Why Keys are better than Aspects

edited August 2010 in Story Games
Of course this is completely subjective, but I'm going to pretend it's objective and try to convince you.

Keys and aspects are really two versions of the same thing. At the very least, they have something in common deep at their core: They are both tangible mechanics that reward players for something they do in the story; and they particularly reward you for getting yourself in trouble. Both of them act as markers of what players want to see in the game, whether good or bad.

=Aspects=

Aspects are good in that they're very open -- there's no limit to the number of good aspects you can dream up, and taking advantage of them to get your bonus is pretty easy. All you have to do is show how your aspect applies to the situation your character is in, pay a Fate point and you get a +2 to your roll. If you're particularly creative, you can even pay a Fate point to make something happen, or to declare a fact about the story or setting and make it suddenly true.

Aspects don't only act as a way to spend Fate points; they're also a way to earn them: the GM will "compel" your aspect by offering you a Fate point to make your character get into trouble in some way related to that aspect. For example if your character has a "Greedy" aspect, and you walk by some possibly booby-trapped treasure in a spooky tomb, the GM can offer you a Fate point if you just agree to reach out and take it. If you say yes, you take the treasure, the Fate point, and also whatever consequences come along with that in the story. If you say no, you have to pay a Fate point to the GM to resist the temptation.

=Keys=

Keys are good in that they're more clearly defined, and more subtly nuanced. My favorite implementation of keys is in Lady Blackbird, where it acts as a sort of bonus and experience system combined. Any time you do something connected with one of your keys, you can get either an experience point or another die back into your pool. If you get into trouble because of your key, you get 2 experience points, 2 pool dice, or one of each. If you turn against your key, you get a whopping 10 experience points and your key is destroyed; but those 10 experience points are enough to buy two more keys if you like, or one key and one more advancement of another sort. Once you've destroyed a key, however, you can never take that key again.

=Why I like keys better=

Keys make take more time to write than aspects, and certainly take more time to describe all the different ways in which they apply to your character and the story, but that extra effort you put into the outset really pays off later on. You don't have to argue so much whether or not the key applies in any given situation because of the extra explanation that comes with it, and you yourself are in control over whether you want to follow a key into some troublesome situation (such as with a key of greed), or whether you want to just skip it.

Aspects, at least to a certain extent, take control of your character away from you and give it to the GM. It's not just the temptation of the extra Fate point that may make you want to take that treasure, it's the cost of one of your own Fate points to not do that thing the GM has asked you to do. Now, many players choose the aspect of Greedy because they want to get into this sort of trouble, so when the GM offers them this kind of Fate point reward, they'll happily take it. These players may also feel perfectly happy about paying a cost to resist their own aspect, because again, they willingly gave up that much control to the GM at the outset when they chose that aspect in the first place. These players will willingly compel themselves, and have fun doing it, even though it's a responsibility first given to the GM. But some players aren't comfortable with compels at all -- they feel as though everything pertaining to their character should be under their control and theirs alone, and the GM doesn't have any right to touch it.

Keys not only avoid this problem, by just letting you choose "2x reward vs. 0 reward," they also give you a big payoff for changing your character completely in a way that your aspects don't. The basic 1 point reward for doing anything related to the key drives the theme of that key into the story, the 2 point reward directs that theme towards more tension and excitement in the story, and the 10 point key buyoff drives your characters to grow and change according to the events, or to turn against such a reward and remain true to their original nature, whichever seems more rewarding for the players telling the story. It has all the advantages of aspects in terms of reinforcing themes and creating tension, plus the added benefit of promoting character change, while at the same time keeping the character completely under the control of its player.

Please discuss.
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Comments

  • Hi David

    Sure thing, I'll accept your points... if I ever find myself in the situation where I'm playing with folks who are vehemently opposed to any outside control of "their" character. I do think that keys are easier to get your head around because they are levers that each player controls for him or herself. The GM and other players might set up siutations that allow the player to hit those keys, but the choice rests in the player's hands.
    But some players aren't comfortable with compels at all -- they feel as though everything pertaining to their character should be under their control and theirs alone, and the GM doesn't have any right to touch it.
    I've successfully avoided that playstyle for ages: I ain't got the time or energy these days to cater for players who play like that. (Fair dues to them if they like that though, each to their own.) As such, I'll happily surf in either aspects or keys, and so will the folks I play with, which somewhat renders moot your stated benefits of keys.

    Cheers
    Pete
  • Yeah, if your circle of gaming friends is all comfortable with giving up some control over themselves, then it's no problem. I'm just saying that keys are more universally acceptable, which is a definite plus.

    Besides, I would say that while I would definitely play a Fate game and have a blast getting compelled by a GM, I still *prefer* to have it all under my control. I would rather not have to pay the Fate point to resist the compel, but it's not a huge issue for me.

    I think personally the main issue is I feel odd taking control away from my players what I'm GMing Fate. Something about it just feels wrong. Perhaps my own group is just too traditional and I'm afraid they'll reject the whole thing because they're not indie enough. As I kept adapting my games with more and more indie influences, keys made instant sense to them in a way that aspects didn't, and I thought that was a pretty huge advantage.

