Bronze Rulz!–Equipment for Dummies [GUEST]

Guest author Paul: “GM since ’78, prefers crunchy peanut butter, less so RPG’s, serious-but-cinematic Fiction to Physics, and GM-ing to being a player.” In this guest post, he tackles head-on “aspect spam” in Fate not as a problem, but as a solution (with a very thin Bronze-plating at the right places).

“Why even use a sword? It doesn’t do anything in FATE. What’s the point?”

Oh, my sweet summer child…


  • Use Resources (even at 0) to Create an Advantage – Armed
  • Use Craft (even at 0) to Create an Advantage – A Well-Maintained Weapon
  • Use Deceive (even at 0) to Create an Advantage – Hidden Shiv
  • Use Lore (even at 0) to Create an Advantage – Poisoned Blade
  • Be creative!

There are four (stackable! free!!) invokes just in the examples above…

The Breakout

It’s generally true that FATE is structured so that if you just want to be the Saturday Afternoon Kung-Fu Matinée Master who fights bare-handed against brutes with swords and regularly wins… you can.

 Actually, that sounds like a pretty fun game, but don’t they all?

The thing is, in most games, characters have equipment. Swords, armor, backpacks, ropes and ladders and caltrops and ten-foot poles – guns, cars, laser swords, and sonic screwdrivers. What a character carries is part of the character concept, like our choice of clothing is part of our style. Why not take advantage of them?

Create your Advantages

This isn’t a system where these items are tabulated by cost and weight. Even if you took an Aspect of Flat Broke Penniless, you’re assumed to have the tools of your trade. If you have Fight, you can say you have a weapon. If you have Shoot, start with a gun. They might be crap, but they’ll do the job. They are, if you squint a bit, just known, lightweight Aspects of the character.

What they really are is “Advantages” you have “Created” on your character in advance.

Fig.1-Is any bell ringing?

I don‘t use Weapon and Armor Ratings much. A zero sum feature just adds book-keeping and fosters bad habits dragged in from other systems. Resources can already create Advantages. Why add another mechanic? 

Instead, we use the idea of Story-Based Gear for pretty much everything. Even in the most stock fantasy genre full of big steel greatswords and full plate armor, the toys aren’t the stars of the action in FATE, the characters are. Let the players decide when and how they shine.

Look at things as Created Advantages. Remember when to roll the dice, and when not to. A character with Shoot wants a bow. Let them describe anything unusual, but poof, they walk into town with a bow and some arrows. If they have the Ride skill, they probably ride in on some sort of steed.

Can you Create an Advantage without a roll? Sure. They start with a bow. Why did people use bows? Because it’s an advantage. Write Armed (Bow) on a notecard, put a free invoke counter on it. Handing out free invokes for gear is built into the Story-Based Gear idea. If they get into combat while they are mounted and their opponent isn’t, when they ask wouldn’t that give me an advantage? tell them Absolutely! and hand them a sticky note with Higher Ground and a free invoke, just like that

If you want to write it down to make it a little easier for your players to understand, type up a page or two of “House Rules”.

Sample House Rules

Small, concealable weapons allow one Boost per conflict on an attack or reasonable attempt to create an advantage.

Larger, more versatile weapons apply the aspect Armed unless clearly and visibly peace-tied. You can fake a peace-tie with Deceive or Craft. If Armed out of combat, expect social compels. Use one free invoke of Armed per conflict on an attack or defense, or a reasonable attempt to create an advantage. It’s an aspect, so you can spend FATE points on it.

Armored invites Compels. Expect heatstroke, rashes, and wary NPCs. Don’t try to wade through a stream in heavy mail…

Guards are minor items like greaves and bracers, and give one defensive Boost per conflict. 

Light Armor gives one free invoke per conflict or scene on a defense roll against physical damage, since armor might save you a split skull in a fall. 
Heavy Armor gives two defensive invokes against physical damage and can also be invoked for any reasonable application like defense against intimidation, or intimidation of unarmored victims, but opponents may invoke it against you where it reduces mobility,

Not so hard, eh?  This gives you the advantage of having a weapon when you really need that extra couple of shifts to parry the stroke to your head, or to lever that boulder loose to roll down the hill. Nothing here is out of the ordinary—it’s straight out of the Core rules, elaborated by the toolkit, if maybe leaning a little more on one alternate than another.

