Department Nine

A roleplaying game about Destiny, by Nick Wedig1 Game Chef Feedback Group Tau This game makes use of Sacred, Thread and Inconsistency. You work for the Fates, manipulating your destinies to make sure everything goes according to The Plan. But you broke the cardinal rule of FATE’s employees, and looked into your own future. Worse, you didn’t like what you saw there. Now, you’re trying to change your own destiny, with your former colleagues working to stop you. This game works best with a small group of players, some poker chips and a writing surface where all game information is visible to everyone playing. In particular, three or four players is ideal, and five players is straining the system. A group of six or more should split into two or more groups.


This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, 543 Howard Street, 5th Floor, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA. Please let me know if you’re doing anything really cool with my game by emailing

1.1 Welcome to Department Nine and Preliminary Briefing
Congratulations on being hired to work for FATE‘s subdivision, Department Nine. As you by now know, Fate is responsible for the management and control of the destinies of every major lifeform on Earth, and has liaisons with [REDACTED]XXXXXXXXX. Many new applicants have substantial questions concerning the nature of FATE and why the division exists. These questions will be answered in the “Questions From New Recruits” section (see page XX).

1.2 History of FATE
[REDACTED], god of [REDACTED]. After this unfortunate tragedy, the gods of Olympus and associated anthropomorphic personifications deemed it best to operate clandestinely thereafter. Thus the Greek pantheon removed itself from Mount Olympus to an undisclosed location. In order to operate covertly, and to deal with the growing number of humans with relatively trivial destinies, the three Fates created a cult of holy priests, who were granted the secrets of destiny itself. Their role was to oversee mundane lives in the goddess’s stead and to untangle snarls in the web of destiny. This team has since grown into FATE, which we assure you is now a strictly nondenominational organization. As the agency has grown in size, so too have the regulations that agents must follow. So please read your agent’s manual very carefully, and remember: these are people’s lives you are dealing with.

FATE was founded centuries ago, after a mortal hero slew

1.3 Divisions of FATE
The FATE agency is divided into three sub units, each of which is headed by one of the Moirae, the goddesses who control destiny. These divisions are:

Our own Department Nine, managed by Clotho. Department Nine is in charge of Beginnings: we put every piece of a person’s life in place so their destiny can play out according to The Plan. A secondary role of the department is managing the past: sometimes past events need to be hidden to hide the activity of the gods2 or the relation between current events and the past needs modified. These modifications need to be careful, though to avoid “Snarls”, which are Inconsistencies in the C/E Thread. Agents violating C/E is strictly prohibited. Department Ten, controlled by Lachesis, monitors and regulates events as they progress. They observe critical events in history or a person’s life to make sure everything is on track for the appropriate destiny. Therefore, they are typically the first department to notice any potential Snarls in the C/E thread, which are then reported to premonitors in the Division of Predetermination (q.v.) for verification. If the Snarl is a verified Inconsistency, then a task force composed of agents from one or more departments is assembled to rectify the situation. The Division of Predetermination, is under Atropos’s command. Atropos’s section deals with endings, destinies and deaths. High rankings Fate Assignment Agents in the department determine the eventual end of every person. Thereafter, it is up to the other departments to make the determined destiny happen. Premonitors from the Division of Predetermination observe the entire process, watching for Inconsistencies that could unravel the Web of Fate. Because their role concerns both monitoring people’s fates and the activities of agents in the field, the Department of Predetermination also contains the Internal Affairs section of

FATE. 1.4 Guide for New Recruits
Many new recruits, especially the “mundane” recruits3, have questions about the FATE organization, the world normally hidden from the general public, and the jargon of the association. This guide
Such as planting dinosaur bones to be found to hide the fact that the Earth is only a few thousand years old. But these clandestine activities must be careful to avoid Inconsistencies. Therefore, changes to the past require at least Gamma level clearance, and oversight from a Delta level officer. Please fill out form GB-23 “Request for alterations to the C/E Stream (Past Tense)” for authorization. 3 Those human recruits who were raised in normal human society without knowledge of the FATE organization or the “mythological” creatures now in hiding.

is designed to help you learn the things a veteran FATE agent takes for granted. In general, nearly everything you knew about the world before joining FATE is still true. Chicago is still a city in Illinois, the President still runs the United States from the White House, cars still run on gasoline. But there is, behind all the public information, a layer of reality where the sun rises because Apollo wants it to, where the stars are each people you may need to visit on a business call, where XXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX, and most importantly for you, where the destiny of every sentient being is controlled by three ancient women at FATE HQ. Terminology: Terms denoted Slang are not acceptable in formal departmental communications or field reports. They are included here only to assist in informing new recruits, not because FATE or Department Nine approves of their usage in any way. Agency, the: FATE. Sometimes replaced with “the Loom” (q.v.) to differentiate FATE from other agencies FATE employees have to deal with. Often used in speech to avoid confusing FATE with an individual’s destiny. C/E or C/E Thread: the Cause/Effect threads that connect events. Used in the singular, it refers to all the threads as a totality, as if they were all a single thread. Used in the plural, C/E Threads refer to all the various causal relationships between events, people and objects. Incautious manipulation of the C/E Thread may lead to Inconsistencies, and so require proper authorization and supervision. Creatures: Slang. Somewhat derogatory nickname for sentient beings of the non-human persuasion. FATE and D9 have very strict nondiscrimination policies, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, morality, species, temporal paradoxes, morality or diet. FATE makes every effort to accommodate non-humans in their special needs. D9: Department Nine D10: Shorthand for Department 10 DP: The Division of Predetermination

