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I’m starting with FATE. Please let me understand if I miss something in the scenario below.

The game is a Star Wars story of jedi+smuggler+droid hiding from empire. The scene is a conflict, in which the jedi fights troopers who are trying to catch a jedi boy.

  1. During the conflict, a trooper was pulling the boy to their speeder to run away, covered by 3 troopers who are shooting to the jedi;
  2. The smuggler (PC, Deceive +4 and Mind Games stunt) wants to deceive that trooper, to convince him to give the boy (I mean: the deceive should make the trooper give the boy to the smuggler);
  3. The trooper doesn’t know that the smuggler is with the jedi;
  4. The smuggler goes to the trooper and says "Give me the boy, buddy!! I'll help you, you are under jedi attack!"
  5. The trooper is... a simple trooper, with low Will (+1);
  6. The boy is, obviously, the core of the scene.

How do I rule the smuggling? I tought different options:

  1. Single opposite check: Deceive vs Will. But, I tought deceive him to give the boy should be a difficult action;

  2. Single opposite check, with bonus difficulty: Deceive vs Will+bonus. But, I was not sure how to assign an arbitrary bonus for this difficulty, and I didn't want a single round dialog for such important deceive;

  3. Contest: Deceive vs Will for many rounds. It's still quite simple for the smuggler to win the boy, but it takes at least 3 rounds and something could happen;

  4. Mental conflict: Deceive vs Will, assigning stress and consequences as any conflict. Although, I'm not confident that the timing of a mental conflict and fisical conflict can match.

In the game I choosed the 4: Mental conflict. How it goes:

  • The smuggler rolled +3
  • The trooper roolled +0
  • The smuggler got the boy at the first round.

I doubt much that it was the rule for the player's purpose.

Furthermore, I have some doubt about how easy is for a PC with Deceive +4 to make NPC do what he wants (even if Deceive is not Domination).

I mean: the PC has Deceive +4. Most non-boss NPC has lower Will (1-2). The PC can easily play like this:

  1. First round, advantage: create an advantage on the opponent, with deceive;
  2. Second round, deceive: if he deceive with advantage and a spend a FP on the Advantage, he has a huge bonus of Skill+Advange+FP = +4 +2 +2, so he start with a +8 bonus (if he succeeded with style, even more);

It means that if he wants he can almost convince anyone of everything?

Could he so easily convince the trooper to give him the boy?

Or am I wrong in something?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ the real scenario is: in the outer rim, just after the rise of the empire, some separatists act on empire side, seek for sensitive people, find a boy a take it. A crowd is watching. The smuggler exit from the crowd, acting as if he is one of those who are on the empire side. Anyway, you got the point, thanks. \$\endgroup\$
    – Radioleao
    Commented Nov 12, 2023 at 13:48

2 Answers 2

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This is your call, a Contest with complications might work

The first thing to keep in mind is that FATE is about creating an exciting story together. The rules have to say this on page 19, under What Makes a Good FATE Game?:

Characters in a game of Fate lead dramatic lives. The stakes are always high for them, both in terms of what they have to deal with in their world, and what they’re dealing with in the six inches of space between their ears.

A character almost always automatically succeeding in everything they want because they can talk their way to it and mechanically win their deception rolls is a bad fit for this. There needs to be risk of failure. It is your task as a DM to create it.

Purely on a mechanics level, deceiving some trooper mook, an unnamed NPC, would be a simple overcome action. (p. 104, Deceive skill)

For nameless NPCs, this is just an overcome roll, but for PCs or named NPCs, it requires a contest, and the target opposes with Empathy.

However, if the situation is dramatic, you instead can use a challenge, contest or conflict (p. 146):

Most of the time, a single skill roll should be enough to decide how a particular situation in play resolves. [...] Sometimes, however, you’ll be in a situation where you’re doing something really dramatic and interesting, like pivotal set pieces in a movie or a book. When that happens, it’s a good idea to zoom in on the action [...] We have three ways for you to zoom in on the action in Fate:

  • Challenges, when one or more characters try to achieve something dynamic or complicated
  • Contests, when two or more characters are competing for a goal
  • Conflicts, when two or more characters are trying to directly harm each other

In this situation, they are not really out to directly harm each other, so this is not a conflict (see also on p. 97, Deceive cannot be used as an attack). So it could either be a challenge (for example, not only has he to deceive the trooper from letting go, he also has to avoid being hit by stray fire at the same time etc.), or a maybe contest, which based on the guidance in the Deceive skill, would be opposed with Empathy.

