Wrote something over at Story Games, on the thread, Keys, aspects, beliefs, etc. – are they really all that? that I wanted to save here and present for further discussion if the rest of you folks who decided not to take the geek pilgrimage this year:
There was an interview with Jared and Luke on a podcast recently and one of them said something really interesting. He said something about, “you can role-play or talk in funny voices with any type of game but a good RPG will talk back.”
Aspects, Beliefs, Keys are more than just incentives, more than just positive reinforcement for role-playing. They are a tool for communication, a way to let everyone at the table know what you want the game to be about, what kind of situations and choices you are looking for at the table. These things start a conversation. These things make that conversation as much a part of the game as a hit point, they put that conversation on the character sheet.
I am reminded one of the Evil Hat crew, I think, who said something like, “The character sheet should be a love letter to the GM.” But it is more than a letter, it is a dialog, a conversation that the mechanics can help along.