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I am reading the "The Long Game" chapter of the Fate Core System book and one thing is not totally clear to me. On page 256, when - speaking about minor milestones it is said:

Cynere gets a minor milestone [..] Meanwhile, Landon also gets a minor milestone.

and further down

Cynere reaches the end of a long story arc and is awarded a major milestone. [...] Zird the Arcane also gets a major milestone. [...] Finally, Landon also reaches a major milestone.

This formulation seems to indicate that PCs may not all hit the same milestones (or at least not at the same time), but my understanding from the book main text was that milestones are more of topic points in the narration (the death of a main NPC, the end of an arc...) than "levels" the character reach (as is the case in D&D with XP, for example).

Are all PCs supposed to hit the same milestones at the same time? And if not, what are the criteria to award them for some, but not for others?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I had never thought to reward milestones for individual character arcs instead of collective narrative arcs. TY for posting this question. \$\endgroup\$ – Amazing Rando Jan 26 '18 at 16:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've added a link to this question to the Fate SRD: fate-srd.com/fate-core/advancement-change#defining-milestones \$\endgroup\$ – Amazing Rando Jan 26 '18 at 16:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AmazingRando well... thanks to you for maintaining the SRD! :) \$\endgroup\$ – mac Jan 27 '18 at 11:13
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No, PCs need not all level at once

Milestones are gained at the end of narrative arcs, but the end of a narrative arc for one character need not be the end of the arc for another. Let's do some examples:

Dr. Van Helsing, the renowned monster hunter and PC #1, arrives in a lakeside town on the heels of his long-time nemesis, Dracula. His assistant has been recently murdered, so he picks up a new one in the form of PC #2, a plucky local high-school student.

In the course of their adventures, the high school student must come to terms with the presence of the supernatural. Eventually, after a suitably climactic scene and sufficient character growth, the GM tells the player of PC #2 to replace their 'Clueless' aspect with something more appropriate, and gives them rewards for meeting a minor milestone. Van Helsing is already familiar with the world of the supernatural and participates in this arc only as a supporting character. The player of PC #1 recieves no rewards for this.

Also in the course of their adventure, Val Helsing begins to realize that he is actually responsible for the death of his last assistant. He abandoned the assistant, who could have otherwise easily been saved, in order to not lose track of his adversary. When the assistant survived, but wanted out of the business, Helsing murdered him to keep him from later being used to garner information about their operations, then repressed the memories.

He has now also realized that, if they continue to work together, he will probably betray his new assistant at some point, if they don't realize the truth about his past assistant first. He spends a scene smoking the last of his father's prized Bulgarian cigars, perched on a crate in his basement where the corpse of his assistant is kept, along with what the professor believes is the rest of the evidence. Using the butt of the cigar, he starts a fire and walks out, sacrificing the last of his humanity in the pursuit of Dracula's destruction.

This is a major character decision, ending a significant arc, and so the player of PC #1 receives a major milestone. PC #2 is not involved in this arc, except as an unwitting antagonist, and so they don't receive a milestone here.

So, that's how milestones might be for one PC and not another.

It's important for PCs to receive equal narrative time

While PCs might not get milestones at the same time, it's important that they get roughly the same milestones on average, not only for game balance but also because of what milestones are tied to.

Milestones represent, in a way, screen time. Every scene should move something forward, and both successful and unsuccessful die rolls should lead to arcs ending eventually, one way or another. That means that if two characters have received a significantly different quantity of milestones then one of them has gotten to matter a lot more than the other, and that's not usually conducive to the left-out player having fun.

So milestones can be got for different things, and at different times, but they should usually add up to about the same for everybody, on average.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It seems that the answer to my question turned out to be more of a matter of opinions than a hard-and-fast rule to apply (as it seldom is - admittedly - with Fate Core). However your answer resonated with me more than others (especially thinking to the focus of Fate on making things sensible from a narration standpoint). Thank you for the energy and detail you poured in it! :) \$\endgroup\$ – mac Jan 27 '18 at 13:41
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Milestones are about the scenario, not the characters.

The example text is talking about the characters achieving things one after another, but in practice what happens is that in order to process the changes of a milestone, the GM talks to each of the players in turn. Fate's examples often try not to focus on what the players are doing, which leads to some confusing wording in this case.

It is true that the characters are reaching milestones, and it is true that in terms of the play session some will finish recording the results before others. But this isn't a meaningful difference of time. If all the characters are invested in the same scenario, then all of them should be reaching their milestones together.

Now, it might be interesting to run a more troupe-style Fate game, where different characters were involved in different scenarios to various degrees, and as a result staggered their milestones depending on how their scenario was progressing. But in standard play, everyone is invested in the same scenario and should be reaching milestones together.

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Milestones are dished out by a combination of player time spent (sessions) and in-game plot (scenarios and arcs): minor milestone per session, significant milestone per scenario, and major milestone per arc (Fate Core pages 194-5). Fate Core does provide some weasel wording (“might”, “usually occur”, “should only occur”, etc.) to let you mess with this, but save that for when everyone is comfortable with the system.

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