Friday, January 10, 2014

Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE): First Impressions

I recently purchased PDFs of Fate Accelerated Edition and Fate Core because Fate appears to be a really popular game right now, and I was intrigued by the concept of using its Zones for 13th Age.  They're definitely worth picking up even if you're only slightly interested, because they're Pay What You Want on DriveThruRPG, and that includes free.  I'll tackle FAE first because at 48 pages (and it's not a particularly dense book), I was able to breeze right through it.

Fate is a highly narrative universal RPG that uses Fate or Fudge Dice, though you can easily use regular d6s as well.  FAE is the "lite" version of the game, with minimal rules ideal for players who don't like a lot of "crunch."  It appears to be a good game for introducing new people to RPGs (if they're the type who will latch onto the storytelling aspect of the hobby), and especially kids since they can let their imagination run wild and there are simple mechanics to back up their crazy ideas.

Each character has 3-5 Aspects (free-form statements about that character that can be invoked and compelled for mechanical benefits), a rating in each of 6 Approaches (a more active, narrative version of ability scores), one or more Stunts (like Aspects they're narratively driven, but they're much more specific), a Refresh rate for Fate points, and a Stress/Consequences track.  That's it.

To perform actions that carry a risk of failure you roll 4 Fate/Fudge dice, add any bonuses from your relevant Approach, any Aspects that you can invoke, and/or possibly a Stunt, and then you compare the results to the Ladder (DC/TN) or your opponent's roll.  While each PC has a list of Character Aspects, Aspects also come into play with situational environmental conditions, advantages created by a PC's actions, or Consequences (which are Aspects created when you suffer negative consequences from the opposition, such as taking damage).

Some examples of Aspects:

  • Sarah has my back (Character Aspect)
  • Suncaller of the Andral Desert (Character Aspect)
  • On Fire (Situation Aspect describing the environment)
  • Distracted (Boost, which is an aspect created when a PC used a Create Advantage action)
  • Broken Leg (Consequence)
Again, as a universal system you can do pretty much any setting or genre with this game, though some will work better than others.  One of the main examples throughout the book is a Harry Potter type game (without actually coming out and saying it), and as I was reading the rules I couldn't help but think how perfect it would be for that purpose.  I've always been surprised that an official Harry Potter RPG has never been published (at least not to my knowledge), but every time I've thought about it I couldn't help thinking what a nightmare it would be to come up with spells and actually have them translated to RPG mechanics.  That was thinking from the perspective of a more crunchy baseline, though.  In a narrative game like Fate, spells are easy; they just do what they do in the Harry Potter books.  

Of course since this flexibility is a direct result of minimal mechanics with a high narrative burden, it puts a lot of responsibility on the players and, especially, the GM to keep the game vibrant and interesting.  Everyone at the table is going to have to judge what kinds of Aspects best fit with the collective vision for their specific game.  This goes beyond the example in the book of "don't define an Aspect that lets you use magic if magic doesn't exist in the setting."  Because Aspects are so broad, they can model things as disparate as class features in D&D, investigative abilities in Gumshoe, or Smallville's Relationships.  Games of dungeon-delving murder hobos, investigative mysteries, and character-based soap opera games are all very different styles, and while they're all valid, they probably won't mix well in the same party.

This sort of comes with the territory of a narrative game, but it's especially important to keep in mind in a universal game like Fate.  Dungeon World is a narrative game, but it has a pretty clear style in mind and specific mechanics to support that style.  Unfortunately the GM section of FAE is really sparse.  This helps to keep the page length down, but for what would otherwise be a very good introductory game for new players I would hate to GM for the first time based solely on what FAE offers.  Even experienced GMs more accustomed to traditional games could benefit from more guidance here.  My guess is that Fate Core is more substantial on this front, and while that means FAE might not be a "complete" product for some groups, at least the Fate Core pdf can be picked up for free.

Closing Thoughts
The main reason I was interested in this game was to use some of the ideas from it for 13th Age.  While FAE touches on Zones only briefly, knowledge of Aspects can also help when crafting and adjudicating 13th Age Backgrounds and One Unique Thing.  I'm not sure whether or not I would actually run a Fate game, but if I were to try to sell my group on running this style of game FAE would be an ideal starting point.  It's dirt simple, doesn't require much effort or buy-in to get started, and by its very nature it only contains the most important, core concepts of the system.  My players would definitely want more crunch, but narrative-defined mechanics like Aspects are their own kind of fun.  

It's also a nice game to have in your back pocket.  If half the group can't show up to a session of your regular game, or if the GM TPK'd the party halfway through the session, FAE would make a great backup since character creation is super-quick and you can just jump right in and get down to business.

I'm expecting to get more out of Fate Core (when I get around to reading that; I've got a substantial reading list at the moment), but FAE has its own niche and I can see why some groups really like it.

Addendum: I've since played the game, and posted an article with further thoughts.

No comments:

Post a Comment