I’m one of the Fate advocates among the Gauntlet. In fact, I’m the person who has run the most Fate for our Hangouts (but I’m also the person who has run the most Cypher, 2d20, Mutant System, 7th Sea, and Rolemaster). I dig much about Fate and it’s a core element for our long-running homebrew, Action Cards. As of this posting a major new Fate supplement is on Kickstarter: Fate of Cthulhu. So I’ve revised this list to help interested players figure out what’s available for the system and what they need to buy.
This is a revision of my earlier lists; I've marked new items with an '*'. For this first half, I’ve grouped the items, beginning with the core rulebooks. Other Evil Hat Fate products then follow: toolkits, setting supplements, and stand-alone games. The next post will briefly run through all the currently available Worlds of Adventure for Fate. Even if the system isn’t your bag, those offer more varied and exciting campaign ideas than almost any other system out there.
What Is Fate?
Fate is a universal rpg, like GURPS, Savage Worlds, or Cypher. It takes a more abstract approach than those games. Fate builds on the earlier Fudge System and has had several editions/evolutions. It uses a set of unique dice: six siders with 0, +, and – sides (2 each). Rolling a set of four yields a value from +4 to -4, with most results in the middle. A 2d6 variant is possible, subtracting one die from the other, but it offers more swingy results. Players generally roll dice for actions, add a value (skill or approach), and compare it to the opposition’s value. Fate gives players several ways to affect and modify dice results after rolling.
- Fate builds on simple concepts to define characters: Skills, Aspects, Stunts, Stress, and Extras. These can be easily tweaked and changed. Each has a clear basic mechanic, making it easy for players and GMs to tweak.
- The skill list can define the setting. The pool of skills for Fate can be tight: 18 for base Fate, 14 for Atomic Robo, and 6 for Fate Accelerated. Players usually add skill values to die rolls. These connect to the four actions: Overcome, Create an Advantage, Attack, and Defend. That mechanic makes it easy to figure out what a skill can do.
- Aspects are awesome. These are descriptors for a person, place, or thing. They have a quick and easy mechanical effect in play. When you “invoke” an aspect you can gain a +2, reroll dice results, or create an effect. Things like aspects on a scene (Stacks of Crates, Darkened Corners) encourage players to interact with the environment. Trouble Aspects operate like disadvantages or flaws in other systems, but offer more player control and actual utility at the table. Other games use aspects as well, but I appreciate how tightly they’re baked into Fate’s structure.
- Fate’s damage system makes for colorful results and hard choices. Damage is usually called stress, with two tracks: physical and mental. The abstract nature of Fate means many different kinds of conflict can happen using the same base procedures. When players take stress, they have to deal with it immediately through marking a box off their stress track and/or taking consequences. Consequences are essentially damage aspects which create problems as a fight drags on.
- You can easily craft different character roles and powers. Stunts are something like feats, talents or advantages in other systems. Fate has a simple set of options for defining these, making it easy to create new ones. Extras represent more potent or unusual special abilities. Fate’s abstraction means that these can be easily built from other parts of the system. If players want an effect for their character there’s a way to define these via collections or combinations of stunts, skills, or aspects.
- It doesn’t take me long to shift Fate to new campaigns. Like other Universal systems, you have to spend some time doing additional tooling to fit the game to the genre or setting you want to play. Fate makes that simple and builds player collaboration into campaign creation from the start. That makes it easy to use out of the box, with just a few choices needed about how to handle niche elements like Magic, Powers, Cybernetics, and so on.
- Fate’s Bronze rule states that anything can be created and treated as a character: cities, plots, factions, obstacles, and so on. This means they can be defined with skills, aspects, stunts, and stress tracks. That’s a powerful tool for the GM in defining the world. It makes prep focused and simple, while allowing players to richly interact with these abstract ‘characters.’
