Blendability and free aspect use

One of the things that I really like about the new Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game is how various facets of a character can be blended together for an action in whatever way makes sense.

I’ve been thinking about ways to achieve that sort of blendability in FATE. However, the linear nature of results don’t lend themselves well to arbitrary factors. For example, if a fencer wanted to distract her opponent with a well-timed feint it wouldn’t work to simply allow her to add her subterfuge skill to her attack skill; that would be unbalancing.

Parallel to the idea of blendability I was thinking about borrowing another concept from Marvel and seriously reducing the number of skills for my Superheroes game. Broad categories like: Combat, Subterfuge, Knowledge, and Technology. A thought came out of this, if you have a large category, it’s cool to be able to have a specialty or two that makes your character more unique. Maybe a specialty is a bit like an aspect; if you can narrate how it would apply then you can add a +1 to your result, no fate point required. Then I thought, there’s no reason that a specialty has to be limited to a specific skill, for example, a specialty under Subterfuge of say, Distractions, could very well be applied to a Combat rating when the character attempted a feint.

In fact, maybe specialties are entirely separate from skills and characters have some fixed number of them. Then you have large-scoped ratings like Combat +4, Subterfuge +3 which become like attributes, and a list of things that are more like skills: Fencing, Distractions, Dodging. Then you have a rating based upon the main thrust of the action, but influenced by how many of your skills you can weave into the narrative of your action.

That’s not too bad for achieving some basic blendability, but a final thought occurred to me and that’s what I really wanted to write about. A specialty is basically an aspect that you can invoke without a fate point but your only option is to get a +1. No rerolls, no compelling, but it’s free. Then I remembered that you can also use a fate point to get a +1 without the narrative burden of invoking an aspect, so what if you could, conversely, use some narrative and an aspect to get a +1 without the fate point?

I haven’t fully explored the ramifications of the idea, but I appreciate the symmetry of it.

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