Hello, Wrath of Zombie here!
Tourq emailed me and asked if I would do a guest article for the Stuffer Shack about incorporating Aspects from FATE into other games, and I have to say I’m very excited about the opportunity.
What Are Aspects?
Aspects are an amazing mechanic used in the FATE system to help players and GM’s develop the characters and story. The truly unique thing about Aspects is that they are not chosen from a list like Edges and Hindrances (as Savage Worlds) or Feats (DnD/Pathinder), but made up solely by the player. The mechanic really puts the whole character into the hands of the player.
Aspects can really be anything: A motto or saying, an item, an idea, etc. The point of this is that players can “invoke” an Aspect to give them a +2 bonus to their roll, or allow them to completely re-roll a bad result. Both instances require you burning a FATE Point.
The other point is for the players or GM to “compel” a player’s Aspects. The best kind of Aspect will be a double edged sword, something that can give a character strength, yet come back to bite them in the butt in certain situations. When an Aspect is compelled and the player goes along with it, they are rewarded, not only by the possibility of some awesome role-playing situations, but with a FATE Point.
A good example would be: Anger is My Security Blanket. This phrase can be used in certain situations to give the player power over the scene, or it can be used by the GM to get the player into some interesting situations that might not have otherwise happened.
This brings me to my next point:
Why Are Aspects Important (in Any Game)?
In my experience players tend to forget all that there is on their character sheet. Who can blame them when you look at a game like DnD or Pathfinder that have TONS of things to keep track of over 2-4 pages (depending on which character sheet you use). Not only do players tend to forget some feat abilities, items, and the like, but I’ve seen players also forget goals and parts of their character’s personality.
Prior to discovering the awesomeness of Aspects, I would ask my players to make a few bulleted notes of key points of their character’s personality in a few words. This allowed them to remember and keep focus on who they wanted their character to be, and keep track of a few key goals.
Aspects do this as well, and the mechanic offers rewards for characters who put themselves in unpleasant and possibly hazardous situations. I would like to point out that this is something that people new to Aspects have a hard time wrapping their brains around – especially for those who have really only played DnD/Pathfinder in the past.
While I love DnD/Pathfinder, there really isn’t any mechanic that rewards role-playing, and it punishes you for taking risks or playing “against” your character archetype. Many games other that have embraced a newer school of thinking reward this kind of action (Savage Worlds and Mouse Guard come to mind).
When you put Aspects in a game and get a group together to discuss them, you will see some awesome creativity come into play and some truly amazing Aspects be created. Here’s a shameless plug, but informative- I did a post about communication and Aspects, which you may find interesting.
Putting Aspects in Other Systems
Every system has some form of mechanical bonus that can be applied to Aspects. DnD 4e, and 3.5 (after the introduction of Eberron) has Action Points. Action Points have some sort of function that can be used in conjunction with Aspects. In the Pathfinder game that I am currently running, I wanted to make sure that I incorporated Aspects into my house rules so all would harmonize and feed off the other.
Savage Worlds uses Bennies to reward players for doing something cool in-game, helping the GM, maybe telling a funny joke, or whatever. The player can use Bennies to soak damage, or re-roll a failed traits or skills roll. This mechanic can easily be modified to work with Aspects.
I discovered a really good post on Savage Worlds and Aspects not too long ago. What the author suggests is pretty much right down the line of what I have done to my Savage Worlds game.
I like Aspects as an option rather than Edges and Hindrances, because, as I mentioned earlier, in previous SW games I have ran the players forget to play their characters as vengeful, or forgot the mechanics of Hard to Kill (or some other Edge). With Aspects, if you forget, you forget.. no harm no foul, except that you really aren’t getting full use and development of your character. However, in Savage Worlds, when you forget to play up your vengeful manner, yet you DO remember all the bonuses of your edges, is that really fair? You’ve taken a Hindrance and aren’t using it, but using the Edge. Another issue is that Aspects are able to be rewritten and are usually pretty clever, where I’ve seen many Hindrances just go to the wayside because they really don’t fit into the campaign, or it is too much of an issue to try to incorporate them.
A recent post I did for Aspects is for incorporating the mechanic into Dragon Age RPG. That one is also simple to incorporate, and it really is a simple and wonderful system. As I say in that post, it’s really easy to do:
Give each character 3 Dragon Points and have them create X number of Aspects (to be determined by the GM). When a player invokes an Aspect it works exactly as with FATE. The player gets +2 to an ability test or a complete re-roll. Compels would work the same way as in FATE as well.
By and large, incorporating Aspects into a game is easy. In most cases you can honestly just use the same mechanics from FATE to whatever system. Look at the mechanics of the system you like and see what needs to be tweaked.
I will use the three games I mentioned above as examples: Pathfinder/3.5, Savage Worlds, and Dragon Age.
To start, at the beginning of every session (regardless of system), each player starts with 3 Fate Points, Bennies, Action Points, Dragon Points, or whatever you want to call them.
Pathfinder: If you just wanted to be simple, the standard FATE rules will work. Burn a point to invoke an Aspect to add +2 to a roll or completely re-roll. However, I feel that +2 is honestly not a huge number in Pathfinder/3.5 and would recommend making that number +4. That +4 makes it more heroic and garners the likelihood for success.
The important thing to remember is that when a player is using an Aspect they are saying they want to do something cool and they want to succeed. Also keep in mind that they will generally be excited that their Aspect, which they created themselves, is able to fit the scenario and come into play.
Savage Worlds and Dragon Age: I’m lumping these two together, because honestly, their mechanics (while different) operate closely in numerical value and difficulty classes. For these games, the normal Fate Rules work perfectly fine (see the above example from Dragon Age again). The +2 is a huge boon in both Savage Worlds and Dragon Age, and would operate in the same way as +4 in Pathfinder/3.5.
I would like to give further examples of how to incorporate your own house rules into facilitating Aspects, but I don’t know your house rules so it would all be supposition at this point and moot. Again, feel free to look at a post of mine where I show how I linked my house rules to Aspects. I’m more than willing to give my opinions on other people’s mechanics and thoughts on the subject, just leave a comment here or on my blog!
I Have to Have the Last Word
Good Aspect right there. I hope I have conveyed how awesome this simple mechanic is. Players really get excited about creating Aspects because it really and truly is theirs. It is exciting (as a GM) when players really want compel their own Aspects to see where the story will go and what will happen. This is very motivating since the players are engaged and helping share in the story that the GM has crafted.