Ok, here’s the thing – Aspects make for a great shorthand because most of the “rules” that surround them are actually based around our shared understanding of a word or words. If I say a guy is STRONG, there’s not a lot of confusion regarding what that means, nor is there much confusion regarding when that might be helpful. Lifting furniture? Check. Smashing stuff? Check. Reciting Poetry? Not so much.
Even more, the reality is that for 90-odd percent of aspects, that works just fine. That’s enough that it’s entirely possible to play and enjoy the game without worrying about the edge cases. At the very worst, it might be necessary to make the occasionally impromptu ruling, but that’s just not terribly onerous.
I am entirely aware that there are players who like the open ended nature of aspects, but at the same time desire a little more structure to them. These players may not have thought of it, but they would enjoy the benefits of a common pool of aspects which they can draw from and establish a shared understanding. Such explicit aspects would serve several purposes, not least of which would be tying mechanics to specific aspects, possibly even doing away with stunts entirely in favor of what I will call “Rich Aspects”.
In the land of rich aspects, most aspects would remain unchanged, but the manner they’re presented would be expanded, using write-ups in a manner that might be more in keeping with the way that powers get written up in some other games. A Rich aspect will be composed of five parts: a description, bonuses, benefits, penalties and complications. Bonuses and Benefits are things the player can invoke the aspect for, either for a bonus (for bonuses, natch) or a narrative element for benefits. Penalties and complications are situations where the aspect might be compelled, either when acting (penalties) or as plot seeds or events (complications).
Soldier of the Empire
Service in the imperial legions gives a man the opportunity to see the world at only moderate risk of life and limb. The imperial infantry is well respected for its discipline and prowess, and a man who returns from his five years with all his parts can expect easy employment with the guard of any of the great houses.
Bonuses: Fight with sword or spear, set up or break down camp, march, walk sentry duty
Benefits: Collect a small pension. Find a war buddy. Immaculately maintain your gear.
Penalties: Pass as something other than a military man, disobey a rightful order.
Complications: Be recognized by an old friend (or enemy). Get called back up.
There are two benefits to this approach. First, for players, this has one of the benefits that keys offer – explicit clarity. For game designers, it makes it possible to make aspects a more mechanically central part of the game, creating aspect lifepaths or making specific aspects into necessary gateways to other aspects, powers or skills.
Now, me, I’m sufficiently lazy that they only reason I’d really delve into this is as a proof of concept, but I admit it tickles some crunch-happy part of my brain, even as it otherwise makes me flinch.
1 – Look, if this sounds absolutely heretical then just keep moving along. I am aware this is a drastic departure from the normal way of doing Fate, but that’s rather the point.
2 – Curiously, I did write all this in advance of Wednesday’s discussion. That said, that discussion makes me more inclined to explore this idea a little further later, just because it, and examples like Houses of the Blooded, suggest it may have more legs than I originally thought.