So we tried out the Dresden Files RPG earlier. Overall, we had a great time. Some issues came up, though. Specifically, when you compel an aspect, the player has the choice to either accept the compel (gain a fate point) or spend a fate point to ignore the compel. What if the player has no fate points remaining? At that point, it feels cheesy to compel, as the GM winds up effectively railroading the character, frequently at a plot critical point. Is that the intention? Is this the risk you run when you spend your last fate point?


2 Answers 2


Yes, that is exactly the risk a character runs when they run out of fate points. Fate points represent a character's ability to modify... fate, or their free will. IF they don't have any fate points then they are locked into doing what their core character would do. This is the same as being an npc with 0 or less refresh, you are bound by your nature.

It may seem unfair for a GM to compel a character with no fate points, but the flip side is that the character now has a fate point to determine the outcome of a future situation.


A character out of fate is unable to reject a compel. He MUST accept it. Which will, of course, give him one to spend. But being that low should be rare.

A GM should not be limiting his compels to when a character is out of Fate Points. He should be offering compels any time the narrative makes them make sense.

Nor should the GM compel just because a player is out of Fate.

Compels should always and only be used when it makes either good story sense or good drama to do so.

Really, players should not be running out very often. If they are, you as a GM need to compel more during game, and work those aspects of theirs. If you are already working them a lot, then the players need to get over themselves and start accepting some. It's a balancing act... but so long as you're using compels that make sense in story, they should be fine.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I've found that wizards in the Dresden Files run out of them more often than in other FATE games (starting with 1 will do that for you). \$\endgroup\$
    – Chuck Dee
    Oct 31, 2011 at 16:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ And don't forget that players can compel themselves, too. \$\endgroup\$
    – gomad
    Oct 31, 2011 at 22:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @wraith808 is right, and that's how it's supposed to work. Powerful supernatural characters come with a host of social and practical problems, or in game terms: they'll have to accept a lot of compels before they're ready for major trouble. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tynam
    Nov 1, 2011 at 9:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @gomad there really isn't such a thing as a self-compel. It works out that way, but self-compels really are reminders for the GM. Hopefully as the GM gets more familiar with the characters and their aspects, self-compels become less of a problem, because the GM becomes more able to keep track of the PCs. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chuck Dee
    Nov 1, 2011 at 14:50
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @gomad self-compelling is NOT in SOTC. Page 44 has "The GM performs compels; when she compels someone’s aspect, she’s indicating that the character is in a position where the aspect could create a problem. However, players can cause the GM to compel another character’s aspects, via tagging, with a similar rationale and results (see “Tagging for Effect”, above)." Might be in DF. \$\endgroup\$
    – aramis
    Nov 1, 2011 at 23:11

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