty as set by the GM, and I can still cash in that final free invoke to make that difficulty heftier—maybe saving it to resist an Overcome roll to remove the Wall in the first place. It’s pretty clear they’ll cross the barrier I’ve erected eventually, so the GM decides to simply look at the free invoke and say it’ll buy me another exchange or so of head start to get me and my friend away from the situation.
By moving the special-case language and implementation of the older ideas of blocking and borders into Fate Core’s established, understood aspect mechanisms, the system moves cleanly and quickly from the intent (“I want to throw a Wall of Fire in front of them to buy us some time for an escape!”) into mechanized action (“Okay, roll to Create Advantage”). And then the aspect simply doing what aspects are allowed to do in Core takes over — with all the pizzazz and story-flex that aspects bring to bear, while ditching the somewhat flavorless just-numbers special cases of the borders and blocks of yesterday.