Gardeners: Slang. A very insulting nickname for agents of the Division of Predetermination. DP agents do not like to be called this to their faces. Heroes: Slang. Humanoid agents or civilians who have inherited genetically some of the power of from the Men Upstairs. Note that being a Hero does not actually guarantee the moral character of the sentient you are dealing with. Inconsistencies: When an event occurs further down the C/E thread, but the cause has been removed, this is an Inconsistency. Inconsistencies are bad, and so need to be avoided. FATE agents are continuously monitoring the C/E thread for inconsistencies so agents can be dispatched to deal with them. Loom, the: Slang. A term for FATE, often used as a nickname or to preserve signal security. Often used in speech to avoid confusing FATE with an individual’s destiny. Mamas: Slang. Agents of Department Ten. D10 agents have been known to threaten disciplinary action for using the term. The case of Sutherland v. Aganippe is at the time of this printing still ongoing, so FATE and Department Nine are unable to comment on it. Men Upstairs: Slang. A collective term for the supernatural beings of immense power formerly known as the Olympian Gods. Term is generally used regardless of Gender; though see The Women Upstairs (q.v.). The term “Gods” is frowned upon in both official and unofficial contexts, as it implies a level or worship and sanctity not necessarily appropriate to the being in question. Navel Gazers: Slang. Agents in charge of destiny monitoring. Though the job of these agents is quite important to the functioning of FATE, field agents have been known to look down upon monitoring agents. We at D9 HQ request that you learn to “get along” with your fellow agents, regardless of their position or rank, thereby making FATE a better place for all to work. Snarls: AKA Inconsistencies (q.v.) Spinsters: Slang. Agents from Department Nine, using it is like teasing D9 agents. Web or Web of Destiny: the sum total of C/E threads, interlinking everything on Earth to everything else.

Women Upstairs: Slang. The three Fates specifically. While the Men Upstairs (q.v.) refers to all the various gods formerly known to inhabit Mount Olympus, the “Women Upstairs” refers only to the Fates, who are at the head of this agency.

Welcome to Department Nine: a roleplaying game about destiny. How do you describe this game? Take the classical idea of Fate, complete with three goddesses who administer to Beginnings, Middles and Ends. Now, after a few centuries the Fates found it taxing to administer the destinies of every single person on earth, so they created FATE, a group of priests to administer over mundane lives. Over the centuries, FATE has become increasingly government-like and has grown large and bureaucratic. It is dominated by petty paper pushers, centuries old dogma and a belief in the rigidity of destiny. Any spark of the holy, vibrant or human in the organization has long since gone out. The player characters are agents of FATE who broke the cardinal rule of the organization: they checked their own future, and they didn’t like what they saw. Now they have gone rogue (overtly or covertly) and are working to change their future. They still have the skills the Department taught them, but changing events can attract the attention of FATE agents. Can they save those things they hold dear, and make things better? Each player will take turns starting a scene, where one or more player characters try to accomplish something. The player of that character will describe their actions, and possibly spend some points from their pool to succeed at their action. Other players can also spend chips to oppose the character’s actions, if they want. Many of the scenes will drive the player characters closer to facing their final future, at which point they will need to stop that fate or fail and face the consequences. For each time you failed to stop the events leading up to your fate, changing the fate itself will be more difficult. Each player has a Flag, which identifies what that player wants to see happen in the game. Flags automatically reward players for introducing those elements into the game. In addition, two Flags are built into the system, which help create adversity and conflict. These will help direct the game towards a satisfying climax, I hope.

