FATE Point Bidding Wars Suck
In my Thursday night Skype game, I’m participating in a campaign of the Dresden Files RPG. I really want to love this system (I’m a big fan of the source material, and playing SOTC was what got me actually playing games instead of just reading them a year and half ago, and was the basis for forming my Thursday night Skype group), but I’ve got a few issues with FATE that make loving it difficult. One of them came up in the last session, and I think it’s fundamental to the system: FATE point bidding wars suck.
After you roll the dice on a skill check in FATE, you can invoke aspects to give yourself a +2 bonus to the roll by invoking an aspect (i.e. you spend a Fate point and indicate why a particular aspect is relevant to the particular action you are undertaking). When you make an opposed roll against an NPC, and the NPC has his own Fate points, the GM can do the same thing for his side of the roll. So here’s the situation: you roll the dice and fail, but care enough about the result that you want to succeed, so you spend a Fate point and invoke your most relevant aspect. Then the GM spends a Fate point on one of the NPC’s aspects and you’re now losing the roll again. You can either suck up that failure, feeling like you wasted a Fate point, or your can spend another point on another aspect, probably one that isn’t as on-point as the first one (otherwise you would have invoked it first), and now you’re winning again. And then the GM spends another Fate point, so now you’re two Fate points down and have to eat the failure, or you can spend another one… Which you do, but now you’re probably getting into “that’s a stretch” territory with your aspects. This scenario combines the negative feelings that come from resource-loss-avoidance with the negative feelings that come from weak ties between the mechanics and the fiction. That’s a really lame and fun-sucking place to be. Intellectually, I suppose that draining off an opponent’s Fate points is a valuable mechanical thing to achieve, but it doesn’t have a strong emotional payoff so I always find this scenario to be an anti-fun element of FATE.