- Character Creation Is Play
- Your Character Idea
- The Phase Trio
- Stunts and Refresh
- Stress and Consequences
- You’re All Set!
- Quick Character Creation
Character Creation Is Play
The moment you sit down to make the game and characters, you’re playing Fate. This style of character creation does three things to reinforce that.
First, character creation tells part of the characters’ stories, just like any other game session does. Characters that really come alive have histories of their own and with each other—this establishes where they’ve been, what they’ve done, and why they continue to act against the issues they face, together or in opposition. There’s an ongoing story you’re now stepping into—it’s just that the most interesting parts haven’t happened yet.
Second, it sets the stage for the next part of the story. Each arc of a story sets up the next, so that they flow into one another in a natural evolution. Character creation needs to set up the first story arc.
Third, character creation in Fate is collaborative. As with game creation, character creation is best done as a group activity. Doing all of this together builds a strong foundation of communication between the players and GM, and this process has a number of ways to establish connections between the characters and the setting.
Combined with game creation, character creation can take a full session to do—this allows everyone to learn about the world and each others’ characters. You and the other players will talk about your characters, make suggestions to each other, discuss how they connect, and establish more of the setting.
You’ll want to keep good notes on this process. You can use the character sheet and phases worksheet available here.
Start by determining your character’s high concept and trouble. Then build your character’s back-story, a process that takes place over three phases. Once you have that figured out, flesh out your character’s skills and stunts. Then you’re ready to play!
Your Character Idea
Come up with your character’s high concept and trouble aspects.
Character creation starts with a concept for your character. It could be modeled after a character from a favorite novel or movie, or it could be based around some specific thing that you want to be able to do (like break boards with your head, turn into a wolf, blow things up, etc.). Just like you did with the game’s issues earlier, you’re going to take your ideas and turn them into the two central aspects for your character—high concept and trouble.
Player characters should be exceptional and interesting. They could very easily find success in less exciting situations than those that come their way in play. You must figure out why your character is going to keep getting involved in these more dangerous things. If you don’t, the GM is under no obligation to go out of her way to make the game work for you—she’ll be too busy with other players who made characters that have a reason to participate.
Because picking a high concept and trouble are linked, they’re grouped together. You’ll likely have more success coming up with a compelling character idea if you think about them as one big step rather than two separate steps. Only after you have that (and a name, of course!) can you move on to the rest of character creation.
That said, don’t worry too much—if your character idea evolves later on, that’s great! You can always go back and tinker with the early decisions.
Your high concept is 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. That is to say, it comes with some good and some bad. There are a few different directions you can take this:
- You could take the idea of “like your job” literally: Lead Detective, Knight of the Round, Low-level Thug.
- You could throw on an adjective or other descriptor to further define the idea: Despicable Regent of Riverton, Reluctant Lead Detective, Ambitious Low-level Thug.
- You could mash two jobs or roles together that most people would find odd: Wizard Private Eye, Singing Knight of the Round, Monster-slaying Accountant.
- You could play off of an important relationship to your family or an organization you’re deeply involved with (especially if the family or organization are well-connected or well-known): Black Sheep of the Thompson Family, Low-level Thug for the Syndicate, Scar Triad’s Patsy in Riverton.
These aren’t the only ways to play with your high concept, but they’ll get you started. But don’t stress out over it—the worst thing you can do is make it into too big of a deal. You’ll come up with four other aspects after this one—you don’t have to get it all nailed right now.
High concepts can have overlap among the characters, as long as you have something to distinguish how your character is different from the others. If high concepts must be similar among all the characters, such as if the GM pitches an all-swordsman story, it’s crucial that the troubles differ.
Lenny and Lily were settled on “guy and girl with sword” idea, and Ryan’s going with “guy without sword.” But those are just starting ideas. Now it’s time to turn them into proper high concepts.
Lenny latches onto the idea of tying his concept to an organization, and starts with “Disciple of…something.” He envisions a character who has trained in some mysterious martial art, and that involves rival schools and foes that want to learn those secrets. The group helps him come up with a suitably mysterious name: Disciple of the Ivory Shroud. (And now we have a bit more setting made: there’s an Ivory Shroud, mysterious martial arts, and all that implies.)
Lily, on the other hand, doesn’t really know where to go from “girl with sword.” She’s not interested in the organization thing, so she’s thinking about adjectives. Eventually, she settles on Infamous Girl with Sword. (Keeping the “girl with sword” part makes her giggle, so she wants to say it often during the game.)
