Authors: Robert Donoghue and Fred Hicks
Editors: Fred Hicks, Lydia Leong
This document is Open Game Content, as described in section 1(d) of the Open Gaming License.
Extras are those elements of the character that require some representation outside the scope of skills and aspects. Some examples of the sort of extras which can be acquired include:
A flaming sword
A loyal lackey
A weakness in your arch-nemesis
Extras are purchased with skill ranks. Each phase, a character receives a number of ranks, usually four, but it can vary from game to game. These ranks are often referred to as "skill ranks" because their primary use is to purchase skills. In addition to skills, ranks may be spent on extras.
The sheer variety of potential extras makes it difficult to cover every single possibility, but the majority of extras fall into three main categories - Intrinsic, Personal and Shared. Intrinsic extras are permanent parts of the character, like nightvision. Personal extras are those things within the character's control, like equipment or servants. Shared extras are elements of the game environment, like resources and contacts.
This is the broadest, and hardest to quantify, type of extra. Often, characters may have certain "always on" effects. For example, in many settings, elves have supernaturally keen eyesight. When creating a character with abilities like this, it is, first and foremost, important to make sure that the GM and the player have the same understanding of what the ability is and how it will work. It's also very important to look at any such ability and decide if it would be better represented by an aspect.
The line between aspects and passive abilities is a fuzzy one - both strength and low-light vision are always on, so it may seem odd that one is an aspect and the other is not. The line is a fine one, and the logical distinction stems from the thinking behind aspects - the boxes do not represent how many times the ability can be used, rather, they represent how many times they will matter to the story. While Strength is useful when the player decides it is, something like low-light vision is important when the GM decides it is, specifically through the creation of scenarios where is it may come into play.
As such, passive effects should be considered to add the capacity to do something normally, i.e. at default skill level, which would not otherwise be possible. This may entail the addition of one or more new skills, depending on the nature of the new ability. If the extra allows a new way to do a normal activity, then no new skill may be required. On the other hand, if the extra allows an entirely new ability, a skill will usually be required to represent it.
Special skills may or may not interact with the pyramid like other skills will. In some cases, they may be tracked outside of the pyramid, or be their own pyramid. This will generally be decided on a case by case basis.
This may seem like a trivial detail, but it has a great deal of impact on how powers interact with the rest of the game. Remember, each skill rank used for something outside the pyramid hurts the player's ability to raise skills; this is one of the implicit checks and balances in the system.
If there is a large suite of skills used to represent magical or similar capacity, they should be their own skill pyramid.
If the skills are independent, and there are not many of them, they should be part of the regular pyramid.
For lesser effects, if the extra allows something entirely inappropriate for a skill or aspect, the GM can decide it simply works, and that's that. However, anything this peculiar should definitely be the subject of serious GM scrutiny.
Personal and shared extras are mechanically similar - one skill rank translates into one aspect in the target. The main distinction is simple. If something is within the character's domain (and thus, personal), the aspects the PC gives that thing are the only aspect it has. Things outside of the character's domain (shared) may have any number of aspects; the player is merely establishing what some of them are.
Most personal extras come in one of two flavors: equipment or servants.
Equipment is easily dealt with. Assign the item one or more aspects, and it will grant rerolls and occasional passive bonuses when the aspect is appropriate.
Servants is a catch-all phrase that includes things like bodyguards, familiars, friendly ghosts or any other NPC whose first priority is the character. Servants are constructed as characters who are generated using the number of phases equal to the number of skill ranks invested. This grants that number of aspects as well as appropriate skills (see "Pyramid Shorthand"). Some campaigns may grant more aspects; use the rules for giving aspects to PCs as a guideline.
It's important to note that the player cannot directly use any of the NPC's aspects - those only help the NPC. However, if the player has also bought the NPC as an aspect, the NPC's aspects provide a good guideline for the sort of benefits proved by the invocation of the NPC itself.
The stats of any such NPC must be approved by the GM, who should question any NPC with more than half the phases that the character has, and enthusiastically reject any NPCs with more phases than their patron character. The GM also has the option of statting up the NPC. If this happens, the player should get only a general sense of their capabilities, but the GM may construct the NPC as if every phase were a plot phase ("Plot, Genre and Fate Points".)
