Fate Core Thought of the Day: The Fate Point Economy
I may ruffle some feathers with this one. (Also, if you feel like I'm calling you out, I'm not. This is something I've had in mind for a while).
One of the most common criticisms I hear about Fate is that it's all about the meta and the "Fate Point Economy". While understanding the flow of points in your game is important, for some reason, with some people, this idea has taken a life of its own.
The version I'm talking about is this idea that a Fate game is all about the Fate Points flying madly and furiously, and if players don't have a bucket of chips in front of them at all times to Invoke and Compel, you're doing it wrong.
(See, I told you I'd ruffle some feathers here. Keep in mind that this is just my opinion. I'm going to tell you how I like to do things. I'm not saying any other way is BadWrongFun, but I am going to tell you how and why this idea is incompatible with the way that I like to run Fate).
See, to me, Fate is best when it's the Game of Hard Choices. I like my players to fail at least one scene a game. Preferably more. I like tough choices, hard compromises, and ugly sacrifices. I tell my players before they start playing with me that they'll likely fail at things, because many of them aren't used to it. (I also tell them that failure usually means complications, not "game ends", to help soften that). When I introduce people to Fate, a tough encounter that they likely won't win is usually going to be on the menu, to help drive that home as well as teach Concessions.
But, yeah, Hard Choices. And Fate Points are the currency of Hard Choices.
How much do you really want to win this fight? Is it that important that you take out this particular set of bad guys? Really? How important is it, really, that you convince the King to go along with your plan? Not getting captured here, how important is it, really? Or helping the wanted person get away? Or getting the bomb? Or stopping the ritual? Or....
Because, as I like to say, a Fate character can do anything, but they can't do everything. With Fate Points, you can pretty much get a success anywhere you want it. But doing so means you're setting yourself up for failure elsewhere. So, do you really want it? How important is it?
And that's the problem with the hyper-speed "Fate Point Economy." If Fate Points are flowing like mad, then there's no trade-off. Of course you spend the Fate Point. Why wouldn't you? You'll just get another pile in a few minutes. Instead of being the currency of Hard Choices, they become the currency of Always Winning. And, to me, always winning is boring. We don't read books where the hero stomps his way to the antagonist just taking out everyone in his path without worry or concern. That'd be boring.
Another point - Fate Points should be dramatic. These are the times in the movie where we focus in on the hero, where he has the flashback to his family, where he thinks he's down but finds some inner reserve or pulls out a trick to overcome adversity anyway. If you spend Fate Points like mad, you reduce their dramatic effect. And that's boring. It's fun, in a way, I guess. Kind of like playing a first person shooter with all the cheats on, but it kinda robs the game of the full experience.
Now, there is a simple way I look at the Fate Point economy. And I do use it as a tool to determine if I"m throwing appropriate opposition against my players.
If a session ends, and they have a ton of FP, they should have lost ground in the narrative (and that's cool).
If a session ends, and they're dry of FP (and have even burned some stockpiled ones), then they should have gained good ground in the narrative.
If these things aren't true, then the difficulty of opposition I'm throwing against the players is off, and needs to be adjusted. That's about as deeply as I look into the "Fate Point Economy".
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