[RPG] How to handle Legend-of-Zelda-esque magic items without aspect spamming


I think that one of the reasons that Zelda is a good setting for Fate is because advancement is horizontal rather than vertical. In other words, instead of zero-sum increases to power level as in other games, Zelda is about using your tools in unique ways to solve the problems. I'm talking mostly about aspects as permissions, as far as translating that over to Fate:

  • You have the Magic Hammer, therefore you can use blunt force to flatten enemies and stakes.
  • You have the Hookshot, therefore you can grab things that would normally be out of reach.
  • You have the Bow and Arrow, therefore you can attack enemies at range.
  • Etc.

The problem I'm facing right now is that aspect spamming is bad. A campaign that is modeled specifically after Zelda universe would have about 10-20 magic items for the players to find in various dungeons, which means that by the end of a completed game, each character would have 3-6 additional item aspects taking up space on their sheets.

So my question is: How should I handle magical plot-relevant items that are acquired as the campaign goes on? If they are few-and-far-between and plot-relevant, is it okay for me to devote so many bonus aspects to them?

Best Answer

Special equipment doesn't sound like an Aspect to me. Aspects are supposed to be double-edged: you can invoke them for a bonus, or they can be invoked/compelled against you to put you at a disadvantage. Most items in Zelda games aren't built with particular weaknesses, though there are exceptions -- the Iron Boots make you slow, the Zora Tunic in Twilight Princess makes you weak to fire and ice, and so on.

You might be able to think compels for your items too -- "You're tempted to fire an arrow, but the mighty winds swirling around would curve your shot at something you really don't want to hit!" -- but if you want your players to feel really awesome about their items most/all of the time, Aspects aren't the best choice.

Stunts are the typical domain of letting you do something uniquely awesome. Depending on how often you award these items, it might replace the point of refresh gained at a major milestone, as if the player automatically spent that point on a new Stunt which is the item. You can also balance Stunts by determining how often they can be used for their effect -- there might be a mundane use that's unlimited to solve common obstacles, plus a more powerful effect limited to once per scene or session.

Finally, you can make your items into Extras. Through the magic of Fate's Bronze Rule, your items can become "characters" of their own, letting you assign Aspects, Skills, and/or Stunts depending on what you want them to do. The benefits of doing this are:

  • Your items are all the same -- If there are any recurring "themes" for how you want these items to work in the setting (the item can overcome these obstacles, the item consumes these ammo/points), you can make that part of all your Extras.
  • Your items are all different -- Using Extras means you're not trying to pigeonhole them as Aspects, Skills, or Stunts when they might not all be similar enough to fit the same mold.
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