FATE Accelerated

Our weekly RPG gaming night has been sauntering a bit lately. After 3 years of playing 4e through the Scales of War Adventure path, we imbibed in the D&D Next playtest. That gave us a taste for simpler fare, and we haven’t looked back.

We’ve sampled[1] Dungeon World, Numenera, more D&D Next, and now FATE Accelerated (FAE).

I thought it would be helpful to others to write about our experience with FATE Accelerated and what worked well for us. This isn’t a review of the system, but rather some tips that either helped me or I wish I would have known.

What is FATE Accelerated?

FATE is not a single RPG game, but rather a family of systems that provides rules for various genres. RPG Geek explains FATE well and has a list of games or settings “powered by FATE”.

Last year, Evil Hat held a Kickstarter campaign that funded the release of a setting neutral version of FATE, entitled aptly FATE Core. After the funding, Evil Hat released the Core Rulebook as a pay-what-you-like edition.

As part of this Kickstarter campaign, one of the stretch goals was a slimmed down version of subtitled Accelerated. The book is 48 pages long in a 6“x9” format and available at your local game shop for $5. It is also available through the same pay-what-you-like format as FATE Core.

Settling on Settings

Tip 1: Start with what you know.

First, realize that FAE is not a beefy system, nor is it crunchy. It is perhaps the most rules light RPG I’ve ever played (with the possible exception of Fiasco, if you choose to call that an RPG). And being so thin, it doesn’t really give you setting or genre. In other words, you’re on your own.

Our group is, so far, strictly fantasy. Elves, orcs, and dragons inhabit our stories and battle mat. While this might have been an opportune time to introduce a new genre to our group, we decided to keep the variance low so that we could better judge the system on its own merits.

I’m glad we did, because there are some subtleties to FAE that perhaps would have been lost if we had ventured too far outside our comfort zone.

D6 Aplenty

Tip 2: Have Plenty of d6

FAE uses d6 dice. You can use the special FATE Dice, but I found that d6 with 1–2 = minus, 3–4 = neutral, and 5–6 = plus is just as effective. I bought a couple of cubes of the 36 Chessex mini d6 at the local games store.

Most of our players didn’t have enough d6 in their own, and even when they did, they liked being able to switch dice around (as all superstitious gamers do).

I liked having 3 colors, one for the players and two for separate groups if you have multiple groups of NPCs. Besides, the dice are small enough that they make great FATE point tokens and counters too.

I am My Brother’s Keeper

Tip 3: Use Relationships

In a rules light system with no inherent setting, you need a catalyst for adventures. Fiasco/DungeonWorld style relations can be those seeds. (Dungeons of FATE brought this up, and we believe it.)

In our group, half of the players knew each other as former prisoners of the local baron. This made it easy as an adventure plot: They have to re-enter the dungeon to rescue a special prisoner.

Using Is Reusing

Tip 4: Use what you have

Given FATE’s simplicity, it is very easy to adapt an adventure or setting. No reason not to use an old adventure from your collection.

I actually used 3, Honor Among Thieves and Against the Cult of the Reptile God, along with a sprinkle of Secret of Saltmarsh. I doubt any of my players would recognize them.

An Aspect of FATE

We’ve just started playing games that have elements or components that allow player fiat. Even with physical reminders, I still had to remind the players to take advantage of the aspects in a sceme or to use their fate points.

For aspects especially, I would write them down on a whiteboard or battlemat so that everyone can see them. This should hopefully remind everyone to think of new aspects as the scene changes too.

Affect an Effect

Tip 6: Allow FATE points to alter the situation.

In FAE, two guidelines are given for Fate Points:

  1. add +2 to a roll or,
  2. re-roll the attempt.

However, a Fate Point, could be so much more useful. Need an iron spike? Or how about a healing potion hidden in the bottom of the chest? Let your players introduce elements to the story or have resources available in exchange for a Fate Point.

I Attribute His Success to His Approach

Tip 7: Approaches are not Attributes

One of the more unique aspects (pun intended :)) of FAE is that it doesn’t use attributes in their traditional sense. Rather, it uses approaches, or the style with which a character uses to solve a situation.

Approaches are the simple method that FAE uses to decouple skills and attributes in the same way I mention in the articles Perception Problems and Perception Problem Follow-up.

Probably the best way to describe is to use a FAE book example, trying to get into a castle:

  • Careful - watch the guard schedules and recognize the patterns for the best time to sneak on.
  • Clever - figure out the weak spots in the fortress wall or spot the secret way in or even how to get the objective to come out to you
  • Flashy - talk your way in or distract the guards with a diversion
  • Forceful - beat your way in or figure out how to bring the walls down
  • Quick - Take advantage of a distraction to duck inside
  • Sneaky - Good old fashioned through the window to unlock the doors

As you have probably surmised, many approaches can be used to accomplish the same things and there can be significant overlap. Not really a problem though. The versatility that approaches have allow for some roleplaying creativity. (However, it is important that the GM not allow everything. But that’s a topic for another article.)

Like aspects though, a GM for a new group will often have to ask how they are accomplishing what they are trying to do. Invariably the players will look at their character sheets to see which approach gives the biggest bonus at first. This is okay! However, you can gently suggest that an aspect might go better with a certain approach and deliver an overall higher bonus.

You Are the Captain of Your FATE

FATE definitely exercises the “less is more” mantra, getting out of your way. However, its brevity can also work against new players and GMs. Hopefully these and other suggestions can help you get your game up and running.

If nothing else, FATE can give you additional approaches (Ha!) to use in your games, no matter what system. I plan on continuing using aspects in my D&D games.

To paraphrase Dante - "“FATE cannot be taken from you; it is a gift.”

  1. Mini campaigns of 5–10 sessions each.  ↩