The Fate Pot & Player-on-Player Compels
This week, while the rest of Evil Hat goes to Origins, I’ll be staying behind, blogging about stuff I learned from playing Fate this past weekend at Dresdacon, and hanging out with some of the finest Fate GMs around (including Will Huggins from the fine podcast, Actual People, Actual Play).
In part one of this four-part series, I’ll be talking about The Fate Pot.
First of all, I am a huge fan of making Fate points physical. There’s something to the actual giving and receiving of a physical token, especially in a compel. Folks who have played with me remark on how awesome my tokens are; I use Campaign Coins from King of the Castle (which you can get imported through Paizo, thus making Paizo my BFF).
One of the GMs, Wayne Coburn, had a sack of coins in middle of the table. (He used cheap coins he bought in San Francisco’s Chinatown.) He said that we were free to compel each other, taking coins from the sack rather than using our own. I thought this was brilliant–the GM has to spend a lot of bandwidth keeping track of things to not notice every moment worthy of a compel. Plus, a half-dozen minds are smarter than one. In the game, this was used to fantastic effect–my “Afraid of my power” aspect was compelled more than once by a player, to complicate all of us in moments of crises. And we as players loved it.
That there’s a sack in the middle of the table rather than a free pile helped. In addition to making sure you didn’t confuse your Fate points with the general piles, there was something totemic about the sack as time went on. We could gesture with the sack to someone. It’s hard right now to articulate, but it added to the game in a subtle but non-trivial way.
Now, this brings up a drift of the player-on-player compels. The rule as stated is that if you compel another person, the fate point comes from you, not from the GM/bank/ether. Wayne wanted to economy to flow, so he let us compel from the bag. That made me think about player-on-player compels. After talking with Lenny Balsera about it, we came up with this breakdown:
Let’s say Steve has the aspects, “Easily distracted,” and he’s trying to find someone carrying a briefcase in a crowded street fair.
- If you want to benefit from the compel, such as “I’m compelling Steve’s Easily Distracted because I want to get lost in the crowd and I don’t want him to notice me,” you pay the Fate point to Steve.
- If you want to add to the story and you’re not benefitting, such as “Oh, dude, it’d be awesome if Steve lost track of the briefcase in the crowd because he’s Easily Distracted,” that’s suggesting to the GM that she compel Steve.
- Depending on your dynamic, the GM may just cut herself out of the loop and let you directly compel from a bag of Fate points. That said, she can point out weak compels and work with them or veto so that the game can move on. (She’s more or less lending you her authority over that part of the game, so it’s natural for her to pull back if you make her job more difficult with poor compels. Not that I imagine that happening often.)
That’s something I’m going to use in the future, which makes me excited to run something like my Emerging Threats Unit game again. Thank you, Wayne, for showing me that trick!
Keep following this week for more Fate tricks.
 If I ran a “Fate: the Ascension” oMage game, I would totally have Fate points come from the Umbra.