    Something inside me says keys are more in-line with human nature than aspects, because each of us can only control ourselves in real life also; but there are certainly lots of different ways of understanding human nature, such that no one game mechanic could ever fit perfectly.
  • Posted By: KayfallI think personally the main issue is I feel odd taking control away from my players what I'm GMing Fate.
    Since the players are the ones that write the Aspects, they are basically giving you a gilt-edged invitation saying "this is how I really really really really really want my characters to get into trouble and make mistakes, please provide me with the opportunity to do so." They control Aspects even when you attempt to compel them.

    Keys are cool too, though.
  • Aspects assume a GM needs to bribe players to do what they will want to do anyway if they are fun people. And if they aren't fun people, why are you playing with them?

    Keys assume a GM needs to provide situations for players to address the stuff they care about, which is called being a good GM.
  • JD: Yeah, so why bother waiting for the GM to provide you with the opportunity to do what you really really really really really want to do? With Keys, you just do it -- there's no rule saying you wait for the GM to do anything -- you just hit your key, and take the points; you don't even have to beg the GM to give them to you.

    Jason: My thoughts exactly.
  • I've never had problems with Aspect compels, but I have heard of people removing the penalty element altogether, with a fate point gained if the compel is accepted and nothing lost if it is refused, and it sounds like this should work fine and removes the sting out of a compel.

    Keys don't work so well for me because I never found the enticement of experience points for following them that strong, whereas I want fate points (don't know why - xp hunting makes me feel cheap somehow, like I'm taking the action to level up rather than because it's fun. It feels like an incentive that I don't need).

    Also, whether a given action warrants a trigger of a key (and reward of xp) has always seemed as controversial to me as whether an Aspect applies to a situation or not.

    Purely subjective of course.
  • edited August 2010
    Oh and another thing. It's not just about player control, it's about player *agency*. Keys ask you to be the agent of your character's growth and success, for good or ill. Aspects ask you to be the agent of your character's success only, and turn agency of your character's troublesome side over to the GM.

    Edit: Adrian, you're partly right. The Shadow of Yesterday and Solar System only provide experience points when you hit your key. Lady Blackbird's addition of giving you the option of pool dice instead is an improvement, and it's this implementation of the key mechanic that I'm referring to here (note that pool dice are sort of an equivalent of Fate points in Lady Blackbird).

    Also, I suppose there could be controversy for both keys and aspects in some situations, except that keys have a lot more words with which to describe how and when they apply, which has helped me a great deal in my experience.
  • edited August 2010
    What about self-compels? They're a pretty bog-standard element of Fate games - you complicate your life through an Aspect, you take a fate point, just like triggering a key.

    Keys and Aspects seem triggered very similarly, with the main difference being the need to buy-off a compel if you don't want to accept it. The other main difference is the reward: a small, transitory fate point or permanent character improvement.
  • Yes, self-compels are an option, but they're not the standard that ships with the Fate system. The rules officially give compels to the GM, and the fact that he has that right to compel you, which you *must* accept if you have no Fate points, means that you are not fundamentally responsible for a big chunk of your character's behavior.

    That said, yes they are very similar. I'm not saying aspects are bad, only that keys are better. I feel if you want to choose between them, I would recommend keys as the better option. However if you prefer aspects, that's great too. One game's flaw is another game's feature.
  • edited August 2010
    The downside to keys seems to be that they don't allow your character to backslide. Addiction, for examples, would work much better as an aspect than as a key because you could will your way to resisting a temptation and break the addiction at the same time blocking you from every being addicted again - addiction just doesn't work that way.

    Perhaps there's room enough for both within the same game. Keys could act as flags for character traits you want to use against yourself and hope to outgrow or change through play; meanwhile, aspects would be for more persistent character traits. This way, you could convert aspects to keys if you weren't happy with the compels and wanted to develop your character while destroying keys could allow you to purchase aspects. In the above example, you could destroy the addiction key to purchase the "former addict" aspect which could then be compelled occasionally but also invoked to counsel other addicts.
  • edited August 2010
    Posted By: Jason MorningstarAspects assume a GM needs to bribe players to do what they will want to do anyway if they are fun people. And if they aren't fun people, why are you playing with them?
    Posted By: KayfallJD: Yeah, so why bother waiting for the GM to provide you with the opportunity to do what you really really really really really want to do?
    Because what you have is the motivation to make mistakes in a particular way. You don't know what exact situation will cause your character's drives, motivations and background to cause them trouble, and so you are surprised to find out exactly how it happens, and that is a very good, fun feeling. It's not just "oh, hum, I need an extra bit of resources in this next scene, guess I better go get drunk first" like Keys would be if I characterized it as badly as these two quotes characterize Aspects. What's good about GMs coming up with compels is that someone else is inventing them, that's a very very very very very good thing.

