Let's say that I want to run a game in Fate Core where there are weak little critters, folk, heroes, legendary heroes, and gods, where the intent is that the players can go from folk all the way up to gods.

What modifications would I need to make to Fate Core to make this happen?

My main concerns are Skills and total point values: Aspects can change easily over time, but Skill Pyramids or Columns could get ridiculous at those upper ends.

A key factor in the whole thing is that I'd like for each of the levels to function the same way, such that I don't have to build completely separate writeups for a character at different power levels; I'd like characters to be able to "rank up" or down between the levels of power. In other words, I'd prefer a system that scales smoothly, instead of rebuilding at each power level.

In the fiction I'm working with, there are opportunities for the characters to pick fights with creatures outside their power level quite easily, so modeling higher-powered beings simply as Main NPCs (when they're not core to the story) seems a little off-putting.

Possible Directions

  • I've read the Fate Scaling rules, which seem like they could be a decent start, but I'm curious about how standard character advancement would function with using scaling as "levels." Would "ranking up" in total power level be determined by the GM, or the total point values of the characters, as in D&D? Would I have to degrade player's capabilities when that happens to smooth out the progression?

  • Along the same lines, I've read Ryan Maklin's approach here, which seems alright, but would force GMs to make rulings on a case-by-case basis for beings of much higher "level," i.e. whether a Folk character competing against a Legend is Overwhelming Scale or not seems ambiguous, at the moment at least. Perhaps I should simply define that 1 step is Scale and 2 is Overwhelming? (These scale rules are steep, too, and I'd have the same question when it comes to advancement.)


7 Answers 7


Use the Scale rules.

When two entities enter into a conflict with one another, the differences in their scale come into play. For every step that separates them, apply one or both of the following effects to the larger of the two:

  • +1 to the attack roll or +1 to the defense roll
  • Deal +2 shifts of harm on a successful attack or reduce incoming harm by 2

Of course, if the conflict is between two entities of roughly equivalent size or scale, then none of these effects applies. They only come into play when the scale is unequal.

There are two ways in which you can choose to apply the Scale rules—static or ad hoc. Both are valid uses of the Scale rules and each has their strong points.

Static—this means that NPCs, creatures, gods, etc. all have a static Scale ranking that doesn't change. The PCs Scale would change as you play, which would represent them growing in skill, e.g. "leveling up".

Scale ranks could be assigned broadly by groups (see below):

  • little critters (0)
  • folk (1)
  • heroes (2)
  • legendary heroes (3)
  • gods (4-10?)

You could also create larger gaps between groups:

  • little critters (0)
  • folk (1)
  • heroes (3)
  • legendary heroes (5)
  • gods (8+)

Ad hoc—this means that the Scale level of an opponent(s) depends on the circumstances, such as have the PCs encountered this foe before, how skilled are the PCs, and what the situation is for the encounter.

Here are some thoughts on that:

  • By default the players are Scale 2 (Heroes). This means that if they get into a fight with some drunks at the pub (Scale 1, folk) they get the benefits of scale in exchanges. So if they roll Defense they get either a +1 to the roll or Armor:2. If they attack they get +1 to the roll or Weapon:2.
  • The same PCs encounter an Ogre for the first time and you want it to be a big threat, so you assign it Scale 3, one above the PCs. They have a hard fight but they survive.
  • A few sessions later the PCs encounter a group of Ogres (not a mob, but 2-3 individual Ogres). Since they've fought an Ogre before, you decide that the Ogres are Scale 2, which is the same scale as the PCs so no one gets any bonuses.
  • Half a campaign later the players encounter a group of Ogres. The PCs have fought much nastier things and you decide that the Ogres shouldn't be as big a challenge for the PCs, so you give them Scale 1, which means that the PCs have bonuses when attacking them.
  • But then the party is split up by a rockslide! Two PCs are suddenly locked away from the rest of the group in a cave with two Ogres. This is a very dangerous situation and you assign Scale 3 (one above the PCs) to those two Ogres, making things very dangerous for those poor trapped PCs!

"I've read the Fate Scaling rules, which seem like they could be a decent start, but I'm curious about how standard character advancement would function with using scaling as "levels." Would "ranking up" in total power level be determined by the GM, or the total point values of the characters, as in D&D? Would I have to degrade player's capabilities when that happens to smooth out the progression?"

