All about Aspects: Guest Post – The Power of Fate Points Compel You

We have a guest blog post from Lloyd Gyan today, I’ve been in a couple of Fate games with Lloyd and have very much enjoyed his character portrayals, in this article he discusses the power of compels and how to get the most out of them.


The Power of Fate Points COMPEL you!hammer-308489_960_720

Written by Lloyd Gyan

Aspects are, and always will be, the driving force of any Fate game. Concepts, ideas, locations, acts, all boil down to people and places acting upon their aspects. Now, most of the time, to act on aspects in any shape or form, you need to have Fate points. Sweet sweet Fate points. Sure you start with a decent number of them, usually three, but when you’re knee deep in black oil and the Count of Steampunk Monte Cristo is standing above you with a match and a grin, you’re going to want to hedge your bets a little.

So, with that in mind, you’re always going to want more chances to earn fate points, more opportunities to suck at the beginning of the game, so you’re basically awesome later on in the game (unless you’re playing Spirit of the Century, where you start with 10 fate points, and should really just go full steam all the time because screw it you’re awesome). This is what compels are for – a way of turning your character’s aspects against them for the juicy payoff of a Fate point. But compels can be difficult to get; in a game of three or more players, the GM is looking at 15 Aspects and trying to give everyone a chance to do something, so you’ve got to make his life easier for him.


A good aspect for Compelling must be applicable to all three States of Fate – social, mental, and physical. For example, say you have ‘Body of Pure Iron’ as an aspect – looks pretty good, but it’s clearly a physical aspect. You’d compel it to make characters just stand there and take hits like video game tank, or you compel it to say they’re slow and cannot get around as fast. Now, let’s change that aspect with a simple addition: ‘Mind and Body of Pure Iron’. Right there, you’ve got someone who is head-strong, unrelenting, an actual Wall. And just like that, you’ve got two States of fate that can be compelled to bring you down.

I’m not saying that all aspects must have two or more compel possibilities (if I had my way, most aspects would have at least six), but it’s always good to think of the States of Fate that it would apply to. When building your aspects, try to find at least Two States of Fate to fall under. Playing a supernatural Game and want to be a badass demon? Give him something like ‘Insatiable Harvester of Souls’ and he’s already fallen under two States he can be compelled in – Mental because he can’t stop himself, and Social because, seriously, who wants to be friends with someone who literally harvests souls?

Your aspects are yours to play with, it will help you if you put them into a form that the GM can understand and work with. By simply thinking of the States of Fate, you can improve your aspect creation just as easily


Another good way to grab the DM’s attention when writing your aspect is by taking advantage of the rules. You know how you have your hardcore fighter guy in Fate, who has aspects like ‘Badass kicks are my game’ followed by ‘never met a man who’s face I couldn’t kick’. Well there’s an overlapping theme there. Most of his aspects relate to pure hardcore, butt kicking, and can be applied with each other. So what’s stopping you from having the same idea with your compel possibilities? Take the fairly common problem of being Headstrong and stubborn. If you want this to be the main driving force of your character, have all your aspects refer to it in some way: “Giving up is the same as quitting!”, Unswayed by the masses, I am the leader until I say otherwise. By giving your aspects a similar theme when it comes to compels, the GM knows what works for you. It may seem like you’re limiting your compel options to simply ‘GRR ARRR I HATE INDECISION I HIT THE THING’ but with a theme to your compels, the GM can already pre-empt your actions and thoughts. In Fate, the quicker a GM can get a handle on your character, the better. I will be talking further about themes in another post.


When it comes to your Compels, your Trouble aspect should always be priority number one,  after all it’s literally called the trouble aspect. It should call your GM to it like a moth to a flame. The first thing most GMs do when trying to think up a good compel for a scene is to quickly look at your Trouble to see what ideas they can get out of it, so give him some. Make sure your Trouble covers ALL THREE states of Fate, it’s an easy, catchy phrase. Saying ‘Constantly craving war” is a good aspect, but is it as good as “Always hungry… FOR BLOOD?”


Now here comes the tricky part, when you have all these in place – a good theme, well worded aspects, an idea of the States of Fate, you’ll realise just how absolutely easy it is to make a Self-Compel. The Self-Compel is one of the hardest things to pull off without making it look like you are just fishing for Fate points. A good self-compel should be seen coming a mile away; you have the aspect of ‘Can never turn down a meal’ and the DM describes the smell of fantastic food across a dangerous body of water ahead of you, maybe the smell was an afterthought he brought in, but he’s said it, and it’s calling to you. You know it’s going to be a compel, he knows it’s going to be a Compel, why waste time? Simply give an evil giggle, and say ‘I begin wade across the water, that food smells so good and I can never turn down a meal’.

