Why would anyone want to add Fate into D&D? They’re so completely different that they couldn’t possibly combined, right? Wrong. In this, the Aspect Conversion, the bit of Fate (Aspects) that I add into D&D is so different that it is incapable of stepping on D&D’s toes. Aspects add story and character to your D&D game.
If you’ve got a really good roleplaying group, you maybe won’t bother with this, but so many groups have players who can’t/don’t roleplay without coercion. Well, this applies a coercion that players won’t want to ignore by putting an easy-to-use mechanic that rewards role-playing.
The Skill Conversion that I’ll include in my next post goes a step further, expanding the skill system to allow for more Aspect creation (keep reading to learn about Aspects).
If you’re curious about Fate, I’ve got a few posts dedicated to it. Also, the pdfs for the rules are pay-what-you-like. There are two different rulesets: Fate Core and Fate Accelerated Edition. Fate Core is the main version, whereas FAE simplifies the definitions of some mechanics to make it easier to jump right in and learn, while being less robust. You could also check out the free SRD site, which has both books copied into a web format.
For All Editions!
This post’s conversion is applicable to all editions of D&D with some differences suggested. Wow, this is a short section…
The Aspects Conversion
Give characters a Refresh value and some Aspects (I will describe in a bit). Amounts of each will vary, depending on edition complexity and the ability of your group to manage the complexity.
Aspects are short phrases (not usually sentences, unless it’s a quote) that describe the character. There are 2 major kinds of Aspects, plus general Aspects.
The first major kind is called the High Concept. The High Concept is the label that you would give as a very obvious description of a character. It’s who that character is in a strong way. So, when Captain American asks Tony Stark, “Take that [armor] away, what are you?” Tony’s response of “Genius billionaire playboy philanthropist” could be a good High Concept for him, except that High Concepts usually only cover one or two main ideas.
Often, in Fate, people use what could be considered their race and class as their High Concept, but that’s a little silly in D&D, since both already provide you with mechanical benefits. If you want to something similar, you can try and describe your specific role in the world, in relation to your class or race. An example would be High Priest of Athanarc (totally just made that up) instead of Cleric. It suggests extra things that Cleric doesn’t; as a High Priest, you have more power over the rest of the clergy, and you may have a closer relationship with the god. Stating the god you serve may help guide your character’s actions more so than just the domain the character uses. This is harder to do for race, but if you describe how you’re different from your race, such as Impatient Elf.
The other major kind of Aspect is called a Trouble. A Trouble is an aspect that gets you into trouble. It can be a sort of compulsion that they can’t shake the habit of (such as Compulsive Gambler) or a long-lasting problem they have to deal with (such as Mob Wants Me Dead). It can actually be something good that gets you into trouble (Must Protect My Family From My Enemies); it doesn’t have to be all bad, just mostly.
For some more help coming up with Aspects, you can look through the books or the Making a Good Aspect section of the SRD.
When it comes to Aspects in D&D, I would suggest at least a High Concept and a Trouble. I would suggest going with no more than one more Aspect when it comes to 3.x, Pathfinder, and 4E, since players have enough stuff to keep track of in those editions. In the simpler editions, I would suggest 1 or 2 more Aspects.
But these Aspects serve as nothing more than guides until you add in Fate Points and Refresh.
Fate Points and Refresh
Fate Points are the mechanical part that works with Aspects to make the game more narrative. There’s a clever back and forth economy with Fate Points tied in with the use of Aspects that adds to the story of your game.
Refresh is simply the number of Fate Points that you go back up to at the start of each session, but only if you finished off the previous session with fewer points than Refresh. If you had more at the end of the previous session, then you have that many to start the current one.
There are two ways that Fate Points get moved around: invoking and compelling. Invoking an Aspect is how players spend their Fate Points, whereas Compelling and Aspect is how they’re gained.
I’ll give the basics, but if you want a better understanding of how this is done, check out the Invoking and Compelling part of Fate’s rules.
Whenever you’re making a roll, you can choose to Invoke either your Aspect, the enemy’s Aspect (bad guys have Aspects, too), or a Situation Aspect (an Aspect that applies to the scene or location) to get a free reroll (sticking with the new result) or a +3 (Fate uses a +2, but the dice only roll between -4 and +4). You are allowed to choose this AFTER you’ve made the roll, but BEFORE you find out if it succeeds or not. If you Invoke and Aspect on an enemy, your Fate Point that you spent goes to them. The reverse is true, too. If they invoke one of your Aspects, you get the point. Another thing Invoking can do it give a damage bonus. I would suggest a bonus of 2 + ½ level damage.
Invoking isn’t quite that easy; the Aspect has to be pertinent to what you’re trying to do. For example, Tony Stark would get to Invoke his High Concept of Genius Billionaire Playboy Philanthropist to get a reroll or bonus to a roll if he were trying to convince a woman to do something for him (because he’s a playboy).
Compelling an Aspect can be difficult to find times and places to do, but it’s always worth it. The DM Compels the Aspect of one of the players to make the situation worse. For example, the players are at a casino to discuss something with the owner. The DM notices that one of his players has the Compulsive Gambler Aspect, so he decides to Compel it to make the situation worse by making it so the character did some gambling and used up all his money and even bet his car. Luckily, at this point, the player of that character can actually decide whether this actually happens, but to refuse a Compel means that he loses a Fate Point in order for his character to fight his natural tendencies. But if the player accepts the Compel, he is rewarded a Fate Point. If a player has no Fate Points, then he cannot refuse a Compel.
A lot of times, coming up with a Compel is difficult, but it really makes the game more fun and interesting. So, if you’d like some tips and templates for how to come up with some, go to the link above.
It should be noted that the SRD links will mention mechanics (such as free invokes) that cannot be done with just the Aspect Conversion here. I hope you’re able to go through it without too much confusion. Some of this can be added with a more complex conversion, but after a certain point, you might as well just switch to playing Fate instead of D&D (which isn’t a bad idea; I have lots of fun with both).
So, that’s the most useful part of Fate to add into your D&D game. It really strengthens the story-telling aspect of the game and makes it less of a mechanical math game. Stay tuned for my next article about adding Fate into D&D; we’ll be looking at Skill Conversion.