Minions are a special kind of NPC servant that are best suited to villains, but may be occasionally useful. Minions are useful for representing large numbers of relatively unskilled servitors and cannon fodder. Minion ranks may only be purchased in conjunction with aspects like "Overlord". The total number of Minions is equal to the number of ranks spent on the minions, multiplied by the rating in the controlling aspect. This number represents how many minions (who are usually Average fighters, Mediocre everything else) are available in a given scene.
Player-controlled shared extras usually come in two forms: contacts and resources.
Shared NPCs are defined a little differently than personal NPCs. Each skill rank spent translates into one aspect of the NPC in question. The first such aspect usually establishes the connection between the PC and the NPC. Subsequent ranks may be spent to strengthen that connection - busy and important NPCs may be favorably inclined towards the characters, but it may require extra ranks to be able to regularly make it onto their calendar - or to define some element about the NPC. The latter is potentially very powerful - it allows a player to decide during character creation that the current pope is corrupt or establish some other element of that NPC's story. The GM is free to limit the extent to which players may do this, but it's always wise to give these ideas due consideration.
One interesting way to spend these skill ranks is on enemies. If the PC has a particular enemy, it is entirely reasonable to spend a skill rank to give him a weakness, in the form of a negative aspect.
The relationship between a PC and NPC can be established simply by describing that NPC. But unless the PC purchases the NPC as an aspect, that relationship is potentially changeable. This is why the first rank should usually be spent on a connection.
Resources are somewhat simpler; the player simply selects an existing organization or location and gives it an aspect to represent a particular data point, like a connection to the character, a safehouse or some manner of debt. GMs may even offer up a stable of existing NPCs as "investment opportunities."
It's possible to allow for items and abilities which are more powerful, but these should generally require the expenditure of more ranks. The GM should be most careful when dealing with powers which trump existing skills. An item that allows its user to fly can now outperform someone who has invested any number of ranks into things like climbing or jumping. Other abilities to watch out for include invisibility, telepathy, or the ability to render a foe completely helpless casually, such as sleep or paralysis. This is not to say the GM should disallow these capabilities altogether. Instead, the GM is encouraged to find ways to make the power cool, yet playable. As an example of GM options, look at a classic, the Cloak of Invisibility:
The GM may simply give the cloak an invisibility aspect of its own, based on the ranks invested. Thus, if there player spends a skill rank on the item, it is described as "Cloak of Invisibility ( Invisible 1 (Fair)). It probably makes the user moderately transparent, or blends somewhat with the scenery - it requires a Fair perception check to spot the character. More ranks make the item more potent, so it's important to keep spending limits in mind.
Alternately, the player and GM may decide to come up with something a bit less generic. If the player wants a cloak that draws the shadows around him, the GM may let the cloak provide a +1 to concealment rolls in deep shadows. If the player wants it to be more potent, he works it out with the GM how exactly it functions, and the GM can set whatever cost in ranks he considers appropriate.
Last, the GM could consider the narrative limitation approach. This is only appropriate for items which have been ought as aspects. By this model, the item may be very potent - one skill rank could buy full invisibility or shapechanging or nearly anything else. However, to use the item, the player must check off an aspect box for the item. This is a bit of narrative sleight of hand designed to model certain literary conventions. Few fictional characters use magical items at their disposal with the kind of reckless abandon that PCs tend to. This option allows the inclusion of powerful items that suit the setting's tone, without them overrunning the game.
Players who invest in extras that are central to their character are encouraged to consider purchasing the extra as an aspect. There's no obligation to do so, but the benefits are pronounced. Because aspects are tied to the character, they're harder to lose and when they're not available they pay out Fate points. In general, the more skill ranks invested in an extra, the better an idea it is to make it an aspect.
The impact that extras have on the skill pyramid is potentially very strong. Each skill rank used on an extra is not simply one less skill level: it makes the construction of a pyramid that much more difficult. If extras are not considered part of the pyramid, characters who invest in extras are going to find themselves falling short of their companions with regard to skills. In theory, the additional flexibility and utility of extras offsets this. In practice, the balance between extras and the pyramid is a little more fine.
By default, non-skill extras, like props, allies and the like are not taken into account when building the Pyramid.