(This is my seventh basic FATE Tutorial, you can find the sixth here: https://plus.google.com/u/0/100212613856984996154/posts/chKNRs9113t

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FATE Tutorial 7: Stress


Stress is an important part of FATE in two ways. First, it’s mechanically the same role that hitpoints or health levels play in other games, but that’s just the physical side of the coin. Different FATE titles have different types of possible conflict, and where that conflict is important, it generally has a Stress Track.

In The Dresden Files Roleplaying Game, there are three such Tracks:

Physical, which represents our physical well-being. 

Social, which is the amount of humiliation we can withstand, intimidation we can ignore, and social faux pas we can commit before you succumb to shame, fear, or exile. 

Mental, which is the amount of psychic damage, madness and fanfiction.net entries we can withstand before our brain melts. 

Bonus: Dresden actually has a fourth Stress Track for some characters. If we have a supernatural dietary restriction (blood, flesh, emotions) we gain a Hunger Stress Track. This is tied to certain supernatural powers, and causes complications unique to being a vampire/ghoul/soul-eating-robot. 

As a result of physical, social or mental conflict we’ll either be inflicting or receiving Stress in Shifts (remember those from Tutorial 2?). When our Stress Track fills up, we’re Taken Out. That means game over, man! Game over! for the most part. It’s the thing to be avoided. Full physical Stress can mean death or capture. Maxed social Stress can mean anxiety-fueled breakdown or that we’ve been convinced to do the wrong thing. Exhausted of mental Stress? Braindead, mind-controlled, or irreparably insane. Needless to say, being Taken Out is bad. We don’t want it!

But we have some options. This is where Stress is important in a second way. Remember Consequences (FATE Tutorial 4)? Stress is how we get them, and how we deliver them to our foes.

In our example game, the Dresden Files Roleplaying Game there are four levels of consequences: mild, moderate, severe and extreme. These are all the Consequences we can take from all of our Stress Tracks combined. Each one is worth a certain amount of Stress. Mild is worth 2, Moderate is 4, Severe is 6 and Extreme is a whopping 8. The first three levels are only mechanically different in one way - the time it takes to get rid of them. Thematically, they’re different severities of wound, insecurity, or madness. A mild physical Consequence might be [Pounding Headache] from a blow to the head. A severe social Consequence could be [Unable To Make Eye Contact] from being embarrassed by a former paramour. 

Extreme Consequences are special. Unlike the other three types, they don’t automatically recover after an increasingly lengthy period of time. If you take an extreme Consequence it’s likely become a permanent part of your character. The Consequence you take actually replaces one of your existing Aspects. To use that extreme Consequence slot again, we’ll need to talk with our GM about what can be done to reverse this terrible state. It’s likely to be the subject of many a tale! They aren’t to be taken likely.

Semi-finally, Consequences stack in our favor. If we get hit with a mighty +8 Stress blow and we don’t want to use our precious extreme Consequence, we can take a severe (-6) and a mild (-2) for a total of -8! 

And remember! We can’t have two Consequences of the same severity, even if they were from different Stress Tracks. If we have a mild physical Consequence we couldn’t also have a mild social Consequence. There are only four Consequences total. There are ways we can get more, but that’s for a later discussion.

Once a Consequence is inflicted, the character doing the inflicting gets a free Tag of that Consequence (FATE Tutorial 4!). But only one Tag is free - further uses will require a FATE Point to be spent.

There’s a final option when our Stress is getting troublesome and our Consequences are getting crowded. Condeding. We have to do this before we get Taken Out, not a moment later.

When we Concede we’re effectively being Taken Out by ourselves. The difference between being Taken Out and Conceding is getting to decide how it goes down. If our GM does the Taking Out she gets to decide what happens, which possibly means losing our character forever. If we decide to Concede we get to lose like professionals. We decide what happens, as long as we do lose. We fall off the bridge after the sword penetrates our ribcage, only to wash up on shore later, thoroughly busted but alive. We pass out while trying to decypher of the mind-bending ancient tongue, but we’ll wake up without being totally mad

To summarize: Concede and we decide how we go out. Get Taken Out and the person who took us out gets that pleasure. We just have to Concede before the dice inform us that we’ve been murdered.

Cassidy fires her silenced weapon like a owl clutches a fearful mouse. She isn’t particularly skilled with the long-barreled weapon of death, but it doesn’t matter. Sarah isn’t paying attention and she’s been locked into the monstrous rifle’s sights for a good two minutes. The bead has been drawn. A little pressure on the trigger and THHUUKE, the gun jerks, and so does Sarah.

Participation: Cassidy has (between rolls, Aspects, her ability and her weapon) come up with a mighty +9 Stress attack that hits Sarah from above. Sarah has four Shifts of Stress on her track before she’s Taken Out. What Consequences would she need to use to prevent herself from being a messy stain on the sidewalk?
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