Editorial: FATE and its Branches

d6ideas dice3As you probably have noticed already is d6ideas no one man show or for that matter a one uniform group. Quite the contrary and we are happy about it. Our productive work environment is largely made out of this internal dialogue between Players not only from different game lines but of different playing styles as well.
I for one am a big fan of FATE and this is what I am going to write about today.
FATE is published under OGL and thus open for everyone and everybody to tinker with for their own games and rounds. And this is done quite often and sometimes it even inspires additional modifications based on these already changed versions.
FATE is thus already (and with every new game more) less and less a single system but more of a family of those, quite like D20 has a bunch of versions. A lot of thought have gone into these version. Only fair and consistent to look at these a bit more thoroughly. After all you can learn a few things about the core system if you learn about its deviations.
Still there is no reason to reinvent the wheel, is there? Fred Hicks himself wrote a while back a family tree of FATE. For the German version of this editorial I had to translate this text and while this is not necessary here, I made a few comments inside the German version. As I want to include them here, too, a simple link to the original article “Fate and Its Branches” won’t be enough.
My changes are [within brackets] to not put words in Fred mouth.

Fate and Its Branches
As is the nature of any open system, Fate has grown a number of branches over the years. Honestly, not even I have managed to keep track of them all. I’d like to change that, at least a little, and make sure we catalog them reasonably well here at the site.
I’m starting with this post, which is an off the top of my head accounting of the Fate variants I’m aware of. I am going to omit at least one, I’m sure, and my advance apologies for that.

Core Fate (also called Fate 3) – This is the name I use for the main trunk of Fate, the version(s) produced by Evil Hat. While this doesn’t mean that Core Fate is standing still — our own understanding and expression of it evolves over time — it is what we’ll be presenting on this site, and using at the core of any Fate products we produce. Inasmuch as there is an “official” Fate, this is it. Implementations: Spirit of the Century, the Dresden Files RPG.

VSCA Fate – This is Fate as extended by the VSCA crew to create Diaspora. VSCA Fate lives pretty close to Core Fate, though it adds a number of modules (various modes of conflict resolution for different kinds of conflicts) and some concepts (aspect scopes, etc) that I personally quite enjoy. It’s possible that we’ll borrow some of those concepts and bring them back to Core Fate, but I still think there’ll be enough distinctiveness in VSCA’s work to consider it as a slightly separate thing. Implementations: Diaspora.

Cubicle 7 Fate – Cubicle 7‘s Fate implementation started from an almost complete absorption of the Spirit of the Century SRD [or here] when they put together Starblazer Adventures. There, they also adapted into Fate 3 some concepts that Evil Hat had been talking about during the Fate 2 years, manifesting as the organizations system and the idea of plot stress. Their focus is more on d6-d6 as the dice method, and they’ve added a number of fiddly bits in the implementation of stunt and powers that resembles some of what Evil Hat has done, while being its own thing. C7 Fate and Core Fate can probably cross-pollenate mostly successfully, though as each implementation grows over time I suspect the two flavors will become more distinct. They each certainly come from a different aesthetic, I think, in terms of their design approaches, though at the moment that’s a little hard to quantify. [ I think up to now the style of the Cubicle 7 versions have been received well enough. Most of their products resemble Genre toolkits for Fate] Implementations: Starblazer Adventures, Legends of Anglerre.

Awesome Fate – Awesome Adventures is Willow Palacek’s effort to pare back Fate to a very lightweight engine, cutting away whole pieces of it, even stuff you might consider essential to the Fate chassis. This is definitely its own beast, but probably a good fit for folks who want to play Fate, but use a version that lives somewhere between Risus and PDQ in terms of simplicity. I’m pleased to see (by looking at the link) that since its original publication it has gotten some improved production values (one of the primary strikes against it when it initially showed up). Implementations: Awesome Adventures.

