Of Monsters and Men
A character’s general physical capabilities – running, jumping, climbing, swimming, and other broadly physical activities – are reflected in the Athletics skill (apart from sheer physical strength, covered by Might). Characters with high Athletics include cat burglars, warriors and scouts.
Athletics is the “when in doubt” physical skill, and gets a lot of use. However, no skill should ever be rolled purely for its own sake, and Athletics is often in danger of being used without meaningful story impact. Athletics is used to move yourself, while Might is used to move other things and people: when an action calls for both, they may modify one another. If there’s no clear indication, default to Athletics as primary and Might as secondary.
Athletics can be used offensively in combat, but only for certain manoeuvres, and never to inflict stress. If the manoeuvre involves pushing around heavy things, use Might (or Might modified by Athletics). If it’s more about grace than power, use Athletics (or Athletics modified by Might).
Athletics can be used defensively to respond to physical attacks, and is usually the only defence against ranged attacks. It’s very effective in conjunction with a full defence action (which gives a +2 bonus). Using Athletics for a defence action means you can’t use it for other things in the same exchange (such as sprinting or jumping).
Use Athletics to move faster by taking a sprint action. Normally, characters may only move one zone as a supplemental action on their turn by taking a -1 penalty to whatever else they’re doing. Characters who spend their entire action moving are sprinting; roll Athletics against a Mediocre (+0) difficulty and cross a number of zones and borders equal to or less than the shifts generated. Excluding borders, characters can always move at least one zone.
Most characters have only rudimentary swimming ability, unless they have stunts or aspects which say otherwise. Two types of swimming rolls may be called for: distance swimmingand hazard swimming.
In a distance swim, the difficulty is the number of zones attempted, and Athletics is restricted by Endurance (see page 160). Difficulty increases by +1 for less-than-ideal conditions, and +2 for poor conditions; anything worse than that, and you’re hazard swimming. Armour penalties are also increased by +1 for any swimming rolls. Failure means you take Physical stress damage equal to the margin you missed the roll by. If you take a consequence, you must roll again the next exchange: on a success, you complete the swim; on a failure, you begin to drown, taking another consequence and rolling again the next exchange.
In a hazard swim, you’re fighting for your life, negotiating water hazards like storms, whirlpools, rapids, etc. You make no forward progress: success just means you get through the hazard in one piece. Simple hazards may just have a difficulty: if you fail, you take the margin of failure as stress points and must try again; if you succeed, you negotiate the hazard. Complex hazards have a stress track reduced by shifts on your roll: the hazard must be taken out before you can pass. Some hazards may even have aspects; hazards like this are similar to traps (page 143).
|Storm at sea||+3 and up||5||Nowhere to hide|
|Whirlpool||+2 and up||3+||Disorienting|
|Rapids||+1 to +3||–||–|
A character unable to breathe must make an Endurance roll every exchange. The difficulty begins at Mediocre (+0), and increases by +1 per exchange. On a failure, the character suffers an automatic consequence, and on every subsequent exchange until taken out.
Jumping is a difficult thing to adjudicate. Consider the classic situation of a party jumping over a bottomless pit: the scene should be tense, but you don’t want everyone falling to their deaths because of dumb luck. Genuine failure – falling into the pit – should only be an option if it leads to another interesting situation. Maybe that bottomless pit is only mostly bottomless? Everyone rolls Athletics to cross, because failure means discovering what’s reallydown there. Apply the standard rule for skills here: if it’s a reasonable task and failure isn’t interesting, don’t bother rolling. Just assume the characters make it.
Unless you have a really good reason why climbing needs a roll, just assume people manage it. If, however, the wall’s virtually impossible to climb, a character with appropriate stunts gets an opportunity to shine – absolutely a good time to call for a roll. Climbing difficulties are determined in two steps:
First, the base difficulty is determined by height. Climbs, like falls, are Short, Medium, Long or Extreme, and follow the same rules for height that falls do (see below). These difficulties assume an easy climb with many hand- and footholds, like a fence.
Second, modify the difficulty for slipperiness, visibility and distractions, as per the table below.
Certain climbs (like a smooth metal tower at night while being shot at by archers) are too difficult to try, so it’s important for a climber to know his limits (or have stunts to exceed them). Climbing either works or it doesn’t, and the character should know whether he can make it before he starts – unless the Story Teller wants to make it interesting by letting him get to a certain point for the wind to pick up and make the task harder.
