Edit, Oct. 16, 2013: Rob Donohue discusses how approaches and skills differ, and why you need to look at them in a different light.
In my recent review of Fate Core and Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE), the standard and streamlined versions of the Fate role-playing system, I discussed how FAE’s use of Approaches differs from the use of Skills in Fate Core. I even argued that this made FAE a more faithful adaptation of the Fate “pillars”, Competence, Proactivity and Drama.
The latest post in my current series showing step-by-step how I use FAE to adapt a literary setting discussed using the FAE (and Fate) mechanics to model specific features of the Budayeen setting from George Alec Effinger’s Marĩd Audran series, a Middle Eastern cyberpunk version of New Orleans’ French Quarter. This post attracted a number of questions on the use of Approaches, as well as on the role of Aspects; many gamers are still left somewhat confused on how Approaches fit in adapting specific settings to FAE, and exactly what they represent.
Here are some more thoughts to help clarify the issue. While this post fits in with the Budayeen adaptation series, it addresses a more general context applicable to any game you plan using FAE — and, I think, Fate Core.
The Golden Rule
You may have heard the Fate system described as “fractal” because you can use the same methods at different scales. People usually refer to more specific rules mechanics, and we’ll discuss them further when we talk about the “Bronze Rule”; but in fact, Fate’s fractal or scalable nature applies throughout.
Fate Core’s Golden Rule (p. 185): Decide what you’re trying to accomplish first, then consult the rules to help you do it. While this rule is first brought up when discussing the Game Master’s job during play sessions, it actually describes most of a GM’s job right from the moment you decide you’ll run a game.
Specifically in setting creation, adaptation, or conversion, you need to set clearly what you’re trying to accomplish in order to use the rules effectively to do it.
In my Budayeen example, my goal is to create a game setting that will provide the feel of Effinger’s Budayeen stories in a game powered by the FAE system. Maybe I should call it Step 0: Goal, since in started my example with Step 1: Inspirations. Most of the time when I work on a game setting that borrows from literary fiction, comics, movies or television, this fidelity to the setting is going to be part of the goal.
However, there are occasions where a GM may try to model other features; in particular, sometimes a GM wants to replicate the feel of another game system. For example, maybe you’ve been running a campaign in another system and you’d now like to port it over to Fate. Or maybe you’re creating a whole new campaign, but your players are die-hard fans of another system and you’d like to make this look as familiar as possible.
These are all fine and achievable goals, but unless we make them explicit, articulate them clearly right at the beginning (Golden Rule), it will be very hard for two people to have a clear discussion if their implicit goals are different. Continue reading “Approaching Fate Accelerated: More Crunchy Bits”