Scale can be used to reflect the skill level of the PCs but there isn't a 1:1 ratio between Scale and levels. I would liken Scale to how D&D 4e had paths of character advancement with 1-10 being the start, 11-20 being paragon, and 21-30+ being epic. You could think of them as being Scale 1, 2, and 3.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The asker has some questions highlighted in their... question... about how to handle this very same scale system, which it would be a good idea to address: "I've read the Fate Scaling rules, which seem like they could be a decent start, but I'm curious about how standard character advancement would function with using scaling as "levels." Would "ranking up" in total power level be determined by the GM, or the total point values of the characters, as in D&D? Would I have to degrade player's capabilities when that happens to smooth out the progression?" \$\endgroup\$ Mar 18, 2016 at 12:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener I've updated my answer to address this. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 20, 2016 at 16:04
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Sorry, this answer is good and I have +1'd it, but it goes somewhat confusing. You first assign specific scale values to different power levels (folk 1, heroes 2, large monster 3), but in your later examples the monster slides up and down that scale. So what, half a campaign later, three ogres(scale 1) are the same as the folk(scale 1)? Maybe it's the heroes who should go up the scale instead? \$\endgroup\$
    – Nox
    Mar 23, 2016 at 10:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Nox Good point. Short version—Scale can either be static (you are the scale you are) or variable (circumstances can change it). As soon as I have some time I'll tighten up my answer and try to be more clear. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 23, 2016 at 13:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Nox I've updated the answer to clarify things. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 27, 2016 at 2:59

A simple way to do it would be to have characters at different "levels". A difference in level would translate to a modifier to the die roll, whereas characters of the same level would have no modifier against each other, or, put another way, they would have a +0 modifier signifying there is no difference of their levels.

Ex: Level 1 Fighter of Strength 3 vs. Level 2 Fighter of Strength 2

The Level 2 Fighter would get a +1 bonus against the Level 1 Fighter when rolling an opposed roll. This would effectively make the Level 2 Fighter's Strength be 3.

I adapted (stole) this idea from d6 Star Wars and Fudge, which, in case you didn't know is the system Fate was built from. In both those systems, there is a concept of Scale, meaning bigger things vs. smaller things. You can Ctrl+F "Scale" in that document to learn about the base idea.

Leveling Up

As with many things in Fate, depends on how you model it. The SRD talks about modeling Scale as an Extra. Extras can cost Refresh, Skill Points, or Stunt Slots depending on what they do. Skill Points are earned at Significant Milestones and Refresh are earned at Major Milestones.

Big Question, do you want their Level to go up as a function of them gaining powers? Or, is it an unrelated power? You could say that, for every X Refresh you spend on Stunts you gain a Level. Or, you could say, for each Level you buy, you get X Stunts. Maybe even wrap your Skill Points into Level Advancement. If you're trying to model Levels getting harder and harder to attain, you would need to increase the Refresh cost per Level, e.g. 2 Refresh spent to gain Level 2, 3 to gain Level 3, etc...

A Sample Level Advancement System

  • First Major Milestone (Level 1): Presuming your game starts at Level 0, not 1. At this milestone, Gain Level 1. Gain Everything you would normally get according to the SRD, including Refresh which you can spend on any Stunts available to your character. You'll need 2 more Major Milestones to gain Level 2.
  • Second Major Milestone: Do not gain a Level. Do, however, gain Refresh to spend on Stunts.
  • Third Major Milestone (Level 2): Now you get Level 2. You'll gain your next Level after another 3 Major Milestones, in other words at Major Milestone #6.
  • etc...

Alternatively, you could have characters gain Levels at each Major Milestone, depending on how you want Levels to correlate to how many Stunts characters have. In this version, the GM would space the Major Milestones out according to how quickly she wants the characters to advance.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm thinking about something along these lines. I've read the Scale rules from the toolkit, but I'm still trying to figure out how that would be affected by "leveling up" into a new level, i.e. how normal Fate character advancement fits into the scaling mechanic. \$\endgroup\$
    – Arcandio
    Mar 17, 2016 at 14:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Please see my edit that takes into account your question on how this fits into advancement. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 17, 2016 at 14:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Been puzzling over the answer to your edit Big Question for a while, and at the moment, I'm not sure. Clearly, there ought to be rules for when ranking up happens, but I don't yet know if the rule should be "when Milestones says so" or "when your 'stats' say so." Milestone-based might lead to weird point value issues, while point value-based might lead to uneven advancement between characters, it seems? \$\endgroup\$
    – Arcandio
    Mar 17, 2016 at 15:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ One of the strengths of running Fate, for me, has been that GM says when milestones occur. This is a capital-O Opinion, but I think advancing when point values say so let's the game get away from the GM, who then has to play catch up. I'm going to go ahead and make another edit to the question on a sample recommendation of Level based advancement, but it's utimately going to come down to your particular preferences. In other words, we're in game design territory, not Fate Core territory. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 17, 2016 at 15:12

If you want to keep this really simple, you could describe power levels as part of a character's high concept aspect. Changing the wording of a high concept is allowed less frequently than changing other aspects' wording, but already part of the normal milestone rules. Thus, you could have a PC who advances from "Folk Hero" to "National Hero" to "Legendary Hero," etc. (And if you want to make the number of steps between one rank and another easy to remember, just name them after steps in the Ladder.)

