Basic Concepts

Things necessary to run a FATE Core game:

  1. Players
  2. Paper, character sheets, writing utensils, enthusiasm, etc. In other words, the usual effluvium.
  3. Fate dice, at least four, preferably four per person. Fate dice are a special kind of six-sided dice that are marked on two sides with a plus symbol (+), two with a minus symbol (-), and two sides are blank (0). You can get these dice from many hobby and game stores, often under their original name, Fudge dice. (For Fate’s purposes we’ll continue to call them Fate dice, but call them whatever you like!) Fate dice can be purchased at your friendly local game shop or online. Your GM also has a decent supply available.
  4. Tokens to represent fate points. Poker chips, glass beads, or anything similar will work.
  5. Index cards or post-it notes. These are optional, but they’re very handy for keeping track of aspects during play.

Both players and gamemasters also have a secondary job (aside from playing & running the game, respectively): make everyone around you look awesome. Fate is best as a collaborative endeavor, with everyone sharing ideas and looking for opportunities to make the events as entertaining as possible.


Aspects are phrases that describe some significant detail about a character. They are the reasons why your character matters, why someone is interested in seeing your character in the game. Aspects can cover a wide range of elements, such as personality or descriptive traits, beliefs, relationships, issues and problems, or anything else that helps us invest in the character as a person, rather than just a collection of stats.

Aspects come into play in conjunction with fate points. When an aspect benefits you, you can spend fate points to invoke that aspect for a bonus. When your aspects complicate your character’s life, you gain fate points back—this is called accepting a compel.

Lily’s character, Cynere, has the aspect Tempted by Shiny Things on her sheet, which describes her general tendency to overvalue material goods and make bad decisions when gems and coin are involved. This adds an interesting, fun element to the character that gets her into a great deal of trouble, bringing a lot of personality to the game.

Aspects can describe things that are beneficial or detrimental—in fact, the best aspects are both.

And aspects don’t just belong to characters; the environment your characters are in can have aspects attached to it as well.


Skills are what you use during the game to do complicated or interesting actions with the dice. Each character has a number of skills that represent his or her basic capabilities, including things like perceptiveness, physical prowess, professional training, education, and other measures of ability.

At the beginning of the game, the player characters have skills rated in steps from Average (+ 1) to Great (+ 4). Higher is better, meaning that the character is more capable or succeeds more often when using that skill.

If for some reason you need to make a roll using a skill your character doesn’t have, you can always roll it at Mediocre (+ 0). There are a couple exceptions to this, like magic skills that most people don’t have at all.

Zird the Arcane has the Lore skill at Great (+ 4), which makes him ideally suited to knowing a convenient, obscure fact and doing research. He does not have the Stealth skill, however, so when the game calls upon him to sneak up on someone he’ll have to roll that at Mediocre (+ 0). Bad news for him.


Stunts are special tricks that your character knows that allow you to get an extra benefit out of a skill or alter some other game rule to work in your favor. Stunts are like special moves in a video game, letting you do something unique or distinctive compared to other characters. Two characters can have the same rating in a skill, but their stunts might give them vastly different benefits.

Landon has a stunt called Another Round? It gives him a bonus to get information from someone with his Rapport skill, provided that he is drinking with his target in a tavern.


Stress is one of the two options you have to avoid losing a conflict—it represents temporary fatigue, getting winded, superficial injuries, and so on. You have a number of stress levels you can burn off to help keep you in a fight, and they reset at the end of a conflict, once you’ve had a moment to rest and catch your breath.


Consequences are the other option you have to stay in a conflict, but they have a more lasting impact. Every time you take a consequence, it puts a new aspect on your sheet describing your injuries. Unlike stress, you have to take time to recover from a consequence, and it’s stuck on your character sheet in the meantime, which leaves your character vulnerable to complications or others wishing to take advantage of your new weakness.


Refresh is the number of fate points you get at the start of every game session to spend for your character. Your total resets to this number unless you had more fate points at the end of the last session.

Rolling Dice

You will always roll the dice when you’re opposing another character with your efforts, or when there’s a significant obstacle in the way of your effort. Otherwise, just say what your character does and assume it happens.

All die rolls can be reduced to one of four actions.


To Overcome an obstacle


To create or unlock an Advantage for your character, in the form of an aspect you can use


To Attack someone in a conflict


To Defend yourself in a conflict

  • Choose the character’s skill that is appropriate to the action.
  • Roll four Fate dice.
  • Add together the symbols showing on the dice.
  • Add your skill rating to the dice roll. The total is your result on the ladder (see below).
  • If you invoke an aspect, add + 2 to your result or re-roll the dice.

Fate uses a ladder of adjectives and numbers to rate the dice results, a character’s skills and the result of a roll. Here’s the ladder:

+8 Legendary
+7 Epic
+6 Fantastic
+5 Superb
+4 Great
+3 Good
+2 Fair
+1 Average
+0 Mediocre
-1 Poor
-2 Terrible

Four Outcomes

When you roll the dice, either you’re going to Fail, Tie, Succeed, or Succeed with Style.

Every roll you make in a Fate game results in one of four outcomes, generally speaking. The specifics may change a little depending on what kind of action you’re taking, but all the game actions fit this general pattern. Your Roll – Difficulty = Shifts. So if you roll Fantastic against a difficulty of Good you succeed with 3 shifts.

  • Fail If you roll lower than your opposition, you fail.

This means one of several things: you don’t get what you want, you get what you want at a serious cost, or you suffer some negative mechanical consequence. Sometimes, it means more than one of those. It’s the GM’s job to determine an appropriate cost.

  • Tie If you roll the same as your opposition, you tie.

This means you get what you want, but at a minor cost, or you get a lesser version of what you wanted.

  • Succeed If you roll higher than your opposition by 1 or 2 shifts, you succeed.

This means you get what you want at no cost.

  • Succeed with Style If you roll higher than your opposition by 3 or more shifts, you succeed with style.

This means that you get what you want, but you also get an added benefit on top of that.

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Basic Concepts

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