Saturday, May 2, 2009

Half-Baked Fate

I posted this question on the Forge.

I really like the basic idea of Fate and Will. It puts adversity in terms that I really like: something to feel grateful for, a chance to really show what you have, something to embrace now so you can succeed later on, and so on. It also makes the flow of resources through the map an important part of the game. I might end up discarding the terms "Will" and "Fate"; now, it looks like you call it "Will" when you have it, and you call it "Fate" when the land does. Through the game, you free this energy up from the land, use it to move around, and deposit it back into the places you visit. I love that the rules work out like that, since it so nicely mirrors the role of animals in any functional ecology—and reinforces the view, when you finish the game and look back on it, that you've recapitulated the creation story, and taken part in creating the region.

How to implement it in the game presents a somewhat sketchier problem. Basically, we have to deal with the Czege Principle: "creating your own adversity and its resolution is boring." In traditional games, one player (the GM) creates the adversity, and the other players create the resolution. The other players can have a sense of cooperation because one player alienates himself from the rest, and in compensation, gets absolute narrative authority. I don't consider this a particularly healthy solution, but so far, alternatives have not always shaped up very well. One popular approach in indie games simply abandons the idea of players working together, and has players opposing each other as harshly as possible. I've enjoyed games like this, including In a Wicked Age, but I don't think it fits the spirit of tribal cooperation I'd expect from The Fifth World. In principle, the economy of Fate and Will presents a great solution. Players introduce adversity for one another, but not out of malice or opposition; rather, as an opportunity to gain the resources they'll need to succeed in the end.

But, what does one point of Fate get you? A raging, hungry grizzly bear and a mosquito bite both seem like adversity. Wouldn't a nice, cooperative player always try to introduce the weakest adversity possible? How much bang should you get for your Fate buck? Or, how do I make sure that a hungry grizzly and a mosquito bite don't cost the same?


Bill Maxwell said...

What about starting here? Consider that your dynamic is based on 3s, not 2s. The triad is: One, Other, Neither, so each story requires a character, storyteller and trickster.

A pseudo-similar tactic is used in Shock but could probably be strengthened considerably. Consider, given you example, if the 'antagonist' gives a mosquito bite as a conflict, the trickster could chose to turn it into a monster and really mess things up, taking some benefit from causing this level of 'trouble.'

Jason Godesky said...

I think of complexity like price. You never want to pay, exactly, but sometimes you have to. Sometimes, you get something sufficiently awesome in return, that it makes it worthwhile. Likewise, sometimes the extra complexity gets you a result so good that it makes it worthwhile, but the extra complexity, in itself, never helps.

I say this because I don't know if your idea solves the problem, or just puts it off a bit. It adds more complexity, but what do we get for that cost? You've still got a player--the trickster now, instead of the spirit of the place--who has to betray the interests of the group and make things harder.

I did have an idea, though. What if, when introducing adversity, you could spend any number of available Fate points on it? That sets how many encounters it will take to resolve that adversity. If I have an encounter with it, I get that Fate point and it becomes a point of Will for me. So, you might have a hungry grizzly bear with one Fate point, so it just takes one encounter to get out of that, however you do. But a three Fate point mosquito bite will require three different encounters, so the complications from that will continue to haunt you. That means you've defined adversity, pretty firmly, in terms of how much it takes to resolve it. That potential disparity, with a 1 point grizzly and a 3 point mosquito, I think reinforces some of the themes of the game; it certainly reinforces some of the things I've learned in primitive living, that the most dangerous things you encounter rarely look like it.

And, since you always encounter adversity in a specific place, with a specific theme, it doesn't count as adversity if it doesn't follow from the theme.