Thursday, January 23, 2014

Fate Core and Strands of Fate

A comparison between Fate Core by Evil Hat Productions and Strands of Fate by Void Star Studios

Evil Hat Productions:…

Void Star Studios:

I'm comparing to Strands of Fate core rules Hero Level.  I prefer Strands of Power's alternate advancement and usually aim at a higher level, but I'm sticking to the core book for this.


Basic system

The basic system is more or less identical because both are using the FUDGE system at their basic level.  Aside from some differences in terminology, they work the same.

Attack and Defense are roughly the same sort of actions for each system.

Overcome from Fate Core isn't really given a name in Strands of Fate, being really just described as an attempt to beat a difficulty number.

Create an Advantage from Fate Core is a combination of Assessment, Declaration and Maneuver from Strands of Fate

Strands of Fate uses Invoke when use of an Aspect is beneficial to the user and Compel when the use of an Aspect is harmful to whatever it is attached to.

Fate Core uses Invoke specifically for describing when aspects are used as bonuses, penalties and rerolls while it uses Compel to describe when aspects are used to alter the story.

Difficulty is different however.

Fate Core assumes a +1 result is an average achievement while Strands of Fate assumes a +2 result is an average achievement.  This doesn't sound like much of a difference but consider the probabilities a moment.

In the case of a flat roll, where there is no stat bonus, a character has a 38.27% chance of rolling a result of +1 or greater while they only have a chance of 18.52% to roll a result of +2 or greater.

This means that difficulty of accomplishment is significantly greater in a Strands of Fate game.  This has broad ramifications.

Strands of Fate also adds in Persistent Aspects which can be invoked or compelled for bonuses without the expenditure of Fate Points.

Both games make heavy use of Aspects which work in ways that seem to be metagaming to players of older systems.  Included is the fact that Aspects can be invoked after you make a roll, where as in most systems, you have to make the choice to spend resources before you roll.

(That said, I will note that Shadowrun, White Wolf, d20 Modern and BESM all have some systems for altering rolls after the fact, they are all more limited than what you can do before the roll.  In Fate, it doesn't matter at all whether you spend Fate before or after.  The only time it matters is when a Fate Point is required to start the power)


Character Creation


While the aspects themselves are the same, the games present different methods of dealing with them.

In Fate Core you start with a High Concept and in Strands of Fate you start with a Defining Aspect.  These are essentially the same thing.  Likewise, you have the Trouble Aspect(FC) and the Disadvantage Aspects(SoF) which are essentially the same thing.

In Fate Core, you would get three more Aspects based on past adventures and how you interacted with other characters on their past adventures.  I'll bring this up more in the process of character creation later.

Comparatively, in Strands of Fate, each character will get a minimum of eight more Aspects defining different things. And this is just to start.  Each character is allowed a maximum of 7 Character Aspects and 10 Specialty Aspects both of which are before adding in any Power Aspects.

In Fate Core, you're not able to add permanent new Aspects to a character.  No matter how experienced your character, you will have a maximum of 5 Aspects that apply to you permanently as compared to an apparent maximum of 17 Aspects for Strands of Fate and even then, Power Aspects are separate, so if you have a character with multiple powers, you really are capable of having 17+ Aspects permanently a part of one character.


Fate Core uses the ladder system (I won't go into the ladder system here) where as Strands of Fate uses a standard point buy system for stats.  The stats are roughly comparable despite being referred to as skills in Fate Core and abilities in Strands of Fate.

To clarify, in Fate Core, you have a skill for Physique that represents a character's natural physical strength and health and Will to represent their mental strength.  Fate Core's Physique could be expressed by Strands of Fate's Endurance and Strength abilities and Will could be represented by Willpower.

Using Strands of Fate, you have more freedom over where your points will go since you are not beholden to the ladder framework and you will appear to have more points to spend, but take a look back up to the system notes on difficulty.  In both Fate Core and Strands of Fate stats start at 0, however, the Fate Core 0 is equivalent to the Strands of Fate 1.

Let's compare Fate Core's standard to the Hero level for Strands of Fate.

In Fate Core, you get one Great(4), two Good(3), three Fair(2) and four Average(1) Skills.  A total of 20 points.

In Strands of Fate, Hero Level, you get 25 ability points to spread as you want through 12+ Abilities (campaigns with magic or other superpowers will have more abilities, my Divine Blood setting is rather punitive at having 3 separate psychic Abilities in addition to the normal 12).

5 more points than Fate Core on first appearance.  However, take the difficulty differences in account and realize that Fate Core is giving a free 1 in every skill by having them start at 0.  Fate Core's default skill list has 18 skills.  This means that for an even comparison of skills vs abilities in the two systems that you need to either increase Fate Core by 18 or decrease Strands of Fate by 18.  In either case, the default Fate Core character has 13 points over the Hero level Strands of Fate character once difficulty standards are taken into account.


