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Robert Hanz
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Fate Core Thought of the - Oh, Hell, It's Been A While: The Fate Action Resolution Process

A thread up on rpgnet was lamenting the fact that many people seem to have difficulties learning Fate, and so one of the things I wanted to bring up, and post here for future posterity, is how I generally go about action adjudication. I'm not going to go into scene setup (a totally different thing). Some of this is probably going to duplicate my "How I Run Fate" post. It's not an official answer, the Evil Hat guys may tell me I'm high on crack, YMMV, objects in mirror may be closer than they appear, etc.

The flowchart: (I'll give the expanded version later)

1) The acting player declares their action
2) We determine if the action makes sense/is at all possible
3) We determine if there is any passive opposition
4) We determine if there is any active opposition, and if so, the active opposition declares its action
5) We determine if this makes sense to roll for - is there an interesting success and failure?
6) We determine the mechanics to use
7) Roll the dice!
8) Narrate up to the seeming dice roll
9) Either side may invoke aspects as appropriate, preferably including narration
10) We resolve any mechanical consequences of this action
11) The final results give us narrative constraints
12) We narrate the results within the constraints given to us mechanically

Now, let's be clear here: In practice, most of this stuff is done in a matter of moments or quickly glossed over. This is not a ten minute process, here. This is just laying all of those things out in a very explicit, step-by-step way to hopefully help people who aren't sure exactly what's going on when they see people play, or hear advice that's based on an already internalized version of this.

And the further in-depth discussion:

1) The acting player declares their action

Ideally this is something that happens in the "fictional" layer - in other words, we say what our character is doing, not necessarily the mechanical widgets we're using. This should preferentially include not only what we're doing, but what effect we're going for, especially if it's not obvious (if you're "stabbing the orc through with your sword", it's fairly safe to assume your intent is "make the orc stop breathing").

Sometimes an intent isn't possible in one action, so this is where we clarify what a success will mean, and what impact it will have, and hash it out until we agree (this is usually a matter of seconds, at most!)

If the setting/scene is not obvious, this should be clarified here as well - ideally, most if not all actions take place in some kind of concrete scene and are tied to something kind of concrete that's going on.You don't just "find someone", you go to a bar and start asking around. This is useful information because it gives us context and allows us to determine what both success and failure look like, as well as what kind of opposition may exist.

Once everybody has a good picture of what's going on, we proceed.

2) We determine if the action makes sense/is at all possible

Does the action make sense? Is it possible? This boils down to a ton of shared understanding of the world. We can break this down a bit further, though:

2a: Is this an action that is generally possible?
2b: Is there some kind of aspect, personal or situational, that would prevent this action from occurring? While most people can jump, you can't really do that in a wheelchair, or if you're Stuck In A Web.
2c: If this action is generally not something that we expect a character can do, is there some kind of aspect that permits it? Most people can't fly, but if you're a BirdPerson you probably can, or if you have a Jetpack

3) We determine if there is any passive opposition

Is there a reason this is difficult? Going down the stairs is easy, most of the time. However, if there's a raging fire, or the stairs are falling apart, it might be difficult. We can look at the overall situation for reasons this isn't easy, taking special note of any aspects in play.

4) We determine if there is any active opposition, and if so, the active opposition declares its action

Is there any active character (or Bronze-ruled aspect) that can get in the way of this? If so, they should declare what they're doing to stop this, and we apply the same checks in Step 2 to the opposition's action. Keep in mind that "does this make sense for someone to be able to do?" is also impacted by aspects!

5) We determine if this makes sense to roll for - is there an interesting success and failure?

We don't roll for everything. If there's a low fence and no pressure, it's safe to say you'll eventually climb it. So unless there's some reason or pressure that makes failure interesting, we can just allow you to succeed.

I don't take "interesting" here to mean "ooo it has to be some super cool fancy idea." It just means that if you fail, something happens - the situation changes in some way. We can generally assume that a Fate character can succeed at anything, given enough time and effort. So we're really asking here "what's to stop the character from doing this until they succeed?"

Context matters here, too. If you're stuck in a web with nothing else going on, it's safe to say that eventually you'll break out, so rolling isn't really necessary. However, in a Conflict, failing to break out means you're not acting, which is "interesting" in a "consequences" way, even if it's not that interesting of a result naturally. Bad guys getting to do stuff while you're stuck isn't "nothing happens"!

6) We determine the mechanics to use

Is this an Overcome? An Attack? A Create Advantage? What skills are in place? What's the final opposition?

7) Roll the dice!

This one, I hope, is fairly self explanatory!

8) Narrate up to the seeming dice roll

This is the ellipsis trick - narrate the action up to the point where it seems like the result is clear, but leaving space for other things to happen. "You miss your parry, and the orc's axe comes down at your head." If nothing changes, the orc will hit you, but there's still time to make something change and alter the final result.

