FATE – Group aspects

I’ve been mulling over the idea of converting the Fallen London setting into a roleplaying campaign; it’s a fabulous setting and with the right group, would make for a great character driven campaign. One of the elements of Fallen London that I feel would definitely need to translate in some fashion is the tracking of connections to different factions in London and the ability to trade on those connections for favours and such like.

Having recently started playing FATE, I’ve realised that this could be done through the use of aspects. However, more than that, this use of aspects would work well in any campaign that is not pure hack-and-slash or dungeon crawling.

Most aspects in FATE fall into one of three general categories; character aspects, scene aspects and temporary aspects (usually applied to characters or scenes as part of a conflict). I’d like to add a new category, which I’m nominally calling “group aspects”. (I considered calling it “social aspects” as that will be the most common use, but I don’t want to limit it unnecessarily.)

The idea is that these aspects apply to the group as a whole and can be used to track the group’s connection to different individuals or factions; “Associates of The Barber” or “Pawns of the Shadow Kings”, for example.
These aspects would be applied through story events and would last as long as they remain appropriate. They could even be adjusted as a particular connection develops; “Confidants of The Barber”, “Knights of the Shadow Kings”, etc…
Since these are still aspects, they can be invoked as normal, most likely in social conflicts or simple social actions where these connections may assist. I would even be tempted to give a free invoke as normal, when the aspect is first gained.

Of course, any use of these aspects is subject to GM veto if he knows something the players don’t. For example, when trying to butter up some criminals, a player attempts to invoke the fact that they are “Knights of the Shadow Kings” (a well known criminal organisation). However, the GM knows that these particular criminals are in competition with the Shadow Kings and this approach will therefore not work. In this case, the player gets their chip back, but also gains some small insight into the situation.

Naturally, negative group aspects can exist as well; “Wanted by the City Guard”, “Banned from the University Library”, etc… These can be compelled as usual, as can the positive aspects (being “Knights of the Shadow Kings” probably involves doing some work for them occasionally).

The only real disadvantage of including these types of aspect is that they greatly increase the number of aspects that need tracking at any one time. However, this issue is mitigated by a couple of things. Firstly, these aspects are only likely to be relevant in certain situations; for example, they’re not going to be used in the middle of a combat, where there is already plenty to track.
Secondly, most groups that care about connections and social favours are probably already doing this in a non-formalised manner. Being given work by your employers or name dropping people who owe you favours is standard operating procedure for many players; by calling these things aspects, it simply brings them into the fate chip economy, where the benefits are more visible.

Suggestions welcome, as always.

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