Fate Point Development

Copyright Patrick Emerton © 2007

Edited by Nicholas HM Caldwell for The Guild Companion

Under this option for HARP, instead of characters being awarded Experience Points, they are awarded Fate Points. Fate Points become the primary currency for character development.

This option therefore involves five principal rules changes:

  • Changes to the rules for Experience Points awards on page 179 of the Revised rulebook;
  • Changes to the rules for character advancement on page 14 of the Revised rulebook;
  • A new option for Fate Points: in addition to the normal possibilities, a Fate Point may be spent to give the character 5 DPs to spend as normal;
  • The option of spending 5 DPs to purchase one Fate Point (page 53 of the Revised rulebook) is available only at first level;
  • Stats no longer grant DPs: instead of twice their stat bonus, a 1st level character receives a flat 80 DPs.

Other rules -- such as the rules for building a first level character, the rules for spending DPs on stats, skills and talents, and the rules for spending Fate Points to improve a roll or improve a character's defence -- do not change. In particular, there is no change to the rule that no character may have more than 5 fate points at a given time.

Rationale for the option

This rules option is motivated by two related considerations.

First, in many fantasy RPGs it is difficult to run an adventure resembling The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, in which a party consists of both low-skill bonus and high-skill bonus characters, because what is a challenge for the second group of characters is deadly for the first group, while what is challenging for them is a walkover for the others.

One solution to this problem is to allow some characters to build up skill bonuses as they gain levels, while other characters accumulate Fate Points, which they can use to improve their luck in difficult situations, thus simulating the good fortune of the Hobbits in both of Tolkien's tales. The current HARP rules do not really provide for this, however, because Fate Points can be purchased in lieu of stats, skills and talents only when DPs are gained at each new level -- and at this point, a player has to choose between the certain benefit of improving his or her character's skills, or the uncertain benefit of purchasing Fate Points for future use.

Under this option, Fate Points are earned directly during play, ready to be spent in any way the player chooses. This makes the choice to spend Fate Points for luck, rather than on DPs for improving a character's stats, skills and talents, comparatively more attractive.

The second rationale for this option is to integrate more tightly the player's accomplishment of his or her goals for her character, and her play experience with that character. Instead of having to wait to gain a level in order to receive DPs, the player receives Fate Points directly for achieving the goals (personal and party) s/he has set for that character. In addition, by making Fate Points primary it allows players to take a more active role in shaping their characters' lives, as well as their character's development. This better supports those players who have goals other than having their character grow in ability (for example, they may prefer to play a lucky if comparatively unskilled hobbit!).

This integration of player goals and play experience can be further supported by making it clear that a character's personal goals are established by the player of that character and need not be the character's goals. They represent a character's destiny, and not every person gets to choose his or her own destiny. For example, a player wishing to roleplay his character's fall from grace may specify a certain act of treachery as his character's personal goal. The character then earns Fate Points for achieving appropriate minor goals on route to that ultimate destination, even though (from the character's point of view) his destiny may be abhorred rather than welcomed.

It should also be clarified that Fate Points may be spent not only in circumstances of crisis or conflict, but in order to achieve a character's goal (party or personal). This allows for a positive and dynamic feedback loop: a player spends his or character's Fate Points to achieve the character's goals to earn Fate Points to be spent achieving goals to earn Fate Points ...

Acquiring Fate Points

Characters may earn Fate Points in four ways (derived from the rules for awarding Fate Points and Experience Points in the Revised rulebook, on pages 53 and 178-9):

  • For succeeding at a spectacular manoeuvre, 1 Fate Point;
  • For an idea that significantly aids the accomplishment of a party goal, 1 Fate Point;
  • For good roleplaying by that character's player, 1 Fate Point;
  • For accomplishing a goal, the number of Fate Points indicated in the following table (record all fractions):
Difficulty Major Party Goal Minor Party Goal or
Major Personal Goal
Minor Personal Goal
Routine 0 0 0
Light 0.3 0.2 0.1
Easy 0.5 0.3 0.2
Medium 1 0.5 0.3
Hard 2 1 0.4
Very Hard 3 1.5 0.5
Extremely Hard 4 2 0.6
Sheer Folly 5 2.5 0.7
Absurd 10 5 1

Gaining levels

For every 8 Fate Points earned, the character gains one level. At this time, he or she also gains 10 DPs to spend as normal.

Once 152 fate points have been earned (that is, once 20th level has been reached), all Fate Point awards are divided by 3 (record all fractions); however, every 8 Fate Points earned gives not just a level, but 20 DPs to spend as normal.

A character with multiple professions must keep track of which profession earned which Fate Points, in order to ensure that the correct costs are paid for skills, and to determine whether Spell Casting skills associated with a particular profession may be developed.

The mathematics explained

The Fate Point awards, and the rules for level gaining, have been calculated in the following way.

- First, using the example characters in Martial Law as a guide, the average number of DPs gained per level was calculated. A workable formula is 40 DPs at 1st level, 41 DPs at 2nd level, 42 DPs at 3rd, and so on up to 59 DPs at 20th and 60 DPs at every level above 20th.

This gives 40 x 2 equals 80 DPs at 1st level, 50 DPs per level as an average from 2nd to 20th level, and 60 DPs per level above that.

- Second, the average number of Experience Points required per level was calculated. This is 350 for 2nd level, 400 for 3rd, and so on up to 1250 for 20th, and 2500 for every level above that.

This gives 800 Experience Points as an average from 2nd to 20th level, and 2500 DPs per level above that.

- Third, a ratio of Fate Points to DPs had to be determined. Sticking with the core rulebook, this is 1:5.

The easiest way to reconcile these numbers is to substitute 8 Fate Points per level for 800 Experience Points per level. The Experience Point awards in the Revised rulebook are then simply divided by 100 to get equivalent Fate Point awards. As 8 Fate Points corresponds to 40 DPs, an additional straight DP award is given every level to maintain equivalence, and ensure that all characters are able to progress to a small extent at least (as even the Hobbits did in Tolkien's books).

Above 20th level, the core rules require 2500 Experience Points per level. This is near enough to 3 times 800; hence the rule that above 20th level, all Fate Point awards are divided by 3.