Ryan’s idea of “bookish guy without sword” would be a pretty dull aspect. He thinks about what’s been declared so far: an evil cult who can summon Bad Things and a mysterious martial arts school. So he asks “hey, can I be a wizard?” They talk a bit about what that means, so that being a wizard doesn’t overshadow the swordsmen and isn’t a weak idea. After that, he writes down Wizard for Hire.
In addition to a high concept, every character has some sort of trouble aspect that’s a part of his life and story. If your high concept is what or who your character is, your trouble is the answer to a simple question: what complicates your character’s existance?
Trouble brings chaos into a character’s life and drives him into interesting situations. They’re broken up into two types: personal struggles and problematic relationships.
- Personal struggles are about your darker side or impulses that are hard to control. If it’s something that your character might be tempted to do or unconsciously do at the worst possible moment, it’s this sort of trouble. Examples: Anger Management Issues, Sucker for a Pretty Face, The Bottle Calls to Me.
- Problematic relationships are about people or organizations that make your life hard. It could be a group of people who hate your guts and want you to suffer, folks you work for that don’t make your job easy, or even your family or friends that too often get caught in the crossfire. Examples: Family Man, Debt to the Mob, The Scar Triad Wants Me Dead.
Your trouble shouldn’t be easy to solve. If it was, your character would have done that already, and that’s not interesting. But nor should it paralyze the character completely. If the trouble is constantly interfering with the character’s day-to-day life, he’s going to spend all his time dealing with it rather than other matters at hand. You shouldn’t have to deal with your trouble at every turn—unless that’s the core of one particular adventure in the story (and even then, that’s just one adventure).
Troubles also shouldn’t be directly related to your high concept—if you have Lead Detective, saying your trouble is The Criminal Underworld Hates Me is a dull trouble, because we already assume that with your high concept. (Of course, you can turn that up a notch to make it personal, like Don Giovanni personally hates me, to make it work.)
Before you go any further, talk with the GM about your character’s trouble. Make sure you’re both on the same page in terms of what it means. Both of you may want to look at how this aspect might be invoked or compelled one way to make sure you’re both seeing the same things—or to give each other ideas. The GM should come away from this conversation knowing what you want out of your trouble.
Lenny wants to contrast the whole “I know an ancient martial art” vibe. He’s not playing an ascetic monk or anything like that. So he wants something that will get him into social trouble, something that has to do with him and not with any specific people or organizations. So he writes down The Manners of a Goat. His character will unconsciously make an ass of himself.
Lily likes this idea of her character being her own worst enemy, so she’s also going for a personal struggle. He’s had the idea for a while of playing someone who can’t help but be Tempted by Shiny Things, so she writes that down.
After seeing the other two go for personal struggles, Ryan wants to add a bit to the setting by having a problematic relationship trouble. He wants something that’s involved with his high concept, someone he can’t just fight openly against—he wants to see intrigue in his story. So he writes down Rivals in the Collegia Arcana (which also names a group of people in the setting, that Ryan’s character is a part of).
If you haven’t already, it’s time to give your character a name!
Lenny names his character “Landon,” a name that’s been in his head for years. He used it years ago for another roleplaying game, and decided to bring it back for nostalgia’s sake.
Lily names her character “Cynere,” which is Greek for “thistle.” She sees Cynere has a beautiful plant, but one that’ll prick you if you get too close. That fits nicely.
Ryan names his character “Zird,” because it just hit his mind as an appropriately ridiculous wizardly name. Then he pauses for a moment before adding “…the Arcane,” because he sees Zird as the sort of guy who would demand to be known as “Zird the Arcane.”
The Phase Trio
Describe your character’s first adventure. Describe how you’ve crossed paths with two other characters. Write down one aspect for each of these three experiences.
Important: Before moving on to this step, you need to have figured out your high concept, trouble, and name.
The three remaining aspects on your character are made in phases, together called the phase trio. The first phase is about recent background: something you did that’s interesting and adventurous. The second and third are about how the other player characters got involved in that adventure, and how you got involved in theirs.
This is an opportunity to tell a story about your characters. Each phase will ask you to write down two things. Use the character worksheet (at the back of this book, or at FateRPG.com) to write down those details.
- First, write a summary of what happened in that phase. A couple of sentences to a paragraph should suffice—you don’t want to establish too much detail up front, because you might have to adjust details in later phases.
