A short rant. At a RPG convention last weekend, I once again ran into something very typical when speaking with people about Fate Core. It’s this one sentence or some variation of it is where it starts: “Yeah, our group tried a game of it. It was too freeform and unbalanced for our tastes.”
After some questions about the game, it is gradually revealed that the group was playing a game where they mostly just described things and what happened with the Aspects being a sort of a vague guideline to things (because that’s what you’re supposed to do in a game that creates a story, right?). And the few times when they “had to use the rules”, it was the same way they would in any other game, focusing on the roll and the skill number. And surprisingly, the difference between someone with a skill of +1 and a skill of +4 becomes ridiculously high and unbalanced.
It’s like saying you’re playing Pathfinder or Dungeons and Dragons when all you actually do is roll a d20 occasionally to see if you did good or bad.
The thing is, Fate isn’t a freeform system where you just roll some dice and feel your way around things. It’s a really really structured game system with specific Actions you partake and a robust way the flow of Fate Points creates a support structure for your narrative. It has few rules, but they are super-important for the game to work as intended.
And that misconception of a free-form system is giving the game unnecessary bad rep. And the GMs who just pick up the core book and run the game relying on their old habits are not doing any service to the game.
I should know.
I did that when I started running Fate. I didn’t really “get” the system, so I ran it like I ran other systems I knew, and I’m sorry for all the players who had to play in those games.
It wasn’t until I really read the rule book that it clicked.
Rant part over.
What I’m really wanting to say is that Fate is weird, and people aren’t always ready to treat it as weird as it is. But when they don’t, the “magic” that makes Fate quite unique disappears.. And that leads to common misconceptions about the game.
So if you are a GM fluent in Fate and are having a chat with people who say they don’t get what’s the thing about Fate, remember to be courteous and if it turns out they haven’t had a Fate-y Fate experience, maybe offer to run a game for them and show how the rules actually work. And if you’re someone who, after reading this, feels like “well, I think I’ve been running the game wrong”, either take the time and effort to really read what the book says (it’s one of the best written game core rule books out there), or find someone to explain/run the game for you so you get a feeling what the game is actually about.