Dungeons & Dragons Fate RPG

Aspects as Alignment

Alignment Aspect CardsAs I mentioned in my post about the Dresden Files RPG, I really like how well aspects from fate work as a mechanical system for character traits particularly personality and motivations. The open-ended design and ability for aspects to work either for or against a character seem to make them a great alternative to the alignment system in D&D.

Alignment Aspects

Rather than picking a traditional alignment value, a player picks 2 or 3 aspects related to their character. These can be things similar to traditional D&D alignments, such as “Protect the Weak”, or concepts that don’t fit as neatly into an alignment grid, like “Family First” or “Impulsive”. If desired, a DM can ask players to pick aspects in different categories such as personality, beliefs, and motivations.

Similarly to the Fate system, these aspects could be used by players to gain a bonus when their characters are performing actions related to the aspects. When making any d20 roll related to an aspect, a player can tap that aspect in order to gain a +4 bonus on the roll. At most one aspect can be used per roll, and after being used the aspect remains tapped and not available for another use until the end of the current adventure or major quest.

A DM can also compel a character to act in accordance with an aspect. The player can choose to tap an available aspect to not follow the compel, but if the player agrees then one of the character’s tapped aspects becomes available for another use. For example, a character with the “Hates Undead” aspect could be compelled to be hostile towards a vampire NPC that the party wants to negotiate with for needed information.

Alternative Approaches

I’m definitely not the first person to try to integrate aspects with D&D. Fauxspects, written by Gamefiend, integrate aspects with the power economy rather than adding an additional point system to the game (Fauxspects parts 1 and 2). Wrath of Zombie has used a much wider set of effects when integrating aspects with Pathfinder. I’m sure there are also a lot of other approaches out there that I haven’t seen (or have seen but don’t remember offhand).

By Scott Boehmer

A game enthusiast and software engineer.

9 replies on “Aspects as Alignment”

Thanks for the link back! I love how Aspects have worked in my current games. The players really seem to like how they illustrate their characters and provide a stable jumping off point!

I like this idea. The trick, as it is in FATE, would be to get players to craft aspects that can be both good and bad. The point is to give the DM a hook to make things complicated for the PCs, but plenty of players optimize away from any hooks.

Yeah, aspects definitely require some oversight by the GM because of their open ended nature. I think an individual aspect could be either mostly positive or mostly negative as long as all of them taken together have possibilities to be used both ways. Another thing that a GM needs to watch out for is making sure the aspects can apply to situations that come up in the game. For instance, the “Hates Undead” aspect would be pretty pointless in an adventure without any undead.

Something to note, be careful when invoking player aspects. The aspect system was created to ensure the DFRPG characters got into trouble. In D&D they are already looking for trouble, so more pushing can feel like railroading. However, I use aspects like you mention to give bonuses to characters rolls (I hand out fate points when they act according to the role). This seems to work great without invoking those aspects.

I agree that you don’t want to use the aspects to railroad the plot, and a player always has the option to refuse the compel. Also, I didn’t really mention it in the post, but I’d let players regain the use of an aspect for acting according to one of their aspects if it puts them at a disadvantage of some sort in the same way that self-compels work in Fate.

When this page first loaded, I just sat there staring at the page. Aspect *CARDS*. That’s just…brilliant. I LOVE the idea, especially because my players have already shown a penchant for liking to have things in their hands to fiddle with. I like the rest of the post, too, but frankly the Aspect Cards are a revelation to me. Brilliant. Thank you.

Did you make those cards Glimm? We used Aspects in 4e for a while, but my players and I kept forgetting about them. These cards to physically manipulate would really help.

[…] I’ve mentioned before that the Bastion of Broken Souls is my favorite “epic” adventure for D&D, and I’d like to take a shot at converting it to D&D 4E. I have yet to run anything in the epic tier, so I’d be using the adventure as a fun way to try out that part of the game. I’d probably also use the opportunity to try out some other tweaks to 4E like my idea for alignment aspects. […]

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