There are three types of story tags in the game: those derived from your conflict and flaw, global story tags, and situational story tags. When a story tag works against the player (conferring a -2), the tag is considered a "weakness tag."
The core rules outline the following:
- Across the board, no more than one story tag may be applied to any given roll.
- A story tag always confers a maximum of +2 to the outcome, and cannot be used to cause a die to explode or confirm a critical.
- When a story tag is applied to a roll, this changes the nature of the thing the PC is doing, so story tags must be invoked before the dice are cast (whether you're the one invoking it, or the player is invoking it). This gives you an opportunity to approve of its use and prevents players from slapping on story tags after the roll to boost their numbers.
Adjudicating Story Tags
You want to be permissive when players decide to use a story tag on a roll.
There's no hard and fast rule to help you determine when it's appropriate for a story tag to apply to a roll, it just has to make sense in the context of the fiction. If it sounds like a stretch for the tag to apply in any given situation, then it probably is and you shouldn't allow it. When you ask a player, "What are you doing to invoke your tag?" as long as they can confidently offer an explanation for how it should work in context, you should allow them to use it.
Creating Story Tags
Story tags are typically a short phrase that describes the character or the context for the tag succinctly, evocatively, and narrowly.
Broad vs. Narrow
A story tag should not be a simple adjective like "Resourceful" or "Bold" or "Clever": while these tags are succinct, they don't evoke any concrete image of the character doing anything in particular (not evocative), and they could be used in too many contexts (not narrow).
On the contrary, tags like Dumpster Diver, (the character is so frugal they can spot something useful even in a pile of trash) Spelling Bee Champ, (it takes a lot of guts to stand up in front of the class and spell "sesquipedalian") and Ex Con Artist (which speaks to the specific ways in which the character is clever) meet the criteria above. When a player suggests a tag that you suspect is too broad, ask them for an example of how their character expresses that tag—usually their example is the real tag they should be using.
Tags as Abstract Resources
Story tags can also represent things the player has access to, by virtue of their conflict or flaw. For example, the tag Underground Contacts could be used by the player to reach out to a criminal network whenever they're looking for intel (thereby conferring the +2 in their investigation). A simple tag like Gnarly Face Tattoo could be used as a means of intimidation and also represents something on the PC's person.
Global Story Tags
Global story tags function the same as story tags derived from a PC's conflict and flaw, except that they describe a situation or other narrative context that can benefit the players in other game modes. Global story tags are typically created in the overworld, and remain on the overworld map for reference, but it's possible for your players to end up creating global story tags as a part of other mechanics in the game. Wherever they originate, keep track of them in the overworld.
The global story tag in the above context explains something happening in the world outside the specific influence of the PCs. If a situation arises in any game mode that could be tangentially related to the Wormbargo, any of the PCs can invoke the Wormbargo tag to confer a +2 to their roll. Once invoked, the global story tag is removed from the overworld map permanently.
Situational Story Tags
These are a type of global story tag that tends to be created as a result of a success check or other similar action (for example, as a reward in a parley or dungeon crawl action) and may be invoked only by specific players (as is the case for a parley) or under specific circumstances (tags that last only as long as the dungeon crawl).
When adding these tags to the overworld, put them in a separate track from other global story tags to make their use case obvious to players.
Invoking Weakness Tags
On the GM cheat sheet there is a space to record the weakness tags of each PC for reference, but if you forget to invoke their tags against them in a session, that's OK!
"Weakness tags" (or any tag that is meant to be invoked against a player) already have a built in incentive for the players to use them against themselves (the earning of a fate point), so you don't have to remember to invoke them.