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Story resolution in the FATE system is different from traditional RPG’s, as it represents events that span more than single actions. It is used to form a foundation based on the competence of the character, on which the players form their story, using aspects, fate points and other game mechanisms to modify the baseline, and offering a fitting narrative. It resolves a branching point in the story rather than a single action of a character.
For this purpose, we use the ladder to identify a base adjective, and join that with the name of a character skill to form the basis of our narrative. The ladder is a list of adjectives, matched to numbers between -4 and +8
To obtain a result on the ladder, we choose a character skill, roll the dice and add that skill’s value to obtain a result on the ladder. The name of the skill and the resulting adjective on the ladder tells us what kind of a story we must tell.
Let's say that our story hinges on the ability of our character Hacksaw to drive through gridlocked streets of downtown Chicago. Hacksaw's "Driving" skill is at level 2 and Hacksaw's player rolls the dice and gets a ⊞⊞⊟⊡. The total is 3, which corresponds to "Good" on the ladder. We are supposed to tell a story of "Good driving".
All of the mechanisms described here are best used for broad results, like a “Cooking” roll to see if the character can make a great five course meal, rather than multiple rolls for each action, like a roll to see if he can whip up the mayonnaise and another to see if he roasts the meat to perfection. Always remember that dice rolls are story devices, not simulation devices. Such roll chains are usually too tedious and add very little to the story. If the single cooking roll turns out to be bad, it is just story flavor whether that’s because of bad mayonnaise or overcooked meat. Feel free to choose which.
If you say that resting the fate of your story on a single roll is unfair, first of all, remember that this system is called FATE for a reason. FATE offers mechanisms for modifying these rolls after the fact, using aspects and fate points, but that is a subject that deserves its own chapter.
And yet, there are cases where you would want to have a fine-grained approach to resolving actions. For that, we have a resolution system for various types of conflicts, but that is yet another subject with its own chapter.
The dice used in Edgerunner, as well as other FATE games, are specialized cube dice known as Fudge Dice. These dice have two blank faces · equal to zero, two faces with a plus sign + equal to one and two faces with a minus sign - equal to minus one. You will need at least four of these dice to play Edgerunner, but having four dice each for everyone at the table definitely helps the game.
When we mention a roll, we mean four Fudge dice rolled together, and the face values added up. You may occasionally see this combination of dice referred in abbreviated form as 4dF. However, there is rarely a different kind of dice rolling in Edgerunner, so when we just say “a roll”, we mean a 4dF roll. And when we say “Athletics roll” we mean a 4dF roll plus the athletics skill level, also shortened to “roll” in context.
This will give you a result between −4 and +4, with a nice gaussian probability curve centered on zero. What this means is, your results will be mostly around zero, rarely in the extremes. The level of the skill used will always represent the average result that a character gets on rolls for that skill.
Some specific rolls in Edgerunner are not simply about obtaining a story adjective. The result obtained in the roll in this case are counted as shifts that may be used for certain effects. Negative results count as shifts that an opponent may use. There are some general effects of shifts, and also some more action-specific effects explained in their own section.
Whenever a character’s skill is pitted against a resisting entity’s relevant skill or other characteristic, like when one is trying to beat another to a conclusion or one is trying to stop another from achieving something, the referee calls for a contest.
In a contest, skills are pitted against each other. The skill of the opposing entity is subtracted from the skill roll total, arriving at a number of shifts. These shifts may be used to get an adjective from the ladder, or to get one of the effects below.
Cassidy needs an audience with the elusive individual known as The Wizard, leader of the Chrome Reapers. The referee has determined that the Wizard has the equivalent "Elusiveness skill" of 3. (Yes, it is perfectly fine to make up "skills" on the spot to represent more complex entities with a single number)
With a Streetwise skill of 1 and a roll of ⊞⊞⊞⊟ , Cassidy gets a total of . Subtract the opposing skill of 3 and he ends up with zero shifts.
Any negative shifts must be neutralized by getting negative effects. They must turn into worse results or longer time or more stress as appropriate. Or when the opponent is acting in a comparable way, the negative shifts become positive shifts for the opponent, who then decides how they affect things.
To determine who makes the roll, consider these priorities. A player always rolls when his character is involved. If both sides are players and not the referee, the player of the more important character (bigger skill pyramid) rolls. If the characters are equivalent, then the player that initiates the action does the rolling.
If appropriate, shifts obtained in a roll may be used to modify the story time of a narrative. The referee determines a base time on the time track. Any shifts in the roll may be used to move up or down the time track to determine the actual time taken by the action. That means you can use all or some of your shifts to move in the direction you prefer.
The referee may decide that a roll is all about time, that is, the character always gets his way but the actual time taken will be based on shifts. In this case, negative shifts cause you to slide in the undesirable direction on the time track. If you’re trying to finish something ASAP, up is desirable on the track. If you’re trying to keep something going, down is desirable.
Assume that Cassidy managed to get 2 shifts while trying to score an audience with The Wizard. The referee had previously decided that this would normally take a few weeks. With his 2 shifts Cassidy can get in touch with The Wizard in a few days.
The time track should be used in a way that makes sense. If you happen to get a whopping eight shifts when trying to fix a faucet, and go down from “an hour” to “an instant”, then the story isn’t about magically fixing the faucet. It becomes a story about realizing in an instant that the faucet didn’t need fixing in the first place.
A roll made to build, make or establish something may contribute shifts to the numeric indicators of its quality or capability (ie. its skill when appropriate).
Assume that Jade got 4 shifts while writing a custom firewall to keep her freshly acquired hot data safe until she can fence it. She can distribute her shifts among the software's two critical properties, the "Anti-Intrusion" capability and the "Integrity" stress track. She decides to set its Anti-Intrusion capability to 1, leaving enough shifts to give its Integrity stress track 3 boxes
It’s important to persist such rolls into entities, because as you will read later they can be modified using fate points, which represents an investment in the outcome by a player. It would be plainly unfair to have them roll every time and invest again and again, just because some floozy keeps poking at the thing he built.
The shifts from a roll may be used to affect any of the above parameters when appropriate. You may use some shifts towards time or getting better results as you see fit. When it makes sense, you may even worsen one of the parameters to get better results on the other. The most common version of this is when deciding between quick and sloppy results versus good results that take a long time. Whenever possible that choice always lies with the acting player.
Most of the time, the basic mechanisms explained here are not enough. Sometimes, you need to factor in some other details (ie. other than skills) about your character or the environment into a roll. That is exactly when you must use aspects and fate points to make things interesting.
Other times, you will want to delve into details when resolving life and death situations like a firefight or world changing events like a political campaign. Then it is time to clear the table and set up for a conflict.