Sunday, January 6, 2013

Urban Fantasy: Character Aspects

FATE Core basically gives each character five aspects. One high concept aspect, one trouble aspect and three aspects derived from the Phase Trio. I don't really like the Phase Trio. It requires too much time to set up and from what I've seen so far, it doesn't really pay off in my games. For other people that might be different. Also, I like to get to actual playing faster (never mind that campaign and character creation is considered to be part of the game).

So I am replacing the Phase Trio with something else, taking my cues from the design diary of White Picket Witches. For that game, each additional aspect relates to some part of the game world (Childhood, Heritage and Casting). In the past, I had considered something similar for designing a Vampire game with FATE (Mortal Background, Vampiric Background, Relationship to another player character and Weakness). So I am going with something similar instead of the Phase Trio.

  • High Concept: The aspect that tells us what your character can do and what he is at his core. Should include something supernatural, if you'd like for your character to take extras. It will serve as the permission for them.
  • Trouble: The aspect that makes things difficult for your character. Follow the advice from FATE Core.
  • Family: An aspect describes your relationship to your family or their living conditions or the state the family is in (e.g. "My Parents are getting a divorce", "Raised by a single dad", "Money is no substitute for love", "The perfect family on the outside - rotten on the inside", "Estranged half-sister" - I am sure the players will come up with better aspects).
  • Relations: The aspect describes the relation of your character to the character of the player sitting to your right. For that aspect, you are going to draw a random card that describes the basics of that relationship and then work something out with the affected player and make that into an aspect on your sheet.
  • School: The last character aspect describes your role in school. It's probably best, if it is not relationship-based, as you already have plenty of both, but rather based on his educational goals, his status at school, personality traits that make life at school easy or hard, some class your character is good at, or features that make him or her stand in school (e.g. "Co-Captain of the Lacrosse Team", "The prettiest cheerleader in school", "Excels at chemistry class", "Student helper in the library" - again just a few quick examples, you'll come up with something better, I am sure).

About Relationships

Here, I like to take a page from Kriegszeppelin Valkyrie (for now only available to backers of the FATE Core Kickstarter). The game recommends to have each player draw an index card with a relationship prompt and then create a scene aspect for that relationship that is more or less permanent. 

I am doing something similar, but I want to have a character aspect for that; something that ties the character to another character while still saying something about the character who has the aspect.

Alternatively, the relationship can be to a non-player character student.

Suggested relationships:
  • Admiration: Your character admires the character of the player to your right. What do you find so admirable about them? Do you aspire to the same qualities? Are you friends? Are you her lackey and do whatever she says?
  • Blackmail: One step up from bullying. You know something that will get the character of the player to your right into deep trouble. What do you know? Who will bring the trouble (a teacher, a parent, another student)? What are you doing to get an advantage out of your knowledge.
  • Bullied: Your character is being bullied by the character of the player to your right. What has he done to draw her attention? Why is she picking on him?
  • Friendship: Your character is best friends with the character of the player to your right. Why? What do they have in common? Why do they trust each other?
  • Love grown cold: Your character was an item with the character of the player to your right. But your love didn't last over the summer. You have split and you have to deal with it. Why did you split up? Do you think it was a mistake to be together in the first place? Do you miss him?
  • Madly in love: Your character is in love with the character of the player to your right and you are an item. How do the other students view your relationship? Do they think you are the perfect couple? Do they want to separate you for "your own good"? Is someone jealous about your love?
  • Rivalry: Your character has a rivalry with the character of the player to your right. What is the rivalry about? Is it a friendly rivalry or an unfriendly one or even antagonistic?
  • Secretly in love with: Your character is or was secretly in love with the character of the player to your right. Determine why she can't be in love with the other character openly.
  • Shared secret: Your character and the character of the player to your right know something the others don't. Is it something funny, something embarrassing, something serious? How did you find out about the secret?
  • Stalking: Your character secretly observes the character of the player to your right. Why? What is so interesting about him? 
Each player should draw an index card and take a look at the relationship. Yes, depending on seating arrangements this could create somewhat akward situations. But to cite Monsterhearts and the author Joe McDaldno: 
"This ... implies something about sexuality, and particularly teenage sexuality. We don’t get to decide what turns us on." 
You can always decide that the relationship happened in the past and was "just a phase". Or you can embrace it and try to move from there. Or you can say "Pretty please" to your game master and ask to draw another index card.

Of course, each game master can think of further relationship possibilities.

In case, the other player character isn't available as often, it is probably best to derive an aspect that says something the motivations or qualities of your character that led to the relationship or that she gets from the relationship instead of mentioning a specific name.

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