[⚔Swords⚔] Failing forward with FATE-style aspects

Yesterday’s 13th Age session was great. The players had a blast with the combat system. There was a lot of praise for the different mechanics, from the Escalation Die to the character talent/power trees. Montages smoothened out the pacing of the adventure — as usual! I did, however, try a slightly different approach to the combat: having interesting things happen based on failed attack rolls.

What Actually Happened

Chromus the Monk failed a few rolls and dealt miss damage while fighting a Bruiser-type enemy (think of it as a mini-boss). To make things more interesting and expedite combat, rather than just saying, “You missed”, I came up with short phrases describing the scenery. Pipes were now smashed and were spewing hot gases. Not only did this make combat more dynamic i.e. random effects were happening to characters, it also allowed for a more vivid, thrilling flow of the action.

Fun With Aspects

I’m not the biggest fan of FATE, but I do like the idea of improv in the sense of applying labels to environments i.e. noting down aspects, and using them as a quick GM’s aid to make life interesting. This doesn’t just have to be for FATE or even DW. It can apply to other games, from D&D to 13th Age, and possibly even Savage Worlds.

Making successful rolls is part of the fun by itself, generally speaking, because of damage rolls and effects; this is not necessarily the case with failed rolls or even mundane tasks like movement (note: I do think failure in itself can be fun at times!).

Having aspects integrated as part of the action helps to alleviate the feel of drawn out down time. It can be done as part of failing forward, or even as an added effect on a critical roll. An effect doesn’t have to be significant on one single turn, as the aspects are likely to be recurrent and can therefore have multiple effects over a series of rounds/period of time.

I’ll be trying more of this in future games, but if you have any thoughts on this, I’d like to hear them below in the comments section. Thanks for reading and have a great gaming week ahead!

-Jim

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