Order of operations when invoking

I have a question on the “order of operations” when invoking during a conflict.
Let’s say “Bob” is shooting his rifle at the NPC “BBG (Big bad guy)”

  1. Bob rolls a “4” on Guns, but BBG rolls a “5” on athletics to dodge.
  2. Bob decides to spend a fate point and invoke his aspect “Award-winning duck hunter.” (This fate point will end up in the GM’s pool after the exchange)
  3. Now Bob has a “6” on Guns—and he hits…
  4. …except the GM decides BBG spends a fate point to invoke the situational aspect, “Cluttered with crates.” (This fate point will end up in Bob’s pool after the exchange)
  5. Now he has a “7” on athletics, and Bob misses.

It’s very possible you’ve already seen mistakes I have made in this exchange. In any case my questions are these:

  • Is Bob’s Fate Point already spent? Or can he say “Actually, in that case—I’ll save my fate point for a situation where it will make a difference.”
  • Or is BBG “locked out” of spending a fate point to respond to a fate point spent—because “fate” has been decided? (And if so, would that work the same way if the GM paid first, locking the players out?)
  • Or should this have been a compel in the first place—saying, “You fire round after round into the crates hoping to hit your target, but with no luck.” Pass the player a fate point. And in THIS case, would the player be “refunded” their original Fate point, since it was all for naught?

I use Blackjack rules. If you say “hit me” and spend a Fate point to invoke, that point is spent. No take backs. Everyone involved in the exchange can spend Fate points or free invokes until I do last call, where everyone agrees they are done spending points. If someone is still spending points, you always have the option to spend points, even if you previously said you were done.

This leads to exchanges where the player will spend a single Fate point point to do a 1 stress hit. If I say, “I don’t think your opponent is going to spend any points and just take the 1 stress hit.”, the player may respond with “well, I’ll spend another two Fate points for a 5 stress hit”. I’ll counter with, “well, since you’re still spending points, I’ll spend some of my own…”. And we go back and forth until we both agree we’re done spending Fate points. Then we resolve the exchange, mechanically and narratively.


Absolutely. Think of it as an ante. How bad does each side want to accomplish their goal? You can keep increasing the bet until you are out of fate points, or you no longer feel it is worth it. But you can’t take back what you already bet.

The only time I let a player take back a fate point is if they did not understand how I described the scene. I see this happen more with online play. But never because of how the opposition reacts to their actions.


Thanks @MisterG & @amazingrando! Great insight!
What about the 3rd question? How do you decide when to just give the bad guys a bonus vs. compel? In this case, give them a +2 to their dodge, vs. just say “Here is a Fate Point–The fact that crates are scattered everywhere prevented you from getting a clear shot (unless of course, you have a Fate Point to spare!)” Either way, the player gets a fate point–but in one case they still have a chance to hit.

I invoke aspects when I want to ratchet up the tension / up the ante. I compel when I want to add a twist to the story. Players can refuse it if they want to stay on track, or embrace it if they think the compel is cool.

Ideally, you should decide before dice are rolled to resolve an action whether:

  • You will roll to resolve the issue and invoke aspects; or
  • You wish to compel an aspect to resolve the situation diceless by introducing a complication

Compelling after the dice roll & fate points have been spent could be frustrating for players.

As a reminder, when it comes to character aspects, you can either compel them, or do a hostile invoke. The player gets offered a fate point for either, but they can’t refuse a hostile invoke. https://fate-srd.com/fate-core/invoking-compelling-aspects

I hope this helps,

Have fun!



In general, I wouldn’t compel a situational aspect like Cluttered with Crates, because it’s more fun to see how someone can use it for an advantage than to use it to prevent the PCs from doing what they want to do. If you instead compel the characters’ aspects, the story is about the characters and how they trip themselves up.

This can depend on the kind of story you’re telling, though. If you’re doing horror or sci-fi or wilderness survival, where the environment might be a huge obstacle or might even be an NPC trying to kill the characters, or if the players are low on Fate points, or if there is some compelling narrative reason, compel away.