Character Creation:
The most critical thing to define about your character is the Fate that they are trying to avoid. Obvious Fates include death, dismemberment, the loss of a loved one, betrayal and similar tragedy. A more in depth Fate might be being caught and punished for your abuses of power in the Agency. Or “Falls into a drug induced downward spiral” or “husband leaves her for a younger woman, leading to depression culminating in suicide”. Make it as interesting and dramatic a Fate as you can. XXXXX Sidebar XXXXX Determining your Fate establishes a lot about the tone of your character and the game in general. Establishing a silly Fate, like “Forced to marry an ugly girl”, for your character suggests a silly game, in this example a romantic comedy sort of game. And that is fine, provided the group as a whole wants that sort of game. Similarly, the Fate might be defined as “Chicago is destroyed by terrorists in a nuclear explosion”, which suggests the game is a more action oriented game. Along with your Flags (which come in later), defining your Fate is your primary way to set the tone for the game, and to communicate this mood to the other players. Use your powers wisely: create a Fate you think would be interesting to watch happen, and also interesting to thwart. XXXXXX End Sidebar XXXX If you are having trouble coming up with a Fate, decide what your character thinks, feels, believes, etc and then come up with something they would wish to avoid. Conversely, if you are having trouble coming up with a character sketch, decide on a Fate and then create a character who would want to avoid that event. Also determine as much about your character’s background as you think is relevant. How long have you been working for FATE? Did you know anything about the supernatural before joining? Has FATE found out yet that your character is changing destiny to their own ends? Is your character even human, or perhaps some sort of creature from Greek myth or a hero with the blood of Gods in his veins?

Blatantly stealing from classical myth is strongly encouraged in this game: if you’re stuck for a character idea, take a classical myth and map it onto modern day life. For example, you might make Agent Odysseus, who was captured while on a secret mission and held as a POW. He is trying to become reunited with his wife, but when he looked into the future, he saw that she would fail to recognize her long lost husband, who was presumed dead. She is going to marry some other guy, unless Odysseus can modify reality and make sure she recognizes him when they meet again.

Directly tied to your Fate is something you hold Sacred, a thing that your character holds dear. Part of why your PC has split from FATE’s no destiny alteration policy is that this thing the PC holds Sacred is endangered by the Fate. The thing you hold Sacred can be an NPC, like your sister, husband or child, or an object, like a prized possession or a briefcase full of stolen diamonds. Having something too abstract as your Sacred thing can lead to some problems. How clear is it when it is in a scene or not in a scene? If the players can’t agree on its presence in a scene, then you may have created something too abstract or unclear. Similarly, it is a lot easier for players to frame scenes where your wife is threatened (or threatening to leave you) than it is to frame a scene where your personal integrity is threatened, because your personal integrity is basically internal and under your control. See the System Flag that encourages you to endanger player character’s Sacred things.

Now you determine what events are connected to the Fate of your character. These events are called “Causes”, even if they do not direct cause your Fate. You need three Causes. So for “caught and punished for abusing Agency powers” you might define the fate as being caused by three things: • McCarthy in Internal Affairs doing a routine audit and noticing a surprising number of “Fate alteration requests” being okayed in your office.

• •

Karya, that damn Hamadryad hippy, blowing the whistle on you, though FATE agents had barely begun their interrogation. An exciting car chase through downtown San Francisco as a giant earthquake hits the city.

It helps to word them so that each can happen individually of one another, and so they each could lead to your Fate. If your second Cause is invalidated when the first Cause is changed, then you should consider combining them into a single Cause and creating a separate event that can happen without the other events. Say you have a Fate of “my sister on the fire department dies in flaming wreckage”. You might pick a Cause of “Terrorists explode a bomb in Times Square”, suggesting that the bomb leads to the building collapsing on her. That’s great, but adding a second cause of “Terrorists acquire weapons grade plutonium from a mad inventor” has a problem. If you change destiny such that the terrorists cannot get weapons grade plutonium, can they build a bomb without it? If changing one invalidates the other, you might want to rewrite them so they are less connected. Or in this case, you might just decide the terrorists will use a conventional, non-nuclear bomb if they discover the inventor only sold them used pinball machine parts. In general, each Cause makes your Fate more likely, not guaranteed. Similarly, stopping a given Cause won’t stop your Fate, it will just make the Fate less likely, and easier to alter when the time comes. Openly discuss these Causes with other characters, and make one of your Causes also be another PC’s Cause. This is an event that both PCs agree needs to be changed. Example: Adam’s Player Character is trying to stop a bomb from exploding in Times Square. Nick’s PC is trying to escape being caught and punished for using his Fate manipulation powers to fix horse races. One of Nick’s causes is “An exciting car chase through New York City”. Adam decides to tie that into his fate, by making one of his causes be “The bomb arrives in Times Square without anyone noticing it”. These two causes are tied together, in that the bomb was hidden inside Nick’s ill gotten gains. Thus, stopping the car chase through Manhattan means the bomb can’t make it to Times Square. Now, identify one of the other PC’s Causes as an event you wish to ensure happens. You should tie this once again to your character’s personality, Fate or situation somehow. Your goal, therefore, is to stop them from modifying that event in the web of fate.

Example: Once again Nick’s NPC is a corrupt FATE agent. Now, one of his Causes is a FATE Internal Affairs audit that finds an unusually high number of Destiny Alterations requisitioned from his department. Since Amber’s PC is opposed to the groups illegally buying Destiny Alterations, she declares that she wants the Internal Audit to happen as Fate intended, and she will oppose Nick’s attempts to alter the timestream. So now we have a bunch of PCs with their destinies outlined, and a web of connections between them. Each PC is at least somewhat sympathetic to one other PC, and at least slightly antagonistic to another PC. All are working to avoid the agents of FATE.

