Tag Archives: skills

Deadlands Fate – Session 3

Deadlands Fate

See the Deadlands Fate Collection HERE.

This play session was recorded and you can listen to it at theRPGAcademy.com. It was broken up over two episodes.

Episode 3 – The Quick and the Left for Dead

Episode 4 – Dances with Chupacabra

What Happened?

This session began right where the previous had left off, with our three heroes having just jumped off the train. Introductions finally occurred, but Jonah & Sebastian did not divulge the details about Sebastian’s fugitive situation to Martin. We got the beginnngs of a conflict between Martin’s spirtuality, and Jonah’s “I blame God” baggage, which continued to grow throughout the session.

They knew that there was nothing anywhere nearby along the rail to either the East or West, but that if they headed south a few days travel through the Arizona desert they could get to several places. They knew that they were not equipped at all for this expedition, and that the desert would present a dangerous trek.

At this point I explained to them how we would be handling the desert trek mechanically, so that they could weigh their options. The main point to understand was that it was dangerous to travel at the peak of day, and while the night was least lethal, progress and foraging would be difficult. See below for the full write-up on the Arizona Desert.

They chose to follow the train tracks back just a little ways to see if they could possibly find the horses that the Apache raiders had abandoned when they attacked the train. This took them into the evening, without the possibility of making any prrogress (since they were going the wrong way!)  but with the hope of the horses giving them a significant advantage in the conflict. When it got dark, Jonah, being a “City Slicker” had had enough travelling, and made camp for them, while Sebastian and Martin kept looking for the horses. Martin was able to Create Advantage using his Mysticism to call the horses to them. Once the two horses came, Sebastian pulled a jerk move and hopped on one and promptly rode away into the night. Martin, not knowing that Jonah had arrrested him, was surprised, but thought it mostly inconsiderate. We all agreed that this would be an excellent compel for him to get pathetically lost in the dark and wind up going in a circle and ending up back in camp. He made up story that he rode off to lead some critter away from Martin. Between their various interactions, Martin now thinks that Sebastian is a fabulous fellow, and there is some tension between Martin and Jonah’s views on spirituality.

In the night, the group was attacked by a fierce desert monster called a Cupakabara (see this write-up for the full stats). The fight was fast and fierce. I had a rough time knowing how hard to make the monster to challenge the group of 3 PC’s. It actually ended up conceding before it could do too much damage. Had it just been an encounter on it’s own, without the combined pressure from the desert, it wouldn’t have been terribly meaningful, but in that context it worked pretty well. I think it also did a good job of enforcing the predatory and exotic nature of the desert. Coincidentally, it also corroborated Sebastian’s story about leading away a dangerous critter from Martin when they were getting the horses. Between their various interactions, Martin now thinks that Sebastian is a fabulous fellow, and there is some tension between Martin and Jonah’s views on spirituality.

They continued their trek through the wilderness, opting to travel for the morning, taking shelter and resting midday, then travelling for the evening and into the first phase of night, then resting again for the rest of night. To try and keep things from stagnating, I declared that they couldn’t repeat the same combination of Approach and Ability in from one exchange to the next. This resulted in some good creative problem solving as they came up with ways to shuffle their various Approaches and Abilities for best results. Their power combo was Martin being Carefully Mystic to Create Advantage to create a bonus for travel (since he had a stunt that spoke to this), and Jonah being Carefully Athletic to make the actual travel progress roll (since he had a stunt that spoke to this). They had to manage when they used different A&A combinations to ensure they could use this potent combo during their travel phases. This occasionally resulted in some situations that were somewhat questionable, but ultimately entertaining, like Sebastian using his Social Ability to “warm” everyone’s spirits against the cold night.

As we got on into the second and third day, I started throwing pumping Fate Points into the desert to up the ante. For example – I invoked the desert’s “Prairie Storms” aspect to intensify the challenge. The conflict took it’s toll, and by the time they finally “took out” the desert, every single player had at least one Consequence of some kind, and they were really sweating. But, they persevered, and a settlement appeared in the distance, to everyone’s relief.

How Did It Work?