If differences in power level are so pronounced that it really makes no sense for one character to take on another, you can just compel the lower-ranked character's high concept and stop the face-off before it even happens. If they can face off, though, the higher-ranked character could get a free invocation of their high concept on every roll against the lower-ranked character. And if you want power differences to be really stark, give 1 free invocation for each rank of difference between them.

(I see this as more of an addendum to or reinterpretation of the scale rules mentioned above, but apparently I'm restricted from commenting until I make some answers of my own!)


I ran a fantasy campaign for nearly 2 years, it was supposed to be very epic, so every game I gave my players one skill point, and every arch one refresh. I freely gave many +1 items to Skill+Action at the start but things got just too easy, the mage could become invisible at will and crush foes with magic. The simple tasks became almost sure wins. I had to raise the shifts required for creating advantages to 3 and reduce stun bonuses to 1.

At the end the most powerful characters had 6 points on their main skill(plus stunts), I only gave out +2 items, except for one legendary shield +4 (part of the plot)And in the end crafter PC's could forge +2 items too when they got their hands on good bonuses/situations.

Halfways I came to this system were I could give out plenty of items giving one or more of this bonuses, you can turn this into skill upgrades too:

  • Foolproof 2 Shift Bonus when counting against free invocations from bad rolls.
  • Safe 1 Shift bonus if you fail or tie.
  • Efficient 1 Shift bonus if you succed or tie.
  • Opportunist 2 Shift Bonus when counting to get free invocations from successes with style.
  • Lucky If you roll a [ - ] roll it again.
  • Sharp If you roll a [ + ] roll again for a chance to get 1 or 2 shifts.
  • Tryhard Reroll with a -1 as many times you like until your base bonus is 0, harmful aspects from from bad rolls are used automatically on the next tryhard roll.
  • Epic Every time you get +4 on the dice you get +1 automatically.

Take in mind that multiple bonuses should be exponentially expensive so a "SafeX2+EfficientX2" Item/bonus should be way more hard to get than 4 different "safe" items.


I have been working on concepts for a Fate based system that also has a scale requirement. Here is an idea I worked on that could only see a limited number of playtests yet, so use at your own risk.

In my system, the difference in scales is gargantuan: Cyberpunk street operatives dealing with megacorporations where the smaller scale is basically negligible for the larger, and can only impact it through persistence. In the other direction, the smaller scale is also normally invisible for the larger, so the larger one must deal with the smaller indirectly.

My megacorporations have aspects, skills and stress tracks like characters, but instead of stunts, they have assets, which represent agents, units or other resources of the corp. An asset consists of an aspect, a single skill, and a single stress track.

Corps and characters cannot directly use the (four*) actions against each other. Characters face the assets of the corp. The corp player‡ can choose to deploy as many assets as they like against the characters.

But there's a tradeoff. Too few/weak assets and you risk a futile attempt. Too many/strong, and you risk actual damage to the corp. Because when an asset gets taken out by a character, it also counts as a successful action (attack/CaA) against the corp itself, with a margin of success (# of shifts) equal to the asset's skill level. At this point, other aspect invocations to boost that result are perfectly applicable. So a character can hurt a corp bad through an asset, if they survive the assets deployed against them.

A few notes:

  • An asset can be deployed to many places at once if it makes sense (a horde of cyber-mercenaries can, while a single elite negotiator can't). It still uses its single stress track for all the stress it receives.
  • The assets are also regular aspects of the corp and can be used as such in the usual sense.
  • Taken out assets aren't lost, they are just rendered ineffective for the current conflict. A player may choose to remove an asset if they take out the whole corp.

This works fine when the larger scale is a more complex entity than the smaller as above, but I think it could also work with scales of similar complexity but exponential power.

Just make sure that two differing scales have to interact through an intermediary construct on the larger. I called them "assets" but you can name them anything that fits your theme; "powers", "followers", "subsystems", "virtues" etc.

