For my upcoming session, we are going to be doing a court-room drama. The PCs want to prevent a city measure from getting passed, and the opponents want it to pass.

It seems obvious that this should be a social conflict.

The part I can't figure out is who should be attacking who in each exchange, and what the victory conditions should be? I like the idea of being able to do classic court tropes like cross-examining, objection!!, etc. But who is being attacked when you are cross-examining? Should they always be attacking the defense? What if they want to try eliminating specific heavy-hitters in play for the opposition rather than going straight to victory?

I'm just looking for ways to spice it up mechanically, because I know the drama will be good!

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    \$\begingroup\$ This sounds like your mixing your government branches up -- in particular, this sounds like a legislative function, but you're referring to a judicial branch setting... \$\endgroup\$
    – Shalvenay
    Jun 2, 2016 at 22:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Haha yes you are correct, but it's intentional. It's a hearing to approve a measure, but we're just going to pretend that works like a court room because we all have a lot more movies and tv shows to draw inspiration from for that! \$\endgroup\$ Jun 2, 2016 at 23:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ You're missing some great drama opportunities down that road -- see my answer, OverloadUT. And trust me -- boardroom ettiqute leaves just as much room for cutthroat maneuvering and drama. You just need to find it. \$\endgroup\$
    – RonLugge
    Jun 2, 2016 at 23:11

2 Answers 2


If you want to create a courtroom-like feeling, I would strongly recommend to look at the way the Fatebased rpg Diaspora handles that.

You basically draw a map of the conflict:

(Measure passed) O-O-O-O-O-O-O (Measure prevented)

You need a marker für the public (as the target of your efforts), your group and the opposition. "Attacks" move other markers, you can create aspects on every part of the map, move yourself. Its all very well explained in their free srd.

It worked very well for me when having a conflict in a fairy court.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you! While I did end up going with the suggestions to run it more as a legislative matter than a judicial one, I think this is a perfect Fate-centric answer to the court-room question! Now I look forward to doing an actual court-room scene. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 3, 2016 at 18:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Always happy to help! \$\endgroup\$
    – Blechpirat
    Jun 6, 2016 at 12:18

Courts interpret the law, they don't enact or enforce it.

This sounds much more like a town-hall meeting, which will probably enforce some variant on Robert's Rules of Order. To a certain degree, trying to shift things once the meeting has begun will be a waste of time -- many of the key decision makers will already have their positions locked in place. So make a virtue out of that!

I'd probably give the player a set time frame before the meeting, then let them use that time to try and manipulate events ahead of time. A series of social 'conflicts' with city counselors, lawyers, citizenry -- let them be creative. Depending on how well / poorly they do at each location, they eat up different amounts of time at each location. If they do exceptionally well, maybe it takes only minutes to convince their new ally to join. If they stubbornly reinforce failure, maybe they waste their time trying to patch things over with obstinate opposition.

This is a great opportunity to pull in some potentially less used skills. Drive checks to get from A to B faster. Empathy to figure out if this guy can even be swayed. Performance modified by persuasion to get a local union / trade group / business associate to join them. Look at your player's character sheets, find the skills they don't get to trot out as often and let them rock for once!

Just don't forget their opposition is likely also being proactive. Maybe the difficulty for various actions is set by the opponent's active opposition -- or maybe the opponent already met the politician in question, and has already 'set' a roll the players have to beat. Don't be afraid to roll that as if it were current, active opposition, then let the players spend FP to overcome it. Just let the players see you actively note their rolls, and let them realize that the enemy might come along and steal their precious votes away.

Instead of the meeting being the meat of the story, maybe it's the climax where they spend all the aspects they've been generating -- "Support of the local PD", "Councilman Bourroughs Disapproves", etc etc.

I might consider a multi-stage vote. Try to get it yanked from the schedule for 'further consideration' during the approve-the-agenda stage. Try to prevent anyone from seconding the motion to keep it from being discussed. And if all else fails... the emotional plea to the council not to pass it, as a final chance.

Don't be afraid to let the NPC cheat to keep up the pressure. That's what NPCs do. Maybe he's already laid a lot of groundwork (gained a lot of aspects) on the measure. Maybe he has a few stunts to make him a better talker. Gauge the players, gauge the story, and chose the right moment for the NPCs to hit hard -- and then let the players squirm and chase after a way to fix it.

And if a player spends FP, or is in his home territory... don't ever be afraid to let them be awesome.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is excellent advice! We actually did do exactly what you suggested with regards to prep: they got the hearing delayed to buy more time, met with various people to sway the way things will go. That was last week, and this week is the hearing itself. So now I am mainly just trying to figure out how to make the hearing itself dramatic and interesting. I hadn't thought about having the bulk of the challenge be the prep - had I read this before last week I probably would have done it that way! \$\endgroup\$ Jun 2, 2016 at 23:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ I want to downvote this answer for not actually providing advice on how to run a courtroom drama in Fate; Instead, it gives advice on how to run a different kind of social conflict. On the other hand, some of the advice on how to run a social conflict is applicable to the user's question, so... I guess I'll upvote as useful and flag as not an answer to the question? \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Jun 3, 2016 at 0:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GMJoe The answer figured out what the question asked needed and provided it. (Sometimes, you get what you need. Jagger/Richard) \$\endgroup\$ Jun 3, 2016 at 1:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GMJoe This is a good example of a user's expertise cutting through the question the asker thinks they need to ask and providing a solution to the problem the asker actually has. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Jun 3, 2016 at 4:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RonLugge thanks again for this answer! I ended up bringing Robert's Rules of Order in to our game and it worked well :) \$\endgroup\$ Jun 3, 2016 at 18:31

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