When a player in Strands of Fate (SoF) uses a character aspect to his advantage, or compels another’s character aspect against an NPC, he has a good feel for how to use the aspect and what to expect from that aspect. When using a zone aspect, perceptions change. The question becomes, “How do I use this zone aspect?” or “How come I can’t make the swampy ground swallow up my opponent?” The answer is simple: zone aspects are just like character aspects.
The rules on SoF are clear when applying character or specialty aspects during an adventure. They are not so clear when dealing with zone aspects during the same adventure. The rules only mention using zone aspects, but to understand them, careful attention must be paid to the examples. The SoF PDF page 215 is one such example.
Taking the cue from that example, it is best to treat zone aspects like any character aspect. Aspects do not make things happen by default; they influence the dice roll to improve or hinder a character’s action.
As an example, we will use a bounty hunter who is after a bounty. His name is James “Bring ‘em back” Earl, and he tracked down a notorious criminal who escaped custody two months ago. James has all of his Abilities at 2 with the Look before you leap and Old soldier Aspects. He also has the Bum leg (Agility) Specialty Aspect. James found his bounty at a small fishing cabin by the lake. There are three zones with the following aspects:
- By the cabin: Knee-deep snow
- Ice near the lake shore: Slippery (P)
- Thin ice in the middle of the lake: Thin Ice (P)
Any movement on the ice requires a roll with a target of 2. A result of 0 or less will result in the character falling and losing a turn. If on the thin ice, a result of 0 will result in falling through.
James approached the cabin following in the bounty’s tracks. When James reached the door, he invoked his Look before you leap Aspect and placed his ear to listen. That is when the door was forced open. James failed an Agility roll to remain on his feet and was knocked into the snow.
The first round, James and the bounty rolled for initiative and the bounty won. The bounty invoked his Brutal thug Aspect and swung at James with a baseball bat and rolled a 2 giving the bounty a 6 on his attack (2 roll +2 Aspect +2 Str). James invoked his Old soldier Aspect, rolled a 3 to dodge giving him a 7 on his defense (3 roll +2 Aspect +2 Agility); just enough to avoid being hit. The GM decides that the bounty needs to make this attack count and compelled the Knee deep snow on James preventing him from making his dodge. James’ roll was reduced to 5, giving the bounty a one advantage over James. With the bat’s WR of +2, James took 3 points of damage. James’ coat absorbed 1 point and James took the other 2 as Physical Stress.
The next round, James stood up and the bounty ran onto the ice. The third round, James chased after the bounty and rolled a total of 3, but the bounty compelled James’ obvious Bum leg Aspect (a -2 to the total), giving James a 1. James failed to cover any zones. James’ bounty was two zones ahead of him. Next round, James and the bounty roll to move and James rolled well enough to cover two zones and the bounty also covered two zones. The bounty moved into the middle of the lake (where the ice is thin) and James compelled the Thin ice Zone Aspect on the bounty. The cracking ice caused the bounty to not move any zones. James caught up to the bounty and . . .
Remember to keep it simple. If there are Zone Aspects to be used by a character or GM. Think of them as just another Character Aspect that anyone in the zone can use. As well as using zone aspects as character aspects, zone aspects can be uses for declarations. The same bounty hunter can be in an abandoned garage, with the Abandoned Garage Aspect, at an old filling station. He noticed a trap door in the back of the garage but could not get the door open. James could invoke the Abandoned garage Aspect and declare that there were some tools left behind when the building was abandoned that could help open the trap door. The character gained a ball-peen hammer and a long-handled screwdriver to pry the door open.
The key to any aspect is to remember that any aspect, regardless of the source, has the potential of being invoked or compelled like a character aspect. As long as the player thinks of zone aspects as character aspects, he can use them as character aspects.