How to Play Doing Things - Fighting Things - Quick Guide
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Battle Cunning Thought Charm
Fighter Rogue Scholar Diplomat
Barbarian Assassin Sage Spy
Knight Gleeman Tactician Chevalier
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Specialist Classes
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Fighting Things

In a swords-and-sorcery world, combat is inevitable. There will always be bloodthirsty fiends, unreasonable bandits, and power-mad wizards that can't be dealt with using more civil methods. This is when an adventuring party must rely on their skill at arms to win the day.

Hitting Things

There are two basic actions that represent the most fundamental pieces of a fight:

Attack: This skill is usually Combat.

Defend: This skill is usually Reaction Time.

"Damage" depends on the difference between these two rolls, with defenders winning ties.

Attacker's Result Defender's Result Result
+4 +2 Defender takes two damage.
+3 +2 Defender takes one damage.
+2 +2 Defender takes no damage.
+1 +2 Defender takes no damage.
+0 +2 Defender takes no damage.

Getting Creative

Fights that boil down to "Roll Combat, now roll Reaction Time, now roll Combat" are boring. They're also liable to get a party killed, as a good GM will be challenging the party to fight smarter rather than harder. Characters that want to survive the campaign should make use of alternative actions, such as these:

Assess: Use Investigate or Knowledge to better understand an enemy and their weaknesses.

Hamper: Use Physique to grapple an enemy, or Stealth to trip someone. Use Provoke to taunt and intimidate enemies, causing them to act differently on their turn. Use Combat to lay down suppressive fire with arrows or magic. Any creative use of a skill to reduce the target's effectiveness in battle falls under this category.

Teamwork: Help an ally on their next roll, giving them a +1 to their action (see the Teamwork section below for more details).

Assist: Coordinate with allies to make things possible. The hallway might be too packed to shoot an arrow, but an archer standing on someone’s back could manage.

Sneak Attack: Get the jump on an enemy before they know you're there. An enemy being targeted with a sneak attack does not get to roll defense, instead using their Physique -2 as a flat value for determining damage done. Players may choose to use either their Combat or Sneak skill to deal damage.

Use the Environment: Find ways to work the surroundings to your advantage. Are there any decaying trees in the swamp that might be knocked loose? Are there bystanders you can convince to help?

Parley: Try reasoning with the enemy. Terrify them into surrendering, or bargain with them.

Use an Ability: Most classes come with at least one combat-oriented ability. Others may be learned through Stunts or acquired in the form of artifacts.

Planning: Ever the last resort of desperate adventurers, planning offers a way to resolve conflicts with a minimum of injuries. One example might be to set traps in a room and lure the enemy into them. Another might be to make use of Hamper and Teamwork to maximize the damage of the party's heaviest hitter. Thinking ahead can turn impossible battles into something more manageable.


Characters in FATE Spin have two methods to cope with damage; Stress and Injuries.


Stress is the amount of damage a character can take before they're actually hurt. It might be represented as bruises, fatigue, or spent luck. The amount of Stress a character can take is directly tied to their Physique and Will skills. Players used to other game systems might think of it like HP.

Stress is measured in boxes (see "Health" for figuring out how many boxes your character has). In the below table, a character with three Stress boxes has taken three damage. In this case, they have a few options for how to deal with the damage:

  1. Use the three-stress box to absorb the damage [3 - 3 = 0].
  2. Split the damage across the one-stress and two-stress boxes [ (1 + 2) - 3 = 0 ].
  3. Take a Minor injury (worth two stress) and absorb the remaining stress in the one-stress box [ (2 + 1) -3 = 0 ].
1 2 3 Injury
X Sprained Ankle

In general, the best option is to take no injuries. Stress recovers immediately after a fight scene, while injuries stick around.


Injuries are what happens when a character takes more damage than their Stress boxes can handle. They represent a lasting problem that affects a character's ability to act. Physical injuries range from sprained wrists to multiple stab wounds. Mental injuries are associated with psychological and emotional problems, such as emotional exhaustion. The GM will decide what injury a character receives (possibly by using the Random Injury Table).

By default, characters have three injury slots for physical and mental consequences. A Mild injury can absorb 2 stress boxes of damage, a Moderate injury can absorb 4 stress boxes, and a Severe injury can absorb 6 stress boxes. A character can only have one injury in a slot at a time.

Health Mild (2) Moderate (4) Severe (6)

Injuries affect skill rolls. The extent of the effect depends on the severity of the injury. A minor physical injury like Twisted Ankle will put a -1 penalty on actions that make use of an ankle (running, sneaking, fighting, etc.). However, it will have no effect on unrelated actions (knowledge, notice, persuasion, and so on). It is left to the GM to determine which actions are influenced by a particular injury.

