4 – The Phase Trio

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  • SRD Reference: The Phase Trio
  • Rules Reference: pg 38 (Fate Core Systems book)

Backstory Cards

Option: Instead of the default method of tying characters together you could also try the Backstory Cards method for this section. When I get better acquainted with this I will write something up for it. =)

The Phase Trio

The Phase Trio Flowchart
The Phase Trio Flowchart

Phase One: An Adventure to Remember

On a notecard describe an event or adventure of your character’s to bring the other characters into your story. You may also use this moment to create people, places, and organizations to help give life to your campaign. This is a collaborative game after all!

Note: You will want to have the group review the Faces, Places, and Organizations found on page 2 of the Campaign Creation Primer Worksheet for ideas to tie your characters into the game world. You can use these or you can create more.

Appropriate Time Frame You will also want to keep in mind the time frame for your event. If your character has lived for over a 1,000 years and the rest of the characters are 30-40 years of age, then setting your Adventure to Remember for over a hunderd years ago will not work (since they were not even born yet) without some unusual circumstances like time travel, alternate dimensional projection, etc.

  1. History: Write down a few sentences about a (recent?) adventure of your character’s where the other players may insert themselves so that you may create ties with them. You do not want a lot of detail since you may have to adjust things during the next two phases where they insert themselves into your adventure.
    • Something bad happened. What was it? Did it happen to you, to someone you cared about, or to someone that you were coerced into helping?
    • What did you decide to do about the problem? What goal did you pursue?
    • Who stood against you? Did you expect the opposition you got? Did some of it come out of nowhere?
    • Did you win? Did you lose? Either way, what consequences arose from the outcome?
  2. Aspect: Write an Aspect that covers some part of that history – either the general vibe, your skills or something specific. See the appendix section About Aspects on page 7 for more info.
  3. Record: Write both your short history and your new Aspect on you Character Creation Worksheet.

Technique – This is soooo you!

Would you like a way to get more out of this step? Make the cause of this event either directly or indirectly relate to your Trouble, that way this moment in time really becomes exemplary of your character and their life.

Direct: Perhaps your character doesn’t like elves, then maybe you insulted or hurt an elf or elves and now they have sold you out to an enemy or maybe they are coming back for revenge. Maybe someone else witnessed that incident and did not like what you did, and is exacting retribution out of principle.

Indirect: Perhaps this event is the culmination of your history with that Trouble? Do you have Manners of a Goat? Perhaps the event was brought about because your reputation preceded you and you were being shunned. Normally being shunned is merely annoying, but at this moment you really needed help and you were turned away which made you late for a debt payment, or late for an important meeting, or unable to complete your mission to which there were unpleasant ramifications for. Now the loan  shark’s boys are after you, or the lawyers are now threatening to take your home, or the Ransaw Bandits got away.

Technique – Unresolved Issues

Usually, unresolved issues are a bad thing, but here in Fate RPG land (and with your therapist) they are a wonderful thing. If you really want to supercharge your game then make your history event an unresolved issue in one way or the other and then tie your character aspect from this step to it. “Why would you do that?” you ask? Here are a few great benefits to unresolved issues as   aspects:

  • They create a subplot that the GM can use later which ties directly into your character history. 
  • It allows you to expand the game world more or to tie yourself into the game world more.
  • It makes it easy for the other players to be invested in your character and the eventual completion of this aspect since they participated in that now unresolved event for better or ill through the Phase Trio process; and you have the same with them if they also have an unresolved issue. Everyone wins – even the GM!

When creating an event like this you should really try to tie them into a person, place, organization or other entity that is apart of your game world. Take a look at your campaign’s list of faces, places, and organizations. You can also create new ones too.

How can you leave an event unresolved?

