Jan 212012

Fate Core’s full text rough draft is complete.

It enters into editing  starting February 1st.

 Posted by at 8:11 am
Aug 192011

We’ve made some new additions to our Resources page tonight, featuring some of the material, scrubbed and genericized, from the Dresden Files RPG:

A few important things to make note of:
This is not all the stuff we’re putting into open content. It’s all the stuff we’re putting into it right now, but we do have our eye on Character Creation and maybe a few other bits. That said, there may be a number of sections that we could put into open content that we won’t be because we’re hoping that Fate Core will come to market, with its fully open content, fast enough that the effort would be redundant.
We’re not providing the Skills chapter, and we’re not providing the example stunts. To be frank, coming up with your own skill list and stunts should be something you create as part of your particular implementation of Fate. If you want to just “drag and drop” a skill and stunt list whole cloth into your product, the open materials from Spirit of the Century, also on the Resources page, should serve you fine. Some may look at this as an indication that the skills and stunts shown in the Dresden Files RPG are somehow off-limits now, but that’s bunk; you can create “clones” that are identical in function but don’t directly borrow our skills & stunts text and it’d be all fine.
Regardless, this does mean that there’s now a generally available advancement scheme for Fate, our newer guidelines for creating stunts are open, our current view on how to explain aspects is open, and you’ve got access to the juicy meat of city creation as well to use as an engine for setting development in your own games.
Have at!
 Posted by at 5:45 pm
Jul 252011

Over the course of the last month, Leonard Balsera has been writing Fate Core.

He’s been doing a bunch of other stuff, too, but still, we’re on track for about 10-15k words this month, and more in the months to come. He’s juggling Fate Core duties together with his other Evil Hat responsibilities (and other life/freelancing concerns), but the progress is steady.

I’m excited.

And I thought you’d like to know. 🙂


 Posted by at 2:50 pm
Jun 152011

In the past week I’ve had two different third-party publishers asking me if I know any freelancers who are available  and are wise to the ways of Fate.

But the people who I could list confidently are either already working on stuff for Evil Hat — or they’re already working on their own projects. So “available” not so much.

In light of that, I want to put this call out for people who are available and are confident enough in their knowledge of Fate that they’d be willing to take on some freelancing work!

In the comments below, please introduce yourself, tell us how to contact you, what kind of experience you bring to the table, and where we can find samples of your work. Please include all three, as that’s crucial for any interested publisher I point in this direction. (I may block comments which don’t fit the bill.)

I’d like this post to become a central resource for folks looking to do the work and for folks looking for those folks. 🙂 Help me out!

 Posted by at 5:10 pm
Jun 072011

This may have been covered already in some prior posts on the site, but I’ve found myself typing something like it in an email again, so I thought I’d put this out there in a post of its own:

That’s the “secret” of assessment, declaration, and maneuvering, in fact — they’re all the same action, in essence, a skill roll that gives rise to an aspect, which offers a free invocation (tag) out of respect to the successfully skill roll. The only difference between them is in terms of how the authority model appears to work.

Assessment is a discovery of something the GM thought of, uncovered by a successful skill roll. Because the aspect is presumed to exist prior to its discovery, you can look at the possibility of “getting it wrong”, as we do with some of the Empathy/Deceit interactions in SOTC and DFRPG, but that’s not a necessary feature.

Declaration is the establishment of a player-invented/introduced fact, backed by a successful skill roll. The fact is presumed to exist prior to its introduction, as far as the characters are concerned. The player’s character, typically, is the smart/alert one who’s on the ball enough to take advantage of the fact first.

A maneuver is a character-imposed change in circumstance, successfully established if the player makes a (often contested) skill roll on his behalf.

But outside of those authority models, it’s the same basic game move.

 Posted by at 12:27 pm  Tagged with:
Jun 022011

The idea that Fate’s consequences are a kind of currency isn’t new. Many of you are already familiar with the -2/-4/-6 consequences approach we use and recommend, as seen in the Dresden Files RPG and other places. Along with the stress track, they add a tiny resource-management aspect to Fate, and they tie into the larger Fate point economy by way of being aspects themselves.

That said, they’re also a bit of an oddity. Fate is not a game chock full of subtraction. In general if we want to reflect the effect of a penalty in Fate, we instead try to shift the perspective on it such that something is getting a bonus instead (factors that increase difficulty rather than penalties to your roll, for example). It’s an odd quirk of the design, but it’s couched in the feeling that doing a series of additions feels, well, more positive. It’s an escalation, a case of something pushing to more awesome heights, rather than reaching for those heights but getting yanked back. The math is ultimately the same, but the experience of that math, at least for us, feels better this way.

