Fate Core: Superhuman Adjective Ladder

Robert Hanz, from the Fate Core G+ community, has inspired me to revise my stance on superhuman skill levels. This is a “type as I think” post, so this has not been tested, nor thoroughly explored. If you have anything to add, see something I forgot or just want to say something about it, leave a comment below.

Superhuman Ladder

-1 Weak Human
0 Human
+1 Exceptional Human
+2 Weak Superhuman
+3 Superhuman
+4 High Superhuman
+5 Cosmic

The idea here is that an exceptional human can perform superhuman feats with an invocation of an aspect, which is awesome and in keeping with the lore. It also means that exceptionally trained humans can fire a bullet as a +2 stunt and score a Superhuman, which means that, in most instances, bullets can affect weak superhumans but superhumans have a good chance of not being affected and high superhumans are virtually immune.

I like this approach for the obvious skills: Athletics, Physique, etc. but I’m not sure how it will work with something like Contacts, Crafts or Fighting.

Of course, it’s all a matter of narrative. Contacts at +3 could be combined with someone’s Telepathic aspect to narrate the person able to contact people at greater range, while Crafts +2 could be Forge’s ability to perceive a machine and know exactly how it works.

Where this system falls apart is in humans with incredible ability. I don’t think anyone is going to scoff at the idea that Tony Stark has at least a high superhuman level of engineering knowledge and ability (especially if you dig those one-offs that try to actually make him superhuman). But he’s only human. How can he have it that high? The same is true for Batman’s Fighting ability. There are only a few people who are on his level, and less who are above him.

Given that, I think there are two possible resolutions:

1 • Separate skills and attributes. Attributes (Athletics, Physique, Will) have to become separated from the rest in order to use this system as written. This means there are two different ladders, one for skills and one for attributes. The skills would need a list for degree of excellency (novice, professional, expert, etc.) while the attributes would remain as above. The problem here is what to do about Fighting and Shooting? Does Physique’s stress bonus turn into a weapon rating? Maybe the three attributes need to be reworked to facilitate this system. Also, this would require a point buy where two or three skill points are equal to one attribute point, to limit how high attributes go.

2 • Use scale in reverse. Batman can have a +3 Athletics, but when he’s up against Superman’s cosmic level scale, Batman is reduced to +1 or 0. You could argue to use scale as a bonus only to the character who gets it, but that means that Superman could get +2 over and over. This scale only reduces the characters by 1 each, making Superman definitely out of the realm of Batman’s ability, but not so much that one punch will end the fight completely (two might do it, though). The idea is to give the weaker hero a chance, while maintaining the realism of what they’re up against.

Any suggestions, comments, critiques?

2 Replies to “Fate Core: Superhuman Adjective Ladder”

  1. What about skipping High Superhuman and instead give +2 to incredible human.
    Then you have
    -1 Weak Human
    0 Human
    +1 Exceptional Human
    +2 Incredible Human
    +3 Weak Superhuman
    +4 Superhuman
    +5 Cosmic

    Tony has incredible human Engineering.

    Use your ladder but make tonys engineering and Batmans Fighting Stunts.
    Power Suits
    Tony get’s +2 on every engineering action if it involves a power suit of some sort.

    Bruce gets +2 while Fighting if he can use his gadgets.

    The result would be that both are exceptional human but can be Superhuman on your ladder in those fields due to their stunts.

    1. That’s not a bad idea. +2 is sufficient to suggest it’s very difficult to beat someone at that level in a straight up contest, but it also means that Wolverine would only have to invoke an aspect to be equals with Colossus on a deadlift. Supposing Colossus doesn’t have any fate points to blow on his own invocations…

Leave your thoughts below