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I read a section of the Atomic Robo RPG that dealt with "brainstorming" as a mechanic. I understand that the point is basically to get the players to be active in explaining how something works scientifically when it has not already been explained, and to introduce a little competition between players. It also gives a clearly defined mechanical way to deal with, and even sometimes exploit, said science.

My question is, why do they get Fate Points for this?

It already gives you a certain amount of power over the subject/object/creature ect that you are brainstorming about, and generally sounds pretty awesome in its own right.

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Mechanically, it's a compel:

Everyone taking part cites a reason why they’re getting involved by compelling one of their aspects. (ARRPG 132)

I see three major reasons for handing out Fate points at the start of a brainstorming session.

  • First, brainstorming is most dramatic (and thus most encouraged) when it takes place mid-combat. By joining the brainstorm you cede your ability to participate in the conflict until the brainstorm is over. That's a compel: to join the brainstorm you declare your interest in doing so and then explain which of your character aspects justifies removing yourself from the conflict, and the GM hands you a Fate point.

  • Second, brainstorming consists of a series of important rolls which the GM is encouraged to frame as a competition between players, and the difficulty of the rolls increases each exchange. This is exactly the point where we should be spending our points, so giving out them at the beginning of the brainstorm encourages players to spend Fate points during the brainstorm.

  • And third, it's a straight-up bribe to get you on board with the most SCIENCE!-y group activity the game has to offer, if you happen to be reluctant to do so. (But why would you be?)

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