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So here's the scenario:

Sam, Jack, and Dan roll opposed Overcome checks at +1, +2, and +3, respectively. Sam and Jack both want to use the "serious cost" option to succeed on their rolls.

What happens?

The Fate Accelerated entry on contests makes it clear that contests are series of opposed Overcome rolls, and "if you got the highest result, you win the exchange."

In the description of the Overcome action, it says when a character fails an Overcome roll she "can succeed, but at a serious cost." I love this option, but it seems to break a bit in situations like this.

Is there any ruling or advice for this, or is it something for the group to work out when it comes up? I trust my players to be able to handle it, but we do like to know if there's guidance on this sort of issue.

(I've noticed that in the contest roll is described as "basically an overcome action," which may introduce extra complication. I'm currently using FAE though, and its description of contests as opposed Overcome actions is more definitive.)

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Contests use most of the mechanics of Overcome actions, but they replace the rules for outcomes. You don’t succeed or fail in a contest like you do for a normal Overcome action – indeed, it appears that you cannot “fail” at all. Instead, you either score a victory (the highest roll), somebody else does, or nobody does (a tie). When somebody scores enough victories, they succeed.

The rules for ties make it more clear how the outcomes differ between normal Overcome actions and contests. For a normal Overcome action, there are several possibilities, including success at a cost:

If you tie: You attain your goal, but at some minor cost. The GM could introduce a complication, or present you with a tough choice (you can rescue one of your friends, but not the other), or some other twist. See “Succeed at a Cost” in Running the Game in Fate Core for more ideas.

However, if you tie in a contest, different rules apply:

If there’s a tie, no one gets a victory, and an unexpected twist occurs. This could mean several things, depending on the situation—the terrain or environment shifts somehow, the parameters of the contest change, or an unanticipated variable shows up and affects all the participants. The GM creates a new situation aspect reflecting this change and puts it into play.

This suggests that there is no opportunity to succeed at a cost in a contest.

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