Thursday, August 19, 2010

Strands of Fate

While I normally talk about Savage Worlds on this blog, I'm sure by this point that my readers (*cricket, cricket*) are aware that I play and enjoy lots of other games. Pathfinder is a dear friend of mine, as is World of Darkness (in both Classic and New Coke flavors). Over the years, though, there's one game that I have tried several times and receive a weird sort of frission from playing, in that I badly want to like it, but something always seems off to me.

That game is FATE.

The bastard daughter of FUDGE, FATE is a generic system with a free license that has most recently been used by Evil Hat Productions to power their award-winning Spirit of the Century and the much-anticipated Dresden Files RPG (based off Jim Butcher's excellent novels), as well as by Cubicle 7 Entertainment to power Starblazer Adventures and Legends of Anglerre. All of these games have been internet darlings, but I've just never been able to "get" them. Maybe something in my old, grognarded-up brain has trouble grasping the design principles of the system, but I've always seen them as "hand-wavey," or "metagamey." Even though I love the hell out of certain indie games (like Evil Hat's brilliant Don't Rest Your Head), I always have trouble grasping FATE.

Part of it is the nature of the beast. FATE's most current iteration (3rd Edition, for those keeping track) has never had its own corebook. All of the existing games for it are fairly devoted to their own idiom. Dresden is a modern-magic detective game; Spirit is a roaring '20s pulp game; and so on. Anglerre has options for running either heroic fantasy or grim-and-gritty fantasy, but ultimately it's still geared toward a fantasy game. With this in mind, I started to wonder if the real problem with me getting into FATE was that I could never face the rules on their own ground, so to speak; they always had baggage, always had little elements of legacy code that didn't mean much of anything to me. I had been telling myself for a while that I would reinvest my energy into FATE when someone finally got around to putting out a truly generic corebook for it.

Well, somebody finally did. Void Star Games, under the auspices of lead designer Mike McConnell, has set out to strip out all the old legacy code from the various iterations of FATE and put together a truly generic core rulebook for the system. With my long-standing desire to like FATE, and my lack of solid exposure to the current rules system (I've played a few short demos of various FATE things, but it never stuck), I thought that this would be the perfect time to try and get into the game.

Fortunately for me, Void Star decided to run a beta playtest for the corebook, called Strands of Fate, and I was able to jump in. I'm currently browsing through the opening of the beta release, and I have to say that the book is attractive if nothing else. If they put anywhere near as much craftsmanship into the final product as they did into the beta, then I'm very much looking forward to seeing it. I'm not that deep into the rules yet, but from what little I've seen, one of my biggest concerns about FATE is no more: "the ladder."

Whenever I demoed FATE before, I would get told about target numbers, but also that each target number had its own adjective descriptor, like "Good," "Average," and so on. I never could understand why it was necessary to use those adjectives, which didn't actually carry any sort of standard numerical weight, other than dedication to older editions. Really, it reminded me a lot of the old Marvel FASERIP system, which operated on similar (equally confusing) principles. Now, just a short way into the book, I can see that the ladder of adjectives is no more; everything is dealt with by target number alone. That's a huge relief to me as a potential player and GM, and it clears up a lot of confusion.

I hope to do more reading on Strands of Fate over the weekend and keep up the review work, and do some actual playtesting in the next week or so. Keep an eye out to hear more!

1 comment:

Ishmadrad said...

Well, the "Ladder" isn't a big problem, in the various Fate systems... If you want to use jsut the numbers, you can do that: simply ignore the "descriptors"!!! :)
Of course, I think that it's quite useful to know that "1" is Average, while "8" is Legendary, so you can give your players a good obstacle simply thinking about "Is this climbing Difficult? Is that a Legendary one?" then you search for the choosn word on the Ladder, and look at for the difficulty number.

Other systems do the same. Even D&D tells to you that "15" is an Average difficulty, while "25" is a Hard one. << Can't remember the right D&D "descriptions".