Fateful Concepts: Hacking Contests

Around six months ago, I released Fateful Concepts: Character Aspects, which has been a bit of a hit! I’m happy with the response—it’s currently an Electum seller on DriveThruRPG—and have been working on my follow-up to it for months now. Months. Too long, but wedding and everything got in the way, but the next Fateful Concepts is ready for your mindgrapes: all about hacking the contest system in Fate.

The more I play Fate, the more I’ve come to rely on the contest system as my go-to when I need to set up a dramatic, competitive scene. I’ve written a bit about hacking contests in the past, with my contests under fire post (which has been cleaned up, revised, and expanded upon in this collection).

Fateful Concepts: Hacking Contests is a collection of five articles about understanding and changing the contest system in Fate Core and Fate Accelerated.

Understanding Contests

There’s more to contests that you might think. The inherent pacing of victories and sense of passive competition can surprise you the first few times you use contests. Understanding how to tweak these dials won’t just help you run normal contests—it’ll help you hack Fate in general.

Timed Contests

Contests assume that there’s one finish line, and uses ties as a way to shift the situation. But what if you’re not just competing against each other? What if there’s some creeping factor that will make everyone lose if no one triumphs quickly enough? Adding a time element to your contests can shift the tone and tempo of scenes in fascinating ways.

Chases as Contests

The chase system in the Fate System Toolkit uses conflicts to handle chases. Here’s another way to handle chases that shows how to hack contests for direct competition rather than a race to a single finish line.

Contests Under Fire

The base contest rules state that a conflict breaking out stops the contest, but that doesn’t have to be! There are plenty of stories where characters are trying to achieve something while under fire, and this system gives you exactly that: blending contests and conflicts together into one action scene.

Contests with Multiple Objectives

What if you build to a climatic scene with several directions for action beyond just conflict? This article has you covered by showing you how to have multiple objectives in a scene by splitting them into multiple, side-by-side contests. Pair with contests under fire for something truly explosive!

Pair this with Fateful Concepts: Character Aspects to broaden your Fate horizons!

A Creative Commons Compact

Here’s the extra-experimental part of this: Once this becomes a Silver seller on DriveThruRPG, I’ll release the rules articles under a Creative Commons Attribution license. I didn’t release Character Aspects under a CC license, because there wasn’t any rules text to directly use—those articles were all think-pieces. But there are genuine rules in Hacking Contests, and I would love to see them available openly. Let’s make that happen!

– Ryan

(Folks supporting my Patreon, you should have links soon.)