Character Creation

Character Creation Is Play

Many roleplaying games propose a simple idea: you create characters, then you begin play. We think it’s even simpler than that. We say, “As you create the characters and the world they inhabit, you have begun play.” The style of character creation we present here does three things to reinforce that.

First, character creation tells part of the characters’ stories, just like any other game session does. Characters that really come alive have histories of their own and with each other—character creation establishes where they’ve been, what they’ve done, and why they continue to act together against the threats they face. It’s like there’s a game that’s been going on that you’re now stepping into—it’s just that the most interesting parts haven’t happened yet.

Second, it sets the stage for the next part of the story. Each arc of a roleplaying game sets up the next, so that they flow into one another in a natural evolution of the story. Character creation needs to set up the first story arc the same way any other phase of play does.

Third, character creation in FATE is highly collaborative. As with city creation, character creation is best done as a group activity. Doing all of this together will build a stronger foundation for your characters and your game. The character creation process includes a number of built-in ways to establish connections between the characters and the setting. Combined with city creation, character creation can take a full session to do—this provides a good opportunity to lay out the basics of the setting and allows everyone to learn about it and about each others’ characters. This sort of collaborative story building is, in a word, play.

During character creation, you and the other members of your group will talk about your characters, make suggestions to each other, discuss how to make your characters connect, and even establish some of the campaign background. You’ll want to keep good notes on this process.

You’ll start by determining your character’s high concept and trouble. Then you’ll build your character’s back-story, a process that takes place over five phases. Each phase outlines events in your character’s life, though not necessarily in chronological order. The first phase sets up the character’s general background, concept, and early history. The second covers the events that pull the character into the the setting of the specific game your group is playing. The last three phases delve into your character’s past adventures—both his own and those of the other players’ characters.

Your Character Idea

Character creation starts by thinking about the concept for your character. It could be modeled after a character from a favorite novel or movie, or it could be based around some specific thing that you want to be able to do (like break boards with your head, disguise yourself as someone else, blow things up, etc.). But what really drives a character concept forward, and creates the kind of drama that leads to riveting stories, is a combination of your character’s high concept and trouble.

Remember: when choosing your high concept and trouble, it’s critical to determine why your character does what he does; his trouble should be a prime driver of that why. PCs in Fate are exceptional. They could very easily find success in less exciting situations than those that come their way in play. You must figure out why your character is going to keep getting involved in these more dangerous things. If you don’t, the GM is under no obligation to go out of her way to make the game work for you—she’ll be too busy with other players who made characters that have a reason to participate.

Because picking a high concept and trouble are linked, they’re grouped together. You’ll likely have more success coming up with a compelling character idea if you think about them as one big step rather than as separate steps. Only after you have that (and a name, of course!) can you move on to the Phases part of character creation.

That said, don’t worry too much—if during a later stage your character idea evolves into something new, that’s great! You can always go back and tinker with any of these early decisions.

The Steps of Character Creation

Here’s a quick overview of the steps you’ll go through in order to create a character.

GM Preparation:

Creating Characters:

  1. Sketch out your Character Idea:
  2. Build your Character’s Background:
  3. Finish up your Character:

Choose a Power Level

Power level gives you an idea of your character’s capabilities. The suggestions below may not be appropriate for your campaign, but they provide an idea of how to align refresh, skill points, and skill cap.

Feet in the Water (6 refresh, 20 skill points, skill cap at Great)

Up to Your Waist (7 refresh, 25 skill points, skill cap at Great)

Chest-Deep (8 refresh, 30 skill points, skill cap at Superb)

Submerged (10 refresh, 35 skill points, skill cap at Superb)

Intro to Choosing Aspects

A lot of character creation focuses on coming up with aspects—some are called high concepts, some are called troubles, but they basically all work the same way. Aspects are one of the most important parts of your character, since they define who he is and they provide ways for you to generate fate points and to spend those fate points on bonuses. If you have time, you really might want to read the whole chapter we have dedicated to aspects before you go through the process of character creation.

In case you’re pressed for time, here are some guidelines for choosing aspects.