The likely consequence of failure when climbing and jumping is falling. Falls automatically deal consequences depending on their height; characters can roll Athletics to try and limit the severity.
A short fallis up to twenty feet; between twenty and forty feet, it’s a medium fall; longer than that but still survivable, it’s a long fall. An extreme fall is so high it’s not survivable, so rolls aren’t really necessary.
A falling character rolls Athletics. If he fails to beat a Mediocre (+0) difficulty, treat the fall as one category worse; if he beats the difficulty based on the length of the fall (see the table below), treat the fall as one step shorter (a long fall becomes medium, and so on).
Falls are more useful as a threat than a reality. The tension of a cliff edge fight is heightened by the danger of falling, but falling should never be central to the scene unless it’s interesting in itself.
Combat Dodge (Athletics)
Requires appropriate occupation aspect (Warrior, etc)
The character gains a +1 defence bonus in combat when using Athletics to defend.
Advanced Combat Dodge (Athletics)
Requires Combat Dodge
The character gains a +2 defence bonus in combat against 1 designated opponent when using Athletics to defend. “Designating” is a free action.
|+1||Wet, Slick||Darkness, rain||Non-threatening|
|+2||Completely smooth||Pitch black||Threatening|
Falling: Height Table
|Height||Difficulty||Notes||Consequences||With Success||Less Than Mediocre|
|Short||Fair(+2)||10’ to 20’||Minor||None||Major|
|Medium||Great(+4)||20’ to 40’||Major||Minor||Severe|
|Long||Fantastic(+6)||40’ to 100’||Severe||Major||Extreme|
|Extreme||Legendary(+8)||Is that a house?||Taken Out||Severe||Taken Out|
You can fit into and through spaces and shapes that no normal human can. Effectively you have an additional
Athletics trapping: Contortionism. For those without the stunt, contortions are impossible to attempt, or at best default to a (non-existent) Contortion skill rated at Mediocre (+0).
You can perform impressive acrobatic feats. Difficulties for complex manoeuvres (e.g., walking a tightrope, casting a complex spell while hanging from a rope) are reduced by two. Falling rolls gain a +2 bonus. When used acrobatically, your Athletics never restricts another skill, only complements it.
Safe Fall (Athletics)
The character can skip effortlessly down sheer surfaces without harm, safely falling great distances. A character falling near a wall, rope, or something similar, treats all falls as two categories shorter (and may be reduced another step with Athletics as normal).
Requires one other Athletics stunt
The character is effortlessly mobile, and others have difficulty controlling his movements. Gain a +2 to defend against being pushed or knocked back, and attempts to escape from bonds.
Fancy Footwork (Athletics)
Requires one other Athletics stunt
The character is a master at manoeuvring around the enemy. You gain a +2 bonus to make or overcome blocks using Athletics.
Marathon Training (Athletics)
You can conserve energy when performing lengthy athletic activity (long-distance running, multi-day climbs, etc.), and use Athletics instead of Endurance under such circumstances. In most other cases you can complement
Endurance rolls with Athletics.
Fast as a Leopard (Athletics)
The character is incredibly fast, gaining a +2 Athletics bonus to sprint actions. You may set aside the bonus to be considered on an “even footing” in a race with a horse or chariot, etc, without having to make a roll.
Faster than a Leopard (Athletics)
Requires Fast as a Leopard
The character is astonishingly fast. You suffer no penalty for moving one zone as a supplemental action, and incur only a -1 penalty for moving two zones as a supplemental action.
Strong Swimmer (Athletics)
The character gains a +1 Athletics bonus when swimming.
Fast Swimmer (Athletics)
Requires Strong Swimmer
The character can swim very quickly. You gain a +2 to Athletics checks when swimming fast, and may use any shifts to reduce the time taken.
Distance Swimmer (Athletics)
Requires Strong Swimmer
The character gains a +2 to Athletics checks when swimming a long way. Under ideal conditions you needn’t roll at all; you can swim all day.
Spider Climb (Athletics)
The character can climb surfaces he oughtn’t to be able to. You receive a +2 climb bonus and can spend a Fate point to eliminate allenvironmental difficulty modifiers (so you can climb a slick, mostly flat surface in a rainstorm at a greatly reduced difficulty).
Mighty Leap (Athletics)
The character’s leaping ability borders on the superhuman. Reduce any height-related borders (see page 159) by three.
The character can use Athletics instead of Survival when riding horses or other beasts meant for carrying passengers.