The Fractaled Desert

Narratively, I wanted this session to focus on them working their way through the punishing desert, like a montage scene in a movie. At first, I was going to run it as a challenge, but I really wanted the desert to grind them down, with a real risk of being “taken out” by the trial. Then I had another idea, thanks to the awesomeness that is the Fate Core Google+ Community. Making use of the “Bronze Rule of Fate,” (aka- the Fate Fractal) I built the Arizona Desert as a fully statted-out opponent. I treated the whole trek as an extended conflict against the desert. Intead of a violent conflict, this was a conflict about survival skills and endurance. The Travel Progress checks, which would normally be Overcome checks, would now be “Attacks,” in that any shifts in excess of the Desert’s active resistance would deal stress on the Travel Stress track. It was one long, ongoing scene, so the stress from any fights during the trek would not recover until the conflict with the desert was resolved. If they were taken out by the desert, they would be at my mercy, which I had a plan for, but if they successfully “beat” the desert, it would fade into the background and no longer present a major obstacle.
In retrospect, I could have done without the Hunger & Thirst attempt to Create Advantage each round. It ended up just generally complicating things, and I don’t think it added much in return. While I do think it was valuable tactically, it definitely added a level of complication that I’m not really convinced was worth it.
One thing that was interesting was that this session highlighted the difference between Teamwork and Create Advantage. Teamwork only adds a +1, but it’s a guaranteed +1. While Create Advantage is potentially much more beneficial, it is by no means guaranteed.

I really like how this all played out. My only complaint would be that towards the end the selection and rotation of Approaches & Abilities got a little more mechanistic, and a bit less narrative. I stopped pushing for detailed explanations of what they were actually doing. Part of this was that we were very pressed for time towards the end and needed to wrap up quickly, so we started cutting corners, but also just because I got lazy. Nonetheless, it created a very interesting tactical challenge, I got to explore some interesting new angles in the Fate system, and everyone had fun with it, so I’d say it was a victory!

The Arizona Desert

“Mercilessly scorching Desert”  “Stark rocky cliffs”  “Scrubby vegetation”  “Terrible things stalk the night”  “Praerie Storms”

Skills
Climate +3 (Attack)
Hunger & Thirst +3 (Create Advantage)
Travel Progress +3 (Defend)

Stunts

Scorching Days, Exposed Nights – During the peak of the day (Travel phase 2) gain a +2 to Climate Attacks (total of +5), and -2 during night time (Travel phase 4 & 5) (Total of +1)

Dark Night – Due to the intense dark, it is difficult safely travel at night, as well as to forage for food or water. During the night time (Travel phase 4 & 5) gain a +2 to Travel Progress “Defense” and Hunger & Thirst Create Advantage (total of +5 each).

Travel Stress [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]
Each day consists of five phases. Each phase will be an exchange in the conflict with the Desert.
1 – Morning
2 – Midday
3 – Evening
4 – Late Night
5 – Early Morning

Rules of Conflict

The party must rest at least 2 phases per day. During each phase, the Desert makes a Climate attack against all members of the party individually. In order to make progress, the party must make Travel Progress “Attacks” against the Desert. The Desert makes a single Hunger & Thirst attempt to Create Advantage against the group as a whole (single Defense roll for the group) only during the phases in which the party is active. The same members cannot contribute to both the Travel Progress attack, and the Hunger & Thirst active resistance, they must choose which they will contribute to.

If you use one combination of an Approach & Ability in a particular round, you may not use that same combination for the same action type in the following round. For example, if I used Cleverly Skilled to make a Travel Progress Attack this round, I could not do the same thing next round. I could, however, make a Carefully Skilled Progress Attack.

-Razorstorm


Magic in A&A FAE

Here is how I’m treating magic in my campaigns I’m playing with my A&A FAE method. This includes my Deadlands Fate game, as well a few others I haven’t written about yet. I’m treating this as the standard Extra for most all of the Campaign Special Ability XYZ’s that I left an open slot for in my Ability spreads. I will probably tweak this as I deal with more specific stuff, but this will always serve as my common starting place. I see this being used easily for magic of all stripes, but also for things like Net-Running in a Cyberpunk game, or Vampiric Blood Power, or Werewolf Gnosis, or the like.

Magic (or other Campaign Special Ability)

Permission: At least one Aspect that references your special Ability

Cost: Investing points in an Ability appropriately named for your campaign (Arcane, Alchemy, Psychic, Shamanic, Mysticism, etc). Sometimes a player may opt to not invest any skill points, and simply rely on Approaches, or perhaps an Ability Swap stunt. The aspect is granting permission.

Actions: Without any investment of stunts, this ability can be used to Overcome, or Create Advantage. It can also be used to Defend against Attacks of it’s type (in a campaign featuring a variety of magics, I’d allow them all to defend against each other). It cannot be used to Attack without investment of stunts. My default, the assumption is that this Ability can be used at range, up to whatever distance you and the DM agree is appropriate.

Stunts: Beyond these two standard stunts, additional stunts can be added following the normally proscribed patterns for the A&A method.

Defend: Use this Ability combined with an Approach to Defend against any type of Attack, not simply Attacks of similar type.

Attack: Use this Ability combined with an Approach to Attack.

Ability Swap: Use another ability instead of the main ability for certain applications. Example – “Use Social instead of Druidic Magic when Creating Advantages to inflict curses on your targets.”


Simon Baltar

NOTE – This is an updated version of this character based on the playtest version of my A&A FAE Method. You can find the original HERE.

Simon Baltar

High Concept: Umbral Inquisitor Detective

Trouble: Can’t Stop When I’m On to Something
Raised by the Glitterhaegen Mean-Streets
A Loyal Servant
Graduated from the Academae with Flying Colors
Approaches
Careful +2
Clever
Flashy
Forceful +1
Quick
Sneaky +1
Abilities
Athletic +1
Combative
Influential
Skilled +1
Social
Arcane +2
Stunts:
Occult Forensics – Because I am a highly trained magical investigator, when I am Carefully Skilled and attempt to Overcome or Create Advantage while studying a scene for clues, I can add my Arcane as an additional bonus. In addition to mundane clues, this also allows him to perceive magical paraphernalia, signatures, residues, and auras.
Abjuration – Because I specialized in Abjuration magic at the Academae, I can use Carefully Arcane to Defend against any attack, not just other magical attacks.
Evocation (-2) – Because I studied Evocation combat magic at the Academae, I can Forcefully Attack with Arcane, and I gain +2 when I forcefully Overcome or Create Advantage with the same.
Extras:
Arcane Magic – Simon uses my standard Magic Extra rules. His relevant Ability is Arcane.
FAE METHOD
Approaches
Careful +3
Clever
Flashy
Forceful +2
Quick
Sneaky +2

FATE CORE METHOD

Skills
Investigate +4
Will +3
Lore +3
Stealth +2
Notice +2
Athletics +2
Deceive +1
Burglary +1
Forceful +1
Provoke +1

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.

Approaches

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.

Abilities

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.

Examples:

  • 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.

Aspects

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.

Advancement

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).

Initiative

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).

 

Extras

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.

-Razorstorm

 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.


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.

Approaches

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.

Abilities

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.

Advancement

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.

-Razorstorm


Layering FAE Approaches and Abilities

I have an idea for a hack to FAE/Fate Core that combines Approaches and a very short & broad skill list. I’d really like to get some feedback on this idea, but first, I feel like I need to share the train of thought that has brought me here.

The Background

As I recently said, I’ve been devouring Fate Core, Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE), and many of the various spin offs from the Fate engine, as well as engaging in the really active G+ Community. I’m really enjoying seeing the system from different angles, and seeing how it can be twisted and molded. The fact that the game is intended  to be used this way makes this exceptionally inviting and fun.

I have been particularly enamored by the marque feature of FAE, which is its use of Approaches instead of skills. Here is an extremely good explanation of what Approaches are from Chris Ruthenbeck’s  blog post “Fate Core & Accelerated Editions”:
In FC, your character has skills. It tells you what your character is doing. Things like investigate, drive, shoot, and the like. The default skill list has 18 different skills, with rules on how each does one of the four actions: overcome, create an advantage, attack, and defend.

