In the past when introducing a new player to roleplaying games I have found they understand it much quicker if I handle the mechanics of the game, and let them experience the story and play without having to pay attention to the background. I also find that this makes for more immersive experiences for the players, at the cost of some control and agency. Every introduction previously however, has been running Dungeons and Dragons in the background.

I learned this back in AD&D from my first DM, and started doing it without really paying attention to it to all players. Of course, in AD&D, I could get pretty far with just knowing to-hit and THAC0, and players seldom needed to know statistical information other than "I'm good at hitting things" or "That thing is really big, and fighting it would probably be a bad idea." There was relatively little weird abstractions. When we moved the 3rd edition, we found it was easier for experienced players to keep track of the larger amount of information, but I could still easily make a character with a new player and just ask them what they were doing when their turn came around, making all dice rolls for them in the background behind the DM screen. I introduced two new people like that, and eventually they picked up enough of the chatter of the rest of the group and were able to start keeping track of their own information.

I'm now about to start running a Dresden Files campaign with a player who is new to any kind of roleplaying game. In FATE, the difference between an attack and a maneuver in particular is narratively very similar, but mechanically very different. Heck, some blocks could sound very like attacks. How do I "hide the numbers" in FATE game? If the player says that he wants to punch someone and land them on their backside, is that an attack, a maneuver, or a block against movement? I think I can hide damage easily ("He swings a sword at you. You jump back, but find yourself with a gash across your leg.") but I'm just not sure how to interpret the attacks.

Bonus points- the player wants to play a spellcaster. In D&D this would be no problem- the vancian system seems very understandable in my experience. I have no idea how to hide this in Dresden, since there are some very important mechanical decisions that have to be made when casting a spell.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hiding the numbers means the players aren't engaging the mechanics directly. I don't think this is a good idea for a Fate game. \$\endgroup\$
    – okeefe
    Commented May 26, 2013 at 5:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm aware that this means players are not engaging the mechanics directly. I am also aware that this is problematic, due to the disconnect between FATE's narrative and its mechanics. To clarify, if the player ever asks for the numbers, I'll happily give them to him, and the eventual goal is for him to engage the mechanics normally. However, FATE is tricksy to teach, and I know from experience that he will be much more interested in the rules if he is interested in his character and the story first. "It can't be done" is strictly speaking an answer, but not a useful one to me. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 26, 2013 at 6:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a really interesting question, and I'm going to have to think on it, but I think that Fate might work for your player WITH the mechanics because the mechanics are already defined by the story and character. Would you be interested in an answer exploring that possibility and how to present it that way to your player (DFRPG is among the crunchiest versions of Fate, so the challenges that brings would probably be the focus of the exploration)? \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Commented May 26, 2013 at 7:48

3 Answers 3


I don't think you have to hide the numbers for what you are doing, but rather just how you get them.

I've made my game more player facing, i.e. they players roll all of the dice. But I've also made it more narratively driven, i.e. the players don't invoke their powers, instead, they describe their actions. (Taken liberally from *World games)

I did this in response to exactly the problem that you're having- that DFRPG can be overwhelming at times. So how does this work?

The first part about the GM not rolling takes a lot off of the GM's shoulders, and makes things faster. You then use this savings to spend the time to interpret the players' actions, and trigger them based on the narrative for the players that are less familiar with the rules. Rotes help a lot with this.

So, the only things you have to explain to your player are- the rotes that you help them design with their characters, and the meaning of overcasting vs standard casting. Once you've done that, the player describes what they are doing, i.e. casting their rote, or putting more effort into it or really pushing themselves. You look at the numbers behind the scene, and give them the target. They roll... and describe what they are doing to invoke their aspects as needed, since they know what they need to make the roll.

This way, they are eased into the aspects of the game that have to do with Fate, while the crunchy things of magical manipulation are kept behind the scenes.

In summary, let them describe it in the narrative, you do the heavy lifting, then let them roll against a static number, invoking aspects as needed to make the roll if they want to so with more narration.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Magic is the most crunchy part of Dresden. I'll still be really cautious with how much overcasting they're doing, but this can work. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 29, 2013 at 8:04

You aren't going to like this answer...

I'm afraid I have to agree with the comments.

For a start, I must say I understand your problem. I played a game of Pathfinder with a freshman to RPGs at it was kind of painful. His actions were limited to "I hit the guy", making his character take forever to attack, the character creation took two hours, and so on and so forth. We could really benefit if the GM hid the mechanics from the player.