Finally, you need a Flag. A flag is sort of like the inverse of a Key (from the Shadow of Yesterday) if you’re familiar with that concept. If not, don’t worry about it: it’s not that important, though seeking out that game isn’t a bad idea either. Your Flag is something you, the player, want to see happen in the game. You could define it as something concrete, like “Ninjas” or “swordfights” or “espionage tradecraft”. Alternately, it might be something more abstract, like “Hubris punished” or “player characters failing” or “moral dilemmas”. If you go for abstract, make sure it’s clear enough to everyone at the table exactly what behavior matches the Flag. When someone does whatever your Flag asks for, they will be rewarded. Every Flag will start with one token on it. Each time a player does something that fulfills another player’s Flag, they take all the tokens off that Flag. Every other Flag gets a token added to its pile. Example: Alex, Belinda, Carl and David are playing Department Nine. When Alex fulfills Belinda’s Flag of “mistaken identity” by confusing the oncoming FATE agent for his PC’s ex-wife, Alex takes the tokens that have accrued on the Flag. Alex, Carl and David each add one token onto their respective Flags, Belinda gains the pleasure of seeing the Flag fulfilled. The two System Flags also gain a token apiece. So the idea is that the other players will want to introduce things you like into the game, increasing the fun for both involved. You can

change your Flag whenever you like, provided you’re not doing it to be a jerk. How do you know if you’re being a jerk? If you change your Flag to avoid letting a player get the reward from hitting it, that’s being a jerk. If someone protests to the change because they wanted the tokens your Flag acquired, give them a chance to hit the Flag, and then change it to whatever you want. If you don’t have any tokens on the Flag, don’t worry about it, and change your Flag as often as you’d like. If you’ve got a bunch of Tokens on your Flag and no one’s going for it, change it until someone takes the bait. After all, having a bunch of tokens on the Flag means it’s been a long time since you got the sort of input a Flag gives you. Naming a specific player or PC in your Flag (e.g., “I want to see Jim’s PC caught by FATE agents”) creates a strong potential for jerkiness, so use it carefully. It’s often better just to generalize the Flag (so “I’d like to see a PC caught by FATE agents”). No, you can’t hit your own Flag. This is a tool for collaboration, and you can’t collaborate with yourself. Really small groups should consider giving each player two Flags. This is only recommended for groups of three players, but it gives the players more options. In groups of four or more you should have enough different potential goals that you don’t need additional Flags. Once again, though, make this game your own. If you ever hit two Flags in the same action, take the chips off of them in whichever order you prefer.

System Flags
To create some conflict and adversity, there are automatically three Flags in play, which are predefined and unchanging. These are: • • • Frame Cause Scenes. If every player has dealt with all their Causes, frame a scene where a player character faces their Fate itself. Win a conflict while portraying NPC who are opposing PCs. Endanger those things a PC holds Sacred.

These System Flags act identically to the other, player defined, Flags, including acquiring tokens as other Flags are hit, rewarding a player when they are fulfilled and putting tokens on other Flags when

System Flags are hit. They are only distinct because they are predefined and unchanging. Once everyone has played the game a couple times and has a good handle on how things work, you might as a group do away with or modify these System Flags. That’s great: make the game your own. But make sure you have the discussion about changing the Flags before you start playing the game. “Cause Scenes” above means situations where a PC must deal with one of the Causes they listed. Now, they only get a single chance to change these events: if they fail in that scene, then the Cause is locked in, guaranteed true. And that will make changing the PC’s actual Fate harder when they reach the endgame. “Endangering Sacred things” takes different forms depending on what it is that is Sacred. If a player character holds his job Sacred, then you could frame a scene where his boss is trying to fire him. If he holds a pile of illegal gambling winnings Sacred, then you might create a scene where a disgruntled Irish mobster tries to steal the gym bag full of cash. If they hold their wife Sacred, then maybe she gets kidnapped, or maybe she threatens to leave her husband. The important thing is the Player Character will lose that Sacred thing if they lose the conflict in that scene. XXXXXXXXXXX sidebar XXXXXXXXXXXX