So why didn’t we do this for consequences? Honestly, I couldn’t tell you for sure. I suspect we came to them thinking strictly in terms of damage mitigation — as assets which would reduce the stress you’re already going to be taking otherwise. Phrasing them instead as “armor bonuses” or something like that would, in this case, feel a bit tortured. There are times when subtraction is the better option because it’s just simpler.

But let’s push at that a little: if we step away from a model of mitigation, and start with the idea that our consequences are +2/+4/+6 (or +1/+2/+4, to take a cue from Diaspora, or whatever other progression suits you), what does that do for us?

For starters, consequences would become boosters to the defense roll that would simply eliminate the idea that you’re otherwise taking the hit at all. I might have rolled a Good (+3) defense against your Great (+4) attack, but if I’m willing to spend my +2 consequence, my defense goes to a Superb (+5) and your attack doesn’t (technically) land. Sure, I had to give myself this nasty limp to get there, but at least I’m not taken out.

It strikes me that this model would support a no-stress-track implementation pretty well, where you’re taken out simply if you fail to defend yourself adequately, but for the benefit of consequences. That could be extended a little further to Fate 2 style exchanges, I imagine, where attack and defense are the same action, and the win goes to the person whose roll comes out on top — but it’s certainly likelier both parties would get there a little bloody due to some back and forth consequence-spending. That’s intriguing for sure. There’s some middle ground there, too, where it might not take a single victory to take someone out, unless that victory was big enough (a margin of 3 or better), with lesser victories giving the victor “the advantage” (a +1 on the next roll, say). Fights would be super quick and, depending on the rules and strictures placed on “taken out”, potentially very lethal.

Outside of the familiar defense scenario, what other implications come from this?

If you’re sticking with +2/+4/+6 as your progression, that ties into the +2 from invocations by way of equivalence (-2/-4/-6 does this too but less obviously). Consequences are a way to save yourself some fate points, then. No need to spend a fate point and invoke that aspect to boost your defense if you’re willing to take a mild consequence for the same +2 boost. Extra useful if you don’t have any fate points to begin with, big spender.

If that (effective) equivalence exists, though, maybe you could let it flow both ways. Don’t have a fate point? Spend a consequence, and get 1, 2, or 3 depending on the magnitude. It’d be like an on-demand micro-refresh of sorts, with a price attached, and I know any number of players who’d cheerfully hose themselves with a consequence in order to grab a few extra fate points in an hour of need.

Those fate points are, in this case, just an exchange medium, though. They’re going to be spent to buy off a compel, invoke an aspect, declare a detail, what-have-you. But it might be simpler instead to bypass the fate point economy and instead let the bonus from a consequence apply to any part of any roll.

You may have caught in my discussion of defense, above, that I was also implying that the attack side of the equation could get the bonus from a consequence, too. And how cool is that — the guy who takes a Moderate “Deep Shoulder Wound” consequence to get a +4 that takes down the bad guy? But there’s no need to stop at combat once you’ve started down that path.

Need to get that crucial piece of research, but your Academics roll is falling short? Pull an all-nighter, and take the mild consequence “Groggy as Hell” for a +2 on that roll.

You absolutely need to get that piece of information out of that mob boss? Get a +4 on your Rapport roll and you will — but it’ll cost you that “Overplayed My Hand” moderate  consequence, which is sure to bite you on the ass when the mob boss comes to make you an offer you really can’t refuse.

Positioned this way, consequences can become even more central to your play, and importantly, a tool that’s usable in every circumstance rather than just in conflicts. And by my lights, that’s pretty damn cool.

Mar 252011

On a previous post, I talked a bit about how stunts, skills, and trappings were abstractions that had far more in common than is perhaps apparent on the page.

Let’s dig into that some more.

A review: a trapping gives you access to one of the basic Fate game moves under a certain narrative context.

Those actions are:

  • Attack/Contest
  • Defend/Block
  • Maneuver/Assess/Declare
  • Simple Action (need a better name)
  • Sprint (though this may not always be necessary in every Fate implementation)

Included in most implementations of Fate are trapping-dependent constructs that count among the number of game moves, such as setting the length of a stress track or determining the default rating for something (like a Personal Workspace, see SotC’s Gadgeteering stuff).

Skills are packages of trappings, grouped together for ease of use and genre enforcement. They have variable ratings on the ladder as a way of differentiating character action.

Stunts are trappings for which the access is privileged somehow, either by entirely mechanical means (you have to take the stunt), entirely narrative means (something in the fiction has to be true about your character) or a combination (see Dresden powers, which require that your High Concept justifies the taking of a power, and it costs you refresh). That privilege provides more specific genre reinforcement by setting aside rare things in the setting and allows for character niche protection.