- Second, write an aspect that reflects some part of that phase. The aspect can cover the general vibe from the summary, or it can focus on some piece of it that still resonates with your character in the present day.
Phase One: Your Adventure
The first phase is your character’s first true adventure—his first book, episode, case, movie, whatever—starring him.
Then, you need to think up and write down the basic details of this story for the phase’s summary. The story doesn’t need to have a lot of detail—in fact, a pair of sentences works pretty well—because your fellow players will add in their own details to this past adventure in the next two phases (as you will to theirs).
If you find yourself stuck, look to your character’s high concept and trouble. Find a dilemma that has a chance of throwing those ideas into focus. What problem do you get roped into because of your high concept or trouble? How does the other aspect help or complicate your life?
Ask yourself the following story questions. If you have trouble answering them, talk to the other players and the GM for help.
- Something bad happened. What was it? Did it happen to you, to someone you cared about, or to someone that you were coerced into helping?
- What did you decide to do about the problem? What goal did you pursue?
- Who stood against you? Did you expect the opposition you got? Did some of it come out of nowhere?
- Did you win? Did you lose? Either way, what consequences arose from the outcome?
A note on timing: Because two other characters will be involved, this adventure needs to be something that isn’t so far back that you haven’t met those characters yet. If one of you has decided that you recently showed up in the story, then the adventures involving that person happened recently. If some of you have been friends (or old rivals!) for a long time, then those adventures can take place further in the past. Your best bet is to not make these adventures specific in time; once you know who’s involved in your story, you can figure out that part.
Lenny goes through Phase One. He looks at the story questions to help him figure the events of the phase out, and decides on the following:
The bad thing was that Landon kept getting into scrapes at his local tavern. He grew up with no sense of discipline or demeanor and constantly picked fights with people larger and stronger than him.
One thug Landon insulted at the tavern was connected to the Scar Triad, so some of the thug’s bandit buddies show up and beat Landon within an inch of his life.
His bleeding body is then found by a veteran soldier named Finn who heals Landon’s wounds and encourages him to join the town militia where he can learn some discipline and fight with honor.
Now Lenny has to write down an aspect related to this story. He decides to take I Owe Old Finn Everything as his aspect, because he wants to keep the connection to Finn in his story and give Amanda a cool NPC to play.
As with the high concept and trouble aspects, this (and the following phases) are further opportunities to flesh out more about the setting.
Phases Two: Crossing Paths
In the next two phases, you’ll tie the group together by having other characters contribute a minor, supporting role in your adventure, and vice versa.
Once everyone has their adventure written down (which is where our index card suggestion comes in really handy), you’re ready for phase two. You can pass to the left or right, or shuffle the stack and hand them out randomly (trading with the person to your right until you each have one that isn’t yours). However you decide to do it, every player should now be holding someone else’s adventure.
Your character has a supporting role in the story you’re holding, which you get to come up with right now. Briefly discuss it with the player whose adventure it is and add a sentence or phrase to the summary to reflect your character’s supporting role. Supporting roles come in three forms: they complicate the adventure, solve a situation, or both.
- Complicating the adventure: Your character has managed to make some part of the adventure uncertain (possibly because of an issue or trouble aspect). Of course, since that happened in the past, we know you got out of it all right (or mostly all right, as indicated by the aspect you take). When describing this, don’t worry about how the situation is resolved—leave that for someone else, or leave it open. Descriptions like “Landon starts trouble when Cynere needs him quiet” or “Zird gets captured by mysterious brigands” are enough to get some ideas flowing.
- Solving a situation: Your character somehow solves a complication that the main character in the adventure had to deal with, or your character aides the main character in the central conflict (which is an opportunity to involve your high concept aspect). When describing this, you don’t have to mention how the situation was created, just how your character takes care of it. Descriptions like “Cynere holds off foes to give Landon time to escape” or “Zird uses he arcane knowledge to ask the ghosts for information” are enough to give us an idea of what happens.
- Complicating and solving: Here, your character either solves one situation but creates another, or creates a situation but later solves a different one. Mash up the two ideas, using the word “later” in between them, such as: “Landon starts a fight with the Scar Triad while Zird is trying to lay low. Later, he helps Zird by fighting off undead while Zird’s doing a spell.”
The idea is to be a bit self-serving here. You want to put a little spotlight on your character in order to figure out a good aspect from it: something you’re known for, something you can do, something you own or have, and someone you have a relationship with (for good or ill).