Special Abilities

In Fate Core, you have Stunts and Extras while in Strands of Fate you have Advantages.

Stunts can be chained into larger stunts, making Stunts(FC) pretty much the same thing as Expert and Heroic Advantages(SoF).  With an Expert Advantage equaling a basic Stunt and a Heroic Advantage equaling the end result of a chain of two Stunts.

Power Advantages and Extras are pretty much identical except in how they're acquired.  Power Advantages are designed with a set cost and purchased out of the same pool as Heroic and Expert Advantages.

The cost of an Extra is determined by the GM.  For example, the wizard character used in many of the play examples has an Extra the cost of which was being mentioned in the High Concept and requiring the use of the Lore skill.  In other words, the extra itself didn't cost anything that the character hadn't already spent.

As to amounts, the Hero Level Strands of Fate character has 6 Advantage points and can't get Power Advantages unless the GM rules otherwise.  The stated maximum that can be spent on one Advantage is "2" so even in a campaign allowing powers at the Hero level (such as DB), they'll be fairly modest.  The Fate Core character has 3 Stunts and can get Extras based on the GM's decision.

Also, Fate Core Extras can be a bit more broad and flexible than many Power Advantages.  Or they can be roughly equivalent.

Fate-Core's example wizard's magic Extra would be roughly equal to a 9 pt cost Control Reality power in Strands of Fate.  Meanwhile, the example FC Energy Blast would cost 2 points of Refresh as compared to a the SoF Power Attack, Ranged which costs 2 Advantage Points at base.  2 points of Refresh is the equivalent of 3 Advantage Points (or 30 XP) in SoF.

The end result is that whether SoF or FC characters have greater or lesser access to supernatural abilities is up to the GM.  As to the advanced skills and training represented by Stunts and Expert/Heroic Advantages, SoF characters will generally have more.



In FC default, characters start with 3 Refresh.   Strands of Fate Hero characters start with 6 Refresh.

Both allow reducing Refresh to purchase more abilities.

In FC, some Extras require losing Refresh, as determined by the GM.  Also, Refresh can be lowered by 1 to grant a character an extra Stunt.

In Strands of Fate, you can exchange 2 Refresh for 3 Advantage Points (30 XP).  Which would allow for the purchase of 3 extra Expert Advantages.

In both systems, Refresh minimum is 1.



Collaborative process is standard in Fate Core and optional in Strands of Fate.  The collaborative process mentioned in SoF is pretty much the same as for Fate Core, but is more vaguely described and has few if any examples.  People who haven't also played Dresden Files RPG or other Fate games would probably have a different interpretation of the explained process than those who had.


Stress Tracks and Consequences

The default Stress system in Fate Core is to have a default two stress boxes which are increased if one has certain skills at high enough of a level.  In order to prevent accruing Stress, a character can instead take on consequences.

That method is an option in Strands of Fate which receives a fairly thorough explanation, however the standard is for a stress track to be formed by the sum of two Ability scores and for each character to have a number of Stress Tracks, one for each possible consequence.  When each track fills, the character suffers a consequence.


Fate Core Default

In Fate Core, one character might have a Physique of 4 and thus have a Physical Stress track of 4 (+2 for the high Physique).  This would look as follows:


When he takes an attack of 4 stress, he fills in the 4th Stress box like so:


He is not defeated until he takes damage that he can't put in a box.  However, he can reduce stress by taking consequences.  For example, a Minor Consequence reduces the amount of Stress suffered by 2 and a Major Consequence reduces it by 4.

If the example Physique 4 character taking the 4 hit above could chose to reduce the stress by taking a Minor Consequence to reduce it by 2:

OXOO - Bloody Nose

However, if the character already had a particular box filled, the Stress upgrades to the next higher.

For example, our beleaguered nose-bleeder gets hit for 2 stress.  He already has the 2 filled up, so that gets upgraded to 3:

OXXO - Bloody Nose

He also can't take more than one Mild Consequence (though a Physique 5 person could take two Milds) so if he gets hit with 5, he'd have to take a Major Consequence or be Defeated (since 5 is more than his Stress track).

XXXO - Bloody Nose, Broken Rib


Strands of Fate Default

To match the Physique +4, I'm going to assume Strength and Endurance of 3 each.  This gives the character a Physical Stress of 6. (assuming no Stress Advantages were taken)

Now, the SoF character's Physical Stress looks like this.  (note the P is persistent):

OOOOOO - Minor
OOOOOO - Major
OOOOOO - Severe(P)
OOOOOO - Extreme(P)

Now, looking at the same line of attacks from above.

