Fighting FATE: combat in FATE 2.0

In commenting about his FATE 2.0 game Mark mentioned that his combat was much easier than anticipated. While there are some decided differences, FATE 2.0 mechanics are related to those in Spirit of the Century (SotC). Those following this series will remember that combat in SotC is heavily dependent on skill level and, barring the use of FATE points to change the outcome, a single point of skill difference can pretty much guarantee victory in a fight. So fights will usually be incredibly easy or impossible. This begs the question, how skill dependent are fights in FATE 2.0?


For an attack the attacker rolls four fudge dice. Fudge dice have even chances of rolling -1, 0, and 1. So four fudge dice yield a roll between -4 and +4 and this roll is added to the attacker’s offensive skill. An example offensive skill would be something like “marksman” for shooting guns. The defender then rolls four fudge dice and adds the result to their defensive skill, usually the same as their offensive skill, but not always. Characters in a fight can also gain bonuses to their combat rolls due favorable circumstances, such as superior weapons or cover. This usually results in a +1 to the appropriate roll. For example, a +1 to defense for having cover. The attacker’s total is compared to the defender’s and if it is higher than the defender’s the target is wounded.

How badly wounded depends on how much the attack roll exceeds the defense roll. If it is higher by 1 point the target is Clipped and suffers a -1 penalty on their rolls next round. If it is higher by 2 to 4 points the target is Hurt. As long as the target is Hurt they suffer a -1 penalty on all their rolls for the duration of the combat. If the attack is greater by 5 or 6 points then the target is Injured and suffers a -1 on all rolls per injury until they are healed. Finally, if the defense is exceeded by 7 or more the target is Taken Out and removed from the fight.

A character can only take 2 of each type of wound, except Taken Out after which further damage is moot. If a character that already has 2 of any wound type takes another wound of that type the damage is moved up to the next wound category instead. So if someone had 2 Hurt wounds and received another Hurt they would take an Injured instead. This effect is cumulative so if a character has taken 2 Clipped, 2 Hurt, and 2 Injured and takes another Clipped the Clipped becomes a Hurt, as they already have 2 Clipped, but that Hurt then becomes an Injured but that Injured then becomes a Taken Out. So, while it is possible for a character to be defeated in one hit, the most anyone can take is seven wounds before they are Taken Out.

A further wrinkle comes in terms of FATE points and Aspects. FATE points are a limited number of points that can be spent to simply increase a character’s final roll. Aspects are special traits a character has that allow them to change their die rolls a limited number of times. Spending an Aspect can allow the dice to be rerolled or to change the roll of one of the dice. For example, rolling four fudge dice and getting +1, +1, 0, and -1 gives a combined roll of +1. By spending an Aspect the -1 could be changed to a +1 yielding +1, +1, 0, and +1 for a roll of +3. Both Aspects and FATE points can be spent on the same roll.

Simplifications and Assumptions

Once again I am ignoring initiative which enables combats to end in a tie. I did not include combat modifiers like cover or superior weapons. If the bonus applies throughout the entire fight then it will be the same as having a higher skill level. If it only applies for a portion of the fight the result will be intermediate between the skill levels. I am also ignoring Aspects and FATE points. While the latter are undoubtedly important for combat they are extremely difficult to model as their use is dependent on circumstance and player preference.


Once again I’m calling on my old friends Pain and Suffering to help test out the system. Figure 1 shows the results of 100,000 simulated combats between Pain and Suffering when they have the same skill level.

As expected, they both win the same number of fights and there are a few ties. A typical combat takes about 8-10 rounds, though it can take much longer or be over in a single hit. The big question is, what happens with unequal skill levels? Figure 2 shows the results of setting Pain’s skill to one lower than Suffering’s.

The shift is quite dramatic with Pain going from winning 49.7% of the fights to winning 6.2%. Decreasing Pain to 2 lower than Suffering reduces Pain’s chances to less than 1% (see Table 1).

