You spend fate points—which you keep track of with pennies or glass beads or poker chips or some other tokens—to unlock the power of aspects and make them help you. You earn fate points by letting a character aspect be compelled against you to complicate the situation or make your life harder. Be sure to keep track of the fate points you have left at the end of the session—if you have more than your refresh, you start the next session with the fate points you ended this session with.
You earned a lot of fate points during your game session, ending the day with five fate points. Your refresh is 2, so you’ll start with five fate points the next time you play. But another player ends the same session with just one fate point. His refresh is 3, so he’ll begin the next session with three fate points, not just the one he had left over.
Spending Fate Points
There are three big things you can do with fate points: invoke aspects, compel aspects, and use aspects to declare story details.
You invoke an aspect to give yourself a bonus or make things a bit harder for your opponent. You can invoke any aspect that you a) know about, and b) can explain how you use it to your advantage—including aspects on other characters or on the situation. Normally, invoking an aspect costs you a fate point—hand one of your fate points to the Narrator. To invoke an aspect, you need to describe how that aspect helps you in your current situation.
I attack the zombie with my sword. I know zombies are Sluggish, so that should help me.
I really want to scare this guy. I’ve heard he’s Scared of Mice, so I’ll release a mouse in his bedroom.
Now that the guard’s Distracted, I should be able to sneak right by him.
This spell needs to be really powerful—I’m an Archwizard of the Ancient Order, and powerful spells are my bread and butter.
What does invoking the aspect get you?
Add a +2 bonus to your total. This costs a fate point.
Reroll the dice. This option is best if you rolled really lousy (usually a −3 or −4 showing on the dice). This costs a fate point.
Confront an opponent with the aspect
You use this option when your opponent is trying something and you think an existing aspect would make it harder for them. For instance, an alien thug wants to draw his blaster pistol, but he’s Buried in Debris; you spend a fate point to invoke that aspect, and now your opponent’s level of difficulty is increased by +2.
Help an ally with the aspect
Use this option when a friend could use some help and you think an existing aspect would make it easier for them. You spend a fate point to invoke the aspect, and now your friend gets a +2 on their roll.
Important: You can only invoke any aspect once on a given dice roll; you can’t spend a stack of fate points on one aspect and get a huge bonus from it. However, you can invoke several different aspects on the same roll.
If you’re invoking an aspect to add a bonus or reroll your dice, wait until after you’ve rolled to do it. No sense spending a fate point if you don’t need to!
Sometimes you can invoke an aspect for free, without paying a fate point. If you create or discover an aspect through the create an advantage action, the first invocation on it (by you or an ally) is free (if you succeeded with style, you get two freebies). If you cause a consequence through an attack, you or an ally can invoke it once for free. A boost is a special kind of aspect that grants one free invocation, then it vanishes.
If you’re in a situation where having or being around a certain aspect means your character’s life is more dramatic or complicated, anyone can compel the aspect. You can even compel it on yourself—that’s called a self-compel. Compels are the most common way for players to earn more fate points.
There are two types of compels: decisions and events.
This sort of compel suggests the answer to a decision your character has to make. If your character is Princess of Alaria, for example, you may need to stay to lead the defense of the Royal Alarian Castle rather than fleeing to safety. Or if you have a Defiant Streak a Mile Wide, maybe you can’t help but mouth off to the Dean of Discipline when he questions you.
Other times a compel reflects something happening that makes life more complicated for you. If you have Strange Luck, of course that spell you’re working on in class accidentally turns the dour Potions Master’s hair orange. If you Owe Don Valdeon a Favor, then Don Valdeon shows up and demands that you perform a service for him just when it’s least convenient.
In any case, when an aspect is compelled against you, the person compelling it offers you a fate point and suggests that the aspect has a certain effect—that you’ll make a certain decision or that a particular event will occur. You can discuss it back and forth, proposing tweaks or changes to the suggested compel. After a moment or two, you need to decide whether to accept the compel. If you agree, you take the fate point and your character makes the suggested decision or the event happens. If you refuse, you must pay a fate point from your own supply.
Yes, this means that if you don’t have any fate points, you can’t refuse a compel!
Declaring a Story Detail
Sometimes, you want to add a detail that works to your character’s advantage in a scene. For example, you might use this to narrate a convenient coincidence, like retroactively having the right supplies for a certain job (“Of course I brought that along!”), showing up at a dramatically appropriate moment, or suggesting that you and the NPC you just met have mutual clients in common.
To do this, you’ll spend a fate point. You should try to justify your story details by relating them to your aspects. Narrators have the right to veto any suggestions that seem out of scope or ask the player to revise them, especially if the rest of the group isn’t buying into it.