Specifically, one of my players was a Monk who focussed on pressure points to disable limbs or even entire bodies. I handled these through adding a "paralysed" aspect to the target, but this did turn out to be quite powerful because it allowed her to render many opponents partially or entirely powerless with a single Create Advantage check.

Should it be done differently? Is "paralysed" too powerful an aspect for Create Advantage and should it be the result of taking someone out in a conflict? Should there be a limit to what is a reasonable Aspect to place on a person? If "Aspects are always true" then until the target Overcomes the Aspect many are practically powerless (as they can't really fight or run) which seems a bit much to me.

But since this style of calm, quick and non-harmful engagement with opponents is very fitting with the character (and made the sudden change to clubbing a dragon over the head with a crowbar because she "wasn't trained in dragon anatomy" all the more awesome) I'd really like to keep it, but I don't want it to trivialize encounters with more powerful opponents and I'm not sure how to do that.


3 Answers 3


There's a couple ways you can handle this. Mix and match as you like; each probably works fine on its own or in conjunction with others.

Use existing mechanics to make stunning more significant.

So your character can impose a condition on someone that significantly debilitates them? We've got a mechanic for that, it's called a "consequence." Perhaps you'd like to take a stunt to help you impose them:

Viper Strike. When you succeed with style on an unarmed attack with Combat, spend a Fate point to prevent your target from checking a stress box to absorb harm.

And stunning someone takes 'em out of the conflict, right? We've got a mechanic for that; it's called "taken out." Most NPCs don't take consequences, so your stunt will let you drop them very quickly!

Restrict stunning to make it less powerful.

By the flavour you've described, perhaps "stunned" should be a boost rather than a full aspect. Flavour the monk's boosts this way but restrict full-aspect stuns in one or more of the ways laid out elsewhere in this answer. Boosts are hard to create deliberately, but they show up a lot. Now the monk's attack actions can stun when he succeeds with style, for example! Again, a stunt may be appropriate:

Stone Strike. Whenever you place the boost Stunned on a target, you get a second free invoke on that boost.

Alternately, limit the stun by restricting it to a particular limb or area of the body per aspect (you'll get a feel for how much works well). Make the target Lame or give them a Locked-up right arm rather than stunning them outright.

Give the target a bonus to their opposing roll.

This is the brute-force technique. The monk is trying to do something very difficult, so the target number is higher. Simple, straightforward, but might leave a sour taste in the player's mouth.

Make stunning impossible.

This is lame as a blanket ban on stunning effects. It's just not fun to say "no" to such a flavourful attack!

However, perhaps enemies who have studied the monk will show up with aspects like Armoured chi points which the party must remove before the stunning attacks can work. And never discount the value of zombies or robots to put a strategy like that in the wind.

Whatever you do, go for the story.

The important thing is that the mechanics reflect the story. It's easy to get caught up in balancing stuff for Fate, but never forget to return to the narrative the mechanics are meant to be modelling. Don't sacrifice story for balance because that tends to make things Less Awesome.

  • \$\begingroup\$ When you say "make it a boost instead", the idea is this allows the stun to fade on its own, without requiring the target to Overcome it, right? And the player would opt to Create an Advantage and then replace a weaker (but longer lasting) Aspect with a stronger (but short duration) Boost? Or do you mean it's only when the player happens to create a Boost instead of something else that this happens? \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Commented May 11, 2015 at 11:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ I also think the Viper Strike stunt is a great one to allow dramatic incapication of even more powerful enemies, without cutting combat too short (which would make them less dramatic again) I'm keeping that one in mind. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Commented May 11, 2015 at 11:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Erik Fate has a mechanic to convert a Boost into a full-blown Aspect. It's called Promoting Boosts. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 12:14

I generally agree that somebody being completely stunned feels like a Taken Out result rather than a Create Advantage - after all, someone completely paralyzed is pretty much out of the conflict, right? If you think of most movies, TV shows, or books, the "paralyzing attack" is generally something that occurs at the end of the fight, not the beginning.

That said, in addition to the other answer, there's a number of things that you can do to get the flavor you want.

Passive Opposition

One of the common effects that an aspect can have is to provide passive opposition. So being Stunned might provide a passive opposition of +2 or whatever to various actions that the stunned character makes.

In practice, this ends up being as a floor for the roll of the other character when active opposition is being used. So if you're Stunned and attacking me, then I know that no matter how badly I roll on my defense, I always have a minimum of a defense roll of 2.

In a recent game I ran, I had ghoul-like undead who had typical D&D-esque paralyzation. I handled this exactly in that way. A Create Advantage that laid a Paralyzed effect slowed down the PCs, and provided passive opposition to nearly any physical action.

I personally prefer passive opposition to handing out bonuses, as bonuses can degrade into either having things that can't succeed/fail, or having people arguing for justifications for bonuses for every single aspect or fact in play. YMMV, of course.

Permissions and Denials

Actions take place in the fiction of the world before they're translated to rules. One of the things that being Stunned can do is to make certain actions simply impossible for the Stunned character, or conversely to make certain actions possible that would otherwise be impossible.

Probably the best example for narrative denial of action would be Spider-Man webbing someone. They can break out of the web, and there's things they can do, so they're clearly not Taken Out, but while they're in the web, there's a number of things they can't do. For instance, they can't go somewhere else, and you could make a good argument that they can't dodge out of the way of anything (at the very least, they'd have quite a bit of passive opposition).

A different type of permission actually goes back to the "attack" in the first place. Having a certain technique might allow a character to attack certain opponents that otherwise would not be attackable. You might have an NPC with a Toughened Skin aspect that made it so that most normal punches/kicks did nothing to him. However, in that case, a Paralyzing Nerve Attack would likely bypass it.


A create advantage action does just that. It creates advantages. It does not defeat opponents. There's the attack action for the latter.

So if the action is successful and the advantage is created, it is supposed to be something that makes life harder for the target but not something that renders them unable to continue.

A complete paralysis like the one you mentioned sounds like the result of being taken out by the monk. An advantage would be, for example, paralyzing an arm, so that the target is in a very tight spot and it becomes easier for the monk to finish the job in the next exchange.

I suppose you should ask your player to redefine his desired advantage as something that does not put the target out of the fight.

If the monk's intent is to knock his opponent out right now, then just make it an attack action, and the monk can say that the target is completely paralyzed and unable to move, if he can manage to take them out.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I like to say "to take someone out, you have to Take them Out." You can't remove someone from the Conflict without going through the normal stress track, etc. For this to make sense, you have to remember that Stress isn't damage - it's pacing. \$\endgroup\$
    – kyoryu
    Commented May 17, 2015 at 23:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @kyoryu, agreed :) \$\endgroup\$
    – edgerunner
    Commented May 18, 2015 at 6:04

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