Next Iteration of Approaches & Abilities

I’ve been working on trying to further flesh out my Approaches & Abilities (or A&A) method for Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE), which combines the traditional Approaches with broad skills called Abilities. I wanted to get some feedback on this next iteration before I write it up into a full rules-style format. One big change is that I gave up worrying about trying to make the Abilities list match the same 6 items that the Approaches use. I have added a few new Abilities, and clarified the descriptions of others. I also changed the Abilities so that they are all worded as adjectives. This allows them to be combined with the Approaches in a more natural way, “When I am Flashily Competent, I can…” If you want to see where this started, see this post here. Big thanks has to be given to Ed Hastings for his significant advice on this ongoing project. If you haven’t seen his Pathfinder FAE hack, which takes a similar tack on combining Approaches and Skills, go take a look at it at his site, and his many awesome sample characters he’s posted. This list of Abilities may require some mild tweaking to properly capture the focus and flavor of particular settings, but I feel like this is getting close to universal.

For a quick recap, here’s how it works:

At creation, Characters distribute a +2/+1/+1 pyramid among the 6 Approaches, and then do the same among the Abilities. When they perform an action, they describe a combination of both Approach and Ability that is appropriate to the action being taken. This means that for a character’s best Ability and best Approach combination, they get a maximum of +4 (just like in Fate Core). For other combinations, the character gets anywhere from +3 to +0, depending on the combination of Approach and Ability. The use of this blended method retains the narrative brilliance and broad competence that traditional Approaches provide in FAE, while grounding characters in certain competencies, regardless of the Approach they can appropriately use in that situation.


Careful – A Careful action is when you pay close attention to detail and take your time to do the job right. Lining up a long-range arrow shot. Attentively standing watch. Disarming a bank’s alarm system.
Clever – A Clever action requires that you think fast, solve problems, or account for complex variables. Finding the weakness in an enemy swordsman’s style. Finding the weak point in a fortress wall. Fixing a computer.
Flashy – A Flashy action draws attention to you; it’s full of style and panache. Delivering an inspiring speech to your army. Embarrassing your opponent in a duel. Producing a magical fireworks display.
Forceful – A Forceful action isn’t subtle—it’s brute strength. Wrestling a bear. Staring down a thug. Casting a big, powerful magic spell.
Quick – A Quick action requires that you move quickly and with dexterity. Dodging an arrow. Getting in the first punch. Disarming a bomb as it ticks 3… 2… 1…
Sneaky – A Sneaky action is done with an emphasis on misdirection, stealth, or deceit. Talking your way out of getting arrested. Picking a pocket. Feinting in a sword fight.


Athletic – Your ability to control your body. This includes acts of strength, agility, and endurance, any sort of movement actions, but also includes more niche applications, like stealth. Approaches heavily alter the style of these actions. A high score reflects broad physical prowess, while stunts define specific areas of virtuosity, such as raw strength, acrobatics, speed, stealth, wrestling, etc.

Combative – Your ability to fight, whether hand to hand, or with melee or ranged weapons. Approaches alter the style of your action. A high score reflects a broad ability to hurt others in any situation, while stunts define areas of training or talent, such as kung-fu, brawling, weapon styles, shooting, etc.

Competent – Your ability at what are often viewed as commonplace skills and knowledges for your setting, such as crafts, mechanics (relative to the settings technology level), common sense, education, driving, piloting, or riding. A high score in this Ability reflects being skillful in many broad areas. Even without a bonus in this ability, stunts can be used to reflect less commonplace areas of specialty, such as burglary, academia, occult lore, computer hacking, stunt driving, tracking, etc.

Investigative – Your ability to find out information, about things, people, scenes, or anything. The Approach establishes the style of your discovery. A high score reflects a broad ability to discover information in any situation, while stunts reflect a specific talent for a type of investigation, such as passive awareness, forensics, research, empathy, etc.

Social – Your ability to influence and interact with people, and generally get them to do what you want. Different Approaches alter the style of the influence or manipulation. A high score reflects a broad ability to influence others in any situation, while stunts reflect specific areas of talent, such as intimidation, deception, fast talk, diplomatic arguments, etc.

Willful – Your ability to withstand mental punishment, and your force of will. Also a measure of your personal discipline or conviction. Because this stat is more “narrow” than the others, it can be empowered for Extra’s like Magic, Psionics, etc, with nothing more than an aspect for permission. Without such an aspect, this Ability generally can’t be used to Attack, but it can be used for the other action types when appropriate. Stunts designate specialties within that area, or an exceptional mental fortitude.

Worldly – Your ability to leverage your influence, connections and resources to make things happen in the world. This can take the form of favors, wealth, investments, contacts, street savvy. Stunts reflect specific areas of advantage, while a high score reflects a broad network of various resources one can leverage.


When a character advances through appropriate milestones, they can either add a point to an Ability (getting better at all applications of that Ability, regardless of the Approach used) or an Approach (getting better at all applications of that Approach, regardless of the Ability used).

I’d appreciate any feedback you have on this latest iteration.



5 responses to “Next Iteration of Approaches & Abilities

  • Scott B

    Ok, so knowing nothing about the system, I will only say this: your choices for what constitutes an approach seem biased toward the sorts of characters you enjoy playing. 😉 I see four obvious approaches for a rouge archetype, but only one for a barbarian archetype. Also, sneaky seems a little redundant here, given that one could use clever for bluff and careful for stealth. There is significant overlap, at any rate, which may make arbitration at the table more difficult.

    As for abilities, I really like competent, investigative, social, and worldly. Willful is flavorful, but it doesn’t seem to fit well with the rest. I don’t have any specific suggestion there. Combative seems overly useful for most settings, and athletic seems the opposite. For want of constructive critique, could you split/combine these into dexterous/limber and brutish/overpowering?

    Posts like this make me miss seeing you ’round the gaming table.

    Cheers, sir.

    • Razorstorm

      Hey dude! I miss you too! The Approaches are actually pulled directly from Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE), and the Abilities are really a consolidation of their Fate Core skill list. I appreciate a response from a fresh pair of eyes without familiarity to the source material, however! You are correct that the Approaches are somewhat fuzzy, and that flexibility is kinda okay in FAE, because the point is more to drive a focus on HOW you do something, rather than CAN you do it.

      It’s funny you didn’t think Athletic was all that useful, because to me it seems almost too useful, as it covers pretty much all physical activities other than fighting (and even then it can be used to dodge). Maybe that wasn’t clear enough. I do agree that some Abilities seem more “weighty” than others, however, and it’s something I’ve struggled with in this process. To me, the big 4 are Combative, Social, Athletic, and Investigative, in that they pack the most utility and cover the most “ground.” The others are neat, but are more likely to only be invested in by specific archetypes, or in certain games. For example, I only see Wizards, Psions, Priests, and the like investing in Willful. Worldly is not super helpful in one type of game, but very powerful in others. A lock-picking, treasure-hunting rogue will get a lot of mileage from Competent, while many other characters wouldn’t bother.

      Thanks for responding!

  • Abodi

    If your recording those games if love to listen.

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