The Basics

Things You Should Have

You'll need a few supplies along with these rules to play the game. Here’s a list of mandatory items, as well as some recommended ones.

You’ll need:

  • Four Fudge Dice for each player and the GM. If you don’t have Fudge dice, see Grey Ghost Games or your local RPG dice supplier for a pack, or just substitute regular six sided dice.
  • Some copies of character sheets or at least blank paper to record characters.
  • Writing implements.
  • Friends. (For running a game, the sweet spot’s somewhere between two and six. For creating characters, the more the better – the more folks you have with characters, the easier it will be to put together a game whenever you feel like it.)

You’ll find useful:

  • A set of poker chips, glass beads or other counters to use as fate points.
  • Index cards to pass notes and to make notes on things that come up in play.
  • Snacks.

The Ladder

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

Most things in the system are rated according to the ladder above (when we say "the ladder" throughout the text, this is what we mean). Usually, the adjectives are used to describe things – someone might be a Good Pilot or Poor at Academics. The adjectives and numbers are interchangeable, so if a player or GM is more comfortable with numbers, it is equally valid to say Pilot: +3 or Academics: -1. The best compromise is often to use both, as in a Pilot: Good (+3) or a Academics: Poor (-1). On this scale, Average represents the level of capability that someone who does something regularly and possibly professionally, but not exceptionally.

Most people are Average at the things they do for a living, like Science for a scientist, and are Mediocre or Poor at most other things. It is only when they are driven to excel that they surpass those limits.

Experienced FATE heroes push the very boundaries of what "normal" people are capable of, and as such, they tend to be Superb at whatever their central passion is. This means that FATE heroes are genuinely exceptional individuals, and are frequently recognized as such.

Rolling the Dice

Sample Dice Rolls:

What's shown Totals
- + - - -2
+ 0 0 0 +1
0 + 0 - 0

Whenever a player rolls dice, he rolls four Fudge dice (abbreviated as 4dF) to generate a result between -4 and 4. When reading the dice, a + equals +1, a - equals -1 and a 0 equals 0. Some example dice totals are shown to the right.

The total of the dice is then added to an appropriate skill to get a result. This result can be referred to as the effort made, but sometimes, it’s just "the result".

If you find yourself without Fudge dice, then roll 4 six-sided dice. Any die showing a 1 or 2 is treated as -, and any die showing a 5 or 6 is treated as +.


When a character rolls for a result, he is trying to meet or exceed a target value, which is the '''difficulty''' for the roll. The difficulty indicates how hard it is to do something. Difficulties are measured on the same ladder as everything else. For instance, it might be a Mediocre (+0) difficulty to jumpstart a car, but a Good (+3) difficulty to repair that same car after a serious breakdown. Guidelines for setting difficulties are found in the GM’s section of the book.

The difference between the difficulty and the result of the roll (the effort) is the magnitude of the effect, which is measured in shifts. Shifts are used, primarily by the GM, to determine the potency of a character’s efforts and to govern the resolution of complex actions. We’ll talk about shifts more in the coming chapters.


Characters have skills, like Driving and Guns, which are rated on the ladder. Considered on the most basic level, skills represent what your character can do. When a character rolls the dice, he usually is rolling based on his skill.

Nearly every action that the character might undertake is covered by his skills. If he doesn’t have a skill on his sheet, either because he didn’t take it or the skill itself doesn’t exist, it is assumed to default to Mediocre.

Skills are covered in greater detail on their own page.


Sample Aspects:

Dumb as a brick
"Can I buy you a drink?"
Tough guy
Cold as ice

Characters also have a set of attributes called aspects. Aspects cover a wide range of elements and should collectively paint a picture of who the character is, what he’s connected to, and what’s important to him (in contrast to the “what can he do” of skills).

Aspects can be relationships, beliefs, catchphrases, descriptors, items or pretty much anything else that paints a picture of the character. Some possible aspects are shown to the right.

For many, many more examples see the Aspects page. An aspect can be used to give you a bonus when it applies to a situation. Doing this requires spending a fate point (see below). In this capacity, called invoking an aspect, it makes the character better at whatever it is he’s doing, because the aspect in some way applies to the situation (such as “Dapper” when trying to charm a lady).

An aspect can also allow you to gain more fate points, by bringing complications and troubling circumstances into the character’s life. Whenever you end up in a situation where your aspect could cause you trouble (such as “Stubborn” when trying to be diplomatic), you can mention it to the GM in the same way you mention an aspect that might help you. Alternately, the GM may initiate this event if one of your aspects seems particularly apt. In either of these two cases, this is called '''compelling an aspect''', and its effect is that your character’s choices are limited in some way. If the GM initiates or agrees to compel the aspect, you may get one or more fate points, depending on how it plays out.

We’ll talk more about fate points shortly.


Stunts are those things that a character can do which stretch or break the rules. They are the special tricks the character has up his sleeves. Stunts have very specific uses and rules, and are detailed extensively on their own page.

