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Simplifying Fate: Aspects and Fate Points

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While we work on our next subject of Stunt Myths, related to this poll, we thought we would add something else about simplifying Fate points and Aspects.

Fate Core is a simple streamline system, but that does NOT mean it is always easy to play. The folks at Evil Hat designed it to handle everything, and sometimes figuring out how to cover that within the rules can give you quite the headache. No matter how much I think I know about the rules, there’s always something new to learn or something I assumed to be true that is not.

The trick with understanding how Fate works is to approach it like you would math (ugh) or maybe building with Legos (yay). You have to understand the very basics, and then put those basics together in order to make a complicated structure that looks like what you want. Things go wrong when you miss one of the basic elements, and it affects the large structure as a whole.

So today we are going to take another look at the rules of Fate Core and see how we can keep things simple.

Three Ways to Use Aspects

According to the rulebook, there are only 2 things you do with aspects: invokes and compels. No matter how you do it: spending a freebee after creating an aspect, spending fate points, accepting fate points, or even using a stunt you are only try to do 2 things: INVOKE or COMPEL.

Invokes are simple and thus the most commonly used for making something happen that you want to happen. Invoking an aspect means you say “Hey, this is true so I have an advantage on this.” Then you spend a fate point to reroll dice or throw a +2 onto something. That +2 can be on your skill check, another player’s skill check, or to a passive defense (if you use that sort of thing).

Compels are used to complicate life, usually for a fate point. They either complicate life with an event (such as the bridge you are standing on collapsing) or with a decision (would you really do the right thing here when your Trouble says you want to do something else?). Compels are often used to earn fate points, as they are rewarded to whosoever’s life gets complicated. You can also retroactively say “Hey, I just struggled with this because of my aspect. Shouldn’t I get a fate point for that?”

Just a note, any time you spend a fate point to declare a story detail you have to justify it with an aspect. Technically you are not using the aspect since this is not really an invoke or a compel, but since the rules say that a GM can refuse this if it does not line up with the aspect used to justify it, I feel like it needs to be mentioned here.

Juggling Fate Points

Players can spend Fate points on 5 things. Invokes and Story Details were mentioned above. Players can also spend fate points to refuse a compel that they did not initiate themselves, and compelling another player also costs a fate point (though suggesting that GM compel the player character is free). Finally, some potent stunts require a fate point spent to use.

The GM can compel any player character or NPC for free, and since they determine Story Details for the game there is no cost for those either. Invokes, refusing compels, and special stunts that require a Fate point for their cost are paid for by the GM.

So where do fate points come from? Well players start an adventure with a number of fate points equal to their Refresh or the number of fate points they ended the last adventure with, whichever is greater. The GM, on the other hand, starts each scene with a number of fate points equal to the number of players in that scene. GMs only get extra fate points to carry over if they accepted a compel that ended the last scene or starts the next scene, or if they conceded the last conflict. For a GM, these extra fate points are in addition to the standard scene refresh rate.

Which leads us into our next discussion of earning fate points.

Earning More Fate Points

While it looks complicated on the outside, earning fate points is even simpler than spending them. That is because there are only 3 ways to earn fate points during a game: Accepting a compel, receiving an Invoke, and conceding a conflict.

Conceding a conflict, as mentioned previously, happens when you choose to take yourself out of a conflict. In other words, before any dice are rolled during any turn, you can say “I’m out!” and take a fate point. You also get extra fate points for any consequences you took during that conflict. Granted you our out of the conflict, so you have to wait in order to spend them.

Accepting a compel means that you are not spending a fate point to refuse it. The fate point comes from the limitless scene pool of fate points and not from a personal pool, although if one player spends a fate point to compel anyone besides themselves it is a short trip from their hand to the scene pool and then from the scene pool to whomever accepted the compel. J

Invokes usually cost fate points unless you have already set yourself up for a freebee. You can invoke any aspect for your own benefit so long as it makes sense, but when you invoke an aspect that is tied to a character besides your own (such as a consequence, a trouble, or an advantage you created) you then give any fate points you spend on the Invoke to that player. This is referred to as a Hostile Invoke.

Unlike compels, hostile invokes are simply someone using your aspects for a +2 or for a reroll. There is no choice or horrible event that befalls your character. These usually are used for free invokes, but they can be used with a fate point. And if your opponent uses your aspect for that +2 or reroll, then you get that fate point directly from their pool! The only downside is you cannot use it for the situation that the invoke was used on so that you don’t keep trading the same fate point back and forth for infinite +2’s.

Types of Aspects

There are 4 main categories of aspects: Game aspects, Character Aspects, Consequences, and Situation Aspects. This division is based on how long the aspects are intended to last. Really they are all aspects that behave the same way. You use them to invoke and compel just like any aspect.

Game Aspects are permanent aspects that affect the game as a whole. Anyone can use them for invokes and compels. They should be VERY difficult to change because changing a Game Aspect means changing the entire game you are playing.

Character Aspects are permanent aspects that affect the character they are attached to. They can only be changed by that character’s player’s will, such as with milestones or extreme consequences. Any time one of these aspects is compelled, that character’s player gets a fate point. A player also get a fate point if someone spends one to invoke your character’s aspect but your character is not getting a +2 or reroll.

Consequences are formed by a player when they wish to reduce the stress from an attack, and how long they last depends on how severe they were. A mild consequence lasts until the end of the next scene, for example, while an extreme consequence becomes a permanent character aspect.

Situation Aspects are temporary, generally lasting until the end of the scene unless it makes sense for them to stick around longer (never more than a scene). These are the aspects you generally create with a Create an Advantage action. They depend a LOT on narrative for context. Situation Aspects can be further categorized based on what they are attached to: Scene aspects, advantages, sticky aspects, etc. You can also get rid of them with an Overcome action, though the difficulty for such a check also depends on the context and group consensus (or more accurately the GM’s decision after the players argue justification).

What Are Boosts?

Fate Core’s rule book says that boosts are a temporary kind of aspects, but the revisions say that boosts are not aspects. A boost cannot be used for a compel, a hostile invoke, or any other transaction that involves spending a fate point. They are only used for invokes, granting a reroll or a +2 benefit.

Unlike aspects, boots vanish as soon as they are used. They are also meant to vanish if they are not used after they could be, such as by the end of the next turn of the person that created them. They are only good for the free invokes placed on them, and they do not even require a name like ‘real’ aspects.

Boosts are generally rewards for defending with style, bonuses awarded as the result of some stunts, or a consolation prize when your Create an Advantage check does terrible. The number of free invokes on them can be increased just like an aspect. And they can be promoted to situational aspects when you create an advantage with the same name, adding their free invoke to any you created with the new aspect.

Needing Examples

Man those are a lot of words, and not very many examples! We’ll try to be a little more practical in the next blog with some examples of what to do when X or Y happen. I’ve got plenty of things that I have done, wish I had done, and had done to me to draw on.

~Joshua

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Author: Burn Everything Gaming

Website that mostly produces Actual Play Podcast as well as game reviews and other musings on the topic. Hope you enjoy.

One thought on “Simplifying Fate: Aspects and Fate Points

  1. Pingback: Real Life Examples #1: Complications and what to do | Burn Everything Gaming

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