  • Passive Methods: Perhaps your opponents escaped, tricked you, or knocked you unconscious or left you for dead; Perhaps they gave you an extension or showed temporary leniency? Perhaps some unforeseen circumstances reared its head which had you separate – a common enemy, law enforcement, a natural disaster or a large predator, the mythical great white stag maybe? Did the other players arrive and save you from an inevitable demise? Were you teleported away?
  • Active Methods: Perhaps your opponents were much more powerful than you anticipated or had reinforcements coming so you ran or maybe your tricked them? Maybe you agreed to a draw? Perhaps you knocked them unconscious or left them for dead? Did you let them escape or did you show them mercy? Did you beat their minions or get them to back down to deal with you later?

Also, were you (or your opponent) left scarred or without something precious, besides your pride as a powerful reminder of that moment?

Here are a few event types to help you create or flesh out an unresolved event:

  1. Symptomatic Event 
  2. Inciting Event
  3. Exploratory Event

Symptomatic Event

A Symptomatic Event assumes you already know what the unresolved issue aspect is that you want, which is also where we will start. Here, the unresolved issue aspect will be the genesis for your event – an example of how that unresolved issue can manifest and complicate your life. So, think of a way that the unresolved issue can complicate your life and then have your event be just that and how you and the other players help you deal with it.

When you may complete the event with the other players, you will have NOT solved the real problem, the unresolved issue, which caused it. You have only solved the symptom and therefore the unresolved issue will (thankfully) come back to haunt you!

Example: If you chose the aspect ‘Hunted by the Kyrexian Mob‘, then you will want your event to be about being hunted by the mob: you were caught in an alley and are accosted by mob thugs. Keep in mind these are thugs and not the mob bosses that are shaking you down otherwise you would solve the aspect right there, unless… you got away or they left you for dead, etc! This method is pretty straight forward and easier to do. Later, you will have to explain why they are hunting you (the inciting event for the unresolved issue).

1Aspect 
(unresolved issue)
Start with your unresolved issue aspect.
2EventCreate an event which is symptomatic of your unresolved issue
3Complete EventYou will work with the other players to resolve this in such a way as the root issue is not solved, just this specific event.

Inciting Event

A Inciting Event assumes you already know what the unresolved issue aspect is that you want, which is where we will start: although here, our event will be the moment that generated the unresolved issue. The event will answer how did this complication happen?

Example: If you chose the aspect ‘Hunted by the Kyrexian Mob‘, then you will want your event to create a situation which would cause you to be hunted by the Kyrexian Mob: With your character’s convenient trouble aspect of Red Rage you decide that the event is a fight in gambling casino on a space station where you kill the son of the leader of the Kyrexian Mob. Yes, you did mean to kill him – in self defense, but you did not know he was the boss’ son. This event generates your desired unresolved issue aspect.

1Aspect 
(unresolved issue)
Start with your unresolved issue aspect.
2EventHere you start with the inciting event which shall generate your unresolved issue.
3Complete EventYou will work with the other players to complete this in such a way that leaves it unresolved (see active and passive methods above for inspiration) and so that your desired aspect makes sense.

Exploratory Event

With an exploratory event you have no idea what is going to happen or what the result is, but you know that you want an unresolved issue to be the type of aspect that is generated. Start with talking with the players or come up with the base problematic event, and then work with the players during their Crossing Paths phases to generate ideas for how this can go wrong and create an unresolved issue. 

Example: Working as a not so petty thief with some significant rage issues, you decide to steal from someone who has slighted you in some way. Working together with the your fellow PC’s, you successfully steal some valuable items from your target, but… it turns out that they were someone with significant influence with the Kyrexian Mob. As we all know all too well, the Kyrexian Mob Takes Care of Their Own (potential aspect for the mob?), so, now you  are being Hunted by the Kyrexian Mob!

1EventHere you start with an inspiring event.
2Complete EventYou will work with the other players to complete this in such a way that leaves it unresolved (see active and passive methods above for inspiration).
3Aspect 
(unresolved issue)
Think of the completion of the event as a success (or even a failure) with significant consequences with those consequences being the creation of the unresolved issue.

Crossing Paths

In this set of phases, we will find out how you’ve crossed paths with 2 other characters. You will repeat the following process for each of the 2 phases.

