High Concept and Aspects
An aspect is a phrase that describes something unique or noteworthy about whatever it’s attached to. They’re the primary way you spend and gain fate points, and they influence the story by providing an opportunity for a character to get a bonus, complicating a character’s life, or adding to another character’s roll or passive opposition.
You have four Character aspects. You never get anymore and you can never have any fewer. These aspects define who your character is, but the phrasing must be thought out if they are going to be useful to use with you skills. As you grow and get to milestones you can change these Aspects. People grow in real life and change all of the time, so it stands to reason so would your character. What you change it to has to make since though with what has happened in game.
The primary way you’re going to use aspects in a game of Fate is to invoke them. If you’re in a situation where an aspect is beneficial to your character somehow, you can invoke it. In order to invoke an aspect, explain why the aspect is relevant, spend a fate point, and you can choose one of these benefits:
• Take a 2) if there wasn’t going to be any.
It doesn’t matter when you invoke the aspect, but usually it’s best to wait until after you’ve rolled the dice to see if you’re going to need the benefit. You can invoke multiple aspects on a single roll, but you cannot invoke the same aspect multiple times on a single roll. So if your reroll doesn’t help you enough, you’ll have to pick another aspect (and spend another fate point) for a second reroll or that +2. The group has to buy into the relevance of a particular aspect when you invoke it. The use of an aspect should make sense, or you should be able to creatively narrate your way into ensuring it makes sense.
The other way you use aspects in the game is called a compel. If you’re in a situation where having or being around a certain aspect means your character’s life is more dramatic or complicated, someone can compel the aspect. That aspect can be on your character, the scene, location, game, or anywhere else that’s currently in play. In order to compel an aspect, explain why the aspect is relevant, and then make an offer as to what the complication is. You can negotiate the terms of the complication a bit, until you reach a reasonable consensus. Whoever is getting compelled then has two options:
• Accept the complication and receive a fate point
• Pay a fate point to prevent the complication from happening
The complication from a compel occurs regardless of anyone’s efforts— once you’ve made a deal and taken the fate point, you can’t use your skills or anything else to mitigate the situation. You have to deal with the new story developments that arise from the complication. If you prevent the complication from happening, then you and the group describe how you avoid it. Sometimes it just means that you agree that the event never happened in the first place, and sometimes it means narrating your character doing something proactive. Whatever you need to do in order to make it make sense works fine, as long as the group is okay with it.
If a player wants to compel another character, it costs a fate point to propose the complication. The GM can always compel for free, and any player can propose a compel on his or her own character for free.
A situation aspect is temporary, intended to last only for a single scene or until it no longer makes sense (but no longer than a session, at most). Situation aspects can be attached to the environment the scene takes place in—which affects everybody in the scene—but you can also attach them to specific characters by targeting them when you create an advantage. Situation aspects describe significant features of the circumstances the characters are dealing with in a scene. That includes:
• Physical features of the environment (Dense Underbrush, Obscuring
Snowdrifts, Low Gravity Planet).
• Positioning or placement (Sniper’s Perch, In the Trees, Backyard).
• Immediate obstacles (Burning Barn, Tricky Lock, Yawning Chasm).
• Contextual details that are likely to come into play (Disgruntled
Townsfolk, Security Cameras, Loud Machinery).
• Sudden changes in a character’s status (Sand in the Eyes, Disarmed,
Cornered, Covered in Slime).
Who can use a situation aspect depends a lot on narrative context— sometimes it’ll be very clear, and sometimes you’ll need to justify how you’re using the aspect to make sense based on what’s happening in the scene. Sometimes situation aspects become obstacles that characters need to overcome. Other times they give you justification to provide active opposition against someone else’s action.
Your high concept is a phrase that sums up what your character is about— who he/she is and what he/she does. It’s an aspect, one of the first and most important ones for your character. The High Concept is rarely ever changed. You can only change it during a Major Milestone and something big has to have happened to create such a huge change in your character. The upside is unlike other Aspects where they can only give a +2 to a skill, high concepts can give you more. They start at a +2, but whenever you gain certain types of milestones and would be able to gain an extra refresh, you can exchange it for an extra +1 to you high concept.
Use the create an advantage action to make a situation aspect that gives you a benefit, or to claim a benefit from any aspect you have access to. The create an advantage action covers a broad range of endeavors, unified around the theme of using your skills to take advantage (hence the name) of the environment or situation you’re in.
Sometimes, that means you’re doing something to actively change your circumstances (like throwing sand in an opponent’s eyes or setting something on fire), but it could also mean that you’re discovering new information that helps you (like learning the weakness of a monster through research), or taking advantage of something you’ve previously observed (like your opponent’s predisposition to a bad temper). When you roll to create an advantage, you must specify whether you’re creating a new situation aspect or taking advantage of an aspect that’s already in place. If the former, are you attaching that situation aspect to a character or to the environment?
Opposition might be active or passive, depending on the circumstances. If your target is another character, their roll always counts as a defend action. If you’re using create an advantage to make a new aspect…
• When you fail, you either don’t create the aspect, or you create it but someone else gets the free invoke—whatever you end up doing works to someone else’s advantage instead. That could be your opponent in a conflict, or any character who could tangibly benefit to your detriment. You may have to reword the aspect to show that the other character benefits instead—work it out with the recipient in whichever way makes the most sense.
• When you tie, you get a boost instead of the situation aspect you were going for. This might mean you have to rename the aspect a bit to reflect its temporary nature (Rough Terrain becomes Rocks on the Path).
• When you succeed, you create a situation aspect with a free invocation.
• When you succeed with style, you get a situation aspect with two free invocations instead of one.