Playtest version of Approaches & Abilities

After a bunch of feedback, I am locking down this version of my Fate Accelerated (FAE) A&A method for a little while to give it a chance in play. I have a few groups that are playing with this now, so we can see it in action. Initial feedback is looking good. Feel free to use these documents if you want to use this method in your games:

Approaches & Abilities FAE

A&A FAE Character Sheet

Approaches & Abilities

Approaches define how your character tends to solve problems. What types of solutions are they drawn to, and what their style is. These Approaches can be applied across any type of action, regardless of your expertise in that type of action (which is defined by Abilities). This method uses the standard FAE approaches, though it could conceivably work with other custom approaches for your campaign.

Abilities define your character’s area of expertise. They are broad, but should be heavily “fleshed out” and informed by your Aspects. These Abilities can only be used for appropriate tasks, but your expertise applies regardless of the method (ie – Approach). I have presented what I feel is the best arrangement of Abilities, but the same idea could be used with an alternate list of Abilities for your campaign.

Your character is at their best at the intersection of their highest Approach, and highest Ability. However, they are is still quite effective at the other combinations of their Approaches and Abilities, and even still average or fair when only able to use a relevant Approach without an Ability, or vice versa.


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. It also represents situational awareness for physical events. Approaches heavily alter the style of these actions. A high score reflects broad physical prowess, while stunts and aspects 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. It also represents combat awareness, and readiness (initiative). Approaches alter the style of your action. A high score reflects a broad ability to hurt others in any situation, while stunts and aspects define areas of training or talent, such as kung-fu, brawling, weapon styles, shooting, etc.

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

Skilled – Your ability to leverage skills and knowledge to solve problems. This covers broad areas of training and competence such as crafts, mechanics (relative to the settings technology level), common sense, academic studies, driving, piloting, riding. It also reflects a characters ability to discover information through research, forensics, deduction, etc. Aspects heavily color what this Ability covers for a character, but a high score 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, survival, etc.

Social – Your ability to influence and interact with people, and generally get them to do what you want. It also represents your social awareness and insight. 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.

Campaign Special Ability XYZ – Feel free to add an extra Ability for characters that covers special abilities not covered by those presented. In my mind, this will usually be used for things like, Magic, Psionics, Vampirism, etc. The important thing is that the Ability should be of suitably broad utility in your campaign as to “hold its weight” with the others, and also conceivably be able to be paired with most of the Approaches. Note that this doesn’t have to be the same special ability for all players. For example, one player might have Druidic Magic, while another player might have Faithful as their special slots. Frankly, feel free to allow a player to have more than one special ability if it makes sense. It shouldn’t break the game at all. 

Performing Actions

Declare what you want to accomplish, and how you are doing it. If a roll is necessary, the GM will tell you. In that case, you define a combination of an Approach and an Ability appropriate to the action you described. Your bonus on your roll is the total of those two bonuses.


  • Kicking in a door (Forcefully Athletic)
  • Moving silently down a hallway (Sneakily Athletic)
  • Diving for cover (Quickly Athletic)
  • Assaulting an opponent with a barrage of strikes (Quickly Combative)
  • Feinting to throw your opponent off-balance and then striking (Cleverly Combative)
  • Cautiously lining up the your attack only when they give you the opening (Carefully Combative)
  • Bribing an city official (Sneakily Influential)
  • Working a web of street contacts to hunt someone down (Cleverly Influential)
  • Pulling rank on a subordinate (Forcefully Influential)
  • Observing a target in conversation to read their motives (Carefully Social)
  • Fast-talking your way past a bouncer (Quickly Social)
  • Subtly blackmailing someone in conversation without others realizing it (Cleverly Social)
  • Examining a crime scene for clues (Carefully Skilled)
  • Running another car off the road in a high-speed chase (Forcefully Skilled)
  • Picking a lock (Cleverly Skilled)

Related Rules

Character Creation

Distribute a +2/1/1/0/0/0 pyramid among the 6 Approaches.
Distribute a +2/1/1/0/0/0 pyramid among the Abilities.


Build Aspects exactly as you would for any other FAE/Fate game. They are unaffected in any way by this methodology. The only thing to take into account is that your Aspects should naturally bring more clarity to what your Abilities represent in the context of your character.

Refresh and Fate Points

Characters start with the same Refresh values as they would have in any other game of FAE/Fate. The standard starting value is 3, but you may adjust as appropriate for the level of advancement in your campaign.

Building Stunts

You build stunts as normal, except that in most cases, a stunt should be specific to a combination of an Approach + Ability.

The standard format of stunts should be:
“Because I [describe some way that you are exceptional, have a cool bit of gear, or are otherwise awesome], I get a +2 while I am [pick one: Carefully, Cleverly, Flashily, Forcefully, Quickly, Sneakily] [pick one: Athletic, Combative, Influential, Skilled, Social, Special XYZ] and [pick one: attack, defend, create advantage or overcome] when [describe a circumstance].”

There are, of course, many other possibilities when constructing stunts, but this should be used as the baseline. For an extremely good library of stunt creation options, I suggest referring to Ed Hastings Pathfinder FAE hack. It uses an extremely similar methodology to my A&A method, and everything in his stunt creation options is equally appropriate and valid with this method. I also generally agree with his philosophy that Create Advantage and Overcome should be considered one and the same for purposes of stunts.

Stress and Consequences

I am using the standard FAE rules for Stress and Consequences. Feel free to adjust these as normal for your campaign, they are not impacted in any way by this methodology.


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).


Everyone rolls for Initiative using a Quick approach combined with the ability appropriate to the conflict. For combat (the most common example) players may use either Athletic or Combative (their choice).



Sample Characters

I will rebuild all of the characters I’ve presented thus far using this new method, and when I do, I’ll link them here.


 Change Log

12/30/13 – Updated with rule for Initiative, and some minor clarifications to Campaign Special Abilities, and addition of Ability Swap stunt option to the Magic Extra.


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