I would like to use Fate Core for the kind of neo-noir stories common to movies made by the Coen Brothers, the Wachowskis, Quentin Tarantino, and John Dahl. The leading characters in these stories often die, sometimes before the climax. I would like to make it reasonable to play those doomed roles as PCs, so that players can engage in PvP conflict without worrying about the consequences for the victim.

Fiasco has an elegant mechanism to handle this (“Hey, You Just Killed Me,” p. 34):

In any session of Fiasco there is a good chance that people are going to perish. Your character is not immune from the carnage and may die. If this happens, it isn’t a big deal − Character death just means that your scenes will either be flashbacks or won’t include direct conflicts, you being dead and all. Your scenes should still be all about what your character wanted, and you can absolutely include other characters. . . . The Aftermath should be about your character’s goals, ambitions, or reputation rather than their physical person.

Fiasco is unique in that your character doesn't actually need to be present when you take your turn – you can tell stories about what your character wants instead. This allows you to keep participating even if some psycho kills you to death. How can I use this idea in Fate to have fun with a dead PC?

I suspect that you could use the Bronze Rule (Fate Core p. 208) to accomplish this: When “My Guy” can't be physically present, you can play “My Guy's Desires” as a meta-character instead. However, I'm not sure how you'd actually do that in practice. At what point should you create the meta-character? How should it differ from the character itself? Can you use it before you die?

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for a very interesting question. Sadly, most of my answers would be system agnostic and thus off topic. Dammit! ^_~ \$\endgroup\$ – Sardathrion - Reinstate Monica Jun 6 '13 at 6:40
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Something that fits well in the Fate framework would be great, but I'm definitely open to system-agnostic answers too – I'll add the tag if I get good answers that way. \$\endgroup\$ – Bradd Szonye Jun 6 '13 at 7:54
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I would love to see a system-agnostic version of this question. \$\endgroup\$ – Pulsehead Jun 6 '13 at 12:39
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Does the fiasco tag belong here, since it's a question about Fate, and Fiasco is used only for reference? \$\endgroup\$ – kravaros Jun 6 '13 at 18:09
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ meta question posted to that effect. \$\endgroup\$ – Chuck Dee Jun 6 '13 at 23:38

Caveat: I have not playtested this as of yet.


During the character's death scene, have him create a Fractal (FC270) from the use of his remaining fate points and the consequences that have been inflicted on him and his own aspects. This Fractal is now for all intents and purposes the player's new 'character'.

It is linked to the other characters by way of the shared phases for the particular Fate game that you are playing, i.e. FC38. You can also allow it to be linked if some sort of shared experience in play happened for the characters and change in the respective characters happened because of it.

Whenever those aspects from the shared situations can be brought into the narrative, the Fractal can use the banked Fate points to assist, tagging either its own aspects, or the aspects of the player that relate to their relationship.


During character creation, the young wizard that didn't know about his past was trained by the old mystic who was hiding from the black knight, champion of the empire. During the climax of their mission the old mystic allowed himself to be slain by the black knight.

At that point, he creates a Fractal - Magical Spirit, linked to the young wizard by the aspect, "Your training is not done yet" as a result of their shared phase. At the time of his death, he had 5 Fate points, so his Magical Spirit has 5 Fate points. He also picks and chooses from his current aspects and consequences related to the unfinished business that his spirit has.

During the rest of the game, when the young wizard is in dire straits, he can use his fate points, invoking his or the wizard's aspects, as long as the young wizard is in the scene. This can be in the form of quick interjections (Use the magical essence, young wizard), or longer flashbacks. The use of consequences would be a memory of the sacrifice made for the remaining characters, i.e. the young wizard's anger flares as he remembers the black knight cutting down his dead mentor.

However, if the thief and the princess are in a bind and the young wizard isn't present, he's helpless as his spirit and memories have no binding to those, even though they are the young wizard's companions.

One thing I've not made up my mind about is the use of consequences that have not had their free invocation tagged- whether to make them usable for free or not. In this manner at least the last blow will be special, even if the other consequences have been used. Sort of a memory of the death blow inflicted on the character in question.

Note that this Fractal can be an expression of the dead character's spirit, his investment in the lives of those around him through his training and words, or whatever is appropriate for the setting and the dead character. But as his influence is so limited, I'd be a little more lenient in interpretation than I would normally.

  • 8
    \$\begingroup\$ I like the story about the young wizard and the black knight. You should make that into a movie. \$\endgroup\$ – Joe Jun 7 '13 at 4:11
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, but you know, Fantasy is SO done to death. You should do it IN SPACE ! \$\endgroup\$ – Nigralbus Jun 10 '13 at 14:23

If I were doing this, I would write up a number of mini-sheets for minor NPCs (with or without names or story relevance). Then, if a main character dies, that player can take over the role of an NPC. Think of the players and GM as two teams in cooperation with one another (to have fun, naturally), and when one PC dies, the player "switches teams", taking on the part of a supporting character and helping set the scene.

To illustrate the suggestion, I'll use Tarantino's movie Django Unchained. Say there are two players, Jamie and Chris, who portray Django and Dr. Schultz. They have an awesome campaign finding out where Django's wife is and tracking her down, and right at the end of the climactic confrontation with the smiling Mr. Candy, Chris decides to involve his aspect, "Murderer with a Heart of Gold" and make his hand-shake lethal. A shoot-out happens and Dr. Schultz gets taken out. Chris is sad about losing his character, but it was a good death. After talking with the GM, Quentin, he decides that he really liked the character of Billy Crash, so Quentin passes over the index card with Billy's aspects and skills, and Chris starts considering what Billy might do to Django (who has conceded the shootout and is alive, but at the mercy of Candyland).

