Saturday, January 24, 2015

Review: Fate Accelerated Edition

Okay, so I'm usually drawn to rules heavy rules-complete games like Pathfinder or D&D 3.5.  And as a player I prefer lots of stuff on my character sheet to work with.  But as a GM I tend to run things in a more rule-light fashion, even with crunchy rule sets.  And so I'm always forcing myself to check out rules-light games because they're more the Real Me.  The game Atomic Robo recently caught my eye, which led me to check out the underlying rules, the Fate system, and so last night I bought the "extra light" version of Fate, Fate Accelerated Edition (in pdf form).

Fate Accelerated Edition is only 50 pages, including covers, index, character sheet, and quick-reference sheets.  You can read the whole thing very quickly.  It can serve as a quick intro to the Fate system in general (my purpose for buying it) or a stand-alone set of nice simple rules.

My first read-through, admittedly late at night on a Friday when I was falling asleep, left me very confused about Aspects and a bit worried about the blank slate approach to character creation.  This morning, after a good night's sleep, healthy fruit-and-veggie breakfast shake, and not-healthy-at-all energy drink, it all became much clearer, although I'm still a bit worried about the whole blank slate thing.

To create your character you come up with an overall High Concept, like Orphaned Farmboy from Desert Planet with Unusually High Midichlorian Count.  Then pair it with Trouble, which is something which will recur to your disadvantage, like More-Man-Than-Machine Guy with Exceptionally High Midichlorian Count Insists on Being My Dad.  Then you add three to five Aspects which are more specific, like Born to Pilot a Landspeeder.  All those are created completely "blank slate" out of your noggin, which is super if you're into that and good at it but will present a struggle for people who are not.

Next is the crunchiest bit and that is allocating bonuses to six Approaches: Careful, Clever, Flashy, Forceful, Quick, and Sneaky.  You get a fixed set of bonuses to allocate to these, ranging from +3 to +0, in order to give actual mechanical bonuses to your character's personal style of doing things.

Finally we're back into fuzzy, blank slate territory with creating Stunts.  These are a bit like feats or class attributes in Pathfinder in that they give a mechanical +2 bonus but only for more specific situations.  You can start with up to three with no penalty.  Here, at least, there is a good "mad-libs" style template where you fill in the blanks to create the stunts.  The examples here are very useful.

Each character gets three Fate points, which refresh at the start of each session of play.  However, you can trade those refresh slots in for more Stunts.  For instance, you could have four Stunts (three free, plus one paid for with a Fate point refresh slot) and only two refresh slots.

Also, all characters get three Stress boxes, which are your "hit points" but in a much more general sense.  These can be physical, mental, social, emotional, spiritual, or whatever.  When you're in a contest where you could accrue stress, the amount by which the "attacker's" roll exceeds yours is how many stress points you take.  But there is the option of taking some level of Consequence instead of a stress point.  These last for a varying period and apply some negative condition, like "Splitting Headache" or "Bawling My Eyes Out" or "Spurting Stump", which you make up on the spot according to the circumstances.

Now for actual play.  Each turn/round you have four basic action types to choose from:
create an advantage, overcome something, attack, or defend.  In each case you pick the appropriate Approach, roll your set of four special Fate dice (d6s, each marked +, +, <blank>, <blank>, -, -) to generate outcomes from +4 to -4, add the Approach bonus, and add a Stunt bonus if one applies.  If the outcome isn't high enough you can spend a Fate point for +2, or to invoke an Aspect.  There may be consequences, especially if you invoke an Aspect.

And that's basically it.  I think it's a great little set of rules--and did I mention the pdf is Pay What You Want?  Overall I'd greatly recommend it, with the caveat that if you or your players are not very good at making stuff up out of thin air it might not be for you.


  1. I agree with most everything you've said here. I like FAE more than FATE. Fate swaps Approaches for more discrete Skills, but somehow makes it harder for me to grok it. That being said, FAE does have one flaw that can be fatal, depending on your players. A creative player can, if they choose, find a way to justify using their best Approach for nearly everything they attempt. Players who want a fun game, with a good story and are willing to use all their approaches should make for an enjoyable game. But a player who wants to "win", can kind of ruin things. It would be harder to do that in FATE with its specific skills.

    1. Yeah, that's often a problem with rules light games. They rely on people being fun and story oriented. I'm going to got Atomic Robo next and see what that flavor of FATE is like.

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