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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.[1] 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.

– Ryan

[1] If I ran a “Fate: the Ascension” oMage game, I would totally have Fate points come from the Umbra.

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8 Responses to The Fate Pot & Player-on-Player Compels

  1. Leonard Balsera says:

    For my money, it’s not really a drift. Compels aren’t just the GM’s playground – if your group is comfortable with a more decentralized authority model, the opportunity is there for everyone to use compels to kick the drama up to 11.

    But, you know. I’m all about tactile reinforcement, too.

  2. Fred Hicks says:

    I sure wouldn’t mind if a discussion of that showed up in Fate Core. The trick is to make sure it’s clear how it interacts with player-on-NPC compelling.

  3. Scott says:

    I started putting compels in the players’ hands a while ago: the pile of poker chips goes in the middle of the table and I invite the players to help themselves if they are about to make things interesting with an aspect. It works quite well, even at a table with all FATE newbs.

    I never thought to allow them to directly compel each other though. Sounds slightly dangerous – and fun!

    Now I just need to find an excuse to run another DFRPG one-shot.

  4. Dan Clery says:

    That’s solid. The idea players suggesting cool complications for everyone is a theme undone of my best tables, no matter what game is being played. To go out and explicitly say it could increase that current.

  5. Christopher says:

    I love this idea. I actually was thinking of something similar after reading Leverage and Smallville. Because what’s the difference between the GM saying “your [aspect] makes things more difficult, here’s a Fate Point” and a player saying “wouldn’t your [aspect] complicate things?” The latter, to me, is just another player suggesting to the GM that an aspect could be compelled. Why come from different places?

    I’ve thought about doing this in my current Dresden Files game, but wasn’t sure how it would go over. It’s good to see a FATE “official” talk about it!

  6. When I played in Mike Olsen’s “Spirit of the Sword” game he encouraged us to compel each other and he would pay the Fate point. I’ve borrowed that and used it in Dresden in which one player likes to compel other players.

    However, I really like the idea of leaving the Fate points in the middle of the table to encourage this behavior. I might try it at my next Dresden game. Keep the Fate tricks coming.

  7. Fred Hicks says:

    I said on Twitter: “Man, the bowl + ‘oh you just took a consequence? Let me compel that.’ = toothier consequences”

    Ryan asked me to unpack this.

    If players can compel each others’ consequences out of the bowl, I think that increases the likelihood that someone will see one or more consequence-based compels when those things land on them. Players will have an incentive to help out their friends by giving them fate points. When they see that friend’s PC get his arm broken — then tossing them a FP to completely fuck up their day around that fact — they’re both helping out that player (dude, you’ll need some FP’s) and helping to uphold the fiction around the consequence (that broken arm is going to be a big problem!).