by Jacob

Playtest Results with Some Fate Hacks

About two week agos, I ran a Piratey one-shot game of Fate using several different hacks. Many of the changes were to make things easier for newbies (since all but one of the players had never played it before) and some were to test some of the stuff I’ve written here.

Despite the game going great, there were a few things I can bring back from the experience.

Aspects As Skills

In order to skip making skills, I decided to use the characters’ aspects as their skills. This is sort of like using backgrounds in 13th Age, where the background descriptor has a bonus next to it. Whenever you try to do something, you look at your background, choose which ones apply to what you’re trying to do, and you add up the bonuses to get your total bonus to the roll. I tried the same thing, using aspects instead of “backgrounds”. This idea is partially inspired by Freeform skill in the Fate System Toolkit, too.

One thing I know for sure, though, is that THIS is what mechanically unbalanced my game the most. I’m not sure that the mechanic itself is so bad, but the bonuses I allowed certainly added up to too much. The players had 5 aspects, with their high concept getting a +3, and two others getting to be +2, and the last two were +1. The players were able to consistently get above +5 on their rolls, and they didn’t even know they were going to have this “skill” system when they made their aspects.

So, yeah, those bonuses made it impossible to test out the hacks and be certain about the overall result. I’m not saying that the idea is all bad, but the numbers need to be lower for it to work, or else the NPCs need to be adjusted to match.

Special Stunts

A while back, I wrote some articles that talked about compels and declaring truths and how they would make for great stunts. Since the game was a one-shot with a lot of new players, I made it so that they started with no stunts and would build them as we went. This worked quite well, and we had some fun stunts, about half of which were the special kinds of stunts. The others usually just gave the ability for AoE attacks.

One of the declaration stunts wasn’t actually all that interesting, really, as it didn’t really follow the “formula” I had come up with in the post. The others worked well, but weren’t refined enough to be as good as they could be. The compel stunt only came into play once (when it was created), but it worked really well.

These still need some playtesting to really find out their effectiveness, but I have hope. I think these would work really well with an experienced group of players.


There was a lot of hullabaloo over my Counter-Action articles a while back, so I wanted to really try them out. Unfortunately, I was also going with the idea of not telling the players how to do all the actions, but rather asking what they want to do and accomplish, and I’ll figure out how to do so mechanically.

This is NOT the way to go with Counter-Action. You’ll want your players to know how the actions work. It also didn’t help that my NPCs didn’t get many chances to attack. Not with all the huge bonuses knocking all of the mooks out of the game so quickly.

The results of counter are therefore extremely inconclusive.


Lastly, I wanted to test out damage soak as a replacement for stress. Without skills, the best I had for determining soak values was to count how many aspects implied toughness. This was a decent enough calculation, I believe, but again, without the NPCs being able to really attack the PCs, it was nearly impossible to test.

My Two Biggest Problems

Even considering the fact that the bonuses were majorly skewed by the Aspects as Skills, it was not my biggest problem. My two biggest mistakes were trying to do so many hacks at once, and doing them with new players. I was afraid that it might be too many changes at once, but my group so rarely plays Fate that I felt that I had to fit it all into one session, which was a mistake. Also, having so many new players made it so that I couldn’t explain everything very well without making it be too much for them to take in at once. I look forward to trying again with some more experienced players.

No Problem

Despite everything that didn’t go so right in the game, it was still an awesome experience. It helped reaffirm my idea about The Simplest RPG (though, just thinking about it, I have an even simpler RPG idea – I’ll tell you all about it soon), since, despite the rules being dumb around them, the story was really fun to play. Really, the entire idea of trying to tell a collective story is all that matters, because that’s what makes RPGs such a powerful experience.

If you guys want to hear about what happened, let me know. Personally, I usually don’t care to hear about other people’s games, so I don’t know if you guys want to hear about mine. Again, if you do want to hear about, let me know.

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