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I'm finishing up my Legend of Zelda Fate Core campaign, and I'm still trying to get a feel for how items should be represented. I know that Fate isn't a game where inventory and money are well-tracked, but there are few enough special items in a Zelda universe that we can make use of them without too much bookkeeping. I know that aspect spamming is bad and I'm trying to follow those guidelines as well as possible to keep the information economy in my game clean.

Issue 1: The Magic Hammer a la A Link to the Past. In short, the magic hammer is used to smash things. Without it, you really can't smash things. You can't flatten pegs, stakes, and whack-a-moles without a hammer (or similar). The hammer is a permission for smashing.

Now, how does the game represent that? Do I have to make it an extra? Should "Wielder of the Magic Hammer" be an aspect? Or should we just call it a narrative element and be done with it? Is it okay for it to be a non-mechanical story element? Like, "I didn't write it down because it's not an Extra, but I know I narratively have a hammer, so I'm gonna smash stuff." Is that okay? Can it really be that easy?

Issue 2: More expendable items, such as, say, Bombs. If a character doesn't have a narrative justification for Bombs, can they just make an in-the-moment Superb Resources roll or something just to say "I have bombs in my bag?"

Or, assuming that the character picked up a sack of bombs that the last bad guy dropped, can we just assume that they have lots of bombs for the sake of the narrative? No mechanical benefit like "+2 to attacking groups," or something wacky, but simply as a descriptor for action?

What I don't want is to create a situation where people just say, "I'm going to smash the Helmasaur King's mask because I have the Magic Hammer! And then I'm going to spend a fate point invoking Magic Hammer to, uh... smash really hard!" I think aspects are reserved for things that are both interesting, relevant, and double-edged.

I realize that lots of questions are flying around, so let me narrow this down to some more cohesive questions:

  1. Is it okay to use "character notes" or other non-aspect narrative elements as permissions for actions? Would they be better represented as aspects?
  2. Do items generally deserve their own aspects? What about "Legendary" or "Magical" items found along the way that might have a bit more impact?
  3. Why or why not?
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  • \$\begingroup\$ This question and this one are related, possibly useful for clarifying some of the general background. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW May 13 '15 at 13:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Similar, yes. And while it does help clarify part of my question, I think at the end of the day an implicit aspect is still an aspect. The tricky angle my question takes is "Can it be used as a permission even if it is not an aspect (implicit or otherwise)?" \$\endgroup\$ – Robert May 13 '15 at 13:52
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Yes, it's fine for things in the fictional environment to give permission without being aspects. The door in the room gives permission to open it and pass through; the pen and paper on a table and the literacy of a character gives permission to write a letter; and a gun in hand gives permission to shoot—all of them without having to be aspects.

That is part of the point of why aspect spamming is unnecessary.1 As that article says itself:

Some things are about narrative permission — you can’t shoot someone unless you have a gun. No aspect needed.

In the same way, it's fine for a magic hammer in hand to give permission to smash things with it, without making aspects.

Now, should it turn out that an aspect is useful, go ahead and make it, whether implied or explicit. It's not aspect spamming to use them when the situation at the table calls for their use.

  1. Note I say "unnecessary", not "should be avoided." Ryan's point is not that making aspects should be avoided—it's that thoughtlessly assuming that everything should be an aspect is a mistake. It's equally a mistake to push the pendulum so far in the other direction that one starts avoiding aspects thoughtlessly.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is there any particular way that it should be managed? Given that it has enough narrative relevance that the GM places it along your path, I figure it might matter enough to write down. Do you figure it should be like a "free extra" if it's important enough to not forget? \$\endgroup\$ – Robert May 13 '15 at 14:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Personally, I would figure it out on the fly based on the needs of play, if at all. That's not for everyone though. I would suggest making a question about that, but I think it's already covered by your first question about these items. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie May 13 '15 at 15:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is it noteworthy or interesting? Is it something you want invoked or compelled? If it isn't, then it's not an aspect. By default, it should be assumed that characters have the stuff they need to do what they do. So if you're a swordsman, it's not particularly interesting that you have a sword. One of the things in Fate is realizing that not everything needs a mechanical representation. \$\endgroup\$ – kyoryu May 19 '15 at 0:11

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