In Fate, compels of aspects are primarily a narrative tool, and as such don't usually have mechanical trappings in the consequences. But is this a hard and fast rule? I saw someone ask this question, and it shed a question on the way that I used them in some rare cases.

Example: Corporal Jenkins came upon an enemy soldier while looting an estate. A fight ensues, and during the fight the enemy gives him a rather bad slash to his calf (moderate consequence). Jenkins finishes the enemy with a riposte to the chest, but as he looks around notes that the knocked over a sconce, starting a blaze around them. He tries to escape the inferno, but a blazing beam blocks his way. As he attempts to hurdle the beam, you could compel his slash to the calf consequence to make the attempt harder.

Is this a valid use of a compel? Or would it have to be purely narrative, i.e. you have to find another way because your calf wound makes it impossible for you to make the jump?


3 Answers 3


As he attempts to hurdle the beam, you could compel his slash to the calf consequence to make the attempt harder.

That's a valid use, but it's not a compel. It's invoking your opponent's aspect for your roll. (Or for the fixed difficulty.)

A compel would be preventing the leap in the first place...

Player: "I'm going to leap the beam"
GM: holds out fate chip, "That slash in your leg seems to indicate you'll not be able to leap"

If the player accepts, he's not supposed to leap at all; if he rejects, he hands over a fate chip and makes the leap at no difficulty.

Quoting from the "Fate Basics" PDF:

Invocations -- Spend a FP to Invoke an Aspect. The Aspect may belong to the acting character, the defending character, the scene, or an object involved in the action.

Invocations have one of two results. The active player gets +2 to the roll or may reroll the dice and keep the new result. FPs are spent after the roll is made, and each Aspect may be Invoked only once per action.

On unrolled actions, Invocations simply add +2 to the Skill’s rating.

When Invoking an Aspect belonging to another character, any FPs go to the player of that character once the action resolves.

Note the ability to invoke an opponent's aspect.

Declarations -- The player spends a FP to make some narrative detail related to the Aspect a fact. The GM has the final say on what is and isn’t allowed, but players should be able to make moderate alterations to the story this way.

Declarations do not involve any sort of roll.

Compels -- The third thing about Aspects is that they can be disadvantageous. This is in the form of a Compel. Compels dictate some constraint to behaviour.

When one is made, the GM offers a FP. If you accept it, you accept the constraints. If not, you must turn down the offered FP and spend one of your own.

Note that Compels don't involve die rolls at all.

It's also worth noting that many Fate system games have consequences as a limited form of aspect - the player can't invoke them, but everyone else can invoke or compel them, or declare based upon them.

At the most basic -
— A compel is a "you can't do that, here's a fate point."
— An invoke is "+2 for one side by paying a fate point to the other side" and can be in either direction, but is done AFTER rolling.

Also note there is a difference in the ending fate point total for negations...

If you compel, the player will end with either +1 or -1 fate points - depending on whether he accepts or rejects the compel.

If you invoke, there are three possible outcomes - accepted, accepts but negates with another aspect, or rejects. Accept and fail gives them +1 fate points; negate with other aspect comes out neutral - invoking the second aspect costs only 1 fate point, effectively canceling the invoke. Rejecting the invoke outright costing 1 fate, for a final total down by 1.

Also note the sequencing - Invoke is AFTER rolls, while compel is before.

To give an example of how it works as an invoke...

Player: "I'm going to jump that flaming beam"
GM: "Roll - it's Good difficulty"
Player: rolls. "Made it with a Great result"
GM: holds out fate chip. "That slash in your leg hurt a lot, and you didnt' get as far as you thought - only a fair result"

Player Response 1: "Ok, I failed." Takes the fate point"

Player response 2: takes fate point, the hands it back, saying "Sure, it hurts. But my 'boxer's constitution' lets me tough it out."

Player response 3: picks up one of his own, instead, and tosses it to the GM. "It may hurt, but not enough to impede me from making it over."


This question was the result of a discussion on G+. After I asked here, Fred Hicks dropped by with his take on the situation.

Compelling is purely narrative- the teeth are in the story to steal from the OP on that thread. Invoking is highly mechanical; there are three things you can do on an invoke; add to a roll, re-roll, or make the opponent's life difficult.

Onto Fred's answer:

That's a compel the way I read it, and wouldn't be "to make the jump harder", it'd be "to suggest that the injury is making it such that he needs to take a different path."

Now, if the burning beam was modeled as a character, so to speak, such that it's rolling a skill or what-have-you against the character trying to cross it, maybe I could see an invoke working (assuming you looked at the beam as having some kind of fate point or free invoke) to improve the results of that opposing skill roll.

So, the way to use a mechanical effect via invokes as the GM from the reading seems to be to use your NPCs, or to use Fractals. A character invokes.


The scene pool invokes for numbers. The GM reserve compels for plot.

So you're in a scene - yes, of course you are. A roll is happening, so it's happening in a scene.

Cpl. Jenkins' escape to the outside is blocked by a blazing beam. This beam is providing some rating as passive opposition, which Jenkins will be trying to Overcome with... Athletics, probably?

Anyway, that's not the important part.

The important part is that there's passive opposition at all, since one of the stock uses of an invoke is (from here, Invoking Aspects):

Add +2 to any source of passive opposition, if it’s reasonable that the aspect you’re invoking could contribute to making things more difficult. You can also use this to create passive opposition at Fair (+2) if there wasn’t going to be any.

So if there's anything left in the scene pool after Jenkins' fight, since it doesn't sound like they had time to stop for a breather afterwards, the GM can spend it to invoke Jenkins' leg wound and make the escape +2 harder. Jenkins will get the point after the scene, as is customary for invokes. (Or if there's still that free invoke on the consequence, the GM can burn that, instead. No point for Jenkins, though.)

But what spends the point? The scene pool is spent for the GM's NPCs and there isn't one of those around, is there?

Sure there is! Anything's an NPC if the GM cares enough to make it one. The beam, the fire, the house, whatever. It only has to be real long enough to spit an invoke at Jenkins anyway.


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