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A situation occurred in which the party needed to defend a 'sitting duck' in the form of a small robot against ranged enemy attacks. There was the consideration for party members to take the bullets for the little fellow. Through luck, such a drastic measure turned out not to be necessary (a PC managed to take control of the little drone), but I'd like to have a better grasp on how to game-mechanically handle such an action.

I have already read the answers for the more general case of the question, and still feel that the interpretations that flow out of them don't quite feel right, so I'm asking to help me understand how to handle it in my specific case, or elaborate why one of the general-case interpretations works well here.

Important Note: This question relates specifically to reflexively defending another, 'sitting duck', character, against a Shoot attack, by blocking it. Create and Advantage, using a light sabre to deflect the bullet, picking up the drone and the like are outside the scope of the question.

You could also put yourself directly between the attack and the intended target, such that the bad guy has to get through you to get to your buddy. then you’re just defending as normal and taking the stress and consequences yourself.

The above part of the rules is probably the single most relevant one (in addition to others, as per the general question). Can a PC get in the way? Most definitely. But I'm having doubts about the logic behind what happens next.

Ensuring the bullet doesn't hit the NPC implies the PC taking the bullet. But the PC succeeding on a defence against a Shoot attack (usually with Athletics) implies not being shot (dodging successfully), and that probably shouldn't happen when defending another by blocking the line of fire.

Here's another alternative:

If, for whatever reason, you want to forego your defense and take a hit (like, say, to interpose yourself in the path of an arrow that’s about to skewer your friend), you can. Because you’re not defending, the attacker’s rolling against mediocre (+0) opposition, which means you’re probably going to take a bad hit.

But conversely, declaring that such a defence of another must be done using the not-resisting-an-attack rules, thus having a flat zero defence instead, seems to lead to getting too much damage.

From a mathematical point of view, the best outcome is to use the first of the options and get a tie or a failure by 1 shift (depending on whether a boost or a minor hit is more acceptable), but that seems like a perverse incentive in the context of the way the system is written. And treating a success as allowing to choose either of the two failure modes also looks rather weird in the context of how the system works.

So what's the best way to resolve this dilemma? Is there another, better way of handling that, or is one of the above options not as inappropriate as it seems?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you asking how to mechanically resolve it (who rolls dice, which skills they add, what stress/consequences they take), or how to narrate the various outcomes? \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Feb 9 at 22:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ Either what is the best mechanical representation of the scenario described in the question, or a convincing narrative justification for being able to get no Stress again and again when successfully defending another. Either is likely to resolve the dilemma. \$\endgroup\$ – vicky_molokh Feb 9 at 23:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @vicky_molokh It's worldwide standard for quotations to only preserve the information and any necessary semantic styling, not to preserve the page layout. (Poetry that uses layout as part of the composition is a major exception.) We thus don't import unnecessary style that has no impact on the information. See various journalistic and professional association manuals of style — none preserve page layout artefacts. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 10 at 22:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ (Practically speaking, this standard is baked into how the Web and browsers work, and how accessibility is implemented. Importing linebreaks and hyphenation breaks interferes with the browser's ability to display the paragraph clearly on all screen widths and heights.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 10 at 22:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @vicky_molokh Those tools are not for mimicking print page layouts in quotes. The reason everyone can edit posts is to ensure that posts eventually rise to their highest quality. Mimicking linebreaks and hyphenation from a two-column print page has no benefit, and has drawbacks, and will be edited out sooner or later. Personally seeing the drawbacks or not doesn't impact that it is not done for good reasons. No publisher does it, and neither do we. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 10 at 22:33
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Yes, physically interposing yourself between someone with a gun and their target usually means you are the one getting shot and cannot also dodge.

Let's explore that scenario: A Villain attempts to Shoot the robot. The Hero declares he will defend for the robot. The GM asks the Hero how he'll do that. The Hero says he'll do that by throwing himself in front of the robot to save it from the bullet. If the Hero then also declares he is going to try to dodge it and succeeds, that's our narrative: the Hero has not stopped the bullet so it is still heading straight for the robot. The golden rule becomes very relevant here and tells us to look at the narrative state to work out what mechanics are appropriate here if any, and it is this: the robot must respond to this Attack in full, the same as though the Hero had done nothing.

This differs from the strict flow of how attacks usually occur (one attacker, one defender) but this is an exceptional scenario. The silver rule also sidles in here, demanding that we allow some mechanics to make way for others based on what makes narrative sense. After all, the bullet is still in the air heading for its target: it must be handled.

