Fate still officially difficult

On our fourth session of Fate now, playing through a highly customised Traveller adventure. There’s an awful lot to like about it, but it’s still not easy to GM, and I believe the players are feeling the same.

So, I’m going to throw out a few observations, just to see what they look like ‘out loud’.

The good

The characters are full of character. The generation session was ace, and the aspects really helped colour in the PCs (once we had all gotten our heads round them)
Fate Accelerated is a great setting starting point. No need for extras, or house rules, just straight up sci fi goodness
Rolling Dice is fun. It’s visual and tactile and makes sense to everyone.
The amount of stuff needed at the table is fairly light, just tokens, cards and pens really.
Any question that comes up can be answered in lots of different ways

The tricky

Create Advantage is making something very simple in theory rather more difficult in practice.
A game with a robust plot starts to creak once the ‘costs’ start coming in.
It’s not actually much less prep than a traditional game.
Compels throw me, just generally.
Any question that comes up can be answered in lots of different ways

To expand on the ‘tricky’ parts: my usual games have the equivalent of the overcome, attack and defend actions, so I’m well used to calling for rolls and adjudicating outcomes. The CA action still makes me pause, and I find myself overthinking it too often. Back in Fates earlier days this was separated out into Declarations and Assessments, which I struggled with too, though the terminology made more sense to me. I guess these are the Perception and Gather Info type rolls from trad games, which would all be fine if it weren’t for the generation of an aspect of the back of them. My players often attempt these sort of actions of course, and it feels a bit odd to be writing out a phrase as their reward for success. It seems to be there to help them build up a great roll later on. That works in conflict situations, but I’m not quite seeing it with other, common, situations like surveillance or research.

With plots I fully appreciate that I should be all ready to improv and riff away on invokes and compels all night. I’m not ready for that yet. I’m using a published adventure as the spine of my game, and as with any of those I’m happy to adapt to players plans. The issues kick in when the players roll a result that demands a ‘cost’ be paid, especially a serious one. I’m thinking that it almost demands that the adventure go off in a whole new direction when this happens (otherwise it’s not much of a cost is it?). It’s not fatal, but that could mean having to be very flexible indeed to fit it all in.

Which is where the prep comes in. One reason for going with Fate was to trim down my prep. It’s easier in some ways, and more fun because I can play with words rather than numbers, but there’s no less of it. I like to have all my elements all written out, with aspects, skills, stunts et all. I put some flex space in there, but I don’t want to spontaneously generate opposition at the table.

Compels. I’ve read the rules on this many times, and tried the wisdom of the Internet many times. I want to give out Fate points, but I don’t want to railroad the players. I want to play up my NPCs faults, but don’t know how to self compel those in a way that makes sense at the table. And when the group is is a bad place due to events? Who gets the point?

Clearly, there are no straightforward answers to any of these issues, which is an issue in itself. Fate has only a few moving parts really, and each one of them could be the answer to any mechanical resolution question that comes up in the game. I need more structure than that!

Don’t get me wrong, I love Fate dearly, and the latest iteration is much better for me than the old one. Our game is very cool, and every session brings some brilliant scenes.

We’re getting there, but it’s hard!

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Fate still officially difficult

  1. So the biggest hangups seem to be with the Create Advantage action, compelling aspects, and “costs” when there are bad rolls.

    I have all the Fate Core books, and have read FAE and most of Core. I have yet to play this version of Fate, but I have run a game for a while with 1.0-2.0 rules (before any of these issues mentioned in your article existed).

    I guess I am going to have to run a game before I can comment with authority, but as of now I see it this way:

    Create Advantage is probably going to be an action that won’t be used “naturally” as much as other actions. I expect it to be used more “on purpose” by a player that is thinking “what can I do to help out the team, or get one up on the NPC, etc.” When it happens, I don’t think it will be a problem to adjudicate. I don’t feel uncomfortable with handing out a “+2″ for succeeding in the form of a phrase (and a free invoke).

    Compelling aspects is going to be a challenge that I hope players will eventually get into the spirit of and help find compels on their own in order to get the fate point economy flowing. In other games, I have very easily forgotten to give out points (like Old School Hack’s Awesome Points, Fudge’s Fudge Points, etc.) throughout my GMing experience, so I don’t expect this to be any easier to remember. But I think my PREP is going to be more toward looking at PCs and noting places where compels will make sense and be natural. I don’t think it will change the direction of the game, especially with published material, where I can read and jot notes in the margins about where compels could come into play…and I will have some time to think about how it will affect the plot, if at all.

    I think ideally, when GMs are creating basic plotlines, they can earmark spots where compels could make sense, help the plot along, or sidetrack it to other places, and get some ideas about what might happen, or what might not happen…and then, as they say in Dungeon World, “Play to find out what happens.”

    Costs are a potentially tricky thing. I can see that. But having had a great opportunity to wrap my brain around Dungeon World, I think it provided a solid foundation for the kinds of things you might do for costs in Fate. GM “soft moves” are good minor costs, like when you roll a 7-9, Success with a cost. And Harder moves for 6- failures. There is a good list in those rules that should be in Fate’s rules to give GMs idea of things they might want to do as costs for ties and failures.

    I am looking forward to running a game, and will probably have to do it online when I am ready. Then I can put these ideas to the test and see how well things pan out.

  2. evilgaz

    I don’t think some of your problems are game problems Baz – they’re different ways of playing issues. I think we need to get you, and importantly your players, some dirty left field hippy indie gaming experience.

    I’ve gone through a lot. I don’t really like those style games. I’m more Trindie – I like fairly trade stuff, but there’s hippy sensibilities that make it all more rich and the Fate set up works well in this arena.

    A key principle I guess would be not trying to win for example. Players actively flagging things to use against themselves to generate fate points, a good aspect being one you can use positively too.

    In terms of prep, put three invokes for each character on an index card before the session and try to use at least one or two. Have aspects on double-sided tent cards so other players can bring them in. Write your adventures with key scenes or NPC icons that are going to challenge the aspects your players have got written down.

    Let’s get together and do Fate!

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