“So, Jon Snow is a level 4 Fighter and 3rd level Bastard?”
Doesn’t matter! In FATE Core characters are mechanically defined by their Skills and Talents (Talents/Stunts to be discussed later). Much more importantly, they’re defined by their Aspects.
Aspects are true descriptive phrases that can give power to the character’s actions, suggest complications to reaching their goals and enable players to add more detail to the story. They do this whenever a player chooses to spend or accept a FATE point – which is a unit of player currency used to activate Aspects that describe the setting, objects and characters in the story.
“How the hell does this weird story-fate shit work?”
Tyrion Lannister is imprisoned in a Sky Cell under Lady Arryn’s keep. He wants to overcome Mord the Jailer’s suspicion and get a message to the lady. His player (Ron) gets a 1 result with his Impress skill versus the 3 Mord (Gamemaster character) got to defend with his Discipline skill. That’s a FAIL!
BUT, there’s an Aspect in the setting which says A Lannister Always Pays his Debts. Everyone has heard of this Aspect – its almost their house motto! Ron explains to the Gamemaster as Tyrion explains to Mord: “I am a Lannister and A Lannister Always Pays his Debts, SO if you deliver my message I will OWE you GOLD!”
Ron pays the Gamemaster a FATE point to use or Invoke this relevant Lannister Aspect. The GM accepts the point since the Aspect can reasonably help in this case. Now, Ron can either re-roll or add +2 to his effort to Impress – he chooses to add 2 to the original 1 result.
The 3 Impress now ties Mord’s 3 Discipline. When you’re trying to overcome something and tie, you overcome with a minor cost. Mord will deliver Lannister’s message, but Tyrion will have to give Mord his purse and be broke for a little while.
The Gamemaster could Invoke another relevant Aspect to raise Mord’s defense. Anyone can invoke any relevant Aspect once per roll. Maybe the Jailer has a belief Aspect that Prisoners Always Lie! He doesn’t, and beating Tyrion would just block this interesting turn of events. The dwarf wants to CONFESS?!
That’s how Aspects when Invoked give power to a character’s actions, BUT they can also complicate a character’s life when used against them or Compelled:
Tyrion is to have a Trial by Combat to prove his innocence against the accusation that he plotted to kill Brandon Stark. Ser Egan of the Vale will fight for his Lady Arryn but doesn’t want dwarf blood on his shin guards. Lannister needs a champion now!
The Gamemaster turns to Kobe, the player who is playing Bronn the Sellsword. “Kobe, Bronn has the Aspect Have Gold, Will Kill, which implies you’d decide to fight for the dwarf. This will go wrong when you become known as a Lannister Lap-dog?” The GM offers Kobe a FATE point to Compel Bronn to accept this.
Kobe could buy off the Compel by not taking the FATE point and giving the GM one of his own. He feels Bronn would rather watch the imp fight the knight. Maybe they’ll be fair and have Tyrion fight a couple of hungry dogs instead?
The gods have smiled on the little lord though. Kobe spent all of Bronn’s FATE points fighting Hill tribesman on the road to the Vale.
Kobe must accept the Compel and take the FATE point to have Bronn fight for Tyrion and take a side in the upcoming war, which complicates his life by cutting potential clientele in half at least! Then again, helping the dwarf could start him on the road to riches.
You see now how Aspects can create interesting plot twists and earn you more FATE points to empower characters later. Since they’re true statements, Aspects can also allow you to add details to the story – possibly new Aspects.
Tyrion and Bronn are ambushed and surrounded by Hill tribesmen. Usually Lannister would throw money at a problem like this, but their leader Shagger ain’t interested in gold – proving their barbarity. On the bright side, the dwarf gave his purse to Mord so he doesn’t have any.
Ron, playing Tyrion, offers up a FATE point. “Tyrion has the Aspect A Lannister of Casterly Rock the Richest House in Westeros, which implies that he has access to the greatest smiths in the realm. So, he would have beautiful jewelry – like a gold lion’s head ring worth more than everything this tribe owns. I want to add this as an Aspect.”
Ron could’ve rolled Wealth to Create an Advantage to make the new Aspect, but he gave his money away. The GM accepts the FATE point and a new Aspect Beautiful Lion Ring is created with one free Invoke. Basically, Ron transferred the power of his FATE point into a piece of the story.
” I’m spending the free Invoke of Beautiful Lion Ring to let me roll Wealth even though I’m broke right now. It proves the quality of Lannister smiths and our riches.”
The GM and the other players agree.
“Sweet! I’ll roll Wealth to Create Advantage … I got a 5! Know what – I’ll spend another FATE point to Invoke A Lannister Always Pays his Debts to further assure them. Now, I’ve got a 7!”
Shagger has a Discipline of 1 (barbarians – you know), SIX less than the 7 Wealth. Ron succeeds with style – TWICE!
The dangerous scene Aspect Surrounded by Hills Tribe Killers is changed to Hills Tribe Killers Fight for the Half Man on Credit – and he has THREE free Invokes with this Aspect!
This is way that Aspects are used in FATE Core, my favorite table-top RPG.
Does this make sense? Remind you of other cool RPGs? Share.
BTW, there were some season 1 spoilers in this.