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Aspects, Revisited
by Fred Hicks

Editor's Introduction

Back in first issue of Fudge Factor, Fred Hicks presented us with an article on Aspects. In this issue, Fred revisits Aspects with some worked examples of how you can use Aspects in your Fudge game.

Example 1: Contact

Your character once worked for the Duke and has known him for some time both as a friend and as an employer. Due to the strength of this bond, your GM awards you a one-level Aspect -- Contact: Duke I.

Involuntary invocation:

The Duke calls upon your character (and through association, your character's friends) to help him deal with a bandit infestation plaguing his duchy. This is in the middle of another, larger plot that your party is working through, so it's definitely a distraction from pursuing that resolution. The Duke, however, is very insistent.

Acquiesence: The bonds of friendship are strong, and you agree to take a detour and help him out. After all, keeping this friendship alive could help you all out down the road. This plays to the invocation, so the GM awards you one fudge point (one point for a one-level aspect).

Refusal: While the bonds of friendship are strong, the goal you and your other friends are pursuing has top priority right now. You send your regrets to the Duke, explaining the situation, and promising you'll come back when the bigger issue is handled. You're wiggling out of this invocation, so you pay the GM one fudge point for ducking out of the obligation.

Voluntary invocation:

You're in the thick of things and could really use a little backing from a nobleman to get in to see the King about an important issue, as he hasn't been willing to allow you an appointment.

You contact your good friend the Duke and ask him to see what he can do to help out. Check off your one box for the Duke, and get a +2 bonus to your next Courtly Influence roll to get the appointment made.

Example 2: Artifact

Your character has a magic sword, once wielded by a hero of legend. It is a versatile thing, rumored to have powers you yourself haven't as yet unlocked. You spend two of your Aspect levels on the sword -- Item: Magic Sword II.

Involuntary invocation:

With great items comes great envy. And you don't always have an option to buy out of an involuntary invocation (that is, yes, subject to GM's whim -- some plot elements are mandatory).

The GM has decided that there is an ancient society dedicated to controlling the sword, a sword they should have found, but you found it first. They're after it, and harry you and your other party members from time to time in their efforts to reclaim it. Each time this happens, the GM is effectively performing an involuntary invocation of your aspect, and pays you two fudge points.

Voluntary invocation:

This is why you took this puppy as a multi-level aspect. Purely on the combat scale, you can get two +2's out of it over the course of a fight (significant if you're using my fudge point mechanic, which is only one spent per roll, and only for a +1 effect, as detailed in the earlier article), or for one big +3 wallop if you check off both boxes at a time.

However, since part of the writeup for this aspect includes "powers you haven't yet unlocked", you might find the GM allowing you to check off boxes for bonuses in other circumstances, on other skill rolls.

This is the nice thing about using Aspects for defining resources; they're a source of over-and-above bonuses on crucial die rolls whenever you can bring them to bear, and Aspects provide a codified way to do that, even for resources more vague than a magic sword (such as a Well-Fortified Manor, where you might get bonuses for recuperation, defense, and hiding when on its grounds).

I think this also brings up an interesting point which may not have been made clear: Aspects are fitted strongly to the idea of "story elements." Yes, you could have a Well-Fortified Manor that isn't an Aspect, but what bonuses you might get from it would be fleeting and entirely subject to GM whim. As an Aspect, it's an important part of your character's story, and as such, you're able to bring it to bear time and again.

Example 3: Sidekick

In my Fudge Amber game, Sonnet has a sidekick named Lucan. He's a cynical mischief-maker, a former stableboy who had the hots for Sonnet but was given injury for his wandering eye by Sonnet's father. Since then, he's set aside the romantic angle, but has nonetheless entered into her service. He's a sneak, a rogue, and an everyman sort of guy who's been tossed into a lot of bizarre and supernatural circumstances. He is, regardless, damned useful -- Sidekick: Lucan II

Involuntary invocation:

Sonnet was engaged in a tense and carefully managed back-and-forth with a nobleman who clearly had designs on her virtue. Lucan, being a mischief-maker, forged a note from Sonnet to this nobleman making it seem she was more receptive to his advances than she'd been letting on to date. Sonnet raged, locked him in the wardrobe, and then set off to dodge the consequences. The GM gave her two fudge points for this involuntary consequence of keeping Lucan's company.

The same sort of thing might come up with a "Lucan's been kidnapped" sort of plotline, or any number of other things where having Lucan around is more of a poke in the eye than a helping hand.

Voluntary invocation:

Much like the magic sword, Lucan is a flexible resource usable in a variety of circumstances. He pulls Sonnet out of fires and harm's way; he can help out in a fight; he can sneak off and gather information. Because he's an NPC, I fudge his sheet regularly -- he doesn't really have a sheet, when it comes down to it, since, as a story element, it's his job to become useful whenever Sonnet's player decides to check off one of her Aspect boxes.

Examples include when Sonnet was facing her magically created evil twin, and said twin was holding a knife to Lucan's throat and putting him between them. While Sonnet and her doppelganger were trading insults, Lucan was stretching himself, shifting his footing, and at the right moment, dropped through the double's hold, creating an opening for Sonnet, who struck clean and true to its heart (thanks to a +2 from the invocation of Lucan).

Other Circumstances:

In other circumstances, it's not necessarily a clear-cut modification of Sonnet's skill rolls, such as, "I ask Lucan to sneak off while we're having dinner and riffle through the Count's letters."

In these cases, as a GM, I could go either voluntary or involuntary.

If it's voluntary, I have her check off a box for Lucan, and use that +2 to represent his base skill at getting this job done (+2 to a base Mediocre competence could indicate he's Good at this, if you're looking for something like that).

If it's involuntary, maybe he gets the info, maybe he doesn't, but he does get caught at it, introducing any number of unfortunate consequences (and some fudge points payed to Sonnet for her troubles).

Conclusion

Hopefully this series of examples will help clarify how aspects outside the Personal can be used in your games. If they're not a good fit, again, don't use 'em -- but they've worked great for me to date (about 60 hours of gameplay so far).

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