Aspects are the heart of the Spirit of the Century system. They’re simple to ‘get’ but hard to master.
On the one hand, they’re just short words of phrases that describe your character that you use during play. On the other hand, they’re 50 important descriptors that we’ll all have to be keeping track of for your 5 characters combined.
Apsects will help you add to rolls when you need it. They will also get you into trouble, earning you Fate Points during the game, which you then use to activate your Aspects to empower you yet again. They’re the fuel that runs the whole system, basically.
An Aspect could be part of your character’s personality, or a relationship she has, or an item she is carrying with her, or a physical attribute, or a flaw, or an oath, a catchphrase, and so on. It can basically be anything, but there are still definitely some Aspects that are better than others. The way you know whether your Aspect is good or not is by keeping in mind how it will function in the game.
The basic way that Aspects function in the game is through Invoking them. When a player Invokes an Aspect, the player spends a Fate Point and either gets to re-roll all of her dice on a single roll, or she gets to leave her dice as they lay but add +2 to the result. The GM needs to OK an Invoke, but most uses of an Aspect should be fine.
It is also possible to Invoke for effect. Instead of getting the re-roll or the bonus to your roll, you can Invoke for effect to basically add a fact to the game. You might Invoke membership in a secret organization to say that the organization has a chapter house in the city you’re in, or you might Invoke an Aspect like “First on the Scene” in order to say that you arrive…first on the scene. Again, the GM needs to Ok these, but again, this is a lenient kind of game.
Using Aspects which are not your own is called Tagging. You can Tag an Aspect on a person, place or thing by spending a Fate Point. This basically functions the same as Invoking your own Aspects – but, if you guess an Aspect wrongly, you lose the Fate Point. (As long as your guess is close, no problem, but it has to be close). In SotC, anything can have an Aspect. A scene, a set-piece, a room, an NPC, an organization and so on. Listen to descriptions of these things for clues as to what Aspects they might have.
During the game, it is possible to inflict Aspects on other people or on scenes, and these Aspects can then be Tagged. If you are the one who caused an Aspect, you are entitled to Tag it once free of charge. This Tag must come immediately after the Aspect takes effect, however, or at the very minimum during the same scene.
It is also possible to pass off this right to a free Tag of an Aspect added to a scene or character, meaning player-characters can set each other up in combat for things like finishing moves or dramatic actions that would normally be impossible.
After the one free Tag, you can still Tag the Aspect, but you have to pay the usual Fate Point. (Well, as long as the Aspect is still there to Tag – more on this later)
Just like Invoking an Aspect for effect, you can Tag an Aspect for effect. This will normally cost the Fate Point, but if it is an Aspect you put on something, then you’re probably entitled to Tag it for effect once for free.
GMs can use your Aspects as well, but don’t worry, it benefits you. The basic thing that the GM can do is to Compel an Aspect. Basically, the GM offers you a Fate Point when an Aspect might get you in trouble in an interesting way. If you take the FP, then your Aspect is Compelled, and you must do what was agreed upon, or act in the way agreed upon. If you refuse the FP, then you have to spend a Fate Point of your own to resist the power of the Compel.
The Compel system isn’t there to take your Fate Points away. Its there to encourage roleplaying of Aspects in a way that makes the game more fun, and also to provide you with a source of Fate Points. If you never accept a Compel, you’ll be out of Fate Points really soon.
You can also Negotiate a Compel. What this means is that the player can mention an Aspect that might apply to the GM and see if they can get a Compel out of the GM. This is to help the GM, who (in my case anyway) can’t keep track of 50 PC Aspects plus all of the NPC and scene Aspects.
“Accidental” Compels might happen – when you RP your Aspect to your detriment or to make the game more interesting but it isn’t part of a technical Compel. In that case, the GM should note it and give you a Fate Point after the fact.
The GM can also always choose to Escalate a Compel. Basically, the GM holds out a second Fate Point and says “are you suuuure?” with a sly grin.
Conflicting Aspects can both be Compelled! Often this is a zero-sum situation, where you spend a FP and then get one to resist and act out an Aspect respectively. If you can come up with a way to play both conflicting Aspects well, then go for it! You get two Fate Points and bragging rights.
Last note – on the SotC wiki, they recommend that players keep track of which Aspects are getting Invoked and Tagged and Compelled and which aren’t, just as a way to see what the most effective Aspects you have are. If I’m consistently missing an Aspect you want to come up more, play it up and remind me.
Huh. I can’t turn off italics. I’ve gotta stop doing these posts 1/2 on a Mac…