Posts Tagged ‘aspects’
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.
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.
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?
Back in Fate 2, aspects were rated. That was ditched in Fate 3, to good measure. Making aspects mechanically equal allows them to be situationally divergent. (Which is to say: they’re an example of a good method of Use Anywhere Stats.) But lately, I’ve been feeling like there should be some sense of rating, to prioritize some over others.
The reason I keep feeling this is because I like people creating aspects through skill roll-based declarations. My Emerging Threats Unit campaign frame runs off of this idea — you roll Unnatural Sciences to “discover” things about the horror you’re fighting, or Survival to “find” things like cover or advantageous environment bits. You make your roll, and you declare the aspect.
Julianne uses her Great (+4) Unnatural Sciences skill to analyze residue at the initial scene. She picks up one of the victim’s limbs left behind by whatever horrible creature did this, and uses her portable lab. She rolls +3 on the dice, bringing her total to Epic (+7). She makes up that the residue suggests the entity is vulnerable to uranium shot, based on the “saliva profile.”
Normally, this is a single aspect, “Vulnerable to Uranium Shot,” and it’s worth one free tag. After that, it’s a normal aspect. And I’m always a bit dissatisfied with this approach. One solution my good friend and accomplished Fate GM Morgan Ellis used was to allow creative multiple aspects on a high roll. I liked the idea in principle, but when I was a player in one of his games in a situation where I rolled high in creating an aspect, that second one was phoned in. I didn’t have a good idea, one that was equal to what I was thinking of for the first one.
In talking after Dresdacon, we came up with this idea: aspects created in play are rated in the number of free tags you can get. That way, they still have the strength of being like normal aspects, rather than giving a +3 or whatever. But rolling high is still rewarded with something awesome.
When declaring an aspect with a skill, the player’ll roll against a target the GM comes up with — typically Fair (+1), though a block in place could change that. Getting your target exactly means it’s a one-time free aspect, and afterward goes away (the “not sticky” idea in Dresden). Beating it means the aspect has a free tag and remains around afterward (“sticky”). Every two above that means the aspect gets another free tag. Just as with other aspects, you can only tag or invoke it once per roll, so you can’t blow all those tags at once.
This means the “Vulnerable to Uranium Shot” has three free tags — one for making it at Fair (+2), then it’ll remain because it’s at Good (+3), one more for making Superb (+5), and one for Epic (+7).
A simple enough idea. Now to put a little spin on it, we can add two types of stunts (which assumes Typed Aspects):
- Sherlock Holmes: When you use Unnatural Sciences to declare aspects, gain +2 to your roll.
- Monster Hunter: In combat, when you invoke Unnatural Sciences aspect, you may use more than one free tag for multiple benefit. Or you may use a free tag and pay a point for multiple benefit. This counts as a single invocation.
The great thing about this idea (potentially, since it hasn’t been playtested) is that two different people can take that stunt pair. The operative with the high Unnatural Sciences skill makes aspects, and the one with the high Violence skill uses that knowledge to blow away threats.
Later, not this week, I should talk about the power of declaring that an aspect is “wrong.” Because in an investigative game, I want that to happen. “Wait, it’s not affected by uranium shot. Retreat!” And I want the players to not only want that to happen, but trigger it with glee.
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.
I can’t remember how long ago or the context where this came up, but there’s a neat Fate trick I stumbled upon a bit ago. If you’re a Fate junkie, I recommend you first take a look at Lenny’s post on the Fate RPG site about trappings & how they relate to skills and stunts.
With me? Good. So, mix the following together: stunts that allow for trappings to attach to another skill (a.k.a. skill substitution) & the idea of invocation for effect (where you use an aspect & fate point to justify something about the world or current situation). You get…
Invoke for Temporary Skill Substitution
If you want to substitute using one skill for a given trapping of another, and can justify how one of your aspects allows you to pull off that substitution, you may pay a fate point to substitute that skill for the rest of the scene.
Example: Sally Slick’s fighting Doctor Methuselah’s Steel Vanguard — automations larger than a man, able to withstand gunfire and are damned cunning…as though a human mind were housed inside those metal monstrosities! She has the aspect “Monkeywrench,” so she justifies that her Engineering skill should allow for the “I can attack you” trapping. She pays a fate point, and for the rest of the fight, her wrench is a weapon those chrome fiends will come to rue!
Interesting-to-me aside: the combat functions in Fate are implicit trappings, in that some skills have the privilege to cause stress and the effects that causing stress has.
The potential for abuse?
I’m not sure if this has any more potential for abuse than the +2/reroll that regular invocations have. The thing about the Fate point economy is that you have a built-in mitigation for abuse. You want people to spend Fate points. That creates the desire for compels, the engine that makes a Fate game work. But I could be wrong there. More play would show the answer.
Of course, if someone keeps doing the same substitution over and over, they might just want to take that as a stunt and save themselves from needing a Fate point.
 $20 says it was a conversation with Lenny Balsera. We have a habit of brainstorming a lot about Fate over cocktails.
 Of course, in pulp I allow anything to be a combat skill, so with respect to my games (and the Spirit of the Century games GMed by others that I’ve played) this is a moot example. Still, I wanted to dust off the iconic Spirit characters. It was either that or bring in Dick Awesome. :)