I Read Fate Core Again…

I finished reading the Lords of Gossamer and Shadow rules early last week and I have a bunch of reading to do.  Physical game books I am deep into my Earthdawn material again as I ride a surge of enthusiasm for it but on the electronic front I decided it was time to read my Fate Core final version which I had been putting off for a time when I could concentrate on it.  I purchased an electronic copy and a physical copy that should come sometime in July so I decided I might like to look at the system to see what has changed in preparation for running a game for my in person group when I get the hard copy.  One of my players is keen to give it a good old Time Traveller (Dr Who style) go in Fate and I have to say I think it would work well.

So I hopped in to bed with iPad at the ready.  I had no intentions of doing a side by side comparison of the last draft and this version although I think I might have to at one stage in the future to see what has changed because there was not really a huge deal of change between them.  There seemed to be some more artwork, which makes the book very cool and some large changes to the end chapter about extras that made some stuff more useable than I had found it previously.  So, in other words it was a swift scan more than a massive read.  I honed in on the things that I did not recognise and read them thoroughly and scanned the rest to make sure that the rules were the ones I loved before.

Buy some Fate dice and get rolling!

That kind of changed the focus that I was going to have for this post.  I have reviewed Fate here before and so a second post that said kind of the same stuff over again?  A bit pointless.  So I will say this about the game.  Fate is adaptable, robust and at it’s heart a simple yet deep system.  The book has now gone some way to making me think that a super hero campaign or something a little more complicated could now be well handled.  I noticed a small discussion about the next book to be the Fate Toolkit which I will eagerly anticipate, though I find modifying things to my style with the base rules an easy task to do.

Instead I will offer you an insight into my view of aspects from a player’s perspective in the game.  Aspects are essentially the core mechanic in the game.  Everything stems from them.  Characters (along with skills) are made from them, scenes use them for descriptions of what is included in them, and objects are pretty much made up of them too!  So understanding an aspect is an important thing to do in Fate.  Some of you that read my initial review will realise that I was thrown in the deep end with Fate and had absolutely no idea how important aspects were or even what they did with my initial play of the system.  heck, I wasn’t even brave enough to invoke an aspect until my third game!  I got given advice when I was making my character that the perfect aspect was one that had equal parts good and bad.  I am assuming this advice was made from the point of view that the aspect is just as likely to be compelled as it is to be invoked.  On a compel you get a Fate point (or pay one) and when invoking the aspect you get to use a Fate point to do various beneficial “stuff”!

While that advice is a pretty good way to view aspects initially I think I will describe them differently to my players when we begin.  The most important thing in an aspect based game is having aspects that will get used, often.  The mechanic in Fate is there to generate and complicate drama making the game more involved and fun.  If you have a character that top to bottom (5 aspects) have carefully considered aspects that are a balance of good and bad making it equally likely to be invoked and compelled that describe the character in an interesting way you may think you are set.  But what if those situations just don’t arise, or do not arise often?  You have to look at how likely it is that an aspect is going to come up for use.  Otherwise it is wasted space.  The core rules state that if an aspect does not come up once a scene perhaps you should think about altering it.

Once a scene!  That is like any single part of the action you take part in.  If an aspect (and you should have 5) does not get invoked or compelled once in a particular scene you should consider altering or changing it.  That is a lot of invoking and compelling that is envisioned for the Fate game.  In my experience there is not that much invoking and compelling in an individual scene but sure, if you sit down at a session and one of your aspects don’t get invoked, you need to be wondering why.

So, how I go about making aspects is to make them as catchy and relevant as possible.  If you are a player you need to think that the GM has all the other characters aspects, the NPC’s aspects, the scene aspects, situational aspects and a bunch of other aspects going on all at the one time.  For the GM to compel your aspect (and for that manner another player) it needs to be memorable and as a general rule of thumb, short. Imagine for a short moment we were going to set up a one shot game of playing characters on the Titanic.  I create myself Jack, a lower class kind of guy who sees himself as “King of the World” (by the way you may now groan or roll your eyes at me).  Now he only believes this and it is a demonstration of how positive he is.  “King of the World” is nice and catchy and is easily remembered but if I wanted to balance it I might have to put “Feels on top of the world” or something similar so it can be compelled as well as invoked equally.

From the Fate Core site…

That balance has lost the catchiness of the phrase and may be forgotten by the GM and others in the game which weakens it.  It threatens not to be called on because of this watering down and my strong suggestion is just don’t do it.  keep it catchy.  The GM and other players will soon catch on that it is a belief and not the reality of the situation and you may even get a compel out of it!  E.g. the GM says well wouldn’t the “King of the World” like to help some of these subjects out by getting them in to the life boats?  So keep them punchy and descriptive.  Use cliche’s that everyone knows and you are likely to see them get more use.  The more use the better in a Fate game!

Also remember though that an aspect is used to describe your character.  Don’t water them down to try and attract compels or invokes if it weakens the concept you have of your character.  Use them to describe the parts of your character you want to play, do not sell out your concept to win some compels.  If you play your character to your vision you will find that you get to invoke it and the character definition will over time win some compels by you being true to the concept.

It is good advice though that if you can achieve the points I have made above and get a good and bad balance to the aspect that you will get compels and invokes often also.  Imagine you wanted to portray a character as loyal so following my points above we come up with (prepare the eye roll now) “I’ll be back” (say this with an Austrian accent and then eye roll).  This aspect is equally good and bad, catchy and is a good aspect to describe the loyalty of your character.  The GM could compel it often (“You did say that you’ll be back and now the only way is swinging on the vine over the lava pit”) and it is something you could compel, often.

I hope this advice helps you in some way to see that the generally accepted advice of make it something that is equally good and bad is not necessarily the truth.  The first thing you have to think of is how often will you or others get to use your aspect.  So, make them memorable, make them true to your character and then try and give them a balance if you can.  But above all, if you take nothing else away from this post buy Fate and play it.  As a role-player you will get so much out of this game!  Keep rolling 🙂

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