I've never played Fate before and am learning from Fate Accelerated Edition with occasional reference to Fate Core. For the most part, it has been straightforward. On the other hand, I am somewhat unclear about how explicitly Situation Aspects must be declared.

For example, Criminal Charlie is pursued into a bustling marketplace and spends a few turns trying to outrun the authorities. Finally he decides to try to hide in plain sight and his player says, "I will spend a fate point to invoke the marketplace's Crowded aspect to make it easier to hide in the crowd."

Nobody has, at this point, put "Crowded" onto a index card on the table, but clearly the marketplace is a crowded place. It is not an aspect that must be created by changing the situation. It is not an aspect that is hidden and must be discovered. It seems like the easiest way to deal with this is to imagine that in a given situation there is a vast sea of implicit aspects, just waiting to be invoked. The GM gets to say whether any given one is there. Forcing the GM to write down every obvious aspect at the start of each scene seems unrealistic.

I found nothing in FAE to confirm or reject this idea, so I fell back to Fate Core. There is a bit of text on page 136 that may reject the notion that these aspects are "free":

[Create an Advantage] could also mean that you’re discovering new information that helps you (like learning the weakness of a monster through research), or taking advantage of something you’ve previously observed (like your opponent’s predisposition to a bad temper). [and following ¶]

I understand that Create an Advantage is about not only creating aspects, but also getting a free use. Does one have to Create an Advantage to take advantage of aspects that seem implicit, but were not yet declared?


4 Answers 4


Aspects determine what is important in the scene. Those scene aspects defined when the scene is framed are the ones that the GM deemed to be important in the scene; the ones that add flavor to the narrative.

However, narrative games like fate share the narrative direction with the players. In this particular case, though the GM didn't deem the fact that the marketplace was crowded one of the things that would add flavor to the characters' interaction with the scene, one of the players did. And because of that, and because he felt strongly enough about it, he took an action or spent part of his narrative capital (Fate points) to bring it into play.

As a GM, never feel that you have to define everything- only those things that are important should be defined before hand. And as a player, never think that you are confined by those things the GM has declared- Fate points and your skills give you the tools that you need to help to expand and drive the narrative.

To directly answer your final question, i.e. "I understand that Create an Advantage is about not only creating aspects, but also getting a free use. Does one have to Create an Advantage to take advantage of aspects that seem implicit, but were not yet declared?"

Creating an aspect is one way of getting the use of an implicit aspect. In this manner, you get a free invocation. However, if you're not looking for a free invocation, i.e. you just think that it's important to note that the marketplace is crowded, you can suggest it freely, and if everyone agrees, the Crowded aspect is added. This is stated in the Fate Core Rulebook on p. 78. It can also be found in the Fate Core SRD- Creating and Discovering New Aspects in Play.

Then later, if you, or someone else, wants to use it, a Fate point can be spent as normal to invoke it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This is great, and I think a much more focused answer than mine. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 1:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks. The pointer to FC p.78 was especially point-settling! \$\endgroup\$
    – rjbs
    Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 15:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for not confusing Creating and Discovering New Aspects in Play with Declaring Story Details. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 14, 2020 at 18:56

You can do this both ways. Which way you decide as a group to handle scene aspects will subtly but powerfully change the way your games works. Consider this passage from Fate Core (Electronic Edition, p. 59):

In Fate, aspects do two major things: they tell you what’s important about the game, and they help you decide when to use the mechanics.

and this passage from the next page:

Because aspects tell us what’s important, they also tell us when it’s most appropriate to use the mechanics to deal with a situation, rather than just letting people decide what happens just by describing what they do.

GMs, this comes up for you most often when you’re trying to figure out whether to require a player to roll dice. If a player says, “I climb this ladder and grab the idol,” and there’s nothing special about the ladder or the idol, then there’s no real reason to require an overcome action to grab it. But if the situation aspects tell you that the ladder is a Rotting Rope Ladder and the idol is Protected by the Wrath of the Gods, then you suddenly have an element of pressure and risk that makes it worth going to the dice for.

Got all that?

Okay, so what does that mean?

It means that by using implicit aspects, your group is saying that mundane details are always important. This will make your games bend a bit more toward a simulation-y play style, and de-emphasise all the other aspects (not just scene aspects) that have been explicitly called out.

