All about Aspects: D&D Races for High Concepts

Okay, now we’ve explained the basic formatting that we’re going to use to create High Concepts in this previous post and also discussed briefly using D&D concepts. In this post we look a little more closely at the idea of using the core D&D character races from the PHB as part of a High Concept. Continue reading “All about Aspects: D&D Races for High Concepts”

All About Aspects: Using D&D experience for High Concepts

I’ve recently started running a D&D 5E campaign set in a campaign world of my own creation called 3Brothers, and (although Fate is still my main system of choice) I’ve been very much enjoying the increased emphasis on story-telling that seems to have really been bought to the fore in the 5th edition of the game; it occurred to me whilst doing some session prep the other day that the game-constructs used within D&D could actually be very useful when it comes to defining high concepts in Fate.

Take the traditional characters in D&D, they’re normally broken down by (amongst other things) their race, class and level.

This easily translates across to a high concept in Fate using the following format:

I am an [experience][race][class]

Experience can be represented by three broad bands (novice, expert and legend or something similar), at novice level the GM can make plenty of compels to represent inexperience, but since they don’t have the reputation yet the players can also invoke their experience to avoid detection or be overlooked by potential enemies. As they rise in experience the players can invoke the experience level to call on contacts or use their rep in their favour, whilst the GM can compel it to represent old enemies appeared and complications from previous adventures rearing their heads.

Race is even easier to represent, essential the player can invoke this part of the high concept whenever they are involved in an activity that their race favours (fighting for orcs, magic and archery for elves, etc) whilst the GM can compel them when they engage in activities that their race has a weakness towards or to take advantage of their prejudices against other species.

The class is fairly broad but it’s not difficult to work out what a D&D class specialises in (healing and turning undead for clerics, spell-casting for mages and… well… fighting for githers), the player can invoke the aspect when engaged in an activity they are good at whereas the GM can compel it at activities they are traditionally weak at or when their profession might cause complications. For example: Perhaps the cleric is perceived as being so holy that an evil cult decides only he will do for the sacrifice to their dark master.

Coming Next for All about Aspects: D&D Races for High Concepts

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All About Aspects: Fantasy Hero High Concepts

As we’ve already discussed the sheer amount of choice can be bewildering when it comes to creating aspects, in order to make it a bit easier we’re going to give the high concept a bit more structure in these articles, in-fact I’m going to borrow a concept that I saw first in Numenera.

Numenera defines character concepts as:

I am an X Y who Zs.

With X normally representing a description, Y representing a character class or role and Z representing some sort of additional twist or characteristic. For example you might get the following:

  • I am a strong Nano who wields the power of lightning.
  • I am a cunning Glaive who controls gravity.

This framework also works brilliantly for creating high concepts in the Fate RPG. Continue reading “All About Aspects: Fantasy Hero High Concepts”

All About Aspects: What is all about aspects?

The Fate Roleplaying Game SRD (a truly excellent and very useful website) defines a high concept as:

[A] phrase that sums up what your character is about—who he is and what he does. It’s an aspect, one of the first and most important ones for your character.

Think of this aspect like your job, your role in life, or your calling—it’s what you’re good at, but it’s also a duty you have to deal with, and it’s constantly filled with problems of its own.

This is a great, so you need a short sentence to sum up who your character is and what he is about, however the choice of options can be slightly bewildering, you could choose anything; each of the following would work as a high concept: Continue reading “All About Aspects: What is all about aspects?”

All About Aspects: Redux

I wrote back in June 2015 about planning to create a Fate PWYW PDF called All About Aspects, you can find the original post by clicking here; however due to doing more freelance work and things being a bit crazy in RL (plus actually trying to find time to plan and run games) I’ve not actually found the time to sit down and smash out a load of words at the keyboard. I’ve noticed a few companies who have been releasing snippets of material on written blogs, getting people to playtest it/offer their opinions and then compiled refined and editted versions into the final publication.

