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You Don’t Have to Remember Every Aspect

Recently, I saw a person weakly trashing on Fate and telling someone to play a different system instead. That person’s chief point: “If you play [other system], you don’t have to remember everyone’s aspects.”

Certainly Fate’s not perfect — no system is, and there’s stuff I definitely look at in Fate as places where we could improve. And no games is for everyone. But that “complaint,” which I’ve heard time and time again, is the laziest of arguments. It’s frankly not true.

GMs and players, you don’t have to remember every aspect.

GMs, write down the aspects for each character onto your own sheet of paper. Bam, now you don’t have to remember anything — it’s in front of you. Next up, star one from each player, and use that as the only aspect you’ll play toward. Now you have a focus. If you get stuck, pick someone who hasn’t had the spotlight, and look over their aspects. Take a short bathroom or beverage break while you figure something out — nothing says you have to come up with ideas immediately at the table.

Players, you don’t need to concentrate on everyone else’s aspects. Relax, focus on your own, and you’ll learn the others that are interesting to you (read: that you might invoke for yourself or suggest as compels) over time.

That’s it. It’s very simple advice, but one that I don’t think a lot of new Fate GMs are aware of because the general concept of aspects can be itself overwhelming for some. As time goes on and you play or run more Fate, your bandwidth for tracking aspects will increase, but it’ll never be 100% if you have more than a couple players. All Fate GMs have in mind just a subset of aspects for any given session. The reason that all of the aspects exists is to change up what subset GMs put in their crosshairs and to give players plenty of tools for their characters.

To reiterate: GMs and players, you don’t have to remember every aspect.

– Ryan

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8 Responses to You Don’t Have to Remember Every Aspect

  1. Preach on brother Macklin, preach on.

    In all seriousness it’s pretty excellent advice. In fact I thought I remembered seeing somewhere in the Fate Core book where it suggests to take a few of the aspects from the players and a few from the setting to create the scenario for play that evening also providing you a focus for play. Not only do you have a focus but probably some stakes questions relating to characters aspects.

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      I’m pretty sure that’s in the book (though I don’t have it on me right now), as it’s something Lenny & I discussed. I suppose in hindsight I would have made a single page has its own boxed treatment with “New to running Fate? Don’t let aspects intimidate you!” (And some of what you’re talking about is I think in The Long Game, I think, but its position in the book means it probably doesn’t get to people who are nervous.

      – Ryan

  2. blackcoat says:

    “But if you don’t play D&D, you don’t have to remember all your players ACs and Alignments”. Sheesh.

    Yes, I know that Aspects are a little more involved than a simple quantitative value, but really having a little cheat sheet with name and some of the pertinent info (stat block, aspect list, bonds) for the players in the game next to your notes isn’t the worst idea any GM has ever had.

  3. As If says:

    Blackcoat is correct – and I do this for every frikkin game. If the game has a GM, that list of notes is the single required item of “prep” – even in a “no-prep” game.

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      I wouldn’t call that preparation. I just call that best practice. Paperwork done at the table isn’t what people think about when terms like “no-prep” are used to describe something. But yes, super handy.

      Also, you can shift that onto player aids. Like if you have large name tents, include a couple aspects and apex skill/approach underneath. That way everyone can see them, and it’s a part of the same player device.

      – Ryan

  4. Ryan Macklin says:

    Some interesting G+ conversation regarding this:

    From the Fate G+ community: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+RyanMacklin/posts/JL5EMiuXCCY
    From Rob Donoghue: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+RobDonoghue/posts/Hv8pLdis3Jn

  5. Carl Klutzke says:

    Defining aspects for your character is how a Fate player tells the GM, “These things are important to me. I want to do these things.” If your GM can’t be bothered to remember even one your character’s aspects, you need a different GM. (In my own experience, the GM mostly was making up his own story and allowing us to listen.)

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      Woah. That is the most horrible and toxic response I could possibly read, short of vulgarity. I’m trying to make people feel comfortable with Fate by saying that you don’t already need to remember this stuff and that it’s a skill people grow into. Don’t undermine that.

      I’m seriously tempted to delete this comment, but instead I’ll leave it up as a firm example of what to not tell people new to any game system.

      – Ryan