Aspects which don’t help you tell a good story (by giving you success when you need it and by drawing you into danger and action when the story needs it) aren’t doing their job. Those aspects which push you into conflict—and help you excel once you’re there—will be among your best and most-used.

Aspects need to be both useful and dangerous—allowing you to help shape the story and generating lots of fate points—and they should never be boring. The best aspect suggests both ways to use it and ways it can complicate your situation. Aspects that cannot be used for either of those are likely to be dull indeed. Bottom line: if you want to maximize the power of your aspects, maximize their interest.

When you’re told you need to come up with an aspect, you might experience brain freeze. If you feel stumped for decent ideas for aspects, there’s a big section focusing on several methods for coming up with good aspect ideas in Aspects.

If your character doesn’t have many connections to the other characters, talk with the group about aspects that might tie your character in with theirs. This is the explicit purpose of Phases Four and Five—but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it elsewhere as well.

If you ultimately can’t break the block by any means, don’t force it—leave it completely blank. You can always come back and fill out that aspect later, or let it develop during play—as with the On-the-Fly Character Creation rules. Ultimately, it’s much better to leave an aspect slot blank than to pick one that isn’t inspiring and evocative to play. If you’re picking aspects you’re not invested in, they’ll end up being noticeable drags on your fun.

High Concept

Once you know the power level, you’ll need to come up with a character idea. Here’s where you start nailing down the core parts of your character that make him unique.

In short, your high concept is a phrase that sums up what your character is about—what and who he is. It’s an aspect, one of the first and most important ones for your character.

Think of this aspect like your job, your role in life, or your calling—it’s what you’re good at, but it’s also a duty you have to deal with, and it’s constantly filled with problems of its own. That is to say, it comes with some good and some bad. There are a few different directions you can take this:

You could take the idea of “like your job” literally: FBI Agent.

You could throw on an adjective or other descriptor to further define your own take on the idea: Crusading FBI Agent.

You could mash up two high concepts, such as a job and a calling or hobby: Kung-Fu Detective.

You could address how your character is connected to his family or organization, especially if it is well-connected or well-known: Black Sheep of the Century.

These aren’t the only ways to play with your high concept, but they’ll get you started. As long as it gives you a good idea about how the core of your character can be a boon and a hindrance, you’re on your way to a satisfying, succinct high concept for your character. But don’t stress out over it—the worst thing you can do is over-complicate this by trying to make it into too big of a deal. You’ll be coming up with six other aspects over the course of character creation— you don’t have to get it all nailed in one.

High concepts can have overlap among the characters. As long as you have something to distinguish how your character is different from others, you should be okay. For instance, if two cops exist in the same game, you might have one’s high concept as By-the-Book Police Veteran while the other would be Hot-Shot Detective—they’re both cops, but now we’re clear on how they’re different. If a high concept must be similar among all the characters (such as if the GM pitches an idea for an all-cops campaign), it’s crucial that their troubles differ. Otherwise, you may have characters that feel too similar to each other.

(If you’re having a problem here, read over the next section on troubles. That part might unlock some ideas for you.)


In addition to a high concept, every character has some sort of trouble (which is also an aspect) that’s a part of his life and his story. If your high concept is what or who your character is, your trouble is the answer to a simple question: what complicates your high concept?

Trouble has many forms, though it can generally be broken up into two types: internal conflicts/personal struggles, and external problems. Both threaten the character or are difficult to contain. Whatever form the trouble takes, it drives the character to take action, voluntarily or not. A character that does not have some sort of recurring issue is going to have a much harder time finding motivation, and that sort of character doesn’t tend to have many reasons to go out and do the crazy things that make for adventure. Without adventure, things would just be boring!

Most characters have several troubles they have to deal with, often reflected by the rest of their aspects (which you’ll select as you create your character), but there is usually one core trouble that shapes the character. This aspect will probably be the one most thoroughly exercised during play (at least in terms of compels).

Trouble is a potent hook for the GM and players to draw on for ideas. As you think about your character, try to figure out what kinds of problems you want your character to continually deal with. Try to pick one that has no easy solutions—many may not have solutions at all!