Fate operates differently from many other games. Those accustomed to lighter rules or more narrative games might be unsure about how ‘present’ the mechanics are. If you’re accustomed to games with more defined rules for cases and exceptions, Fate can be hard to grok. It took me some time to finally get how Aspects worked. The abstract mechanics can take getting used to. For example, some gamers are comfortable with superpowers handled purely as aspects, while others want a more rigid list of choices.
This potentially means GMs have to negotiate with players and tweak rules to get what they want. But that’s a fact of any universal system and Fate offers a host of tools and examples for that. Another stopper can be the Skill Pyramid which restricts skill number assignment. Players can get annoyed and lost with that. Fate also has a restrained system for character advancement. Some players prefer characters get something after every session (exp, development points); Fate characters don’t. Finally, some people hate Fate dice. I’ve had that reaction in my group.
The base book for Fate Core. This contains all the rules needed to play. For simplicity’s sake I’m going to refer to this as the Core book for this entry. Note that there’s another complete, but highly simplified version of the Fate Core system available, Fate Accelerated (see below).
The Core book offers a universal version of the system, not tied to a setting or genre. Many examples use a generic fantasy backdrop, but you can easily see how to adapt that elsewhere. After basic concepts, the rules move to campaign creation- showing how players and the GM can collaboratively decide the genre, tone, and issues for a campaign. This leads into character creation chapter which the Core book emphasizes as its own play. Players generate aspects for characters using the “Phase Trio.” Each creates a story for their character and then passes it to the next player. They then add their role in that tale. This connects players at the start, shows who the characters are, and aids in developing aspects.
The rules then move into chapters covering elements of the characters: Aspects, Skills, and Stunts. It presents a streamlined set of 18 skills and three stunts associated with each. It presents clear mechanics for adding more. That connects to the next section, Actions and Outcomes, which covers resolution. Fate Core offers four kinds of actions. Overcome is the broadest. Players use this when trying to get past an obstacle: climbing a wall, investigating a crime scene, running a race. Opposition can be passive with a set difficultly or active with an opponent rolling. Players use Create an Advantage to add an aspect to someone or something: setting traps, creating a good mood, finding weak spots in a castle’s defenses, tripping an opponent. Finally Attack and Defend inflict or protect from harm in conflicts. Different skills have different access to these four actions. Levels of success affect results. Ties offer a small advantage, while beating a target by 3 or more means Success with Style which confers extra benefits.
These mechanics come into play in Contests, Challenges, and Conflicts. Conflicts add mechanics for Stress (damage) and Initiative. For conflicts with a spatial or relational set up, Fate uses abstract zones to define the battlefield. A neat element of Fate conflicts is Concessions. Badly hurt character can, before the dice are rolled, concede a conflict. They’re taken out, but have a say in what happens to them. They lose, but avoid truly terrible Fates.
The rest of the Core book presents advice on GMing Fate, character advancement, and Extras (with examples). The short version of all that is the Core book provides all the basics to play Fate Core. It presents the material well, with plenty of examples and sidebars. The page design makes getting through the book easy and the consistent art style sells the universal feel. I’d recommend this as the starting point for getting into Fate. It’s reasonably priced for a hardcover ($25, or less online) and available Pay What You Want as a pdf.
A condensed version of the Fate Core rules. There's some debate about whether Fate Accelerated (FAE) should be considered its own system. While it maintains Fate Core’s basic concepts, it feels distinct to me. Some supplements specifically serve FAE.
Fate Accelerated aims to speed through character creation. Rather than Skills, characters have scores in six different ‘Approaches’: Careful, Clever, Flashy, Forceful, Quick, and Sneaky. When facing a challenge players can suggest what approach they're taking and how it works with the situation. Some approaches more obviously fit (Forceful perhaps for kicking a door in). But others can be applied by providing appropriate narration. Picking the highest score approach might seem logical, but the player and GM negotiate about what fits. Approaches by their nature may have additional effects. For example, a Careful approach might take longer, eating up valuable time. The rest of the system-Aspects, Stress, Action Types, Consequences-remains intact but stripped down. FAE presents stunts via two Mad-Lib formulas, defining a +2 bonus to a specific action or a cool thing they can do once per session.
