Characters have a set of attributes called Aspects. Aspects cover a wide range of elements and should collectively paint a decent picture of who the character is, what he’s connected to, and what’s important to him. (By contrast, Edges could be said to paint a similar picture of what the character is good at doing.) Aspects can be relationships, beliefs, catchphrases, descriptors, items or pretty much anything else that paints a picture of the character.
Scenes also have Aspects. Aspects in this context serve as a compact way to describe the relevant details of an environment, and can be used by the characters present in the scene.
In terms of game rules, Aspects are the main avenue by which a player draws or plays Fate Cards.
Invoking: An Aspect can be used to give you some control over your destiny in situations where that Aspect is applicable. Doing this is called invoking the Aspect. In this context, the Aspect makes the character better at whatever it is she’s doing, because the Aspect in some way applies to the situation. Invoking an Aspect can be used to replace the card flipped from your Fate Deck with a card from your Hand of Fate.
A player can also invoke an Aspect for effect, using it for a benefit that is not related to a card flip at all. This requires the use of a Fate Card like any other invocation does; in this case, however, the Fate Card is discarded as part of the invocation. For example, a player could invoke a Secret Organization Aspect to declare that the group has a chapter in town.
Tagging: Tagging an Aspect refers to the act of invoking an Aspect that isn’t your own; this includes scene Aspects and Aspects on other characters. In most respects this functions the same way as with an Aspect on your own character’s sheet – you replace a Fate Card in play with a card from your Hand of Fate. Unlike invoking, tagging an Aspect on a scene or another character allows you to replace the GM’s or the other character’s Fate Card with a card from your hand. When in an opposed action, this may cause your opponent’s total to fall below your own or cause them to fail their action (and also allows you to make use of those pesky 1’s and 2’s that have been hanging about in your hand).
Compelling: An Aspect can also allow a player to draw more Fate Cards by bringing complications and troubling circumstances into his character’s life. When this occurs, it’s referred to as compelling the Aspect. The GM performs compels; when she compels someone’s Aspect, she’s indicating that the character is in a position where the Aspect could create a problem. However, players can cause the GM to compel another character’s Aspects, via tagging, with a similar rationale and results. The target whose Aspect is compelled usually has the choice taking the consequences and limitations on his choices and drawing a Fate Card. When the target draws the Fate Card, the Aspect is officially compelled. He may also ignore the Aspect and the compel by discarding a Fate Card.
There are a couple of ways an Aspect can complicate a character’s life. An Aspect may limit actions and choice. If a character is given a situation where he would normally have a number of choices, and limiting those choices to act in accordance with his Aspect is going to make more trouble for the character, that’s grounds to compel the Aspect. It’s important to note that an Aspect may dictate the type of action, but it usually shouldn’t dictate the precise action, which is always the player’s decision. In this way, the compel highlights the difficulty of the choices at hand by placing limits on those choices.
An Aspect may also complicate a situation, rather than directly limiting a character’s choices. If everything would be going along normally, and the Aspect makes things more difficult or introduces an unexpected twist, that’s also grounds for a compel. In some cases, complications may suggest that certain consequences are mandated, such as failing at a particular action – perhaps the character would succeed in an Understanding action to see through someone’s lies, but his Gullible Aspect is compelled, forcing a failure if accepted.
Sometimes the Aspect may add a complication “offscreen”, such as when the GM decides to use a character’s personal nemesis as the villain for a session. In such a case the GM should remember to allow the character to draw an extra Fate Card. This is technically a compel – it does complicate things – but more practically it’s more of a “thank you” to the player for giving the GM a hook to build the adventure around, and is done without offering the player the option to buy out of it.