A few little fate hacks

I like Fate accelerated edition very very much (and therefore I love this ridiculous curtailed version even more!). Unfortunately, I don’t love how “samey” the lack of structure makes FAE.

Quick primer on what’s already out there: Your character has 6 stats called approaches (forceful, quick, clever, sneaky, careful, flashy). Maybe they’re phrased as adverbs, I’m too lazy to check. They also have the standard fate aspects, and stunts, and stress tracks, and fate point pool.

There’s this well documented problem where your sneaky +3 thief needs to get through a locked door so they bash it down (or over a wall, so they sneakily vault it…). It kind of sucks. You’re supposed to fix it by staying immured in the fiction, but frankly I don’t love it: because there’s no structure there, there’s no actual ability to expose graduations. Things can make other things impossible, but not harder, not without engaging in the fate point economy (so “a slight incline” and “a steep incline” both do the same thing).

The fate point economy? That gives me an idea halfway between that tinyFate and honest-to-gosh FAE! The insight: FAE boils everything down to 6 descriptors. You should provide a reason for the player to want to mediate how frequently they pull from those 6 descriptors. Adding a flat number doesn’t do that. The fate point economy does. So:



A character has 3 “pools”, cribbed from Clinton R Nixon’s The Shadow of Yesterday. You could have more, but I think it would just get silly trying to track things that finely. Anyway, the pools are:

  • Vigor: Toughness, strength, physicality, stubbornness.
  • Instinct: Reflexes, senses, raw charisma, intuition.
  • Reason: Education, technique, practice, secrets.

For a starting character, let’s say each pool starts at 2 and then you can distribute 3 more points between them (so 5,2,2 or 4,3,2 or 3,3,3 are each legal).

You get your standard 3 FAE aspects and your standard 3 FAE stunts.

Dicing: Players roll dice; DM’s set difficulties. Roll 2d6 take the lower. It’s what I do for fate and fatelike systems, has a nice curve to it. By default, Fate lets you succeed 61.73% of the time at +0 (http://anydice.com/program/a8) so we should probably match that; a player succeeds on a 2 or better on these rolls (69.44% of the time, http://anydice.com/program/2eec).

For things you should be good at (I have aspects that help! Etc!), you can spend points from your pools to tag aspects (or use free tags on aspects placed into the scene). The rub is that you can only spend aspects from the pool associated with the type of action (in the same loose association we were supposed to use for determining approaches), and that we keep things honest by saying that on a given action, you can only spend points from one pool. This is how you reflect “this is something I’m good at”.

However, the way our statistics work, a humble +1 bonus is enough to turn you into always a winner forever. As a result; player tags allow you to take the HIGHER of the two dice (or, if you already could take the higher of two dice, roll an additional die and take the highest).

For compels, you’re still offered a colorless “fate point” from an infinite stock. You can stick it into any of your pools that you like if you accept it, or buy it off with points from an appropriate pool to the compel.

You don’t have stress; stress comes straight off of your pools (with the same “defense-is-an-action-and-you-have-to-spend-tags-out-of-just-one-pool” rule). You can still have consequences just fine.

I’m tempted to say the default stunt is “when rolling from X pool in X situation, add one to the result of your dice”.

At the end of a scene, pools with fewer than 1 points refill to that point, and any consequences that shake out to compels shake out on top of this number. For higher powered games, you can set all of these numbers higher of course.

The table can still compel, as is traditional.

So an example character:

Conan the Barbarian (starting out)
Vigor 4
Instinct 3
Reason 2
“Cimmerian Barbarian”
“Shrewder than I look”
“Titanic Appetites”
Mighty Thews: +1 vigor-based 2-handed weapons.
Panther Litheness: +1 instinct-based hiding.
Indomitable: +1 reason-based magical resistance.

NPCs work differently. They have a bunch of tactics they’re good at with a difficulty to avoid that tactic. They also have a “challenge” (calculated from D&D 5e) which is a rough measure of their difficulty overall: it’s 1 + 1/2 the D&D challenge, rounded down; add 1 to the difficulty for their signature moves or 2 if it’s truly notable.

An example NPC:
Panther: “adult sized big cat silent hunter”; challenge 1; hide 2 smell 2 pounce 2.
Note that the panther’s default challenge of 1 means that unless situations go against a character, most interactions with the panther go the player’s way. It’s good at hiding, smelling, and pouncing though; when it does those things the player is on a more even footing.

or a tougher NPC:
Ogre: “stinky dumb giant”; challenge 2; smash 4 be large 3.
Note the default challenge of 2 means that most interactions with an ogre are on an even keel. There’s no allowance for the ogre’s extreme stupidity here; most of the time you’ll want to just treat those as compels on its dumb nature!

or an interesting NPC:
Vrock Demon: “vulture headed miasma demon”; challenge 4; resist cold, fire, lightning, weapons and magic 5
Immune to poison
Poison Spores(1/6 rounds): Every breathing creature in the same zone must vigor defend 5 or get -1 to everything but overcome until they vigor overcome 5 or bathe in holy water.
Screech(1 time): Every hearing creature in the same zone must vigor defend 5 or be stunned.

Naively, if you used these rules, nobody at or above D&D CR 12 would work — they’d have challenge 1+(1/2 * 12) = 1+(6) = 7, unrollable on a d6. You have two options. One is that stunts can still overcome this, so things beyond D&D CR 12 are truly supernatural terrors against which only the most prepared heroes stand a chance…

… or you can give the campaign a “level” and subtract it from all of your difficulties. I recommend that latter, and I really recommend keeping it quite low; even a campaign level value of “1” instead of “0” means that your city-slicker wizard cannot fail to hide from a panther — it’s a pretty impressive baseline competence!




About lackhand

I was born in 1984 and am still playing games, programming computers, and living in New York City. View all posts by lackhand

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