The Many Faces of FATE

There’s an excellent thread on RPGnet summarizing the differences between some popular FATE implementations; it’s the sort of information I need on an infrequent basis, so I’m reproducing most of it here.  The original thread is worth reading, though.

Differences between SotC, Starblazer, The Dresden Files, Strands of Fate, and Diaspora

Core Design Concept

  • SotC (Spirit of the Century): Turn of the century pulp action! The father of FATE 3.0.
  • SBA (Starblazer Adventures): Sci-Fi themed pulp action. Heavily influenced by SotC, but features a few design tweaks.
  • DF (The Dresden Files): Based off the popular Dresden Files series of novels. Focuses on modern day urban fantasy/horror. Evolution of FATE as originally published in SotC, but with a grittier tone.
  • SoF (Strands of Fate): A generic toolkit for using FATE to run games of any power level or genre. Features a heavy revision of FATE 3.0 to make it more accessible and versatile.
  • Diaspora: “Hard” sci-fi themed action. More condensed and focussed version of FATE leaning toward more “realistic” action vs. the “over the top” action of SotC.

Fate Point Refresh

  • SotC: Fate Points Refresh Rate is 10.
  • SBA: Fate Points Refresh Rate is equal to 10 minus the number of Stunts a character has. This Refresh Rate can be increased as part of character improvement.
  • DF: Fate Points Refresh Rate is equal to its Max Refresh minus the number of Stunts and Powers the character has bought. The Max Refresh can be 6, 7, 8 or 10, depending on the power scale the game will be running.
  • SoF: Fate Points Refresh Rate is determined by the Campaign Power Level. The more powerful the characters, the higher the Refresh.
  • Diaspora: Fate Points Refresh Rate is 5 for PCs, 5 for Ships.


  • SotC: Only one box of stress if marked off at a time, the particular stress box is determined by Effect of the attack roll, e.g. if Effect is 3 the third box is marked off. If that box is already marked off the next box up is marked off.
  • SBA: A number of boxes of stress equal to the Effect of the attack roll (plus any weapon damage modifier) are marked off, e.g. if Effect is 3 (and there is no weapon damage modifier) three stress boxes are marked off.
  • DF: Damage is treated exactly like SotC, with the difference that DF has three different stress track, Physical, Mental and Social, while SotC (and SBA) have Health and Composure. Also, their stress tracks have a base length of 2 boxes, while SotC (and SBA) have a base length of 5 boxes.
  • SoF: Strands offers three different methods of tracking stress. The rest of the book is agnostic towards which method is used.
    • Method #1 (Default) – You have a set of stress boxes associated with each Consequence. Once that set is filled you suffer the associated Consequence and further stress begins accumulating on the next worse stress track.
    • Method #2 (Thresholds) – No stress boxes. If you take an amount of stress equal to or greater than your threshold, you suffer a Consequence.
    • Method #3 (Single Set) – Very similar to SBA’s stress system.
  • Diaspora: Three stress tracks – Health, Composure, Wealth. Each track defaults to 3 boxes if the PC lacks the relevant skill. Damage may be reduced, before application to stress tracks, by taking Consequences. Stress is marked from the box corresponding to the shifts gained, and goes down. If the highest box to be hit is already filled, fill the next higher box, and all boxes below. There are mini-games relating to social combat, mass combat, and ship to ship combat that modify this system.


  • SotC: Stunts range from single sentence descriptions to entire sub-systems in complexity. You gain a fixed number at character creation.
  • SBA: Pretty much the same as SotC.
  • DF: Stunts are divided between those available to “vanilla mortals” and the powers used by the supernatural. You spend Refresh to buy Stunts.
  • SoF: Characters gain a number of Advantages based on the campaign power level. They are broken down into three tiers, Expert, Heroic and Powers.
  • Diaspora: Players begin with three stunts. There are four broad stunt categories, with a semi-freeform stunt construction within each category


