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The Horrors of Fate Stunts

We asked some Fate players things they found confusing about Fate and below are the results.

Fate Survey Stunts

Aspects and fate points can be challenging to understand, but with some patience and an understanding group you can usually get past the challenges with some easy rulings. Something like “I see what you want to do, but it doesn’t really make sense for the story right now,” can simply bypass a confusing situation all together.

Stunts, on the other hand, can’t really be bypassed. Once they are created, they are there. Once a player takes it and pays for it, it is a real part of the game. If it is too powerful, a GM cannot bypass it so easily. If a player doesn’t know how to use it, it becomes a waste of their refresh. And since stunts are persistent, any problems they cause will not go away after just one session.

Probably the MOST confusing thing about stunts is the open-ended invitation Fate Core makes to design your own with a pirate’s code analogy of guidelines. How can players and GMs judge what stunts abilities will fall in that sweet spot of “limited enough in scope to feel special when you use them, but not so narrow that you never see them come up?” Especially with a game like Fate Core where everyone works together to driver the story.

We’ve touched a bit on making stunts before, and we probably will again soon. But for now let’s take a look at 3 rules when dealing with stunts, three things that you must never EVER do.

No Bright Lights

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Simplifying Fate: Aspects and Fate Points

While we work on our next subject of Stunt Myths, related to this poll, we thought we would add something else about simplifying Fate points and Aspects.

Fate Core is a simple streamline system, but that does NOT mean it is always easy to play. The folks at Evil Hat designed it to handle everything, and sometimes figuring out how to cover that within the rules can give you quite the headache. No matter how much I think I know about the rules, there’s always something new to learn or something I assumed to be true that is not.

The trick with understanding how Fate works is to approach it like you would math (ugh) or maybe building with Legos (yay). You have to understand the very basics, and then put those basics together in order to make a complicated structure that looks like what you want. Things go wrong when you miss one of the basic elements, and it affects the large structure as a whole.

So today we are going to take another look at the rules of Fate Core and see how we can keep things simple.

Three Ways to Use Aspects

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Marvelous Monstrous Aspect Myths

Recently we conducted a survey asking players what part of Fate they found most confusing or difficult to understand.

Fate Survey

Below is our attempt to answer some of the questions in comments received in this survey.

Where to begin

Today we are going to try to tackle one of the more unique mechanical features of Fate Core, and often the most confusing for new and experience players alike: Aspects. In Fate Core, everything has aspects: characters, scenes, locations, and even the campaign itself. They are a wonderful tool, though complicated and often difficult to explain in words.

But not only can aspects be difficult to explain, they can be downright monstrous to deal with. Trying to come up with the perfect wording. Trying to remember how long each type is supposed to last. Keeping track of a growing number of them. It can be really frightening for GMs and players alike.

But like any monster we face in game, this challenge can be overcome with the right skills. Rather than write a book of our own to explain everything about how aspects can be used, I’d like to address a few myths and assumptions about aspects that really seem to be causing a lot of the confusion. Hopefully these will help make your gaming experiences easier.

What Is an Aspect

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How to get away with PC murder

I do not enjoy killing player characters. I have a lot of NPCs get killed, as you probably know if you listen to the podcasts. Player Character deaths are a lot trickier to manage. They are easy to do, sure. But they are very hard to make meaningful and even harder to get the players to celebrate.

In my experience, the only way to kill a PC and not lose a player over it is to make sure no one thinks it is your fault the PC died. Get them to believe that the game just worked out that way, that the dice roll was bad, or that someone in the group made a bad choice that led to their death. Of course, as the GM you really are the one that set them up to die, but so long as they don’t know it you can get away with it.

Here are a few tricks I’ve used over the years to get away with PC Murder. They do not all work for every occasion, but hopefully you can find something that will work for your campaign or at least inspire you to think.

Heroic Sacrifice

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Hacking Fate

We love Fate Core here at Burn Everything Gaming. It is an easy system to learn that can handle very complicated circumstances. New and experienced players can have a lot of fun with the mechanics, which are well balanced between them and with the GM. But my favorite thing about Fate Core has to be how easy it is to make your own custom rules and settings.

I’ve personally been doing this with the Fate game since before the Core rules came out. I have an old Avatar Fate-bender game that was based off of Dresden Files mechanics. I have gigs of custom settings for other games I enjoy (DnD, L5R, Shadowrun, etc.) with Fate conversions. There’s a huge list on the Fate Core official website with a lot of fan-made rules and settings for pretty much everything now. And of course we have the wonderful Star Trek Fate RPG that we use for the podcast.

