One completely novel concept that comes from the RPG Fate, is what they call the “Fate Fractal” or the “Bronze Rule”. The Fate fractal states that “Everything that can be described in play can be modeled as a Fate Character. Want to introduce an Earthquake? Make the Earthquake a character. Want to set a house on Fire, make the Fire a character.
Fred Hicks outlined this concepts pretty well in a series of blog posts on the Fate RPG website, though Fate Core Rulebook didn’t delve into the concept as thoroughly as it could. One of the best and easiest to understand illustration of this concept is a post called It’s On Fire!.
While the concept of Character Oriented Systems can be applies to other systems (it’s really a modeling paradigm), Fate is particularly adepts at doing so.
For example, we could model a Fire as a D&D monster, we give it special abilities like “Spread”, and “Burn”, and we give it some physical attributes, etc… however, it is a best a painful process. With Fate there is actually little effort in Characterizing anything in play. You simply define what it does, and go.
So what is it about Fate that allows Character Oriented System so readily? If you are familiar with Fate you might be inclined to say Aspects, but I’m here to tell you it’s not aspects. What makes it work is that Fate “Skills” are a single set of stats that defines what a character does. Fate without Aspects would work almost as well for Characterizing Anything.
The flexibility to a certain extend comes from not nesting abstractions. In other systems the Skill List is dependent on other things, and there are lots of derived stats. In Fate you simply need a Set of Skills, Aspects, and a Stress Track and you have something that can be modeled as a Character in Play.