I’m two years into running Fate now, but I still have trouble encouraging my players to use the Create an Advantage move as often as I think they should be. Like me, my players cut their teeth in games which initially trained us to use our “turns” to bash the enemy for direct damage. The idea of potentially wasting a round on a gambit (not a certainty) for advantage is not one most other systems teach.
However, well-stacked Advantages in Fate are the key to legendary feats. To illustrate that, I’ve chosen to highlight and dissect a key battle from a show everyone at my table watches — Gate: Jieitai Kano Chi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri.
(SPOILERS for the Red Dragon Arc to follow.)
To set the scene, the party is hunting a vicious red dragon that terrorises the land. Unlike with dragons in Dungeons & Dragons, nobody here can even conceive of defeating this ancient, brutal, and cunning beast, and so it has remained for thousands of years in a cycle of hibernation and slaughter… until the JSDF roll in. The party, armed with modern military weapons, attempts to do so for the sake of a comrade. Traveling with them is a small cadre of young, hot-blooded dark elf warriors, who have been poorly trained to use rocket launchers.
Incidental aspects so far (we aren’t using all of them, but I like pointing them out): “Ancient, Brutal, and Cunning” (for the dragon) – “Modern Military Weapons” – “For the Sake of a Comrade” – “Young, Hot-Blooded Dark Elf Warriors” – “Poorly Trained”
Poorly Trained is probably the result of a Create an Advantage failure, but those happen when giving fantasy races modern weaponry.
The dragon’s den is inside of a crater in a mountain, and the only access in is through a cave. Immediately, the strongest member of the party can’t join the fight because, despite being a demi-goddess, she’s terrified of being underground. She gets paid a fate point to stay outside, and tries to Create an Advantage by using the walkie-talkie to tell the party when the dragon is approaching. Sadly, another failure means the mountain blocks the communication, and the dragon will get an advantage later on.
Inside, the party gets to work setting up their trap while the dragon is out hunting. Using their “Modern Military Weapons,” which may actually be a stunt now that I think of it, they get to work kneading out a ridiculous amount of C4 and creating the bomb. They also notice all the magical swords from dead heroes as a Situational Advantage they can use later, so they keep a fate point in reserve.
Advantages now available: “Ridiculous Amount of C4” and “Magic Sword Graveyard”
The red dragon comes back, and the GM uses both free tags from earlier — “The Rock Face is Cutting Off the Signal?” to negate the look-out’s warnings and “Poorly Trained” to avoid the worst of the damage from the rocket launchers. It probably also uses an Overcome to temporarily negate the “Ridiculous Amount of C4” by cutting the wires to the manual detonator — or the players decide that on their own to make the fight more dramatic. Then the dragon does what it does best – slaughter and breathe fire.
The party is up against the wall in this fight. The dark elves engage in trying to damage it directly, but their training is insufficient to fight back their fear, so they just die brutally. The soldier is trying to reconnect the detonator, but the dragon is focusing its attention on him. The mage steps forward and uses the existing “Magic Sword Graveyard” and her “Desire for Revenge” (it also destroyed her village) to make a big 2-invoke advantage by levitating and propelling the swords in all directions to pincushion the dragon. It may sting for the dragon, but the mage’s player wants this to be an Advantage, not an attack, because the elf is moving next.
The elf to this point has been battling her emotional state to deal with the Severe Consequence of having lost her father to this dragon. This is her arc to overcome that, her story, so the moment of triumph really has to be hers. To that end, she’s created her own mega 2-box advantage (by invoking that earlier aspect about how everyone is doing this for her), “You won’t take anyone else from me!” Everyone also gives her their accumulated free invocations because they know this is what the story was leading up to — or at least because they want it to be awesome. So, now, the stack looks like this.
“Ridiculous Amount of C4” [ ]
“Pincushioned with Magic Swords” [ ] [ ]
“You won’t take anyone else from me!” [ ] [ ]
She’s an elf with elemental magic, so she uses it to call forth the lightning. She spends her one allowed fate point to boost that to +2 (because elf), then uses the lightning to trigger all the freebies — +2 from the C4, +4 from the metal magic sword lightning rods, and +4 from her determination to win. Even before dice and skill, that’s a devastating +14 to the dragon. It’s just dead. Hurrah! Team effort!
This really is a session I’d have loved to run.
Now, I probably mangled the rules on CoA and invocation somewhere in all that, but the point remains — Advantages are killer! They also can come in a variety of flavours because of fictional focus:
- The pincushion could have been a direct attack, and probably would have been in most other games, but it doesn’t have to be in Fate.
- Old advantages can be used to create bigger, more direct-to-the-situation advantages.
- Not all advantages need to be physical ones. Resolve and focus are legitimate forces in Fate combat.
- Sometimes one really big hit makes for maximum drama and satisfaction.
Fate really does have a lot of fiddly bits for people like me who were trained on other styles of gaming, but these are the bits I actually miss most now when playing other games. These’re also the bits I’m actively trying to influence my players to pick up on. Hopefully, by dissecting shared media, I can manage that — that’s how I learned aspects, after all, from seeing Sparks Nevada’s aspects laid out. So if you’re like my players (and enjoy Gate), I hope this helped. If you’re like me, maybe dig into something you know your table likes and break it down into a fake actual play to highlight what you’d like to see more from your table. May we both find (dramatic) success!