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In the Fate Core manual, stress is only ever mentioned in the context of conflict. For example:

stress represents the ephemeral toll of participating in a conflict

(My emphasis.) Also, the mechanics of stress are only delved into during the conflict section.

Can stress be taken during challenges or contests as well? Say, if a character experiences some physical or mental toll during a challenge eg. running through toxic smoke, trying to talk while being heckled? Or should these things simply be situational aspects that provide opposition? If the character fails an overcome roll, can the "success at a cost" option include the cost of a stress box being taken? Might it actually go straight to a consequence instead (and if so, should it follow the same rules as for conflict ie. if you fail by 4, it's a moderate consequence)?

Note that when I ask "can," I mean not only RAW/RAI/"it's the spirit of Fate!" but: is it a good idea, or will it break the game?

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Here is my emphasis on the same sentence

stress represents the ephemeral toll of participating in a conflict

In other words, stress does not carry over into the next scene.

A contest or a challenge is a scene of its own, but there's no provision for taking someone out in them. This makes stress irrelevant in these types of scenes. And since stress goes away at the end of the scene, it becomes doubly pointless.

It would work if you apply all the stress-related mechanics into a contest, but then there's very little difference between the modified contest and a full blown conflict.

However, consequences do last longer, and it is perfectly acceptable to use them instead in challenges and contests.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Good point about the "ephemeral" part. I hadn't really dwelt on that bit. Do you think the consequence slot should be decided by how badly you fail a roll, or perhaps a little more loosely than during combat? \$\endgroup\$ – detly Dec 2 '15 at 23:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ Well, the numbers on the consequences work as given. Take that number as a bonus, so then you hopefully succeed, and the consequence itself is the cost of that success. \$\endgroup\$ – edgerunner Dec 3 '15 at 9:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ I like that. I thought I remembered something else about this too, and I found it: the silver rule (The most common example of this has to do with consequences) and success at a cost (Check one of the PC’s stress boxes. Careful with this one—it’s only a real cost if the PC’s likely to take more hits in the same scene). \$\endgroup\$ – detly Dec 3 '15 at 21:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ You might also want to quote succeed at cost - minor cost's last bullet point: "Check one of the PC’s stress boxes. Careful with this one—it’s only a real cost if the PC’s likely to take more hits in the same scene. If you don’t think that’s going to happen, go with another choice." \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Dec 24 '15 at 14:04
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Stress can be taking outside of combat. Especially if you're dealing with mental attacks, horror and sanity. The consequences should reflect the situational types of damage.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you please edit in your experience to fully answer the querent's question by addressing "is it a good idea, or will it break the game?" and clarifying some points? "Mental attacks" sounds like you're still talking about conflicts; Edgerunner has noted stress doesn't carry over from scene to scene so it's often better to not inflict small amounts of stress in scenes; and the only sanity-focused Fate system I know of doesn't use stress for it. What has your experience taught you about out-of-conflict stress that you can share to help the querent understand their options? \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Dec 20 '15 at 1:17
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To say that "only combat situations" can cause stress or consequences is SERIOUSLY limiting. If the above is applied as a hard rule, then by extension situations like "falling off cliff" or "drowning" cannot have any effects similar to combat and/or change the characters ability to meet physical or mental challenges in subsequent scenes. The more you allow circumstances to have real, potentially game changing effects, the more it gives certain situations, actions and behaviors legitimate danger and much better dramatic effect for the story. My rule of thumbs is any situation or contest that has the potential for physical or mental injury is just as valid as a source of stress and consequences as engaging in combat.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi, are you new to the Stackexchange sites? This seems like it'd be more appropriate as a comment on the answer, rather than an answer itself. Take a look at the tour for more info on how it works. \$\endgroup\$ – detly May 31 '17 at 3:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Regarding what you're saying re. Fate, the question focused on stress, not consequences. If you're referring to edgerunner's answer, note that they say consequences can be taken outside of conflict, but stress shouldn't be, because it disappears at the end of a scene anyway. \$\endgroup\$ – detly May 31 '17 at 4:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ Besides, you may be doing the system a big injustice if you only use the conflict system for combat situations. ;) \$\endgroup\$ – edgerunner Jun 3 '17 at 16:13

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