I'm trying to master Fate core (and probably Dresden Files) for a group because I'm usually the gm, and I'm having a little trouble understanding a few of the mechanics.

What's the difference between an aspect and an invocation? Can they be used at the same time? I know you can make an aspect to give a bonus or advantage, but it seems like invoke does the same thing.

I would really appreciate a few examples if possible as well


2 Answers 2



Aspect: A phrase describing some aspect of the character that you want to be able to use for bonuses in play.

Invoking an aspect: using an aspect for a mechanical bonus to a roll. Note that it doesn't need to be YOUR aspect. ①

  • +2 on your die roll after rolling (p 12, 68)
  • Reroll your dice (p 12, 68)
  • +2 on someone else's dice (p 68)
  • +2 to the passive opposition (p 68)

Most of the time, invoking an aspect costs a fate point. (p. 12). Sometimes, however, you create a new aspect in play with a successful die-roll to "create an advantage". This action gives a free invocation to an aspect, and if that aspect doesn't exist, creates it. (p 136) In these cases, the first, sometimes the first 2, invocations of of that aspect don't cost anything. (p. 70).

Other things you can do with an aspect are compel, and to use it as a story element.

A compel is used to make someone else act in a specific way due to an aspect.

An example

Don's character, Seaman Sam Sleuthy, has "Smarmy smartass" as an aspect. He's trying to run a certain NPC, Rhime Spitzer, out of town.

Don's character is in a bar, and I have an NPC try to belittle him and drive him out. "You are unwelcome, swab-jockey. Go ride your mop!" (social attack.)

Don decides to resist, but his total of good (3) doesn't beat my total of great (4). He invokes his aspect to boost his resistance, spending a fate. "Ah, handle envy. At least you can see my handle." Don indicates as well his character is pointing at his own lap. This adds two to his resistance, making it superb (5).

"The crowd titters in response to this," I respond, noting that I have failed.

Don next creates an advantage, "I'm Sam, Sam Sleuth, and I'm endowed by God with Unalienable gifts, which women love and men be jealous of..." says Sam. Don notes that he's boosting his own ego with his smarmy bluster. Since the crowd's generally polite company, I rule this needs a great (4) or better; Don rolls a total of epic (+7)... this succeeds with style, and his next two invokes on smarmy smartass are free.

I decide to go on the attack again, but this time, I use it against him... I invoke his aspect on my attack. Orate at good, +3 on the die, and +2 from his smarmy, "Ladies and gents, I do believe what we have here is a total bounder of a cad. Do we need to put up with this? Management!" Legendary (8)... ②

His roll to resist isn't that good (+2), so he's getting some stress outta this, but he can still reduce the damage. His bluster is good (3). And he free invokes based upon his prior advantage. Turning to the bartender, Sam spouts, "Why, Joe, I didn't know he cared! Look at his jealousy at a real man being here!" Getting the total up to a 7, he takes 1 shift of social damage...

He then goes on the attack. "Mister, you landlubbing son-of-a whore, I don't know what your jealousy's for! I'm the manliest man who stands in this room, and better pushing a mop than humping a broom! Get off my case, get your ass on the floor, there's ladies aplenty, you groove-less boor!" Bluster at good (3), free invoke (+2) for the innuendo about brooms, drops a fate to invoke again (+2) for the implications of ladies aplenty, and gets lucky: +4. total 11, off the chart.

My defense roll is bad - orate Good, but a -4 on the dice; I invoke the crowd's aspect of "Polite Company", noting that they are aghast at his language. I've got a total of 1... 10 shifts. I'm done for.

But, as a parting shot, I offer a compel... my NPC's last fate, "Hustle us both out because the crowd's offended." Don looks, notes the NPC can't hurt him, and this works, and accepts. Now, don gets to do whatever he wants to poor old Rhime.

