[RPG] GM supposed to do when a player uses inappropriate skill


Help me to understand how skill mechanics are supposed to work in Fate.

The systems I am familiar with assume it's the GM who calls for a die roll:

GM: What do you do?
Player: I'm trying to catch a fish with using my fishing rod.
GM: make a Fishing check
Player: (rolls a die with the Fishing modifier)

However, Fate SRD assumes the opposite.

Taking Action, Dice, & The Ladder:

Lenny sighs and says, “Well, I’ve got Athletics at Good (+3), so I’ll try dodging and weaving through them to cross the hall.”

Actions & Outcomes:

Lily looks through Cynere’s skill list and picks Resources as her skill

In both examples, it is the player who makes the decision what skill modifier they should add. It might work fine until players start to choose bigger bonuses regardless of a poor narrative.

The system itself might encourage players to make weird choices:

GM: What do you do?
Player: I'm trying to catch a fish. I have "Electronics" on Great (+4), so I tie the lure onto a wire and cast it like a fishing line (rolls a die with the Electronics modifier).

Do the game mechanics provide a way for GM to correct the player's skill choice?

Best Answer

Yes, the rules do offer a way to steer things on track when people are using an inappropriate skill choice.

Your primary source is the Golden Rule:

Decide what you’re trying to accomplish first, then consult the rules to help you do it.

What are they trying to do? Reel in a fish. What mechanics are going to help them do that? Physique or Athletics.

Electronics will not help them reel in a fish. It might help them justify having materials available for a fishing line, but it's not the mechanic that will help you reel in a fish.

Fate sees maintaining good use of mechanics as a group activity, and is written assuming people will use the system well, instead of using mechanics incorrectly. The GM, and in fact any player, can call people out when the mechanics are being used improperly with a “that skill doesn't make sense here, shouldn't you be using Physique?”. The GM themselves is vested with the task of judging appropriate use of the rules, and is absolutely in a position to respond to players calling things out like this and help steer things back on track and negotiate with the player to find a mechanic that suits what they're doing.

(If they're terrible at fishing, this may be a golden opportunity to compel them into their fishing attempt going horribly wrong.)