Also, troubles are one of the major ways that characters get compelled, which is important for getting fate points back. So it’s to your advantage to play to your character’s troubles in the adventure as much as you possibly can. (Troubles are like giant red flags to the GM saying “Hey, pick me!”)

To get a sense of the different forms that troubles can take, consider the following:

Some external troubles are about the difficulties of being able to do your job or your role in the first place—the sort that you have to live with rather than beat up. This has no easy solution, because it’s not something that you can just fix by kicking ass and taking names.

Some internal troubles are about your darker side and how that interferes with what you need to be in order to live up to your high concept. These have no easy solution, because they’re about ongoing internal and external struggles, and minor victories and defeats abound.

Some troubles are hard to peg down between internal and external, like those that involve loved ones. Often, they don’t even seem like troubles at all, until they’re threatened. These troubles do not have easy solutions, since neither character is going to walk away from those they love in their time of need.

Sometimes the trouble is something you bring down upon yourself, which also crosses the line between internal and external.

Since your trouble is an aspect, it’s something you should also be able to invoke, right? Because we’ve been so focused on how this complicates your character’s life, it’s easy to miss how a trouble also helps your character.

In short, your experience with your trouble makes you a stronger person in that regard. Dealing with personal struggles leaves you vulnerable to being tempted or cajoled, but it can also give you a sense of inner strength, people do learn hard lessons from the troubles they deal with. They especially learn how to maneuver around many of the smaller issues their troubles present.

When you’re setting up a trouble, it should be the sort of issue that’s not going to paralyze the character completely. If the trouble is constantly interfering with the character’s day-to-day life, he’s going to spend all his time dealing with it rather than other matters at hand (like, perhaps, the current adventure). There has to be some wiggle room between “continually” and “constantly.” You shouldn’t have to deal with your inner conflict or external pressure at every turn—unless that’s the core of what that particular adventure is about.

Before you go any further, talk with your GM about your character’s trouble. At this point, make sure you’re both on the same page in terms of what it means. Both of you may want to look at how this aspect might be invoked or compelled (see “Getting on the Same Page” in Aspects) as one way to make sure you’re both seeing the same things—or to give each other ideas. Plus, the GM will come away from this conversation knowing what you want out of your trouble, better equipped to make it an important part of the game.

Characters and Betrayal

Some players might be interested in high concepts or troubles that make their characters prone to acts of betrayal. If you want to make your character’s story and decisions about whether or not he’ll betray his friends, there needs to be some reason why betrayal is a valid option—and in a gaming group where the characters to be betrayed are played by your friends, that’s a hard one. If betrayal is being wicked just for the sake of being wicked, that’s not a compelling choice. Much more interesting is something like a trouble pulling you between two strong loyalties—say, a conflict between loyalty to the mafia and a responsibility to the law.


If you haven’t already, it’s time to give your character a name. You can name your character whatever you want, but often character names have a certain poetry to them. Think about other characters that are similar to the high concept you have in mind, and how their names say a little something about who they are.

The Phases

Important: Before moving on to this step, you need to have figured out your high concept, trouble, and name.

Each phase is a section of your character’s background—the key events in his past that form who he is. There are five in total, and each gives you an opportunity to define a new aspect for your character.

The first two (“Where Did You Come From?” and “What Shaped You?”) can be done in either order. It’s the third (“What Was Your First Story?”) that really supercharges this process, defining the initial adventure your character “starred” in and anchoring relationships with the other characters in play. The last two phases (“Whose Story Has Crossed Your Path?” and “Who Else’s Path Have You Crossed?”) represent your character’s participation in other characters’ stories, showing how his overall story collided with the events of their stories and got him involved.

Each phase will ask you to write down two things on the phase worksheet:

First, a summary of the general details of what happened in that phase of your character’s life, known as the phase’s summary.

A paragraph should suffice, but you can write more if you’re inspired. Each phase will suggest different ideas for the summary.

Second, an aspect that reflects some part of that phase. The aspect can cover the general vibe from the summary, or it can focus on some piece of it that still resonates with your character in the present day. Some phases will suggest specific directions for their aspects.

If you’re stalled on developing an aspect from the summary you’ve written, take a look at Aspects. And as with aspects, if you later come up with new ideas for a summary that you’ve already written down, you can always come back and change it. Nothing is ever written in stone.

