Me and a few of my friends are starting to play Fate (currently the accelerated edition) and I think we are all loving it.

One of my friends seems to grasp the collaborative narration very well. When he gets some spy to tell him today's password, he doesn't wait for me to tell him that - after he makes a successful roll, he picks the password himself and narrates the interrogation.

I must say I love it but I'm afraid it creates some problems.

A bit later, near the time we had to finish our game, I had in mind a sudden cliffhanger plot twist to have an interesting end to the session. Then, my friend narrated a bit in ways that made the plot twist impossible. I told him "nah, sorry, but that didn't happen" and narrated that bit myself.

I hated to punish his activity by cancelling his narration. On the other hand, if I didn't say anything, I'd have to look for other solutions. That particular session was made on-the-fly, as we decided that after character and world creation we had enough time to play something, so if I let my idea go and went with the flow, nothing would happen. But usually I'd come to a session more or less prepared, with some ideas about what might happen, and such a narration by a player could ruin everything I've prepared.

The big thing here was that he wasn't using his powers for "evil" - he just really loved the game creation cooperation and continued that into the game session itself. He wasn't trying to make things easy for the team, quite the contrary: he threw logs under his own feet, to put in something fun and dramatic, a new obstacle and a hint of another plot twist that I could later use. It just didn't get along with what I had in mind - and he didn't know that I had something planned for them.

How well prepared should I come to a Fate session? Should I mostly improvise on the spot? Or maybe I should write down (maybe as aspects, persons, locations etc.) what I've prepared so that the players know it and can narrate taking it into account?


2 Answers 2


I don't have my books handy, so I can't quote rules for you, but here's my recollection based on several years of playing Fate:

Players can narrate their own actions. And they can answer questions that you ask them - filling in blanks and taking a portion of the burden of narration from you.

But when they want to create facts to their own advantage, they usually have to earn it. Earning it means succeeding in rolls or spending Fate points or sometimes both.

For example, if a player wants to to put the aspect On fire on something, she can't just make it so by saying so. She has to Maneuver Create an Advantage.

If a player wants to change an existing fact, that has to be earned, too, if it's important. The simplest example is this: A door is locked shut. The player wants it open. To make the open door a fact, she'll have to pick the lock with a roll, get the key with a roll, or bash it down with a roll. You and your players have an intuitive understanding that this is so.

Aspects can create facts for players, but they have to be powered by a Fate point. For example, I can say, "I'm invoking Better late than never to put myself in the scene now!" presuming I have an aspect "Better late than never" and the action has already started (so that I'm late) and also assuming I pay a Fate point for it. But the GM can give me a Fate point to cancel that invocation.

Your player created a fact out of nothing - he got to narrate how he succeeded at his roll, but since everyone's job is to make everyone else look awesome and his narration is squashing your awesome with "meh", you are fully within your rights to veto it.

Here's the only thing I would have done differently and would suggest that you do differently too:

As you say, "nah, sorry, but that didn't happen", hand over a Fate point. You are saying, silently, but concretely, "I am taking over narration here. Sorry, but in exchange, I am literally handing over narrative power that you can use later."

  • \$\begingroup\$ This is pretty much exactly how I'd like to think that I'd handle this situation. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 21, 2013 at 15:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ thanks for a good answer! I edited my question to highlight and important detail about how he narrated and altered the game, maybe you could adress that. Either way, I like Your suggestion to give him a fate point! Next time, ill do just that and I think I wont feel like a bad guy thwarting creativity ;) \$\endgroup\$
    – K.L.
    Commented Jun 21, 2013 at 15:36

There are a couple things to consider here: first, players in Fate are encouraged to narrate as much as possible when it comes to the story as it involves their characters. Second, the GM has the last say at the table, but that might not mean what you think it means. Now let's go into more detail.

Player Narration

Fate wants your players involved with the story, both in creation and telling. When the players work with each other and with the GM to describe the results of their actions, it enhances the experience for everyone involved. But it is that: the players are describing the results of their actions. The dice have already fallen, success or failure has already been determined, they're just describing what that looks like. When they want to declare details beyond what have already been described, it's time to break out the fate points. There are a few ways to accomplish this as presented by the mechanics:

  1. Create an Advantage. This is one of the foremost ways to change facts about the game, especially as it involves conflict with other characters. By creating aspects and boosts on characters and the environment, your players are quite literally helping to define reality. Related to this is:
  2. Declaring a Story Detail (Fate Core p13). This is essentially trading a fate point for the ability to declare something true in the story, as it relates to the character's aspects. A cat burglar spending a fate point to declare that of course they brought along glass cutters is perfectly reasonable and justifiable. The same cat burglar declaring that of course they have a machine gun stowed away in their pack? Maybe less so.
  3. Compelling and Invoking Aspects. There is plenty of story to be told as it relates to the facts that have already been established. It sounds like your players (or at least the one in question) already understand this, but it bears repeating: if characters are creating complications (including for themselves) or leveraging established facts to further the game, fate points should be changing hands.

GM's Last Say

Since your players have several mechanical outlets available to accomplish their goals, it's your job to keep them in check, so let's talk about what that means.

First, let's talk about what a fate point is. A fate point is, essentially, currency for narrative control. Your players spend them to describe narrative (as discussed above), earn them for giving up that control, and it's important to note that you as the GM have an endless supply of them. That means that if you are inclined to be heavy-handed, you will always be able to "out-spend" your players. Part of the art of GMing a Fate game is knowing how to move the story forward by introducing complications (compelling players) while encouraging the healthy flow of fate points in the other direction.

As the GM, you have the last say, but that right should be exercised as much as possible within the fate point economy and rarely, but rarely, by fiat, unless there is an obvious problem with balance or power levels or what have you (and even that bears discussion with the table to see how the other players feel about it).

Part of your question was about whether you should write down what you've prepared for the players. To this I say absolutely you should. The more your players know about the NPCs and environments they face, the more they can help you in telling the story that you all want told. This doesn't mean that you have to tell them everything (surprises are still a part of telling a story), or that their characters know everything: part of the purpose of the Create an Advantage action is to uncover aspects that already exist.

The other part of your question involved how much prep work you should be doing. That's more of an art than a science, especially as it relates to Fate. Some GMs have nothing more than a few index cards for characters with aspects, skills and stunts, which is a completely valid approach that requires more thinking on your feet and gives your players more control of the story. It's probably a decent rule of thumb that the more prep work you've done, the more you'll be compelling players to keep the story flowing the way you've planned it out, but even in this case, you should be as flexible as possible in allowing players to influence the story the way they want to go. That's what fate points are for, and the game provides lots of mechanical ways (such as conceding in a conflict instead of being taken out, for villains and such) for your plot ideas to "live to fight another day," even if they require a little cosmetic surgery to fit with how the story has unfolded.

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    \$\begingroup\$ not all Fate Games give the GM final say; several put that to the table as a whole. \$\endgroup\$
    – aramis
    Commented Jun 21, 2013 at 16:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @aramis both Fate Core and Fate Accelerated (which the question is tagged) have a "final say" rule. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 21, 2013 at 17:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ The question also has a general FATE tag... \$\endgroup\$
    – aramis
    Commented Jun 21, 2013 at 17:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ I particularly like the explanation of Fate points as currency for narrative control. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 26, 2015 at 5:03

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