I haven't played any of these narrative focused games like Fate but would like to. My players are very used to other more hands-on type of game where the numbers are plainly what your character is.

Now I would like to give Fate a try and Strands of Fate seems interesting to me. One of the problems I'm foreseeing (probably unfounded) is the scale of abilities, especially for low power levels. So a rating of 2 is average while 3 is almost at the limit of normal humans. So I figured that 3-4 would rather be average and 6 would be a high level normal human.

So doubling the scale would require some extensive but perhaps not complicated rules change. It would also allow some balancing if needed. Aspect would give a +4 but you could actually go as far as saying the specialty aspects (and some others) only give +3 if you wan't to rate them differently, perhaps Specialty aspects only give +4 on their ability but +3 if you are able to invoke them on others. You could also go as far as to give always a +1 for aspects if you don't spend a fate point (big strong guy is still strong even when it isn't important enough to spend Fate points on it).

This would also give a bit of a leeway on stunts or advantages (whatever you call them) so when a power feels a little bit to powerful as a +2 but lacking as a +1 in the extended scale you could give it +3, in between the others.

Now the biggest problem here is the dice. What would you do there. Throwing 8 Fudge die is a bit crazy in my opinion so a new die (I call it Grudge) with (+2, +1, 0, 0, -1, -2) would be close but that's a custom die. 4d6-14 or 2d6-2d6 is a doubling of the extreme method.

Here are some methods that I thought about: AnyDice

Now another problem is that I don't know if it's doable. Stress and other mechanics that I would need to think through.

What are the pitfalls and why can / can't I do this?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Why do you want to do that? \$\endgroup\$
    – edgerunner
    Commented Aug 2, 2012 at 14:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ I explained it in the post. First and foremost it's just a thought, a mind exercise if you will. But trying to introduce players used to attribute ranges where 10 is avarage and 20 is max human to one where 2 is average and 3 is max human might not fit well. It could statswise lead to very uniform characters (all have 2 in everything) and while Aspects would separate them I'm trying to ease new players into this system, not scare them away by just looking at the character sheet and see no difference between them. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ingó Vals
    Commented Aug 2, 2012 at 14:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd argue that once you get the hang of using aspects and fate points, you may well play the game without skill levels and dice, and have more fun at it :) \$\endgroup\$
    – edgerunner
    Commented Aug 3, 2012 at 0:14

3 Answers 3


Understanding Fate in general

One of the problems in understanding Strands is the lack of the labels.

The standard fate "Ladder" is labeled:

+8 Legendary
+7 Epic
+6 Fantastic
+5 Superb
+4 Great
+3 Good
+2 Fair
+1 Average
+0 Mediocre
-1 Poor
-2 Terrible
-3 Awful
-4 Abysmal

(Taken from Fate Basics, by Michael Moceri)

The Ladder is inherited from FUDGE, later Fudge, by Steffan O'Sullivan.

The normal range is -1 (unskilled default) to +3 (Good), with a human limit of +5 (Superb). Starting Skill limits vary from +3 to +5, and some games (like Spirit of the Century) have a fixed "pyramid" of 1@+5, 2@+4, 3@+3, 4@+2, and 5@+1.

4dF is used in FUDGE and thus in Fate, with this -1 to +5 range in mind.

Note that difficulties are assigned by the approach of "what level of skill should succeed most of the time?" - pick the label that fits. Note that "most of the time" is 50/81 (61.7%), for rolling +0 or better.

In practice, Fate relies more upon Aspects than upon the skills, as aspects can be invoked after rolling, and Strands is no different here. (See p. 53)

4dF is fairly heavily centered, too. +4 is only 1/81 (1.23%), as is -4.

Differences From Standard Fate

No Labels. The lack of the labels has been criticized as the biggest deviation from Fate in several reviews, and as a strength in others.

Strands caps skills (starting and experienced) by power level; most others cap only starting skills. (p. 29)

Strands gives fewer aspects than many Fate games (7 vs 10+). This means less ability to overcome a given issue by invoking multiple aspects, as you'll have fewer that apply. (p. 29)

Making Changes

You won't break anything by raising the skill cap to +5; most Fate games cap even low power at +5, not +3, except during character generation

I'll note that Strands states that the cap applies even after creation, but can be exceeded with GM permission. (See p. 29)

Changing the dice: 4dF is a simple to read mechanic. Linear dice are, for many, a bad mechanic. The strong central tendency (+0 is 19/81, 23.45%; -1 to +1 is 51/81, or 63%) is intentional - you seldom perform outside that without an aspect or advantage. A +2 from an aspect means you can expect to overcome a difficulty one step higher most of the time, and only 5/81 will you fail something of difficulty equal to the skill.

