Burn Everything Gaming

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Crunchy Fate Games

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So a while back I made a post where I stated that FATE is not for everyone and it is not for every situation. I stand by that still. But I was surprised to find out just how many people disagree with me on this issue. A number of Kickstarter projects have had people demand FATE versions of their rules in exchange for support. Gamers have refused to participate in events unless someone runs a FATE game. And of course people that try to design their own FATE settings are being told that their rules are not “good enough” for FATE.

That last one really hits home since both Taylor and I have been designing our own systems based on TV shows we love. I mean, isn’t one of the big advantages of a system like FATE supposed to be that we can play in a Star Trek, Air Bender, or Firefly setting?

But I don’t really want to gripe about fears or misinformation. What I would really like to do is take a moment to talk about why people love the FATE system (we do too!) and also why it is ok to love other systems.

What Is Great About FATE?

A lot of people that play FATE are in it for the freedom, the ability to do whatever they want. The joke is that “so long as you can bluff the game master into thinking you can do something with your best skill then you can get away with anything.” To which I reply, “Or you could spend a Fate Point to just declare that whatever you were trying to do just happens anyway.”

One of the biggest advantages that tabletop roleplaying games have is that they give us a chance to do whatever we want, and FATE is especially good at making that easy for players and GMs alike. How can you not love that?

FATE also supports MANY settings and worlds, limited only by time and imagination. It has the potential to satisfy our need for variety while still giving us the familiarity of basic rules.

Why People Stop Playing FATE

Believe it or not, a lot of people that have been playing FATE games do not play them exclusively. While I have never played a game with someone that didn’t enjoy the rules, there are some things that FATE just is not good at offering.

Every time I type something like that, I imagine myself ducking a rotten tomato for some reason. Oh well.

FATE is not crunch, and by crunch I mean heavy with rules and setting materials. You do not have to memorize much of anything to play FATE, and you pretty much establish (and change) the setting as you go. This is not always a good thing.

I understand why gamers may be anti-crunchiness. It can be frustrating when you fail at trying to do something awesome in a game (like trying to flip while being grappled so that the guy lands on the spear your servant is holding up). We want to be able to do all the cool things all the time, and when you finally experience a game that lets you do that it can be an amazing feeling that you never want to let go of.

Why Do Some Players Like Crunchy Games?

People have reacted to the extreme with the anti-crunchiness that FATE offers (and have ruined a lot of potentially good games with that passion). But I know that a lot of people here, even people that I have run FATE games for, have started to swing back to the crunchier games because they not only offer realism but more concrete tools to work with (what fanatics would call “limits”).

Imagine your player’s character wakes up in a dark room. You ask them what they want to do. They ask what their options are. You tell them they can do whatever they can think of. So they say that their character teleports to their mecha and starts shooting the big guns.

Context and rules really do help us move forward, and a lot of those limiting rules actually help make the game feel like it’s really taking place in the world we imagine it to be in. Granted a lot of people that really love the current FATE versions consider limitations to be anti-FATE, but I like to think that this is the result of bad experiences rather than realism. After all, many of us have been enjoying tabletop RPGs since long before FATE was around. Just because it is a great system doesn’t mean it now has to be the only system.

Why Do We Create?

If you run games long enough, eventually you are going to want to make your own rules. This could be as simple as creating a couple of house rules for a familiar game or as complicated as designing your own system for players to try. Our hobby is very good at encouraging creativity for players and game masters alike, and I think that is a wonderful thing.

That being said, everyone is a critic and it is easy to get your feelings hurt when something you create is not appreciated. Even when the criticism is meant to be constructive, it is still hard to swallow most of the time. I encourage those of us that enjoy making new games to remember not to dismiss criticism but also to not take it personally, even if it is obviously intended to be personal.

The golden rule of game creation is this: work towards making something that you and your group will enjoy playing. If you can accomplish that, then you have made a good game and a good setting.

Closing Thoughts

Despite the controversy, I still highly recommend FATE to anyone wanting to try and design their own setting. It is extremely flexible, and honestly you can make your setting as crunchy as you want no matter what anyone else tells you.

If you agree, disagree, or are just generally confused feel free to let us know. I would be a bit of a hypocrite if I said all of this and didn’t actually try to apply it to myself.


Author: Burn Everything Gaming

Website that mostly produces Actual Play Podcast as well as game reviews and other musings on the topic. Hope you enjoy.

One thought on “Crunchy Fate Games

  1. In Fate the context is often defined by the aspects in play. I posted recently on my blog about issues I had with those aspects concerning a Forgotten Realms hack I’ve developed but I’ll sum it up by pointing out that while Fate encourages players to be flexible in terms of how aspects can be applied in order for the setting to maintain any kind of believability those aspects have to be well-defined and therefore not abused by players. I think that’s the key to the game.

    If as GM you apply common sense to aspects then the game world thrives and there’s enough crunch there without the game becoming pedantic. There are reasons why girls generally don’t play role-playing games and if any game manages to break the mould it will be Fate or something that evolves from it.


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