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.
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.
THE STATES OF FATE
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?”
THE SELF COMPEL
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.