Cover Image Aspects

Fate’s been able to handle aspects for campaign theme, mood, setting tropes, all that jazz since aspects were created. We handle some of the with Dresden’s City Creation, with the Themes and Threats of the city and locations in it, but it can go farther. A good friend of mine, Morgan Ellis, pushes the envelope here with aspects he’ll put down about the theme of a game. Some that we’ve come up with in conversation or in play:

  • “Training montages”, for spy or thriller games
  • Kirby dots“, for comic book-inspired games
  • “True Love Conquers All”, for romance-infused games

etc. He was talking to us about wanting to do a Shadowrun Fate game, because when he first picked up Shadowrun 2/e as a kid, he fell in love with the cover. He wanted to play the cover. For various reasons, the game in ended up playing wasn’t the game from the cover.

Shadowrun Second Edition Cover

Shadowrunners in all their glory

Here’s where it gets all crazyhouse. We started deconstructing it, figuring out what aspects would work well, when another friend of ours, Carl Rigney, suggested just making the cover image an aspect. It might have been a joke at first, but it got us thinking hard about the idea. It isn’t actually too far a leap from some of the very high-concept aspects like “Sins of the Past” or anything like that. With those aspects, a bit of conversation about what an invocation or compel is makes for smoother play. Same goes here; what conversation could be had about invoking this cover image? Compelling it?

I wouldn’t go crazy with images for aspects all the time, but a cover image, that’s some interesting thinking. Haven’t played with it yet, but I’m certainly going to at some point. I’ll let you know how it turns out. Or, if you try it, let me know!

So, for the audience participation portion of the week: How would you invoke this cover image aspect? How would you compel it?

– Ryan


9 Responses to Cover Image Aspects

  1. Scott Favre says:

    Invoke – Make a declaration that the ATM outside the bank we are trying to infiltrate is hooked up to the security mainframe so that our decker can open the bloody maintenance door while we are pinned down by a gang rival runners.

    Compel – The run is going well, a little to well for my tastes as a GM, so out come the FP poker chips as the local sports team’s championship victory/loss brings out the anarchist sports fans. In a ripped-from-the-headlines moment, the fans start to riot (for once, a riot not instigated by the PCs!). In Shaddowrun, I imagine that riots are really, really ugly. I imagine a troll standing on top of a (crushed) police car wielding a street sign as an improvised weapon.

  2. Morgan Ellis says:

    It was actually 1st Edition Shadowrun imagery that set my eleven year old self’s mind ablaze with the potential awesomeness that the book would contain. I’m old school like that.

    But the concept of using images as aspects for getting across and reinforcing tone, genre, and setting is one I can’t wait to try out myself. By showing people the Kirby dots and Kamanbi covers that inspired my gonzo comic book post apocalypse games, or Frazetta’s John Carter of Mars covers for my planetary romance games. I hope I can get across what tone I’d like from the games better than even the best written setting aspect I can come up with.

  3. Mike says:

    Perhaps you should use the excellent Palate idea from Ben Robbin’s Microscope to pick out the pieces of the image which relate to the interests of the players and GM at the table, and then make each of those an Aspect of the World, which any character or NPC can tag as an aspect once per scene in order to gain a bonus. Essentially, it turns into genre/game appropriate trope bonuses. For instance:

    World Palate Aspects:
    Make It Quick, the Fuzz is Here!
    Invoke: I’m almost done with this, and it’s a good thing, because, the authorities are here!
    Compel: You are out of time, because yes, in fact, the authority figures have arrived.

    Cover me!
    Invoke: Give allies a bonus to help me do what I’m about to do at great risk to myself.
    Compel: You have 20 guns pointed at you.

    I Knew It… Shadowrunners!
    Invoke: Your reputation proceeds you.
    Compel: The authorities are prepared for your arrival/involvement.

    Invoke: We won’t panic, we’ve been here before.
    Compel: “Don’t hold back, they’re clearly professionals.”

    If you tried this before the sessions started, as a bit of world building, it probably wouldn’t be too tough to manage over and above the other aspects you’d expect everyone to have.

  4. I really like this idea but I want to take it one step further and just make it image aspects. In Morgan’s Shattered Earth game we had to fight these giant worms (think the movie Tremors) and I remember putting a declarative aspect on theme but instead of writing it down I drew a little sketch. Morgan also had wonderful character art for that game which would have also been fun to use as aspects.

    Also, I think in Hot-War each player is suppose to describe a moment as though someone had taken a photo. What might be fun in a similar vein would be if players/gm brought a piece of art which could be used as an aspect and also a signal to everyone else that this would be a could moment to push to. I just really like the idea of making all the rpg/scifi/fantasy art a mechanic in the game.

    Invoke: when a decker is trying to break into a system under stress. Or when the crew is under fire.

    Compel: Enemy fire is distracting and forces the player to take cover. Or gaseous fumes from the sewer force you to flee the area.

    • Ryan Macklin says:


      That was the original thought, but we figured that might be a bit overwhelming, and hard to follow through. But if you have artists at the table, I imagine a skilled group (art & play-wise) could make images aspects in general work.

      (Either that or be a wizard with Google Image search.)

      If you try it, let us know!

      – Ryan

  5. Kenneth Hite says:

    You’ve just re-invented Everway. So now I’ll skip ahead to the proper EverFATE hack; might be the actual Everway story deck or Tarot, but we can use any deck or combo deck from Magic: the Gathering to WWII fighter-jet flash cards to Fringe trading cards, or all of those shuffled together. Or a file of comics or Economist magazines or any other image archive. Or random Google Image searches. Anyhow…

    Your Aspects are the hand of images (“cards”) currently up in front of you. You always have one continuing card through the whole campaign. (Maybe you can change it after a major life crisis.) At the beginning of the session, each player chooses three or four cards to shuffle into the story deck; the GM picks a dozen; then randomly deal another dozen into the deck; there are a dozen that always stay in the deck. That final deck of 48-52 cards becomes the story deck for that session.

    Every player has their “always” card in front of them plus three other cards; the GM turns over four cards for the environment and draw-and-discards for every scene change, major NPC entrance, or other story element that appears. Invoking or compelling any card except your always card discards it at the end of the scene.

    I’ve probably forgotten one or two elements, but that seems like a good start.

    • Ryan Macklin says:


      Hah! I suppose we did go there. And damn, I want to try that hack and see what happens. And I have all these Magic: the Gathering cards…

      – Ryan

  6. Ben Woerner says:

    And I have all these L5R cards, and all these Cyberpunk Nethack cards too….

  7. Ryan Macklin says:

    An email comment from Carl Rigney, that he’s cool with being posted:

    Most RPGs use words as the basic unit of meaning, but using images (Everway) or songs (Ribbon Drive) may prove useful for players for whom words aren’t their native language.

    This idea inspired by Daniel Woods’ stack of face photos and use of a Memory Palace in our Fabricated Realities Monsterhearts game, which gave me the idea of doing a a game with various photos hanging by string Memory Palace style over the game table, with players able to key on those. That’s too much prep for my minimalist style, but I like the idea of it.

    And now that Google has “find other similar images” search, intriguing possibilities present themselves.

    Also, agreed that Shadowrun 1e had an awesomely evocative cover.