The GM might not always know that he’s presented a good case for a self-compel, so bring it up at the right moment, and do the action. No need to dilly-dally and ask if it is one or not, simply just take the action, and if he feels it’s appropriate he will toss you a Fate point and you will be A-OK.

A good piece of advice though, don’t try to go for the Self-Compel in every scene, even you will tire of it. Try to look at maybe one or two each session unless the game is practically begging you to fall headfirst into danger. The Self-Compel is more powerful and has more impact on the story the less you you use it, just keep that in mind, and you should have a good grasp at how to make your Fate games better.

Coming Next for All about Aspects: Magic Powers as Aspects

Gavel picture is taken from Pixabay vector images labelled for re-use.

Player Tips: Writing a Background

tree-701968_960_720Player tips articles offer a short series of tips to help you brush up your skills in certain areas, the lists aren’t exhaustive but keeping them in mind should help you develop your playing style.

In this player tips article we offer some advice when it comes to creating background for your player character.

1. Put some conflicts into your background

A background where everything is fine and a character has a blissfully happy life isn’t generally very interesting, it’s fine to start a background like that but roleplay characters, like those in fiction, characters really shine when they are drawn into conflicts and have to struggle against opposition. Whatever that opposition is, be it an illness, social injustice or a marauding orc horde, make sure you put at least some conflict in your background.

2. Leave some questions unanswered

When you create your background, don’t try to neatly tie all the loose plot threads off, the GM will be looking for things that he can bring into the game to give your character some spotlight moments, and unanswered questions are like a signal to GMs that there’s something they can play with and use to enhance the game for everyone.

My character was wrongly imprisoned because he looked like the perpetrator of a horrible crime, he never did find out who actually committed the deed.

3. Create some links to the campaign world

If the GM can’t find a way to bring your background into the campaign world or it’s a real struggle then chances are they aren’t going to use it as much (since they already have enough work to do), make sure that your background links you with people and organisations throughout the campaign world. If you can describe/create at least the barebones of an interesting NPC or group then so much the better since the GM will be more likely to incorporate it into their game.

Thad was a member of the Dark Moon thieves guild in the town and passed their initiation test when he was just 13 years old.

4. Make it easy to read and reference

Huge voluminous novels are great, if you’re sitting down with a lot of time in a comfortable chair with a cup of tea, however, if you’re a time-pressured GM struggling to get ready for their next great session, you don’t really want to be wading through vast chapters of superfluous information to find what you want. I recommend setting your background out in a series of bullet points to make it easier for the GM to read. If you want you can still do the novel but give the GM a handy summary/reference sheet.

As an example of a great background please click here to see the background for Ordious Mawlin the half-orc thief from my 3Brothers D&D Campaign played by Thashif Maran.

5. Tell the GM what you want to see in the game

Most importantly of all, tell the GM what you want to see in the game, if a GM is combing through your background and finds out that your character was involved in lots of investigative work then they’re going to throw lots of mysteries and secrets your way, whereas if it has more explosions and chase scenes than the average action film the GM will assume that you want lots of fight scenes and high octane action. Whatever you’re looking for in the game, make sure that there’s some of it in your character background.

Ship picture is a free vector graphic designated CC0 Public Domain, the original image can be found here. Tree graphic taken from pixabay public domain images.

Random Things you might encounter in a swamp

These random things articles are designed as quick idea generators for time-pressed GMs who want to inject some additional details into their game, in this article we look at random things that you might encounter in a swamp.

When you need some inspiration just roll a D20 and consult the table:

