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.
Sometimes, the GM has certain goals during character generation. The GM may declare certain phases to have "plot" aspects. These phases will generally have events that the GM wants the PCs involved in, or which serve the campaign in some way. Common plot aspects include having everyone grow up in the same village, or having everyone end character creation in the same place.
Plot aspects may also be more general; for instance, the GM might want some or all of the PCs to have ties to a particular organization. They may even be used to enforce a theme; the GM might feel that all PCs need to buy certain aspects that reflect the tone of the setting.
The GM is entitled to declare plot aspects to be mandatory and leave it at that. However, if the GM takes too heavy a hand with that, the players are entitled to give her a wedgie and go play something they'd actually enjoy.
It's suggested that he GM take a more carrot than stick approach, and offer a reward for choosing a plot aspect. In general, plot aspects reward one more skill point than normal, but the GM is entitled to make the reward anything that she sees fit. This bonus skill rank is referred to as a plot bonus.
While it is strongly suggested that characters gain no more than one aspect per phase, GMs may wish to allow extra aspects at the beginning and end of character generation. These aspects could be used to represent nationality, family, interests, or almost anything else. It's probably not a good idea to give more free aspects than there are phases, but up to that is perfectly reasonable.
In a game where the character creation phases are based on a strict timeline, it is possible that one character may be younger than the others, and thus have fewer phases. In that situation, the PC accumulates a point of potential during each phase they aren't around.
Potential may be spent during any phase that the player buys an aspect, effectively granting them another phase. This is treated like a normal phase - an aspect and skills are bought and the pyramid is balanced. The only limitation is that the new aspect should be tied to the first aspect bought during that phase in some way. Any amount of potential can be spent on any phase.
In some games, it may be appropriate to grant all characters a number of rounds of potential to be spent in some specific way, such as on plot aspects, or on intrinsic aspects, like attributes. GMs who consider statistics and intrinsics to be very important may wish to consider allowing all players to take a few levels of potential, with the understanding that it will be spent on attributes and attribute-like aspects, such as Strong, Nimble or Magical Talent. See "Talented Novices" for more on this idea.
This is an optional rule designed to allow a player to create the lowly-farmboy-who-becomes-a-powerful-wizard sort of character, popular in fiction and film. During character creation, the player chooses the aspect "Destiny" and does not purchase any skill ranks with it. The nature of the destiny should be discussed with the GM to determine if it can be worked into the story (and if it's appropriate). It's even possible for the player to have an unknown destiny, in which case the GM determines the specifics.
The character may have multiple levels of the destiny aspect (called a Grand Destiny). This aspect can be used like any other aspect, specifically towards rolls that advance that destiny. At the end of any session where the character has not achieved their destiny (see below), they receive one Fate point.
The player and GM should come to an agreement regarding the sort of things that allow a destiny to come to pass. In general, destinies are not casually achieved, so the GM is perfectly entitled to veto a destiny that is likely to be achieved within a handful of sessions.
There are two possible ways for a destiny to be realized, and the destiny aspect to be "cashed in" for other aspects.
The first is dramatic - the PC is in a scene where the destiny is coming to a head. They may be facing down the killer of their father, or discovering the ancient ruins that prove they're not a crackpot. The player informs the GM that they're achieving their destiny, and if the GM agrees it's appropriate (and the GM may not - she may know, for example, that the arch nemesis is really an imposter), it begins. The player is given 5 Fate points, which may be used only for this scene, any left over are discarded. The scene plays out however it goes, and at the end of that session, the player reduces their destiny by one level, and purchases an aspect that reflects the experience. With that aspect, they may buy 5 ranks of skills, just as if it was a plot aspect - which it effectively was (see "Aspects as Plot Hooks"). It should be noted, a Grand Destiny requires several of these scenes to achieve.
The second option is narrative. At the end of an arc, when players achieve a new aspect, the player and the GM can sit down and discuss how the arc affected the destiny. Depending on the agreement, any number of levels of destiny may be turned into aspects, and reward 5 skill ranks per, as above.
