Fate Core Thought of the Day:  Intent and Task

Okay, so I'm stealing a little Burning Wheel terminology here, forgive me.  It still applies, honest!

One thing that I've seen as a stumbling block for people coming to Fate is that Fate handles rolls and actions slightly different than a lot of "mainstream" games.

In a lot of these games, you describe what you want to do, roll the dice, and then see what happens.  So if you want to, say, throw somebody, the rules might say that he's not thrown, or that he is thrown, and how far he's thrown.  I like to call these "task-based" games, as the player decides what task he's going to accomplish, and then sees what the result of that action is.

Fate's a bit different.  Fate's in the bucket of what I like to call "intent-based" games.  What that means is that a player starts with what they want the results of their action to be.  Then they see if they can achieve that result.

For an intent-based system to work, you need to know two things for every action.  The Intent - what it is you want to achieve, and the Task - how the heck you're going to go about doing that.  Without those two pieces of information, you can't really determine how to roll for something in Fate.

For instance, let's say a PC is flying around and has an enemy plane On His Tail.  This player then says "I want to fly through the canyons."  Okay... that's probably a piloting roll, as the Task almost always determines the skill rolled, but... which of the four actions should it be?

The clearest case is an Overcome, and the Intent of hte player may be to get those pesky planes off of him!

Or, it could be an attempt to Create An Advantage on either those planes, or even other opponents, something like Lost Him In The Canyons.  The player may want that to really ensure they get those planes off!

Or, he could be pulling a Han Solo and trying to get the planes to fly into the canyons and blow up - which sounds awfully like an Attack.

So without both the Intent and the Task, we can't really resolve an action.  Several of the "classic" how does this work conundrums fall into this category.  Handcuffing someone to a desk - well, is it intended to be permanent and effectively remove them from the fight?  If so, it's Taking them Out, and is an Attack.  Is it just supposed to slow them down?  It's Creating an Advantage.

Same with the Hulk throwing someone over the horizon... if you're trying to throw them over the horizon and remove them from the Conflict, you're trying to Take Them Out, and it's therefore an Attack.  If you're just trying to stun them, move them around, or whatever, it's Create An Advantage.

Getting players to say what their Intent is is often tricky, especially if they're coming from more traditional (task-based) games.  I like to ask players when something is unclear "Okay, describe success.  Let's say this works - what is it that you want to happen?"

Sometimes this isn't really necessary, of course.  If the player says "I run him through with my sword!" you can pretty well assume that the Intent is to kill him.

Intent and Task also are important when discussing Fate Core builds and modifications/stunts.  "How do I do cybernetics" is an unanswerable question, without understanding what it is you want cybernetics to do.  If you want cybernetics to make people super-powered, that's one thing.  If you want them to grant some other bonus, that's another.  If they can reach the limit of human capability, that's fine, too. 

But what kind of difficulties can cybernetics cause?  Can they break down?  Do they need maintenance?  Could they even be hacked?

On the other hand, there's also the social aspects of cybernetics to consider - do cybernetics cause you to become removed from humanity?  Do they cause others to react differently? 

And really, cybernetics are a "Task".  They're a means to an end.  To figure out how to use them, you really need to start with what you want your game to be.  If you want superheroes going around doing super stuff, then you're going to approach them one way.  If you want part of the theme of your game to revolve around the loss of humanity, then you're going to approach them a very different way.  All those questions combine to form the "Intent" of your cybernetics system.  And depending on how you answer them, you may decide that they're nothing but descriptive fluff and have no narrative effect (people aren't against them, but you don't want them to grant superhuman abilities, and don't want them to really be troublesome, either).

And all of those are great, and can serve a particular goal.  But the only way to judge the effectiveness of your cybernetics implementation is against a defined goal.
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