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Aspects & Fate points
Aspects and fate points are two key concepts that lie at the heart of any FATE game. These two are always used in conjunction in order to move the story along and give it some interesting twists.
Aspects are short, evocative statements that hint at whatever makes a specific something special
Aspects are attached to a context. That context may be a character, faction, scene, item, map, zone, event or whatever else you can think of. We say that an aspect is “on” that context. Aspects can be adjectives, short descriptions, catchphrases or even a reference to other things. Some examples are;
Strong as an ox
“Go ahead dude, do it!”
Out of their context, these phrases are probably meaningless, but when put in perspective, they enrich whatever they are attached to. Let’s reconsider the same examples;
Strong as an ox— on a character
Thick smog— on a city
Cars everywhere— on a parking lot zone in a map
“Go ahead dude, do it!”— on another character
A little side note. On this game guide,
aspects are always shown like this. Wherever you see that, it’s an aspect. And the example in the previous sentence is an actual aspect on this guide.
Without fate points, aspects would just be narrative flavor without any game effects. Together with fate points, they are strong story generators with tangible game-mechanical results.
Fate points are the currency of Edgerunner. Every player has a limited amount, and the referee has an unlimited supply. They are spent and exchanged in game, according to specific rules, in order to gain narrative power over details in the story. They represent the players' agency, their ability to command their characters' fates.
Players (not characters) start every game session with 5 fate points. Fate points are not tracked between sessions. Every session starts anew.
Spending a fate point gives a player an opportunity to change things in game. But there is a catch. Fate points must be used with aspects
There are two basic mechanisms for bringing aspects into play. They are called aspect invocations(invokes for short) and compels. Invocations affect dice rolls but compels can affect almost anything in game.
Remember that a skill roll gives you a baseline adjective-noun pair to narrate a story with, like “good driving” or “terrible cooking”. Sometimes these results turn out to be against what you would like it to be. That is the time to invoke an aspect. An invoke gives you either a +2 bonus on your roll, or lets you reroll the dice, on the condition that you spend a fate point and reasonably include the aspect in your narration.
A “mediocre cooking” can be upgraded to “decent cooking” with a fate point, if
mommy's always there when you need her. The narration should now include mom’s involvement in the cooking process. If you can’t find a suitable aspect to improve your cooking, well, tough luck. You re stuck with a mediocre meal.
One important rule: Aspects are invoked after the dice are rolled. You don’t have to spend fate points if your roll is good enough by itself.
Hacksaw has just rolled a +1 with his driving skill of 2, for a total of 3. That corresponds to “Good driving”, which is unfortunately not enough for getting Hacksaw to his destination today.
Hacksaw opts to invoke his
Crazy when requiredaspect, and gets a +2 bonus, upgrading his total to 5, a “Superb crazy driving” result. He narrates the details, telling how he jumped the drawbridge and drove against oncoming traffic to make it in time.
If the roll you’re modifying with an invocation is an opposed roll, your opponent receives the fate point you just spent. Otherwise the referee gets it. If the referee invokes an aspect on a roll against a player, that player gets the fate point.
An aspect can only be invoked once for a single roll. However if you can find multiple relevant aspects, spend a fate point for each of them and make up a story that involves all of them in a sensible manner, you can stack those +2 bonuses to gain a huge advantage.
Tagging is a special type of aspect invocation. Remember that it is possible to create aspects on the fly. If you are the creator of such an aspect, you(or anyone else you allow) get to invoke it once for free, without spending a fate point. This is called tagging. After getting tagged once, the aspect can only be invoked again with a fate point.
Compels are a different usage of aspects and fate points. They are used to offer alternative stories to whoever is narrating at that point.
Right after a you declare an action for your character, but before you roll the dice(if any), the referee calls for compels. Anybody can now offer you a story related to a relevant aspect, along with a fate point. You can either take the fate point and accept the offered story, forfeiting your original action, or you can give a fate point to reject the offer and keep on as you intended.
Switch wants to get through a security checkpoint without revealing his firearms. The referee compels the
"I like big guns"aspect on Switch, and says that any gun he would tote around would be too big to hide, while offering a fate point.
Switch has two options. He can take the fate point and accept that his guns are way too big to sneak through a checkpoint. Or he can say “not today”, and give the referee one of his fate points to refuse the compel and insist on trying to sneak through.
If you have noticed, getting compelled by the referee is your only source for getting fate points as a player. It is in your best interests to accept compels and accumulate fate points strategically, so that you may use them to push the story in the direction you want when it matters.
If you run out of fate points, you have to accept a compel. Don’t let that happen.
Compelling isn’t a referee-only action. Players can and should compel other player or referee characters at every opportunity.
- Make skill roll
- Find suitable aspect
- Give fate point to referee or opponent
- Add +2 to your roll or re-roll the dice
- Narrate story involving aspect
- Acting player declares action
- Referee calls for compels
- Find relevant aspect
- Offer alternative story based on aspect
- If acting player accepts
- Give fate point to acting player
- Active player forfeits action
- Alternative story becomes true
- If acting player declines
- Receive fate point from acting player
- Acting player goes on as intended