Fate Core: Adventure Fractals Part 2

Yesterday, I discussed using the Fate fractal to design adventures. You’ll notice in the comments of that post that I almost immediately updated, and further simplified, that idea. Today, I’d like to talk specifics about those adventure stats. Tomorrow, I’ll discuss a workflow for creating these adventures in about the same amount of time as it takes for players to work through the phase trio (since GMs typically don’t have anything to do during that time).

Adventure Stats

In my opinion, no system for running games can get too simple for a GM. They already have so much to worry about, why make them have to also add bookkeeping to that list?

This update removes all complicated bookkeeping. You could literally have everything you need for the whole adventure on the front (and maybe back, for an adventure with a lot of scenes) of a 3×5 card!

Adventure Aspects
You should create at least two aspects for every scene: one for the setting/environment and one for the obstacle the PCs will face – you can do more, this should be your minimum. If the PCs will face no obstacle, then there is no tension. You need to delete the scene from your list in most cases, as it will be fiercely boring. Even searching an office for information is an obstacle, Hidden Clues.

Adventure Skills
Adventures use the following skills:

  • Combat: Governs NPCs attacking, defending and creating advantages using combative maneuvers. (NPC and setting uses of Fight/Shoot, and the defense portion of Athletics)
  • Exploration: This sets the difficulty, or opposes, PC attempts to interact with, or move through, the environment, whether that opposition comes from an NPC or another obstacle in the setting. This covers movement, investigating clues, discovering details, determining NPC initiative, allow something to remain hidden from the PCs, etc. (NPC and setting uses of Athletics, Investigation, Notice, Physique, Stealth)
  • Interaction: This is rolled to have the NPCs interact with the PCs. (NPC and setting uses of Contacts, Deceit, Empathy, Provoke, Rapport, Resources, Will)
  • Lore: Governs how difficult it is to know some relevant information that comes up in the adventure. (NPC and setting uses of Lore)

To set the adventure’s skill ratings, set two of the above skills at the same level as the PC’s apex skill rating (called Average Difficulty), then choose one to be +2 higher than that (called Hard Difficulty) and one to be -2 lower (called Easy Difficulty). For instance, if the PCs have an apex skill of Great (+4), then you’d have a set-up of +6, +4, +4, +2. If the apex skill is +3 (like in FAE), then you would have: +5, +3, +3, +1.

Situate the skills so that they highlight the important aspects you have in mind for the adventure. Do you want this adventure to be a tough fight with low social interaction? Have Combat be your Hard skill and Interaction be Easy. Do you want a game of intrigue with next to no fighting? Use Lore or Interaction as your Hard skills and Combat as your Easy skill.

Give the adventure stress and consequences. Stress would begin at 3 and consequences would get a full set (mild, moderate, severe). Use the number of players as a “skill rating” to determine bonus stress and consequences (like how Physique or Will works for a character’s bonus stress/consequences). If you find that too easy for the players, consider adding 2 to the “skill rating”.

Use of these vital stats is identical to how they are used for a player. Anytime an NPC, environment, etc., takes stress, it subtracts from the adventure stress track, which replenishes at the end of the scene as usual. When the adventure is taken out, the GM can opt to keep the scene in play a little longer by filling one of the adventure’s consequence slots. No recovery check is necessary to begin the healing process of an adventure consequence – all that’s needed is time.

Of particular note are severe consequences. These remain for the rest of the adventure, but don’t follow into the next adventure. This means that if the GM has not used it by the end of the adventure, he has a basically free use of a severe consequence for the climax. This has the effect of making the climax last longer and become more difficult to overcome, which is a good thing. Tension should be higher in that final scene.

NPCs and Stunts
Instead of using large numbers of huge stat blocks and individual vital scores to keep track of, the GM instead records the name of the NPC, one or two aspects (which can be borrowed from the adventure/scene aspects), and a number of stunts necessary to set the NPC apart from the adventure mechanically.


And that’s it for adventure stats. The only thing that changed from my initial adventure fractal concept was the rolling of NPC vital statistics into the adventure itself. This makes the GM more like a player, with his own sheet, stress track and skills. It also simplifies things for him, which I hope GMs everywhere appreciate.

Tomorrow I’ll go over a workflow for writing these adventures up quickly, yet thoroughly.

Stay tuned!


  1. This is an excellent idea. It’s somewhat similar to one I’m playtesting in a supers system, in which scenes are played as if they were characters to be defeated (and, ironically, the NPCs within the scenes are played as aspects).

    You might want to figure out some way to distinguish between how effective different skills/approaches are against obstacles in the same scene. For example, “locked door” as an aspect in an FAE scene with a +2 in “Exploration”: you can either pick the lock with Sneaky or break it down with Forceful. If it were a padlocked metal door, that might mean a -1 mod to Forceful approaches and a +1 mod to Sneaky approaches. A wooden door with a high-tech electronic deadbolt might be the opposite. I guess that could be one of the scene’s stunts? “Because the Locked Door is metal, I get +2 to resist any Forceful attempts to overcome that aspect.”



    1. I’d say you had it on the money at the end, there. A stunt determines what something is particularly resistant against. However, as a rule, a GM of FAE should be used to making those adjustments anyway (although what should happen and what actually takes place isn’t always that similar).

      Personally, and Jadepunk’s professions reflects this, I almost never play straight Fate Core or Fate Accelerated anymore, but an amalgamation of the two. I enjoy zones, which FAE doesn’t have, but I don’t enjoy long skill lists, however I do like the specificity the long skill lists cary with them.

      The way I do it is with a broad skill list (professions usually work, but there are other types, as well) around 5-7 (like FAE approaches in number), but they are written with specific details as to what they can do, like Fate Core skills.

      The adventure fractals work no matter what type of game you play. Were I writing this for a specific setting/mechanical structure, I would adjust it for that. But I would rather keep it a bit generic and not specify anything regarding an FC/FAE version.



  2. I love the concept of this, but one thing I don’t quite get is how the stress/consequences work. Say a scene is a good ole’ fashioned throwdown between some mooks and the party. Since the mooks share a stress track, none of them will go down until they all go down right at the end? What if there’s a leader there as well, he isn’t any tougher than the mooks?



    1. Imagine your big ol’ throwdown. Wouldn’t it make more sense to say that as the scene takes Stress, mooks are getting beaten in a general sense, and as they take Consequences, mooks are leaving, getting knocked down for good, etc?

      Compare, for example, to a Jackie Chan movie. There’s a period where he’s just fighting 5 different mooks, and then one goes down and he’s fighting 4, and then it speeds up as time goes on, because they’re taking progressively heavier and heavier Consequences, until finally they are Taken Out.

      Furthermore, the free Invoke you get on Consequences you inflict during a conflict helps to model the fact that they’re not as strong as they were before, so you’re beating them harder.



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