  1. Distribute the History Cards – to another player either by bringing together all of the character history cards and then randomly hand them out to other players, or just hand them left or right, or throw your card and see whose eye it sticks in… Whichever way works for you and your group.
  2. Insert Your Character – into the other player’s event.  You can look to your High Concept and Trouble for inspiration for how you helped. This is a moment to shine a little spotlight on your character. Discuss with the player how your character has a supporting role in this moment either by:
    • complicating the moment – If you are going to Complicate the event then take a look at your Trouble or any conflicting aspects you may have between the two characters for how you can create a complication to their event. You do not have to say how your complication was resolved. You can leave that for the next person. Leave’em hanging…
    • solving the situation – You solve the main conflict in the event. Take look at your apsects for inspiration on how to resolve the situation. You have strengths, so shine your light on them to resolve the situation.
    • solving the main conflict + complicate –  which is a combo of the above two options
    • create new event – if the character’s event is to remain unresolved or was just resolved then you may want to create a whole new event to drag their character into. Talk with the player and take a look at your aspects and their aspects to figure out something appropriate for both of you. Your may want to start with their Trouble for the start of the event. Keep in mind, that if their event is ripe for completion, then you may want to do that instead of create something new, especially if you are in the last phase, so no character events are left open. 
    • supporting the character – you support the main character in their event, neither resolving nor complicating, which may leave the next person to resolve the event. This is the weakest of the options. 
  3. Aspect for Contribution – Take a look at what happened during your contribution to the other character’s event and write down an aspect from your contribution.See my various appendices in the links below for more info on Character Aspects.
  4. Process Your Contribution
    1. Write down your contribution and the Aspect you gain on a Note Card
    2. Write down your contribution and the Aspect you gain on your Character Creation Worksheet.
    3. Give this new card to the player whose history you worked with so they may have it for their reference and in case they want to write up a unified narrative to make it flow better

Phase 2: Crossing Paths – Part I

Follow the above stated process to insert your character.

Hint: For this phase the most interesting options are Complicate or Solve and Complicate. You may want to consider saving Solving the event for the last step so the last character can resolve this story. 

Phase 3: Crossing Paths – Part II

Follow the Crossing Paths process from above for the second addition to your history (and to another character’s) and to gain another aspect.

Hint: For this phase, if possible and/or needed, you may need to Solve the event. If their event is already solved, then you could look to possibly Create a New Event to drag them into some more fun.

Fatesville Gaming Group

Tess took a moment to summarize the first Phase from the Character Creation Primer:

  1. each of them were to create a problematic event that happened where the other characters were going to insert themselves
  2. write a short description of it on the card
  3. create an aspect for their character that reflected some part of that event
  4. then write the history and the aspect onto their Character Creation Sheet

For the event and the aspect they create for phase, she recommended that it should use a person, place, or organization in the world – either an existing one or create a new one. Another key part of this is to ensure that the problematic event remains “unresolved” in some way (see the above section on Technique: Unresolved Issues). This ties your characters to the world and to each other and creates a subplot that you all want to see an end to. Finally, she told everyone to pick up their first note card to begin.

Phase 1: An Adventure to Remember

The group spent some time talking over their individual ideas on what they wanted for their events and how they could word their aspects so their events could remain unresolved. Sarah was lucky because what she had already picked worked for the Forward method and Dan also opted for the Forward method, while Jeff and George opted for the slightly more difficult Backward method. When they were done talking and consulting page 2 of the Character Creation Primer Worksheet for the Faces, Places, and Organizations they created from last session, this is what they came up with:

