Monthly Archives: December 2013

A&A Early Playtest Reflections

I’ve been rather quiet both here on the blog and on social media lately, so I thought I’d give a quick update. Despite my lack of updates, I’ve actually had games happening! My Deadlands Fate game had it’s second session, which you can listen to a podcast of over at If you are interested in hearing this method in action, you really should give it a listen. I also recently started a once-a-week  lunchtime gaming group at my office. This one is a modern fantasy game heavily influenced by Dresden Files RPG and World of Darkness. I’ll get more info up on those soon!

Some Basic Reflections

 Both of those are using my Approaches & Abilities method (A&A), and thus far, I’ve been very pleased actually seeing it in action. My one disappointment is that neither campaign lend themselves to any sort of politicking, or power struggles, or even needing resources (yet), so no one in either game has made any use of the “Influential” ability. I think I can safely say that many campaigns will ignore this ability, but I don’t think I can safely say that it doesn’t matter yet. In particular, I have my eye on an Age of Arthur game using this method, which I imagine having a very Game of Thrones kind of feel, and I think that ability would see excellent use in that game. I also think my other games will see some value in it at some point, but not often.
One thing that I have really started loving about this system is that the abilities are all interpreted through the lens of the character’s aspects and Approaches. Two characters may both have Athletics at a +2, but between their different Approaches and their individual aspects, that ability means different things to each character. This is especially true for the Skilled ability.

Approaches, and Player Psychology

 One thing I’ve found myself doing is that a player will make a basic statement of what they want they want to do. I will respond with something like, “Great, that’ll be a Combative check, but HOW are you doing it?” Basically, I nail down the Ability that is being used, but let them determine the Approach. It seems to help provide helpful structure for the players. If they state an Approach without any further explanation, I usually say “What about how your doing this makes it [Approach]?” and at that point, I always get a good colorful description of what they’re doing. I feel like my original hypothesis of the A&A method is playing out as I predicted. The Abilities provide a clear anchor for the action, which makes it easier for the Approaches to drive flavor, description and characterization.

I am also occasionally finding myself saying, after they state a desired course of action, “based on what you’ve described, there’s no way you can use [Approach].” Or “if you try to do that using [Approach] then it will be harder, how else might you do it?” I usually only bother doing this to push them off of their peak Approach, to get some variety in things, and keep them on their toes. Also some things I just lock into a certain Approach. For example – I’m handling Initiative by always calling for a roll using their Quick Approach, plus an ability appropriate to the conflict. For combat (the most common example) they can use either Athletic or Combative, their choice. I’m finding that these factors keep players from always relying on their peak Approach.

To be honest, I’ve actually been surprised at how often players happily volunteer to use their secondary Approaches and Abilities instead of their peak approach. They pretty much NEVER use Approaches or Abilities that they have zeros in, but I’m honestly not surprised by this. My wife straight up said this after our first play session with her swashbuckler, Scarlet VonRosen. “Those other things may as well not exist, because I’m going to do my darndest to figure out how solve every problem using either Combative, Social, or Athletic, while being Flashy, Clever, or Sneaky.” To which I say, bravo! Instant character style and identity. There’s enough variation there to keep things interesting, but it also keeps characters focused on what makes them awesome.

I’ve also just updated the playtest doc with a few minor additions. You can get it here, if you want to give it a spin for your own game.


Deadlands Fate Collection

Deadlands Fate

This post is a collection of all posts and content related to my Deadlands Fate game.

Rules and Setting

  • We are playing in the setting of Deadlands, published by Pinnacle Entertainment for the Savage Worlds setting, but we are playing using the Fate RPG system by Evil Hat Productions.
  • This game is using my Approaches & Abilities FAE method. At this time I have not added any other special rules related to converting Deadlands, but I probably will in the future.

Session Writeups

Podcast Recordings at




  • We are playing the game over, using the Google Hangouts integration for audio/video.

Happy Geeky Holidays!

I hope all of you had a Merry Christmas, Yule, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or whatever dead-of-winter holiday you celebrate. I sure did!

Geeky Gifts
Here are a few geeky gifts I got that I’ve been super excited about:

Dice Ring – This awesome dice ring by has a layered free-spinning band that simulates a d20. With odds on a silver background, and evens on a black background it also works really well for a 50/50 coin toss decision as well. Worn on my index finger, I can easily spin it with my thumb.  Quite possibly the best “fidget toy” ever invented! Oh, look, a natural 20!

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More Fate dice – This is the Winter Knight set. I really needed more for my office game. Besides, can you ever really have too many dice?

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Lords of Waterdeep and the Scoundrels of Skullport expansion – I recently started playing Lord of Waterdeep on the iPad, and I really like it. I haven’t had a chance to play with the expansion yet, but this is a phenomenal game. If you want to get a very true sense for the game without plopping down the full price, try it on the iPad first!

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Lost Cities – This is a two-player game for me and my wife to play alone. It seems that in order for a game to be actually good with only two players, it has to be designed as such, so my wife and I have started collecting 2 player games for use to play with each other. This one is simple in concept, but quite challenging. Highly recommend it!

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Lazy Days – Video Games and Reading

I finally beat Mass Effect. No, not the series, the first game. Yeah, I know, I’m way behind… but this is a big deal for me! I can count on one hand the number of video games that I have actually beaten. So now I’m off on my way through Mass Effect 2, and loving it.


I also just finished reading the latest Dresden Files novel by Jim Butcher, Cold Days. I had gotten confused after finishing Changes, and thought I was up to date, and only recently realized that I still had one more book to read to be current. Fixed that! Also, if you enjoy Dresden, there is a great anthology called Dangerous Women full of short stories about badass heroines. Butcher has one in there about Molly, bridging her time in between Changes and Cold Days. It’s really quite fabulous and any Dresden aficionado should definitely pick it up!


Happy Holidays to y’all!