    (Self compels are more like Keys than not, so.)
    Posted By: KayfallThe rules officially give compels to the GM, and the fact that he has that right to compel you, which you *must* accept if you have no Fate points, means that you are not fundamentally responsible for a big chunk of your character's behavior.
    But that's not what the rules say, you wrote the Aspect, didn't you? It's your fault the character is doing this thing, whether or not a GM handed you a chip for it. It's your fault, don't try to say "well, gosh, it's just what my character would do" or "dammit, this is what the designer said I have to do." You did this, it's on you, and everyone knows it.
  • Posted By: Adrian Pxp hunting makes me feel cheap somehow
    This is definitely something you have to get over, because XP does work differently in TSOY/Solar System than, say, Dungeons and Dragons. There's an end state for characters, so being a shameless XP-grubbing whore is a thematic choice rather than a play-balance-destroying aberration. You want your guy to get big fast? Totally OK. His departure will be rapid and legendary.

    Lady Blackbird presupposes that you've already accepted this model, because the game is so constrained that there's no reason not to get big fast.
  • edited August 2010
    Posted By: JDCorleyYou don't know what exact situation will cause your character's drives, motivations and background to cause them trouble, and so you are surprised to find out exactly how it happens, and that is a very good, fun feeling. It's not just "oh, hum, I need an extra bit of resources in this next scene, guess I better go get drunk first" like Keys would be if I characterized it as badly as these two quotes characterize Aspects. What's good about GMs coming up with compels is that someone else is inventing them, that's a very very very very very good thing.
    Can you give an example of how this might play out? Try framing one example as an aspect and then another as a key, to highlight the difference you see between them. I'm not sure I fully see your point.
    Posted By: JDCorley
    But that's not what the rules say, you wrote the Aspect, didn't you? It's your fault the character is doing this thing, whether or not a GM handed you a chip for it. It's your fault, don't try to say "well, gosh, it's just what my character would do" or "dammit, this is what the designer said I have to do." You did this, it's on you, and everyone knows it.
    Yeah, this is what's confusing for the player I think. Say I did choose the "Greedy" aspect, and I get into a situation where the GM compels me to steal from my best friend, another player. And in my mind I'm thinking, "gosh, I'm greedy, but is my greed more important than my friendship just because I thought to write it as an aspect but I didn't think to do that with my friendship?" Maybe the answer is yes and I feel like an idiot for not thinking of it beforehand, because now I have to pay a Fate point when I don't really want to.

    I suppose an experienced player could get the hang of aspects and learn how to properly write them so that he never gets into one of these tricky situations. But the learning curve for aspects is higher than for keys, no?
  • GM: There's an orphan crying in the road. She's apparently the only survivor. Krogdar can stop and help her, but he'll lose the trail of the bandits who destroyed this village if you do.

    PLAYER: I want to catch the bandits!

    (Compel)

    GM: I'll give you this shiny Fate point if you act on your "I have a conscience" Aspect.

    PLAYER: If I had a Fate point of my own I would refuse, but I don't, so Krogdar will do something that doesn't interest me!

    GM: Why'd you take "I have a conscience" if you didn't want to help orphans?

    PLAYER: I'm sorta fixated on catching those bandits at this moment. Krogdar will feel bad about it later.

    GM: OK. Wait, you do have a Fate point there.

    PLAYER: All right! In that case I'll pay to do what I'm excited about right now!

    (Key)

    GM: Don't you have Key of Conscience? Helping this kid would hit that pretty hard.

    PLAYER: It would, but I'd rather do my own thing right now! I shake the orphan and shout "Useless child - where did the bandits go?" That hits Key of the Villain, right?
  • edited August 2010
    Posted By: KayfallSay I did choose the "Greedy" aspect, and I get into a situation where the GM compels me to steal from my best friend, another player. And in my mind I'm thinking, "gosh, I'm greedy, but is my greed more important than my friendship just because I thought to write it as an aspect but I didn't think to do that with my friendship?" Maybe the answer is yes and I feel like an idiot for not thinking of it beforehand, because now I have to pay a Fate point when I don't really want to.
    Holy shit, you want to! You want to! You really do want to! That is exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about: "Oh my god, is my guy really that Greedy? Would he really turn on his friend?!" And when you put up a chip to say "No, GM, my guy reaches down deep into his reserves, calls on every ounce of decency he has, and ignores the golden opportunity to rip off his buddy", that is a strong statement about the character, and everyone will remember it forever, whereas without the chip, if you just say "meh, no, he doesn't", that is lame as hell. And if the character is so exhausted, so run down by life that he doesn't have any fate chips to spend, that's exactly the kind of moment where a Greedy person would give in to their natural instincts and, even if they might not have wanted to if they were operating at full capacity, steal. That provides you a natural drive going forward, to try to make it up to your friend, maybe cover it up to protect the friendship you really did value, and now you have a fate chip to do it with.
    Posted By: KayfallCan you give an example of how this might play out? Try framing one example as an aspect and then another as a key, to highlight the difference you see between them.
    I'm not sure I get what kind of example you're asking for, especially because your very own example actually works perfectly for what I was talking about? The whole reason the "does my guy steal from his buddy" situation works is because you have assumed that you, the player, would never, EVER have asked yourself that question if a GM hadn't said "hey, here's an opportunity to steal from your buddy, do you do it?" Its exactly for things like that, things you would never think of, that makes having someone else come up with the situation good. It's not just true for Aspects - this is a strength of having a GM in general.
  • edited August 2010
    Posted By: Jason MorningstarGM: Why'd you take "I have a conscience" if you didn't want to help orphans?

