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Adjusting FATE for PBEM Play

Started by Mike Holmes, November 21, 2005, 04:19:43 PM

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Mike Holmes

I was asked how I'd modified FATE for PBEM play in this thread:

I did a few things actually to make play flow more smoothly. I have to admit first, however, that the game in question is still about the slowest game ever. Sometimes I post once a month. So to some extent you could call this stuff untested. Though there have been posts that have included pretty much all of it in play at this point (the game is so slow, I can't rememeber when it started).

First of all, for FATE, I tend to just not use the FP in their intended use at all. That is, I don't give the player an opportunity to use them to adjust the outcome of rolls. This simplifies the need for a back and forth there, of course. But I'm going to go off on a bit of a tangent.

I've been thinking that I should put the back-and-forth back in for FP. The reason being, in playing Hero Quest in PBEM, that game has Hero Points with a similar function, and I do allow their use. When I roll a resolution, I simply come back with: "Marginal defeat, bump up to a minor victory?"

What I've found is that short perfunctory posts like this that have expected contents in them actually help the pace of the game. That is, it keeps you in contact with the game, without requiring that every post be a hugely creative endeavor. So generally I'm reviewing the policy on FP as well.

If you really want to streamline things, however, and include this, the way to do it is to simply have the players roll the dice, and then state if they want to use FP. That is, you call for the conflict, and they send back the abilities used along with the dice result and any FP used. There are two ways to do this, the honor system, or a dice server. For FATE, I think the honor system would work just fine, since to me there's no incentive to win contests particularly (failure is just as interesting as success). I only roll all the dice myself in my games because it's seemed convenient with the set ups that I have now. If it would streamline things, I would have the player's roll instead.

So what do I use FP for? Well, pretty much solely for their narrative control function. That is players burn them to add things to the game. Pretty much getting to act as the GM for one post for one FP.

Further, an even more problematic part of FATE for PBEM play is the idea of "involuntary invocations." That would require a potential of several back and forths especially for bidding up Aspects with more than one level. What I do there is simply allow players to invoke their Aspects negatively, and then award them with FP for doing so. This means, too, that I don't have to do this as GM. It puts it on the player to be on the watch for such.

Maybe most importantly, however, I make all contests "tests" meaning that they are resolved in only one die roll. Actually for a contest meant to go on for a long period of in-game time, I might consider a "challenge." That is, where each roll might accompany an entire long post or even back and forth posting. Basically where it doesn't slow down the game getting to a resolution. But to date I've only used tests. This speeds things up a lot.

This can be difficult for GMs used to task resolution systems for combat to understand. But it means that if you come out with a Superb victory that the GM merely determines what that means. It might mean a dead foe, or a foe chased off in spectacular fashion, or...whatever matches the descriptor superb. But, generally, you resolve combat like any other contest.

For "wounding" with this, basically I say that in any contest the loser may get an impediment of some sort based on the consest and the result. So a Good win against an opponent in a debate may result in the opponent getting an Embarrassed -1 trait that applies to all further contests to which the GM thinks it applies until it's "healed" (for Embarrassed, maybe this is a good talk with his psychologist or something). The difficulty to heal something is equal to the level of the wound (so, Good, in the example).

BTW, I also use the "Twists" rules, so as to get more character abilities into any contest. But I do them oddly to streamline as well. Instead of handing the player twists to overcome, I allow the player to make them up when he sends his abilities to me for a contest, along with what abilities he's using to overcome them. So, in a fight, the player might send:

Sword Fighting [Good]
Twist: You said opponent is fast
Cancel Twist with: Agility [Fair]
Twist: He's bigger
Cancel Twist with: Toughness [Superb]

Sometimes I don't ask for abilities, however, I'll simply select them myself. In which case, resolution is all done mid-post. So my post might look like:
QuoteOK, as you intended, your insults lead to a fight with the big, quick guy.

[Insert above skill listing]
[That's against his Good Melee ability. The first twist cancel works, the second fails, so that's a Great difficulty. I roll ++0+ for a Fair result.]

In the ensuing whirl of blades, you manage to find an opening and cut his sword arm. He drops his weapon as a result and he flees.

