[RPG-Review] FATE Accelerated (and sort of FATE Core)

[RPG-Review] FATE Accelerated (and sort of FATE Core)

Hey everyone!
Today another review/ramble from me. This one is about FATE Accelerated Edition (or short FAE), FATE Core's simpler version.

If you're interested in how FATE Accelerated works, I made a rules explanation video for it already.

Fun fact: In German FATE Accelerated is called Turbo FATE … Because … I don't know why.

The good

To start, FATE Accelerated is just 50 6x9 pages - 40 pages if you ignore some of the useless stuff like the index, etc. The character sheet is also pretty simplistic


Nice! Very good for giving it to your players, telling them to read it for a game you want to run with them.
Even better: FATE Accelerated is freely available.

System-wise, FATE Accelerated is pretty good, too:
The focus is obviously narration, which in my opinion is the best kind of focus to have for a system. For rules and crunch I'd rather play a boardgame like Descent.
Aspects as mechanical character traits (rather than just flavour) are very open regarding the rules, still work well with the other parts of the system though. They are also way better than "Sneaky: +3; Fighting: +5" skills (wait, isn't that what FATE Core does? Yes! More on Skills in a bit).
Same thing with Approaches: They seem under-defined, a bit too open, and everyone is always able to use their better Approaches, but this isn't a bad thing, as I mentioned in my Lasers&Feelings Review before. It makes you spin a story, to justify why you can use your better Approach, which in turn enriches the narration, but it doesn't mean that you can always use your best Approach: As a buff-barbarian you cannot forcefully hack a computer.
FATE points also work well with Aspects as a mechanic: Everyone can if they really want to succeed at everything. That is what drama is about: Protagonists defeating overwhelming opposition. But their luck is finite, as they only have so many FATE points. If the players are out of FATE points they are out of luck, and misfortune will seek them (the players are even encouraged to seek this misfortune via compels).
This means, that we see the characters be awesome, but then have a hard time, then they're awesome again, but then they have a bad time again. Always keeping it interesting, changing it up.
Talking about compels: I really like players also being able to offer compels to other players, so they too are able to influence the game outside of their character for a more interesting story (which in turn makes the story better – more heads, more ideas).

All of this makes FATE (not just FATE Accelerated) very different to other RPGs. FATE sort of needs its own approach (lowercase – feel free to roll Clever though) to play well. If you go at FATE with DnD, Shadowrun, or other crunchy preconceptions you will underestimate or even ignore Aspects for what they are. Same thing might happen if you come from more narrative (but still rules-y) games like PbtA too, where Aspects might look like flavour texts intended to describe certain traits of the character.
Other thing that's completely different about FATE is, that conceding is actually a good thing, where in many other games (especially OSR games) conceding is often equal to game over/TPK (as Matt Colville explained in this video from a DnD side – you don't attend a DnD Session to surrender, but to roll dice).
All of this FATE uniqueness makes me think, that FATE is a great first RPG to learn without any prejudices/thoughts about how an RPG would work, because these would only confuse you in the long run.

In actual play FAE is also pretty neat:
Its rules rarely get in the way, and both as player and GM you quickly know what to do.

The original

I already teased that I don't like Skills from FATE Core. Considering the main difference between FATE Core and FATE Accelerated are Skills vs Approaches, and the ramifications of using Approaches, one could say I don't like FATE Core.
Skills in general are often suboptimal: You can't have all the skills, obviously (well … you can, but most of them are at +0). However, sometimes Aspects imply that you have something which would actually require a Skill in order to have. Which one is more important? The Aspect of which you can only have five which aren't chosen from a list? The Skill which were chosen from a list, and you knowingly chose the Skill at +0? Are both equally important?

If player A uses a Skill he has to roll dice. If character B has an Aspect, implying they would get what player A had to roll for (but they don't have the skill), would they also have to roll? Do they get what player A had to roll for, without rolling? A middle ground is just as bad: If player A rolled first, against a +4, and player B also has to roll they would either have to roll against a +4 with their +0 modifier making it hard to succeed, or alternatively have to roll against a +0 making player A wonder why it was harder for them.
You can't have every Skill, even though you would have every Skill in special cases: The hacker obviously has other hacker contacts, he didn't choose Contacts though (+0), because he needed other skills. Now the fiction - maybe the aspects too - say: Yeah, you have a hacker contact. The rules however say: Hacker contact? Roll Contacts. Only at +0? Bad luck. Forcing the GM to bend the rules to not break the fiction in stupid ways.
These are special, edge cases, and it's definitely better than Shadowrun or other crunchy games, but still …

FATE Accelerated solves this problem by you having every "Skill" with acceptable ratings (except one Skill at +0 versus many Skills at +0), and the Skills also being under-defined, so you can flex their definitions making you rarely use your worse ones. In the end FATE is about competent protagonists.

