RPG Mini-Review - FATE Core
FATE is one of those games in my collection that I really, really want to play some day but haven't had the chance to.
FATE is the game engine that powers games like Spirit of the Century, The Dresden Files, and Diaspora. Relics like me remember the original FUDGE RPG from the 1990s from which FATE spun off of.
Mechanically, FATE isn't too complicated - there is an Accelerated Edition of it which is a rather tiny book. The idea is you role 4DF (FUGE/FATE dice). These are six side dice with 2 pluses, 2 minuses, and 2 blank sides, You add the total together (-4 to 4), add your appropriate skill and other modifiers, and compare to a difficulty number.
The other modifiers I mentioned above is where FATE gets interesting. FATE uses a mechanic known as "aspects". Anything can have an aspect - a location, a person, a PC, a scene, a city. They are basically an interesting description that can drive the action. "Last son of Krypton" would make for a good aspect. So would "with great power comes great responsibility" or "I want to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi like my father".. As would "fraying ladder" or "precariously balanced candle". The best aspects for PCs are both positive and negative. When positive you can spend a FATE point (one of the main resources of the game) to use that aspect and gain a bonus to your die roll. You can create an aspect - like taking an action to knock over that candle and set the room on fire - creating a "room on fire" aspect that can be used by anyone and has an initial free use. And those negative aspects can be used to drive PCs - the player is offered a FATE point to take some negative consequence. For example, Peter Parker might be compelled to abandon his date to rescue someone from a fire as he is haunted by the memory of failing his Uncle Ben. To avoid giving into the compel he might have to spend a FATE point, though these sorts of things tend to involve negotiation between player and GM. Essentially, as a player you want these compels as they give you FATE points which come in super-handy when facing a big-bad..
Another neat thing about FATE is when players suffer damage (whether social, physical, economic, or whatever), to prevent their main resistance from being overwhelmed they can agree to take consequences. If your main resistance is overwhelmed you are pretty much at the mercy of whomever you are facing. A good example of taking a consequence would be Luke Skywalker losing his hand at the end of The Empire Strikes Back - essentially, when losing, the player is encouraged to describe how they lose.
What I like about FATE is it is geared to tell interesting stories but it has tons of mechanisms to make the players be at the center of those stories - it avoids the dreaded problem of players getting to watch the GM tell an interesting story.
FATE Core is available from RPGNow for free - or whatever you want to pay. I'd encourage you to check it out for free and if you find it worth it - and I think you will - go back and pay what you think it is worth.