(Fate) Trying to figure it out

Necrozius

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There is definitely a subset of gamers, myself included, who cannot seem to understand how Fate "works". Some have attributed it to a cognitive condition, like people who taste cilantro as soap and those who don't.

For me the biggest hurdle is understanding the whole "Aspects are always true, but you have to spend Fate Points to effectively use them". After reading various forum discussions, I'm starting to think that this statement (or slight variations of it) are not exactly correct.

Please correct me if I'm wrong with this interpretation and analogy:

My PC has the Aspect: "Strongest Being on Earth".

I can benefit from this Aspect any and all of the time when it comes to things that "narrative-ly" should be of no challenge to the PC. Example: break down a simple wooden door, lift up a car, bend mundane prison bars. No expenditure of Fate Points are necessary and perhaps not even a dice roll.

I've learned from some Fate GMs, this Aspect would also allow my PC to make "physique" checks that others might not even be able to attempt. Example: a massive Redwood tree has fallen and blocked the road. My PC could offer to make a Physique check to lift the obstacle out of the way. Other PCs without Aspects defining an ability or trait that would allow such a scene cannot even try. As a player, I could say "thanks to my Aspect of 'Strongest Being on Earth" I would like to lift up this tree and move it out of the way".

However, if I want to do a task that would pose a challenge to even the "Strongest Being on Earth", whether due to an opposing force of comparable strength (vs the Strongest Being on Mars) or because the stakes are really high (can my PC do the task quickly enough?), I must definitely roll the dice. To get any added benefit from this Aspect, I must spend a Fate point.

Even Superman can be tired out with too much stuff during one day.

So if that interpretation is correct, then I might have just finally figured out Fate... Or did I?

Any replies are very welcome, as well as more questions about Fate from others.
 

robiswrong

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Yeah, you basically got it, though I tend to think that aspects like "Strongest Being on Earth" aren't very good, especially outside of a Supers game.

I kind of recommend learning Fate outside of that particular genre, as it will generally make things easier.

But the first thing that that aspect will do is allow you to do things that most people can't. As a simple example, if you're a "Princess of the Realm", you can go in the castle. Period, because you belong there as a princess. Similarly, the Strongest Being On Earth can lift redwoods because of course he can.

This is what's generally called "aspect permission". Now, you still may need to roll in many situations, because your skills (modified by stunts) determine how effective you are at "getting your way" using that particular skill. For instance, a character that was actually bad at fighting, but somehow lucked into being in the right place at the right time would still be represented with a high Fight skill.

So your Strongest Being on Earth is trying to bend some bars. Well, clearly he can bend the bars, but what's the failure condition? It's changed now - maybe a failure means he does so much damage in the process that the wall collapses, or he makes so much noise that he attracts attention.

Depending on the situation and setting, sometimes aspect permissions are flat-out too powerful, and purchasing a stunt/spending refresh to be truly that strong may be required.
 

robiswrong

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Though to be super-clear, you certainly don't *have* to roll. Rolling is going to be based on the situation, and whether there's an "interesting" failure - which I mostly interpret to be roughly the equivalent of Take 20 in D&D... If there's no external pressure, and no real inherent consequence for failure, then you just do it and get on with the game.
 

Shipyard Locked

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Having an awful flash of junior high rpg group where the GM called for rolls for walking down the street

Few learning curves are more brutal than GMing*. I've thought that a lot lately while watching my brother run his first campaign ever after playing in mine for years and years. We've talked about all the pitfalls many times, yet he still plummets into them.

EDIT: * Nice hyperbole I've got going here, jeez...
 
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Necrozius

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A wise woman once told me that many Aspects are drastically improved by wrapping them in quotation marks.

Example:

The Strongest Being on Earth

Vs.

"The Strongest Being on Earth"

Even better, making it 1st or 3rd person:

"I'm The Strongest Being on Earth"

"He's The Strongest Being on Earth"

Lots more character and reasons to Compel...
 

robiswrong

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That's great advice a lot of times, as it gives a lot of insight into the character and their relationship with the world.
 

robiswrong

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I'm also totally willing to run an online game if people wanna give it a shot.
 

robiswrong

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I'd generally prefer to use something like roll20 - I'm not a fan of PbP in the best case, and I don't think Fate is a really good PbP game anyway.