Faster character creation in FAE is also nice. You're encouraged to start with as less as possible: Just a High Concept, Trouble and an Aspect. One or two more Aspects and one Stunt (not 3 or even ridiculous 5). Combined with Approaches FAE characters are (even with full Aspects and a Stunt) easy to create.
Talking about stunts: Their format has been somewhat changed in FATE Accelerated. I still don't like the rigid

Because I [describe some way that you are exceptional, have a cool bit of gear, or are otherwise awesome], I get a +2 when I [pick one: Carefully, Cleverly, Flashily, Forcefully, Quickly, Sneakily] [pick one: attack, defend, create advantages, overcome] when [describe a circumstance].
Because I [describe some way that you are exceptional, have a cool bit of gear, or are otherwise awesome], once per game session I can [describe something cool you can do].

texts you have to fill in, in order to create stunts, though I can't think of a better way to teach these. The first type of stunt also sounds like a modifier arms race: How can I optimize the most!

Overcome is good, yeah, it occurs pretty often anyways. My highest Approach is Sneaky, which I want to get a +2 on. Circumstance … hmm … what generic circumstance could I pick, the GM would agree on?

In order to eventually shout "Hah! I have +5 on my roll without spending FATE points!". Go play DnD or Shadowrun or something else, if you like showing off your big numbers :|

Well, all in all a lot from FATE Core has been cut in order to accelerate FATE and make it better. Thumbs up!

The removed

Leading to my biggest problem with FATE Accelerated though: The cut content is either too much (bad for GMs, who should know what to look out for when GMing) or not enough (in order for players to say: "Oh, just 20 6x9 pages, yeah sure, I can read that", not unlike other Quickstarter rules).

I would prefer a FATE Accelerated for players/FATE Accelerated Quickstarter (maybe only as a PDF) you could give your players to read, where everything irelevant for the players should be cut (GM stuff and Advancement mostly), and a FATE Accelerated for GMs including hints on how to run good campaigns, etc.
The printed version could be both: Pages 1 to 30: Player stuff; Pages 31+: GM stuff (the way it is now … but better I guess?).

Saying this I do wonder though: Does this make sense? FATE Core does exist and FATE Accelerated does say: "For more information, read FATE Core."

Turbo FATE (the German version) on its second to last page says something "different" though:


You like Turbo FATE? But … You want more? More examples, more hints, more ideas and options? Then take a look at FATE Core!
FATE Core builds on the same mechanisms as Turbo FATE, but in the core rule book you will also find:
Skills instead of Approaches
More hints on how to build Adventures, Scenarions or a campaign
Extras to modify your game with
Rules for Magic, Vehicles and Giant Robots!
More options for your character or your enemies
More precise explanations, which are supported with elaborate examples
If you want to play longer and more intense FATE, FATE Core is for you

What does one find in FATE Core?

  • Rules
  • Skills
  • More rules I don't care about
  • Hints on how to run good FATE games as a GM
  • Hints on how to run good campaigns, primarily targeted at FATE, but also applicable to other RPGs
  • Generic RPG advice, especially helpful for FATE, but also for other narrative RPGs and also somewhat applicable to crunchy RPGs, as long as they include a narrative

What did this text suggest to me, when I first read FATE Accelerated/Turbo FATE?

Hey reader! Buy this other book we published! We're not greedy, you can also download it for free.
It includes more rules! RULES! And some stuff for you to create a narration. But rules!

This reminds me of a rather useless (expect for 10-or-so pages) guide costing 60$ I bought from a Wizard, targeted to Masters of Dungeons, giving me not so helpful advice on how to build a world, when as a starting GM I needed advice on how to run a good game. (DMG for 5E, just in case you're wondering)
Combine this with examples on how to run FATE in case you didn't get how FATE Accelerated/Turbo FATE works yet.
That's what Uhrwerk Verlag made FATE Core sound like. Not like a handy book of hints to help you be a better GM, whatever game you're running (plus rules for an actual system).

The english version is somewhat guilty of this "FATE Accelerated for babby! FATE Core for real man! You real man, or you babby?" too though, as the blurb on the back of the book says:

Maybe you're looking for the ideal pickup roleplaying game. Or you’re a first-time gamer looking to try something new without investing hours of your time.

Implying that FATE Accelerated isn't intended for something other than a quick game, targeted mainly at beginners, which is pretty much bullshit, IMO.
This is the same bullshit Catalyst pulled with Shadowrun: Anarchy. At least with FATE there's no marketing department behind FATE Core making Saeder-Krupp seem small, since FATE Core is freely available … And FATE Accelerated is good, in contrast to SR: Anarchy.

I just don't like seeing FATE Core as an "Additional Rule Book". Not just because I dislike FATE Core's Skill system, but also because, in order to be a good FATE Accelerated GM I would have to use two different system's rule books.
Not just two books from the same system, like in DnD, but two different systems!

