I love the Dark Side in games, but usually games don’t handle that well. The rules make it too rigid and predictable. (Since Mythender is built around a giant Dark Side mechanic of its own, this is something that’s been on my mind for years.) I’ve played in Fate games where I’ve messed around with it — usually as a convention game where a long arc of someone falling to the Dark Side wouldn’t really be played out, so it played more like Dresden’s sponsor debt (which isn’t a bad model to start). But for a longer-term Fate game, I always felt like I’d need more.
The Force (Heritage Distinction)
d4 — Add a d6 to the Trouble pool and Earn a plot point when you call on the Dark Side, rolling your own Angry or Afraid.
And that’s it for the mechanic. There’s no checking to see if the character falls further into the Dark Side. It’s just a freebie…that screws over the group in general. And the implications of that are what will drive a “falling into Dark Side” arc, not a score-keeping mechanic.
I found that to be damned delicious. The idea that the group could just play out the fall at their own pace is pretty awesome! Now, it’s not for every game — sometimes you want to feel the pressure that it could happen (like I do in Mythender), but for other games this is gold. And that’s what I want to see in the Star Wars-inspired Fate games I run. With that, here’s…
Dark Side Aspects & Fate Points
Dark Side aspects is an aspect type (see my Typed Aspects post). This aspect type can be applied to any aspect — character aspects, location aspects, world aspects, etc. These are not invoked or compelled normally. Instead:
Invoking Dark Side Aspects
You invoke Dark Side aspects for free — that is, you don’t pay a Fate point to get the +2, reroll, or whatever other benefit an aspect might provide (such as skill substitution). This is not the same as a free tag, though. When you get the bonus, the GM gets a Dark Side Fate point specifically for your character. At a later point, he’ll use that Dark Side Fate point (see below) to compel you with that or another Dark Side aspect.
When you do, you need to incorporate into the narrative how the Dark Side changes what you do. Sometimes that’ll be obvious (like, say, with Force Lightning), and some won’t be. As with all other invocations, you and your group will find the right narrative spot.
Compelling Dark Side Aspects
The GM can only compel a Dark Side aspect if he has a Dark Side Fate point waiting in the wings for your character. Valid compels include corrupting something you’re trying to do or pushing you to act on your emotions. You know, getting your Dark Side on. Take the compel, and you get that Dark Side point for your character.
(Note: If you’re making a distinction between internal vs world compels, these compels are of the supernatural variety.)
Alternatively, some location or world Dark Side aspects make sense as something you could compel normally. “Sinister Caves of Dagobah” is something that could possibly cause mayhem to anyone. In those cases, it’s whatever you’d consider a normal compel, with the normal Fate point deal.
Buying off: Yes, you can buy off these compels, but it’s harder to resist the Dark Side when you’ve let it in. For every Dark Side point being pushed forward, you need to buy it off with two normal Fate points. Naturally, the GM can escalate, provided you have enough Dark Side points queued for him to. If you do buy them off, all the points go away; you’ve successfully resisted the Dark Side, so those points are discarded.
Creating Dark Side Aspects
Your build will determine this. The GM can declare some location or campaign aspects as Dark Side type. And Jedi-type characters may be required to take a Dark Side aspect. Maybe there’s just a campaign aspect called The Dark Side (and maybe further Dark Side aspects on a character). But that’s all build-specific.
Side note: there may be some fruit in looking at the Lawbreaker stunts from Dresden Files RPG for this. But that’s a further topic, I think.
Using Dark Side Fate Points
Dark Side points should look different from other Fate points. They are counted separately, and should just be more menacing in general.
These special Fate points may be spent on any aspect, as per normal Fate points. You get a +3 bonus instead of the +2. As with invoking a Dark Side aspect, you need to incorporate how the Dark Side affects the action you’re doing.
Unlike with regular Fate points, you can spend them on Dark Side aspects. For those, you get a +5 bonus instead (or a reroll & +3 — treat it as invoking the aspect once for free and once with the point). You’ll give your Dark Side point back to the GM, who’ll keep it in the wings to compel you again (you’ve spent one point, and one point gets put in for the free invoke).
Dark Side points want to be used! After every milestone (assume a Dresden-style progression), you lose one Dark Side point you’re holding. If you have none, the GM loses one that’s waiting in the wings for you. You can out-wait the Dark Side with utter inaction, if you so choose. (Why you would, I don’t know, but it feels fitting with Jedi going on years-long retreats.)
Dark Side Stunts
Oh, here’s a thought. Everyone with a valid character concept (you know, Force user) as a free stunt:
Pay a Dark Side Fate point. For the rest of the scene, you may use your Mysteries skill (assuming a Spirit of the Century skill build — replace as necessary) in lieu of Guns (or similar skill). Treat as Weapon: 3.
If you invoke a Dark Side aspect for this roll, add +3 to your roll instead of +2.
It’s also possible that this entire post is its own free stunt for valid character types, rather than something the entire party can use. If you, you know, want to make the game feel more like other Star Wars games that deprioritize non-Force characters.
What Using the Dark Side Means
Ideally, as you use the Dark Side you’ll end up doing actions that support different Aspect changes (though enforcing that with a rule is beyond the scope of this post). You’ll also have an impact on the relationships around your character, both PCs & NPCs. The world changes for the Dark Side users. Now, you can treat this humanistically, in that it’s how you’re treated that changes you — just like how gunfighters are treated in Western fiction, compared to other people. Or you can treat it cosmically, where the Dark Side makes people around you act different to drive you further in. From the point of the story, it matters less why and more what happens because of it.
And it leaves characters free to truly explore the power & consequences of that grey area between pure Light and pure Dark. I find that a more enriching option for Star Wars play than just feeling you’re Light until the one day all your “I have a good soul” hit-points are gone, flipping the switch that makes your character an evil NPC.
(There’s also a question of whether the Dark Side additional bonuses apply to fully-Dark characters. If Lord Vader’s statement of “If only you knew the power of the Dark Side” is an absolute truth, then yes. On the other hand, if it’s the comment of someone who has once experienced the rush of Dark Side power before it ebbed, much like a cocaine or heroin fiend feels over time, then no. Either way, there’s something interesting to say about the setting there.)
Where One Might Use This
(I’ve been alluding on Twitter to a Bulldogs! setting hack in my head mixing this idea with Dragon Age’s Circle Mages & Templars.)
 Another way to look at it is that it’s a meta-type, as it can be applied to aspects of any type…depending on your build.
 Incidentally, Jediville above doesn’t. So, it’s not an either-or, even if my snark suggests so.