Day 22: How many friendships have you terminated because they confessed they kind of like to play Fate games sometimes? It’s okay. Fate players have to hear the truth.

Anyway, when I wrote this one I had several things in mind:

* Losing friends over games
* My confounded personal relationship with Fate
* The two headed serpent known as NotForYou/YouDontGetIt

First one: disappointing but it has happened to me, but not because of Fate! Actually it was Burning Wheel, but with 20/20 hindsight I’m pretty sure the system was a symptom, not the cause. I was steaming steadily toward a whole different play/head space, Burning Empires was the accelerant, and without really understanding what was happening, I had a minor player revolt on my hands.

The points of contention orbited around treating the GM (me!) as a collaborator and not a constrained competitor, and moving the creative focus off tactical challenges and GM-driven drama and onto narrative challenges and character-driven drama.

I’m sorry it happened, but I’m not sorry those players and I parted ways at the game table.

Regarding Fate, tho: my first one was Spirit of the Century. Looked pretty cool, I can be in for a zany pulpfest, I’d never seen Fate in action before. I have an old copy of Fudge but it’s kind of not the same.

I didn’t have nearly the same level of study and awareness under my belt at that point. SotC was even where I started my flowchart method for working out just what all is going on under the hood.

Fate looks great on paper. I should like it! I should like lots of things that look good on paper: Elvis Costello, Terry Brooks, Richard Linklater. Dunno. The heart wants what it wants, I guess.

Which brings me to my third thought: The two headed serpent known as NotForYou/YouDontGetIt.

Lordy. So…I think the not for you/you don’t get it charge can be placed descriptively or prescriptively, right? I’ll apply it to my own damned self all the time, because that’s my right. It’s okay if I don’t get something. It’s okay if I’ve decided — after giving it my level best — that it’s not for me. But I have a visceral and violent reaction when I’m told this by someone else.

Sometimes it’s totally well intentioned, and I feel so bad when the howling fuuuuuck you! comes boiling up out of my wretched soul. Keith Stetson and I had an extensive email correspondence after my group played a draft of his Seco Creek Vigilance Committee, and this came up, and I did not react well. I still feel bad, Keith! And you might even be right. It is my Aspect that can be compelled at any time by anyone.

I want to like Fate.

I own quite a lot of Fate and I’ve bought even more even after deciding it wasn’t for me. After SotC we had a short run through Brad Murray’s Diaspora, which has a lot of neat stuff going on but…Fate. Such a smart design on so many fronts, though. And man there’s a lot of neat material out there. I keep looking at Sophie Lagace’s grimsical War of Ashes, too.

So much production and productivity around Fate. I think it was this close to becoming the indie monoculture, and probably would have were it not for Apocalypse World. Many, many people I like and respect love the game, and I love my friends no less for that.

My next attempt is only Fate-adjunct: Phil Lewis’s Wrath of the Autarch. It’s kiiiiind of a Fate game. It uses that sweet-ass Fate Deck. There are Aspects and a sorta-kinda Fate Point economy happening. It looks super neat, and I hope the fact that it’s not precisely a GMed game will get everyone (i.e. me) over the hump.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Indie Game Reading Club on Patreon!

52 thoughts on “Day 22: How many friendships have you terminated because they confessed they kind of like to play Fate games sometimes? It’s okay. Fate players have to hear the truth.”

  1. This post reminded me that I actually have lost (or at least lost touch with) friends over gaming differences. Had a 3.0/3.5 game of DnD that went on for something like 4 years and, near the and of it, with my circa 2009 head-up-assedness, I tried to basically reboot 19th or 20th level characters into 2nd edition Heroquest or something like that. Then I tried to get them to play Sorcerer. Some of them don’t even reply to my emails anymore, and I can understand why.

    So… yeah. Wasn’t Fate, but it was definitely caused by a rush of indie story-gaming-ness back in the day.

  2. Doyce Testerman I totally feel you on what you said in your OP, about not wanting to relive head-up-your-ass moments from years ago. I’m right there with you, and I was reliving exactly that when I wrote these, but I’m also a masochist. So.

  3. Copy-pasted from Doyce Testerman’s thread, just in case the action ends up being here (as it often does):

    Really strong criticism.

    As I’ve been saying elsewhere, so far, Atomic Robo is my favourite implementation of Fate, and I’m getting closer to really understanding why that is by reading other people’s criticism.

    Where AR brings “surprises” back in is through the Brainstorm system. Sure, players get to choose what elements come out of the Brainstorm and become Aspects, but because of the dice element and the fact that the players are all contributing their own weirdest ideas, the strange gestalts that come out of a Brainstorm are often very different than what would have been expected by looking at their “ingredients”.

