The 13th FATE: Backgrounds as Aspects

Written by Covok.

The 13th FATE: Backgrounds as Aspects


One of common complaint with 13th Age is how specific and vague one should make their backgrounds. Backgrounds that apply all the time are boring and a little overpowered while backgrounds that never apply are a waste. For new players, it can be annoying to balance these two factors. Of course, one can use the general rules of “give an explanation on how it applies” and “if you can explain it, you can use it” to balance these factors out, but that puts a lot of effort on the GM and the players. I offer an alternative solution that off loads that issue onto the rules.


The idea takes inspiration from the popular, generic system FATE by Evil Hat Productions. Essentially, you treat backgrounds in 13th Age the same way FATE treats aspects.


Choosing Backgrounds

Every player chooses three backgrounds at character creation. These backgrounds are not ranked. In other words, you do not distribute 8 points among your backgrounds. Instead, follow this general guideline:


  1. Your first background is the most influential part of the character’s backstory.

  2. The third background represents the character’s main flaw or failure that often causes issues for the character.

  3. The second background is miscellaneous.

Fate Points

  • At the start of every session, every player gains three Fate points to use during the session.

  • You may spend 1 Fate point to invoke a background. When you invoke a background, add +5 to the skill check. You may only invoke one background per skill check.

  • To obtain more Fate points, you, the GM, or another player may compel the background. When a background is compelled, it works against you in a narrative or mechanical fashion and causes you to suffer a setback. A player may resist a compel by spending a Fate point.

  • Players may also regain a Fate point during a Quick Rest if they pass a normal save.

  • Players lose all of their Fate points at the end of the every session.

Difficulty Class

You have two options on how to deal with DCs when using this house rule:


  1. Decrease all DCs by 5 as backgrounds are optional.

  2. Keep DCs at their current value as they can be argued to be a tad low, rules as written.

Going with the former option will make Fate points very useful and the use of them will almost guarantee success.  Using the later option, will still make Fate points useful, but they will not almost guarantee success.


Alternate Rule For Fate Points

For GMs who want players to have to compel more often, have a lot of players, or run very short sessions, you may want to consider the following alternate rules for Fate points.

  • Players start the game with three Fate points.

  • Players lose all acquired Fate points and gain three Fate points after a Full Heal-up.

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