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Last time we played some Fate, we got in the following scenario:

A burglar PC gets into trouble in some cellar and gets cornered by his nemesis and about 10 of his thugs. His nemesis wants to 'set an example' and capture the PC. Of course, the PC isn't having any of that, and we initiate a chase scene. By crafty use of Fate points, good dice rolls and quick thinking, the PC manages to make a run for the stairwell, leaving the goons and his nemesis behind his eating his dust.

The PC is now on 0 Fate points and is running up the stairs with goons in hot pursuit. Then the GM proposes a compel: "Remember that metal door you went through to enter this cellar? I think the nemesis locked that door and unlocking the door would take too much time to prevent capture—and you won't have enough time to break the door either."

And with that compel, the GM has forced a straight-up fight, with the PC being severely outnumbered. The PC is no combatant at all and decides to concede, with the player remarking being unhappy with the situation and feeling cheated and state that the compel is too harsh.

I'm wondering, is a compel that will result in a concession too much? Having a compel forcing someone to be taken out seems way to punishing for a compel. And conceding falls in that same category?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ related: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/10683/… \$\endgroup\$ – Beanluc Aug 17 '16 at 23:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ I already answered, but let me ask: Why did the GM offer this compel? Was it because the player was out of FP's and was it done as a way to help them earn one? \$\endgroup\$ – Beanluc Aug 17 '16 at 23:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ The GM wanted the PC to be captured to allow for some story exposition and giving the other players the 'rescue your friend' scene. The player didn't want to be captured primarily to prevent having to sit out the rest of the session sitting idle while his character would be tortured. Second objection was that he actually was able to make it up the stairs against expectations and felt that one hour of role-playing was thrown down the drain. He pleaded this was an exceptional situation with a lot of excitement, and that shouldn't be snuffed by the compel. \$\endgroup\$ – Xilconic Aug 18 '16 at 4:19
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It seems against the spirit of things, but the GM is the final say on compels (Fate Core, p. 71). Also, concession was not the burglar's only choice.

Based on the example compel texts, this situation might read something like - "BurglarPC, because your rival is "Quite a Cunning Conman" and there's only "One Way Out", it makes sense that he'd Lock you in. Curse your luck."

As a GM, what I would do in this situation is smack down a "Complicated Lock, Steel Door" Aspect on the scene that requires an Overcome roll to break it. This would give the player a chance (and hey, he/she did just get a shiny new Fate Point to help with that). Personally, I think the compel given in the situation is a bit stronger than compels ought to be (usually I make my compels about making the story more tense / making options more difficult, but try not to back PC's into a corner unless they've been working hard to get into one). But that's based on a snapshot of data. Now for things that your burglar can do for next time.

Your player didn't use all his options. Since he just got a Fate Point for that compel, he can use it to "Declare a Story Detail" (p. 80), which should allow him to come up with a creative escape. Maybe he'd found a secret escape tunnel behind a wine rack, slipped the key in his pocket earlier, or found some lovely blackmail material on his nemesis while searching the cellar. If you have a Fate Point, you don't have to concede. But you might want to anyway. It nets you an additional Fate Point, and allows you to "avoid the worst of your Fate" (p. 167). If the burglar feels more comfortable breaking out of the nemesis' lair with two Fate Points, then concession might be a good option here (although the tone doesn't reflect this belief).

In short, while I wouldn't use that as a compel, and personally think it went too far based on my GM style, compels are up to the GM (though as the Fate SRD mentions, they should keep in mind that the social contract trumps all - the rules should not be used to lower the amount of fun at the table). But ultimately, the GM is the decision maker. So if you don't think it's fair, have a polite discussion why, and if he/she doesn't budge - remember that Fate Points are a way for you to influence the narrative.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Wouldn't the player receive the Fate point at the end of the scene? To prevent some kind of 'compel ping-pong'? But the secret passage way or hidden documents suggestion is something we all didn't think about. Perhaps reframing the situation next time could help prevent this kind of situations next time, especially having influence on what happens to you after consession. \$\endgroup\$ – Xilconic Aug 17 '16 at 18:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Xilconic for the concession or the compel? Both types are awarded immediately, however conceding takes the character out of the scene, so he/she would need to wait until the next scene to use any FP. \$\endgroup\$ – Reibello Aug 17 '16 at 18:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ "It nets you an additional Fate Point" at least one. Plus another one for each and any Consequences taken in the scene. This is an incentive for the "non-combat" character to put up a fight anyway. \$\endgroup\$ – Beanluc Aug 17 '16 at 22:50
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unhappy with the situation and feeling cheated and state that the compel is too harsh

Any GM who does this to a player should respond to the player's complaint with "Well, OK, I hear that, and what is your character going to do now?" and be VERY generous about supporting the player's idea about how to handle/react to the change in the in-character situation. Including the use of the Fate point they were just given. Remember, THAT Fate point wasn't for the hypothetical concession, which wouldn't be useable till the scene is over, THAT Fate point will be usable immediately.

with that compel, the GM has forced a straight up fight

Says who? The player? Are you the GM and do you endorse that statement?

The GM didn't force a straight up fight, unless that's the only idea the player can come up with. The player should be given the chance to react to finding the door locked, and given the chance to use the compel-earned Fate point to do something awesome before the GM shoves a straight-up fight down his throat. Once again, "What do you do now?" should be the GM's next words after the compel and paying the player their Fate point.

The GM's job is to:

Make everyone around you look awesome.

FC page 4.

Drama is better than realism.

FC page 178.

You're the chairman, not God. [Think] of yourself as "first among equals" in a committee, rather than as an absolute authority. If there's a disagreement on the use of the rules, consider [not making] a unilateral decision.

FC page 181.

In short:

is a compel that will result in a concession too much? Having a compel forcing someone to be taken out seems way to punishing

The idea that the "concede or get taken out" result is being forced might be a too-narrow one on the player's part. Even if they get compelled without ability to buy out of it, they still should have agency and support for finding a different way to react. The GM in this situation doesn't seem to have found any way to encourage and support an awesome reaction by the compelled player as they struggled to avoid what they perceived as otherwise-certain doom.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Out of curiosity, how are PC's supposed to get FATE points back if the GM offering compels when they are out is 'cheating?' \$\endgroup\$ – Weaveworker89 Aug 18 '16 at 2:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think the lesson learned for us is to get creative again. The players were not able to think of a solution to this new situation and thought that a fight on the stairs was the only outcome. But like Reibello suggested, by thinking out of the box you can create a new interesting situation. \$\endgroup\$ – Xilconic Aug 18 '16 at 4:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ -1 Compelling someone who's at zero fate points isn't cheating, that's absurd. Fate Core even suggests it as a time when someone should be compelled, and it's a vulnerability (and good opportunity for fun) a player accepts when they spend out to zero. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Aug 18 '16 at 12:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, you're right doppelgreener and Weaveworker89, those parts of my answer are terrible. I guess I've only been exposed to players who tend to self-compel and not depend on the GM when they (rarely) get all the way to zero. \$\endgroup\$ – Beanluc Aug 18 '16 at 15:01

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