Decoupling Aspects from Phases
This is one of many ideas I wish I had back when we were working on Fate Core. Alas, it often takes publishing a game and seeing it in the wider world for such ideas to occur. Nature of the beast.
In Spirit of the Century, there were five phases — who you were before the Great War, a moment that defined you, your first adventure, and two times when you crossed paths with another’s adventure. Each had two aspects. In Dresden, there were the two core concept aspects, the high concept and the trouble, but after that there were the same five phases — rethemed for Dresden, and with one aspect apiece, but still those five.
In Fate Core, to bring the aspects down to five, we cut the first two phases, treating that, from an end result standpoint, the aspects that came from that were very high concept or trouble in their nature. And from an end result standpoint, I think the decision to do that is solid. But I also think that very decision operated under a flawed logic: that we had to pin aspects created to individual phase segments.
In watching people make characters in Fate Core since it came out, I’ve found myself wishing for a couple steps in between high concept/trouble and first adventure, because I saw out that was a useful tool for conceptualization — not because everyone goes through the same path, but because that allows for three different entry points into getting a character on paper: what they were like early on, what they did recently that was awesome, and what moment redefined them? Pick the one you want to start with, and then pick the other two. But with how we did Core, we said “just start with what they did recently that was awesome.”
What I would do now, and what I will do when I run Fate, is add those narrative beats back into character creation, for five phases, but I’ll also keep to three aspects, because that economy works well. Which means my procedure is:
- Phase one: Who you were early on
- Phase two: The moment that crystalized you
- Phase three: Your adventure
- Phases four & five: Crossing paths
- Afterward: make three cool aspects from all that stuff, _which could include how you’re involved in someone else’s questions rather than just your own_
This also allows a release valve for those moments when we say “here’s the awesome thing I want to write for this beat, but hell if I can come up with an aspect for it.” In any case, I think there’s something big to decoupling aspects from phases, something that we should look at as we’re making character creation schemes. I know I will.
(Folks who saw what I was working on at Metatopia won’t be surprised to hear that this has been on my mind for some time now.)
 This scheme could allow for ignoring the crossing paths, and say “oh, my character hasn’t met up with the others yet.” I’m not yet sure if that’s a feature of a bug, though you could half-couple to say that at least one aspect needs to come from crossing paths.