Tips on Running Fate

In case it’s helpful, here’s my general advice on how to run stuff in Fate.


  1. The action economy needs to work against the PCs
  2. Don’t just reduce combat to Attack vs. Defend
  3. Make concessions when you want the villain to get away with it

Here’s what I mean by all these things.

When planning a fight, look down the Fate ladder for the adjective that tells you how challenging the fight should be (e.g. “Superb”, "Great’). Take the number (e.g. +3), multiply by number of PCs, and divide by two. That’s how many opponents total the team should face.

Divide these up into mooks, lieutenants, and bosses by a ratio of 3:2:1 or 4:2:1, roughly.

Run mooks as turrets. They will shoot at the good guys, and get knocked down by the good guys. Spread their attacks around, unless a lieutenant orders them to focus fire on a target.

Lieutenants have a schtick. This guy has a big gun. That guy has a flamethrower. Hammer that schtick every round. Instead of having them make attacks, have them create advantages or overcome those set up by the PCs.

Bosses are fully realized characters. They hit really hard, have stunts, and have good defenses. They should require combo buildups to defeat - create a bunch of advantages, then have someone roll an attack and invoke everything, like we did with Helsingard.

If the villain is losing, have them offer a concession. You get the MacGuffin, the bad guy gets away - or the next clone comes into play, but with a pool of Fate points for conceding.


  1. Give the players a challenge you think they can’t actually handle. They’ll find a way.
  2. As GM, you get Fate points every scene. Run them dry.
  3. Aggressively offer compels

The thing about Fate is that with enough opportunity and aspects, the players can overcome just about any reasonable obstacle. The scene is really about asking what it takes to get there - or how they find another way to reach their goals.

So lay out a door with no lock, no handle, no apparent means of opening it. People will figure out a way, or players will make suggestions that you can adopt. Give them an enemy that nobody’s guns can defeat, and they’ll locate an industrial press or high voltage line or something that’s got sufficient power. Be merciless in setting up the challenge, and then be a fan of the players when they try to solve it.

If you’re not sure how or when to spend your GM Fate points, then just throw one at the first roll a PC makes in the scene, and spend one per PC. Get in the habit of using them - that’s more important than learning when to use them. That will come as you use them.

If all challenges are kinda hard, players will spend Fate points faster than they want. That’s good. Offer them compels to get those back. Compels can be interesting, and if you can’t think of one, ask the player for ideas. It can be a challenge for you as the GM to keep track of 20 PC Aspects, so as a shortcut, offer a compel to the PC who’s been most effective in scenes so far.

Some examples from Menagerie Phase Two fiction:

  • Nono, what if those drugs cause you serious after-effects?
  • SNOWMAN, what if the airport attack starts with an EMP that disables you?
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Skill Levels

If N is the average skill level of the PCs in some area (e.g. combat), mooks roll at N-1, lieutenants at N, and bosses roll at N+1.

Absurdly high skill levels work against you, forcing escalations of Fate point spending. If you want to make things harder, don’t make the enemies more skilled, just more numerous - or give them stunts that provide extra bennies when doing a thing.

Special Case: Monsters

If the players are fighting a kraken, you don’t need a bunch of squid mooks. Instead, use the action economy tips above and divide the kraken up by body part - four arms, two big tentacles, and one really big kraken body, for example.

The same thing can apply to killer robots. The turreted gun on its shoulder? Let that fire on its own action, independent of the boss.

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Thanks for the notes, Bill. I’m definitely going to keep some of this stuff in mind while running the game for the next couple sessions to see if it helps.

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