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May 27, 2011 / jadettman

Fate's Stress Tracks

As is usually the case, I’ve been thinking about game mechanics lately. In this specific instance it is the Stress Track mechanics from Spirit of the Century and The Dresden Files RPG.

For the longest time I’ve just been thinking of the way it works as an overly complicated system for Hit Points. Recently, I’ve changed my mind. I think a more accurate description is that Stress Tracks are a character’s armor which, as the combat goes on, ablates away.

For those unfamiliar with Fate, here is a run down of how Stress Tracks work:

Each character has a number of boxes that represent how tough, or hard to hurt, they are. Depending on the game, and how you’ve built your character, a character could have as few as two boxes or as many as eight. For our examples, I’m going to use a Track with four boxes.

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When a character gets hit with an attack, the attacker deals an amount of damage equal to the amount by which they exceeded the target’s defenses. So, if the attacker gets a 7 and the defender has a 4, the damage is 3. Pretty straightforward.

This is where it get’s tricky. If a Stress Track was just a pool of Hit Points, like in D&D, you would mark off three boxes and be done with it.

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That isn’t how things work in Fate. In Fate, you only mark off your third box on the Stress Track.

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Later in the combat, if you get hit for another 2 then you mark off your second box.

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And so on. If you get hit on a box that has already taken a hit, then that damage hits the next available box down the line. So, if you get hit for 3 again, then you mark off the fourth box because your third is already filled.

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If you get hit on a box that is full but you don’t have any boxes further up the line then you start to take Consequences, which are essentially wounds (and you don’t want any, obviously).

There is more to conflicts in Fate than that, but I’m just talking about Stress Tracks.

So, like I said, I’ve come to the realization that Stress Tracks are more like ablative armor than they are like hit points. I think I might like them more, coming at them from that angle.



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