So today I thought we could take a look at how and why one goes about Hacking the Fate system to make wonderful new game settings (like the amazing NIHM game we mentioned in a previous post). We’ll take a look at the 3 main areas changed to make Fate Core more setting-specific: skills, stunts, and extras.


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Pitching Games: Narrowing down to the good stuff

After the emotions of ending a campaign wind down, a new excitement starts to bubble up in all of us. The great question that has an endless array of possible wonderful answers: What are we going to play next?

For some groups, the answer is decided before you even get to this point. You are dedicated to a single system, or someone bought a new system that everyone is excited about, or the next GM has been trying to get the party killed for weeks so that they can start the game they want to run.

Why Pitch More Than One?

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Adventure Design: Chamber of the Seven Sins

I was digging through some of my old notes for a campaign and found some old session notes for an adventure. So I thought I’d share it with everyone instead. Maybe you can try it out as a fun encounter or unexpected challenge in a dungeon crawl.

The Chamber of Seven Sins was designed for a Fate-based game, but can be used in any system. Each room is designed to inflict consequences on the players related to one of the sins. Hopefully long-lasting consequences, so as to spark some wonderful opportunities for demons and evil wizards in future encounters.

The Main Chamber

You find yourself in a colorful circular chamber sparsely furnished with a hat rack, a broken mirror, and a couple of shabby chairs. There are no blacks or whites or greys in this room. Instead it looks like someone took a rainbow paintball gun and recolored everything in a hissy fit. There are seven doors on the walls, each with a plaque at eye level that labels the door in a nonsense word. The doors are the only items in the room that are a solid color.

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Game Design: Escape to Thorn Valley: pt.4: The Quest

This week we do our fourth, and final, part of Game Design for the adventure “Escape to Thorn Valley”. This is based off of a FATE Core hack for Secret of NIMH that you can find here: https://taoofchall.wordpress.com/2013/06/01/fate-core-secret-of-nimh/

The first week we talked about the Escape.

The second week we talked about the the Trek

Last week we talked about how to Negotiate

This week we talk about the last step in the adventure:

The Quest

The last scene, QUEST, is all about awesomeness. This is where the players get to play those mice and rats that feel like NIMH creatures. If they did very well with their conversation with the Great Owl, they will have learned about Toy Tinker, the vehicle with small tools and items that was not completely scavenged from the first wave of NIMH rats. Even without it, the forest is filled with things that can be reshaped for their purposes. Crafts is used to make these things, and should really be fun to use in this scene. Lore lets you know things like how bad mud, rain, snakes, and thorns can be. Drive will allow you to work contraptions that you build to get past the mud. Physique will keep you from getting stuck or pushing a vehicle that is stuck in the big mud at the climax of this adventure.

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Game Design: Escape to Thorn Valley: pt.3: Negotiate

This week we do our third part of Game Design for the adventure “Escape to Thorn Valley”. This is based off of a FATE Core hack for Secret of NIMH that you can find here: https://taoofchall.wordpress.com/2013/06/01/fate-core-secret-of-nimh/

The first week we talked about the Escape.

Last week we talked about the Trek

This week we talk about the next step in the adventure:


The third scene, NEGOTIATE, is all about social interaction. Fans of the NIMH series will recognize the Great Owl as both wise and scary. This should give them hope for moving forward despite being frustrated about how hard things have been so far. Whether they find the Great Owl, or it snatches up one of them, he is willing to speak once he realizes that they are NIMH creatures. Deceive can be used to convince the owl you are not tasty or hide anything you’ve done. Empathy will determine the truth of what the owl is saying and his intent to not eat you unless provoked. Rapport will be most useful in finding out about Thorn Valley and the rats that came before you. Will allows you to resist the owl’s passive mental attack.

The Great Owl Finds You

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Game Design: Escape to Thorn Valley: pt.2: The Trek

This week we do our second part of Game Design for the adventure “Escape to Thorn Valley”. This is based off of a FATE Core hack for Secret of NIMH that you can find here: https://taoofchall.wordpress.com/2013/06/01/fate-core-secret-of-nimh/

Last week we talked about the Escape.

This week we talk about the next step in the adventure.

The Trek

The second scene, TREK, is all about despair. The wild outside world is very difficult to live in when you are a small rodent, and many creatures would love to eat the player characters. Hit them with several challenges that are very difficult and not very rewarding, emphasizing how unhelpful their enhanced intelligence is out here. If any of the player characters have 2 or more consequences at any point during this scene, then you should definitely move on to the next scene .Athletics will allow you to dodge predators. Notice will keep you from being caught off guard. Survival will be key in finding food to make it through the day. Stealth will keep everyone hidden from hungry eyes.

Prowling Cat

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