Player contribution to the max

Hi everyone, New Fate GM here - I’ll be running my 11th session this evening. Woo hoo!

Just wondering if anyone has any tips for running the game with improv and the player contribution turned up to max? I try different ideas and techniques every week and would like to really get to a point where I can summon up interesting stakes, choices and compels on the fly. Is this possible or do you need a lot of experience with the system to run it this way?

Any tips and tricks would be appreciated.

What I do is ask more questions all the time and try to put the players in my shoes or give them more authorial stance.

So, when they’re entering a new location I let them tell me what’s there. I can draw from their description the types of things they think are important or interesting and weave it into the scene. When they’re looking for information or something like that, the results of the roll can be shared between the GM and the players. The GM can offer some information or begin a sentence and the player can fill in the blanks. “You discover he recently quit his job because…” Stuff like that.

Is that helpful?

Yes, that’s helpful thanks.

It’s interesting that you are able to process your player’s comments and weave it in to the scene as you go. I’ve been trying this approach, but I haven’t quite grasped how to convert these ‘clues’ from the players in to making an interesting and enjoyable scene. Especially during play. I suppose I’m hoping to be able to convert thier ideas in to meaningful choices with potential consequences, or a hook in to offering them a compel.

Anyway, it seems clear that being able to improvise on top of player contributions is a skill that needs to be learnt and the only way to learn it is to keep on trying and improving. There’s nothing you can really have prepared to work with the randomness player contribution brings to the table, especially with my group. Everyone seems to be enjoying it however, so I must be doing something right. Again, thanks for your response.

Let their character’s aspects guide you in the compels. Their aspects tell you what part of their story they want to focus on – that’s a huge help when it comes to working out what might happen in a scene. It might not even be an official compel when you do things this way, but you’ll be prompting the player to compel themselves when they see the opportunity arise. And if they’re invested in the scene, won’t that make the scene interesting and meaningful?

As an example: When I was running a The Secrets of Cats game with my daughters, I kicked off each session by compelling one of their aspects in order to create a scene or situation that immediately pulled them into what was going on. In addition to having that immediate “buy in,” they each got a Fate point from me for just participating in what I was throwing down.

It’s the first day of Autumn and in the town of Silver Ford the Parliament of Cats is on high alert. This is the time of year when the veil between worlds thins. Sprites and pixies become more daring and mischievous, harassing the Burdens. Vengeful ghosts become more dangerous and powerful as the daylight shortens and gives them more time to roam among the living. This is also the time of year when young humans vanish from the town and the Burdens believe their female young have run away, but the Parliament of Cats knows the truth. The Red Leaf Killer stalks their Burdens’ young and as the sun sets on the first day of Fall, the cats know that this hunter will soon be on the prowl…

Creeping into the dusk like fog, Storm begins patrolling her territory when she is interrupted by her own insatiable curiosity. A strange metal beast belches out a male human the young kit has never seen before. When Storm saunters toward the human to investigate, the stranger snatches her up, shoves her into a burlap sack, and throws her into the belly of the metal beast!

From the hill that overlooks the town of Silver Ford, Siberia hears the growls and roars of this strange metal beast. Its eyes glow like full moons casting beams of light into the darkness as it snakes up the path toward Siberia’s home. Siberia ignores the metal beast. Her territory is secure and her Burden is safe. When she tries to return indoors, she finds that all of her usual routes into the Big House are blocked and she’s trapped outside! The human that serves her Burdens has done this, Siberia knows it! Before she can spit a curse at that man, Siberia is seized by the scruff and tossed into a burlap sack! Another cat is in the sack with her and she smells familiar. What has that reckless Warden Storm gotten them into this time?

From the belly of the beast, Storm and Siberia can feel themselves being moved over land across town. The beast squeals each time it stops and one time when it stops, Storm can hear the sounds of cats fighting. Two cats … one is full of bravado the other full of laughter. A human is screaming at them to stop.

“I called animal control, you two! You’re gonna get it now,” the elderly female shouted.

Storm and Siberia are tumbled around as the stranger lifts the sack he threw them into. The two fighting cats are interrupted and their struggle against the stranger begins. First, that creepy Blue Eye is shoved into the sack with Storm and Siberia. Within the span of a nap, after hunting and stalking, the stranger finally catches the second fighter, Ginger the friendly stray, and she joins the trio in the sack.

By the time the moon is high in the sky, all four of them are abandoned in an animal shelter cage under lock and key.

This was my long-winded way of beginning the game and introducing Compels to my daughters. Using the scenario I described above, I Compelled each of their Troubles. For Storm it was Curiosity Killed the Cat. For Siberia it was the Cat-Hating Butler. For Blue Eye it was “I Like to Pick Fights” which happened to be a fight with Ginger who already has Trouble with Animal Control Officers. Darn their luck!

Have you ever tried something like that?