What Makes a Good Fate Game?
You can use Fate to tell stories in many different genres, with a variety of premises. There is no default setting; you and your group will make that up yourselves. The very best Fate games, however, have certain ideas in common with one another, which best showcases what the game is designed to do.
Whether you’re talking about fantasy, science fiction, superheroes, or gritty cop shows, Fate works best when you use it to tell stories about people who are proactive, competent, and dramatic.
Characters in a game of Fate should be proactive. They have a variety of abilities that lend themselves to active problem solving, and they aren’t timid about using them. They don’t sit around waiting for the solution to a crisis to come to them—they go out and apply their energies, taking risks and overcoming obstacles to achieve their goals.
This doesn’t mean that they don’t ever plan or strategize, or that they’re all careless to a fault. It just means that even the most patient among them will eventually rise and take action in a tangible, demonstrable way.
Any Fate game you play should give a clear opportunity for the characters to be proactive in solving their problems, and have a variety of ways they might go about it. A game about librarians spending all their time among dusty tomes and learning things isn’t Fate. A game about librarians using forgotten knowledge to save the world is.
Characters in a game of Fate are good at things. They aren’t bumbling fools who routinely look ridiculous when they’re trying to get things done—they’re highly skilled, talented, or trained individuals who are capable of making visible change in the world they inhabit. They are the right people for the job, and they get involved in a crisis because they have a good chance of being able to resolve it for the better.
This doesn’t mean they always succeed, or that their actions are without unintended consequence. It just means that when they fail, it isn’t because they made dumb mistakes or weren’t prepared for the risks.
Any Fate game that you play should treat the characters like competent people, worthy of the risks and challenges that come their way. A game about garbage men who are forced to fight supervillains and get their asses constantly handed to them isn’t Fate. A game about garbage men who become an awesome anti-supervillain hit squad is.
Characters in a game of Fate lead dramatic lives. The stakes are always high for them, both in terms of what they have to deal with in their world, and what they’re dealing with in the six inches of space between their ears. Like us, they have interpersonal troubles and struggle with their issues, and though the external circumstances of their lives might be a lot bigger in scope than what we go through, we can still relate to and sympathize with them.
This doesn’t mean they spend all their time wallowing in misery and pain, or that everything in their lives is always a world-shaking crisis. It just means that their lives require them to make hard choices and live with the consequences—in other words, that they’re essentially human.
Any Fate game that you play should provide the potential and opportunity for drama among and between the characters, and give you a chance to relate to them as people. A game about adventurers mindlessly punching increasing numbers of bigger, badder bad guys is not Fate. A game about adventurers struggling to lead normal lives despite being destined to fight ultimate evil is.
When Creating Your Game:
- Setting: Decide what the world that surrounds the protagonists is like.
- Scale: Decide how epic or personal your story will be.
- Issues: Decide what threats and pressures inherent to the setting will spur the protagonists to action.
- NPCs: Decide who the important people and locations are.
- Skills and Stunts: Decide what sorts of things characters in the setting are likely to want to do.
- Character Creation: Make the PCs.