FAE presents all of this in just 48 pages, including artwork, reference sheets, GM advice, and sample characters. That's kind of amazing. The simplicity stands out and it offers a great introduction for new gamers. The price point and size means that it could be used to test the waters of the Fate with a group. While it might be slim, FAE has proven robust. Players have hacked the mechanics for many different settings and games. Approaches, for example, can reflect the logic and dynamics of a setting, like classic D&D stats for a fantasy game. Fate Accelerated is a solid game and lends itself to on-the-fly adaptation. Most importantly there's a strong linkage between Fate Core and FAE. That means supplements and materials for one can easily be ported to the other.
A series of focused sourcebooks. Unfortunately Evil Hat recently cancelled all forthcoming titles in this series, leaving the most recent as pdf-only. Several interesting projects, like the Fate City Toolkit, vanished.
Fate System Toolkit
This supplement, released in parallel with the Fate Core rules offers tweaks, hacks, options, and examples for the system. Rather than feel like a collection of things left out, the Toolkit comes across as a kind of masterclass. We have a gaggle of smart veteran GMs gathering to throw around variants & changes and discuss the implications. The first several chapters look at the key character elements: Aspects, Skills, and Stunts. These present new ways to handle them and importantly discuss the impact of those changes on play. Other chapters cover campaign design, niche events like chases & social conflict, playing out combat, and beyond. A large section, 70+ pages, presents ideas for designing magic systems. That includes five distinct examples. The final chapter lays out options for many different sub-systems including Kung Fu, Cyberware, Gadgets, Monsters, Warfare, Duels, Vehicles, Supers, and Horror.
Nothing in the Toolkit is essential to playing Fate (Core or Accelerated). You don't get the sense that this material makes the base rules feel unfinished. However GMs looking at how to reshape Fate to fit their style, an existing property, or a particular genre will want to pick this up. It is a grab bag and not everything will be useful for every GM. But the general models will provide a great insight and inspiration.
Fate Adversary Toolkit*
Covering opposition in several forms, the book breaks into three sections. The first breaks enemies into types, offers options for handling obstacles, and suggests several “constraints” (like countdown clocks) for the table. The second section, only a few pages long, looks at handling zones. That’s often a facet we completely drop from our Fate play, so I’m glad to see ideas for streamlining it. Finally the bulk of the book covers typical foes from ten different genres. These include both full-written out enemies and discussion of more incidental elements like traps. This is the shortest of the toolkits at 112 pages and aimed at GMs. How much you like this will depend on how much you need sample foes ala a Monster Manual and which genres intersect with your campaigns.
This supplement undercuts the myth that Fate’s character competency and player agency cannot support horror. The first three chapters offer an impressive number of tiny, modular systems to tweak your horror experience: dilemmas, trauma scars, aspects hanging over from deceased characters. There’s a lengthy chapter on creating monsters as PCs and adversaries, then discussion of general horror techniques, and some specific genre elements for Fate (like handling the scarcity of zombie survival horror). The last two chapters offer looks at specific genres, with one covering the “Kids on Bikes” stories becoming more popular. But the other covers feminine horror in particular. It’s great and worth picking up for this discussion of discomfort, gaslighting, and similar concepts. I’m also happy that a book like this ends with substantive discussion of safety tools. While it’s primarily a GM book, it also feels useful for Fate players who want to dig further into their horror PCs.
Fate Space Toolkit*
IMHO genre sourcebooks settle at one of two poles. On the one hand, overly mechanical, with lots of rules that eat up space. GURPS sourcebooks have great material, but they’re often buried under a crush of crunch. On the other, too vague. No real rules options, maybe some NPCs, and a generic discussion of the genre and its related sub-genres. Some of the M&M 2e & 3e books read that way to me. The Fate Space Toolkit finds that balance. And it isn’t just a collection of new feats and powers for PCs. Instead it walks through multiple facets of the genre, offers advice for building different campaigns, and provides just enough rules options to make everything feel substantial. It’s disappointing that this didn’t get a physical release, because it’s solid and amazing. It also shows what a Fate Fantasy or Espionage sourcebook could have looked like. Recommended both for fans of sci-fi games in general, and Fate-interested sci-fi gamers in particular.
