Tiered Opponents in Fate

I’d like to share with you a technique for creating an epic take out the bad person scene in the Fate RPG with what I call Tiered Opponents. (Actually, that’s a lie. I call them Blooming Onions but tiered opponents sounds so much more official.)

The key with tiered opponents is that you can’t defeat them until you first resolve or defeat something else that is going on in the scene. The players are forced to defeat the opponent in layers.

First we have to make use of the Bronze Rule which says that you can treat anything in the game as a character. This means that your gun can have stress boxes and your jacket can have ranks in the skill Make You Look Cool +2. With this is mind, let’s begin.

Recently I was running a playtest of Shadow of the Century for my group. It was an 80s themed scifi action hero piece and at the heart of it all was the evil Russian scientist Dr Willenthorp. The cast managed to get aboard his alien spaceship to put a stop to his evil plans for world domination.

This encounter would be the last scene in a three-session arc that would conclude our game, so I wanted it to be GREAT.

As a surprise to the players who had not yet encountered Dr Willenthorp, I decided that he had his head transplanted onto an alien robot body that was basically a mass of metal tentacles. I knew that I wanted him to be a blooming onion, uh, tiered opponent, so I wrote up the following two opponents:

Dr Willenthorp’s Head

  • Aspects — Head of the Russians, Super Scientist, Alien Tech Body
  • Three single stress boxes (1 point each, many can be checked per hit)
  • +3 to stuff

Alien robot tentacle body

  • Aspects—Alien Tech Body (duplicate of aspect above)
  • Five single stress boxes (1 point each, many can be checked per hit)
  • +3 to tentacle things, +1 to other stuff

I knew that if I was a player, I’d go straight for taking out the head. Since I had decided that this opponent was a tiered one, the head can’t be effected by attacks (within reason) until the body was taken care of.

This was an interesting start but there needed to be more. I wanted the players to split up to encounter more things, to have an epic battle. So I added a missile launcher that was worked into his alien robot body.

Missile Launcher

  • Aspects—Attached to the Alien Tech Body
  • Three single stress boxes (1 point each, many can be checked per hit)
  • +2 to attack; Weapon:3

Then I realized what evil scientist doesn’t have a bunch of stormtroopers everywhere…

Russian Troops

  • Aspects—Roving Packs of Soliders
  • Six single stress boxes (1 point each, many can be checked per hit)
  • +2 to soldier stuff

Now Dr Willenthorp is set up as four separate opponents. In order to defeat him, Dr Willenthorp’s Head must be taken out and it cannot be touched by attacks until all the other opponents are out of play.

Then I thought about it a bit. Requiring that all the opponents except for the head be taken out before they can attack the head feels like they have to go through a checklist to defeat the bad guy. So I lowered it to needing to only remove two of the three non-head opponents.

The outcome was marvelously fun! The players split up tasks and each fought the component parts, eventually ripping the missile launcher off of alien robot body and used it to take out the evil Dr Willenthorp once and for all.


There is a discussion in the Fate Google+ Community, where Brian Rock made the following suggestion. I think it is a good one and will be using it moving forward.

An alternative to making it a requirement to defeat “low-tier” opponents first is to give the “high-tier” opponent an advantage while the “low-tiers” are still around.

E.g. the head could have defence:Nx2, where N is the number of remaining low-tier opponents. This would give the players the option of going for the head, but making it a low probability play. 

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