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Well, I'm quite new to Fate and today we had our very first session, we had a lot of fun but aspects confused us a lot.

I made the areas so my players would fight a Titan on the forests, one of the areas had a river on it and my player asked me if he could use his "Magical Tactician" aspect to freeze the river and make it slippery for the enemies, however, I told him in order to use the river he needed to use "Create an Advantage" to discover the aspect "River" and use it by spending a Fate Point. Wr discussed a bit about it but none of us understood the rules so well, and in the end we did as I said.

However this made me think how to handle aspects hidden from the players, such as how is someone supposed to know which aspect to uncover from the enemy or how is discovering an aspect better than creating your own... What am I missunderstanding here?

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3 Answers 3

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You do appear to be missing some stuff here. Here's how I'd handle your situation.

(As a foreword: bear in mind your players and the player characters being unaware of an aspect are two very different things, so you should make sure you distinguish between them.)

Entering the Scene

You said you entered a Forest with a River in it. Both of these are significant enough to warrant an aspect on the scene.

  • You should have an aspect on the scene describing the Forest.
  • If the forest has a river and you consider it significant, you should probably have an aspect implying it exists. You could either explicitly mention there's a Fording River, or just consider it implied by the Forest aspect. If there is no such aspect, there may not actually be a river at all!
  • If there isn't a river in the forest, or there might be but nobody's sure yet, you don't need to have an aspect for it. Your players or your NPCs can "discover" it later.

Creating the River

You would handle this very differently.

If there's a river aspect...

The characters might already know about it. It might even be a zone in the conflict! There's no need to "discover" it at all. People can begin using it immediately.

If the characters aren't yet aware of a River, it might not have even been significant enough to warrant creating an aspect for it. If it was that significant and they don't know about it, you're justified in asking them to try to discover it first. Normally you'd save this for bigger stuff, like the characters not yet being aware a recurring NPC is the Vampire Lord (but the players would probably know). This is just a small scene aspect.

If you didn't create a River aspect...

Your player can now Create an Advantage to "discover" the River, and create an aspect on the scene describing it. It was now retroactively there all along - but it only just became significant to the story. For the same reason, you might not worry about describing the small wildlife until someone throws nuts around and creates Squirrels, Squirrels Everywhere!! aspect.

This is your players' most powerful tool for just making things be the case in the world. Bear in mind: if they're in a desert, you'd be justified in making the discovery of a river a Fantastic (+6) challenge, or harder.

Using the River

Your Magical Tactician is at this point aware of a River, one way or another.

Nobody needs to spend any Fate Points to do stuff involving the River. The very existence of an aspect describing one means one exists, and people can interact with it. (Previous versions of Fate might have required a Fate point to use it, but not Core or Accelerated Edition.)

Your players might want to invoke the river (especially if they have free invocations on it), but this isn't required.

Now that the river exists: the Magical Tactician can go ahead and use a regular Create an Advantage action to freeze it and make things slippery. That's it! They can just do that now.

Here's a couple of things they may want to do with that Create an Advantage action:

  • Place a Slippery Ice aspect on the scene itself, allowing them to invoke it regularly around enemies near the river. They might have some free invocations on it to spend as a result of their Create Advantage action. However, the enemies might also invoke this one against them, too.

  • Place an aspect like Slipping on Ice or On Slippery Ice on a single enemy (everyone else will be unaffected). This now inherently means that enemy is busy Slipping on Ice or On Slippery Ice, and they'll have to Overcome that aspect if they want to stop slipping around. This might even mean they can't leave the river until they Overcome it - they're too busy slipping around to get away!

    Your player may now invoke this aspect against that particular slipping enemy whenever they like, until it's Overcome.

    Of course, the slipping enemy could also invoke it themselves: suppose that enemy rolled poorly on their defence, and their attacker is at +1 on this attack. The enemy could invoke their Slipping on Ice aspect to say they suddenly slip over, surprisingly helping them avoid the attack - they get a +2 to their defence roll, and their attacker is now at -1 and might fail their attack roll.

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To answer the question you explicitly asked:

You control what is hidden and what is not as the storyteller.