This means the Hero hoping to interpose themselves between the shooter and the target must take the bullet. They must not get out of the way. At that point this sidebar from Resolving Attacks kicks in:

If, for whatever reason, you want to forego your defense and take a hit (like, say, to interpose yourself in the path of an arrow that’s about to skewer your friend), you can.

Because you’re not defending, the attacker’s rolling against Mediocre (+0) opposition, which means you’re probably going to take a bad hit.

If you're prepared you might have armor, whether from a character aspect or a recently created advantage. In that case you might choose to defend with Physique (still at +0 because no regular Physique could justify defending against a gunshot) but invoke that armor aspect to benefit your defense and lessen the injury you're about to take. If you're not an ordinary human but instead an iron golem or a cave troll with a thick hide, that might justify actually rolling to defend with Physique while you're still taking the bullet; if you're Bulletproof (such as from the Atomic Robo stunt) you're justified just shrugging it off while defending your robot friend.

If your robot friend is small and light, you can make a run to grab it and dodge out of the way holding it. You'd make at least one athletics check for this and take the bullet if it goes badly, representing failure to get you and your robot friend out of the way in time.

But if you cannot move your robot friend that easily (and can at best shove them out of the way), your only choice is physically interpose yourself and ensure you get hit. May it be a light wound and may your health insurance be good to you.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I did my best to add sections to the question elaborating why shifting to a +0 defence seems odd mechanically. On its own it may be not that absurd, but it gets much odder when compared to defending but failing by 1 or tying. 'May it be a light wound' plays a major role in why this is a dilemma for me. \$\endgroup\$ – vicky_molokh Feb 11 at 15:01
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I think the answer really comes down to the Golden Rule here - decide what you want to do, and then, you know, do it.

So, how are you defending the robot from getting shot? I don't know what capabilities these characters have. You might try hitting the guns of their attackers, distracting them, whatever.

But, if you're doing the obvious thing here and interposing your body between them and the bullets, then no, you don't get to dodge the bullet. You can't simultaneously put yourself in the way of the bullet and dodge the bullet. That doesn't make sense.

Now, if you have another way to defend against the bullet? Go for it! Maybe you've got some kind of magic sword bullet-chopping fu going on or something like that. Maybe you're a Jedi. who knows?

Fiction first. Imagine what's going on, and then use the rules to resolve the parts that aren't certain. And it's pretty certain that if you are using your body to block bullets, you can't also be trying to not get hit by bullets.

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Other Things To Do Than Dodge Or Get Shot

So let's get one thing out of the way, right? The straightforward interpretation here is pretty dang bizonkers. You want to get as close to the enemy attack roll as you can without going over because if you take the bullet it's your bullet to take but if you dodge it blows through your little robot buddy?

High roll not good?

High roll always good. You can't spend Fate Points to make your roll go down. So let's hit every rung on the way down the ladder of possibilities and if you still wind up in a crumpled heap at the bottom I'll show you how high roll always good.

Don't Get Shot At, pt. 1: Stop Them Shooting

So, is this just a situation where your robot fell down and you're doing a fight at the end of which it will get back up? I'm guessing not; that would be kind of boring. Let's suppose the robot is immobile because it's doing something important while all this is happening, so that stalling for time is a good thing to do instead of a neutral thing to do. Even if that's not the case, it might still be worth buying time to get your other teammates into a better position to deal with the shooters.

I'm also assuming that these aren't total mooks you're dealing with, to the point that they can all get set up to get took down in a single round. But if you have a shot at shooting them, you also have a shot at successfully Creating an Advantage on them, like Suppressive Fire, that they will have to Overcome in order to even get a shot off in the first place.

Don't Get Shot At, pt. 2: Oppose Actively

Are you a big enough and cinematic enough wall of beef that you can get in the way and brace for impact? Have you got access to a force screen or a smoke generator or something that you can spark up to block line of sight? Can you just lay down covering fire to spoil their aim?

Maybe you've got to Create An Advantage on your own turn first so you've got the plot justification to be active opposition to the shot, and set up something like, well, Force Screen or Covering Fire. Maybe you've got to invoke the aspect every time; that's up to your DM and the scale of the campaign and the opposition. Even if they can bypass your active opposition, you can still step in front of however much bullet is left and take the hit instead of your robot buddy.

