Fate Core, or the Fate Core System, is a generic role-playing game with a focus on "proactive, capable people leading dramatic lives." It is part of the Fate family of games, specifically Fate's fourth edition. Although not marketed as a modular game, it is intentionally easy to hack and multiple stand-alone versions of the game have been released with its game mechanical dials tuned differently (essentially providing alternate rules for the game). These stand-alone versions published with the Fate name include the original Fate Core System, Fate Accelerated and Fate Condensed.
Fate Core was designed by a team led by Leonard Balsera, including Brian Engard, Mike Olson and Ryan Macklin, with editing by Macklin and Jeremy Keller. It was based on previous Fate rulesets by Fred Hicks and Rob Donoghue. Numerous other people have contributed to other versions of the game and supplements, including Clark and Amanda Valentine, who worked on Fate Accelerated.
Fate Core was published in 2013 off the back of a highly successful Kickstarter. In the 2014 ENnie Awards, the Fate Core System won the Gold Awards for Best Game and Best Rules, and the Silver Award for Best Product of the Year. Fate Accelerated won the Gold Award for Best Family Game in the same year, the Fate System Toolkit won the Silver Award for Best Supplement, and Fate SRD won the Silver Award for Best Website.
Random resolution in Fate Core is done by means of rolling a 4dF dice pool, applying modifiers, spending fate points (a type of metacurrency) on aspects, and trying to roll over a target number or the result of an opposed roll.
Modifiers: skills, approaches, and stunts
A character's statistics have numerical values from 0 to (usually) +4 or +5. They are determined from a fixed list, which are skills by default but replaced with approaches in Fate Accelerated and other games derived from it, or replaced with other types of statistics in other games. The default skill list in the Fate Core System rulebook includes 18 skills, although the list is different and has a different length in other versions of the game (e.g. The Secrets of Cats also has 18 skills, but the list is different to suit the magical feline player characters; Fate Condensed uses the Core skill list but adds Academics to bring the total to 19). Fate games that use approaches tend to use Fate Accelerated's list of 6 (careful, clever, flashy, forceful, quick, sneaky), but may use others (e.g. the cinematic approaches of action, comedy, drama and horror in Nitrate City).
Stunts are exceptional abilities that grant the character a specific mechanical benefit, such as a +2 to the character's modifier in a specific area of specialty, or a once-per-session ability usually not allowed by the rules. Stunts may be drawn from a pre-defined list of stunts included in the rules, or created following guidelines provided by the authors.
In some rare versions of the game, most notably The Three Rocketeers, characters have no statistics and their modifier is determined by counting the number of relevant aspects on their character sheet (see below) and applying relevant stunts.
Aspects and fate points
Aspects and fate points are the most important concepts in Fate Core.
An aspect is a sort of label trait, a freeform phrase that describes whatever it is attached to (generally a character, the scene, or something else in the game world). Aspects are considered to be always true within the fiction, although they don't necessarily influence the story (except through fictional positioning) unless a fate point is spent to invoke them. Invoking an aspect may establish a detail in the story that follows from the truth of the aspect, or (more commonly) may modify a roll that has been made, either to add a +2 to the result or allow a re-roll.
Aspects can also be compelled (rather than invoked) by someone, usually by the GM, offering a player a fate point if they consent to their character getting into trouble as a result of one of their aspects. An example given in the rule book refers to the GM invoking a player character's Rivals in the Collegia Arcana aspect to have said rivals attack them in the bath when they don't have access to their equipment.
Situational aspects describe the scene, and may be established by the GM, or created by players using the create an advantage action. Any relevant aspect present in a scene can be invoked, whether it is on a player's own character sheet, someone else's character sheet (even an enemy), or as a situational aspect.
Stress and consequences
Attacks in Fate Core can inflict damage as in other systems. However, instead of a separate damage roll to determine how much damage is dealt, the value is taken to be the difference between the final result of a roll and the target. Any amount of damage could cause a character to be taken out, but most characters can soak damage as either stress or consequences.
Stress represents a character avoiding harm, and it is refreshed each scene. Default Fate Core has two stress tracks, one for mental damage and one for physical damage, but other versions have only one stress track for both (e.g. Fate Accelerated) or other differences. Similarly, some versions only allow character's to mark a single box of stress, representing a specified value of damage to be avoided (usually a box to absorb 1, a box to absorb 2, and possibly more depending on the character's stats), but other versions (e.g. Fate Condensed) treat stress more like hit points in which characters can mark as many 1-point boxes as they have available.
Consequences are a type of freeform condition that represents long-term disadvantage or injury for a character. They are in the form of aspects, and both indicate that a character's fictional positioning has changed (if a character has a consequence saying they have an injured leg, the players are supposed to acknowledge this in their narration) and mean that opponent's can spend fate points to invoke the aspects against you. Consequences can also recover, but take longer to do so than stress depending on the severity of the consequence.