If you require explicit aspects, your group is saying that the story is tightly scoped to the themes and issues marked by explicit aspects. Look back to that quote about how aspects define what's important about the game, and how they tell the GM when to engage the mechanics. If you've only got explicit aspects, then the players know that the actions they take that don't touch on aspects are going to pretty much just be givens, because success or failure there is not important. The only time you roll, and possibly fail or succeed, is when your actions bring you into direct contact with the defined aspects – those things that your group or GM have marked as being relevant to the story you're playing out.

This difference can deeply affect (and effect!) your game. If your GM says that weather is sunny, that's not really an aspect worthy of mention in the average game, is it? But if you're playing a game about weather-working islander wizards, then making it an aspect – Brilliantly Sunny Weather – marks it as an important, relevant thing that you can all expect will be mechanically relevant when you, say, try to swamp a boat by summoning a sudden squall. Conversely, introducing Brilliantly Sunny Weather into the aforementioned 'average' game is a way the GM can send a message: "This is important or is about to become important. Pay attention to it. Use it to your advantage, or beware of it being used against you." Perhaps a giant falcon is about to dive out of the sun directly at the group!

So use this "switch" to say how tightly your game is going to be focused on the story implied by your Game and Character aspects, and how tightly focused your scenes will be on their explicit Scene aspects. Less desired focus: implied aspects are good! More desired focus: implied aspects are just muddying the waters.

The default setting for this switch in Fate Core is right there in those quoted passages: explicit aspects are the only aspects. This serves the goals of the designers, which is to produce a tight base system that strongly supports creating stories with strong themes and challenges. Fate Core is also deliberately designed to be an easily hackable base system though, and this is one of the easiest ways to change the defaults in order to produce a different play experience.


You are correct, there is a vast sea of aspects waiting to be invoked. You don't have to spell every aspect out in advance. They become explicit as the GM or players establish them during play. Besides the GM establishing new aspects, players have two ways to make new scene aspects.

  1. Roll to discover/create the aspect: A player can roll dice with an appropriate skill to discover/create the aspect and hopefully get a free invocation. This is one roll, not two. If the roll succeeds, he both establishes the new aspect and gets a free invoke. Using your example, If the roll fails maybe he couldn't find a suitable crowd. Or you might rule that he did indeed find a crowd (establishing the aspect), but the crowd gets in his way or in some other way aids his pursuers (the failed roll giving the pursuers a free invocation instead!)

  2. Suggest an aspect: You could let Criminal Charlie's player name a new aspect without a roll. Players can always suggest something they think would be appropriate, cool or interesting. If everyone agrees, just make that a new scene aspect. This doesn't take a turn and can be especially useful after a low roll. After a poor stealth roll, Charlie's player might note you said it was a bustling market and suggest that there is a crowd here, making it a "Crowded Market." As GM you would probably consider that reasonable and put that aspect in play. In this case, the player doesn't get a free invocation, but can immediately pay a fate point to invoke the new aspect and improve their result.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The 'pay a fate point to make a detail' is related to your own aspects, not creating a scene aspect. i.e. you have childhood spent traveling the world as an aspect, and want to know details about the local color in a faraway place. You spend the fate point, and declare that detail. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chuck Dee
    Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 13:05
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ OK, so technically you can suggest a new scene aspect and if it's acceptable, pay a fate point to invoke it. It pretty much amounts to the same thing. So strike 1 above and make that two ways to make a new scene aspect. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 14:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Corrected to fix that the original method 1 wasn't technically true and that it was really just a variation of method 3. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 16:10
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ That tripped me up too. I thought that you could pay a FP to create an aspect also, but when re-reading the rules, I realized that my interpretation had been wrong. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Chuck Dee
    Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 16:33

You stated in your example that the marketplace is "bustling". Thus, Charlie is indeed just "taking advantage of something [he's] previously observed." He observed that it's a bustling market. Therefore, he's taking advantage of something that has indeed been declared.

Now, if in the description of the market you had not stated whether it was full of people or not, then that's when Charlie could add the Crowded Aspect by stating that, although no one's mentioned it yet, the market is indeed bustling and full of people.

The GM shouldn't have to write down every possible Aspect a situation may have, and that's why the players can 'create' them, just like you're doing in your example.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .