I'm interested in the mechanics of heroically throwing yourself in front of a shooting attack against an ally. (As distinct from, say, a prolonged period of actively defending an ally from multiple attacks.)

In the Fate Core section on resolving attacks, there's a note:

If, for whatever reason, you want to forego your defense and take a hit (like, say, to interpose yourself in the path of an arrow that’s about to skewer your friend), you can.

Because you’re not defending, the attacker’s rolling against Mediocre (+0) opposition, which means you’re probably going to take a bad hit.

I don't understand how this takes place in the turn order of conflict. FC doesn't have the concept of delayed or triggered actions, so how can a character interrupt an attack made against an ally? On their turn before the attack, the attack won't have been made; on their turn after, it will already have been resolved. If they just move on their turn so that they're shielding their ally, why wouldn't their defence just be as per normal?

What would a turn-by-turn account of this kind of action look like?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Possible duplicate of How does defending on behalf of others work in Fate Core? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 3, 2015 at 4:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think this is a duplicate because it's about action priority and turn order, which the other question implies but doesn't address. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Dec 3, 2015 at 4:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think the other question is also a little more vague. There's a difference between "defending someone else" (ie. for a prolonged period of time) and throwing yourself in the path of one single attack. \$\endgroup\$
    – detly
    Dec 3, 2015 at 4:14

1 Answer 1


You're right, Fate doesn't have triggered actions... so defending isn't an action in the sense that it consumes a limited resource. You do it when you face an attack, whenever you face an attack, however often you face an attack.

All the "defend another" choice does is change who's at risk and making the roll. If you jump in front of a bullet for someone, the narrative says that now you're being attacked instead of that person: simply by declaring that you're in the way of an attack, you get to defend against it. If there's a catch or a limit to this choice (beyond taking the fallout if your defence fails), it's this: you have to be in a narrative position to justify taking the bullet. If you're too far away, for example, you just can't do it.

Here's a (slightly abridged for clarity) example from one of my games a few months ago.

Zexpyralis's player starts his turn. The GM suggests that, given his aspect My wrath knows no bounds, it's reasonable that the cyborg dragon would take offence at what the dwarf king just said. Zex's player agrees to the compel and takes the offered Fate point. Then Zex uses his once-per-session Fire Breath stunt to attack the entire dwarven delegation/army. The negotiation is about to turn into a war. The GM picks up his dice because being targeted by an attack means the dwarves will defend against it.

Vogue's player decides that, as a Knightly telekinetic under orders from his boss to keep things peaceful, he's going to have to stop this. He tells the group that Vogue (who is very near Zex) jumps in front of Zex and uses his Force skill to roll defence on behalf of all the dwarves at once by containing the fireball in a force field. He's going to take a LOT of stress, but it's in character and he's built for this sort of punishment.

The GM puts down his dice because Vogue is taking the attack instead of the dwarves. Zex rolls his attack and Vogue rolls his defence. When the smoke clears Vogue has some nasty consequences from the effort of containing such a massive fireball--but nobody else got hurt!

That's the end of Zex's turn, so the party's Stone-faced diplomat steps up next to convince the dwarves it was all a staged performance, and the king is very impressed.

As you can see, the mechanics were driven by the narrative of the scene and the whole thing happened on one player's turn. Had Vogue been too far away to justify using the Force to contain the fireball, the other players would have called him on it and he wouldn't have been able to do it because it didn't make sense. If you want to talk about it in terms of triggering and actions, Defend is a free action triggered by being in the way of an Attack action.

  • \$\begingroup\$ So during a conflict, you could have, eg. "[GM] the mook fires a bolt at Bob!" / "[Alice] I leap in front of it!" — at this point, the GM would roll the attack, Alice, not Bob, would roll defence, and the turn order would just continue as usual? \$\endgroup\$
    – detly
    Dec 3, 2015 at 5:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ (It might be obvious by now that this question, and my comments, are very much in the context of someone used to D&D and similar systems. It's entirely possible that I need to unlearn a few things before trying to interpret the Fate rules.) \$\endgroup\$
    – detly
    Dec 3, 2015 at 5:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @detly Yes. In fact, Alice could conceivably jump in front of every attack in the session, if she wanted. Which would be awesome. She'd probably need some kind of genre-appropriate narrative permission to do it, such as super speed in a superhero campaign, or wanting to stop a fight between two implacable enemies who should be allies in a shonen manga, but it's possible. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Dec 3, 2015 at 6:47

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