Review of Fate Accelerated Edition

Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE) is fantastic.  It is 45 pages worth of clever, elegant rules with text to explain them that wastes no time in getting readers into why it’s impressive.

The book is available for $5, or pay-what-you-want from the Evil Hat webstore.  It’s been designed to have a minimal barrier to entry, to make it as easy as possible for people to get grounded and playing using these rules.

Why would anyone do that?  Because Evil Hat are clever, and because this is a wonderful gateway to the wider world of Fate.

Fate in a Nutshell

All Fate systems share some core traits.  Firstly, they use Fate Dice: six-sided dice with two – symbols, two + symbols, and two blank sides.  They are essentially d3s.  You roll four of them, yielding results from —- to ++++ and averaging to zero.  The resulting dice rolls attach to flat numbers associated with Skills, so if you have Good (+3) Driving and you roll —-, the dice hate you and your overall result is Poor (-1).  Every character has Aspects, which are a series of statements that describe the character.  When these are useful for the character, the player spends a Fate Point to either reroll the dice or add +2 to the result.  When Aspects complicate the life  of the character, they get Fate Points in exchange as part of the economy.  The third factor is Stunts, which modify how the character relates to the wider rules, such as letting them use one skill in place of another in certain circumstances.  That’s the Coles Notes version, but given both Fate Accelerated Edition and Fate Core do a fantastic job of explaining all this, and they’re available Pay What You Want at the links above, you can easily have the professionals walk you through how everything works.

What’s So ‘Accelerated’ About It?

The Fate Core rulebook (reviewed here) is the new bible of how to make Fate games sing, and it’s not just a ruleset: it’s a discussion about how to adjust those core rules to achieve the results that you want in your game.  Fate Accelerated Edition is an example of what can be built by tweaking those core rules: it’s not a distinct ruleset from Fate Core, it’s an example of those rules being put into practice.

The most obvious difference is replacing Skills with Approaches, but still using them within the Four Actions/Four Outcomes framework from Fate Core (explored in more detail in our Fate Core review).  The upshot is that what the character does is less mechanically important than how they do it.  If we take the really basic example common to a huge number of roleplaying games that is A Gunfight, FAE doesn’t care how good the participants are with guns.  FAE wants to know whether they are approaching the gunfight Cleverly, or Quickly?  Sneakily or Carefully?  The same question can be asked of anything else: you can be a physically weak wizard, but if you use arcane power to smash your problems then you’ll be using Forceful a lot.  (Paging Harry Dresden to the white courtesy phone…)

This opens up the possibilities hugely, because at that point it doesn’t matter what the characters are or even the logic of how they might be able to accomplish something: the implication that they can and do is baked right into the basic concept.  The “Neighbourhood Watch in the Future” episode of the BRC podcast includes a discussion of a game where all of the characters are intelligent houses, and FAE is starting to feature regularly when we chat about building games.

The rest of the Fate Accelerated Edition book is about providing grounding for that basic framework of solving problems.  It walks readers through Aspects and why they matter, how to build characters, how to deal with challenges using game mechanics and how to run the game.  It’s the fastest and most focused “Newbie to GM” book I can think of, and is written to be as useful for people who have never gamed before as it is for experienced players looking for a change of pace and gears.

There is no native setting to FAE, but along the road of explaining everything else it hints at several different settings, such as a Harry Potter-esque Girls’ school of magic, a martial-arts-and-magic setting reminiscient of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and several others.  One contains flying sharks, airships, and a piratical cat-lady with narcolepsy.  The characters are included as worked examples at the end.

FAE is practically designed for adapting other franchises for RPG play.  The wider Fate Core community on Google+ is filled with examples, and the BRC Game Resources Page for Fate Accelerated contains examples from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Homestuck, Gravity Falls, Wreck-It Ralph, Kim Possible and Questionable Content.

Please check out this book.  You won’t regret it and it’s really tiny.  It’s a very quick, fun read and packs a hell of a punch.

Grade Summary:

Setting: NA or A+.  There’s no native setting to FAE, but the hints of what can be done with it are vivid and interesting points of inspiration.  Plus you get to play Spot The Pop-Culture Reference!

How Easy Is It To Explain The Setting To New Players: A+. Take any story with interesting characters from popular culture at large.  Say, “We’re playing that.”  DONE.

System: A+. It’s a rare system that gets out of the way as cleanly as FAE.  I’ve seen so many games where players get bogged down in whether it’s more exciting to tackle a given problem with guns, kung-fu or hacking, when no matter what they choose they’re going to kick in the door and raise hell.  FAE has a laser-scalpel focus in on the how, and lets the players supply the details themselves.

How Easy Is It To Explain The System To New Players: A+. Approaches can be summarised in a sentence or less.  If you want to go the extra mile and provide examples, it’ll be a verbal paragraph.  Plus, the book itself does a fantastic job of explaining everything as you go, and it’s hard to miss anything important since the whole thing’s completed in 33 pages or less – the rest of the 45 pages is information for GMs and the sample characters.

Is Character Generation Safe?: A+. Resoundingly.  The focus on Approaches means it’s almost impossible to go off the rails, and the way Stunts are framed to be extra-intuitive provides useful support.  With Aspects included as an important angle of what is important to the characters, you’re off to the races.

Practicality of Use in Play: A+. It’s hard to find problems with clarity or with locating relevant information given the succinct size of the book, and the care given to layout and writing makes it even easier to follow.

Ease of Running Sample Adventures: A. There are no sample adventures, except I think it’d be fair for any of the people who wrote this book to gesture at your shelves full of DVDs and say, with a meaningful grin: “Aren’t there?”  FAE makes it obvious that inspiration is everywhere, and once you get into it it’s hard to stop interpreting adventurous stories through its lens.  I’ve even found Approaches useful as a tool to think with when writing fiction.

Entertainment Value: B+ to A-. FAE is a very easy read.  It’s cleanly and clearly written, and is a pleasure to read.  I think how actively entertaining it is might vary from person to person, but I enjoyed it.  Being entertaining is not its purpose; being clear is, and it does a great job.  However, noticing the pop-culture references and figuring out what is being adapted into the examples was fun for me.

– Kev.

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