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Q&A: Scaling in Fate

On my Patreon, James Dawsey asks:

I’d like to see you tackle the discussion of up-sizing and down-sizing the scale of a Fate Core game. Comparing characters who are pulp-era adventurers to, say, cosmic-scaled superheroes like Superman or Green Lantern. There’s been a lot of discussion on those topics elsewhere, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen you approach it.

Right, there are a lot of different takes to this answer, such as the basic scale rules in the Fate System Toolkit, how scale works in Iron Edda, and so on. I wrote up scale rules in Fate edition of Achtung! Cthulhu Keeper’s Guide (just released to backers at the time of this posting), and they’re fundamentally pretty simple three-grade setup: scaleoverwhelming scale, and no scale.

If one side significantly outmatches another, such as a car outrunning a person or a tank defending against someone’s pistol, that’s called having scale. Having scale means having a +4 bonus to actions — scale requires two invocations to even out for a moment. It’s always a positive, with whatever side having scale getting a benefit. It’s never a penalty against the other side. If you can find some way to neutralize the benefit of scale, then it no longer applies.

If one side outmatches much, much farther than that, such as a person trying to punch an elder god or dealing with a firebombing, that’s called having overwhelming scale. You can’t typically fight against overwhelming scale, and need to change the conflict into something you can do (in the examples just used, that would mean running away rather than fighting). If you really, really want to put some number with it, then overwhelming scale is a +16 bonus (4 times 4). It is, after all, overwhelming.

If a side has an advantage but isn’t sufficient enough to have scale, that’s having no scale. Use situation aspects instead of using scale rules.

The text in Achtung! Cthulhu is more detailed, to give more support to the WWII narrative — explosions generally always have scale, and the game uses Weapon ratings so “offensive scale” shifts that rating rather than the skill roll, and so on. I’m looking forward to it being in print and available to the general public.

Those are the scale rules I like because they’re about large shifts. If you’re envisioning smaller leaps of scale, I’m always chewing on that and looking for a way that has a bit more impact for me than the unsureness that leads to moments like “I think this dude is a rank higher in scale than this other dude? Maybe?” I also want it to respect that having scale doesn’t necessarily mean a boon in every single situation, but that scale is situational. (We’re looking at these questions for a as-yet-unreleased Fate game, so stay tuned…)

I’d love to hear what Fate scale rules other people like, and why.

– Ryan

Image from: forums.superherohype.com/showthread.php?t=465401&page=27

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4 Responses to Q&A: Scaling in Fate

  1. That’s a nice, clean way to do it. I may use that for the Mecha game I’m running right now. I kept looking at the Toolkit scaling rules and thinking they were a bit fiddly for how rarely they’d be used in my setting (most of the time Mecha vs. Mecha are the same scale, with the only exceptions being fairly extreme differences in scale like human-vs-mecha or mecha-vs-mobile armor.

    Thanks for the answer!

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      Thankfully, Chris Birch was amazingly awesome and opened up many of the Fate rules for A!C as Creative Commons. If you use this, you’ll want to grab the Achtung! Cthulhu Fate Keeper’s Guide to the Secret War and reference the CC-BY. (At some point I figure someone will SRD the bits from warzone conflict and the like, but until then…)

      – Ryan

  2. Thanks for the tip! Any idea when that’ll be available?

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      I will be loud about it when I know. Right now, it’s still in backer review before being sent to the printer.

      – Ryan