Characters in the Fate system are defined not by class and level but by aspects. Aspects are descriptors of things that are important to the character. These can include nearly anything. A sample list of categories is included below. Note that this is not intended in any way to be exhaustive.
- Physical Attributes – Strong, Intelligent, Clumsy, Orc
- Personality Traits – Pious, Oblivious, Reckless, Steadfast
- Character Back-story – Noble, Raised by Wolves, Veteran
- Professions or Skills – Soldier, Chef, Thief, Track, Deceive
- People – Family, Mentor, Lackey, Enemy, Other PC
- Objects or Places –Weapon, Steed, Family Farm, The Road
- Catchphrases – “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry”
This list intentionally includes traits that might, under other circumstances, be considered negative. It’s important to not think about aspects as positive or negative. The most powerful aspects are interesting aspects. Consider the difference between the generic Strong aspect compared to the Reckless aspect. While a Strong character is always strong, Reckless will apply to many of the same situations where Strong would apply, give an interesting description of the source of the character’s strength, and apply to situations where perhaps brute strength isn’t applicable. But sometimes a character is just Strong, and that’s okay too.
Aspects allow characters to outperform their normal abilities in situations to which their aspects apply. In addition to any passive benefits granted simply by having the aspect (a Strong character is stronger than one without that aspect,) a player may invoke an aspect in a situation to which is relates to receive one of the following benefits:
- Reroll all dice after making a roll. A player may use this benefit multiple times on a single roll by invoking the aspect again or invoking a different aspect.
- Change a single die the player just rolled to a +. This benefit may only be used once per roll.
- Take minor narrative control of the story. This can be used to ensure a favorable coincidence or direct the thrust of the story and is subject to game master approval. For example, a Veteran could invoke that aspect to know somebody in the local garrison and receive a friendly reception, food, and lodging. Or a character with an aspect in Eragdush (the orcish capital) could know just the place to hide from the veterans he offended who are now after his head.
An aspect can be invoked once per session per the number of ranks the character has in that aspect. A character can have no more ranks in a single aspect than he has ranks in a single skill.
There is a fourth manner in which aspects can be invoked called involuntary invocation. This allows the game master to invoke a character’s aspect to compel the character’s behavior. For example, the GM could invoke a character’s Reckless aspect to compel him to face down the charging tide of lizardmen. The player does have options in this situation. Staying in character and acting against his character’s best interests awards the player a Fate Point. The player may also spend a Fate Point to break character and negate the invocation. Either outcome counts as one of the times an aspect can be invoked during a session. The GM may invoke a character’s aspect in a single instance as many times as the character has ranks in that aspect.
A player may also choose to take an aspect of Destiny during character creation (with several ranks if desired.) Selecting Destiny during a phase of creation prohibits a character from spending skill ranks during that phase. However, during the pivotal moment during the course of play, the player may choose to realize the character’s destiny. This awards five Fate Points that must be used during that scene. Upon completion of the scene, the player exchanges the character’s Destiny aspect for an appropriate other aspect and immediately spends five skill ranks (as opposed to the normal four earned per phase of creation.) The skill pyramid must be balanced after this allocation of skills.
Aspects are earned at a rate of one per story arc.