Atomic Robo Advancement Thread

So while Fate is mostly straight forward, the Advancement (called Improvement for some reason) system in Atomic Robo is a bit obtuse. For the sake of making it slightly more digestible, decided to make this thread with visual examples.

Skills belong in groupings called Modes. These modes have a narrative link to determine what skills fit into that group. For instance, the Action mode includes the skills Athletics, Combat, Physique, Provoke, Notice, and Vehicles. The Modes have a rating from +1 to +3 and all skills in that mode have that same bonus.

Where I know things get tricky for me are skill levels. In addition to being part of a mode, skills also have three levels: trained, focused, and specialized. These are like rungs on a ladder, a skill can only be one level.

Trained has no benefits, if a skill is part of one of your modes it is trained.

Focused skills, however, get a +1 bonus on top of your Mode rating. For instance, if you have a +2 Action mode and your Athletics is Focused, your bonus to Athletics rolls is +3 (+2 for mode and +1 for Focused). If one of your skills is in two of your three modes, it is automatically Focused.

Specialized skills get a +2 bonus on top of your Mode rating. If your Vehicles skill is specialized and you have a +2 Action mode, your bonus to Vehicles rolls is +4 (+2 from mode and +2 for Specialized). If one of your skills are in all three of your modes, it is automatically Specialized.

So with these two axes of bonuses, I find it easier to see the information visually. The character sheets do this part well, but Roll20 doesn’t. So I’ve put all the characters’ skills into skill matrices like the character sheets would be. Here is Kane’s as an example.

Automatically focused or specialized skills are italicized and in blue. Skills that were advanced with points or during character creation are bolded and in red. Kane is special because his Deceive skill was automatically focused and then James specialized it during character creation, so to highly this that skill is bolded, italicized, and in purple. (No one else did this.)

In this format, I feel it is a lot easier to see how much advancing a skill would take. For instance, if Kane wanted to boost his Vehicles skill from +3 to +4 it would cost 1 point because he is focusing a trained skill. If he wanted to boost that same skill to +5, he would need to spend 3 points because he is specializing a trained skill. Similarly, we can see that Kane cannot improve his Stealth above +3, because he can only specialize the skill and with his Intrigue mode at +1 that would max the skill out at +3. To go above that, Kane would need to switch his Intrigue mode with one of his other modes, or would need to replace his Banter or Action mode with something else with Stealth.

Benedict Blue

Benedict’s Notice was automatically specialized and his Athletics was focused. Benedict specialized both his Combat and Science (History) skill during character creation. However (as we’re going to see a lot here because advancement in this game is weird and difficult) Benedict could still Focus a Trained Skill and Specialize a Trained Skill before needing to spend points, because one of his modes is Science.


Hope’s Notice is automatically specialized and her Athletics is automatically focused. Her Burglary is specialized and her Deceive, Stealth, and Science (Engineering) are all focused from from Character Creation.

Like Benedict, Hope could still Focus a Trained Skill and Specialize a Focused Skill.

Dr. Afterthought

Dr. Afterthought’s Will is automatically specialized. Since Dr. Afterthought is using Weird Modes (Psychokinetic and Telepath) he has different character creation advances.

So, here’s what I did …

The red is what I spent my “free” Science points on, the green are my 3 skill points stored so far.

(Recorded here for the record, in case I ever switch modes.)

So new character, new improvement sheet. Right now, Alex’s skills look like this:

They already have some free Focuses from their skill modes, but there are still the free advancements all characters get to go over. From page 34 of the book, you get one of the these three free advancements:

  • Specialize one trained skill
  • Focus one trained skill and specialize one focused skill
  • Focus three trained skills

Additionally, you get all of these (because of your Science skill mode):

  • Specialize one trained skill.
  • Focus one trained skill.
  • Specialize one focused skill.

As a reminder, Science is a fractal skill and so can be split into whatever specializations you can think of, such as the already used Engineering and History, or other skills like Computer Science, Archeology, or Biology. There is no list of this that doesn’t look like the Wikipedia entry for Branches of Science and all of its linked pages (or because Atomic Robo works in weirdness, you could also add in the Superseded theories in science page, because a specialist in Phrenology would feel right at home in that world).

Going to ping @fragolakat on this ahead of Thursday’s session. Also, because I am feeling helpful, here’s some stunts that a Tesladyne intern might pick up while helping the Action Scientists.

  • Stuck Carrying the Gear: Once a session, you can spend a fate point to have a particularly handy piece of gear. The first time someone uses this piece of gear, they get a Boost.
  • Ugh, Fine I’ll Help: When assisting someone, you give a +2 bonus instead of +1.
  • Never Around When You Need Them: Whenever someone’s attention turns to you, you can disappear from a scene. Spend a Fate point to reappear anywhere in that scene or a subsequent scene.
  • Took Karate for Course Credits: When you succeed with style when defending with Combat, deal a 3-shift hit to the attacker (instead of gaining a boost).
  • I Can Skim That Section Real Quick: As long as you have access to the Internet or other source of information, you can spend a Fate Point to use Notice in place of any one skill for the rest of the scene.
  • Attention to Detail: When creating an advantage with Notice, you can create or discover another aspect (but with no free invokes).
  • Jaded Student: Fear-proof, but weak to social pressure.
  • Signature Stunt (But I Need the Credits): Invoke the aspect But I Need the Credits once a session without spending fate points.