Finally, write the adventure idea and your character’s contribution down on your phase worksheet. This is important, because your character gets an aspect from the supporting role he played. The person whose adventure it is should also write down the contribution, if there’s room on his sheet.
Lily has Landon’s starting adventure and needs to decide how she fits into it.
She decides that Cynere helped solve the situation. After Landon ends up in the militia, he still has a grudge for the Triad members who ganged up on him. In fact, they robbed him of his father’s sword in the process. Hearing Landon’s tale of woe, Cynere agrees to help steal the sword back.
She takes the aspect A Sucker for a Sob Story, to reflect the reason why she got involved.
Phase Three: Crossing Paths Again
Once everyone’s done with phase two, you’ll trade adventures with whatever method you chose before, so long as everyone has an adventure that isn’t theirs or the one they just contributed to. Then you’re ready for phase three, where you’ll contribute to this second adventure. Follow the directions from phase two.
Lily gets Zird’s starting adventure, a pretty straightforward romp where Zird battles his Collegia rivals to obtain a magical artifact and return it to its rightful place.
She decides that she complicates that situation, by wanting the shiny artifact for herself. Ryan already established that Zird gets the artifact back to where it belongs, so she only holds it temporarily.
She decides to take I’ve Got Zird’s Back, as a way of reflecting her willinginess to stick her neck out for Zird—the group doesn’t know what he did to earn such loyalty, but they figure they’ll find out eventually.
And with that, you have your five aspects and a good chunk of background!
Pick and rate your character’s skills.
Once you have mapped out your character’s phases and chosen aspects, it’s time to pick skills. You’ll find descriptions and details for each skill in the Skills and Stunts chapter.
Your skills form a pyramid, with a single skill rated at Great (+4)—which we’ll usually refer to as the peak skill—and more skills at each lower rating going down to Average (+1):
- One Great (+4) skill
- Two Good (+3) skills
- Three Fair (+2) skills
- Four Average (+1) skills
Mediocre (+0) is the default for any skill you do not take. Sometimes, a skill will state that it’s unavailable if a character didn’t take it; in those cases, it’s not even at Mediocre.
Zird knows that he’s not like the other PCs in terms of skills, so he looks to distance himself from them as much as possible.
He takes Lore as his peak skill, followed by Rapport and Crafts—for a wizard, Zird considers himself a fairly social sort. He takes Athletics, Will, and Investigation because he figures he’ll need them in his line of work, and a smattering of other skills either because none of his friends have them, or because he wants a positive score in them when everyone’s separated. That ends up being Fighting, Resources, Contacts, and Notice.
Note: a few skills have special benefits, notably those skills that affect the number of stress boxes and consequences you have available. If you know you want a certain number of those, put those skills on the pyramid first.
Stunts And Refresh
Pick or invent one to three stunts. Determine how many fate points you start play with.
Stunts change how skills work for your character. Picking and inventing stunts are covered in the Skills and Stunts chapter.
You get one stunt for free, and you can take up to two more stunts at the cost of lowering your refresh (see below) by one each. (The gist is this: the more cool tricks you can do, the more you’ll need to accept compels to get fate points.)
Lily decides to take the Warmaster stunt as her freebie: +2 to Fighting rolls made to create an advantage against an opponent, provided the opponent has a fighting style or weakness she can exploit.
A player character in Fate starts with a refresh of 3. That means he’ll start each session off with 3 fate points.
If you pick two stunts, your refresh is 2. If you pick three stunts, your refresh is 1.
Note: some Fate games will change this setup. Regardless of how stunts work in your game, you can never have a refresh lower than 1. Should your refresh for some reason fall to 0 or lower, your character is not longer a viable protagonist. His story ends in that scene.
Stress and Consequences
Determine how much of a beating your character can take.
When Fate characters find themselves in harm’s way—a fairly common occurrence when you’re highly competent, proactive, and facing drama at every turn—they have two ways to stand their ground and stay on their feet: stress and consequences.
The Conflicts section of the Challenges, Contests, and Conflicts chapter fully explains what these mean and how they’re used. In brief, stress represents the ephemeral toll of participating in a conflict, whereas consequences are the lingering effects, and sometimes quite traumatic ones, of taking harm.
Every PC has two different stress tracks. The physical stress track deals with physical harm, and the mental stress track mitigates mental harm. The more boxes in a stress track, the more resilient the character is in that regard. By default, a character has two boxes in each stress track.
