Today, I found myself listening to HJRP season 15, episode 2… the second Angry GM episode. Towards the end of the episode, Angry stated that Fate was not an RPG.
Normally when I hear such a statement my face curls up in scorn and derision. I think, “of course it is an RPG, duh!” I want to shout out, “you create and play a character in Fate, thus, duh, role playing game!” I normally don’t shout out – unless it’s on an episode of the show – because I’m getting very tired of arguing RPG semantics on forums in my old age. But regardless, I normally do not agree with the thought that Fate is not an RPG
But then Angry was given the opportunity to explain why he thought such, and it boiled down to this one concept: whenever you make decisions for your character that are not decisions the character would want to make, you are not playing that character. He then brought up a Harry Dresden aspect which I don’t exactly remember – but it was something along the lines of how shit just goes explodey flamey bad around him – and how if you asked Mr. Dresden, that’s NOT what he would want to happen. But Fate encourages – even incentivizes – the player to choose for shit to go explodey flamey bad.
This line of thinking then lead me to JiB’s oft-quoted line, “sometimes we make choices for character reasons, sometimes we make choices for player reasons, and sometimes we make choices because we’re playing an effing game.” Which I wholeheartedly agree with and endorse. However! holds up index finger for impact JiB’s statement does not invalidate Angry’s statement. In fact, I think they integrate quite nicely. When we make decisions for player reasons or because we’re playing a game – if those decisions run contrary to what the character would want – we are not role-playing our character.
One could say, then, that in almost every other non-d20 RPG – every game with disadvantages or hindrances or flaws – we spend a lot of time not role-playing our characters because we often make “story” decisions based on those disadvantages, hindrances, or flaws. I can now say… yup, that’s right; we spend a lot of time not role-playing in our role-playing games. No one wants to freak out because they have a phobia of spiders, or cause buildings to explode and harm innocents because they can’t control their magic, but we as players make those decisions for our characters all the time. While doing so might be great for the story, it’s not role-playing the character.
So where do we draw the line? Is Fate an RPG? What about GURPS? Or Fudge? Or any other game where we as players make choices our characters wouldn’t want to make? Well, all of those games – even Fate – do feature role-playing. And they are games. Thus, ultimately, I would say that they are, in fact, role-playing games.
But I do now consider Fate to be a game with role-playing, rather than a role-playing game. Which may or may not be an important distinction. Important or not, I have The Angry GM to thank for it.