FATE, and FATE accessories

FATE is a tabletop RPG that specializes itself in mimicking the dramatic tension structures of genre fiction by way of a narrative meta-currency called “Fate Tokens”, which are spent by a player to get bonuses on rolls, or to declare a convenient narrative detail, and are earned by a player by conceding to GM pressure to adhere to their character traits in situations where that’s not necessarily beneficial. You can also get Fate Tokens in situations where a character is suddenly exposed to danger or disadvantage in the course of normal activity. As such, it simulates the cycle of adversity, followed by resurgence, that is often portrayed in fiction for dramatic purposes.

FATE is relatively rules-lite, but contains just a little bit of crunch. You have skill rolls that have numeric values, and various effects that can change those skill rolls conditionally in the form of Stunts, but the main feature of FATE is “Aspects”. Aspects are an arbitrary sentence or phrase that describes a property or status of any given object, character, scenario, location, or so on. Characters have some number of inherent aspects, depending on the variation you’re playing, and things like terrain features, or political conditions, or wartime economic restrictions, are also Aspects. There are things called “Situation Aspects” that are kind of temporary, such as what you would think of as status effects in other RPGs, things like “knocked prone” or “behind cover” or “faster than the human eye can see”. In addition, especially with regards to permanent character aspects, they create “permissions” in the fiction. For example, if the setting states that vampires can levitate, then it’s reasonable for characters with a vampirism-related Aspect to get past an obstacle by levitating over it.

FATE is very expandable, and has a lot of variations. The Worlds of FATE books are anthologies of such rules variations, and there are also conversion variations, such as Dresden Files or Atomic Robo. Atomic Robo, in particular, is often regarded as one of the best FATE variants, and has extra features such as “Mega Stunts”, powerful, super human abilities that come at the cost of giving the GM some extra advantages, Brainstorming, which lets the players collaborate to try to solve a mystery by creating an absolutely correct hypothesis, and Invention, which lets players create new, temporary Mega Stunts in the form of hastily-assembled technology, which depending on the results, may have various flaws. It also simulates a pretty specific level of power that fits well with a lot of campaign types, around like the lower-end of superheroics.

In addition to all this, there is a forked, even lighter variation of FATE called “FATE Accelerated”, which eschews the normal system of Skills for something called “Approaches”, where you roll to do some course of action “Carefully” or “Flashily”, and so on.

Anyway, this is the FATE Thread! It’s a very accessible system, and the entire FATE SRD is available for free online, including variants for Atomic Robo, Venture City Superheroes, and others. Please tell us about your ideas, campaign settings, and so on!

I’m a big fan of Accelerated. I find the approaches to be a more interesting way of defining a character than Core’s skills, though to be honest I only ever played in a Core game for a few sessions and it had some miscommunication about its premise so several characters wound up with very narrow areas of applicable competency. Approaches could theoretically make a character’s competency so broad it leads to some spotlight hogging, but luckily it wasn’t a problem with my gang.

Going to be honest, I find Fate’s conflict rules to be dull after one round, so I do my “combat” encounters with less structure and just change the situation in response to what the PCs attempt, give the opposition an action when it seems appropriate, and have the opposition defeated when it’s logically/dramatically appropriate. It’s a more “illusionist” tack than I normally take (I’m generally running things like 13th Age or Strike where combat abilities are a very large portion of the mechanics) but it keeps the action moving along with good momentum.

Most recently I use Accelerated to run a game about a food truck crew in a magical alternate kind of Shadowrun-esque 1970s where the PCs, best mobile food in the city, had to satisfy the whims of a strange Eldritch being and its handler/interpreter/captor. I was inspired by the Cool Games Inc episodes Cook For Cube and Yummy and Wild.

The reasons you cited are part of why I like Atomic Robo so much. Skills are bought using a structure called “Modes”, which are closely tied to 3 of the 5 main Character Aspects. The Modes themselves contain specific skills, but they stack onto each other to determine starting values. There are standard modes that are kinda similar to approaches in their naming and scope, like (in standard Atomic Robo), Action, Banter, Intrigue, and Science. There are also “Weird Modes”, which are usually player defined, and are things like “Psychic”, “Martial Arts Master”, “Robot”, “Cyborg Gorilla”, and so on. Weird modes have whatever skills you define for them (Atomic Robo uses point-buy for these), and Weird Modes give you basic permission for Mega Stunts.

I’m sitting on a setting book I’ve been working on for an Atomic Robo variant, that I would pitch as, “What if Ghostbusters took place in The Witcher?” It’s about investigating supernatural occurances in a medieval fantasy world, where monsters are always the manifestation of a “curse”, and directly killing the monster only serves to delay its activity. So, the party has to use magic and detective work to learn the nature and origin of a curse, and set it right.

Atomic Robo is the only FATE I’ve really enjoyed, myself. I find that other FATE games are harder for me to get into, for some reason. A lot of the older ones also had some really bizarre places where they broke down - Dresden Files, for example, made magic just so much more potent than any other ability, as I discovered by accident when making a Dresden character and playing them for a bit.

