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Fiat: Diceless Roleplaying Compact




Why diceless?

I came around to diceless RPGs by the long route. In general I just love me some dice, especially sparkley or metalic platonic solids with weird colorations. For years I poo-pooed the idea of diceless games, partly because all the settings I enjoyed were for games that used dice, but also partly because the element of chance just seemed so necessary to me for some unidentifyable reason.


But after playing with the same gaming group for many years I started to notice something: Frequently we didn't roll dice all that much. And often when we did it almost seemed like dice-rolling was an extra game-mandated thing, just as likely to throw a wrench in the plans of GM and players alike as to provide some advantage to one or the other.


Then one day Dave mentioned this tendancy for randomized events (particularly during combat) to drive the plot in directions no one desires. At about this time we'd switched to the Amber diceless system for our main game, and it was interesting to see how our characters had just as much competency at accomplishing tasks under such a system. But as usual I wasn't enthralled with some of the particulars of that system (such as the fact that the outcome of all conflicts is clearly determined even before they begin).


To get around this aspect of pre-determined outcome a system of token spending has been implimented in Fiat. Token systems are nothing groundbreaking in RPGs. Similar things have been used before to help skew the odds of a given outcome in games using dice. But in Fiat spending tokens doesn't simply provide a greater chance of success at a given action, it causes events in general to unfold in a more unlikely (and hopefully more impressive or interesting) way that the player intends.


So while the outcome of a conflict is no longer pre-determined neither is it left to chance. Whatever happens at least one of the conflict participants will end up having the narrative unfold as they prefer.



Whence the title?

In role-playing parlance the term "GM Fiat" has come to refer to definitive, often on the spot, decisions and rulings made by the Game Master (GM) regarding what is or is not allowable in a given game.


In most games there is a three way balance of power being struck between GM authority, setting and mechanical stipulations, and player input. However in the midst of this balance it's always the GM who has final say anyway. Fiat cuts to the chase putting GM authority clearly first when it comes to determining how common or plausible all abilities, events, and other phenomena are within a given setting. But having established the GM's supremacy in establishing norms, Fiat also provids a framework to allow players more lattitude in exceeding those things determined plausible.


The term "Compact" in the title partly alludes to the small page count I'd hoped for in creating this game, but also indicates the fact that role-playing is essentially an agreement between the participants over how things should work. Though the GM has final say over the rules this authority is not unlimited. If the guy running the game is generally being a jerk, or making rulings that stick in others craw, then eventually the players will get sick of it and leave, or hurl the GM to the Slarr and appoint a new one.


For this reason the GM should listen to and taken into account what the players care about and balance this against what is reasonable given the setting. Fiat's "compact" balances narrative power so that while the GM may have authority over what is reasonable and normal in a given set of circumstances, the players can still inject their own preffered outcomes of situations in contrast to what might normally occur.



The Game


The most current version of Fiat is 1.8 as of November 11, 2008:




- Peter K.

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