Fate Core Thought of the Day:  The Joy of Create Advantage

While most of my posts are probably GM-centric, this one's a lot more player-centric.  Hey, gotta change it up, right?

One of the things that I see with players new to Fate is that they overly-rely on the Attack action in conflicts.  My experience has shown that, in many cases, Attack is actually the least effective option, when viewed from an overall perspective.  Sure, you can't Create Advantage someone to death (or to Taken Out, as the case may be), but CA has a lot of advantages over Attack overall, and especially as a lead-up to an actual damaging attack.

To most vets, this stuff will be obvious, so I apologize for that... but these might be good points to raise with your players, especially if they're having issues, or over-relying on Attack actions.

Here's a few of the main reasons why Create Advantage should be the majority of the players' actions in a Conflict:

1) It's more efficient.

Both Attack and Create Advantage give you the opportunity to buy shifts of effect.  For Create Advantage, these shifts (via free invocations) are delayed, but for a given success threshold, you'll actually get more shifts of effect than Attack for the vast majority of cases...

Margin of success    Create Advantage shifts  Attack shifts
0                                   2 (boost)                             2 (boost)
1                                   2                                           1
2                                   2                                           2
3                                   4 (two free invokes)          3
4                                   4                                           4

Admittedly, after a margin of success of four, Attack starts to win out - but you generally won't see that margin of success unless you've got a number of free invokes to boost you there, or burn a bunch of fate points!

2) Create Advantage is flexible.

Attack does one thing - it causes stress and consequences to your opponent.  However, the shifts of effect (free invokes) created by Create Advantage can, depending on the advantage, be used for Attack or Defense!  And they also have the potential of being used by other members of your group.  Or they can be used with an Attack to do straight damage.  Create Advantage creates options.

3) Create Advantage lets you choose the skill match-up

In conflicts, and especially with an Attack, absolute skill levels are irrelevant.  What's important is the relative skill level between you and your opponent.  And one of the main 'strategy' bits in Fate is figuring out, narratively, how to maximize that difference in your favor.

Using your 'best' skill isn't always the best idea.  If you've got Fight of 4, and you're facing an opponent with Fight 6, you're at a permanent disadvantage.  And it's usually pretty hard to justify why you're using another skill for Attack, or why Fight can't be used to defend (substitute Shoot/Athletics as appropriate).

But Create Advantage lets you get around this.  So long as the action you create justifies it, it allows you to set up the skill matchup.  So if you've got Fight 4, and the bad guy has Fight 6?  No problem... maybe you've got Intimidate 4, and he's got a Will of only 1!  Scare him with that!  Or use your athletics skill to set up a favorable position, perhaps challenged by his Notice skill.

Once you've internalized this, the big bruiser just looks like a big opportunity, since you know he probably has some pretty weak social skills just waiting to be exploited.  (Strangely, against a superior combatant, it's often the combat-focused characters that are the least effective, as they have fewer good skill matchups).

Of course, an especially ninja trick is to use Create Advantage actions that are resisted by the environment, rather than the enemy - these are very likely to be easier to accomplish than something with passive resistance!

4) Create Advantage lets you set up huge hits

While it's not always the case, in Fate it's often true that a single big hit is worth more than two little ones.  If you've got three stress, a pair of two-stress hits will just mark off your second and third stress boxes - but a single four-stress hit will force you to take a Consequence.

In general, bigger hits will take down enemies quicker, while smaller hits will be more efficient (require fewer overall successes) at the expense of taking more actual attacks to

And what's the easiest way to set up a big hit?  Either burn through your Fate Point supply or... set up a bunch of free invocations of aspects via Create Advantage.  You know what happens to bad guys if your whole team concentrates for a round or two on Creating Advantages, and then passes all of those free invocations to your most competent combatant?  Pain

Combine this with the higher efficiency and preferred skill-matchup of Create Advantage, and you have a recipe for Taking Out even the nastiest, ugliest enemy you encounter (or, the most attractive, suave enemy if it's a social conflict!)

5) The Narrative Truth of Aspects

So far, I've just talked about the purely mechanical, math-based benefits of Create Advantage.  But that's only part of the story.

In addition to all of the other advantages listed above, Create Advantage creates narrative truth.  If you get your opponent Cowering in Fear, then he's doing that.  Which should restrict his actions.

Aspects can do all sorts of things, from action permission to denial, to setting up difficulties where none existed, to granting permission for active interference. 

They knock people on the ground, disarm them, have them wandering about in a fog.

And this is all on top of the mechanical benefits.  Beautiful, I tell you!

So, anyway, I hope this helps in some way.  It's based on my observation of new Fate players, and is basically a rundown of the points I make with them to get them out of the "Attack Attack Attack" cycle, and thinking more "like Fate", which often gets them into describing narrative goodness and all the other coolness I've come to associate with Fate.
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