Keeping Aspects Interesting

For awhile, we were playing a regular Diaspora campaign, The Precious Few.  We have since set that campaign aside and are playing a couple of Burning Wheel campaigns: Bloodstone and the Butcher, Baker, and Candlestick Maker.

While we were playing the Precious Few campaign, there were several aspects that were constantly compelled or tagged:

  • Cheeky AI
  • “I’ve Got This Easy”
  • “I Love Sound of Gunfire”
  • “I loves my Precious (ship)”
  • “Hidden Resources”
  • “The best pilot you’ve never heard of”

If you ask any of the players, they will likely remember the above aspects; Or at a minimum, that these aspects strongly flavored the campaign.  And I can guarantee that everyone in the campaign will remember the Cheeky AI.

In this regard, aspects are successful.  Everyone from the campaign still bemoans the Precious’ damn cheeky AI.

However, in an aspect’s success was also it’s failing.  Namely, the table felt as though we leaned too heavily on those keystone aspects.  My character, Billy had the following aspects:

  • Father knows best
  • Always looking over my shoulder
  • In the Navy
  • I love the sound of gunfire
  • Former agent of New Florida
  • I have to clear my name
  • Poor judge of character
  • Jaded
  • I read the manual
  • Friends are for keeps

I know that I rarely, if ever, used “Father Knows Best” and “Friends are for Keeps.”

I suspect one of the intrinsic problems is that there are too many Aspects to track. Referencing Magic Number 7, Plus or Minus 2, then I would assert that a character should only have 5 Aspects.

By reducing the number of aspects the amount of “aspect querying” a player would need to do during the session would be reduced.

But, that may not be the desired goal.  A 10 aspect character is almost certainly more nuanced than a 5 aspect character – given a comparable skill at writing aspects. And not every aspect need show up with the same frequency.  If the goal is to instead ensure that you are not leaning to heavily on a given aspect then perhaps a different mechanic would make sense.

Let’s Look at Mouse Guard.  Mouse Guard has character traits, much like Aspects, which can be invoked once per session.  These traits can be refreshed if the character detrimentally invokes a character trait.

I don’t think Diaspora, or other Fate-based games need necessarily limit the amount of tagging or compelling of a given aspect.  For the first tag and compel of an Aspect is at it’s normal rate.  From that point forward tagging it costs 2 Fate points and it’s second compel yields 2 Fate points.  This proposed tweak might gently nudge players and the GM to cycle through a character’s different aspects.