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I have seen this term appear on various gaming forums, but I cannot find a source for its origin, or a clear definition for it. What does it mean?

Here is an example: the term appears as part of the definition for "rules light" in the RPG Glossary at RPGGeek, but is not given any explanation in its own right:

Rules-Light - Having few rules, leaving much up to player fiat and/or social contract.

I know what GM fiat is. Is player fiat just the opposite? People don't seem to use it that way. I only just started seeing it crop up in the last few months and I'm not sure where it's coming from or what it is.

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You might be used to games where all narrative control is in the hands of the game master. The GM describes the scene, the players describe their actions, the GM describes the outcome. GM fiat is when the GM uses that power to describe scenes or outcomes which are bending or even breaking the rules of the game or the rules of common sense. The players don't have that ability because the GM is allowed to simply say no to any player proposal (even when it's completely within the rules), so there is no such thing as "player fiat". The closest you can come to "player fiat" in such a framework is "GM fiat inspired by a player's suggestion".

But that's not how everyone plays every game.

There are also game systems (or game systems which can be played as such) where the players also have narrative control. That means not just the game master can make up world details or describe the outcome of certain actions, the players can too. This narrative control gives more power to the players. So the players also get the ability to make things happen just because they feel like it. Hence, there is not just GM fiat but also Player fiat in these games.

An example of a game system which incorporates player fiat into the core rules is Fate. Players have a limited amount of Fate Points which are (overly simplified) obtained by making up world details which are bad for their characters and can then be spent on making up details which are beneficial for them.

In an even rules-lighter system you could even eschew this points mechanic and let players make up any circumstances they consider interesting. Such systems might not even require a GM as a referee anymore.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Of course, there are also GMless game systems \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Aug 15 '16 at 11:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Erik Not exactly. It becomes true that the character believes it / says it / did it. Often it's truth, but the rules deliberately don't actually say so; just that the MC/GM should use the answer. (Point being not to debate about AW-type games, but that AW-type games are not a good example of player fiat at all since they explicitly give the GM fiat power over player suggestions.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 15 '16 at 14:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm -1'ing this because it's getting the description of GM fiat wrong by calling only the bad uses of GM fiat “GM fiat”, when it says that “GM fiat is when the GM uses that power to describe scenes or outcomes which are bending or even breaking the rules of the game or the rules of common sense.” I.e., GM fiat is actually all of “that power”, not just the abuse of “that power”. Maybe farm out the description of GM fiat to What is "GM/DM Fiat?" instead. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 15 '16 at 14:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie To be fair, the answer doesn't say that bending the rules is a bad thing, only that it is bending the rules. \$\endgroup\$ – GreySage Aug 15 '16 at 16:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GreySage The point is that it's inaccurate, and contradicts our very own canonical question on what GM fiat means. GM fiat ≠ bending the rules; that definition is wrong. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 15 '16 at 16:13
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The term Fiat, in general, aside from it being a brand of vehicle, means "done by declaration or decree," or, "accomplished by declaration or decree."

Fiat currency is a currency backed only by the issuing agency.

A decision by fiat is because someone decided it without recourse to other parties' authority.

In a gaming context, it refers to declaration as a source of existence.

GM fiat means, "because the GM says so."

Player fiat would mean "because the player says so."

For example, if "Fred fails by GM fiat", the GM decided Fred failed, rather than looking up a rule that caused the failure, nor by going to the dice.

Player fiat is rare outside a very limited context analysis of certain storygames.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If that is the case, there are a lot of people misusing the phrase... though that could be said of most any gaming lingo I suppose. So, would that mean that in a game like D&D, which is pretty much based on DM Fiat, player fiat could only exist to the extent which the DM allows? \$\endgroup\$ – JAMalcolmson Aug 15 '16 at 8:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JAMalcolmson Remember that the game master is also a player. IMHO, in the Rules Light definition above, the writer tries to be respectful of all kind of games, including those where non-GM fiat is a thing. \$\endgroup\$ – Zachiel Aug 15 '16 at 9:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ Disagreed mostly because of the last line. There are many games where player-fiat is a very normal part of the game. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Aug 15 '16 at 9:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Erik, you seem to know a fair bit about this. Why don't you give us an answer! :) And maybe give us some examples of these games while you're at it? \$\endgroup\$ – JAMalcolmson Aug 15 '16 at 18:17
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As others have answered, player fiat is storytelling by player declaration and is unusual in what we think of as "traditional" RPGs like D&D. It is much more common in storytelling-centric RPGs. I find that many players are very uncomfortable with the idea, fearing that other players at the table will gain unfair advantage. This can be alleviated with clever rule sets specifying fiat procedure.

A great example is Polaris; the game system is entirely built around player fiat. But what I find most interesting is that it's in some ways oppositional player fiat. There is no GM, instead players take turns declaring facts about the story, but a different player is also assigned to limit that fiat. For example, the limiting player is instructed to respond 'but only if' if the declaring player has decided on something that is too great for that player's PC or insufficiently complicated for a Polaris story, and then specify a modification of the declaration. The original declaring player may then add an additional 'but only if', in what is theoretically an infinite cycle. Once one of the players is satisfied with the fully modified declaration, they respond "And so it was", which triggers the declaration officially part of the story.

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