Shimmering Kingdoms FATE
A milestone is a moment during the game where you have the chance to change or advance your character. They are called milestones because they usually happen at significant “break points” in the action of a game—the end of a session, the end of a scenario, and the end of a story arc, respectively.
Usually, those break points immediately follow some significant event in the story that justifies your character changing in response to events. You might reveal a significant plot detail or have a cliffhanger at the end of a session. You might defeat a major villain or resolve a plotline at the end of a scenario. You might resolve a major storyline that shakes up the campaign world at the end of an arc.
Obviously, things won’t always line up that nicely, so GMs, you have some discretion in deciding when a certain level of milestone occurs. If it seems satisfying to give out a milestone in the middle of a session, go ahead, but stick to the guidelines here to keep from handing out too many advancement opportunities too often.
Milestones come in three levels of importance: minor, significant, and major.
Minor milestones usually occur at the end of a session of play, or when one piece of a story has been resolved. These kinds of milestones are more about changing your character rather than making him or her more powerful, about adjusting in response to whatever’s going on in the story if you need to. Sometimes it won’t really make sense to take advantage of a minor milestone, but you always have the opportunity if you should need to.
During a minor milestone, you can choose to do one (and only one) of the following:
- Switch the rank values of any two skills, or replace one Average (+1) skill with one that isn’t on your sheet.
- Change any single stunt for another stunt.
- Purchase a new stunt, provided you have the refresh to do so. (Remember, you can’t go below 1 refresh.)
- Rename one character aspect that isn’t your high concept.
In addition, you can also rename any moderate consequences you have, so that you can start them on the road to recovery, presuming you have not already done so.
This is a good way to make slight character adjustments, if it seems like something on your character isn’t quite right—you don’t end up using that stunt as often as you thought, or you resolved the Blood Feud with Edmund that you had and thus it’s no longer appropriate, or any of those changes that keep your character consistent with the events of play.
In fact, you should almost always be able to justify the change you’re making in terms of the game’s story. You shouldn’t be able to change Hot Temper to Staunch Pacifist, for example, unless something happened in the story to inspire a serious change of heart—you met a holy man, or had a traumatic experience that made you want to give up the sword, or whatever. GMs, you’re the final arbiter on this, but don’t be so much of a stickler that you sacrifice a player’s fun for consistency.
Significant milestones usually occur at the end of a scenario or the conclusion of a big plot event (or, when in doubt, at the end of every two or three sessions). Unlike minor milestones, which are primarily about change, significant milestones are about learning new things—dealing with problems and challenges has made your character generally more capable at what they do.
In addition to the benefit of a minor milestone, you also gain both of the following:
- One additional skill point, which you can spend to buy a new skill at Average (+1) or increase an existing skill by one rank.
- If you have any severe consequences, you can rename them to begin the recovery process, if you haven’t already.
When you spend your skill point, it’s worth one step on the ladder. You can use it to buy a new skill at Average (+1), or you can use it to increase an existing skill by one step on the ladder—say, from Good (+3) to Great (+4).
During character creation, you organized your skills into a pyramid. You don’t have to stick to that for character advancement.
However, there’s still a limitation you have to deal with, skill columns. This means you can’t have more skills at a certain rank than you have at the rank below it. So if you have three Good columns, you have at least three Average (+1) skills and at least three Fair (+2) skills to support your three Good (+3) skills.
The pyramid follows this rule already, but when you’re adding skills, you need to make sure you don’t violate that limit. It’s easy to forget that if you use a skill point to upgrade one of your own skills, you might suddenly not have enough skills to “support” it at the new rank.
So, let’s say you have one Good (+3), two Fair (+2), and three Average (+1) skills. Your skill distribution looks roughly like this:
At a milestone, you want to upgrade a Fair (+2) skill to Good (+3). That’d give you two Good (+3), one Fair (+2), and three Average (+1):
You see how that doesn’t work? You’re now missing the second Fair skill you’d need to be square with the rules.
When this happens, you have one of two options. You can buy a new skill at the lowest possible rank—in this case, Average (+1)—and then upgrade it in subsequent milestones until you’re in a position to bump the skill you want to the appropriate level. Or you can “bank” the skill point, not spend it now, and wait until you’ve accumulated enough to buy a skill at whatever rank you need to support the move.
So in the case above, you could buy an Average (+1) skill, promote one of your Average skills to a Fair (+2), then bump the original skill up to Good (+3). That would take three significant or major milestones to do. Or, you could wait, bank up three skill points, buy a new skill at Fair (+2), then bump the original skill up to Good (+3). It just depends on whether you want to put new stuff on your sheet or not in the interim.
You might notice that this means that the further you get up the ladder, the harder it is to quickly advance your skills. This is intentional—no one is going to be able to get to the point where they’re awesome at everything, all the time. That’s boring.
A major milestone should only occur when something happens in the campaign that shakes it up a lot—the end of a story arc (or around three scenarios), the death of a main NPC villain, or any other large-scale change that reverberates around your game world.
These milestones are about gaining more power. The challenges of yesterday simply aren’t sufficient to threaten these characters anymore, and the threats of tomorrow will need to be more adept, organized, and determined to stand against them in the future.
Achieving a major milestone confers the benefits of a significant milestone and a minor milestone, and all of the following additional options:
- If you have an extreme consequence, rename it to reflect that you’ve moved past its most debilitating effects. This allows you to take another extreme consequence in the future, if you desire.
- Take an additional point of refresh, which allows you to immediately buy a new stunt or keep it in order to give yourself more fate points at the beginning of a session.
*Advance a skill beyond the campaign’s current skill cap, if you’re able to, thus increasing the skill cap.
- Rename your character’s high concept if you desire.
Reaching a major milestone is a pretty big deal. Characters with more stunts are going to have a diverse range of bonuses, making their skills much more effective by default. Characters with higher refresh will have a much larger fountain of fate points to work with when sessions begin, which means they’ll be less reliant on compels for a while.
GMs, when the player characters go past the skill cap, it will necessarily change the way you make opposition NPCs, because you’re going to need foes who can match the PCs in terms of base competence so as to provide a worthy challenge. It won’t happen all at once, which will give you the chance to introduce more powerful enemies gradually, but if you play long enough, eventually you’re going to have PCs who have Epic and Legendary skill ratings—that alone should give you a sense of what kind of villains you’ll need to bring to get in their way.
Most of all, a major milestone should signal that lots of things in the world of your game have changed. Some of that will probably be reflected in world advancement, but given the number of chances the PCs have had to revise their aspects in response to the story, you could be looking at a group with a much different set of priorities and concerns than they had when they started.