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In our supers Fate game, the PCs occasionally join forces with NPC heroes (also shadowy government agencies/morally ambiguous villains/etc.), a genre staple: team-up. The problem is, I don't want to be rolling dice for and against myself, especially if there are multiple NPCs involved, as that means players are just watching me play with myself for a few minutes before moving on to their turn, and I'm not really into that. One option for circumventing this that I've used in other systems in the past is to have the allied NPCs be useful elsewhere, fighting their own battle that I narrate. While simple, it's not very satisfying either as there's no interaction between this other fight and the PCs.

Is there a trick of a Fate fractal to have NPC still participate in a conflict and interact with PCs (perhaps by creating advantages?) without hogging the spotlight and GM's time, with the possibility for a zoom-in into full conflict rules should PCs wish to join in?

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This answer is inspired by the one provided by BESW, and is the approach I intend to use.

Start by writing up each ally on an index card and laying them out on the table. They can be used in two distinct manners: as an assistant and and as an actor. Either use flips the ally card over, making them unavailable until the next turn. As an assistant, an ally grants a +1 Teamwork bonus to a PC's action, and it's up to the player to describe how the ally helps.

Alternatively, any PC can choose to be an assistant for the turn and have the ally be an actor (likely because they want to do something only said ally can accomplish), in which case they temporarily take control of the ally, with their regular character granting a Teamwork bonus.

In either case, NPCs' aspects can be invoked and compelled. NPCs likely won't have their own stress track, taking consequences if they have to. The GM balances the extra capabilities of PCs with additional Fate points.

This approach conserves the number of actions and rolls per turn while providing direct involvement for NPCs. Allies get to show off their abilities in the hands of players, without clogging up the game with their own mechanics.

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Make the ally a temporary extra

Give each PC an ally as an extra, or group the allies together into a resource which the entire party can draw on (Fate Core has examples of group extras). Here are some generic benefits the extra might grant the PC(s) (pick any or all of the following):

  • Ally's stunts can be used as if they were the PC's own.
  • Ally's high concept can be invoked and compelled as if it were the PC's own.
  • +1 to PC's skill for every skill the ally has at +1 or better (as if using Teamwork).
  • PC can use the ally Fate point pool (a tricky one which should be evaluated carefully depending on your other Fate dial settings).
  • Access to a set of extra consequence slots which introduce ally-related complications and may reduce access to the full options of the ally extra (Atomic Robo has some interesting ideas about group consequence slots which you may wish to mine for the resolution and long-term impacts of these consequences).

Naturally the extra will have to get fine-tuned according to each ally's situation: some stunts don't make sense without associated high-rank skills, and that's something you'll have to figure out. Maybe the extra lets the PC use the skill at the ally's full rank, or maybe you modify the stunt somehow. Individual tweaking is necessary to fit the narrative, as always. Think about what the ally brings to the fight, and design an extra which grants that to the PC who's teaming up with the ally.

This controls gameplay complications for the GM because there aren't more turns in an exchange, and the players (rather than the GM) are keeping track of the ally's mechanics.

As a cost for the extra, I suggest again taking a page from Atomic Robo, and increasing the enemies' Fate points in proportion with the power granted by the ally extra: this makes the fight more high-octane and shows just why it's good the allies were there to help!

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