In Fate's narrative-first approach, you're supposed to decide what's going to happen first and then consult the rules to decide how to do it.

Imagine the following sequence as a narrative-first approach:

The player characters Anne, Beth, and Claire are involved in a fight with the villain of this scenario in what's supposed to be be a somewhat climactic scene. Let's say they're engaged in martial combat on a bridge. After a few rounds, Anne gets Taken Out: the bad guy gives her a swift kick to the side, and she rolls off the side of the bridge. Then Beth gets taken out, leaving Claire face-to-face with a boss she can't handle.

Just as the boss is about to land the final blow on Claire and finish the game, Anne appears out of nowhere, gives the boss a swift blow to the back of the head (Taking him Out, of course) and ends up saving the day. If asked later, Anne will say that she held on to the railing of the bridge and pulled herself back up instead of falling into the river below.

This is a pretty common trope, especially in action movies, and when it's done well it's interesting. Fate is the kind of game that says you should always go with the most interesting option. And sometimes that means a player is going to want to pull this off as a final surprise in order to have an awesome memorable moment and help her friends out at the same time...

But Fate doesn't really have a mechanic for this.

The best idea I can come up with is "Spend a Fate Point to come back, but you have to keep all stress that you gained before being taken out. Maybe add an extra consequence on top."

I wonder if that's too easy. Is this a sufficient way to handle it? Does anybody else have a way that they pull off scenes like this? Is there a mechanism for this in the rules that I'm just missing?


5 Answers 5


The Taken Out rule and what it does is one of the most important rules in Fate I think, and I would not go about changing it. That is unfair to the players and the GM as it means you can no longer mechnically rely on anything actually removing another actor from a combat, if they can come up with a good enough reason to be back.

(It can also be easily gamed by the players by being Taken Out by big hits without taking any consequences and then just trying to narrate themselves in after)

Rather than changing one of the few rules the system has, maybe we can work with the system to make this happen. I see two approaches: one doesn't change mechanics at all, the other borrows from an existing mechanic but gives it a bigger pay-off at a bigger cost.

Without changing mechanics

If a player would like to set up a second-wind comeback, they take an action to Create Advantage and make an advantage along the likes of Only appears to be knocked out or On the floor catching my breath.

This would most likely get opponents to stop paying attention to her and lets the player think about her next move (and maybe even taking some more advantages while down like this, like Steeling my resolve or Remembering what's at stake) before picking her time to charge back into the fray (with a load of free invokes, so she'll be coming back with a bang)

Borrowing some mechanics

This one will have more serious impact on your game, but if you want the really hefty kind of second wind, maybe you'll find it interesting. There is a sample stunt called Hard Boiled under the Will skill. It allows you to ignore a mental consequence for the duration of a scene, at the cost of it coming back worse after.

To represent a second wind, you can allow a character to spend Fate to temporarily ignore all the current consequences, effectively giving them more of a buffer to work with. This shouldn't let them come back from being Taken Out, but if they are on the ground with Guts rolling out, the ability to return with a few fresh consequence slots to take more beating and denying the enemy to invoke the current ones is very strong.

I would word it like this:

Second Wind: once during a scenario, you can spend one Fate Point per consequence you have to temporarily erase all your consequences. They can no longer be invoked and any free invocations on them are lost. You can take new consequences in all the freed slots.

At the end of the scene, all your old consequences return. If the slot they occupied was already filled, you must move them to a higher level slot (making the description worse in the progress). If you cannot do so, your character is immediately Taken Out and their Fate is up to the GM.

This makes it expensive, dangerous and very powerful. And gives you one of the most natural consequences of second wind for free: it can very well cripple you to go beyond your limits.

I think this version is more suited to gritty games, while the first one is more suited for heroic games as the first lets you do this and gives you a bonus for it, assuming you set it up in the narrative, while the second lets you do it without any set-up but might very well kill you at the end of the scene. (Which can be totally awesome, of course.)

Short movie clip for reference of the second version: the final battle from 13th warrior. A terribly wounded king marches to the front of his men, recites an inspiring prayer and then fights like a true warrior despite all his wounds... but at the end of the battle sits down on his throne and just dies.


Rather than actually being taken out, Anne's player should have used Create an Advantage to have Anne appear to be taken out, presumably placing an appropriate situation aspect like "Anne appears to be taken out" or an aspect on the Villain like "Overconfident" or "Unaware Anne's grabbed onto the railing" or somesuch, narrating her as having been hit off the edge by the villain yet barely holding on unbeknownst to them. Just because the narration involves Anne being hit doesn't mean Anne needs to take any stress, or that the narrative action needs to be invoked by someone other than Anne's player.


What better Fate mechanic to model a narrative twist like that than the often overlooked compel?

If Anne's player has any Fate points remaining, she can try to find an appropriate aspect on Anne, the villain or the environment and offer a compel to the GM. The GM as usual, can accept or refuse.

You may think that being taken out means Anne cannot do anything, but the taken out result isn't always that incapacitating. Being taken out prevents Anne from taking the four actions (Overcome, Create Advantage, Attack and Defend), but there's no reason she can't still be part of the story.

And also, Anne being taken out does not mean that Anne's player is out of the game. She, as a player, can still offer or accept/refuse compels.

So she can just use "bottomless ledge", "hard to kill" or "overconfident villain" as an excuse to compel the GM, and twist the story. (by the way, any other player can do the same). The GM may refuse, but at least she gets a Fate point for that refusal.


That's what fate points are for - for dramatic twists of fate. The hero catches their breath, grits their teeth, goes on the offensive... and spends a bunch of fate points. But you're after something greater, it would seem.

First things first. The only way to take someone out is to either fill up all of their stress boxes and consequence slots, or for them to consent to being taken out. When a character does the latter, they do so because they don't want to risk any more consequences. They accept not being a part of the scene any more in exchange for a more-or-less intact character and the ability to have input into the narrative outcome. It would be against the rules and the spirit of the game to then go "oh, no, wait a minute, after seeing how things turn out I actually want to change it."

But it would also be against the spirit of the game to say "no, you can't do that awesome thing." If the explanation is good enough, if the scene is good enough, go right ahead and come back - as an exception to the rules. Invoking an aspect to declare a story detail and return with all the accrued stress, like you suggest, sounds reasonable. You could even make a stunt out of it for more reliable use.

However, this situation doesn't have to be modeled in precisely this way. Maybe Anne didn't get taken out, but got Thrown Off The Bridge instead, and now has to somehow Overcome that aspect to re-join the fight. Maybe GM expects she's gone, but Anne's player spends a fate point to declare there was railing to grab on to and she's a Dinosaur Ninja so of course she grabbed onto it.

If you want such situations to come up, set up the events to enable them.


I think your solution falls more or less in the "spend a Fate point to introduce a fact" mechanic. After that you could treat the character like if he/she had one free stress box so if the enemy succesfully hits him/her is taken out again (this time, though, the character wouldn't be able to come back).

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