If you insult the hitman enough, will he stop shooting at you? It doesn't seem likely, but that brings into play a question about whether some stress tracks are "more important" than others: If you shoot the clown, he'll probably stop making fun of you. This implies that physical conflict 'trumps' social conflict.

Which is important, because a lot of creatures (including PCs) tend to have much smaller tracks in some conflict types than in others. Mocking a hitman is a lot easier than punching him, but is that relevant when he's shooting you?

(Obviously you can also use his poor social defenses to drop aspects on him that can be tagged for various advantages, but I'm talking about actual attacks against his social stress track.)

  • Can being taken out on one track (say, social) cause you to stop being able to participate in a conflict focused on a different track (physical, mental)?
  • If so, is there a clear priority of which conflict type trumps another?

There is some interesting precedent in the Hunger stress track from DFRPG: it's pretty clear that while being taken out by Hunger takes many choices for a Red Court Infected or White Court Virgin out of their player's hands, that character is still in the game for physical conflict (and arguably for the Virgin, social conflict) --otherwise it'd be very hard to satisfy the Hunger.

Or is this just so situational that the only possible answer is a throwing up of hands?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I am really sorry that I can upvote your question only once. And this from someone who doesn't even own the Dresden Files RPG. \$\endgroup\$
    – p.marino
    Feb 20, 2013 at 8:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ I wanted to ask a little bit similar question some time ago: "Can you, during a physical conflict, defeat someone in social/psychical combat so that they stop beating the crap out of you?" Maybe I should ask it? \$\endgroup\$
    – Maurycy
    Feb 20, 2013 at 9:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Very good question and now I'm going to spend quite some time trying to formulate a coherent answer. Damn. \$\endgroup\$
    – edgerunner
    Feb 20, 2013 at 11:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ From chat - youtube.com/watch?v=-xfg7lZzb_k is a very good example of a conflict between an armed gunman and a talker. Any answer should model this effectively. \$\endgroup\$
    – Simon Gill
    Feb 21, 2013 at 14:22

3 Answers 3


Yes, you can be damaged and Taken Out on any stress track

A conflict in FATE is about opposing desires. While two or more desires are opposed and unfulfilled a conflict will continue. When the desires change so they are no longer opposed or one is fulfilled the conflict ends.

Take the example of Hitman and Target in an open fight in a bar. Hitman's goal is to kill Target and Target's goal is to escape alive. Target isn't much of a fighter - he's more of a talker.

As @edgerunner says, Target is limited in the actions he can take. He can't start messing around with long-time attacks like identity fraud, breaking him up from his wife, sending letters with conflicting orders and so on.

Instead, he can take short-time actions like offering up "proof" that he's the wrong target, promising vengeance or capture if Target dies or even greater rewards to let Target go. These are all actions which can affect Hitman's sense of purpose about his actions in the conflict. Any perceived change in the ratio of risk or costs of continuing to shoot against the reward or benefit of completing the task can potentially force him out of the conflict. Social attacks work because they are all about changing the perceptions of others.

If Target can Take Out Hitman using the social stress track, then he can end this conflict and achieve his desire of escaping from the current situation. Most results of this kind of conflict will involve Hitman deciding to try again at a better place and time or convinced that actually killing Target would actually be a bad idea for himself in the long run.

The level of NPC determines what happens next - if Hitman is a faceless mook then Target has to worry about who sent him. If Hitman has a name and a backstory, or can be promoted - then Target will have to be proactive about removing this threat by starting a longer term conflict that ends up with Hitman in no position to do anything (jailed, dead, unemployable, etc.).


Yes, why not!

All Fate games are storytelling games, so all that you can or cannot do depends on whether you can form a coherent story around it that is consistent with what has come before. If you can form a plausible story around shaming a hitman enough to stop trying to kill you, I'd say you can do it.

The hard part is getting there in the first place.

Can you actually get a hitman to listen while he's shooting, or can you even talk or act while bullets are whizzing over your head? ie. Can you really attack his social stress track?

Technically, there's nothing stopping you from doing that in the game mechanics. But for the whole story to be coherent in the first place, your form of social attack must fit in the time frame of an exchange in the physical conflict. The former probably takes much more time than what's available in the latter. e.g. "Exposing the hitman to his wife who thinks he's a salesman" is quite hard to do while the bullets are whizzing. But "Begging for your life" may just do the trick for a hitman with a soft core.

Making it real

The problem usually arises from the difference between the design intent behind Fate games, and the way they are played based on old habits from other RPG's. Whenever there's any kind of conflict, many players tend to turn it into an eye-for-an-eye, you-hit-me-I-hit you sort of whack-a-thon. At best, this makes conflicts boring. This gets better only after all players realize the power of maneuvers in Fate games.

Had the GM first maneuvered the hitman to place the aspect Under whizzing bullets on the PC, he could have first compelled the player to not even try getting the PC to talk to the hitman, skipping a turn. Then with the aid of a free invoke(tag), he could attack to put a lot of stress on the PC, potentially taking him down without facing any form of resistance.

By the way, no stress track trumps the other by default. That is something you have to figure out in the context of your narrative.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm kind of shaky on the Fate rules, but could the hitman also spend an action to set up a Block on social skills too? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 20, 2013 at 16:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes why not, assuming your game has the Block action, not all fate games have it. dresden-files has it but not diaspora for example \$\endgroup\$
    – edgerunner
    Feb 20, 2013 at 16:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ If it's one Hitman against one Target, the Block isn't useful, is it? The Hitman spends all of his actions Blocking, and the Target still doesn't have any holes in him. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 20, 2013 at 17:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not that I know very well but aren't some blocks persistent? \$\endgroup\$
    – edgerunner
    Feb 20, 2013 at 21:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ So far as I know, blocks are only capable of persistence when applied magically; mundane blocks must be re-rolled with an action every round as if it were their first. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Feb 21, 2013 at 4:52

The title of the question is "Shame him into not shooting." Your first sentence is "If you insult the hitman enough, will he stop shooting at you?"

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: Shooting a gun and hitting your target isn't as easy as most people think. And if you tease, taunt, and insult the shooter, they are going to become angry and loose their focus. And an unfocus shooter isn't going to hit anything they intend to. They loose track of how many rounds are left in their weapon. It might overheat, jam, and misfire. Bullets can ricochet, or hit the rope attached to the sandbag/chandlier overhead. And if there are multiple shooters, Joe might convince Sam that Bill is sleeping with his wife/owes him $100/stole his promotion.

In FATE, story is what's important. And while getting someone to stop shooting isn't feasable, creating a situation where the target won't be easily hit is.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Mechanically I can easily see that scenario represented with social maneuvers used to reduce his efficacy in physical combat --as I mentioned in my post-- but I don't see how this addresses my bullet-pointed questions at the heart of the issue: how being taken out factors into all this. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Feb 21, 2013 at 13:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the phrase "taken out" is the culprit in this. Although the phrase sounds like that, it does not mean that the target is knocked out cold or disabled in any other way. It just means that you get to tell the story about the target if you take it out. \$\endgroup\$
    – edgerunner
    Feb 21, 2013 at 21:53

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