There's actually multiple answers to that question in Fate Core and The Fate System Toolkit, but they seem a bit contradictory. I'd like your help to sort them out.

Note: I know characters can indirectly defend others by creating advantages that hinder enemy movements and attacks or help allies defend, but the question isn't about that.

Here's the first answer (FC159):

You can even make defend actions on behalf of others, so long as you fulfill two conditions: it has to be reasonable for you to interpose yourself between the attack and its target, and you have to suffer the effects of any failed rolls.

Okay so I'm thinking this is pretty flexible, a combat oriented character can take the hit for another if they're close. As long as someone is taking the hit, it doesn't matter who, mechanically.

Then there's the second answer that confuses everything (FC160):

If, for whatever reason, you want to forego your defense and take a hit (like, say, to interpose yourself in the path of an arrow that’s about to skewer your friend), you can. Because you’re not defending, the attacker’s rolling against mediocre (+0) opposition, which means you’re probably going to take a bad hit.

Now it sounds like if I defend instead of someone else, I don't get to use my skill. Actually I don't even roll at all, I get a passive defense of +0. That's less flexible.

But then again it says "if you want to forego your defense", so maybe it's a way to defend someone when things have already gotten dire, not the way.

Then there's the 2 Fight stunts in the Fate System Toolkit: (FST34, 41)

Ally’s Shield: You can invoke Dwarven Shield-Maiden when a nearby ally suffers an attack. When you do, redirect that attack to yourself. Your defense is Average (+1) against that attack.

Defend the Weak: When someone is attacked physically while within your zone, you can spend a fate point to redirect that attack to yourself. You may defend against that attack at +1.

They're basically the same: It costs a Fate point, you roll defend at +1, you suffer the consequences. The stunt seems to suppose that the default option to defend on behalf of others is with a passive +0 defense.

In other words, for a Stunt and a Fate point for every use, I can get a +1 to defend others, and a roll that can worsen or better it. Why wouldn't I just invoke an Aspect for their defense or mine if I interpose myself, gain a +2, and save the Stunt for something useful?

This said...

  • How does defending on the behalf of others works in Fate Core?

  • If I'm not reading this wrong, the defending stunts are not very good. So, how have you made defending others work in your games, or how would you make it work?


2 Answers 2


Defending others works the way the first paragraph you quoted says so:

You can even make defend actions on behalf of others, so long as you fulfill two conditions: it has to be reasonable for you to interpose yourself between the attack and its target, and you have to suffer the effects of any failed rolls.

That's it! That's defending others. If you can justify doing so, you can get in the way of the attack, and defend against it yourself, and you take the consequences of doing so.

The extra stuff confusing you isn't the rules for defending others. If you want to defend someone else, this paragraph is all you need to keep in mind.

The section from FC160 is just saying you can take a hit if you want.

FC160 only points out that when you're defending, if you want to, for whatever reason, you can simply not roll at all and leave your defence at +0. That includes defending yourself, or defending others.

It gives an example of doing this when defending someone else from an arrow, but that's just an example. You could also roll to defend against that arrow.

Sometimes, though, you won't be able to. If you really want to save that person from the arrow flying at them, it might be that your only option is to take the hit yourself. Most people can't deflect or stop arrows, and you might not have a shield handy.

The defending stunts you quoted are from the Fate System Toolkit

The Fate System Toolkit isn't there to give you Fate Core/Accelerated material, it's there to help you mess with the Fate system and reconfigure it. The material in that book is there to explore mechanical possibilities, not suggest highly effective character options. Not all options will be appealing under Fate Core's configuration of the Fate engine.

The two example stunts you saw were for that exploration: one was an example of a particular configuration option, and the other was just a stunt on an example character sheet. (Example character sheets don't have to be mechanically awesome!)

Plus, not all stunts are inherently and always useful for everybody. They don't have to be. Many character options will range from useless to stellar depending on your story's setting and tone, the capabilities and power levels of your characters, the kinds of challenges you'll face, and other factors. Different Fate implementations also value stunts differently — while Fate Core allows stunts which grant +2 to something to always apply, Masters of Umdaar limits +2 bonuses to once-per-scene activation because of its different focus.

One of those stunts, though — Dwarven Shield Maiden — looks pretty good to me. A Dwarven Shield Maiden's aspects probably give her a lot more justification for being able to defend against an attack even when others wouldn't be able to. Can you leap in front of an ally and defend them from a hail of bullets at +1? Probably not, but a Dwarven Shield Maiden can.

Defend the Weak could also be okay. Because it operates off of Fate points, it may even leave you able to defend when you otherwise couldn't, e.g. you're bound up and immobile. Doing so may even be a self-compel. This is something that'll vary, as above, depending on the context it's being used in.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Seems like a reasonable way to interpret the rules. The +0 is a corner case and the Toolkit stunts are stunt building examples. This is what I'll most likely do. Still, I feel like I'm missing something about those stunts. I like your explanation that they might extend a character's ability to defend for others, that would be a good stunt. But the Toolkit stunts themselves don't explicit that, so I'm still wondering about the writers' intentions for them. \$\endgroup\$
    – Maynor
    Commented Jul 19, 2014 at 4:33
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ There might be nothing more to look into other than they were writing examples. The Dwarven Shield Maiden thing could be pretty useful. Maybe the other one really does just suck, and that wasn't important because they were just writing examples. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 19, 2014 at 4:55
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ This answer is essentially correct. Only FC159 actually bears on the question asked. Generally speaking, if you can justify rolling a defense on behalf of someone else, you can; if you roll, they don't, and you take the consequences of failure; and if you want to establish justification firmly (and give yourself a leg up), doing a create advantage action to say "I'm Defending Clarence" or whatever is a great way to accomplish that goal. Aspects can be used for said justification. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Fred Hicks
    Commented Jul 20, 2014 at 13:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ In hindsight, that was a great response, but I didn't understand it fully at the time. I still feel that Defend the Weak is a weak Stunt, and will drop the fate point cost. In general, paying a Fate refresh point to get a Stunt and a fate point for each use always seems suboptimal to me, unless the Stunt is really powerful. \$\endgroup\$
    – Maynor
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 6:42

The way I interpret it. 1st case using your turn action to act as bodyguard get full skill to defend yourself or the VIP. 2nd case act on enemy turn to jump on a granate situation that is you already had your turn and are making desparate - jump and take the bullet action. I think in that context the stunts make more sense.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah I was thinking about that too. Instead of using the "Full Defense" action to give yourself +2 to defend during this exchange, maybe you could use a "Defend Target" action to defend in the place of someone else during the exchange, with your full skill (but no +2). \$\endgroup\$
    – Maynor
    Commented Jul 22, 2014 at 1:28

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