With the number of Fate games available at this past weekend’s Big Bad Con, I had plenty of opportunities to take note of best practices and tips to make a game come alive. I wanted to develop them here, but just listing the bullet points I realized I had too much for one post. I’ll be developing these as I write the War of Ashes RPG instead.
Fate games in general
Fate is very doable with two players, possible with one-on-one adventures, but shines with 3-5 players. Six or more PCs is only for well-coordinated groups, or in intrinsically chaotic settings like The Muppet Show.
Use sticky notes, possibly colour-coded, to keep track of temporary advantages, boosts and consequences.
“Create an advantage” is the key action—not “Overcome,” even though the latter feels like the most familiar if you come from traditional role-playing games. It makes your character “competent, pro-active and dramatic” by allowing you to plan and sacrifice so you can succeed your way.
Tactical options in conflicts are largely provided by the players’ choices in creating advantages. The system is very simple but allows you to build complexity in the results.
Thus, narration folds into mechanics. The advantages you create, the aspects you choose to use, the order in which you invoke free aspects all seemingly have the same immediate mechanical results, but from there will take the adventure in very different dramatic directions.
For the GM: Running Fate games
Create game and scene aspects, and don’t forget to use them in play. They make one conflict or obstacle “feel” different from the next.
Ryan M. Danks’ Fractal Adventure design method is pure distilled genius. I’ve mentioned it in several recent posts and I will discuss it again when I write after-play reports, but you need to hear it again. It allows the GM to essentially have her own character sheet for the adventure.
The perceived difficulty level of an adventure depends on the number of players, the ability of PCs to help each other, the number of stress boxes used, and the choice of stunts for antagonists.
While running the game
Put aspects created by the GM on PCs (and free invokes) in plain sight to ratchet up tension; use the coloured sticky notes mentioned above.
Running conflicts can be remarkably easy on the GM if you use Fate’s full potential, especially with the Fractal Adventure design method. It’s one of the rare systems where using more of the system makes the GM’s life easier.
Stealth and avoiding the Big Bad: very stealthy/sneaky characters have the potential to bypass major GM characters and therefore deny the GM a chance to create her own advantages in play. This may be a good or bad thing depending on your flexibility as GM; plan accordingly.
One-off and convention games
Use semi-finished pre-generated characters and have players customize them as part of the game.
Include a (cooperative) player who already knows the system in your group of newcomers.
Edit: Everyone loves the bookmarks. A cheat-sheet that fits on a bookmark makes players happy!
For RPGs in general but particularly suitable for Fate
Use relationship maps like crazy.
Cinematic techniques: flashbacks, flash forward, meanwhile…, cut scenes, parallel scenes, montages, etc.
Comparing Fate to other systems
FAE vs. PDQ: PDQ characters are even more customizable, and combat easier, but FAE offers more tactical potential.
FAE vs. octaNe: So very compatible. Use the Styles as five approaches (Daring, Ingenuity, Craft, Charm, and Might OR Magic at the individual player’s choice) and the scores +3, +2, +1, +0, +0; and create aspects based on the octaNe skills.
FAE vs. SotC: OMFSM, Spirit of the Century is going to be so much fun with Fate Accelerated.
Fate vs. D&D and other trad games: That will require its own post, but it all begins with “Here’s how I…” rather than “Can I…?”