Monday, April 29, 2013

Your Game Has The Fate Fractal Too

Did you know your game already has the Fate fractal? Even if you don't know what the Fate fractal is? Well, it's true to one degree or another. Do you remember that time you wrote up a trap that attacks as a 10th level fighter? Or you assigned a hit point value of a door that had to be broken down? Or gave a penalty to driving rolls because of the car having a bad suspension? Or had the PCs roll saving throws versus cold in the middle of a storm? When you did those things, you were roughly operating within the Fate fractal.

For people who haven't heard of it before (or have and just aren't sure what it is), the Fate fractal is not so much a rule or a standardized process as it is a design pattern. The core parts that make up characters in Fate - Aspects, skills, stunts, stress tracks - aren't limited to just characters. Anything can have them if needed to show importance or enhance the narrative. The trap gets ranks in Shoot. The door gets a stress track. The car gets the aspect Bad Suspension. The storm gets the aspect Blizzard of the Century and a Frostbite skill to attack the characters.

So, if nearly every other game already has the equivalent of the Fate fractal, what makes the Fate fractal so different in Fate? The key word is equivalent. The Fate fractal isn't a hack or a stopgap measure. While most modern rpgs have unified resolution mechanics, most still have different systems for dealing with characters, inanimate objects, the environment, etc.. In Fate it's implicit in the system. It's possible for an aspect to have a stress track. Or an aspect to have an aspect. Or a stress track to have a skill. It abstracts out to a level that is not only still useful in game terms, but infinitely useful in making the game and the narrative work together.

The Fate fractal doesn't need to be used all the time - it usually suffices to name an Aspect and keep right on trucking. But when something is really  important, you can go further down the rabbit hole and do it without a whole lot of trying to fit round pegs in square holes. This is why I think, for the Fate fractal alone, every game master should at least look at Fate Core once it's released. The concept applies to nearly every game, and even if it's not used in the same way being cognizant of its existence is just another tool in the GM's toolbox.