    PLAYER: I'm sorta fixated on catching those bandits at this moment. Krogdar will feel bad about it later.
    GM: Why'd you make an illiterate barbarian if you wanted to try to read scrolls and cast spells?

    PLAYER: I'm sorta fixated on casting this spell at the moment. We'll laugh about it later.

    or

    GM: Why'd you make a lecher if you don't pursue girls, or dudes, or whatever?

    PLAYER: Meh, I'm fixated on the mission at the moment.

    Aspects make it mechanically significant to resist the temptations you have identified as being central aspects of the character. That is a good thing.

    Edit PS: Isn't the Key example wrong too, shouldn't the GM's answer be, "Okay, you don't have a conscience anymore, here's 10 XP, do whatever." I like Keys too, I won't run them down at all.
  • My main problem with Aspects is that they don't change in a dynamic way through play.

    That said, Morningstar's examples make sense to me and definitely occurred at the table when I have played SotC and TSoY.
  • edited August 2010
    Posted By: JDCorleyEdit PS: Isn't the Key example wrong too, shouldn't the GM's answer be, "Okay, you don't have a conscience anymore, here's 10 XP, do whatever."
    No, it is all predicated on player choice.

    Looking at where decisions are made at the table is the main differentiator of these two techniques. That some people prefer one over the other isn't surprising, and I'm going to join JD on the high ground and stop slagging the one I personally don't care for.
  • Posted By: JuddMy main problem with Aspects is that they don't change in a dynamic way through play.
    Actually, the smallest unit of advancement, which occurs around once a session, allows a player to change one of their Aspects. At least this is the way it is in FATE3 games, I don't know about earlier versions.
  • edited August 2010
    Posted By: Jason MorningstarNo, it is all predicated on player choice.
    Thanks for the clarification. Keys are cool, I don't have anything bad to say about them unless (like above) I use a straw-version of them.
  • JD: I can see how what you're saying would work if the player really understands the value of narrative development, and places that as the first priority. The problem is that a player isn't always in that frame of mind. I think Jason's example just above your post actually illustrates the problem better than my own example. Sometimes a player is interested in the same sort of narrative development the GM is interested in, but sometimes he isn't. The compel gives the GM the power (indeed, encourages him) to push it his own way, to take the right to choose away from the player who created the character, no matter how the player is feeling at the time.

    I guess, especially after reading Apocalypse World, I've developed a strong preference for the style of GMing that gives players really tough choices, but at the same time gives them total freedom to make those choices however they feel is correct. Fate seems to call for a different style, where players give up some control over their characters' choices in order to gain a different choice of whether the choice is worth their Fate resource or not. This second style hasn't been as interesting as the first one, in my personal experience.
    Posted By: JDCorleyAnd when you put up a chip to say "No, GM, my guy reaches down deep into his reserves, calls on every ounce of decency he has, and ignores the golden opportunity to rip off his buddy", that is a strong statement about the character, and everyone will remember it forever.
    Now this I see as a problem. If my spending a Fate point to resist my character's "Greedy" aspect, and this is a strong statement about my character that everyone will remember forever, shouldn't it change my character in some way? With a key, I may turn away from my greed temporarily just by not stealing from my buddy because my friendship is more important than my desire for the thing I want to steal, or I may choose to make it a revelatory experience for my character, when he realizes that friendship really is more important than greed, and he actually buys off that key, destroying it, and replacing it with two other keys, one about the importance of friendship, and one about manipulation perhaps, so that my character doesn't necessarily want to steal everything in sight anymore, but maybe isn't above convincing people to give him things.

    As Judd points out, keys let me make that dynamic sort of permanent change for my character in any important moment, as I choose, without anyone forcing me to do anything. Aspects stay the same, even if I'm forced to pay a Fate point to resist them. I can change an aspect around once per session, but it doesn't have that same dramatic punch that a key buyoff has.

    And, sorry in advance for being nit-picky with examples:
    Posted By: JDCorleyGM: Why'd you make an illiterate barbarian if you wanted to try to read scrolls and cast spells?

    PLAYER: I'm sorta fixated on casting this spell at the moment. We'll laugh about it later.
    I think this is an issue of skills and abilities, not keys and aspects, as such. An illiterate barbarian shouldn't be able to cast spells in generic fantasy settings, should he? ... no matter what keys he has.
    Posted By: JDCorleyGM: Why'd you make a lecher if you don't pursue girls, or dudes, or whatever?

    PLAYER: Meh, I'm fixated on the mission at the moment.
    And with this one, as a GM, I'd be okay with that answer on the part of the player. I don't feel I have the right to charge him a resource point just because I think it would be more interesting if he went off to act like a lecher.
  • Posted By: KayfallAspects, at least to a certain extent, take control of your character away from you and give it to the GM.
    Hmmm. Still thinking about whether this is a bug or a feature. My opinion on this in the last 5 or 10 years has shifted around.

