Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The strangeness of Fate

I'm now a few sessions into a Fate game. It's a fantasy game, with magic and elves and all that jazz. Even though those parts makes me grounded in the familiar tropes, the rest of the game still makes me reel sometimes. I think Fate is probably the most different game I've played.

Different than what? I hear you ask. Well, most things. First off, it's very loosey goosey as far at delimiting what is turned into game mechanics. Aspects, the core of the system, can be something looking like a class, a part of the character psychology or a relationship. I guess most people have heard about that part. That part I think I've got down pat by now.

Now, how you use those Aspects and Skills, that is where it gets weird. At least it's what trip me up. In Fate you have those aforementioned loosey goosey crunchy bits, which really gets in your face when you use them. The thing is, I'm used to have the game mechanic be some kind of binary system. Do I succeed at this or that? Fairly simple, you do or you don't. In Fate you have specific actions you take. You might Attack, Defend, Overcome or Create Advantage. That to me feels strange.

I'm used to expressing what I want to achieve, getting some feedback from the GM of what I need to roll and then get some kind of adjudication of what that means, cooperatively sometimes. Contrast that with Fate, where you can do all those actions mentioned before with almost all abilities, and they make narrative and tactical sense! That last bit is interesting.

I don't know how often I've read or heard that Fate is one of those narrative modern "story games" or whatnot. In my experience it's not. Fate is in your face crunchiness and the most tactical game I've so far played. Even when you do things that are "pure roleplaying" or "story" in that they are driven by your character's foibles or relationship, it's still tactical thinking. You set up an Advantage so you can then invoke it, or activate a negative Aspect so you can get more Fate points to then boost your next skill roll which might be a, say,  social Attack. That seriously trips me up. Interesting, but odd.
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