Table 1. Chance of Pain Winning at Different Skill Levels

Pain’s Skill Relative
to Suffering’s
percentage chance
Win Lose Tie
-3 0 100 0
-2 0.1 99.9 0
-1 6.2 93.5 0.3
0 49.7 49.4 0.8
+1 93.6 6.1 0.3

Make Mine Mook

Many games like SotC or Savage Worlds have special combat rules for dealing with the hordes of nameless, faceless minions that heroes often have to wade through, the mooks. They are generally lighter versions of the main combat rules to make large numbers of mooks easier to keep track of and relatively easy to defeat, at least one mook at a time. FATE 2.0 does not have mook rules but they are fairly easy to implement. Allow the mooks to take an unlimited number of Clipping wounds but be Taken Out on any Hurt wound or better.
Given the more fragile nature of mooks, even a combat against a mook of the same skill level would be expected to favor the character and be relatively quick. This is born out in Figure 3.

Pain has a significantly increased chance of winning compared to a full-fledged opponent and most fights are over in just a few rounds. The success rate for Pain versus mooks of different skill levels is shown in Table 2.

Table 2. Mooks and Pain

Pain’s Skill Relative
to Mook
percentage chance
Win Lose Tie
-2 13.9 85.3 0.7
-1 40.3 58.8 0.9
0 78.8 20.6 0.7
+1 97.9 1.9 0.2

As can be seen, even against mooks Pain has a less than even chance if his skill is lower than his opponent’s. However, the change in victory and loss percentages isn’t quite as large between skill levels as it is with a normal opponent.

Mooks, You Can’t Eat Just One

Of course, one of the main reasons for using mooks rules is to cover hordes of minions so it is likely that a character will face multiple mooks at once. Modeling this requires some further modifications.

One important rule is the bonus for multiple attackers. As long as multiple opponents are attacking a single character they all get a +1 on their attack rolls. As has been seen in previous figures a +1 can be fairly potent so this is a significant advantage for multiple mooks. There is also a rule allowing characters to attack multiple targets with a single attack, though at a penalty on the roll. This can be very useful fighting mooks, though the penalty may cause the attack to do nothing at all. Because of the difficulty in modeling the choice of when to use a multi-target attack and how many targets to choose, the model assumes only attacking one target. Because of this it probably favors the mooks a bit more than it should.

Another issue that comes up is the question of defense rolls. There are two ways of handling defense rolls against multiple opponents. One is roll against each attack. The other is to have one roll and apply it to all the attacks. Under the second method a single good defense roll can prevent damage from all the foes in a round. Of course a poor defense roll will result in the character taking tremendous amounts of damage. Any character getting a poor roll under those conditions would immediately spend FATE points, Aspects, or both to increase the roll. Anything less would be suicide. As I am ignoring FATE and Aspects the model used the roll separately against each attack method.

Figure 4 shows the difficulty Pain would have in defeating two mooks of skill equal to Pain’s.

As expected, Pain’s chance of victory plummets when outnumbered. In general though, when using multiple mooks they would not be of the same skill as the character. Table 3 shows Pain’s chances against different skills and numbers of mooks.

Table 3. Multiple Mooks and Pain

Pain’s Skill Relative
to Mooks
# Mooks percentage chance
Win Lose Tie
0 1 78.8 20.6 0.7
0 2 18.3 80.9 0.8
+1 1 97.9 1.9 0.2
+1 2 61.3 37.6 1.1
+1 3 15.8 83.4 0.8
+2 2 94.1 5.5 0.4
+2 3 65 33.7 1.3
+2 4 27.1 71.8 1.1

Overall it appears that adding one mook per skill level advantage possessed by a character yields somewhat better than a 50% chance of success. More than that and, at least without using the attack multiple targets option, things get pretty ugly.


FATE 2.0 combat tends to be either very easy or extremely difficult. This makes balancing combats, especially for characters with different levels of combat skill, quite tricky. Mooks help a little bit as the effect of skills become slightly more gradual and the ability to split into different sized groups allows the opposition to be tailored somewhat for each character. Presumably FATE points and Aspects can be used to iron things out, though their influence is going to be determined by how often they are replenished.


2 Responses

  1. […] I first needed a model of FATE combat. Previous articles have looked at Spirit of the Century and FATE 2.0 but I’m not really a fan of those particular versions of FATE. I prefer the overall layout of […]

  2. […] like to point you to his articles on variance and game design, variance in Spirit of the Century, combat in Fate 2.0, combat in The Dresden Files RPG and other Fate-derived systems, and the use of fate points to […]

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