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Fate Sucks for Horror, But It's AMAZING for #iHunt's Horror

Have you seen that #iHunt is live for purchase right now? It’s getting a killer response, and I’m so grateful. If you haven’t checked it out, please do.

Over the coming days and weeks, I’m going to try to blog a little bit about processes and thoughts relating to the game, as I find time.

The first thing I wanted to touch on was a passage that a few people had questions about.

Fate Sucks For Horror

Fate Core comes from the rules for a game called Spirit of the Century, which is a pulp action game where intelligent gorillas can fistfight with mad scientists with laser guns while balancing on the wings of a 1940s biplane. It’s fun and campy and awesome. Fate also powers games like Atomic Robo, also pulp science action, and The Dresden Files, which is urban fantasy noir action. 

#iHunt’s a horror game. I don’t think Fate Core is particularly good at horror. It’s good for pulpy action, because players are empowered and encouraged to escalate the action using their narrative control, whereas horror is often predicated on a lack of agency. So why use Fate Core for #iHunt? 

Basically, it’s because I came to the realization that #iHunt, as a horror story, isn’t about whether or not the protagonists can kill the monsters. In #iHunt, we shouldn’t be asking ourselves if the hunters can kill a given monster. We should be celebrating how they manage to do it in spite of the odds. That’s pretty pulpy. In #iHunt, the horror comes from the societal and institutional barriers that keep people down. The horror is capitalism. The horror comes from people having to make awful choices in the absence of good choices. 

In practice, the horror in #iHunt happens when you come home from a hard day of kicking monster ass, and you realize the bills still aren’t paid enough to keep the utilities on. The horror happens when you get the biggest paycheck of your life, but then realize your medical bills are just a little bit more than that. In game terms, it comes from the moments when the Director imperils an aspect. In those moments, the characters get to be truly terrified. The players can ham up the awful as much as they want, while never really worrying about the blood on the carpet from the monsters. #iHunt comes from a long tradition of monster hunter media, where we never really have to worry about the heroes in a fight—we come to see them rock that shit—the drama outside the arena is where the real stakes are. So for this reason, Fate Core works perfectly for #iHunt.

Some people have read this passage and asked why, if I think Fate isn’t great for horror, why I chose to use Fate for my horror game.

Very simply, because I came to the realization that the type of horror I think Fate is bad for, which is to say the type you see in popular horror films and novels, quite simply is not the type of horror that #iHunt is.

#iHunt’s horror is about making tough choices. And frankly, it was very easy to make minor modifications to Fate to make that work swimmingly, because Fate is an amazing game that does amazing things.

I still don’t think it’d do more general horror very well. Every “horror hack” I’ve seen for Fate so far falls flat on what, in my opinion, is at the heart of most good horror.

Fate Core is a robust system, and especially for the type of game I wanted #iHunt to be. Part of the decision to go with Fate came not to what I could do to force Fate to fit, but coming to the realization that the type of horror I deliver in #iHunt is actually very easy to do in Fate Core. In fact, I strongly recommend every serious #iHunt player get it and read it, because it can bring a lot to the table even if you never intend on using it on its own. Or, as I say in the book:

#iHunt and Fate Core

#iHunt is built off a rules foundation called the Fate Core rule system. There’s a great book called the Fate Core Rulebook that’s sort of the starting point for the #iHunt rules. While we go off in some weird directions and add things to the game, it’s still a very useful resource for dedicated #iHunt players. It gives far more casual examples, and more generic usage for the system. We strongly recommend you check it out, especially if you want to hack and change your #iHunt game to suit your particular group’s needs. 

The Fate Core Rulebook goes into great detail about some things we glossed over for page space reasons, or because they would only be edge cases in your average #iHunt game. But it’s super useful for things like building stunts and aspects.

So that’s just a little peek behind the hood, and a little insight into the decision making that made the game happen.