Fate System Toolkit
In Fate, gear is in the background. Your skills take center stage when it comes to what you can do; gear is simply there to enable you to use your skills. Do you have a high Shoot? Then you’ve got a gun! Did you prioritize Drive? You’ve probably got a car. These things are assumed, and have no mechanical effect. The Extras chapter in Fate Core tells you how you can give gear mechanical teeth, adding Weapon ratings or giving a piece of gear its own aspects or skills. There’s a middle ground, though, one that doesn’t require any reduction in refresh and that allows all significant gear to be significant.
If you want to tread that middle ground, keeping gear simple and in the background but increasing its mechanical weight, you can use gear aspects. In this method, most gear behaves like it does in default Fate—it enables skill use and provides justification for actions. However, if a piece of gear has the potential to be significant to the story at some point, it becomes an aspect.
A gear aspect can be as generic or as descriptive as you desire. If you’re the sort for whom guns are important but interchangeable, maybe you just have a Revolver or a Sniper Rifle. If you want to get a little more specific, maybe it’s a Pristine Colt .45 or a Silenced XM21. Want to drill down even more? Give yourself My Father’s Service Revolver or My Well-Used, Modified XM21. The point is that, if it’s important, it gets an aspect. Things like your jacket and shoes, your sunglasses, your car keys—maybe even your car—don’t need aspects, unless they become important to the story.
A gear aspect functions like any other aspect: you can invoke it, and other people can compel it—or invoke it—against you. You can invoke a gear aspect any time it would be useful: invoke your 25 Karat Watch when you want to flash a little bling and impress someone, or invoke your Press Pass to get a little closer to that crime scene.
There’s one final rule when it comes to gear aspects, GMs—you can take them away. If a PC is starting to rely a little too much on a piece of gear, or if it just feels like time to shake things up, find a reason for that aspect to go away. Doing this is a compel, so the player can refuse it—and that’s fine—you don’t want to take away your players’ favorite parts of the game. Also, getting rid of the aspect doesn’t necessarily mean that the player loses that piece of gear permanently. A Press Pass can lose its aspect when the PC gets suspended, and a Revolver can be shut down when it runs out of ammo. In both cases, there’s a narrative way to get the aspect back, and sometimes that can kick-start an adventure on its own!
If each PC has five aspects and maybe four or five gear aspects, plus there are scene aspects and consequences and what have you, isn’t that too many aspects? It sure can be! Here’s a secret: gear aspects are basically portable situation aspects. As such, they can do a lot of the heavy lifting that situation aspects can, if you feel like there’s too much going on in a scene. You don’t want to eliminate situation aspects altogether, but if each PC has a number of gear aspects, start with fewer situation aspects.
It’s also a good idea to limit the number of gear aspects each PC has. Not every piece of gear needs its own aspect, so limiting PCs to three, two, or even one signature piece of gear is perfectly fine.
Finally, in a game focused on gear rather than PC relationships or previous adventures, gear aspects might replace the “phase trio” aspects.