Monday, May 26, 2014

The Building Blocks of Fate/Fate Core pt1: Aspects



I have spent a lot of time on this blog talking about the Fate RPG: in fact, based upon the number of posts on the subject, Station53 is largely a Fate blog.

The latest and (arguably) greatest version of Fate so far is the most recent version, Fate Core. Whatever flavor of the Core system you prefer - Core RAW, FAE, or the innumerable variants that are on the market right now - the newest incarnation of Fate is the most streamlined and cohesive version of the system to date.

Generic RPG systems almost always disappoint in some fashion. And Fate is no different than other systems in this regard (a sideways glance to GURPS at this moment..). Although the system supports a wide variety of genres, there are certain assumptions that apply to any Fate game. Per the book:
Fate doesn't come with a default setting, but it works best with any premise where the characters are proactive, capable people leading dramatic lives. #
To tastes, however, this exactly the sort of game I prefer to play 95% of the time, so I would consider this limitation a feature rather than a bug.

So what is the 'Core' part of Fate Core? Per the system's original co-creator Fred Hicks, it's every component that makes up the game: http://www.faterpg.com/2011/the-core-of-fate-core/

To my eyes, however, the 'core' of any version of Fate (or FATE) is the idea of Aspects. From the beginning, this has been the key mechanic that differentiates Fate from other game systems, including it's parent system FUDGE.

So what do Aspects do? Lots of things really. But in brief:
  • Aspects establish facts. Which means that..
  • Aspects define characters. Which means that..
  • Aspects define genre.
To demonstrate the breadth of this idea, let's look at two characters using the same overall build - same skillsets, same stunts- but different aspects. In this example, I have chosen the Grifter (Wildstorm/DC Comics) and Legolas from Lord of the Rings

***

Grifter


  • Aspects
High Concept: Former special-forces sharpshooter/infiltrator
Trouble: Days you wake up crying..that’s when the mask comes in handy
Other: Zealot taught me a lot; This hero business is hard; Gen-Active

  • Skills
+5 Shoot
+4 Athletics, Fight
+3 Notice, Stealth
+2 Investigate, Rapport, Will
+1 Crafts, Drive, Empathy, Physique
  • Stunts
Uncanny Accuracy: Once per conflict, stack an additional free invoke on an advantage you've created to represent the time you take to aim or line up a shot (like In My Sights).
Quick on the Draw: You can use Shoot instead of Notice to determine turn order in any physical conflict where shooting quickly would be useful.
Hardcore Parkour: +2 to overcome actions with Athletics if you are in a chase across rooftops or a similarly precarious environment.
Danger Sense: You have an almost preternatural capacity for detecting danger. Your Notice skill works unimpeded by conditions like total concealment, darkness, or other sensory impairments in situations where someone or something intends to harm you.
Backup Weapon: Whenever someone’s about to hit you with a Disarmed situation aspect or something similar, spend a fate point to declare you have a backup weapon. Instead of a situation aspect, your opponent gets a boost, representing the momentary distraction you suffer having to switch.
  • Refresh: 3
  • Physical Stress: OOO
  • Mental Stress: OOO
Consequences:
  • Mild (2):
  • Moderate (4):
  • Severe (6):
Background/Facts:
http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/Cole_Cash_(Wildstorm_Universe)

***
Legolas


  • Aspects
High Concept: Elvish Bowman & Prince of the Mirkwood
Trouble: The ways of the young races are strange to me
Other: Watchful and wary; I shall not forget the slights against my people; Any challenge is welcome

  • Skills
+5 Shoot
+4 Athletics, Fight
+3 Notice, Stealth
+2 Investigate, Rapport, Will
+1 Crafts, Drive, Empathy, Physique
  • Stunts
Uncanny Accuracy: Once per conflict, stack an additional free invoke on an advantage you've created to represent the time you take to aim or line up a shot (like In My Sights).
Quick on the Draw: You can use Shoot instead of Notice to determine turn order in any physical conflict where shooting quickly would be useful.
Hardcore Parkour: +2 to overcome actions with Athletics if you are in a chase across rooftops or a similarly precarious environment.
Danger Sense: You have an almost preternatural capacity for detecting danger. Your Notice skill works unimpeded by conditions like total concealment, darkness, or other sensory impairments in situations where someone or something intends to harm you.
Backup Weapon: Whenever someone’s about to hit you with a Disarmed situation aspect or something similar, spend a fate point to declare you have a backup weapon. Instead of a situation aspect, your opponent gets a boost, representing the momentary distraction you suffer having to switch.
  • Refresh: 3
  • Physical Stress: OOO
  • Mental Stress: OOO
Consequences:
  • Mild (2):
  • Moderate (4):
  • Severe (6):
Background/Facts:
http://lotr.wikia.com/wiki/Legolas

***
Looking at the two examples above, although they have identical builds in terms of skills + stunts (and thus stress boxes available), we are clearly looking at two very different characters. 

Grifters 'Shoot' skill and 'Uncanny Accuracy' + 'Quick on the Draw' stunts represents his mastery of firearms; for Legolas, these represent years of hard training with a bow vs interlopers into the Mirkwood. 

Likewise, whereas Grifter's 'Danger Sense' is likely related to his Gen-Active aspect, for Legolas this is simply a reflection of his elvish gifts; elves are simply more aware than other folk.

It's the same with 'Hardcore Parkour': for Grifter, this is an expression of his overall badassery. For Legolas, this reflects his elvish grace. Same talent, different flavor. All informed by Aspects.

If Grifter draws a 'Backup Weapon', it's likely a holdout pistol. For Legolas, he might be using an arrow as a melee weapon. 

In any case, it's the aspects of the character that the define the narrative truth of what they do and why, where the other components simply define how well they are able to perform actions within a certain scope.

Aspects are therefore the foundational building-blocks when making a character in Fate, establishing who your character is before choosing what they can do well and not-so-well via Skills and Stunts. The aspects you choose define both your character, and the genre and flavor of the game that you are playing at your table.

***