    I mean, it seems to me that it's sort of the point of "Addicted to heroin" that you don't get to just decide when it'll be convenient or not.

    And if it's true for heroin, should it be any less true for having a conscience? Hmmm. Still not sure either way.
  • Yeah I'm not sure about addictions, in which you really do lose control over yourself, but I think keys are better for most situations.

    In a way, turning down the reward from a key is like taking an unpaid vacation.

    Resisting an aspect compel on the other hand, is like taking a upaid vacation and then paying your boss the same amount of money he would have paid you during that time. It doesn't seem fair.
  • edited August 2010
    Posted By: Kayfallhe compel gives the GM the power (indeed, encourages him) to push it his own way, to take the right to choose away from the player who created the character, no matter how the player is feeling at the time.
    No, it doesn't, not at all, not in the least, not the tiniest bit. You chose the Aspect (and if it's not the first session, you decided to keep the same Aspect each session), and you choose whether or not you give in to the compel offered by the GM. The only time that latter part isn't true is when your character is so beaten down, so worn out, that they fall back on their worst habits and at best have to make up for it later. FATE is not a game where you get to have your character completely ignore all their flaws forever. That's fine for some games. I've played in many D&D games where having a character with any negative qualities would detract from beating the dungeon. "Dude, of course the chained-up maiden down here is a trap, the chained up maiden is always a trap!" There's plenty of games like that, FATE is not like that.
    Posted By: KayfallIf my spending a Fate point to resist my character's "Greedy" aspect, and this is a strong statement about my character that everyone will remember forever, shouldn't it change my character in some way?
    It might, that's up to you, when you reach a minor milestone (which you do about once a session), you can choose to change that Aspect. It's up to you. It's up to you. It's up to you. Not the GM, not the game designer, you. You decide to keep that Aspect, or change it, or whatever. The Aspect is your responsibility, one hundred percent. All the GM does is run the world in such a way as to provide interesting situations tied to your Aspects, both positive and negative.
  • My experience with Diaspora and LB were that aspects are one more thing for the already-busy GM to handle (in cases with no self-compel), whereas keys gave players something to look for. Given that the GM usually has more on her plate than each player individually, keys seemed to be used much more often. Our Diaspora GM said he "should have" compelled more, but as I said, he already had NPCs to run, scenes to set up,etc. So that's totally understandable.

    Personally, as a player as well as someone who GMs quite a bit, I much prefer keys.
  • edited August 2010
    Posted By: Christian GriffenMy experience with Diaspora and LB were that aspects are one more thing for the already-busy GM to handle (in cases with no self-compel), whereas keys gave players something to look for. Given that the GM usually has more on her plate than each player individually, keys seemed to be used much more often.
    The way I avoid this issue...and there are some good materials about this in Dresden, I don't remember seeing it in other FATE materials...is by using at least the Trouble Aspects to organize the rest of the game. In other words, I don't have to "juggle" both PC Aspects and NPCs because the NPCs have traction because they ping on positive or negative areas of PC Aspects.

    As an example, I'm currently running a Victorian-era adventure/occult game and one of the character's Trouble Aspects is "How did he do that?" The character is a former stage magician who gave up the stage when he decided it just got too easy to fool audiences. Now when he hears about an impossible crime or illusion, he's Compelled to get involved and figure out How He Did That. Naturally, the NPC that leaps to mind is a theatrical villain who has the Aspect "Naturellement, I am smarter than you." I don't have to "juggle" the Aspect, whenever this villain shows up, adjusting his exquisite moustache, the hero is leaping to the fore and I'm taunting him extravagantly, and compels and invokes are flying fast and furious. With no clear, explicit Aspect, I'm left in the "just roleplay it" department I would be in with, say, Call of Cthulhu, and there's nothing wrong with that, but having a motivation mechanic actually gives me a strong campaign design direction, which is a very good thing.

    A Key that a player can choose to follow or not, that's good too, both of them provide good guidance in this area. Just as Key proponents say that players select Keys so they can engage with them, I say the same thing for Aspects. And in both cases, maybe you fucked up and you weren't as interested as you thought, so in both cases, you change things up. Both, to me, are quite cool.
  • In the grand scheme of things we're splitting hairs, for sure. Keys lack the infernal taint of the GM's greasy paws and that's the main difference to me. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing is a culture of play issue straight up.
  • edited August 2010
    Posted By: Jason MorningstarKeys lack the infernal taint of the GM's greasy paws and that's the main difference to me.
    JDC: Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood
    Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather
    The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
    Making the green one red.

    JDC'S WIFE: Don't be so dramatic, look, your hands are fine, now go put the grapes on the table, the rest of the players will be here soon.
  • As a guy who once wrote a game that had some Keys in it, I like 'em both, for different reasons.

