Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Getting dead

In the last Heroes By Trade session The Poet died.  We were battling a terrible demon that tried to defend itself by turning into a giant dark cloud but which was forced to fight us straight up because we blew up the roof and let the sun destroy the cloud of darkness.  You know the session went well when the party dropped the roof of a temple on the enemy!  Unfortunately for us the demon, when forced into physical form, was very nasty indeed and the clumps of shadow surrounded The Poet and bashed him into submission.  I tried some desperate maneuvers to save him but there was no getting around it in the end.

Here is the trick though: The Poet died with three Fate Points in reserve.  Fate Points are powerful 'get out of jail free' cards that let you do amazing things either in or out of combat.  They can be used simply to remove a Condition, gain some HP, turn a Miss into a Hit, or recharge a Power instantly.  The three Fate Points sitting there could, nay should, have been used to do something, anything, to desperately get out of that situation.  We hassled The Poet about getting dead without trying something crazy to survive, as one must, but it did make me think a lot about how Fate Points are working and whether my implementation is right.

Fate Points can be used to break the rules in very interesting ways that aren't predictable.  In the previous encounter I used one to augment my Intimidate check when some local people tried to join in against us in an ongoing battle.  The people in question were just ordinary folks and had been bamboozled into following the demons we were battling.  I ran up to them, screamed at them to leave, and used a Fate Point to make my Intimidate extra terrifying.  As I am already very good at Intimidate they all dropped their weapons and fled.  Much better than simply butchering them, I think, and worthy of a Fate Point.  In the fateful battle Naked Man used one to leap on his Gryphon and join the ongoing battle instantly instead of waiting a turn to make it happen.  Again, flying into battle with a desperate acrobatic maneuver is a fantastic use of a Fate Point.  Both of these are far more interesting than a simple "I gain some HP!" or "I hit!"

The trick is that some but not all people come up with all kinds of odd ways to use Fate Points in the middle of challenging situations.  I want to encourage that!  I like the idea of chandelier swings, marvellous coincidences, and other heroics and I think Fate Points are a good way to let people do that sort of thing.  However, some people clearly struggle to figure out when they can do something crazy and wonderful and aren't sure when to spend their Fate Points.  I have the basic and kinda boring things listed so that people who don't have that flair for the dramatic to get some use out of their Fate Points.

What I am wondering is if I should really force the issue.  If I write up Fate Points and say that what they do is let you break the rules but refuse to provide a numerical benchmark then people are going to have to sort something out.  Either that or just watch their Fate Points vanish into thin air since you can have at most three of them stored up.  Perhaps by providing the option to simply gain HP or land a successful Hit I am providing a crutch for people to not push themselves to do the awesome stuff that makes for long lasting memories.

In the case of The Poet I am not sure this would work.  He isn't much for dramatic gestures and tends to hoard his resources so I suspect no matter what the system is he will end up with his Fate Points maxed and still not spend them.  However, it seems to me that I might well do better with some other people.  Make it clear that Fate Points are for cool stuff and aren't about just hitting more and see if that incentive gets them thinking outside the box.

At least getting dead let us try one hilarious thing:  The Reincarnate Ritual!  Sadly for The Poet a six was rolled so instead of returning in a new but somewhat similar body he turned into a bear that got very grumpy at the party and ran off.  The mercenaries we hired that got blowed up fared somewhat better and four of the six of them ended up back alive as people - though a couple of them weren't the same species as before!  I am not sure that they will continue to follow us, and certainly the turtle will just have to make its own way in the world now.  The cat that remembers being a person is apparently going to come with us, at least until a fireball takes him out for good.

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