Timothy Carroll (codrus) wrote,
Timothy Carroll

Named Aspects

I've said this in other posts, but I really like how the Dresden Files Roleplaying Game chose to elevate two key concepts by giving them specific names. I'm referring to High Concept and Trouble. Both are aspects and don't play any differently from other aspects, but having both of them always appear on every character really helps direct character development. At the end of character generation, you know who the character is, and what his biggest problem is.

My brain has been cranking on this one -- I'm sure that my story development vibe I've been on is influencing this. I've decided that naming and categorizing aspects can be a big win even if the categorization does not dictate any additional mechanics that change how the aspect affects play.

For an example, one additional way I've thought of changing the Trouble aspect in DFRPG is to have every character spell out two troubles -- one is an external problem -- a friend, adversary or obligation -- anything external to the character. The other would be an internal conflict, a weakness. Harry's "Temptation of Power" is an internal conflict -- it is part of his personality, and affects who he is.

This is well-plowed ground in roleplaying, but applying it to aspects is interesting. But to talk out examples:

* Backgrounds in 7th Sea were an inspiration for aspects, and they came in specific typed formats. The rival. The adversary. The lover. The Treasure Map. The player added the color and detail.

* Champions, GURPS, and many other systems provide disadvantages (and given how aspects work, advantages make sense here). A number of years ago (pre-FATE), I remember suggesting to Lee the idea of ditching Champions disadvantages in favor of the 7th Sea background mechanic. I've heard that ICONS does something like that.

Anyway: Aspects as designed can be literally anything that you can turn into a pithy saying and some ideas of when it can be tagged, invoked, or compelled in play. That openness can be a little daunting at first -- I think one reason it was harder to fill 10 SOTC aspects on our initial characters is because of that openness. A named aspect can be more structured -- if you make it something like a High Concept, then you are directing the player to come up with a better aspect. Or naming how it gets used in play or what it means, can also be helpful.

Let's turn a Champions Disadvantage into a named aspect.
Hunted: Specify the person who is after you.
Tag: You can tag to know things or act against the person who hunts you.
Invoke: The person who hunts you can invoke your aspect because they know you.
Compel: Your hunted shows up at the worst possible moment.

That's pretty helpful. We've got a template for how a hunted should work. Let me be a computer programmer for a minute:

Aspect is the "root" class -- all aspects work the same way in the rules.
Hunted is a subclass of aspect -- it spells out when compels, invokes, tags make sense for that kind of aspect. All hunteds work similarly, and people can take advantage of that vocabulary. When I say someone is hunting me, everyone knows that that means.

Taking this one more step: I like the idea that the GM may decide on a set of aspects that every character should have, either because they aid in building stories or matter to the setting.

High Concept, Inner Turmoil, External Trouble are aspects that could be applicable in any setting. An aspect template like "Born Under the Sign of ...." immediately establishes distinct campaign flavor. An aspect template for "the most important person in your life" or "the person that counts on you the most" helps establish that relationships are a critical part of the campaign.

The character phases in SOTC are close, but not exactly the same concept. Although the idea of using more targeted phases than the book phases is very important. That's how Lenny used it in our Dresdencon game. Each of us was asked to tell a story of how we knew the same NPC (with an aspect tied to that story).

Another thought: Amber character quizzes trampled some of the same ground. A character quiz question leading to a specific named aspect is very interesting.

My current D&D game has something of an open-ended flavor -- the players are all reborn individuals who died in earlier lives. There are some echos of the past, and elements of each character's prior stories in what's going on now. I really wish I'd moved that idea beyond ad-hoc flavor (undirected questions like "Tell me about your previous life") and towards specifics.

The common theme in this is for aspects to aid in building characters, establishing who they are and what pushes and pulls on them, and for the GM when building and running adventures. Mating character development to specific campaign goals and questions is a pretty big plus.
Tags: dresdenfiles, fate, games, roleplaying

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