Metagame Monday–The Electrum Rule

TL;DR: Combine the Golden and Silver Rules and you get an alloy that will improve your game (<5 min. read).

Let’s pretend that “metagame” means “game about the game”—as in “metalogic” and “metamathematics“—rather than “knowledge of the Monster Manual players use to survive random encounters in D&D.”

Then Fate’s Rules As Written (RAW) have game rules (the Four Actions, the Four Outcomes, etc.) and metagame rules (Golden, Silver, and Bronze). 

The “metal” rules are fascinating, potentially game-breaking, and sometimes obscure. If you’ve ever read stuff about the Bronze Rule and “agency,” you know what I mean. If you haven’t, don’t feel compelled to follow the link.

Below, I discuss an “alloy” (of Gold and Silver), give an example of application, and conclude why it’s precious in under 600 words.

The Electrum Rule (I)

Electrum is a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver. So the “Electrum rule” is a naturally occurring combination of:

  • The Golden Rule: “Decide what you’re trying to accomplish first, then consult the rules to help you do it.
  • The Silver Rule: “Never let the rules get in the way of what makes narrative sense.”

On the surface, there’s no need for alloy. Get a narrative description, look at the rules (Golden Rule). Then, make contextual determinations and bend the RAW if needed (Silver Rule).

But sometimes, just consulting the rules (Golden Rule) tunnel-visions you and gets in the way of making narrative sense. Let’s check an example.

Rumble in the Jungle

During the 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle” boxing match, Foreman unleashed a rain of blows on Ali, who, in turn, inaugurated his “rope-a-dope” strategy to tire Foreman out. 

Fig.1.–Rope-A-Dope is Defense, right?

So far, so good: applying the Golden Rule is trivial. Both fighters Created an Advantage, say, Rain of Blows and Rope-A-Dope. Now, per the Golden Rule, it seems that, since Foreman is on the offensive and Ali on the defensive, Rain of Blows would grant bonuses (or rerolls) for Attacks, and Rope-A-Dope, for Defense. Clear-cut, right?

But let’s focus on Ali for a minute. How did Ali use Rope-A-Dope?

  • Obviously, to assist Defense actions, vs. Foreman’s Attacks, supported by his Rain of Blows.
  • Clearly, too, Provoke (Attack) Foreman to keep up with his Rain of Blows and get tired (perhaps because of Extra Effort).
  • More subtly, Attack Foreman and cause an Exhausted Consequence, leaving Foreman unable to deal with Ali’s Jabs & Crosses in the 8th round.

The subtlety of the last point is that, descriptively, Ali’s Attack would look like a defense (taking body shots), and Foreman’s attacks (said body shots) could very well be an Overcome action (trying to remove Rope-A-Dope from play).

So, not that clear-cut after all. 

Fig. 2.–Or maybe it wasn’t.

Wrapping Up: The Electrum Rule (II)

Suppose you’re GM-ing a Fate game. A player tells you their PC is trying to “get their opponent tired so they’d make tactical mistakes.” You apply the Golden Rule; interpret this as CaA (say Tiring Them Out) for Defense purposes; maybe suggest the player a Full Defense (if in play), and tell them to aim for Success with Style on a Defense roll (to get a Boost). Also, you consider bending the rules a little (per the Silver Rule) and grant those Boosts as free Invokes on Tiring Them Out. Now, consider:

Electrum Rule: Decide what you’re trying to accomplish first, then consult the rules, but don’t let them dictate what makes narrative sense.

Tiring Them Out is Rope-A-Dope by another name. So, you can also suggest a follow-up Attack and Silver-rule the RAW by forcing the NPC to take an Exhausted Consequence instead of Stress. That’s the Electrum Rule: do not let the RAW bleed into the narrative too much.

And that’s all there is for today, folks.

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