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magic-rhyme
04-16-2014, 03:06 AM
In your fantasy campaigns, how have you dealt with the notion of Fate versus Free Will (including possibly avoiding the topic altogether)? Or the related notions of Destiny, Karma, Prophesy, and/or godly or Divine decree?

I'm posting this here and also in the horror and superhero forums because all three genres often deal with such notions but they deal with them in ways specific to their genres.

For example, some people have claimed the difference between classic high fantasy and classic horror is that Fate is there to help the hero in fantasy stories and there to haunt the victim in horror stories. Then there are those who claim that the place of Fate and its workings in the universe is a key to whether a work is going to be fantasy or horror -- or, for that matter, is how one can differentiate most Marvel superheroes from most DC superheroes (Marvel's existentialist ambiance leading to a sense of an unknowable and therefore unpredictable fate that is jerking the heroes around, such as the unhappy coincidences which abound in the life of Spider-Man or the harsh fate which led to Stephen Strange becoming sorceror supreme, but with DC's more mythic and fablous ambiance leading to a sense of a great destiny to embrace, as with Wonder Woman and her epic nature among the Amazons or The Flash and his miraculous lightning bolt origin).

Take a look at http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SlidingScaleOfFreeWillVsFate

Then share how you handle (or decline to handle) Fate and Free Will in your fantasy campaigns.

Malruhn
04-19-2014, 06:39 PM
I've run both - and can say from personal experience that "fate" is nothing more than railroading on a grand scale.

I run a sand-box style campaign, and that means that while I may present wonderful adventure hooks, it's up to the characters to make their own decisions and "choose their own fates." If I have a set adventure of battling the bandits and saving the princess, the PC's are fully entitled to not do that and to take off due West to seek their own adventures.

_IF_, however, the players want to stick around, I always put stuff in the campaign to pander to the character's (and player's) interests.

When I first start a campaign, and magic-rhyme rolls up a new character, I always ask, "Okay, you are an old, old, OLDE person now, living in the retired adventurer's home. A small child comes up and look at you and says, 'My mum says you're important... what did you do with your life?'" This is the big question. If magic-rhyme says that he slew the great dragon, then it's up to me to have dragons in the campaign. If you say you saved the princess, then there had better be some princesses that need saving! The easiest for me is when PC's tell me, "All I did was become rich and famous." This leaves me open to have dragons or princesses or bazillions of kobolds - total freedom to plan.

And, still, it's up to the players to decide if they want to go slay those princesses or rescue those dragons...

Fate is a nifty thing to read about, and it's easy to bring in after the fact (you read a book that was written before you were born that tells of your deeds). But, for me, pushing fate on characters is the worst kind of railroading imaginable. It's worse than a "make your own" adventure books (you come to a "Y" - go left (see page 72), or go right (see page 96), or even worse than a Dragonlance module from 2nd Edition.

Those are my ten cents, because my two cents are free.

magic-rhyme
04-21-2014, 06:48 AM
I run a sand-box style campaign . . . fate on characters is the worst kind of railroading imaginable

I have been running sandbox style campaigns since before the term existed, so I can identify.

While there may be some game masters so poorly skilled as to use fate as a form of railroading, there are many, many skilled game masters who have used it and continue to use it as part of the sandbox to the general enjoyment of all their players. At least in the parts of the country where I have gamed the most and attended the most conventions.


When I first start a campaign, and magic-rhyme rolls up a new character, I always ask, "Okay, you are an old, old, OLDE person now, living in the retired adventurer's home. A small child comes up and look at you and says, 'My mum says you're important... what did you do with your life?'" This is the big question. If magic-rhyme says that he slew the great dragon, then it's up to me to have dragons in the campaign. If you say you saved the princess, then there had better be some princesses that need saving!

So what will you do when magic-rhyme says that he was guided by prophesy itself, a child of destiny who lived out the fate allotted to him as best he could?

Because magic-rhyme may be looking for a game master skilled enough to be able to run him in games that remind him of the great Greek myths, or remind him of the wonderful subtle teleology of the Lord of the Rings, or remind him of the power of Arthurian legend, and that means that there is a sense of purpose or Fate intrinsic to the campaign's reality.

I know this, because I have had a large number of players over the many years make just such requests. They aren't looking to be shepherded, or herded, or railroaded, because that's not how Fate works in the great stories we remember. They want to experience either the awe or the horror of living in a world with Fate. They want to know what it's like to be Oedipus trying so hard to escape his fate and failing -- and they want a game master who has the talent and strength necessary to play such a fate without stooping to railroading. They want to know what it's like to meet Aslan and talk with him without feeling as though the game master has stooped to a little Mary Sue puffery with them, even though they know that not every game master is up to doing that sort of thing well. They want to know what it's like to pull a sword out of a stone and find oneself fated to be the king regardless of whether one feels up to it -- and have their own in-game tragedy similar to the tragedy of Camelot.

There are many players who want such an experience of a sandbox game that still manages to recreate a reality with Fate or Destiny to it.

So when you invite magic-rhyme into your sandbox game and ask him to openly and honestly tell you what his PC would say to that small child, and he tells you that he would speak of being guided by fate and being relied upon by destiny, will you incorporate that into your sandbox campaign after all?

nijineko
04-21-2014, 07:46 PM
well, i feel like saying is there any other way? but i seem to have failed to convey how my view of fate works quite successfully at doing exactly what magic-rhyme has described, so i guess i'll just leave it at: i understand what magic-rhyme is after, and that my campaigns all have fates, prophecies, destinies, and free will in them, but i can't really seem to describe the mechanics of it in a fashion compatible with the current understanding available.