FAE, on the other hand, has 6 Approaches instead of skills. Approaches tell how your character does something, and they are careful, clever, flashy, forceful, quick, and sneaky. Take the famous attack action: if hidden in shadows, you can sneakily attack, but a barbarian would forcefully do the same, while an elven archer would carefully line up a shot. With the focus on how something is done instead of what is done, you can get away with a lot more with the 6 approaches than 18 skills.

I was trying to figure out why the use of Approaches felt so appropriate. Then I found this great post by Sophie Lagace about “FAE or Fate Core?” where she hit the nail on the head:

The stated goal of FATE is to enable you to tell stories about characters who are proactivecompetent, and dramatic (FATE Core, p. 18).  I contend that FAE meets this mandate even better than FATE Core.

With FAE, the skills are replaced by six approaches that represent a character’s style.  And just like that, we move one notch up on the “Competent, Proactive, Dramatic” track: the question a player asks is no longer “Can I do this?” but “How do I do this?”

Aspects tell you whether you can get it done (e.g., “Mage of the Fourth Circle,” “Brain surgeon extraordinaire”, “I once hacked the Pentagon main frame”) and whyyou do it (e.g., “Need to make my mother proud”, “Can’t get enough speed thrills”, “There can be Only One.”)  Approaches tell you how you get it done.

I agree with this in a big way. I love the assumption of PC competence, and the shifted focus to HOW the character accomplishes their action.

However, in my (admittedly limited) playing with FAE, it did end up feeling a little too amorphous, too general. My players felt the same. I started thinking about some way to combine Skills and Approaches. Shortly thereafter I saw this awesome post by Ed Hastings about his Pathfinder Fate Accelerated  hack. He took a very nifty angle by combining the 6 Approaches with 6 Capabilities, which were basically packages of broad skill sets that resonated strongly with classic fantasy classes.  I highly recommend taking a look at what he’s been doing with this idea.

Get to the point already! So what?

This got my wheels turning for another take on this that I’d like to test out, and I’d really like people’s feedback on. I want to retain the brilliance of Approaches to help players focus on HOW they do things, but I want to provide a little extra structure around their areas of competence. I didn’t want to just layer on Approaches on top of the full skill list, that’d be WAY too much going on. I then realized that in many cases, the various skills could be viewed as an Approach being applied to a more general skill (I’ll call them Abilities). For example, let’s consider the possibility of combining all of the social influence skills (Rapport, Provoke, Deceive) into a single broad Ability called Socialize. A given player could have a score in this general skill, and depending on the situation, and HOW they want to accomplish their social action, they layer on the appropriate Approach. This still leaves a lot of room for the flexible creativity that makes Approaches so cool. Being Forcefully Social could be used to intimidate someone, or rouse a crowd with a charismatic speech, for example. Being Sneakily Athletic can be used to stealth through a hallway, while being Quickly Athletic could be used to sprint across that same hallway. I think using this combined method retains the brilliance of Approaches, but helps provide a little more structure for the actions they influence. It also allows characters to have a baseline level of competence in certain Abilities regardless of the Approach used, while allowing them to be moderately successful in less-skilled Abilities when they can leverage the right Approach.

The Combined Method

Here’s my first take on presenting this as a rule:
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.

Abilities

Combat – Your ability to Fight, whether hand to hand, or with melee or ranged weapons. Any preferences or specializations derive from aspects or stunts. Approaches alter the style of your action. Actions: Overcome, Create Advantage, Attack, Defend
Socialize – Your ability to influence and interact with people, and generally get them to do what you want. Different Approaches alter the flavor of the action, making the difference between intimidation, deception, fast talk, diplomatic arguments, etc. Actions: Overcome, Create Advantage, Attack, Defend
Discovery – Your ability to find out information, about things, people, scenes, or anything. This can take many forms, including searching, passive awareness, empathy, or research. The Approach establishes the style of your Discovery. Actions: Overcome, Create Advantage, Defend. You cannot Attack with Discovery.
Athletics – 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.  Actions: Overcome, Create Advantage, Attack, Defend
Mechanics – Your ability to manipulate and interact with machines and objects. This could include things like picking locks, repairing an engine, disarming a trap, or many other similar actions. Actions: Overcome, Create Advantage. Attack or Defend are possible in special situations, often requiring stunts.
Will – Your ability to withstand mental punishment. Also a measure of your personal discipline or conviction. Actions: Create Advantage, Defend. Overcome and Attack (as well as Creating more physical Advantages) are only possible through Aspects and Stunts like magic, psionics, holy will, etc.

