I’ve been running a Dresden Files game for the Tuesday night Google+ group. It’s been going… okay. Fate, I’m realizing, is not my strongest game. It’s not bad, by any means, and lots of people have a great time with it.
I’ve come to really like certain things out of an RPG, and there aren’t many that deliver on my particular tastes. I like struggle. I like conflict. I like difficult choices. Drama. Fate does all those things pretty well. I like games that offer players a solid direction on where the fiction is headed. This is where things sort of fall down for me.
We had this situation where I (being the big asshole of a GM that I am. Mwahaha and all that) put the group in a shitty situation. There’s a private mom-and-pop orphanage (more like a specialized foster home, really), full of half-demon kids. Think of Changelings from the DF canon, but instead of consciously making The Choice, these kids go full-infernal when they express their basest instincts, right? So, a half-demon that’s all built on rage and violence might start reaching for that extra power in a fight, then pretty soon, rage and violence starts looking like a good solution to most problems and yada-yada-yada you wind up with a super-nasty demon. Probably. Anyway.
So, there’s a group of religious zealots who’ve killed one of these kids already, probably going to go after more. Oh, and one of the player-characters is a Warden, and this whole mess has been going on under the White Council’s nose. And to top it off, the demon-daddy of the kids shows up and asks the group to help him fulfill the contracts he has with the parents of these orphans (all nice and signed and legal, according to the Unseelie Accords). Yeah. I totally gave everyone the shit-end of the moral stick here, as best I could. It was a moment of pride for me.
In any case, the predictable debate broke out, right? Players arguing about what to do. Everyone looking at their Aspects, pointing to reasons why they should do one thing or the other. As a GM, my instinct was to give them a couple of minutes to yell at each other, then push for someone to grab for some dice. But I didn’t. Because nothing, mechanically, seemed right.
Sure, Fate’s got a social conflict mechanic, but it isn’t really well geared for dealing with a conflict between player characters (which, really, is almost always a conflict between players, anyway). It’s cumbersome against NPCs, and it seemed awkward to trot it out for this. I could have compelled an Aspect as a GM, but I felt like that would have been pushing things in the direction that I wanted, rather than letting the rest of the players get on the same page. Or, players could have started an Aspect-tagging bidding war, trying to bribe everyone else to go their way. That probably would have been the best thing, but it didn’t happen.
What did happen was that all the characters went off on their own, and this left me pretty frustrated with Fate. Maybe I’ve just been spoiled by how well Burning Wheel’s Duel of Wits mechanics deal with this exact sort of player conflict, but I was really unsatisfied with how that turned out. I should have known better, I guess. The last time I ran DFRPG, the entire campaign self-destructed when I put a different set of players into just this sort of conundrum. Maybe Fate just doesn’t handle that kind of no-good-answer scenario. Maybe I’m just shitty at running Fate. I’m not sure. Whatever it is, it fell flat, and I’m not exactly sure how I’m going to handle it.