A Hard Day's Night
Skills are probably the most complicated part of this system, and it has nothing to do with the skills themselves so much as how skill progression works. Skills are simply purchased with one skill rank, but in order to level them up, you have to have more skills at a lower rank to do so, but we’ll get to that later. Skills represent things you did during your time gaining aspects. When you make a character, you start with effectively 20 skill points distributed like this:
- 1 skill at Great (+4)
- 2 skills at Good (+3)
- 3 skills at Fair (+2)
- 4 skills at Average (+1)
Skills can be anything from hunting, knife, deception, stealth, etc. to underwater basket weaving, but to make your lives easier, I’m going to make a skill list you can pick from so you don’t feel like you brought a knife to a gun fight (I do mean that literally since this is a modern game). Here’s the list of skills you can pick from:
This skill list is long in order to let you make whatever character you want and still have the skills you would need to represent them. Remember that if you don’t have a skill rank in a skill, you can still roll, you just start at a base 0. A rank of mediocre (0) means that you have an average level of skill or knowledge in that area. Skill ranks really indicate those things that set you apart. Everyone doesn’t need to have a rank in awareness, this is not like perception in Pathfinder. Just pick the skills that make sense for your character, and we’ll go from there. To help facilitate this, we will look over everyone’s characters together once they’re all finished and we’ll discuss the skills chosen for the characters as a group.
Rolling Skill Checks
All “untrained” skills (skills you don’t have a skill rank in) are set to a skill level of mediocre or a base 0. Any skill you have one rank in goes up a step to average or a base +1, and so on for more skill ranks (see Fate Basics for more descriptions of the adjectives ladder). When you roll a skill you roll 4d3 and add your skill to it (so a 0 for untrained and a 1 for a skill rank of 1, etc.).
Uses For Skills
Skills can be used to do pretty much anything you can think of with regards to that skill, given you have enough expertise in it. There are four typical ways that you will use skills in Fate:
- To overcome something: This is how you use skills when you are trying to do something against a static test. So you try and jimmy a lock, search a crime scene for a clue, or interrogate a suspect.
- Create An Advantage: How this works is, you use your skills to change the circumstances of the environment or situation to give you an advantage. This may mean you shoot out the lights to give you shadows to hide in, use your knowledge of the area to gain an advantage in a chase, or any other way you could think to gain an advantage. When you try this method, the difficulty is set and your roll results in one of four outcomes:
- You fail, and the situational aspect can be invoked against you
- You tie, both are effected equally by the change
- You succeed narrowly, giving you one free aspect invocation (you can use that to gain a +2 to a roll involving the new aspect)
- You succeed greatly, giving you two free aspect invocations
- Attack: You use your skill to attack in some way during combat.
- Defend: You use your skill to defend yourself in some way during combat
The Skill Pyramid
Alright, here’s the tricky part I’ve been talking about. The most important rule to remember with the pyramid, is there must always be one more skill rank one rank down. For instance I’ll do the pyramid for Sean Abernathy, an engineer and outdoorsman:
His first aspect is Outdoorsman (he’s been an outdoorsman sine he was a boy), and his first 4 skills are spent in 4 individual skills:
Lore: Biology 1
His next aspect he elects to spend on Engineer to show his training gained as an adult, his skills are spent thus:
Lore: Biology 1
Lore: Technology 1
He has 2 skills at rank 2 and 4 skills at rank 1, so the pyramid is balanced.
His next aspect he puts in outdoorsman and raises his skills thus:
Lore: Biology 2
Lore: Technology 1
Here there’s a problem. He has 1 skill at rank 3 and 3 at rank 2, which is fine, but he has only 3 skills at rank 1 and 3 skills at rank 2. The pyramid is unbalanced and must be fixed. He decides to reallocate his points like this (only the 4 new ranks, the ranks from his first 2 aspects are set):
Lore: Biology 1
Lore: Technology 1
His rank 3 skill is still balanced because there are still 2 rank 2 skills, but now his rank 2 skills are balanced because there are 5 rank 1 skills.
The pyramid exists to slow down the speed at which you can rank up skills and to also give you more breadth as a character, which makes sense. Frequently you hit a plateau when learning how to do something, and it often helps to focus on other things to give you a different perspective to progress with your chosen activity. For example, playing video games could be your escape from being a waiter, but as you play more video games you get better at dealing with different GUIs and you improve your problem-solving and multi-tasking abilities, which in turn makes you a better waiter because you are able to keep track of several things at once without getting overwhelmed.
RollD20 Macro Simplicity
For macro purposes on RollD20, you can enter a total of 4d3-8 and that will give you your fate output, because a 1 is considered “-”, a 2 is a 0, and a 3 is a “+”. If you really want to get fancy from there you can add your skill rank to that -8 and have your skill’s output without any math.
Stunts are a way that you can make your character different from every other character with the same skills. For instance, 2 dilettantes, Charles and Gerard have the same Charm rank of Great (+3), but Gerard has the stunt “Fast Friends,” which makes his charm checks have a more lasting effect on the person. In this way, Gerard is capable of getting more people to like him for longer generating a general positive view at court, whereas Charles is seen more as a social climber only hanging around with people until he gets what he needs.
You can make your character with 3 stunts for free or you can have up to five at the cost of some of your Refresh pool.
There are a couple ways you can make a stunt for your skills. You can use a stunt to give a skill an action it wouldn’t normally be able to do, such as use stealth to make a physical attack when your opponent isn’t aware of your presence (Backstab). You can get a bonus on a specific use of the skill, for instance Fast Friends above would give you a bonus on making a Charm check on a person for the first time and give you a +2 if you succeed (A bonus of +2 flatly or a +2 after success is a personal preference, and it should make sense with the way you describe the stunt). You could also use a stunt to give you a rules exception, like letting you use a skill in place of another skill in a challenge (letting you use the skill a second time), actively oppose someone you in a situation you wouldn’t be able to normally (like you’re especially proficient at tying people up) or do something like Riposte, where you if you succeed with style on a Fight check (MoS of 2 or higher), you can inflict a 2-shift (MoS 2) hit instead of gaining the boost.