 aspect + event
DanHunting the traitor, Pingrin Darkhammer
It was strongly suspected by his own family and other dwarves that Pingrin Darkhammer, Trangath’s cousin and a fellow Dark Runner who was living a little too well, sold out his family and the High Citadel to the dragons. Trangath had ambushed him and his light dragoman escort to confront him. Combat ensued due to Trangath’s rage. The melee was interrupted as a flight of dragoman scouts from the neighboring draconic territory attacked. Trangath was severely injured causing him to flee. The foreign dragoman flight cut down Pingrin’s dragonman escort as he galloped away to safety, chuckling maniacally.
SarahIllegitimate Heir to the Larion Vale Barony
Tyla had been snooping too aggressively around Prefect Lursix’s business to try to find where her family was being held or to find the symbols and relics of her family’s rule, so that she could help rouse a rebellion to restore the Vale into her family’s hands. With her rather too pointed questions and her cold indifference towards the non-draconic servants, they suspected her intention and, out of fear, they betrayed her. Thugs from the Traxis came rushing in and captured her.
JeffIndebted to Aelia Tyrellion
Lysteria had lain a solo ambush for a light dragoman patrol traveling a path through the outskirts of the the Bleak Wood. She was able to barely defeat them, but this combat attracted the attention of roving band of goblins. With a win for the day under her belt she grew overconfident in her Elven prowess and ambushed them too. She was saved from certain death as Aelia Tyrellion and the Green Spears charged. Aelia and her Green Spears took Lysteria in and taught her how to not die so quickly.
GeorgeRivalry vs S’zuras
Dinbi had been pursuing the elven maiden, Carrae, that S’zuras also had a significant interest in. S’zuras arrived as Dinbi was sneaking from her home barely dressed. A fight ensued. Dinbi was disarmed and left for dead, his precious Silver Knight sword taken as a prize.

Dan chose to allow the event to remain open by interrupting the exchange with an outside force. Sarah’s aspect is open anyhow, but conveniently left the event so that she could be saved by another player. Jeff’s event ends with being saved by Aelia which brings about Lysteria’s indebtedness. George leaves his event open in two great ways – he is left for dead so that the rivalry has been created and his sword has been taken so someone else can get it back for him.

Phase 2: Crossing Paths – Part I

Having completed Phase 1 with a whole lot of yummy unresolved issues, they moved onto Phase 2. Tess decided to keep things simple and just asked everyone to hand their Adventure to Remember note cards to the left:

  • Dan → Sarah
  • Sarah → Jeff
  • Jeff → George
  • George → Dan

She reminded them of the 5 basic methods of inserting themselves into the other player’s story:

  • resolve
  • complicate
  • resolve and complicate
  • support
  • create new event

… and then set them loose to insert their characters into the other person’s story.

 Whose EventAspect + Addition
TrangathDinbi the WhiteReturn all the lost artifacts.”
(post – complicate) Hearing of Dinbi’s plight when they met in the Barter House, Trangath took it upon himself to try to retrieve the blade, however, while he was sneaking around to find the blade they stumbled onto him attempting to purloin some useful items. He killed a few, but ended up getting captured.
TylaTrangath DarkhammerIf you are NOT family then you ARE expendable.
(pre – support) Tyla was hired by Trangath to try to find out where Pingrin was hiding so he could confront him. After a few weeks of looking, she found out that he was living well in the High Citadel as a functionary for the vale’s Prefect, although, she was sorry to report that several of his fellow dwarves had to take the fall for her works.
LysteriaTyla Tiasanna (d’Larion)Vale Resistance Fighter
(post – resolve) Hearing that Tyla was captured by the Traxis and was being transported, Lysteria decided to do what she could to save someone so valuable to the resistance. Lysteria, along with a few covert Green Spears, managed to free Tyla before they imprisoned her.
DinbiLysteria of the Bleak WoodWill Stare Down a Dragon
(during – complicate) Dinbi, was more than happy to assist Lysteria in her desire to harrass the dragomen. With Lysteria’s magic and his sword, the first patrol stood no chance. However, a mostrous Gruglin, which was attracted by the noise of combat, was a different story. Dinbi, a Silver Knight who feared nothing, charged right out into the middle of clearing and called the mostrous goblinoid-dragon thing out. All three blood-shot and rage filled eyes twitched and charged. Its rage and power were overwhelming for both Dinbi and Lysteria even when working together.