But AD&D (and Pathfinder) have really complex rules, have a quite complicated combat and character creation. It takes A LOT of experience with the system to move around if swiftly, and a freshman who has no experience with RPGs whatsoever, even with cRPGs, will have a really bad time. FATE on the other hand is quite different.

FATE isn't like D&D

The aspect system really binds the character with her story and concept. A freshman does not have to read any particular rulebooks before creating his PC. He just has to imagine someone interesting and describe him to the GM - that's usually enough for them to make a good PC with good mechanics. There aren't many skills, perks, bonuses and advanced arithmetic to do while using the PC for rolling - everything is kept pretty simple.

Thats why I think that while D&D could use a smooth no-mechanics introduction, FATE does not. Its easy enough to lay down the basic rules and understand them in 15 minutes. Explaining combat could take maybe half an hour. Just have the newbie come to the gaming session an hour early, have him prepare a character in his mind and teach him everything he needs.

Why the dice are a cool thing

There are some benefits of such a course of action. Many a player does not find the game engaging if they don't roll the dice, and this may also apply to the freshman. When everything is in the hands of the Game Master, the immersion is better, but first of all, the newbie either way cant immerse so deeply, secondly, a lot of the drama is taken away. When a player tries to do something and you just tell him if he succeeded/failed, he may be left with the feeling that you threw him some scraps/you're being mean. When a player says he jumps from one rooftop to another, if you just say he made it, there is no tension in it. A simple roll turns everything around: the dice tumble and everyone is holding their breath to see if he's gonna make it! And if he makes it, he has the feeling that he had his fate in his own hands, that his character made it! He will feel like he actually won something!

Don't get me wrong, I myself play a very narration-oriented game as a GM, but that does not mean I can't see the good things about rolling dice. And while the ease of introduction to RPGs is worth dumping the dice for in D&D, FATE gets only a little simpler and loses a very fun thing.

To sum it up

I think this question has a bit of an XY problem - you want to make the introduction to RPGs easier, but instead on asking how to do it, you're asking how to do it in a way you think is best (dumping the dice for some time). Since you specifically asked "how to dump dice in FATE", I'll say "You shouldn't". Just take an additional hour to show the mechanics to the new player. All in all, if someone wants to play poker, you tell him the concepts of getting colour or a flush, instead of telling him to "get as much cards of a kind" or watching his hand and telling him through the whole game if its a good or bad one.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a great answer for a game based in a simpler iteration of Fate, especially FAE or Core. But DFRPG is about as crunchy as Fate gets, with lots of subsystem rules --especially for magic-- to the point that even my players with years of complicated RPG experience got a little lost in them at first. Do you have any suggestions about how to compensate for that in this scenario? \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Commented May 26, 2013 at 8:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BESW Hmmm, fair enough point! Ill do a little more research and thinking about it and then post an appropriate edit if i come up with something good :) \$\endgroup\$
    – K.L.
    Commented May 26, 2013 at 8:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BESW If a player wants to play a character that uses special subsystems, I'd put it upon them to read those subsystems and direct me (as GM) in their use. I'm not expecting that they become immediately proficient, but I want to see engagement on their part as we figure it out across sessions. \$\endgroup\$
    – okeefe
    Commented May 26, 2013 at 9:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @okeefe I am in total agreement as a general principle, but the OP has a particular (and very different) policy with this one player and we're trying to adapt that policy to this situation. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Commented May 26, 2013 at 9:12

I think you definitely could still do this if you wanted to.

What your player is going to need to know is her aspects. That should be easy to follow, it's just some important facts about the character.

Then play pretty much proceeds as follows: She says "I want to punch him and land him on his backside".

Respond with "That sounds like your creating a Knocked Down aspect on the character".

With each thing the Player declares, match it with an interpretation.

What about just "I want to punch him". Here you need to remind the player to state her intent. "You want to punch him hoping to achieve what?"

Invocations and compels should be easy to learn as well. "I didn't hit him?!? But I'm a Great Boxing Champion!" "Well hand me a Fate point... Okay, you hit him"

Or "Wouldn't it make sense for you to drink too much and create a scene here since you're such a lush" (while sliding a fate point in front of you).

As far as the dice mechanics and the bonuses, they aren't actually critical for the player to grok at first. Invokes and Compels can be picked up pretty quickly in play, especially with GM guidance.

As far as DFRPG magic? It is the most complex rules I've ever seen for a Fate game, so... I can't really see a way to work that.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The primary problem I have has been distinguishing attacks from aspect placing. "I want to punch him and knock him down" could be an attack or could be trying to place an aspect. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 3, 2013 at 17:19

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