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Fate: Tweaking GM Invocations

A curious thing happens when you publish a game: someone will talk with you about it, express some concern or bafflement or cool thing, and you’ll say “What about X?” They’ll look at you with confusion and tell you that you didn’t write that in the book. And sometimes, those end up being really handy rules or explanations. Today, I’ll talk about tweaking GM invocations based on how I thought they worked anyway.

Before I get to the rule, I’ll tell a story. Last night, this happened as I was responding to a friend’s comment on not feeling like this Fate compel flow as working. Normally, he’s a great GM, but just had an off couple sessions. I responded with “You know about hostile invocation, right? You can use that to give fate points out.”

(For those who don’t know, “hostile invocation” is the post-publication term a bunch of us at Fate HQ use to describe when you’re invoking an aspect that someone else owns or is in control off against that owner. That’s the gist of “Having Your Aspects Invoked Against You” on p. 81, but considers situational aspects you’ve created and currently control, not just your character aspects. Making On Fire isn’t generally something you control after you make it, so it generally doesn’t count as a hostile invocation.)

Then I followed with “Or whenever you as the GM invoke aspects with fate points, you give those fate points to the players. Same timing as with hostile invocations.”

Because this was in an email, I paused to give him a page reference, and to my surprise I couldn’t find a reference to this rule. I asked Brian Engard about this idea, and he said (to paraphrase): “Yeah, that’s how it should work.” and “Huh, I guess it isn’t in the book.”

Since it’s not in the book, I got to think about how the idea works, based on why I would want to use it: as a way to give people fate points they can use immediately after a conflict.

GMs: If you use a fate point to invoke an aspect for an NPC’s action, the action is directly opposed by a single PC, and the invocation isn’t a hostile one, then that player gets the fate point. As with hostile invocations, they get the fate point at the end of the scene.

If you want to limit it, you could say “and if the player has fewer than two fate points” or something like that, including those that are waiting around for the scene to be over. That could create an interesting touch of play where you spend down to have fewer than two total, hoping that the GM will give you fate points in return.

I don’t know if that’s a better or worse rule, but since this isn’t a part of Fate Core, I also don’t have to make a decision about that. By being something that ends up not being in the book, it comes a random option that some people can use if they like—though if you do use it, be consistent.

Note: None of this triggers from free invocations. No fate point spent? No fate point given.

Edit: There’s also a streamlining from the G+ thread: Don’t consider aspect ownership at all. If you’re paying a fate point to invoke an aspect in an action that someone else is directly opposing, they get that fate point regardless of who “owns” the aspect. If the action is against passive opposition or against numerous characters, then that fate point just goes away as normal.

–Ryan

Fun fact: there’s a line in Achtung! Cthulhu Fate edition that totally assumes this is how GM invocations work, because it tells you to not give out fate points in certain cases.

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3 Responses to Fate: Tweaking GM Invocations

  1. Ywen says:

    In such case, where does the FP come from? From the unlimited bank or the limited GM pool?

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      Same GM pool. That doesn’t change. The pool makes GMs still have to decide when to do stuff and not drag out a conflict. A cap is always good.

  2. Sorry to necro this post, but I wanted to chime in and say that I ran my game for 3 players this past weekend. We used this option and everyone enjoyed the back-and-forth with the positive influx of Fate points post-conflict. In previous sessions nearly everyone’s tapped out, and it either drags out the game because you have to (HAVE TO) think of some compels, which in turn eats game time to resolve if they’re properly juicy, or the PCs’ competence level is reduced because they have no FP.