I have a character in my game with the aspect My Father's Sword. So the guy who plays the character is in his first combat and he's using the sword, invoking its +2 for all it's worth, because, hey, a sword should be 2 points stronger than a fist in a system like this, right?

But then 3 turns later he's all out of Fate Points, he's thinking about delivering a finishing blow to the last guy in the room, and I have to explain to him that his +2 is gone. Needless to say, he's frustrated and he can't understand why his sword isn't good for anything anymore. As far as he's concerned it doesn't do anything now, and it's no different from not having a sword at all.

I had no idea what to say to him. He left that day with a bad taste in his mouth and he never came back because he genuinely thought he was being cheated.

What do you say when this happens? How do you explain the way that advantage-based aspects "wear off?" How do you keep weapons and advantage aspects special after the first 3 rolls?


5 Answers 5


You start at the beginning: Fate points represent those moments in the fiction when an Aspect of the story becomes prominent. If you're spending a Fate point on "My Father's Sword," it's because the fact that the sword was handed down to you is particularly relevant in this scene. As a result, spending them on the first three swings in combat might not have been the best idea. Weapons grant their own advantages; Fate points are something beyond that.

Even in games that don't use weapon scores or on characters without a stunt that benefits from their weapon (like a +2 to attack with their sword), the fiction-first nature of Fate means that having a sword allows you to do things you couldn't do if you didn't have one. Can't fence without a blade, for example, and fists don't do cutting damage. It shapes the kinds of Attacks you can make and the Advantages you can create.

  • \$\begingroup\$ By "Weapons grant their own advantages," are you referring to the optional Zero-Sum weapons rules in the Core? What about games that don't use them? \$\endgroup\$
    – Robert
    Apr 2, 2015 at 2:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Robert Even in games that don't use them, the fiction-first nature of Fate means that having a sword allows you to do things you couldn't do if you didn't have one. Can't fence without a blade, for example, and fists don't do cutting damage. It shapes the kinds of Attacks you can make and the Advantages you can create. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jadasc
    Apr 2, 2015 at 2:08
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Robert This sort of comment is a flag that you should probably provide more specific information about your situation (IE, which iteration of Fate you're using) in the question, as harlandski has suggested. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Apr 2, 2015 at 2:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Keep in mind that the +damage weapon system isn't in FATE core, it's in the System toolkit, and it might not be in use for this game. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cthos
    Apr 2, 2015 at 6:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ Okay, I'm just thinking of where it actually expands on the concept. But regardless it's not a default feature, but one of the tuning dials. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cthos
    Apr 2, 2015 at 15:01

The important thing your player must understand is that the sword does not give him an ongoing bonus because his roll isn't about if he can hit with the sword. His roll is about if he gets to tell a bit of the story about the swordfight in question. There's a free bonus (free invoke) for people who create new story elements (create advantage), and a paid (with fate points) bonus for people who capitalize on (invoke) existing aspects.

I have an answer here that may be useful as well


The problem here began long before the player ran out of Fate points, when he took an aspect to solely represent his father's sword and expected to use it on virtually every action just to represent the utility of having a sword. Fate Core, on the "Intro to Choosing Aspects" on page 36 says of choosing aspects:

Aspects which don’t help you tell a good story (by giving you success when you need it and by drawing you into danger and action when the story needs it) aren’t doing their job. the aspects which push you into conflict—and help you excel once you’re there—will be among your best and most-used.

Aspects need to be both useful and dangerous—allowing you to help shape the story and generating lots of fate points—and they should never be boring. the best aspect suggests both ways to use it and ways it can complicate your situation. aspects that cannot be used for either of those are likely to be dull indeed.

Bottom line: if you want to maximize the power of your aspects, maximize their interest.

My Father's Sword as an aspect is okay. There are potential situations in which that can be invoked or compelled to add interest to the story, but it is definitely on the weak side. It doesn't tell us anything about the character except that he owns a sword that was once his father's.

If the aspect had instead been something like I Will Avenge My Father or My Father's Legacy it would have a lot more presence to it and would enrich the story.

Invoking an aspect also needs to be justified in the story. You can't just say, "I invoke My Father's Sword for +2," every action. The player needs to describe how his aspect assists him when he invokes it. Lots of people have swords; what's so special about his?

Aspects (or just plain facts - what if I have a sword but we're not even considering it to be an aspect?) define narrative truths that can be significant advantages in the story. A man who has a sword can cut through ropes that an unarmed man has to untie, can intimidate unarmed people, can make cuts rather than bruises, and so on.

The mechanical benefits of aspects go above and beyond these narrative truths to provide a moment where the aspect is front and centre in the story, a focal moment in which it changes the course of fate.

Purely mechanical benefits are the purview of Extras and Stunts.


I would suggest that it might be a problem with the way the character is created. An aspect is sometimes beneficial, and is sometimes detrimental, and sometimes has mechanical effect at all. A stunt always provides a clear and reliable mechanical bonus.

So, if the sword in question was supposed to be unquestionably better than other swords in all conditions, it should have been represented as a stunt.

But the sword was supposed to allow the character to excel in some conditions (such as fighting the cult who caused his father's death) and was supposed to provide trouble in some conditions (for instance, if the character's villainous brother was hunting him to claim that sword) then an aspect would have been appropriate.


It sounds like your player is having trouble distinguishing between using a sword and getting extra oomph because it's a better sword than the average one. Item based advantages in any game are tricky because it's points that can simply be taken away if they're disarmed. Speaking of which, you might want to talk to him about reorganizing his character sheet to list the sword as an Item of Power and have his aspect be "My father guides my sword". While he has fate points, it becomes a powerful combo but at least this way he'll understand why the aspect kicks out.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I think you're referencing Dresden Files rather than FATE Core. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 2, 2015 at 17:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ It is the closest FATE based book I had. I'm diving into my archives to find the right term, but the mechanic is still sound \$\endgroup\$
    – CatLord
    Apr 2, 2015 at 23:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ Conveniently, Fate Core is available for free. I've added some info about that to the tag wiki. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 3, 2015 at 4:29

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