Fun Crunch for Fate: Props and Tactics

Futuristic city and ships

Here are some work in progress rules for the core edition of  Return to the Stars. I’m currently play-testing these.


Gamers like getting phat loot, but one of the strengths of Fate is the way that Character aspects keep the focus on who the PCs are, not what the stuff the they carry or the inventory they manage.

Props are my attempt to square the circle–gear that you can have fun collecting but which are only used once for a dramatic effect in a scene.  Like an intriguing prop in a well made science fiction movie it provides a moment of cool that shakes thing up and advances the story, and then you don’t see it again.

In DnD terms a prop is like finding an old school Arrow of Demon Slaying, not trudging forward on the hedonic treadmill by snagging +1 shield.

Props are one use, and discarded after players use them.  However, if a GM has an NPC use a prop, it should be available for players to loot if they defeat their foe–turning a resource against the antagonists is a staple of space opera tales.

Props are found during adventures, they are never purchased.   The Convention is a post-capitalist post-scarcity setting, after all. A PC can keep as many props as they have refresh–if they exceed that limit, they can give a surplus prop to another player or discard it.

Players always know what the props they’ve acquired do.  Most of them come with FAQs, sometimes the characters just figure it out.  Struggling to identify your cool new toy isn’t fun, so we don’t waste any time that way.

Props often work in similar to stunts, but will often have a more dramatic effect. If a prop seems really in character for a PC, you might decide to make it a more permanent part of the game by converting it into a stunt, but the player and GM should have a conversation about potentially reworking the text to bring the power in line with other stunts.

Example props:

Black Ice When you achieve a special success with Scan detecting someone using Intrusion to break into a computer system, you may inflict a moderate consequence on them. discard after use

ECCM Missile When you use this, your special success with a Blast attack in Space combat doesn’t cause damage, but all enemy defense rolls will be a -2 for the rest of the combat.  discard after use

Fresh Paint When you have a special success in a competition with Make, add +1 to your achieved target. discard after use

Self-Destruct Sequencer Concede the conflict. An opponent must take a major consequence. discard after use

Surreal Filter When you tie attempting to create an advantage with Science, you do get a free invoke on the aspect created. discard after use

Quadcorder When you achieve a special success with Scan attempting to create an advantage to solve a problem, you may immediately use scan at +2 in place of Science to overcome the problem. discard after use


After a while, some players find Fate’s combat system gets a bit samey, and feel that they miss some of the mechanical crunch of more traditional RPGs.  Generally, this is best addressed by redoubling a focus on storytelling, and remember that Conflicts are only an optional tool to zoom in on something interesting, not something pulled out simply because someone is picking a fight.

Nonetheless, mechanical crunch can be fun part of a game, so you might want to try these optional tactics rules.

During a conflict, a player can choose to employ one tactic when their turn comes up in an exchange in addition to their normal action. All tactics end at the end of a conflict.

example tactics:

Let’s Finish This You take more risks, with the aim of dealing more damage and finishing this conflict quickly.  From here on out, during your attack, or whenever anyone attacks your character, treat all blank rolls on dice as if they had the plus symbol. You can’t chose another tactic while Let’s Finish This is active. You have the option of ending this tactic after you suffer a consequence.

Mise-en-scène You can only chose this tactic if there are more than six scene aspects in play. You may remove one scene aspect that exists, but doesn’t have a free invoke.

A Moment of Truth If you succeed in combat you can give up two shifts of damage to learn one character aspect that your opponent has.

Momentum After you roll your attack, you can choose to pay a Fate point to keep your roll to be used again in the next exchange. For example, if your unmodified roll is +3, you can pay a Fate point so that you simply receive +3 in you roll on the next exchange, rather the roll the dice. Of course, you have to live to the next exchange, and carrying this much momentum may make you a target. You cannot use momentum twice in a row.

This Will Get Ugly You have to chose this tactic before you roll.  Even if you fail in attacking you still cause one shift of damage to you target, at the cost of taking a shift of damage yourself. If the defender succeeds with style you take two shifts of damage instead.

Well, That’s Random This could get interesting. Roll 8 Fate Dice instead of 4 for your Attack or attempt to Create an Advantage. You cannot use well that’s random twice in a row.

Do you want more crunch in you Fate game?  What are your thoughts on these options?










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