Where Did You Come From?


This phase covers the character’s youth; if your character is older than 20 to 30 at the time the game starts, this phase expands to cover much of his young adulthood. In an abstract sense, this first phase deals with the core concept for your character as a “normal person” and is an ideal launching pad for your character’s high concept.

Youth is a time of adventure and excitement, as well as the time when we are most shaped by our family and environment. This phase is a chance to talk about your character’s family and upbringing.

When writing the summary of this phase, consider answers to the following questions:

  • What nation is your character from? What region? What culture?
  • What were his family’s circumstances like? (Rich? Poor? Scholarly? Isolated? Pious? Political?) How big is the family? (Small? Average? Large? Very large?) What’s your character’s relationship with his family? (Loving and close? Volatile? Non-existent?)
  • How was your character educated?
  • What were your character’s friends like? Did your character get into much trouble in his youth?

When coming up with this phase’s aspect, consider one that’s tied either to the most important or significant events of the phase or to the character’s national, cultural, or familial upbringing.

What Shaped You?

(Rising Conflict)

This phase represents your character’s “middle history,” when his high concept most strongly comes to the forefront. Think about his high concept and a situation that would call it into sharp relief, forcing him to make a choice or otherwise take decisive action.

This is also the time when your character starts coming into his own, beginning to realize his true potential. This may be when supernatural power awakens within your character, or simply when he is first faced with a difficult choice between right and wrong and he steps up to bat as a protagonist within the game’s larger story.

Some questions to consider during this period: Š
  • Who were the prominent people in your character’s life at this point? Does he have enemies? Close and fast friends?
  • How did your character’s high concept and trouble aspects shape him and the events around him? (Assuming your character came into his high concept and trouble by this point.)
  • What were the most significant choices your character made?
  • What lessons did this time period teach your character?

What Was Your First Adventure?

(The Story)

The third phase is your character’s first true adventure—his first book, episode, case, movie, whatever—starring him. You’ll need to come up with a title for this adventure. (This can be a lot of fun, but don’t burn too much time on it.) A quick way to do it is to pick an arbitrary rule to guide the selection of the title. It could be thematic, like poker or gambling terms for a character who’s all about luck—Suicide King, Aces High, All In.

Then, you need to think up and write down the basic details of this story for the phase’s summary. The story doesn’t need to have a lot of detail—in fact, a pair of sentences (see below) works pretty well, because your fellow players will add in their own details to this past adventure in the next two phases (as you will to theirs).

If you find yourself stuck, look first to your character’s trouble. Find a dilemma that has a chance of throwing that idea into question or focus again. That said, you needn’t directly address the issue there—just provide an opportunity for it to be a factor.

You can also look to a tried and true author’s trick—the “story skeleton” (or “story question”).

A story skeleton fits this format:

When [something happens], [your protagonist] [pursues a goal]. But will [your protagonist] succeed when [antagonist provides opposition]?

Simple as that, but powerful when put into effect.

Many good stories can begin with a simple story question much like the one show above. It introduces a bunch of key ideas for the story. Great stuff—and it does it in two sentences.

Stories and Index Cards

In phase three, you each came up with your own story. In phases four and five, you’re going to trade those stories around as other players’ characters get involved. Figuring out how your character fits into someone else’s story can be hard to do if you’ve handed your character phase worksheet to another player, so we want to make a suggestion: use index cards (or whatever scraps of paper you have).

During the third phase—when you’re writing your story down on your worksheet—take a card and write your character’s name, story title, and story skeleton or summary on it. Then you’ll pass the card around during the fourth and fifth phases so people can contribute to your story. That way, you’ll still have your character worksheet when you’re writing your contributions and aspects, and other people will know what stories they’re supposed to hook into.

Whose Path Have You Crossed?

(Guest Starring)

In this phase, you tie the group together by having each character contribute a minor, supporting role in another character’s first adventure.

You will now give your story (which is where our index card suggestion comes in really handy) to another player. You can pass your stories to the left or right, or shuffle the stack and hand them out randomly (trading with the person to your right until you each have a title that isn’t yours).

