Remember last week’s post on Mutant Healing Aspects? And Brad Murray’s follow-up? It triggered some more thoughts regarding compels in Fate, and the difference between an “internal” compel and a “world” compel.
Let’s take a fun example: Renowned Rakehell. It’s nice and alliterative. Also, it’s totally Bond.
An internal compel is one where your character is driven to act in a particular way. The GM could say “you see a beautiful woman sitting alone at the bar,” and to chat her up rather than push with your mission could be a compel. It could complicate your life by allowing yourself to fall into the clutches of a femme fatale. But for whatever reason, it’s your character’s feeling that’s pushing action complicating your life, or your resistance of that feeling that’s canceling the compel.
A world compel is one where because of your aspect, the world complicates your character’s life. The GM could say “remember that woman you were with in Monte Carlo last month?” (Naturally, the right response is “which one?”) “Well, her husband just saw you from across the room. And he’s armed.” Or someone snubs you because of your reputation, or seeks you out because of it, whatever.
Supernatural Compels: Internal Compels That Really Aren’t
Let’s take another example, one from The Dresden Files RPG: White Court Vampire. Now, technically, the GM saying “there’s a tasty mortal there, and you’re hungry” is an internal compel from my write-up above. It’s your character’s feeling pushing an action, but it comes from a different place. It’s an entity that is a part of you but isn’t entirely under your narrative domain. So, it looks like an Internal Compel, but it really comes from the World. Ths distinction is important for the upcoming bit.
A New Way of Compelling and Buying Off
Once we separate these three types of compels, we can change the way in which compels are triggered or bought off. Now, what I’m proposing is for the sort of people that hate the GM inflicting an Internal Compel on you (or for GMs uncomfortable with it). Or, hell, just people who want to mix it up.
Internal Compels are entirely done as self-compel. The player says “I’m doing X because of my aspect” and bam, Fate point. The GM can propose a compel, if he thinks there’s a neat moment for it, but the player can refuse without spending a Fate point — thus making it functionally a self-compel.
World Compels are entirely done by the GM, and without the option of buyoff from the player. That’s because once the GM asserts a fact about the world, buying that off feels weird to me. It also allows for adventure construction based on a projected budget: the GM should create an adventure that “costs” him, oh, 5 Fate points (number pulled out of the air) through the course of the adventure.
Supernatural Compels work like compels do now, where the player can self-compel or the GM can propose a compel, with the player allowed to buy-off in resistance.
What All This Means
Here’s the thing to consider: this paradigm and the standard compel paradigm are equal in validity, but whichever one you use will change the feel of your game. As would allowing players to buy off Word Compels. I feel like a Bond-style game (without Supernatural Compels) would work well like this. Or a Bond-style game with Supernatural Compels. But if I wanted to do something like Warren Ellis’ The Authority, I would probably allow World Compels to be bought off, or even self-compelled.
There’s a lot to think about when you look at different scopes of compels mixed with different scopes of aspects (as presented by Diaspora) as well, but that’s an exercise for another time. And maybe another person (*cough* Brad *cough*).
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 My favorite piece of Fate tech that came from outside the Evil Hat team.