Approaches

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.

Advancement

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

Some Issues

I like this a lot in concept, but it leaves me with a few loose ends that I’m not sure how to handle. There are few skills that get left out in the cold. I don’t quite feel like they fit in this model, but I’m not sure if I should simply exclude them, or if there’s another solution I’m missing. Here are those loose ends:

Lore
Resources
Contacts
Drive
Lore is often a passive element measuring knowledge, so I think I’ll handle this the same as FAE, where you simply decide if a character knows a piece of information or not. The active part of Lore, research, will be handled by the Discovery Skill.
Resources and Contacts can be important active solutions to problems, but they just don’t seem like they combine with Approaches well, and so I think I’ll just follow the FAE method and let them be represented through Aspects and Stunts. Drive is probably too narrow too matter unless it’s super important to the game, and can also probably be handled through Aspects when it matters.

So… What are your thoughts?

So that’s the idea. What do you think about the Skill categories? Do the names of the Abilities work intuitively? Do you think it’ll be too complicated in play? Will it work with different genres? I welcome some feedback on this method. I haven’t been able to try this in play, but over the next few days I’ll post sample characters built using the Fate Core method, the FAE method, and my proposed combined method for comparison. I really appreciate your feedback and thoughts.
-Razorstorm

Intelligence-based Challenges – A Response to Dungeon Talk #20

This weekend I was listening to Dungeon Talk #20, one of the awesome podcast segments put out by DnD Academy. There was a good discussion around a listener email asking about how to best handle the topic of handling intelligence-based challenges with players, specifically puzzles. The discussion centered around the classic question of “how can someone roleplay a character smarter than themselves?” which is a very legitimate question. Roleplaying is all about being larger-than-life heroes. I can legitimately fight with a sword and throw a punch, but I’m no professional warrior. And I fancy myself a pretty smart dude, but I guarantee I’m no Master of the Arcane toting around an 18 Intelligence. We play heroes that we wish we could be. I am personally a fan of playing very clever and intelligent characters, but I am only so smart. So how do we handle challenges in-game that require the players to be quite smart, and how do you shine the spotlight on the appropriate character, even if that particular player isn’t capable of solving the puzzle on their own?

Here’s my thought based on how I’ve seen this handled in a past game. Note that this is taking the approach of a challenge that is meant to challenge the players not the characters.In the particular example, this DM was using a challenge the drew on some piece of music theory that he was confident one of the players would know. I can’t remember if that same player was playing the bard, but for the sake of this argument, let’s say someone else was playing the bard. So we have a puzzle requiring knowledge XYZ, and one player has the capability to answer to XYZ, but a different character  is the one that would make the most narrative sense to know the answer.

  • Present the puzzle/challenge to the group.
  • Allow the group to talk through it, work it out and figure out the solution out of character, as a group. Let them put their heads together and even maybe allow searching the web for ideas. Let them be as communally intelligent as they can.
  • At this point have all of the appropriate characters make their knowledge/skill rolls, ability checks, or simply nominate the character most likely to have that solution from a narrative standpoint. In the case of rolling, the highest roll gets the spotlight. That character steps forward and gets to activate the solution that the group came up with.

Since the challenge was intended to challenge the players instead of the character, I’d say that the roll is really irrelevant here, but if you want to use the roll, if none of the rolls succeed, the “fail forward” approach makes a lot of sense here. They manage to open the special door, but spring a trap, the path behind them caves in, or it took too long, and they get attacked while the spotlight character is inputting the solution. But because the group came up with the right answer, they solve the puzzle, since the point was for everyone to have fun solving a puzzle together. This approach allows you to challenge the group in a way that personally engages everyone, but still give the narrative spotlight to the right character.

Do you have any further thoughts on this idea? Join the discussion on their forums. 

-Razorstorm