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Sometimes a possibility for complication presents itself without any particular aspect being obviously associated with it. I've had times when a compel seems to rise naturally out of the narrative, but finding a matching aspect would feel forced and unnatural.

As a GM I could just use fiat to declare that the complication occurs, but I sometimes I like using compels to involve my players in these decisions while simultaneously driving the Fate point economy (allowing them to decline the complication at a price, or rewarding them for accepting the complication). So far as I know, though, compels always build on aspects:

If you’re in a situation where having or being around a certain aspect means your character’s life is more dramatic or complicated, someone can compel the aspect. (Fate Core 71)

I do know the Silver Rule gives us carte blanche to do whatever makes sense in the narrative, including this. I'm still interested in what documentation or discussion exists on the topic of compels without aspects:

  • Does any Fate system talks about compels that have no aspect associated with them?
  • Is this discussed usefully by Fate game designers or players in blogs, forums, or the like?

I'm not asking if I should do this, or if it's a good idea. I'm asking whether there is precedent for aspectless compels.

(I'm tagging this instead of because I welcome answers from any system which uses the Fate engine... and I suspect I need to be that broad in order to get good answers.)

(I have removed the specific examples because they produced answers focused on the examples rather than on the concept I was using the examples to illustrate. I'm not interested in how to justify a specific compel, but in what documentation or discussion exists for this idea of "compels without aspects.")

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@starwed - exactly. The old adage 'when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail' is something that can apply very easily to GMs in a Fate game when it comes to aspects. Unless (and until) it becomes important to the narrative, it's just description that the player (or the gm) can use to then justify their subsequent use if it's going to be relevant. –  wraith808 Oct 9 '13 at 20:23
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Compels are for making things more dramatic or complicated. They can be rejected by the player at a price, and if accepted they give the player a Fate point. That is the point, which means I am specifically talking about "interesting," "important to the narrative" situations. –  BESW Oct 9 '13 at 23:00
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I don't have an answer for you, but this question is great. I do think you need to clarify what kind of answer you are looking for though, because your current request is a bit broad and tri-pronged. –  Inbar Rose Oct 10 '13 at 8:13
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Related: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/26946/… –  wraith808 Oct 10 '13 at 23:17
    
@wraith808 I've significantly re-worked the question to shift focus more on what I'm actually asking about. Perhaps now it's clearer? –  BESW Oct 13 '13 at 6:29
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5 Answers

up vote 12 down vote accepted

No, there is no precedent for aspectless compels.

There's no precedent because this is already handled by an existing mechanic/system/custom that is built into Fate: implicit aspects and/or easy GM-creation of explicit aspects.

There's no point in creating a set of rules to handle "how to compel when there's no aspect", when the system is designed to have aspects pop into existence whenever they're appropriate and relevant. This is normally done by the GM simply declaring that an aspect exists, or just using an aspect without formally declaring it (if it is obviously already there by looking at the state of the fiction).

Creating rules for aspectless compels would be ignoring the easy, already-existing way that the system has for handling those times that the GM wants to compel based on the fiction but notices that there's no explicit aspect yet. Consequently no flavour of Fate has added that sort of second-class way of handling these situations. Without a design pressure against creating aspects on the fly, there's no need for complicating the system with aspectless compels.


In Fate Core terms, this is the Golden Rule at its most basic. This should never happen:

Hm, I think the rain on the cobbles could make them slip or trip, but I don't just want to say it, so I'm going to compel... no wait, there's no aspect...

Because, following the Golden Rule, this should happen:

Hm, I think the rain on the cobbles could make them slip or trip, but I don't just want to say it, so I'm going to compel.

"Hey, I think the Rain on the Cobbles is pretty tricky footing, and you're trying to make an escape here. I'm making that an aspect, by the way: Rain on the Cobbles. I think you slip and trip, and the microfilm case bounces out of your jacket pocket..."

*holds up a Fate point*

Aspects are mechanics, and the Golden Rule is that the rules (mechanics) are never the prime mover. First, find the fiction; second, fit the mechanics to the fiction. So if a GM ever finds themselves in a situation where they want to compel because there is a bit of fiction that could be reason for a compel, that bit of fiction must be an aspect already, and the GM has merely skipped the requirement to recognise it before getting ahead of themselves with compel mechanics.

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This isn't a Compel in any way - this is just narration. It could also be the creation of a Scene Aspect - "raining", which could be guessed at by pretty much anyone present. It doesn't become important until someone spends a Fate point to leverage it, which highlights the fact that it's raining becoming important to the story instead of just flavor or window dressing.

You don't need a player's permission to make life complicated or hard or dramatic - that's your job as a GM. That's what adventures are - hard, dramatic, complex situations.

