Grab your plasma rifles, spell components, and jetpacks! Name your game; Fate Core is the foundation that can make it happen. Fate Core is a flexible system that can support whatever worlds you dream up. Have you always wanted to play a post-apocalyptic spaghetti western with tentacle monsters? Swords and sorcery in space? Wish there was a game based on your favorite series of books, film, or television, but it never happened? Fate Core is your answer.
Fate Core is a tabletop roleplaying game about proactive, capable people who lead dramatic lives. The type of drama they experience is up to you. But wherever they go, you can expect a fun storytelling experience full of twists…of fate.
An Extremely Popular, Narrative-Focused Generic System [ edit ]
FATE was first released in 2003, but was loosely based on FUDGE, a system from the 90's. It soon eclipsed FUDGE's popularity, and now ranks in the top 25 RPGs of all time on RPG Geek, making it the site's most popular generic RPG system.
If GURPS offers detailed and realistic (for an RPG at least) rules, and Savage Worlds offers a simpler and more cinematic alternative, FATE offers a really simple/cinematic alternative. The goal of FATE is to let players and GMs re-create stories similar to the one in movies, and as a result FATE characters are both more competent, and the system itself is designed to allow for all sorts of crazy/inventive actions that might be impossible in other games.
More than any of the other generic systems, FATE is a narrative or story-telling game. FATE players have more "distance" from their characters than in other games, as the whole table is essentially working to tell a communal story, rather than to win or lose at tactical challenges. As a result, it's not a system for everyone ... but for someone looking for a cinematic narrative RPG, it's an extremely strong choice.
Character Creation [ edit ]
Fate's character creation emphasizes it's unique narrative focus, and it involves the entire group in the process. To start each player decides on a "high concept", such as "Wizard Private Eye" or "Low-level Thug for the Syndicate". While this is sort of like a class in another system, it's entirely up the player: there's no list of concepts.
The player similarly selects a "trouble" for their character, which is the central complication in their life, such as "Anger Management Issues" or "Don Giovanni Wants Me Dead". After that they just pick a name, and then start their first "adventure" ... by writing down a few sentences describing it, on an index card (or shared Google Doc). They also gain another "Aspect" from the adventure , which is just like their concept/trouble (eg. if their life was saved by an NPC in their adventure, they might gain "Owes Life To That NPC").
Then the group rotates stories, and adds a complication involving their character to the adventure they inherited, again gaining an Aspect. Then they rotate (in the same direction) and repeat the process, so at the end everyone has a first adventure involving two others, and they have five Aspects.
Next each character chooses a "pyramid" of Skills (ie. one skill at the highest bonus of +4, two at +3, three at +2, and four at +1). While there is a fixed list of skills, groups are encouraged to modify it for their game.
Finally each character gets stunts, which are unique "tricks" the character has, similar to feats/advantages/edges in other systems. Although the rules provide some guidelines, again the players must define their own stunts. Characters can start with up to five, but players are encouraged to pick only one at creation and choose the rest later.
Mechanics [ edit ]
To accomplish things in Fate a player rolls a special set of four "Fate Dice", which have symbols indicating 1, 0, or -1. Regular d6s could easily be used instead as long as you don't mind doing quick mental math (1-2 = -1, 3-4 = 0, 5-6 = 1).
The potential outcomes for any roll can therefore range from -4 to 4, and a character adds their skill bonus to this roll as well. If they can make a connection from the action to one of their Aspects they can either add +2, or get an opportunity to re-roll. The result has to beat their opponent's roll, or (if there is no opponent) a number chosen by the GM based on the action's difficulty.
If they win by two or more the action succeeds in style, giving the character an added bonus. If they tie, the action still succeeds, but at a minor cost. If they lose, the player can still opt to have the action succeed, but in the process they incur some kind of major cost.
Should You Pick Fate? [ edit ]
With it's heavy focus on narration and simplicity, and without many RPG staples like complex dice, number-filled character sheets, detailed combat tactics ... or even rules for maps and miniatures, Fate is certainly an untraditional RPG. If what you're looking for is "non-fantasy Dungeons and Dragons", Fate probably won't be your best option.
But if you love the idea of an RPG that starts characters "adventuring together" through shared story telling (before they've ever left character creation), an RPG with character sheets and rolls, but a heavier focus on narration... or if you're just curious to see the most popular generic system on RPG Geek, Fate is definitely worth checking out.
And here's the best part: while Fate is available as a paid/published rule book, you can also find a 100% free copy of the rules online, because the game's creator released them under a Creative Commons License at https://fate-srd.com/fate-core. And really, that's one more reason to try Fate: if you like it and decide to buy something, you'll be supporting a great author who was brave enough "open source" their work.