While looking through the handbook for Mindjammer I came across the rules for dealing with different scales, which struck me as somewhat different to the way other fate-based RPGs handle it. In Mindjammer you get +2 when attacking a target per step above you in scale, but deal 4 less shifts if you hit, and the reverse is true for smaller targets (harder to hit but dealing more shifts of damage).

It seems to me that even if that +2 to hit allows me to hit something I otherwise would miss, the reduced damage would make this count for the same anyway. Is there any real reason not to simplify this rule to have -2 shifts per step above you in scale, and +2 per scale below you? It seems at first glance that you would end up with the same amount of shifts, but I feel I'm missing something that would make this change screw up the game balance.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm assuming you are looking at the current edition of Mindjammer (2nd ed) which is based on FATE Core and not the much older edition based on Starblazer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Quentin
    May 22, 2017 at 13:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ This question could use a Mindjammer tag, since it's attracting answers which don't address Mindjammer by referring to rules from completely different games. \$\endgroup\$
    – Beanluc
    May 22, 2017 at 20:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ There isn't a Mindjammer tag already and I lack the reputation to add one, I did try. Yes I'm referring to the latest version based on Fate Core, I wasn't aware of the older version so apologies for that \$\endgroup\$
    – Psycrow
    May 22, 2017 at 21:36

4 Answers 4


The simplest form of scale in Fate games is based on the permission model. To affect anything of a different scale (up or down) you need to have an available aspect that justifies interacting at that scale. And if that aspect is available and invokable, then you can just take actions normally, without modifiers. (You can, but do not need to invoke it. It just has to make sense if you did.)

If you can't find an aspect that justifies it, then you can't do it.

  • I want to take on that capital ship with my small fighter craft. Normally I couldn't but I have this One big torpedo, so I can attack it now. (there's a trap here; how to handle one-shot weapons but let's leave it to another discussion)
  • I want to kill those pesky fighters swarming my cruiser. That would be impossible if we hadn't installed those Point defense lasers.

And those permission aspects don't have to be inherent ones. Scene aspects or consequences or any other aspect is fine as long as they make sense in your story.

  • My patrol ship's tiny EW suite would be helpless against that battlecruiser if we weren't inside this Weird electromagnetic storm
  • These 1mm railgun projectiles would normally just bounce off that destroyer's armor, but I'm aiming for that Gaping crack below the engine bay
  • It was a good idea to establish a tracking sensor lock on that nimble cutter, otherwise our big guns couldn't track it fast enough.

This method also helps with breaking the Attack-Defend-Attack-Defend cycle as aspects now become necessary for more than boosting an attack.


I don't believe that it would break balance if you were to do this simplification. Fate is nice that way, it's tuneable and tinkerable. But this would change the difficulty of encounters and the feeling of your game.

Mindjammer has made a choice to model scale a certain way. Someone or something above your scale is easier to hit but a lot harder to stress, inflict with consequences, or take out. Someone or something below your scale is harder to hit but a lot easier to stress, inflict with consequences, or take out.

Your simplification would totally eliminate the part about making your attack actually connect/succeed, and, while you're right that on a successful hit it would result in the same number of shifts (+2 -4 = -2) the frequency of that success would go way way down against larger targets and way up against smaller ones.

So, that's what would happen. The change in effectiveness of attacks with or against scale would change way more than just net 2 shifts of damage, because the difficulty would change a lot.

You're welcome to house-rule it this way, understanding what the effect would be in gameplay. You're also welcome to adopt a different Scale rule from a different Fate game. As suggested by others, one option is the Dresden Files Accelerated game. Other options include the Dresden Files RPG (Fate 3.0, non-Accelerated) Scale rules, or, the Scale rule from Fate System Toolkit.

If it were me, I'd pick the option which seemed most tuned to the amount of drama I want in my game. Mindjammer is tuned for very high drama/action effects.


It seems to me that even if that +2 to hit allows me to hit something I otherwise would miss, the reduced damage would make this count for the same anyway

It wouldn't.

From page 277 of the FATE Core rulebook:

If you hit, but the target’s Armor reduces the shift value to 0 or below, you get a boost to use on your target but don’t do any harm.

Essentially, the rule means that if something small attacks something big, then it is very unlikely to do any damage but is very likely to get an aspect to play with instead.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Armor and weapon ratings (Fate Core page 277) are a completely different concept than Scale in any edition of Fate, and certainly different than Mindjammer's version of Scale. \$\endgroup\$
    – Beanluc
    May 22, 2017 at 20:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Beanluc — But the effects of a hit with a shift value of 0 or below are not. \$\endgroup\$
    – Quentin
    May 23, 2017 at 6:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sure, but as I pointed out in my answer, that's not what the difference is between Mindjammer's Scale rule and Fate Core's optional Ratings rule. \$\endgroup\$
    – Beanluc
    May 23, 2017 at 21:37

Scale was totally reinvented for the Dresden Files Accelerated Game. It could help you reading that. Summing it up: If the scale is different, you need an reason you can attack at all - so the scale is not halfling <-> human but single soldier <-> dragon. Usually the "reason" is created by magic, but all kind of fiction can address that.


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