Revisiting Power Tiers in Fate Core

A question that comes up a lot in Fate Core is how to handle super-powered skills - a guy who can throw around cars vs. a guy who's merely very strong. In Kerbereos Club, +Mike Olson  came up with the power tiers idea: there are five tiers of ability, each one unlocking a whole new level of ability in a specific skill.

Mike handled this by swapping out a Fate die and swapping a a d6 for each tier a character has in a Skill. Since the average roll of a dF is 0 and the average roll of a d6 is 3.5, a singe tier is enough to put a character in a whole different league.

I'll go into detail on this in a moment, but: what if you just bough a whole stack of shiny new Fate dice, and really don't feel like swapping in d6s? or what if, like me, you just want to stick with Fate dice as long as possible? How can you handle tiers? 

The Power Tiers Success Map: How It Works
Attached is my proposed solution, which I came up with during a vacation week with no internet. Basically, an outcome at one tier maps to a different outcome at a different tier. 

In other words, each difference in tier between your Skill and the difficulty you are trying to achieve reduces (or raises) your outcome by one.

So: the GM gives you a tier and a difficulty (say, Exceptional +2). You roll normally, and achieve an outcome. Compare your tier on the chart (say, Mundane) to the tier of the difficulty (in this case, Exceptional). So, your mundane "Success with Style" becomes an Exceptional "Success" - or a Superhuman "Success with Major Cost."

To deconstruct this a bit:

Power Tiers only make sense in a world of true superhumans.
In other words, pulp heroics don't need tiers. They only become necessary if you want to put Indiana Jones, Spider Man, and Galactus in the same game.

Power Tiers  determine a new normal.
Power Tiers work best when you peg each tier to a specific level of ability. Kerberos Club has a great example with the "how much can you lift?" table - a mundane person can lift 150lb with a skill of +0, while an Extraordinary person can lift 400, and a Superhuman one, 1 ton. The same could be done with speed of movement, distance of perception, or time to accomplish tasks. 

Power Tiers are most useful with concrete benchmarks.
Fate already handles different power levels pretty well:  a contest between Empathy 0 and Empathy +5 is nearly no contest. So tiers aren't really necessary for straight-up contests of abstract qualities. They only really make sense when comparing real-world effects of actions of vastly different power: the 3-minute-mile vs. breaking the sound barrier. You don't necessarily need them for Lore, Resources, Will, etc.

*I've introduced a new level of failure."
Basically, if you decide to prop up a falling building and you don't have the strength for it, be prepares to both fail AND be badly hurt. That's the risk you take.

There's also a new level of success.
If you are moving down on the table - say, a Godlike hero accomplishing an Exceptional task  - a white cell means you achieve that level of success without even rolling. Just assume the roll came up a +2.

Invokes can raise (or lower) your tier.
If you've already established the Aspect "I've Got Leverage," there's no reason you shouldn't be able to invoke that to raise your Mundane Tier to the Exceptional Tier when it comes to knocking over a pillar or something.

Power Tiers cost refresh.
You could probably charge -2 refresh for each tier without unbalancing the game; or the Kerberos Club pricing scheme might work better. If you're running a real supers game, you presumably want to set aside an Extras budget to buy additional Tiers.

I rolled Ties into Successes.
No agenda here, it was just simpler. You could break the Success With Minor Cost out as a new level on the chart, it would just flatten the differences between Tiers a little. No necessarily a bad idea.

I am quite proud of this totally untested mechanic. It makes Success with Major Cost an often desirable outcome - if you're going up against a superior opponent or an impossible task, getting hurt is the least of your worries. And, it introduces discrete power levels without simply throwing around a million plusses.

That said - did I mention it's totally untested? I am really curious to see what other people think about this.

 _p.s. I realize I basically stole the color coding from FASERIP. It's just cosmetic in this case._
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