However you decide to do it, every player should now be holding someone else’s adventure. Your character has a supporting role in the story you’re holding, which you get to come up with right now. Briefly discuss the story with the player whose adventure it is and add a sentence or phrase to the summary or story skeleton to reflect your character’s supporting role.

Next, write the title of this story and your character’s contribution down on your phase worksheet. This is important, because your character gets an aspect from the supporting role he plays in the adventure. The person whose story it is should also write down the contribution, if there’s room on his sheet.

Supporting roles come in three forms: they complicate a situation, solve a situation, or both.

Complicating a situation: Your character has managed to make some part of the story you’re guest starring in uncertain. Of course, since that happened in the past, we know you got out of it all right (or mostly all right, as indicated by the aspect you take). When describing this, don’t worry about how the situation is resolved—leave that for someone else, or leave it open.

Solving a situation: Your character somehow solves a complication that the main character in the story has to deal with, or your character aides the main character in the central conflict. When describing this, you don’t have to mention how the situation was created, just how your character takes care of it.

Complicating and solving: Here, your character either solves one situation but creates another, or creates a situation but later solves a different one. Mash up the two ideas, using the word “later” in between them.

Who Else’s Path Have You Crossed?

(Guest Starring Redux)

The fifth phase is identical to the fourth phase, with the sole caveat that no character can contribute to the same story twice. Thus, each character should have a starring role in his own story, as well as a supporting role in two others.

Fewer Than Three Players?

Phase five assumes that you’ll have at least three players. If you have only two, consider the following ideas:

Skip Phase Five and just make up another aspect, either now or in play.

Skip Phase Five and just play with six aspects.

Come up with a third, joint-story together, and write about how you each feature in that one.

Have the GM also make a character. The GM won't actually play this character alongside the PCs, though—it should just be an NPC. Such an NPC can be a great vehicle for kicking off a campaign—if a friend they're tied to during character creation mysteriously disappears or even dies, that's instant fuel for drama.

If you only have one player, consider skipping phases four and five, leaving the aspects blank to be filled in during play. In a sense, the first few sessions will act as that character's "guest starring" phases.

Finish Up Your Character

With all this background and your aspects, you have a pretty good idea of who your character is, and you can write down your final set of aspects on your character sheet. But it’ll take more than ideas to kick butt! That’s where your character’s skills and stunts come in.


Once you have mapped out your character’s phases and chosen aspects, it’s time to pick skills. Depending on the power level of your game, a character will get between 20 and 35 skill points to spend.

Superb      5 points (if allowed)
Great       4 points
Good        3 points
Fair        2 points
Average     1 point

Mediocre is the default for any skill you do not buy. You may not buy any skills at a level higher than the skill cap. In addition, you cannot have more skills at any level than you have one level down from that. So if you buy a Fair skill for 2 points, you need to have at least one Average skill as well for 1 point.

This cascades as you go further up: in order to have one Superb skill, you’d also need to have at least one Great, one Good, one Fair, and one Average skill.

Think of skill ranks as building blocks stacked atop one another, each level representing a rank. Each block needs one below it to support it. That would look like this:

Great       [_]
Good        [_][_]
Fair        [_][_]
Average     [_][_]

So, when you’re arranging your skills, be careful that they all fit into this structure—you can’t, for example, have this:

Great       [_]
Good        [_][_][_]
Fair        [_][_]
Average     [_][_][_]

If you want the Average skill and the Good skill, you need to have a skill at Fair “between” them.

You might want to browse the list of skills, write down the ones you’re most interested in taking, then select one of the “packages” below that has enough total skills to cover all of them.

