Thursday, May 2, 2013

Limited Aspect Sets

Random thought while on the treadmill today that entails a drastic change in how aspects work in Fate, but which reflects a slightly different emphasis. Breaks down as follows:

  1. There are only scene aspects. Yes, you have aspects on your character sheet, and those matter (more on that in a second) but you can’t use them the same way. Basically, an aspect must be on the scene to be useful.
  2. There is a limit to how many aspects can be on a scene, possibly as low as three[1]. If the scene is full up, then you must remove an aspect to open it up. Removing an aspect is mechanically similar to adding one (and with s sufficient success, you can replace it).[2]
  3. You can make a personal aspect into a scene aspect (effectively copying it onto the scene), and if you do, take a +2 bonus to place it AND the difficulty of removing it is +2. However, there are three limits on this. First, each “side” of a conflict can only have one personal aspect in play, and second, this speaks directly to the stakes of the conflict. By bringing in a personal aspect, you are making a statement regarding what the fight is about to you. Third, the bonus applies only the first time you bring an aspect into play.
  4. The fight may start with anywhere between 0 and 3 aspects in place. For a duel, this will often be one aspect from each combatant, plus one for the environment or situation.
  5. Boosts still work normally, but need to be used by the next time you act, or they go away. No boost stockpiling.

This totally needs testing, but the potential I see in it is that it could drive more back and forth in the fiction centered around changing the factors in play to things that the player can take better advantage of. If the other guy has brought his “strong” aspect to play, then the fact that you can potentially take it off the table (rather than just let him hit it for as long as he has FP) totally intrigues me.

  1. This is even more drastic than it seems, and it reflects a certain sort of cinematic sensibility that only so many factors are in play at any given time, but those factors really, really matter.  ↩

  2. This works particularly well with Marvel Heroic style initiative, since it provides a real setup for teamwork, with one player creating an opening for the next.  ↩


  1. This is the sort of concept that needs a lengthy illustrative example. :)

  2. Right off the bat, the biggest weakness of this is the handling of personal aspects. It may be overly restrictive, and it gets weird when you start thinking about complications/injuries. May need to step away from that, though I'm not ruling out another solution.

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  4. (sorry for the delete and repost... I caught a couple immediate embarrassing typos...)

    I think I like the idea on its face...

    I'm seeing it as a sort of "limited attention span" rule, that the 'viewer' (as an abstract concept) can only keep track of so many facts at once, so everything that's asserted has to find a place in that limited cognitive real estate.

    It would very much change the game, especially at the tactical level, since it adds an element of offensive denial (get rid of a fading aspect by asserting a new one rather than by overcoming it directly). And it perhaps shortens the ability to plan (you can't put something in place for later because it might well get eliminated to make room for something else).

    But as a way to present a much simpler "what's in front of me right now is true, the rest is at best a faint memory", perhaps a more dreamlike atmosphere, it's got some real potential.

    And from a practical PoV, it means I can be sure all the active aspects will fit on my handheld white board rather than being a sprawl of post-its all over the gaming table.

    1. The bookkeeping element is definitely a non-trivial part of this.

      The other bit is that I was really thinking in terms of cinematic fights (Anime in particular) - extra parts get introduced at regular intervals, but they tend to be a succession of elements, rather than an accrual, and that's kind fo what I'm going for.

      Hmm. WHich suggests I might need a good option for "using up" an aspect.

    2. I would think "using up" might be as simple as "with no free invocations of it outstanding, was invoked via a fate point or was the target of a Create Advantage attempt that fails."

      That is, it's been called on one time more than the efforts to establish it as a fact justifies. After that, it would need to be reestablished.

      Or it's been called on as many times as its establishment justifies and an attempt to deepen its establishment fails.

      But I'm less than certain the 2nd option is right... It seems reasonable, but it also says to get rid of something because someone tried to put the spotlight on it but failed. Efforts to put the spotlight on something are a sign of interest, so is that the right time to withdraw the thing?

  5. Interesting. #3 will intersect problematically (possibly in a good way) with group dynamics in scenes where different PCs want different things. RPG scenes aren't always two-sided, since each PC may have their own agenda.

    Are the sides ALWAYS PCs vs GM, or do you allow multiple sides, but still limit it to 3 aspects per scene? Or something?

    You might want to playtest it, but maybe the cost of removing aspects from a scene will serve as a way for PCs to decide if this scene is going to be "theirs" or if they'll allow a different PC to take the spotlight this time. It might work out well as is.

    But it's interesting, nonetheless.

    1. That part of it is totally on my mind. At best, it's a natural control on spotlight. At worst, yeah, it's something players fight over. Very curious to see it in action and see what emerges.

      (and if a fight has more than 2 sides, I'd probably up the maximum number of aspects so it remained [(# of sides) + 1]

  6. Funny, this is lining up with some thoughts I've been having as I noodle over how Achtung! Cthulhu will work in Fate Core. I will have to chew on this.

    - Ryan

  7. Very cool. I need to see this in play, but having just seen Iron Man III tonight and hearing Josh tell me that superhero fights are never about the fight itself, this makes all kinds of sense.

  8. Sounds interesting.
    Maybe any aspect could be invoked for FPs, but the three aspects "in focus" could be invoked for free.

    Long term planning would work if "planned" aspects could be stored away on post-it notes and replace whatever aspect "in focus" you want when you need them.

    Anyway, if both PC, GM and scene itself have lots of cool aspects, it would be nice to have a system to somehow cycle them and put them in and out of spotlight.


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