Winter Counts

Character creation in Fate games often use the idea of “Phases”, a process wherein players create the back history of their characters and the group as part of the character creation process.  It’s also one of the things I really like about the Fate system. I compare it to the way World Of Darkness game always had the idea of the character prelude. The Ehdrigohr version of this is called the “Winter Counts“.  It is how we work phases into the overall culture of Ehdrigohr, maintain themes important to the setting, and make it all endogenous to the Ehdrigohr experience.

What follows, shows this process as described in the book, and its meaning in the overall game.

In Ehdrigohr there are myriad ways of keeping track of the passage of time. One that is a constant, however, for all the peoples is the notion of the winter count. In the winter the nights are longer and the opportunities for the shivers to bring devastation are greater. As a result, surviving a winter is a pretty big deal causing people to measure the passing of the years in terms of counting winters. So years are marked from snowfall to snowfall. Every year has a significant event that stands out among all others and tends to become what the winter is named after. This isn’t necessarily the most important event as much as it’s the most memorable event. The year where there was great flooding might be known as “The Winter of Deep Waters”; or a year where many children died might be known as “The Winter of Weeping Mothers”; or a year where there were many cicada might be known as “The Winter of Singing Locusts”.

Winter Counts are generally regional as each tribe has their experiences and the designated Count Keeper will keep tally and compare notes and histories with Tellers and Jays when they come through. As you think about your character count their important winters and develop their personal winter counts. Define each moment listed below in terms of a Winter. If a winter is particular enough it could be an aspect, otherwise you should work to define an aspect inspired by the events identified in the winter.

The process of creating Winter Counts is meant to be a group exercise and assumes at least a few people. You can skip this step and just choose a handful of aspects fro your character. You will get the greatest experience however by engaging the Winter Counts. When all is said and done, you not only have an interesting description of a character of history and culture, you will have taken ownership of the game and described a brief history of the world as it relates to the characters. Your Winter Counts are a sort of personal horoscope for your character as well.

This is something for GMs to take and use to build a campaign around. A group of 4 character will have described 24 winters between them (some overlap) this is now history that your characters can engage in and are experts in. Congratulations! The Winter Counts basically become campaign aspects. This story is about your characters!


Winter of Complications

First you need to refer back to your high concept. How or what do you want to be in the world of Ehdrigohr? Think of everything that could go right about your chosen concept. Now think of what keeps that from happening. Every great ideal has a foil that gets in the way and provides resistance to achieving goals. This is your complication.

When was the first time this became a problem for you? Write a few words about it. Then create a phrase that describes how this affects you, your perception of the world, or the world perception of you. This is your Complication. You need this as a something the GM can compel and as source of Fate points.


Winters of Childhood Remembrances

We all begin somewhere and childhood in the lands of Ehdrigohr can be deadly. The truth is that many don’t make it past this point. What was special about your childhood that made you strong enough or safe enough to make it through intact? Write a few sentences about this. Now create an aspect phrase that sums this up. This is your Childhood Aspect.


Winters of Becoming

The teen years are some of the most harrowing times of a person’s life. It’s a time when you’re trying to figure out who you’re going to be. This is the time when your ideals and habits often get set.

What shaped you as an adolescent? Was there a particular person or incident that shaped your interactions with, and perceptions of, the rest of the world? Perhaps something you did shaped the way the world interacts with and perceives you.

Write a few sentences about this. Describe this as an aspect. Remember that this could be about another person as well. Were they a mentor, rival, or oppressor? Then use this as the focus of the aspect.

This is your Aspect of Adulthood.


Winter of Adventure

Life in this world is rarely static. Even if you come from one of the few towns in the lands, change comes and will often force you out of your comfort zones in the deadliest of ways. What happened to your character? This is his or her first adventure. You need to come up with a title for this adventure and it stars your character. If you have trouble with this section then refer back to your complication and create a story based around that. Write down the title of this story (and the major moments of the story if you can) and pass it to your Game Master.

This is your Aspect Of Heroic Journeys

Winter of Companions

Your many adventures have brought you into contact with myriad people. Look at the winters the other players have created. Pass these around and choose one in which you played a supporting role.

Since you were there, think about how you affected this story. You either complicated a situation, solved one, or both. Something built a connection between you and the other character.

Figure out what this was and write a few sentences for your chapter in their story. Now sum this connection or moment up in a short phrase. This is your Aspect of Relation.


Winters of Awakening

The Mysteries touch everyone and are a constant part of our lives and our actions. The great ones have been chosen by the Weaver and Spinner and some portion of their being is woven tightly with the mysteries.

These mysteries represent your innermost power and are what manifests when you show great displays of power that seeps into the world around you. The three types of displays and Power Levels (which are defined by the traits you chose earlier) are described in section called “The Basics”. Remember that you have traits, each of which have a power level.  These power levels modify the results of your efforts in particular areas.