Later, with Rhime in the train station, Sam is loading him onto a train outta town. Suzie's character, Marla Misanthrope, aspects manhater, and clawlike fancy nails, is also present. She's intimidating him to stay on the train. Not something she's good at, but he's not that brave. Totals are fair on either side, after she's invoked her claws... by holding them to Rhime's throat. A tie isn't good enough to get him to stay on the train... so don pops up with, "Just imagine where she's gonna put those next time. Be a bit messy, I think. Stay a man, get outta town." Plunking down his fate point, he raises hers to great (4). Running Rhime out again, the compromise is to exit town... For now.

Later still, Marla's trying to push the car over the edge. Passive goal is fair. Don's inside... (Suzie's mad at Don. She shouldn't take it out in play, but does...) She rolls a good. Don quips, "Oooh! Love that grunting" to up the difficulty by embarrassing Marla. Fuming, she fails to get good leverage...


① In some older edition games, using someone else's aspect was called tagging an aspect. It worked the same.
② I could have, in theory, used one of his free invokes - but that would have been bad form, tho' not against the rules. Story-wise, it wouldn't have made sense to use his advantage itself against him.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Alright, this is an amazing example, but I have a few questions. Does don creating an advantage and getting two free invokes cost a fate point, or just a check? And how can rhime invoke his smartass aspect against him? Why is the broom invoke free but not the ladies? I think that's it \$\endgroup\$
    – Nemenia
    Apr 1, 2016 at 19:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Anyone who can justify it can use any aspect. In Rhime's case, it's an appeal to the crowd (a social attack) and his ribald smarminess is as likely to offend as to amuse. That's how. Using your action to create advantage does not take a fate point. It's one free invoke if made by 1-2, 2 if made by 3+... \$\endgroup\$
    – aramis
    Apr 1, 2016 at 22:44

Invoking is how you use an aspect to change the story.

An aspect does nothing on its own (except be a true fact). It describes a noteworthy feature* of the game reality:

An aspect is a phrase that describes something unique or noteworthy about whatever it’s attached to. They’re the primary way you spend and gain fate points, and they influence the story by providing an opportunity for a character to get a bonus, complicating a character’s life, or adding to another character’s roll or passive opposition.

Notice that opportunity in there: an aspect provides the opportunity to leverage it for advantage, but it doesn't do that all by itself. By itself, it just sits there. To leverage it, you have to invoke it.

An invocation is what you do in order to use an aspect. To use an aspect for any bonus that it “naturally” should give, you have to invoke it:

The primary way you’re going to use aspects in a game of Fate is to invoke them. If you’re in a situation where an aspect is beneficial to your character somehow, you can invoke it.

In order to invoke an aspect, explain why the aspect is relevant, spend a fate point, and you can choose one of these benefits:

  • Take a +2 on your current skill roll after you’ve rolled the dice.
  • Reroll all your dice.
  • Pass a +2 benefit to another character’s roll, if it’s reasonable that the aspect you’re invoking would be able to help.
  • Add +2 to any source of passive opposition, if it’s reasonable that the aspect you’re invoking could contribute to making things more difficult. You can also use this to create passive opposition at Fair (+2) if there wasn’t going to be any.

You have to invoke an aspect to get any of those benefits from it.

* I almost wrote “aspect” there again. “Aspect” is a synonym of “feature”, which is why aspects are called what they are: their name directly describes what they are.

  • \$\begingroup\$ What about free invokes then? \$\endgroup\$
    – Nemenia
    Apr 1, 2016 at 17:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Nemenia What about them? \$\endgroup\$ Apr 1, 2016 at 17:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ In what situation do you get to invoke for free instead of spending a point? \$\endgroup\$
    – Nemenia
    Apr 1, 2016 at 17:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Nemenia That seems like a separate question already answered by the book, so I'm reluctant to revise this answer to address it. It also doesn't seem to have anything to do with the difference between aspects and invokes. Why is it coming up when you read this? \$\endgroup\$ Apr 1, 2016 at 17:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think I dont understand invocations that well yet. I thought they were how you get the bonuses, and aspects just affected the situation \$\endgroup\$
    – Nemenia
    Apr 1, 2016 at 17:50

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