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Description of Empathy::Reading People (page 129) states:

This is an assessment (page 115) action and, as such, if you gain one or more shifts on your roll, you discover one of the target’s aspects that you weren’t already aware of.

However, from what I can see reading the Assessment description, there is no mention about shifts. Yet, Reading People wording (see the bolded part) implies, that the description on page 115 states the same fact: Assessment reveals an Aspect only when you get one or more shifts (which it obviously doesn't).

So I ask - do assessments require shifts to reveal aspects or not? Can you please back up your answer with quotes from or page numbers in the Your Story book or the official fate blog?

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

Going with aardvark's idea, I sent an email to the evilhat about it, and the response I got was:

They don't. That trapping should read like a standard assessment.

So it seems that it was just a mistake in the trapping description, ie: Assessments do not require shifts to reveal an aspect.

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Well, that's a definitive answer. It also contradicts my interpretation. +1 to you and @aardvark for causing a revision of my rules view. – Tynam Oct 23 '12 at 18:38
@Tynam Maybe it contradicts your view of the rules, but isn't the game all about fun? If the rules worked for you, by no means you should change that! – Maurycy Oct 23 '12 at 18:51
I agree totally, but in this case I don't forsee any bad consequences for our fun level. (Our house policy is "rules as written/intended, except where we've decided a specific reason to change it" - which we do frequently. So we'll try it the official way, and revert if somebody dislikes it.) – Tynam Oct 23 '12 at 18:55
+1 for word of god. Also wish I could give evilhat a +1 for answering. – IgneusJotunn Oct 24 '12 at 0:13

The assessment description doesn't mention shifts, but I've always felt (and played) that this is an oversight. In Dresden the rules are a 'whole', and are consistent from one place to another in a lot of subtle and important ways. In general, Assessment works the same way as manoeuvres, except that assessment takes longer and lasts longer.

So the usual rules should apply - if you get no shifts, the aspect you place is fragile and doesn't last. With manoeuvres that isn't a showstopper, as you can still tag it once. But an assessment is something done over time; a fragile aspect will be gone before you can use it. So it takes actual shifts to get worthwhile results out of assessment. (This is part of the counterbalance for the way that assessment lasts for later use.)

UPDATE: This interpretation is plausible, but wrong. (Per Maurycy's official answer for the rules as intended.)

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But how can a knowledge of an existing aspect be fragile? I am not placing a temporary aspect on the target, I am just getting the knowledge of an asset they already have on them. – Maurycy Oct 23 '12 at 6:46
I agree, but assessments do not create new aspects, they just discover existing one. So we can get a tag on discovered aspect, but no more. – aardvark Oct 23 '12 at 8:05
@aardvark While it does sound reasonable, an aspect is always there. Just because you Tag Happy-go-lucky (uncovered by assessment without shifts) doesn't mean the target suddenly loses his happy-go-luckiness. – Maurycy Oct 23 '12 at 8:55
@MaurycyZarzycki: You're correct, but it's not insurmountable. Rules-wise, it's consistent to play it this way. For in-universe GMing feel, you're right that it makes no sense for the aspect to be temporary. My take on this has been that the character's understanding (the assessment) is fragile. So in your example... with 1 shift, the PC learns of Happy-go-lucky normally. With no shifts, the PC might notice that the target is a cheery person, but they didn't understand the target well enough to take advantage of it - or the thought crossed their mind, but was forgotten. – Tynam Oct 23 '12 at 13:11

Bottom of page 115, in the example:

The DM sets a difficulty for the Lore roll to discover (assess) an aspect of the loup-garou that might help Harry in his altercation with it. Thanks to Bob's healp, it's a success, and Harry now knows that the loup-garou is Vulnerable to Inherited Silver

Zero shifts should be treated like a very close success, or more often a tie. Without anything else, (like weapons) nothing big happens. To succeed, you should get at least one shift. So when assessing, you didn't fail, but you didn't really succeed either. If I was running that game, I'd tell the player a bunch of good information- but nothing they probably didn't already know, and nothing solid enough to be an aspect.

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"To succeed, you should get at least one shift." I am not convinced it's true, look page 192: "If the effort matches the target difficulty, it’s a success—but it generates no shifts." and Degrees of Success at the end of the book, about 0 shifts: "The character pulled it off. It’s neither pretty nor graceful, but it works." – Maurycy Oct 23 '12 at 6:44

Additional source material for - Grand Unified Theory of Maneuvers

Points of consideration:

  1. Assessment is a discovery of something the GM thought of, uncovered by a successful skill roll.
  2. YS [pg.192]. Non-Conflict Action - "Assessments: You want to reveal a target’s aspects. Roll against a fixed difficulty or roll against the opponent’s player and the high roll wins."
  3. Difficulty of assessment varied by skill and usage (see Investigation and Alertness assessment trappings).
  4. Additional shifts effect vary, again, from skill and usage. Sometimes you can use them to move against time ladder (Investigation), sometimes as additional defence against mental attack (Sight).

So how assessment work?

Player use his action to uncover existing aspect by making skill roll. If roll is successful he uncover aspect he was looking for. Additional shifts usage depend on skill.


  1. Harry think that "Gentleman Johnny” has "Honor themed" aspect. So, he tries using "Reading People" trapping, rolls Empathy and get success with 2 shifts. Success give him "I’m Loyal to Those who are Loyal To Me". Additional shifts can be spent to reduce time needed for such maneuver or to get one additional generalized version of aspect ("Merciless Soul" from "A Cold Tiger’s Soul").
  2. Mr.Fix is casing The Building. So he use "Casing" trapping and tries to assess "Old Ventilation System"(Great) and "Decentralized Alarm System"(Good) aspects. Roll comes with Great(+4) result, so Mr.Fix can chose to get 2 aspects or only one with reduced time by one step.

More so, assessments is an instrument to morph player knowledge about game situation (meta-game information) into character knowledge about world.

Also, there is "fate point" assessment on pg.113 [YS], but it is more like exception from general assessment flow.

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So, in other words, for this particular skill, you NEED at least one shift for the Assessment to work, otherwise it's just a failure? Other skills which also perform assessments, like Casing trapping in Burglary, it doesn't require shifts? It's kind of confusing for me still. – Maurycy Oct 23 '12 at 8:53
To get assessment successful you need to meet difficulty by rolling a success i.e. 0 shift is still success. Additional shifts give you more bonuses that depend on skill and situation and gamemaster – aardvark Oct 23 '12 at 11:25
So, success in Assessment action reveals an aspect. Rolling 0 shifts is also a success. But according to the paragraph quoted in the original question, Reading People trapping requires at least one Shift to learn an aspect, and, moreover, uses a very peculiar wording: "as such" which implies that Assessment description on page 115 states the same, but it doesn't. Let me rephrase my question a little bit. – Maurycy Oct 23 '12 at 11:36
Now i get it. Silly me. Time to email evilhat about this really strange inconsistency. – aardvark Oct 23 '12 at 12:03
I think you're both right here; the rules really don't explicitly answer the question - which is why we're all posting 'what seems to make sense' style answers. – Tynam Oct 23 '12 at 13:02

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