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.
THE REROLL VS. THE +2
Rerolling the dice is a little riskier than just getting the +2 bonus, but has the potential for greater benefit. We recommend you reserve this option for when you’ve rolled a –3 or a –4 on the dice, to maximize the chance that you’ll get a beneficial result from rerolling. The odds are better that way.
It doesn’t matter when you invoke the aspect, but usually it’s best to wait until after you’ve rolled the dice to see if you’re going to need the benefit. You can invoke multiple aspects on a single roll, but youcannot invoke the same aspect multiple times on a single roll. So if your reroll doesn’t help you enough, you’ll have to pick another aspect (and spend another fate point) for a second reroll or that +2.
The group has to buy into the relevance of a particular aspect when you invoke it; GMs, you’re the final arbiter on this one. The use of an aspect should make sense, or you should be able to creatively narrate your way into ensuring it makes sense.
Precisely how you do this is up to you. Sometimes, it makes so much sense to use a particular aspect that you can just hold up the fate point and name it. Or you might need to embellish your character’s action a little more so that everyone understands where you’re coming from. (That’s why we recommend making sure that you’re on the same page with the group as to what each of your aspects means—it makes it easier to justify bringing it into play.)
Landon is trying to win a contest of wits with a rival in a tavern, and the skill they’re currently using is Rapport, which they’ve described as “attempting to shame each other as politely as possible.”
Lenny rolls badly on one of the contest exchanges, and says, “I want to invoke The Manners of a Goat.” Amanda gives him a skeptical look and replies, “What happened to ‘as politely as possible’?”
Lenny says, “Well, what I was thinking about doing was making some kind of ribald but not vulgar innuendo about the guy’s parentage, in order to get the crowd at the bar to laugh at him, perhaps despite themselves. I figure that bawdy put-downs are precisely my cup of tea.”
Amanda nods and says, “Okay, I’ll take that.”
Lenny spends the fate point.
If you want to see more examples of invoking an aspect, we’ve scattered them throughout the book—they’re so integral to how Fate works that they naturally end up in many examples of play. Check out here, here, and here.
If the aspect you invoke is on someone else’s character sheet, including situation aspects attached to them, you give them the fate point you spent. They don’t actually get to use it until after the end of the scene, though.
THE ELLIPSIS TRICK
If you want an easy way to ensure you have room to incorporate aspects into a roll, try narrating your action with an ellipsis at the end (“…”), and then finish the action with the aspect you want to invoke. Like this:
Lily says, “Okay, so I raise my sword up and…” (rolls dice, hates the result) “…and it looks like I’m going to miss at first, but it turns out to be a quick feint-and-slash, a classic move from the” (spends the fate point).
Ryan says, “So I’m trying to decipher the runes in the book and…” (rolls the dice, hates the result) “…and(spends a fate point) “…and I easily start rambling about their origin.”
You don’t always have to pay a fate point to invoke an aspect—sometimes it’s free.
When you succeed at creating an advantage, you “stick” a free invocation onto an aspect. If you succeed with style, you get two invocations. Some of the other actions also give you free boosts.
You also get to stick a free invocation on any consequences you inflict in a conflict.
Free invocations work like normal ones except in two ways: no fate points are exchanged, and you can stack them with a normal invocation for a better bonus. So you can use a free invocation and pay a fate point on the same aspect to get a +4 bonus instead of a +2, two rerolls instead of one, or you can add +4 to another character’s roll or increase passive opposition by +4. Or you could split the benefits, getting a reroll and a +2 bonus. You can also stack multiple free invocations together.
After you’ve used your free invocation, if the aspect in question is still around, you can keep invoking it by spending fate points.
Cynere succeeds on an attack, and causes her opponent to take the Cut Across the Gut consequence. On the next exchange, she attacks him again, and she can invoke that for free because she put it there, giving her a +2 or a reroll.
If you want, you can pass your free invocation to another character. That allows you to get some teamwork going between you and a buddy. This is really useful in a conflict if you want to set someone up for a big blow—have everyone create an advantage and pass their free invocations onto one person, then that person stacks all of them up at once for a huge bonus.
In other Fate games, free invocations were called “tagging.” We thought this was one bit of jargon too many. You can still call it that if you want—whatever helps you and your table understand the rule.