Thursday, February 24, 2011

Marrying D&D 4e with FATE

In a conversation I had yesterday with @digitaldraco on Twitter, I brought up the legal question of whether or not you could unite the FATE system, which has an OGL with the D&D 4e system used under the GSL.  I'll get into the reasons for this in a second or two, but apparently it would seem there is some legal precedent for this.  Although I haven't played the Dresden Files RPG, I have heard a LOT of talk about it around the web; I am informed that the game uses the GSL for D&D right alongside the GSL for FATE.  It seems to me then that there is some precedent for using the open game license for FATE with 4e.  Cool.  Question pretty much answered (if this is wrong let me know).

The reason for this madness of mine is this:  I really love the tactical, miniatures based combat that D&D 4e provides, but I definitely see the problems it has for roleplaying.  I love me some 4e, but the groups that I have had play it usually ignore more roleplay opportunities in favor of hitting monsters with pointed sticks or blunt objects (or both).  I wouldn't say that the system used for D&D 4e discourages roleplaying; I just don't think that it goes out of its way to encourage it.

On the other hand, FATE is driven by roleplaying.  The narative power of Aspects is pretty amazing.  I feel like there is a lot of power behind that system which drives players to roleplay well.  Using FATE points to activate or compel a character's or even a creatures Aspect is an amazing game mechanic. 

I see no reason why these two system should not, or could not be wed into a blissful union that combines the best of both worlds. 

The power creep in 4e is pretty immense.  When you think about the fact that Fortune Cards recently hit the FLGS shelves, you can imagine that your characters will be getting a few new bonuses to their rolls which up until now they weren't getting.  What would happen if instead of giving these +X bonuses to your players based on some random card that they pull out of a deck, you gave them based on activating a character Aspect and thus encouraging roleplaying even during encounters? The answer: nothing bad. 

Aspects in FATE have a nasty double sided nature - they provide your character with a potential strength, but they also give the GM a pretty little weakness that he or she can exploit.  Giving Aspects to characters is a great way to change up the story and perhaps lead to some very, very interesting results. 

I can't say whether or not I really dislike the other elements of the FATE system because in all honesty, I have not really gotten to see stuff like Stunts and Skills in practice during a game.  My experience with FATE is limited to what I have read, or typed in PbP games.  I don't necessarily think the system is lacking in that respect; I just think 4e does it so exceptionally well that I wouldn't really want to move to a different system just to play other tactical fantasy combat.  My jumping ship to a different system is usually spurned by wanting to try something different, not try the same thing in a different way. 

My idea for combining these two would be to allow every character to start the game with 10 points to buy Aspects.  For every Aspect they pick up, they lose 1 point.  You start the game with whatever FATE points are left over and whenever you take an extended rest, you refresh X number of FATE points.  You can then invoke or compel Aspects whenever you want - you can use them to get a +2 to a single d20 roll (skill, save or attack) or gain a +2 bonus to AC (no rerolls allowed because of the difference in die size in the d20 system).  If you like that little houserule, why don't you give it a try and tell me how it works out.  I would love to know.  TTYL


  1. Seriously dude, sign up to the Collective Endeavour forums. It's all about making your own games, new systems and feedback on these. You would enjoy it lots.

    - Shaheen

  2. There has recently been a series of articles on FATE and Aspects and applying them to D&D 4E over at Check it out.