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Rules Hack

I'm thinking of tinkering with one of the Fate Core rules so that the GM receives Fate Points instead of them disappearing into the ether after a player spends them.

  1. Players begin with (at least) their Refresh in Fate Points at the beginning of a session.
  2. The GM begins a session with the number of players in Fate Points +1.
  3. The GM does not refresh at the beginning of each scene as per Fate Core rules. Instead, the GM maintains their number of Fate Points throughout the session and Refreshes as above, and could conceivably hold onto Fate Points between sessions as players can.
  4. Players receive Fate Points from an unlimited pool when the GM Compels.
  5. The GM receives all Fate Points spent by players for any reason (not just NPC Compels), but only at the end of the scene
  6. When the GM spends a Fate Point, it leaves the game, thus avoiding an ever-growing closed economy.

What effects will this have on the Fate Point economy and player behavior? The problem I'm trying to solve is running out of Fate Points for NPCs. I anticipate that players will be more reluctant to spend Fate Points, something I wish to avoid. Given my goal of increasing the number of Fate Points available to NPCs, will my solution work? Is there a better solution? Something from an existing Fate supplement would be awesome.

The idea for this alteration came, originally from Ryan Macklin's blog, although it's altered to avoid a closed economy. In the blog, Ryan Macklin suggests no Fate Points enter or leave the game, and whenever a players spends a Fate Point, it goes to the GM. Ryan appears only to be tossing ideas around, and has not playtested his suggestion.

RE: Chip Hungriness

  • Occurs during large scale battles when it does not seem logical to end the scene
  • Occurs because of NPCs who have Fate Point powered stunts (spells) eating up all the Fate Points for all the other NPCs.
  • Occurs because players do not feel empowered to, or forget to Compel NPCs.

Alternative Solutions

Instead of hacking the system, I've decided to implement the following solutions:

  • Break up protracted battles into smaller, mini-battles, each of which is its own scene. Doing so without seeming cheap is going to be a challenge, so I need additional solutions.
  • Give Big Bads and some lieutenants Fate Points of their own so they stop eating up from the general pool.
  • Give each player 1 red Fate Point chip which is only usable for NPC Compels. This should help promote Fate Point spending on NPC Compels.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is there a reason you don't simply increase the number of Fate Points for the NPCs by a fixed numberr? I'd assume that telling the players that npc's will recieve their FP will defenitely make them more reluctant to use them. \$\endgroup\$ – Seeamoebe Jan 31 '18 at 20:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's a potential solution, but I like the idea of a back and forth, and continuing to have the GM Fate Points be a part of that flow. Not against the idea per se, and really not in love with the idea of discouraging Fate Point use. As well, I've noted a marked reluctance for players to do NPC Compels for this very reason. \$\endgroup\$ – Doctor Kill Jan 31 '18 at 20:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ You want us to test your house rule? \$\endgroup\$ – okeefe Jan 31 '18 at 21:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @okeefe. Nope. But if you're interested... srsly tho, any fate gm should be able to see the pitfalls, including the one I noted. I'm asking if my solution is reasonable or if there's an alternative. \$\endgroup\$ – Doctor Kill Jan 31 '18 at 22:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ You're going to have to explain why you're worried about running out of Fate Points for NPCs, and unwilling or unable to solve that by increasing NPC numbers, either their ratings or the actual number of NPCs present. \$\endgroup\$ – Glazius Feb 1 '18 at 1:14
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You don't have to alter the (already fair and balanced) core mechanics in order to get more Fate points as GM: There are existing mechanics you can use to get more of them the "normal ways".

Way 1: Like players, you get Fate points for conceding in Conflicts (Fate Core page 167).

Way 2: Unlike players, you get Fate points at the beginning of every scene (Fate Core page 82). Don't be artificial about it, but, fitting more distinct scenes into a session can help the GM feel less starved for points as well as give players more progress through the scenario. A session with only a couple of really long scenes isn't too exciting and feels draggy.

Way 3: This is the most creative, and completely legit: Like players, you can accept Compels. There is nothing at all in Fate Core pages 71 through 75, or anywhere else, which would rule that out.

