Eager to check out a game of Fate Core, I attended two days of Kingdom Con. I’m still planning my Fate Accelerated podcast, but if I dive right into a rule set, I know I’ll make assumptions that will become bad habits. So I was looking to play with an experienced GM, but this wasn’t baseline Fate Core. It was Fate Freeport, incorporating elements from D&D; stats instead of skills and a simplified version of its magic system. But it was the only game in town.

I had Thursday off too, so I figured I’d also check out a game of D&D 5th Edition, having only played a little 4th and a lot of 3rd. Both games designed to simulate fantasy literature.

D&D started out the usual way; a cluster of mercenary 1st level characters with no particular connection to each other. I grabbed a human fighter out of the pre-gens. We might have been in the Forgotten Realms, but it could have been anywhere. Fate used Spelljammer for its setting. D&D in space on flying sea-craft. The pre-gens were the command staff of the ship, and one stowaway. I was invested right away. As the ship’s captain I knew who the engineer, bosun, and stowaway were and how we related to each other. In D&D, I struggled to remember which guy was the cleric. Fate encourages players to create the PCs relationships while they’re creating the PCs, rather than the default group of murder hobos.

D&D took place in an urban setting, but it wasn’t long before we were in an underground tunnel, lined with traps, which lead to a room of monsters. The Fate adventure was a spacefaring journey. Sailing through the ether, we crossed an elvish ship, destroyed and adrift. The few surviving crew driven mad, babbling about a blue asteroid. Reluctantly, we tracked the asteroid and found a mixed fleet of ships docked inside. Each captained by a Beholder who’d enslaved the crew with their minds.

A starting Fate character is more capable. My 1st level fighter could shoot arrows. That’s about it. Oh, and he could heal himself once, which did come in handy. In Fate, my ship’s captain carried two pistols. She could unload both at the target at once, and could Create a Strategy creating a pool of bonuses for the crew. When we boarded an enemy ship, I ordered “sneak up on them.” The bonuses supported our sneak attack.

I enjoyed Fate far more than D&D. Both characters were pre-gens, but I was far more invested in the captain than the human fighter. Part of that was the dynamic of the group, but the system had a lot to do with it. In Fate, you contribute to the story and rarely have to consult the rules. This is what I want out of a game, but I know some people crunch numbers and regurgitate rules for fun. In D&D, the guy playing the bard told me every way he was going to min-max his character all the way up to 7th level. Both systems supposed to simulate fantasy fiction. Fate’s design supports that inspiration. While the books and books of rules in D&D became else.

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