This question and this other question have excellent answers describing the concept of "aspect permissions". To summarize my understanding of the answers, they explain that aspects shift the boundaries of what's trivial and what's impossible for a character, moving actions in and out of what you should roll for. So if the Strongest Man in the World wants to kick down a door they probably don't need to roll for that, but a character without that aspect probably would. The Strongest Man in the World can lift a heavy gate with a roll, but a character without that aspect couldn't do it at all. And the aspect doesn't have to be on a character; asking directions from an NPC probably doesn't require a roll; asking directions from an NPC that's part of an Angry Mob at least requires a roll and might be impossible.

So far so good. My question is how this interacts with combat, where rolls are opposed, particularly in games where aspects might significantly influence approach to combat.

Say you have a superhero game, and we have two characters:

  • Alice, who is Precognitive, and has Fight at +2. Game discussion has established that Alice uses her precognition to be a frighteningly effective fighter, but without it she's only a Fair fighter.
  • Bob, who is Clairvoyant, and has Fight at +2. Game discussion has established that Bob uses his clairvoyance to help the team's situational awareness, etc., and it doesn't have a direct combat use.

When Alice and Bob are in combat, without invoking aspects, they're equally effective at Fighting. But that seems a bit odd; Alice's aspect should have very strong applicability to combat, but Bob's doesn't. That does mean that Alice can probably invoke her Precognitive aspect in combat more often, but now she has to pay a limited resource to make use of something that's narratively always there, and if Bob can find things to invoke he's still just as effective. This feels a little odd.

Is this how this is meant to work? Should Alice have assigned skills so that she has a higher Fight to represent her precognition's assistance? (but then how would you mechanically handle a Power Nullifier?). If aspects with this significant an effect on combat are going to be involved should some kind of extra system be built up around them, like a Powers skill that can be used for anything you use your power to do?


2 Answers 2


You're not being Extra enough.

Or: if you expect people to give up their lives you really ought to document it.

So here's the deal about Aspect Permission - by itself, it doesn't say anything about numbers. Numbers aren't there to reflect any absolute quality of the world but the demands of the drama. Aspect Permission is there to mark out what kinds of things are dramatic enough to attempt, but as a concept it's left intentionally nebulous and up to the judgement of the table with room for some sensible give and take.

When you step into a conflict you bet your entire future. Is that something you want to leave up to the judgement of the table? Whether or not you get to keep living? I don't think it is, which is why using Aspect Permission to gate participation in conflicts is a bad idea.

If you want to meaningfully tweak participation in conflicts, or mechanize certain features of characters in response to a particular plot stimulus, then you need to start building an Extra so the rules are in front of everyone who cares about them.

(If, on the other hand, you want it to be like, "Tremble in fear, Crystal Warriors, as I unleash my NEGATON CRYSTAL!" and suddenly the conflict is a contest to get away from the Pumice Troopers you were mopping the floor with before, such that the plot affects everyone evenly, you don't need to get more Extra. But that's not what you're talking about here.)

So what kinds of things do you need to consider when you're making one?

A Prelude: Numbers Have No Meaning, But...

So, there's nothing that says how much weight you can lift with a +6 Physique roll. However, assuming a standard initial spread, a +6 Physique roll has a story meaning - it's a very dramatic feat of strength that even the strongest people have to reach to attempt.

Can you have someone with a High Concept of Strongest Man in the World and not even put Physique on their skill tree? I mean, it's possible, in that you can write it on a character sheet and it won't catch fire. But when you're saying in that case is that when it matters at all, your strength is worthless. I don't know about your playgroup, but that's not the kind of thing I think of when I think of the Strongest Man in the World. It's inconsistent with the description of the character.

When someone takes dramatic action and the outcome is in doubt, we rely on the numbers to judge their success. If you want a character to succeed dramatically at things, you can't just put down an Aspect and have the GM wave it all away with Aspect Permission, because the numbers they throw at the character are what the drama of the moment demands, not some mere fact of the world your Aspect lifts you above.

Wizards Only, Fools: Aspect Permissions for Combat

It's technically the barest step up from Aspect Permissions, being a known fact of the setting that everybody agrees on ahead of time. Say you're doing a story about a giant robot fighting the Inva-Dors and only one person pilots the robot while everybody else dispatches support drones and analyzes weak points and provides moral support. The idea that only the giant robot can fight the Inva-Dors on equal footing and nobody can just step out of the command center and take potshots at them is an application of aspect permission.

And you can see how it might be expanded in the same way. Maybe over the course of play they build another giant robot. Maybe somebody gets mad about science and builds an experimental human-portable device that can damage Inva-Dors. Maybe you rotate out who pilots the robot from session to session, for recovery or other reasons.

But in your case, if you want to say "only a precog can fight a precog" you're kind of stuck, because Alice can't stop piloting the robot since the robot is her. Whenever a precog shows up it's The Alice Show, and your story probably isn't set up that Bob has a nice reinforced bunker to support Alice from, either.

Numbers Up and Down: Extras for Psycho Supers

So, since the number in something reflects how well that thing steps up to deal with dramatic action, what you've said is that you want Alice to have a high fighting number and Bob a modest fighting number, with Alice's fighting number dropping if someone has a Negaton Crystal out.

In that case, since you want Alice to rely on her precognition but Bob to be a regular-style fighter, you could use an Extra to let Alice substitute her precognitive skill, which is probably, what, Empathy, her peak skill? She can fight with Empathy the way somebody else would fight with Fight. And then when the Negaton Crystal comes out, it shuts off the Extra as a compel on her high concept.


I find it unfortunate that skills in Fate are called skills. They represent much more than the certified competence of the character.

Your setup maintains that Alice isn't a frighteningly effective fighter at all. She's just a good fighter, and that may be unsuspectingly frightening because she has no training, no fighter's build and stamina, yet she seems to be able to uncannily dodge and block pros, and land blows where they don't expect it.

Bob is just your regular good fighter. He trained for it, and his moves reflect the training he received.

You are right. If you want Alice to be a great fighter, make her Fight a +4. The aspect just allows her to describe that result in normally unacceptable ways.

A power nullifier is a perfect occasion to employ aspect invocations and Fate points. Alice invested her top skill in this, so it is fair she gets some FP when she confronts the Mindbender™ and finds that her fighting isn't as good against that specific villain.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .