I Hate FATE

Well, not FATE per se.  It’s a handy enough little minimalist game system.  But I hate all the FATE fanboys.

Every couple years, a new game becomes the darling of the rpg.net crowd and it’s touted as the perfect game for everything.   Want to run gritty horror, epic supers, wild west, comic mobsters?  FATE is the best tool for the job of course!

The most annoying thing is that when it comes up, the person hasn’t actually USED it for that, you understand.  They’re just SURE that it will be perfect for it.  In fact, they really haven’t played much FATE; usually they’re the normal sort of RPG forum dwellers who for some strange reason never actually play RPGs, possibly because that would interfere with their endless theoretical opinions about them.

Not too many years ago, Risus was the standard answer. Someone is looking for a game to do X with?  Use Risus, of course!

But it’s all foolishness.  Pick a sufficiently light system, and of course it’s “good for everything.”  Which is to say, doesn’t specifically support what you’re doing well without you doing a lot of work. Here’s my new system – you roll d6 and on 1-3 you succeed at whatever, and at 4-6 you suffer a setback.  OH IT’S PERFECT FOR ANYTHING!!!!

At least for the couple years rpg.net was obsessed with Exalted, it’s a rich game with loads of rules and backplot and they didn’t bother everyone else telling them they should run cops and robbers, transhumanist SF, and greek epics in it.

Anyway, fanboys, please do FATE a favor and quit it.  When it’s used for a real game like Spirit of the Century or ICONS it’s fine.  You’ll note that those games add on a bunch to the core mechanic to make it suitable for their specific genre and setup, right?  But your unthinking pimping of the game in every context just leads to overexposure and then people of discernment, like myself, start to say “Hmmm, they’re just using FATE to be trendy trendertons, forget it.”

Consider if someone is asking for a game to do something specific, that probably a game that supports that specific thing may be better.  Just saying “use FATE” to any query is only one touch better than saying “play pretend, durr hurr hurr.”

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13 responses to “I Hate FATE

  1. Exactly! Not everyone is looking for the same level (or type) or abstraction. Some like a more tactical approach…and some less. I’m really not buying this whole “it does everything well” bunk! You might be interested in Gleichman’s post on FATE. He really doesn’t like it at all….and it serves as a good counter point to the fandom.

  2. I tend to like rules-heavy systems myself. Rules light is okay for a funny game or not-so-serious one-nighter in my opinion.

    As for FATE, I couldn’t get into it.

  3. Have you played a FATE-based game before? If so, what kind of game was it, and what did you think of the system?

    • I have Spirit of the Century, which I reviewed quite positively for rpg.net: http://www.rpg.net/reviews/archive/13/13793.phtml and plan to get ICONS as soon as it’s available in print.

      I like FATE fine, really. I always found FUDGE to be a bit of an unfinished product (it was by design more a toolkit to make a game than a real game), and FATE’s a good evolution on it, especially when (as in ICONS and Starblazer Adventures) people realize that FUDGE dice are “fudgin’ retarded” and use d6es or something. But even saying “FATE”, like “FUDGE”, doesn’t mean a real ruleset in and of itself. It means “something that probably has aspects and maybe shares a die mechanic.” The specific implementations of FATE in SotC, ICONS, and SB7 are very different.

      For example, here’s a differentiation that might make sense. When someone says a game is a d20 system game – that is pretty diagnostic. There’s a clear large body of core d20 rules. It’s meaningful to review “the d20 system” and speak of it like it’s an actual artifact. If you say something’s a “OGL derived” game, like Mutants & Masterminds for example, that’s a lot less helpful. Note that if you go to download FATE, there is no FATE – there is a Spirit of the Century SRD. http://www.faterpg.com/dl/

      So my main point is, when someone says “Oh you should use FATE for that” – unless “that” is pulp (SotC), space opera (SB7), or now supers (ICONS), they are talking out their ass. They’re not proposing a specific real game system. They’re proposing a vague approach, and worse, one that they have no idea if it’ll be good or not.

      Frankly one of the most valid critiques of SotC is that it doesn’t have enough support for the pulp genre per se. And that’s in a big ol’ game specifically written for that.

      Another analogy. “Hey, I want a good Wild West game. Propose one?”

      1. Good answer – a real Wild West game. Aces & Eights, whatever.
      2. Semi appropriate answer – “Use d20 Modern with the d20 Past supplement and maybe some Deadlands d20 bits.” Less likely to be useful to a random other person that doesn’t have all that stuff, but fine.
      3. Dumb answer – “Use d20! http://d20srd.org“. That provides no support for what it is I said I wanted. And if I were a game designer just wanting hints at core game mechanics, I wouldn’t be asking a bunch of forum fucks for it.

      Recommending “FATE” to someone who wants to run a game is only a very slight amount better than recommending “rock-scissors-paper.”

      Maybe I’m just not down with the rules light vibe of “we all just sit down and make stuff up.” Our group had some problems with Savage Worlds in terms of variety and interest until specific supplements came out to help with fantasy etc.

      So my beef isn’t with FATE itself, I think it works fine when turned into a real game.

      • Thanks for the detailed response. I have played FATE (SotC, to be exact), once, and I enjoyed it immensely. I have been wanting to play it again for the longest time but haven’t had the opportunity.

        Personally, I wouldn’t see anything wrong with someone recommending FATE for a variety of things, as long as they made it clear to the person asking that it’s a toolkit and they’d have to flesh it out. Some people like doing that sort of thing, some people don’t. Personally, I’ve ran Savage Worlds without a setting book several times and have always had great fun with it. Of course I’ve ran mainly one shots so I have no problem adding some rules here and there since I don’t have to worry about “balancing” them for a long running campaign.

        I’m not down on the “we all make stuff up” thing either; I played InSpectres exactly once and frankly I just didn’t get it. I can only assume I’m not in the target audience because for me it simply didn’t work. But I didn’t get that same feeling from SotC when I played it… although it’s most definitely a rules-light game, I still felt there was enough game there to sink my teeth into.

        I can certainly understand how overenthusiastic fans of something can turn you off of it, though. I’ve had a few of what are probably decent or good TV shows/movies/etc. ruined in that way for me.

  4. What’s worse is that the current incarnation of the game is the Dresden Files rpg, so you’ve got the FATE fanboys and the DF fanboys trying to ram the thing down your throat.

  5. Would you be interested in review copies of the Dresden Files RPG PDFs? Drop me a line if so.

  6. Were you thinking of a specific thread in particular? I’ve looked back over the last week of threads on rpg.net and found the following threads asking for system recommendations:

    http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=520637
    http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=479164
    http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=519624
    http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=520258
    http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=520096

    In all those posts, I see only 3 recommendations for FATE in 2 threads. And in 1 of those threads, the Original Poster decided FATE was the right choice to go with.

    I agree the behaviour you’re describing would be annoying, but I’m not sure I see any actual evidence of it.

  7. Hmm. I see 1 suggestion in the first thread of 31 posts, and 2 suggestions in the second thread of 37 posts.

    That’s below my own personal threshold of mobs of fanboys, but everyone’s different.

  8. With FATE Core it became worse…

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