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The Book of Hanz

Introducing People to Fate

So, this seems to come up a bunch. Figured I'd get my thoughts out, and see what others have to say.

Anyway. Fate does some things differently. Fundamentally, I think that's because it has ended up trying to answer very different questions than typical RPGs do. As such, it can look a bit weird at first for new players. There's a number of concepts that don't mesh particularly well with more 'traditional' or typical RPGs.

So, how to introduce new players?

The first thing I do is talk the system up -specifically its strengths. I point out how the system really allows you to think about who your character is, instead of just what they are and what they can do. I point out how fast it runs, and the great support it has for non-combat options and actions. I also point out that it's a different game, and that it's not a replacement for their favorite game.

Assuming I've suckered gotten some people to be willing to try, I set up a game. Before the game, individually if possible, I go over a few things. First, I talk up the fact that in Fate, the expectation isn't that you'll be given a bunch of encounters, and that you have to overcome them. I point out that failure is normal and expected, and won't mean the end of the game. So at game time, I actually do go through cooperative setting/character creation. I find this builds investment in the setting, and eases the making a character bit.

Usually, by the end of setting creation (which is pretty quick), I find that the players are pretty excited about the game. That's why I actually do it, BTW. Since setting creation is fun, and isn't where any of the usual stumbling blocks occur, getting players invested in the game and excited before they hit them seems to be really useful for getting them to plow through if they hit a rough patch.

I make sure that when creating characters, it's done as a group -the person whose character is being made drives his part of that, of course, but everyone is paying attention and contributing.

Helping explain aspects a bit at this point helps, as well as coming up with suggestions. Since we're still focused on the "story bits" at this point, it seems to work okay. I can drive them towards slightly more useful aspects with my knowledge without having to knowledge dump them.

The usual explanation of assets I like to give is something like this: "Take Han Solo at the end of Star Wars. Let's say that there's some stories written about him between then and the beginning of Empire. What things would those stories have to include to really be 'Han Solo stories'?" Usually the answer will be things like the Falcon, Chewie, his debt to Jabba, him being a dashing/cocky guy, etc. And those are all things I'd consider to be his aspects.

While the cooperative, one-at-a-time character creation may seem like it would be slow, in practice I find that it actually works a lot faster. I think the collaboration and interest level, combined with attention from someone that knows the game keeps things moving at a somewhat better clip. Also, for the "guest star" phases, it seems to help because the players will already be somewhat familiar with the stories they're guest-starring in.

Skills are pretty easy, but I usually kind of gloss over stunts a bit, and just leave blanks. I may help them think of stunts that would work with their character, but I've found this to be the thing that can take the most time. Instead, I'll suggest stunts during play as they become available, and point out beforehand that this is what we'll be doing.

Okay, so during play I make sure I stick with the model of TV/Movie/Book. All examples I use to explain rules will either be from one of those, or framed as being in one. I'll make references to "camera shots" and stuff like that -even do cutaways or "title sequences" as appropriate. To me, I find the key here is being consistent in framing things this way, to help overcome some of the "simulationist" tendencies that most new players (myself included) have.

Also, during play I try to keep in mind what I would do if I was running that PC, and offer suggestions. I also keep an emphasis on "okay, but what do you do" whenever players start focusing more on the numbers than the game.

One thing that I've seen is kind of difficult is for players to be proactive and try to actually drive things. The usual mode I've seen for players is to kind of passively investigate. So I will also frequently ask "Okay, what are you trying to get out of this? Imagine the best possible success for this -what does it look like?" Strangely, I think the idea that players can actually succeed at that level, and get what they want, is a novel concept in many cases.

Almost certainly a physical Conflict (fight) will come up, if for no other reason than in most RPGs it's expected, and so I don't mind meeting that expectation. This is one of the other big points for teaching people Fate, I find.

The key here is to get them thinking in terms of good Fate strategy targeting weaknesses, using Create Advantage, and all of the other stuff. Again, I find it useful to go back to movies/TV/books. I've seen a number of people new to Fate (as in, almost everyone) just try to go head-to-head with a tough opponent, when they're not combat optimized -bad move. Either before the Conflict, or within a round or so, I'll call a quick timeout, and explain how it works, and how Create Advantage can really do wonders for your effectiveness, rather than trying to throw your 2 Fight against your opponent's 6.

I'll also make sure they know about conceding, and will point out that they can offer to do so at any time. I'll emphasize that how long they stay in is really more about how much they're willing to risk to get what the Conflict is about, and reiterate that it's expected to lose on occasion. In many cases, this first fight will be deliberately designed to be lost/conceded. I'll often frame it as an inciting incident, so that it serves as them discovering the issue at hand.

Anyway, that's my general outline. It's generally worked well, and when it hasn't I can pretty effectively point to one of the things I've listed above that I haven't done -this procedure is the result of mistakes and the lessons learned from them.

One thing that I don't do is try to 'ease' the learning of Fate by making it more like other games. I know that's pretty common, but I haven't really seen any value in it, or any need for it. I find it usually works very well to just say "Yes, this is different. Here's why, and here's what it gets you. So let's try it out." For those things that "don't match", I think you have to do one or the other -either make it enough like what the expectation is that it doesn't trigger the reaction, or call it out so that it is in the conscious mind of everyone, which also bypasses that kind of unconscious reaction.

So -what does everyone else do? Any tips or tricks? Experiences? Stories where it's gone amazingly well? Horror stories?

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