Is Fate Accelerated Edition an expansion? A fresh system adaptation? A quick-start guide? Fred Hicks suggests that it and Fate Core are better viewed as points of a Fate spectrum than as standalone entities. Maybe that’s true, but it’s awkward from a critical perspective, so I’ve chosen to review it as a separate entity. Unfortunately, the problem with this approach is that comparisons to Fate Core are as inevitable as they are unfavourable.It’s not that a stripped down, simplified, newbie-friendly version of Fate Core is without merit – more that I think FAE does not successfully achieve those design goals. The most alien elements of gaming in Fate – aspect invocations and compels, creating aspects and stunts from scratch, how stress and consequences diverge from traditional hit points – are all presented unchanged in FAE, minus the play guidance. (Although the more restricted list of stunt options are welcome, helping players to choose stunts faster.) Meanwhile skills – the most conventional element of Fate Core, at least from a traditional roleplayer’s perspective – are replaced by approaches. Instead of just describing what you’re doing (Fighting, Driving, building Rapport), FAE encourages you to describe how you’re doing it (Quickly, Cleverly, Forcefully) and assigns mechanical bonuses according to your character’s preferred approach.
My biggest problem with the approach system is that, instead of speeding up play, it actually slows things down. It’s usually pretty obvious whether an action falls under the Shoot skill or the Notice skill. It’s harder to determine if a player’s description of an attack is best described as Clever or Sneaky. When your GM isn’t arguing the toss over every other action, you usually get the opposite problem – it’s trivially easy for players to describe almost any action as using almost any approach, which means using their character’s best approach most of the time. And since every player’s best approach is capped at the same value, all characters becomes mechanically identical.
Still, other than that, FAE is basically Fate Core, which I love. And it seems churlish to complain about one when the other is available to download for free on literally the same webpage. It’s a shame though – Fate is excellent, but not the easiest game to teach newcomers, and it would be great to have a mini-game that helps GMs do precisely that. That’s not a niche Fate Accelerated is filling for me.
(I never review a game I haven’t played or run. Check out https://michaelduxbury.com/category/reviews/ for more RPG reviews.)