A Fate Economy

This is a purely theoretical post for me as I am not a fate point user.

So the basic idea of fate points is that each character starts with a few fate points. You can spend a fate point to try and avoid a fatal wound by re-rolling a critical. You can earn fate points by extremely good role playing or by forcing the end of level boss to spend a fate point to save himself from you.

So spending a fate point is a big issue and gaining a fate point is a big issue.

If you think of a whole fate point as being a Silver Dollar I want to talk about dimes and cents.

This is not my idea, I have stolen it from a variety of other games that use similar mechanisms.

So imagine you ask a character to make a skill roll and you, as GM, really want them to make the roll. The success would be fun, would help advance the story or generally be a ‘good thing’. They roll the dice and fail. So you either suck it up or scrub the roll and let the player try again. I suppose it depends mostly on your style of GMing.

Fate cents are a mechanism to let you let a player make a second chance roll but maintain game balance.

What you do is every time you give the players a re-roll, or even if you fudge a dice roll yourself, you keep a tally of these minor adjustments and then ‘spend’ them at a later point to balance books.

Ways of spending them could adding an additional opponent to a minor skirmish latter, letting a villain make a re-roll if they fail a roll. nudging up a skill by a rank for a named NPC. If the player fumbles an attack then add +5 to the fumble roll for each cent outstanding.

Ideally, at the end of each game session the net balance will be zero or at most at the end of each adventure. You would not let the players ignore every inconvenient roll and never pay the consequences. I could easily have called this post ‘Rolemaster Karma’ because it is that sort of thing. If you are having to bend the rules to help the players then it will come back to bite them and sooner rather than later.

I do not use fate points as I don’t need them. I can see the attraction, RM is extremely dangerous and character creation is extremely complicated. Keeping the characters alive and the story advancing is of value to both GM and players. Limiting fate points maintains the danger of the system and consequently the sense of danger going into every fight.

Fate cents are meant to be much less significant and more about increasing the fun element for both GM and players. It makes players more capable because they have the option of taking a second bite of the cherry when a roll is failed and for the GM it means there is a balanced option for making the players character pay for every time you have to help them out.

What do you think?

16 Replies to “A Fate Economy”

  1. I like “fate points”. I would rather give the players the mechanism to make a re-roll than constantly put my finger on the scale in service to the narrative. I only allow re-rolls on failures, so they can’t re-roll a crit for instance.

    1. I think critical re-rolls are a different beast. To give the GM an option between the death avoiding fate point and the arbitrary fudging of dice rolls is worth considering and I can see the amusement in knowing that the GM is saving them all up to hit your with later.

  2. I’ve never been a fan of using fate points, fudging the dice, or putting my GM finger on the scale. I think it just encourages players to think they can do the same: they see the GM taking a lot of time to say whether the Evil Sorcerer failed his RR, and might start to think, ‘Fair is fair; if he’s fudging rolls, why can’t I?’

    So while I like the approach you’re taking here Peter — fudging in less life-or-death circumstances, and fudging that always evens out — I am still personally quite ideologically opposed to any fudging. I guess I’m a bit of a zealot that way. Part of the fun for us is knowing that anything can happen: your buddy can crack your spine when he’s trying to hold you back while you are possessed, your party member can drive the brow of your nose into your brain in a drunken sparring match, and a first level character can blow his own brain out trying to cast a spell that is too high level for him– all those things have happened in my campaigns, by the way!

    That is just my 2 cents of course– I never want to tell anyone how to play, so if people find fun in fate points or even the milder version you outline here, all power to them. We just won’t be using them at our table.

  3. I’ve never used fate points, but I’ve definitely fudged on some crit rolls – and it’s almost always a crit roll. I see fate points or fudging rolls this way as equivalent to grading on a curve. I never assume I build the perfect encounters, and I could easily over-power the party. In that case, fudging in favor of the party is an in-combat way to recalibrate the curve of their survival test.
    One could also argue that a system with more random ways to die is more in need of fate points or fudging. If the path to death for characters is very linear, then the DM and player can see what’s coming better. But when that one random failed maneuver can result in tripping, hitting your head and promptly dying – at the expense of the whole campaign – the pressure to ignore or change the outcome is much greater.

  4. I use Inspiration instead of fate points. These are rules that appear in Adventures in Middle Earth and in D & D5. Instead of loading / saving as if it were a videogame, as do the fate points, in this case only allows two rolls of attack, critical, maneuver or RR and stay with the highest. Inspiration must be spent before the first roll is made. Only 1 inspiration point can be accumulated.
    In my case, I also allow to spend the inspiration after making the first roll, but in this case the player will necessarily stay with what he takes out in the second one. I also allow sacrificing inspiration to help roll of a partner.
    What I do not allow is to use it to repeat any roll of an enemy, it only serves to inspire yourself or a partner.

      1. I’m not sure how Finwe does it, but in DnD 5e, the rules are this (IIRC):

        –You get inspiration points for good roleplaying (or for pretty much anything the DM wants to reward).
        –You can only ever have one.
        –You spend it to gain advantage on a roll (i.e. you get to roll twice and take the better result) or to give an opponent disadvantage on a roll against you (she rolls twice and takes worse result).
        –You have to announce you’re using inspiration before the die is rolled.

        I’ve actually used these when I play DnD, and I actually like them. It encourages roleplaying, but the crucial thing is that you have to announce you’re using it before you roll. In that sense, I’d actually be willing to try it out in Rolemaster.

        This link below includes both the original rules in the PHB and some discussion from players comparing inspiration to fate points:

        https://rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/41852/what-is-inspiration

        1. yes, You get inspiration points for good roleplaying (or for pretty much anything the DM wants to reward).