Make sense? Yes it doesn't give the player any chance to interact in the resolution process, but in FATE I think that's actually a good way to handle it.

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Thanks for that Mike!

I'm considering having them have to specify FP before the roll, if I am rolling for them.

But allowing them to roll their own dice works too.

If I don't trust the players 100% (because, let's face it, some of my friends are lying munchkins), how can I effectively log rolls? I mean, sure there are secure dice rollers, but can't someone just keep rolling that secure roller until they get the desired outcome?

How would I know if they had actually just erased their first 30 rolls?

(Or do you know of any PHP programs that can roll the dice AS you click "post"? Cuz that'd be AWESOME!)


Just as a random sidenote, it'd be fun to be able to use fate points outside of gameplay (ie. investing them in custom avatars, ranks, etc. Use them to customize and add to your account in some small way.)

Mike Holmes

Quote from: joepub on November 21, 2005, 04:53:11 PM
If I don't trust the players 100% (because, let's face it, some of my friends are lying munchkins), how can I effectively log rolls? I mean, sure there are secure dice rollers, but can't someone just keep rolling that secure roller until they get the desired outcome?

How would I know if they had actually just erased their first 30 rolls?
A dice server that doesn't have some verification form is not a very useful thing no? All of them that I'm aware of have some scheme to verify things. Some, for PBEM, for instance, send every result to the mailing list. Others record every result rolled. Read up for the server in question to find the right one for you.

Oh, BTW, in case it's not obvious, the convention for FUDGE dice is 4d3-8. Or 4 (d3-2).

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How do you personally integrate aspects into PBP gaming?

And this is play by post I am dealing with personally, not PBeM... just to clarify.

Mike Holmes

I've only played FATE PBEM, using Yahoo Groups to have an archive of the list. But I've played lots of other games PBP, and I think that they are similar enough forms that my comments should pertain. I'm trying to be careful to specify where things might be PBEM pertinent only.

When I run a contest without player input, then I don't often use Aspects at all, though I think I may have invoked one on behalf of a player at least once. Occasionally I'll send a result asking if a player wants to use FP or Aspects to raise up a result before rolling and narrating.

Other than that, sometimes I use an alternate process. In that case, players say that they'll use them when they send back abilities they're using in a contest. That pattern looks something like this:

1. I send them a post with a description of the nature of the contest, which is a prompt for them to send back The information in 2.
2. They send abilities, twist cancellations, and announcements of plans to spend FP and/or burn Aspects. Somtimes these plans are conditional ("only use these if it's a matter of success/failure" or "burn as many of these as neccessary to get to Superb" as opposed to "burn all of these to get the best result possible.")
3. I adjudicate on appropriateness of abilities, twists, etc. Then I roll and narrate the result.

I'm using this process more and more. It's really more like normal play. Doing everything myself, of course, requires the fewest number of posts - zero extra posts. Outside of that, it's hard to get resolution down to just one extra post. You could allow a player to simply select all abilities and such, do his own rolling, and then narrate his own resolutions, I suppose. But that eliminates a lot of expected GM input.

So the One post method eliminates player interaction, the Two Post method eliminates some GM interaction, and the Three Post method allows almost all normal GM and player interactions. Again, I'm learning more and more that small perfunctory mechanical posts are actually good for play, far from being a distraction. So I've started playing more and more with the three post method.

If you wanted full interaction, then it'd be:
1. GM sends contest.
2. Player responds with abilities, etc.
3. GM rolls result and sends request for FP spending and Aspect burning.
4. Player responds with those.
5. GM narrates results.

With this, step five can be eliminated by the GM giving guidelines on narration in step three like "If you go with only a Good result, he is wounded but gets away, Great is he's wounded and captured, and Superb is he's wounded, captured, and he's so impressed he tells you where the base is." Then the player can narrate the scene in 4.

So there you have a pretty full range of options. I actually use something like the full range above for Hero Quest PBEM, and it seems to work out fine, actually.

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Yah, I was thinking something like that....

What I'm going to do is say specify FP before a roll... and no matter what the dice roll is these are spent... I can always just award more FP during gameplay in order to balance this out.

And then, using your method, they specify conditional use of aspects.... like only if the roll, without FP added, is negative... etc..