Skill Packages

If the skill columns seem confusing to you, don’t worry—here are a few possible ways (far from all of them) to spend your points at the 20, 25, 30, and 35 points levels:

20 points could be...
  • Š3 Good, 3 Fair, 5 Average (11 total skills)
  • 1 Great, 2 Good, 3 Fair, 4 Average (10 total skills)
  • 2 Great, 2 Good, 2 Fair, 2 Average (8 total skills)
  • 1 Superb, 1 Great, 1 Good, 2 Fair, 4 Average (9 total skills)
25 points could be...
  • 4 Good, 4 Fair, 5 Average (13 total skills)
  • 1 Great, 2 Good, 4 Fair, 7 Average (14 total skills)
  • 2 Great, 2 Good, 3 Fair, 5 Average (12 total skills)
  • 1 Superb, 2 Great, 2 Good, 2 Fair, 2 Average (9 total skills)
30 points could be...
  • 5 Good, 5 Fair, 5 Average (15 total skills)
  • 2 Great, 3 Good, 4 Fair, 5 Average (14 total skills)
  • 3 Great, 3 Good, 3 Fair, 3 Average (12 total skills)
  • 2 Superb, 2 Great, 2 Good, 2 Fair, 2 Average (10 total skills)
35 points could be...
  • 5 Good, 6 Fair, 8 Average (19 total skills)
  • 3 Great, 3 Good, 3 Fair, 8 Average (17 total skills)
  • 1 Superb, 2 Great, 3 Good, 4 Fair, 5 Average. (15 total skills)
  • 2 Superb, 2 Great, 2 Good, 3 Fair, 5 Average (14 total skills)


Once you have your skills, choose stunts for your character. You’ll be spending points off of your refresh level, so make sure you know the base level for your game; it will vary depending on what the GM decides. Also remember that, at the beginning of the game and at every refresh, you’ll get fate points up to your refresh level—refresh you spend now means fate points you’ll have to earn later.

Choosing Stunts

Stunts allow you to use your skills in ways that go beyond the typical skill rules; they’re discussed in full in Stunts. You should usually choose stunts that are associated with most highly-ranked skills. That said, you can take stunts tied to any skill—even ones left at default—if you want (provided you meet any other prerequisites).

Each stunt you take reduces your character’s refresh level by one. In general, a character should consider spending close to half of his refresh allotment on stunts. Characters who go beyond that point tend to have made a lot of compromises and sacrifices to be who they are—and those who fall short of that point may feel like they’re not getting enough bang for their buck.

Important: PCs may not reduce their refresh rate below one. Characters cannot cross this line, lest they become the kind of “human monster” that haunts the worst events of our history.

Final Refresh Level, Fate Points, Stress, & Consequences

With your stunts selected, determine your final refresh level. Your starting refresh is determined by the GM (between 6 and 10) and is reduced by each stunt taken. No PC should be allowed to have a refresh level below one (see above), so make sure the simple arithmetic works out!

Once you have your final refresh level, take a fate point for each point of final refresh.

Finally, you should calculate your character’s stress tracks and determine how many consequence slots they start with. All characters have a physical, social, and mental stress track. By default, each stress track has two boxes, but this number is modified depending on your skills. The Endurance skill adds boxes for physical stress, Presence adds boxes for social stress, and Conviction adds boxes for mental stress. Consult “Quick Reference” below to see how many boxes you should add to each track.

Each character also has one mild, moderate, and severe consequence by default. You can take these in response to any kind of attack (physical, mental, or social)—that’s what “ANY” means on the sheet. Superb skills and certain stunts will give you additional consequence slots, but only for a specific kind of attack (physical or mental or social). If you have a skill or stunt that does this, make sure you write down the type of consequence you get on your sheet under the appropriate column.

Quick Reference

  • Mediocre: 2 boxes total
  • Average or Fair: 3 boxes total
  • Good or Great: 4 boxes total
  • Superb+: 4 boxes total, +1 mild consequence of appropriate type


At the end of the character creation exercise, each player should now have a complete character with: Š
  • A summary of his early history.
  • A summary of his rise to power and call to action.
  • His first story and two other past adventures he appeared in, establishing ties to the characters of at least two other players.
  • ŠSeven aspects (one for the high concept, one for the trouble, and one for each of the five phases).
  • Š
  • A number of skills (depending on the number of skill points, ranging from the upper single digits into the teens in quantity).
  • ŠHis stunts.
  • ŠHis base and final refresh level.
  • Fate points based on his final refresh level.

Quick Character Creation

Sometimes you don’t have time to do a full character creation and you just want to get started. In those situations, simply begin with a blank character sheet, and then briskly run through the highlights of the process. This method means characters will be mostly defined through the first few sessions of play.

