My group is giving FATE Core a core a try with a sort of World of Darkness / Urban Arcana setting. I was going to retrofit an old World of Darkness character to use but I realized the character had two fairly good choices for her trouble.

Her mother was a fairly scary bruja (the Hispanic equivalent of a voodoo priestess) and wanted the character to follow in her footsteps. She refused and ran off to join a street gang. After running with the gang for several years, she eventually was arrested and spent a few years in prison. Once released she decided she would prefer to get out of that life and go legit, and found a job with a locksmith.

I want her trouble to be "I can't escape my past", representing both the gang trying to pull her back in and her mother still trying to get her to become an evil witch.

Is having a dual trouble like this workable? If not, I can always reduce one of the two to an aspect and give it a more mixed tone.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I actually ended up converting both into regular aspects ("former gangbanger" and "my mother is a witch") and coming up with a new trouble for the character. I realized that both of them could be invoked ("I know about X because...") and compelled. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage
    Jun 9, 2013 at 14:46

3 Answers 3


It depends

It depends upon your group.

Some groups will gladly let you have a very broad trouble, or even a compound trouble; others will want something clear and unambiguous, but might endorse breaking it into two clear separate aspects.

Others still might want you to only have one clear trouble, so as to not "hog the spotlight" with excess trouble that they wind up having to cope with the side effects of. (This last group is probably having some issues with grasping the way Fate Aspects work.)

The Example Given

Some groups won't be comfortable with that particular trouble, as it's able to be invoked excessively as flashbacks when doing too much. (Even your trouble can be invoked for benefit...). This could easily become the "In my time in the klink, I hung out with x who taught me how to y" mode.

Further, worded as "I can't escape my past" can make, in the hands of a bad GM, for a constant drain on your fate points as you keep getting compelled away from the action. For example, a perfectly reasonable compel might be, "As these guys are 49th street gangers, and are out to kill you, you're going to fade out of sight before the party engages." Or, "Since you know he's a vampire, and you mother's friend, you're going to avoid him". Or even, "Oh, look, it's Officer O'grady, who swore he'd plant a gun on your dead body next time he found you in his beat... time to hide!" And that's just the "Take you out of the scene" ones... there are also the "get them first or you'll never win" versions, and the "You owe me" versions.

I'd reject it as a GM for being overly broad, not because the problems are too many, but the benefits too many, and it's too easy for me to abuse it, too. It can make you dance like a puppet on a string.

The Problem

The problem isn't that it's multiples in one, tho' some groups won't like that.

The problem is that the specific example you're asking about is itself too broad.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Hmm. I think a GM who invokes aspects to pull a character out of a scene entirely isn't really doing his job. The point isn't to make a player sit and listen to everyone else, it's to get them to fail and complicate the story. Maybe the presence of Officer O'Grady causes a character to concede an Investigation roll they were making to gather information about a crime scene, for instance. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 11, 2013 at 13:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ That being said, my issue with it is that it's too vague. Anything and everything can come out of "my troubled past". As a GM, I'd want a lot more information about exactly what entails that troubled past, and for that to be written into the aspect so we don't forget 10 session down the line. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 11, 2013 at 13:58


One of the difficulties in choosing Aspects in finding ones that are sufficiently narrow that they're not going to be invoked on every task while being broad enough for regular invocations and compels. Having a unifying theme like "I can't escape my past" that covers both supernatural and mundane difficulties is pretty handy, plus it gives a hook to the character that I, as a GM, can use to draw the PC into a wide variety of situations. Moreover, the potential for invocation in those circumstances where the character chooses to confront her past, rather than try to escape it, is dramatically satisfying.

This is an Aspect I'd really enjoy having on a PC in one of my games.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ -1 As it is now this answer has no worth for me. I still don't know why it is absolutely good in the context of the rules, and how it affects the gameplay in the context of your experience. \$\endgroup\$
    – Maurycy
    Jun 8, 2013 at 18:59
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Maurycy Zarzycki As you like. An expanded version, for your enjoyment. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jadasc
    Jun 8, 2013 at 19:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yea much better now. Changed to +1. \$\endgroup\$
    – Maurycy
    Jun 15, 2013 at 19:54

My issue with "I can't escape my past" is that you need to make it "I can't escape my past life as the daughter of a bruja and as a former gang member." Which, when you look at it, you're right, is two things, not one. There's a reason why you split this stuff up into two aspects: it is two aspects.

My reasoning:

  1. These aspects are made to be quick elevator-pitch style remarks about a character, something you can dip into any time you need to burn or add a Fate point, and for that matter something the GM can use in order. That's just kind of mechanically what they are.
  2. Your player concept is both hindered and buffed by this above and beyond the rules. On the one hand, it's hindered by the fact that you can only invoke an aspect once per exchange. What if you're in a situation where you could theoretically invoke both your gangster past and your evil mom? You should be able to invoke both.
  3. On the other hand, it's an aspect that you can probably invoke in twice as many situations as most. In some ways it's like having 7 aspects where everyone else only gets 6. This isn't just unfair, it's the kind of thing that threatens to unbalance the game away from the other players and towards yourself.
  4. You're not really setting yourself up for campaign and/or character growth well. What if something happens to change the dynamic of your gangster past but does absolutely nothing to your mom? For example, an old rival emerges to take over one of the major gangs and declares a bounty on your head. If you had this aspect split up, you could easily change "Former Member of the Foot Clan" into "Bounty On My Head". If they're together... well, it's still "I Can't Escape My Past". Or maybe your mom dies (for instance, as the wrap up of a major story arc) and you want to replace that with something else entirely. By keeping these together, you're pretty well stuck.
  5. Aesthetically, the thing I don't like about "I Can't Escape My Past" is that it sounds too introspective to me. Yes, you have a great handle on it now, but what if the game goes an interesting new direction, you don't invoke this for a few sessions, and everyone kind of loses track of exactly what you were unsuccessfully trying to escape from? It could just as easily be about your character struggling to come to grips with what to make of themselves as it is about actually physically being chased by someone. Which is fine if that's the game you want to play, but again, I think you usually want these things to lead you into action, not soliloquy. Soliloquy makes boring gameplay, usually.

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