I'd imagine a short adventure, unless people wanted to continue. Genre/setting would be up to all of the participants, with the caveat that I don't really do supers as a GM.
 

Baulderstone

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Few learning curves are more brutal than GMing*. I've thought that a lot lately while watching my brother run his first campaign ever after playing in mine for years and years. We've talked about all the pitfalls many times, yet he still plummets into them.

EDIT: * Nice hyperbole I've got going here, jeez...

It may be hyperbole, but there is some truth there. The only way to get good at GMing is to do it for real, which means every painful misstep you make is going to be in front of other people.
 

Shipyard Locked

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I'd generally prefer to use something like roll20 - I'm not a fan of PbP in the best case, and I don't think Fate is a really good PbP game anyway.

I'd imagine a short adventure, unless people wanted to continue. Genre/setting would be up to all of the participants, with the caveat that I don't really do supers as a GM.

When are you thinking of doing this?

Also, my vote for setting is robiswrong's favorite (gamable) historic period, with or without special effects.
 

CRKrueger

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Hmm. A sane Fate GM. I'll bite. I can accept a lot more systems as a player than a GM, especially one-shots or short-termers. Hell, I even had fun with Dogs in the Vineyard.
 

robiswrong

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Sweet. All I ask for is an open, if critical, mind. I think there was someone over at rpgsite also interested, and 3 is a good number.
 

3rik

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(...) I even had fun with Dogs in the Vineyard.
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Shipyard Locked

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Sweet. All I ask for is an open, if critical, mind. I think there was someone over at rpgsite also interested, and 3 is a good number.

Alright, I'm on board with a one-short or short-termer on roll20. Count me in. We can debrief in this thread afterward.
 

CRKrueger

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This is a question for the Fate Gurus out there, like Rob and Slaad (or anyone else who wants to pitch in.
How accurate do you think the following depiction of Fate is?

BEGIN DESCRIPTION
FATE is a narrative-ish game, so it may or may not be up your alley. I love it.

FATE characters have Aspects--short, punchy phrases that define something about the character the player has decided is important. This can be good, bad, or mixed. Overall, the character should have a mix of 'good' and 'bad' Aspects.

The basis of FATE's "fate point economy" is that you can tag one of your character's Aspects when it's relevant to something happening in the fiction and get a bonus/reroll by describing how it's relevant. This costs a Fate Point. The way you get more Fate Points in the middle of a session is by accepting a Compel. With a Compel, the GM gives you a Fate Point in order to act in a way that coincides with one of your Aspects that puts you at a disadvantage or gets you in trouble. (You can "self-compel" by doing so yourself.)

The result of this is that the things the player decided are important about the character are constantly influencing play, both by getting the character out of tough situations and by getting them into them.

Here's some examples with one of my past characters, Malzen of Zen'drik

Malzen was a sky pirate in a FATE game we set in D&D's Eberron setting. He's a dark elf from the jungle who came to the "civilized" world and started making his living as a mercenary by leveraging the mysterious and fearsome reputation of his people.

His skills include Intimidate, Weapons, Athletics, Deceit, Thievery.

His Aspects are:
-Heroic Bastard
-Crossed the World
-Savage Drow from the Savage Jungle
-Civilized... on the Inside
-Chaos Catalyst

Heroic Bastard describes his MO: he gets away with being an asshole by aiming his asshole-ness largely at people who really deserve it.
Crossed the World respresents both that he's traveled very widely, and that he's made a lot of enemies across the way.
Savage Drow from the Savage Jungle represents his origins and fearsome reputation.
Civilized... on the Inside represents the fact that even though he plays up his fearsome "rawr, I'm a mysterious barbarian" reputation, he's
Chaos Catalyst represents the way in which situations Malzen gets involved with tend to spiral out of control and create trouble for everyone, including him.

Here are some examples of how that works out in play:
-I might tag Heroic Bastard while trying to take a bad person down a peg to get a bonus. The GM might Compel Heroic Bastard to get me to go out of my way to rub salt in a villain's wound or embarass him publicly, in a way that goes against my plan or exposes me to danger.

-I might tag Crossed the World to get a bonus on contacting. The GM might Compel Crossed the World to determine that an NPC in a particular scene doesn't like me and will work against me because of something I did to them in the past, or that someone I need a favor from still holds a grudge (and will need to be mollified), or etc.