    The ways Aspects normally work give the game a nice economy of temporary benefits (Fate Points), which Keys (at least in TSOY) power permanent character enhancement, which I think is the major difference. Aspects are also way more flexible, in that they can be used for attaching temporary benefit generators to anything in the game - NPCs, environments, weapons, for a few examples.
  • Posted By: Jason MorningstarGM: There's an orphan crying in the road. She's apparently the only survivor...
    Did you have an actual game where you had something like this occur? Because the example rings pretty false to me, especially by Dresden standards. It sounds like that'd be worth talking out, but I don't want to derail the thread. What should we do about that?

    (For the record, my opinion on the OP is about the same as Clinton's.)
  • Seems like people are saying that Aspects can be abused by the GM if he tosses meaningless compels. Correspondingly, Keys can be abused by the players if they ignore it whenever it is awkward. Nothing's perfect.

    It might be interesting to have both. Aspects for a relatively minor and flexible boost and keys as a "larger" items that capture character change.
  • edited August 2010
    Posted By: Leonard BalseraDid you have an actual game where you had something like this occur? Because the example rings pretty false to me,
    No, I made it up to illustrate my point. I tried to invent the most obvious, vanilla situation into which a GM was injecting a decision based on a player's flag.
  • In Diaspora, every PC has 10 aspects. That's 30 aspects that the GM had to juggle in our game with 3 PCs, plus aspects of the scene, enemies, etc. It was pretty unwieldy IME. Maybe Dresden Files does it differently, according to Jason C's post; I sure hope so.
  • edited August 2010
    Posted By: Christian GriffenIn Diaspora, every PC has 10 aspects. That's 30 aspects that the GM had to juggle in our game with 3 PCs, plus aspects of the scene, enemies, etc. It was pretty unwieldy IME. Maybe Dresden Files does it differently, according to Jason C's post; I sure hope so.
    Yeah, but the GM doesn't need to juggle all 30 each session - what I do is think about the session to come and use the Aspects as flags for Sorcerer-style bangs. These needn't end up being compels, but they very likely will, and I'd pick maybe 2 Aspects per character to prep an idea each - ones that double up and hit more than one PC's Aspect at a time are even better..

    Then during the session, drop these in when the opportunity presents. Next session, maybe recylce unused 'bangs' from last session and pick different Aspects from those you picked on last session to top these up. Couple this with self-compels and there you go!
  • edited August 2010
    Would people's opinions about Keys and Aspects be different if they were applied to the PCs as a group rather than each character? Perhaps Keys for characters and Aspects for the whole group? (that way the GM need only remember compels that effect the group's actions) (or affect the group's actions as the case may be...)
  • edited August 2010
    I don't think that the number of aspects is relevant here--it's a salt to taste thing, trivially adjusted on the fly. What is at stake, though, is compels and what they do or don't do, and my feeling from fan correspondence and personal experience is that they don't deliver as advertised just by following the rules. So there's either some secret rule unspoken or they are highly dependent on some fickle turn of taste, and either way that's a problem.

    I dont know from keys but I have stolen some stuff here to repair what feels like defects in an upcoming game that used to be fate.

    Edit: here's a linky to my thinky.
  • edited August 2010
    +1 to that. I played a Spirit of the Century campaign earlier this year, and compels rarely came up, and when they did, they were often flat. (In my epic, much-dreamed-of Marxist steampunk Fate game - which I keep not playing in favor of other things - I plan to drop compels altogether.)

    On a positive note, both Keys and Aspects are brilliant game mechanics that help us create character-driven games that are fun to play. They make for different games, in practice, and both are good and deserving of praise.
  • Posted By: Christian GriffenIn Diaspora, every PC has 10 aspects. That's 30 aspects that the GM had to juggle in our game with 3 PCs, plus aspects of the scene, enemies, etc.
    Dresden has 7:

    1 is a Concept aspect, usually this one doesn't get compelled very much, but players get to invoke it when performing actions related to their core area.

    1 is a Trouble aspect, usually this one doesn't get invoked very much, it's basically a giant flag saying "Yo, GM, here is the crazy stuff I want my guy to get involved in to his detriment".

    5 are related to backgrounds: 1 upbringing, 1 a formative experience, 1 a "first adventure" and 2 aspects related to relationships with other characters.

    It's totally okay to have an Aspect that can't really, or isn't easily compelled, that Aspect will just be a drain on your fate points. It's also totally okay to have an Aspect that is virtually always a drag on you, that Aspect will be a fountain of fate points. In fact, it's hard to write 5 Aspects that have both positive and negative outcomes. The goal is to have a good mixture.

    Again, as noted, I don't have to remember/think about 28 Aspects, plus NPCs, plus locations, plus enemies, because the plot and trappings of the plot are all connected to the PCs and their drives. They will naturally draw out the PC's Aspects because that's how I made them.
  • edited August 2010
    Aspects and Keys seem to be differentiated by two points:

    * Players cannot ignore an Aspect if the GM compels it. Players can ignore a Key if the GM tries to compel it.
    * Players can "sell" a Key for big XP at any time. Players can rewrite just one Aspect per session (and for no XP benefit).

    I believe Aspects can also be used to "tag" any game element, e.g. "ship on fire". But would a GM compel a player to pay a Fate point or jump overboard because of the "ship on fire" Aspect, an Aspect neither chosen by the player nor tagged to his character?
  • I think keys and aspects are broadly the same type of tool for slightly different specialized purposes. That purpose being, where do you want the majority of proactivity coming from in your game?

