FAE 2

I have a FAE hack (Which I am calling FAE2[1]) that has been eating my brain which I will almost certainly use next time I need to run FAE because it’s very simple to implement, requires minimal changes from any existing material, and it opens a number of doors that I want to see opened.

The hack is this: When you make a roll, rather than choosing an approach and rolling that, you pick two approaches and add them together, and use that. Mechanically, this means that the potential bonus has changed from 0–3 to 1–5, so it will require a small (+2ish) bump to any passive difficulties or simply statted enemies, but otherwise you can largely play as written[2].

So why do such a thing? I have many, many answers:

  • Allows GM and player to each input into a challenge. The GM can say this is a Careful challenge, but the player can try to muscle through, and choose Forceful, and those are the two stats to use.
  • 2 approaches means two possible causes for failure. This is a subtle but important point which is key to respecting player’s schticks. If a player is super sneaky, but they blow a roll, it sucks to say the problem was with their sneakiness. This offers an obvious alternative.
  • Which approaches are chosen and how they combine offers an obvious area for mechanical hooks. Stunts which trigger a mechanical effect if two approaches are combined. Effects (fictional or mechanical) which force the choice on one side or another. Situations where you double down on a single stat. Switching up approaches to change the dynamic of a situation. Lots of possibilities.
  • This allows for the addition of an additional character- or campaign-specific approach to cover something that is important to a specific campaign. The most obvious possibility is some form of magic, but it does not take much imagination to see the possibilities of things like status, resources, alignment or very nearly anything else. In straight Fae, adding an approach for specific situations means those situations are all about that approach. This means that those situations will be tempered by other elements on the character’s sheet, which I very much like.
  • It also is an easy way to model games where there are things which not everyone can do, but which have differentiation among those who can do them (like, say, Avatar).
  • The handling of the extra approach is also a robust and profound mechanical hook, especially since nothing demands that it be consistent. Actions might charge it up or run it down.
  •  I hate to even say it, but I suppose I must. Spamming your best approach is the obvious abuse in Fae, and this mitigates it somewhat. It can outright counter it if the GM similarly just always picks the players worst approach, but that is an example of two wrongs trying to make a right but actually creating a pretty bad game for everyone else.

I fully get that for some people this might be an arbitrary or fiddly change, so I’m absolutely not suggest ing it as a blanket change. But the benefits seem so self-evident to me that there’s no way I can’t try it.


  1. Electric Boogaloo  ↩
  2. Alternately, you could reduce all approaches by 1 (so the go from –1 to +2) and leave everything else as is. I have an instinct to not do this, but I cannot fully articulate why, especially since I can intellectually think of a lot of potential benefits to it – for example, it now might now becomes an interesting compel option for the GM to compel you to use an aspect (at –2) rather than an approach, because the door has opened to negative approaches. Dunno. It’s apart I need to think about some more.  ↩

17 thoughts on “FAE 2

  1. silverwizard

    This also looks like a good way to have Approaches and less use anywhere problems with Core, use an approach and a skill or order to say what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.

    I am also excited as to what other things can be done here.

    Reply
    1. Rob Donoghue Post author

      Extra granularity helps. Big temptation would be to give each approach a damage condition that turns it into a -2 until recovered (as an alternative to Stress and maybe consequences). So as you fight and get hurt, your options narrow and become more predictable, which has a nice feel to it.

      Reply
  2. Rob Donoghue Post author

    Another random thought: If special circumstances allowed a third approach to matter, it would not be hugely overbalancing, since the range would go form 1-5 to 3-7. That’s basically the same as invoking an aspect, and that fact has my brain jumping in all sorts of directions.

    Reply
    1. Rob Donoghue Post author

      Purely mechanically, totally. Narratively, it’s totally a “Your strength will not help you here” sort of thing, and an extrapolation from the idea that there’s a lot of room for mechanical overlap between aspects and approaches.

      Though that said, It’s an even more rat bastard thing than a -2, because it’s really more likely to be a -3 to -5, since it’s the GM saying “Instead of using your strength, use your weakness” so you’re forgoing your usual bonus. That’s a pretty toothy penalty – so much so that I’d be hesitant to bust it out too often, but I admit I can completely think of situations where I’d do it.

      (Though the advantages of that are potential offset by the Margin of Success problem, but that needs its own fix)

      Reply
      1. Mike Olson

        I prefer my compels to be a choice: take the fate point and this bad thing happens, or pay a fate point and it doesn’t. My problem with “You can’t use your +3 approach” as a compel is that they might succeed anyway, and then what’d I spend that fate point on? A moment of tension? Not enough! I want results!

        Anyway, this talk of using two approaches at once led me to make this fiddly thing to differentiate specific pairings based on their (to me) compatibility, because that’s how I respond to elegant new ideas, and now I’m fascinated by it.

        Reply
  3. Laiel

    I was thinking of something similar myself, and this leads my brain towards Vincent Baker’s In a Wicked Age…, which has six Forms (Covertly, Directly, For Myself, For Others, With Love, and With Violence). You use two of them for every action in a conflict, and you want to roll higher than your opponent: but there’s also an Owe list, a great incentive not to use your highest Forms by rewarding you for both of your Forms having lower value than your opponent’s highest Form in that exchange. For me, this encourages thinking about which Forms are most appropriate instead of trying to game the system.

    Reply
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  5. Rickard

    I like your second point.

    It seems like you forgot one important part. By combining two approaches, you get more approaches out of a system with fewer components.

    4 approaches can be combines in six different ways.
    5 approaches can be combined in ten different ways.
    6 approaches can be combined in fifteen different ways.

    I don’t know how FAE works, but I wouldn’t mind the player always choosing the best approaches. Each roll will say something about the character, and the player will have to adopt the description to each situation, putting a creative challenge in the player’s lap.

    Reply
    1. Rob Donoghue Post author

      *laughs* You are 100% correct. That was totally on my mind, but for some reason I totally spaced on giving it a bullet point.

      Reply
  6. Brian Rock

    This adds an extra degree of richness to challenges, giving an extra layer if colour, and a bit more to work with for narrative inspiration.

    I’d be OK with letting player and GM pick the same approach, letting the player “double up” with an approach. The player and GM may both think the situation fits the player’s peak skill, and doubling up produces a similar effect as “perfect invocations” do in the Fate System Toolkit.

    Sometimes player and GM might agree a non-peak skill suits the situation,which can be even more interesting.

    Reply
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