Don't Get Shot At, pt. 3: Oppose Passively

Okay, maybe circumstances are such that you can't actively mess with incoming aim, for whatever reason. Fine. Can you kill the lights? Have you got a smoke grenade? Can you push some cover in the way? If you Create an Advantage like Cloud of Smoke or Pile of Crates that serves as passive opposition to the shot, then you can spend invokes and your own Fate Points to amp it up and step in front of however much bullet is left, same as with active opposition.

When All Else Fails: How To Make High Roll Always Good

Okay, so for whatever reason none of that's an option. Maybe you super-cranked Athletics and all other relevant skills are at the bottom of your pyramid or not even on it in the first place.

So, what do you want to do?

You want to block enough of the robot that they're aiming the wrong way, and also dodge. Or, you want to pull off a graze that'd do Reimu proud and get just close enough to the bullet that you don't take stress damage but it still catches enough of your hair/cape/belt buckle/shiny brass buttons/unimportant flesh to get deflected away from the robot.

This is, you can be sure, harder than regular dodging. Maybe it's +2 or +4 harder than dodging the gunshot in the first place. Maybe you have to get a result of at least +3 or +5 in order to pull it off at all.

But we've moved it into the arena of high roll always good, which is where Fate gets on best.

Why Not Always Graze-Dodge?

Because these are special circumstances; your teammates are not immobile robots much smaller than you. ...I hope. Also they're generally not immobile, straight-up. Doing cinematic dodge tricks to protect your allies while they're also trying to maneuver for position is a level above even doing cinematic dodge tricks to protect a small, immobile precious thing.

You can still try all the other stuff, though.

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Your situation is predicated on Athletics being an appropriate skill to defend the robot from being shot. One way to cut the Gordian knot you've presented is to say that in these specific circumstances, Athletics isn't the appropriate skill.

Defending with Athletics usually means you dive out of the way of a shot in the instant before the trigger is pulled, use evasive manoeuvres to make yourself harder to track, or, when defending others, push them out of the way of an attack.

It might make sense in the situation for them to stand in front of the drone to block the shooter's view and then dive out of the way with Athletics at the last minute before they fire. If so, that might justify defending with Athletics.

You said in your initial description that moving the robot wasn't an option, so we can't use that rationale.

So what other skills might be used for valid defences?

  • If the defending character can get in close to the shooter, they can body check them with Physique or Fight to defend the drone.
  • They can use Shoot to give the drone covering fire, pinning down the enemy and making it more difficult to shoot the drone. Perhaps you might say it would need a stunt to use Shoot to defend in this way, in which case they may have to borrow the stunt for the session by spending a fate point.

There may be other options depending on the scenario, like using Hack to make the drone move itself out of the way of fire, or to distract the shooter with AR chaff.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This answer seems to completely ignore the Important Note in the question (which was added to focus answers and avoid misunderstandings). \$\endgroup\$ – vicky_molokh Feb 19 at 10:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Your Important Note didn't say that Athletics had to be the skill used. Other skills would provide better fictional justification to allow the player to block the attack without taking the full brunt of the attack. If the only option in the fiction is for them to throw themselves in the path of the bullet, that means the attacker rolls against Mediocre passive opposition and the bodyguard doesn't roll at all. Your question has little to do with the system options, which you understand well, and everything to do with the fictional positioning/justification afforded by different skills. \$\endgroup\$ – Richard Bellingham 2 days ago
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After contemplating other answers and some game-mechanical precedents found in the system, I have arrived at an answer that seems to resolve the dilemma:

Defend with Athletics; Successful Defence Counts as a 1-Shift Hit

Here's why I think an interpretation with such a minimal addition is appropriate:

  • A better roll should always provide the more desirable outcome, so 'succeeding too well' should not result in the bullet going past the defender (as that would defeat the purpose of the defence).
  • The Silver Rule should be followed. A roll shouldn't enable impossible things if they don't make sense: no dodging and blocking the bullet at the same time. The best the defender can hope for is a 'light' hit (one that does land on the defender, but doesn't hit any vital components/organs).
  • A precedent for defending yet taking a shift of stress already exists (Take the Blow, FC119), so it's not an unreasonable mechanic for the system, even if it differs somewhat.
  • Armour, if available, should reduce Stress/Consequences taken as usual. Being tougher should make the strategy less dangerous. With this interpretation, it happens naturally.

The only thing that remains open to interpretation is whether, to discourage overly simple 'tanking' for others, such a defence should be penalised slightly. But applying situational modifiers in opposed rolls that don't come from Aspects seems inelegant in the context of the system, and it's probably not as big a deal in comparison anyway.

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