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ This was an actual mechanic in the R. Talsorian "Dream Park" RPG: Killed players could take over the roles of minor NPCs for the rest of the session, and in so doing, would reduce the point penalty they had gained from dying in the first place. I was a Dream Park GM for a long time, and it worked really well. \$\endgroup\$ – Sandalfoot Oct 2 '15 at 0:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Sandalfoot What sort of point penalty? \$\endgroup\$ – Holland Wilson Oct 12 '15 at 3:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Your total XP was cut in half on death in Dream Park. Playing an NPC reduced that by half as well, so you'd only lose 25%. \$\endgroup\$ – Sandalfoot Oct 12 '15 at 18:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Pretty cool. Does death happen often? \$\endgroup\$ – Holland Wilson Oct 12 '15 at 20:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ No more or less than in any other game. It's totally up to the gamemaster and how they balance the session. \$\endgroup\$ – Sandalfoot Oct 23 '15 at 1:17

13th Age has a rule call "Fight in Spirit", which allows a dead or unconscious player to grant a bonus to any players who involves the dead/incapacitated character in his narrative. For instance, say the party Fighter is down, another player can say "I remember how the Fighter would keep fighting on despite the odds and I've picked up some tricks from him", and gets a bonus.

In Fate Core, this could translate to other players invoking the downed or absent player's Aspects, perhaps as if they are situation aspects, or by spending "missing" player's FP instead of the invoker's. This works well if players have aspects to represent their relationships with each other. It's up to you if you want to put a limit on this kind of invocation (maybe once per scene?)

Edited to add: In a striking coincidence, Rob Donoghue of Evil Hat discussed this very thing in his blog. Here's his implementation:

Here is the Fighting In Spirit rule for Fate: Every round that you are out of a scene, you gain 1 FP which must be spent to invoke or compel an aspect in that scene in a colorful fashion. You get that FP at the end of the first “round” and you get a new one at the end of each round so long as you’ve spent the one you have (so it’s use-it-or-lose-it). GM’s discretion whether or not this rule is in effect for a given scene – this is not designed to keep everyone in every scene all the time, but to help give a player who is out of a fight or other involved scene (due to injury or situation) an ability to participate. SPECIAL RULE: in general, if only one player is in a fight, then other people shouldn’t be pitching in, because it’s probably a signature moment. HOWEVER, if the fight has appropriate emotional overtones, then every non-present player may get 1 FP to spend at some point during the fight in accordance with the fighting in spirit rules. Because your friends have your back. And, yes, this is a mechanic written almost entirely to allow me to emulate my favorite moment in Final Fantasy IX. Is there a problem with that?

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ This sounds more like a way for other players to have fun with the dead PC. Which is cool, but I'm more concerned about the player who lost the PC. \$\endgroup\$ – Bradd Szonye Jun 7 '13 at 2:20

One thing about Fate: ANYONE can propose compels.

So, when a player has no character, he can still, theoretically, participate by proposing compels - possibly to both sides of the conflict. Some may not like this style of play, and others might opt to restrict it, but this is a great way to remain active despite your character being out of the action.


Even if you don't have a premade character to play, the new FATE Core rules (so new they aren't even out in hard copy yet - I'm taking this info from my .pdf copy!) allow for a way to make a quick and dirty character. All you do is define the following

  • High concept aspect
  • Best skill (the new rules have you put your skills in on a pyramid-type structure, with 1 at +4, 2 at +3, 3 and +2, and 4 at +1)
  • Name

...and that's it, you're ready to play. In-game, if you're asked to roll against a skill you can choose to make it one of the skills in your pyramid, although once you do that, the skill is set. Likewise, you can add aspects along the way as you "choose to reveal" bits and pieces about the character. Then, once the session is over you can flesh out the character using the normal core rules (you'd probably be using the past/present/future method of aspect generation rather than the first adventure/PC involvement 1/PC involvement 2 method that's now the base method).

  • \$\begingroup\$ This sounds like a decent solution for players who lose a PC early in a session. For deaths closer to the climax, I think it'd be better to use a ghost/fractal or to take over an existing NPC. \$\endgroup\$ – Bradd Szonye Jun 7 '13 at 2:22
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ There's the third option, which is to "take over" an unnamed NPC. Maybe one of the thugs has a change of heart and joins the party. Maybe a police officer at the scene of the crime throws his hat in with the party. The point isn't to have a well-rounded, completely FATE-worthy character. That expansion will be rounded out at the beginning of the next session or in between sessions. \$\endgroup\$ – NotVonKaiser Jun 7 '13 at 14:22

With the collaborative narrative framework of Fate, a character should probably only die if the player (and the GM and other players) really want or need for him to - a suicide mission to save the world, or some other kind of noble sacrifice. If a player is leaving the group or just wants to play a new character, this could be a good narrative hook, but would probably work best at the end of a session, not in the middle.

If it makes sense in the middle of a session and the player doesn't want to assume the role of an NPC or create a new character, I think the options suggested in other answers would be good. They could continue to participate in the narrative parts, filling it the story, and being compelled/issuing compels. Their aspects could even remain in play and they could still manage their fate points until the end of the game. In either case, their character aspects may now be situational aspects. If the character was Black Sheep Son of Lord Hightower and he's killed in the company of the other players, Lord Hightower might suddenly become more of a family man and now the group may have a Got Lord Hightower's Son Killed on Their Stupid Quest aspect, with the dead player narrating the resulting complication.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.