Important: If this is your first time playing Fate, we highly recommend going through full character creation. Yes, it’s longer, but it’s also built to help you get used to things in the game. (Plus, it’s a lot of fun to collaborate.)

Minimal Preparation

There are a few short steps to do at the very beginning. Each player should choose the following:

A name and brief description of your character: “Brief ” means a sentence or two.

A skill package: Choose one of the sample skill point spending patterns from “Skill Packages” above, based on the number of skill points the GM has set for the game. Each available skill slot in the package should be written down as an empty slot on your character sheet to be filled later.

The character’s apex skill: Select and write down whatever skill the character has at his highest skill level. (If you want a little more detail than that, go with the character’s “top three” skills.)

High concept: You at least need to have your character’s high concept aspect written down—everything else can wait.

Refresh level: Your refresh level is based on the power level the GM has chosen for the game, modified by the cost of the stunts you buy.

Fate points: You get fate points equal to your refresh level.

That’s it. You’re free to fill in more details as you see fit, but that’s all you need to start playing. All the other decisions that you normally make during character creation can be done during play, revealing details about the character through the emerging story.

On-the-Fly Character Creation

Once play begins using the above method, whenever the GM calls for a roll on a skill, you have three options:

  1. If you already have the skill on your sheet, roll it normally.
  2. If you don’t have it on your sheet, you can write it down in any empty slot and roll it at the chosen level.
  3. You can roll it at Mediocre.

This way, you end up filling out your character’s skill slots over the course of play. Similarly, you may write in aspects and stunts at the point where you would use them.

Every time a stunt is taken, your character’s refresh rating drops by the appropriate amount—as does his current supply of fate points. So, if your character suddenly reveals an ability that costs 1 refresh point, the refresh rating on your sheet drops by 1 and you must spend 1 fate point immediately. If you don’t have enough fate points, you can still buy the power, but on credit—spend the fate points you have and you “owe” the GM the rest. You won’t earn fate points when you’re compelled until you’re all paid up.

You’ll still need to come up with your character’s trouble aspect and the other five aspects. As with skills, if you need an aspect and still have a slot open, you can create a new aspect on the spot. The new aspect come into play immediately—you can invoke it or the GM can compel it.

Some Tips to Help With On-the-Fly Creation

Some skills are used often enough for things like combat and other conflict resolution that you may end up feeling frustrated if you don’t think to pick them up until it’s too late. Make sure you fill in (or at least make decisions about) Athletics, Endurance, and Alertness early on. A fighting skill like Guns, Weapons, or Fists may be important, too.

Stunts are a lot harder to choose on the fly than skills are. It helps if the GM keeps the character’s high concept in mind and suggests a stunt when it might be useful. Be sure to keep track of the refresh cost of stunts.

Stunts usually come out of the skills you’ve rated near the top of your list. Locate the skill in question in Stunts. Each skill has a few sets of stunts under it that may be conceptually linked and can help with quick picking. Mortal stunts have a refresh cost of one.

When picking powers, make sure to pay attention to the refresh cost; you will need to pay out a quantity of fate points equal to the refresh cost in order to select that ability on the fly. Even if you buy your stunt on credit, your refresh rate cannot drop below one.

Don’t worry about apparent contradictions, such as situations where you pick a skill at a high level after rolling it at Mediocre several times or you choose a stunt which would have made an earlier scene play out differently. There is no contradiction. The character was playing his cards close to the vest or was just “unlucky” and, like in much adventure fiction, his abilities only matter from the point where they’re revealed.

13   OPEN GAME LICENSE Version 1.0a

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Open Game License v 1.0 2000, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.

Fudge System 1995 version 1992-1995 by Steffan OSullivan, 2005 by Grey Ghost Press, Inc.; Author Steffan OSullivan.

FATE (Fantastic Adventures in Tabletop Entertainment) 2003 by Evil Hat Productions LLC; Authors Robert Donoghue and Fred Hicks.

Spirit of the Century 2006, Evil Hat Productions LLC. Authors Robert Donoghue, Fred Hicks, and Leonard Balsera.

Character Creation 2011, Evil Hat Productions LLC.