1You come across a knot of trees twisted together and jutting out of the water, from a certain angle the outline of the trees resembles a hunched figure.
2There is a crashing sound from nearby, followed by a large splash, perhaps it was just a branch falling from the trees, or maybe it was something else.
3A brightly coloured frog sitting on a nearby banyan stump croaks loudly, it's throat distending as it does so.
4The ground drops away sharply below you as you enter a deeper part of the swamp and struggle to keep your feet in the sucking mud.
5From far up in the trees the loud call of a primate echoes through the air, disturbing the silence of the swampland.
6Carved into the trunk of the tree up ahead is a strangle circular symbol, moss coats most of the entire tree but the symbol is mysteriously free of it.
7Half submerged in the waist deep water, a suit of armour can be seen, it is covered in moss and vines, through them you can just about make out the white of bone.
8What you think is a log floats past a few metres away, then it blinks at you with the hungry eyes of an alligator.
9From some distance off you hear the sound of beating drums, growing closer.
10Thick vines criss-cross the swamp in this area making travel extremely slow unless you cut through them, making a great deal of noise in the process.
11A thick, clump of brightly coloured mushrooms grow from the damp remains of a collapsed, rotten log, they look tasty but could be poisonous.
12With loud cries, a group of wading birds, disturbed by your presence takes flight amidst the fluttering of many feathered wings.
13A misty cloud of insects hang in the air above the water, stinging and biting all who are forced to wade through the area.
14The trees in this area of strung with webs, moisture glistening on their strands, a number of smaller spiders scitter through the webs, but they couldn't have made all of this.
15A single canoe floats lazily past you, of the pilot there is no sign.
16Blocks of stone sunk into the soft mud serve as a stable pathway in this area, perhaps it was built deliberately but the stone is so weathered it is impossible to tell.
17The surface of the water here is criss-crossed by gigantic lily pads, they almost look big enough for a person to step on.
18A single black rooster scratches it's path through the mud, it eyes you warily, bobbing it's head backwards and forwards.
19In the centre of the swamp a lonely, decript old hut on stilts emergences from the muck, you can just make out a flickering candle flame in the window.
20As you walk a thick mist settles over the water making the air even more humid and making it difficult to see.

All About Aspects: Monstrous Nature as an aspect

Monstrous Nature as an Aspect

There are a number of famous tabletop RPGs where playing a monster struggling with their humanity is a central focus, as a variant of character race (discussed previously), this could (in part) be handled using the high concept aspect.

We’ve explained the basic formatting for our high concept aspects in one of our previous post, in this post I provide a single descriptions table (that can be used instead of the ones in previous articles) to add an alignment descriptor.

Continue reading

3Brothers: The Kingdom of Al Mamlakah

My FLGS Spirit Games runs a yearly convention at our local town hall called Beer & Pretzels, it’s quite informal with plenty of board games and the like to be borrowed from the games library that can be played over the day, it has a cool relaxed atmosphere, both myself and my wife Hannah have been going for a number of years.

This year, since I’ve been enjoying my 3Brothers D&D 5E campaign that I’m running online so much, I decided to run a one-shot set in a different area of the campaign world, getting the players to help further define a different area of the world. I’ve put out a call to people that I know and will hopefully have my wife, a long-time friend of ours and a couple of my regular 3Brothers players coming down for the weekend and joining in with this one-shot.

After canvassing their opinion we’ve landed on the idea of a desert kingdom ruled by a dynasty of elemental-blooded Pharoahs, drawing inspiration heavily from Ancient Egypt; below is a map of where this kingdom (that I have called Al Mamlakah) fits into my world map of Talamh.


I’m planning to get the players to help me define this desert kingdom more when they get down here but I’ve drafted out a rough framework and some character generation options (drawing on the Elemental Evil Players Handbook and some other resources I found on the internet) in a handout:

I hope to post a written report of the session after it has taken place, I’ll also add the report as an adventure log to my obsidian portal site.

3Brothers D&D 5E Campaign Episode 3: The Fall of Kortis?

In the third session of our 3Brothers D&D 5E campaign our heroes attempt to trap and banish the demon Kortis with the aid of a new ally, learning as they do more about the mystical heritage of Battlebridge.

Random Things you might find in a treasure trove

These random things articles are designed as quick idea generators for time-pressed GMs who want to inject some additional details into their game, in this article we look at items of interest adventurers might find in a treasure trove. Continue reading

Roll for Your Fate: Fate Q&A

John Drury has recently re-started his Youtube channel, now called Roll for Your Fateas a fellow Fate-enthusiast he is continuing to put out some top-notch content for the Fate RPG. In one of his recent videos he does a Q&A for Fate, well worth a watch 🙂

Please note: This video was not created by myself nor did I have any involvement in the content, that said, it’s a great video created by someone who really knows the Fate system and has a great enthusiasm for it, I highly recommend giving it a watch.

All About Aspects: Modern Day High Concepts

Modern Day High Concepts

Okay, now we’ve explained the basic formatting in our previous post, we’re going to provide a series of ideas for creating the description, job and twist sections of the high concept for a modern day character. Continue reading

Random Things: Alternate Trinkets for D&D 5E

These random things articles are designed as quick idea generators for time-pressed GMs who want to inject some additional details into their game, in this article we look at trinkets. Trinkets were one of my favourite things about character generation in D&D 5th Edition, each character starts with at least one, a small item or curiosity that has some odd property or something strange about it, it’s not a powerful magic item, just something interesting that could spur conversation and plot. Continue reading