I'm running a Fate Core game with Free-Form Professions as skill list. Now different actions may be more or less difficult from the perspective of different skills. Breaking into a house unseen should work both with the Thug and with the Cat Burglar, but is different in difficulty.

Setting passive opposition of such an obstacle to an appropriate value is one thing. I even thought I had read some notes on this in the Toolkit, but I cannot find it it the SRD online.

However, how do I make up for the difference in a roll with active opposition from another character with an explicit skill? In our last session (the setting is Ancient Greece), the Thug +4 was trying to get away unseen after breaking and entering into a Villa, where a Watchman +1 was on duty. I felt that this should be quite difficult, despite the large difference in skills in favour of the Thug (which would give the Thug about 95% chance to get away, modulo invoking aspects). However, when Cat Burglar tries to break into a house which has a Gossiper around (assuming it has been established that a Gossiper pays attention to what's going on in the neighbourhood, but is mostly concerned with gathering and spreading rumours), not being seen should be very easy for the Cat Burglar.

It feels like there should be some situational bonuses for the Watchman to detect the Thug. In the scene in our session, I gave the Watchman an arbitrary bonus, but that felt wrong, because generally situational bonuses in Fate come from Aspects. How do I deal with this discrepancy?

The solutions I can see are as follows.

  • Different professions allow different actions, and different Advantages to be created. Therefore, the Cat Burglar will have had the chance to case the house, and the Policeman will have had the chance of setting up a professional observation post. The ultimate roll will be just skill vs. skill, but there should be aspects around to modify the difficulty. The disadvantage of this approach is that it always requires setup.
  • There is no reason to not use situational modifiers in this situation, and therefore to give the Cat Burglar a +3 to remain unseen (or similar)
  • Profession skills are in some way themselves Aspects, so the Cat Burglar could invoke that this is at the core of what being a Cat Burglar is about, and gain +2 for the cost of a FP, so could the Policeman in the opposite example.

Is there a good case to prefer any of these or a totally different solution?

  • \$\begingroup\$ In case I'm missing something, I must ask - is there some reason why this can't be just solved by giving the opposition Policeman profession skill a high (If it is, for instance, a good, experienced policeman) or low (if he`s just a rookie) rate, like +4 or +1 and be good with it? Or is it the question about narrative common sense, that a policeman should always be better in spotting the bulglar then common gossiper and have some mechanical representation of that? \$\endgroup\$
    – DM Nailz
    Oct 24, 2014 at 13:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's about the narrative common sense. Adjusting the opposition's skill is not an option when established characters with established skill lists are in conflict with each other. \$\endgroup\$
    – Anaphory
    Oct 24, 2014 at 13:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is there some reason why, in your example, a bystander (Policeman near house or Gossiper) is presenting an Active Opposition to someone breaking into the house? Are they guarding that house or just beign near and possibly could hear someone is breaking into it? \$\endgroup\$
    – DM Nailz
    Oct 24, 2014 at 14:23
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I really see these 2 as aspects rather than skills to be honest. Example 1: "Since I am a Cat Burglar, i'll spend some time to gather intelligence/plan/pick the best tools for the job" - invoke the aspect to get a +2 to create an advantage. Example 2: "Since I am a Street Ganger, I'm not exactly stealhy when I try to break into a house, and there's a Policeman nearby... Damn my luck! (GM hands over a fate point)" \$\endgroup\$
    – STT LCU
    Oct 24, 2014 at 14:27
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @STTLCU: After some discussion in the character generation phase, we as a group decided that we liked Professions best to represent the types of challenges we want to see in the game. And since they are one of the suggested options in the Toolkit, I assume someone has actually used them before and run into this same problem (or can tell me why not). Wrapping the skills into aspects and play skill-less, as described a few pages later, is orthogonal to this question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Anaphory
    Oct 24, 2014 at 14:52

2 Answers 2


I'd go with specifying goals (getting past the guard unseen) rather than actions (sneaking past the guard), and expecting results based on the profession used, like having the Cat Burglar sneak in through rooftops, the Con Man weasel his way in or the Thug knock the guard out first.

  • \$\begingroup\$ So, the “getting out of the building unseen” difficulty is independent of the approach, given that you do it the way you are best at, and if some situational modifiers would be appropriate, they must come from invoking Aspects? \$\endgroup\$
    – Anaphory
    Oct 29, 2014 at 13:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, the difficulty is the guard's "Guard" profession rating, plus the aspects invoked on his behalf. \$\endgroup\$
    – edgerunner
    Oct 29, 2014 at 15:43

With your professions as skills approach, I see some options:

1. the GM specify different difficulties for different skills

Pretty straightforward, but this works only against passive opposition: a roll on Thug must beat 4 while a roll on Burglar only a 1, for example.

2. Treat your skills as Aspects

If one of your players is a Burglar, this makes sense that he can invoke that to improve/reroll the result. At the same time, because he's a Burglar, he may be notorious in some taverns, or marketplace... This seems a good definition of a double-edged aspect.

To close in your specific example, simply roll Thug or Burglar vs Watchman as they are, but invoke/compel as needed to make things interesting.

Example 1: "Since I am a Cat Burglar, i'll spend some time to gather intelligence/plan/pick the best tools for the job" - invoke the aspect to get a +2 to create an advantage.

Example 2: "Since I am a Street Ganger, I'm not exactly stealhy when I try to break into a house, and there's a Policeman nearby... Damn my luck! (GM hands over a fate point)"

3. Define stricter relationships between skills

This is basically a stronger version of #1. You and your players should define how each profession should interact with each other (as the standard did with Notice vs Stealth and Fight vs Athletics for example). You can introduce situational bonuses inherent to specific confrontations, but I'm afraid this is getting a bit too crunchy. If this is ok with your players, though, feel free to try it.

I personally suggest the option #2. It has the least mechanical impact with more opportunities for invokes and compels, which is never bad. After all, a Thug +4 isn't the last guy in the block and should know pretty well how NOT to alert Watchmen nearby.


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