Fate Aspects in Creative Writing: Fleshing out your Plot

This is a continuation of my previous post concerning using Fate Aspects to flesh out characters. This week we’re gonna talk about using Aspects to figure out what’s going on in your plot. The purpose of Aspects is to serve as keywords that point you to the core idea of a character, scene, plot, or situation. As previously explained, they are punchy phrases like Daredevil WWII Pilot or Never Back Down From A Good Fight.

More appropriate to this week’s discussion, where we’ll talk about using them to describe the story as a whole, you may consider Aspects like The Town that Time Forgot or The Sword of Damocles. These might describe themes or threats within your story that will unfold over the course of writing.

What follows is a very basic introduction to how to use Aspects to define elements of your story. There are some resources down at the bottom of this article if you’d like to take it further. The ideas are not really complicated as they may seem, but they’re beyond the scope of a single blog article.

Spoiler Alert: This article contains very mild spoilers for Stranger Things 2 and Stephen King’s It, used to illustrate some of my points. Read no further if that sort of thing upsets you. And seriously, go watch Stranger Things.

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Clues As Fate Aspects


I have some shocking news, GMs. You are not Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and your players are not Sherlock Holmes. So when you run a mystery, you should save yourself, and your players, the frustration of expecting your players to just, somehow “get it”. Yes, it’s great when someone puts 2 and 2 together (that’s 22, right?), but those moments are the exception rather than rule, and can only serve to highlight good mystery planning, rather than being relied upon to drive the plot forward.

This is for the simple reason that no one can see inside your head. GMs who are in all other cases highly descriptive when it comes to hack n’ slash dungeon crawls, will all too often suddenly expect players to read their minds when it comes to a horror/mystery like Call of Cthulhu. In order for players to put together the pieces of this intricate puzzle, you have to stop holding out on giving them the pieces.

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Fate Aspects in Creative Writing: Fleshing Out Your Characters

It’s NaNoWriMo, and I want to talk about how Fate Aspects can help you flesh out your characters and plan your stories. I know there’s a huge temptation to fall down on one side or the other of Team Pantser, and Team Plotter, but whether you identify as an outliner, or as a discovery writer, Aspects are a unique tool to get a handle on your story and characters. For the Pantsers in the audience, like myself, it can be one way to outline without spoiling the thrill of discovery for yourself. Today I’ll talk about how to use Aspects to flesh out characters. I’ll talk about using Aspects to flesh out your plot in a future post.

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Call of Cthulhu Creature Spotlight: The Ghoul


There was one thing called “The Lesson”—heaven pity me, that I ever saw it! Listen—can you fancy a squatting circle of nameless dog-like things in a churchyard teaching a small child how to feed like themselves? The price of a changeling, I suppose—you know the old myth about how the weird people leave their spawn in cradles in exchange for the human babes they steal. Pickman was shewing what happens to those stolen babes—how they grow up—and then I began to see a hideous relationship in the faces of the human and non-human figures. He was, in all his gradations of morbidity between the frankly non-human and the degradedly human, establishing a sardonic linkage and evolution. The dog-things were developed from mortals!

Pickman’s Model, H.P. Lovecraft

Surpassed only by the Deep Ones among Call of Cthulhu RPG minions, Ghouls are truly a Keeper favorite. When the Investigators dare to get on a boat, or shamble through the mid-morning mist of Innsmouth, send a Deep One. When the Investigators go skulking around subterranean caverns, or prowling around cemeteries at night, well, a slavering pack of Ghouls cannot be far behind.

These creatures originate in Arabic folklore where they are called ghūls. Ghouls dwell in burial grounds, and are eaters of the dead, a trait which they maintain throughout western fiction and roleplaying games, including the Lovecraft mythos. In Arabic folklore, they are sons of Iblis, the chief of the evil Jinni. In Lovecraft’s fiction, their origin is perhaps even more sinister, for they, as the quote above describes, are humans twisted and mutated by some dark and ancient means, known only to ghoul-kind.

I like to recommend Pickman’s Model to first time reader’s of Lovecraft’s stories for two reasons: it is short, and it gives all of the creeping dread that is so emblematic of Lovecraft’s fiction. And, like The Outsider, it has a bit of a twist at the end, one whose horror is not at all diminished if you happen to see it coming.

via Daily Prompt: Ghoulish


A “Diceless” Idea

By diceless I mean randomless. The pseudo-random element comes from the fiction and from choices made in said fiction, and might be more accurately called a “changing” element rather than a random one. The mechanics simulate dice without rolling dice.

The result should be a game easily playable in the car on a road trip, or around a campfire. It may help to have the current state of the “dice” written down on a sheet of paper, but those with good memories ought to have no trouble remembering where the dice are currently at.

I admit to being largely influenced by John Harper’s Blades in the Dark, as well as 13th Age in the creation of this “diceless” system. This is only an embryonic idea, not at all play-tested.

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