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Another week, another episode of our Dresden Files game. In this particular situation, the PCs were in a completely alien setting, and trying to get information.

They were in the mind of a hedge wizard as he was in mental conflict with an evil being for control of his mind. They were trying to find the core of his mind before the being took control, and the information they gathered would allow them to hopefully do this. The setting the wizard chose for his defense was a Civil War battle; One PC was assessing the strategic nature of the layout of the battle to get insight on where he might be, another was assessing the historical battle and what they remembered as an academic, and the other was assessing the mystical defense the wizard was running.

In each case, the assessments that they were doing were not just to place aspects on the scene, but to get actual information, and the margin of success would let me know how much information that they got from their assessments.

I gave them the base number as a target, while letting them know that the margin of success mattered, but I was wondering how to handle it; should I have let them know how much of a margin of success they needed to obtain the maximum information, given the ability to spend fate points?

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up vote 12 down vote accepted

Yes. When in doubt in a Fate-based game about how much mechanical information you should give out, err on the side of transparency. As you say, given the ability to spend Fate points, players really need that information to exercise the narrative power that the system grants them.

That doesn't mean give away secrets, of course. The key of the rule of thumb is "when in doubt". If you can safely give away the information without revealing story secrets, the only remaining source for your own hesitance to reveal mechanical information will be from habits that are appropriate to non-Fate games, and that's exactly the time to override that habit.

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+1 thanks. I needed that last line, i.e. the only remaining source for your own hesitance to reveal mechanical information will be from habits that are appropriate to non-Fate games, and that's exactly the time to override that habit. I seem to figure this stuff out after the fact, but the players are pretty good about it, thankfully. –  wraith808 Nov 3 '11 at 17:25
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@wraith808 Habits are hard to shake, especially when we have good reasons for them! I struggle as a Fate referee with this kind of thing a lot, even when I "know better". (Using the term "referee" sometimes helps remind me to think differently.) –  SevenSidedDie Nov 3 '11 at 18:13
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