Every time an aspect introduces a meaningful complication into your character's life, you should probably get a Fate point for it; who suggested the complication is largely irrelevant.
Self compels are almost identical to regular compels! You suggest a way your character's life gets more complicated or dramatic because of an aspect in play; the suggestion gets negotiated 'til everyone's happy; then you get a Fate point from the GM's bottomless pool as a reward for making the story more interesting, and as a tool for solving problems later.
The flow of Compelling and Fate Points
Let's walk through the process of a compel and note how it changes depending on the relationship between the compel-suggester (hereinafter compeller) and the complication-recipient (hereinafter compellee). I'll talk about the philosophy of this at the end and include some sourced support.
Someone at the table suggests that an aspect is deliciously positioned to add complication or drama to a character's life.
There are three major kinds of compels, if we're categorising by who compels whom:
- It's a "regular" compel if the GM compels a PC, or a player compels an NPC.
- If the compeller is also the compellee (the person whose PC is most affected suggests the complication), that's a self-compel.
- When both compeller and compellee are players but aren't the same player (one player suggests a complication mostly affecting another player's character), that's--actually, I can't find a place where that's given its own name, but it's got its own rule variants we'll talk about in step 3. For the purposes of this exercise we'll call it Bob-compel.
The group negotiates until the compel has acceptable teeth but nobody's PC is acting out of character.
This bit remains basically unchanged by whoever made the suggestion. It exists because Fate thinks it's important to a group to have this sort of collaborative dynamic.
Sometimes the negotiation results in the group being unable to reach a decision that everyone's okay with, in which case the compel is dropped and play continues. It's especially important to respect this if the compellee feels that it's forcing her PC to act contrary to the character's essential nature. No Fate points exchange hands if a compel is dropped because it's unreasonable or out of character. (FC 74)
The compel is accepted or bought off.
Assuming everyone's content with the shape of the compel at the end of the second stage, the compellee gets to choose whether to accept the compel or buy it off.
- Compel accepted
The compellee is given a Fate point:
- Compel bought off
The compellee loses a Fate point.
It effectively vanishes into the GM's bottomless pool for compels, unless it was a self-compel. In this case the player can simply withdraw the suggestion.
As you can see, the only difference between a self compel and a regular compel is that self compels never cost Fate points to buy off. It was the compellee's idea in the first place, she shouldn't be penalised for making a suggestion and then changing her mind.
Philosophy and sources
The Fate point economy runs on a very simple idea: complications pay out while solutions cost. This is the fuel on which the system's storytelling runs. Players are encouraged to embrace crisis, and when we do we're rewarded with the currency for future triumph.
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. (FC74)
Compels are a primary source of complication, and of Fate points. Players are explicitly urged to seek out decision compels when they're running out of points:
Players, if you need fate points, this is a really good way of getting them. If you propose a decision-based compel for your character to the GM, then what you’re basically asking is for something you’re about to do to go wrong somehow. (FC 74)
It's also clear that any decision which produces meaningful obstacles (complications or drama that make my goals harder to achieve) in a way that matches my aspects is a self-compel, because I'm told I can retroactively call for Fate points if we were so caught up in the role-playing that we ignored the mechanics in the heat of the moment:
Sometimes, you’ll notice during the game that you’ve fulfilled the criteria for a compel without a fate point getting awarded. [...] Anyone who realises this in play can mention it, and the fate point can be awarded retroactively, treating it like a compel after the fact. (FC 74)
I think it's important to note that Fate's pretty careful to talk about compels in terms of complications to a particular individual's life. Compels which complicate the entire party together (rather than complication spilling over from the first character's compel) are handled in other questions on this site: How to handle compels that affect the entire party? and Do all players have to agree to accept or deny a group compel?