Aspects - High Concept and Trouble

High Concept

Your high concept is a phrase that sums up what your character is about—what and who he is. It’s an aspect, one of the first and most important ones for your character. Think of this aspect like your job, your role in life, or your calling—it’s what you’re good at, but it’s also a duty you have to deal with, and it’s constantly filled with problems of its own. That is to say, it comes with some good and some bad.

These aren’t the only ways to play with your high concept, but they’ll get you started. As long as it gives you a good idea about how the core of your character can be a boon and a hindrance, you’re on your way to a satisfying, succinct high concept for your character. But don’t stress out over it—the worst thing you can do is overcomplicate this by trying to make it into too big of a deal. You’ll be coming up with six other aspects over the course of character creation— you don’t have to get it all nailed in one.

High concepts can have overlap among the characters. As long as you have something to distinguish how your character is different from the others, you should be okay. If a high concept must be similar among all the characters (such as if the GM pitches an idea for an all-Warden campaign), it’s crucial that their troubles differ. Otherwise, you may have characters that feel too similar to each other. (If you’re having a problem here, read over the next section on troubles. That part might unlock some ideas for you.)


In addition to a high concept, every character has some sort of trouble (which is also an aspect) that’s a part of his life and his story. If your high concept is what or who your character is, your trouble is the answer to a simple question: what complicates your high concept?

Trouble has many forms, though it can generally be broken up into two types: internal conflicts/personal struggles, and external problems. Both threaten the character or are difficult to contain. Whatever form the trouble takes, it drives the character to take action, voluntarily or not. A character that does not have some sort of recurring issue is going to have a much harder time finding motivation, and that sort of character doesn’t tend to have many reasons to go out and do the crazy things that make for adventure. Without adventure, things would just be boring!

Most characters have several troubles they have to deal with, often reflected by the rest of their aspects (which you’ll select as you create your character), but there is usually one core trouble that shapes the character. This aspect will probably be the one most thoroughly exercised during play (at least in terms of compels).

Trouble is a potent hook for the GM and players to draw on for ideas. As you think about your character, try to figure out what kinds of problems you want your character to continually deal with. Try to pick one that has no easy solutions—many may not have solutions at all!

Also, troubles are one of the major ways that characters get compelled, which is important for getting fate points back. So it’s to your advantage to play to your character’s troubles in the adventure as much as you possibly can. (Troubles are like giant red flags to the GM saying “Hey, pick me!”)

Since your trouble is an aspect, it’s something you should also be able to invoke, right? Because we’ve been so focused on how this complicates your character’s life, it’s easy to miss how a trouble also helps your character.

In short, your experience with your trouble makes you a stronger person in that regard. Dealing with personal struggles leaves you vulnerable to being tempted or cajoled, but it can also give you a sense of inner strength, because you know the sort of person you want to be. External problems often cause trouble, but people do learn hard lessons from the troubles they deal with. They especially learn how to maneuver around many of the smaller issues their troubles present.

When you’re setting up a trouble, it should be the sort of issue that’s not going to paralyze the character completely. If the trouble is constantly interfering with the character’s day-today life, he’s going to spend all his time dealing with it rather than other matters at hand (like, perhaps, the current adventure). There has to be some wiggle room between “continually” and “constantly.” You shouldn’t have to deal with your inner conflict or external pressure at every turn—unless that’s the core of what that particular adventure is about. Before you go and further, talk with your GM about your character’s trouble. At this point, make sure you’re both on the same page in terms of what it means. Both of you may want to look at how this aspect might be invoked or compelled as one way to make sure you’re both seeing the same things—or to give each other ideas. Plus, the GM will come away from this conversation knowing what you want out of your trouble, better equipped to make it an important part of the game.

Aspects - High Concept and Trouble

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