A supplement based on the world of the Kaiju Incorporated card game. In it you play corporate drones doing rescue and clean up in the wake of giant monster attacks. Has a hit-or-miss comedic tone and art style. Usable with Fate Core and Fate Accelerated. It borrows some game tech from Atomic Robo (see below) for character creation. Actual event resolution uses an interesting event generator, which shifts the play to highly structured scenes and turns.
Shadow of the Century*
A Fate Core sourcebook set in the same world as Strange Tales of the Century and Young Centurions (see below). This however focuses on a dark 1980s where the forces of evil have triumphed. It echoes Iron Age comics, but keeps a strong pulp vibe. The opening gives enough detail to frame the situation and then moves to how you handle a pitch session for a SotC campaign. It presents sixteen roles, each with suggested skills and unique stunts. Mechanics include montage rules, handling gonzo, and a tweaked approach to advancement. The latter half of the book deals with the NPCs, events, and factions of the setting. It’s a 1980s game that isn’t just "Kids on Bikes," but rather embraces the wildness we’ve seen in 1970’s themed rpgs. Has some new mechanical ideas, but overall recommended for someone interested in this specific campaign setting.
Strange Tales of the Century
This is a sourcebook for the Spirit of the Century pulp setting. While SotC uses an earlier version of Fate, this sourcebook has Fate Core mechanics throughout, in particular archetypes and new stunts. Mostly the book offers a complete pulp history for the setting, using the lens of a fictional magazine publisher. Jess Nevins knows his sources and brings them to bear. Recommended for any GM planning on running a pulp game.
A Fate Core campaign setting where the group plays as members of a space fighter group. Character creation’s slimmed down with a tighter skill list, specific aspect questions, and a light stunt list. The meat of the book lies in its detailed but still relatively light space engagement system. Rather than zones, combatants operate on a maneuver chart which gauges relative positioning. These conflicts have four phases: Detection, Maneuver, Action, and End of Round. They also have a unique set of action options. The rules also have some nice material on ship construction, downtime activities, and mission generation. Tachyon Squadron includes a fully developed setting with sample locations and NPCs. Recommended for those interested in Fate games with dogfighting and positional conflicts (like Crimson Skies).
Presents a superhero setting of ambiguous morality. Includes a new and useful approach to superpowers. Originally released as a World of Adventure, Venture City Stories, Evil Hat expanded and re-released it as Venture City. You can see my review of the original here. That includes a link to an actual play video using the rules. The new edition adds many more sample characters, a stronger list of example powers & themes, and some mini-adventures. Venture City takes a minimal approach to power design. It offers a simple, customizable framework. That separates it from some of the other third-party Fate supers games which have been released (Daring Comics and Wearing the Cape). These take a more granular approach to the mechanics.
A complete version of Fate Core covering the Atomic Robo comic universe. It's a large, solid book with incredible layout and illustrations. Most importantly it captures the feel of the original comics and the emphasis on "Action Science." That's a modern pulp with high pseudo-science weirdness. Atomic Robo takes a streamlined approach to mechanics, rearranging and paring the skill system. It emphasizes on-the-fly character creation in stunts, aspects, and skills. It also brings several new or tweaked mechanics to the game: brainstorming, factions, and organizations. Atomic Robo shows how Fate can simulate a particular genre. As well, it offers some of the best examples of play. Recommended if you're interested in the comic or the idea of modern pulp. You can see my review here. Has a single supplement, Majestic 12.
