Redefining Success with Style

Doing conversion work with Fate has really opened my eyes to the myriad of ways in which it works differently from other adventure games. Lately, my thoughts have turned to Fate’s version of a critical success: success with style.

One of the criticisms against Fate is that you can buy your way into success, which extends into buying your way into success with style. I somewhat share that criticism, not because it feels cheap (which is what some people say[1]) but because it shifts the fate point economy. Yesterday, while shooting a different idea with Leonard Balsera, I proposed another way to handle success with style:

If you succeed on your roll, and you have at least three [+]s showing, then you succeed with style.

That means you succeed with style if you have:

  • [+] [+] [+] [-]
  • [+] [+] [+] [B]
  • [+] [+] [+] [+]

That ends up being 9 out of the 81 Fate die combinations, or around 11% of rolls.[2]

If this is the only way of getting a success with style, that changes the common invocation wisdom: reroll if you have a -4 or -3, and take the +2 benefit if your result is -2 or higher. Now if you’re looking to bump a roll that’s, say, from -2 to 0 that isn’t helping, then you have a choice: either take the +2 sure thing or reroll in the hopes of getting a success with style.

This also makes the success with style element a trigger akin to AGE’s stunt dice. And that interests me more than the benefit for getting 3 over a target or opposed roll.[3] It also makes me consider attaching more of a benefit to success with style than what we currently give, since it’s not an economic guarantee — which the current system rewards in accordance with the fact that you can buy your way into such a success.

No to the Converse

You could go the other way, with 3 or 4 [-]s being a critical failure, but people already want to buy out of those rolls. So I don’t see any benefit to attaching rules to that.

– Ryan

[1] Which isn’t to dismiss that idea. That’s why some people don’t like Fate, and that’s cool. It’s just not where my criticism comes from.

[2] Thanks to the Fate G+ community for the help on that.

[3] Which is one of the reasons AGE appeals to me.


9 Responses to Redefining Success with Style

  1. Fred Hicks says:

    Of course, if you like this idea but still want SWS to be achievable via invocations, you could go back to what very early Fate did with invokes: they let you turn any single die into a [+].

    That does a ton of OTHER things to the system too, of course: the most you can ever get above your skill rating is +4, because if invokes do that, they don’t push beyond a +4 result on the dice. (Tho I could see extending it to allowing a +1 or +2 benefit *after* you’ve maxed out your dice.)

  2. devermore says:

    The success with style when you succeed and get 3 pluses on the dice is interesting to an extent. But it also gets in the way of letting people really shine when they use their best skills. If a person has really good skill, is it fair to deny them success with style just because they aren’t lucky enough to roll three pluses? Because without style, very often success is just… success. 1 shift of success is the same as 6 shifts if we are speaking of non-attack skills.

    One other thought is that in practice, at least in my own games, people buy success with style only when they want to do something cool. Other times, it can be a wash — spend a Fate point to get SWS, but it just gives a boost and that merely shifts where the +2 ends up, and so might not be worth it unless someone is trying to shift a bonus to someone who’s out of fate points. Which, btw, is a tactical move that is pretty cool in Fate. Very cooperative — and that’s how we’d like our players to work, right?

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      You hit on a good point, though it’s one that we’ve conditioned people (not necessarily intentionally) to think about regarding Fate. But it’s also what makes SWS not particularly special. You’re looking at SWS as a function of shifts, and then leaping to removing SWS to removing caring about shifts. As it is, with SWS, getting 6 shifts is just as good as 3, so that note doesn’t hold much water.

      SWS is binary, which keeps me poking at it. On the other hand, there’s also the idea of taking this idea not as a replacement of SWS, but as its own trigger — which interfaces as some extra rather than as a rule replacement.

      You are on about the invocation effectively giving a benefit to someone else. Fate provides a few different mechanisms for that, but SWS is one of the more prominent elements.

      and that’s how we’d like our players to work, right?

      I want them to think whatever’s fun. I prescribe no intent further than that. That’s why I throw out other toys into the sandbox, rather than assuming we should play with the same toy. :)

      – Ryan

  3. Craig Hatler says:

    Maybe the “interface as some extra rather than as a rule replacement” could be that the natural-three-plus roll triggers an immediate extra Create an Advantage, or some other action that might seem appropriate? So that the bonus action isn’t waiting around until the PC’s next turn in the order for it to happen?

  4. Josh W says:

    I quite liked it when it was called spin, firstly because it meant that you didn’t have the classic “but what is everything else?” problem; “you achieved a superb level of effort, the equal of the best in your field, but it wasn’t stylish”.

    Whereas with spin, you are putting a little random side bonus on it as well. Of course, the old “stunts powered by spin” thing tended to be a little awkward when we used it, forgetting about them far too frequently, and saying, “you get spin so you get a boost” is awkward too much jargon without enough meaning, especially as success with style doesn’t always mean a boost, just most of the time.

    Anyway, it’s also theoretically possible in this version to loose and still get the three dice of success with style, which suggests to me you could bring back one of the old things from spirit of the century, where spin gives you extra actions.

    So failing on a defense roll with 3+’s showing on the dice could give you an immediate counter of your own, even though you still take the attack/deal with the aspect they just set up, and failing on an attack or aspect creation roll could allow you an attempt at some other action, but not the same one.

    Failures on 3+’s would probably be pretty rare though, you’d have to be quite far out of your element.

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      We killed the spin concept because it was a bad rule, indicated by how often people forgot it and how it interfaced with actions. That was very intentional. Success with style is the same thing, expanded to not be a special “when you get a good success on a defense” to “when you get a good success.” So, no, “spin” as a special snowflake concept is dead for good reason. :)

      You also missed the part where I explicitly said that you have to succeed on the roll.

      – Ryan

  5. Craig Hatler says:

    Apologies for not being clear. So I found a stunt that might help me clarify:

    “Called Shot. During a Shoot attack, spend a fate point and declare a specific condition you want to inflict on a target, like Shot in the Hand. If you succeed, you place that as a situation aspect on them in addition to hitting them for stress.” http://fate-srd.com/fate-core/shoot

    So in this case, it’s like you performed a successful Create Advantage action at the same time as you performed a successful Attack action, right? Two actions happening at the same time? That’s what I was trying to get at with my previous post: you roll the triple plus, you can create an aspect at the same time as whatever action you were performing. I hope that helps.

    The other idea I had is what if you let the triple plus power a stunt that would normally require a fate point to be spent, or let one happen an extra time that only happens once per scene, or scenario?

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      Success with style doesn’t work for the attack framework. You’re already looking at number of shifts as the effect; that you’re getting a lot of +s already plays into that effect. That’s why the stunt works like that. But if you modded the way attacks work, separating out attack from damage, such effects would totally work.

      I wouldn’t change anything that involves stunt with fate point expenditures. That messes with the fate point economy.

      – Ryan