Fortune at the end, also written Fortune-at-the-End or FatE, is a type of fortune positioning in random resolution game mechanics. Fortune at the end means that all of the players' decisions affecting the game mechanics are made before the randomness is introduced. That is, as soon as the random result is known, the game mechanic ends with no further mechanical input from the players. (For other meanings, see Terminology and history, below.)
For example, a player may select their character's relevant statistics (e.g. skills or attributes based on what their action will actually be) and/or expend player resources, and these may affect the randomiser (e.g. the dice rolled, the modifier applied, or the number of playing cards drawn from a deck). However, once the dice have hit the table or the playing cards been revealed (or other randomiser has been used), the result is final and the player has no further options to alter the outcome.
Fortune at the end is the most common type of fortune positioning, and is the main type used in popular games such as Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition. It is also the most straightforward type of fortune positioning for players to use, and it maximises the tension arising from the use of the randomiser because all participants know that the random result can't be changed and will establish what happens next in the fiction. (However, in extreme cases, the lack of ability to change a result that might be unsatisfying is one factor that can lead to players and GMs fudging die rolls.)
It is possible for games that primarily use fortune at the end to incorporate fortune in the middle in certain specific cases, e.g. as a result of character abilities. For instance, in Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, abilities like bardic inspiration or the cleric spell Guidance can provide rare player resources that can be applied after a roll, a characteristic of fortune-in-the-middle mechanics.
Terminology and history
The term fortune at the end was coined by Ron Edwards on The Forge in 2001, specifically as the complement to the term fortune in the middle that he had previously invented. In this first definition, Edwards described it as:
- "Fortune-at-the-END means that all player and GM contribution to a character's action is established prior to rolling ... and the "final word" on the success of the action is given by the Fortune outcome."
From the start, the term was confusing and conflated mechanical contributions by the players with narrative contributions. This confusion started in Edwards' early examples, which described the player's narration as happening before the resolution process began (narration before uncertainty). For years, the idea that fortune at the end (and fortune in the middle) were defined by whether the actions were narrated before or after the randomisation (instead of whether mechanical decisions could be made only before or also after) was the most commonly understood definition of the term, including in Edwards' own definitions.
However, while the timing of narration can have a significant impact on play, it is largely a stylistic choice that doesn't depend on the rules. When playing a role-playing game in which the random result is the final step of the resolution mechanic (fortune at the end, according to the definition used by this wiki), players can choose whether to narrate their action before or after the random resolution. Different players can narrate at different times; the same player might narrate at different time in different situations. For instance, in some Dungeons & Dragons groups, it is typical to fully narrate social interactions like conversations before calling for a roll, but to leave the full descriptions of attacks and other physical actions until after the success or failure has been determined.
As such, the definition use on this wiki is derived from the views of designers who considered "mechanical decisions" to be the most important consideration, those who considered the players' "choice" to be most important, and those who felt that mechanics were a vital component and that the value of the term had been muddled and debased by shifting definitions.
- Ron Edwards (2001-08-09). Re: "What is Fortune in the Middle". The Forge Forums. Retrieved 2020-07-21.
- Troy Costisick (2011-02-04). "How Do Fortune Resolution Mehcanics Work?". Socratic Design. Retrieved 2020-07-21.
- Ron Edwards (2004-05-08). "The Provisional Glossary". The Forge. Retrieved 2020-07-21.
- Vincent Baker (lumpley) (2005-12-02). Re: "clarify Fortune in the Middle?". The Forge Forums. Retrieved 2020-07-21.
- Moreno Roncucci (2012-06-20). Edit to "Fortune-in-the-middle". Big Model Wiki. Retrieved 2020-07-21.
- Justin Alexander (2016-05-17). "Art of Rulings 10 – Fortune Positioning". The Alexandrian. Retrieved 2020-07-21.
- Fortune-at-the-end at the Big Model Wiki