I have two more fantastic guest bloggers for you this week, and I’ll be back for real on the 9th. Today I’m hosting Patrick Thunstrom, a geek (in the best possible way), writer, and computer guru. Gaming is not something I can talk about intelligently, so I’m thrilled to have Patrick here to talk RPGs…
I’m sure we’ve all heard of Dungeons and Dragons. Between a strange firestorm of controversy in its early years, through two movies, and pop-culture references that half the audience doesn’t even get, the other half are split between knowing of, and understanding the jokes.
It’s a good game with a lot of constructive things it can teach you. But it’s not my favorite RPG.
Yes. There are more than one.
What makes FATE unique?
There are a few things that combine to make FATE a strong system for telling stories together. Asking after these things brings back three answers: The Ladder, Aspects, and FATE Points.
Whenever any character does something with a chance of failure, they roll the dice, which gives a modifier to their base skill. Then you move the skill up or down the ladder to find out how well they really did. Compare this to how difficult the task is, or the opponent’s skill, and you determine success. Easy, right?
To give an example, my current FATE game features a bunch of fugitives and ne’er-do-wells boarding up together on a low class freighter line known for dangerous jobs and little oversight. One of the characters, Jack, has an origin aspect called Spacer, Born and Bred.With just this one line, I, the game master, know he’s comfortable on space ships, and likely not comfortable on planets. But that’s not where Aspects end, because they lend themselves directly to:
These are a special form of ‘story currency.’ By spending a FATE Point players can do a bunch of cool stuff.
To start they can invoke an aspect to say that they’re better at this specific task. To do this, one of their aspects must relate to the task at hand. Jack, for example, could use his Spacer, Born and Bred aspect to have an easier time talking his way through docking paperwork; after all, it’s second nature.
Another way to use aspects to to make a declaration. This is similar to an invocation, except you get to change the seen in some way. Consider Jack again, running from guards on a space station. In an effort to get away, he declares that all space stations require airlocks every hundred meters. Since the game master consents, as this could be an interesting addition to the scene, Jack slides to a stop at the next airlock. Too bad the controls are password protected.
The last element of FATE Points is the compel.When the GM finds a reason one of your aspects would limit your options or cause an interesting, but negative, consequence, he or she can offer you a FATE point to force you to do that thing. Jack’s Spacer aspect gets him in trouble when the crew is in a rush to deliver a time sensitive package, and sitting there is a top-of-the-line fighter, not even a spot of oil to mar its gleam. Offered a FATE point to admire the craft and jabber with the owner, Jack makes a hard decision: He gives the GM a FATE point to ignore the compel so the group can get the job done right. Go, Jack!
That’s it, you could go and play a game of FATE with everything here. There’s obviously more to the game, and lots of possible books to start with, which is the biggest weakness for the system. FATE is an Open Gaming License game, which means its core mechanics are totally free, but each creator can add a bunch of unique mechanics that they may, or may not, add to the OGL. As such, every FATE game is a little different.
To counter this mild annoyance, though, there are plenty of implementations of FATE to get exactly what you’re looking for. Spirit of the Century is pulp action heroes, while Kereros Club is Victorian superheroes. Then you have The Dresden Files for some urban fantasy, and Legends of Anglerre covers the high fantasy and sword and sorcery rules. For space settings you have Diaspora, a hard sci-fi setting, and Bulldogs, a space pulp setting. Then you have Strange Fate (A generic version of Kerberos Club). Add on top of that various free versions, and the coming Atomic Robo and FATE Core and you’re not at a loss of interesting ways to play FATE.
As a final note, my list of FATE variations is by no means exhaustive, and I encourage anyone interested in hunting down your genre of choice, I’m sure it exists.
Patrick Thunstrom is a gamer, computer geek, business student and nerdfighter. Catch him on his blog or twitter. Strong opinions and big dreams, he plans to write some awesome speculative fiction novels and hopes to own his own business one day.