What is it?
A 48-page distillation of Evil Hat Productions’ Fate Core RPG
What’s the deal?
$5 for book & PDF; PWYW for PDF alone
What makes it cool?
Fate Core can handle virtually any “fiction-first” story you want to tell. By that I mean you say what you’re doing based on your concept of your character and then figure out how to model it, instead of consulting your character sheet to see what mechanical options you have. Fate Core is brilliant, but for me it’s too big a book, with too many options (“dials”) for its proposed play style. I’ve never run it. (I have played it a few times.) What I have run and played the hell out of is Fate Accelerated (FAE), which is near-perfect for seamless, cinematic storytelling.
FAE is a subset of the Core rules, stripped of all the dials, suggestions, and even skills. What’s left are Aspects, which are phrases that describe who you are; and Approaches, which describe how you do things.
Aspects might be “Last of a Damned Warlock Clan” or “The Fastest Gun in Portland, Maine.” You get just five, so pick carefully. Aspects give you permission to do things. If you’re the Last Warlock, you can cast spells. If you’re the Gunslinger, well, you get it. Can you do a thing? If it seems likely based on your aspects, yes! Simple, and fun.
Spend one of your few Fate Points to “invoke” an Aspect. Failed your Quick roll to shoot first? Invoke Fastest Gun to add +2 or roll again. The GM can also “compel” Aspects to complicate life, giving you one of their Fate Points for your trouble. Fastest Gun? People challenge you, just for the glory. Aspects and Fate Points bend the story around the PCs, making these key facets of your story matter.
Players quickly discover that the narrative turning against them (compels) charges them up for taking control of it later (via invokes). It’s amazing how quickly they start suggesting terrible things that might happen—that’s encouraged, by the way. It’s a collaborative game, so players can also suggest compels for each other, too.
Approaches replace skill ratings in FAE. “How are you approaching this task?” “I have high Flashy, so, flashily?” Nope, you have to describe how Flashy applies. Leaping a barricade? Easy! “I soar Flashily over the barricade, my red cloak swirling, drawing all eyes.” Picking a lock flashily? Maybe. Good players get surprisingly creative at justifying Approach choices. The GM and table decide if it seems fun, or if it’s bullshit. In FAE, you want people to find crazy ways to shine, though. My table rarely calls bullshit—cheers are much more frequent.
Default approaches are Careful, Clever, Flashy, Forceful, Quick & Sneaky, rated from from 0 to 3. Numbers are low, because Fate Dice give low results. You roll four six-siders with two blank faces, two minuses, and two plusses each. Results are from -4 to +4, on a bell curve, to which you add your chosen approach rating. +3 is a lot here.
You roll against the GM or target numbers. Combat is simple; your damage is the amount by which you beat your opponent’s roll. You only have a few stress points and then you get worsening conditions, which are really compellable temporary Aspects (see above). A minor condition might be “I Got My Bell Rung.” A major one might be “Utterly Disgraced.” You get three before you’re taken out of play. It’s quick but satisfying.
You can also Create an Advantage, taking a turn to make a temporary Aspect you—or a teammate—can invoke later. Trying to break your foe’s confidence, you might first Sneakily sneer at her when no one else can see, giving the Aspect “Off Balance,” which you invoke for +2 when you Flashily attack with the Cut Direct next round.
That brings up my last—and favorite—thing to mention about FAE. Physical, social, mental—no matter what kind of conflict you’re modeling, all “damage” is tracked using same stress points and condition slots, making any kind of conflict not only possible but also fun.
You can run a wild duel or a mannered exchange of veiled insults at a formal banquet with equal ease. You could run a wild duel that is also an insult contest. If you’re looking for rules that enable you to take conflict beyond the cut and thrust of “I attack with my longsword,” FAE is for you. Games are about what they have rules for, and FAE’s rules can model just about anything.
There’s more to FAE, but those are the basics. It plays super-fast at the table, because all you need is your character sheet. In the last six months of play, I don’t recall anyone in my group ever pulling out the book to consult it in the heat of play, yet our game feels rich, immersive, and sharply defined. To me, that’s the mark of a great system.