Trappings can stack on one another, providing improved effect. That’s how skills and stunts work – skills provide a baseline, stunts enhance from there or broaden the range of options.

Now let’s talk about the fate point economy for a bit.


People have often told me that really, aspects are all that matter to Fate, because they govern the economy. Everything else, they say, is ancillary. Those people are collectively missing a part of the big picture.

Trappings have an enormous impact on the fate point economy in play for a simple reason: they give bonuses to the dice that don’t cost you anything. Thus, they create”spaces” in play where you don’t need the fate point currency to resolve stuff. Thus, they lessen the burden of producing that cyclical flow I’ve previously talked about – without them, the spending rates would be much higher and the need for compels would be subsequently higher. There’d be a danger of fate point rewards becoming wholly arbitrary just to keep the cycle going, which takes away a lot of the tactile feel they have.

So, you need trappings in the game also – they essentially represent the fate points you aren’t spending, and that’s important.


Here’s the interesting part: really, trappings are all you need. Skills and stunts do interesting things, but they aren’t really necessary to a build of Fate. All you really need to know is 1.) what game moves can my guy get at 2.) under what circumstances and 3.) at what bonus?

#1 isn’t really all that hard to get at, because the default answer is “all of them”. Nearly all Fate builds let you roll the dice to try and do something when you don’t have an appropriate skill, at default level (usually +0).

#2 and #3 are harder – without skills, how do you figure out what it is that your character does, and does well compared to other characters?

Well, Fate already has another tool for allowing narrative context to have mechanical impact – aspects.

So imagine something like this:

Your character, Steve, has an aspect called “Assassin of the Scarlet League”. We can generally surmise some things that he’s uniquely good at – stealth, killing folks, platforming around buildings, etc etc. We have a context for action built into the aspect.

Remembering what I said above about trappings representing the fate points you don’t spend, we can easily suggest that certain things about this character count as always-on invocations, providing the +2 bonus when you roll without spending the fate point.

So it’d look maybe like this:



  • Attack a target to cause physical stress with the League’s usual arsenal. (Remember, trappings need access and context.)
  • Defend against physical attacks.
  • Sprint whenever it involves climbing, jumping, or generally moving on buildings.
  • Maneuvers that involve the use of stealth and hiding, or taking sudden, unexpected positional advantage in physical conflict.
  • Contest attempts to spot the character with the use of stealth.
  • Simple actions that involve breaking and entering.
  • Assessments or declarations involving an assigned target, to assign properties to a cased location, or identify weaknesses in locations Steve is trying to infiltrate. Also, assessments or declarations that require the use of the League’s information network.

For everything else, he’d just roll at default. Maybe we’d even allow “stacking” so that we could get more than a +2 on some of these trappings, and then we’d have something more like normal Fate’s skill progression.

Obviously, if a character has six or seven aspects, going through these bulleted lists can take time and energy – one of the reasons why we package them into skills in the first place. But for games where characters are defined by only a few broad aspects, or games where only certain categories of action matter enough to warrant bonuses for regular use, this isn’t a bad approach.

(You could also do it backwards – say, “Here’s a list of trappings important to the game, and if you want access to them, your aspects have to justify it.” You could also combine trappings into categories, like conflict or non-conflict, and let one provide access to multiple game moves at a time.)


So, how would stunts figure into such a model?

Well, remember that the primary purpose of a stunt is to privilege access certain actions, or set a character apart in a big way.

If you want to do that with the above, there are a few tricks:

  • “Lock” the trapping to that aspect – no one else can have access to it without that aspect. So, maybe Steve is the only guy who can declare that a person is “Marked by the League”. No one else can do it because they aren’t members.
  • Turbocharged benefit for a very specific instance. So, maybe Steve gets double the bonus when he’s attacking a target that is unaware of him and who is also “Marked by the League”.
  • Allowing a character to take a trapping as “Best of X”, meaning either their bonus is so huge that it requires fate points to even the playing field, or assuming he automatically succeeds unless aspects are invoked to create an exception. Maybe when Steve is infiltrating a marked target’s home, he gets a crazy +6 or simply always succeeds, unless the target can invoke an additional “Well-Guarded” or “Beefed-Up Secutity” aspect to force him to roll.


So, in sum: trappings are necessary. Everything beyond that is a choice.

 Posted by at 6:48 pm
Feb 202011

As is the nature of any open system, Fate has grown a number of branches over the years. Honestly, not even I have managed to keep track of them all. I’d like to change that, at  least a little, and make sure we catalog them reasonably well here at the site.