Physical Injury Level Physical Skill Penalty Mental Skill Penalty
Mild -1 -0
Moderate -2 -1
Severe -3 -2
Mental Injury Level Mental Skill Penalty Physical Skill Penalty
Mild -1 -0
Moderate -2 -1
Severe -3 -2

Moderate and Severe injuries are problematic enough to cause widespread penalties. A Twisted Ankle might not be a problem for a smooth-talker, but a Broken Ankle will definitely distract them. Similarly, being Emotionally Exhausted won't detract from a swordsman's work, but being Emotionally Devastated will.


Stress recovery is simple; after every fight, physical and mental stress is cleared away. Injuries are more difficult to deal with.

The adage "Time heals all wounds" is appropriate here. An injury will naturally recover over the course of multiple sessions. A Severe injury becomes a Moderate injury after one session, a Moderate injury becomes a Minor injury, and a Minor injury disappears.

Injury Severity Healing Difficulty Time to Naturally Recover
Mild +2 or Higher 1 Session
Moderate +4 or Higher 2 Sessions
Severe +6 or Higher 3 Sessions

This process can be accelerated by using the two healing skills, Medical and Counsel. They treat physical and mental injuries respectively. A successful treatment reduces the severity of an injury by one level (as though a full session had passed). An individual injury may only be treated once. A character that gets a Severe injury treated will still have a Moderate injury for the rest of the session, and will have a Minor injury for all of the next session.

Injuries cannot be treated while in combat. It's rather silly to try setting a bone while goblins are trying to eat you.

Extreme Injuries and Death

When a character takes more stress than they can handle by either stress boxes or injury slots, they must either take an Extreme injury or die.*

An Extreme injury absorbs eight stress damage (as a rough guideline) and produces a fundamental change your character. Where a Severe injury might be Broken Arm, an Extreme injury would be Missing Arm. The specific skill changes will determined by the GM.

Death is exactly as bad as it sounds. On the bright side, players may enjoy having the chance to create a new character.

* Veteran FATE players may wonder about the "Taken Out" and "Concession" options. FATE Spin discourages these, but, as with everything, it is left to GM discretion. See the justification here.

Other Combat Mechanics


FATE Spin allows characters to support each other when they’re attempting the same action, provided they’re at least Average (+1) in the relevant skill and one of them has a +1 in the Command skill.

Teamwork is limited by the character's Command skill. A character can have as many assistants as she has points in Command. So +1 means one assistant, +2 means two assistants, and so on.

Teamwork is limited by the character's relevant skill. A character can only reach twice their relevant skill level from teamwork. A character with a +1 to Combat can only reach +2 with teamwork. A character with +2 can reach +4.

Each Assistant can only provide a +1 bonus. Teamwork isn't always the best option. If two warriors with Great (+4) Combat team up, they’re only going to do a single attack at +5. It would probably be better for them to do two separate +4 attacks.

This principle can make coordinated mooks (low-level enemies) much more dangerous. A group of three guards with +1 in Combat aren't much of a threat, but a group of three guards led by a competent guard captain can reach a +6 in Combat.

Splitting Attacks and Overflow

Imagine a player rolls a +8 on an attack for a lowly sewer rat. It’s a waste to eviscerate a single rat with that much force (unless they're planning on scaring away other rats with a gore-soaked axe). FATE allows characters to split their rolls onto multiple targets.This is handled automatically with groups of mooks. In the case of the sewer rats, the +8 will overflow onto one or two other rats.

The player may also choose to specify the split of their attack. They might divide that +8 into a +4 on one rat, a +3 on another, and a +1 on the nearly dead rat at their feet.

Enemy Levels

Using a loose interpretation of the sourcebook, enemies come in three rough levels of power:

  • Mooks- No-named cannon fodder with basic skills. Has no injury slots. [Guards, Wolves, Angry Villagers]
  • Lieutenants- Mook leaders. Generally one step above the mooks they represent in power level. Has one to two stunts and at least a single injury slot. [Guard Captains, Alpha Wolves, Village Chieftans].
  • Captains- Unique characters. Have character sheets with a full complement of stunts and injury slots. Are likely to be above player characters in terms of power. Also will have Fate Points and Troubles [Ulfrick von Lichtenstein, Medea, Iago].
    • Captains often play an important role in the campaign. They have their own histories, personalities, and relationships with factions. Their in-game behavior will reflect these factors.


"Whenever two or more characters have mutually exclusive goals, but they aren’t trying to harm each other directly, they’re in a contest. Arm wrestling matches, races or other sports competitions, and public debates are all good examples of contests." - Fate SRD on Contests
A contest consists of several exchanges where the opposing parties roll against one another to see who "wins". Contests are won by the first person (or group) to win three exchanges.

Contests are specifically for non-combat situations, which makes them oddly placed on the "Fighting Things" page. Contests have a habit of coming up around the same time as combat though. For example, a player pursuing a retreating enemy would do so via a contest. Another example might be a formal duel to first blood.