Phase 3: Crossing Path’s – Part II

With everyone kind of in the rhythm they passed their cards to the left again and the group went to work inserting their characters into their fellow player’s history for the last time.

 Whose EventAspect + Addition
TrangathLysteria of the Bleak WoodA Dark Runner is always prepared!
(during – resolve) With both Dinbi and Lysteria being assaulted by the gruglin amidst the bodies of the fallen Dragonmen patrol and not faring well, he needed to help out. You never know when you will need some fresh agaa meat. Fortunately, gruglin are repulsed by the scent of agaa meat. Trangath threw the agaa meat and, just to make sure, he also whipped the handful of copper rings he had randomly acquired. The beast’s nose scrunched up, it howled, batted Dinbi to the ground in a startled roar, and then scampered away. The beast’s yowling and crashing through the underbrush, unforunately, attracted a band of goblin raiders who were looking to tame the thing.
TylaDinbi the WhiteMark of the Faceless One
(post – resolve) Having been chosen by the Faceless One has its advantages, she is able to change her face and form to look like others and get to places where others cannot. She utilized this skill to great effect when she went to recover Dinbi’s Silver Knight’s Blade and to save Trangath from capture.
LysteriaTrangath DarkhammerStorm Caller – Inferno
(during – support) Lysteria was happy to lend Trangath her magic in order to confront a potential traitor to the Vale. Her flames worked well to bring help bring down his heavier than expected dragoman escourt until the flight of foreign dragoman attacked. Her flames helped to give them time to escape.
DinbiTyla Tiasanna (d’Larion)Silver Knight’s Blade
(new) As Tyla was carefully searching among the rancid slums of the unwashed masses for any sign of her family or Larion sympathists, Dinbi was happy to provide his blade to protect her. The Silver Knight’s Blade when paired with the knight’s training make them deadly opponents verses dragons and their ilk as a few dragonman found out during the search.

Jeff happily tapped into the Stormcaller (Fate System Toolkit, pg 82) Extra to power his wizard character. Sarah had already done her research and utilized the 6 Viziers (Shadow) Extra (Fate System Toolkit, pg 90) for her character. Tess and Sarah had previously discussed it online and they liked it for her concept. Now Jeff was looking for something special for his Silver Knight’s Blade. Sarah brought up the simple Gadget rules (Fate System Toolkit, pg 154). They reviewed it and after some discussion they came to an agreement – an Function (High Concept) and a Flaw (Trouble) for the blade would be simple enough to cover it. Dan’s character was happily Extra free.

This whole process took a bit longer than they were expecting. Helping to making sure that their awesome characters did not completely resolve some of the events or to create complications took a more control and creativity than they were expecting, but they did it, and now they have significant character driven plot threads to look forward to resolving.


With that major section of character building done, a collective sigh of relief was felt. Jeff and Tess broke the tension as they talked about their disastrous guild raid earlier in the week while playing Time Guardians IV. As Tess pulled up a Twitch stream of the raid and all of the depressing gore, Jeff, still annoyed at that cluster of a raid, grumped out “That boss is broken“.

They all laughed and winced together as the body count quickly grew while Dark Monger Guardian’s tentacled horrors were dismantling their raiding party and terrorized their quickly diminishing ranks.

Sarah looked to Jeff as they were watching the playback noting his quick death by charging headfirst at the boss. She whispered “Leeerooy Jenkins“.

Tess‘s mind was analyzing the raid’s many weaknesses as the group was watching it. She stopped cold and fixed her eyes on Sarah as a lightbulb came on. Even though she knew Sarah would cringe at the idea, she thought she would plant the seed and see what happens. Sometimes Sarah surprised her by coming out of her shell. “Sarah, you should raid with our guild sometime. We could use your skillz as one of the highest ranked Nexus Walkers.“. Not liking having the spotlight put on her skills nor liking the idea of raiding with a bunch of people she did not know, Sarah just shurgged her shoulders.

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