Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Core of FATE Core

EDIT: I was more than a little distracted by my son while writing this post this afternoon, so some of this came out, um, not as clearly as I would've liked. So let me clarify.

When I mention Ryan, Chris, and Brad below, it's because these people are giants to me in the FATE world. I regularly read Ryan's blog and eagerly await Mythender. I had the pleasure of working with Chris on Legends of Anglerre. I stand in rapt admiration of what Brad and the VCSA team did with Diaspora. I look up to them. As part of writing FATE Kerberos, I've studied the work each of them has done with FATE and learned a lot. Their opinions on FATE Kerberos, should they choose to take a look at it, will matter a lot to me. A whole hell of a lot, actually. You put their names on a book and I'm going to want to check it out.

With that in mind: My first FATE experience was with Spirit of the Century. There are three names on the cover of that book: Fred Hicks, Rob Donoghue, and Leonard Balsera. That was only about five years ago, but I associate them as closely with FATE as I do, say, Ken St. Andre, Michael Stackpole, and Liz Danforth with Tunnels & Trolls, one of my favorite RPGs as a kid. Or Gygax with D&D. Or Merle Rasmussen with Top Secret. Or Steve Perrin and Greg Stafford with Worlds of Wonder. In my mind, there's that same level of celebrity association between those names and that game, even though I know plenty of people had just as much influence and history (or more so) with those games. It's a gut-level reaction. 

So imagine my horror when I get messages from two people saying, in so many words, "I think you may have offended some people with that blog post." Let me tell you, there are a lot of places I don't want to be, and On Ryan Macklin's Bad Side is definitely one of them. (Please, please don't let me be the new You're Wrong guy. Please.) I'll apologize to Ryan personally, but please consider this a repudiation of the idea that he, Chris, Brad, or anyone else who's had a big role in the development of these games I love is somehow less deserving of respect than Fred, Rob, or Lenny. I'd never intended that, and I can't tell you how sorry I am that that's what came across.

And look, I don't know Ryan personally, or his complete history with FATE. I look forward to meeting him this year at GenCon or Gamex or wherever we might get to run into one another. I at least want to play Mythender or Vicious Crucible sometime before 2011's out.

(While I'm at it: Lenny, I know those core-of-FATE ideas didn't spring from Fred's mind fully formed. I know  they're the result of work he's done and discussions he's had with you guys on SotC and DFRPG. But I still think it's fair to say that, at this point, they are what he sees as "the defining properties of FATE," even if he didn't do all the defining himself. I didn't mean to discount anyone else's hand in that process.)

I'm going to leave the rest of this post intact for... I dunno... posterity? I don't want the comments to not make sense, is I guess what I'm saying.

Don't call it a manifesto, but Fred Hicks has posted the defining properties of FATE as he sees them. The goal of the piece seems to be to address that old FATE issue: Why are the books so big? Fred spends a paragraph or two exploring the idea of overwriting out of love for the game, but most of it's devoted to distilling FATE into far more basic terms than you usually see (more basic even than the excellent Tri-Fold FATE).

It's an interesting read, especially considering Fred is one of the creators of FATE as we know it. I mean, it'd be one thing if someone like Ryan Macklin or Chris Birch or Brad Murray did it, but none of them has the same depth of history with the system that guys like Fred and Rob Donoghue or Lenny Balsera do. (Speaking of which, Lenny's SotC summary is here.)

In places, I want to read it as "This is what FATE is, and this is what FATE isn't," even though I know there's no way Fred intended it as something as divisive or judgmental as that. But I can't help cross-referencing every bit of it with what I know of all the FATE games on the market now (and, of course, FATE Kerberos) and seeing how they measure up to these Hicksian ideals. I can only think of one that, to me, doesn't quite hit every point he raises, which just goes to show how much any given FATE game shares with any other despite their many differences.

If you're writing a FATE game, it's a good road map. If you've never played FATE before and want to know what it's about (although, I mean, if that were the case, how did you end up reading this?), it's a good overview -- not necessarily of how any given FATE game works, but what FATE, as a system, is trying to accomplish. Certainly it's a better entry point for newbies than the SotC SRD, which can be a bit like drinking from the firehose.

(BTW, Fred, why couldn't you have written this back when Icons came out? It would've saved me from developing a new pet peeve.)


Fred said...

I had no time to write this until today!

I've had both on my to do list (along with the Fate site reworking) since... well, before Dresden came out. So really the timing is reflective of how damn long that list is. It wasn't an out of nowhere event inside my head, at least :)

Leonard Balsera said...

The fact that it showed up on Fred's blog does not mean that the content wholly originated in his brain. There are things in there taken from how the whole team has been talking about the system behind the scenes. Yeah, he distilled it, but it's not the product of a single voice.

And FYI, Ryan Macklin is not only a part of the aforementioned team, but he has probably run more Fate than the entire rest of the team in combination, especially if you count his convention activity. He runs it better than I do. He's also been one of my chief sounding boards for four years.

So I don't know precisely how you're defining "deep background", but you might want to reconsider that observation, just a touch.

Mike Olson said...

Clearly, I've spoken a little carelessly and have unintentionally offended some people -- people I very much respect. I'm editing the post to clarify, and then I'm going to make some public apologies....

Fred said...

It did not show up on Fred's blog, Lenny. It showed up on (the newly redone) FateRPG.com for a reason. :)

I had no problem seeing your original intent in the post, Mike. Sorry there's been kerfluffle over it.

Leonard Balsera said...

@Fred: Oh, yeah, my bad. That makes the assumption that bothered me in the first place worse, though, not better. Just sayin'.

Mike: We're cool. Thanks for the clarification.