Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Self-Compels in Fate

After finishing running the third session of our swords & sorcery Fate Accelerated campaign Serpents Fall last night using Google+ hangouts (video link here) I was having a little feedback chat with the players, which is something I like to do (if possible) at the end of every session (and I encourage my players to message me if they think of additional feedback or constructive criticism) since I believe that only by soliciting feedback from your players and others can your game grow and be fine-tuned into the optimum gaming experience for both GM and players. It occurred to me during this chat that there was one aspect of Fate Accelerated that the players hadn't used a great deal during our three sessions thus far, and that was the use of Self-compels.

What are Self-compels?

For those who are not aware the following is what Fate Accelerated has to say about Compels:

If you’re in a situation where having or being around a certain aspect means your character’s life is more dramatic or complicated, anyone can compel the aspect. You can even compel it on yourself—that’s called a self-compel.

Basically, if one of your Aspects affects your characters decision making/results in an event occurring that make your character's life more complicated then the person who has suggested the complication (the Compel) offers you a fate point for accepting the additional RP arising from the complications.

If a players makes a suggestion for a complication arising from their own Aspects and the GM agrees then, although not explicitly stated in the Fate Accelerated rulebook, I have always assumed that the GM would be the one to award them with a fate point (since giving yourself a fate point out of your own pool makes no sense); this is something I have been using a great deal already in the first session of a Dresden Files RPG game run by a friend of mine (using a pre-cursor to the Fate Core system).

For example: In the DFRPG session I play a person who has been infected by a red-court vampire but has not killed by blood drinking yet and so he has not fully turned, he has the ability to call on some vampiric powers at the risk of his hunger overwhelming him. My character "Lucky" is an ex-gangster on the run from his family (most of which have now been converted into vampires), he began the game standing on the docks waiting for a boat laden with drugs to come in.


Since one of the other players was playing a law enforcement officer I compelled one of my own Aspects to say that, because i'd been keeping my head down, there's things out there my character had been forced not to use the normal channels to recruit his hirelings and had ended up with sub-par criminals, one of whom had (unknowingly) tipped off the police and they were about to turn up and bust the operation. This gained me a fate point and bought me into proximity of another player character; Lucky was able to hide himself in the shadows as the police detained and bought in the boat, at this point I made another Self-compel to say that because my character would not stand to see innocent's suffer that perhaps as the police boat bumped into the dock one of the policemen would fall overboard and bang his head.


The GM accepted this Self-compel and my character was forced to reveal himself, diving into the water to save the unconscious policeman (after all the guy was just doing his job). This small scene got me two fate points and was made far more personal (IMO) due to my use of Self-compels.

However, I have noticed (and mentioned to my players in our feedback session) that Self-compels aren't particularly used a lot in our Serpents Fall game; now this may be because it is only our third session and some of the players are still very much getting used to the rules, but Self-compels are one of the great things about Fate Core and Fate Accelerated as far as I am concerned so I plan to think about ways to encourage my players to consider Self-compels.

Why are Self-compels so great?

Well for a number of reasons, but personally, I enjoy them because they give a degree of narrative control over to the players; rather than just having the GM hand you down the details of a scene, if you have suggested it as a Compel then you gain the ability to negotiate the details of the complicating scene or decision with the GM, it also personalises whatever occurs and you know that it is plot based specifically around your character

Self-compels also let your GM know what sort of stories and complications you're looking for when it comes to your character, and most GMs are more than happy to oblige by providing additional scenes tailored to your character since they want everyone to enjoy the game, they are also useful for moving a session along when perhaps the pre-planned plot has stalled or you've reached a natural pause.

Plus it also gains you a fate point allowing your character to really shine when it counts :)