So, Xetorax the legend may choose to put forward two of his virtues:

Infailable righteousness: Great(+4) Resolve ☐☐☐☐
Guards of the two kings: Good(+3) Melee ☐☐☐

Shanla the village heroine must go against these virtues with her bare skills. Only when she takes one of them out does Xetorax feel the impact at all.

* I have six actions in my game but that doesn't matter here.

‡ Usually the GM in my game but that also doesn't matter


I can think of two examples that might be relevant: there's the Power Tiers from Strange Fate (the Fate edition of The Kerberos Club.)

In that context, skills are ranked from Mundane (normal), Extraordinary, Ascendant and Godlike. For each difference in tier, you swap out 1dF from the roll for 1d6, add your skill to the result, and use the Ladder as normal.

That means 1d6 is at minimum equivalent to a + on 1dF, and can be bigger. Also, spending 1FP lets you reroll your dice if the results don't add as much.

If you pick a fight with a god, there's a chance you'll be trying to cope with 20+ stress. Splat.

Another option is what's presented in the Fate Core version of The Day After Ragnarok: attacking something at Vehicle scale means the only way to do damage is by creating an appropriate advantage. Attacking something Massive in a Vehicle has the same restriction: you need an advantage.

Attacking something Massive without a vehicle isn't possible directly, but you can get inside and attack sensitive parts instead.

That might be a way of modelling leveling up: "At this point, you're only vulnerable to bandits who have created an advantage first, and eliminating the advantage renders you invulnerable again."


This is what I came up with, based on the other answers and the specific needs of the campaigns.

Horizontal and Vertical Advancement

Normal Fate character progression occurs by adding specific numerical bonuses and Aspect changes to a character. This is Horizontal advancement, the usual way.

This version of Scale adds a flat bonus when dealing with creatures of a lower Caste, but is awarded as an Extra at Caste Milestones. Caste advancement is Vertical in that it is significantly harder to fight someone of the same horizontal power and higher Caste than it is to fight someone of the same Caste and higher horizontal power.

The distinction is important in that they don't have to occur in lock-step with each other. You might run a game where you leap through Castes every few sessions, or where you never actually leave the Caste, despite your characters growing a lot.


  • Minor (Horizontal)
    • Change Aspects
    • Swap Skills
    • Purchase a Stunt with Refresh
    • Rename an Aspect
  • Significant (Horizontal)
    • +1 Skill
  • Major (Horizontal)
    • (rename High Concept)
    • +1 Refresh
    • +1 Skill Cap
  • Caste (Vertical)
    • Increase 1 Caste

Why not just add Caste to Major Milestones? Because the GM may not want to "Caste Up" the players at a given Major Milestone. The GM can declare a Milestone to be both a Major and a Caste Milestone, if it makes sense in the story.

Caste Examples

I'm working on two different games with this, which gives me the opportunity to try two different scales of Caste advancement.

Oubliette Castes

  • +2 Rolls, +4 shifts per Caste Shift (2x Scale)
  • 34% normal chance to hit per Caste Shift
  • You're just not going to hit something 4 Castes above you

Caste       Example
0 Refuse    Eyeweed
1 Dregs     Kobold
2 Rabble    razordoll
3 Lost      Plumepreen
4 Fallen    Blood Troll
5 Forsaken  Essence of Plague
6 Eminent   Draculean Lord
7 Eldritch  Absolution (angel)
8 Ancient   Goblin King
9 Divine    Vlad

Gigaspell Castes

  • +3 rolls, +6 shifts per Caste Shift (3x Scale)
  • 15% normal chance to hit per Caste Shift
  • You're extremely unlikely to hit something 2 Castes above you

Caste       Example
1 Mundane   Farmer
2 Heroic    Veteran Soldier
3 Legendary Epic Level Wizard
4 Divine    Gods
5 Cosmic    Overgods

Bonuses vs Shifts

How hard is it to hit someone with a bonus? This is what I used to determine how big of a step each Caste should be from each other. Hit, in this case meaning succeeding with 1 or more Shift.

Def     Att         % Normal
Bonus   Hit Chance  Hit Chance
+0      41.56%      100.00%
+1      26.08%       62.75%
+2      14.13%       34.00%
+3       6.45%       15.52%
+4       2.39%        5.75%
+5       0.69%        1.66%
+6       0.14%        0.34%
+7       0.02%        0.05%
+8       0.00%        0.00%

Anydice: 4df vs 4df+[0..8] Hits/Shifts>0

Anydice: 4df vs 4df+[0..8] Curves

Thanks to these answers:

Couldn't have figured it out without the discussion from these.


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