  • SotC: Consequences are Mild, Moderate and Severe. The first Consequence taken is always Mild, the second always Moderate, the third always Severe.
  • SBA: Consequences are Minor, Major, Severe & Extreme. The type of Consequence taken is chosen by the player, and may vary depending upon how much Stress needs to be replaced with the consequence. A Minor consequence negates 2 stress, Major 4 stress, Severe 6 stress and Extreme negates 8 stress. Any Stress that is not negated completely is marked off on the Stress track. A character can only normally take 3 consequences before being taken out.
  • DF: Consequences are treated like in SBA, except that Extreme Consequences have special status and cannot be taken lightly, they change one the character Aspects to reflect the trauma and they are not easily “healed”.
  • SoF: All three stress systems use Minor, Major, Severe, Extreme, Defeated
  • Diaspora: Mild Consequences reduce shifts by 1, Moderate by 2, and Severe by 4. Players may only ever (without a stunt) have three Consequences, and only one of each kind – regardless of what track the Consequence is on.

Companions’ Stress

  • SotC: Companions don’t have a Stress track; they can only provide an additional Consequence for the attached character.
  • SBA: Companions have a Stress track equal to their Quality +1, e.g. a Fair (+2) Companion has 3 stress boxes. They still provide an additional Consequence for the attached character as well.
  • DF: DF has no Companion/Extras rules. Every foe is a potential character-killer here.
  • SoF: Strands does not have Companion rules. There are four different tiers of NPCs that is determined by their importance in the campaign. Also, groups of extras can be handled as a single “Unit” for faster play.
  • Diaspora: Diaspora lacks Companion rules.

Companions’ Skills

  • SotC: By default Companions have no Skills. A ‘Skilled’ advance provides one skill at the companion’s quality, two skills at quality -1, or three skills at quality -2. Subsequent advances allow another layer of that pyramid to be selected.
  • SBA: By default Companions have a Skill “column” with one skill at their Quality, one skill at Quality-1, one skill at Quality -2 etc, down to Average. A ‘Skilled’ advance provides an additional column, but with a peak rating of one less, e.g. a Good (+3) Companion’s first Skilled advance would provide an extra Fair(+2) skill and an extra Average (+1), for a total of one Good (+3), two Fair (+2) and two Average (+1); a further Skilled advance would provide only a single Average (+1) skill.
  • DF: —
  • SoF: —
  • Diaspora: —


  • SotC: Weapons do not provide a damage bonus.
  • SBA: Weapons provide a bonus to the amount of Stress inflicted by a successful attack.
  • DF: Similar to SBA, but a bit less granular.
  • SoF: Weapons provide a bonus to stress inflicted. Optionally, they may also provide their own Aspects.
  • Diaspora: Weapons have Harm and Penetration values – Harm is a bonus to offensive rolls, Penetration is a penalty to armor Defensive value. They also have Stunts and Aspects


  • SotC: Only really mentioned under Gadgets and Gizmos, they impede a roll-up on an already checked stress box (or something like it).
  • SBA: Armors can sustract an amount of shifts of damage equal to its value after a succesful attack, before the wearer has to absorb stress. Armor and shields can take additional stress by accepting one or more Consequences, depending on the type of armor/shield.
  • DF: Similar to SBA, but less granular. Armors have unlimited uses barring narrative events saying otherwise.
  • SoF: Two options. Armor may either provide a simple bonus to your defense roll or you may divert stress to an armor stress track.
  • Diaspora: Armor automatically reduces the attacker’s roll by its Defensive value minus the Weapon’s penetration. Armor also has Stunts and Aspects.

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3 Responses to “The Many Faces of FATE”

  1. Hyperboreo Says:

    Good stuff. Thanks for the summary.

  2. A Paladin In Citadel Says:

    Are you playing some or all of those FATE games? I’ve had my eye on Diaspora for a while, and Spirit of the Century and Star Blazer Adventures seem interesting. I’m curious how they play.

    Having browsed SotC and SBA at The Sentry Box i’m tempted to buy them. SBA is particularly intriguing, though i’m having a hard time reconciling with dispensing with starship floorplans, in favor of ships with their own stunts and effects. It’s a somewhat alien notion to not have the USP and blueprints, having grown up with Traveller.

  3. gregory huelsenbeck Says:

    Great comparison! Thank you.

    I have not played yet, but own Dresden Files, Starblazers Adventures and Diaspora.

    I will probably run a custom mix between SBA and Diaspora.

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