I’m starting with this post, which is an off the top of my head accounting of the Fate variants I’m aware of. I am going to omit at least one, I’m sure, and my advance apologies for that.

What I need from you is to “check my work” on this. Tell me about the variants I’ve missed. Help me understand if I’m describing these variants incorrectly, incompletely, or unfairly (within the limits of trying to write these up as 1 to 3 sentence accounts).

Once I feel like the conversation’s gone far enough to get this post’s info finalized (I’ll try to update it as I get comments), I’ll turn it into a more permanent page on the site.


Core Fate (also called Fate 3) – This is the name I use for the main trunk of Fate, the version(s) produced by Evil Hat. While this doesn’t mean that Core Fate is standing still — our own understanding and expression of it evolves over time — it is what we’ll be presenting on this site, and using at the core of any Fate products we produce. Inasmuch as there is an “official” Fate, this is it. Implementations: Spirit of the Century, the Dresden Files RPG.

VSCA Fate – This is Fate as extended by the VSCA crew to create Diaspora. VSCA Fate lives pretty close to Core Fate, though it adds a number of modules (various modes of conflict resolution for different kinds of conflicts) and some concepts (aspect scopes, etc) that I personally quite enjoy. It’s possible that we’ll borrow some of those concepts and bring them back to Core Fate, but I still think there’ll be enough distinctiveness in VSCA’s work to consider it as a slightly separate thing. Implementations: Diaspora.

Cubicle 7 Fate – Cubicle 7’s Fate implementation started from an almost complete absorption of the Spirit of the Century SRD when they put together Starblazer Adventures. There, they also adapted into Fate 3 some concepts that Evil Hat had been talking about during the Fate 2 years, manifesting as the organizations system and the idea of plot stress. Their focus is more on d6-d6 as the dice method, and they’ve added a number of fiddly bits in the implementation of stunt and powers that resembles some of what Evil Hat has done, while being its own thing. C7 Fate and Core Fate can probably cross-pollenate mostly successfully, though as each implementation grows over time I suspect the two flavors will become more distinct. They each certainly come from a different aesthetic, I think, in terms of their design approaches, though at the moment that’s a little hard to quantify. Implementations: Starblazer Adventures, Legends of Anglerre.

Awesome FateAwesome Adventures is Willow Palacek’s effort to pare back Fate to a very lightweight engine, cutting away whole pieces of it, even stuff you might consider essential to the Fate chassis. This is definitely its own beast, but probably a good fit for folks who want to play Fate, but use a version that lives somewhere between Risus and PDQ in terms of simplicity. I’m pleased to see (by looking at the link) that since its original publication it has gotten some improved production values (one of the primary strikes against it when it initially showed up). Implementations: Awesome Adventures.

Strands of FateStrands of Fate is an implementation of Fate created by Void Star publishing. Where Awesome Adventures is an effort to pare Fate down to a leaner thing, Strands goes in the other direction, looking to create a “generic” build of the system that speaks to a more traditionally-minded perspective on RPGs. I’ve heard people quip that it’s “Fate+GURPS”, which is a solid enough description if you’re talking at the level mash-up hollywood movie-pitch dialect, but may sell this thing a bit short. I’ve also heard people express confusion about whether or not Strands is “the” Fate 3.0 book they need, and no, it’s not. I’ve talked with the guy who wrote Strands, and we both agree that it is its own branch, distinct and separate, a deliberate effort to take Fate’s concepts and make them more palatable to folks who find Spirit of the Century to be too “out there”. Implementations: Strands of Fate.

Fate Inspired (a.k.a., Not Fate At All) – I’ve seen people characterize both Houses of the Blooded and ICONS as Fate games. They are both certainly, explicitly Fate-inspired, though, borrowing several concepts from Fate and attaching them to their own original systems. This is fantastic (and you should grab yourself copies of both), but I think it really muddies the waters considerably when folks talk about them as Fate implementations. They are not. EDIT: The excellent Chronica Feudalis belongs in this camp as well.

That’s what I’ve got so far, but I’m very sure I’m missing a few (particularly ones that aren’t for sale). So help me out — what’d I miss? And what more should be said about the above?

Additions from the commenters

One of the things that’s interesting as we’ve been getting comments here and elsewhere is the question of whether some of the missing pieces are “merely” homebrews or are bona fide branches in their own right. In this getting-edited-as-comments-are-made section, I’m choosing not to make a distinction between those two things. That said, in my mind, something grows from a “leaf” into a branch through adoption by players and publishers.