Using Deception to gain an advantage on Deception is not what seems intended. It is not explicitly exlcluded, but Deceive's "Create an advantage" section lists how you could use Deceive to help other things like feinting in a swordfight, or "Look over there!" to get a head start for running away. So if you as the GM are not comfortable with the character spending an extra action to make their Deceive even more impossible to withstand, I think it would be in the spirit of the rules to declare that will not work to enhance Deceive with more Deceive.

Lastly, like with other games, you only need to call on rolls if you think they make sense (p. 181):

It’s also your job to make most of the moment-to-moment decisions about what’s legit and what’s not regarding the rules. Most often, you’re going to decide when something in the game deserves a roll, what type of action that is (overcome, attack, etc.) and how difficult that roll is.

Sometimes, Deception does not make sense, no matter how good you roll. When you are trying to tell a guard something next to impossible, like that you are really his supervisor in disguise and he should leave his post, while he can plainly see his supervisor standing over there, you can just decide this does not work and there is no right to roll for it.

Numerically, for a simple Overcome with a +4 against a typcally +1 or so at best from rank-and-file opposition, and by spending a fate point to boot for another +2, you will have a 98% chance of success, near guaranteed. And that is fine -- the character put everything into it. They should be able to overcome run-of-the mill opposition very confidently.

You also could introduce a complication as the GM to make the situation more interesting and dramatic (p. 71) "The GM can always compel for free" if you think the PC has too easy a time.

In this specific situation, the Con-artist PC has put their one great skill on Deception, and this setup is a prime chance to legitimatly use it. The troopers don't even know he is in league with the PCs. You can still decide that they even entirely believe him that he can and wants to help, but as a complication still believe they are better off getting the kid away and have him help in some other way, or some other complication, to make the situation dramatic and intersting, without invalidating the player's investment.

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All lies are not equally believable.

To quote your question:

It means that if he wants he can almost convince anyone of everything?

This goes beyond analyzing the Fate rules to an issue that can crop up in any tabletop game: how much can a character possibly do with a roll of the dice?

Can the smuggler use Deceive to convince the trooper that they've got the wrong boy and they should give up on him entirely? How about convincing the trooper that their mission is all a lie and they should help the Jedi? No matter how low the trooper's Will is, those are both huge bluffs. I can't imagine letting the smuggler roll for that unless they managed to set up some truly phenomenal circumstances beforehand. Telling the trooper to hand over the boy to the smuggler is a comparatively smaller ask... but is it still reasonable?

What I'd want to do in this situation is pitch a question or two back to the smuggler's player. Why would the trooper trust the smuggler as an ally to make this roll possible? What circumstances are working for or against the smuggler in this moment? If the player doesn't have an answer, maybe they have to dial back their intent for this action. Or maybe they actually do have a plausible argument... which I imagine would be rife with implications you can use to complicate the smuggler's life in future scenes.

You might express your doubt by saying:

"I don't think the trooper is going to just hand over their target to someone who just showed up. If you want to get the boy away, you're going to have to do something to make the trooper drop his guard first."

This is a way to tell the player "No, but..." because it's too much to do at once, but still nudging them in a direction to break down their goal into smaller steps. This is closest to your option 1, except it takes multiple opposing rolls to approach their ultimate goal.

If the smuggler succeeds on his initial Deceive roll to fast-talk the troopers into believing he's here to help, you might say:

"The trooper isn't prepared to let go of their target just yet, but they're relieved at the surprise help. 'You're damn right we're under attack! Keep that Jedi scum busy while I secure the cargo!' He believes you can talk the talk, but now you've got to back it up with action. What's your next move?"

Personally, I haven't dealt with running a Contest or a Conflict inside of another Conflict. But I appreciate that your initial scenario has an interesting goal besides simply blasting the bad guys until they stop getting in your way. The existing Conflict is already focused on determining whether the boy gets rescued from the troopers, and I don't see that a one-on-one engagement between the smuggler and a trooper is significant enough to warrant zooming into its own scene.

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