Effort Shifts Difficulty

I wasn’t really impressed with this level of ICONS abstraction, so I’m opting to go back and use core FATE concepts. If you’re an old pro at FATE games, this is just review (very little actually new info).


The “Difficulty” of any given action or dice roll is based on the FATE New Ladder (link off the main Wiki page). It’s basically the existing FATE Ladder, combined with a couple of terms I added for ICONS compatibility (hence “New”).

Effort (The Dice Roll)

I have no idea why FATE and ICONS tries to make the terms more difficult than it needs to be. Be it calling the dice roll “Effort” or “Test” or whatever… this is the actual final Dice Roll plus or minus all your modifiers.

When the GM sets a difficulty, if you get that number exactly (0 Shifts) you succeed. Zero means it’s ugly, but it works. 1 Shift over what was needed makes it look good as you do it professionally or in a true workmanlike manner.


Even if you rolled the worst possible 4dFudge roll (-4) and, after adding all your Modifiers, you’d still beat the Difficulty… no roll is needed, it’s a trivial thing for your character. You just tell the Watcher (GM) it’s an auto-success.


If you’ve spent as much time around Irish slang as I have you already know how funny this section heading is… try not to giggle le do thoil, a chara.

Shifts is a kinda important concept in FATE that gets glossed over in ICONS to its detriment. Say you want to custom tailor your area of effect super power? How many people does it affect? How fast? How high? How far?

All that is done with Shifts (i.e. the number of successes you get over zero). Each “Shift” moves your effect up and down the various tables included on this wiki for range, zones affected, speed, how badly you break things, etc. etc.

Example: Magneto

Magneto wants to pick up some nuclear warheads off the bottom of the sea from a submarine wreck and levitate them in the air.

  1. Depth of the ocean is about 2 miles. After looking on Range and Zones the GM hits that with a 7.
  2. ICBMs are not light. Again after looking on Weight the GM hits that with another 7 (since he’s grabbing several ICBMs at the same time), for a total of 14 Shifts!
  3. He has Elemental Control Magnetism (Moving) of (+9), Mastery of his Power (+3), and he’s going to spend a Determination point to Invoke his Epithet “The Master of Magnetism” Aspect (+2). That gives him a total boost of +14. He’ll still need to roll, even for Magneto this is no Trivial Task.
  4. He rolls 4dFudge and gets a straight average roll (+0)! Amazing! 0+14 is exactly enough… net 0 shifts leftover… it’s ugly, but it works. The ICBMs come up out of the water, slowly, wobbly, and Magneto is straining a bit inside his helmet… but they’re up!

Effort Shifts Difficulty

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