Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Question about FATE: Assessments, Declarations, and Maneuvers

Here’s a question for those of you who know FATE. I’ve been running with some of the mechanics adapted into our house system, and playing that based on my reading of several different versions of the core mechanics. I think I’ve read eight different versions of the rules from what seems to be the baseline (Spirit of the Century) to the more out-there approaches (Strands of FATE). I realized in going through Dresden Files again recently that I’m unclear about the use, effect and distinction between three elements of the game: Assessments, Declarations, and Maneuvers. I think in some ways I’ve been using those interchangeably. But they’re broken into three types so I assume there's some practical game design function to that-

Assessment: Requires an action; player declares what information they wish to assess and GM assigns a difficulty. If successful, the GM reveals an aspect (i.e. the GM determines what aspect is given out). If successful, the revealed aspect lasts for the scene. I’ve seen three variables on assessments this among rules. Some rules say that the player has to make a guess as to the nature of the aspect assessed. I’ve also seen a suggestion that some assessments take significant time. In some cases the successful assessment allows the player a free use of that aspect, in others it doesn’t.

Declaration: Doesn’t require an action. Player declares what specific aspect they want to create and the GM assigns a difficulty. The player makes the skill roll and if they succeed, the aspect the player declared is on the target. Generally declarations last for a scene.

I’m not sure about the functional difference between those- and why one takes time and the other doesn’t. It would seem to me, since both require a skill roll, they could be considered equivalent. That’s especially true in that the more limited effect (assessment has to be based on an existing aspect) requires an action. I have the feeling I’m missing something about the play effect there.

Now on the other hand, we also have maneuvers.

Maneuvers: Requires an action. Usually done as some form of attack action, so the difficulty is based on defense or resistance. If the maneuver succeeds, then the player places an aspect on the target. This tag is free, allowing the player to use it once without spending a Fate point or in some cases passing that benefit on to others. Aspects created with maneuvers create a fragile tag with no shifts; if a player gains shifts they can make that aspect sticky so it lasts for the scene. Importantly, maneuvers can be used to remove aspects caused by other maneuvers.

It almost seems like we’re talking about much the same effect, with some odd variables between them. Essentially, a player wants to place an aspect, they make a roll against a difficulty and if they succeed it appears.

The variables between the three involved time required, determination of difficulty, duration of the aspect, if the tag is ‘free’ or not, and the impact of shifts or spin.

I want to make sure I’m not missing something, because at least on the surface it would seem that among the first two, you’d want to declare over assess so you don’t lose an action. Are they differentiated to allow for different stunts? It is simply a narrative differentiation? I fear that I’ve missed something really basic in my reading of the rules.