Appendix I – Character Aspects Made Clear?5 min read

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Character Aspects serve both the character and the GM in different although related ways but are primarily there for driving the storytelling forward.

First, Character Aspects provide a specific method of understanding the character and how they fit into and relate to the game world.

Second, they provide a method of driving the story’s narrative through the player and the GM.The potential mechanical benefits gained through Fate Point usage are tangential, but help to reinforce an aspect’s theme or ideal within the story. 

Character Aspects for Players

For the player, Character Aspects help guide you in roleplaying your character and to tie you to the game world in a narrative sense. They are only as ‘true’ or present narratively as you decide to make them through roleplaying them.

Mechanically they are reinforced through your selection of skills and stunts. Let’s say you have the following character aspect: “Last Student of the Great d’Artagnan” which sounds like you are going to be awesome in a sword fight, am I right!

Aspect to Skill Disparities

Sure, you may have been the ‘Last Student of the Great d’Artagnan’, but even with such a great mentor you chose to have Fight @ +1  and took no stunts related to the Fight skill, so you kinda suck at fighting. This is OK. We are in safe space. We will not judge you. =)

Perhaps, as his last student:

  • he did not have time for proper instruction
  • it wasn’t really d’Artagnan
  • your training was cut short due to a tragedy
  • you were just a crappy student with no gift or desire for swordplay
  • you were the child of a noble who felt they did not have to try because they had everything handed to them on a platter
  • it has been years since you trained with him

That seeming aspect-to-skill (and possibly stunt) disparity is something for you to explain and to drive your role playing.

You invoke character aspects as a way to show a mechanical relevance or inspiration from them to the situation. Invoking that aspect during combat shows that the aspect is relevant and provides a mechanical benefit in the moment. Sure you suck in combat, but you happen to remember d‘Artagnan teaching you Antero’s Defense. You throw in a Fate Point and it helps you (+2 shift).

Reinforced Aspects

On the flip side, let’s say you had your Fight @ +5 and 2 of your stunts were fighting related. Mechanically you have supported that aspect quite well and most likely people will believe your impressive training legacy (whether it is true or not), although that could be a mixed blessing which could result in a short career rife with duels or being hunted now that the Musketeers are now outlaws, etc.

A Good Character Aspect Mix for Great Storytelling

A good storytelling mix for Character Aspects is as follows:

  • (1) High Concept: how you fit into the world or how you interact with it while adding in a location or organization.
  • (1) Trouble: as a negative personality trait not only because all people have pervasive negative traits, but this is what will be the easiest way to generate Fate Points and conflict, and fun into the narrative.
  • (1) Unresolved Issue with a person, place, or organization. This allows you to either add more to the setting or to tie your character to something already existing in the world. This is an especially great choice for the first phase of The Phase Trio: An Adventure to Remember. Unresolved Issues are a great way to allow you to flesh out the game world, to tie you to the game world, and to provide methods of telling more stories. Negative ones are easier for the GM to use to generate scenarios, but positive ones can also be turned into a story by endangering their focus or have their focus come asking for help.
  • (2) Others: anything from another personality trait, saying, or personal quirk or an aspect required for an extra.

See the next appendix section for info on creating good aspects.

Character Aspects for the GM

For the GM, they are used to help drive the game’s narrative forward. Character Aspects are as true, in a narrative sense, as the GM makes them by how much he uses them to drive the story. Character Aspects can affect the narrative when the GM uses a character aspect in a few ways:

  • either to drive the story forward by creating character driven subplot  (d’Artagnan’s blade was stolen)
  • invoking your aspect against you during the game which grants your character a Fate Point (invoking your aspect to challenge a rival teacher’s student who slanders your mentor’s honor – which would be even more interesting if you had Fight +1 and no Fight based stunts =) )

How powerful they are for driving your game’s story is very dependent upon the GM’s active use of them in story planning or invoking them against you in the game.

Note: see my upcoming Storytelling and Campaign Planning Guide for more information on this.