New Stories

Play Your Heart Out: Fate Board Game

by Jonathan Ross

When I was in 10th grade, I had my first experience with the game of “Dungeons & Dragons,” and the only thing I can remember is how anyone was patient enough to learn that game. As complex as it was, “Dungeons & Dragons” has gone on to become extraordinarily popular today. Still, if you’re looking to play something like it but can’t find the time to learn, then consider trying out Evil Hat Productions’s roleplaying game: Fate.

Fate is a cooperative, storytelling tabletop roleplaying game (TTRPG) created by Evil Hat Productions that works best with a group of three to five players. Like all games of its kind, the premise is simple: you and your friends meet up for a “session,” which usually lasts four to five hours, and you tell a story about characters you made up in a world everyone created. One person plays as the gamemaster (or “GM” for short), which is like the story’s narrator, and the rest are players who each control a protagonist of their own creation. Unlike many other games, you don’t play Fate to win, you play for the sake of playing and hanging out together.

Overview

The biggest strength of Fate, I believe, is its versatility. Compared to something like “Dungeons & Dragons,” it has easy rules and it has no predefined setting: you come up with that on your own. It hinges many of its game mechanics on the story structure of popular media. Think about how your favorite movie was written, for instance. You could base an entire Fate campaign off of the plot of your favorite movie down to the letter, and you’d still be playing it right.

But say you want to stretch your creative muscles a bit. Fate is an excellent tool for that. Ultimately, the purpose of the game is to hang out and have fun, but you can easily turn whatever ideas you come up with into a story. Strip away all the “game” aspects of a Fate campaign, and you’ve got a work of fiction in your hands.

Perhaps the most important thing Fate brings to the table is its Golden Rule: “Figure out what you want to do in the story first, then consult the rules to help you do it.” In other words, the game encourages you to enjoy your story before you even dive into all the rules. Many games like to do the reverse, where you have to learn the rules before you can build a story around them. TTRPGs are already more difficult to learn than your typical board game, so having something like Fate where you first focus on what you want is nice to have around.

Everything in Fate pertains to this rule, which is why I like this game in comparison to many others of it’s kind out there. Perhaps you’ve tried to play “Dungeons & Dragons” before but found it too hard to learn, Fate is a great alternative for just learning the same style of game.

Making Characters

Every game like Fate uses something called a “character sheet.” It’s often just a piece of paper a player uses to keep track of things about their character in the story. The character sheet is nice because it’s simple and easy to learn. Other games like to create character sheets that look like restaurant menus, but I find Fate’s nice to look at because you can just take it all in.

Standard layout of a Fate character sheet.

What’s nice about the Fate character sheet is that everything on it is used for every part of the game. An “aspect” is just a fact about something, whether that’s a character, an object, or a location. A “stress” is just a fancy way of measuring how much damage something can take. That means once you learn the character sheet, you’ve pretty much learned everything else about how to play.

A Fate character is just like any protagonist you’ve seen in popular media. They have certain details about them that make them unique, a set of skills they’re good with, and a level of stress they can take before things get rough. Fate’s character sheet lays this all out for you, and the rules are simple and get straight to the point.

Rolling the Dice

Fate, like other TTRPG’s, uses the results of dice to determine what characters do in the game. Fate’s core game dice are called “Fate dice,” which are six-sided dice that each have two sides with a plus sign, two sides with a minus sign, and two blank sides that just mean zero. Rolling dice is the interactive part of the game.

Each player in Fate has a set of four Fate dice. When you roll them, you roll all four at once, counting each plus as a +1, each minus as a -1, and each blank as a 0.

A roll of +1 on four Fate dice

What’s nice about Fate dice is that they tend towards an average of zero. In Fate, zero isn’t a bad thing, it just means average. So if a character tries to do something and you roll a result of zero, they do average. It’s nice because if you already have a good idea of where your story is going to go, there’s little worry about the dice telling you otherwise.

Just imagine how you’d feel if Indiana Jones didn’t outrun the giant rolling boulder in his movie and got crushed instead. It’d be kind of a buzzkill. Fate’s dice system does its best to avoid that, so you can keep focusing on your great story.

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