All aspects should be known except those you are specifically hiding, the Fate Rules suggest there are a few ways to do this, specifically:

In those cases, it is recommended that you don’t make an aspect directly out of whatever fact you’re trying to keep secret. Instead, make the aspect a detail that makes sense in context after the secret is revealed.

Amanda is making an NPC who’s secretly a vampire, the main bad guy in the scenario she’s planning. He’s also a constable in the town the PCs are going to, so she doesn’t want to give things away too easily.

Instead of making a Secretly a Vampire aspect, she decides to make a few personal details instead: Inveterate Night Owl, Tougher Than He Looks, and Wheels Within Wheels. If the PCs discover a couple of these, or see them on the table, they might start to suspect the NPC, but it’s not going to ruin the mystery of the scenario right away.


To address something you might be doing wrong:

You mentioned that one of the zones had a river, if you remember the rules about creating zones, you should give them each a situation aspect or two:

Physical features of the environment (Dense Underbrush, Obscuring Snowdrifts, Low Gravity Planet)

So they should not have had to try to create an advantage to use the river, it should have already been there.

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What Aspects Should Players Know?

Fred Hicks and Lenny Balsera (the guys behind the game) on the mailing lists have generally advocated the view that aspects should be known to the Players (not necessarily the characters) unless there is a compelling reason not to (such as giving away a plot point). The characters have knowledge of any aspects that are observable (such as, in most cases, a river).

Furthermore they have said that aspects are there to give a mechanical representation of narrative realities. The fact that there is a river present means there is a de facto aspect named river. To freeze the river the player just announces his character's intention and rolls.

Creating Aspects

Now let's say you didn't put a river there but you don't really care whether one is present or not:

Option A: Use Create an Advantage to create an aspect.

The Player announces "My character is looking for a source of water" and rolls Create an Advantage with his Notice. On a success there is now the aspect River on the scene which represents the fact that yeah, there's a river right over there and he has a free invoke on the aspect which he can use for a +2 on his next turn when he creates an aspect of slippery ice.

Option B: Use a fate point to declare a story detail.

The player announces "By the way, I'm going to use the river that's been right here all along and freeze it" while handing you a Fate Point. He then proceeds to roll Create an Advantage of slippery ice

The difference between A, and B is that in B the player is indicating he really wants the river there and is willing to use some of his control over the story to ensure there is a river there. In A, he's willing to use a river if one exists but if not he'll think of something else.

Discovering Aspects

Because a created aspect is true retroactively, they have intentionally left the lines between creating an aspect and discovering an aspect blurry. For instance, in Option A the player is creating the aspect, but the character is discovering it.

When the issue is a plot point, the rules suggest you create indirect aspects that hint at what you're trying to not say.

In other words, the character who is secretly a vampire has aspects such as night owl, and unnaturally tough.

The benefit of doing so is that it gives the characters clues to investigate further (If he's a night owl, what does he do at night?) while not spilling the beans precisely, it also gives the NPC aspects to invoke which are part of the nature you're trying to hide.

Rather than invoke his sneaky vampire aspect when defending he can just invoke unnaturally tough and all the players will know it's because he's a actually a bloodsucking undead monster.

How to make the Players discover aspects

Now we come to what to do when you want the players themselves to have to figure out what to look for and investigate. This will be mostly useful in mystery type stories.

The short answer is that you hold the cards with those aspects to yourself and the characters can do a Create an Advantage action when narratively they are looking for evidence of (make them fill in the blank). If their roll succeeds, and what they are looking for is close enough to a real aspect the character has, then you reveal that aspect.

For instance, the players decide to investigate a government official suspecting he is behind some missing money. They Create an Advantage on an aspect of new and expensive buying habits which the character doesn't have but he does have recent large charity donations so you reveal that instead since it's fairly similar.

Depending on the success of their dice roll you could let them discover aspects which are not so closely related, or give them a boost which represents someone they could ask about another matter.

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I've added a couple of citations to the Fate SRD for Options A & B. For a minute I was confused as to why the player was handing the GM a fate point in option B - then I realised it was because of spending a fate point to declare a story detail. I think it's important to point to that mechanic so that people understand what's going on there. Good answer; +1 –  doppelgreener Mar 18 at 3:48

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