    None of that invalidates any of your issues, it’s just a realization that I might not have had without your comments.

  4. Because Fate Core is all about dials and knobs, I wonder if there are knobs that would make it work. It’d require really figuring out what the mechanical issues are, though, and that seems hard.

  5. I’ve given that a lot of thought, and the result I’ve personally come up with is “to turn those dials to where I want them, I’m basically making it a different game that happens to use Fate Dice.”

    Which: cool! But…

  6. Man, Doyce Testerman fucking nailed that shit for me too.

    Especially the part about “my own extreme head in assness” — though for me it would have been less 2009 and more like 2001 – 2015.

    I’m over it now though. I swear.

    P.S. I love FATE, you all suck.

  7. Doyce Testerman​ which is weird because you can almost get Risus by turning the dials and IIRC you were a fan of Risus.

    Brand Robins​ wait, do you really like Fate? I thought all the OG Forge bro’s hated it 😉

  8. Phil Lewis mmmmostly.

    I don’t want to get deeper into the nitty gritty because it’s been some years and the text isn’t fresh for me any more.

    I seem to remember that you roll dice and THEN start diddling around with Aspects after the fact, yeah? Hence the lack of surprise, that you can pretty much win any roll as long as you’ve got the FP to spend and appropriate Aspects available? I’m looking quick-quick through the SRD to freshen up…

    Yeah, that was it.

    Okay, so: the thing that I can’t get past is that you’ve got this kind of …fortune in the middle thing happening, right? We talk a bit, we build up to a roll, here’s the random input, and then we start negotiating fictional inputs. That is not my jam, like, at all. I’ve had players wheedle and whine about applying Aspects, and since the random input has already happened, now it becomes Aspect grubbing vs. GM patience.

    Compare to Burning Wheel or Cortex Plus: you add in all the shit that’s relevant to the roll, then you make the roll. Negotiation in the middle, fortune at the end. Win or lose, you build the various traits into the fiction. The traits were settled on before the roll, no Aspect grubbing. The fiction feels more, I don’t know, intact somehow.

    I don’t know why it bugs me at the end! Maybe it’s because, before the dice come in, trait-grubbing (it happens!) is easier to say “no” to: the dice may yet overcome the GM’s “no.” But if you have to say “no” afterward, you may very well be directly determining the outcome.

  9. Maybe it’s because, before the dice come in, trait-grubbing (it happens!) is easier to say “no” to: the dice may yet overcome the GM’s “no.” But if you have to say “no” afterward, you may very well be directly determining the outcome.

    These are wise words, despite all the false modesty.

  10. Aaron Griffin surprise isn’t the issue for me.

    It would probably solve the “GM decides” issue for me, though. I’d have to see! It works well in other games that use similar mechanisms.

    Not sure how stunts play into all this. Again, I’m not fresh enough with hands-on play time to really duke this one out.

  11. Flow chart? Man. Lots of your comments hit hard with me. YEAH! I don’t wanna be told what’s not for me! And WotA sounds really cool. I have been really wanting to make something Fate-Adjacent. But mostly I wanna hear more about this flowchart thing!

  12. I don’t really have the time right now, but I could spend a huge amount of words on this topic. My intro in WotA was initially longer – and had more thoughts on Fate. It was a little too snarky and contentious, though, so we dropped it. I should probably dust that off and post it in the WotA G+ group.

  13. Hans Messersmith agreed. I’m super curious to hear if any of the Fate Notables can explain why this is not how it’s done. I assume it’s purposeful.

  14. Hans Messersmith I think what Fate is addressing is the “squaring the fiction and intent with a weird result” trad RPG problem that Paul mentioned in an earlier post. If rolling is the start of the conversation, and there’s more control there from aspects, the result may more naturally fall out and square with the intent. What do you sacrifice? Well, certainly some tension at the point of rolling dice.

    But, honestly, I could be off base.

  15. Are you all really agonizing about not liking a game? Like, here’s a thought, it’s okay to not like a really good game, you don’t have to beat yourself or anyone else up about it. There are methods of artistic evaluation by which Picasso is a shitty painter.

    The only order-of-operations thing I really stick to in Fate (Core) is that the GM generates his total first (including the roll, invokes, etc.) and then the player does their thing. I don’t get a lot of reaching for shitty invokes because I’ve made it clear fictionally what’s happening before the player even rolls the dice.

  16. Jason Corley Well, I agonize over just about everything, so why should this be any different? Seriously, for me, though, it’s more of a “complicated feels” thing than an easy “I don’t like this” thing.

  17. Doyce Testerman’s post is great, and it seems to point to Fate (mostly) eliminating unwelcome outcomes, which I think came up in a previous topic this month as being (to some) the whole point of rules in the first place.