    Assuming quality players engaging properly with the system:
    In a Key based game some proactivity will come from the GM but the majority will come from the players.
    In an Aspect based game some proactivity will come from the players but the majority will come from the GM.

    Fate is a much more traditional power distribution in that regard than TSOY...by design I'm reasonably certain.

    I don't have a conceptual preference, though I do have a definite ergonomic preference (gaiming ergonomics being the physical manipulation of the games bits).
    Fate style Aspects are just easier ergonomically speaking to use. You never have that many, they're represented by chips, you get one you spend one, eazy peezy.
    TSOY style Keys require alot more bean counting. A lot more accounting. A lot more vetting. A lot more tracking. Alot more paperwork. Maybe not alot in absolute terms, but alot relative to Aspects.

    If someone figures out a way to streamline the ergonomics of Keys so they work as smoothly as Aspects I'll call the two methods dead even in effectiveness.
  • Posted By: Chris PetersonPlayers cannot ignore an Aspect if the GM compels it.
    Well, they can, but they have to pay for the privilege.
    Posted By: Chris PetersonPlayers can rewrite just one Aspect per session (and for no XP benefit).
    Well, there isn't really any XP as such in the whole system, you're really tracking different things (refresh/stunts/powers, Aspects, and skills). There is no XP to benefit.
    Posted By: Chris PetersonBut would a GM compel a player to pay a Fate point or jump overboard because of the "ship on fire" Aspect, an Aspect neither chosen by the player nor tagged to his character?
    You can only compel Aspects that are on a character. I can't even imagine how this situation would make sense. Who would get the chip, the player, the guy who set the fire, the fire itself? I donno.
  • Posted By: JDCorley You can only compel Aspects that are on a character. I can't even imagine how this situation would make sense. Who would get the chip, the player, the guy who set the fire, the fire itself? I donno.
    I do this all the time, and the player I am directly compelling to act gets the chip. Plus the compel should never be - "You jump off the ship!" it should be "the ship is on fire, and you think it is going to blow soon so you should get off or do somthing to stop the fire quick!" Even better would be something like "The McGuffin is down below, unfortunately the ship if on fire so you have a very small window to get down there and back safely...."

    Compels should never remove the choice to act from a player by dictating what they have to do, it should add a complication that makes a scene more interesting or provide a choice for the player to make.

    So like the Barbarian with a conscience up above, that compel is weak sauce. I would go for something like "You see a crying orphan on the road, a victim of the villains you are chasing, what does your conscience demand you do?" That sounds like a fun compel and makes more of a Bang and less of a dick move by the GM to me.

    - Colin
  • I love them both, and both have changed my games.

    Keys (My prefered incarnation is the LB variety.)
    -Reward for playing your character.
    -Oriented toward motivations.
    -Advancement engine.
    -Engine producing game mechanical benefit for conflicts.
    -Mechanism for thematic statements encouraging and/or in the form of character change through buyoffs.
    -Relies somewhat on GM support for full effect. Doesn't actually require GM support. (MOstly GM centered/initiated but including self-compels)

    Aspects
    -Highly flexible mechanic for highlighting the "character" of a character.
    -Include but not restricted to motivations.
    -Optional mechanism for character change (I am pretty sure changing Aspects was optional in SOTC. Not really sure of the rest.)
    -Engine producing game mechanical benefit for conflicts.
    -Mechanism for thematic statements encouraging and/or in the form of character change through resisted compels.
    -Relies somewhat on GM enforcement for full effect. Doesn't actually require GM enforcement. (Player centered by exclusively self compels, enhanced by GM assistance.)

    The biggest difference for me is the fractal nature of Aspects and their universal utility in reinforcing theme/color/tone etc... When in need of a way to encourage playing to some narrative element, make it an Aspect. Can't do that with Keys. Aspect have the same effect on any scale. When in a human scale conflict like a foot race for the Aspect Fleet-footed, when in a god/ess scale conflict like compelling Job to forsake his faith with My Life I Owe to God Aspect, or even at a middle scale confict like two planet sized star cruisers about to do battle with Ion Shield Aspect: the effect is the same despite the difference in scale. Each means something at the level that it is used. In the end, Aspects just seem a little more flexible than Keys. Really, either could be hacked some by adopting the other's methods of addressing the game, like adding buyoffs to Aspects or cannonizing and promoting self-compels for Aspects, but hacking Aspects seems easier than hacking Keys. Keys could be hacked to make them closer to Aspects, but the fact that Aspects encompass more than motivations is a bonus above Keys.

    I think a game could have both Keys and Aspects. They do slightly different things, even if they have significant overlap. I have not read Dresden Files, but it sounds like Aspects in that game have been organized in a way that makes some of them function a little more like Keys.
  • So, has someone tried hacking Fate so that compels are free to ignore? i.e. Whenever the GM compels a player, that player can either ignore it at no cost, or take a fate point.

    If anyone has tried this, did it work? Or did it break the game horribly?