Bronze, Beskar, and the number game

“But what about Masterwork items, eh? How about Magic stuff?!?”

Masterwork needs no real change—just let it apply in a few extra places. “The thief is running away, but your Masterwork Broadsword is so well balanced it’s not hindering you at a sprint as much as his common saber…” If it makes you happy, let it Succeed with Style on only two shifts instead of three. Simple magic items use the same trick.

For anything more powerful, give it a Stunt. Major Artifacts should get significant write-ups as Extras, but for most things, just a good Aspect is about all they need. High tech stuff is more likely to just have a Skill of its own.

There are cases where Weapon and Armor ratings make sense—a Lightsaber is not a metal sword. Use your best judgment, but keep the focus on the players. Again, zero-sum is boring; rather than make Beskar Armor:4 the flipside of a Jedi’s Lightsaber:4, give it an Aspect Immune to Light Saber Tech that negates the [Weapon:4] on the lightsaber. Now a Beskar Spear can parry (Defend against) the Lightsaber, and it’s an even fight. 

Trust your Aspects—and compel them!

Remember the Compels this method generate are your friends—they generate FATE points, but it’s easy to turn them off for a minute if you want. Leave a sword in your room, and you don’t get to invoke it, but neither does the GM. NPCs are less suspicious of an Unarmed stranger.

Worried it will be stolen from your room? Man, relax and go with the flow that is FATE. A stolen sword is a story hook! Go try to figure out who stole it! Follow the breadcrumbs, or just figure out how to get another one!

Did you take Resources as a skill? Heck, just buy one and grump about the aspect of Tapped Out for a while, but hit the GM up for a few compels while it’s on you. Surely it’s worth a FATE point or two? Self-compels are part of what the game is all about.

Can’t bear to be parted from My Precious Vorpal Blade “Opener”? Wrap it on your back with a Stowed aspect that costs an action to get to it. Negotiate it so both you and the GM know what to expect. We already do this in other systems—now it’s just formal.

Aspect-on-Aspect, bookkeeping, and negotiation

Aspects like this free you from accounting. At no time in FATE should you just happen to know how much money you are carrying, or how many caltrops, or how much weight, unless it’s specifically relevant to the plot and the world. You are FREE from such heinous Merchants & Bankers tedium!

Trust your Aspects. That also applies to the disposable ones, the Advantages you get from items. Just do NOT get bogged down in making fifty little sticky-notes that you have to sort through in a fight scene, because the GM is right to strip them down if you go overboard. After all, poisons fade and go stale, or leak out and make you sick. Remember, you only need a few handy to stack in emergencies. Many you can just fabricate on the fly, which is part of the game.

What, did you not realize you had caltrops in your pack? Do you not carry caltrops? Huh. You should pick some up next time you’re in town, because mentioning it in passing (yeah, I’m gonna pick up some extra supplies – you know, rope, caltrops, maybe a bag of chalk…) is generally all it takes to put Caltrops in the Alley when you need them. If you have an appropriate aspect like Dungeoneer or Wait, I Think I Have One, you can probably just pull out any such simple item with a handwave, or if the GM feels that’s a stretch, spend a FATE point to have a bag handy. The GM will negotiate it when you get too ambitious.

It’s actually encouraged. The players help steer the narrative. It saves the GM work, and makes the game all the more awesome. You think the author listed every item in a character’s pack before writing the scene where he fished out flint and steel? (Hint—they did not.)

Wrapping Up—Aspect Spam? Not my problem!

Take opportunities to stack a few advantages like those listed at the top of this article. Your character doesn’t have to be a combat god to get really lucky now and then if you’ve filled your pockets with a few free invokes. The GM will stop you if he feels you’re overdoing it. 

You know, stuff will happen that interrupts all that downtime in your room, sharpening those blades and brewing up poisons to put on them. That’s just your FATE.

Now go play. 🙂

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