This is the new route I’m thinking of taking with All About Aspects, since I very much want to get this publication created, in part due to the amount of people who have expressed issues with what, to my view, seemed like a very intuitive mechanic; I’d hate to see that prove an obstacle to some great roleplayers getting into Fate when a little assistance and additional explanation might help out in that regard. Continue reading “All About Aspects: Redux”

Structured Aspects

I’ve been thinking a lot about aspects recently as I’m starting to consider what is going to go in my PWYW PDF ‘All About Aspects’, at the same time I’ve also been thinking about submitting a pitch to the Fate Codex, in their writers guidelines they claim to be looking for:

  • Quick Start Adventures that contain a short setting, NPCs and plot hooks, and pregen characters (roughly 4,000 words).
  • Fate Core Essays that explain how to do exciting things with the Fate system in your local game (2,500 – 3,500 words).
  • Extra Systems that can be added to your game to provide new ways for your players to engage the fiction (1,000 – 1,500 words).
  • Short Fiction that will help to inspire you with new worlds and characters that will be statted up along with the prose (roughly 2,500 words).

I quite like the idea of trying to write an adventure that is self-contained but that also does something a little different with the basic Fate rules-set, so I’ve been thinking about how it might be interesting to tweak the structural guidelines that are provided for creating aspects. The default method in Fate Core asks players to think about their first adventure and then each person works out how their characters play a supporting role in the other peoples adventures and pick aspects based on them; some people love this idea and some people hate it, and of course there’s nothing that says you have to use it, however, having some guidelines can be useful to prevent people from stalling or getting that blank expression when aspects are first explaining.

When it discusses running horror games using Fate the Fate Toolkit one of the pieces of advice it gives is:

Compels Aplenty: While compels aren’t tools for forcing outcomes, they are tools for making things go wrong. So make them abundant. Place aspects on the scene, the story, the campaign—and compel them to make things go wrong for everyone. Simply dropping Death Comes for Everyone onto the story and compelling it at the exact worst time (for the players) to make things that much worse will get lots of traction. Yeah, the players affected will walk away with some fate points—which they’ll need in order to survive—but they’ll also feel the emotional gut-punch of the moment—and will wonder when the next compel is going to land. Make them hurt. Make them worry.

Often one of the problems with horror gaming is that, unless the PCs buy into the genre conventions then it can fall flat; after all everyone knows that splitting up is a bad idea, that reading the old book is a death-sentence and don’t even think about going down into that dark cellar. Still, the characters/victims in horror films and stories do exactly that because, unlike the players in an RPG, they generally don’t know they’re in a horror story; if your players are too concerned with survival and playing it safe then the horror RPG experience can seem a bit limp and deflated.

I think aspects could be just the thing to change that; using compels frequently could, if used with appropriate aspects, re-inforce the genre tropes and reward players who buy-in to the setting whilst still allowing those who wish to pay a fate point to avoid the compel, although doing so eventually means they will succumb to the dark forces of whatever nameless horror stalks them.

Taking the standard five aspect approach, I’m intending to define them something like this (I’m using the example of a haunted house investigation below, if the goal/setting of the game were different then some of the wording might change):

  1. What is your job? – this replaces high concept
  2. What brought you to the haunted house? – this replaces trouble
  3. What are you hoping to find in the house?
  4. What do you fear is in the house?
  5. What will keep you investigating when weird stuff starts to happen?

And there are examples below:

  1. What is your job? Newspaper photographer
  2. What bought you to the haunted house? Some people have disappeared here and the place has a bad reputation.
  3. What are you hoping to find in the house? A big scoop.
  4. What do you fear is in the house? Some kind of crazy person or killer.
  5. What will keep you investigating when weird stuff starts to happen? I need the money that the story will bring me to support my family.
  1. What is your job? None, I’m a homeless person.
  2. What bought you to the haunted house? My dog ran off and disappeared into the building.
  3. What are you hoping to find in the house? I just want to find Rex and get out.
  4. What do you fear is in the house? The house was built on an old graveyard and they say ot’s haunted.
  5. What will keep you investigating when weird stuff starts to happen? Rex is the only friend I have, and who knows I might find something worth something in the old place.