Fate Points

Every player begins the first session of the game with a number of fate points (FP). This number is normally equal to how many aspects he has, usually ten. Fate points give players the ability to take a little bit of control over the game, either by giving their character bonuses when they feel they need them, or by taking over a small part of the story. Fate points are best represented by some non-edible token, such as glass beads or poker chips. (Previous experiments with small edible candies have left players strapped for points!)

Spending FATE points

Characters may, at any point, spend a fate point to gain a bonus, invoke an aspect, tag an aspect, make a declaration, or fuel a stunt.

Gain a Bonus

A fate point can be spent to add 1 to any roll of the dice, or improve any effort (such as an attack or defense) by 1. In practice, this is the least potent way to use a fate point – you’re usually much better off using one of the other applications, below. (Most games get rid of this rule once their players get comfortable using aspects; you can, too .)

Invoke an Aspect

Aspects are those things that really describe a character and his place in the story. When you have an aspect that’s applicable to a situation, it can be invoked to grant a bonus. After you have rolled the dice, you may pick one of your aspects and describe how it applies to this situation. If the GM agrees that it’s appropriate, you may spend a fate point and do one of the following:

  1. Reroll all the dice, using the new result, or
  2. Add two to the final die roll (after any rerolls have been done).

You may do this multiple times for a single situation as long as you have multiple aspects that are applicable. You cannot use the same aspect more than once on the same skill use, though you may use the same aspect on several different rolls throughout a scene, at the cost of one fate point per use.

Tag an Aspect

Scenes, other characters, locations, and other things of dramatic importance can have aspects. Sometimes they’re obvious, and sometimes they’re less so. Players can spend a fate point to invoke an aspect which is not on their own character sheet, if they know what the aspect is. This is referred to as "tagging an aspect", and is covered in greater detail on the Aspects page.

As a rule of thumb, tagging someone or something else’s aspects requires a little more justification than invoking one of your own aspects. For scene aspects, it should be some way to really bring in the visual or theme that the aspect suggests. For aspects on opponents, the player needs to know about the aspect in the first place, and then play to it.

Power a Stunt

Some stunts have particularly potent effects, and require spending a fate point when used. If a stunt requires a fate point to be spent, it will be made clear in the description. See the section on stunts for more.

Make a Declaration

You may simply lay down a fate point and declare something. If the GM accepts it, it will be true. This gives the player the ability to do small things in a story that would usually be something only the GM could do.

Usually, these things can’t be used to drastically change the plot or win a scene. Declaring “Doctor Herborn drops dead of a heart attack” is not only likely to be rejected by the GM, it wouldn’t even be that much fun to begin with. What this can be very useful for is convenient coincidences. Does your character need a lighter (but doesn’t smoke)? Spend a fate point and you’ve got one! Is there an interesting scene happening over there that your character might miss? Spend a fate point to declare you arrive at a dramatically appropriate moment!

Your GM has veto power over this use, but it has one dirty little secret. If you use it to do something to make the game cooler for everyone, the GM will usually grant far more leeway than she will for something boring or, worse, selfish.

As a general rule, you’ll get a lot more leniency from the GM if you make a declaration that is in keeping with one or more of your aspects. For example, the GM will usually balk at letting a character spend a fate point to have a weapon after he’s been searched. However, if you can point to your "Always Armed" aspect, or describe how your “Distracting Beauty” aspect kept the guard’s attention on inappropriate areas, the GM is likely to give you more leeway. In a way, this is much like invoking an aspect, but without a die roll.

Refreshing Fate Points

Players usually regain fate points between sessions when a '''refresh''' occurs. If the GM left things at a cliffhanger, she is entitled to say that no refresh has occurred between sessions. By the same token, if the GM feels that a substantial (i.e., dramatically appropriate) amount of downtime and rest occurs in play, the GM may allow a refresh to occur mid-session.

The amount of fate points a player gets at a refresh is called his '''refresh rate''' and it is usually equal to the number of aspects the player has. When a refresh occurs, players bring their number of fate points '''up to''' their refresh rate. If they have more, their total does not change.

Earning New Fate Points

Players earn fate points when their aspects create problems for them. When this occurs, it’s said that the aspect compels the character. When the player ends up in a situation where his compelled aspect suggests a problematic course of action, the GM should offer the player a choice: He can spend a fate point to ignore the aspect, or he can act in accordance with the aspect and earn a fate point. Sometimes, the GM may also simply award a fate point to a player without explanation, indicating that an aspect is going to complicate an upcoming situation. Players can refuse that point and spend one of their own to avoid the complication, but it’s not a good idea, as that probably means the GM will use things that aren't tied to you.

This isn’t just the GM’s show; players can trigger compels as well either by explicitly indicating that an aspect may be complicating things, or by playing to their aspects from the get-go and reminding the GM after the fact that they already behaved as if compelled. The GM isn’t always obligated to agree that a compel is appropriate, but it’s important that players participate here. See the Aspects page for a more detailed treatment of compels.

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