Hit of 4, the character takes 4 Stress, this does not fill his first Track, so no consequences.

XXXXOO - Minor
OOOOOO - Major
OOOOOO - Severe(P)
OOOOOO - Extreme(P)

Hit of 2, the character takes 2 more Stress, this fills his first Track, so now he has that Bloody Nose.

XXXXXX - Bloody Nose
OOOOOO - Major
OOOOOO - Severe(P)
OOOOOO - Extreme(P)

Hit of 5, the character's second Stress Track is not filled, so no new Consequence.

XXXXXX - Bloody Nose
XXXXXO - Major
OOOOOO - Severe(P)
OOOOOO - Extreme(P)

The Strand of Fate default makes it harder to hurt the Player Characters significantly.  Note also that when moving to the One-Stress Track option, as SoF calls the FC default, that there is a difference.

SoF uses Mild, Moderate, Severe, Extreme and Defeated consequences
FC uses Mild, Moderate, Severe and Defeated consequences.

Meaning, at a cost of long-term penalties, a SoF character can stay in the fight longer.

Both systems allow the player to concede, for example, to say they're knocked unconscious and lose the fight rather than take any more consequences.  Both systems award Fate Points for this.

Also note that the Severe, Extreme and Defeated Consequences in SoF are what they call "Persistent Aspects" as noted by the (P).  Which means  that those Aspects will NOT provide a Fate Point when compelled for a penalty.

Also, all Stress is removed at the end of a scene in Fate Core, but in Strands of Fate's default system, Stress is only removed if the character has no consequence at that level.  This means that if a character has a mild and a major consequence, at the end of the scene his minor consequence and that first stress track clear, but the second stress track and the major consequence remain filled.

The FC One-Track system results in more dangerous, dramatic combat, but the SoF system severely punishes a character that does get hurt in terms of penalties accrued (since those Persistents are likely to be called up constantly).


The Books

Fate Core's book is more simple with a limited number of example Stunts, Extras and Systems.  Leaving the GM to apply the basic methods to any of a number of situations.  Fate Core is also spare on example foes.

Strands of Fate has a copious number of example Experts, Heroics, Powers and systems.  Having example systems for conserving ammo, ambushes, computer hacking, helping another character, jumping and more.  A total of 44 separate example systems (not including size/weight and time scales which are in the same book).  They also have a number of example vehicles, antagonists and organizations.

The end result creates the appearance that Strands of Fate is more complicated and harder to figure out while Fate Core is apparently less flexible and easier to use.

Neither of those impressions is true.  I rather expect that when Fate Core Toolkit comes out, that it will somewhat resemble some of what Strands of Fate has in its core book.

Both systems are equally robust with equally simple mechanics and systems and have a similar level of complexity.  Neither game is actually complicated, just complex.  Complex is good, complex means you can layer effects to produce the exact result you desire.  Complicated is not when things are hard or counter-intuitive to figure out.

Strands of Fate prefers to show the potential extent of its complexity and give the potential GM a number of ready made examples to glean ideas from.

Fate Core prefers to start with just showing the basic simplicity of the system and allow the GMs to create their own on the fly systems as needed.

Fate Core characters are going to be more generally capable due to having at least mediocre ability in all Skills.

Strands of Fate characters are going to be more specialized, via their large number of Advantages providing them bonuses in specific circumstances.

The Aspect difference adds to this.  Given the higher number of Aspects and Refresh, SoF characters will have points where they shine much brighter than FC characters.  However, the average level of accomplishment for the FC character will be higher than that of the SoF character.

For Divine Blood, I'm hybridizing a little, though it's mostly Strands of Fate.

I have a personal dislike for the Ladder, though I can play it well enough now after having played Dresden and having had fun.  Plus Fate Core wasn't out when I first started Divine Blood's RPG supplement.

I used the One-Track Stress Track option however, preferring the danger inherent in Dresden Files conflicts over that of the default system on SoF (having played in a game where a character had a ridiculous Physical Stress track of 11, meaning that he had to take 22 damage before he had a major consequence)

That said, the fluidity of Extras appeals to me more than the high-cost equivalents in SoF.  In fact, I was already going to make some of the more complex, abstract and hard to stat powers in the Divine Blood setting, such as the Understanding, be represented by Aspects more than actual powers.  Same with the flavor abilities like physical immortality, part and parcel of having an Aspect identifying one as a God or Demon.

I'd recommend both games for veteran players.  I'd recommend Fate Core over Strands of Fate for new-players due to the appearance of being less complex (it isn't really, it just shows off its simplicity more than its complexity).

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