In Fate Core, resolving a compel has three basic steps (p.71):

  1. Somebody proposes the compel. If a player compels another character, it costs a fate point.
  2. The GM and players involved negotiate, potentially overruling or dropping the compel.
  3. The victim gets a fate point for accepting the compel or pays a point to counter it.

I'm not sure exactly when fate points get paid or where they go:

  • When a player compels another character, do you pay the fate point in step 1, or do you only pay if the compel makes it past step 2? If the compel fails step 2, you don't pay to counter it, but I'm not sure whether you still pay to propose it.

  • When you counter a compel, do you pay the person who proposed it, or do you simply spend (lose) it? For example, if Alice pays a fate point to compel Bob, and he counters, does Bob pay his point to Alice, or do they both lose a point?


2 Answers 2


All Fate Points spent to propose or refuse a compel are lost.

Just spend them and they're gone. The GM doesn't pay to compel, ever, and players don't pay to compel their own character. If the GM pays to refuse a compel on one of their characters, it comes out of the scene pool.

Informally speaking, if you think a compel would apply to someone else's character and it doesn't work to your advantage at all, you can just ask them to propose it on themselves and they won't pay anything to do it.

Fate Points awarded for accepting a compel come from the GM's infinite reserve and are usable immediately.

Accepting a compel is not, strictly speaking, a transfer of Fate Points from one place to another, even though that's the practical result of it most times. Thinking of them all as coming out of the GM's infinite reserve makes it clearer when they're coming from when the compel was unpaid in the first place.

If a compel's not judged valid, there's nothing to propose and nothing to pay.

To illustrate the difference between derailing a compel at step 2 and rejecting a compel at step 3, consider the following:

Starhound, Athens, and Twilliam fight their way to the core of Dark Stobolous's planet-cracker and they're all pretty badly banged up. Dark Stobolous hasn't shown his shapeless black helmet yet and the drama compass is pointing due S(howdown).

Twilliam's player: "We found out Dark Stobolous was Powered By a Black Hole, right? Well, uh-" :waving Fate Point: "-suppose the containment on that thing is failing and he's got to get tended to by maintenance so he can't be here to fight us, darn the luck?"

GM: "No, that's not really something that happens to Dark Stobolous. Nice try, though."

The GM does not take the Fate Point from Twilliam's player. Starhound's player then waves a Fate Point.

Starhound's player: "But the planet-cracker's A Singular Engine Of Destruction. And you love puns way too much. Is it even safe for two black holes to be that close to each other?"

GM: "Right now, sure. Why don't you just hold onto that until after you cause a little ruckus?"

The GM doesn't take Starhound's Fate Point, either.

Dark Stobolous shows up and a Conflict starts, the PCs throwing everything at both him and the planet cracker. Eventually...

GM: "Oof, that's definitely a consequence. I think you've managed some Cracked Nictoplate Shielding..."

Athens's player: :waving a Fate Point: "That sounds like it'd be a real problem for someone who's Powered By a Black Hole?"

GM: "Hm! So it would. But you know what? I think this is too important to Dark Stobolous for that to matter, right now. ...dangit, I had plans for that."

The GM takes Athens' Fate Point and the last point from the scene pool, and drops them back into the central pile that serves as the GM reserve.

Okay, so, what's the difference? Don't both sides pay a Fate Point every time someone rejects a compel? Well, yes. But that only happened once. Only Athens's player actually proposed a compel. The other two made what's best understood as a mistake in play.

Suppose for a second Twilliam's player couldn't read the GM's handwriting, and waved around a Fate Point suggesting that Dark Stobolous wouldn't show up in the core of the planet-cracker because he was busy grooming the Black Mole that was the source of his powers. That couldn't possibly happen, because Dark Stobolous isn't powered by a Black Mole, and so Twilliam's player wasn't actually proposing a compel - a specific, plausible course of action suggested by an aspect.

In much the same way, the first two attempts - Twilliam's player's half-joking attempt and Starhound's player's better-grounded one - were not plausible courses of action, in the GM's estimation of how Dark Stobolous's Aspect was supposed to function. Neither one was actually a compel in the first place, so it didn't cost a Fate Point to propose or to reject them.

