Mini-Review: Fate Accelerated Edition

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.FAEIt’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.)

3 thoughts on “Mini-Review: Fate Accelerated Edition

  1. You’re spoiling us with a new blog post so soon after your last one!

    However, I disagree with pretty much everything you’ve said in this review. Sorry! I don’t think it makes sense to review FAE and Fate Core separately; I don’t think the things you’ve highlighted as alien are alien except to dyed-in-the-wool “traditional” roleplayers; I don’t think Approaches are slower than Skills; and I don’t think there’s any problem with people using their peak Approach in most cases as long as it leads to good narration and fun at the table.

    Personally I prefer playing FAE, but I couldn’t run a game of FAE without referring to the Fate Core rulebook and I wouldn’t recommend that someone run a Fate Core game without referring to FAE either.

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  2. Not gonna respond to all of our points of disagreement (we’ve discussed it before!), but the point about characters all being the same mechanically leads into something else I prefer about Fate Core – the fact that there are some things your character absolutely SUCKS at. In FAE, there might be some things you can’t do at all, but everything else is probably running off your peak approach. Which I think is a shame! The things our characters do badly are almost as interesting as the things that make them awesome.

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  3. That is a good point. It is hard to be bad at things in FAE. There are ways around it (difficulty of tasks is essentially GM fiat and can be varied depending on the character involved and what they’re doing), but those ways are not written into the rules (or not clearly).

    But I’d argue that this is just one way that FAE and Fate Core represent different points on the spectrum. Fate Core is explicitly about competent characters; FAE is implicitly about characters who are either competent at everything, or at least as competent as each other in the same things. For example, if you have a game in which a party of Fate Core characters all want the same peak Skill, it probably should use FAE’s Approaches instead. This leads to different types of games and styles of play, but I don’t think it makes FAE weaker than Fate Core.

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