(This is my fifth basic FATE Tutorial, you can find the fourth here: https://plus.google.com/u/0/100212613856984996154/posts/3dqtoW8G4HV

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FATE TUTORIAL 5: Refresh, and Compels


So, we’ve talked FATE Points and Aspects and how to use some Aspects without FATE Points but how do we get FATE Points back?

The easiest, most boring way is to wait for the next session of the game. That’s all we have to do! Every character piloted by a player has a Refresh rating on their character sheet. Every time a new session of the game is started, we get our Refresh rating in FATE Points up to our maximum Refesh. It’s that easy! Nothing more to it.

Okay, there’s a little more to it. In a game like Diaspora the Refresh rating is a set 5. Every session we get 5 FATE Points and our ship gets 5 FATE Points. That’s it! We’re finished here.

But in The Dresden Files Roleplaying Game (DFRPG) your Refresh can vary from character to character. The more supernaturally powerful your character, the most of your potential Refresh you’ve spent on wizard karate or vampire sparkles. The Refresh in DFRPG can be anywhere from 1 to WTF SO MANY FATE Points, depending on the power level of the game, how many cool human tricks we can do, and how immersed in the supernatural we are.

That’s about it for Refresh. But... what if we’re not that patient? What if we want FATE Points now! At least before the game is over for the night?

Easy. Compels

Compels are one of the more asked-for examples of tutorial, so we’re going to take this simple and slow.

So, what is a Compel, exactly? Think of a Compel as a story hook. It’s bad news and complication for our characters, and it’s our fault. We wrote it on our character sheet, which is like advertising our characters’ weaknesses on a billboard above a freeway frequented only by insidious GMs.

“But I don’t remember putting anything like that on my sheet!”

Oh, we certainly did. Every time we put an Aspect on our sheet, we’re inviting a Compel from the GM. In DFRPG’s case, there actually a spot specifically for a particularly Compel-worthy Aspect (the Trouble Aspect), but that isn’t the only Aspect that begs to be exploited for FATE Points. Any and every Aspect can be Compelled.

It might seem like a good idea to make all our Aspects incredibly positive. After all, we want to use them to be good at stuff. But all we’re doing, when we fail to give our characters tremendous flaws, is making it hard for our GM to give us more FATE Points. But even an Aspect that seems incredible for our characters can be used to make our lives interestingly difficult. You’ll see why in a second.

When a GM wants to Compel our characters, it’s generally signified with a FATE Point being dangled before our eyes like a delicious worm at the end of a fishing line. This works best if you’re using counters or pennies, or some other physical item to represent FATE Points, but the dangling can be a metaphor if we want to be boring.

If we really want that FATE Point the GM is going to make us a deal. Something bad is going to happen to our character that’s mostly our own fault, and one of our Aspects is going to be the source of that problem. 

Take the [Ruthless Killer] Aspect from an earlier FATE Tutorial. We took that Aspect so we could better eliminate our enemies. Now, we’re trying to work our way into a mob-run nightclub unnoticed, trying to find the man that shot our friend, and the GM is dangling that precious FATE Point before our eyes. 

“You want this?” she asks, grinning like psycho. And we do want it, because we’ve only got one FATE Point since the last combat and we’re feeling a little dry.

So, we cautiously ask what the price will be. 

“You’re a [Ruthless Killer],” she says, “And you’ve done some jobs for the locals. Well, this place is run by a local crime family, and you’ve been recognized. The Don is going to stop you, chat you up, and your prey is going to get away clean. You’ll totally lose the trail.”

We have an option here. We can agree, and get a delicious FATE Point, or we can give up a FATE Point, which is our last FATE Point_ and tell her “No, I ignore the Don, and my prey doesn’t hear him call my name. The Don believes he’s mistaken me for someone else, and shrugs it off. I keep on the hunt.”

If we didn’t have that last FATE Point we’d be at the mercy of the GM. We wouldn’t have the option to say no, but we’d still get the FATE Point she’s offering.

It’s worth noting that Compels are not a simple hinderance we can just roll high enough to ignore. They don’t just make an action difficult, they make the story more complex. When we agree to a Compel we’re giving up our character’s free will for a brilliant moment, and temporarily putting our hero in the hands of the GM. 

We don’t get a FATE Point to make a situation a little more difficult. We get a FATE Point because we lost an opportunity. We let the villain get away. We were caught red-handed. Our darker nature cost us a friendship. We were discovered. Our plans unraveled. We failed someone. We killed someone we didn’t want to die. We hurt a loved one. We lost something important. Compels aren’t a GM’s sure-fire method of paying us for because they’re sadistic. Compels aren’t meant to take our freedom away. Compels are guidelines we agree to when we make our characters, they’re a loose, non-binding contract that states, simply, “Sometimes I want my Aspects to make the story more interesting for everyone. Especially if it means I do something that isn’t in my best interest.”

Charles turns the key in the lock and slips out the door, just as Sarah mumbles “Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.” and her phones beeps the last beep of a finished call. He can hear her scream of rage a second later, but he’s already halfway down the stairwell. A few more seconds and he’s outside, fumbling with a handful of stolen keys in the dark.

He gets the door of the parking lot’s lone, black SUV open and starts the vehicle, just as a gunshot echoes in the background. He’s pulling onto the street before he notices the back window’s been shattered, and can see Sarah fading in the distance, her middle finger upraised in a venomous salute.

Bonus: There are a lot of little, mostly-optional rules that come with Compels. Multiple Aspects can be Compelled at once, you can negotiate the terms of a Compel, and the number of FATE Points on the line can escalate up to three for a single Compel, if the situation is particularly problematic and particularly in line with the Aspect in question.

Bonus 2: If we're feeling brave, we can always Compel ourselves. Sometimes a GM has a lot on her plate, and it can be particularly cool if we players recognize when an Aspect would make a scene complicated and interesting. Just be sure to make it clear that's what we're doing, and we're bound to find a shiny, new FATE Point in our hands.

Participation: The Aspect [Slippery When Wet] seems pretty benign, but it has a lot of room for Compels. What are some Compels that might come from such an Aspect?

Next Episode: Since Tagging and Invoking various Aspects can be a little confusing, we’ll have a series of examples in FATE Tutorial 6, that will hopefully make things as clear as they can be!
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