Fate Core Thought of the Day:  Fate Doesn't Model Characters

It reflects them.

One of the things that comes up with Fate frequently is that it's less of a set of Lego blocks and more of a 3d printer.  But, um, what does that mean?

Well, it means that the process and intent of building a character in Fate is a very different thing than it is in a great many games.

So, let's use Zatoichi, the blind swordsman, as an example.  If I were playing something like GURPS, I'd start by picking his attributes.  Then I'd probably give him the Blind Disadvantage.  But he'd need the Blind Fighting advantage, otherwise he wouldn't be able to fight.  Then I'd have to buy some skills.

In other words, I'd have to figure out all of the little component parts that make him work, and how they compensate for each other.  I then take all those blocks and put them together into something more-or-less Zatoichi shaped.

Fate's different.  In Fate, I think about "Zatoichi".  I go "huh, he's pretty good at fighting."  So I give him a +4 Fight skill.  And I think "well, he's blind, and a swordsman.  That's kind of exactly who he is."  So I give him the High Concept of "Blind Swordsman."

And, that's it.  I don't have to worry about him having special techniques that allow him to fight blind.  It's not necessary.  I don't have to worry about how these things fit together.  I don't have to justify my choices to Fate.

I simply imagine the character, and then write down on my character sheet what the character is.

This is reflected in character creation!  In many games, you start with figuring out your attributes, and then you figure out your skills, your advantages, your disadvantages, your feats, your classes, whatever.  And at the end of the day, you have a character that you can put together into some kind of whole.

Not Fate.

In Fate, you started with the phases - which tell you who your character is.  So by the time you pick skills (much less stunts), you've already got a good idea of who this person is, and what they're all about.

So what you're writing down doesn't define the character - you've already done that.  And it doesn't model the character.  But what it does do is reflect the character that you've already got in mind.

And I think that's pretty awesome.

Some people like "modeling" though, and they might think it's less awesome.  Certainly D&D 3.x kind of selected for people that like that kind of modeling.  And that's probably why so many people are fans of modes and two-column stuff and whatnot.

I also think it's something of a stumbling block for many people new to Fate, who assume that everything must be on the character sheet.  It doesn't need to be.  It's perfectly real just imagining it.  Just write down the end result.  "Zatoichi - great fighter".  That's all that's required.

But, really, I think that allowing this type of 'reflective' character creation is pretty awesome, and a huge strength of the system.