I Think I’m Done With Fate

I’m finally back from being in the hospital for over 5 weeks where they treated me for my depression and anxiety issues. Now I feel a bit better than before and hopefully I now have new strategies for dealing with stress in the future.

I also had a lot of time to think about the roleplaying hobby, about what worked for me and what doesn’t. One thing I realized over the last weeks was that I probably shouldn’t bother with Fate anymore.

Yes, I said it: I am done with Fate. While I always tried to like it, it never really clicked with me. There were moments when I thought I got it, but then I realized that my approach to Fate was not as the designers intended it. For some reason Fate also feels a bit too “meta” for me. I don’t like the idea of having to write down situational aspects on index cards and laying them onto the table for everyone to work with. But if I avoid those, I remove a large aspect (sorry, no pun intended) from the game.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t say Fate is a bad game. It’s definitely well written and a lot of people enjoy it tremendously, but for me it always felt like a struggle. Yes, there were sessions where I had a blast with it, but then there were situations when I felt that it just didn’t work for me. In the end the game actually caused stress for me.

So, long story short, I think I’m done with Fate (for now at least). Perhaps I’ll give it another chance in the future, but for now I prefer to stick to games which work better for me.

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

11 thoughts on “I Think I’m Done With Fate”

  1. I hope everything will go well for you now. Fate is interesting, but if it does not “click” for you, better use whathever systeme works well for you.

  2. First off, I hope that you’re feeling better! Real life can be a pain, but finding good friends and peace of mind is worth the effort.

    As I’ve noted to my role-players during our annual rounds of campaign turnover, our games and hobbies should be fun diversions. If they’re not, we should do something else.

    I understand that systems such as FATE can be an acquired taste — I have to admit, I prefer the fast-and-loose nature of sprawling FATE 3e books like Starblazer Adventures to the somewhat more abstract and crunchy FATE Core.

    What will you play next? I’m currently enjoying D&D5e, Savage Worlds, a brief return to GURPS 4e, and yes, FATE.

    That said, I look forward to continuing to follow your blog, and happy gaming!

    1. I’m running Savage World (East Texas University) and Fantasy AGE (Titansgrave – Ashes of Valkana) at the moment. But since I am always planning for the next game, I am currently reading Exalted 1st Edition (which I recently acquired via Bundle of Holding) and Jovian Chronicles (which I bought ages ago, but never put to good use).

  3. I struggle with that “all/most situational aspects visible on the table” part as well. FATE isn’t just story-forward, it’s also less “omniscient GM, subjective players/PC’s” than a lot of other games, swinging the balance more toward story agency being a collaboration between GM and players. Other games sometimes being described as “railroading the GM’s story at the players”. (I mean, yes, lots of games can turn into railroaded stories, but I don’t agree that a typical D&D-like RPG is automatically railroading the players — FATE just strikes a different balance in story agency).

    My struggle is in doing an OSR-like game using FATE mechanics. I have a feeling a lot of OSR fans will be less interested because it’s going to be FATE mechanics, and a lot of FATE fans will be less interested because it will be more like OSR in play style (with the story agency being more like a traditional RPG, and various other OSR-like things). I like to think it’s a balance between the two, but it might seem to be not enough of each camp’s own favorite approach to attract each camp.

    1. i ran a D20-FATE hybrid for a year and a half for both homebrewed fantasy and a Star Trek miniseries. While I would describe most of the settings, my gamers tended to use Fate points/chips more to help them succeed in critical rolls than for adding scene aspects.

      I did like how character aspects and backgrounds informed player actions rather than requiring us to look up how race, class, or level bonuses might come into play.

      As Game Master, I always reserved the right to add aspects or spend a Non-Player Character’s chip to veto something if it didn’t make sense — i.e., “I just happen to find a broadsword in this starship hallway….” Our group settled into a decent rhythm, but I’ll admit, most split either for pure FATE or a different system afterwards.