Flags and Pulling
The Flag mechanic is based on a couple of ideas that emerged from the realms of RPG theory blogs. Firstly, it’s based on flags – things written on a character sheet that tell a GM (or in this case, another player) you would like to see that thing in play. You can see various system components as Flags for a GM, from the Keys from The Shadow of Yesterday to Muses in Nine Worlds to Favored Enemies for Rangers in Dungeons & Dragons 3.5. Anything that tells a GM “I as a player want to see this in the game” is a flag, though often the GM and the players won’t realize it is one. I think how theoretical Flags lead into the mechanical Flags in the game should be fairly clear: you take a tool for communication and attached a reward for listening to what other players want. Read more about Flag at: Secondly, the Flag mechanic is based around the idea of “pushing” and “pulling” in rpgs. Pushing is when you exert your authority over part of the game: you say “my rating in this trait means I get to make the decision about this gameplay thing” and then make the decision. Pulling, on the other hand, is leaving the final decision to someone else, but convincing them to do what you wanted. There was much discussion in the gaming blogosphere about this idea, but I don’t think any real consensus was ever made on what the terms mean, so it’s possible that some people won’t see Flags as a pulling mechanic. And that’s fine, really: all that matters is that it succeeds at making play more fun for everyone. Read the start of the Push/Pull discussion here: Interestingly, this game allows for both Pushing and Pulling (as I understand the terms) in different ways: Flags are a pulling mechanic, while standard task resolution is a pushing mechanic. Make of that what you will. XXXXXXXX End Sidebar XXXXXXXXXXX

Beginning the Game
Once you have created character and outlined their Fates, you just need to write everything where every player can see it, and distribute three starting tokens to each player. This is their initial pool of points they can spend (in Fate Manipulation or in Conflicts). It is helpful to have all the player’s Fate and Causes written out where everyone can see them. Write them on a large sheet of paper, or a chalkboard, or a dry erase board, or on a parking lot using sidewalk chalk. Whatever you want, as long as the information is publicly accessible. Similarly, you might want to each Player’s Flag written where everyone can see them. We used index cards, and stacked poker chips on the cards as other Flags were hit. But you could use coins, glass beads or any other tokens you want instead of poker chips, and write Flags on anything, so long as everyone can see them, and they can be easily modified. So don’t tattoo your Flags on your chest or anything, okay? Throughout the text, I tend to use tokens, chips and points pretty interchangeably. There should be a big pile of chips in the center of the playing field, so everyone can grab them as appropriate. There’s no theoretical limit on how many chips can be placed on a Flag on in a player’s pool, so I’d suggest ten to twenty chips per player need to be in this pile.

Scene Framing
Starting at random, each player will take turns framing a scene: describing the setting, timeframe and situation in which characters find themselves. This can be as simple as stating “I want to see Mr. Adrastus have to fight a monster that FATE agents sent after him.” Or it could be much more complicated and specific, tying together multiple plot threads and characters. You can frame scenes for other player’s characters, if you want. After you describe the scene and one player character that is involved, every player not yet involved can choose to be present in the scene, provided they can justify their character’s presence. Feel free to invent any non-player characters that you feel are appropriate to the scene. The non-player characters (AKA NPCs) can be controlled by anyone at the table, and can switch control from

scene to scene. When you frame the scene, offer the NPCs to any player not currently involved, to see if they wish to play them. Note the System Flag, which rewards you if you frame a scene that is a step towards a character’s Fate.

Playing NPCs
Often, a scene will call for a non-player character to be present. The player framing the scene gets to declare what NPCs are present (though they should be open to suggestions from other players). If possible, an NPC should be roleplayed by a player whose PC is not in the current scene. If there are multiple players not in the current scene, one can volunteer, or you can decide to take turns, randomly or whatever you want. Just make sure the NPC gets played by someone. Any time you agree to roleplay an NPC for a scene, you gain one token for your pool. This is to encourage roleplaying NPCs, and to keep everyone involved, even if their PC is not present. If all players currently have a PC involved in the scene, then anyone can volunteer to play the NPC(s). It’s ultimately the responsibility of the scene framing player to see that NPCs get played by someone. Portraying an NPC and winning a conflict as one will automatically hit the second System Flag, and earn you a reward. This is to encourage you to actually try to provide meaningful opposition when playing the NPCs.

Fate Manipulation
When you want to have your character alter the web of reality somehow, declare what your character is changing. If any other player opposes you, move to the “Conflict Resolution” section, below. No one is opposing you? Great. You’ll just have to narrate how your character is altering destiny, and maybe spend a few points. To an agent trained by FATE, the destinies of sentient beings are clearly visible as glowing silver threads. The threads tie together entities and events that are causally related to one another. It is by pulling, pushing, cutting, knotting, lengthening and shortening these threads that an agent of FATE can manipulate destinies. “Twist of fate” is not a metaphor for FATE’s agents. To change the destiny of a

person, they need to be in that person’s presence. To stop an event from happening, they need to be in the location that event will happen. It’s easier for an agent to manipulate fate if they both have the people involved and are in the right place. Of course, people not trained by FATE can’t see anything happen when fate is manipulated, so explaining to your ex-wife why she needs to follow you two miles down I-76 to perform a little ceremony might be difficult. To manipulate Fate, you need to spend tokens from your pool equal to the current Security level. The Security level is the minimum number of points that you need to spend to manipulate the web of destiny as you wish. Remove that many points from your pool, and describe the action and how things are changed. Each time you manipulate Fate this way. It will create an Inconsistency in C/E thread, which leads to increased Security levels. The initial Security level is zero, so the first Fate manipulation is free. But each Fate manipulation raises the Security level by one, as FATE agents begin to become more cautious and watch more carefully for alteration to the C/E.

