Ideas Inspired by Thrilling Fate

If you haven’t already, you need to read Mike Olson’s awesome post regarding his play test of Thrilling Fate. This ultra-quick description has given me inspiration for some new mechanics for a gritty, or at least fast and furious, Fate game.

No Skills, Approaches, Professions…

This is one of the coolest things that have come full circle in gaming. It used to be that you could flip a coin, roll a die or play paper-rock-scissors to decide the outcome of an action. But players wanted to represent a method of representing skill in something. After all, if everyone rolls a die, then everyone is equal. But I’m tougher, stronger, better at fighting than you.

Enter attribute and skill modifiers, and all the crunchiness that comes with them.

What Thrilling Fate promises to do, which I’m super-excited about, despite having never heard of Sparks, Nevada as a fictional source (I live in Nevada, so of course I’ve heard of the actual city), is the tossing out of such modifiers. Instead of having a modifier denoting how much better of a fighter you are, you can invoke your Trained By The League of Assassins aspect to get a bonus when you need one on a roll. The simplicity is just so awesome!

Here’s how Mike describes it:

What’s neat is how the exhaust-an-aspect mechanic puts that choice entirely in the realm of the fiction, without anything as abstract as even a broadly defined skill, like Athletics, getting in the way. I dunno. I’m probably not explaining it well. But the difference between “I dodge because I have +3 Athletics” and “I dodge because I’m a Quick-Thinking Man of Action” was definitely felt at the table.

“Exhaust-an-aspect”? What is that? You can read Mike’s notes on it here, but here’s the gist of it as I understand it: every aspect seems to begin in an un-exhausted state. When you invoke it for the first time, you gain +3 to your roll and exhaust it. From then on, you can invoke it with Fate points (gaining an additional exhaust, essentially).

The possibilities of such a mechanic for that are very interesting. I could see this working very well for a gritty fantasy campaign based on a setting like 300, where the PCs, NPCs…pretty much everyone you’ll ever meet, are warriors. Everyone can fight, so why have complicated fighting traits that are all going to end up being relatively close to each other anyway? Why not give Spartans some aspects denoting how they fight, like Phalanx, or describing what they’ll do to you if you piss them off, This Is SPARTA!.

You can also give those Spartans some extra invocations from their stunts, or those every popular +2 stunts to make them badass.

Here’s an example of a Spartan build using this concept:

Aspects: This Is SPARTA!; On These Shields!; Choose Your Next Words Carefully; Only The Tough, Only The Strong; No Retreat, No Surrender!

Stunts: Phalanx. Gain a +2 bonus to defense rolls against attacks when you are flanked on either side by an ally with an un-exhausted shield.
It’s Only an Eye. Erase an additional box of Trouble at the start of the next scene.

Equipment: Spartan Shield; Sword; Spear

Curious what that Trouble deal is? Check this out!


  1. Exhausting an aspect is a little different from what you’ve described, but not much. Every aspect has a check box; check the box to exhaust it for a +3 on one roll. It stays checked until you clear it with a cue — a little roleplaying thing to enforce the character’s personality. They’re kinda like 1 XP milestones in Marvel Heroic, or keys in Lady Blackbird. So you can’t This is SPARTA! your way through every exchange in a scene — just the one roll where shouting that at a guy is super-important to you. (Of course, if you can bring in a cue during that scene, you could refresh that aspect and then exhaust it again.)



      1. Whoever creates the aspect gets first dibs on it, like usual. So there’s no free invoke — just an, uh, “exhaust box.” But you can only exhaust one aspect per roll, too, so if you exhaust Disarmed for a +3 (i.e., the reason you’re doing so well at this thing is that your opponent is disarmed), you can’t also exhaust, say, Marshal on Mars for another one. But you can certainly invoke all the aspects you like, provided you have the fate points for it.


      2. I suppose that makes sense. Though what happens when they’ve Succeeded with Style? I’m guessing they don’t get two free exhausts?

        Also, I’m curious about how a skill-less Fate game handles milestones. If you can’t raise your skills by one, in say a significant milestone, what else is there to improve?


      3. Well, it probably helps that the characters in the show don’t really change all that much — their lives (aspects) do, but I wouldn’t really say they get better at anything — so, y’know, I don’t care much about advancement. I’m emulating this one Thrilling Adventure Hour storyline, not making a game that’s intended to have broad applications. So there’s that.

        That said, I do kinda have an advancement mechanic, because I know players like those (oh, also I pretty much only run one-shots, so advancement isn’t even a thing I brush up against in my own gaming), but it doesn’t use milestones as they appear in Fate Core.

        As for two exhaust boxes for succeeding with style: Sure, why not? Exhaust boxes are a valuable commodity in this hack.


    1. Ha! That’s pretty awesome. Totally evokes the Western genre while still making it capable of being somewhere else.

      Thanks for responding, by the way. I’ve learned a lot. Looking forward to hacking this game. 🙂



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