Saturday, November 30, 2013

The FATE Library: Fate Accelerated Edition

This is the fifth post in our FATE Library series, in which I am looking at the FATE RPGs that I own, have read, and have used. The first post in the series was a review of Spirit of the Century. The second was a review of Diaspora. The third was a review of the inimitable Starblazer Adventures. The fourth was a review of Fate Core.

Today, we are taking a look at Fate Accelerated Edition, or FAE, a lite version of Fate Core designed as a companion and introduction to Fate Core.

First, my rating system:
  • Book Condition? My copy is in excellent shape. It is a 48 page slim softcover book, but I have been careful with it. When I take FAE somewhere, I usually put it in the zip bag that holds my iPad. That keeps it safe from dings and folds. I'm not that worried about damage however. At $5 per copy, you are not going to find a more easy-to-replace game book. In fact, I have purchased a couple of back-up copies of FAE in case one gets damaged or we need more than one book at the game table. 
  • Actually Read? A number of times actually. We started playing FAE when it was a pre-publication document with no art. I have read each successive iteration of the rules, probably more than once. 
  • Ever Played? YES! Many times in fact! Last winter/spring, I ran The Alwyn Campaign, a West Marches-style multisession post-apocalyptic campaign set on the far future Earth of the B5 universe. Over the summer I ran a Kerberos Club FAE game; Rachel Kronick did a very nice write-up about the adventure and her rather Buddhist android character in it over at the Blade & Crown blog. Most recently, I used FAE for a Project Generations playtest scenario last weekend at U-Con in Michigan. 
  • Science Fiction?  All of the FAE games I have run are for SF settings. Most of the creatures in my FATE Bestiary are SFnal and are statted-up using FAE. It is easy to add SF flavor to creatures in FAE: the key is using evocative Aspects and appropriate Stunts, since FAE's Approaches (which substitute for Fate Core's Skills) aren't favored in any way that suggests a genre.
Let's cut to the chase. FAE has a reputation as an intro game to Fate Core (and it is) and perhaps also as a kid's iteration of Fate. I think it can function as both of these, as well as for pick-up games of Fate. It worked quite well for this latter purpose in the Project Generations game I ran last weekend, where we first spent about 45 minutes creating the setting (a generation ship in really bad shape), and then about 15 minutes creating characters! FAE's streamlined Approaches eliminated the need to spend a lot of time selecting skills; it helped the players create distinctive characters quickly and get into the action quickly!

Most of FAE's game mechanics are the same as in Fate Core, other than FAE's substitution of six broad brush Approaches in place of Fate Core's numerous Skills. The change makes for more fluid, adaptive play, and I like the more abstract version of Approaches used as the basis of FAE in contrast to the D&D -based Attributes approach used in the Fate Freeport Companion. But that's a matter of taste, and one's appetite for abstraction/fluidity vs. familiarity/traditional system emulation.

FAE has an experience system (i.e., "Milestones") that is essentially the same experience system used in Fate Core. So, I can't see any reason why you can't have an ongoing, long-term campaigns using FAE. 

The only thing I wish they retained in FAE is Declarations. They are in Fate Core, and in practice we use them all the time in FAE. 

I want to close with a few thoughts about the art. The illustration used in FAE is fairly shojo manga in style. In fact, some pieces (particularly Voltaire) reminded me a bit of Revolutionary Girl Utena. Nothing wrong with that in my game, and I hope it does not contribute to the impression that FAE is not worthy of consideration by "serious" gamers.

Indeed, Claudia Cangini's art conveys some important messages. Take the representation of the game table here:

Two apparently female players, one apparently male, one (the right-most figure) who is rather androgynous. That's a pretty gender inclusive game table. Hopefully just about everyone picking the book up can see a player they identify with (in some way) in that illustration.

And then there are our cover stars. (Feel free to scroll back up to the top of the post for a second.) In the center, we have Reth, a youthful male martial artist/fire mage with dark skin and dreadlocks. On the left is a swashbuckling cat-woman pirate whose name, Voltaire, evokes an Enlightenment male French philosopher. So a tad more gender-bending. Finally, on the right hand side we have another androgynous cover star (whom the text identifies as female), the mage Abigail Zhao, who's all ruffles, tie, studded belts, and buckles. 

And of course, on the back of the book we have the all-akimbo gadgeteer Bethesda Flushing, Ph.D.  Just look at her eyes! Just what is she looking at???  WATCH OUT, Bethesda!!!

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