  • Free Fate – The name given by R. Grant Erswell to his condensed combination of the Spirit of the Century and Starblazer Adventures rulesets. Downloadable in PDF form.
  • Fate Basics – This is a pamphlet-sized download going over the basics of Fate as told by Michael Moceri and laid out by Brad Murray of VSCA. Worth a look.
  • Tom’s Spirits – Tom Miskey writes: “Well, there is my own Spirits of Steam and Sorcery and Spirits of Chrome and Cyberspace, both of which are free online (at the FATE yahoo site and through google docs: here and here). They are 100% compatible with each other, and both are based on the SotC rules but with a few changes and several major modifications, including rules for non-human races, weapons and armor affecting damage, and most importantly, a full magic system. Cubicle 7 liked what they saw, so they hired me to help write the Legends of Anglerre magic system and races, in large part adapting the rules in SoS&S. They ended up changing what I had written somewhat for the final draft, but you can still see the seed of where they came from fairly clearly.”
  • Wheel of Fate – This is a Fate-inspired homebrew mash-up from Rob Donoghue (at least as I see it — he may correct me) that I believe can be found in the files area of the FateRPG Yahoo Group.
  • Death of the Vele – Bill Burdick’s hack on the Fate engine. Whether his work has rendered a Fate variant or a Fate-like game is an exercise left to the reader!
Feb 152011

So, Evil Hat is limited in what it can do at any one time, but over the years we’ve been gifted with an incredible resource — our fans — who have, time and again, come through for us in terms of getting the word out, providing ad-hoc support of our products, acting as a distributed grass-roots customer service and sales force, and so on. Heck, the reason there’s an SRD of Spirit of the Century that has been acting as our Fate 3 SRD for the past several years is because some fans stepped up and created the document(s) for us.

We couldn’t be more pleased about this, but it’s also humbling to realize there are so many folks out there willing to jump up and help us out whenever we ask for it. It’s that realization that keeps us from making constant requests of our fans. (A good thing, too — if we pushed out too much “signal” through our fans, the general public would tire of it, and eventually our fans would too.)

All the same, we need your help today.

We want to make some parts of the Dresden Files RPG available under the OGL, but we simply have had no time or resources to do the work, there (more on what that work is in a moment). So we thought: why not see if we can “crowdsource” this one? Toward that end, we’re looking for some volunteers to help do that — and as thanks we’ll dole out some free stuff to the people who step up.

That said, there’s definitely some pain-in-the-ass elements to the process. Here’s what would need to be done by a volunteer squad:

  • Siphon the text out of the PDF via copy & paste (thankfully our PDFs do not restrict this!)
  • Reformat the text as a RTF file, with no line breaks in the middle of paragraphs and any spacing or spelling issues introduced by the copy & paste process cleaned up. Bonus points if you do any boldfacing or italicizing that was shown in the original form.
  • Strip out ALL references to the Dresden Files intellectual property, either replacing with generic stand-ins or simply excising sections of text that aren’t crucial to the understanding of the text (here, it’s usually fine to just delete examples outright, but in other cases there will be references to the DF series woven into the text that needs a more surgical extraction and replacement).
  • Provide the resulting RTF to us for editing & acceptance. If it makes it through that process to our satisfaction, you get free stuff!

We have some specific sections we want to turn into independently available OGL content; we aren’t intending to open up all the content in the game just now, though this is not necessarily where we’ll be stopping, either. Here’s what we’re looking at:

  • The Basics (YS16-22) [[Edward]]
  • City Creation (YS24-50) – This is a long thing, and moreover may need to be genericized to something like “Setting Creation”, but for starters we just need the stripped-down-and-sanitized-according-to-the-above-process take on it [[Daniel]]
  • Advancement (YS88-96) [[Mick]]
  • Aspects (YS98-116) [[Tom]]
  • Mortal Stunts, specifically Stunt Creation (YS146-149 stopping before the examples), with the “mortal” adjective stripped off wherever it occurs [[Edward]]

EDIT: YOWZA! Volunteers for everything already!

To be clear, this post doesn’t mean we’re saying that the above stuff as-is is already open content. It’s not, but we’d like to produce a new version of each of them so that it can be.

So here’s what I’d like to see: folks volunteering in the comments, explicitly, so we don’t end up with four folks all doing the same block of work. Please don’t volunteer unless you’re able to take on whatever you’re volunteering for fairly immediately, so we don’t end up with someone proclaiming they’ll work on a section and then nothing coming of it for weeks. It’s absolutely fine for you to split your work up with other volunteers, however (e.g., maybe someone wants to take on the first ten pages of City Creation, if someone else is willing to take on the rest).

So how about it? Are you able and willing to step up? Tell us!

 Posted by at 9:15 am  Tagged with: