Mar 102011
 

This part of character creation (in my opinion), is the fun part.  It’s where I get to personalize my character and really make him stand out.  I know, we thought we did that with both of the last two articles (here and here), but that just shows how cool Strands of Fate really is.  In this article, we continue with the second half of our character’s ten aspects.  Last time we talked about our five Character Aspects, today we discover our five Specialty Aspects.

Remember, this is totally optional – you could make five more Character (or generic) Aspects if you wanted, but to really get a diverse and dynamic character, I’m going to follow the recommended Aspect Alphabet as best as I can.  Also, Specialty Aspects are usually tied to particular Ability, where Character Aspects are more broadly interpreted.

Let’s take a look at our Aspect Alphabet again.  We’ve already looked into our first five, now we’ll move on to our last five:

  1. Defining Aspect
  2. A = Ambition
  3. B = Background
  4. C = Conviction
  5. D = Disadvantage
  6. E = Exceptional Skill
  7. F = Foe(s)
  8. G = Gear
  9. H = Help
  10. I = Inferior Skill

6. Exceptional Skill

What skill or talent has “Desolation” Amearus Omaron excelled in?

That’s easy (and simple).  He’s a great warrior, but it’s his skill with a long blade that his enemies fear.  I will most often tie this aspect to my Strength ability.

Master Swordsman

7. Foe(s)

Who out there has it in for Desolation?  Who despises him?  Or, who does Desolation want to do in?

Well, as a General in the 100 Years War, Desolation and his soldiers have certainly wracked up some enemies.  But who is it that I want to make an appearance in his story from time to time?  Enemies are important, so I don’t want his to be some Joe Schmoe from a random nation; I want them to have significance in his current situation.

So, in Desolation’s story, he died in the war and was somehow resurrected as a revenant (unknown by who or why).  I know that Death brought back his ashes because it still has plans for him, but the character doesn’t know that.  His people, leery of his return, sent him to the land of their ancestors, Aerenal.  There, the Undying Court might have the answers that he seeks.  Is he alive, is he dead, is he in a state of “deathlessness” like his distant ancestors?  Is he destined to join the Undying Court?  He doesn’t know, and he isn’t sure if the Undying Court knows either.  However, they have instructed him that his mysterious resurrection has something to do with an unraveling, but equally mysterious Draconic Prophesy, and he needs to investigate this prophesy on behalf of the Undying Court.  Only then will they know how to help him.  Desolation can’t help but feel that he’s being used, but he has no other choice.  So, for the time being, he is forced to follow the direction of the Undying Court, and investigate this Draconic Prophesy.

This makes the Undying Court his “Enemy,” because of his unwanted association with them.  They’re using him for their own purpose, and he knows it, but he has no other choice.  Foes are always associated with your Persuasion ability.

Forced to follow the Undying Court

8. Gear

When I first thought of Desolation, I didn’t have any specific gear in mind for him because he was resurrected out of the Mournland.  No one was there to greet him, and no one was there to answer his questions.  So, I was about to skip this aspect in favor of some other random aspect when I thought, “No, I want to try to get as much out of the game as I can.” So, I figured Desolation was resurrected naked, in the Mournland, with nothing but his signature sword. He is a master swordsman, after all.  So, Desolation has a signature sword, and it came back to him with his resurrection.  What is it about this sword that makes it special? What is it about this sword that is going to have an impact on Desolation’s overall story?

Well… it used to belong to a king or duke (someone of importance).  This was a sword that was a symbol of power or prestige among their people, and (in a fierce battle) Desolation took the sword from its owner (a powerful Hobgoblin king) and killed him with it.  Now he uses that sword proudly in battle as a show of what he has accomplished (and goblinoids of all kind loathe him for it).  If this sword has any special properties other than its craftsmanship and reputation, Desolation isn’t keenly aware of it yet.  He’ll benefit from using the sword in a variety of ways, but he has yet to unlock it’s true potential and significance.  I’m sure the sword’s re-emergence with his resurrection has something to do with Death, and Death’s plans for Desolation.

Sword of Ozroc ‘Uhl

9. Help

Who out there can Desolation call upon for help?  What can he use to help him out of a pinch?

I specifically created Desolation to be out there all on his own, with no one to turn to.  The only help he’s getting is going to come from himself.  His people, his tribe, even his own family have turned their backs on him.  His whole life has been turned upside down by being resurrected as a revenant, and no one he knew wants anything to do with that.  So, if he ever needs any help, he’s going to need to find it in himself.  I think I’ll use “Revenant” as his Help Aspect.

Certainly there are instances where being neither alive or dead can help him.  Later on in character creation, I could purchase a “Racial Package – Revenant,” as an Advantage, but I think I won’t, and instead go with a simple aspect for his race that also satisfies my need for a Help Aspect.  Perhaps later in Desolation’s story I might buy that Racial Package, and even later on I might buy the full-on Undead package.  We’ll see.

Revenant

10. Inferior Skill

I always thought of Desolation as a normal soldier, though one who could inspire his troops.  So right off the bat I couldn’t think of an inferior skill.  Then I remembered his new race as a revenant, and figured that being an “almost undead” character, he’s losing touch with people in general.  I think that a simple, fun aspect would work great here.

Overly blunt

How Can I Invoke My Specialty Aspects?

(Remember, you invoke an aspect when you (the player), want a part of your character to influence the story, scene, or action.  Spend a Fate Point to get a +2 bonus to a single action, perform a re-roll, or to invoke an effect)

  1. Defining AspectResurrected Valenar Warrior of Legend
  2. Ambition I will regain my glory
  3. Background Death’s right hand
  4. Conviction Honor is my middle name
  5. Disadvantage The end justifies the means
  6. Exceptional SkillMaster Swordsman – This is very simple and straightforward for me to invoke.  My character is a Resurrected Valenar Warrior of Legend (which I can invoke in just about any melee combat), but when wielding a sword, I become an even greater warrior (I am, after all, a Master Swordsman).
    • [Bonus] For just about any attack or parry I make while wielding a sword, I can take a +2 bonus or reroll.
    • [Bonus] After fighting and injuring a tough combatant, I could make an Intimidate attempt to get him to surrender.  I could invoke Master Swordsman to help in this intimidation attempt because he just saw a demonstration of my mastery over the long blade.
    • [Effect] It’s possible that the person standing before my character is one of his old sparring partners, one who can take at least partial credit for Desolation’s skill with a blade.  This is totally subject to GM approval, of course.
  7. Foe Forced to follow the Undying Court– As my enemy, this aspect will most likely be compelled more often than invoked.
    • [Effect] The shire reeve, who I’m speaking to over dinner, shares in my distaste for the Undying Court.
    • [Bonus] When speaking to any of the elves from Aerenal, I can bring up my association with the Undying Court to gain either their sympathy or trust.
  8. Gear Sword of Ozroc ‘Uhl– This is a very easy aspect to invoke.  This famous sword belonged to a hobgoblin king (famous among the hobgoblins, anyway).  The sword also has special, yet undiscovered qualities. When I want to use the sword, I must bring it into the scene by spending a Fate Point.  The trade off is that I don’t have to spend any money or resources to buy this item, it will probably be a part of my character’s story for a long time, and I can use it to help me in a variety of ways.
    • [Effect] When combat starts, I can spend a Fate Point to declare that my sword is in my hand, automatically (flair it up however you like).  This brings it into the scene, and allows further invoking by me.
    • [Effect] After our party has been captured, and all our gear taken from us, I can declare that my sword has been claimed by a particular guard, and that said guard is posted right outside our cell.  Remember that this sword is important to my character’s story, which is why it is my Gear Specialty Aspect.  Therefore, unless there’s a very good reason, my character won’t be parted with it for too long.
    • [Effect] Anytime I want to get the attention of a hobgoblin, or group of goblinoids, I can display the sword.
    • [Bonus] I could gain a bonus/reroll when trying to inspire soldiers, because they will then  probably know who I am, and how I got the sword.
    • [Bonus] I could gain a bonus/reroll when trying to intimidate other soldiers, especially goblinoids.
    • [Bonus] And lastly, in a dangerous battle, after I have invoked my Resurrected Valenar Warrior of Legend aspect, and after I have invoked my Master Swordsman aspect, I might be able to call upon the Sword of Ozroc ‘Uhl for one last bonus (it’s a finely crafted, possibly magical weapon of a king, after all).
  9. Help Revenant – Desolation is now a revenant (not alive, not dead, but somewhere in between).  That could help him out in several situations.
    • [Effect] I need to get to the other side of the crypt (the crypt filled with zombies, skeletons, and ghouls).  Perhaps the GM will let my character simply stumble through them all, as they possibly accept me as an undead?
    • [Bonus] A succubus is attempting to seduce me, perhaps even to dominate me in combat.  As a revenant, I am not as in-touch with my mortal desires as I once was.
    • [Bonus/Effect] As my comrades are retching over, throwing up their rations due to the dismembered, rotting corpses laying about in the dungeon, I am largely unaffected.
    • [Bonus] Me: “Was that poison?  My heart barely beats as it is.”
  10. Inferior SkillOverly Blunt –My character sometimes loses touch with proper social etiquette.  More often than not, this aspect will be compelled.
    • [Bonus] When trying to fit in with a rowdy bunch of scumbags, I might get a bonus to blend in or befriend these riffraff.

How Can My Specialty Aspects Be Compelled?

(Remember that you, the GM, and even other players compel an aspect to create conflict for your character, instilling complications into his story.  Gain a Fate Point to take a -2 penalty, be forced to re-roll, or make something bad happen)

  1. Defining AspectResurrected Valenar Warrior of Legend
  2. Ambition I will regain my glory
  3. Background Death’s right hand
  4. Conviction Honor is my middle name
  5. Disadvantage The end justifies the means
  6. Exceptional SkillMaster Swordsman – I imagine that this aspect will not be compelled too often.  It might take some work to consistently compel Master Swordsman.
    • [Penalty] Me: “This opponent is nimble on his feet, and he’s wielding a long whip.  Damn, while I love the sword, it might not be the best defensive weapon in this fight.  This will give me a penalty to parry.”
    • [Effect] It’s possible that the man standing before me has heard of my skill with a blade, and he challenges me to a high-stakes duel.
  7. Foe Forced to follow the Undying Court– Damn those ancient, undead elves of Aerenal.
    • [Effect] GM: “You know that these elves you’re fighting are from Aerenal, home to the Undying Court.  You probably shouldn’t kill them.”
    • [Effect] GM: “Yeah, your character has fought the horrors of the Sundered Caverns before, and you know that there is treasure still to be found there, but that really has nothing to do with the Prophesy, the one that the Undying Court has directed you to investigate.  You have a solid lead to investigate in the tower.”
  8. Gear Sword of Ozroc ‘Uhl– Wielding proudly the famed sword of a hobgoblin king (who I’ve killed) is a huge insult to any goblinoid.  Trouble is just around the corner.
    • [Effect] Me: “Hey GM, these street thugs trying to harass us, can they all be hobgoblins?” Why yes, yes they can.
    • [Effect/Penalty] Me: “Hey GM, this sheriff, the one we’re trying to get help from, can he be a hobgoblin?” Why yes, yes he can (as the other players groan).
    • [Effect] Anytime I want to get the attention of a hobgoblin, or group of goblinoids, I can display the sword.
    • [Penalty] Sometimes I might be able to invoke this aspect to help me intimidate hobgoblins.  And sometimes, this could backfire as a compel instead.
    • [Penalty] Perhaps the sword, at times, doesn’t want to hurt hobgoblins, and I thus gain a penalty?
  9. Help Revenant – Just as I can benefit from my Help aspect, so too can I be penalized by it.
    • [Effect] Anytime I need to interact with an animal (such as a mount), I might have trouble.
    • [Penalty] When sneaking through a village, some of the village animals (chickens, dogs, horses, etc.) might start making a bit of noise because of my presence, affecting my Sneak roll.
    • [Penalty] Perhaps as someone who is not exactly alive, I sometimes receive a penalty to attack undead creatures, or a specific undead creature.
    • [Penalty/Effect] I could receive a penalty (or straight up failure) anytime I try to inspire my comrades or townsfolk (I’m simply losing touch with mortals).
  10. Inferior SkillOverly Blunt –I plan on compelling this aspect a lot, simply because of the fun to be gained from it.
    • [Penalty] Me: “Thank you, my lord, for seeing us.  You have a lovely palace, and wonderful food, but I think your children eat too much.”
    • [Effect] Me: “My lady, these are H’assassins trying to kill you, very deadly.  We will try our best to protect you, but by morning, you’ll probably be dead.” I might not get a Fate Point for that one, but it sure would be funny.
    • [Special!] Our group might need to convince the townsfolk to calmly pack their things and head out into the hills for their safety, and that by week’s end, the threat will have passed.  The GM could try to compel me to be overly blunt, to get me to tell the townsfolk that they’re going to die if they don’t move their asses.  However, I decline the compel (and the Fate Point that comes with it).  So, the GM (really wanting to create panic in the streets) offers me two Fate Points for this compel.  Now I have to wonder, should I take the compel for two Fate Points, or stick to my guns about keeping the townsfolk at ease?

In Conclusion

We have just finished developing my character’s ten aspects, as suggested by the Strands of Fate “Aspect Alphabet.”  In just ten little phrases, we have come up with everything we need to know about my character’s background, the people he knows, his attitudes, morals, and goals.  Of course, I’ve committed a lot of digital words describing these aspects, but nowhere on our character sheet are we expected to explain our aspects; it’s quite enough to simply list them.  After this, all we have to do is assign our Ability Points, figure out our Advantages (talents and powers), and equipment.  It’s all simple and straightforward, and not intensive at all.

For more articles on Playing with Fate, go here.

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Chris Stevens

In Chris's opinion, the very best vices are dirt bikes, rock music, and gaming, while the very best medicine is fatherhood. If he could just learn to balance them all, he'd live forever. He's much more creative than intelligent, often wakes up belligerent, and ponders many things insignificant. Lastly, in an effort to transform his well-fed body, P90X, Roller Blades, and Food are all laughing at him. And the pain continues.

  9 Responses to “Playing with Fate: Your “Specialty Aspects””

  1. “[Penalty] Perhaps the sword, at times, doesn’t want to hurt hobgoblins, and I thus gain a penalty?” Love this one… he he he.

    “Remember, this is totally optional – you could make five more Character (or generic) Aspects if you wanted, but to really get a diverse and dynamic character, I’m going to follow the recommended Aspect Alphabet as best as I can. ” – actually per Strands of Fate there is a cap on Aspects – 7 Character Aspects and 10 Specialty Aspects. I don’t exactly know why, but here’s our running theory:
    You don’t need to have an encyclopedia of Aspects and that having too many muddies up your character sheet. It also dilutes the impact of Aspects defining who your character truly is right now, which is why there are mechanical methods (and in my games there will also be story rewards) to change Aspects over time.

    In theory, your Character Aspects should be more broadly invokable/compellable than your specialty aspects (which should be tied to an ability to show where that aspect’s emphasis lies)

    Mike, John – do you want to weigh in here?

  2. Two things to mention:
    1. SoF does put a “cap” on Aspects; I think it’s 7 Character and 10 Specialty.

    2. Specialty Aspects always have a related Ability. This doesn’t restrict the Aspect in any way only further defining it. For example, lets say you have the Aspect “Only a flesh wound.” Here’s a couple of Specialty versions:

    Only a flesh wound (Endurance)
    Only a flesh wound (Willpower)

    Both versions will probally be Invoked and Compelled for many of the same reasons but by listing the associated Ability we define the character a little better. In the above example the first character is probally some kind of realy tough brute, able to withstand physical punishment. The second character is the type who is just so mentally disciplined, he’s able to shrug off things that may bring a lesser man down.

    Remembering to tie our Specialty Aspects to Abilities really helps define our characters as well as making it a little clearer as to when or if the Invoke/Compel should appy.

  3. Too true, guys. Thanks for the clarification, though in my opinion, I think it’s just a minor separation.

    What really does it for me is this: My first articles on coming up with aspects for my character went pretty well, and I envisioned some good ways that they can be invoked and compelled. In THIS article, I came up with a ton more ways to invoke and compel. Now, I want to go back and make up even more examples for my first five aspects, but that’s a project for my personal time; not this series (no need to go over it again).

    It all just makes me look forward to playing Desolation even more.

  4. You guys nailed it.

    Per the rules you need to take 5 Character Aspects and 5 Specialty Aspects. You don’t have to follow the Aspect Alphabet, but you still need 5 of each.

    You can gain more, but the limits are there to keep your character focussed. Too many Aspects sort of dilutes the character. And it’s really hard to keep up with all of them. Though the fact that Specialty Aspects tend to be much more focussed than Character Aspects helps a lot.

  5. I am a big fan of FATE but even ten aspects can sometime be hard to track. About six to eight I find as a good starting point, more can always to added during play.

    Getting the double edged part of the aspects down can also be a challenge, because you want those compels to keep coming but you also want something fun to play. Sometimes that is a tough balance.

  6. Something I’m already begining to see as a GM is the “self-Compel”. My home players as well as those I ran for at DunDraCon were Compelling themselves, taking a lot of work off me as the GM. Basically all I had to do was determine if their Compel was really detremental to the character (thereby earning the Fate point) or not. Made Aspect book-keeping a little easier.

  7. Honestly, as a player, I don’t find it hard to keep track of my aspects. Right now, I don’t want any more than ten, perhaps later I will (ten is a good number for me). My goal is to start using aspects of the environment, those belonging to enemies and monsters, and even start making assessments and declarations.

  8. I have found this series very useful, expecially in the various ways that aspects can be compelled and ivoked. I’m surely looking forward to more about the game!

  9. @Marko: The key to any good FATE game is a solid understanding of Aspects, its also the concept that is the most paradigm-changing from other RPG’s.

    The character I’m currently playing has a lot of Aspects (I purchased additional Specialty Aspects with xp) but most are usually Compelled. I try to focus on Invoking Aspects that are external to the character (those that apply to the scene or environment) – ones I create through Maneuvers or Asessments, etc.

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