Revising Teamwork in Fate

Some people are critical of the teamwork rules in Fate; depending on the day of the week, I’m one of them[1]. The thing is, the +1 per helper is actually a super useful rule, even if it seems suboptimal compared to every helper creating an advantage. Let’s start with what the +1 teamwork rule achieves:

  • It speeds up the game by having only a single action and roll for that moment.
  • It reduces creative fatigue by not requiring people to come up with different aspects (though that itself is mitigated by just stacking free invocations on the first advantage created).
  • It doesn’t risk failure or success at a cost (the latter reducing the creative fatigue the GM might have).

This is why I like the rule overall, though I do require people to spend their action in an exchange to give someone else teamwork. Otherwise, they could create an advantage and give teamwork to multiple people, which seems crazy-pants.

I ran into a weird case though as I wrote the Mesh rules for the Eclipse Phase Fate edition, which I call the Mass Hacker Game Problem: hundreds if not thousands of people can attack a server, each of whom could grant teamwork to a single hacker. Now, that’s stretching the teamwork rules to abuse, but because I had to address the problem, I had to critically think about teamwork.

Here’s what I add to teamwork rules now:

  • Nameless NPCs and characters not prominently in the scene can’t offer teamwork. If it seems bunk to have someone take up a little time by describing and rolling to create an advantage, then it’s bunk to say they’re helping with teamwork.
  • The benefit you can get from teamwork caps at your skill rating. After that, you’re not really able to utilize the additional help. So you can get the benefit of four people helping you if you have a skill at Great (+4), just one person if your skill is Average (+1), and can’t really get help if you have Mediocre (+0).
  • As a reminder, you can’t help unless your rating in that same skill is at least Average.

By itself, it fixes the problem and introduces some key concepts. To start, if you want more benefit that you can take on, people must create advantages; there’s no concrete safety in numbers.

To build on that, the cap means you can introduce genuine tension when the person who has to perform some act in the moment is not the person with the best rating in that skill—like an apprentice mage having to use Crafts[2] to undo an arcane spell, and her patron having to lend her energy from a distance rather than be the person to under the spell herself. If the underdog is going to try something like that, and there are a couple people who could aid, that’s worth being a big scene with plenty of separate create advantage actions. So let’s make the game focus your attention that way.

The second point gives a reason to have Contacts or Resources: you can call upon or hire a horde of hackers as a form of creating an advantage. So you can still have the narrative of “a hundred hackers are assisting me,” but without abusing the teamwork rules . That also creates an opportunity for success at a cost when calling upon such help.

And sure, it’s also a bit simulative, as most people who aren’t great at a skill aren’t great at managing effort from multiple sources. But that’s simply the justification that supports the design goals rather being a design goal in and of itself.


I hope this helps, or at least gives you something to think about as you create your own games with similar rules.

– Ryan

Image: who doesn’t love Minion memes?

[1] The thing about making a game is that you tend to get critical of decisions made, both as you watch people play and respond as well as when you build new elements of it (as I have with Achtung! Cthulhu, The World of Dew, the upcoming Eclipse Phase Fate edition, etc.)

[2] Basic magic framework using Core’s list: Lore to know. Crafts to show. Will to say no.


10 Responses to Revising Teamwork in Fate

  1. Leonard Balsera says:

    I dig it. Rubber-stamped.

  2. Ywen says:

    > The thing about making a game is that you tend to get critical of decisions made, both as you watch people play and respond as well as when you build new elements of it

    Ok so when is Fate Core 2 due? ^^

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      Affectionately, I must say “Not it.” :)

      Truthfully, while I continue to muse on Fate, it’s mainly for the third-party stuff I’m doing for people. I’ll leave whatever Fate revision happens in the (hopefully distant) future to the next generation of Fate hackers, and let them use or discard whatever I figure out in the meantime. :)

  3. Jesse Pudewell says:

    The teamwork capping at your rating is something I noticed in Shadowrun that I thought would be pretty sweet to go elsewhere. At least when teamwork needs to have a leader. Of course, if it doesn’t need to have a leader, it can probably be broken down into subtasks.

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      If you get into subtasks, that could be going toward a Fate challenge rather than creating a series of advantages. The difference is if any subtasks are dependent on another/if the core action requires some or all of them to succeed just to be tried.

  4. Jonathan says:

    When I was working on a conversion of Feng Shui to Fate a couple years ago, I came upon a similar problem. Mob need to be able to team together or they’re not even interesting, but if you let them use the full-fledged teamwork rules, then a moderate mob of 6-7 mooks can wipe the walls with an Old Master. My solution at the time was to create a “mob-size ladder”:
    +0: one person
    +1: a few people
    +2: about ten people
    +3: a few dozen
    +4: about a hundred
    +5: hundreds
    +6: about a thousand
    +7: thousands
    +8: many thousands

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      That’s why we tell people to use mobs as a single unit in Fate Core. Makes it so you don’t have to think about teamwork, and just bake in whatever side opposition you want. After all, numbers doesn’t necessarily mean for effective/competent; numbers could just mean endures for longer.

  5. Jonathan says:

    Um, the mob rules in Fate Core directly reference the teamwork rules to determine the strength of the mob.

    The ladder I suggest only changes the scaling, so that a mob of a dozen average(+1) mooks have an effective rating of +4 rather than +13.

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      Incorrect. I read it right before linking to it as a refresher, so I know what it says. Here’s the paste:

      Whenever possible, identical nameless NPCs like to form groups, or mobs. Not only does this better ensure their survival, it reduces the workload on the GM. For all intents and purposes, you can treat a mob as a single unit—instead of rolling dice individually for each of three thugs, just roll once for the whole mob.

      That doesn’t tell you to use the teamwork rules to determine their strength.

      If you mean the paragraph after that

      See the Teamwork section in the previous chapter to see how mobs can concentrate their efforts to be more effective.

      That doesn’t tell you anything about how to set mobs. That indicates a place to look for a play technique.

  6. Jonathan says:

    Revisiting assumptions…

    I completely misread that section. I assumed that the former was talking about what to do, and the latter about how to do it.

    If I’m reading it correctly, the GM should say/imply things like “there’s a dozen of the low-life scum, which we’ll treat as three Fair(+2) nameless NPCs.”

    It is evidence of my love of crunch that I conceptually prefer my ladder, but I see how going by the book is more suitable and more elegant in most cases.