Skill Contests

Sooner or later the game will run into situations where the outcome of some action is uncertain.

Skill Checks

An unopposed skill check happens whenever a character attempts to do something for which the outcome is uncertain, and isn’t a contest against another character. It can cover situations such as an attempt to overcome a natural obstacle such as a steep cliff or a fast-flowing river, repairing a power-waggon that’s broken down in the middle of nowhere using improvised tools. It can cover longer tasks such as trying to get from one side of the city to another in as short a time as possible, while avoiding running into trouble in bad neighbourhoods, spending an evening barhopping trying to pick up rumours, or making something using an art or craft.

An important principle of FATE is “Say Yes or roll the dice”. If the task is something that’s well within the character’s competence, and the GM can’t immediately think of anything interesting that might go wrong, then the GM should simply let them succeed without bothering to roll.

The player must clearly indicate what they’re trying to achieve and how they’re attempting to achieve it. If the player hasn’t indicated which skill they intend to use, the GM must select the most appropriate skill from the player’s character sheet, decide on the difficulty of the task, and decided what happens if the player character fails.

Depending on the online resources available, either the player can use an online die roller build into the forum or email software, or the GM may roll physical Fudge dice on behalf of the player character. Fudge Dice are six-sided dice (or their electronic equivalent) with two faces marked with “+”, two marked “-” and two blank. To make the skill roll, roll four dice; each plus moves the result one step up the FATE Adjective ladder, and each minus moves the result down one. So for a skill is Good, die rolls of one plus, two minuses and one blank will give a result of Fair.

If the result is equal or greater than the difficulty the GM set, the character succeeded in whatever it was they were trying to do – found the vital clue, got to the other side of the river, or got the power-wagon going again.

The difference between the result of the skill check and the difficulty is called the number of shifts. Zero shifts (i.e. you made the target exactly) means the character only narrowly succeeded. More shifts mean a more spectacular success. Maybe the task took far less time. Maybe in was done with greater panache.

If the result is lower than the difficulty, it’s up to the GM to decide what happened. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the character failed at what they were trying to do; it could mean there’s a complication they have to deal with. Perhaps they climbed that steep cliff, but managed to pull a muscle in doing so. Or perhaps while barhopping for rumours, their enemy became aware that the player characters are on his tail.

Declarations

Declarations are a special kind of skill check that apply to knowledge skills. A player can still say “What does my character know about this?” and expect the GM to supply a background info-dump on a successful skill check, But the player can state new “facts” about the setting, and on a successful skill roll have those facts become part of the setting.

Opposed Contests

Opposed contests happen when a player character is directly up against another character. This covers situations such as a character trying to sneak past a guard or haggling with a merchant. Instead of skill vs. difficulty as in a simple skill check, opposed contests are skill vs. skill. Both parties roll dice, and whoever gets the best result wins. It’s up to the GM to decide how to interpret the result of a tie. Perhaps the conflict remains unresolved, perhaps both parties get part of what they want, or perhaps when a tie is meaningless victory goes to whoever initiated the contest. The number of shifts (the difference between the winner’s result and the loser’s) determines how emphatic the victory was.

Opposed contests are at the core of extended conflicts, which are covered in the next section.

Using Aspects

A player can bring aspects into play for any skill check, either invoking aspects for their own characters or tagging those belonging to other characters or to the scene itself. Each aspect invoked or tagged costs one FATE point, and gives +2 to the die roll. The aspect must be relevant to whatever it is the character is trying to accomplish. The only limit to the number of aspects a player can call upon is the number of FATE points they have and are willing to spend.

In the interests of avoiding explicit mentions of game mechanics in posts, aspects should be mentioned in-character whenever possible in the text of the post. The aspect doesn’t need to be worded exactly as it appears on the character sheet, as long as a key word is there to signal the use of the aspect to the GM.

Manoeuvres

A manoeuvre is a special kind of skill check which brings an new aspect into play. Depending on the nature of the aspect and what the character does to create it, the skill check might be opposed or unopposed, and the aspect may be the player character, another character, or the scene.

If successful, the new aspect can be tagged just as any other aspect, with one important difference – the first time it’s tagged, it’s free. It doesn’t cost a FATE point. A different character may take advantage of the free-tag than the character who performed the manoeuvre. This is a good way to encourage teamwork.

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