Burning Aspects

This is a SotC rules tweak. I didn’t come up with it, though I am tweaking it.
FATE and Spirit of the Century already let you change a character’s aspects whenever it’s appropriate or interesting or just plain cool to do so. That’s well and good. It’s a kind of ‘staying put’ character advancement.
I want to put a spotlight on that, when it happens. Some of the most dramatic moments in stories come when characters experience a radical change of heart. In SotC, the character is exchanging one aspect for another. In the Shadow of Yesterday (which has MANY things in common with FATE and SotC) it would be when you Buy Off a Key, which is a pretty awesome thing in that game.
So combine the two.

No more than once per session (and probably less often than that), a player can make a special declaration when one of his aspects is compelled to STOP the compel.
When a player “burns an aspect”, the following things happen:
– Cross the aspect off the character sheet
– If appropriate, immediately add a new aspect — usually a reversal of the original aspect. Love turns to hate, respect turns to fear, that sort of thing.
– The player can tag the new Aspect once, for free.
– The character in question gets a complete Fate point refresh.
This is a big deal for the character, and he should get the spotlight in this moment. A short monologue is usually appropriate.

Kent Legend and his fellow adventurers are in a bad way. They’ve battled their way through hordes of zombie pygmies to reach the VoodooMaster in his jungle lair. They’re all running low on Fate points, and most have taken a Consequence or two. As they finally stand before the mighty Voodoo Master himself, their resolve wavers.
Example: The GM compels Kent’s aspect, “Looking Out For Number One,” to encourage him to abandon his so-called friends and make tracks back to the waiting airplane. Kent’s only got a couple Fate points left, so he doesn’t really want to buy his way out of it, but he doesn’t want to run off, either.
His player says, “Kent gazes at the exit of the temple for a long moment… before turning away with steel in his eyes. ‘We’re all in this together, right? All for one and one for all!'”
He burns “Looking Out For Number One” and replaces it with “All for One and One For All.” His Fate pool refreshes completely. He can invoke this tag for free, once, right away. The GM can compel it as well (to encourage Kent to tend to his injured friends rather than chasing after the escaping Voodoo Master, perhaps.)

I like this quite a lot.


  1. They do a LOT of that in Spirit of the Century, Arref, and not just in Aspects.
    One of the main ‘between session’ improvements for a character is to swap the position of two skills on the skill pyramid, for example. The skill pyramid looks like this:
    Great-skill, Great-skill
    Good-skill, Good-skill, Good-skill
    … and so forth, out to the five-skill-deep fifth rank. Between sessions, you can swap one skill of any rank with another skill on any adjacent rank, so you can move one of your Good skills up to Great, moving the Great one down to Good. On the bottom rank, you can swap out a skill down there for one you don’t have on your list at all (effectively a skill you currently have a zero).
    On top of that are Stunts (third-cousins to D20 Feats), of which you have Five. Another “lateral improvement” in the system is to drop a Stunt that just hasn’t been seeing much use and replacing it with something more appropriate/useful/cool.
    This lateral improvement thing is a core part of the game, since the characters are already assumed to be at very nearly the PEAK of their game. ((You can see right there why I opted to use the system for playing Amberites.))
    People have added in some nice mods for actually ‘getting better’ by gradually gaining more aspects, stunts, and so forth, but this point I’m actually not entirely convinced it’s necessary for a game at the default power level — most of the point of getting XP and “leveling up” is that your character will change. The system currently in place changes your character in all kinds of significant ways without anyone ‘falling behind’, and I think that might be enough — maybe even better than enough.

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