    Also, all of the compel examples in Diaspora (the first Fate game I've read, though not played yet) are of the form:

    Player: I want to do X
    GM: Nope. I compel you to inaction. Pay a fate point or sit there stupidly.

    I probably missed the examples that are not like this, but the point is that reading these examples made we very wary about using compels at all, and even seeing that there is another way to do it I can't shake my initial distrust of the idea.
  • edited August 2010
    Totally off-topic:
    Posted By: KayfallAn illiterate barbarian shouldn't be able to cast spells in generic fantasy settings, should he?
    Hell yes! It requires a bloody axe, not some poncy spell-book.
  • Posted By: Nameless
    The biggest difference for me is the fractal nature of Aspects and their universal utility in reinforcing theme/color/tone etc... When in need of a way to encourage playing to some narrative element, make it an Aspect.
    I have not played Fate, but this I can speak to a little, here. I used Key Elements to a similar end.
  • edited August 2010
    Posted By: netwombleSo, has someone tried hacking Fate so that compels are free to ignore? i.e. Whenever the GM compels a player, that player can either ignore it at no cost, or take a fate point.

    If anyone has tried this, did it work? Or did it break the game horribly?
    Working on this now, though it's getting less Fate-like by the moment. Plenty of practical talk at blue collar space.
    Also, all of the compel examples in Diaspora (the first Fate game I've read, though not played yet) are of the form:

    Player: I want to do X
    GM: Nope. I compel you to inaction. Pay a fate point or sit there stupidly.
    Yes, the examples are misleading, at least in part because most of the time they occur where we're describing using a mini-game as a wargame, where the role of the referee is reduced or omitted and so the variation of a referee's discretion is better distilled down to a simple mechanical outcome than left vague. However, this text also reveals my personal distrust of the compel system -- I think it's inadequately defined and results in inconsistent play from table to table, and a lot of that play is boring or aggravating, which successful tables find baffling but can't really explain why in a way that prevents the problem.

    I didn't know I had a problem with compels while writing Diaspora though. :D
  • Lots of stuff to respond to since I last had a chance to write on this thread, but here's a quick response to Halfjack: I was just listening to a podcast from "actual people, actual play" where they talk about the problems they had with compelling aspects and I was wondering what you might have been thinking or feeling when writing Diaspora. I know for my part, I've been really enthusiastic about Aspects and compelling for a long time, and I thought there was something wrong with *me* personally when I wasn't able to compel them in an interesting way as the GM. Only now, having been able to think about aspects in their relationship to a lot of other system mechanics, as well as the different ways games have tried to explain them, did some of the problems inherent in them become apparent to me.

    Compelling aspects properly is kind of like "being a good GM" in a traditional RPG -- you have to really write books about it, discuss it a lot, and work hard to understand it. It doesn't come naturally to you the way that following a key might, and I think one of the main goals of game design should be to make its mechanics as instantly accessible to people as possible. It's SO hard to do that, but struggling one's way through it is just the path you have to take as a growing game designer.

    Having said that, it could be that someone will be able to explain aspects and compels in just the right language so that they can become accessible to people, at which point even older games that reference them could suddenly become much more playable, even for new gamers (or people like me who have issues like we're talking about in this thread). Maybe the next step in this direction is a move as far away from Fate as Fate itself was from Fudge.
  • edited August 2010
    Ah, the old "I should be able to be good at this without working at it!" idea. It never goes away. Of course people want cake with no calories, and free money. Being a good GM is a skill and it is fun to develop your skills at a game. Michael Jordan practiced a lot of basketball. Gary Kasparov plays a lot of chess. It is not a mistake to create a game that calls on you to improve your skills to maximize your enjoyment.

    That said, I don't think the Aspects language in Dresden is weird, I got it pretty much straight up, everything I say above is primarily from that version of FATE. (The main thing in Spirit of the Century's FATE I had a hard time grasping was the role of stunts/powers in the system.) I haven't read Diaspora all the way through so I don't know what the issue is there.
  • One thing I like about Lady Blackbird is that if you spend your pool dice back on a roll, and then fail, you get those dice you spent back, plus one. If you succeed, on the other hand, you lose whatever pool dice you spent, and you have to get them back either by hitting keys or by having a "refreshment scene." I think the mechanic feel just right in terms of encouraging people to spend points, and also helps make it clear how increased danger (from your failure on the roll) leads to more resource points for you to succeed next time. I wonder if Fate can somehow be earned through a failed roll of some kind -- for example if your GM offers you a fate point as a temptation for the negative side of one of your aspects, perhaps you can roll a skill to resist the temptation, then still get the point if you fail, but you don't get the point if you succeed; you just go on with what you wanted to do. If you like, you could even spend Fate points on the roll to make sure you succeed.

    It seems like this sort of thing would solve some of the problems some people are having. Or is it totally a Bad Idea?

    (JD: Maybe Dresden Files is "that game" I was talking about, which can expand our minds and make compels easily accessible to everyone. I haven't heard enough feedback on it to know for sure. Is there some way to quote a small part of the text for me, as an example of a really lucid explanation?)
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