Fate Aspects: Defenders in the Mist
I routinely talk about why we on the Fate Core team made the decision to narrow characters down to five characters aspects. I even do fewer, notably for convention games and tutorial one-shots. But I also have some conditions where I’ll do more than five character aspects: when I need to separate swappable character concepts.
I’ll illustrate this with a game premise I call…
Defenders in the Mist
Not long ago, monsters of legend—ones we stopped believing in—came back and slaughtered many in our country. We were able to drive them away, but everyone lost someone they cared about. But in truth, not all of those souls are gone — several have found a way to cling to the world, manifesting as spirits that cannot be seen or heard…but can inhabit animals of the forest, the river, the sky. These spirits have the power to protect their living families from harm, but don’t have the power to talk to them again. And indeed, none of them truly understand exactly why they’re in this curious state.
This will use what I call a “4/2 split:” the main part of the character has four aspects, and the swappable part of the character have 2. The first part is about the ghost, and the second the animal.
For the high concept, I’ll use that to define what sort of person they were before death, as the premise asserts the “I am a ghost” element of each character (thus, it’s a game aspect, or an implied component of the high concept).
Likewise, the situation describes a trouble of “I’m dead, monsters want to kill people I love, and I don’t understand why I’m still here.” So for that second character aspect, I’ll dial that down into a relationship that’s important somehow to the character, whether it’s to a person or something else.
Then for the last two aspects, I’ll stick with the Phase Trio overall, but use the idea of drawing from any Crossing Paths for that aspect, not just the ones a player specifically wrote. The “adventure” part is about something you did post-death to defend your loved ones. (Perhaps Crossing Paths could actually be specifically pre-death. The pre/post-death part of character definition is actually pretty interesting.)
These ghost aspects are changeable via advancement and milestones. Extreme consequences can affect these aspects—those always have a lasting affect on the ghost, even if it just seems physical in nature.
Animals that ghosts can inhabit have two aspects—physical type and mental shift—fitting into specific holes even more tightly than the base character ones do. Physical type keeps it simple, just what sort of animal it is. Wolf or Crow work, as could Old Wolf or Wounded Crow. It is purely about the physical nature of the creature, not imparting anything else. In contrast, mental shift is how inhabiting that animal affects the character, either as a boon or as a form of trouble. Hyperactive or Predatory could be defaults based on the general sort of animal, but depending on when the character jumps into the animal’s body, there could be some other, greater emotion riding—Spooked by Gunshots or Angry from Pack Betrayal.
When not in an animal, characters just have their four ghost aspects. The GM is overall in charge of what sort of animals characters can inhabit, as per typical world description, but living in an animal for a significant time will change it.
Because these change from one animal to the next, they don’t get changed via milestones. It’s not that they’re disposable, though certainly some ghosts can treat them as such. They can be changed based on how the story works out, and are more prone to changing than ghost aspects. (After all, if they can be swapped out, why not allow them to be screwed with in the meantime?)
I like the idea that whatever mental state the creature has when you hop it lingers for as long as you’re in the creature, even if it would normally calm down or whatnot. That informs a bit more about the setting’s metaphysical elements. Really, we’ll get a lot of mileage out of reinforcing those elements by how the aspects act, flow, and change.
I could go on about this premise, but for the purposes of showing character aspect divisions, that’s far enough. It shows how you can divvy up character components into different collections of aspect slots.