Conflict Resolution
When two or more players sitting at the table disagree about how something should go, we use the conflict resolution system to determine who gets what they want and who winds up with their character bleeding in a gutter.4 Conflicts are usually started when one players declares their intention to do something, and another player states “no, I’ll oppose that” or “no, I want X to happen” where X can be a variety of things. Conflict is divided into three rounds: Beginnings, Middles and Ends. Each round will consist of an auction for control of that round. The person who wins the Beginning round will determine the conflict is about, and how much is won in the conflict. The winner of the Middle round will actually win the conflict, and the winner of the Ending round gets to add additional consequences or complications to the conflict. For each round, the auction works more or less the same: One player declares how many chips they are willing to spend to control that round. Don’t spend the chips, though. Only the person who wins the rounds loses the chips. So you can safely bid just to raise the bid

Results not typical. Consult your physician before lying bleeding in a gutter.

level, knowing that this is a conflict your opponent can’t afford to lose. Then when they bid more, the conflict has cost them more but you nothing. In order to beat a standing bid, you need to bid more chips. Matching an existing bid doesn’t do any good. I’m trying to avoid complicated auctioning rules, involving who gets the first bid and such, so the bidding system amounts to “whoever declares their bid first takes priority”. If this becomes too chaotic for your group, you might want to institute stricter bidding rules. Something like “whoever initiated the conflict bids first, then go around the table each bidding or passing until only one person is still in the auction”.

Each round of a conflict has specific rules attached to it. The Beginnings round allows you to decide what the conflict is about. Obviously, you have some idea what the conflict is about, from how the conflict was initiated. But winning the Beginnings round allows you to decide what the winner of a conflict gets in terms of scope and scale. The initiator of the conflict is counted as automatically having bid zero chips, so will win if no one else bids. If you are currently in a Cause Scene or a Fate scene, then the stakes established have to allow the active PC to actually alter their fate and to allow their fate to happen mostly as written. Additionally, you should not remove a player character’s free will when establishing how a conflict could turn out. At this stage, we are deciding how the conflict results, not how they get there (which is under the control of the PC’s player). Example: Neel’s PC, Eduardo, is trying to convince a newspaper publisher to not publish a story exposing FATE’s secret to the general public. Dan is currently playing the NPC newspaper publisher, and wants to oppose Neel. The newspaper publishing the story is one of the Causes of Eduardo’s Fate, so Neel really wants to stop that. Because Dan initiated the conflict, he gets to start the declaring of outcomes. “If Neel wins, then the reporter is too terrified of you to spread the story, but if I win, the story goes out nationally and FATE becomes unhappy with you.” Neel decides to spend two chips to modify the stakes, suggesting “If I win, my PC is able to bribe the reporter off, but if I lose then the story slowly spreads across the news outlets.” Dan finds these outcomes good enough that he doesn’t want to

spend three chips to change them, so we move on to the Middle round. When you make a bid in the Beginnings round, declare your stakes, so people can decide if they want to bid for control of the stakes or not. If you have multiple people with different goals in a single conflict, you have a few possible courses of action when declaring possible outcomes. You could split the conflict into two sides, when two participants have basically the same goal. Or you might create three possible outcomes, one for each player. Or in a situation where everyone is trying to achieve the same goal (say, acquiring the Maltese Falcon or some other McGuffin), you could make the reward the same regardless of who wins. After the Beginning player declares potential outcomes, any player can drop out of a conflict. This is important if the stakes are established in terms of the loser suffering a penalty, rather than the winner achieving an award. It’s unlikely that the rule will be important, but the player who won the Beginning will be treated as starting the auctions for Middles and Ends by bidding zero. So if there are no competitors, the Beginnings player wins the conflict. But most likely those people who lost the Beginnings round will want to

The Middles round is when everyone bets to see who actually wins the conflict. Now that we know what possible outcomes there are, we auction off the right to decide which outcome becomes true. Every time you make a bid in this round, narrate a little piece of how your character is working to achieve their goal. Don’t state something that would instantly win you the conflict. So in a fight, don’t say “I cut his head off with my sword, instantly killing him” because that would end the conflict, and it’s possible that another player wants to outbid you. It’s better to narrate something like “I slash at his arm with my sword” or “I stab him in the stomach, severely wounding him” because someone could outbid you without having to negate what you said. Once every other player has dropped out of the auction, spend your chips and narrate your final victory. Once the Middle round is determined, you can’t drop out of the conflict. You have to stick around for the Ending round, though you

don’t need to bid anything. But you may suffer from the Middles player’s victory, or from complications created by the endings player.