Every PC also has three consequence slots . One is mild, one is moderate, and the last one is severe. Unlike stress, these aren’t classified as either physical or mental—any of them can apply to any time of harm. As mentioned above, consequences are the injuries and traumas you can’t just shake off after the dust settles.
Certain skills and some stunts can add to these defaults. See the Skills chapter and Stunts chapter for more on that. For the sake of quick reference, these are the skills in Hearts of Steel that alter stress and consequences:
Physique helps with physical stress, and Will helps with mental stress. Either skill grants one more stress box of the respective type (physical or mental) if rated at Average (+1) or Fair (+2), or two more stress boxes if rated at Good (+3) or higher. At Superb (+5) or higher, they also grant an additional mild consequence slot, but specifically restricted to either physical harm (Physique) or mental harm (Will).
Note: if you’re playing in a setting with different skills, the skills that affect stress boxes and consequences may change. Take a note of those skill benefits when you’re making your character.
Landon has Good (+3) Physique, which nets him two more physical stress boxes. His Will, however, is only Average (+1), but that’s still good enough for one more mental stress box.
Cynere’s Physique is Fair (+2), so she gets a third physical stress box. But her mental stress track remains at two boxes, thanks to her Mediocre (+0) Will.
Zird the Arcane, being a rather bookish type, has Mediocre (+0) Physique, so he has only the default physical stress track of two boxes. His Average (+1) Will, though, is good for one bonus mental stress box.
Because none of these characters has Physique or Will rated at Superb (+5) or above, each has the default number of consequences: one mild, one moderate, and one severe.
You’re All Set!
At the end of this process, you should have a character with:
- A name
- Five aspects, along with some backstory
- One Great, two Good, three Fair, and four Average skills
- Between one and three stunts
- A mental and physical stress track of 2–4 boxes each
- A refresh rate of 1–3 fate points
Now you’re ready to play!
GMs, see the Scenes, Sessions, and Scenarios chapter for advice on how to take the aspects from the PCs sheets and from game creation and turn those into thrilling scenarios for the players to experience.
Players, check out the next chapter for more on how to use your aspects, or jump straight to Actions and Outcomes to learn more about how to use your skills to do stuff.
Quick Character Creation
If you want to skip making a detailed character and just want to play, you can leave most of the character blank and fill in as you play.
At minimum, you need to have the following filled out to start:
- High concept aspect
- Best skill
When it comes to your high concept, you can start off vague and refine the aspect later. Guy with Sword is an okay high concept for this method, and later you might discover something about your character that puts a spin on it. When that happens, rewrite the aspect to reflect that spin.
You should know your best skill to start—that gives us further ideas about your character. If you have any other thoughts on skills, either skills you’re good at or skills you’re bad at, write those down. (Since you don’t normally write down any skills you have at lower than Average (+1), just make a note on your sheet about those skills you’re intentionally saying you don’t have.)
And, of course, you need a name! Maybe a first name is all you need for the moment, or a nickname. (There’s also the trick of giving yourself a name, only to later reveal that you’ve been hiding, are undercover, or have amnesia, and write down what your real name is.)
With this method, you start with 3 refresh, so you’ll start playing with 3 fate points.
After the first session is over, if you’re planning on playing your character again, you should take time to fill in the rest of the aspects, skills, and stunts.
Filling Aspects In Play
Unless you immediately have an idea for your trouble aspect, you’ll fill that in later. With the other three aspects, since you’re skipping the Phase Trio, you’ll just make up whatever aspect seems interesting to you at the moment. Typically you’ll do this when you need an aspect on your character to achieve something, or you want to turn a situation that’s happening into something that’s compel-worthy.
As with high concept, don’t stress about getting this aspect dead-on. After the session’s over, take some time to look over and tweak the aspects you’ve created on the fly.
Filling Skills In Play
At any point, if you are using a skill that isn’t on your character sheet, one of two things happens: you’ll assume the skill is Mediocre (+0), or you’ll write it down on one of your empty skill slots and roll it at that level. This choice exists until all of your skill slots are filled in.
If you roll for a skill not on your sheet and choose to go with Mediocre rather than write it down, you can later fill it in on your sheet as something higher. For example, you might be called to roll Lore, and choose to roll it at Mediocre. Later, you might be called to roll it again, and this time you choose to fill it in at Fair (+2).
