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I'm planning a Fate Accelerated campaign with a "monster of the week" episodic structure (sorta, but that's a valid simplification for the purpose of this question). I'm hoping to have scenarios wrap up in a single session after the "pilot" episode.

My trouble is how to handle recovering from consequences. A Moderate consequence clears at the end of next session and a Severe clears at the end of the current scenario. Doesn't that mean in a one-scenario-per-session campaign that Moderate consequences will always last longer and therefore be mechanically more serious than Severe consequences? That seems wrong.

I imagine this also comes up during the last session of a multi-session scenario under more normal circumstances than mine, with taking a new Moderate being worse than taking a new Severe when you know the Severe will clear at the end of this session but the moderate won't.

How is this supposed to work?

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3 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

I go with the intention of the rule, rather than the letter of it.

A severe is meant to last longer than a moderate as you said. This situation comes up because you're at the end of the scenario, provided it makes sense within the story.

So you end up with one of two things:

  1. It makes sense that the severe clears at the end of the scenario. If it does, then I see no reason that it wouldn't make sense that the moderate would also clear, and allow both. Health care between adventures is a good way to give permission for this.
  2. It doesn't make sense that the severe clears at the end of the scenario. Cases like this may come up when the scenario is at an end- but something else is immediately happening so there is no downtime between adventures. In that case, I switch how the severe is handled, and make it carry over to the next adventure.

Especially in your case, where it is monster of the week, if you look at the examples of the genre, sometimes there's a distinct lag between episodes, and at other times they flow together.

I've used both, and have found if you use your own pacing of adventures as an indicator of the necessary time-lapse, it falls into place. However, from experience, I will say that it's better to communicate this before hand rather than a discussion on the spot when it happens.

The difference between consequence levels and how they heal is supposed to be indicative of time-lapse. Keep that feeling and keep the 4th wall up between the character's progress and real life, and in my experience, it makes the narrative flow more smoothly.

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They're all good answers, but this is the one that tripped the switch in my understanding and let me grasp it intuitively. –  SevenSidedDie Sep 13 '13 at 20:57
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If you have one-session scenarios, change the rule for Severe consequences. What matters is the narrative: a twisted ankle may have you limping in the next scene, a sprained ankle walking with a cane in the next session, a broken leg on crutches for a few sessions (presuming you don’t have a theme of “each adventure is in the next year” or somesuch). Make a sample list of different categories of consequence and how long players should expect them to last in your game, and let that spark their imaginations.

(If your group is new to Fate, it’s good to point out that you can take consequences that are only tangentially related to the attack they’re defending against: the attacker used a gun, but they took a Scraped Elbow because they had to dive for cover.)

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Do what makes sense for the story

FAE makes it very clear that while the durations are solid suggestions for what makes sense, it's the "making sense" part that's more important than their suggestion.

  • Moderate consequence: Clear it at the end of the next session, provided it makes sense within the story.
  • Severe consequence: Clear it at the end of the scenario, provided it makes sense within the story. (FAE 24)

To me, this means that at the start of the next scenario a severe consequence could maybe be assumed to have received the proper attention, but is still being dealt with. Since the idea is that "moderate and severe consequences stick around for a while" (FAE 24 sidebar), you should ensure that they do; otherwise it wouldn't make story sense.

A consequence should have the opportunity to make an appropriate impact on gameplay, and that means sticking around for an appropriate amount of time.

If I were to postulate a rule of thumb, I'd say that a severe consequence should last at least one session longer than a moderate consequence, or at least 1/4 of the time it takes to tell a scenario (whether or not that time spans just one scenario or spills over into the next), whichever is longer.

For a more concrete bookkeeping rule, try this: In addition to needing an explanation for recovery, a consequence cannot be removed until it has been successfully compelled or invoked against (granting the player Fate points) a number of times equal to the amount of stress it could absorb. This removes the normal duration requirements for recovery, except that consequences greater than mild must last at least one session.

There's another option you may not find appealing, but I'm going to mention it for completeness's sake: drop severe consequence slots entirely. If you're running one-shot scenarios, maybe mild and moderate consequences are sufficient. Of course this would change the nature of combat a bit, but it might be interesting! I'd love to hear how that works out, if you try it.

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Ah, right. I was reading "provided it makes sense…" as a gating condition, i.e., that the process of recovery had been started in-game. Of course, like most of Fate it's deeper than that and it's not just a start condition that kicks off a rules-based timer! I had to read this three times and combine it with my understanding of wraith808's answer before that sank in… –  SevenSidedDie Sep 13 '13 at 20:55
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