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I've been a fan of Fate for a long while now, but I'm just now getting ready to run it for the first time, and I'm going over the rules to make sure I understand all the basics. So, the attack/defend action in Fate Core has as standard the idea that if either side ever gets a success with style, they have the option of reducing their final result by 1 to gain a boost.

But what happens when (for example) a +2 or re-roll is sufficient, on an attack roll, to beat the defender's result by 3 again? Can the attacker just reduce again and gain another boost, which could help him yet again in the third exchange?

This seems to me to promote an issue of unstoppable momentum, which I suppose is flavorful and appropriate in certain situations, but could really often lead to an endless cascade of boosts in which a player always has the advantage after one roll really goes his way. I guess my core question is "What exactly determines whether a roll has met the conditions for a success with style, the initial result or the result after bonuses have been added from invocations or boosts?" Or am I misunderstanding something entirely here?

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No, in practice, there's no boost perpetual motion machine. You'll usually just use that boost up and that'll be it.

There interruptions for that perpetual motion machine are pretty simple and common:

  1. You have to roll the dice. You're not just effortlessly always going to succeed with style, or even necessarily succeed. Fairly often you'll get a +1 to defend against a +2 attack, spend your boost to succeed on your defense, and... nothing special happens. (Sometimes you'll even be defending against an attack of +8 or +9, and you'll be spending that boost just to minimise the harm.)

  2. Conflicts involve more than just attack/defend ad infinitum. If you're just doing that, you're ignoring two extremely powerful resources: create advantage, and overcome. Recent conflicts in my group have involved the following:

    • Intimidating an enormous sandworm (CA).
    • Entangling its mandibles in bolas (CA), trying and failing to wrestle it to the ground and into submission (CA), and it breaking free (Overcome).
    • Getting swallowed up by a sandworm (CA). Gulp! Those of us still on the outside shortly afterward worked with them to blow the sandworm up from the inside, destroying a sacred temple in the process. Oops.
    • A plant mutant smothering enemies in vines to subdue them (CA).
    • Someone punching a giant rock door into rubble (Overcome).
  3. Often the shifts of attack are more valuable, so you'll opt to keep them.

Boosts are also super transient, as Ryan Macklin wrote about:

Once you invoke the boost, it goes away. They go away on their own fairly quickly—usually after the next action when you could use them—so use them as soon as possible!

This also makes them relatively effortless to invalidate. Maybe you put Startled on the thug, but next turn you suddenly have something more urgent to focus on — your teammate's in trouble and you have to run for them to get them out of it! You won't have time to take advantage of that Startled boost before the thug's feeling composed again.

Trading boosts forward leads to narrative progress and fun, anyway.

Even when you're trading one boost for another by using it to get success with style on a roll, you're not just moving a number around: you're trading one narrative advantage for another.

This not only keeps the +2 around because the boost would fade otherwise, it moves the story forward and keeps things fun. Each successive boost gives you new narrative positioning from which to try new actions which wouldn't otherwise be reasonable, potentially leading to increasingly ridiculous (and fun!) advantages.

Sometimes you'll be in a position to trade a free invoke or a fate point for a boost. At times this will be a downgrade, because boosts are more temporary, and fate points are more capable to boot. However, when new narrative positioning would be helpful, the trade-off could be quite worthwhile.


I'll correct something else you said about how boosts are acquired:

So, the attack/defend action in FATE Core has as standard the idea that if either side ever gets a success with style, they have the option of reducing their final result by 1 to gain a boost.

Defending with style gets a boost automatically. Only with attack do you have to reduce the value of your hit by 1 to get the boost. (Our group rarely sees success with style on defend attempts. Usually they'd require an invoke or two, and people won't do that just for the boost.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Ahh, you were right, I had oversimplified my understanding of the exchange mechanic. In any case, this makes perfect sense. Thank you very much (and thank you for the flavorful explanation, too!). \$\endgroup\$ – David K Nov 24 '15 at 4:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks. I just drastically shortened that flavorful explanation, so I hope I didn't cut out anything important and useful. (Did I?) \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Nov 24 '15 at 4:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not at all, ahahaha, though I kind of want to know what happened to the person who got eaten by the sandworm! \$\endgroup\$ – David K Nov 24 '15 at 4:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DavidK That was a fun bit. I put that back and filled in what happened. 8) \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Nov 24 '15 at 4:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Even in cases where you're trading one boost for another by using it to get success with style on a roll, you're not just moving a number around: you're trading one narrative advantage for another. This not only keeps the +2 around because the boost would fade otherwise; it moves the story forward and gives you a narrative advantage in a place that may be more useful for the changing situation. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Nov 24 '15 at 5:03
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In another perspective; the odds of getting such a chain of boosts are small enough to make it really interesting when it actually does happen.

With a Skill of +1, You have a 2.71% chance of getting a chain of three boosts if you can use them all the time to get the next. That is much smaller than the chances of a "critical succcess" most other game systems give you.

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