Auto Compelling Dice

I’ve been thinking a lot about things you can do when you change the assumptions of the Fate Point economy, and I hit upon a curious trick, one which is very simple as a rule, but very deep in its implications. The rule is this:

  • If the player rolls a -3 or -4, they gain a Fate Point.

Simple, yes? But lets unpack the implications a bit.

First, there is no requirement that the low result stand. If the player wants to spend a fate point for a reroll or a bonus to offset the roll, then they can, and the first such point gets rebated. But the only way that they get to keep the free fate point is to let the roll stand. That is to say, the player is accepting a bad outcome in return for currency. Or, put another way:

The dice are offering a compel, which the player may accept ot not.

Once you think about it like a compel, it all kind of clicks into place – the bad die result is no longer an outcome, rather it’s a trigger for a twist, a complication or something else appropriate to a compel. It’s an invitation for trouble. Which, in turn, means the effective dice curve of results is now -2 to +4, which is satisfying on a few levels.

It is so satisfying, in fact, that I’d actually be inclined to expand this to -2, -3 and -4 results. That would means dice compels come up more frequently, and the remaining dice results are very respectful of character capability.

What’s also interesting is that there is no particular interaction with aspects in this. Originally, this idea struck me as I was pondering replacements for the current fate point economy. In the absence of GM-driven compels, this could be the sole source of Fate Points for players, which might satisfy players who don’t like that kind of GM authorship. Or it could be used in a game that doesn’t use aspects at all to still allow for a bit of organic pacing.

What intrigues me most about this approach is that it could be used as a step to decouple fate points from aspects. As to why someone might want to do that…well, that’s probably its own blog post.

11 thoughts on “Auto Compelling Dice

  1. Colin Morris

    Ah, now this is a dose of brilliance. I’ve always had problems keeping the FATE point economy going. This seems to tackle with that nicely and narratively. Will have to try this with the group.

  2. Igor

    Interessante você comentar sobre essa nova mecânica de economia de Pontos de Destino. Isso veio em um bom momento e pode me ajudar com uma regra alternativa para Invocar e Compelir Aspectos sem gastar ou receber Pontos de Destino, recebendo o direito de lançar 1DF para cada Aspecto Invocado ou Compelido, além dos 4DF padrões. Pensei mas ainda não testei, que ao Invocar um Aspecto jogasse 1DF mantendo apenas os [+] e que ao Invocar para receber +1DF não será possível Invocar esse mesmo Aspecto usando Pontos de Destino para jogar novamente. Para Compelir um Aspecto jogasse 1DF mantendo apenas os [-] e com isso toda vez que em uma situação a Fraqueza do personagem puder interferir ele joga 1DF e também para cada Consequência recebida rola 1DF e mantendo apenas os [-]. É só algo que pensei levando em consideração essa sugestão alternativa de economia de Pontos de Destino. Gostei da sua ideia, vou fazer testes com ela!!!

  3. Kevin Matheny

    I like this a lot, and will definitely use it next time I run a Fate game. What do you think of giving 2 Fate Points on a -4? That would give a strong incentive for the player to take the bad result, and also give them even more tools to recover from the bad situation that the roll put them in. I’m thinking you may have already considered this and discarded the idea, but you usually unpack your thinking and assumptions, so it’s possible that you did not.

    1. Rob Donoghue Post author

      I’m chewing on exactly that – having the reward scale to the roll makes sense (especially if the severity of the complication scales with the roll), so it’s an add on I will absolutely try. Just didn’t mention it in this for purposes of simplicity.

  4. Blue

    From a player psychology perspective, I like this a lot. Just like compels against aspects, this is another facet of decoupling “character success is the only player success” that is the only mechanical reinforcement technique. Here a poor roll, while unfortunate for the character (and therefore hopefully leading to good drama / down beats) is offset with currency to allow either a stunning comeback later, or help on something the player cares about more.

    I do have a concern, which is the type of player who would “force” non-critical rolls in order to have a chance to collect more Fate Points. That requires a GM who isn’t watchful for that sort of behavior, gating it to “important rolls” (for the GMs that don’t already restrict rolls to the important) would nip that.

  5. Roger Eberhart

    The Demon Hunters RPG by Cam Banks has a very similar mechanic to this. In that game you use an Approach die (like FAE) plus a Discipline die (kind of like Modes in Atomic Robo). If either die comes up a 1, you get a Faith die (like a Fate Point).

    1. Roger Eberhart

      Actually….looking back at Demon Hunters, it’s a little more nuanced than that. They can choose to take a Faith die, but that also gives the GM a Demon die (kind of a cross between DM fate points and Doom dice in 2D20 Conan).

      1. Rob Donoghue Post author

        So, the lineage of that is pretty fun. The “currency on 1s” can actually be traced back to Dogs in the Vineyard in a strange way. Leverage added something very aspect-y in that it had freeform descriptors which could be added as a d8 or as a d4 and a point, effectively serving as a self-compel.

  6. Yves Pares

    > Or it could be used in a game that doesn’t use aspects at all to still allow for a bit of organic pacing.

    But what would you spend FPs on if you no longer use aspects? How would invokes work? You could just always pay an FP to gain a +2/a reroll?

    1. Rob Donoghue Post author

      That’s the likeliest possibility – just making them generic bonuses. I figure there are a ton of games out there that have similar currency, so I was mostly thinking about plugging it into one of those.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *