In Fate, is the Opposition Rating for a roll known to the player? Is it an option to keep this number a secret? Actions and Outcomes (Fate Core) does not explicitly say.

What I mean by "opposition number" is the numerical rating on the ladder that you're rolling against. This would be either the static number from passive opposition or the result of a roll for active opposition.


Kirk is hit by the gorn, rolling a 3 for defense. The GM will only tell him that the Gorn has hit him for two stress.

Why would you want to hide this number?

  • Prevent the players from knowing a skill rating of an opponent
  • Keep a sense of mystery over the difficulties the players face.

To clarify, I personally don't see a reason to keep this number secret, but I've seen a fair number of people ask if they could keep it secret, so I'm hoping to get this clarified.


2 Answers 2



Players have to know the number they're rolling against in order to make judicious use of the tools they have to alter their own rolls, such as Fate Points and free invokes.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Altering the roll is done after the roll. Thinking of passive opposition, what about keeping the number secret until the roll? "I'm climbing that wall, how hard is that? - That's a Great opposition. - Oh no, I don't even try." \$\endgroup\$
    – SandRock
    Oct 25, 2019 at 17:16

From Rob Donoghue, co-owner of Evil Hat Productions, the publisher of Fate.

Short version:

With the qualifier that it’s really a tiny bit of nuance. It’s still, like, 99% yes.

Long version:

So, the only reason I would not say that it's written in stone that the difficulty is known is that there are a very small (and largely innocuous) handful of exceptions.

The first is situational. While vanishingly few and far between, I can conceive of situations where the lack of information to the player is reflective of something similarly disorienting and confusing in play (hallucinations, illusions and such). There is a strong component of taste in this usage - not every table can or should be comfortable with this, but some will be. That said, were I to do this as a GM, I would also be fully prepared to reimburse "wasted" Fate points, or otherwise balance the scales.

A subset of this would be certain types of horror, but while I can intellectually see the argument of hiding information to promote a sense if powerlessness, I don't think I'd really go for that.

The second is when the GM is "testing the breeze" - the roll may not have a difficulty per se, and instead merely be a framing mechanism.
Again, not something that's done at every table, and if this is the case, the GM should communicate as much, or make sure to give some suitable narrative payout for the spending of a FP. (Similar situations where we're rolling to see who does best/worst are less of an issue because the bonus has a direct effect).

Aside from those situations and those of their ilk, there is no real reason to keep difficulty secret.

But there's a catch

Communicating difficulty can be awkward (conversationally) and when in a situation where the range of difficulty is roughly at parity with player capability (say, within +/-2) a GM can be forgiven for not explicitly calling out the difficulty of every roll before the dice hit the table. She should strive to be clear about effect and margin, though the language for that should suit the table (some like the ladder, some like numbers, some like descriptive approximations - they all work) but clarity need not be exhaustive.

Anyway, that's just my philosophy-level answer. Specific builds can and should have their own answers.


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