Spicing Up Adversaries With The Fate Adversary Toolkit

The Fate Adversary Toolkit, the latest in the Toolkit line of supplements for Fate Core from Evil Hat Productions, opens up some interesting new avenues for your Fate games. Written by Ed Turner and Brian Engard, one of the architects of the Fate Core rules, this supplement widens the scope of the adversaries that characters can face in Fate Core games. Building off of the idea of the Fate Fractal and expanding the idea of adversaries beyond being a character or a creature that you can get into a conflict with during a game session, the Fate Adversary Toolkit brings some smart new ideas to the gaming table.

Regardless of the flavor of Fate that you play, from using the Fate Accelerated rules to playing a game of Bulldogs! there will likely be ideas that can expand the scope of your games.

In addition to giving a Fate gamemaster more guidance and options for the more traditional sorts of enemies, the Fate Adversary Toolkit also gives you a couple of new types of adversaries in obstacles and constraints. Many of these are "adversaries" are things that gamers are likely already used to in their games, like environmental hazards or dangerous traps. However, one of the things that this supplement does is to make these dangers more of a conflict than something that can sidestepped with an Overcome action. This is a "danger" in Fate games in that the four actions can flatten out some of the interesting drama of conflicts by making them easy to "overcome" with a dice roll or two.
Making an environmental hazard dramatically interesting in a game situation is about as easy as it sounds. For one thing, characters can't really attack an electrified fence to make it less dangerous to them. I mean, you can attack an electrified fence, but is it the best allocation of a character's time and resources? When these hazards will be little more than an aspect or two, and sometimes a skill there is nothing in the mechanics to attack in the traditional way. There is no stress or consequences that can cause the hazard to break down. This causes more lateral thinking on the part of players. I know that in the games I have run using Fate, creating advantages is the action that players are the least likely to use in play. Hazards can be a good way to stimulate players to use this action more often.

Countdowns are another good way to stimulate lateral thinking on the part of players. Something happens (usually an action on the part of the characters) to trigger a countdown, and then boxes of the countdown's track are marked off according to the specifications of the countdown. Once the boxes are all ticked off an outcome happens. Like with Distractions (which I talk a bit about below), countdowns aren't something that a player can work their way out of with dice rolling. This makes the players have to think their way out of the paper bag of the situation that they have found their way into.

There is also some new thinking on the use of zones in your Fate games, and how they can interact with the new types of adversaries outlined in the rules. There is also a rogues gallery for a number of popular genres (including fantasy and urban fantasy) that will let you use these new rules in your games. While it is very easy to create adversaries in your Fate games, there aren't a lot of options for generic antagonists to help out a busy GM. Any bit on this front can be helpful.

The art in the Fate Adversary Toolkit is one of the highpoints of the book. One drawback to the art in many of the Fate books published by Evil Hat Productions is the passive nature of it. Characters seem more posed than being in action, and the subject matter of the illustrations would be before or after things would be happening. This is rectified by the art in the Fate Adversary Toolkit. Characters featured in the art are doing things, fighting and being heroic, rather than standing around, monitoring their Twitter feed. Their art does get points for being more diverse than most role-playing game art. The trouble is that a game's art is one of the more direct ways for a game to demonstrate what it is about, what you do with it, and when a game's art doesn't convey that it can make it harder for the end users to know what to do with it.

The "activeness" of the book's art is helpful when a lot of what the book deals with are abstract qualities. Showing a character punching a Nazi is easy, how do you demonstrate a character overcoming an obstacle in a way that is dramatic? The art in the Fate Adversary Toolkit does this. I hope that this trend continues in future books from the publisher.

One nice thing about the "looser" nature of the Fate mechanics is that it can be easy to apply some of the concepts from the systems to other game systems. Some of these things already exist in a lot of role-playing games. "Blocks" are pretty prevalent, the locked doors that need to be bypassed or the traps that can seriously injure or kill, but other types of obstacles like Distractions or Hazards can translate into other games. Distractions are particularly interesting to use in other games. They aren't heavy on mechanics, so there isn't much to translate. A distraction is given a name that makes it interesting, then it is given a choice and a repercussion. The idea is to distract the characters from something else important to the story, like a villain escaping, with something like a busload of innocent bystanders. Each distraction comes with a repercussion, what happens when the player chooses to save the bus instead of stop the villain.

The Fate Adversary Toolkit is a good addition to the toolbox of any Fate gamemaster, but it can also be more and add to the tools of GMs of other game systems as well. Having a diverse set of gaming tools can enrich any gaming session. There are a lot of new options and tips in the book that can elevate your Fate games, and offer tougher challenges to characters. Much like with the Fate System Toolkit this supplement can bring a number of game changers to your Fate campaigns.

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Thanks for the review! Much appreciated.

As to the comment "One drawback to the art in many of the Fate books published by Evil Hat Productions is the passive nature of it. Characters seem more posed than being in action, and the subject matter of the illustrations would be before or after things would be happening." — Could you give me some specific examples of books where you feel this is most the case? It's *directly opposite* to what I've been trying to ensure in Evil Hat's art direction for the past decade, so I'm a bit vexed that your takeaway has been that we're doing exactly the thing I've been striving to prevent.

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