      1. My main ideas are, but I keep not having time to flesh them out:

        1) a single ladder based trait: Level
        2) an aspect “Low Concept” which is the typical OSR summary of a character, like: Lawful Good Human Paladin (sort of 3 aspects in one).
        3) an aspect “Attributes”, which is “high X, low Y” where X and Y are one of the standard OSR Attrributes (Strength, Dex, etc.). So you get one that is “high” and one that is “low”, mashed into one aspect. And if you’re creative, you can figure out how to both invoke and compel both of them.
        4) race and class “modes” that are a bunch of stunts you can buy (and a few you have to buy before you can buy anything else), that flesh out the stereotypical abilities/bonuses of each race/class. Having that race or class in your “Low Concept” being a requirement for access to that mode.

        Haven’t quite figured out how to handle weapon proficiencies, non-weapon proficiencies, and spell knowledge. And exactly how to model equipment (was thinking all equipment are “temporary aspects” that can be used for justifications of other things).

        One idea I had for (weapon and non-weapon) proficiencies was: if you aren’t proficient with something, you can’t add your Level to the roll. You can add other bonuses (from stunts, etc.), but not your Level.

        1. FATE Freeport uses a modified version of FATE Accelerated Edition to simulate traditional D&D archetypes. While I did the opposite of what you recommend — I had race and class rather than attributes as aspects — I can see what you’re getting at. In my D20 hybrid rules, Level still provided bonuses — see my sig for some example house rules.

          1. I have separate aspects for Race/Class and Attributes. I did both. I just mash the Race/Class into 1 Aspect. :-}

            I didn’t like the FATE Freeport way of doing Attributes as “Skills”/”Approaches”. I’d rather do classes (like W-R-M). But ultimately, I decided to do Level. My reasoning being the usual summary is something like: 5th level magic-user, or 6th level fighter. Or if you’re separating race and class: 4th level NG elf ranger. While I’m not going to dismiss the importance of D&D Attributes, they’re really rather secondary. They tend to match classes (if you get away from the “all 18s” crowd — and in the “all 18s” crowd, they matter even _less_), so they really tend to reinforce that a Fighter is good at melee Fighting, a Mage “knows a lot”, etc. They confirm/reinforce other “aspects” of the character. But I didn’t want to rule them out entirely, so I just made them an aspect that can be invoked/compelled, but are otherwise not very present.

            It also works for “Monster Level”/ Hit Dice, without having two different expressions for PCs vs NPCs. I actually got that from Michael Shea’s Dungeons Of Fate (where they had a sort of Ladder just for monster ability, called Level, instead of having them do Attributes on the Ladder … I thought “why not have characters use that same thing?”).

            Last: “see my sig” ??? You mean the Vanished Lands site?

  4. Best wishes for your health. About the system, yeah, I can relate with that. Fate never totally clicked for me too (while I have a ton of pdfs and books Fate based). I never used index cards for the situational aspects, however, always spelled out to the players. However my players have the biggest problems with their aspects “Ehi, if I don’t have Fate Points, then my PC have almost no power”. Also, to have to “suck” the same time they want to “shine” it’s something they don’t like at all (maybe, giving 2 Fate Points for every compel could help).

    I too enjoy Savage Worlds, also adore Dungeon World / Apocalypse World (men how fun it is to GM those games), and I continue to repeat to myself I have to try a Cypher powered game, probably The Strange. But I actually never had the chance.

  5. Michael–

    I was wondering why you hadn’t posted. I am depressive too, but my meds help a lot, and I have not had to go to a hospital yet. I’m so glad you are doing better.

    The wonderful thing about roleplaying games is that there are so many. GURPS was my favorite but I’, not sure I could run it these days. If FATE doesn’t work for you, play something else. I want to try it–it’s very interesting, and I had wonderful players, but I’m not sure I could run it either.

    I have missed your posts. Thank goodness that help is available. Let me know how you are doing.


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