Oct 232013

Suppose that all power in a game is come by through making a bargain with the source of the power.

This current runs through the Dresden Files RPG and setting to an extent, most overtly with things like Sponsored Power and the Lawbreaker stuff, but really in general through the whole refresh-reduction thing with powers. One assumes that if you have a ton of power, to the point where you no longer generate Fate Points and are thus beholden to take compels with no option to resist them, that those compels and their associated aspects are in some way tied to that bargain you’ve made: to follow the dictates of your nature utterly, because that is what your power wishes you to be.

Honing the cutting edge of compels was important for us with the Dresden Files RPG. The mechanics of compels lined up strongly with the themes and truths of the Dresden Files setting. That said, refresh reduction is not the only path to achieving this sort of thing.

Let’s look at the bargain itself. Thanks to the Bronze Rule[1] of Fate Core, we know that anything can be a character, or be character-like, when treated as an Extra. Therefore, a bargain for power can be a character.

Imagine that instead of spending refresh for your magical powers, you’re crafting a bargain, which creates an Extra. The bargain’s job is to work against you whenever you’re trying to subvert the intentions and restrictions of the bargain. Every “point” of the power that you get[2] gives the bargain a little extra juice: two skill points, or maybe even a stunt of its own.

The bargain probably has aspects: these aspects would define the rules of the bargain. Compels possible for you at the least. Invocations possible for the bargain itself.

The bargain might have a stress track if there’s some way to put it off for a lasting amount of time: paying off your debt’s interest, so to speak. Or it might have a stress track if there are means (rituals, etc) that let you suppress or sunder the thing.

Those skill points, tho: they’d go into buying one or more skills representing how the bargain can interject itself into your life to enforce the goals of the bargain. No skill cap, here; and maybe there’s just one skill, so each point of power gives it a +2. You want a 4-point power (or 4 points of power under the same bargain), you’re giving this thing Enforce Bargain +8 — a Legendary bargain indeed.

Regardless of whether there’s one enforcement skill or several[3], the aspects of the bargain would serve to justify rolling an enforcement skill to oppose actions that run counter to the bargain’s intent. While this could be done via a compel, it might be more interesting to your game to make this a case of whether or not the character’s skill can overcome the ability of the bargain to resist its use in an unapproved fashion. Especially if you start to bring in the potential to succeed at a cost.

Anyway. This is not a fully formed idea, but I thought I’d put it out there as a starting-point. Where might you take it?

  1. a.k.a., The Fate Fractal  ↩
  2. A “point” for a power here would be analagous to a point of refresh in a refresh-spending paradigm  ↩
  3. The consequence of going for a multi-skill approach is that you’re essentially making the bargain “cost” the bargainer less. Thing is, with several skills you’re implying that each skill the bargain has is narrower in scope; and with more options to spend those points on, it’s harder to create a strong bargain that covers all its bases with a very high rating. If I have 8 skill points and they all go into making a Enforce +8, that’s one thing. If I have 8 skill points and I decide to make two skills representing the bargain’s ability to affect the character mentally (“You want to enter that church, huh? Face some overwhelming fear!”) vs physically (“The bargain thinks your legs shouldn’t work; running away isn’t part of the deal!”), then I may end up with Enforce (Physical) +5, Enforce (Mental) +3, which as targets to be overcome are gonna be a lot more surmountable than that +8. So keep in mind what you’re getting yourself into here when you split things up and adjust accordingly. Skill caps (for the bargain) may play into this as well, starting as PC-equivalent, but something the bargain could burn a few extra skill points on going above.  ↩