-I might tag Savage Drow from the Savage Jungle to get a bonus when trying to intimidate someone, or when guiding people through the wilderness. The GM might Compel it whenever my cultivated reputation actually puts me at a disadvantage.

-I might tag Civilized... on the Inside to get a bonus to unexpectedly 'civilized' actions: academic knowledge, formal dancing, etc. The GM might Compel it to get me to indulge in "civilized" vices (flaky layered pastries, creature comforts) when it's not the right time, or to get me to set additional goals/complications for a scene that go against what would be quicker and easier (no, we can't do that, "the city would descend into chaos, and gods dammit, I like this city.") He might also Compel it when an NPC understands that my "rawr, fierce barbarian" reputation is mostly a facade and thereby puts me at a disadvantage when trying to intimidate him.

-I might tag Chaos Catalyst to get a bonus to making a situation unravel--throwing a dinner party we crashed into chaos as cover for a robbery, getting two people or factions to fight each other, etc. The GM might Compel it when the fallout of my actions creates problems and unforeseen consequences, or when things go wrong in unexpected ways because of what I do, or to throw a wrench into an otherwise smooth and well-laid plan.

So as a result, my character's personality gets him into all kinds of trouble and makes his (and the group's) life more difficult, but by doing so, it gets me Fate Points I can spend when I need to to get out of the complications it causes.

Because I decided that the important things about my character are that he's a wild card with a savage reputation who's actually faking that reputation, and whose plans tend to descend into chaos and improvised actions, those things will naturally come up in play.

Another past character is William Rosenberg, a Dresden Files RPG apprentice wizard whose mentor disappeared and who's having to fill her shoes. He had Aspects like Warden with a Conscience, which the GM would Compel to give me dilemmas where he's torn between he's supposed to do as a Warden (mercilessly discipline and rebuke potential warlocks) and his conscience. That gives me Fate Points which I'll doubtlessly need while trying to thread that needle.
Another Aspect was Arcane Mastery... of the Basics, which I'd tag to get bonuses on 'basic' spell work (basic attacks, simple rituals, etc, especially when trying to apply them to solve a complicated problem) but which the GM might compel to get more complicated spells like big rituals to have some complications. That feedback loop winds up showing off the fact that he's an apprentice who has a lot of talent but still has trouble with the more complicated things (because he never finished his training) in actual play.

FATE is basically a combination of that "feedback loop" of Compels and Tags of player-created character Aspects with a reasonably rules-light skill system and some narrative mechanics you can play up or play down. It makes it so that if your wizard being socially awkward is important to you, then his social awkwardness will put him at a disadvantage, but simultaneously generate points you can use to emphasize the things it's important to you he be good at.

In my experience, this works out really well in actual play, and something I've bolted on to other games in the past. But if you really don't like that idea, then FATE probably isn't for you.

END DESCRIPTION

It kind of sounds like even people who normally would like Fate, can easily get in trouble with it because they don't define aspects properly.
 

robiswrong

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That's pretty accurate.

As a GURPS player, one of the things I like about Fate is that it gets rid of the weirdness in GURPS where you're incentivized to take things that you don't think will come up. Instead, you're incentivized to take things that will come up on a regular basis. The GM's going to give you problems no matter what, they may as well at least be ones you like, and ones that you'll get at least some compensation for.

"narrative-ish" is a good description. While it's got narrative elements, as a player I find that a good 90%+ of the time I'm playing in a pretty traditional mode. That remaining 1-10% is off-putting for some, I get that. Hell, I've gotten into arguments with people that don't understand that some folks don't want any player-facing decisions whatsoever.

Personally, I look at it as in-character/not-in-character with a (general) goal of minimizing not-in-character. I don't really differentiate between not-in-character because I'm counting squares or mathing out damage probabilities, or not-in-character because I'm negotiating a Concession. And that's where I say I find Fate pretty immersive, because I spend a *lot* of time in-character (and I've internalized the system). Not everybody sees things the same way, though.
 

CRKrueger

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While it's got narrative elements, as a player I find that a good 90%+ of the time I'm playing in a pretty traditional mode. That remaining 1-10% is off-putting for some, I get that.
To be fair, I'm not sure a minimalist view of using Aspects is what most people do when playing Fate. I get that's what you do, but If I didn't use the Doom Pool in 2d20 I would hardly characterize the system as one in which you hardly use the Doom Pool. I'd argue you're not exactly the average Fate-GM.

