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Fate Core

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 creation 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.

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 she 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 section 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. The 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.

Phase One: Your Adventure

The first phase is your character’s first true adventure—his first book, episode, case, movie, whatever—starring him.

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?

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

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?

Once you’ve come up with the adventure, write an aspect that relates to some part of what happened.

A note on timing: Because two other characters will be involved in the following phases, this adventure needs to be something that isn’t so early in your character’s life that he hasn’t met the other protagonists 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; you can figure out that part once you know who’s involved in your story.

Lenny goes through Phase One. He looks at the story questions to help him figure out the events of the phase, 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 showed up and beat Landon to within an inch of his life.

His bleeding body was then found by a veteran soldier named Finn who healed Landon’s wounds and encouraged him to join the town militia where he could 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.

Phases & 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.

As with the high concept and trouble aspects, this (and the following phases) are further opportunities to flesh out the setting.

Phase 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 the 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 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, it is known that 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 aids 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 his 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 casting a spell.”

The default phase trio prioritizes connecting the characters together in a shared backstory. We like this, because it’s cooperative and gets you talking to one another. That’s not the only way to do it, though. You could make any significant trifecta of backstory details into a phase trio. Your past, your present, and your hope for the future is another set of trio elements.

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 against the Triad members who ganged up on him. In fact, they robbed him of his heirloom 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.

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.

* A Sucker for a Sob Story

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 and determine your next aspect. 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 willingness 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.

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

And with that, you have your five aspects and a good chunk of background!

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.