Likewise, if you roll well on a skill when you chose to take it at Mediocre, maybe that’ll inspire you to take that skill later.
Since some skills have secondary benefits, notably adjusting your stress track and consequences, you can fill those in when you want to declare your character has such a benefit. Until then, you don’t have those benefits, as you’re assumed to have that skill at Mediocre.
Filling Stunts In Play
You get one stunt for free, which you can fill in at any time. You can fill in other stunts at any time, but you must pay a fate point for each one to do so. That’s because your refresh tells you how many fate points you start the game with, so by taking a stunt, you should have started with fewer.
If you’re out of fate points, but want to note down a stunt you have because you’re suddenly struck with the idea, do so. But your character doesn’t actually have it until you spend a fate point.
You’ll also need to reduce your refresh by one for the next session for each extra stunt you take.
When Creating Your Character:
- Aspects: Come up with your character’s high concept and trouble aspects.
- Name: Name your character.
- First Phase: Describe your character’s first adventure.
- Second and Third Phases: Describe how you’ve crossed paths with two other characters.
- Aspects: Write down one aspect for each of these three experiences.
- Skills: Pick and rate your skills.
- Stunts: Pick or invent one to three stunts.
- Refresh: Determine how many fate points you start play with.
- Stress and Consequences: Determine how much of a beating your character can take.
Keep Building Your Setting
As you’re making stuff up for your characters, you’ll also make stuff up about the world around them. You’ll end up talking about NPCs, organization, places, things like that. That’s fantastic!
You might also come up with a character concept that adds something fundamental to the world, like saying “I want to play a wizard” when no one talked about magic yet. When that happens, discuss with the group if that’s a part of your setting and make any necessary adjustments.
If You Get Stumped On Aspects
The golden rule of making aspects in character creation: you can always change it later. If you’re struggling to make an aspect, write out the idea in as many words as you need to, in order to get it down on paper in the first place. If an aspect pops up after you write it down, great! If not, maybe someone else at the table can help you come up with an aspect. And if you’re still stuck, leave it for now—you’ll have plenty of time during play to refine it.
And if you really need to, it’s okay to leave some blank. Look at Quick Character Creation for more on leaving parts of your character sheet blank.
Disciple of the Ivory Shroud
The “Bright” Side Of Troubles
Since your trouble is an aspect, it’s something you should also be able to invoke, right? Because we’ve been so focused on how this complicates your character’s life, it’s easy to miss how a trouble also helps your character.
In short, your experience with your trouble makes you a stronger person in that regard. Dealing with personal struggles leaves you vulnerable to being tempted or cajoled, but it can also give you a sense of inner strength, because you know the sort of person you want to be. Problematic relationships often cause trouble, but people do learn hard lessons from the troubles they deal with. They especially learn how to maneuver around many of the smaller issues their troubles present.
Lenny’s The Manners of a Goat could be used to the group’s benefit. Maybe he turns that up intentionally, to draw attention away from Lily’s character sneaking around.
With Lily’s Tempted by Shiny Things, we could reasonable say that Lily’s character is well-acquainted with the value of various shiny things (and well-acquainted with getting caught and locked in prison, so she knows a thing or two about escaping).
Ryan’s Rivals in the Collegia Arcana can come in handy when dealing with rivals he knows well—he knows what to expect from their tactics. He could also use this aspect to gain aid from people who share his rivals.
Intro To Choosing Aspects
A lot of character creation focuses on coming up with aspects—some are called high concepts, some are called troubles, but they basically all work the same way. Aspects are one of the most important parts of your character, since they define who he is and they provide ways for you to generate fate points and to spend those fate points on bonuses. If you have time, you really might want to read the whole chapter we have dedicated to aspects before you go through the process of character creation.
In case you’re pressed for time, here are some guidelines for choosing aspects.
Aspects which don’t help you tell a good story (by giving you success when you need it and by drawing you into danger and action when the story needs it) aren’t doing their job. Those aspects which push you into conflict—and help you excel once you’re there—will be among your best and most-used.
Aspects need to be both useful and dangerous—allowing you to help shape the story and generating lots of fate points—and they should never be boring. The best aspect suggests both ways to use it and ways it can complicate your situation. Aspects that cannot be used for either of those are likely to be dull indeed.
Bottom line: if you want to maximize the power of your aspects, maximize their interest.