Many Fate Core digital products from Evil Hat Productions are sold as pay what you want, including the core rulebook, the Fate Accelerated rulebook, and Evil Hat's Fate Worlds. Evil Hat is one of the few companies who has made widespread use of pay what you want a successful price point, using its digital products to invite in new players. Money is made on the line by selling premium hard copy versions of the books, advanced digital supplements, and products (e.g. Fate dice or the Deck of Fate), as well as from fans donating through Patreon for Fate Worlds (from 2014 to 2019) or being introduced to other Evil Hat game lines.
Fate Core is also released under both the Open Game License and the Creative Commons Attribution license (the same as this wiki). The rules of the game and many of its supplements are released for free at the Fate SRD (a System Reference Document), and (within the terms of the relevant license) can be used in role-playing games and products released by other designers and publishers. Many games not published by Evil Hat Productions also use the Fate Core system (or a derivative) for their mechanics.
Publications and games based on Fate Core
Self-contained rulebooks published by Evil Hat Productions
- Fate Core System (2013)
- Fate Accelerated (2013)
- Atomic Robo (2014)
- Do: Fate of the Flying Temple (2016)
- Dresden Files Accelerated (2017)
- Uprising: The Dystopian Universe Roleplaying Game (2018)
- Fate of Cthulhu (2019)
- Fate Condensed (2020)
Supplements published by Evil Hat Productions
- Fate System Toolkit (2013)
- Fate Adversary Toolkit (2017)
- Kaiju Incorporated (2017)
- Fate Accessibility Toolkit (2019)
- Fate Horror Toolkit (2018)
- Tachyon Squadron (2018)
- Shadow of the Century (2019)
- Fate Space Toolkit (2019)
- Numerous Fate Worlds (2014-2019)
Self-contained rulebooks published by other designers
- Jadepunk: Tales From Kausao City by Reroll Productions (2014)
- Mindjammer by Modiphius (2014)
- Bulldogs! Fate Core Edition by Galileo Games (2015)
- Unwritten: Adventures in the Ages of MYST and Beyond by Cyan Worlds, Inc. (2015)
- Wearing the Cape by Wearing the Cape Productions (2017)
- #iHunt by Machine Age Productions (2019)
- Flatline by Gallant Knight Games (2020)
Supplements published by other designers
- Ehdrigohr by Council Of Fools Productions (2013)
- Mecha vs Kaiju by WrightWerx (2014)
- Baroque Space Opera by Mark Kowaliszyn (2015)
- High Fantasy Magic by Nathan Hare (2017)
- Fate Codex by Magpie Games (2015-2019)
The previous edition of Fate, the third edition or Fate 3.0, was used in games such as Spirit of the Century (2006) and The Dresden Files Roleplaying Game (2010), but it was not published as a standalone generic game or toolset.
On 4 December 2012, Fred Hicks and Evil Hat Productions launched a Kickstarter, hoping for $3,000 to publish their new edition, Fate Core, along with some adventures. Within 10 hours they surpassed their target, all initial stretch goals, and some new stretch goals. Within two days, they had over 3,000 backers and pledges of over $100,000. When the Kickstarter ended on 30 January 2013, 10,103 backers had pledged $433,365. It had unlocked 32 stretch goals, including releasing Fate Core in hardback, numerous settings and adventures, and several complete games using the Fate Core game engine (including Shadow of the Century and Dresden Files Accelerated). All of the unlocked products were steadily released over the next few years, up to the release of Dresden Files Accelerated.
After their first Kickstarter, Evil Hat Productions continued to produce new Fate Core publications including games (e.g. the complete Atomic Robo RPG in June 2014) and setting and adventure supplements that required Fate Core to play, many of which were released as Fate Worlds or Worlds of Adventure. The first Fate Worlds were setting and adventures from the Fate Core Kickstarter, but Evil Hat Productions started releasing new Fate Worlds in 2014, written by diverse game designers. These were funded through a Patreon campaign. The Patreon campaign closed in 2019, and the final Fate World released was Ngen Mapu.
After delivering the last of the products and stretch goals from the first Fate Core Kickstarter, Evil Hat Productions launched a follow-up Kickstarter called Fate More, primarily for the purpose of releasing hitherto digital-only material in print, as well as creating a new line of Toolkits for adapting Fate Core to new genres. The Fate More Kickstarter had an initial goal of $10,000, and successfully funded in February 2016 with 2,074 backers having pledged $73,357.
Another Fate Core Kickstarter was launched on 23 April 2019, for Fate of Cthulhu (a complete Fate Core game inspired by the Cthulhu Mythos and the Terminator film series). It successfully funded a month later on 21 May 2019 with 2,623 backers pledging $93,894.
- Stacy Muth (2014-08-16). "Announcing the 2014 ENnie Award winners" (archived). ENnie Awards. Retrieved 2020-08-08.
- Fred Hicks. "Licensing Fate". faterpg.com. Retrieved 2020-08-08.
- "Fate Core by Fred Hicks / Evil Hat Productions". Kickstarter. Retrieved 2020-08-08.
- "Fate More: From Bits to Books by Fred Hicks / Evil Hat Productions". Kickstarter. Retrieved 2020-08-08.
- "Fate of Cthulhu by Fred Hicks / Evil Hat Productions". Kickstarter. Retrieved 2020-08-08.