Drawing Mild Consequences from a List
When I see rules like conditions in Mouse Guard and Lady Blackbird, or stress in Smallville/Cortex Plus Drama (which I expounded upon years ago), I see something of strong value: a concrete list of statuses that focus action and play.
Then I think about consequences in Fate, and for the most part I enjoy their open-ended nature. But not when it comes to mild consequences. In the last couple years, I’ve thought a lot about how mild consequences would be stronger as a rule if they were drawn from a list like conditions and stress are in the above-mentioned games. Having mild consequences drawn exclusively from a list would:
- Help people who are new to Fate pick it up a little faster
- Hammer home that mild consequences should be phrased as transitory states
- Bring focus to attacks as “actions that could potentially cause on of those statuses to happen,” which makes action intent clearer
- Make the least impacting of consequences play out a bit faster (as too often I’ve seen over-discussion on mild consequences)
- Keep people from accidentally (or purposely) assigning problematic consequences—notably those that are more appropriate as moderate or greater consequences, or those that should be solved with a simple overcome action (and thus not a consequence that would last for the scene)
For that, I have a list of six mild consequences workable for pretty much any conflict—physical, mental, social, etc.:
Those six consequences are generic. A genre could have a different set, perhaps with a different amount of items. You could take inspiration from my Cortex Plus Drama article on stress.
Going further: The person who takes the consequence gets to choose. That way, those that entail emotional state are picked by the person who would have to roleplay it, rather than forced upon that person.
Going further: This hack brings to my mind having weapons or stunts that state which mild consequence they inflict (or what to riff on if they inflict moderate or greater), as a way to directly point out what sort of story behavior it should do. That consequence needn’t necessarily be one from the core list.
Note: If you use conditions (which handle non-consequence narrative fallout arbitrated by the GM), this list could be the same as your condition list, but it could just as easily be different.
There’s a temptation to add a rule like “you can rewrite it as you like when taken,” but I think that’s actually a weak, cop-out idea. This rule pushes the moment you get to creatively define harm off until you score a moderate consequence on someone else. I think saving those authoring moments for dramatic successes makes them so much sweeter.
Thanks to Dave Chalker for helping me come up with some of the list.