The Shadow of Yesterday has a fantastic mechanic (one of many) called “keys” that allow the player to determine in which circumstances they gain XP. It’s easier to show than explain so consider this:
Key of Conscience
Your character has a soft spot for those weaker than their opponents. Gain 1 XP every time your character helps someone who cannot help themselves. Gain 2 XP every time your character defends someone with might who is in danger and cannot save themselves. Gain 5 XP every time your character takes someone in an unfortunate situation and changes their life to where they can help themselves. Buyoff: Ignore a request for help.
XP is pretty easy to come by in TSOY, so much so that many GMs just let players track it themselves. It’s so easy that the first time you play it seems like cheating, but really, that’s the way it’s supposed to work.
Now, there are a lot of interesting similarities between Keys and Aspects, and at some point I want to discuss in game currency vs. XP as a reward, but before I do that, I want to highlight one incredibly important difference – Keys are almost entirely player triggered. That is to say, the GM might set up situations where the key might or might not come up, but it’s the player’s decision that drives the reward.
Even more importantly, the player explicitly knows what will trigger a key. There might be a little wiggle room, but it’s much more transparent than something entirely dependent on GM interpretation.
If this idea appeals, there’s nothing that says it can’t get applied to Aspects equally easily – the only thing it requires is explicitly writing down what circumstances might trigger an aspect for good or ill. For example, if I have the Aspect “Soft Hearted” I could add a note that says “Gain a Fate Point whenever the character makes trouble for himself by helping someone in trouble.”
In doing this I am, effectively, writing my own compels. What’s more, I am also communicating very clearly to the GM the kinds of situations where I expect to see this aspect come up. In doing so I’m making it easier for him to do so.
Explicit compels are far from the only technique that supports this. Aside from just talking to the GM, things like anchors are designed to serve a similar purpose. But for players who are not entirely comfortable with the “fuzzy” nature of aspects, this sort of explicit detail may help them get a grasp on things.
1 – Buyoff is basically how you get the key off your sheet. It pays off big time, with 10 XP, more than enough to buy a new Key, but you can’t re-buy the key you’ve bought off.
2 – Explicit setting elements (people & places) tied to each aspect.