    “Compels before the roll” is one of my favorite things about Cortex Plus, as well as — in MHR at least — the economy of the Doom Pool. I.e., a resource economy the GM has to manage in order to put pressure on the PCs, i.e., the GM can’t just steamroll all they want.

    Aside: all of this discussion make me want to take a whack at FUDGE (which Ive heard some folks say is “obsolete” now that Fate exists).

  18. Ara Winter I don’t want to focus too much on WotA in this thread (too late), but I’m curious about why. My guess would be the tighter action economy surrounding aspects?

  19. I’ve found that Fate works much better utilizing compels rather than getting into a pissing match with your players over whose Fate Point pile is bigger. If players spend a lot of FPs, let them have their big success. Compels are where the gravy is at. If you get into a spending spree with players just offer a compel instead. my $0.02.

  20. Am I the only one who think trait-grubbing (or FORK-grubbing for the BW crowd) is great? Both GM and Player looking at their toolkit of mechanics to apply to the fiction and working it out? I LOVE THIS.

    Tagging Rob Donoghue who is probably already reading this or actively ignoring it.

  21. Jesse Coombs oh I really like FoRK-grubbing, but it happens in a very different part of resolution than Aspect grubbing. Made a huge difference when I ran Fate.

    Should we start a different thread for Fate vs FATE?

  22. I made my own long Fate post rather than posting here. But to address an earlier point, spending Fate Points before the roll doesn’t break anything, and turns things into more of a gamble (that’s how it works in Age of Arthur, for that reason, to make conflicts more uncertain). And the GM spends any of their Fate points first to set a stake and call it out.

    It’s a small distance from the default way of doing things in Fate Core, but it works well as my way of doing things!

  23. Jesse Coombs yes, by definition trait “grubbing” comes after the roll in Fate Core. It is cumulative, and frequently a bidding war for really important actions. The net outcome of the rule, in my experience, is that most actions result in exactly a success (not success with style, tie or failure), because the players pay exactly what is necessary to ensure that outcome, no more, no less.

    I think a lot of the Fate threads I have read today have all ultimately boiled down to whether what I just said is a feature or a bug.

  24. Hans Messersmith This is why the GM should generate their number and describe the fiction scrupulously before the player even touches their dice. No bidding war, just “can you do what you’re doing well enough”

  25. Jesse Coombs for the most part, yes, I think you are right. At least on any significant action.

    Jason Corley do you mean generally, or specifically in Fate Core? I ask because while I think what you describe might be good policy, I’m almost certain it is not required by the rules of Fate Core, if anything the opposite is allowed/expected. EDIT: also, in my experience the most tremendous Fate Point bidding wars happen between players, with the GM looking on in bemused silence.

  26. I haven’t given it as much thought, but I’m in the NotForMeMaybe? camp. And yet here I am, contemplating taking another crack at Fate for the sake of running diaspora again.

  27. If you find yourself butting your head against the rules in Fate, generally you set aside the rules and go with the fiction. But I’m going to assume that the issue is more complicated than an occasional thing my suggestion would be to look into Robert Hanz’s essays on the game as they’ve helped me a bit.

    For me in Fate, the roll sets up that potential cost of the action attempted. If the player has a good roll then they’re going to succeed with no problem and the question is whether they want to spend resources to increase the scale of success or not. If they roll low I try to describe the action as coming up to the last possible moment they could have influence over the result and see if they are willing to spend resources to succeed.

    A recent example I’ve used would be trying to leap a gorge: the player gets a poor roll and I describe that as they’re rushing at the edge of their side of the gorge they suddenly realize the other side is unstable. At this point they can choose to simply fail (in which case I’d make them roll to see if they can stop themselves in time to avoid falling off the edge), succeed with cost (in which case they make the jump but introduce some other complication such as hanging by their fingertips or else making the jump impossible for the rest of the PCs or so on) or spend Fate points assuming they had appropriate aspects like acrobat or vestigial wings or such. I sometimes say what the cost will be in succeed with cost. Sometimes I don’t. Depends on the mood of the game. In a horror game I wouldn’t tell them the cost and I’ve had such rolls result in the death of an NPC. In comedic games I usually am more upfront and give a general idea of what will happen if they choose success with cost. In an action game I recently had a bystander non-fatally shot due to a success with cost choice.

    But I would suggest looking at the various versions of Fate out there. Strands of Fate, for example, uses a somewhat different char gen method. It’s point based and does away with the columns and ladders of the Core skill system. I hybridized Strands and Core for Divine Blood so I could use Strands char gen with the more fluid and flexible Challenge, Contest and Conflict structures and the fail/tie/success/style success mechanic which is similar in ways to the PbtA 6-/7-9/10+/12+ arrangement.

Leave a Reply