One of the implementations D&D next brought to the table was breaking down characters into four groups of archetypes that could be cobbled together to build your own unique character: class, race, background, and theme/specialty, which determine your starting skills and feats and such. I had some thoughts on applying that to Fate, namely a Fate hack that blends the simplicity of things like Dungeons of Fate (DoF) and ICONS to get character creation done in five minutes or less. A Fate-asy game if you will.
DoF in particular had a set of Aspects that all characters started with, as its sheet started with the following boxes. Name, High Concept, Trouble, two Relationships, and a Heirloom Item. Fill those in and bam, you’ve instantly created and personalized your character, and are all but ready to start rolling. This was also more of my reaction to the Anglerre style of Fate fantasy, where you end up with a high concept like Elven Spellsword or Twin-Dagger Halfling Rogue or something that tries to mash the traditional D&D class and race combo into one sentence. To me, those are too wordy and game-y when they should be short, cool, and evocative. Yet I still wanted to maintain the D&D feel—your class determines the stuff ‘n thangs you get to do that other classes can’t.
My idea was to merge the DoF and D&D Next ideas into one unit: pick a High Concept and a Trouble, then three (or more) other Aspects—with some different Aspect types to choose from, for the GM/players to mix and match. Granted, it’s mostly compartmentalizing what’s always existed in Fate to try and streamline it for pick-up-and-play purposes, like for beer-and-pretzels side games and running at conventions. Traditional Fate and Fate Core can be vague because of their freeform nature, while this intends to give newer players coming from a D&D background a little more structure.
Also, it gives some granularity for game type. In a high-social game, the GM may ask each character to have a Class (or High Concept), Trouble, two Relationship aspects and one Other. More of a traditional “monty haul” D&D game may give the players several Magic Item aspects on top of their other Aspects. So on and suchwise. Want an all-humans game? Get rid of the Race one. Want a game where your Class is different from your High Concept? Make them two different things. Want a game without the baggage of determined class roles? Rename it back to High Concept. A game where all characters have High Concept, Trouble, Class, Race, and two Other’s is going to be a bit different from a game where they have Class, Trouble, Race, Relationship, and two Magic Items.
I’ve also been inspired by Grim World’s Fate playbooks, where each class-kit gets its own stunts and aspects to draw from; essentially, I’d foreseen my vision of a D&D-Fate hack giving each traditional D&D class a page or two of ideas to draw from, but the ability to branch out and specialize beyond that through player creativity. Here I’m just throwing out ideas off the top of my head.
Essentially this would be your High Concept, relaying an element of your class and not the class itself. A cleric may be a Storm Cleric, Champion of Valor, Combat Clergy, Undead Bane, they may want Blood for the Blood God or seek Justice for the Oppressed. A paladin may be a Defender of the Faith or Paragon of Virtue, while they may be Faith’s Swift Sword or a Shield to the Meek. A wizard could be a Master Conjurer, Apprenticed Necromancer, Armored Battle-Mage, or Arcane Savant, while a fighter maybe a Daring Swashbuckler, Grizzled Mercenary, Warrior Maiden, or Master-General Tactician. In any case, come up with something really evocative of your class or role.
Here’s another thought: split Class and High Concept into two different aspect types—so you can still be a Liege to the Lord of Light (high concept) who’s also a Demon Bane (class-related aspect).
This would be your bog-standard Trouble, a challenge you’re interested in having or a problem you’d like to see solved. Maybe you’re a Drunken Old War Vet who Saw Things You Can’t Un-see. Maybe you’re so overconfident that you Spring To Action Without Thinking or are such a Naive Good Samaritan that you Donate Your Wealth To Those In Need. Maybe you’re Seeking Revenge for the Death of Your Parents, or are Hunted By The Thieves’ Guild, or had your Soul Stolen By A Lich, or are Scarred By Dragon’s Fire, or are a Cantankerous Bully. And “What traps?” you ask. “It’s like second nature to me.”
Again, think of an element related to your race that would matter for your character. A dwarf may be a Forge-Friend or Master Bargainer, could be used to Subterranean Life, or may have a Stonework Affinity. Elves may be Long-Lived with Uncanny Agility, Children of the Forest who are really Wild At Heart. A half-orc may have a Ferocious Anger while a half-elf my have Inhuman Beauty. Kobolds may be Trap Masters who rely on Strength In Numbers when they Strike From The Shadows.
As a bonus, you can draw from established fantasy tropes, but Fate’s nature doesn’t limit you here. If you want a more unique feel, consider some of the various D&D worlds. A halfling in Eberron may be a Dinosaur Rider or Wiley Street Merchants, on Golarion they may be Escaped Slaves, while on Dark Sun’s burnt world of Athas they are Nomadic Desert Savages who are Consumed By Hunger For Flesh.
Some way in which you know another character, either through your shared backstory/”Guest Star” episodes, or instead of them. Maybe you’re both in the same adventuring guild, share the same motto, fought in the same war, are indebted to someone (or visa versa). You could both hunt monsters while jokingly tease each other about your rival deities. Siblings, lovers, friends, the possibilities are endless. I haven’t put any specific examples here because it would really rely on the characters and players to personalize these.
Other (Background / Personality / Specialty / etc.)
These were left to be more freeform character elements, or ones honed to a specific focus by the GM depending on the type of game. You could have it reflect what the character was before they started adventuring, an origin, an attitude, catchphrase, etc. Background may represent your origin (Blacksmith’s Apprentice, Knight’s Squire), while Personality may reveal more about you (like you have a Girl in Every Port or Hate Dwarven Scum or Laugh in the Face of Death or are a Penny Pincher), while your Specialty may be another Class-type focus (you Rain Down A Hail Of Arrows, your enemies Burn From My Holy Flame, be a Two-Fisted Investigator, or a Charming Debutante).
But, really, go wild. You can use multiple Other aspects to cover different things, and at the end of the day, there’s little distance between these and traditional rules-as-written aspect design.
This could be anything from your Trusty Magic Shield to your Holy Avenger to your Cloak of Elvenkind or a Trinket of Protection. How about a suit of Well-Used And Dented Full-Plate, or Elven Chainmail, or a Mithral Shirt. Maybe the monster hunter is kitted out with Silver Arrows while the explorer has a Flying Carpet. You could have inherited Your Father’s Bow or the Mountain King’s Axe, or it could even be your Lightning-Quick Steed. Or give it a name—Elric’s Black Blade of Despair, The One Ring, Excalibur, The Vorpal Sword, The Sword of Truth and Shield of Virtue, et al.
If you’d prefer, you can also replace “gear aspects” on a character with actual gear that has aspects and stunts, depending on how much crunch and granularity you want on your magic items. In that case ignore the idea of a Magic Item aspect, or consider it as a character’s iconic gear at the start of the game—the Aspect covers their magic sword, which then gets its own aspect and a stunt or two. Traditionally, I’ve allowed both in games: gear-related Aspects a character has are iconic personal items less likely to be taken away, while character-owned gear that happens to have aspects (or stunts) to reflect a magical/powerful nature have no such limitation.
The Bottom Line
I’m not actually still sure I’d use the idea—it’s actually feeling a bit too limiting to me now that I look it over, and there’s no real differentiation between the ideas of “high concept,” “class,” and “specialty”—but I really like elements of it, particularly the idea of Relationship aspects. And at the very least, it’s a mini-brainstorm session full of some Aspect ideas you can steal for your own Fate needs.