          In my case, I also allow to spend the inspiration after making the first roll, but in this case the player will necessarily stay with what he takes out in the second one. I also allow sacrificing inspiration to help roll of a partner.
          What I do not allow is to use it to repeat any roll of an enemy, it only serves to inspire yourself or a partner.

  5. About halfway through my RM career (about 20+ years now) a couple of the GMs and I looked into the Fate Point option and we adopted it. RM is a very deadly game, with so many possible ways to die and sometimes just that random lucky roll. With the amount of time it takes to make up a PC, particularly a spell caster player who has to sift through dozens of spell lists, we thought Fate Points were a good addition.

    I don’t like to fudge the rolls, and now with Fate points, I don’t have to. The roll is what it is. If it ends up in a death, then the player can tempt Fate and see if she’s smiling down on him. The FP can be spent on ANY roll to make a re-roll, or to achieve an instant success, or any other “thing” a player can think up.

    Re-roll a death crit is certainly the popular one, however I had one player who had to spend it on a supremely botched Locate Secret Opening roll. He fumbled and open-ended down twice. The result from RMC-II was somewhere along the lines that he couldn’t even attempt the skill in the same area (room) for a month. It was the final room, the final destination of a weeks-long campaign. They just killed the Red Skeleton. (Yes…. that one from C&T 😀 ) He had to use his Fate Point to locate the secret opening.

    Players get only 1 or 2 Fate points. Roll 1D4. 1-3 yields 1 FP. a Roll of 4 yields 2 FP. FP cannot be re-earned. Once they are spent, they are gone for good. It’s a 2nd chance at life that the PC never would or should have had, so you don’t get to keep tempting Fate. If FP can be re-earned and used repeatedly, then there is really no such thing as a death crit any longer. PCs are now video game characters who get to hit the reset button and just continue to play. There are many gods in RM, and Fate is one of them.

    Slight segue from this, I love the Hardcore mode in Diablo III. I have a blast playing in that mode now because it is so challenging and forces me to rethink my tactics and PC development. No Fate Points in that game though….

  6. I don’t use a Fate Point mechanism in my fantasy games. I DO, however, use one in my non-fantasy stuff. The reason’s simple: you have magic healing in fantasy. Non-fantasy games using RM rules become very lethal rather quickly, and using a Fate mechanism provides a bit of a safety net. There are restrictions on what they can use points for, and I borrowed the old Top Secret mechanism for awarding points so there’s a solid balance and never too many in play (for those of you who don’t know, TS has two sets – one that is rolled when the character is created and decreases as it’s used and the other that gains one point each time a character advances).

  7. I do need to qualify my earlier post. In our gaming world, the only magic that exists is that found in Elemental Companion. The only spell user professions are from that single book. To help balance the loss of the healing spell lists, we make medicinal herbs/potions more easily obtainable and the gods have lost a lot of influence in the world. (Think SMALL GODS by Terry Pratchett) Fate happens to be one of the gods who still has sway over the affairs of mortals. She does what she is able to keep her presence alive. Heck… that’s one way to look at it.

    I have been allowing my players to use Alchemy Companion now as well but none have chosen any professions from it yet. The game setting I run is very similar to the Renaissance Period. Science and knowledge have supplanted magic. Mentalism spells were merely hypnosis. Magical potions were merely herbs and poisons. What passes for science has explained away all of the mysticism of the Dark Ages. Heavenly miracles all have rational, scientific explanations, and so on.

    This weekend, I finally… and I mean FINALLY… 66’d a player on a crit! All the years of GMing, I’ve never 66’d a player. 66 E-Puncture, strike through both of foe’s lungs… Level 1 PC, dead. Even if there were a healer present, a level 1, even level 2 healer (the group is all level 1 players) couldn’t have saved him. His face dropped “… other than the death thing, no other negative effects from the crit?” I reminded him of the Fate Point he had, and he used it. Fate smiled upon him that day and he has a new lease on life, but he can no longer call upon Fate to help him.

  8. I’m drifting off topic, but given the way you described your campaign and Fate-the-goddess, it feels almost natural that characters would be able to earn another point through service to the goddess. How much service, and in what form, could depend on how they used their previous point.

    1. The players are only allowed the Fate Points they receive at creation. Fate smiles upon them and grants one or two points. That’s all. Once they are used, they are gone. It’s a mechanism that was adopted by our GMs due to the amount of time required to create a new PC, the level of deadliness of RM, and to give the new players a second chance as they are still learning the ins and outs of the system. I’ve said over and over and over to my players “hit points don’t kill you, crits do. Parry, parry, parry.”

      If “instant do-overs” are readily obtainable, then the PCs have just become invincible and they never learn and THAT (to me) takes away from the thrill of RM. That deadliness, the suspense, the “OMG, this is tricky, let me put a little more thought into this so I don’t die.” The players go in with no tactical considerations at all, full OB, no parry. If that’s the case, then what’s the point of playing? It takes away the thrill of the battle, the anticipation of the next roll. Dead? Fate Point, I’m alive. Keep playing. 66 E-Puncture crit? Nope. re-roll. I’m alive. Keep playing.

      Now that’s not to stop the PCs from trying to gain more Fate Points. I’ve had a player leave small tokens to the goddess in the hopes of gaining Fate Points. It makes for fun game play.

      1. Aargh. I can’t go back to edit my post.

        This is just a convention we use in our group. It’s no better, worse, sensible… than any other convention players use. It’s just what we do in our group to help the new players and to give the higher level players with a lot to lose, one last hope.

        The PC should have been dead, but we give them one last chance to live. There have been times where the re-roll was just as bad as the original and the PC died anyway. We like that there is turnover in the PCs and new characters are introduced. And it makes getting to the really high levels in RM more challenging and more “appreciated”, I guess is a good word. It certainly makes them more respected, in-game and in the real world when the players say “wow. You’re what level?”

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