Sunday, March 8, 2015

FAE and Fate Core: Random Thoughts

I am getting back into Fate Core and FAE in the past couple of weeks. I am still impressed by the simple elegance of the game that starts with the dice, continues with the rules (four actions, four outcomes) and ends with the character sheet. The more I look at the game, the more I realize that you don't need many moving parts for a character: aspects, skills and stunts. Even though the Fate System Toolkit offers a lot of nifty parts, they are not really required to run a game of Fate. FAE ups that elegance by a notch. Instead of numerous skills you have instead six approaches that define how you do stuff and not what you do. This reminds me of the PtbA games. There, you usually have a handfull of attributes that also describe how you approach a situation and not what you do. What you do emerges from the fiction. I think that's the important lesson from PtbA: what you describe in the fiction is going to happen in the rules.

Transferring that back to Fate, you suddenly realize that you don't have to worry about Extras (chapter 11 in Fate Core). Like FAE says, if one of your aspects says that you can do magic, then your character can do magic. That aspect will color the player's narration. If her wizard opens a door, she'll do so forcefully with a magic spell bashing the door in, not by throwing her body weight against the door like the barbarian or using lockpicks like a thief. The end result is the same: a broken door, but how your character breaks it in the fiction, informs about who you are playing. If you apply this principle from FAE to Fate Core, you suddenly see how you arrive at Collegia Arcana Magic (page 275, Fate Core). An aspect permits you to use the Lore skill for magical overcome, create advantage, attack, and defend actions. If you want to have something extra, you can always take a stunt that improves a specific action when you do magic.

Once I realized that stunts can literally allow you to do anything within the boundaries of the fictional laws of your gameworld, and that they are triggered by the narration, I suddenly had a much easier time creating them. This was a learning curve fueled by playing PtbA games (in particular Monster of the Week) a lot in February. Now, stunts come a lot easier. I just think about awesome actions I imagine the character to take in the fiction, and which one of the four actions and which skill/approach would best cover the intended course of action.

One of the comments about the Fate, Blood & Seven Sins I received was the idea of not using hunger stress to represent the need for blood of a vampire, but instead to simply use compels on aspects (the particular comment was talking about game aspects), though I can see this working with character aspects as well (either concept or consequence).

That all feeds back into the utter beauty and simplicity of the Fate system. Narratively important facts can always be represented by aspects. Character aspects inform how an action is accomplished by a character, and even what the character can do. When the narration triggers a formal game action, dice hit the table, and skills/approaches and stunts decide the outcome.

Yes, you can system bloat Fate Core by using stuff from the Fate System Tookit, designing Extras like crazy, and layering game mechanics on top. But the important thing is realizing you don't have to do that to arrive at a satisfying genre emulation.

Which gets me back to Fate Core and FAE. As much as I like the fullblown rules of Fate Core, I always realize that I do not necessarily care for the Fate Core skill set. I find FAE approaches much more compelling, because they get you to think about how your character acts, his personality and way of doing things. So, while I like using Fate Core rules, I prefer approaches to skills. Therefore, I guess I am going to start using a FAE character sheet with Fate Core rules (or I could even use a Fate Core sheet with FAE style approaches: simply insert the approaches into the pyramid, and get rid of one stress track). Of course that means slightly different rules for recovery and advancement and creating the opposition, but those are exactly the rules changes I want in my games.

Okay, that's it for today. My rambling thoughts have gone on long enough.


  1. Just discovered your blog via a Google search.
    Not sure if you'll even see this message, but I hope you get back to blogging. You get FATE a lot better than I do... it's something I'm trying to absorb but I feel like I'm doing something wrong or missing some essential element.

    Anyway, I enjoyed reading what you have here and hopefully we'll see some more.

  2. Thanks for your kind words. In 2016 I will try to post more often.