How would you explain the need to use Fate Points to tag an Aspect, for newcomers to the system? Some players are asking me "If I have the Aspect 'As strong as Hercules', don't I automatically get a bonus when trying to break stuff? Why do I need to spend a Fate Point?"

Some far the reasons I have are:

  • It represents the effort you have invested in having that Aspect. It's the 'karma' cost of having the Aspect.
  • It represents luck. You spend the Fate Point to prevent other environmental factors from nullifying your advantages
  • Aspects only come in when you need a bonus to your dice roll; so it's a heroic action which costs -something-
  • It represents the flow of karma. You have to pay something to be stronger than most people.
  • It's a mechanical shorthand for all the modifiers found in other games. Since everyone needs to pay Fate points for Aspects, it all balances out in the end.

Any other good explanations?


4 Answers 4


Fate points represent your ability as a player to manipulate the fate of the story. Aspects on your character(or elsewhere) just provide the pretext.

In FATE games, you do not simulate a world. You simulate a story and your skills represent what kinds of stories your character usually gets involved in. With fate points, you as the player get the power to alter those stories, in accordance with your character's aspects.

Think of fate points as storytelling currency. You pay to tell the story. The players have a finite supply and the GM has an infinite supply, but everyone must pay to alter the story.

  • \$\begingroup\$ A good answer, but I'd argue about the first line. It suggests an active capacity to manipulate something like "fate" in the game world, and that's not so. They're storytelling currency, as you later explain, and if you dropped the first line I'd upvote it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jadasc
    Jan 28, 2012 at 10:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jadasc, point taken. Would "fate of the story" clarify that? \$\endgroup\$
    – edgerunner
    Jan 28, 2012 at 11:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ That, and changing "ability" to "ability as a player" or something like it, so it's clear that this isn't something the character does to warp reality, like in Mage or in TORG. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jadasc
    Jan 28, 2012 at 11:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jadasc, fixed. \$\endgroup\$
    – edgerunner
    Jan 28, 2012 at 11:35

I run a weekly open dresden files rpg game & have never had confusion on the subject come up, it may be we have different variants of fate though, & some of the terms might differ depending on your variant of fate. dresden files RPG has aspects that you create with your character & during play, powers purchased with refresh, and mortal stunts purchased with refresh.

Mortal stunts let you use a skill in a way different than normally allowed or to gain a bonus under specific circumstances. A lot of the stuff that regular mortal superhero types like batman & green arrow does would fall under stunts

Powers are things like magic, inhuman/supernatural/mythic strength/speed/recovery, shapeshifting, etc. They let you do things that nobody else could do without a special background/heritage/etc like cast a spell, turn into an animal, or regrow an arm.

Aspects are for things like "weightlifter adrenaline junkie" that you can spend fate points to tag them in relation to a roll they can apply to to gain a +2 on the roll or a reroll. But they also say something about who you are. something like "as strong as Hercules" is not a very good aspect since it doesn't really work for compels & is the sort of thing that could quickly result in a PC with 0 fate points since they can't self compel or be compelled. Something like body builder adrenaline junkie can be applied to the same sort of strength stuff along with things like base jumping (off a building!), or any number of other things positively while allowing the player to accept compels or self compel to build fate points.

If your in a game where the GM is allowing a lot of character aspects that are pretty much impossible to be compelled, that could be part of the trouble & an aspect refresh might be what's needed to clear up confusion.


Most of the time, breaking stuff is going to be a function of a skill like Might; having an aspect like "Strength of Hercules" is for those times when you need to be as strong as a god to handle the situation. The FATE point represents being able to take advantage of that.

I agree with Tetra that this is a pretty poor aspect. It's hard to think of a circumstance where "Strength of Hercules" could be compelled, and without that element of "sometimes it earns you a Fate point by getting you in trouble," Aspects in general are harder to explain.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Strength of Heracles is certainly compellable: you break the door when you try to open it, the barstool can't hold your weight, you try to disarm the man but rip his arm clean off, etc. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 17, 2015 at 2:12

You only charge fate-points for aspect usage in the exclusively narratively focused editions of Fate (like Fate Core).

In Fate 2.0, the aspect denotes a core character trait, and thus is something that is always part of the character. Indeed, if the GM ever concocts a situation wherein he strips the character of the use of an aspect (perhaps in this case by drugging the character to reduce their strength) the character gains fate points. In this system, the Aspect represents a major, identifying, characteristic of a character. It's always on, and you only pay to get special mechanical benefits above the normal. You don't pay to win an arm-wrestling contest with an aspect in Strength of Heracles, heck, you probably don't even roll. If you were wrestling the Nemean Lion, however, and rolled too low for your wrestling skill, you would be able to check off an aspect in Strength of Heracles in order to do some mechanical stuff and effectively have rolled better. They paying only comes up in extraordinary situations and represents your ability to succeed at things related to the aspect above and beyond what you normally could because of narrative buy in. In 2.0, Aspects are the backbone of the character-focused system, while the checking off of aspects contributes to the narrative-focused part.

In the latest editions of Fate, there is no longer much of any 'character-focused' part to the system, which now is entirely narrative focused. Aspects are still called aspects and named and such in similar manner, because they evolved from thorough revision to the previously existing versions of Fate. It's important to remember that in Fate Core and FAE you don't buy parts of a character, you buy ways you are allowed to influence the story. Skills aren't about things your character has learned or can do so much as they are about what you, the player, can do to evolve situations in the game, as reflected by the action system's narrative categories. Aspects, similarly, aren't about traits your character has so much as they are about labels your character has only when it's convenient for the story. 'Convenient for the story' should not, of course, be confused with convenient for the characters-- compels are if anything more important than invocations in Fate 3.0 (used here to refer collectively to FAE and Fate Core). But these labels are only 'on' in scenes where they're being shown and if they wouldn't be fun for the story in a situation, you oughtn't compel them, according to the Fate Core rulebook (and this is good advice).

So in Fate 3.0, an aspect in Strength of Heracles doesn't get you a strong character. What it gets you is a character whose strength you are allowed to have scenes showcasing. Because what you buy in 3.0 is being allowed to affect the story, it makes sense you have to pay to have that label narrated in a scene and thus allowed to affect the story.

If you want to houserule in actual character-trait level things into 3.0, as my 3.0 GM does, what you can do is charge a refresh to upgrade an aspect to a FATE 2.0 aspect, with all of it's normal rules and implications in addition to the 3.0 rules. (Obviously, you refresh you aspects in 3.0 when you... refresh. As in when you get the fate points for your leftover refresh points) This is a generally underpowered option, but helps players who like stories that have consistent characters in them get along somewhat better in the no-longer-playstyle-agnostic editions of Fate.


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