Another Look At Racial Aspects

This is a revised and improved approach to creating characters for play in the Forgotten Realms. The information given in the racial aspects section of the Dungeon Master’s Guide is there to serve as inspiration for aspects. It should inform any player as to the possibilities they can draw on when developing their character’s aspects. Race and ethnicity is important enough in the realms to warrant special mention among your character aspects. As I’ve stated in the guide “Suffice to say that anyone not human or even halfling should probably mention it… it will likely get mentioned by others anyway.”

The core rules of Fate are clear on the need for aspects to be well defined and crucially, understood by everyone at the table. Simply taking the aspect Sun Elf  or Shield Dwarf  is too broad and open to all kinds of abuse by the player. Counting Elf  among your aspects should not give the player carte blanche to invoke on a wide range of actions from swordplay to magic or agility as is the implication in the Freeport Companion. This interpretation is closer to the kinds of class abilities found in Dungeons & Dragons. One of the dangers of opening play up to this kind of aspect or interpretation there of is that it devalues the other aspects that make each scene unique. This is true in any game of Fate, not just the swords & sorcery genre. Why bother working to take advantage of your environment or your opponent’s weaknesses if you can just fall back on that Elf  aspect to improve all manner of attack actions, including magic. If however your aspect is defined as Sun Elf Bladesinger , that tells us something, not alone that your character is a sun elf but also that they have been trained in a specialised form of swordplay that prioritises defensive posture and tactical positioning. The exact martial and magical skills of your character can be further expanded on with stunts. Indeed many of the stunts listed in the Freeport Companion could be easily reworded or even reinterpreted as aspects.

A racial aspect in Fate of the Forgotten Realms could say something about a cultural background, a training in a specific field, a real-world profession or even a problem that the character is saddled with – a Trouble aspect, e.g. “No Love for Half-Orcs” . Given that aspects are expected to be double-edged, simply attaching a racial qualification or ethnic description to an aspect is enough to suggest potential compels, e.g. “Illuskan Skald”  or “Gnome’s Nose for Potions” . Unless you’re playing a very typical heartlander, at least one of your aspects should inform us of your ethnicity.

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3 thoughts on “Another Look At Racial Aspects

  1. Again, really enjoying all the material here. Always looking forward to the newest installment.

    I don’t think you’ll find much issues of balance or overshadowing of game aspects…after all, it will cost players a Fate Point to use them, or at the least a full action to create some sort of creative advantage on their aspect…which perhaps is the key to keeping it all in check.

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    1. Yeah, there’s a cost there required to invoke but consider this – some stunts in the game reward you with an aspect instead of a boost but if you have a character aspect that is broadly applicable to any combat situation, like ‘elf’ for example then that stunt loses it’s value. What’s the big deal having a boost made permanent if I already have an aspect that covers pretty much anything that I want to do in this conflict.

      The real trick in Fate is to ensure that character aspects in particular are well defined while also being flexible enough to offer lots of potential for story.

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      1. Those are good points. The thing that comes to mind is stackability…I can see players seeing the value of getting a double-whammy. Without fully conceding my point, I understand your aim. I just feel it doesn’t break anything to widen a racial aspect’s penumbra a bit if the table agrees. Perhaps it’s more a philosophy of how important and potent are racial abilities in your campaign.

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