I'm trying to recreate an existing character in FATE, but she has an aspect that I'm unsure how to handle.
This aspect is something that I want to be able to bring up in play, and I mostly see myself self-compelling it. At the same time I don't want to completely block off the possibility of someone else compelling that aspect, I just want to have more control over it than it seems like the rules for Invoking and Compelling allow at first glance.
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. [...]
You can negotiate the terms of the complication a bit, until you reach a reasonable consensus.
Whoever is getting compelled then has two options:
- Accept the complication and receive a fate point
- Pay a fate point to prevent the complication from happening
GMs, you’re the final arbiter here, as always — not just on how the result of a compel plays out, but on whether or not a compel is valid in the first place.
I can envision both of the options, figuratively, leaving a bad taste in my mouth; either feeling pressured into doing something (albeit with an in-game reward) or feel penalised for preventing something from happening by giving a up a fate point. That is unless I can convince the GM it's not valid in the first place.
Given the aspect involved a potentially sensitive topic for myself, I've been advised by someone else that this could be a good place for using an X-Card, from the TTRPG Safety Tools Toolkit (Google Docs link), which is also discussed here in What are the benefits of using the X Card safety tool in comparison to plain communication?.
My issue here is that I don't want to have ultimate power to block the topic, as for me at least, it's not something that I don't want to ever come up, which seems like the remit of the X-Card. At the time same time I'm not sure how to handle the potential for X-Carding personally feeling like an arbitrary move to preserve in game resources. Likewise I don't want to make it a line or a veil; something that would never come up or get skipped over.
To be totally honest, the mechanics around refusing compels is meh—by design. The Fate compel directives push for a yes-and or yes-but play ethos, where the GM can propose an interesting complication for players to have fun with. But to keep people from being strongarmed into situations they don’t want to be in, we have the refusal mechanic.
The drafted rule reads:
Buying out of a compel should create story, just as accepting and negotiation does. Refusing a compel could mean your character shows fortitude in the face of temptation, struggles with a dramatic choice, etc.
When you buy out of a compel with a Fate point, the act of spending that Fate point does one of two things: it either creates a situational aspect relating to the refusal (which has a free invoke), or it puts a free invoke on an existing aspect. That aspect naturally relates to a relevant story element. That way, you still get a die roll benefit from the fate point expenditure; you’re just pushed into a situation where you had to spend your fate point now rather than later.
But my character isn't "Refusing a compel could mean your character shows fortitude in the face of temptation, struggles with a dramatic choice" the issue I'm facing is "not having a perceived "fair" way to navigate the aspect being brought up in a way the querent doesn't want to follow through with" (as per Doppelgreener's comment).
As an example of play I am concerned about, I'm going to take inspiration from a game I played with the same character in a different system:
Fin grabs hold of the window ledge, scrambling and heaving to get her center of mass high enough to tumble over and into the room.
Here, if it were a game of FATE I'd have wanted to self-compel and get a FATE point by making the characters life harder (I haven't named the Aspect, partly to not get bogged down in the details, and partly due to its nature):
Can I self-compel one of Fin's aspects <name of aspect>, that makes it harder for Fin to physically fit through the window without help?
I made a choice, and want to use the compel to explain/justify why that might be complicated for the character.
But there will be times I might not have want to accept someone else compelling that same aspect. Here are two situations, and I'd like to know how to handle them if they came up (for the record, neither up in game, but they could have):
What if Fin landing so heavily on the bean bag bursts it, and makes extra noise alerting the monster? Can I compel the same aspect and get more fate points for Fin's player?
I might be comfortable with that, and accept the compel! I decided to have the character land on a bean bag. Or I might feel like I could spend a fate point and refuse, by saying Fin is acrobatic enough to land without the bean bag.
However let's look at something that feels less fair:
Can I compel it as well? Fin is the fattest character here, so the monster should target her first.
I would definitely have not been comfortable with that. I might have wanted to X-Card it even, but also I don't want to signal that I never want something similar suggested.
As the aspect as a whole might be a grey area I'm not sure how I feel about ever X-Carding the result, especially if it's the GM compelling the aspect, or putting off players from trying to compel it. I don't want to give myself a get out of jail free card, especially one I could apply (or be accused of applying) in every scenario I don't like (as opposed to being actually distressing and wanting me to avoid it entirely), when others don't get that either. I don't want complete control over my character's fate.
Going back the alternate rules, I don't know how best to phrase that version of refusing a compel in a way that:
creates a situational aspect relating to the refusal (which has a free invoke), or it puts a free invoke on an existing aspect
What am I refusing here? That the beanbags don't break? What kind of 'free invoke' is "Doesn't break beanbags when landing on them", which wouldn't have existed before?
I could just agree this ahead of time in a session 0, but that doesn't feel much better making it a Line/Veil. The previously linked question also points out the issues with just relying on communication alone.
Is there some way of wording the Aspect, or another rule that makes compelling and safety tools work in the way I want?