Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Hacking Fate Core

I had another post written in its entirety. Then I realized I had something else I wanted to write about. Hence I'm up at 12:30 at night writing a new post. The original one will go up, eventually.

The past couple months I have been hacking Fate Core to work with the Tribe 8 setting. In addition, I've put together a Thief-inspired setting as well as worked on an alternate setting for Apotheosis Drive X. Most recently I put up stats on Gir for Fate Accelerated Edition. It's been quite a journey, and I've learned a lot of things about Fate Core and games in general.

One of the most valuable lessons is regarding the urge to write new rules or revise existing ones. Fate Core has various components that fit together just so. Instead of adding a lot of specialized rules, most of the time the pieces just need to be rearranged a little bit. A minor tweak here and a slight nudge there can take the game in a direction that genuinely captures a particular theme or mechanism.

A good example is the ritual magic rules that I was porting from Tribe 8 to Fate Core. At first I was trying to faithfully reproduce the way the rituals work in Tribe 8, which amounts to a set of modifiers and die rolls and referencing a table or two. Parroting those mechanics is perfectly doable in Fate Core. But when I asked the Fate Core community about the best skill to use for performing the rituals, the conversation that ensued made me realize I was going about it all wrong. I had the pieces but was arranging them in a way that made something just not as cool as it could be. With a few bumps and nudges, the results were exactly what I wanted: something that was engaging for the players and not some dry addendum. Ritual magic is, for the first time, something I actually want to see used in my game. It's just as cool as the other flashy powers like Synthesis. The same thing happened with my Thief inspired setting. At first I was all about creating new skills and stunts. After discussion with others, I saw that I was able to accomplish what I wanted with pretty minimal changes. The result was a mechanism for handling guards that 1) was completely within the existing rules and 2) perfectly emulates the source material.

On the surface,  Fate Core seems like a simple game. Viewed through the lens of other game systems, the first instinct is to change things and start hanging more mechanics off of what seems like a skeletal structure. But when you see other games through the lens of Fate Core, it becomes apparent that Fate Core is a remarkably intelligent and deep system. It's strength is in exactly how the pieces are arranged, and they can result in elegant solutions.