Last week I ordered a couple of RPG core sets to read through as an alternative to D&D. Although there isn’t anything intrinsically wrong with D&D, I’ve been playing the D20 system my entire life (through either D&D or similar RPGs) and fancied a bit of a change. With that in mind, I thought it was time to try a couple of indie roleplaying games, having been reminded the world exists at the UK Games Expo.
Fate was a system I had heard of but didn’t know much about. Being so used to the hefty prices of D&D/Pathfinder/more “mainstream” RPGs, it was a pleasant surprise to be able to buy the Fate RPG Core Set for only £15(ish). That put it in my good books before I read the rules, but reading them changed the way I will look at RPGs forever.
Let me start by saying that I haven’t played the game yet, so this isn’t a review. Instead, this is me geeking out over an amazing concept and fantastic system.
Game Generation in Fate
When I picked up the rulebook for the first time, I was immediately taken aback for one big reason. Fate is a completely cooperative game.
“So what?” you ask bemused, “So is D&D and Space Opera and Wild West and Rolemaster and GURPS and all those other RPGs you played growing up!”
“Why kind of, dear reader,” I reply, “and how do you know what RPGs I played growing up? That is a bit creepy.”
The reason I say “kind of” is that yes, they are cooperative for the players; however, there is always a divide between the player and the Dungeon/Games Master. The DM/GM designs a scenario, tells a story, invigilates a session of group exploration, and crafts the world. It is up to the GM to decide on where it is the players are and what it is they are doing there. That is the traditional way of crafting a roleplaying game. The GM makes and the players play.
Well…not in Fate. Fate is different and kind of takes the bull by the horns so far as game generation is concerned. Rather than being planned months in advance, Fate offers the option for the game to be played on the fly. It allows for players to work with the GM to generate the world, before they generate characters. This can then change and warp depending on the characters they decide to play.
The way this works is through the generation of issues – a current issue and an impending issue. These create a mission for the players, to resolve or find out more, but the impending issue tends to affect the world at large in a more significant way. These can be in any setting, and this is where Fate is really exciting. It opens the RPG world up as a system, rather than a setting. From this it is possible to see the relationship it has to GURPs; however, Fate seems to be a far slicker system.
Let me give you an example. We’ve been watching a lot of the X-Files recently (myself and my girlfriend), so we are going to have a game set in the FBI. The primary issue is a fellow agent has gone missing. The impending issue is that we have spotted lights in the night sky that are probably UFOs.
X-Files fans can probably tell where we are in our watching spree from that description…
Now, where this is really clever is there we have a game concept; however, it can change depending on the kinds of roles the players want to play. The GM ultimately has a veto power over this; however, it looks like it could be really interesting to just roll with it. So for instance, my partner may want to play a Power Ranger FBI Hybrid – in which case the agents are part of the Mighty Morphin FBI Squad. Or she may want to have a character who grew up in Eldritch, in which case the Cthulhu/Lovecraft universe is now intertwined with the FBI. Whatever the player wants for their character can become a part of the mythos. The possibilities are as endless as the imagination.
This versatility is incredibly appealing and could offer unlimited replayability (not that RPGs have ever struggled with that, but it felt like it needed emphasising) as the players/GM can explore any world they can imagine.
Of course, if you wanted, it can still be played as a more traditional DM/GM experience. The world can be pre-generated by the DM/GM; however, having the option to play it differently is really nice.
Fate in Fate
The other thing that massively appeals in Fate is the interaction between the GM and the players. At any point the GM can interfere with the players’ plans to stop them doing things or to force fate (if you will) in a certain direction. This is the Games Master prerogative – the ability to see into the world more than any other player. For instance, if you are playing a flaming giant with a skull for a face, it won’t work if you want to strike up a friendly conversation in the park. At this point the GM can get involved and just say “no”; however, to do so though, the GM needs to give the player/s involved Fate points.
By my understanding, by the first impression and having not actually played the game yet, these can be spent to change the game in return. These are points the player can play to “remember something they read about” or “know how to do something from a training session long ago” or whatever they want. The GM can override these, but they can essentially be used to change their position within the world. This, again, is a really novel concept and allows for players to be easily drawn into the story telling experience.
To put it very simply – spending Fate Points can change your fate.
RPGs have always harboured a fairly symbiotic relationship between the player and the GM, but in Fate, this is taken to a whole new level. It is this relationship, this co-ownership of each scenario that has really made the game stand out in my eyes. It means that the players have a say in the world, which can really be used to introduce new tabletop RPG players to the fold.
I can’t comment on the gameplay yet, and I can’t really review the game as I haven’t played, but you can be sure I will review it when I get around to it. I just wanted to explore a few of the more interesting mechanisms before then as, to be blunt, they are really different and really exciting.
What we are seeing, with the likes of Fate and Dread and other indie RPGs is a wave of playing with new mechanics, new mechanisms, and that is really cool. It is, in a way, helping reinvent the tabletop RPG as something more than just D&D.
Until then, if you have played Fate I would be interested in hearing about your thoughts and experiences below.