It’s On Fire

Fred here. The following is an excerpt of a post I made to the FateRPG Yahoo Group, where someone was trying to wrap their head around the whole “On Fire is an Aspect” thing that pretty much comes up every time someone’s talking about aspects with folks who are less familiar with them. High time I get this written down somewhere official, yeah?

Read on.

Man, that “on fire” thing is probably the biggest buggaboo in all of Fatedom.

So, here’s the thing. Aspects are not the core engine of Fate. They’re the most different from other systems, which makes them, I guess, more obvious, but they’re also not the answer to every “problem” and they’re not the sole thing that drives the game. This, I’ve already said. To go further:

The core engine of Fate — for me, at least, from a design perspective — is the Fate Fractal principle. Search for that text here – – but in short, it’s the idea that anything in the system can be treated as a character. That is to say, to model the thing you want, you should look at the pieces parts of a character, think about what they do, and use the parts that are most appropriate to express what you’re after.

Reduce, reuse, recycle. There’s no need to invent new parts when a recombination of existing parts works out well. Think about aspects, yes, but think about stress tracks, think about skills. (Think about more, too, if you want to get into the down & dirties — stunts, powers, whatever — but I’ll focus on those.)

So, let’s talk about “on fire” a bit in light of that.

Aspect: Aspects give you two functions (more or less) — they create constraints on action via compels, and they provide means for advantage via invocations. So if you’re going to have fire create a reason for the heroes to stay trapped/hold back while the bad guy escapes (a compel!), then the aspect makes good sense. If you’re going to get into a fistfight on the edge of the blaze and want to, y’know, knock the guy back into the fire so he gets singed a bit — invoke/tag that aspect and you’re in great shape. That’s the bounds of it: folks have a shared understanding of what something being on fire means – in terms of how it affects the choices made and the actions available — and the aspect is an interface to a few game mechanisms that support that.

Skill: Skills are there to show how things take action. Fire grows, spreads, and burns. That sounds like moving and attacking actions, to me. So give your fire a skill. It can take an action to intensify (increasing that skill, maybe — or maybe it’s a maneuver, putting more taggable shit-be-burnin’ aspects onto things); spread (take the action, move into another zone); burn (attack people in those zones with its skill, dealing stress and consequences). I mean, why not? Fiction talks about fire as a “living thing” all the time.

Stress track: Maybe your fire’s tough to put out — not as easily dismissed as any other scene aspect. Makes sense. So yeah, give your fire a stress track. Let people attack it with fire extinguishers and oxygen-destruction powers. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Aspects are great. Use them a lot. But don’t let them become blinders. Look around a little. There are other tools in the box.