Types of Aspects
Every game of Fate has a few different kinds of aspects: game aspects, character aspects, situation aspects, consequences, and boosts. They mainly differ from one another in terms of what they’re attached to and how long they last.
Game aspects are permanent fixtures of the game, hence the name. While they might change over time, they’re never going to go away. If you’ve already gone through game creation, you’ve already defined these—the current or impending issues that you came up with. They describe problems or threats that exist in the world, which are going to be the basis for your game’s story.
Everyone can invoke, compel, or create an advantage on a game aspect at any time; they’re always there and available for anyone’s use.
Character aspects are just as permanent, but smaller in scope, attached to an individual PC or NPC. They describe a near-infinite number of things that set the character apart, such as:
- Significant personality traits or beliefs (Sucker for a Pretty Face, Never Leave a Man Behind, The Only Good Tsyntavian Is a Dead Tsyntavian).
- The character’s background or profession (Educated at the Academy of Blades, Born a Spacer, Cybernetic Street Thief).
- An important possession or noticeable feature (My Father’s Bloodstained Sword, Dressed to the Nines, Sharp Eyed Veteran).
- Relationships to people and organizations (In League with the Twisting Hand, The King’s Favor, Proud Member of the Company of Lords).
- Problems, goals, or issues the character is dealing with (A Price on My Head, The King Must Die, Fear of Heights).
- Titles, reputations, or obligations the character may have (Self-Important Merchant Guildmaster, Silver-Tongued Scoundrel, Honor-Bound to Avenge My Brother).
You can invoke or call for a compel on any of your character aspects whenever they’re relevant. GMs, you can always propose compels to any PC. Players, you can suggest compels for other people’s characters, but the GM is always going to get the final say on whether or not it’s a valid suggestion.
A situation aspect is temporary, intended to last only for a single scene or until it no longer makes sense (but no longer than a session, at most). Situation aspects can be attached to the environment the scene takes place in—which affects everybody in the scene—but you can also attach them to specific characters by targeting them when you create an advantage.
Situation aspects describe significant features of the circumstances the characters are dealing with in a scene. That includes:
- Physical features of the environment (Dense Underbrush, Obscuring Snowdrifts, Low Gravity Planet).
- Positioning or placement (Sniper’s Perch, In the Trees, Backyard).
- Immediate obstacles (Burning Barn, Tricky Lock, Yawning Chasm).
- Contextual details that are likely to come into play (Disgruntled Townsfolk, Security Cameras, Loud Machinery).
- Sudden changes in a character’s status (Sand in the Eyes, Disarmed, Cornered, Covered in Slime).
Who can use a situation aspect depends a lot on narrative context—sometimes it’ll be very clear, and sometimes you’ll need to justify how you’re using the aspect to make sense based on what’s happening in the scene. GMs, you’re the final arbiter on what claims on an aspect are valid.
Sometimes situation aspects become obstacles that characters need to overcome. Other times they give you justification to provide active opposition against someone else’s action.
A consequence is more permanent than a situation aspect, but not quite as permanent as a character aspect. They’re a special kind of aspect you take in order to avoid getting taken out in a conflict, and they describe lasting injuries or problems that you take away from a conflict (Dislocated Shoulder, Bloody Nose, Social Pariah).
Consequences stick around for a variable length of time, from a few scenes to a scenario or two, depending on how severe they are. Because of their negative phrasing, you’re likely to get compelled a lot when you have them, and anyone who can justifiably benefit from the consequence can invoke it or create an advantage on it.
Boosts are a super-transient kind of aspect. You get a boost when you’re trying to create an advantage but don’t succeed well enough, or as an added benefit to succeeding especially well at an action. You get to invoke them for free, but as soon as you do, the aspect goes away.
If you want, you can also allow another character to invoke your boost, if it’s relevant and could help them out.
A Clarification About Boosts from Ryan Macklin and Leonard Balsera
The following was posted on Ryan Macklin's Web site for clearer language that shows the intent and utility of Boosts. The article also includes a bit of design history about boosts.
Boosts are temporary, free-floating invocations that happen when you get a momentary benefit that isn’t lasting enough to be an aspect. You get a boost when you’re trying to create an advantage but don’t succeed well enough, or as an added benefit to succeeding especially well at an action (notably defending). You invoke boosts just like you would for an aspect, for the +2, reroll, or other effect that a free invoke can do. As with aspect invocations, you need to describe what’s happening that makes that boost relevant to your action.
Once you invoke the boost, it goes away. They go away on their own fairly quickly—usually after the next action when you could use them—so use them as soon as possible! If you want, you can allow another character to invoke your boost, though it needs to be relevant to their action and could help them out.
When you earn a boost, give it a name like you would an aspect to help you remember where the boost came from and how you can use it. Don’t dwell on coming up with something clever, since it doesn’t last long.
Just remember that a boost isn’t a full, “grown up” aspect—you can’t compel with it, use it as permission for extras, pay a fate point to invoke it again, or other things that manipulate aspects or that aspects affect. But you can promote it to a full aspect; see Promoting Boosts below.
Leaving Boosts Unnamed
If you’re struggling to name a boost, let it be unnamed and continue playing—boosts aren’t worth stopping play to name! If you do, though, you’ll have to keep track of the situation that created the boost, which some people find difficult to remember.
Sometimes when you’re creating a new aspect, you find that there’s a boost in play that’s exactly the aspect you want to make, turning a momentary benefit into a lasting one. Great! That’s called promoting a boost. Just declare an aspect you’re making to have the same name as a boost in play, and you’re done. If the action gives this new aspect a free invocation, it has two instead thanks to the boost being active. If you haven’t named the boost yet, now’s the time to do it.
For example, say you parry my sword strike and get a boost from that defend action, and we say that you managed to get me A Little Off-Balance. On your next action, you follow-up by saying that you want to keep me off-balance by creating an advantage. You roll for the advantage, succeed without needing to use the boost, and then name the advantage A Little Off-Balance with two free invocations (or three if you succeeded with style—essentially one extra free invocation).
Even if you’ve used a boost already, nothing says you can’t bring that idea back around as an aspect later in the scene if it’s appropriate. There’s no special rule about that, just something to keep in mind. In our example above, you could still create the A Little Off-Balance advantage, even if you use the boost on that roll or on a past turn.
Remember that Boosts are not Aspects
Unlike aspects, you cannot compel a boost or pay a fate point to invoke a boost (including invoking it against its owner). Any other rules that require an aspect to exist or be used don’t count for boosts. Don’t let the fact that they’re often given names mislead you.
Attribution of this text
“Fate Boosts Revisited” from ryanmacklin.com © 2014 Leonard Balsera and Ryan Macklin.