I enjoy reading FATE games for all the versatility that can be found in their design, unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to play one.

Breakfast Cult was an enjoyable one and I really liked the idea of Base Raiders but the execution was kind of shaky to me.

I think there’s a new Base Raiders in the works that updates it to more modern Fate conventions, but yeah I’m right there with you. Really good concept, but weird to get off the ground and the tiers were a bit much.

I ran a campaign of Inverse World Accelerated for a while and it was mostly a good time, but I don’t think I want to run another full-on campaign in Fate or FAE again because as the GM, you don’t really get anything mechanically interesting to do. I’ve also wanted to do a Tianxia game because I love kung fu stuff and god forbid my players ever read Legends of the Wulin, but like was said before, fights in Fate can be kind of a slog already.

Breakfast Cult was fun; I hope I get a chance to play it more. My character was a ‘secret’ robot so there was fun dramatic irony as people in-character continued to ignore her escalating displays of inhumanity. I have the Base Raiders documents (was it on kickstarter? I can’t remember when I got these) but I haven’t really read them.

They really should’ve gone with the DIY homebrew superhero punk scene more than they did, it didn’t…entirely work for you to just be scavengers and thieves picking up the pieces of a post-super world.

FATE games are kinda hit and miss I’ve seen. The good ones are good and the ones that aren’t good…noticeably stand out in comparison (he said, awkwardly hiding his own homebrew FATE campaign settings beneath the futon).

I like a lot of concepts in FATE, but I can’t really run it for my group because they insist on exploiting the Create An Advantage move against any non-mook opponent. Essentially, they spend a round or two creating advantages, and then throw out what’s essentially guaranteed to be a +12 or more Attack action by using all of the free invocations at once, making it basically unblockable. Don’t get me wrong, this can be a fun and interesting thing to do every now and then, and FATE Core even recommends it as a strategy. They do it in every single fight though, and it just gets frustrating as the GM. I can’t really challenge them without copying their strategy for defense, and that’d just get annoying for all of us.

In groups I’ve played in, I’ve had the exact opposite problem. Even though the Create an Advantage move is incredibly helpful, almost no one seemed to use it, especially in out-of-combat situations. Maybe I was just better at picking up on when there were opportunities to use it, but I’m not sure.

Long story short: I do really like FATE systems, but they’re not the best fit for every group, and definitely not the best fit for mine.

You didn’t give specific details here, but you gotta cross-examine some of those advantages, it sounds like. Is the advantage something plausible? Can its creation be actively opposed by something? Are you assigning appropriate difficulties to passive opposition? When they use those free invokes, are you making sure that they are only invoking advantages that help for the exact thing they’re proposing to do? Like being “behind full cover” doesn’t help you much if your attack involves leaving that cover. “Fragile Steam Pipes” is probably not the best thing to involve in your attack if you’re getting into melee yourself. And so on.

Also, it sounds like you’re having the whole party fight a single, solitary enemy, which is fine sometimes, but you have to find a way to make them a threat. An enemy like this has typically stacked the deck in their favor, especially if you’re going after them on their own turf. Additionally, an enemy who is actually meant to be a challenge for four or five PC-level characters should really be a completely terrifying monster in at least one form of attack and defense. Rules for scale differences from the Toolkit may apply, where an Adult Dragon gets like +4 to everything vs. humans. They should probably have some kind of trap or secret weapon set up, designed to inflict a Serious Consequence on at least one person.

Basically, unless it was an absolute ambush from the players, your Big Bad should have technically been spending the entire adventure preparing for their arrival, or otherwise be prepared to make a desperate retaliatory strike in the case of an ambush.

In the Persona game I ran a couple years ago, the entire party had to blow their free invokes on a bunch preparatory Aspects they had set up when the Shadow they were hunting fell right into the ambush they laid at a concert venue and decided to stop playing games. The monster, being a fire magic specialist, invoked and detonated the stage pyros, setting the venue ablaze, invoked his own pyromancy aspect, invoked his aspect about being petty and vengeful (this was like their third encounter with this thing, who was the Shadow born from a would-be mass shooter)… basically used up all his GM Fate Tokens for the scene, to detonate a massive firebomb on the stage where the party’s lightning elementalist was planning to cast a bunch of electric guitar spells. The player’s options at that point were:
Just get disintegrated and die
Take an Extreme Consequence along the lines of “entire face burnt off by magical hellfire”, plus a Serious Consequence
Cash in all the free invokes that the party got from their free round of prep actions to reduce it to just the Severe Consequence and the 3-stress box.

The party managed to severely wound him there, and then he slipped away for the final time, missing an arm and having lost his human disguise.

Basically, don’t be afraid to pull out all the stops if the party is fighting something that’s supposed to be actually dangerous for them, and also don’t force your NPCs to fight to the death every time. It can be a little more interesting if they concede the conflict to run away. It means that they can come back with a vengeance later, or it means that the scene transitions into a chase, but not everything has to be dragged all the way out.