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I am going to run a teen-investigation game in a setting strongly inspired by Scooby-Doo. The location is the teens' town, so PCs' relationships with NPCs will be an important feature of play. I think the standard way to manage relationships, as simply an aspect, would not suit. I considered making it a skill, but using a custom PC skill to represent the relationship strength is not a solution because it should be different for every relationship a PC has.

So I was thinking of defining a relationship as an Extra, like so:

  1. A High Concept aspect (“Jen loves Jim”) defining who is involved in the relationship and how.
  2. A Trouble: a relationship always has pitfalls. This is an aspect GM or others can compel, for example.
  3. A stress track to track the strength of the relationship.

A relationship can be used in the game:

  1. Invoking an aspect of the other person to get knowledge or tools.
  2. Make the NPC join an action, supporting the PC with team work.
  3. Make the NPC do the action for you.

This doesn't look like it's very "Fate" though, and I'm not sure how to make it more Fate-like. But I like that this lets me make help cost something, probably in terms of relationship stress.

My question is how can I model the weakening or strengthening of a relationship, in a way coherent with the Fate philosophy?

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    \$\begingroup\$ @FredHicks Hi Fred! I can maybe explain that discrepancy: Until about an hour ago the specific problem was a mix of two different questions and unclear due to that, so it was On Hold until they untangled the two and asked one question at a time. It's been reopened now that that's been fixed, and enough votes rolled in to get the Hold taken off just as you were commenting. Would you mind reposting that information in an Answer Post below? (I can't convert a comment into an answer, and eventually comments do get removed since they don't participate in the voting system to vet answer quality.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 30 '17 at 15:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Oh sure! Got it. Sorry, I forgot that some comments might be made while the OP was in a different state of text. :) \$\endgroup\$ – Fred Hicks Jan 31 '17 at 13:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Fred Thanks very much for coming back to post that stuff as an answer. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jan 31 '17 at 15:45
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Consider having each member of the relationship contribute 1 point of their refresh to the relationship. (This will help limit the number of capital-R Relationships folks develop in a game, which can be important when you're mechanically modeling relationships... otherwise the temptation to stat up every single kind of relationship people are in kicks in, and you end up with a pile of paperwork rather than a focus on play.)

As members of the Relationship hit advancement milestones that gain a point of refresh, they can either add it to the Relationship (the Relationship strengthens), or themselves. At those same milestones, if they keep their new point of refresh, they can additionally decide if they want to withdraw a point of refresh from the Relationship as well (weakening the Relationship).

During play, the Relationship gets fate points just like a PC, per its refresh score; points may be spent by either party when both are involved in an action/scene. Compels of the Relationship's aspects (mostly its Trouble) pay into the Relationship's pool, and affect all members when it makes sense.

Similarly, when the Relationship pays the FP cost of an invoke of one of the Relationship's aspects, the benefit is shared, giving the standard invoke benefit to the acting member and a boost to to each other member present at the time. (This would need some testing, as it might be too much of a force multiplier, but since a Relationship can only grow slowly over time and only has a couple aspects to work with, this has some limits.)

To keep this from spiraling out of control over the long term, the Relationship's refresh score can't increase beyond the total refresh scores of its members. So in practical terms the strongest possible Relationship is one that uses exactly half of the members' available refresh points.

I'd ditch the stress track, to keep this simple: High Concept, Trouble, Refresh score as indicator of health, and the mechanics suggested above (or some variant thereof).

Something like that. :)

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One answer can be found in the Fate Codex, volume 1 issue 6, an article by Steve Radbaugh entitled "Relationships With Influence".

The article's angle of approach is as if the game had a single (NPC) central character and the rest of the (PC) characters in the game were side characters, and the central NPC had a Relationship with each PC. But I think that the model can be adapted to a game where the player characters are equally influential and not subordinate to a non-player character, and the PCs have relationships with each other.

Yes, the relationship is treated like an Extra.

The PC has a Relationship Extra on their character sheet. The Relationship is represented by: (Initially) Three Aspects - A Connection, a Point of Contention, and (at character generation, anyway) one Bonding Moment. The relationship also has a Stress track, equal in size to the number of Bonding Moment aspects the relationship has (up to three). During gameplay, these are added-to as bonding moments occur (up to two times). Additional progress happens as the Relationship earns Milestones.

The article doesn't specify one way or the other whether the Relationship could take Consequences, and it doesn't address exactly how a Relationship takes Stress or defends against a potential Attack (which is Fate's default way of dealing Stress).

All of that seems a little heavy for modeling the fact that a given PC may have many different relationships, instead of one relationship with a central character, and a little light in terms of how Conflicts are handled. I could suggest ideas for ways to trim and simplify it down so that multiple Relationships wouldn't get unmanageable, and about how to damage and heal Relationships, but they wouldn't be based in first-hand experience and I'm sure you could do just as well, given the same material and given your first-hand thoughts about how you want your game to be.

The parts which seem to be to be specifically useful for representing "strengthening and weakening" are the stress track and the ways which the aspect(s) change over time, via new bonding, via Milestones, and potentially via Consequences.

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