At it's core, Aisling operates on ideas. Okay, you say, but all games work off ideas, and that's true. Aisling, though, is based on ideas that shape how we think about the world, rather than the ideas which are the facts of the world. They're story kernels, mythemes, if you will. Those kernels are encapsulated in Aspects, and they're the heart of what happens to your character.

The kernels are the wide range of things that distinguish your character from all the other characters with similar concepts and Thresholds. They're important aspects of your character, that together really give you a picture of the kind of person he is, and what is important to him. They can be: history, relationships and organizations, places, things, quotes and catchphrases, goals, descriptors, skills, and anything else you can imagine that would clearly define your character.

Choosing Aspects

Because Aspects are so important, you don't want to choose them carelessly. More so than normal skills, Aspects will greatly shape and define your character. The Aspect Strong will definitely say things about your character, but not nearly as much as High Priest of Zorax, God of Strength. Besides, Strong would be better as a Trait.

But even more than that, Aspects are how you tell the Guide what kind of stories you want to see, and what kinds of trouble your character will get into. It's obvious that you will get into some kind of fix; that's what gaming is about, in part. But your Aspects define what kinds of trouble, and what's more, pay you for it. If it's gonna happen, and it will, why shouldn't you get something for your trouble?

That's just on a munchkin sort of level, talking about what kind of game rewards you get. But it's important to note that the stories are supposed to be guided by your Aspects. If you're interested in a game where you kick ass and take names, then the Aspects you choose make that clear. It's obvious that a bookworm character in a story is not necessarily going to be involved in opening cans off whup-ass, and it's equally obvious that if you're reading a story about an international spy with a penchant for guns, there are going to be some shoot-outs, and the silent scribing of ancient texts is likely to be pretty sparse on the ground. Make sure your Aspect choices make it clear what you expect to see in the game.

There are three main categories into which an Aspect can fall, the 3 Es, and it's important to have an Aspect or two in each of them. The first category contains Aspects that exist on their own, and that you are just connected to some how. These are often items, people, or organizations, and other characters in the story can interact with them on their own. The second kind are Aspects that define the kinds of situations the character finds himself in. Other characters may be involved in the situation, but they're where your character will shine. The last category contains Aspects that are internal to your character - how he thinks about the world, and how he fits in it. Unlike situations, these aren't recurring themes in what happens to him, but themes about why and how he responds the way he does. Think of them as decreasing spheres of influence, moving from the whole world to the inner world:

Things, people, and organizations: have their own identities, agendas, and existence independent of the character. Your character is connected to them in some way, and as long as the Aspect exists, you can't lose those connections: your gun will always return to you somehow, and the Council will always be a potential resource. Other characters in the story (whether controlled by other players or the Guide) can interact with these Aspects independently of you, which is pretty cool - you get to define some of the world you'll be gaming in. If you want to see hyper-intelligent shades of blue, then subject to the Rule of No, make that an Aspect, and voila!
Common situations, skills, and talents: define the kinds of situations that a character will find herself in. Other characters may be involved, but these are where you will shine and excel. These are the actions you're known for, either because those situations tend towards certain kinds of responses on your part, or because you're just that good. These are the kinds of Aspects that tell your Guide exactly what kinds of things you want to do - Economic Advisor to Duke Briareus and //Captain of the Ninja Pirate Zombie Squad" say very clear, very different things about the stories you want to be in.
History, beliefs, and internal principles: within you lie the seeds from which all your actions grow, and these are those seeds. Change them, and you change the character, because you've changed how he sees the world, and how he fits into that vision. Other characters have the least direct involvement in these Aspects, but in a way they're the easiest for others to manipulate, if they understand you. These are often the ultimate themes of the stories your character will be involved in - there may be Ninja Pirate Zombie Squads, but is the story about loyalty vs. betrayal, fear vs. courage, or something simple and silly like who can find the biggest McGuffin?

By having a few Aspects of each category, you help ensure that there are many ways in which you can interact the game world as you play. Depending on the Aspect, it may fit in two, ro even all, of these categories. No matter what happens, you can have an emotional or psychological response to it. You'll have a situation or two allowing your character to stand center stage. And you'll help create the game world with the external Aspects you choose, and providing things for the other characters to interact with.

Why "Bad" Aspects Rule

One of the most important concepts to keep in mind when you're creating your character is that there are no such things as good and bad in Aisling. No matter how heinous the villain, he or she can change. No matter how virtuous the hero, a turn to the dark side could happen. Some healing requires a cut, and some pain can strengthen.

When you consider Traits and Aspects, remember this, as any one of them can help or hinder you. You may think being rich, famous, or powerful is all good, but they have their own drawbacks: people will want your money, or to be close to you, or to prove that they're more powerful. You may think that being homeless or sick is all bad, but they have their positive sides too: being homeless implies all sorts of survival skills, and you could use being sick to appear as less of a threat.

Instead of "good for my character", go for interesting - that will make for the best games.

Interesting Aspects

The key to an interesting Aspect is vague detail. That doesn't mean name the Aspect with a sentence, or get very particular about how it applies to the character. Instead, flex those poetic muscles. Which is more interesting, Bookworm or Librarian of the Brotherhood? Veteran or Hero of Iwo Jima? Charismatic or A Way with the Ladies? In each of those examples, the more interesting Aspect refers to some undefined but specific event, organization, or situation. Because it's very clear that there's something specific in mind (the Brotherhood sounds like a cult or mystical organization), we can see what the Aspect is getting across. But it's vague in that what those things are is unclear - what is the Brotherhood and what does it mean that he's the Librarian? How was he a hero at Iwo Jima? What way with the ladies - is he a lech, a casanova, or merely a sensitive guy who understands them?

The good thing about that kind of detail is that it doesn't limit your character. Instead, the Aspect actually opens it up for more interpretation, giving you many more ways in which the Aspect can affect the story, and in which you can use it. When you think of a Veteran, you don't necessarily think of experience in Japan, or certain kinds of tactics, or the experiences of homecoming in the 40s. Hero of Iwo Jima, though, does make you think of those right away, along with all the other things implied by being a veteran. That little bit of limitation suddenly makes the Aspect much larger, encompassing more of the world because it's not so vague.

Writing Them Out

So what does an Aspect look like on a character sheet? Simple - like an interesting phrase. There have been plenty of examples above, but if you'd like to see more, just to get those creative juices flowing, look here.