Strands of Fate – Strands of Fate is an implementation of Fate created by Void Star publishing. Where Awesome Adventures is an effort to pare Fate down to a leaner thing, Strands goes in the other direction, looking to create a “generic” build of the system that speaks to a more traditionally-minded perspective on RPGs. I’ve heard people quip that it’s “Fate+GURPS”, which is a solid enough description if you’re talking at the level mash-up hollywood movie-pitch dialect, but may sell this thing a bit short. I’ve also heard people express confusion about whether or not Strands is “the” Fate 3.0 book they need, and no, it’s not. I’ve talked with the guy who wrote Strands, and we both agree that it is its own branch, distinct and separate, a deliberate effort to take Fate’s concepts and make them more palatable to folks who find Spirit of the Century to be too “out there”. Implementations: Strands of Fate.
[Strange Fate- Strange Fate is known for its first game Kerberos Club. It implements a few one of a kind changes like Power Tiers to make Characters of a completely different level of competence comparable without going into high numbers or the Unique Skills, which are basically a Skill Making toolkit. All in all Strange Fate is a good choice for groups with a super hero focus and which are not satisfied with the Core.] Implementations: The Kerberos Club.

Fate Inspired (a.k.a., Not Fate At All) – I’ve seen people characterize […] Houses of the Blooded[, Death of Vele] and ICONS as Fate games. They are both certainly, explicitly Fate-inspired, though, borrowing several concepts from Fate and attaching them to their own original systems. This is fantastic (and you should grab yourself copies of both), but I think it really muddies the waters considerably when folks talk about them as Fate implementations. They are not. EDIT: The excellent Chronica Feudalis belongs in this camp as well.

That’s what I’ve got so far, but I’m very sure I’m missing a few (particularly ones that aren’t for sale). So help me out — what’d I miss? And what more should be said about the above?
Additions from the commenters

One of the things that’s interesting as we’ve been getting comments here and elsewhere is the question of whether some of the missing pieces are “merely” homebrews or are bona fide branches in their own right. In this getting-edited-as-comments-are-made section, I’m choosing not to make a distinction between those two things. That said, in my mind, something grows from a “leaf” into a branch through adoption by players and publishers.

  • Free Fate – The name given by R. Grant Erswell to his condensed combination of the Spirit of the Century and Starblazer Adventures rulesets. Downloadable in PDF form.
  • Fate Basics – This is a pamphlet-sized download going over the basics of Fate as told by Michael Moceri and laid out by Brad Murray of VSCA. Worth a look.
  • Tom’s Spirits – Tom Miskey writes: “Well, there is my own Spirits of Steam and Sorcery and Spirits of Chrome and Cyberspace, both of which are free online (at the FATE yahoo site and through google docs: here and here). They are 100% compatible with each other, and both are based on the SotC rules but with a few changes and several major modifications, including rules for non-human races, weapons and armor affecting damage, and most importantly, a full magic system. Cubicle 7 liked what they saw, so they hired me to help write the Legends of Anglerre magic system and races, in large part adapting the rules in SoS&S. They ended up changing what I had written somewhat for the final draft, but you can still see the seed of where they came from fairly clearly.”
  • Wheel of Fate – This is a Fate-inspired homebrew mash-up from Rob Donoghue (at least as I see it — he may correct me) that I believe can be found in the files area of the FateRPG Yahoo Group.
  • […]
  • [Bulldogs! – This is more or less Core Fate even if it isn’t made by Evil Hat Spirit of the Century 2.0 in Space if you want so.
    Agents of S.W.I.N.G.– It may not be made by Cubicle 7 but like Bulldogs! belongs to the Core this belongs to their Games, even if it is not so alike to a Genre Toolkit as theirs.]

End of quote.

Of course Fate isn’t the only game and like I said everybody here likes different things. We are a mixed bunch of writers after all and as such our articles are a good mix as well.
English articles:
On Monday, we are proud to present Tadeusz Cantwell’s excellent play aid sheet for Blue Planet.
On Friday, you’ll see the next installment of my Miranbrück series for a German Changeling the Lost Setting – the English version in this case.

German articles:
The German original of the Miranbrück article is due on Friday.

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