Compels take narrative control of a character away from a player in exchange for Fate points. They make a PC's life dramatic or complicated by forcing certain actions, decisions, or conditions on the character. The Fate point concretely represents a promise of future narrative control in exchange for a loss of narrative control over a PC now.

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+1 - thanks for putting into an answer what I was trying to say in a comment :) –  wraith808 Oct 10 '13 at 14:48
    
@wraith808 - I +1d your comment and wrote much of this as an elaborate comment...when I realized that it had become an answer. –  gomad Oct 10 '13 at 15:28
    
I've significantly re-worked the question to place more focus on what I'm actually asking about. As this answer is focusing on a specific example I'd given rather than the concept it was an (apparently poor) example of, please review my question and see if you can edit your answer accordingly. –  BESW Oct 13 '13 at 6:31
    
Note that, as of Fate Core, scene aspects are important before they're leveraged with Fate points, because Aspects Are Always True. This means that the Raining aspect can justify other aspects, or make an Overcome necessary that might otherwise not be, and no-one needs to spend Fate to make Raining do that; spending Fate just makes it spotlight-relevant. (Apparently, "Aspects Are Always True" has been part of Fate since the first edition, but it was never explicitly said in a rulebook until Core, since Donahue and Hicks never realised people were playing it any other way.) –  SevenSidedDie Oct 14 '13 at 6:37
    
Actually, I don't think my answer needs to be changed. I think @SevenSidedDie's answer demonstrates what I was saying - that the GM narrated something that became a scene Aspect and was then made significant to the narrative - Fate point exchange ensued. I'm still pretty happy with this answer and think I will just let it be. Note that it wasn't the creation of Raining that required the GM to pay, it was when he took narrative control, making the PC drop something important. –  gomad Oct 14 '13 at 10:04
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If you're all agreed that this sort of thing is a welcome part of the campaign, you might establish a Game Aspect like "Be careful what you wish for" that could be invoked or compelled when similar tropes become relevant.

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Okay, but how does this answer any of the three bullet-pointed questions I'm asking? –  BESW Oct 10 '13 at 2:25
    
@BESW It's a thing that could justify that kind of compel in a FATE game, which was called for in point number 3. –  Jadasc Oct 10 '13 at 3:03
    
But... then it's not a compel without an aspect, which is what I'm concerned with. –  BESW Oct 10 '13 at 3:15
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And I'm saying that the sort of thing you're talking about naturally suggests to me an aspect which may not have occurred to you -- a feature of the campaign that is true and can be exploited by you as GM to make the players' lives interesting. Aside from the iconoclastic pleasure of it, what's the appeal of deciding that this is not a game aspect, but rather the absence of one that can, nevertheless, be compelled? –  Jadasc Oct 10 '13 at 3:41
    
Same as Jadasc, I'd go with "use what works". No point in trying to justify adding a new concept when an established one will do exactly what you're looking for. –  Nigralbus Oct 10 '13 at 13:16
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There is nothing that I'm aware of (admittedly, you're the person who did research on this) in the FATE books that says anything about implied aspects. Mechanically, the game is about taking much of the burden off of the shoulders of the GM and placing it onto the players. So, depending on your situation, there are a couple of ways that I might handle this:

  • If the wilderness is an ongoing problem that the character must deal with rather than a one-shot deal, I would make it (yes, by "it" I mean the wilderness itself) into a fractal with Fate Points and aspects ("Capricious Weather"?) which you can use/invoke/etc. This may seem weird but in literature the land itself can be kind of like a character. This is a big difference, I think, between a game like FATE and a standard RPG which attempts to actually model different conditions like exposure or zero-G environments.

  • If the character says "Boy, I sure wish it didn't rain right now..." then that seems like a prime opportunity for the GM to hold up a Fate point and say "Why, do you (the player) want it to rain?". In this case, since there isn't an actual aspect being compelled but one being created, I don't think that the normal compel rules apply (i.e. if the player says "no" then it doesn't cost him a Fate point) but as the player is adding complications of their own, I think that awarding them a Fate point for that is completely fair and within the rules.

  • If I knew going in that weather might be an issue, I'd explicitly create an aspect at the beginning of the scene such as "The clouds are threatening to let loose". That way, it's a scene aspect which the characters may invoke or that the GM may use to compel.