So, until you see the system in play, you might not want to tweak it, because in changing the dice past 1d6-1d6, you break the underlying assumptions that Steffan built into Fudge, and which work for Fudge and Fate alike. (Strands already pushes that a bit with the low skill caps.)

Further, when you go to doubled ranges with 8dF or 4dG, you much more strongly centralize the results to ±2 (the doubled equivalent) to 71%... and +4 or more is still under 2%.

If you want more extremes, use 1d6-1d6 or 1d8-1d8... but realize, you'll have just nerfed aspects badly past 1d6-1d6, negating the whole core element that distinguishes Fate from Fudge.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Good read, but I would like to add that I would say that equivalent range to 0 in 4dF would be -0.5 -> 0.5 in 4dG in my opinion, that's about 25% vs 28% I think. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ingó Vals
    Commented Aug 3, 2012 at 19:49

Don't hack systems until you've played them! There are all kinds of reasons why, but the most important is that it's nearly impossible to understand every rule of a game until you've used it… and that's the case here.

  • Abilities do not cap at 3. 3 is merely above-average, while 5 is peak human ability. What you thought the rule should be is almost exactly how it actually is!

  • Abilities do cap at 3 for a "Commoner" power-level game, but only during character creation. That table on page 15 is about setting a starting power level for your campaign – it's not saying what an average human is like. Campaign Power Level is about where you start from. Depending on how generous you are in giving out Experience Points (p. 29), the game will either stay fairly low-powered or quickly get up into the the range of heroes and legends. Think of it as "starting level", where "Commoner" is starting at Level 0 and "Heroic" is starting around 3rd–5th level. If you don't want a 0-level start, don't start there!

  • The dice are not linear. A +1 is not 1/3 as good as a +3. In fact, a +3 is far better than just three times a +1. If you bumped up the scale, you would find that "average" humans would almost never fail rolls because doubling a bonus numerically more than doubles its effect on the roll.

  • Doubling the dice rolled wouldn't fix the previous point, but would actually exacerbate it. Increasing the number of dice would just give you a stronger central tendency, which FATE already has. Doubling the dice would almost always give you near the average (0), more often than with 4dF. This is reflected in your AnyDice link: a normal 4dF roll gives you a result from -1 to +1 62.96% of the time, while doubling the dice and looking at the equivalent range (-2 to +2) gives a roll in that range a whopping 71.75% of the time. It may only be less than 10 percentage points, but that's a huge change when the intent is to keep the probabilities the same.

Hacking a game is always challenging, but it's very hard to do right unless you're very familiar with the game. When the game is not only unfamiliar to you, but also has entirely foreign underlying principles of design (such as when you've never played a narrative-focused game and you're trying to hack a narrative-focused game), the difficulty goes from "very hard" to "it would take a miracle."

  • \$\begingroup\$ I was talking about doubling the Dice spread as well so a result of 8 would work to the same effect as a result of 4 before. One other thing I had in mind was to run a campaign where the player are rather high powered and thus would have higher abilities overall. Just to ease them into it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ingó Vals
    Commented Aug 2, 2012 at 16:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'll edit that into my answer. Basically, the central tendency is stronger with doubling the dice, so it's even more not the same. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 2, 2012 at 16:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, one problem with starting a game with high-powered characters is that the players can be overwhelmed with the number of abilities they have to understand. When it's a new system, that's almost guaranteed. If they feel lost, they're not likely to want to keep playing this new, strange game, no matter how powerful you let them start out. Starting at a middle-low power level and letting the characters grow with experience makes learning a new game much easier. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 2, 2012 at 16:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ That's a risky situation! Beware pushing reluctant players into new games. The potential pitfalls are well-discussed in this article. Also take a look at Narrativist Gaming: How do you transition more traditionally-trained players into them? It's not impossible, but forging blindly ahead against "just a couple" of reluctant players can destroy a group if you're careless. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 2, 2012 at 18:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ The key thing with FATE is that Aspects are WAY more important than Skills. It is Aspects that are the real differentiators of characters. You need to get the players to focus on those. \$\endgroup\$
    – Quentin
    Commented Aug 2, 2012 at 20:36

To be honest, most of the options you'll need or want to tweak and how best to tweak them are already explained within Strands of Fate and Strands of Power.

The system is good as is, and very tweakable with just what they give you as tools. Changing core elements in ways not found in the books will invariably cause problems if you don't know the system as well as the person who wrote it.

Naturally this warning doesn't apply to things they give a rules structure to modification or creation of, such as power packages and races, nor does it mean that you shouldn't let people who are used to Mage the Ascendance or Mage the Awakening (or really anything with a dynamic casting system) play with the Control Metapowers (though let them read them through before you let them play that character type at the very least).

This doesn't come from experience hosting or playing SoF, but experience playing and hosting RPGs period. If they're not familiar with a concept, the players will have trouble with it if they aren't allowed or forced to learn the concept before play depending on the circumstances.


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