When you’re told you need to come up with an aspect, you might experience brain freeze. If you feel stumped for decent ideas for aspects, there’s a big section focusing on several methods for coming up with good aspect ideas in Aspects and Fate Points.
If your character doesn’t have many connections to the other characters, talk with the group about aspects that might tie your character in with theirs. This is the explicit purpose of Phases Two and Three—but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it elsewhere as well.
If you ultimately can’t break the block by any means, don’t force it—leave it completely blank. You can always come back and fill out that aspect later, or let it develop during play—as with the Quick Character Creation rules.
Ultimately, it’s much better to leave an aspect slot blank than to pick one that isn’t inspiring and evocative to play. If you’re picking aspects you’re not invested in, they’ll end up being noticeable drags on your fun.
Aspects and Fate Points
Disciple of the Ivory Shroud
The Manners of a Goat
If you’re used to other Fate games, you’ll see that there are fewer aspects in this edition. We found that it’s easier to come up with five good aspects than seven or ten. And because there are game aspects and you can make scene aspects, you shouldn’t be short of things to invoke or compel!
Phases And Index Cards
In phase one, you each came up with your own adventure. In phases two and three, you’re going to trade those stories around as other players’ characters get involved. Figuring out how your character fits into someone else’s story can be hard to do if you’ve handed your character phase worksheet to another player, so we recommend that you use index cards (or whatever scraps of paper you have).
During the first phase—when you’re writing your adventure down on your worksheet—take a card and write your character’s name and adventure description. Then you’ll pass the card around during the second and third phases so people can contribute to your story. That way, you’ll still have your worksheet when you’re writing your contributions and aspects, and other people will know what stories they’re supposed to hook into.
Landon gets into a bar fight with some of the scar triad. He is robbed of his sword and beaten severely. His life is saved by a veteran soldier named Old Finn. Finn helps to heal Landon, clean him up, and enlist him in the town militia.
*I Owe Old Finn Everything
When Landon tells Cynere his story, she takes pity on him and decides to help him recover his lost sword.
*Sucker for a Sob Story
Fewer Than Three Players?
The phase trio assumes that you’ll have at least three players. If you have only two, consider the following ideas:
- Skip phase three and just make up another aspect, either now or in play.
- Come up with a third, joint-story together, and write about how you each feature in that one.
- Have the GM also make a character. The GM won’t actually play this character alongside the PCs, though—it should just be an NPC. Such an NPC can be a great vehicle for kicking off a campaign—if a friend they’re tied to during character creation mysteriously disappears or even dies, that’s instant fuel for drama.
If you only have one player, skip phases two and three, leaving the aspects blank to be filled in during play.
Cynere steals Zird’s artifact. Eventually it returns to Zird’s hands and the two gain a mutual respect for each other.
*I’ve Got Zird’s Back
Disciple of the Ivory Shroud
The Manners of a Goat
Landon gets into a bar fight with some of the scar triad. He is robbed of his sword and beaten severely. His life is saved by a veteran soldier named Old Finn. Finn helps to heal Landon, clean him up, and enlist him in the town militia.
I Owe Old Finn Everything
Zird the Arcane hires Landon to quietly break into the Tower of Unrest at the Collegia. When their cover is blown, Landon kicks out the tower’s supporting pillars. The two escape as the structure comes crashing down.
Smashing Is Always an Option
Cynere drags Landon into a bar fight with warriors from the Dianan Sisterhood. He gets cut across one eye, leaving him half-blinded and scarred. Later, she provides him the chance for vengeance by helping her steal an artifact from them.
An Eye for an Eye
Why The Pyramid?
If you’ve played The Dresden Files RPG, you know that we use skill columns for that instead of the pyramid.
In this build of Fate, we wanted character creation to be as quick and accessible as possible, so we went with the pyramid as standard. If you want to use the columns, go ahead—you get 20 skill points.
The skill column didn’t completely go away. It’s just reserved for advancement.
The Skill Cap
By default, we make Great (+4) the highest rated skill PCs start with. As characters advance, they can improve beyond this cap, but it’s more difficult than improving skills rated below the cap (see Major Milestones.)
If you’re making a game about superheroes, pandimensional creatures, mythic gods or other beyond-human characters, feel free to set the tip of the skill pyramid—and thus the cap—at Superb (+5) or Fantastic (+6).
Stress and Consequences
Skills and Stunts
Scenes, Sessions, and Scenarios
Actions and Outcomes