Fates: a Dissenting Opinion

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Fates: a Dissenting Opinion
« on: March 06, 2014, 10:40:10 PM »
I dislike Fates.  I realize I am in the minority.

My initial thoughts were very positive.  I still find them very evocative, and I really like the elegance of "cross one off for every harm you suffer; the top one that's uncrossed is currently true." 

I very much like the lists used for NPCs, Groups, and Monsters.  I could quibble about the wording and the ranking a little, but I think they're a great way to sum up the combination of physical harm and morale.  The problem is, none of the choices on those lists are fates.  They are descriptions of the current state.  Status, maybe.   

As for the PC Fate, I feel that it fails to live up to a promise, or at least its potential. When I first saw the Fates list and the fact that you crossed options off, I was really excited.  I thought to myself "oh, cool, if you ever take harm, then you'll never live to be 100!"  I assumed that crossing off Fates meant that those fates were closed to you, forever.  And that's cool and tragic and hardcore.

But that's not how it works.  The Fates are, when it comes down to it, hit points.  This fine Summer morning, I wake up and I will live to be 100.  I don my helm and armor, heft my shield and sword, and go into battle.  I suffer 3 harm, indicating that I will not live to be 100, nor will I live to advanced old age.  I don't even have more to do before I die.  But I will yet survive this.  So that's cool.

Then some time passes. Let's be generous and say it's a season or so.  The first three heal themselves.  So by the end of Autumn, maybe, I will live to be 100 again. 


If they come back with time and/or medical care, then those fates weren't lost to me.  I'd argue that they aren't even fates at all.  And while they are evocative, they don't actually help me, the player or MC, determine right now what is going on in the fiction.  Not the way the NPC, Group, and Monster lists do.

Vincent mentioned in another post that disease will also eat away at Fates, and that's cool.  Maybe it will address some of my concerns.  But right now, as written, the rows of PC Fates seem to be no more than hit points with labels.

So, what would I suggest instead?  Some or all of the following, perhaps?

1) Rename the current lists of NPCs, Groups, and Monsters to something else.  State, Status, Condition, Plight, Health, whatever.

2) Give PCs a similar track.  For example:
 - am strong, sure, and whole
 - bear the marks of violence or duress
 - struggle to fight on
 - seek only to survive this
 - can threaten no one
 - lay on my deathbed

3) I'd give PCs a set of actual Fates, things they are owed by the fiction.  Maybe the list is generic to all playbooks, maybe playbook-specific.  Maybe some of each.  Examples:
 - I will live to a ripe old age
 - I will see my children happy and wed
 - I will see the Dragon rise
 - I will reclaim what is mine by birth
 - I will die peacefully in my bed
 - I will die a hero
A player gets a certain number of these, maybe 3-6?   Maybe there's a list, and you pick your fates?

4) You can cross these fates off as plot armor, much like taking a debility in AW.  Like, you can cross of "I will live to a ripe old age" to negate an instance of harm.  You don't suffer the harm (or maybe you don't die?) but you are no longer going to live to a ripe old age. 

Ideally, there'd be other things to spend these fates on than just avoiding harm.  Like, you can burn one to turn a roll into a 12+? 

When or if you retire your character to safety, his Fates apply.  If he will live to see his children happy and wed, then the children are off limits for the GM as well as the retired PC.  At least until they are married and the retired PC sees them happy, that is.

Re: Fates: a Dissenting Opinion
« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2014, 02:34:04 AM »
Oo, I like this. Having these alternative Fates crossed off one by one and affecting/informing the characters (possible) eventual retirement to safety has potential for some gut wrenching decisions, plus adds a bit of an Ancient Greek/Roman mythology vibe to it.

Re: Fates: a Dissenting Opinion
« Reply #2 on: March 07, 2014, 03:54:48 AM »
I very much like the idea. And agreed, getting FATES back is.. not that nice. I believe someone who is only going to die a hero can do something to, say, live to see Dragon rise - say, ask for blessing from said Dragon or his Herald - but this should be exception.

though the list itself should be revised a little, as there's a lot between "I will die a hero" and, say "I will die peacefully in my bed".

"I will see the Dragon rise", though, is golden.

Re: Fates: a Dissenting Opinion
« Reply #3 on: March 07, 2014, 03:56:00 AM »
Hmmm... maybe even lose the option to retire to safety altogether?

Re: Fates: a Dissenting Opinion
« Reply #4 on: March 07, 2014, 06:05:04 PM »
I Like the idea of a plot armor. It is something I was thinking too

Re: Fates: a Dissenting Opinion
« Reply #5 on: March 08, 2014, 01:51:44 AM »
I'm of two minds. I like this suggestion of fates-as-hard-fates.

I am not bothered by Fate as variable "named hit points" either. "Hey I'm going to live to 100! Oops, maybe not. Phew, danger passed, I'm going to live to 100 after all!"

But dividing it into status vs. archetypical fate-as-woven-by-the-gods would be interesting too, and certainly evokes the classical understanding of fate much better. "Fate as named hit points" evokes a much more modern, humanist, existential version of "fate is what you make it." "The oracles have prophesied your fate!" -- eh, so what, in a few rolls I'll get another fate. Existence precedes essence.

If we do have the "fate debility" model, in which we are really sacrificing things from the ungiven future, that's pretty awesome and hardcore, but I definitely wouldn't then lose the option to "retire to safety" altogether, because that option is what gives this new mechanic teeth. If you can't retire a PC to safety, it means you'll just stop playing that PC when you're bored of them (you can't, after all, mechanically force the player to keep playing that PC forever!) Retirement is then not a finish line, but a tossing aside, and then it's not nearly as interesting what you've taken away from their end state.

I think it is much more interesting if you know you can always retire them to safety, but that safety narrows as you sacrifice fates. Perhaps you'll be healthy, wealthy, famed, mighty and renowned into old age! Oops, I guess not wealthy. Or renowned. Well, maybe you'll live an unremarkable but pleasant life -- oh, no. Now you're going to be sick. And in abject misery. Okay, I guess now we're retiring you to the safety of a short life as a naked galley slave in the Middle Sea...

Re: Fates: a Dissenting Opinion
« Reply #6 on: March 08, 2014, 02:05:15 AM »
Well if you're going to do that, you just need to tinker with "retire to safety", yeah?  I mean, there should always be a "quit" option, but they don't all need to be equally good.

I recall a skin from Monster of the Week that had an option to become a villainous npc along with the standard retirement option.