It is also possible that the character may turn away from their destiny. This will generally occur when the player decides they are no longer interested in that direction for the character, or they are tired of waiting. This can be done during any advancement period, and allows those levels of destiny to be spent as aspects and skills. In this situation, the aspect only awards the usual 4 skill levels.
The default assumption behind character creation is that things are pretty much wide open. Players are free to pick any aspects that they want and make any kind of story they want. The GM may provide a guiding hand in the form of plot hooks and the like, but overall, anything goes.
While this can work very well, it's not something that's going to work for every type of game. Sometimes, a little more structure is desired, whether to simulate career paths, environment or some particular development mechanic. The key to any of these is having well structured aspect and skill lists.
Most structured approaches are based around the simple idea of a limited list of aspects or skills, which expands as aspects are taken.
It's assumed in these models that characters are still free to choose aspects like Strong or Cowardly, since intrinsics are easy to justify in almost any context. The GM is the ultimate authority on what aspects are available, and would be well served to provide a list to players in advance, if only to give them a starting point.
This method requires that the GM have a list of a few important locations in the setting, and a list of the aspects and skills that can be gained in that location. During each phase, players declare their location, and choose aspects from the appropriate list. The exact nature of the places depends on the game: they could be towns, countries or even planets or dimensions. Depending upon how the geography is laid out, the GM may also put constraints upon how freely a character can move between phases. The GM might allow only moving between adjacent locations from phase to phase, or create a special "traveling" location where the character must spend a phase before moving on.
The pursuit structure works in a manner very similar to the geographic one, except it replaces the character's physical location with the characters current pursuit. Descriptors in this case tend to be very general: Rural, Wilderness, Underworld, Military and so on, but the GM may have very specific pursuits available. This can be a great model for a conspiratorial or faction based game - time spent working with a certain faction opens up aspects that might not otherwise be available.
Changing pursuits depends upon the logic of the setting. It's very difficult to go from a Wilderness pursuit directly to High Society without at least an intervening Urban pursuit. However, the specific requirements will ultimately depend on the GM and the description of the events of the phase. Some pursuits, like secret societies, may even have special requirements, like certain skill levels or a certain number of phases spent in a particular pursuit.
Career Structures take some of the concepts in the pursuit structure and folds them into the aspects themselves. The idea is that there are a certain number of careers available at the outset, and as those careers are pursued, new careers open up. Thus, if the Squire aspect is available at the outset, the Knight aspect might become available to any character who has taken 2 levels of Squire.
The progression need not be that simple either. If there are a variety of careers available, some careers may require a combination of other careers. As an example, it may require a certain number of levels of the aspect Knight and a certain number of levels of the aspect Priest to make the aspect Knight Templar available.
This method can work very well when you have aspects which open up new skills or abilities. Some examples that might be useful can be found in "Magic and Supernormal Powers".
The phased creation system is designed to create characters with well-developed histories. For some games, that's not the goal - many games begin with characters who are effectively nobodies, with their story waiting to be told. For a game like that, the best solution is to make 1 phase characters, but grant them as much potential as one considers appropriate. It's not unreasonable for the GM to require that a certain amount of the potential be spent on intrinsic elements of the character, such as Strong or Stoic.
The GM may even grant a number of "freebie" aspects, which do not grant the character any skills, if she wishes to grant the characters a certain amount of advantage while still keeping them reasonably inexperienced.
The one drawback to all of these structured systems is that they are a little predictable. They do not allow for the possibility of the drunken swordmaster having retired to the isolated village, or the corrupt clerk more interested in his criminal profits than his legitimate bureaucratic pursuits. To simulate the odd turns of fate that seem to follow heroes of fiction around, the GM may allow players to include one or more "windows of opportunity" in structured creation. They can use this opportunity to take an aspect that they should not otherwise be able to, provided they can come up with a good explanation. The exact number of windows of opportunity available is the GM's decision, based on how strongly tied to structure she wishes creation to be. If the GM wishes, every phase could be a potential window of opportunity, provided the player has an interesting enough story.