I'm currently GMing a game of Fate Core for a group of friends. The group has a range of experience with tabletop RPGs, including two total newbies. I have the most experience if the group, including around a decade of experience GMing for other systems.

We're all completely new to Fate, but so far are enjoying the system. I have read through the a Fate manual pretty thoroughly a few times, and other resources (blogs, YouTube, this StackExchange, etc) to prepare for this game. We just played the first session (well second, really: we did world-building and character-building previously, but ran out of time before we could play) and while most of it is going smoothly, I'm trying to figure out how to structure an extra for one of the characters.

We're playing in a setting in the not-too-distant future of our solar system. It ended up a little bit cyberpunk, a little bit Firefly, and a little bit Dune. Thanks to that last influence, there are various semi-mystical groups in the system with various mind-powers. One of the players has chosen to play a character with powers such as these. The idea is closest to Bene Gesserit training: mind-over-body and suggestion are the core of the trope.

Extras are one of the parts of Fate I understand least. They have the least amount of explanation in the book, and it mostly seems to be handwaved as "...and more!" This is clearly something that affects the narrative, so it should have an aspect permission, which his character already has. It involves actions, so should use skills and stunts, but here's where I start to get lost.

I don't really want to create a new skill just for mental powers. Existing skills that fit the bill are Lore and Will. Will fits better thematically, as the concept is more Zen meditation/yogic powers than psychic wizard, but I'm worried about making Will too important, since it already has value by providing mental stress boxes, and being the likely candidate for defense against intrusive mental powers from antagonists.

Stunts seem a good fit for specific mechanical use of powers. Things we have discussed are using the mental skill for fight (limited use or FP cost?), being able to "swap" skill values temporarily (at a cost), and being able to create temporary aspects on NPCs via suggestion. But in terms of cost, I'm really lost. Should access to these powers be a stunt? Should each power be a stunt? Should it cost refresh to take? Should it cost a Fate point to use? How often should it be usable?

This first session we ran it as "Fate point to use Will instead of Fight for one round" but that seemed too prohibitive. We also had "swap two skills levels. The benefit lasts through this scene, the negative lasts through the next scene" but it was never used. I've considered making the Fight one attack-but-not-defense, or possibly being able to use it for either, but only one at a time.

I'm really struggling to make this interesting without being overpowered (something the player also voiced concern about), but I'm still so new to the system that I don't have a good understanding of what the consequences of these changes would be.

So, RPGSE, can you help me out? How can I model subtle mental powers as an extra without ruining the balance with the other players?


3 Answers 3


In short, you're over-thinking it.

If I personally were to have to model this power, I'd make a new skill (dependent on the stunt as you've indicated) and call it a day. But since you don't want to do that, then yes, I feel that Will is your best bet. I don't feel that using it for a stunt is overpowered, because a lot of stunts rely on allowing you to use skills in place of other skills, and what you've described thus far is almost exactly like Zird's example Lore-based magic in the Core rulebook.

If you really need to limit the usage of the power, though (which, thematically isn't a bad idea) I wouldn't use Fate Points; it doesn't make sense, narratively, that you can only cast a spell when dramatically appropriate. I'd add a third stress track for magic, or simply have usage of the power cause Mental stress on a failed activation roll (for which I would still probably use Will).

The thing about skills in Fate is that you can pretty much use any skill to bullish!t your way through any situation as long as it makes narrative sense; an Advantage created with Stealth is no different, mechanically, than an Advantage created with Fight, and if the Stealth character has the Backstab stunt then he's using Stealth for combat anyway. Skills are broadly applicable, in other words, and Stunts allow them to be even more so. A clever player can figure out ways to use their good skills pretty much anywhere.

So yeah, in short; make it a skill, use Will, and if you need to limit it then cause mental stress either unconditionally or on a failed roll. It really shouldn't be a problem and going beyond that is probably just hamstringing the player.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I probably am overthinking it, that sounds like me. My biggest concern with using Will was that it would be too useful: essentially Fight + Physique, but both at Great/+4 \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 10, 2015 at 4:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ It would depend on a couple of things; how prevalent magic is, how useful it is (can it literally do anything?), and how easy it is to defend against. However, do note that one of the primary uses of Stunts is to allow a skill to do something it can't normally do, and that includes Physique and/or Will. You're not really doing anything differently, and if you created a new skill the player would just make that one +4 anyway. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sandalfoot
    Commented Mar 10, 2015 at 18:13

Conveniently enough, Evil Hat just released a world book through it's Patreon campaign, now available on Drive Thru RPG as a pay what you want release - Psychedemia.

It utilizes extras to simulate psionic abilities, so seems like it would be right up your alley.

The world itself is a science fiction setting where teenagers with nascent psychic abilities are trained by the military. But the psychic treatment can be divorced from the setting quite easily, as I used it to replace the model for psionics I was using in my Dresden Files campaign.

There are three psychic aptitudes: ESP, Psychokinesis, and Telepathy. The players have ratings in each of those areas, and each has its own use for overcome, create an advantage, attack, and defend. Each also has stunts associated with it, to represent training in different areas of the ability.

As this was sort of similar to what I was already doing, it slotted into the game very well, and is actually a lot simpler than what I was using.

  • \$\begingroup\$ There's also the Fate Toolkit, which has a bunch of magic systems and stuff on creating more. Worth a read if only to better understand how stunts work. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sandalfoot
    Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 22:30

"Extras" in Fate Core are customized rules that let the players use the basic system components (like aspects or stress boxes) beyond their original purpose.

First of all, consider if you want to keep your psychics system simple enough to keep within the core set of rules. You could just have some stunts that allow the attack action using willpower. Even just having an aspect mentioning psychic powers may be considered an excuse to do things like using rapport to create a "persuaded" aspect on someone as usual but with telepathy instead of talking.

Creating an extra for such things is IMO only worthwhile if you want the subject to be an important part of your game world.

If you decide to do so, think of the system components you want to use as a part of your extra.

Aspects give personality to whatever they are attached to. If your psychic powers have different flavors or quirks, you may want to define them using one or more aspects like "Disciple of the last Mentat" or "Peaceful telepathy".

Skills encourage differentation within characters that access the same extra. You could have broad skills like "Sense" and "Control" or more fine-grained ones like "Telekinesis", "Telepathy", "Clairvoyance" etc. with very specific effects. You can make them part of the standard skill pyramid, or if you have more than 4-5 of them, you could use a separate psychic powers pyramid.

Stress tracks are used to highlight potential areas of conflict in your game world. If the presence of psychic powers in your world threatens something at the fundamental level, you may want to invent a new stress track for it.

IMO the default Mental and Physical stress tracks would be fine for most uses of psychic powers, but for example you could also use a "Psyche" stress track to keep psychic conflict separate from an agressive verbal debate. Such a stress track could potentially be a part of every character in your system. Not just the empowered psychics.

Or you could use a default or invented stress track to absorb stress caused by using psychic powers. Maybe every psychic action you take taxes your mind/body/soul etc. You could use such a cost to balance/limit your powers.

These are the core components you can use to build your extra, and you can build upon these some more using compound components.

Consequence slots are combined aspect-stress-boxes. They let you take stress with personality. You could use your regular consequence boxes or introduce a separate set for psychic stuff.

Stunts as usual, let you invent new rules. You can build new stunts on top of your extra-specific components. For example, you may make a stunt called "Combat oracle: Once per scene, you can claim to have foreseen the results of another character's action and rewind time to take an action using your Clairvoyance skill in place of any other skill just before that. Your action can preemptively change the result of the one you have foreseen, by taking out the acting character, creating an extra advantage or by removing yourself as a potential target"


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