I’ve mentioned a few times how much I like the idea of anchors as a way to concretely draw aspects into play. The idea is simple: after a player picks an aspect, they name some element of the setting (a person, place or thing) that is tied into that aspect in some way. It provides the player easy ties into the setting and it gives the GM convenient handles with which she can grip onto character’s aspects. Win-win all around.
The other night I was talking with my friend Morgan about some ideas that we’d kicked around for Dresden but which has never really materialized. One of them revolved around thematic categories for aspects to fall under, and we were kicking around ways to capture that, and it occurred to me that you could really make this work by turning anchors on their head.
That is to say, you could begin a game with a limited set of anchors, and say have aspects tie into those. Exactly what those anchors would be depends entirely on the game and the genre. Amber, arguably, provides a great example of this in the form of the cast of characters (the royal family) plus a few key locations. The same thing could easily be done with the little town outside the dungeon or a city in a Dresden or cyberpunk game.
Now, there are some obvious benefits to this approach – a fixed list of anchors and an open list of aspects means you have a pre-built set of tools for building adventures, but this also taps into the same mojo as The Trick. The fixed set of anchors provide linking points for the characters through the anchor rather than directly.
One important qualifier is that the list of anchors is a snapshot, not a fixed list. The initial list should allow for some room to grow as players come up with ideas. After chargen, the list may change (slowly or quickly) over the course of the game. How it changes depends on the game – the game might be complex and call for only occasional changes or it might start with only a few anchors and expand over time.
Obviously, this calls for a little thought before character creation, but it’s actually pretty light duty stuff, and it has the advantage of helping prune the field of unwelcome elements. Any potential elements that don’t interest players enough to tie to their aspects probably deserve to be shuffled off to the sidelines. But with that small amount of work, you have created an easy way to keep a game’s central elements in the middle of play without breaking a sweat.