This is in practice a little bit uncommon, but you could show your players that a thing they can use their Fate points for is to offer compels to your NPCs. (Fate Core page 71) This is solid gold: Yes, if they get in this habit, but then one day were to propose a reasonable Compel which you nevertheless really, really don't want to accept, you could buy out of the Compel by spending a point. But if a player is fired up to want to spend one of their Fate points to compel your NPCs, that's spectacularly good Fate gameplay, and in my opinion every effort should be made to honor this kind of player input. Be sure to follow the book's advice about negotiating (sidebar at the top of Fate Core page 74).

Outrageous proposals get dropped, not bought-off (see the same sidebar on Page 74). If you find that you can't say Yes because the Compels they're proposing are just unreasonable and unfair, make sure players understand that you won't let them milk you for Fate points by letting them propose outrageous compels which they know you'll never agree to.

Don't forget the Retroactive Compels (bottom of Page 74): If something happens to your NPC in play which people at the table agree fulfilled the criteria for a compel, you should get a Fate point from the GM's unlimited pool (see page 82) for compels. Since a player didn't propose it, it shouldn't cost one of them a point.

OK, so, there is a LOT of nuance in Way 3, but it's right at the heart of what makes Fate fun, what makes Fate work, and what makes what some call "the Fate Point economy" flow.

And this brings me to my reaction to your overall question: I get that "The problem I'm trying to solve is running out of Fate Points for NPCs." I also get that you want to avoid causing players to be reluctant to spend their own Fate points. So, make good and sure that they're rewarded well for doing so! Show them how much more awesome spending a Fate point can be, than "I'll add +2 to that roll."

My favorite uses of Fate points are those which really redirect the story. Using them to invoke so that one can win instead of losing a roll is on the boring end of the spectrum of possibilities. On the other hand, using them to gain the privilege of adding drama and twists to the story is solid gold Fate.

I'm familiar with Ryan Macklin's blog post, and I haven't playtested his idea either, but I don't feel like it would be too great. I don't feel like the reduction in GM refresh makes up for the extra points the GM would get by taking them from the players. If a GM has a lot more Fate points than the players do, the players don't get to be awesome as much - and that's critical to successful Fate (Fate Core page 4).

I feel like there are ways within Fate Core itself to solve the problem you're experiencing ("not enough GM Fate points"), without altering the rules. I hope that I have shown how one can use the rules we already have, better. Every way which I've proposed enhances player awesomeness far far more than just taking their point when they need a +2 does.

(I'm just taking a wild guess that buying +2's and possibly refusing Compels are the major things your players are spending most of their Fate points on. I could be wrong, but the situation here sounds to me like the whole table, both sides of it, are not very experienced at the more story-driving uses of Fate points. My favorite use of a Fate point, and indeed my favorite rule in the entire Fate Core book, is on Page 13: "Declaring a Story Detail".)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Pretty familiar with fate mechanics. Problem is getting folks to put more coins in my coffer. Had overlooked NPC Self Compels. Also considered giving a red chip to each player only usable for NPC Compels to help prime the pump. \$\endgroup\$ – Doctor Kill Feb 1 '18 at 1:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ I like that idea. Quite a bit, actually. Where did you get it from, or did you make it up yourself? I like it because it wouldn't create imbalance, only fun. Additionally, ways 1 and 2 -- increasing the pacing (so you refresh once or twice more per session) and introducing more conflicts which you wind up conceding -- are both likely to just create more fun and get toward solving your chip-hungryness problem. \$\endgroup\$ – Beanluc Feb 1 '18 at 17:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Made it up. Feel free to steal/borrow. Probably will implement at our next session rather than the proposed solution I mentioned in my Q. \$\endgroup\$ – Doctor Kill Feb 1 '18 at 17:29
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Consider a Fate Point reserve.

Atomic Robo introduced the concept of the reserve, which is a floating pool of Fate Points the GM has, and at the start of any scene they can take any amount out to add to their budget. Points are added to the reserve in one of three ways:

  • instead of extra stunts decreasing PC refresh, they give the GM a starting reserve.
  • when NPCs get Fate Points, by PCs spending on them directly or by taking consequences and conceding, all those points go into the reserve.
  • when PCs invent crazy things or hook up with organizations to borrow crazy things, on a "permanent advantage until end of session" basis instead of a "Create An Advantage while it lasts" basis, model them as a bundle of stunts minus drawbacks and add the net stunt value to the reserve. This may or may not be applicable to your campaign.

So the net effect is that, at the very least, you have a pool that gets bigger as your PCs get more capable, that you can pretty much pay into at will by withdrawing in earlier fights, and then cash out for the big scenes.

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