I’m hoping to keep refining this idea over the next few weeks and then look at making it into an adventure with a view to playtesting and submitting to the Codex.

All about Aspects: What I’m hoping to do with my first PWYW PDF

I’m going to be started work soon (within the next couple of weeks) on my first solo PDF, I’ve been published in a book joint-authored by Johnn Four and myself (Mythic Gods & Monsters) but in that I wrote content, Johnn handled the layout, posting the pub to leanpub and pretty much everything else (and did an excellent job); this will be the first time I’ve actually published anything entirely as a solo effort. When I was thinking about what I wanted to do for the publication I turned to my favourite system Fate; initially I thought about doing a ‘world’ supplement (and may still get around to doing that later) but I really wanted something that a lot of people could just pick and use and that would immediately be useful in their games.

Aspects are one of the core mechanics in Fate and are used to define everything from momentary advantages, to significant parts of a characters background, signature equipment and even interesting parts of the terrain or environment; however, it’s also a mechanic that a lot of people have expressed confusion about or find bewildering. I can understand this, after all, being confronted with a game mechanic that relies on description and that you can feasibly do almost anything with can be a little overwhelming.

An analogy I’ve often used is the if an artist is giving a blank canvas and told ‘paint me something, anything’ it can often be difficult to get started since there are so many possibilities, however if they are given a bit of guidance or once they are over that initial hurdle it can be a lot easier to begin the act of creation. This is what I want to do with my PDF, provide some structure and ideas that can be taken and used in people’s game to speed up creation of Aspects without unnecessarily restricting the.

One of the things I’ve picked up whilst writing for Johnn Four is that he’s very much a fan of articles that provide content that GMs can take and use in their game rather than in more general advice; this is something I greatly respect since there is a lot of general advice out there (not that this is a bad thing, I enjoy giving advice on my Youtube Channel), if I’m going to create a PDF then I want it to be something that has a use.

So I’m starting to hash out what I want the contents to be and thought I’d jot down my ideas at the moment:

  1. A brief explanation of how the aspect mechanic works and some suggestions for incorporating it into non-Fate games. This will be the introductory chapter of the book.
  2. The main meat of the book will be a number of madlibs that provide a basic structure for an aspect you can then plug in words and phrases related to specific genres; each of these will be provided in tables so that people can roll on them if they want a random outcome, or they can simply make choices if they are using them as a starting off point.For example: A high concept madlib might go I am a [ occupation ] who [ event ] until [ traumatic event ]; you could then plug any number of different words/phrases into the madlib.I am a disheartened academic who researched the occult until I read from the forbidden tome.I am a savage warrior who spend years mastering the sword until my home village was destroyed by marauders.

I’m hoping that I can feature a number of tables that have general suggestions as well as some that are more genre specific; for instance, whilst there are almost as many savage warriors in sci-fi as their are in fantasy, the same is not true of sorcerors. Each of the entries in the book will have suggestions for how they can be compelled/invoked as an aid to players and GMs, and also some suggestions for tailoring them for different types of game.

Given that this is my first solo-effort in regards to publishing, I’m not entirely certain how long the PDF is going to take to write and I’m pretty much doing it as a one-man-band both because the issue with aspects is something that a number of people have mentioned to me, and also because I want to see whether it is going to be feasible for me to release more solo stuff in future. Hopefully once it’s done I’ll be posting it for purchase (on a PWYW basis) on each Leanpub or Drivethru RPG (once I’ve looked into their processes a little more).

Hope you’re as excited about this next phase for Red Dice Diaries as I am 🙂

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