Monday, January 03, 2011

As FATE would have it . . .

As I mentioned in a previous post, I've been reading The Dresden Files books recently.  Well, "recently" may be generous, as I burned through the last of the books in May; the only things I haven't read yet in that series are the short story collections.  With thirteen novels in the series, you can rightly call my interest piqued.  I even purchased the Dresden Files RPG books by Evil Hat.  I'll be the next person to sit in the GM's chair for my gaming group, so it's likely I'll end up running this, if for no other reason than I think the guys are ready for something besides D&D. 

Dresden uses the FATE system, and if you haven't heard of it before, you should really check it out.  I've been highly intrigued by it, and I'm really looking forward to giving it a shot.  In short, there's a lot of mechanical inducements for role-playing, and the flexibility of it seems like it could make for very cool gaming moments.

Each character has to take a number of Aspects.  These are essentially descriptors of the character, for anything from personality quirks to life goals, or even just physical attributes.  The more wordy, the better the Aspect.  For example, Harry Dresden, lead character of the novels, might take an Aspect such as "Wizard."  That's accurate, but very dull and boring.  Instead, he might take the Aspect, "The only Wizard listed in the yellow pages."  Much more descriptive, and gives a lot more room to work with.

Why do you need room to work with?  Well, characters get a number of Fate points to play with.  You can spend your Fate points to obtain supernatural powers or learn special skill tricks, but all unspent points can be used in the course to play to make things go your way.  This is done through "compulsion" and "invocation" of Aspects. 

Let's say that Harry wants to make something happen in the game.  He can invoke one of his Aspects by spending a Fate point if it's related.  This can give him a bonus to a roll, let him reroll, or even just declare something to be, depending on the situation.  Of course, the GM can also compel his Aspects.  If Harry is trying to keep a low profile during an investigation, the GM could compel his Aspect mentioned above, forcing circumstances or actions on Harry's part; if Harry accepts this, he gains a Fate point he can use later.  If he'd rather not have this hanging over his head, he can instead spend a Fate point to tell the GM to go suck an egg. 

Aspects aren't just for characters, either, meaning there's a lot of interesting ways to make use of this system.  I really like the back-and-forth potential this creates between players and the GM, and it sets the players up for really getting to shine in the spotlight when they need to.

I know some might complain that the GM has a lot of power to screw over the players in this sort of system, but I think if you're worried about the GM abusing power, and the players, then you already have problems in your game.  This sort of system only works when the GM is working together with the players to tell an interesting story.  If it's just the GM telling his story, or just pushing the players as hard as possible because you're only doing it right if the players are tearing out their hair, then the system breaks down.  Those GMs, though, probably don't get the point of this sytem in the first place.

Go check it out, if nothing else.  It's a really neat looking game, and the design and production values of the books are fantastic. 

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