Without knowing of some of FATE Core's rules FATE Accelerated also, somewhat breaks, because one very important rule has been forgotten to include in FATE Accelerated:
If I use a FATE point to invoke the Aspect of an enemy to my advantage (most prominent example are consequences), the FATE point goes to the player whose Aspect I invoked at the end of the conflict.
On page 27 in the PVP aside this is somewhat implied, but it written weirdly and doesn't solve the problem. If the GM invoked a player's Aspect (or vice versa) the GM (or the player) isn't doing PVP …
It rather seems like the GM always gets the FATE point for an invoke, not even making it clear whether it goes to the GMs pool, or into the storage of FATE points.
Why wasn't this included/clarified?

Reading FATE Core with the intention of playing FATE Accelerated is a mixed bag of useless and important.
Some things, like 30 pages of Skills, are totally useless for playing FATE Accelerated. Other things can be applied as is from FATE Core, like Running the Game, Scenes Sessions Scenarios and World Building. But things like the Phase Trio, "When to roll dice?" (Only roll if there's a interesting outcome for both success and failure) and the Golden/Silver/Bronze Rule should really be in FATE Accelerated, too! 6 more pages wouldn't make FATE Accelerated double the price, would it?


The golden rule

Decide what you’re trying to accomplish first, then consult the rules to help you do it.

is really helpful when you're coming from more mechanics-crunchy dice-rolley games like DnD (like I did). FATE is result based, not task based. Fiction first is required, even more than in PbtA, where saying "I want to Hack&Slash" often makes the intent clear (attack), so the GM can do the routine of "How does that look like", but in FATE this is more important, to help categorizing what you're doing under the four actions.

Say you're in a spaceship in an asteroid belt being followed by pirates.

Player: I want to Overcome!
GM: What are you doing exactly?
Player: I hide behind an asteroid, until they pass me.
GM: To do what?
Player: To overcome and lose them!
GM: Alright, roll Sneaky Overcome against their Careful …

Super bad! This is a strong violation of the golden rule, it's reversed. The rules informed what the player was trying to do.
For once, if the Player wouldn't have read the rules, instead playing Cargo Cult Thinking might actually be better here!

But the PbtA inspired "There's only one action for me" also doesn't work well with FATE:

Player thinking: I want to lose them, which has to be overcoming, let's use my strong stats
Player: I hide behind the asteroids to lose them. Sneakily overcoming, right?
GM: Yeah, I roll the pirate's Careful.

Also bad. Just that this time the Player/GM conversation of "How does this look like/What do I intend to do, in the end" has been internalized to the Player's mind.


Player saying or thinking: I want to lose them, but how exactly am I going to do that …
I could try attacking them, but they're more than me …
I could also try hiding from them … Which I could then try to use as an advantage in order to attack them!

Cycling through all 3 actions: Attack, Overcome, and Creating an Advantage. Fiction telling you what rules you're going to use. Not the other way around.

The Phase Trio is also very nice in order to create characters and their backstories interlocked with the other characters and the world, even in a mechanical way (due to Aspects), rather than dropping a group of strangers into an even stranger world, and definitely better than starting a campaign with

GM: You all meet in a tavern.
Player: Oh, but I'm the cool edgelord, and I actually don't want to be with the group, but I sort of have to.
GM: Ehm, okay?

But … the Phase Trio never comes up in FATE Accelerated. Instead FATE Accelerated relies 100% on quick character creation, which doesn't help interlocked backstories, making the group dynamic less satisfying in longer games.

Another thing that should have been mentioned is how to deal with serious/minor costs in order to succeed. There is guidance on how to deal with consequences in FATE Core, but the Approaches offer up a whole new avenue of consequences, as pointed out by this article.

If you read FATE Accelerated first (like I did), you will notice obvious gaps. These gaps were filled, but in FATE Core. Sometimes the book says: Look to FATE Core for more information (Stunts e.g. "You want more rules? FATE Core!"), but things that aren't mentioned in the first place (so 90% of the GM stuff) can't be referred to FATE Core … Well, the book does say "If you want to be a good GM take a look at FATE Core", but how would reading a different system help me? (Unknown to the reader that they're actually "the same" system)
The references to FATE Core (especially in the German version, by means of Uhrwerk Verlag's extra text) look a lot like "MORE RULES! YAY!", making me think that FATE Core as anything, but a hint book solving the problems and gaps in FATE Accelerated, making me not want to read FATE Core.

Is there an easy solution to this? No, FATE Accelerated has been released for several years now.
And even if it wasn't, a "FATE Core with Approaches + 50%  of FATE Core's stuff copy-pasted" is pretty stupid, too.
If you intend to GM FATE Accelerated I really recommend you to read FATE Core, too.
Oh, and while you're at it, the Book of Hanz is also a really good read, especially if you're coming from more crunchy RPGs like I did.

Post Note: Now (February 2020) Fate Condensed has been released. Same, same, though: Too much stuff is omitted from it, excluding the great advice Fate Core gives.