A long time ago I plucked the fourth edition Hero System rulebook out of my friend’s pile of neglected games and released a small avalanche of abandoned character sheets to drift down and collect at my feet. Reading Hero System for the first time was a revelation to me. Here was a game which said yes instead of no. Yes, you can play an inter-dimensional ninja in the Wild West. Yes, you can be a wizard who wields a deadly sword with one hand as easily as he tosses fireballs with the other. Most games make those sorts of cross-genre and cross-training shenanigans impossible but here was a game that told me straight out I could make any character I could imagine.
When I finally cracked open a FATE book, the effect was revolutionary again. FATE said to me, though less clearly I believe from being a relatively new game, you can play any situation that you want. Rather than focusing on generic powers from which you build any character, FATE focuses on generic game mechanics from which you can smoothly play out any scenario you can imagine. When I first encountered the concept I had a realization that the time we spend actually playing a game, rolling dice and using the mechanics to resolve actions, is far greater than the time we spend building a character. However, it seems that most game designers spend the majority of their efforts on how we build characters and especially about concerns of balance, rather than on how we play the game. Leading to game mechanics that lack a well thought consistency.
This is a principle I try to keep in mind as I continue to evolve my FATE version of the Superheroes campaign. If we keep the game mechanics simple and generic we can create a game where, not only can you build any character you can imagine, but that character can accomplish anything you can imagine.