You must choose one mystery to associate with each of the Power Displays as follows:


Devastation: Choose from the Natures. The Natures (Body, Mind, Spirit, Soul) manifest as animals and creatures that show who we truly are inside.

  • Body manifests animals of power.
  • Mind manifests animals of cunning.
  • Spirit manifests animals of tenacity.
  • Soul manifests ancestors.

These manifestations often occur as ghostly silhouettes and shadows surrounding the character.

Awe: Choose from the Elements. The elements (Earth, Fire, Air, Water) manifests as energy and elemental effects.

  • Earth causes tremors and localized gravity tends to reverse, vegetation manifests.
  • Air causes winds and thunder.
  • Fire causes heat and coruscating flames.
  • Water increases humidity, rain manifests, waves grow, and water often reverses direction and floats as in a vacuum.

Such effects are centered on the character and grow outward depending on their power level.


Glory: Choose from among the Principles. The Principle (Life, Love, Honor, Destiny) manifests as sounds, ghostly music heard by the effected, and sudden manifestations of insects and arachnids.

  • Life makes spirits on The Road and Shadow visible and the recently deceased have moths and scarabs come from mouth, nose, and ears.
  • Love cause fits of laughter and tears from those nearby. Sometimes those in the area cough up colorful or musical creatures like butterflies and crickets.
  • Honor is typically accompanied by the sound of drums and distant singing. In extreme cases beetles erupt from the ground and ants form messages.
  • Destiny is often accompanied by whispered stories in vague tongues. Spiders and dragonflies often manifest.

Again, such effects are centered on the character and grow outward depending on their power level.

One of these is your Mystery Aspect and is effectively the greatest part of your personal horoscope. People will know you to be “A Child of Fire”, “A woman of Honor”, “Possessed of the Tiger’s Rage”, or any other such aspect description.

Your Mystery Aspect was the first to manifest and is the subject of this winter. What happened? What did it feel like. Remember these manifestations happen in moments of intensity, great success, and great failure. How did this affect you? How did it affect those around you? Write a few sentences about this.

Your Mystery Aspect will color/flavor all manifestations of your other power effects. For example, if you’ve chosen Fire as your Mystery Aspect then even when your totem manifests from physical displays of power, it will be wreathed in flames.

Another example might be Love is your primary and Water is your source for Awe. When manifesting Awe you might have drops of rain or snow that flutter like butterflies.

Be creative here and whenever a display occurs. Displays don’t have any real game effect on their own unless you devise a trick to do so. They are, however, taggable in the same scene that they occur in. A GM can always cause your inner mysteries to manifest as part of the story or adventure. Doing so is a type of compel and she must pay the player a Fate point to do so.


Winter of Nightmares

There are terrible things that lurk outside of the civilized areas, waiting for an opportunity to destroy mankind and all that it has wrought. At some point you have had to come face to face with the things in the darkness and witness them do that which stretched your resolve. What happened here? What kind of creature did you see? What is the defining moment of this encounter? How has it affected you? Why does it still haunt your dreams?

This is your Fear Aspect and is mostly there for the GM to compel. Remember though that compels are there to help you gain Fate points to do awesome stuff with. Fear Aspects are special though because they do two things. First it creates a shiver that is added to the world that will be recurring and will have a particular interest in you. Two it is a compel that has an intensity that you can only resist by paying stress on your Composure track. This can be deferred by consequences. There is some stuff out there that you have to truly struggle against yourself to face.


Heroic Surges

The last important thing about your winters is that they are super special memories that drive you forward. Sometimes, when the chips are down and failure is imminent, these memories will reoccur and give you one last boost.

When you are about to be “taken out” and you contest the result, you can invoke a Heroic Surge instead. A heroic surge requires two things, a soliloquy and “burning” one of your winters. The player must reinvigorate themselves by declaring how this memory has given them new drive (that’s the soliloquy). After that the Aspect associated with that winter cannot be invoked again until a milestone has been achieved. (More on milestones in the “Advancement” section)

When a Heroic Surge has been successfully invoked, one of the characters stress tracks is cleared halfway (round up) and the lowest consequence is removed.

A Heroic Surge is meant to be a role-playing moment and story-driving tool. If you don’t do the soliloquy you don’t get the surge. You can’t just say “I have a heroic surge” and recover. You have to engage the moment.

There are rules effects and tricks that might only happen after you’ve experienced a heroic surge, but you have to engage the character’s history to get there. If you haven’t created winters you can’t invoke Heroic Surges.


Welcome to your character!

These are your aspects. With your main aspect (high concept), and cultural aspect, added to this you should have 9 aspects to work with altogether.



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Ehdrigohr Role-Playing Game, Copyright 2012, Council Of Fools LLC; Author Allen Turner

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Allen Turner

Writer, Storyteller, Game designer, Teacher, Dad, Table-top RPG geek. I'm just a dude who likes to share my wild imaginings. Follow me on Twitter @CouncilOfFools

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  1. Pingback: High Dog’s Winter Count | Monastic Musings Too

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