In traditional games such as D&D, the mechanics of the NPCs you face are generally an unknown quantity. The players and the characters only have a rough idea of what an NPC is capable of, based on what they’ve already seen - ultimately, a player does not know much about his or her adversaries. This generates a very particular fear of the unknown in the players themselves which is exciting and useful, and lends considerably to immersion for some players.
In Fate, contrariwise, all the cards are on the table. The enemies are all known quantities, and there are no surprises for the players. If the elderly Count Montgomery is actually a facet of a hellish demigod, the players know that as well as the GM does. There is no fear of the unknown except that which the players decide to roleplay through their characters, because Fate’s system integrity requires these things:
- The players must be able to meaningfully invoke and compel NPC aspects.
The players must know the difficulties they’re up against. As previous questions show, a policy of hiding DCs is potentially disastrous:
- The players need to be able to see consequences others have taken as a result of their actions.
But D&D’s fear of the unknown is created through concealing its equivalents of these things, and I want to capture that Fear of the Unknown in Fate while keeping the Fate philosophies and engine intact. I want to be able to usefully make my player’s opponents an unknown quantity, whilst still letting the players operate as close as possible to full Fate capacity. Fate Core p79 explains how to create aspects which can be meaningfully invoked and compelled, yet not give away secrets about the NPC. But this is not a full solution: How do I accomplish similar feats with other mechanics, or is there another entirely different way to use Fate to evoke the Fear of the Unknown in a game’s players?
I don't know if "Fear of the Unknown" is exactly the best description of what I'm after, but I want the players to not know their adversaries on a meta level. I want this to be possible (set in D&D 4e):
The first time my players had a proper Slaad encounter, they didn't know what Slaadi were.
Five obvious caster-types in the front of the room and a great hulking toadbeast in the back. Naturally, the party assumed that the toadbeast was going to charge the door, keeping everyone bottled in the hallway while the casters pew-pewed from behind him. They consulted and agreed that the casters could probably teleport, but the toadbeast would be easy to pin against the back wall. The tank would do that while the DPS cleaned up the casters. So the tank wins initiative and runs in screaming, pushing the toadbeast into a corner and ready to keep him from moving past.
Suddenly, the party learns that toadbeasts can teleport, because he's in the hallway ripping up the squishies while the casters are keeping the tank from getting back out of the room to help. (Lesson learned: the big muscley guys aren't always limited to walking where they want to go.)
(Please note that I do not feel it is necessary to specifically hide DCs; I want the effect that kind of thing creates, as I’ve described - keeping their exact capacity obscured - but I’m not attached to the methods used by 4e.)
I can hear what you’re thinking: ”You don’t hide stuff in Fate!” I understand. This is definitely a strange thing to do in Fate - but I still want to do it.