Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Mechanics Worth Stealing: Aspects

FATE Core came out in December of 2013, but the system has been around longer than that. It has done a tremendous job of revolutionizing a lot of parts of the RPG market, particularly the indy game scene, and is a solid core for a ton of different games and systems out there. Honestly, if you haven't tried FATE out, you should give it a shot. Maybe it won't be for you, but the system does a great job of making you think of the mechanical expression of everything in a different way. And one part of that is Aspects.

Today we're going to talk about Aspects, and how you can steal them for your own game.

What Is An Aspect
An aspect is a simple narrative tag. On characters in FATE they replace the normal stats and attributes other systems have. Your character doesn't have a strength of 99, they are "Built like a Brick Shit House." Your character doesn't have a speed of 40, they're "the fastest thing on two legs."

These aspects are used to get a mechanical benefit on rolls when they apply. So the character who is the fastest thing on two legs could invoke that aspect any time speed is a factor in something going on. Aspects can also be used against the characters too. For example, someone could claim it is easier to recognize or spot a character that is "built like a brick shit house" because they're a big person. In that case the opponent gets the benefit from using your aspect.

More than characters can have aspects. In fact, everything can have an aspect. The building the PCs are in starts burning down? You simply assign the scene the aspect of "Everything is on fire!" A steal mission at night could have "A dark, moonless night" for an aspect. And anyone can use these aspects to help or hinder as they choose with what is going on.

Why I Like Aspects
I like Aspects because they give a simple way to contextualize a character. If I need to quickly build an NPC I like to define three things about them that give them character. These things tend to be quick narrative blurbs like "A famous tactician of the Akodo school" or "The woman who killed ." These narrative blurbs help me maintain the character, but they also give me a mechanical core to play with on the fly if I need to.

That famous tactician, without a character sheet, still gets a notable boost to tactic rolls because that is who they are. At the same time, the PCs may have an easier time recognizing them because they're famous. Meanwhile, any cop type character could immediately be on the negative side of the woman who killed that famous character.

This works for scenes as well. Remembering to assign a scene aspects means remembering to assign details that make things different than any other encounter. Be it a "Well lit night in the town" as opposed to a "Dark and stormy night" or if the town is "Quiet as a Ghost Town" or in the middle of an "All Night Religious Vigil."

How To Steal
Honestly, Aspects are super easy to steal. All you need to do is remember to have them on hand. Challenge yourself to assign two aspects to a scene that inform the players out the setting or scenario and what is going on. Then check them whenever someone is doing something where it could be a factor. Spotting things at range, or making ranged attacks, could be harder if it is dark and stormy. While the chance for being spotted is higher during an all night vigil, but losing yourself in a crowd becomes a real option for avoiding pursuit.

In FATE they recommend writing these aspects down on a note card and putting them in the middle of the table for everyone to see. You can do that, or you can just keep them behind your GM screen for you.

But The Bonus...
The bonus is up to you. In FATE an aspect can be used for a +2 bonus or to reroll a check. The +2 bonus is a powerful boost because in FATE your dice roll is on an 8 point scale (the dice can give you a -4 at worst or a +4 at best and are weighted to give a 0.) Finding an appropriate bonus for your system depends on the system.

The thing is, even without giving a real bonus aspects still help. If nothing else they give easy tags for how the scene is flowing, or what a character can do.

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