But if I don't pay to try an invalid compel, can't I just free-associate for two hours and waste everyone's time?

Sure. And the GM never pays, so even if they "had to pay" they could just free-associate for two hours trying to get Starhound arrested because Two Blasters, No Waiting obviously means he shot up a Spac-E-Mart when he wanted a Nebula Freeze but the line at the register was too long.

But the rules of Fate are assuming that everyone at the table is playing in good faith, so the GM isn't going to do that and neither are you. If you try a compel on something that isn't really part of an Aspect the way its creator envisioned it, well, you made an honest mistake, and why should you be punished? Otherwise people would be incentivized to disagree with you because it would just waste your Fate Points for nothing.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I like your "not valid? there's nothing to propose" solution. I'm not certain it's well-supported by the rules, but it seems a lot more cooperative and less adversarial in the GM-player relations, which is the style of play I prefer. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 22:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ In fact, that section of your answer seems to directly contradict this clarification in the Fate SRD, although I still think it's the "right" answer for my play style, at least for player vs GM compels. Could you please edit your answer to clarify the official rule vs this interpretation/house rule? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 22:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Does that work better? \$\endgroup\$
    – Glazius
    Commented Jan 5, 2019 at 4:07

rules based opinion:

Since Fate Core is explicit about earning them, and having your compel rejected is not on that list, unlike prior fate, and barring errata to the contrary, I'd rule it goes away.

You only earn Fate for 3 things per page 81:

  • accepting a compel
  • having your aspect invoked against you
  • conceding in a conflict.

Note that the GM can only use the restricted pool when refusing compels or triggering stunts, and that pool has a shorter list...

  • accepting a compel. (If it's a scene ender, it goes to the next scene's pool)
  • conceding a conflict when it ends a scene (and that point goes to the next scene's pool)

Note that, on page 71, there is a bold text bit in the last paragraph (emphasis original):

Finally, and this is very important: if a player wants to compel another character, it costs a fate point to propose the complication. The GM can always compel for free, and any player can propose a compel on his or her own character for free.

Supposition on why

This means that there is no longer advantage in proposing unfair compels, as you no longer stand to gain a Fate from the unfair compel being rejected.

As a player in SOTC, I proposed a few compels I expected to be rejected, simply to fuel my need for Fate Points. (I was playing REALLY hard core...) I knew that if the GM, Jerry, accepted them, Jerry's NPC's would be badly hosed, and also that Jerry wasn't hard limited on rejecting them... so I'd propose, he'd reject, I'd walk away with an extra Fate.

This small subtle change (and it's present in the preview, as well) isn't explicitly stated as a change but it is a huge alteration for a more fair approach by munchkins like me.

As for why pay for the proposal, rather than the GM accepting it as valid? It looks to me to be the price for interrupting the narrative flow, rather than for getting things done. It disincentivizes wild grabs at compels.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks! That makes a lot of sense. Any ideas as to whether you need to pay for compels that are invalid/dropped, rather than countered? \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 31, 2013 at 15:23
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ that's really a different question, but based upon page 71, the proposal is the cost. In other FATE games, you pay the "victim" of the compel directly, or they pay you. Fate Core, you pay for the proposal, not the acceptance. The GM pays from the stock for accepted compels. So I strongly suspect, based upon page 71's wording, that Fate Core has you lose to the stock for a proposed compel. \$\endgroup\$
    – aramis
    Commented Jun 1, 2013 at 21:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not talking about accepted vs countered compels, but rather the case where the GM vetoes the compel, or the players can't decide on terms so they drop it entirely. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 3, 2013 at 8:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ You spend the point, in the rules wording, "it costs a fate point to propose the complication." Note, propose. Not "get accepted or rejected." \$\endgroup\$
    – aramis
    Commented Jun 3, 2013 at 18:37
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @BraddSzonye Despite the wording, I would treat that as a negotiation that's external to the game's rules, at least with a group new to Fate Core. Generally I'd avoid proposing compels that are likely to make the group want to "rewind" the game so that the proposal effectively never happened, but when getting the hang of the game, that's something I'd cut a lot of slack for. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 3, 2013 at 19:20

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