9) Either side may invoke aspects as appropriate, preferably including narration

Pretty self-explanatory. I tend to be a fair stickler on narration of aspects invocations in most cases, as I think the back-and-forth creates some of the most memorable Fate bits. But sometimes, when it's obvious what's going on and not super critical, it's fairly safe to gloss over.

10) We resolve any mechanical consequences of this action

Are we dealing with Stress or Consequences or Conditions? Did an aspect get Overcome? Did an aspect get created? Do we have any boosts. I usually do the bookkeeping here, though that's more or less simultaneous with the next point. However, when there's mechanical choices (stress/consequences), approaching these first can be very informative for the next step.

11) The final results give us narrative constraints

At this point we know what the dice have said about the final result, and any mechanical bits. This tells us what boundaries we have to do our narration in (and keep in mind that narration is real, it establishes facts, even if those facts aren't represented by a widget).

12) We narrate the results within the constraints given to us mechanically

At this point, we know success or failure, and we know what bounds we have to work within. So we can determine the actual final results in the imaginary world.

If the character succeeded, they should get their negotiated intent from step 1. That's a given. However, depending on the opposition and margin of success, there may be other details added.

On the other hand, if they failed, we should go back to what we talked about in step 5 to figure out what that failure looks like. It could be some kind of failure, it could be a complication on a success with a cost. So long as we work within the constraints of the setting and the situation, and the results given to us by the dice, we're good!

I'll try to come up with a worked example later.

So something I've been thinking about doing is kind of a "Fate by example" series. But, to come up with those examples, I need your help!

I'm mostly wanting to do "adjudication" type scenarios, not necessarily "build" type scenarios, at least initially.

So, what scenarios (from mundane to complex) do you think would be good candidates for this? If there's questions I have about the scenario, I'll probably as part of the writeup fill in the blanks myself and go from there.

To be clear, what I'm really looking for is "this is the situation, how would you handle this in a scene?" rather than genre- or world-building type things.

Pithy Fate statement:

The Fate rules don't model things. The Fate rules resolve things.

(I don't think that's necessarily 100% accurate, but I do think it captures a key difference between Fate and many games)

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I am getting so tired of the "aspects do nothing unless they're invoked" misconception.

Fate Core Thought of the Day: What are Aspects?

So, this is something I've been noodling over for a while. Mostly because I see lots of people misunderstand (IMHO) what aspects are, and try to use them in inappropriate places, or for inappropriate things.

Mostly, people seem to view aspects as kind of combined Advantages/Disadvantages/Feats/Edges/etc. And... they're mostly not that.

"So, what are they then, Mr. Smarty Pants?" you might ask. And while my pants are indeed smarter than me, that's likely more about me than the pants.

Aspects are, simply put, established narrative facts. And this is a definition that will either have you nodding along or be totally useless to you. So, lemme drill a bit further into this.

Most game systems try to model reality - turns represent people doing things over discrete time slices, we try to figure out what would happen during this time bit, etc.

Not Fate. Fate models how fiction works. And not in the base sense of "cinematic reality" either - you can certainly have realistic fiction! What Fate models is how scenes and camera shots work together to make things work and make sense. This is one of the cool things about Fate! We've learned over centuries how to tell stories, so applying that knowledge to RPGs is a serious win!

(Of course, it also means that if you want a world-simulator, Fate's not really your bag. Sorry about that.)

So, let's look at something I consider to be a perfect example of this. In the beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy, we see Star-Lord flying over the surface of a planet, and see geysers going off. Cool stuff. Later on, as he's trying to get away, one of those geysers goes off underneath the Milano, causing him problems.

Here's the thing - narratively, we can't just have the geyser go off under the Milano with no warning, or it feels abrupt and like "cheating" we have to establish that "hey, geysers going off all over the place on this planet is totally a thing, so you know, if it happens, don't be surprised."

That's a great example of a situation aspect. As the GM describes the scene, and mentions the geysers, he writes down "Crazy Geysers" as a scene aspect, and then he's free to Compel it later.

Basically, an aspect is something that we've introduced, that we've established as something important or notable, that we can then later "cash in" on. That's the difference between a dark room, and one that is specifically pointed out (via camera shot or dialog) as being Dark. In the one case, it's scenery. In the other case, we know something is going to jump out of the darkness.

So that describes situation aspects pretty well, but what about character aspects, and Create Advantage?

Well, basically the same thing.

Han Solo's meeting with Greedo? It exists for the sole reason that we need to establish with the audience that Han Solo is actually wanted by Jabba. That way when Jabba starts interfering later, we're not surprised. It feels like a logical extension of what's going on.

Okay, so that's a character aspect, but how about Create Advantage?

Well, let's look at having a weak point in the armor of something. That's common enough, right? What happens in a TV show? Well, one of two things happens, 99% of the time - either we see a camera shot (and when I say "camera shot" you should think "action", unless we're talking about setting a scene or introducing a character) of the armored thing moving in a way that exposes the weak point, or we have someone shout out "hey, when he does <thing> his armor's exposed". This seems extraneous, and it is from a "realism" standpoint. But what it does is inform the viewer of the weak point, so that when the hero takes advantage of it, it feels logical and connected rather than random.