Personally, I look at it as in-character/not-in-character with a (general) goal of minimizing not-in-character. I don't really differentiate between not-in-character because I'm counting squares or mathing out damage probabilities, or not-in-character because I'm negotiating a Concession. And that's where I say I find Fate pretty immersive, because I spend a *lot* of time in-character (and I've internalized the system). Not everybody sees things the same way, though.
Eh, there's no way I'll ever classify mechanics as coming from in-character decisions as the same as those that come from out-of-character decisions, and we're back to the definition of "roleplay". You need something to determine resolution of actions or it's back to "bang you're dead, no you missed". Physical players have to physically roll dice, pick cards, play RPS, cast the runes, do whatever, but that is just the nature of the "game" in roleplaying game. The game determines the actions of the characters. That will never be the same as the mechanic that is engaged to effect the will of the player, no matter how well you've internalized it.

But, I am interested in seeing how an Aspects light game would run, especially with someone who groks it, I think another problem with Fate is, people try it when they are all newbs, and I think the GM probably has to have his shit wired more than in some other games.
 

robiswrong

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To be fair, I'm not sure a minimalist view of using Aspects is what most people do when playing Fate. I get that's what you do, but If I didn't use the Doom Pool in 2d20 I would hardly characterize the system as one in which you hardly use the Doom Pool. I'd argue you're not exactly the average Fate-GM.

I'm not entirely sure I'm that far off of it. I've played with a dude that works for Evil Hat, and I've played with some of the Jadepunk authors. My style isn't far off of what they did. Things I've written about figuring out Fate have gotten good feedback from the authors of the system, and at least one author has written about the negatives of "aspect spamming". So, yeah.

Eh, there's no way I'll ever classify mechanics as coming from in-character decisions as the same as those that come from out-of-character decisions, and we're back to the definition of "roleplay". You need something to determine resolution of actions or it's back to "bang you're dead, no you missed". Physical players have to physically roll dice, pick cards, play RPS, cast the runes, do whatever, but that is just the nature of the "game" in roleplaying game. The game determines the actions of the characters. That will never be the same as the mechanic that is engaged to effect the will of the player, no matter how well you've internalized it.

I'm pretty sure I didn't say they're the same. I'm pretty sure I acknowledged the difference.

What I did say is that, to me, I find a game where I spend 5% of my time dealing with out-of-character mechanics, and 95% of the game in-character to be more immersive than one where I"m spending 35% of my time dealing with fiddly mechanics, figuring out how to optimize bonuses, etc.

And, just to be clear - I'm not saying that it's the same for you, and I'm not saying that the latter is how you play. But, for me, a game where I'm spending the vast majority of the time in-character is more immersive than one where I'm spending a larger amount of time dealing with mechanics, regardless of the nature of those mechanics.

Again, I get it. I figure OOC mechanics are, to you, like mustard is to me. I hate mustard, and if I can detect mustard, I really can't eat whatever it's on. Other people, even if they don't care for mustard or even dislike it (but not to the same level as me) can handle some mustard in a dish, but for me, if I get "mustard flavor", I'm out.
 

CRKrueger

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I'm not entirely sure I'm that far off of it. I've played with a dude that works for Evil Hat, and I've played with some of the Jadepunk authors. My style isn't far off of what they did. Things I've written about figuring out Fate have gotten good feedback from the authors of the system, and at least one author has written about the negatives of "aspect spamming". So, yeah.
I'll take your word for it, I must be reading or watching the wrong APs, which is certainly possible.

BTW, what are you gonna run?
 

robiswrong

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Got a link? I'm curious to see how much of a difference there is. (Genuinely curious here, as apparently your views don't match my experience, so I'm really curious to see what others are doing)

I'm open to just about anything. Except supers, especially high powered ones. I just don't grok supers enough to run it.
 
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CRKrueger

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Well, when trying a new game system, you can't go wrong with the one the GM likes best, the one that really gets the juices flowing. So what's your favorite iteration of Fate, what's your favorite type of genre to run with it, or what's your favorite adventure you've run before at cons or FLGS's or your favorite "n00b run"? I PM'd Nexus over at theRPGsite, he likes narrative games but says he's never been able to make much sense of Fate.
 

CRKrueger

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So far I think we got me, Necrozius and Shipyard interested at least.
 
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