Otherwise, I think the overriding idea here is to not let the rules get in the way of the narrative, which, as you mentioned, is the Silver Rule. Now, FATE is different from most other RPGs in that it's a lot more collaborative in style, so I don't think that dropping in an aspect out of nowhere to compel players to go into a cave, for instance, is really within the spirit of the rules (not saying that's what you want to do; I'm just heading that option off before it gets brought up) and I would expect players to object because you're taking control of the narrative away from them (again, though, I think if a player brings it up themselves they're implying that they want to create that complication - an experienced FATE player may out and out say "I want to create this aspect to complicate things, so give me a Fate point", but sometimes you have to interpret for newer folks).

Edit: Okay, I think I found something on the FATE blog that's going to get as close as I think you're going to get here.

If we strip away all the divisions we currently have about using aspects, reduce the process down as far as we can, and eliminate artificial distinctions, what we get is the following:

Someone mentions an aspect is relevant to what’s going on in a scene. The nature of that relevance determines who gets a fate point or has to spend one. Someone gets to do one of two things: manipulate the dice, or manipulate the in-game situation (or the story, or the fiction, or whatever you call the part that you roleplay). The appropriate parties exchange Fate points.


Anyway, what matters is that the use of aspects promotes a cyclical flow of fate points from the players to the GM and back out again, rotating the “story power” around the table for the length of the session. The other method we introduced for getting Fate points back in Dresden (cashing out of a conflict via concession) is built from this logic – a concession is basically a “self-compel” of the consequences you’ve taken, with the outcome of you not being able to get what you want out of this fight.

So, there are a couple things that I think one ought to pull from this.

  1. The whole entire point of FATE points is to give the players something back in exchange for taking a little bit of their storytelling powers away from them for a moment, or at least to force them into making consequences they then have to find their way out of (hence the ability for self-compels). Given that, I don't think that the game creators would say anything but that compels can be based on aspects which come from anywhere.

  2. That's not the Silver Rule or Rule Zero or whatever, it's the rules as written. Aspects exist. You can call upon a player to be compelled by one, and if they are, you have to give them a FATE point back. There seems to be absolutely nothing out there about aspects that haven't been explicitly stated at the beginning of the scene and I have to think that that's because, to EvilHat, a question like "how do you compel without an existing aspect?" is a nonsensical question, like "what does Thursday taste like?".

  3. I'll leave the former stuff up there because I think that the "how should I deal with this" question, while not precisely the question you asked, is still probably the foremost thing that a FATE GM/player ought to be thinking about. With a rules system so open, a lot of items are best answered not with a "must" but with a "should".

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I'm not asking how to make it a more normal compel by adding aspects/fractals to justify it; I'm asking whether there's anything which justifies it being a compel without doing that. –  BESW Oct 10 '13 at 0:34
    
Right. I didn't think "no" was a good SE answer. (insert tongue-wag smiley here) –  NotVonKaiser Oct 10 '13 at 3:43
    
"No" is a great SE answer, and one I would happily welcome, if it can be supported. –  BESW Oct 10 '13 at 3:59
    
I'm not sure how one can prove a negative. I've looked through my hard copy of my Core Rulebook and I find nothing that specifically references what you were wanting to do (or see could be done). That doesn't mean you can't, it means there doesn't (yet) appear to be any ruling on the subject. –  NotVonKaiser Oct 10 '13 at 4:08
    
I've significantly re-worked the question to place more focus on what I'm actually asking about. As this answer is focusing on a specific example I'd given rather than the concept it was an (apparently poor) example of, please review my question and see if you can edit your answer accordingly. –  BESW Oct 13 '13 at 6:33
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As a GM I could just use fiat to declare that the complication occurs, but I sometimes I like using compels to involve my players in these decisions while simultaneously driving the Fate point economy (allowing them to decline the complication at a price, or rewarding them for accepting the complication).

I'm not aware of any flavour of Fate that allows the creation of a complication in such a way that on the one hand players are involved in the decision and no previous aspects are required, and on the other hand it works using the fate point economy.

However, Edgerunner comes pretty close in that its rules for Declarations allow one or the other.

On one hand, you can suggest a new aspect, other players may support or oppose the creation of that aspect. This gives rise to a “skill” that contributes to a dice roll in order to decide if the aspect is real or not. (This holds for every player, and every player has the same influence on the result. Equality between “referee” and other players is deeply ingrained in the Edgerunner rules.)

As an alternative form of declaration, it is also possible to compel an aspect into existence, based on another available aspect, subject to the rules of the compel as usual.

So while according to the rules as written this is never an aspect-less compel, according to the Edgerunner rules the main difference between the “referee” and the other players is to play The Rest of the World, a difference between your game as it appears from the question and Edgerunner is that for your game, the aspect (even if implicit) “The GM's job is to make the character's lives interesting” is true, and – given this fact – what you refer to as “aspect-less compel” is a good example of this type of declaration in Edgerunner.

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