I’ve said it plenty of times on various message boards, social media, and in-person conversation: I loathe weapon and armour rating. I’ve mentioned bits here and there, and I figured it was time to compile my reasoning into a coherent blog post!
My first reason is that it takes away from the character. Who cares what your Shoot skill is, because when you hit, you’ll do a crap-ton of damage. Why? Because the gun is cool. Fate is about cool characters, not characters who have cool stuff. If a character wants to be cool, they have to have the coolest stuff.
Another problem is the zero-sum arms race that tends to happen. All of the sudden, your rogue isn’t using a dagger, since it’s just Weapon:1, but a broadsword. The wizard isn’t using cloth robes, since that’s only Armour:1 at best. You have almost all characters using Weapon:4 weapons, and their armour is all Armour:4. So in the end, what’s that point?
Seriously, why is it that only weapons and armour get special treatment? What about the hackers tricked out computer, or the wheelman’s sweet ride? Giving weapons and armour ratings means most people are going to use them to solve problems. Why? They get a bonus to do so! It encentivzes the use of force.
Sure, you can expand the idea to other gear, so a really fast car has Car:3 that aids in…what, being a car? So is that speed? Cargo capacity? Armour? Trying to expand the weapon/armour rating to other aspects of the game doesn’t work all that well.
Interaction with Magic/Superpowers
How does weapon and armour rating work when dealing with magic or super powers? If a normal pistol is Weapon:2, what’s the base rating for a magical projectile? How does one increase the rating for a magic spell? It all gets very complicated very fast. I love playing the mage in any game I play, but a lot of Fate builds have so many rules for using magic that it’s not worth it! I want to roll my mage skill just like the sniper rolls his Shoot skill, just like the knight rolls his Ride skill. Why the hell do I have to do higher-level math to have my fun? I want to have fun slinging spells and describing my actions in a cinematic, epic way…I don’t want to have to use my calculator to figure out how the hell I’m supposed to roll.
Gear, not Training
As an extension of many of the above, it means that your stuff tells you what you can do, not who your character is. If you want to hit harder in combat, all you need is to get a better weapon, and you’re magically better! It doesn’t take into account training with the weapon. There already is a function in Fate for doing that: stunts! If you spend a lot of time using a specific weapon, take a stunt that says so! All of the sudden, you now get a +2 to create an In My Sights aspect with your sniper rifle. Or you’re so comfortable with your plate armour that you get a +2 to your Physique when figuring out your stress track.
It works the same way with weapons, armour, vehicles, computers, and even superpowers!
If your game features a lot of gear: mecha vs. kaiju, Star Wars, or any number of settings with stuff, you can always give a small refresh pool for taking gear stunts. Of course, you can just accept aspects as always true, and know that when you’re in your giant mecha, piddly knives and thrown stones aren’t going to inconvenience you in the slightest.
So there it is, my reasonings for loathing weapon and armour ratings. You can bet your bottom dollar that I won’t ever use weapon/armour ratings in anything I make. They make my skin crawl.