by Jacob

Revisiting the Power/Aggression Control Mechanic in Fate

Last week, I did a post that revisited this mechanic in Dungeon World. Today, I revise the one for Fate that was written back in May. Just like the revision for Dungeon World, this removes the extra roll that was involved with resolving the control effects.

The Revised Mechanic

When a character has an aspect that reflects their ability to power up an action, but possibly lose control with it, they gain a new Control stress track. The amount of stress available is calculated just like the Physical and Mental stress tracks, but using the lower of Will and Athletics as the skill to base it on.

To use this power up ability, you can choose to give a +2 to any roll that fits within action described in the permission aspect. If you choose to do so, you automatically take 1 shift of Control stress. If the roll fails, the total amount of stress you mark off is equal to the number of shifts you failed by. For example, if you succeed at the roll, you only take 1 shift of Control stress. If you fail by 3 shifts, then you take 3 shifts of Control stress. The automatic 1 stress and the failure stress don’t stack.

In case it’s not obvious, when you run out of Control stress, you can apply extra shifts to consequences. The phrasing of such consequences can represent the physical effects of the power overwhelming you, or you hurting yourself in some other way or mental effects of your brain being worn out. It depends on how your power control works narratively.

Optional Alternative to Consequences

Optionally, if the number of shifts being applied toward Consequences is 2 or fewer, then you can choose to create a detrimental (to you or your goal in the scene) Aspect (usually a Situation Aspect) that your enemies have a free invoke of. This will likely often refer to something being broken.


Optionally, you can shed any number of shifts being applied toward Consequences by creating a detrimental (to you or your goal in the scene) Aspect (usually a Situation Aspect) that your enemies have a free invoke of.  Invoking this Aspect provides a bonus equal to the number of shifts you shed.  Again, you probably broke something.

Why Will and Athletics?

I chose to use the lower of Will and Athletics for couple of reasons. The reason for going with the lower number is to make sure that the Control mechanic isn’t abused, especially since the bonus makes it harder for a character to receive additional stress, and it narratively makes sense that the weakest link to be your downfall. I went with Will and Athletics because they represent the mental and physical capacities, respectively, of control the best out of all the skills, in my mind. If you’re using a different skill list, try to keep that idea in mind for which skills to choose.


I tossed quite a few ideas around in my head for how to do this, largely going back and forth between something that affects a stress track and something that has effects based more directly on your roll, similar to the new Dungeon World version. I decided that Fate doesn’t really doesn’t seem open to the idea of “decorating” actions the way Dungeon World does. So I went with a stress track, trying to take a tip from the Bronze Rule. The hardest part was deciding how much stress to deal as well as how much the character can take. Keeping the stress track small was important, since the boost made it more difficult for a character to fail the roll. Automatically taking a shift of Control stress helped in keeping that under control, too. I felt there was enough narrative behind the idea to justify it as well, with a character’s ability to maintain control dwindling as time went on.

Some may be wondering why I even bothered to use a new stress track at all instead of just utilizing the existing ones. Part of it has to do with what I’ve said before about trying to limit the use of the mechanic, so I wanted a minimal stress track. The other reason behind it is that I don’t really feel like this mechanic fits for either of the existing tracks exclusively. In many cases, it could potentially be applied to either one, and that’s definitely against what I’m trying achieve here. In trying to broaden the scope of how this mechanic could be applied, I decided that a separate track would be best.

I’m not sure how best to allow this mechanic into the game. If a player and their GM agree, this could be slightly modified into a decent stunt. As is, I would probably include this as part of a “Class” package like in the Dresden Files RPG, since it clearly provides an advantage, but not so much as to warrant a stunt in my book. In fact, in the near future, I’m going to be writing a Fate hack for the Steelheart book series by Brandon Sanderson that has a slightly altered version of this as the basis of being an epic-to-be (someone who hasn’t fully gone to the “dark side” and is trying to maintain a grip on their humanity).


Let me know what you think about this in the comments below. I’m willing to listen to any constructive criticism about how to maybe make this better or cleaner.

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