Thursday, March 13, 2014

FATE Points vs Bennies

On the surface of things, Fate's "Fate Point" and Savage World's "Benny" systems look similar, but if you take a moment to learn about them you will see that they serve different purposes.

What is a Benny?

In Savage Worlds you can be awarded a Benny by the GM(or by other players in some alternate rules).  This makes Benny rules kind of liquid, as you simply get them when someone judges what you do merits it.  This makes them flexible.  If the GM wants more action, he'll reward the players for being more proactive in things.  If the GM wants clever resolutions to problems, he'll start rewarding that.  It is kind of like Dog Treats.  

Some people do not like this non-codified giving of bennies because someone can become a "favorite", or you can encourage bad behavior.  Someone making an offhand joke about a situation makes everyone laugh wildly for 5 minutes, so they get a benny.  Now for the next 30 minutes, everyone's cracking jokes trying to get the next "you're the funniest person" benny.  This does not even take into account straight up favortism from a bad GM.

In the end, Bennies are not nearly as strong as Fate Points.  Bennies are "do overs".  They let you re-roll an action that you are not happy with.  If you're trying to diffuse a bomb, its a second chance at a better shot.  If you get hit by a bullet, that benny can be a split second dodge out of the way.  If you're injured and bleeding, that benny can be a shot of adrenaline that pushes you off the floor and into heroism.  Bennies are more plentiful and fly around in use much more than Fate Points.  They create tension and extreme acts of heroics that cause Savage Worlds games to be more "seat of the pants" style than other games.

What is a Fate Point?

Fate Points are earned by a player putting their character through hardship.  To get a Fate Point you have to invoke a negative aspect of your character, and fail at some task or ability. The favored way of getting Fate Points is to spring the failure only after you build up your idea as awesome and great to the group.

Fate Point acquisition is a sort of anti-min/max thing built into the game.  It forces you to think of real disadvantages of your character that you can call on in situations so you can get these Fate Points.  If you choose a disadvantage that rarely comes up(pineapple allergy), then you're going to find it hard to come by Fate Points.  Fate Points are not in the hands of a GM, and so there is not the potential for abuse as there is with Bennies.

Fate Points are sort of your "dream powers" if you go by the idea that Fate is sort of a group of lucid dreamers trying to make a story together.  You can use them for mundane things like adding +'s to your roles or -'s to other's rolls, but the real power is when you take narrative control of a situation.  You can find clues, you can know contacts, you can create "bridges" between the players and the goals that make it more interesting or move the story along.  You find out the bad guy's fortress is  hidden, you can use a Fate point to know a former guard is in prison and the group can go interrogate him for the location.  You get into a car that won't start, spend a Fate Point to do the "start up" routine your shitty car in college did and it causes the car to work!  Stuff like that.

On the flip side you can also change it to the detriment of other characters.  The bandits are on top of the train, so you spend a Fate Point to say "a storm rolls up out of the plains, causing heavy wind and rain" now the bandits have trouble moving while up there.  The Non-player character in the corner of a gas station is actually an undercover cop, and joins the group in subduing the criminals.  It can be simple too, spend a Fate Point to make a gun jam.  


So that's the differences.  There are some more, but this is enough of an explanation to get you started.  Bennies are more free for the awarding, but are more rule tied to their usage.  Fate Points are very codified in how you attain them, but the use of them is very free form.  Both are really cool additions to the old gaming formula, and even though I'm pretty much the GM of games I play, I love anything that takes control away from me, and gives the players the ability to affect the world.

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