It seems like the quick approach dominates defense against physical attacks, especially against projectiles. During a recent session we had a lot of ranged attacks made (especially by cyber-wolves who fired lasers from their tails), and often the only defense anybody could come up with was, "I quickly dive for cover".

One character had a stunt that gave a bonus when carefully defending against physical attacks, but we couldn't figure out how he would make use of it: by definition, the careful approach entails taking your time to get it right, which doesn't really make sense when (for example) dealing with incoming laser bolts. In another case a character tried to swat an incoming bola out of the air, and we all agreed that that was quick, since it was primarily about reacting in time to get a blade in the way.

Are we doing something wrong, or is combat really supposed to be all about quickly defending?


2 Answers 2


When it comes to mechanics & narrative, Fate can be a juggling act

For as much as narrative descriptions are the lifeblood of a game of Fate, you do need to think about the mechanics, too, to get the game to run smoothly. It sounds a little like you are focusing on some of the mechanics, but in the wrong spots. I think you need to switch your focus.

Narrative descriptions such as in @Christopher's answer above, are great examples of ways to mix up the narrative portion of "avoiding a laser", but you and your group can easily slip into a rut of just shoe-horning "I highest-approachly dodge the laser" as every defense, which may not end up being very satisfying.

Step out of the act and into the intent

You need to separate the why of an attack from the how of it being carried out.

Fate can be a little different from other games in terms of how combat works. It can be an easy habit to treat it like other games which model a specific task at a specific moment i.e. a laser is coming at me, what do I do?

As much as attacks in Fate represent this action-to-cause-harm, what they mechanically are is a little different. An attack in Fate is an attempt to move an opponent closer to Taken Out. Period.

This frees up your reactions to focus on "these cyber-wolves are trying to kill us with lasers!" and not "I have a specific laser coming at me right now".

Put it back together

There's definitely a difference between "How can I avoid this specific attack?" vs "How can I make an attack against me fail?" The former is reactive, while the latter is proactive.

This paradigm shift should help you understand how to bring some of the other approaches into the narrative. Approaches that seemed implausible as answers to the first question could still be good answers to the second question.

You may be hard-pressed to describe carefully dodging an attack, but you can survive an attack by carefully avoiding it with good use of cover.

I've never heard of sneaking out of the way of an oncoming laser, but I can understand how you might sneakily trick a cyber-wolf into shooting lasers where you're not standing.

For example:


GM: "The wolves shoot a laser right at you!"
Dice happen, the wolves fail.
PC: "I cleverly see it coming and get out of the way!"


GM: "The wolves bring their lasers to bear at you!"
Dice happen, the wolves fail.
PC: "I've noticed the lasers come in 2-second intervals (clever) and time my movements between those intervals"

Additional examples

GM: "The wolves bring their lasers to bear at you!"
Dice happen, the wolves fail.
PC: "As the wolf's tail comes up, I shoot out the closest wall-outlet. It spews forth a shower of sparks (flashy), confounding the wolf's targeting computer"

GM: "The wolves bring their lasers to bear at you!"
Dice happen, the wolves fail.
PC: "I toss my scarf out from the right side of the pillar while I dive to the left (sneaky)"

Side note—the same model of thinking can be applied to consequences, too. Narrate the outcome of the intent, not the outcome of the specific action. Taking a laser in the arm, twisting your ankle trying to dodge, and catching some shrapnel when lasers blast into the rocks you're hiding behind are all valid ways to describe being harmed by the attack.


It All Depends on Your Narration

  • Careful defense actions are difficult in combat, you are correct, and is more useful for active action
  • Clever defense actions can include calculating the trajectory of an attack, noticing the hesitation before the attack, or even using a feint
  • Flashy defense actions are all about style! Acrobatic leaps off of walls, slinging insults at the attacker, and things of that nature
  • Forceful defense actions are just standing there and taking it; armour, force fields, and shields are the mainstay of the Forceful defense
  • Quick defense actions are easy enough for your group, it seems
  • Sneaky defense actions can include hiding behind someone else, making good use of cover, and using fun toys like smoke bombs or illusions/holograms decoys

Fate is a versatile game, but players and GMs can easily get into ruts by narrating the same thing over and over again. Especially in FAE, where players want to use their highest approach, the characters can seem like one-trick ponies.

Just keep in mind that just because you're doing something involving movement doesn't mean it's always Quick. Flashy specifically can be very movement-intensive, but if it's about "hey, look at me!", it's not Quick.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Careful sounds to me like most of your defense action is done before anything happens. "I keep my eyes on the creature and make sure I'm ready to sidestep as soon as it raises it's tail." sounds like a careful defense to me. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Commented Nov 2, 2015 at 7:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Erik: you could also bring the active part into the present, based on what you carefully prepped i.e. "having carefully studied the creature's patterns, I easily sidestep its tail as it comes crashing down" \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 0:42

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