The endings round allows people to add additional complications to the victory, or add additional consequences. The exact form these complications or consequences take will depend on what the conflict is about, but you need to make sure you are not invalidating what the victor just attained in the Middles round. When you make your bid, explain what consequences you are going to put into place, so other players can decide if it is worthwhile to change the consequences. Example: Dan won his conflict with the reporter, and the story will be published. So now Neel and Dan are competing to see what secondary effects of this conflict are. Neel won the Beginnings round, so he gets a free zero point bid. He declares that the news story gets Eduardo’s name wrong, so he cannot be connected to the story in any way. Dan bids one and declares that Eduardo’s superiors in FATE are unhappy with Eduardo. There is a heated bidding war, which ends with Neel spending seven chips to guarantee this outcome, as Dan is low on chips after winning the Middle round. If you don’t know what else to add as complications, consider having FATE agents realize a PC is violating the “don’t change fate” rule. Or say the fate manipulation that was part of the conflict caused more Inconsistencies, leading to a higher Security rating.

What, No Hit Points?
You may notice there aren’t any injury rules for the game at all. Or any way for a conflict to impair future performance. That is a deliberate choice. Your characters have a destiny, and we can’t let a little thing like a bullet to the gut get in the way of your Fate, now can we? If no one is in danger of dying, then damage is simply a matter of changing your narration: “I leap over the table, dance around his sword, do a rolling tumble to get behind him and nimbly slice his stomach open.” “I stumble toward him, barely able to walk. ‘You can’t kill me’ I laugh. ‘I have a destiny, and you’re just in my way.’ With the last of my strength, I push the sword into his gut, then collapse on top of him.” See those two descriptions? They’re very different, but mechanically identical. The damage a character has taken just gives details to the description. If you want the damage to be anything beyond just “flavor text”, the easiest way to do so is to set your Flag to be something like “people get seriously hurt, and it hinders their success” or something similar.

Divining the Future
Telling the future works like any other manipulation of destiny, except for one complication. When you divine the future, you also define the future: things become set in stone. Much like your character’s Fate, you now know what will happen, and the events leading up to it. When you look into the future, you will see the

predetermined events, and also two events that inevitably lead to that outcome. To change that outcome would require eliminating those events (just like with your character’s Fate). Going around the table, every player can bid some points from their pool, until there is one clear winner who bid the most points. He then spends those points, and gets to declare the outcome that the agent was trying to predict. Then go around the table again, two more times (so three times total), bidding to determine the events causing that future outcome. It is quite reasonable for a player to win the bid for a causal event and state “there is no second causal event”. If no one bids at all, the player whose character is doing the divination automatically wins that bidding round. Example: Alex wants to know what going to happen when his character infiltrates FATE headquarters to steal his file. He decides to divine the future, and Carl decides to oppose him. Carl spends a number of his chips to win the outcome of the predicted event, and declares that Alex’s character will be discovered and captured. But this means that Carl is running low on chips, so Alex is able to win the next round, and negates that causal event. Carl is able to squeeze out a few more chips to win the other preceding event, and declares that security guards will be on high alert due to an unrelated incident, and so uncover Alex’s PC. Alex now has to deal with that fact in a conflict before he can change the newly defined future of him being caught. Much like facing your Fate in the endgame, each causal event that is unresolved when you hit a predicted event makes it more difficult to change that event. In this case, if you reach a predicted event and there are causal events you failed to negate, any bidding you do (in a conflict or for Fate Manipulation) is reduced by two per unresolved event. Thus, failing to remove one cause will be a two point penalty, whereas failing to resolve two causes will be a four point penalty. Example: Alex makes it into FATE HQ, but is unable to change the high alert from happening, due to being short on chips. So when a scene is framed where he has to deal with getting caught in the headquarters, an Fate Manipulation will cost him two extra chips, and he’ll effectively be down two chips in any conflict that may arise.

Ending a Scene
After a conflict or fate manipulation ends, any players not involved in the conflict can choose to end the scene and then we go back to taking turns framing a new one. If another player later wishes to return to that scene, that’s great, you can pick up where you left off, like the intercutting between battles in a Star Wars movie. If everyone is involved in the conflict, or if there is no conflict in a scene, end a scene by group consensus. Propose to end a scene, and if everyone else agrees, move onto the next one, possibly coming back to that scene.