And that's how Fate works with aspects. Either we establish them as part of setting the scene, or we establish them as some kind of camera shot/action that informs the viewer/players of what's going on and sets up our later use of them. And those times when something gets revealed without setup? That's what Fate Points are for!

This is also a big part of why I'm not a fan of hidden aspects. If aspects are narratively established facts, and they're hidden, then they're not established! At the minimum, the aspect should reflect the information that is available to the audience - that is, the players.

Weird observation.

In most games, converting a book or movie to the system is often difficult, while converting other game systems is usually fairly easy.

In Fate, converting a given book or movie is usually fairly easy, while converting other game systems is very hard.

Fate Core Thought of the Day - Fate and Amber Diceless

It's fairly well-known that Fred is a big Amber fan. And I think it's safe to say that Amber Diceless is a huge influence on Fate.

Every Fate GM should pick up a copy and at least read through it. No, really, go buy the pdf here and read it: I'll wait.

http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/1447/Amber?it=1

So, great. Amber's a nifty system, and is really interesting for Fate GMs since it's not really fiction-first. It's more accurately fiction-only. There are rules, sure, but the rules basically boil down to this:

"In any given conflict, all other things being equal, the character with the higher relevant stat will eventually win."

Yup, that's it. No, really, that's pretty much the game. And in that simple elegance lies a world of complexity. While not immediately apparent, that complexity lies in the phrases "the higher relevant stat" and "_all other things being equal_"

So, gameplay in Amber revolves, really, around a few things.

1) Setting up the scenario to benefit you, win or lose.

2) Setting up the situation so that the stat that's being used is the one you're superior in

3) Making all other things decidedly UNequal

Here's what Erick Wujick says you should do if playing a grandmaster at chess, with the world on the line:

What do you think, should you play fair?

We'll call your opponent Kumenkov, one of the Russian's top chess guns. Flat out, the best there is.

Here's what you might do.

First, you make a few arrangements. Like learning the game, but also getting a team of the finest chess coaches money can buy, and a little microphone so you can hear their advice.

Then, you set up the room where the game is going to take place. Figure out everything Kurmenkov hates, heat, loud colors, rock music, whatever. Give him the works, but only at critical moments, on and off.
And if that isn't enough?

Then you go for some real equalizers. Have his wife call, mid-game, threatening divorce, madness, and/or suicide. Then a high-ranking Russian officer, informing Kurmenkov that if he has been accused of anti-state activities, and his victory in the game will be sufficient proof to warrant his arrest and/or execution.

Still not enough?

When his back is turned, steal pieces from the board. Drug him, and move twice for every move he makes. At least once, during some critical move, just as Kurmenkov reached for a piece, have someone put a gun to his head and offer to blow his brains out if he makes that particular move.

Now could you win?

Sound familiar? Does each one of those things sound like something in a Fate game? Like... Create Advantage?

Of course it does! And that's one of the basics of Fate conflicts - if your opponent outmatches you, even the odds. Don't play fair!

Here's another example. In this case, the PC played by Peggy has a terrible Warfare rating, but is quite Strong.

GM: There's a big thump, and it sounds like it came from behind you.

PEGGY I whirl around, what do I see?

GM: There's something moving right at you, something hard to see.

PEGGY I back away quickly!

GM Yes, it seems to be some kind of ape, it's fur is a mottled brown and green, making it hard to see against the backdrop of jungle. It's on it's hind legs and attacking with swinging arms.

PEGGY: I'll go on the defensive.

GM: With swinging arms it's better than you.

PEGGY: I'll go for Strength. I want to grab it.

GM: You move in, getting scratched by it's claws, but you grab it. You seem stronger. What are you doing?

PEGGY: I want to break its neck!

GM Okay, it dies.

(Note that this is for a low-detail version of combat, more like an Overcome than a Conflict)

So, what's going on here? Peggy knows that her character will flat-out lose in a fighting contest, because her fighting rank is terrible. So she narrates her character doing things that turn it into a strength contest instead, where she wins. And then in what is basically a by-the-book Fate move, she dictates what Taken Out means in this case.

The entire book is filled with examples like this. While some of the things (descriptions of particular Amberite powers and magic) may not be useful, every single bit of GM advice is Fate GOLD.

I really don't think that it's inaccurate to say that Fate is, in many ways, Amber but only with some randomization added to the result, and a bit more codified way of handling the various advantages and maneuvers that characters might try to pull off.

If you're having trouble grokking Fate, read Amber Diceless. It can only make you a better Fate GM.

Hey, folks!

If I were to spend some time writing a GM's Guide to Fate, what topics would you like to see covered in it? What do you see as the common stumbling blocks, or the things you wish someone would have told you, or the things that you still have questions about?

Thanks!

Quick question - in Core, you can use as many free invokes on an aspect as you want, plus one paid invoke.

The rules for FAE seem to imply you can only do one invoke on an aspect per roll, paid or not. Is that correct?
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