Do: Fate of The Flying Temple
A “Windpunk” adventure game in the vein of Avatar the Last Airbender and Korra. Originally created for another system, this version adapts the world to Fate Accelerated. Players take on the role of youths tasked with solving problems and bringing peace. The focus includes non-violent conflict resolution and creative thinking. Do is explicitly designed to be a family-friendly game. It’s a good example of how Fate can be modified to handle certain tones and limits.
Dresden Files Accelerated
An adaptation of the earlier Dresden File Roleplaying Game to FAE. I’ve run this and I’ve written up my thoughts here. DFAE offers many new and interesting mechanics: unique conditions to define player archetypes, mantles representing role powers, and simple ritual magics. It’s a solid game and really shows how the rules can be tweaked and expanded. Well worth picking up for fans of The Dresden Files and/or urban fantasy. Also a great model for how to model character archetypes with distinct and unique powers. Highly recommended for those interested in tweaking Fate. Though not directly related, The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game can be an invaluable tool for generating scenarios for DFAE. That includes a ton of “build a case” cards to play with.
Not actually released as of this writing. However Kickstarter backers received a nearly complete preview pdf. Fate of Cthulhu offers a new take on the post-Elder Gods victory we’ve seen in Yellow Dawn and Cthulhu Apocalypse. The opening describes the game as “More Aliens and Terminator, less Shadow over Innsmouth.” Your characters travel in time to try to halt the apocalypse you’re living in. The KS preview includes five timelines, with more to be added as stretch rewards. The game looks to new writers like LaValle, Johnson, and Khaw for inspiration and openly addresses Lovecraft’s racism. It’s refreshing to see.
Obviously the book contains a lot of material for handling the Mythos, but it has a lot of interesting Fate tech to adapt elsewhere. The take on dangerous magic and corruption for one. Mechanical systems for tracking timelines, events, and changes. A GMs toolbox for using the past and future together to complement one another. The game’s robust and makes me want to run it right away, despite my generally tepid feelings about Cthulhu stuff.
A criminally overlooked Fate release. It’s set in the Dystopian Universe which first appeared in The Resistance card game. That traitor-detecting social game did well and garnered several similar spin off games in the same world. Uprising takes place in Paris Nouveau, a cyberpunk future city. You play freedom fighters with the possibility of betrayal…on the part of PCs. It’s a well-described setting filled with ideas on government control and monitoring via technology.
Uprising uses what’s effectively playbooks ala PbtA. Each of the nine archetypes has a done-in-one character sheet new players can quickly fill in. These have unique conditions, aspects, and stunt picks. In an element echoing Blades in the Dark and Wrath of the Autarch, your cell has a flow chart of advances to develop over a campaign. The GM has parallel government advances—a device worth stealing for certain Blades-style campaigns. The rules include ideas for handling prep scenes quickly as well as a substantial mission generator. It also has secret cards which color a character’s agenda. This is a dynamite book with a compelling setting and excellent new Fate material. I’d recommend it alone for that, and anyone interested in cyberpunk should pick this up.
War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus
“Roleplaying in a Grimsical World of Fantasy.” This adapts the War of Ashes miniatures game to Fate. This world consists of several cute & cuddly but highly violent races. WoE: FoA uses Fate Accelerated approaches with mechanics for playing out mini-compatible combats. About half the book’s devoted to the setting and background, half to character creation and mechanics. If you’re interested in seeing how you can bridge the gap between Fate’s openness and more traditional elements like minis, check this one out.
This adapts the Spirit of the Century setting (mentioned above) with a couple of major changes. You play young, emergent heroes in a pulp-era setting. Mechanically it uses Fate Accelerated, which massively streamlines the rules. As well, like Do: Fate of the Flying Temple, Young Centurions aims to be an all-ages product. Young heroes battle against sinister forces. The world’s four-color, embodying the brightest aspects of pulp literature and cinema.
NEXT POST: We run through all the presently available Worlds of Adventure.
For the full backlog of Age of Ravens posts on Blogger see here.