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Typed Aspects & Free Tagging

Another Emerging Threats Unit post[1], relating to Research Aspects.

Diaspora[2] introduced the idea of scopes in aspects, at least with some meaning. You have Character aspects, Scene aspects, Planet aspects, etc. That’s not new, but what was is the idea that you can only invoke one aspect from each scope.

I asked Brad Murray about why they all chose that on Twitter. Here’s the convo:

RyanMacklin: Hey, do you talk anywhere on the blogosphere about why you scoped aspects & limit invocation in Diaspora?

BradJMurray: Hmm, maybe. I think it all pre-dates my blog though. So it might pre-date my thinking altogether.

At the root it’s simple, though: if a task is hard, it forces you to look outside the character for help.

RyanMacklin: I ask because I’m blogging about it, and that’s one place in Diaspora where you don’t explain why. (Unless I missed it.)

BradJMurray: So it’s an anti-super-hero technology.

The fact that we had invented something with scopes wasn’t clear to us until well after publication. It was a reflexive rule.

So my knowledge of its purpose is mostly deconstruction.

Which was enlightening. See, I don’t care for the limitations on scope, though I get why they chose that. I feel like the Fate point economy is the fix for that in and of itself, and I want people to be able to drain all the Fate points they want in a moment. Not saying Brad and company are wrong, just I want something different out of the economy.

Then I started introducing Research Aspects, and there was a crapton of stuff the players could free tag. Crapton. So I stole from Diaspora and said “you can only free tag one aspect of each type per roll.” That prompted me to come up with types.

  • Character aspects: the core aspects on the characters; Drive, Hope, Personal Demon, Relationship.
  • Consequence aspects: the aspects generated from consequences. (I may go back to making this an except)
  • Threat aspects: the core aspects on monsters and the like — many Unnatural Sciences aspects fall here.
  • Mission aspects: the aspects on the mission available to all members of ETU. In prior games, “Falsified credentials” and “Spy satellites” were available.
  • Scene aspects: what we’ve all come to buy as scene aspects. You can declare them with Survival rolls.
  • Situation aspects: maneuvers you place on another character
  • Gear aspects: what you invent with Tech rolls

The idea is to not over-privilege Unnatural Sciences. That’ll generate a lot of aspects, but to get the most free tags available, you need to generate Threat aspects (Unnatural Sciences), Gear aspects (Tech), Scene aspects (Survival), Mission aspects (created at the start of the game), Situation aspects (maneuvers), and Consequence aspects (created as a result of combat).

That’s a lot of freebies, and generally you won’t free tag something from each. But it does mean you won’t blow two free tags at once generated from one good Unnatural Sciences roll that makes multiple Threat aspects.

It’s also worth noting that since there aren’t many “I’m totally competent” type of aspects on characters, there is a strong drive to create aspects in play. That’s worked well so far.

Finally, you can invoke those other aspects by spending Fate points, even if the haven’t be free-tagged yet. The free tag still exists for someone else, or for you on a future roll.

– Ryan

[1] I wish I could do something in WordPress where I could just quickly markup with “link to this tag” without having to open another browser tab and finding out what that URL is.

[2] I’m sorry, ENnie Award-winning, Golden Geek shortlist Diapsora

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2 Responses to Typed Aspects & Free Tagging

  1. Codrus says:

    I know my group ran into this when first playing SOTC. Starting with 10 fate points and 10 aspects meant that a lot of the neat ideas (assessing aspects on opponents) were just not that important in play. Tagging 2 personal aspects in almost any scene was easy; tagging 3 or 4 was harder, and usually only happened when the scene was about that character.

    We talked a lot about either reducing the number of fate points a character started with, or cutting down the number of aspects that a character started with. I only found one old post, and it wasn’t a lot more than what I’ve put here. I think that even if mechanically all aspects are equal, I’d reward players in play that take the time to learn about the antagonists and use the antagonist’s weaknesses against them.

    • Brad Murray says:

      Codrus, this is another way that restricting to scope can pay off indirectly: the antagonist is a new scope to draw from. This is a discoverable tactic, which is something I like: I want a game played well to deliver even more, and I want good players to learn (and invent) ways to play better. Scopes keep revealing new ways for this to happen.