Ending the Game
As the game progresses, you character will face the events leading up to their Fate. They will try to deal with these Causes one way or another, and try to manipulate destiny to make the event turn out differently. If you are unable to change these events when they occur, then these events become “locked in”, and impossible for a FATE agent to change. Having failed to change a Cause event will make it harder for a PC to change their Fate in the final scenes of the game. Once every PC has faced each of their Cause Scenes (whether they succeeded or not), you can begin framing Fate Scenes, where the PC of the scene has to finally face the event they have been trying to avoid. The person framing the scene explains the exact form the Fate will take. Then, the PC who is facing their Fate needs to spend chips to change their destiny. The number of chips they need to spend equal to the current Security rating plus two chips for each Cause that the player was unable to change. If the player can spend enough chips, they can avert their Fate, save that which they hold Sacred and so forth. If they cannot spend enough chips here, then they have failed, their dreaded Fate comes true, and they lose whatever it is they hold Sacred. Example: Nick’s PC is the corrupt bureaucrat, is finally facing his Fate, which is “being caught and punished for his illegal activities”. He has just emerged from a wrecked car after a badly botched – but exciting – car chase. FATE’s agents are on

his tail, so he ducks into a nearby Olive Garden™ restaurant5. Nick failed to avert one of the causes – that same car chase, so he needs to spend at least five chips to avoid capture. Luckily, he has six chips left after the last conflict, so he is able to manipulate destiny and avoid pursuit. Inside the Olive Garden™, Nick’s PC pulls one last ditch fate manipulation to coincidentally find a spare restaurant employee uniform, which he quickly dons and uses as a disguise to escape pursuit. Another Example: Adam’s PC failed to stop the bumbling politicians and counterterrorism officials ignoring warning signs, and was unable to stop the bomb reaching Times Square, so when he is sitting in Times square trying to defuse a bomb, Adam needs to spend at least seven tokens to change his destiny. Unfortunately, Adam only has six chips, so the bomb goes off, killing Adam’s PC and many more innocent civilians. After everyone has had their Fate scene, you can go around the table once more to describe each character’s epilogue. Just a brief description of what happens to the character will do. If they defeated their Fate, describe a happy ending for them. If they failed, describe a tragic one. Example: Amber’s PC, Agent Odysseus, succeeded in changing his Fate of “My family does not recognize me when we are reunited”, so he is able to rejoin his wife and children. Amber narrates how after finding Odysseus and the happy reunion, Odysseus retires from FATE and finds a job that doesn’t require leaving his family on any sort of business trips, ever again. Another Example: Adam’s PC, Mr. Adrastus, failed to stop the bomb exploding in Times square. This doesn’t stop Adam from narrating an epilogue for his character, though, as he describes the funeral for his character, how FATE posthumously court martials him and how Mr. Adrastus’s family never finds out why he was at Times Square that day. And that’s the entire game. You could reuse some or all of the player characters again, if their situation allows for it, but the game should create a self contained story, so you would be just as well off creating all new characters. Or some of your group could reuse a character, whereas others might choose to make new characters.

The trademark Olive Garden® is owned by Darden Concepts, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Darden Restaurants, Inc.. The trademark is used without permission, but no infringement is intended.

Example: The second time Nick and Amber decide to play, Adam cannot make it to the game. But Nick and Amber are joined by additional players Dan and Geoff. Amber decides her character from the first game has finished his story, and so creates an entirely new character. Nick likes the situation his first PC finds himself in: on the run from FATE with a small amount of cash from fixing horse races. He thinks that would make a good place to start the second game. Dan and Geoff both also create new characters, obviously. Though Nick’s PC returns from a previous game, he does not start with any particular benefit.

This game was designed as entry into the 2007 Game Chef competition. Each year, competitors have to design a complete roleplaying game within a limited time frame, according to set rules. In 2007, contestants had two weeks to make a game, and had to choose between two sets of words. Learn more about the Game Chef competition here: This game makes use of Sacred, Thread and Inconsistency. Hopefully, the use of these terms will be apparent to the reader. Thread refers to character’s fate and the relationships between events, which PCs can manipulate. Inconsistencies are the bane of FATE, and will be hunted down by FATE agents. Browsing the Game Chef discussion boards will show that I’m not the only contestant to make a connection between Threads, Inconsistencies and fate. Sacred comes into play obviously with the Sacred thing your PC is trying to protect when stopping their Fate. But it also plays a role in FATE itself. Once FATE was about protecting that which was sacred, and performed miracles to do so. But over time that which was miraculous became mundane, and FATE became large, bureaucratic and dogmatic. Altering destiny is not something amazing to a FATE agent, because they do it every day. In this way, FATE agents are like modern day people, who can instantly communicate with people thousands of miles away, fly faster than sound, and have entertainment beamed to their homes from outer space, but find none of this miraculous. The Player Characters recognize that which is amazing and worth saving in our lives, and fight to protect those Sacred things. I’m also trying to achieve a couple of the optional secondary awards. These include The Player Co-Operation and Unity Award, via Flags Most Theoryful RPG, though that is not an award directly tied to the Game Chef competition. The sidebar about Pulling and Flags should make clear why. If anyone thinks I’m eligible for the other optional awards, that’s great. But I feel weirdly immodest nominating myself for even those two awards, so more would make me feel even weirder.

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