My group teethed on D&D 3.5 and loved 4e, but now we're eager to take advantage of FATE's more narrative- and character-driven philosophies. However, on our first (DFRPG) game last night, my players frequently seemed spoilt for choice: faced with "what do you want to do?" instead of "which of these options (like 4e's power cards) would you like to use?", we sometimes froze like deer in the headlights.

For a player trained in 4e that their choices are largely limited to a set of specific mechanical actions (eg power cards), narrative-based options seem vast and vague. The golden rule of FATE is to first decide what you want to do narratively and then figure out how to model it mechanically, and this is alien to my players' experience. We like it conceptually, but can't get a handle on it yet.

I know this is just new-system pains, but what can I do to make the transition easier?


4 Answers 4


Play a session or two of Roll For Shoes. Like an improv exercise, it will shake out your narrative muscles and make you stretch them a bit in a gaming context where it's ok to do the "wrong" thing or take the game in absurd directions.

This is the game that did the most to transition my old group from a D&D context to a more player-driven context. We had played Fate and Burning Wheel before, but they never really "stuck" and were unsatisfying. Our one session of Roll For Shoes, on the other hand, is still remembered fondly and was a resounding success in terms of the players taking up the challenge of "what do you do now?" without any premade options to lean on.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Holy S. This game must be made into a one-page PDF and spread all over the gaming world ! \$\endgroup\$
    – Nigralbus
    Mar 12, 2013 at 9:16

I remember reading somewhere that one GM created a power card of sorts for one of his players having the analysis paralysis issue. He wrote out a few things the character could do (attack, block, etc.). After the first couple of sessions the player started asking questions, and he'd have her write out a new power card. After a while the player caught on that they don't need a power card for every possibility.

Bam! Found what I was thinking of: How do I introduce an inexperienced player to the FATE combat system?

  • \$\begingroup\$ My Storyteller did something similar with an old Mage game. We created a list of 10 rotes containing our guess to effect, and required spheres. Then we did 10 more effects we used on occasion. The discussion of "you put 3 dots, it should be 2" or vice versa and the why our interpretation was different from the DM's was really enlightening. \$\endgroup\$
    – Pulsehead
    Mar 11, 2013 at 14:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ This strategy turns the FATE golden rule right on its head --which makes me sad, but if it produces a golden-rule player in the end, it must work. [takes notes] \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Mar 11, 2013 at 14:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BESW Some players need to start out with bronze and silver before they work their way up to gold :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Tacroy
    Mar 11, 2013 at 17:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ As author of the accepted answer on that question, I would definitely recommend trying just "going for the gold" first instead of bastardizing the concept behind the system (it does run the risk of bringing mismatched habits forward), but if you have a hardcase that has trouble transitioning, then the longer migration route has merit. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Mar 11, 2013 at 22:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ As the asker of the question, I will say that if the whole group was having the problem, I'd probably take a different approach. With only one player having the problem, and the others going for gold, we only needed to use this for a couple of advances (and a couple of side quests for her to have sparring sessions with one of the other players' contacts in the dojo) before she caught on. It's a way to keep action flowing, and show, not tell. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chuck Dee
    Mar 12, 2013 at 15:18

I have started people in a couple of fiction-driven "story games" and the greatest issue they have is being unable to choose an action.

To help them with this I generally start the game in medias res which means that they have to respond to an imminent threat of some kind.

With my last group I started by saying "OK, you are pelting down the steep hillside through the trees, the people chasing you no longer look much like simple villagers, in fact they seem to be carrying some really sharp daggers and scythes" Then I asked the thief "what did you steal?" and the fighter "who did you kill during the heist?" and the paladin "why are you helping these criminals?"

They responded, I kept raining problems on them and we were off to the races. Put on lots of pressure and keep asking "what would your character do?'


I'd try to abstract the game system, even if it means losing the advantage of the FATE system.

Tell your players to just imagine they are the protagonist of a book or a film. What to do? What would do? Always try that they forget that they are playing a game, and focus them on the story. Try describing the scene in a way so immersive they have a clear picture of the situation.

You can try first an extremely simple investigation adventure. So simple, that the next action would be obvious. Then, start gradually complicating things, for increasing the challenge and story depth.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is exactly my problem: for a player trained that their choices are pretty much limited to the specific mechanical actions on a set of cards, narrative-based options seems vast and vague. The golden rule of FATE is to decide what you want to do and then figure out how to model it mechanically, and this is alien to my players. They like it conceptually, but can't get a handle on it yet. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Mar 11, 2013 at 14:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BESW That's where my simple investigation adventure could help. When they find in his journal that the victim was going to see Matt in the Gym, they know they have to go to the Gym and ask for Matt. Then Matt talks them about Anne and they go after her. Then Anne is dead in her apartment, but they find matches from a nightclub... \$\endgroup\$
    – Flamma
    Mar 11, 2013 at 17:11

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